Letter 180

• 180. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Jena, early 1797

[Jena, early 1797]

[Beginning of letter is missing.]

|417| I am also enclosing this extra page that I might present a secret matter to you. Until now we have been thinking about |418| traveling to Dresden at Easter, and if not further on to Berlin, then afterward at least through Dessau, Halle, etc. on our way back. [1] In Dresden we will be staying with my husband’s sister, whose accommodations are currently a bit tight because of the addition of a child and wet nurse (after 10 years of marriage, she had another child).

I have long thought that in this regard as well as in another, it would be better not to take Auguste along on the trip even though my heart certainly resists such a notion and Schlegel, too, is loath to leave her behind. But it may well often be the case that she has nothing to do and might be greatly bored. What if I were to send or bring her to you for 4 or 5 weeks? She is quite content — her joy at being together with your children balances out her curiosity. [2]

The separation from me can be quite beneficial for her, and she is in any case always busy with something or other, which is the only regard in which one would need to look in on her. Afterward I would take Cäcilie in with us. [3] We can wait and see whether you can bring her yourself or would prefer to wait until later in the summer. Of course, I would also have to consult the status of Schlegel’s business matters so that he, too, can enjoy her visit.

For the time being, I merely want to assure myself of your consent, since if my sister-in-law were particularly to insist on having Auguste as well, I could probably not bring myself to leave her behind, hence do not say anything yet about this to your children.

You would be enormously pleased with Gustel — she is becoming cuter and brighter with each passing day without in the slightest losing any of her pure goodness. [4] A certain amount of self-interest always makes me wish for her to be around Cäcilie. Louise Seidler is just such an ordinary creature, [5] and I am convinced that it is solely that Auguste has always been kept at a certain distance from the common and ordinary that she has become what she is and can yet become. Again, adieu. [6]


[1] Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch (Augsburg 1795):




[2] The Gotters’ children were Cäcilie, Julie, and Pauline. Auguste was eleven years old at the presumed time of this present letter (1797), the Gotter daughters fifteen, twelve, and eleven, approximately the age of the girls in the following illustration (Goettinger Taschen Calender vom Jahr 1785; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[3] Caroline had already written Luise Gotter in early 1797 (letter 177) about the possibility of Cäcilie attending an art school while staying with her in Jena. Back.

[4] Later that spring, on 28 April 1797 (letter 181d), Auguste’s twelfth birthday, Friedrich Schlegel would write to her that

today you are exactly 12 years old, and from now on are never again permitted to sit on my lap. I do understand how difficult that will be for you, but since it is necessary, and since your mother also wants it that way, you will not hold it against me for announcing it to you.

(Representative illustration from the Almanac de Goettingue pour l’anneé 1786; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[5] The expression “ordinary creature” (gemeines Wesen), to which no moral reproach attaches, essentially refers at the time simply to an “average person.” That said, Louise Seidler, as evident from her biogram, became an accomplished and respected portraitist. Self-portrait (Goethe und seine Welt, ed. Hans Wahl, Anton Kippenberg, Ernst Beutler [Leipzig 1932], 178):



[6] As it turned out, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter’s death on 18 March 1797 would prevent this plan from coming about; Auguste accompanied Caroline and Wilhelm to Dresden. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott