Letter 185

• 185. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Jena, 7 September 1797 [*]

[Jena] 7 Sept[ember 17]97

|423| What depressing news you have given me, dear, my dearest Louise — I have been wholly occupied anticipating seeing you here soon, and instead of learning from your letter the exact day when you will be arriving, I now encounter all these objections. Will I not be able to clear them all out of the way? I simply cannot reconcile myself to the notion that this year is to pass thus without my being able to embrace you here under my own roof. [1]

You know how much I wanted you to come during the more cheerful time of year because I would then be able to entertain you more cordially; [2] but that is now past. If things continue as they are, we will be experiencing late autumn in a couple of weeks, and it is thus of no consequence if you come even later if you simply must restrict yourself to the house. Hence do but come, as soon as you can, be it in winter or summer. —

You realize, my dear, how much I would like to have all your dear girls here with me . . . Once you and Cecile are here, you will see how she will feel completely at home and how we will have no other sense than that you both belong to us like sisters. There is nothing better I can give my Louise than the happy domestic pleasure we ourselves enjoy, and |424| that which is best and dearest within us. But in that case one must not be so terribly busy. Tell the children that they are to come visit us next summer. Auguste similarly has all sorts of activities now. I am infinitely looking forward to her being together with Cecilie, who must, by the way, bring all her drawings along.

But we will have plenty of time to arrange these things, for be it at all possible I plan to come over there myself for a day. I cannot stay longer. You would not believe how indispensable I have become to my friend Schlegel, and you will be pleased even in the larger sense with our charming household arrangements. —

I am sending you a couple of ladies here whom I would like to have accompanied had there been sufficient room and were other things not holding me back as well, such as, e.g., having to copy an entire drama by Shakespeare that must go to press and where no stranger would be able to make sense of the first manuscript [3] — but I have authorized them to lend oral emphasis to my requests to you. They will be able to tell you that I have already sent Schlegel to the fourth story that we might be able to visit nicely together on the third. [4] Yes, everything has already been scrubbed, and today the good Lord has sent me rain for the wash I have to do. — But, of course, it will probably become dry and the rooms dirty again before you come.

Schlegel looked through the Geisterinsel with extreme care before delivering it. [5] I had the same feeling in this regard as you described. Those particular tones will not cease resonating in my ears — when I read it aloud, I notice that many of the sounds belong to him. His own reading of this piece was like heavenly music, just as the poesy itself in it really is nothing but music. I still remember almost everything about his very first reading. The last one, though, did cause me to be more concerned about him than did even his appearance, |425| about which you asked me at the time and which I did not notice that much. [5a]

Auguste is reluctant to write Cecile for more than just a single reason; she is even afraid Cecile may be too grown-up and smart for her now and will no longer want to have anything to do with her. She recently even dreamed that Cecile received her very coldly and spent the whole time just looking at a picture she was holding in her hand. J’espêre, ma chere Cecile, que tu détruiras ces triste rêves. [6]

Madam Reichard recently came through here, and Auguste happened to be spending the afternoon with the Seidlers. Now, you know how she has otherwise been so cordial to her whenever they met, but this time she did not even address her, acting as if she were not even there despite spending 6 hours in the same room with her. She presumably believed Auguste was now growing up and that a courteous word tireroit plus à conséquence. [7]

Apropos — I just received a letter from my sister, and on the last page I find Meyer’s handwriting, who had just reached Braunschweig during a walking tour through Lower Saxony and who tenderly reproached me for my silence — something he will have to continue doing for a long time. [8]

Please give my warm regards to Minchen and embrace your family for me. And do be hasty about getting back to me with a good answer.

Your Caroline

As quietly as a church mouse, Auguste took heart and is sending Cecile all manner of I know not what wonderful things. Please be so good as to pass the album along again. If I am not mistaken, Gotter wrote a few lines for her in it that will truly be a shrine for Cecile.


[*] Though Caroline makes no mention of her health in this letter, Wilhelm writes to Karl August Böttiger in Weimar on 15 September 1797 (Archiv für Litteraturgeschichte 3 [1874], 161), that is, essentially a week later, that “my wife has been under the weather the past few days with a catarrh” (Flussfieber, “river fever,” febris catarrhalis, Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, 3:1857.52). Böttiger responded on 17 September 1797 (Körner [1930], 64), remarking that “a small excursion to Jena with my upright Macdonald [one of two Scottish houseguests] is one of my foremost wishes, where I hope to speak with you and your wife in person, to whom I wish a quick and pleasant recovery.”

Wilhelm similarly writes to Goethe on 24 September 1797 (Körner-Wieneke 64): “Many warm regards from my wife, who recently has not been feeling well and is still taking medication, though I do hope she will improve yet before winter” Christophe Schmid [Christoph von Schmid], La guirlande de houblon [1836], Oeuvres choisies, vol. 4, new ed. [Tours 1867], plate following p. 262):


Chronological note: back on 16 August 1797, Caroline’s review of Lafontaine’s Claire Duplessis et Clairant appeared in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1797) 259 (Wednesday, 16 August 1797) 422–24. Back.

[1] Luise Gotter genuinely was the person whose friendship never wavered throughout Caroline’s life (Göttinger Taschen Calender Für das Iahr 1797; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[2] Leutragasse 5 had, among other things, an extensive and quite pleasant and restful garden behind it in which during warmer months residents could take their meals or otherwise enjoy being outdoors; see Julie Gotter’s letter to her mother on 5/7 July 1801 (letter 323b) (illustrations: [1] frontispiece to Eduard Helmke, Bericht über die Orthopaedisch-gymnastische Heilanstalt in Jena [Leipzig 1863]; [2] representative illustration from the Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1813: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet [Frankfurt], Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[3] Presumably for the next volume in Wilhelm’s edition of Shakespeare, Shakspeare’s Dramatische Werke, vol. 2, Julius Cäsar, Was ihr wollt (Twelfth-Night; or, What You Will) (Berlin 1797). Here the title page and first scene of Julius Caesar:



[4] Concerning the house and living arrangements at Leutragasse 5, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 4 September 1796 (letter 169) with note 4. At this point, Friedrich Schlegel had returned to Berlin, and Caroline was residing there together only with Auguste and Wilhelm. Back.

[5] Wilhelm delivered the manuscript to Schiller for publication in Die Horen. — Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter had succumbed to consumption on 18 March 1797; the family afterward remained in limited financial circumstances, whence these concerns about publishing Gotter’s posthumous writings if possible. Concerning the Geisterinsel and several other pieces under discussion at the time, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in March 1797 (letter 181) with note 2. Concerning the general disposition and posthumous publication of Gotter’s plays, see supplementary appendix 181.1. Back.

[5a] Between 5 and 8 July 1796, when Wilhelm, Caroline, and Auguste stayed with the Gotters in Gotha on their way from Braunschweig to Jena (Generalkarte von Europa, ed. Joseph Scheda [Vienna 1845–47]):


While allowing for the possibility that Caroline is speaking to Luise Gotter as a close friend trying to ease the pain of that friend’s grievous loss, Caroline’s assessment of the written word, and especially of verse and not least of spoken verse, was nonetheless acute enough to count for something even in such a situation. Here the ending scene of Gotter’s Geisterinsel (Gedichte von Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, vol. 3, Nachlass [Gotha 1802], 564):



[6] Fr., “I hope, my dear Cecile, that you will destroy these sad dreams.” Back.

[7] Fr., “would be of more consequence.” Back.

[8] Here a sample of Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer’s handwriting from 1778, albeit in French, in the album of the Swedish student Johan David Sandeberg on 22 November 1778; both were students in Göttingen at the time (Stifts- och landsbiblioteket in Skara):


Meyer’s brother, the physician and natural scientist Friedrich Albrecht Meyer, had died in 1796; with the inheritance from his estate, in early 1797 Meyer purchased a landed estate in Bramstedt in Holstein, ca. 40 km north of Hamburg (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern [Vienna 1805]):


The edifice at center in the following illustration ca. 1850 (the gatehouse) still stands today (lithograph after Ad. Hornemann [Hamburg, ca. 1850]):


By February of that year, he had already had all his books sent there from Berlin (“My heart was never in Berlin,” he wrote to a friend on 11 February 1797; Erinnerungen, 2:34–35). In May 1797 he published his final article (one on the Xenien) in the Berlin periodical he had been editing, Berlinisches Archiv der Zeit und ihres Geschmacks, and then moved to Bramstedt, where he spent the rest of his (long) life engaged in independent historical, scientific, and philosophical study.

After spending a few weeks getting settled in Bramstedt during the summer of 1797, he planned to spend time in the spa town of Bad Nenndorf, 26 km west of Hannover, to help his chronic rheumatism (Caroline had spoken earlier about his podagra; see her letter to him on 16 March 1794 [letter 143]). He then planned to visit his mother in Hamburg during part of the autumn and winter of 1797 (she would die just prior to 1800; Curt Zimmermann, F. L. W. Meyer: Sein Leben und seine schriftstellerische Wirksamkeit [Halle 1890], 8), and had also queried friends in Stade, 45 km northwest of Hamburg, about a visit (Erinnerungen 35–36; Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


This journey through Lower Saxony seems to have inaugurated, as it were, this new period in his life.

Luise Wiedemann visited him in Bramstedt in 1805 (albeit not at his estate, “lest I embarrass him”; she instead had him summoned to her quarters; see her letter to Caroline from Kiel on 4 September 1805 [letter 396]); she remarked to Caroline that “he seems to be happier now than at that earlier time [in Göttingen, when both she and Caroline knew him].”

Concerning Caroline’s essentially severed relationship with Meyer, see her letter to Luise Gotter on 20 May 1795 (letter 150), also with note 21 there (Goettinger Taschen Calender für das Jahr 1791; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Translation © 2012 Doug Stott