Letter 200b

200b. Caroline to Dorothea Marie Campe in Braunschweig: Jena, 6 May 1798 [*]

Jena, 6 May 1798

It is with both prudence and wisdom, my precious, dear friend, and after not having written you in ages, that I now choose precisely this moment to do so, a moment in which I know neither which way is up nor which down amid all the sights and sounds and all the sundry distractions of my imminent departure. [1] To wit, we have just returned from Weimar, whither we had been drawn by Iffland and where not a single one of us genuinely touched solid earth, so profusely did all the celebrations and theater performances follow one upon the other. [2]

Here, by contrast, I am confronted with laundry and packing — for in 3 days I must be on my way to Dresden. Thus do things stand here, and thus must I beg your pardon for responding to only your more immediate wishes — albeit by relating that I am quite unsure how I might fulfill them. To my knowledge, I now have not a single acquaintance in Mainz except for Blau. Simon in Cassel [3] can doubtless commend your nephew to this individual man more effectively than I. [4] The few families I did know in Mainz have since left. —

How gladly would I do my part, however modest, in helping your nephew with his new etablissement, which given the discomposure that cannot but come about in so squalid a place as Mainz will certainly have its share of problems. —

That said, however, I do hope that once he himself has but withstood the initial impressions that might well make the people there seem repugnant to him, he will not miss what little I myself might have done. He will assuredly be better received than he in his own turn will be able to receive the circumstances there. But such should, of course, not frighten him away. His enterprise seems to me to be quite well considered, and what an attractive place Mainz cannot but become once the initial fermentation has purified it a bit.

It seems a foregone conclusion that I am not to visit Lotte Vieweg in Berlin — this time as well, nothing will come of it. [5] Schlegel will be traveling there alone in two weeks. [6] My friendship for my sister-in-law, whose husband is ill, summons me to Dresden as quickly as possible. As much as I would have liked to see Lotte, I nonetheless voluntarily gave up the trip. Madam Iffland mentioned Vieweg’s house as one of the two or three in which she felt quite at ease in Berlin. [7]

And you will now have her again with you this summer? [8] In that case, it will certainly pass quite cheerfully for you. — And for me as well — or so I flatter myself if things will but not become more serious with my brother-in-law’s health. Several of our acquaintances will be going to Dresden as well, and we will all doubtless form a quite convivial and animated circle. [9] The acquaintance you yourself recommend to me will probably not escape me either, since I am already acquainted with the Neumans. [10]

Did you know that Fromman from Züllichau will be establishing himself here? I am hoping they will be so pleased with things here during the summer that we will find them still here this coming winter. [11]

As far as things in general are concerned, my good friend, we are excessively happy, nor will I ever forget that this wonderful life was consecrated among your own trees and flowers. [12] Auguste is becoming a charming and amiable young girl. [13] The only thing that vexes me is that I in some fashion or other am to be condemned to orthodoxy, and yet can get no further than piety. [14]

Adieu, my dear — my warmest regards to Citizen Campe. Surely he is doing well? —

C. Schlegel


[*] Source: Josef Körner, “Neues von August Wilhelm und Caroline Schlegel,” Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde, N.S. 17 (1925), 143–45. — Körner writes in his introduction to this letter (ibid., 144–45):

After successfully making it through her various adventures [in Mainz and Lucka], Caroline Böhmer resided in Braunschweig beginning in the spring of 1795, where she found her way back into normal civil life and respectability and where her social contact was largely restricted to two “literary” families: that of the Shakespeare-translator Johann Joachim Eschenburg and that of the pedagogue Joachim Heinrich Campe.

It was especially with the latter’s family that a rather lively social engagement emerged during which the ladies became quite close friends. And when Caroline settled in Jena as the wife of August Wilhelm Schlegel, that close relationship continued through an exchange of letters. Part of this previously unknown correspondence has been preserved among the manuscripts of the Wolfenbüttel State Library. [Körner’s footnote: The original (for whose communication I am indebted to the librarian Dr. H. Schneider) does not indicate the recipient; the addressee was deduced from the content.]

Although Caroline soon departed for Dresden, she is still writing from Jena (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[1] Caroline left for Dresden with Auguste and Johann Diederich Gries early in the morning on Wednesday, 9 May 1798, arriving in Dresden on Saturday evening, 12 May 1798 (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Schnell und ungleich ist die Fahrt, die uns durch das Leben träget [1778] Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.252):


See Aus dem Leben J. D. Gries 25. (illustration: Jena from the northwest, ca. 1840, by Eduard Lobe; Bildrechte/-herkunft: Sammlung Jenaer Stadtansichten [Stadtmuseum Jena 13011]; Gries remained enormously fond of Jena throughout his life, whence the references to his difficulty in leaving the town even merely to visit another town):

As Gries traveled through his beloved, familiar landscape before sunrise early on the morning of 9 May 1798, the moon still positioned serenely and clearly over the mountains and the sun just rising over Dornburg, he surrendered less to dreams concerning his near future than to memories of a contented past. —


He was making the journey to Dresden in the company of A. W. von Schlegel’s wife and her charming daughter, Auguste Böhmer, who were on their way to visit her brother-in-law Hofsecretär Ernst in Dresden, whither Schlegel intended to follow them later after a detour to Berlin. This pleasant, cheerful company helped him get through the initial days of his separation from Jena, for the travelers did not arrive in Dresden until the evening of the 12th after short stopovers in Leipzig and Meissen [Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch (Augsburg 1795); illustration of Meissen in 1777: “Vue du Chateau Electoral de Meissen,” Almanach de Dresde, pour l’année MDCCLXXVII (Dresden 1777):]




[2] Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel were in Weimar from 24 April till 4 May 1798 to attend August Wilhelm Iffland’s second guest performance there. Concerning those performances, see Caroline’s undated letter to Luise Gotter in April 1798 (letter 199) with note 5. Back.

[3] An unidentified “Simon” is similarly mentioned in connection with Mainz in Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring’s letter to Christian Gottlob Heyne on 6 April 1793 (letter 121d) and in Caroline’s letter to Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter on 12 May 1793 (letter 126). Neither does Josef Körner identify him here. Back.

[4] Johann Heinrich Campe’s elder brother, Friedrich Heinrich Campe (born 4 January 1744), had five sons: (1) a certain Dr. Campe in Gardelegen, (2) the general consul Heinrich Campe in Leipzig, and three others who became booksellers: (3) Franz August Gottlob Campe (1773–1836) and (4) Julius Campe (1792–1867) in Hamburg (August became the son-in-law of the bookseller Benjamin Gottlob Hoffmann in Hamburg in 1806 by marrying the latter’s daughter, Elise; after becoming the sole proprietor of Hoffmann’s firm in 1818, he ceded it to his brother Julius in 1823), and (5) August Friedrich Andreas Campe (1777–1846) in Nürnberg, the latter of whom Josef Körner thought was likely being referenced here.

Although August Friedrich Andreas Campe is nowhere attested as having lived in Mainz, his whereabouts are unknown during the period when Caroline is here writing. During 1792–97 Campe apprenticed in his uncle’s bookselling firm in Braunschweig, then in 1799–1800 seems to have returned to Braunschweig (W. R. Shepherd, Historical Map of Central Europe about 1786 [1926]):


On 22 November 1801 he purchased a house in Hamburg with his stepbrother August Campe, though he left Hamburg in 1802 and from 1805 resided in Nürnberg for the rest of his life.

His whereabouts between 1797 and 1799, however, are unknown, and it may well be during this period that he settled at least temporarily in Mainz (Erwin Schmidt, Die Hofpfalzgrafenwürde an der hessen-darmstädtischen Universität Marburg/Giessen [Giessen 1973], 75). See also J. Leyser, Joachim Heinrich Campe: ein Lebensbild aus dem Zeitalter der Aufklärung, 2nd ed., 2 vols., (Braunschweig 1896), 1:5n1; ADB 12:573–74. Back.

[5] Caroline and Wilhelm had intended to travel to Berlin the previous year (1797) as well; see Caroline’s undated letter to Luise Gotter in early 1797 (letter 177) and note 8 below. Back.

[6] Wilhelm arrived in Berlin before 20 June 1798; see Schleiermacher’s letter to his sister, Charlotte, on 26/30 May 1798 (letter 200h, which was begun on 23 May 1798). Back.

[7] Caroline seems to have carried on a correspondence with Luise Iffland; see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 24 April 1799 (letter 235) and Luise Iffland’s letter to Caroline on 8 September 1798 (letter 202g). Back.

[8] That is, in Braunschweig. The Viewegs had invited the Schlegels to Berlin for the spring, Lotte Vieweg having already made plans to travel to Braunschweig in May 1798. Friedrich Schlegel, however, in Berlin at the time, did not think the invitation was quite serious; he writes to Wilhelm on 19 September 1797 (Walzel, 296; KFSA 24:17):

Madam Vieweg told me yesterday she would like the two of you to come quite early; I think she will be going to Braunschweig in May [1798]. She had, by the way, never said a word to me that had anything to do with the invitation. He is a windbag whose invitations one must likely not take so very literally.

Friedrich writes on 1 December 1797 (Walzel, 311; KFSA 24:48): “The Viewegs told me that you would no longer find them here [in Berlin] after the [Easter] book fair; hence they naturally expressed their wish that you both might come earlier.” And on 18 December 1797 (Walzel, 334; KFSA 24:66): “His [Vieweg’s] wife will then also no longer travel to Branschweig. Previously her plan with to accompany him to the book fair in Leipzig and then travel directly from there to Braunschweig. Hence you two would not have found her here.” And finally on 15 January 1798 Friedrich reports Madam Vieweg’s regrets at missing Wilhelm and Caroline’s possible visit (Walzel, 347; KFSA 24:81): “But the Viewegs . . . will not be here, as Madam [Vieweg] just recently mentioned with great regret.” Back.

[9] See Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule, 367–68, 457, 595; illustration: M. B. Lindau, Geschichte der königlichen Haupt- und Residenzstadt Dresden von der ältesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart, 2nd ed. [Dresden 1885], plate following p. 576; Dresden art gallery at left; second illustration: scene from The Sorrows of Young Werther from Goethe’s Works, vol. 2, trans. G. Barrie [New York 1885], plate following 303):


To wit, during the summer of 1798 we find the two Schlegels in Dresden. After spending June in Berlin, August Wilhelm had followed his wife there and indeed also brought his brother along. There they lived with the family of their sister, who was married to the court secretary Ernst.

For a brief time, this artistically appointed capital then also saw the presence of Fichte, Schelling, and the young Gries. During these months, Dresden was one of the temporary stations of the Romantics to which we will for precisely that reason be returning often. Hardenberg, too, did not fail to make an appearance.


It seems he visited his friends there from nearby Freiberg more than just once [ed. note: concerning Hardenberg’s presence in Freiberg, see also Wilhelm Schlegel’s letter to Goethe on 24 September 1797 (letter 185c), note 4]. . . . [August Ludwig Hülsen also visited the group in Dresden.] . . .

He [Schelling] traveled over to Dresden in August, and it was here [rather than in Jena itself, where he had just received an appointment as professor] that he first came into contact with the circle with which he already shared such intellectual kinship and with which he would soon also remain closely allied in Jena.

[Bernardo Bellotto, called Canaletto, Dresden from the right bank of the Elbe below the Augustus Bridge, inventory 1754:1 543; Gal. no. 606, from The Splendor of Dresden: Five Centuries of Art Collecting (New York 1978), 66:]


During these summer months, as we already have seen, Dresden, the German Rome or Florence, united several of the apostles of the new artistic and literary gospel, several of the friends of both Goethe and Fichte.

Here Wilhelm Schlegel, indefatigably diligent, now lived with his wife, while Friedrich, in rather pronounced idleness, planned and daydreamed about all sorts of projects or indulged in scintillating conversation with Hardenberg, who had traveled over from nearby Freiberg.

(Ed. note: albeit, except perhaps for the woman, at a considerably younger age than in the following “philosophical conversation”: “Die philosophische Conversation,” Berlinischer Damen Kalender auf das Iahr 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


And here, finally, young Gries, inspired by the example of the translator of Shakespeare [i.e., Wilhelm Schlegel], made his first attempts at translating Tasso.

(Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):


Schelling could not have studied Dresden’s art treasures in better company. Indeed, the Schlegels fairly “took possession” of the Dresden gallery [see Dora Stock’s letter to Charlotte Schiller on 24 October 1798 (letter 206a); also the supplementary appendix on the Dresden Antiquities Collection], where they spent almost every morning with Gries and Schelling; even Fichte, who arrived on his way through Dresden in late September, was initiated by them into the mysteries of art.

Here the Dresden Gallery in 1830 (anonymous; the Sistine Madonna is at the rear bottom left; Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden; photo: Herbert Boswank):



[10] Caroline seems to have made the Neumanns’ acquaintance through Johann Friedrich August Tischbein; see his daughter Caroline Tischbein’s reminiscence of her family’s Dresden visit ca. 1800 (Adolf Stoll, Der Maler Joh. Friedrich August Tischbein und seine Familie [Stuttgart 1923], 126–27):

The most opulent conviviality now also commenced for me in Dresden, and I enjoyed it with freshness and good cheer [her father writes in a letter at the time about participating in “nothing but diners, soupers, and thés coiffés].

Among acquaintances my own age, Cora Neumann . . . was quite distinguished . . . by her respectable intellectual talents . . . The Neumann family was one of those remarkable phenomena one does not easily forget. The mother and one of her unmarried sisters were more than ugly; gnomically small, deformed, brownish-yellow with flat, indistinct features, the impression they made together was all the more ill the more they tried to act youthful and graceful in dress and demeanor.

They were both extremely sensitive, and perpetually in ecstasy. With croaking voices, they could not outdo each other in delicate, sweet expressions in which they were anything but stingy with words such as “heavenly,” “divine,” “singular.” Anyone who heard Mother Neumann refer to her sister as “sweet Lina,” and Lina refer to Mother Neumann as “my splendid one,” could not remain serious, so stark was the contrast between these appellations, on the one hand, and those to whom they referred, on the other.

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


Otherwise, both mother and aunt were in fact quite good-natured ladies to whom, when they but acted more natural, one could genuinely take a liking. Cora, who had indeed enjoyed a cultivated upbringing and whose talents had been variously developed, though not quite as ugly as her mother, nonetheless utterly lacked style and grace. She, too, had been inoculated with a considerable dose of sentimentality that, despite her equally considerable moral traits, made her ridiculous. She was required to sing, dance, and draw, but without talent for any of these arts. Her voice was harsh, her tone false, her body ponderous, small, and strong; she sketched correctly, but without spirit.

She was particularly fond of me, and I reciprocated as best I could. I was quite taken by her intellect. She had read a great deal and quite profited from it, and her well-grounded erudition was so superior to my own that I was indeed able to learn much from her, with regard to which I demonstrated genuine cordiality at every opportunity. And yet I found her affected manner of speaking and her excessive sensitivity, which could rouse me to gentle mockery, rather unpleasant. Back.

[11] Züllichau, modern Polish Sulechów, is located southwest of Posen in Poland and ca. 300 km northeast of Jena (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Frommann moved his publishing and printing company into an ensemble of buildings on the northern Graben, or former moat, in Jena; not only was the family still there when Caroline returned from Dresden, the house also became an important social center among the culturally interested in Jena, writers, academicians, and others even from Weimar, and Caroline would become close friends with Frommann’s wife, Johanna Frommann.

The Frommann’s house is still extant (photograph of the Frommann house in 1970, reproduced by permission: Stadtmuseum Jena):


The house is located on the Fürstengraben just across from the former northern town walls. Caroline’s Jena residences included, initially, the garden house just outside the town gate, then Leutragasse 5 (on the map: center) and the Asverus house next door to the inn Zum [schwarzen] Bären (on the map: top right; Plan der Residenz- und Universitätsstadt Jena [1884]; Thüringen, Städtische Museen Jena: Stadtmuseum und Kunstsammlung DE-Mb112/lido/obj/12070842; Städtische Museen Jena; ISIL:DE-MUS-873714.:


Illustration of leisure activity on the Fürstengraben, which the house fronted along the northern town walls, from Carl Schreiber and Alexander Färber, “Am Fürstengraben 1779,” in Jena von seinem Ursprunge bis zur neuesten Zeit, nach Adrian Beier, Wiedeburg, Spangenberg, Faselius, Zenker u. A. von Carl Schreiber u. Alexander Färber: Mit Kupfern, Karten, Lithographien u. Holzschnitten (Jena 1850), plate following p. 208:



[12] See also Caroline’s undated letter to Luise Gotter in the autumn of 1795 (letter 156). Back.

[13] Auguste had just turned 13 years old (representative illustration from the Almanac de Goettingue pour l’anneé 1786; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


The following portrait by Johann Friedrich August Tischbein was done essentially contemporaneously with Caroline’s remarks here (J. F. A. Tischbein, 1798; reproduction: Otto Cramer Family Archives, courtesy of Martin Reulecke):



[14] Unclear but intriguing reference. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott