Letter 266

• 266. Wilhelm Schlegel to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Bamberg, 21 August 1800

Bamberg, 21 August 1800 [*]

|606| Please accept our warmest thanks, most precious friend, for your so heartfelt and loving letter, which Caroline read with the most salutary emotions, finding in it as she did the expression of her entire heart, her maternal feelings for Auguste, and your own sisterly feelings for her herself. [1]

But please also forgive me if for now I do not allow her to answer it herself and instead assume that task in her name. The outpouring of her grief even to a friend cannot but have the most violent effects on her, something which just now, given the utter collapse of her powers, she must avoid at all costs. I do hope, however, that at some other time she will again be able to alleviate some of her pain by pouring out her tears and heart to you, even though this pain can never be completely cried out.

I also have to beg your forgiveness for having left it to chance and to strangers to bring the sad news to you. But during the two days I remained in Jena after receiving the news myself, I was so utterly decimated that I really could not allow myself to be excessively strained by the frequent repetition of that news in letters if I was to maintain any energy and presence of mind at all. [2] It greatly bothered me; |607| but I simply was unable to put myself in a position to write to you earlier.

Madam Schläger has probably already received a letter from me here and passed along to you the news about Caroline’s health. [3] The physicians assure us that her condition is not threatening; it is not any specific illness, but merely general weakness, which is, however, being sustained by her constant grief such that the fortifying tonics seem to lose their efficacy. [4]

In the meantime, I am hoping that in four to six weeks she will be in a condition to take a longer journey — then she will go to Braunschweig to stay with her mother and sister. [5] Perhaps upon her return to Jena she will have the comfort of seeing you and your dear daughters and Madam Schlaeger for several days. [6]

Please do not have me speak about Auguste’s death; it cannot be expressed in words. You always loved her as if she were your own child, but to even the rankest of strangers, indeed, I might say even to the most indifferent person, she of necessity appeared as the most excellent and special creature, so divinely had she developed since you saw her last. [7]

I recently made my first pilgrimage to her grave. It is located nine miles from here in a narrow, enclosed, cheerful valley that gives no hint of graves. She lies in a narrow and humble village cemetery, which is, however, situated out in the open and from which one can look out onto the beautiful valley. [8] Steps are being taken to place a memorial to her there.

Please give our warmest regards to your dear Cäcilie. How beautifully would this friendship, too, have been able to develop had Auguste lived. We are hoping for good news concerning the health of this charming, dear girl, who has already had to suffer so much physically at so early an age. [9]

May heaven keep you and yours; please think of us with sympathy, and our own conviction of your doing so will |608| have a salutary effect on us despite the distance. Stay very well.

Your most devoted
A. W. Schlegel

Kindest regards to Madam Schläger.


[*] Wilhelm has been in Bamberg for almost a month; later in this letter he mentions Caroline’s tentative plans to journey not back to Jena, but rather to Braunschweig. During that journey, she reunites with Luise Gotter in Gotha. Back.

[1] Regrettably, this letter does not seem to have been preserved. Back.

[2] Wilhelm had learned of the news on 20 July 1800 and departed Jena for Bamberg on 21 July 1800 (see his letter to Goethe on 20 July 1800 [letter 265d]). Back.

[3] That letter similarly seems not to have been preserved. Back.

[4] Fortifying tonics were one of the treatments for the sthenic varieties of nervous fever, from which Caroline allegedly had suffered during the spring of 1800 (Genealogischer Kalender auf das Jahr 1810; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[5] It may or may not be of significance that Wilhelm does not mention that he will be staying with Caroline in Braunschweig; in any event, he was already making plans for a journey to Berlin; see Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm on 6 August 1800 (letter 265j), note 6. Back.

[6] Although Caroline did not return to Jena until 23 April 1801, she and Wilhelm stayed over with the Gotter family in Gotha on their way to Braunschweig, arriving in Gotha on 4 October 1800 (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):



[7] Luise Gotter had last seen Auguste in February 1798 in Jena after spending Christmas with the Schlegels.

As mentioned earlier, Auguste had just turned 15 years old in April 1800 and had grown into an attractive, talented girl on the verge of womanhood who had also already attracted at least some romantic attention. One may, it seems, be allowed to imagine her resembling at least to some extent girls her age as depicted in contemporary illustrations or fashion plates.

The following fashion plate from 1798 surprisingly recalls the illustration St. John the Baptiste — now commensurately aged — that Johann Joachim Eschenburg insisted closely resembled Auguste and which Caroline then mentions in a letter to Luise Gotter on 20 May 1795 (letter 150) (Göttinger Taschen Calendar Für das Iahr 1798; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[8] Nine German miles is approximately 70 km. Here the smaller church of St. Mauritius in Bad Bocklet today atop the hill overlooking the valley (photo Martin Reulecke) and a second photo (church at right) with a broader view of the valley (1932 postcard):



See the gallery on Bocklet for illustrations. See also the supplementary appendices on Bocklet and on Auguste and the cemetery in Bocklet. Back.

[9] Cäcilie had been ill even during her stay in Jena during January and February 1798; see Caroline’s letters to Luise Gotter on 11 February 1798 (letter 295), on 21 February 1798 (letter 196), and in February/March 1798 (letter 197), and then on 1 April 1799 (letter 229a), and esp. on 6 June 1799 (letter 239), in which Caroline hopes that Cäcilie’s stay at a mineral-springs spa will prove beneficial. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott