Letter 29

• 29. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Göttingen, 22 December 1781

Göttingen, 22 Dec[ember] 1781

|57| . . . Herr Schlözer does indeed give you a more favorable assessment in his travel diary than did Wieland earlier; [1] even though it is not he himself who writes it, but one of his travel companions, Herr von Widow, Schlözer’s own opinion presumably |58| shapes the latter’s. [2] He also mentions your husband’s name and has a great many good things to say about Gotha in general. He is now in Venice, and soon Dortchen will be prostrating herself at the feet of His Papal Holiness. [3]

. . . In the description Madam Schlaeger gives of her I can recognize Lotte just as she has always been and always will be. Her character is composed of vanity, half-affected sentimentality, thoughtlessness, and a love of leisure and of everything that goes by the name of “novel” and resembles such in everyday life. What an extremely dangerous mix for a young girl who is not without beauty. [4]

And how little does it resemble the image of a girlfriend with whom I would like to live and whom I would like to fashion out of my sister. And for all that she still believes she is good, for basically she is indeed not really a bad soul at all, she simply does not have enough understanding to realize how much it really does take to be genuinely good.

In the meantime, I do not intend to cease hoping; I may yet be able to accomplish much with her, and whatever I am able to do will indeed be done, on that you can rely. And even if ultimately my efforts go unrewarded, the approbation of my own heart will reward me. — —

Hockel finally left for Lisbon last week. He has been putting off his departure for years now and left Göttingen very unwillingly and with a softened heart. Perhaps he was already beginning to sense the terrible nature of the role he played here.

He voluntarily returned Lotte’s letters. I burned them without reading a single one lest I become bitter toward her. His health is such a wreck that he was hardly even capable of undertaking the trip, and we will doubtless never see him again. And yet when he rode by the last time, I was deeply shaken by the thought that, as much a villain as he indeed was, I would never see him here again, and perhaps would never see him there |59| again either. At the very least, I no longer hate him now that I no longer see him.

May God grant him remorse and eternal happiness. He could have turned out extremely well had he not fallen into the hands of seducers; he had great aptitude, ability, and talent, but he became as evil as he otherwise might have become good. [5] . . .


[1] From 12 October 1781 till ca. 15 April 1782, August Ludwig Schlözer traveled to Italy with his eleven-year-old (!) daughter, Dorothea (representative illustration: Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Postwagen, in Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate xiv):



[2] Schlözer’s traveling companions included his manservant, Johann Jacob Schminke (or Schmincke; from 1776 in Schlözer’s service along with his wife); Melchior von Wiedau (Caroline: “Widow”) from Livonia, who seems to have written an otherwise unpreserved travelogue of the journey; the latter’s tutor, Louis Droz from Neuchâtel; and the Westphalian law student Ignaz Schweling (Leopold Schlözer, Dorothea von Schlözer, der Philosophie Doctor. Ein deutsches Frauenleben um die Jahrhundertwende 1770–1825 [Berlin, Leipzig 1923], 45). Back.

[3] Schlözer’s prodigious journey from Göttingen with his daughter Dorothea included stops in, besides Gotha, as already mentioned, also Nürnberg, Augsburg, Innsbruck, Verona, Venice, and Bologna before reaching Rome; on the return trip, the company made lengthier stops in Florence and Milan. He and Dorothea did indeed have an audience with Pope Pius VI in St. Peter’s (William R. Shepherd, “Germany and Italy in 1803,” Historical Atlas [New York 1923]):



[4] “Das leichtsinnige Mädchen” (“The frivolous young girl”), Berlinischer Damen-Kalender auf das Gemein-Jahr 1809, Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


To wit, Lotte Michaelis had been in Gotha attending Madam Schläger’s school since late 1780; she had been dispatched there to remove her from the Göttingen student Pedro Hockel. Back.

[5] Concerning Pedro Hockel’s circumstances at the time, his seeming ill health about which Caroline speaks, and his overall character and the subsequent course of his life, see the account by one of his close friends, Piter Poel, in the latter’s memoirs, Bilder aus vergangener Zeit, 314–17 (supplementary appendix 29.1), a narrative that picks up immediately after Poel’s account of Hockel’s affair with Lotte Michaelis (supplementary appendix 21.1).

See on the other hand August von Kotzebue’s letter to an unidentified student in Göttingen on 22 October 1781 (letter 25a). Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott