Letter 31

• 31. Caroline to Luise Gotter and Wilhelmine Bertuch in Gotha: Göttingen, 16–18 April 1782

Göttingen, 16 [–18] April 1782

|61|. . . I am expecting Lotte tomorrow, [1] and I cannot deny that my heart beats faster when I think about it; I have not really wanted to think about it all this time, but now I probably must. What is going to happen? How will it be for me living with her? How will she behave in the future? I have no idea about any of this yet.

I do not really know Lotte anymore; she is a stranger to me now with whom I will simply have to try things out to see what happens, and yet my own future peace of mind depends so much on it. Wilhelmine, you wrote as an aside that she no longer had your approval; I confess that is not very encouraging for me. |62| Please pity me at least a bit in my present situation; it is not exactly the most pleasant.

This week, by contrast, has been all the more pleasant for me. I was able to visit Kassel. Madam Schlözer was traveling there to meet her husband when he arrived and offered to take me along. [2] I was so excited about going that I neither ate nor drank nor slept for days beforehand, and I must say that the fasting and sleepless nights were not in vain, for our few days there were heavenly. Although it would have been worth the trouble just to see the couple reunited, the chance to see Kassel — something that has so long been the object of my thoughts and endeavors — was certainly worth the joy.

On our way there, in Münden, [3] we were also present at a peculiar but rather depressing drama, namely, the embarkation of troops for America. What a broad, diverse, and yet dreadful departure scene. It is easy enough to understand what it mostly meant to me. [4] The area around Münden is so romantic that it seems to have been created for just such a scene. Although I have no need to tell you, my dear Luise, how much Kassel pleased me, I must say I was bothered by the notion that in Münden the landgrave was selling human beings in order to build palaces in Kassel. [5]

Our accommodations were on King’s Square. I was particularly pleased by the colonnade, where I saw the staging of the procession of guards as well as, with all due respect, that creature, the landgrave himself. [6]

Schlözer arrived in the middle of the night. This reunion of husband and wife, parents and children, after such a long and dangerous separation, was a beautiful scene that I would not have missed for the world. His journey came off without the slightest mishap, except that now we will probably lose him, since the emperor has offered him a salary of 4000 rh. and the patent of nobility. [7]

Our return trip was quite merry. There was nothing but laughter |63| and jubilation, with the coach drivers and servants and everyone sharing in the joy. We also had several rather ridiculous adventures. We finally arrived quite splendidly in Göttingen, if I do say so myself: 3 on horseback leading the way, then our carriage with 4 passengers, the Roman Travel Society with 6 horses, and a cabriolet bringing up the rear.

Our entourage grew such that when we finally got out in front of the Schlözer’s house, over 100 people had assembled, and Schlözer was almost carried into the house and we ourselves had trouble pushing our way through the crowd; and from every direction jubilant cries of “Welcome home!” resounded. [8] . . .

The Grossmann Theater Company is due to arrive here. I am looking forward to seeing his beautiful wife again. [9] From Gotha people have written and told me wondrous things about Iffland and the scene from Die Räuber. [10] I wish I could have seen your husband there, since he was viewing what was in part his own work. [11]

. . . April 18. Lotte arrived back safely yesterday evening despite the terrible road conditions and despite having spent a dreadful night in a true, genuine den of cutthroats and robbers in the middle of a thieves’ forest. [12] Her appearance has not changed at all except for the Gotha accent in her speech, which has left all of us absolutely agape. [13]


[1] Caroline’s sister Lotte had been at a boarding school in Gotha since late 1780; she did indeed return to Göttingen the following day (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[2] August Ludwig Schlözer was returning from his six-month journey to Italy with his daughter, Dorothea. See, e.g., Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in late October concerning the journey (letter 27).

Christian Schlözer, August Ludwig von Schlözers öffentliches und Privatleben aus Originalurkunden, 2 vol. (Leipzig 1828), 1:325, indirectly mentions Caroline’s presence in the traveling party:

Schlözer reached Kassel in mid-April, whither, as my readers know, he had already summoned his spouse. Everything went as planned. His wife traveled there with her sister and a lady friend. I, too, was fortunate enough to be a member of the party. (My two brothers were still too young to take such a journey.) Probably a dozen students followed in a cabriolet and on horseback. —

We waited for Schlözer for about twenty-four hours; and then he finally came, he for whom we had so long yearned. And what joy on every side! No doubt about it, this reception was the most ardent imaginable. On the very next day, and amid loud rejoicing, we returned to Göttingen. Back.

[3] Hann. (Hannoversch, but today officially spelled with abbreviation) Münden, 21 km southwest of Göttingen, at the confluence of the Werra and Fulda rivers into the Weser River, here in its location between Göttingen and Kassel (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Here by Matthäus Merian, Münden an der Werra, from Topographia Braunschweig (1654):



[4] Caroline’s half-brother, Fritz Michaelis, was in America working as a staff medical officer for Hessian troops. For a brief and general account of Hessian participation in the American Revolutionary War, see supplementary appendix 4.1. Here a late-eighteenth-century engraving portraying the emotional departure of Hessian mercenaries for America:



[5] Friedrich II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel from 1760 to 1785, had a treaty with Great Britain to supply soldiers for the latter’s war in America. Concerning the terms of these troop provisions, see Caroline’s letter to Julie von Studnitz on 14 March 1783 (letter 36), note 2. The mercenaries returned in 1783 by way of Hann. Münden as well, though hardly half made it back to Germany. Back.

[6] Here the colonnade on what is today known as the Friedrichsplatz, in a 1783 painting by Johann Heinrich Tischbein, portraying the unveiling of a statue to Landgrave Friedrich II the year after Caroline visited the square:



[7] Although Schlözer did not leave Göttingen, in 1804 he was indeed ennobled, albeit not by the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation at the time, but by Alexander I of Russia. Back.

[8] Here Schlözer’s house in Göttingen, Paulinerstrasse 19, which he purchased in 1770 (Schlözerhaus in Göttingen / Paulinerstr. 19; by Luise von Schlözer, née von Meyern-Hohenberg, 1854; Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen; Inventarnummer: Schlözer-Stiftung Bilder AL 146):



[9] The theater company of Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Grossmann performed repeatedly in Göttingen (Schauplatz der Natur und der Künste, vol. 5 [Vienna 1777], plate 30):


His “beautiful wife” is Carolina Sophia Augusta Grossmann, widowed Flittner and mother of Friederike Unzelmann (née Flittner), the latter of whom appears frequently later in these letters. Back.

[10] August Wilhelm Iffland had been the first to portray the role of Franz Moor in Schiller’s play Die Räuber. Ein Schauspiel (Frankfurt, Leipzig 1781), which had premiered in Mannheim on 13 January 1782. Here illustrations by F. Catel of Iffland in the role of Franz Moor in two famous scenes (Gustav Könnecke, Bilderatlas zur Geschichte der deutschen Nationallitteratur, 2nd ed. [Marburg 1895], 345).

In the first (left), from act 1, scene 1, Moor laments (The Works of Frederick Schiller, vol. 4, Early Dramas and Romances, trans. Henry G. Bohn [London 1853], 8): “No small cause have I for being dissatisfied with dame Nature, and, by mine honour, I will have amends! Why did I not crawl the first from my mother’s womb? why not the only one? why has she heaped on me this burden of deformity? on me especially?”

In the second (right), from act 5, scene 1, Moor declaims (ibid., 113): “Is there really an avenging judge above the stars? — No, no! — Yes, yes!.”


To open a gallery of Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s illustration to Schiller’s piece, click on the image below:



[11] During the early part of Iffland’s career, Luise’s husband, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, did much to promote Iffland in Gotha. Concerning Gotter’s awareness of Iffland’s performance and his understanding of the background and implications of the performance of Schiller’s play, see Rudolf Schlösser, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, 123–24 (supplementary appendix 31.1). Back.

[12] Taverns and inns at the time enjoyed an ambiguous reputation depending on location and clientele. See the following representative, not entirely genteel examples of taverns from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ([1] Neuer Orbis Pictus für die Jugend oder Schauplatz der Natur, der Kunst und des Menschenlebens [Reutlingen 1835], plate 222; [2] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Von Berlin nach Danzig: Eine künstlerfahrt im jahre 1773, von Daniel Chodowiecki. 108 Lichtdrucke nach den originalen in der Staatl. akademie der künste in Berlin, mit erläuterndem text und einer einführung von Wolfgang von Oettingen [Leipzig 1923], plates 13 and 5; [3], [4] anonymous):






[13] To get an approximate idea of the dialect to which Caroline is here reacting, see the initial exchanges in the poem in the dialect of the villages of Friemar and Pferdingsleben near Gotha, “Gespräch zwischen zwei thüringischen Bauersfrauen,” in Germaniens Völkerstimmen: Sammlung der deutschen Mundarten in Dichtungen, Sagen, Märchen, Volksliedern, u.s.w., ed. Johannes Matthias Firmenich, vol. 2 (Berlin 1854), 125–27, here 125:

Dialogue between Two Thuringian Peasant Women

Friemar Woman

Hiert, 's dann wohl se han gesot,
Die do von Bienscht hätt' oh gefriet?
Wen hät se denn genommen?

Pferdingsleben Woman

Ach jue, duas es schonn lang im Werk
Hä heeßt geweß Ostikenberk
On es von Gräfentonne?
Guckt! wenn thie nur ä Mool selt sieh,
Wuas die der Possen machen,
Do mecht me wärlich bual vergieh
On goor zerplatz vor Lachen.
Do giehn de Köpfe hin und her,
Se schmätzen sich der Krietz on Quär,
Weeß Gott! äs es zom Lachen,
Wies nun die Grußen machen.
Ech wohn do in der Nopperschaft,
Do sieh echs uan von widen.
Hä es goor häßlich siehr vergast,
On wohlt ehr noah met Kriden.
Hä brängts met sienen Worten seer
On treckt die Hand ans Herzgen siehr,
Weeß Gott! äs es zum Lachen.
Su wiet es hä von Uangesicht
Een Kärlchen ohne Tatel,
Su deck, su ruoht, zwar wie me spricht,
Do stammt hä oh von Adel.
Hä hät geweß en schienes Guht,
On Geld wie Schlamm on gueden Muth,
Do han se wuel gut machen. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott