Letter 36a

36a. Therese Heyne to Luise Mejer in Celle: Göttingen, Sunday morning, 16 March 1783 [*]

[Göttingen] Sunday morning [16 March 1783]

Your last letter made me so sorry insofar as it must have been quite unpleasant for you, for — be it from an exaggerated consciousness that I am innocent, or, admittedly, unpardonable pride, I read it quite calmly; and it annoyed me for not a single moment.

Because my comportment is quite different from that of others, it will invariably be wrongly judged, the Böhmer and Michaelis families cannot but be aggrieved at me, [1] hence the judgment on me was biased — whether people do not often think thus? I do indeed fear so, for despite all precaution and my fervent wish to prevent it, I always risk being sought out by people who have already seen more of the wide world than others, and who thus expect to find more with me than with others.

I do not shield anyone — have not shielded anyone[;] give Herr Hofrath Böhmer my regards[,] he evidently is not truly acquainted with Göttingen if he does not know that the favor of a young girl always creates enemies and mockers for a young man, even without any jealousy, rather simply from stupid, ungrudging envy, from the feeling that they are not permitted to show themselves, and would not be pleasing. The world will say that people court me, no one should say that I have an amant [lover] —

I never seek to please the one more than the other[s], no, by God, I no longer have any conception of coquette, or I was born with this shortcoming such that I now no longer even notice it in myself. I believe there are many more virtuous men[,] exempli gratia those more closely acquainted with the Böhmers, but they doubtless prattle on with the young girls about such stupid, indelicate things, are on such immorally familiar terms with them of the sort I have never had with a man — the mere idea alone is ridiculous! [2]

But none of these sober amis de la maison [friends of the family] are skilled enough to assume the — it is possible frivolous and meritless tone — of my acquaintances. I did err with Hockel — but with a consciousness of my errors and the impossibility of changing anything afterward without drawing attention. A series of lesser circumstances in which I continually acted carelessly. Hockel’s arts; — the name of Böhmer’s friend and confidant initially made me careless, believing I could amuse myself without reserve with a man who was the amant of another girl (Lotte, as I still believed) as well as Böhmer’s friend —

I was quite wrong, erring half from ignorance, then from vanity, then from obstinacy, I have atoned it, wept because of it. I was quite fearful this past winter; it had passed harmlessly enough when the singular Koskull had to unnerve me [3]

You will likely hear that Count Schulenburg paid me the cour — but I have not yet exchanged anything but the most indifferent pleasantries with him, and he is so new and young that he does not even know what it means to pay a girl a compliment, this will probably be all there is to it, since we see each other increasingly rarely and I will be leaving in any case. [4]

Be kind enough to grant Koskull your sympathy — I judged him too kindly[,] he is more culpable than I ever believed — he deceived me, and everyone who only saw him in good company. Dissipation had made him quite unhappy, something that made me blush when I learned of it — though I did always attribute his paleness, his bloodless face to disorganization —

My brother as a physician was astonished that he could ride and dance with such adroitness — Luise, weep for the fallen young man[,] some day the terrible curse of vice will catch up to him — I did not know it.

Have you heard more from Hofrath Böhmer? Perhaps three or four times I spoke with him a bit too earnestly, and danced with him as I did with many others as well — but that is all. How quickly, how very quickly would I exchange these advantages for a tranquil heart. –

Koskull has not been relegated, the entire trial has not yet taken place, nor will he likely be able to be relegated, considering that when he dueled he was no longer a student [5]

I am sorry you quarreled with Böhmer. I could have dissimulated enough to lure him in and make him pliable enough to divulge more of her[?] sublime plans; [6] it was, moreover, probably also planned with Caroline Michaelis beforehand to entertain you a bit with my praise. You should not have defended me in order to spoil these dear people’s amusement. But I warmly thank you for your zeal, and love — but did you yourself not find me quite guilty after the honorable old woman’s visit[?]

Please, my dear, do not be severe with me, but do give me the pleasure of telling me whenever you hear anything about me[;] unfortunately, although the judgment of only a few people truly touches me, I can nonetheless improve myself according to the judgment of all the others as well whenever possible. But please do write and tell me whether you are dissatisfied with me. . . .


[*] Source: Therese Huber Briefe, 1:89–90; dating according to ibid., 520. Back.

[1] Therese Huber Briefe, 1:520n6 suspects the allusion may be to the excursion to Kerstlingerode (here: Kerstlingeröderfeld) and subsequent scandalous episode involving Caroline as mentioned in Therese’s letter to Luise Mejer on 1 March 1783 (letter 35a); Friederike Böhmer and her fiancé, Friedrich Johann Lorenz Meyer, were also in the company that day. Therese had also taken the part of Lotte Michaelis and Pedro Hockel against the Michaelis family in general and Caroline in particular (see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 12 January 1781 [letter 21]). Back.

[2] Goettinger Taschen Calender vom Jahr 1789; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[3] (Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen aufs Jahr 1789; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[4] Therese is clearly preening in this letter to emphasize the social attentions she attracts in Göttingen and her otherwise blameless behavior despite rumors to the contrary (Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen aufs Jahr 1789; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Therese would leave for Switzerland on 25 April 1783 for Switzerland. Back.

[5] Peter Koskull had dueled with another student (one of two brothers studying in Göttingen at the time by the name of Wiesel), apparently wounding him in the face.

Here an illustration of university students receiving “gentlemanly” instruction in fencing from a “fencing master” (Wilhelm Fabricius, Die Deutschen Corps: Eine historische Darstellung etc., 2nd ed. [Frankfurt 1926], 15):


Here, by contrast, illustrations of student duels in Jena (1) ca. 1760 (Hans Kufahl and Josef Schmied-Kowarzik, Duellbuch: Geschichte des Zweikampfes [Leipzig 1896], 245); (2) from a history of one of the student corporations (fraternities) (Heinrich Schneider, Die Burschenschaft Germania zu Jena [Jena 1897], 88; (3) as the frontispiece to Henry Mayhew, German Life and Manners as Seen in Saxony at the Present Day, 2 vols. (London 1864); (4) and a student duel in Heidelberg from H. Henkenius, Guide Through Heidelberg and Its Environs, 8th ed., rev. and ed. Ella Hoffman (Heidelberg 1903), 64:





From 1766, students in Göttingen who dueled, rather than being incarcerated, were instead banned from the university (“relegated”) or threatened with such (Therese Huber Briefe, 1:521n49); such had earlier been the case with Piter Poel. Back.

[6] Or “their”; uncertain reference (Goettinger Taschen Calender vom Jahr 1789; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Translation © 2011 Doug Stott