Letter 42

• 42. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Göttingen, 30 May 1784

[Göttingen] 30 May [1784]

|89| You are a dear woman, Louise! First, you realize how much I need the empathetic greeting of a friend, and then immediately I hear your voice. May heaven reward you for it, for it was extremely welcome to me. Second, here the little housewife has been thinking conscientiously about the |90| needs of a new household, and behold: a money purse, which I really did need and for which I thus want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. [1] It will lighten my heavy cares, for every time I take it out I will think of you as an example and as a comfort.

And this goodness, this shared joy at the good fortune of others even amid one’s own sufferings. [2] My dearest Louise, could I but do something to reciprocate. You must at least believe me when I say that the memory of it has often, very often been fresh in my mind, and if the most fervent wishes could heal illness or summon gentle, gracious death, you would already be more serene. It doubtless cannot last much longer. . . .

My brother sends a thousand greetings to you and your husband and your children. I am sure he will fall in love with the latter, for it is a delight to see how good he is with children. I am sure he will get to Gotha at one time or another.

But adieu, my dearest Louise. As a happy wife, let your blessing rest on your friend



[1] Quite apart from domestic chores, wives also dealt with maidservants and menservants. Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki did a series of vignettes in 1780 with the title Occupations des dames; one of those vignettes, “Household management,” features the lady of the house, carefully examining her ledger, providing money to a maidservant (with the basket) for shopping (Die Haushaltung [1780]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 [158]):



[2] It is unclear which sufferings are meant, though Caroline’s wording later in the letter (“if the most fervent wishes could heal illness or summon gentle, gracious death “) resembles that in her letter anticipating the death of Pauline the next year (to Luise Gotter on 22 June 1785 [letter 57]:”may it allow this poor little one to pass on to a sweet peace soon”). That following year, the Gotters lost two children in quick succession.

At the time of this letter, the Gotters already had three daughters: Pauline (born 1781), Cäcilie (born 1782), and Julie (born 1783); Pauline was already a sickly child and would die in August 1785. In January of that year Gotter wrote his old friend Johann Christian Kestner in Hannover concerning his family circumstances (Rudolf Schlösser, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter 119):

I have not even been married a full five years (a time I now reckon among the most contented in my life), and I am already the father of three girls, and indeed am anticipating the fourth child [Gustav] in the early spring. —

The eldest of these girls [Pauline] (a child of not inconsiderable talents) is unfortunately sickly, suffering from one of those illnesses from which children recover only with the help of nature and time. The others are fresh, lively, cheeky, just as is appropriate for their ages, and give me a great deal of joy.

The diminutive mother lives in her little creations and sacrifices to them, quite on her own initiative, much in the way of social entertainment. But I will say no more in her praise, since she is, after all, my wife. She accepts me as I am. This understanding and agreement, thank God, has never yet been interrupted, but our relationship is more cordial than emotional.

Pauline died on 15 August 1785, Gustav the following month, on 19 September. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott