Letter 48

• 48. Caroline to Lotte Michaelis in Göttingen: Clausthal, 13 September 1784

[Clausthal] 13 Sept[ember 1784]
9:00 in the morning

|101| Böhmer just came downstairs — after being surrounded by nothing but old women since 7 a.m. — and said he wanted to recuperate by having a look at a young woman, nattered on about the “bliss of the heart” and that sort of thing, probably all of it understood as just the opposite. [1] I promised to relate it to you.

. . . Yesterday I spent the entire day with all of you. I saw all the people going to church, [2] imagined myself in the full, solemn assembly, which with not a single stray thought intently listened to the powerful orator — with the exception of a couple of people who were perhaps thinking more about the Paper Mill — and of whom even earlier I was not fond for precisely that reason — heard the whispering — noticed the occasional tears of emotion prompted by the good man’s farewell — then at midday heard the general talk throughout Göttingen about how things used to be and the what? and where? and how? [3] and I noticed how that afternoon, amid the distraction of a social gathering, the entire, wonderful impression of that morning and all that had been sung and spoken had already been completely forgotten, completely erased from all those hearts that earlier had absolutely been on the verge of bursting with emotion.

|102| So, what have you been doing, my dear Lotte? I cannot quite get accustomed to your tone. I find your thoughtlessness and recklessness even more frightening than your love sickness. [4] Write me soon. I will write Mother on the next postal day.



[1] Joseph Highmore, Pamela . . . writing in her late Lady’s dressing room (1762); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur CLBenoist AB 2.1 (scene from Samuel Richardson, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, 2 vols. [London 1740]):


Caroline’s husband, of course, worked as a physician in Clausthal and the surrounding area, making house calls, as was customary, though, as evident here, seeing patients at his home as well. Although he was, strictly speaking, a university-trained physician rather than a surgeon, in the 1780s the duties of the two could still be conflated.

Here the traditional surgeon (Wundarzt) in the early eighteenth century (Christoff Weigel, Abbildung Der Gemein-Nützlichen Haupt-Stände Von denen Regenten Und ihren So in Friedens- als Kriegs-Zeiten zugeordneten Bedienten an biß auf alle Künstler und Handwercker nach Jedes Ambts- und Beruffs-Verrichtungen meist nach dem Leben gezeichnet und in Kupfer gebracht etc. [Regenspurg 1698], illustration following p. 132):


The first vignette below by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki illustrates a typical house call by such a physician in the mid- to late-eighteenth century; the child at right is also being given medicine. In the second, a surgeon examines a child (note the instruments on the table) while a woman is being bled (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], plates xi b, xi c):



Here a physician makes a similar house call in 1788 (Johann Jakob Mettenleiter, Arzt am Krankenbett [1788]; Munich, Kupferstichkabinett):


The late eighteenth century also saw the beginnings of smallpox and cowpox inoculations (Johann David Schubert and Johann Friedrich Bolt, illustration to Scenen aus der Familie Ehrenberg with the text “Ruhig sah der Kleine zu, als der Arzt ihm die Schutzpocken impfte,” Frauenzimmer Almanach zum Nutzen und Vergnügen für das Jahr 1808 [Leipzig 1808], June, no. iv):



[2] Caroline is writing, in reverie, of course, on a Monday and referring to the Sunday service the previous day, namely, the farewell sermon of Johann Benjamin Koppe (Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):



See Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 3 April 1784 (letter 40). Concerning the sermon, see below. Back.

[3] An emotional poem on this occasion of Koppe’s farewell sermon — “Herrn Koppe nach Seiner am 12ten September 1784 gehaltenen Abschiedspredigt in Göttingen” — appeared in the Göttinger Musenalmanach (1785), 187:

O thou requiter of deeds,
Eternal God!
Bless with fullness the man
Who stood there,
Noble and grand of heart,
Who did petition blessings for us all
And all the land — and wept!
As if God's angels did
Hover above the congregation,
Collecting the tears good youths
Did shed for their great teacher!

Koppe, the Göttingen university preacher at the time, delivered his final sermon in the Church of St. Paul, which at the time was still the university church, though its space was later (from 1803) used to house the growing university library. That final sermon, to which these lines allude, was published posthumously as “Two Unshakeable Pillars of Human Peace and Contentment: God and Our Own Heart: Text: Matt. 7:24–27,” Predigten von Joh. Ben. Koppe . . . Nach seinem Tode herausgegeben, vol. 2 (Göttingen 1793), 113–30, the last two paragraphs of which read (p. 130):

And finally, bless this entire town and this entire state — a town and state that include so much and that is so dear to my heart.

And now I part from you, my dear friends. Though I will no longer teach you, I will often think of you, bless your love, and pray for you. And please do so for me as well, — refuse not this single, final request from your departing teacher — please also pray for me, for my well-being and that I might be useful wherever God sends me. Think only good of me. May God bless you. Amen. Back.

[4] “Ah, how he would have loved me”; Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Wie er mich würde geliebt haben (1786); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.709:



Translation © 2011 Doug Stott