Letter 5

• 5. Caroline to Julie von Studnitz in Gotha: Göttingen, 31 January 1779 (Fr.)

Göttingen, 31 January 1779

. . . |10| I know not whether I told you in my last letter, my dear Julie, that we had a visit from young Forster, [1] but I believe I did; I hope he will also be passing through Gotha, at least I do wish it, since then you will get a good idea of Göttingen hearing him talk about it with such grand enthusiasm; it is the place that pleases him best among all those he has thus far seen. He, who has seen so much, cities both large and small, who himself has always had a pleasing manner — for that is a fate that will follow him everywhere — such a person will certainly be able to judge Göttingen.

He presented me with the gift of cloth from Tahiti. He had promised he would, in case I might want to make myself an outfit from it, but I believed he had already long forgotten about it, and I had not given it another thought when I received a large package from him with the cloth along with a very nice note. To keep my promise to him, I had a shepherdess outfit made from it of the sort one sees at the redoute, so I can wear it at balls. [1a] The fabric is white and is trimmed all around with a blue ribbon, and the effect is indeed quite pretty. [1b]

But you would have had to see for yourself how much this outfit was touched and admired when I wore it for the first time; so I can certainly say at this point that it is unique and inimitable, at least up to the present, and perhaps so it will remain, since I do believe that Forster has |10| no more of these fabrics than what he needs as samples. [2] I would very much like to send you some of it did I not believe that he himself will be coming on his way back from Berlin and that you, too, will then have enough. He will be passing through here again at the end of February on his way to settle in Kassel, where he is a professor. [2a]

My brother will not be leaving for America until March; at present he senses how important his undertaking is and grows a bit anxious. But in that regard, I am quite confident of him. If ever there were a man in the world who will fulfill his obligations, it is he. But as for the other dangers he faces, he has no fear, whereas I can never be at ease about them. . . .

It seems to me that your theater is gradually declining. Accepting Monsieur Warneke, who is from here and who played Azor with such vivacity and spirit, [3] was indeed a grand demonstration of Monsieur Reichard’s taste. You lose, we win. It would thus be quite appropriate for our entire town to show your wise director its gratitude.

Our theater is perhaps better at present than yours. In several days they will be performing Der Westindier again. [4] Monsieur Schlik was also here and was well received by everyone. His performance is truly superior. Although everyone has indeed become quite interested in him, I know not whether it is because of his talent or his storybook affair with Mademoiselle de Rudolph, [5] for all its particulars are known here . . .


[1] Georg Forster had returned from his three-year voyage with Captain James Cook on 30 Juli 1775; since 1777 he had been traveling through France and, since 1778, Germany trying to earn enough money to pay off debts in London. Back.

[1a] Mode Almanach für Damen auf 1802; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[1b] Here a young woman examining fabric and a woman measuring out a bolt in a booth ([1] Göttinger Taschen Calender Für das Iahr 1798; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [2] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Szenen aus dem Alltagsleben [ca. 1790]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 161):



Stylized bucolic and pastoral imagery had become enormously popular at the time in Europe as a result not least of the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and as seen later, Caroline’s own wedding was essentially based on such a theme. Here a straightforward version of such a shepherdess outfit (anonymous, Schäferin [ca. after 1751]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. C: 258) and an excerpt from an illustration of an idealized version from Adam Gottfried Uhlich’s play Elisie oder die auf den Thron erhobene Schäferin: Ein Schäferspiel, Deutsche Schaubühne 5 (Leipzig 1746) (Johannes Nilson, Elisie [1741–88]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur Museumsnr JENilson AB 3.81):




[2] Albert Leitzmann, “Aus Karolinens Lebenskreisen,” 127, points out that Forster also presented his future bride, Therese Heyne, with such Tahitian cloth, and it was allegedly in a ball dress made from this very fabric that she won his heart; moreover, it was during precisely this visit to Göttingen — late December, early January 1779 — that he met Therese Heyne for the first time.

Otherwise fabric and materials for sewing and household linens were secured from the local fabric merchant ([1] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, 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 LII a; [2] Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1818: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[2a] Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch (Augsburg 1795):



[3] Jean-François Marmontel (libretto) and André-Ernest-Modest Grétry (music), Zémire et Azor. comédie-ballet en vers et en quatre actes. Mêlée de chants & de danses (Paris 1771). Here a scene from its performance in Gotha in 1777 (Theater-Kalender auf das Jahr 1777 [Gotha]):


And here from a French performance (Théâtre de l’Opéra-Comique, une scène de Zémire et Azor, représenté en 1771, d’après une estampe du dernier siècle d’après une gravure de Jacques Louis Touzé [1771]; Bibliothèque nationale de France):


This popular comic opera was frequently adapted in German, including by H. A. O. Reichard, also Moritz August von Thümmel (N.B. published against the latter’s will, who rejected the music by Christian Gottlob Neefe and withdrew his hand from the opera; see Moritz August von Thümmel, Sämmtliche Werke, ed. J. E. von Gruner, vol. 7 [Stuttgart 1820] 124 ), Zemire und Azor. Eine komische Oper (Frankfurt, Leipzig 1776). Back.

[4] Richard Cumberland, The West Indian: A Comedy (London 1771), German by Johann Joachim Christoph Bode, Der Westindier: Ein Lustspiel in fünf Handlungen (Hamburg 1772); illustration of the opening scene from August von Kotzebue’s adaptation (Theater von Kotzebue [Prague 1822]):




[5] Mademoiselle de Rudolph is not otherwise identified, though Reichard would later engage in heavy-handed intrigue with the Duke of Gotha to disrupt Schlick’s relationship with Amalie Seidler, whom Reichard himself would then marry (see supplementary appendix Amalie Reichard). Concerning the expression “storybook affair”: Caroline uses the French term romanesque here (histoire romanesque); concerning this word and the German analogue romanhaft (e.g., in a letter to Julie von Studnitz on 25 August 1779 [letter 9]), see Caroline’s letter to Luise Stieler on 16 June 1780 (letter 16) with note 1. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott