Letter 56

• 56. Caroline to Lotte Michaelis in Göttingen: Clausthal 15 June 1785

[Clausthal] 15 Junius [1785] [*]

On the anniversary of the day that exiled me here between
4 walls, before a heated stove, like a hothouse
flower that enjoys the sun and air only through glass.

|114| . . . [Not feeling well.] This news is actually for Mother, since I know you are not interested in this sort of thing. Ah, |115| how gladly would I just turn an indifferent ear to all the talk about how I have never been sick before. Since my confinement, I have still not felt entirely healthy, and because there is nothing I fear more than being sickly, I will do everything I can to get well again soon and to repair everything I may have damaged — but I must keep preaching to myself so that I can keep other people quiet. I would similarly wish that my good husband have a healthy wife . . .

You seem to have had very nice outings indeed in the forest and the library. What a pleasant life you are leading! — or so it seems to me. My dear Lotte, please allow that particular, underlying calmness of conscience to continue, otherwise this pleasant life will quickly be transformed again; a pure, free heart that does not seek its pleasures behind closed doors — do not forfeit it again through folly [1] . . .

I believe Don Carlos will turn out to be something good if he can but purge a bit of Swabia from his language. [2] I did not at all like the rest of the material in the Rheinische Thalia. [3] Many thanks for the Kinderfreund [4] . . .

Yes, today I have been married exactly one year. How quickly, how slowly has it passed. Right now, at this moment, as I look back, the girl I was and the mother I have become seem separated by but a single stroke of the clock.

Take this to Madam Böhmer immediately.

Farewell, my dear. I hurt all over, I cannot bend my neck, and wherever I but touch myself, it swells up all whitish and reddish. I wish you would turn black!



[*] Philippine Augusta Böhmer had been born on 28 April 1785. Back.

[1] A reminder to Lotte not to repeat the mistake of pursuing clandestine relationships with men — described in previous letters — as she had earlier with Pedro Hockel, August von Kotzebue, the mysterious “Herr W.,” and perhaps others (Goettinger Taschen Calendar vom Jahr 1790; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung);


The caption to the following illustration reads: “Save yourself, woman! Thoughtlessness and love have made us unhappy” (Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen aufs Jahr 1790; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[2] “Swabian”: Schiller was born in Marbach am Neckar, in Württemberg. He worked on what later became his play Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien, between March 1783 and 1787, having been introduced to the material as far back as January 1782; it would premiere in Hamburg on 29 August 1787. He published the first version — up to the beginning of act 3 — in his periodicals Rheinische Thalia and Thalia between 1785 and 1787. The initial book version was not published until June 1787 by Caroline’s later acquaintance Georg Joachim Göschen in Leipzig, who would play an important role in one of the most difficult periods in Caroline’s life.

Caroline is referring here to the first act of Don Carlos, here called Dom Karlos. Infant von Spanien, as published in Schiller’s periodical Rheinische Thalia, vol. 1, no. 1 (Mannheim 1785) 95–175. Issue no. 1 was called Rheinische Thalia, which Schiller published in Mannheim in March 1785; once he left Mannheim, he secured Göschen in Leipzig as the publisher, and the title was simply Thalia (1786ff.); after 1792 Neue Thalia. Back.

[3] As Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:683, and commentators following him point out, in this first issue of Schiller’s periodical Rheinische Thalie Caroline noticeably chose not to mention either (1) “Merkwürdiges Beyspiel einer weiblichen Rache,” Rheinische Thalia, vol. 1, no. 1 (1785), 27–94, after Denis Diderot, Jacques le fataliste et son maître, first published in French in 1796 after being published in a German version in 1792 (Schiller acquired the manuscript version from Wolfgang Heribert Dalberg, director of the Mannheim National Theater), or (2) what is known as the Mannheim theater discourse, delivered before the German Society of Mannheim, 26 June 1784, “Was kann eine gute stehende Schaubühne eigentlich wirken?” Rheinische Thalia, vol. 1, no. 1 (1785), 1–27.

Schmidt and others also point out, however, that she similarly did not mention “Verbrecher aus Infamie: Eine wahre Geschichte,” Thalia, vol. 1, no. 2 (1786), 20–58, or “An die Freude,” Thalia, vol. 1, no. 2 (1786), 1–5. But she is writing in June 1785 and is referring specifically to the Rheinische Thalia, whereas these latter two pieces appear in the next issue in 1786, Thalia.

Here the table of contents of the issue to which Caroline is referring:


This remark is in any event possibly the first that documents Caroline’s disinclination toward Schiller both personally (though Schelling spoke with the same regional accent) and in literary matters. Back.

[4] The reference is likely to a specific issue of Christian Felix Weisse, Briefwechsel der Familie des Kinderfreundes (Leipzig 1784–92), “family correspondence of the children’s friend.” Here the title and interior vignettes of the two issues that appeared in 1785 (issues 3 and 4 [1785]):








Translation © 2011 Doug Stott