Letter 60

• 60. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Clausthal, 1 (3?) September 1785 [*]

Clausthal, 1 (3?) September 1785

|120| So, you have seen it through to the end, this harsh test. [1] Peace to you, my friend, and to the dear, now blessed creature to whom the world never had a chance to give joy — whom “the great spirit guided through desert and burning sand only to bring it to that place where its children enjoy the shade of springtime.” [2] Its unfathomable guidance heaped upon you, you dear, innocent woman, every suffering a mother could have — but now be comforted, the sacrifice has been offered, the burden taken from you, and |121| you will be worthy of honor indeed if you now fulfill your destiny with equanimity and are not unhappy that now, with the sweet confidence of those who grieve through no fault of their own, you can say that I blindly followed the sign from God, not questioning why he took the child from me, or why he took it the way he did, knowing only that I have now given it back to him who is the Father of us all.

Yes, my dear, your daughter is now in his hands; dry your tears and turn your attention with a cheerful countenance to your remaining children. [3] With the ardent pleading of a heart that with friendship — and motherly love bore your grief as if it were her own, let me beg God in heaven that you may find reward and compensation in them. My brother told me about all of them; I have now reported the fortunate end of your dear small one to him; he values Louise [4] so much, and so enthusiastically desires her well being, that this news will be a comfort to him.

I have not been well since last week and am still suffering from toothaches . . . But my Auguste is all the healthier; her rosy cheeks and burning eyes arouse considerable admiration. I hereby order our Gustav, over whom I will, after all, exercise a certain measure of power, to look the same. [5]

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday very quietly. I got up sick and certainly without any pleasant anticipation for the day — and just as I was going to have my tea brought in, Böhmer came in with a black earthenware English tea service with figures in relief and made quite in the English fashion, and brought me some tea whose fragrance did indeed refresh me. [6] It really did give me such pleasure.

Farewell, by precious dear, and may heaven grant you happier hours than you have had the occasion to enjoy for so long.

Your own,
Caroline B.


[*] Both Georg Waitz (1871), 22, and Erich Schmidt (1913) (who seems to have followed Waitz; Schmidt is generally quite careful with manuscript inconsistencies) date the letter to 1 September 1785. Later in the letter, however, Caroline mentions that she celebrated her birthday the previous day. As far as we know, however, she was born on 2 September (though reliable documentation seems to be lacking).

Perhaps (1) Caroline herself misdated her letter; (2) she began it on 1 September, put her quill aside, and finished it on 3 September, except that she generally indicates such interruptions with a new dating; or (3) Waitz misread the date. In any event, without the manuscript, which seems to have been lost, one cannot really make a determination (concerning internal evidence in the letter deriving from the deaths of two of the Gotters’ children, see notes below). Back.

[1] Pauline Gotter had died on 15 August 1785. Concerning infant mortality, see esp. Caroline’s earlier letter to Luise Gotter on 22 June 1785 (letter 57), note 2. Back.

[2] Uncertain allusion; Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, 30:2450, noting Caroline’s authorship, adduces this passage s.v. Wüste (desert) without, however, indicating an earlier source, notwithstanding Caroline is clearly citing. Back.

[3] Cäcilie (born 1782), Julie (born 1783), and Gustav (born March 1785), the latter of whom, however, would die scarcely two weeks later, on 19 September 1785. Back.

[4] I.e., Luise Gotter herself; Caroline’s orthography is inconsistent (elsewhere as well). Back.

[5] Caroline was one of Gustav Gotter’s godparents; see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 22 June 1785 (letter 57). Back.

[6] Presumably a black-basalt tea service of the sort available after ca. 1768 from Joseph Wedgwood in England (William Burton, Josiah Wedgwood and His Pottery [London 1922], illustration following p. 16):


See also Caroline’s undated letter to Lotte Michaelis in 1799 (letter 94), note 5.

That Caroline was about to “have my tea brought in” reflects once more that the family employed domestics, in this case presumably a maidservant (Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):


Concerning their manservant as well, see Caroline’s undated letter to Lotte Michaelis in 1784 (letter 47). Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott