Letter 68a

• 68a. Caroline to Lotte Michaelis in Göttingen: Clausthal 1786

[Clausthal 1786]

|147| I had already thought about what you asked me, my dear Lotte, even before I saw the question itself. Earlier I was quite content, and was really quite pleased — I know not where I should put the blame, |148| whether on the soi-disant [1] ill-dispositioned reluctance, which one hopes did not survive the end of the week — or on Herr Professor Tychsen — or the ladies at the ball — for you cannot have done it to please me, since a good mood really is the only thing that arises and indeed can arise solely quite on its own and unforced.

In a word, you gave me an hour of rather amusing entertainment. It tastes like something more. Brd. calls Gustchen. Brf. calls mother. [2] Let me store your philosophy for you until you really need it — it will not suffer from having been carried around. You have already cleverly anticipated the only thing I could have presented as an objection — and now I must be silent.

Do only remember: it will not hold good any longer than does the genie of youth and freedom above us. It arises from the situation itself; the manner in which we actually view the situation does not arise out of it. It is like joy that flees sorrow. Be happy as long as you can. Soon enough the hour will come that breaks the spell, the hour when this enormous interest life possesses vanishes — when one day follows another without storms and without calm, and when the business of saving tears — breaking roses — is transformed into hiding tears and then drying those tears instead. The assertion that high virtue is in fact exaggerated intellect — Meyer abstracted that from Therese. Perhaps he is right, though I would certainly wish he were not; for why should exaggerated spirit and intellect not be nature itself — indeed higher nature?

I did not have a closer look at the purse until I had read your letter. I sighed deeply at the strange sight; it is pretty, indeed very pretty, thank you so much, and just as you guessed, all the more because you made it all by yourself. I would accept Tychsen’s box in God’s name — he is, after all, a Herr professor — not a student, but for the rest do not let vanity play tricks on you, do not be even the smallest bit coquettish |149| toward him. It is, of course, comical that a professor of sublime theology and Near Eastern languages is paying attention to you. [3]

Should Marianne? — I sounded out Blumenbach when I saw him briefly, he knows about it and related it to me. [4] There was a bit of malice there, the way she ambushed you. She will doubtless notice the thing with Meyer. It must be quite repugnant to Dortchen amid such complicated circumstances, and you certainly described it thus. You used a couple of expressions I wish you had left unsaid.

The postal coach is taking the quill out of my hand, my dear girl. Let me thank you again for your purse. If it not does rise as a witness against you — for you have promised me only pleasant associations — then it will be priceless to me.

Your Caroline


[1] Fr., “so-called, would-be.” Back.

[2] Unclear allusion. Back.

[3] Göttinger Taschen Calender Für das Iahr 1796; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[4] Johann Friedrich Blumenbach had visited Caroline in Clausthal on 7 November 1785 to pick up Marianne Heyne after the latter’s four-week stay with Caroline; it is unclear whether Caroline is referring to a different visit.

Caroline’s query, in connection with her earlier allusion to Thomas Christian Tychsen and the ball, might be referring to Marianne Heyne’s function as mediator in the relationship between Tychsen and Lotte. Tychsen is, however, possibly implicated (as “T.”) as having some connection with Marianne Heyne herself in a letter Therese Forster writes to her (step)mother on 26 March 1786 (Therese Huber Briefe, 1:216): “Were I but as calm about Marianne with respect to T. and the other dandies.”

In a slightly later letter to Lotte, Caroline implicates Marianne Heyne as having a relationship with a certain Luther rather than with Tychsen (though surprisingly possibly with the father rather than with the son; see Caroline’s letter to Lotte Michaelis on 28 May 1786 [letter 70] with note 8). On the other hand, Johann David Michaelis was quite sure Tychsen was interested in one of the Michaelis daughters (see Luise Wiedemann’s Erinnerungen, esp. p. 65). Back.