Letter 276

• 276. Caroline to Goethe in Weimar: Braunschweig, 26 November 1800 [*]

[Braunschweig, 26 November 1800]

|19| If your own hopes in Schelling, if everything he has already accomplished — indeed, if he himself is as dear and as precious to you as I believe he is, then despite their peculiar nature you will surely pardon these lines in which I am asking you to help him. I know of no one else in the world besides you who could do that now.

A series of grievous events has plunged him into an emotional state that could not but destroy him even were his original intention not necessarily to destroy himself by giving in to such a state. You can hardly have failed to notice how much he is suffering in both body and soul; his mood has become so sorrowful and debilitating that some guiding star must reveal itself to him soon.

I myself am weary and ill, and am unable to focus his attention again on that vigorous view of life to which he is called. You, however, can do this both because you are so close to him with regard to his loftiest, most cherished ambitions, and because of the personal inclination and admiration for you permeating his entire being. The influence you have over him is the same that nature herself would have could she herself speak to him through a voice from heaven.

So, please, extend your hand to him in her name. You need not do much more than you are in reality already doing. The concerned interest you have shown and your communication with him have already often been a ray of sunlight that breaks through the fog in which he lies entrapped, and certain things he has |20| written to me have given me both the idea and the courage to solicit your help in a more explicit fashion.

Please just let him know that you have noticed how something is burdening his heart and eating away at him in a fashion unbefitting him regardless of how exquisitely cruel fate may very well be. Please help him take a clear, unflinching look at himself. Even the slightest gesture from you will have an effect on him; for regardless of how reserved and rigid he may seem, believe me, his entire inner being will open up to you if you but turn to him.

And if he himself were not so apprehensive about too emotional a reaction in your presence, he would perhaps already have done what I am trying to do in a gentler fashion, albeit with considerable worry, on his behalf, namely: commend his well-being to your salutary care.

It is the best his friend could do for him, a friend otherwise unable to console him in the same way she may console herself. I have risked doing this confident both of your own graciousness and of the serious nature of my concern. My own eyes are clouded, I see only that he must continue to live and go on to accomplish all the splendid things he has set before himself.

If I might be permitted to express one particular wish, it would be that at Christmas you might entice him out of his loneliness and into your proximity.

Without expecting any further answer, I am hoping to be comforted in learning that you have honored my request, and however superfluous it may be to do so, let me entreat you not to mention this request in any way.

26 November 1800.

Caroline Schlegel.

Schlegel will probably have the honor of seeing you again before the end of the year. [1]


[*] A facsimile of this letter precedes it in Erich Schmidt (1913), 19. Schmidt, ibid., 601, expresses his gratitude to Wolfgang von Oettingen for permission to include the facsimile.

First published in the Goethe und die Romantik, 201–3. See Oskar Walzel’s introduction to this letter in ibid., lxxi–lxxiii (supplementary appendix 276.1).

Schelling was in Jena at this time (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[1] Goethe fulfilled Caroline’s eloquent request, bringing Schelling from Jena to Weimar on 26 December 1800 and keeping him there till 4 January 1801. See Caroline’s reaction in her letter to Schelling in early January 1801 (letter 279).

Goethe came to Jena on 12 December 1800 and remained until 26 December, when he returned to Weimar with Schelling. He notes in his diary on 26 December (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:2:315), “Friday to Weimar with Herr Professor Schelling.”

On 22 December he had already written Schiller (Correspondence Between Goethe and Schiller 2:354): “Schelling I shall bring with me on Friday, so as to have a strong support for our centenary plans.” And on 30 December to Schiller (ibid., 355): “If you care to partake of an ordinary frugal meal this evening, in philosophical and artistic society [fn: ‘Probably to meet Schelling and Meyer‘], you would be heartily welcomed.” Then in his diary on 31 December (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:2:): “In the evening Hofrath Schiller and Professor Schelling for dinner” (illustration of Goethe’s Weimar house on an early postcard: “Vor dem Goethehaus zu Weimars klassischer Zeit”):


For an account of their private New Year’s Eve celebration with Schiller, in which Henrik Steffens also participated, see Steffens’s account in supplementary appendix 279.1 (Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808, though no women were present):


Henrik Steffens, Was ich erlebte, 4:295–96, remarked the following concerning Schelling during this stay in Weimar:

I found Schelling in Weimar. He was staying with Goethe, and, if I am not mistaken, spent almost an entire month with him at the time. Much had changed in Jena. The separation of those who had earlier been allied had begun; Schelling especially became increasingly alienated from the others. And for the first time, I became aware of a certain hostile, alienated relationship here of the sort that has pursued me my entire life subsequently.

Schelling himself thanked Goethe in a letter on 26 January 1801 (Goethe und die Romantik 213; Fuhrmans 1:240; Goethe had been seriously ill during January):

Although the reestablishment of your health is an event of universal and even public good fortune, no one among so many can be happier than I myself am, whom your kindness has specially privileged to give thanks to heaven for your recovery.

Never, I think I may say, have I had a more immediate and direct feeling of happiness than when I learned that you had been restored to the world, to science, and to art.

The recollection of my salutary and happy stay in your house and in your company did not leave me for a single moment and was of inestimable comfort to me during this period. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott