Letter 283

• 283. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Braunschweig, 23 January 1801

Braunschweig, 23 January 1801

|30| Yes, my dear, I myself believed I would be seeing you during the initial weeks of this year, but for now it has admittedly been decided differently. [1] Even though I have not been ill thus far for any significant period of time, when it came time to raise the question in all seriousness, Wiedemann still did not want to allow me to travel during this time of the year, and I do feel he is correct inasmuch as they are concerned with ensuring life and a bit of good health for me just now.

A head cold and everything that goes along with it, along with the terrible roads, have also conspired to keep Schlegel here, and he is considering waiting for a really heavy frost. I will be staying until the spring, though that will change nothing in my plans to spend some time with all of you there. [2] Meanwhile go ahead and send me whatever your good children have prepared for me. . . .

Goeschen is currently dispensing nothing but rejections, and they are all very difficult just now, since it is only now that the effects of the war |31| are really being felt, nor will the peace bring them relief any time soon. [3] You might try it through Jakobs, though I think Dyk will simply offer far too little. You are probably not interested in having it published as a pocketbook anthology, the form in which people are publishing almost everything now, or are you? There are, after all, two larger pieces, three counting Die Geisterinsel, which would fill up a fair sized volume and which would be more suitable to present to the public as such a separate volume, but it is understandable that this volume would be more difficult to place insofar as a first volume already exists. [4] You can believe me when I say that Schlegel does not want to neglect this matter and would possibly also be able to pursue it presently at the book fair in Leipzig; it is, of course, extremely slow trying to pursue something like this in letters. —

I did think of Seckendorf’s new quarterly pocketbook, which is published in Weimar and which you have presumably also seen. Goethe contributed a small, quite beautiful festival play for the duchess Amalia to it. [5] But I know nothing about the conditions, and the senior editor is a fool. Hence at the moment we genuinely have no substantive suggestions, but we do intend to think about it further; if only we could come up with something. Apart from la Fontaine and other such snack peddlers, and then also the premier philosophical writers, — believe me, everyone is having an increasingly difficult time getting published. [Matters involving Gotha.]

Tell Cecile that Lotte Wiedemann has been taken in like a precious jewel and a sugar doll by her parents-in-law in Switzerland and is already providing unequivocal, rounded hope for a little Ottchen. [6]

Another piece of news, one that will make her sad, is that concerning the dangerous condition of Hardenberg’s health. He is in Dresden, as is his fiancée, but in letters we have heard that he is but a shadow of his former self, completely exhausted, incapable |32| of taking part in a conversation, often falling asleep in company and then lying there like a dead person among the living. [7] This is causing especially Schlegel profound worry and is a new wound alongside the one that cannot heal. [8] I can only envy him if he now follows her for whose sake he has already long hovered between death and life. He finally wanted to decide in favor of life and to reconnect with life through the love of an extremely charming being, his present fiancée, but it does not seem to be succeeding, and he will perhaps be snatched away from his fiancée just as his former fiancée was snatched away from him. We were also terribly anxious about Goethe’s life for a few days. He was very sick. Thank God he has been saved. [9]

In so many places already, Schlegel’s Triumphal Arch has enjoyed the most resounding success one could have imagined or certainly expected. For it is indeed truly a gate of honor, fanfare, and trumpet blast of wit. [10]

Meyer is in Berlin. When Schlegel gets there, I will certainly find out what role he is playing there — probably an ambiguous one. There is much talk about a certain play: Camäleon, which Iffland had performed; but we do not yet really know what it is, only that the police forbid any further performance in response to Tiek’s accusation, since it allegedly exceeded all literary propriety in presenting the most base, vile characters parodying him and other more recent writers. [11] Iffland is certainly also capable of being malicious at times, and Meyer was no doubt on his side in this affair. You would absolutely not believe the lies this person peddled here. Sometimes they genuinely do go quite beyond anything funny. [12]

Give my regards to your family, my dear, and to Madam Schläger and Minchen as well. I truly rejoice with you concerning your good father’s recovery.



[1] See Dorothea Veit’s letter to Schleiermacher on 17 January 1801 (letter 282b), in which she mentions that “Wilhelm is still not here yet, mentions Caroline only quite peripherally in his letters, and is observing complete silence concerning anything related to his plans, hence we do not know whether Caroline will be coming along [to Jena] or not.” Caroline would have visited the Gotters in Gotha on that return trip (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[2] Wilhelm departed Braunschweig for Berlin on 21 February 1801, Caroline for Jena on 23 April 1801. The weather was in any case of perennial concern for travelers, esp. given the absence of chaussées in many parts of Germany at the time (anonymous 19th-century engraving):



[3] Luise Gotter had long been trying to place the posthumous works of her late husband, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, with a publisher. Concerning the war and anticipated peace, see Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm on 15 December 1800 (letter 276d), note 3. Back.

[4] Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, Die Geisterinsel: Ein Singspiel in drei Akten, serialized in Die Horen, vol. 11, no. 8 (1797) 1–26; no. 9 (1797) 1–78. Several of Gotter’s posthumous pieces, including Die Geisterinsel, were eventually published in his Gedichte, vol. 3: Literarischer Nachlass von Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter. Mit des Verfassers Biographie und seinem Bildnisse, ed. Friedrich von Schlichtegroll (Gotha 1802). Back.

[5] Goethe’s Paläophron und Neoterpe. See Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 2 January 1801 (letter 279), note 7. Back.

[6] I.e., was pregnant; the child was Maria Clara Charlotte Otth (1801–39). The Otth’s lived in Bern; thus was Charlotte Otth in a position to visit and commemorate in verse the grave of Friedrich August Eschen, who died in a climbing accident on Mount Buet in August 1800. See her verses composed at his grave in Servoz in the Swiss Alps, which Johann Diederich Gries also visited (H. Keller, Reisecharte der Schweiz. Carte routière de la Suisse [1819]):



[7] Caroline is essentially repeating what Charlotte Ernst had written Wilhelm in her undated letter to him that same month (letter 282a) (Heinrich Schmidt, Trauernde an einem Sterbebett [ca. 1753–99]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. A: 141):



[8] I.e., Auguste’s death. Hardenberg died on 25 March 1801. Back.

[9] Goethe had come down seriously ill just after New Year’s; see Caroline’s undated letter to Schelling in the same month, January 1801 (letter 281), esp. note 1. Back.

[10] Caroline is playing on the title of Wilhelm’s piece, Ehrenpforte und Triumphbogen, “gate of honor and triumphal arch,” and picking up on what Schleiermacher had written Wilhelm on 27 December 1800 (letter 277d), when he called a certain part of the piece a “fanfare with drums and trumpets.” Back.

[11] See Tieck’s exchange with Iffland in the supplementary appendix on Das Kamäleon. Back.

[12] During his stay in Braunschweig, Meyer had moved about in Braunschweig society, including with the family of the publisher Johann Friedrich Vieweg (Goethe’s Works, vol. 4, trans. G. Barrie [New York 1885], 300):


Caroline had written to Luise Gotter back on 7 September 1797 (letter 185), after Luise Michaelis had already moved to Braunschweig, married, and had already encountered Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer there:

I just received a letter from my sister, and on the last page I find Meyer’s handwriting, who had just reached Braunschweig during a walking tour through Lower Saxony and who tenderly reproached me for my silence — something he will have to continue doing for a long time.

For an explanation of Meyer’s itinerary and the recent changes in his life at the time (1797 and beyond), see esp. note 8 there. Caroline had last seen Meyer in October 1793 in Lucka; she never saw him again. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott