Letter 286

• 286. Caroline to Schelling in Jena: Braunschweig, Friday, 13 February 1801

[Braunschweig] Friday, 13 February [1801]

|36| Schlegel will definitely be departing over the course of next week, he is only waiting now for his traveling companion. [1] Although the winter has admittedly returned with a severe vengeance, I myself am doing well.

We learned from the newspaper yesterday about the death of one of Schlegel’s sisters, who was married to a pastor. |37| She was sickly and had no children. [2] Madam Ernst is thus the more to be pitied, for just imagine, she almost came down with a black cataract. [3]

Hardenberg’s father has picked him up and taken him to Weissenfels, essentially without hope for any recovery. Petzold has given up on him. Madam Ernst, though, is still holding out the possibility of recovery, and even I cannot bring myself to give up on it entirely. Although it took him five days to make the journey, he did manage to get there. His poor fiancée accompanied him. There is considerable grief in their family now, for Hardenberg’s mother has allegedly fallen into profound melancholy over the death of one of her sons, her favorite, who was 12 years old and drowned last summer. [4]

I can well imagine that Hardenberg does not wish you well; you also certainly showed him your own disinclination clearly enough. He no doubt also holds a grudge against me, and against both of us in turn, each for the sake of the other. [5] I am sure he has already been swayed to that position. We cannot help him. If only God may now help him, either toward a healthy life or a joyous death. I cannot lament him once he is gone. He transgressed the barriers.

I now regret my idea, you dear dear, namely, not to write. As far as your accusation is concerned — I just received your letter — in that regard I am innocent. I did, to be sure, send the lidded container on Tuesday, when in a single hour the post goes by both single horse and coach — but now I am no longer innocent, since I have surely vexed my dear, sad friend.

But why are you so sad? I want to tell you in a completely childish fashion: I am not sad. I am not sad any differently than I must eternally be so, and your consolation is also my own. Our child does not for a single moment depart from my side. I know no forgetting, though on the outside I am already living as another.

Yes, you know, |38| my dear Auguste, how by day and by night you stand before your poor mother, who can hardly be called poor any longer, since she now sees you more with delight than with grief. The lamentation at austere, bitter death is no longer a dagger, no longer a source of tormenting pain. I can smile, occupy myself quite amiably, but I perpetually live and move only in you, my sweet child — ah, disturb me not in my gentle grief, my dear Schelling, by making me weep now so bitterly over you as well. That should not be so. Were there any reason for you to reproach yourself, then also for me a thousand times more. But God knows there is no abiding space in my soul for such. I loved you — it was not an impious jest, and that absolves me, it seems to me.

I will definitely see you in the spring. [6] There is not much in the way of arrangements that need to be made. Our former house remains open to me, though I admittedly am loathe to dwell there, and I already told you once about the small garden house alongside Paradies; it would be large enough for me. You in any case should rent it. [7]

I will restrain myself from saying much to you about your painful letter — we cannot overcome it with words.

Let us see Wilhelm Tell together. It has every chance of turning out quite well, and it will doubtless also be a pleasure for me to see Iffland. [8]

Yesterday in the theater I saw Louis Buonaparte, who is returning from Berlin; so, now I have seen something of this noble blood with my own eyes. [9]

My dear, these past few days I reread “Tancred” in Boccaccio, to which I was prompted by Bürger’s piece Lenardo und Blandine, which is such an unworthy parody of it. I wept as many tears while reading it as did Ghismonda at the heart of her beloved. It was at precisely this time that Auguste began to translate the story —

I have resolved |39| to complete it, and to work on it until it is as faithful as possible and successfully renders the grandeur of the original. [10] How my child loved this story — she really was a deeply reflective personality. [11]

Are you not going to send the canzone back to me? [12] — I absolutely cannot find your Lied, and yet I know for a fact that I copied it down. Be a love and write it down from your excellent memory. Do not forget. [13]

Just for fun, let me write out an epitaph of Aretino for you that I recently came across:

Qui giace l’Aretino poeta tosco
Chi disse mal di tutti fuor di Cristo
Scusando se col dir: no lo conosco. [14] 

Tell me whether you have read the further translation of Quixote, and really do own it, otherwise the third part is still here for you, which I myself once bought. [15]

Adieu, my dear, dear Schelling. Refresh me with a more joyous heart.


[1] Wilhelm had written to Schleiermacher on 9 February 1801 (letter 285c) that he would be leaving Braunschweig in a week for Berlin but would not be traveling by way of Jena; he would (ibid.), moreover, be “traveling with a merchant with whom I will enjoy every convenience” (Godefroy Engelmann, Voiture à quatre chevaux avec un postillon (ca. 1800–1830; Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon F19ENG009945):



[2] Henriette Ernst, née Schlegel, had died on 3 February 1801. Back.

[3] Concerning Charlotte Ernst’s eye ailment, see her letter to Wilhelm in January 1801 (letter 282a) and Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 13 February 1801 (letter 286). Back.

[4] The fifth Hardenberg son, Bernhard had drowned in Weissenfels on 28 October 1800 in the Saale River, a suspected suicide; here Weissenfels in 1907 situated on the Saale River (frontispiece to Friedrich Gerhardt, Geschichte der Stadt Weißenfels a. S. [Weißenfels 1907]):


See Charlotte Ernst’s letter to Wilhelm in late January 1801 (letter 284a) and Caroline’s letter to him on 1 June 1801 (letter 319). Caroline is essentially repeating most of this information from Charlotte Ernst’s letter. Back.

[5] Caroline seems to be quite aware of what Hardenberg had written to Friedrich Schlegel on 28 July 1800 (letter 265h) after Auguste’s death, including:

For her mother, it is a serious warning. One cannot keep such a child as easily as one does a lover. But now she [Caroline] is completely free, completely isolated. I doubt she will take it the way it should be taken. Vanity is an immortal child.

Concerning Schelling’s assessment of Hardenberg in his own turn, see Henrik Steffens’s letter to Schelling on 18 October 1800 (letter 271b), note 8. Back.

[6] Caroline arrived back in Jena on 23 April 1801 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[7] Concerning this garden house — Wilhelm and Caroline’s initial residence in Jena — see Wilhelm’s letter to Georg Joachim Göschen on 24 June 1796 (letter 163h), note 6. Neither Caroline nor Schelling would rent it. Back.

[8] That Schiller was allegedly working on the play Wilhelm Tell had long been circulating as an unsubstantiated rumor (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 27 February 1801 [letter 292]). But he did not really begin historical background study for the play until late January 1802, returning to the material then in the spring of 1803 but not finishing it until 18 February 1804; here a costume design for the later Berlin theater in 1808 (Kostueme Auf Dem Koen. National-Theater in Berlin [Berlin ca. 1808]):


The play premiered on 17 March 1804 in Weimar, by which time Caroline and Schelling had left Jena forever, and the first printed version was published in October 1804 by Johann Friedrich Cotta in Tübingen (Friedrich Schiller, Werke in Drei Bänden, ed. Gerhard Fricke and Herbert G. Göpfer, 3 vols. [Munich 1966; 1981], 3:749).

Here a scene from the legend published considerably earlier, in 1781, by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki (Wilhelm Tell [1781]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [4-212]; first published in the Literatur-und Theater-Zeitung, vol. 4 [Berlin 1781], no. 33):



[9] Concerning the theater in Braunschweig, see Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe in early February 1801 (letter 285a), note 5.

Louis Bonaparte had in October 1800 been entrusted with the political mission to the courts of Berlin and St. Petersburg. Caroline is writing on 13 February 1801, just four days after the Treaty of Lunéville on 9 February following the Battle of Hohenlinden and the defeat of Austria that prompted the emperor Franz II to make peace.

The Treaty of Lunéville, which among other things involved the cession of the left bank of the Rhine River to France, was the beginning of the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, also known as the Old Empire (see the supplementary appendix on Germany in the late-eighteenth century). Two further steps toward that end are documented in this correspondence in 1803 and 1806. Louis Bonaparte had in connection with the these developments been recalled to France. Back.

[10] Caroline reports in a letter to Wilhelm on 5 March 1801 (letter 296) that she had just finished this translation. Wilhelm will speak about the “grandeur” of the original in his critique of Bürger’s “Lenardo und Blandine” (1776). See below. Back.

[11] Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:603, maintains that Gottfried August Bürger’s poem “Lenardo und Blandine” (1776), which does indeed flirt with being a parody, was not directly based on Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron 4:1, the story of Guiscardo and Tancred’s daughter, Ghismonda.

By contrast, Wilhelm Schlegel evaluates Bürger’s romance against the model of Boccaccio, on the one hand, and William Hogarth’s painting Sigismunda mourning over the Heart of Guiscardo (1759), on the other, as Bürger’s “worst aberration.” For Boccaccio’s story and extracts from Wilhelm’s critique, see supplementary appendix 286.1. Back.

[12] Presumably Wilhelm’s canzone “An Novalis.” Back.

[13] Schelling’s Lied “In meines Herzens Grunde Du heller Edelstein” appeared in the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, 241 (Sämmtliche Werke 10:437–38; approximate prose translation):


In the depths of my heart,
O you bright and precious stone,
Every hour, every day does glitter
The radiance of your name alone.

Your image delighting me
With play and gentle jest,
Touching sweetly, gently,
My restless heart, my breast.

O'er mountains do I behold
Your youthful form moving;
Yet, like clouds that flee,
Does the image wander by,
Guiding me forth through meadows,
Far, far down into the valley deep.
But would I then enjoy,
It immediately dissolves away.

Embrace you I would not,
But only entreat: flee from me not.
The image I cannot leave go,
Nor can it thus from me.
With thee alone is peaceful repose,
Hence to thyself do draw me close.
Reward must finally, finally come
To such pain, longing, and desire.

Because each new dawn
New rays of hope does bring,
Entering us, still,
Into the book of life,
Hence before you may I flourish,
And live both happily and free.
Gladly will I serve you,
That your heart, too, remain true. Back.

[14] Here the translation of Caroline’s version of the well-known epitaph for the irreverent Pietro Aretino:

Here lies the Tuscan poet Aretino,
Who spoke evil of everyone but Christ,
Excusing himself by saying, "I did not know him."

Several versions of the second line of this epitaph occur, and the first generally has “l’Aretin” rather than “l’Aretino”:

Qui giace l'Aretin, poeta tosco,
Che disse mal di tutti [or: d'ognun] fuorché di Cristo [or: Dio],
Scusandosi col dir: non lo conosco.

Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:603, also cites the second line as: “Di tutti (or Che d’ognun) disse mal fuorchè di Cristo.”

The epitaph is attributed to a friend who predeceased Aretino, the Lombard bishop and historian Paolo Giovio, who in return received a much more malicious epitaph concerning the ass as his prossimo (here: “nearest relative”):

Here lies Giovio, a remarkably distinguished poet,
Who spoke evil of everyone but the ass,
Excusing himself by saying, "he is my nearest relative." Back.

[15] Cervantes, The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha (El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha), 2 vols. (1605, 1615), translated by Ludwig Tieck as Leben und Thaten des scharfsinnigen Edlen Don Quixote von la Mancha, 4 vols. (Unger: Berlin 1799–1801). Concerning the lengthy dispute concerning this translation and that of Dietrich Wilhelm Soltau, see supplementary appendix 280.2. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott