Letter 290

290. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Braunschweig, 24 February 1801

[Braunschweig] Tuesday afternoon [24 February 1801]

|43| I have taken care of everything on the list and even some things that were not.

Things have been delivered to all the proper persons, and your things have been packed up. I hope I have done everything properly. What other amusement might I have had since Saturday morning? [1] At first I was enthralled by the clear blue traveling weather, then that night the violent, thawing wind came and raged so against my windows that I had to have Rose get up and remove all the books that had already gotten wet.

This will probably frighten you almost as much as the storm did me with regard to your journey, but worry not, they have all dried out again, and you — today, I am guessing — have after a certain period of boredom now arrived safely in Berlin.

I wrote to your mother, and to the Tischbeins, to whom I sent the picture and dress; [2] I read through the entire A.L.Z. — you will be seeing the fruits of that. I am sorry about only one thing — that we could not really come up with any stronger yield of fragments from your things. [3] The good and witty material will presumably go all together as one piece; there are not really any passages that might be excised. You can also depend on me and save yourself the trouble of perhaps trying to find something I overlooked.

|44| I am quite tired and weak (including from packing; the picture this morning required a great deal of effort); I am getting up in the morning with a headache and have had nosebleeds, but the worst is what I no longer have — and you know what that is, Wilhelm.

I must relate an amusing diversion to you. Madame de Sierstorf invited us all to dejeuner yesterday and even offered the services of her carriage. Hence Luise and I attired outselves properly for court mourning, [4] and when the carriage pulled up, an unknown lady was sitting in it who did, however, introduce herself as quickly as possible. Do you by any chance recall having seen, among all sorts of small poems, the name Susanne Bandemer née Franklin? I immediately remembered the name when she said, “I am Madam von Bandemer; I am coming from Offenbach and going to Berlin etc.” [4a]

Well, Madam la Roche quickly appeared along with a half dozen other venerable and preeminent personages. Wanting to act rather preeminently myself, I let it be known that I almost believed her name was in fact not entirely unknown to me. — “Oh, my God, yes, I can easily believe it, since there are various modest gifts which I have not — been able to withhold from the world” —

We finally arrived at Madam de Sierstorf’s (who, I might add as an aside, was courteous to me to the point of intimacy), and now the spectacle began. Madam de Sierstorf told Madam von Bandemer that Madam von Haugwitz (wife of the Prussian minister) was here, had heard that she was passing through, and would be coming to speak with her.

Well, the poetess was completely beside herself at this news, and then Madam von Haugwitz genuinely did arrive, and now there was a whole spectacle of insipidness and subalternity and self-conceit and sentimentality — and I was as amused as if I had been at the choicest little French comedy. [4b] Madam von Haugwitz, however, did seem to me to be a bit more clever and more — let us say — keen on the famous lady because she was acquainted with her family, her adventures, and God knows what else.

Madam von Bandemer soon pulled |45| out a bundle of manuscripts and read to us first a letter from Wieland to Madam la Roche concerning the death of Sophie Brentano. The actual grief was able to coax little more than platitudes from him, not a single word of a personal nature in the entire letter. [5]

But then she got to her own manufactured compositions — an anniversary celebration of the Prussian throne — a little poem to a piano player who eats with her in the Blue Angel, and that sort of thing. [6]

Dainty little intermezzos added even more color to the scene. An innocent little pastor’s daughter from town came with the permission of Madam de Sierstorf that she, too, might make the acquaintance of Madam Susanne. Ah, but she had heard so much about her, since her uncle allegedly also ate with her in the Blue Angel, where they really did spend such magnificent evenings, and Mademoiselle Kirchgessner was there, and the harmony of the spheres, and all of them allegedly just so blissfully blissful together etc. [7]

Only try to imagine all this wretched stuff. Madam de Sierstorf herself actually spoke only with Luise and me. I, of course, could not help inserting just a bit of dry and modest ridicule now and then. Ask Madam von Haugwitz to tell you about it. Madam de Sierstorf did, however, relate to me that in all likelihood she would be separating from her husband.

When I mentioned this to Madam von Bandemer on the way home, she became very upset — since then, so her opinion, Madam von Haugwitz would lose absolutely all her influence — in a word, it became quite clear what our poetess was seeking, namely, support, subscription prospects, and, despicably, distinguished acquaintances. [7a] She babbled something about you, but it seems abundantly clear to me that she has heard nothing more than just talk here and talk there, though she did claim to know there were two of you. Perhaps you will meet her; by the way, she is already a grandmama.

She seems to have secured references along the way in Halberstadt and Magdeburg as well, and to be remaining in all these places as long as people keep issuing her invitations. —

I enjoyed several hours of rather stuffy air downstairs. The |46| Wiedemann clan was there, and yesterday afternoon Madam Roose visited me, and the upright Krauses were with Luise. Madam Fauche is also downstairs and sends her regards. Madam de Nuys had her portrait done by Anetti, but no one knows what happened to the picture. Some think you took it with you. Is that true? Did my dear Schlegel get it? But should you have your portrait done in Berlin, it will certainly not be she who gets that picture. [8]

Herr von Bodé also came by to pay you a visit.

I would have liked to send you something about Cotta’s pocket-book calendar, but my head was just so heavy; I will not forget about it. [9]

The crate in which I am sending you your things is the same one Wiedemann had made in Jena; we will now pay him on our own account, and I think it will also serve you well enough from Berlin to Jena. [10] Emma helped with all the packages and often wanted to come upstairs as well.


— after dinner

At this very moment, I just received two more letters for you, but the crate has already been nailed shut. I know not what else to do but go ahead and open up the envelope covers, since from the seal I can see they are from Fiorillo

Good — I plucked up my courage and was right in doing so. The one is the written piece by young Fiorillo — the other the enclosed letter from him — perhaps I will answer him for the time being with a couple of lines to encourage the young man to go ahead and do what he has resolved to do and what you wanted to suggest to him. Do you still have much in the way of the manuscripts with you? — The book itself can reasonably enough just remain here. [11]

Schelling has also written me about various things and sent me the |47| Lied; I will copy it out for you soon, today I just cannot do much else. [12]

He has written and told me about Fichte’s Announcement — you can probably get it now, and I would really like to hear what you have to say about it. [13]

In a larger sense I am living confident that you will be writing me much that is quite interesting, more, in fact, than I can now respond to. My letters will occasionally be little more than purely formal in nature, that is, when I simply do not want to dig so deep that I end up merely causing you to become dejected. [14]

Adieu, sleep soundly. You are, I hope, enjoying your new surroundings a little bit, are you not? [15] I am woeful and anxious here, and yet without even the slightest desire to get myself out. Just please do write often.


[1] Wilhelm had left Braunschweig for Berlin on the morning of Saturday, 21 February 1801 (map: Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]; illlustration of Berlin’s promenade Unter den Linden in 1769: Genealogischer Kalender auf das Gemeinjahr 1769, Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

Braunschweig_Berlin_Jena_ map



[2] Uncertain reference. Back.

[3] Uncertain reference, since Caroline specifies neither to which issue nor to which articles or reviews she is referring, and the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung appeared daily and sometimes twice daily.

Reviews during the preceding week were largely (though not exclusively) of works from the natural sciences. Nor do her remarks about fragments seem to throw light on this question. Fragments were last an issue in connection with Athenaeum, which, however, had since ceased publication.

See in this context Friedrich Schlegel’s letters to Wilhelm on 31 October 1797 (letter 188c), to Caroline on 12 December 1797 (letter 192c), to Wilhelm and Auguste on 18 December 1797 (letter 194), then Schleiermacher’s to Wilhelm on 15 January 1798 (letter 194c), and Wilhelm’s to Schleiermacher on 22 January 1798 (letter 194d), to adduce but a few letters. Back.

[4] The dowager duchess Philippine Charlotte had died on 17 February 1801. In such cases, royal protocol generally stipulated the type and duration of the various stages of official “court mourning.” Here a representative illustration of such mourning clothing for a woman at the time (illustration for a scene in an unknown literary publication; Jacob Wilhelm Mechau, Frau in einem Trauergewand. [ca. 1751–1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 796.1):


Concerning mourning fashion and protocol during this period, see the following information and illustrations in part courtesy of Sabine Schierhoff:

As early as 1797 the Journal des Luxus und der Moden published an article on the pros and contras of mourning periods and dress. Mourning periods traditionally followed a rather difficult protocol depending on one’s proximity to the family of the deceased and the stipulated length (mourning, half-mourning). Clothing in any case had to be black and made of a more modest fabric such as wool or cotton rather than silk. Nor was it merely the passing of close family members that prompted such mourning or mourning periods, but rather also relatives, friends, or even members of the nobility as in the present instance. Some towns eventually decided to make mourning protocol a personal decision of the family. See esp. Johann Friedrich Schütze, “Für und wider Trauermoden,” Journal des Luxus und der Moden 12 (November 1797), 537–43.

It is uncertain whether, e.g., members of the bourgeois class such as Caroline and Luise had certain outfits in their wardrobe specifically for such occasions (it may be remembered that Caroline herself had just been through a period of mourning for Auguste), or instead put together an appropriately black ensemble ad hoc.

See “Modenberichte, [copper engraving 26]: Eine Dame in schwarzer Kleidung zur Trauer oder auf Reisen,” Journal des Luxus und der Moden 15 (1800) (September), 484–91:

The second plate (plate 26) depicts a lady in a black mourning dress after the latest fashion. She is wearing a black taffeta dress patterned as a chemise, with a lace feature. A special lace piece covers the breast; the dress extends up to the shoulder and the neck, has long, narrow sleeves with short capped sleeves. Both are adorned with lace. A black velvet hat is included, its narrow brim adorned with lace. On the front of the hat a large satin ribbon bow, which disappears beneath the chin and is fastened to the right with a small bow.

Although in many places the mourning custom has already been eliminated by means of a quite reasonable agreement among the residents, such is not everywhere the case, least of all in the old imperial cities. That notwithstanding, however, black clothing is being worn with increasing frequency quite apart from mourning periods, and by both ladies and gentlemen.


That is to say, black was becoming a socially accepted color for daily clothing as well rather than remaining restricted to mourning periods, as shown by the following “morning dress” (rather than “mourning dress”) from 1802 (“Modeberichte und Neuigkeiten, [copper engraving 22] Eine Dame im Morgen-Ueberrock mit einem Morgenhäubchen und Goldnetz darüber,” Journal des Luxus und der Moden 17 [1802] [August], 482–83):

The second plate (No. 22) shows a lady in a morning dress for the garden or the walk to the public bath house. She is wearing a spencer of black cashmere with a round, bulging collar made of velvet of the very same color. The collar runs smaller to the front. The spencer is closed with four tiny black buttons on front. Long, very narrow sleeves. Underneath a fine chemisette with white embroidery. A peplum in the back.

Long train. A negligee cap is worn with this ensemble, made of white satin, decorated with a filet net of gold. A piece of gold lace runs all around as brim. The left cheek is covered more than the right. On the right is a bunch of white ears/cattail dipped in gold. Shoes of red English leather.

Here alongside a contemporary photograph of the same dress (courtesy Sabine Schierhoff):



[4a] Offenbach is located just outside Frankfurt am Main (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Besetztere und illuminierte Landkarte von Deutschland Elementarwerk, from the (Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate xlv):



[4b] Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808:



[5] Sophie Brentano had died on 19 September 1800 and was buried in Ossmanstedt. Wieland and his wife, Anna Dorothea, were so fond of her that they were later buried next to her; the obelisk commemorating all three became somewhat of a pilgrimage goal during the nineteenth century (“Wielands Grab zu Osmanstädt,” in Karl Eduard Rainold, Erinnerungen an merkwürdige Gegenstände und Begebenheiten, verbunden mit erheiternden Erzählungen, vol. 2 [Vienna, Prague 1823], following p. 234):


Wieland’s letter, presumably not extant, is possibly the preceding letter to which Wieland initially refers in his letter to Sophie La Roche on 28 November 1800.See C. M. Wielands Briefe an Sophie von La Roche, ed. Franz Horn (Berlin 1820), 321–23; that it is not this letter of 28 November is suggested by the fact that Wieland does indeed mention things “of a personal nature” in this letter:

My dear, precious lady friend!

Since my last painful letter to you departed, I have in the meantime received three modest letters from you to which I would rather respond in person than in writing.

The first, accompanied by the pleasant gift of your silhouettes, anticipated my own and pierced my soul all the more insofar as it yet breathed hope [for Sophie’s recovery], and insofar as I did not receive it until a recently closed grave covered the mortal remains of the most beautiful soul ever to walk among human beings in the form of an angel.

Alas! she was too beautiful, too good, too delicate, too gentle for a world such as this one!! She is now what she never, never again could have been in this life even to the extent it might have been possible for the medical arts to maintain her this time —

She is happy! — Nor do we grieve for her! We grieve for ourselves, And anyone who knew her and was capable of appreciating her — can they possibly blame us? What I lost in her I can never replace. — Will we ever see her again, as Frau A. von S**, my lady friend, insists we can hope? — May heaven grant such!

And why not? After all, I already often see her in my dreams. Indeed, even last night I saw her, so beautiful, so charming, amiable, and gracious, so full of feeling and cheerful in the way I saw her only in her happiest moments while she was yet alive. It was a true vision beatifique for me — and the way she (as if returning from a long, faraway journey) flew to me, and I embraced her, and the way I repeatedly pressed her to my heart, absolutely sure I was permitted to tell myself: She is alive, she whom you thought dead, she lives, — amid a feeling of bliss that defies expression.

With a feeling of blessedness I had never before experienced, I fell to my knees and gave thanks with tears of joy and arms outstretched to heaven that she was still alive — and then, moments later, I awoke. —

The peculiar thing is that the same night I beheld this blissful vision, I fell into rather incredible reverie on the occasion of the (enclosed) piece by Fr. von S., with the words “see again etc.,” and before falling asleep had told myself, “If Sophie were yet alive, why should it not be within her power to give me some sign that she yet remembered me and took an interest in me? And would she not indeed do so if she could?”

Might one not perhaps pardon — well, someone else, if not me — if with respect to these circumstances he were to become a bit superstitious and view the dream as a direct consequence of an approach and exertion of influence of Sophie’s soul on my own? What do you think, my dear friend? Back.

[6] See G. Hassel and K. Bege, Geographisch-statistische Beschreibung der Fürstenthümer Wolfenbüttel und Blankenburg, vol. 1 (Braunschweig 1802), 299, which lists the following as the “preeminent inns” inside the town proper of Braunschweig: “das Kaffeehaus, Hotel d’Angleterre, Prinz Oraniaen, blaue Engel [Blue Angel], Deutsche Haus, Prinz Wilhelm, die drei Lillien, die Rose, die Wirthschaft im Vauxhall,” all as places where travelers might find a table d’hôte (a meal served to all guests at a stated hour and fixed price).

The Blue Angel is similarly mentioned in 1789 and even 1750. Henrik Steffens, moreover, had stayed in this inn in 1798 on his way to Jena (Was ich erlebte 4:4):

As we drew closer to Braunschweig and viewed the charming surrounding countryside, I gazed across the fertile fields on the other side of town trying to catch a glimpse of the distant Harz Mountains. My yearning for such mountainous regions had been heightened by my stay in Norway. We stayed in the Blue Angel, an inn that had special significance for us because its association with a writer toward whom we both were, however, rather indifferent, namely, Knigge.

The inn was located at Gördelingerstraße 79-80 in Braunschweig (Friedrich Wilhelm Culemann, Plan der Stadt Braunschweig [1798]):



Such overtly public meals were understandably frequently the subject of satire (George Cruikshank, Un Table D’Hote [1796]; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts):



[7] “Mademoiselle Kirchgessner” was likely the celebrated Glasharmonika player Marianne Kirchgessner, who, though currently residing in her villa near Leipzig during a reduced touring schedule, did indeed perform in Hannover and Frankfurt in 1801, during which travels she seems — if Caroline’s reference indeed be to her — to have stayed over in Braunschweig (in 1802 she continued her tour with performances in Stuttgart, Leipzig, Berlin, Wien und Prag). Caroline’s pointed, if tongue-in-cheek, reference to the “harmony of the spheres” likely also literally alludes to her instrument and thus to her presence in Braunschweig (J. M. Poisson, L’harmonica; Thomas Bloch Collection; no additional attribution provided):


The inventor (1761) of the Glasharmonika, moreover, was Benjamin Franklin, Susanne von Bandemer’s uncle. Back.

[7a] Then as today, securing “distinguished acquaintances” in a stratified society could enhance one’s social and professional standing in countless ways. That Caroline picks up on the potentially disingenuous and unpleasant (“despicable”) side of such behavior is not surprising, especially given her personality (“I was as amused as if I had been at the choicest little French comedy”).

Not incoincidentally, Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki published a series of vignettes with the title Das Leben eines schlecht erzogenen Frauenzimmers (“The life of a badly raised woman”) in the Berliner Genealogischer Calender auf das SchaltJahr 1780. The following vignette bears the individual title Beckanntschafft mit grossen Männern, “The acquaintance of great men” ([1779]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 [296]):



[8] Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:604, lamented that “not even Privy Councilor P. Zimmermann in Braunschweig” was able to determine who Anetti was.

It seems, however, that the artist’s name was Annetti, whose first name is otherwise unknown but who was primarily a painter of miniature portraits, including at the court in Braunschweig. In 1780 he did a portrait of Duchess Philippine Charlotte von Braunschweig with her daughter Auguste Dorothee, Abbess von Gandersheim, a painting last attested in a private collection in Hannover.

In the listing (Bildarchiv Foto Marburg) and on the painting itself, the artist is identified only as “Annetti,” and, in the listing, as “active 2nd half of the 18th century.” This lack of identification and, even more, the unknown location or fate of this portrait are all the more regrettable because no extant portrait of Minna van Nuys seems to exist, a woman known especially for her striking beauty.

She was, moreover, as Josef Körner trenchantly demonstrates, likely the only woman among Wilhelm’s many flirtations whom Caroline considered a genuine rival, something her remarks here also suggest (anonymous, Galante Szene mit Handkuss [1776–1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. A: 179):



[9] Johann Friedrich Cotta’s Taschenbuch für Damen auf das Jahr 1801 (Tübingen 1801) included thirteen copper engravings (in actuality: seven single and six double engravings for a total of nineteen separate illustrations.

Six illustrations (those with two caricatures each by Johann Heinrich Ramberg) portray women committing social or moral transgressions, essentially unfortunate or painful scenes deriving from the lives of women at large.

To mitigate the potentially negative reaction the twelve “bad-women” illustrations might elicit among readers, especially women, Cotta petitioned Goethe (probably on 6 May 1800) to complement them with correctives. Hence the remaining seven illustrations, by Karl Ernst Christoph Hess, portray happy moments in a (good) woman’s life: one for a wife (with a motif from antiquity involving Lucretia) and two each (with contemporary motifs) for the bride, wife, and mother.

Goethe presented a narrative on such “good women,” “Die guten Frauen, als Gegenbilder der bösen Weiber, auf den Kupfern des diessjährigen Damenalmanachs” (The good women, as countertypes to bad women in the engravings in this year’s Damenalmanach), Taschenbuch für Damen auf das Jahr 1801, ed. Huber, Lafontaine, Pfeffel, et al., (Tübingen 1800), 171–96 (Weimarer Ausgabe 18:275–312; scholarly apparatus ibid., 424–50; repr. with illustrations: Die guten Frauen von Goethe: mit Nachbildungen der Originalkupfer, Deutsche Litteraturdenkmale des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts 21, ed. Bernhard Seuffert [Heilbronn 1885]).

The ploy was not particularly successful, and Goethe himself was pleased neither with having to perform this pro bono service for Cotta in the first place nor with the result (a social novella with dialogue). Nor were readers, particularly women, assuaged, and critics similarly were perplexed or negatively disposed.

The Taschenbuch appeared during the autumn of 1800. Cotta sent Charlotte Schiller a copy on 5 September 1800 soliciting her opinion and promptly got a negative reply to the effect that women would likely be “declaring war” on him, “for you know we prefer to see ideals before us that we consider attainable rather than to see the weaker parts of our sex revealed.” She will, she adds, ask Madam Cotta to veto such inclusions in the future. Goethe’s text in any case does not address all the engravings, and in some instances mentions features not actually in the pictures at all.

The illustrations of the “bad women” portray peculiarly eighteenth-century scenes such as the danger of women gossiping:

Scene no. 2: A woman interrupts two fisher wives and creates an argument through inappropriate gossip.


To open a gallery of the complete illustrations from Cotta’s Taschenbuch for 1801, click on the image below:



[10] See KFSA 25:226, with 565fn11. Friedrich Schlegel had written to Wilhelm from Jena on 2 February 1801:

Several small invoices have arrived from the bookbinder, from Fiedler, and from Schreiber. The latter made something for Professor Wiedemann and was uncertain whether he would receive payment from you or from the Hufelands [Madam Hufeland was Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann’s sister]; Caroline initially told him that she herself would pay it. Hence be so kind as to ask her about this matter.

As an aside one might note that, according to Caroline’s remarks, Wilhelm was still planning a journey to Jena. Back.

[11] Wilhelm Schlegel provided stylistic corrections and addenda to the manuscript of Johann Dominik Fiorillo’s historical treatise Geschichte der zeichnenden Künste von ihrer Wiederauflebung bis auf die neuesten Zeiten, vol. 1, Geschichte der römischen und florentinischen Schule (Göttingen 1798), vol. 2, Die Geschichte der Venezianischen, Lombardischen und der übrigen Italiaenischen Schulen enthaltend (Göttingen 1801), the two initial Italian parts. Schlegel knew Fiorillo from his university days in Göttingen. Back.

[12] Concerning this Lied, see Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 13 February 1801 (letter 286), note 13. Back.

[13] Concerning Fichte’s “Ankündigung der neuen Darstellung der Wissenschaftslehre” in Johann Friedrich Cotta’s Allgemeine Zeitung (1801) no. 24 (24 January 1801) Beilage no. 1, 1–4, see Goethe’s letter to Schelling on 1 February 1801 (letter 285b), note 5. Fichte was becoming tight with Wilhelm Schlegel now that the latter was actually residing in Berlin, and would remark to Schelling on 7 August 1801 that he was getting to know Wilhelm better than ever before and was becoming even more fond of him “because of his uprightness and his indefatigable industriousness” (Fichtes und Schellings philosophischer Briefwechsel [1856], 92). Back.

[14] Although no extant documentation attests such, Caroline and Wilhelm necessarily had already had extensive conversations about their relationship, their marriage, their current separation, Caroline’s relationship with Schelling, and the future. Concerning these same issues, see also Caroline’s letter to Schelling in February 1801 (letter 291). Back.

[15] See the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s residences in Berlin. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott