Letter 295

• 295. Caroline to Schelling in Jena: Braunschweig, Wednesday morning, March? 1801

[Braunschweig] Wednesday morning [March? 1801]

|59| My dearest of friends, let me write you right on the heels of your wonderful parcel. Yesterday we had a grand concert here in the house (with quartets) during which you were constantly in my mind and heart; before I went to bed, Rose brought me the two letters from you, and so as soon as I got up this morning, I wanted to thank you.

Their overall meaning is affectionate and affable despite the modest elements of bitterness. You are mistaken, but I hope you are not perhaps thinking you are right. For if I do indeed leave you, I will do so quite differently than you allege to imagine, |60| and I have never clung as tightly and indissolubly to you as now. If you were to cast me off from you, you would also be tearing my life asunder.

So when you prattle on about the wish to be free, and about the possibility that my inner spirit might not really be irresistibly drawing me to you, all that is nonsense — for it is precisely to you that it draws me. I have never felt it more all-powerfully.

I simply want to remain what I am, to remain that which I cannot change without destroying myself, and to remain faithful to myself that I might be all the more faithful to you. The fear of eliciting your displeasure, and the devastating effect your displeasure has on me — I must necessarily flee these things for the sake of love and my sacred, unalterable grief, which simply no longer can endure such perturbation — hence I must separate myself from you at least to the extent that you yourself do not suffer because of my transgressions, and such that you merely have a friend’s right of reproach, not to become ashamed for me, and merely a lover’s right to be pleased with me, not to try to please me.

Ah, I am so frightfully fond of you, incomprehensibly fond, and only now will it come wholly to light. Could I but inspire you with my own disposition, disperse all tension, hold you fast in your grace, in your lighter mood.

Sweetheart, you, too, are worthy of love, it is just that the sky is not yet clear. Clouds flee to and fro, the storm chases them before the countenance of the sun. Although there is no climate on earth without clouds, only in the North do they rise up so incessantly again, hence come to my South, come, you most beloved of all human beings. Certainly, if amid such grief you now no longer turn to impossibilities, we can still construct a beautiful life for ourselves.

Accept our wondrous alliance just as it is, bemoan no longer that which it could not be, not the pure, |61| earthly beautiful, restricted love of two beings who, free from all fetters, meet for the first time to exchange freedom with each other, indeed, not even a courageous sundering of all previous bonds, which even in my circumstances love could never have ascribed to itself as virtue.

And yet, as fragmented as it may well seem to our simple desires, it is nonetheless all in all; I take you to my breast as a friend, as a brother, as a son, and as a lover; [1] it is like the mystery of the deity, like the virgin who is mother, and daughter of her son, and bride of her creator and redeemer. Let us finally regard it thus in silence and faith.

I well realize such is much easier for me given my nature, and certainly for me as a woman. The way you entered into this consciousness, however, the demands you made on fate were those of a ruler, fully determined, knowing no restriction though perhaps restricted nonetheless — you wanted unclouded, youthful happiness, you youthful heart, as also befits such a magnificent person, had you but not been so much more magnificent than magnificent. When I woke up within myself, things happened such that for a long, long time I believed that happiness could never be at home in reality, nor be anything that truly corresponded to our innermost being. And because of this initial upbringing, I always remained a bit modest. Resignation gave me a certain depth, and my first love gave me an inexpressible serenity even though it itself hardly even belonged to reality in the strict sense.

Now you must make do if necessary, but in bitterness, and I in rich humility. You neither can nor should be the same as I — but you do need to acknowledge the way things look from both sides and accept from me not that which would coerce, but rather that which would soothe, console, and calm your noble disposition.



Do not mock, my dear, I was, after all, born to be faithful, and would have remained such my entire life had the gods so willed it. And despite the presentiment of independence that has always resided within me, it caused me tremendous, laborious pain to be unfaithful, if you want to call it that, for inwardly I have never been such. Precisely this consciousness of inward faithfulness, however, has often made me angry, allowing me to take risks in what I allowed myself. I knew of the eternal balance in my own heart. Could anything more base preserve me from ruin in my dangerous life than precisely this most lofty element?

And had I made myself despair in the despair of those whom I love — indeed, I would despair at it in grief, but not in conscience. I could never cry out as does Jacobi: “Do not rely on your heart!” [2] I would always have to rely on my heart beyond considerations of distress and even death, even if doing so had led me precisely to distress and death. That is my immediate knowledge, namely, that this certainty is certain, and could it ever be crushed within me, then annihilation itself would result, that is, for me. For this is not some sort of doctrine or teaching, nor can it be communicated to others, though it is probably an invisible church.

You see, I take faithfulness quite seriously — though certainly not in order to slip away from you simply because doing so might seem the next best thing. Insofar as I am faithful to myself, I am also thus to you. Though I must add that, just as at least according to my understanding sin does not reside in actions, so also does unfaithfulness not appear thus to me in those who are unfaithful.

And you are perhaps not at all satisfied with that view, are you, my dear? No, you, too, recognize here the point that appears [3] what is lofty and what is low, otherwise you would not have admitted to me so seriously recently that you have no |63| friend who is more dependable than I — and now you jest so graciously with your lady friend about her unfaithful head. These few lines are indeed enchantingly sweet — though I do hope you understand “amiability” to mean worthy of being loved. [4] But to what is this remark referring: namely, that you yourself now believe what people have assured you concerning precisely this point (i.e., unfaithfulness)? Is that referring to me or to my entire sex?

[End of sheet.]


[1] Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1805: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[2] See Caroline’s letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 9 June 1799 (letter 240) concerning Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi’s words “do not trust your heart.” Caroline cites Jacobi differently in these two letters (letter 240: “traue dem Herzen nicht,” “do not trust your heart”; letter 295: “verlasse Dich nicht auf Dein Herz.” “do not rely on your heart”).

In her article “Studien zur romantischen Schule: I. Karoline,” Deutsche Rundschau 98 (January, February, March 1899), 207–16, Ricarda Huch cites this line differently:

ja, ich würde im Schmerz darüber verzweifeln, im Gewissen nicht, niemals könnt’ ich wie Hiob ausrufen: verlass dich nicht auf dein Herz.

“indeed, I would despair at it in grief, but not in conscience, I could never cry out as does Job: Do not rely on your own heart!”

In the version of her article on Caroline in her book Blütezeit der Romantik (Leipzig 1899), 27–43, here 42, however, she replaces Hiob (Job) with Jakob (Jacob). Finally, in the version of this passage in her edition of Caroline’s letters, Carolinens Leben in ihren Briefen, ed. Ricarda Huch (Leipzig 1914), 243, Huch takes over the reading in Erich Schmidt, (1913) 2:62, who reads Jacobi, as did, Georg Waitz, (1871), 2:43.

The location of this citation in Jacobi’s novel Woldemar: eine Seltenheit aus der Naturgeschichte (Flensburg 1779), is uncertain. Neither, however, does Job or Jacob seem to have made any similar statement in the Old Testament. Here the Woldemar frontispieces to the edition of 1817:



[3] Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:62, just as Georg Waitz, (1871), 2:43, before him, also considered the reading “separates” (scheidet) rather than “appears” (scheint). Back.

[4] Germ. Liebenswürdigkeit, here: amiability, amiableness, loveliness; literally “worthiness of being loved.” Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott