Letter 301

• 301. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena: Braunschweig, 16 March, Monday morning, 1801

[Braunschweig] 16 March, Monday morning [1801]

|75| My dear Wilhelm, I have again suffered a violent blow, you cannot imagine. It was almost more than I could bear, being reminded in this way, and having to witness all the pain.

Yesterday morning it was a week since I took the beautiful, precious child from its mother, who had dressed it, and could hardly keep it in my arms it was so lively. Half an hour later, it was taken to its room, wailing, and not brought out again until it had slumbered into death. [1]

The actual form of the illness terrified me so violently that I more calmly watched it die when I noticed the first signs of blood, for Wiedemann probably wrote and told you that the illness exhibited signs of dysentery. [2] It seemed all the blood vessels in my own breast would simply rip apart when this death sign first appeared before my eyes. I ran upstairs and was inconsolable, then ran back down to offer consolation myself. O, how I missed you then — I surely would have been able to calm myself around you. [2a]

The day passed with attempts to help, during the night I heard the child crying. Toward evening on Monday, [3] we were all hopeful because the blood loss had completely abated. But hardly had I fallen asleep just after midnight when Luise, with the most intense fear, had me summoned that I might either confirm or contradict whether |76| things really had taken a turn for the worse as she saw it, and yet even before I could hasten downstairs she no longer had any doubts, and I found her, pitiably prostrate on the ground pleading with God and human beings to help — oh, Wilhelm! We had to take her away immediately — afterward I took the child in my arms, it looked at me with its rigid, beautiful eyes, which then suddenly twinkled this way and that.

Wiedemann came back still in the hope that Luise’s anxiety had exaggerated things, but I immediately told him, “This child is in the greatest danger.” He was beside himself and hardly able to reflect on what was to be done. [4] We put the child in a bath with wine, then warm compresses of wine — its condition did not change, but it was quiet, only occasionally a slight onset of fear, it swallowed everything, it still moved its head as if consciously. But nothing could really give me any hope now.

I did not let it away from me until morning, [5] which was necessary in part because the others were incapable, the maidservants were occupied making preparations, and in part because I thought I could best keep myself upright only through this kind of activity and close intimacy.

At 7:00 a.m. Himly came, and with him I kept at it for another quarter hour with yet another bath with wine, though now it was no longer able to raise the pulse, and yet Himly still considered the prospect of saving the child not entirely impossible. Many friends and acquaintances came, keeping Luise busy in another room, for since 4:00 that morning, when the child was still nursing at her breast, she was no longer able to bear the sight of it. The father looked more dead and pale even than his child; it was enough to pierce even the most indifferent person’s heart.

Between 2:00 and 3:00 that afternoon, it ceased breathing, and then turned pale, quite without any death rattle, and utterly quiet. Until shortly before that, the gaze of its eyes still seemed to intimate awareness, they turned especially |77| upward, toward the wall above the sofa, and the maidservant said that it was looking at the picture; you remember that a small picture of Auguste hangs there, the only one in a golden frame, and a reflection of sunlight had illuminated it. [6] Yes, he is now where she is, and that night I pressed a kiss on his lips as well, that he might take it to her. Dortchen, who absolutely dissolved in tears, blurted out in Low German amid her distress, “O but dear God, for you it would be such a small thing to help him.” [7] Yes, a small thing, but from the outset impossible. Alas, if only his heart might be softened! —

It was a relief for the parents, particularly for the father. He seemed as if released from despair when the autopsy on the small body revealed that no help, no caution could have saved and preserved the child, as he has probably already related to you. He then became quite serene, and now the change of scenery can be beneficial for both him and Luise. [8] This splendid little boy was such a beautiful illusion for us, and now he has passed out of this world, with his divinely expressive eyes, silent as a portrait.

I was extremely anxious to see what effect all the medications would have, which were no other than those Auguste received, opium being the first. [9] This was futile, and Roose, too, said that this particular case was not even instructive. He was ardently concerned, blushing deep red out of sheer anxiety when he could not think of anything that might help. —

My mother’s health has significantly improved recently, which, of course, has been quite beneficial for her; in a general sense, I have learned that it is only during the initial danger with the children that she is as weak as we saw her. For her, the incident itself has already passed into the ranks of past events. [10]

|78| That I was unable to escape the consequences of all this was only too understandable even though I deceived even myself by how strong I was during the actual days when all this was taking place; but on Wednesday morning I awoke extremely sick, [11] and around midday had an attack more violent than any I had ever had before; my teeth chattered fearfully, and it ended with an effusion of blood.

I stayed in bed for two days; everyone in the house was afraid I might not get up again. But I am still alive, albeit with a renewed feeling that it would indeed not be worth the trouble to haggle with myself further concerning the use to which this poor life might yet be put, and I would like to thank you, too, Wilhelm, for not doing that.

Philipp had urged me anew quite strongly to come visit him; [12] he is having me picked up from Celle and wanted to bring me back here along with his family in order to pick up my mother as well, who cannot come to a decision concerning the journey to Jena and will also do quite well with him, since he can also act as her physician.

She openly confessed to me that she had difficulty tolerating all the wit (the way a person cannot tolerate peas or lentils) and that we had nothing but witty people around us all the time and to that extent she would simply feel out of place in Jena. Let us not hold that against her; after a person has grown so old without wit, one can no longer really expect her to partake of such food. She is certainly not disinclined toward you or toward your work.

Wiedemann will be leaving sometime during Easter. And we within the following 14 days. [13] Perhaps it will be possible precisely around Easter for me to make the journey to Philipp with Professor Hellwig. I want to do it if I feel marginally strong enough.

I am planning to have various arrangements in Jena taken care of ahead of time by Mlle. Faber. [14] Since Luise |79| does not need a special children’s nanny, we now will be taking the maidservant from here whom she hired as a cook. That you made fun of my Arcadian projects amused me even as sick as I was, as did the dilemma of virtue, and you saw how much trouble I went to assist you with “certain purposes” of yours for which you need Philippe et Georgette. Will the arias suffice? [15] — You can add the rest of the text yourself in between.

There will be no theater here before Easter. [16] Will Iffland still be coming to Weimar? I urgently entreat you to be there around that time, namely, in May. I had already reckoned with you traveling by way of Dresden. [17] You can, of course, also quite easily make the journey with the Tieks, or will your business prior to the book fair keep you in Berlin longer than them? [18]

And — that I might add yet another question mark — can you get Shakespear finished? [19] If you can just get the Lombard School done for Fiorillo and have only sent something now, it will probably be fine [20] — I almost suspect that someone has already advanced him the honorarium. And then there is also the very important question of whether you will need to advance Friedrich Tiek something if he agrees to take over work on the monument. [21]

I already see it coming, my dear villain, that the “certain purposes” are going to cost you time. Well, I certainly have no intention of getting angry about it. Quite the contrary, I feel genuine tenderness for Unzelinette, and it is presumably only toward your grand love affairs that I have a certain aversion. [22] Do not forget my request to you concerning the kerchief for Luise. [23] Indeed, Unzeline can even pick it out. After all, no one in Berlin has better taste.

Schiller is in Jena in order bind together the Wallensteinean fate even more densely. [24] Rest assured that nothing will get out through me, nor should you entertain any hopes that I will offer you extra thanks for letting me know, since you sent me that as well as |80| Bernhardi’s piece only because you knew that I was shorted a bit in the letter; [25] but it is no problem, the whole thing provided me with a very enjoyable hour or two. –

Schelling, who will probably be spending the Easter break with Goethe again, is to remind Goethe, including with regard to the almanac anthology. [26]

Goethe’s illness was used to appoint the younger Stark to ordinarius and Succow to professor so that no stranger will be appointed. [27]

If Tiek only had a publisher, since the piece really should not be excessively delayed. [28] It would seem to me that there is enough local interest in Berlin for him to find one. —

It just occurred to me that perhaps the Tieks might be able to take Cecilie in with them in Dresden, or would she probably not have the appropriate initial instruction there? [29] — and I am wondering whether Tischbein would have enough patience for that. She must learn how to deal with oil-based paint. As far as rough pencil-brushing is concerned, Kraus could probably suffice for her for now. You will be speaking to the Tischbeins in person; [30] they are greatly looking forward to your visit.

They finally wrote to me; the picture for you is finished and will be sent to you in Berlin. [31] Caroline still will be making a drawing from the larger picture, which Tischbein has not yet touched, and you first need to make all sorts of decisions in person regarding it.

I wrote to your mother immediately after you left and thought I had mentioned it to you.

I had a look at Aristipp. Madame de Genlis could have written it. [32]

In the meantime, stay well. Emma is sitting next to me. Thank God we will still be bringing her along. [33] She has no sense for what really happened, [34] and Rose also seemed almost as childishly unfeeling, though I certainly do not want to do injustice to her for perhaps simply not expressing her feelings.

Adieu, Dear.


[On the reverse side.]

Gotter’s posthumous plays. [35] Die Geisterinsel. A complete reworking of his tragedy Marianne. Der schöne Geist freely adapted after the poete campagnard.

Göschen offered 300 rh. for the Esther volume. [36] The conditions for this volume have been left completely up to you. Madam Gotter can probably not expect more than 150–200.


[1] Caroline here recounts the death of August Ferdinand Wiedemann on Tuesday, 10 March 1801; see also Luise Wiedemann’s brief mention of his death in her memoirs (Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1811: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet):



[2] In her Erinnerungen, Luise Wiedemann twice mentions that the child died from “a twisted and narrowed intestine.” Back.

[2a] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Mariane allein auf ihr Kämmerchen macht kummervolle Betrachtungen [ca. 1742–1830]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 (250); illustration to Pierre Carlet de Marivaux, La Vie de Marianne):



[3] 9 March 1801. Back.

[4] Wiedemann himself was a physician. Back.

[5] Tuesday, 10 March 1801. Back.

[6] Uncertain reference; concerning the various portraits of Auguste, see Sophie Tischbein’s letter to Caroline on 28 August 1801 (letter 267), note 2. Back.

[7] Caroline similarly mentions Dortchen’s Low German dialect in her letter to Wilhelm on 1–2 March 1801 (letter 293), though in this present instance she does not reproduce it. Back.

[8] Wiedemann was scheduled to go to France, Luise and her daughter, Emma, to Jena with Caroline. See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 1–2 March 1801 (letter 293), note 12. Back.

[9] Concerning Auguste’s treatment in Bocklet, see, in addition to the supplementary appendix on dysentery, also Urban Wiesing’s article on the scandal surrounding Auguste’s death. Back.

[10] Madam Michaelis had earlier exhibited similar behavior with respect to Auguste’s death. See Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 15–24 october 1800 (letter 272), in which Caroline recounts how her mother “believes she can protect both me and herself by maintaining silence,” and in a letter to Luise Gotter on 24 November 1800 (letter 275):

Through them [the Wiedemann children], their grandmother is living quite in the present and has probably not really sensed as vehemently what I myself have lost. At the very least she perceives it more as my own misfortune than as the loss of the heavenly being herself. Back.

[11] 11 March 1801 (illustration: Frey, Babioles Lithographiques [ca. 1850]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. C: 319c):



[12] Caroline had received a letter from Philipp Michaelis to this effect on 6 March 1801; see her letter to Wilhelm on that day (letter 296) with the editorial note and note 33. Back.

[13] Easter fell on 5 April in 1801. Caroline and her maidservant, Rose, departed Braunschweig for Celle on 29 March 1801. Caroline, Luise Wiedemman, and Emma Wiedemann seem to have departed Braunschweig for Jena on 21 April 1801 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[14] Concerning Mademoiselle Faber in Jena, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 5–6 March 1801 (letter 296), note 28. Back.

[15] Jacques-Marie Boutet de Monvel, Philippe et Georgette, comédie en un acte et en prose mêlée d’ariettes, music by Nicolas Dalayrac, premiered in 1791 in Paris; performed in Berlin on 14 and 15 February 1805, doubtless (according to Erich Schmidt, [1913], 629, who does, however, date the performance to 1803; but see C. Scharffer and C. Hartmann, Die Königlichen Theater in Berlin. Statistischer Rückblick . . . vom 5. December 1786 bis 31. December 1885 [Berlin 1886], 68) with music by a different composer.

At issue is apparently a translation of the play or, at least for the time being, the arias, that Wilhelm needs for his “certain purposes,” purposes which seem to become clear in Caroline’s next paragraph. The “Arcadian projects” are an uncertain allusion. The “dilemma of virtue” may have a connection with the explanation in the following paragraph as well. Caroline in any case translates this play later along with a second (which Wilhelm reviewed in its performance by Friederike Unzelmann); see her letter to Wilhelm on 20 December 1801 (letter 336).

Here one of the arias (airs) to Philippe et Georgette set to guitar accompaniment (Air de Philippe et Georgette avec accomp.t de guittarre [Paris n.d.]):



[16] Concerning the Braunschweig theater’s lack of activity, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 1–2 March 1801 (letter 293), note 14 with cross references. Back.

[17] After his previous appearances in Weimar in 1796 and 1798, and notwithstanding Iffland was expected in Weimar as late as September 1801, he did not return to Weimar until 1810.

“Traveling that way,” i.e., from Berlin to Jena by way of Dresden, obviously not a direct route from Berlin to Jena; see below concerning Leipzig (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[18] By mid-April 1801, the Tiecks had moved from Berlin to Dresden (see map above). — Though Tieck and Wilhelm continued to correspond, they did not see each other again for twenty-five years. Caroline seems already to have been informed here in mid-March 1801 that they were about to change their place of residence. Wilhelm was planning to attend the book fair in Leipzig on his way to Dresden and Jena. Back.

[19] Concerning the current volume of Shakespeare’s works on which Wilhelm was working, see Caroline’s letter to him on 27 February 1801 (letter 292), note 2. Back.

[20] Concerning Wilhelm’s role in the publication of Johann Dominik Fiorillo’s Geschichte der zeichnenden Künste von ihrer Wiederauflebung bis auf die neuesten Zeiten — to the second volume of which Caroline is here referring — see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 24 February 1801 (letter 290), note 11, and on 27 February 1801 (letter 292). Back.

[21] Concerning Friedrich Tieck’s return to Germany from Paris and his anticipated work on a memorial for Auguste, see Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 6 March 1801 (letter 297), note 3. Back.

[22] See the supplementary appendix on Caroline’s Rival: Minna van Nuys. Back.

[23] In her letter to Wilhelm on 1–2 March 1801 (letter 293), Caroline had made this request that Wilhelm “have some elegant female friend of yours pick out a kerchief for her soon, perhaps at Link and Schulz, made of pressed gauze or silk bast in the latest fashion but costing no more than 5 rh.” See note 31 there (photo courtesy of Sabine Schierhoff):



[24] Uncertain allusion. Schiller withdrew to his garden house in Jena from 5 March till 1 April 1801 in order to finish act 4 of his play Die Jungfrau von Orleans. Eine romantische Tragödie (Berthold Litzmann, Schiller in Jena, 2nd ed. [Jena 1890], 93).

Concerning the trilogy of Wallenstein: Wallensteins Lager and Die Piccolomini had been performed in Weimar on 14 March 1801; Wallenstein (Wallensteins Tod) was performed on 21 March 1801 (Das Repertoire des Weimarischen Theaters, 39). The latter was repeated on 16 April 1801; Schelling attended, but not Caroline. Back.

[25] August Ferdinand Bernhardi’s review of Wilhelm’s Kotzebuade; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 5–6 March 1801 (letter 296), note 23. Back.

[26] Schelling was no doubt expected to solicit Goethe for contributions to the anticipated Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802. — Easter Sunday fell on 5 April in 1801; Goethe’s diary lists no visits from Schelling during this period. Back.

[27] At issue is the faculty replacement for Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, who had taken a position in Berlin. See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 26 March 1801 (letter 303). Back.

[28] See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 5–6 March 1801 (letter 296), note 34. Back.

[29] At issue is further artistic training for Cäcilie Gotter; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 5–6 March 1801. Here the Weimar actress Corona Schröter doing a study from a cast (Wilhelm Hegeler, Tiefurt [Weimar 1913], 13):


As mentioned above, the Tiecks were about to move to Dresden, home of the Dresden gallery and the Dresden Antiquities Collection. Back.

[30] The Tischbeins had been residing in Leipzig since early 1801, where Tischbein had become professor and director at the art academy, though the family was in Dresden from February till Easter 1801 (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


As seen above, Wilhelm seems to have had plans to travel to both towns during this period. Back.

[31] It is uncertain to which picture (portrait) of Auguste Caroline is referring here and in her following remarks. See in any case Sophie Tischbein’s letter to Caroline on 28 August 1800 (letter 267), note 2. Back.

[32] Caroline is not paying Wieland a compliment. — On 5 March 1801 the publisher Johann Friedrich Vieweg sent Caroline Christoph Martin Wieland’s new, (according to Erich Schmidt, [1913], 607) long-winded, morally lax novel Aristipp und einige seiner Zeitgenossen, 2 vols. (Leipzig: Göschen 1800–1801). Here the frontispieces to vols. 1–4 in the edition Vienna 1812 and vol. 3 in the edition Vienna 1819:





[33] That is, with them to Jena. Back.

[34] That is, concerning the death of her brother, August. Back.

[35] Concerning the literary estate of Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 5–6 March 1801 (letter 296), note 21, with cross references. Wilhelm was to try to place these plays with a publisher in Berlin. Back.

[36] Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, Schauspiele von Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter (Leipzig: Göschen, 1795), vol. 1: Die stolze Vasthi; vol. 2: Esther; vol. 3: Die Basen. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott