Letter 305

• 305. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena: Hamburg, 10 April [1801] [*]

Hamburg, 10 April [1801]

|93| Yesterday, my dear Schlegel, I received your letter here and now intend to be quite well behaved and calm, and yet nonetheless do intend to hasten with putting an end to my vagabond life.

Actually my accommodations are in Altona, [1] and I spent last night with the Meyers only because of the theater. [2] The stepmother of the diminutive Michaelis is married to a rich Englishman, and they brought me over from Harburg. [3]

I am so crammed full of politics that I really can hardly offer anything else myself. People are greatly rejoicing at Paul’s death, which will allegedly sunder the Northern Alliance. [4] In Altona they are reporting Danish victories, and here they hate the Danes to death and are running around bumping into one another with their wise, anti-imperial heads, and my host here in the house is threatening to explode out of quiet self-importance. — In Harburg they are expecting the Prussians and detesting King George.

Yesterday evening I attended the French theater and purchased the enclosed piece for you at the door. [5] I still want to remember more even though I will probably be returning to Harburg tomorrow. [6] Hamburg is an extremely arduous place. May heaven protect me from the whole lot.

|94| So, Hardenberg is now at peace, whither my own soul would so like to journey. He is very fortunate; but poor Julie. [7]

My good friend, do stay healthy. Ro[o]se’s little Robert died of consumption. [8]

Be not angry with me, be only as fair toward me as you are considerate of others. Be kindly disposed toward me, my dear friend, I myself truly am quite good. —

I do not want long letters, just news from you. Nor will I be needing money before I get to Jena. Just kind words. Adieu, my good friend.

The “Fairy Child” is very, very pretty indeed, and one cannot fail to recognize her.

But what sort of secret things are you pursuing with Unger? [9]


[*] Here Hamburg the previous year, i.e., 1800 (A. Sommer after Joseph Eder, Prospekt der Stadt Hamburg [1800]):



[1] Altona is located on the banks of the Elbe River just to the west of Hamburg (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


First illustration below: a view from the Hamburg harbor toward the west along the river with Altona at the right in the distance; second illustration: a view of Altona in 1810 ([1] G. A. Liebe, Aussicht von der Elbe von der Schiffer Boerse in Hamburg nach Westen und Altona [1770]; [2] anonymous, Ansicht von Altona [1810]):




[2] Friedrich Johann Lorenz Meyer and his wife, Caroline’s sister-in-law Friederike Böhmer, lived quite close to the Church of St. Peter in Hamburg and not far from the French Theater, which Caroline mentions below (P. G. Heinrich, Hamburg mit seinen nächsten Umgebungen im Jahre 1810):


Here the church and surrounding area ca. 1837 (Peter Suhr, Die Straße hinter St Peter in Hamburg u. die St Petri Kirche 1837, nebst den Domkurien):


Meyer owned one of the town’s best collection of drawings and since 1790 had been the administrative secretary of the Hamburg Society for Promoting the Arts and Useful Professions (Hamburgisches Adress-Buch auf das Jahr 1803 [Hamburg 1803], 167, 399, 439). Back.

[3] “The diminutive Michaelis” is Philipp Michaelis’s wife, Auguste Katharine, née Sympher, whose petite appearance Caroline describes in her letter to Wilhelm on 4–5 April 1801 (letter 304): “My dear Wilhelm, what an extraordinarily charming little woman, quite pretty, quite good, a quite piquant, slender blonde full of vivacity and wit. He chose extremely well indeed” (Taschenbuch für edge deutsche Weiber [1800]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[4] The Russian czar Paul 1 had been assassinated on 23 March 1801 (illustration: H. Merté):


Caroline is correct concerning the Northern Alliance. Concerning the background to all the military events Caroline is discussing in this letter, see supplementary appendix 304.1.

Concerning the details of Paul’s assassination, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 24 April 1801 (letter 311), note 5. Back.

[5] 9 April 1801; likely a theater bill. Unfortunately, the repertoire of the French theater in Hamburg for this date is uncertain.

Concerning the French theater in general: When during the mid-1790s the Hamburg theater company of Friedrich Ludwig Schröder failed to draw a sufficient audience because of its limited repertoire and Schröder’s own increasingly frequent memory lapses on stage, a French company — Société dramatique — whose actors and audience were drawn from emigrés from revolutionary events in France, opened a theater in Hamburg on 9 October 1795 and, because of its successes, quickly acquired its own space, moving from a temporary stage on Valentinskamp into a half-timber building on the Grosse Drehbahn (today: Drehbahn), das französische Schauspielhaus, 100 feet long, 40 feet wide with three audience tiers and various adjoining halls for social purposes, and even a café, albeit one that sold not coffee, but rather grog.

A new wing was added as well with books and even clothes for sale. Two doors led out into a garden connected with a restaurant and coffeehouse next door in the Hotel Potocky. The famous concert hall Salon d’Apollon was constructed in 1804 between the theater and the previous Hotel Devaux, thus providing an ensemble of buildings for coffee, stage, balls, and concerts. The theater itself was well heated and lighted, and the seats comfortable, with a large chandelier illuminating the entire room.

The company enjoyed considerable success (the actress Madame Chevalier, née Peycam [1774–before 1830] was one of its stars until she moved to Petersburg in 1797 and became a mistress of Paul I) until approximately the time Caroline visited Hamburg, when political events in France made it possible for emigrés — actors and audience members — to return home, though the company continued performing for several years afterward, inclining its repertoire increasingly toward opera and adventure-oriented pieces. It continued until well into the year 1814.

For a detailed history of the French company in Hamburg during this period, see Heinrich Harkensee, Das französische Theater, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Emigranten in Hamburg 1 (Hamburg 1896).

The French Theater was located on the Grosse Drehbahn in Hamburg; here its general location on a map of Hamburg from 1810 (P. G. Heinrich, Hamburg mit seinen nächsten Umgebungen im Jahre 1810):


Here a closer view of the same map, the theater indicated as Französisch[es] Comödienh[aus]:



[6] Saturday, 11 April 1801. Back.

[7] Friedrich von Hardenberg had died on 25 March 1801 in Weissenfels. See supplementary appendix 303a.1. Back.

[8] Uncertain allusion; “Robert” is unidentified. Back.

[9] Uncertain allusion. Friedrich Schlegel writes to Wilhelm on 6 April 1801 (Walzel, 474; KFSA 25:255; Hermann Patsch, 25:591, is similarly uncertain about this allusion):

Many thanks for the alert with respect to Unger; I will make use of it on occasion. It goes without saying that you will not take my own relationship with him into consideration in any way.

Would it not be better to shop Hardenberg’s novel [Heinrich von Ofterdingen] around a bit? If Unger has not yet paid the honorarium, the best thing would be to try to get the manuscript back and then make some sort of collective decision about with his brother and Tieck and then arrange for publication however seems appropriate to all of you.

Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich himself eventually published the novel with Riemer in Berlin as Heinrich Von Ofterdingen. Ein Nachgelassener Roman Von Novalis, 2 vols. (Berlin 1802). Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott