Letter 307

• 307. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Harburg, 14 April 1801

Haarburg, 14 April [18]01

|95| I just received your letter of the 11th. [1] Two things are making my heart beat faster: my impatience at still being here, and the eternal wandering one. [2]

|96| Although I cannot leave here until the day after tomorrow, I am still fairly certain of being in Jena before the 24th, which is presumably already too late to provide accommodations for Tiek, but, I hope, not too late to see him. [3] I would be quite loath to do without seeing him. I will write to him there.

Since my mother’s journey back here is tied to my own journey, it was not possible to hasten things any more than I already have. She will travel as far as Celle to meet me, where we will change carriages and accompaniment. [4]

My impatience is making me sick, as is this unaccustomed, realistic life here. — That which I am neglecting now I will simply have to leave to the discretion of the gods. I moved here almost against my will, and right now, at this moment, I am here utterly against my will, since whatever I might perhaps be able to discuss and do in Jena would doubtless be far better than having all this inchoate noise around me, better than the thousand ludicrous bits of news, and better than the ebb and flow of hundreds of expectations.

The Hannoverian troops have now completely vacated the premises — in spite of which people are flattering themselves with all sorts of legends about how the Prussian occupation would be stopped, whereas in the meantime they are now quite close by, albeit in allegedly smaller numbers, and are expected to arrive perhaps the day after tomorrow. [5]

It does seem possible to me at least that the storm might be thwarted as far as Lower Saxony is concerned; Denmark and England have, after all, concluded a 3-month ceasefire. [6] A few days ago, Laurisson, Buonaparte’s adjutant (his name may be something different), [7] and one of the sons of the war minister Berthier came through here; [8] they along with a businessman stopped at the house of Philipp’s brother-in-law and told him they were on their way to Copenhagen to oversee certain articles of the peace in the North to which England has shown itself inclined with regard to France.

|97| Sweden seems to be waiting in a general sense, and around here people are hoping for great things from the new czar — Just what these great things are, you can well imagine. On both banks of the Elbe, the people are English, that is to say: with a focus on business and commerce. [9]

There is no end to the derision and mockery of the Danes, et il y a dequoi. They are leaving by the dozens, and very soon the army will be quartering on this side. [10]

If my health, which keeps me between dizzying vivacity and exhaustion, had allowed me a more effective use of my time in Hamburg, I would have been able to see and hear much more; but as it is, I had quite enough. I visited Madam Reimarus; he had gone out to make some sick calls. She received me with extreme cordiality, accommodating me with her insistence on how very much she would have wished etc. after having read my letters — all of which I repeated back to her in my own turn. She is a good lady and by a long shot not nearly as cockeyed as Madam Campe. [11]

I would have seen Klopstock — the Meyers would have invited him to a souper they gave had his wife’s daughter-in-law not just died in his house from complications of childbirth. [12] That notwithstanding, she still wanted to go over there with me [13] when the carriage with my Altona hosts came to pick me up and it really was just no longer possible.

In and of itself I did not really miss anything, just one more appearance with which I might have entertained you, my dear Schlegel — though it might also have gone off very poorly even though he may well be a nice old man now. [14]

I did, however, sufficiently see through the general mood and will relate more to you of that in person. Meyer was doubtless as fearful of seeing me as if I had been his conscience itself — |98| I am enclosing the page he sent me afterward with which he thereby also laid his affected Sketches at my feet. [15] She is quite well disposed toward you; indeed, in a larger sense you are viewed to a certain extent as an honorable person — and, do not take this the wrong way, but — Friedrich is viewed quite simply as being crazy. —

One thing I was certainly not expecting was that the Meyers were not familiar with your Ehrenpforte, since he is, after all, the premier littérateur in Hamburg. —

If those are indeed the matadors whom they had invited to dinner (nothing but men), then his indescribable ego is more understandable. Veit Weber did not attend; Meyer had not met Doctor Veit; one of Rambach’s brothers, a physician, was there.


I cannot really write you anything proper about the Wandering Jew — if only someone could read it aloud to me! Then it would satisfy me. I am thinking about reading it aloud to myself this evening. What did the others say about it? It seems to me to be very well executed. — As familiar as I already am with it, the “blood-red cross” still startled me; it comes at just the right place. Indeed, I believe it is just as it should be. When I read it aloud to Schelling, he will surely become feverish. [16] I fear his health will not have improved when I see him again. —

Schiller has finished Wallenstein up to the 5th act; perhaps this fifth one will become as many as before. [17] Schelling is often forced to listen to people revile his review of the Ehrenpforte, at the Frommans among other places, where he dined with Loder. He will no doubt be exposed as the author of the review, since the review itself is under such fire. It will not hurt him. —

How ill of you to entrust the great secret to me only because I am sitting here in Boeotia. [18] You evil person, have I ever betrayed anything? — even in Athens, when everyone is trying to get me to talk, I know enough to keep silent. [19]


|99| Yes, I do indeed see in today’s newspaper that this barren people intends to spread further to Franconia as well. [20]


May God preserve Charlotte’s life! Be sure to visit her even if it means I might be seeing you later. [21] I will write to your mother.

Adieu, I must close. Were I but already through the next week. Away from this place. The sun is shining, but the air is raw. Stay well, my dear, dear Schlegel.


[1] Not extant. Back.

[2] Allusion to Wilhelm’s tale of the eternally wandering Jew, “Die Warnung: Romanze,” Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, 52–59 (Sämmtliche Werke 1:223–28) (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Bibliothek der Romane: Volks-Romane. Beschluß des immer in der Welt herumirrenden Judens [1785]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [5-323]):


The final line in the antepenultimate stanza there mentions “the eternally wandering Jew,” which Caroline here picks up slightly altered as “the eternal wandering one.” She mentions the poem again later in this present letter. Back.

[3] See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on on 26–27 March 1801 (letter 303) concerning Ludwig Tieck’s plans to visit Jena and Caroline’s suggestion that he stay in the house at Leutragasse 5, which she would be occupying with Luise and Emma Wiedemann after her own return to Jena on 23 April 1801. Back.

[4] Madam Michaelis returned to Harburg with Philipp Michaelis, while Caroline continued back to Braunschweig (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795])



[5] Concerning the Prussian occupation of Hannover and parts of Lower Saxony, and the military situation in general Caroline discusses here, see supplementary appendix 304.1. Back.

[6] Concerning the Battle of Copenhagen on 2 April 1801 and the ensuing truce, see supplementary appendix 306.1. Back.

[7] Concerning Caroline’s uncertainty concerning the name Laurisson, see her letter to Schelling on 12 April 1801 (letter 306), note 6. Back.

[8] Concerning the uncertain identity of Louis-Alexandre Berthier’s son, see Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 12 April 1801 (letter 306), note 7. Back.

[9] I.e., all were anticipating an end to the commercial disruption caused by the naval blockades. See the second paragraph of supplementary appendix 304.1 and the first two paragraphs of supplementary appendix 306.1. Back.

[10] Et il y a dequoi, Fr., “and there is good reason, and with good reason.”

Here billeting soldiers in a village; the experience was rarely a good one for residents (Hippolyte Bellangé, Le Billet de Logement [Paris 1823]; Rijksmuseum):



[11] That is, letters Caroline had written to others that were then circulated in various circles (Genealogische Kalender auf das Jahr 1810; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Caroline does not seem to have corresponded directly with Sophie Reimarus.

Concerning Caroline’s assessment here: Sophie Reimarus in her own turn wrote to the young Sulpiz Boisserrée shortly thereafter, on 29 April 1801 (Franz Schultz, “Ein Urteil über die Braut von Messina. Aus ungedruckten Briefen von Sophie Reimarus an Sulpiz Boisserée,” Euphorion 12 [1905], 592–99, here 596):

I recently made the acquaintance of Madam Schlegel from Göttingen; she was staying with relatives here and paid me a visit. Although she does indeed have considerable understanding, she also seems to possess a certain measure of the Schlegelian feeling of superiority, which is not particularly useful. Back.

[12] Johanna Wilhelmine von Winthem had died on 30 March 1801 from complications associated with the birth of her youngest son, Ernst, on 16 March 1801. Back.

[13] To see the Klopstocks? They lived at Königstrasse 232 (later 27, then 48) in Hamburg, here on the earlier map showing the Meyer’s residence near the Church of St. Peter (to the right) and the French theater (to the left) (P. G. Heinrich, Hamburg mit seinen nächsten Umgebungen im Jahre 1810):



[14] It may recalled be that Caroline toasted Klopstock with the company gathered for the midday meal at Goethe’s on 19 December 1796; see her letter to Luise Gotter on 25 December 1796 (letter 175). Back.

[15] Meyer’s Skizzen zu einem Gemälde von Hamburg. Von dem Verfasser der Darstellungen aus Italien, vol. 1, nos. 1–3 (Hamburg 1801) (see the previous information about his Darstellungen aus Italien). Concerning dating: Schmidt, (1913), 2:609, correctly dates volume 1 to 1801, though it should be pointed out that issues 1 and 2 in that volume both date to 1800, issue 3 to 1801; the issues appeared separately (see below) and are here published in a single volume. Meyer presumably sent Caroline the latest issue, no. 3.

The three issues contain “sketches” — or “accounts, descriptions” rather than graphic illustrations — of Hamburg life and society as a kind of guide Meyer published previously in the Hanseatisches Magazin. The accounts in issue 1 describe concrete scenes and activities from Hamburg life with titles using expressions such as morning at the harbor, harbor noise, fleets, street activities, police, character of the residents of Hamburg, inflation, emigrés, coffee houses, stock exchange and the commercial crisis, restaurants, afternoon street activities, funeral processions, and rural cemeteries.

Issue 2 discusses birth notices, service gratuities, clothing among domestics, older Hamburg clothing, moral degeneracy, social life, clubs, reading rooms, French civilization, “circuses and bread” (theater), German and French theater offerings (concerning the theater offerings, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 10 April 1801 [letter 305], notes 2 and 5), theater in Altona, music, dance, sleigh rides, carnival, popular plays, the rural area around Hamburg, national celebrations, promenades, and summer nights.

In issue 3, which Caroline presumably received, Meyer intentionally takes a break from the more concrete aspects of Hamburg life and devotes the issue to the arts, presenting an extensive article on Lady Emma Hamilton’s visit and performances in Hamburg (10 days beginning on 31 October 1800; Hamilton came with her husband and Horatio Nelson), then also articles on the general situation of the formative arts in Hamburg, on painting and engraving, collections (including his own), the sale of art in Hamburg, sculpture, and architecture. He includes the following description of Emma Hamilton in her performance as Sancta Rosa on p. 245 with an accompanying illustration on p. 246:

Her garment veiled her entire figure in a standing position, flowing down to her feet in broad, simple folds, covering her hands raised above her breasts. A garland of roses secured the veil on her forehead. Amid the otherworldly rapture of a religious martyr to which she dedicated her life in sacrifice, her gaze sees heaven open above her. [Fn: She is also illustrated in plate 2 below, one of the most beautiful figures in this entire collection, especially because of the simple sublimity of the whole and the folds of her garment.]



[16] “Die Warnung. Romanze,” Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, 52–59 (Sämmtliche Werke 1:223–28). The wandering Jew takes a brief rest at an inn where two drunken young men are boasting of blasphemous pranks they have played, for example, in defacing stations of the cross along a roadway, painting a beard on a Madonna, and nailing a neighbor’s dead cat to a crucifix. The wandering Jew, whom the young men also harass, says they would not act thus had they themselves seen Christ’s death; they mock him further, and in response, he recounts by way of (according to Schmidt, [1913], 2:609, a rather affected and crude) warning his own tale at the crucifixion, at which he was present: “Yet did appear, burning, through his forehead, / A blood-red cross.” For the prose translation, see the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s “Die Warnung. Romanze.

Concerning what “the others” thought of Wilhelm’s piece, Friedrich Schlegel writes from Jena to Wilhelm in Berlin on 1 June 1801 (Walzel, 485–86; KFSA 25:275):

A rather excessive expansiveness has become visible in your recent romances [this piece and “Fortunat”]; the most natural thing for me to do is thus simply to withhold my judgment entirely. But I cannot conceal the fact that I am not wholly confident of success. In my opinion, these do not attain the grand style of your “Leonardo” [“Leonardo da Vinci, Romanze,” Gedichte (Tübingen 1800), 138–42]. In fact, I am even worried it will distract you from that. The piece on the eternal Jew, especially, seems to me to be returning to the nordic and Bürger-like.

See also Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 7–8 May 1801 (letter 314), in which she speaks about Schelling’s reaction and about the final stanza, which Wilhelm ultimately did not include in the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802.

Concerning Wilhelm’s “Leonardo da Vinci,” which Caroline assesses similarly in comparison with “Fortunat,” see her letter to Wilheln on 19 July 1801 (letter 326). Back.

[17] Caroline makes a similarly puzzling statement in her letter to Wilhelm on 16 March 1801 (letter 301); see esp. note 24 there. Back.

[18] A district in Greece, here figuratively in the sense “in the the most distant regions of the earth”:(Carte de la Grèce [17th century]; Bibliothèque nationale de France):


Caroline also mentions this otherwise unknown secret (in connection with the publisher Johann Friedrich Unger in Berlin) in her letter to Wilhelm on 10 April 1801 (letter 305); see note 9 there. Back.

[19] I.e., “Athens” in a similarly figurative sense; presumably a reference to Braunschweig. Back.

[20] Presumably an allusion associated with the Treaty of Lunéville (9 February 1801) between France and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and Franz II. German rulers who lost territory to the French through the Lunéville terms were to be compensated, something that did happen in 1803 by way of the Principal Conclusion of the Extraordinary Imperial Delegation” (Reichsdeputationshauptschluss). Back.

[21] Although Charlotte Ernst had been ill, Friedrich Schlegel reported her recovery to Wilhelm on 27 April 1801 (Walzel, 479; KFSA 25:266): “I just now received a letter from Tieck with the good news that Charlotte is again doing markedly better and is now completely out of danger.” Concerning Charlotte Ernst’s illness in Dresden, see Tieck’s letter to Friedrich on 23 April 1801 (letter 310b) (Taschenkalender auf das Jahr 1798 für Damen; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Translation © 2015 Doug Stott