Letter 327d.1

327d.1. Julie Gotter to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Jena, 18/21 August 1801 [*]

Jena, 18 August 1801

My good Mother, you have heard nothing from me for a long time now. [1] Unfortunately, what I have had to tell you is not particularly pleasant, and I wanted to wait for a better time to write to avoid making your distress even worse.

For three weeks now, Caroline’s health has been quite bad, and for two weeks she could hardly even leave her bed. [2] She had a fever that, had proper steps not been taken to address it, could have become as bad as during her first bout with this particular illness. [3] You can imagine how much I myself suffered as well, not least because the continually sad news I received from all of you nourished my own distress. Fortunately, I was always able to keep quite busy, which, after all, is the best distraction in such situations. —

She is now doing better. Yesterday, with such beautiful weather, she went for a carriage ride, and at midday today also walked a bit. I would hardly have believed that she would have enough energy to do these things this quickly, for the illness was quite hard on her, especially because the nights were always so wretched. [4]

Nonetheless there can be no thought of any genuinely enduring recovery, and I am especially apprehensive about the winter because things have already gone so poorly with her even during the more pleasant season.

Schlegel arrived quite unexpectedly a week ago, when she was still keeping to her bed. [5] Because he had thought she was doing well, he was very unpleasantly surprised. And in general, all of us were so out of sorts because of various things that he did not really enjoy all that cheerful a reception, which he also rather held against us later. But he is doing well enough and sends his regards.

I myself am well, thank God, though I, too, must make a concerted effort to remain upright when everything is storming down on top of me.

Pauline wrote me a very pleasant letter whose handsome handwriting and content (which as a result of her familiar but charming peculiarity was plein de sel) [6] quite astonished me; please pass along my warm gratitude to her. I cannot answer her just now. Her purchases were not quite as successful. The coffee [?] arrived broken, and the silk is a rather ordinary red, but no matter, since Madam Schlegel used it to make a purse for me, and since such things are not all that important to me in any case.

Although Herr Schlegel brought along a very fine, large scarf for me, I cannot get so very excited about such things, especially now, and since I am not at all skilled at dissembling, he perhaps thinks I am ungrateful for his considerable kindness. [6a]

21 August

I just received a long letter from Cäcilie as well as the one you, dearest Mother, wrote to her. [7] Although she is quite well and content, she gave me a fright because she did not write to Gotha last week, believing that I did so, since I did ask her to send you my letter to her. And now you are perhaps alarmed at not having heard anything for so long, which is also unpardonable. At the moment I cannot relate to you the reason for my silence, though you will learn of it if we perhaps have the chance to see each other in Weimar. [8] Although I could have sent my letter on Monday, I did not want to send anything except a genuinely thorough letter.

I have already related to you at the beginning of the letter that I went through a wretched period during which I was distressed primarily for the sake of all of you there, for I had not at all imagined the condition of our dear aunt to be as terrible as I later realized. And then Madam Schlegel’s illness on top of it: reason enough to distress me. Nor can I really describe for you how I felt! — My feelings were so divided: I reproached myself for not being there with all of you, and yet on the other hand realized how necessary I was here — which reassured me at least a little, since Madam Schlegel would have been in wretched shape indeed had I not been here.

Indeed, that thought alone — namely, that I can be of use here — can keep me here, for since Madam Wiedemann will soon depart, Madam Schlegel would then completely lack for companions. I find all the distractions and amusements — though one might think quite the contrary of me — anything but pleasant, and I sincerely hope, dearest Mother, that you do not believe egoism or any infatuation with amusements might have prompted me to ask you whether I might extend my stay here, since for 11 weeks I have hardly even left the house, and apart from taking walks do not really enjoy anything; [9] Indeed, only occasionally do I go out somewhere just to avoid getting the reputation of being peculiar, since people here would indeed wonder about me were I to exclude myself from everything. [10]

You probably have no idea why I am telling you all these things and why I chose this letter to do so. I entreat you, my dear Mother, I implore you to tell me once more, and sincerely, whether you and my dear aunt would like for me to return soon, that is, if perhaps I might be able to take over some of your own chores to ease things for all of you and perhaps provide companionship for my aunt. I would never have made that request of you had I known that things had reached such a sad state there. I could never forgive myself were I to cause you to overexert yourself. I made the request out of my enormous trust in you, and not at all through indiscretion, since I was sure you would give me an honest answer, just as I was also completely at ease after making the request. And since I knew nothing of your indisposition and thought my aunt’s condition was but temporary, I also believed you would find it pleasant knowing I was here with your friend, at her home, whom you will perhaps not have as such much longer, [11] and yet who does need someone to care for her now that heaven has robbed her of her beloved child. [11a]

I entreat you again to take no consideration of me in your answer, and to send it to me soon that I might relate it to Madam Schlegel, who will have to act accordingly insofar as she cannot possibly be left alone this coming winter. [12] I have told her nothing of what I write you. She does send you a thousand warm greetings. Her condition has improved greatly. [13] Herr Schlegel also asks that I pass along his cordial regards.

You wrote to Cecile that you were unable to explain his having stayed away so long. And indeed, I believe many people here thought he was not returning at all, at least judging from their remarks, which always greatly amused us. But he had work he wanted to complete there. [14]

I also see from the letter that you asked Cecile a question that, to avoid being indiscreet, she did not answer, namely, concerning Madam Veit and Friedrich. The baseness and vileness of Madam Veit, of which I am only partially aware and about which an upright person can have no conception, is limitless, and Madam Schlegel, having once become aware of it, could not possibly have anything more to do with her, and has doubtless often regretted having taken her into her household, which made other people suspicious and prompted them to interpret quite ill, and which Madam Veit herself requited with the greatest possible ingratitude. [15] You simply cannot conceive of her vile enough.

And now because poor Friedrich has been drawn into this swamp as well and has allowed her to tell him what to do, he, too, must suffer along with her and, of course, now cannot visit Madam Schlegel. Although the brothers have, by the way, always had a literary relationship, Wilhelm is now avoiding any other contact. Of course, Wilhelm is naturally quite grieved to see his brother in this situation.

I cannot really relate to you all the details of these things here, but when we perhaps see each other again soon, I will tell you everything I know. It goes without saying, however, that you not pass these things along to anyone else, things which, while not really secret, I nonetheless would not want to become known through me. The whole situation is dreadfully awkward and unpleasant for Caroline, and she avoids speaking about these things whenever possible.

Caroline has long wanted me to suggest that you come over for a few days when you come to pick up Cecile. She would like to come to Weimar herself, bring you back here, and then accompany you back to Weimar. But I fear this plan may not work out because you would not want to leave my aunt alone for so long. By then, however, these things will perhaps work themselves out. [16]

I am greatly delighted by Adolph’s good fortune; how glad will this make our good Aunt Maÿer and the entire family. [17]

Adieu, my dear Mother; may God grant that I soon receive better news about my dear aunt’s condition. Please commend me to her; she was extraordinary kind to send me such a grand gift. Write to me soon, my beloved Mother; how I yearn for letters from you. Kind regards as always to everyone. I embrace you tenderly in my thoughts. Your


p.s. I have no time to read through this letter again; please forgive me; it is doubtless very ill written indeed.


[*] Source: Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften; Nachlass F. W. J. v. Schelling, no. 933.

Concerning the background to Julie Gotter’s stay in Jena, see the editorial note to her letter to Cäcile Gotter on 8 June 1801 (letter 319b) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[1] Julie’s previous extant letter to her mother was that on 5/7 July 1801 (letter 323b), q.v. concerning several of the issues Julie addresses yet again in this present letter in response to her mother’s subsequent queries. Back.

[2] Three weeks prior to Tuesday, 18 August 1801, was Tuesday, 28 July. Caroline’s previous extant letter was that to Wilhelm Schlegel on — significantly, perhaps — Monday, 27 July 1801 (letter 327), the first paragraph of which reads (illustration: anonymous, O! Kinder, Kinder [ca. 1776–1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. A: 371.9):

Your last letter came upon me in bed, and not in any natural way, but rather quite dreadfully and unnaturally, because of illness, and so you, too, became one of the hostile powers assaulting me. I am not telling you this to soften your severe disposition, but merely to let you know how I am doing. The damp weather . . . was undeniably the cause of my malady, I having awakened one fine morning with an utterly swollen face. I had to bathe with herbs, was extremely weak, and am still fairly so even now.


That letter, moreover, attests perhaps the most testy exchange yet between Caroline and Wilhelm. Caroline writes there among other things: “And then when in a larger sense I object to the hot-tempered, relentless anger in which you become capable of dispensing such reproach — pray do tell: Am I, too, not justified here?”

One cannot help noticing, on the other hand, that this three-week episode of illness essentially coincides, arguably even in an anticipatory fashion, with Wilhelm’s return to Jena from Berlin (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[3] The reference is to Caroline’s bout with nervous fever during the spring of 1800. Back.

[4] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Die Krancke Frau (The ill woman) (1776); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 (107):



[5] In her letter to Wilhelm on 27 July 1801 (letter 327), Caroline’s remarks indicate that she did not yet know when Wilhelm would be returning to Jena: “I will expect to hear something definite about that in your next letters, that is, about when you will be coming.” As is was, he had arrived on the previous Tuesday, 11 August 1801. Back.

[6] Fr., “full of salt,” here: “full of saucy wit.” Back.

[6a] Such a “scarf” could take various forms in fashion; a particularly exquisite one was that of a shawl. The young lady below is wearing an exotic linen toque, or negligée-bonnet with lace and a blue ribbon, a linen dress with standing collar, and a yellow, red, and black muslin East Indian shawl, which appeared in a fashion journal the month before Julie is here writing (Journal des Luxus und der Moden. Julius 1801, plate 19):



[7] The two sisters were exchanging (sharing) letters to and from their mother in Gotha. Back.

[8] They did. Madam Gotter and her youngest daughter, Pauline, journeyed to Jena for the guest performances of Friederike Unzelmann between 21 September and 1 October 1801 but did not remain for the final performance on 1 October. Madam Gotter then returned to Gotha with Pauline and Cecile Gotter, while Julie remained in Jena.

Luise Wiedemann similarly returned to Braunschweig in early October with her daughter, Emma, and her husband, Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann, who stopped off in Jena after returning from southern France.

As an aside one might note that during this visit from Gotha, Schelling met fourteen-year-old Pauline Gotter, his second wife, for the first and only time before their marriage in 1812 following Caroline’s death in 1809 (Berlinischer Damen-Kalender auf das Iahr 1802; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[9] In her letter to her mother on 5/7 July 1801 (letter 323b), Julie had raised the question of prolonging her stay in Jena from Michaelmas (29 September) through the winter (1801–02). Caroline then remarks in her letter to Wilhelm on 27 July 1801 (letter 327) that, in fact, Luise Gotter had agreed: “her mother will be leaving her here for the winter” (Charles-Antoine Coypel, L’hyver [ca. 1726–74]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur SFRavenet AB 3.29):


Julie is now defending the sincerity of her own request and goes on to ask her mother to consider whether her consent might cause her — her mother — hardship in Gotha. Back.

[10] Julie seems to have been a quiet individual, likely even an introvert. Although Jena was full of young university students and offered regular occasions for social interaction, she does not seem to have been excessively involved in such. Although she seems, moreover, to have developed a fondness, perhaps even romantic, for Friedrich Tieck during his stay in Jena, that relationship did not develop further. Julie Gotter in any case never married. Back.

[11] An allusion to the severity of Caroline’s illness and the seemingly poor prospects for, as Julie describes it above, any “genuinely enduring recovery.” Though see below. Back.

[11a] Caroline herself remarks in her letter to Wilhelm on 27 July 1801 (letter 327) that when she cannot manage to go for long walks and is left behind in the house, “in such hours I do admittedly wish I had an apartment of the sort one can indeed find here and which at the very least would not envelope me so sadly.” Back.

[12] Taschenkalender für Damen auf das Jahr 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[13] After remarking that Caroline’s illness has perhaps been severe enough to raise concerns about any enduring recovery (“whom you will perhaps not have as such [as a friend] much longer”), in her next breath Julie recounts Caroline’s, albeit tentative, forays outside the house and remarks that “her condition has improved greatly.”

Eckart Klessmann remarked in September 2009 in Maulbronn in connection with an oral presentation at the commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of Caroline’s death that one of the recurring patterns in Caroline’s life was, frankly, to fall ill, sometimes gravely so, in times of personal crisis, in at least two instances (here and the spring of 1801, though intimated elsewhere) in connection with nervous fever.

That observers outside Germany were able to refer to this, at the time, peculiarly frequent illness as “the endemic disease of the German literati” (see the supplementary appendix) alludes perhaps to at least part of the underlying cause both of the illness itself and its frequency. Back.

[14] As seen in previous letters: editorial work on the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802 and (as yet anonymous) authorial work on his play Ion: ein Schauspiel. The suspicion that he would not be returning was presumably nourished by, albeit undocumented, rumors of his affair with Sophie Bernhardi in Berlin, about which the following letters in this collection provide considerable information. Back.

[15] When Dorothea Veit and her son Philipp arrived in Jena on 6 October 1799, Caroline’s generosity in taking them in involved an element of social risk insofar as Dorothea was a divorced Jew who had come to Jena to live with the Protestant Friedrich Schlegel, with whom, moreover, she was not only not married but with whom she also had no plans for marriage, since the custody conditions of her divorce prohibited such as long as her son was with her. She was also considerably older than Friedrich.

That is, her entry into the Schlegel household provided sufficient information to feed gossip and speculation in Jena (“Ein Thé — medisant,” Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1803: Dem Edeln und Schönen der frohen Laune und der Philosophie des Lebens gewidmet [1804], plate 5; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[16] See above concerning Luise Gotter’s journey to Weimar with Pauline Gotter during September 1801. Back.

[17] Aunt Mayer: presumably Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter’s stepsister Julie, who through marriage lived in Lyon in France.

Adolph Stieler was at the time acquiring considerable respect as a cartographer; the allusion may be to a professional accomplishment or success (illustrations: [1] “Die Geographin,” Der neuesten Moden Almanach auf das Jahr 1795 [Vienna]; [2] Göttinger Taschen Calender Für das Iahr 1796; both: Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Stieler did not marry until 1805. Back.

Translation © 2021 Doug Stott