Letter 329l.2

Letter 329l.2. Julie Gotter to Cäcilie Gotter in Gotha: Jena, 11 October 1801 [*]

Jena. Sunday, 11 October [1801]

I have no time today to write you in French, but at the same time neither did I want send off these shirt parcels without at least some written greeting.

Karoline is asking Mother to make the accompanying shirts, or to have them made; but they need to be ready by the end of this month. [1] She will probably send some things along later as well. Whenever one or a couple are finished, go ahead and send them for the embroidery. [2] She would prefer that all the stitching be done with a coarse and loose thread.

Mother will at the same time receive the books she has done without for so long as well as the fabric for Pauline. I do not believe I will have time to send the drawing for the bag along with these things. [3] I found one of your white handkerchiefs in my bag, and when it has been cleaned you will receive it.

When I told Madam Schlegel that the story about Madam Unzelmann had already spread as far as to all of you there, she gave me the sheet in which Schlegel relates the course of events concerning the gossip. [4] I also see that something else about it is in there that will be fun for all of you to read.

One more thing about Minna. [5] She was dressed quite tastefully and splendidly, and gave an extremely refined and animated performance — but her performance was made considerably more difficult by Tellheim, whose speech was intolerably soft, and who was cold, stiff, and not at all likeable and who caused considerable boredom. [6] Madam Vohs turned Franziska into a naive farmer’s daughter by making her an extremely adroit, roguish thing, a kind of copy of Minna done with a Rubenesque brush. That said, she nonetheless enjoyed the considerable approval of the audience. [7]

Madam Schlichtegroll told you that I spoke with her. She was delighted to have Herr von Trott alongside her again and conversed with him in a quite animated fashion. [8] We have heard nothing from Tieck since we returned. [9] In any event, he will be returning to Berlin by way of Jena. [10]

Did Pauline relate to you her letter? [11] I chided her a bit because of it, for now it is I who must bear the laudable consequences of her silliness. [12] Schelling is constantly plaguing me with “Tieck,” and Madam Wiedemann, as you can imagine, invariably concurs with him. Madam Schlegel merely smiles at it all, as do I myself. Although Schelling is telling me it is my own fault that a “gentle blush” comes over my face every time, I am undeterred. For the rest, it will nonetheless be irksome when he comes through here, and I will not be so inclined to speak with him. [13]

The Almanach is finished; I wish all of you there had a copy, for there are so many beautiful things in it.

A couple of days ago after our midday meal, we took a delightful ride out to Rothenstein, where there is a mountain from which one has a really wonderful view. [14] The day before yesterday we dined during the evening at the Loders. And since the weather is so good now, we take an hour-long walk each afternoon. Never before have I been outside this much.

Yesterday I received an extremely dear letter from Mother, whom I would very much like to thank — but nothing from you! — which I was so intensely anticipating! Write me soon and a great deal about Gotha. I so yearn for your letters. But I have nothing more from here to relate to you that is special or particularly noteworthy.

Carl Schelling has again been quite ill, though he did still manage to come over to Weimar on the last day, but then immediately came down with a cold yet again. [15] Although he is now recovering, the whole affair is rather unpleasant because of his journey to Swabia and because in Tübingen lectures are commencing. [16]

Adieu, my dear Cecile; please do write soon and tell me what our dear aunt is doing, and give my regards to everyone.

[*] Source: Forschungsbibliothek Gotha Chart-A-02181-3-2-2-00007–Chart-A-02181-3-2-2-00008v; by permission. The cover sheet is addressed “To Mamsell Cecile Gotter in Gotha. Franked free along with a package tied underneath marked MG.”

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). That Cecile has now returned to Gotha from Weimar emerges from the content of this present letter (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[1] Presumably for Wilhelm Schlegel, who had been in Jena since 11 August and returned to Berlin at the beginning of November 1801. Back.

[2] That is, send them on back to Jena so Caroline could do the embroidery, an activity that is mentioned several times in this correspondence. When Caroline was in Lucka, for example, Friedrich Schlegel related to Wilhelm in a letter on 23 October 1793 (letter 135.3) that he had “found her well, sitting with her embroidery frame, with which she spends most of her day.” Back.

[3] Concerning occasional bags such as the “handiwork bag,” if indeed such be the reference here, see Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter during this same month (letter 329), esp. with note 1. Back.

[4] Uncertain allusion. Concerning Friederike Unzelmann’s guest performances in Weimar during the autumn of 1801, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315), note 10. Back.

[5] Friederike Unzelmann’s final role in Weimar during her guest performances was that of the protagonist in Lessing’s Minna von Barnhelm oder Das Soldatenglück. Ein Lustspiel in fünf Aufzügen (Berlin 1767). The Gotters, except for Julie, had by that time already returned to Gotha. See below. Back.

[6] It is uncertain which Weimar actor performed the role of Major Tellheim, one of the primary characters in Minna von Barnhelm. See in any case the synopsis by John G. Robertson, A History of German Literature (New York 1902), 276–78; Outlines of the History of German Literature (New York 1911), 126–27:

Minna von Barnhelm is Germany’s first national comedy; it embodies as no comedy had attempted to do before in German literature, the events, the ideas, and the atmosphere of its time; it was, as Goethe well said, the truest product of the Seven Years’ War.

Neither the motives nor the situations of the drama, however, are specifically German; it abounds in analogies to the European comedy of the earlier eighteenth century, from Farquhar’s Beaux’ Stratagem to Voltaire’s L’Ecossaise.

Major von Tellheim has been discharged from the army under circumstances which unjustly reflect on his good name, and his sense of honour forbids him to hold Minna von Barnhelm, a Saxon heiress, to her engagement with him.

Accompanied by her maid, Franziska, and her uncle — who, however, does not appear until the close of the drama — she comes to Berlin and alights at the same inn where Tellheim has taken up his quarters; indeed, she is the unwitting cause of Tellheim being turned out of his room by the avaricious landlord, who prefers the new guests to a disbanded officer of uncertain means.

Indignant at the treatment to which he is subjected, Tellheim moves to another inn, leaving the landlord a ring as payment of his debt. The landlord shows the ring to Minna, who at once recognises it and advances the required sum on it. She arranges a meeting with Tellheim without, of course, revealing her name. The major is taken by surprise, but is not to be moved from his intention. Minna endeavours to show him that his ideas of honour are exaggerated, but without success.

So she has recourse to strategy. She bids her maid disclose to Tellheim that her engagement with him, a Prussian officer, has led to her being disinherited by her uncle. This sweeps all Tellheim’s pride away and brings him to Minna’s feet at once.

But it is now her turn to stand upon her dignity. She refuses to be a burden to him and returns him his ring, this being, as he discovers afterwards, the ring she had redeemed from the landlord.

A letter arrives from the king exonerating Tellheim from blame and reinstating him in his position; but still Minna vows she will not take back the ring she has returned to him. Ultimately Tellheim recognises in it his own ring which he had given to the landlord.

To open a gallery of Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s illustrations to Minna von Barnhelm, click on the following image:



[7] Here an illustration of the three characters Julie Gotter mentions, in order: Minna, Tellheim, and Franziska in act 5, scene 12 (engraving by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, in Gustav Könnecke, Bilderatlas zur Geschichte der deutschen Nationallitteratur, 2nd ed. [Marburg 1895], 235; also Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki WB 3.10):


See the following eyewitness account of Friederike Unzelmann’s performance of the same role in Breslau shortly before coming to Weimar: anonymous, Clio-Thalia, oder: eine Beleuchtung der Darstellungen von Friedrike Unzelmann auf der Breslauer Bühne, im Jahr 1801 (Breslau 1801), 65–68; translations from Minna von Barnhelm from Lessing’s Minna von Barnhelm, trans. Edward Brooks, Jr. (Philadelphia 1899).

Minna Barnhelm.
As you journeyed after the one [Tellheim], so also did we journey after you.

Although the character of our Minna seems to be cast in contours so definite and unmistakable that an actress need only pick up her lines correctly in order to avoid a faux pas, today’s performance [by Friederike Unzelmann] demonstrates that a certain light, individual deviation from the customary performance style of our Minna brings the portrait to life with an even higher degree of veracity and vivacity.

My own assessment has always been that Lessing created a sensitive and yet consistently jovial girl characterized not by particularly impressive wit but rather by an extremely vulnerable element of cheerfulness and lightheartedness. The majority of German writers is, however, not really satisfied with such a modest creation. In more serious drama, their creations are equipped with a genuinely tragic disposition; in tragedy itself they are the most energetic heroines of the Middle Ages, and in comedy invulnerable heroines — of wit and satire.

But not Lessing! His Minna is equally removed from both extremes. Without bedazzling wit, she nonetheless comes up with truly appropriate lines, and without being tragically inclined expresses feeling that are neither eccentric nor excessively universal, and which I find most vividly portrayed in the bourgeois dramatic genre.

And yet no other role can quite interest us more. Her situations invariably result from interesting choices even if her expression and diction are not so overtly seductive and out of the ordinary; — one might wonder whether her role owes its impact more to her words or her situations, —

Might we ever so oft not be content with words? Our actresses are disposed much the same as our playwrights insofar as they shape Minna into a rapturously enthusiastic or even adventurous girl. The more garish color is what pleases; the vox populi is considered correct, and the real Minna must remain silent.

The performance of our present actress was truer to Lessing’s original design. She sits at the table with grace, speaks in a light, pleasing tone of voice to Franziska, plays with a lock of her own hair, leans her head on her right hand without laying it quite wholly into it, and jumps up when Franziska accuses Tellheim of unfaithfulness, and says [act 2, scene 1], “Miserable girl! But do you mean that seriously?”

The landlord enters; she sits back down and remains wholly indifferent until Franziska’s teasing elicits a smile from her, but no more than that either, — and what joy, what ebullient joy do we not hear from her? She speaks incessantly, offers Franziska money, gives it to her, and then concludes solemnly [act 2, scene 3]: “Put that aside, Franziska, for the first poor wounded soldier who addresses us.”

She falls into a serious tone after her first, ardent embrace with Tellheim, a tone with which after a slight lowering of her voice and a brief pause she says [act 2, scene 9]: “Wretched man indeed, if you love nothing!” And which she then lowers even more when she addresses Tellheim again [act 2, scene 9]: “You love me still; that is enough for me . . . Now, my dear unfortunate, you love me still, and have your Minna still, and are unhappy?” etc.

Her scene with Riccaut de la Marliniere demonstrates such a master and so profound a study of character that a precise description would be an extremely difficult task indeed. She assumes a wholly genteel air, hardly even glances at him, smiles at his petty wretchedness so unnoticeably — not least for him — expresses absolutely no sympathy such that I know of no better expression of the manner with which one might reject such insufferable figures and their immense immodesty, no better expression for Minna’s noble soul, a soul that feels with utter imperceptibility. With what entreaty and flattery [act 4, scene 3] does she extend to angry Franziska the cup of coffee!

After a brief, serious moment of reflection she picks up the droll tone once more. Werner enters with his commando-gait [act 4, scene 4: “carrying himself very erect as if on duty”]. Minna is standing stage center, at the proscenium. A chair stands directly between her and the sergeant that would disrupt his path toward her: she swiftly goes back and places the chair to the side. —

She tenderly cuddles up to Tellheim, intimately catches his gaze, and tells him with a seductive tone of voice [act 4, scene 6]: “I prophesy that you will be relieved at very few doors; except at the door of a good-natured girl like myself. . . . I am so much the more secure from your blows” etc.

When, finally, in the final act she plays the angry girl toward Tellheim, she uses every mute moment to smile with Franziska at her own teasing; and it is in this disposition and posture that she carries her scenes through till she is in Tellheim’s arms.

As animated and lively as the coloring and complexion of her portrayal is, all the less might one accuse them of excess. She does all of this utterly without ostentation, picks up every nuance utterly without pretentiousness such that nothing — absolutely nothing — reminds us of the artist, who, after all, knows full well that she is standing before an audience that is certainly and wholly equipped with the appropriate apparatus for applause.

Not a single moment without significance; not a single element of significance without more profound meaning, — and all of it with the expression of the most charming unpretentiousness.

Every one of her performances attests her artistic sense all the more irrefutably, and I believe myself justified in adding that her evocation of Minna’s character elicits the same remark that Countess Orsina [Friederike Unzelmann’s character in Emilia Galotti] makes with respect to herself [act 4, scene 3]: “Do not laugh — for mark me, Marinelli (with emotion) that which makes me laugh, has, like every thing in the world, its serious side.”

Schiller, too, seems to have been impressed by Friederike Unzelmann’s performance of the title role in Minna von Barnhelm (Goethe und Karl August: Studien zu Goethes Leben. Goethe und Karl August von 1790 bis 1805, ed. Heinrich Düntzer, vol. 2 [Leipzig 1865], 378):

On 21 September, the famous actress appeared first in Schiller’s Maria Stuart. The heat that evening was so oppressive and the piece so long that the elderly Wieland was brought to despair, something he brought to expression, however, in his usual good-natured way. Neither was Henriette von Knebel particularly enamored of Madam Unzelmann, whose small stature allegedly simply could not sustain the gravity of the character.

The other six performances that Madam Unzelmann gave up to 1 October included Lessing’s Emilia Galotti and Minna von Barnhelm. Schiller was more impressed by Madam Unzelmann’s performance in the latter than in his own Maria Stuart.

Here Friederike Unzelmann (at the time: Bethmann) as Maria Stuart; first illustration: Vienna, Austrian National Library, Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung, Porträtsammlung, Inventar-Nr. PORT_00015190_01, engraving after Heinrich Anton Dähling, presumably from the series Kostüme auf dem königlichen Nationaltheater (Berlin 1802–12); from the former portrait collection of the directorship of the k.k. Hoftheater, from 1921 part of the Porträtsammlung der Nationalbibliothek; by permission; second illustration: Nationale Forchungs- und Gedenkstätten der klassischen deutschen Literatur in Weimar; reproduced in Eike Middell, Friedrich Schiller, 2nd ed. [Leipzig 1982], 333:]


The remarks of Henriette von Knebel’s brother, Karl Ludwig von Knebel, address this same circumstance in a letter to his sister (Karl Ludwig von Knebel, Aus Karl Ludwig von Knebels Briefwechsel mit seiner Schwester Henriette [1774–1813]. Ein Beitrag zur deutschen Hof- und Litteraturgeschichte, ed. Heinrich Düntzer [Jena 1858], 140–41):

It is quite easy to see that, indeed, Schiller was born for the tragic, so proficient is he at tormenting people, and I find it incomprehensible that he thinks nothing of having people sit there in the theater until 11 p.m. [ed. note: an additional aggravating factor was not only the heat, but also the considerable time it took the actresses to change costumes during the play].

I can never forgive him for that for having already martyred me that way. Madame Unzelmann, who pleased me quite well outside the theater as well, is of quite the same opinion. On Thursday I saw her for the last time as Minna von Barnhelm, a role she performed with considerable refinement and charm. Back.

[8] Von Trott is unidentified. Back.

[9] I.e., returned from Weimar to Jena following the performances of Friederike Unzelmann on 1 October 1801. The housemates from Leutragasse 5 had arrived back in Jena at midday on 2 October 1801. Back.

[10] Friedrich Tieck departed Jena for Berlin with Friedrich Schlegel on ca. 29 November 1801; they arrived in Berlin on 2 December 1801 (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[11] I.e., her letter to Julie Gotter from Gotha, which she could have shown to Cäcilie before sending it off. Back.

[12] Judging from Julie’s following remarks, Pauline seems to have teased Julie about a potential romantic involvement with Friedrich Tieck. Back.

[13] Concerning a possible romantic attraction to Friedrich Tieck: Julie seems to have spent considerable time with him in Jena and acknowledges in her letter to Cecile on 10 November 1801 (letter 329t) that “indeed, I have grown quite fond of him” (Frauenzimmer Almanach zum Nutzen u. Vergnügen für das Jahr 1800; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Julie, however, never married. And Friedrich Tieck did not marry until much later in life, when at seventy and through the mediation of one of his creditors, he married a twenty-year-old woman in Berlin from an affluent family in a ruse to settle his considerable debts (illustrations: [1] Johann Friedrich Cotta’s Taschenbuch für Damen auf das Jahr 1801 [Tübingen 1801]; [2] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Der Greis [1776]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 (116)):



Ludwig attended the wedding in June 1846. Her parents, however, learned of the ruse, forbid any further contact, and a divorce was quickly effected. Back.

[14] Rothenstein is located just at 9 km south of Jena (Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no. 19):


The mountain to which Julie here refers is the Trumpet Cliff, so named according to the following legend (H. Schwerdt, Thüringen, 3rd ed. [Leipzig 1880], 325–26) (early postcard):


Rothenstein . . . which takes its name from the vertical, red-sandstone cliff 130 meters high directly above the road.

Legend tells us that during the Thirty Years War, a Swedish trumpeter rescued himself from the advancing Croats when his horse boldly leapt into the Saale River; but the Swede was killed by a bullet when, on the opposite side of the river, he was sounding the melody to “To you I give thanks, O Lord.”

Thus the horseshoe forms hewn into the rocks. It is well worth the effort to climb the zigzag path leading from the village of Rothenstein up the Trumpet Cliff (today with a barrier at the precipice) to enjoy a wonderful view of the charming Saale valley and then to descend on the opposite side and stop at the upper tavern.

Here the Trumpet Cliff and the early-twentieth-century bridge (Thüringen in Wort und Bild, ed. Thüringer Pestalozzivereine, 2 vols. [Leipzig 1902], 2:255):


Here the view from atop the cliff, i.e., essentially the same view (without this particular bridge) enjoyed by Julie and her companions (1920 postcard):



[15] I.e., he came over on 1 October 1801 for Friederike Unzelmann’s final performance in Minna von Barnhelm. Carl Schelling had been studying medicine in Jena since 1799 and was planning to continue his studies in Tübingen ([N.] Schwerdtgeburt, Moritz Müller, Ein Kranker auf seinem Lager [1814]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 1831):



[16] “Lectures,” Germ. Kollegia, conjectured reading from Germ. Ko[lacuna] (torn manuscript); cordial communication from Hedwig T. Durnbaugh.

Tübingen is situated ca. 40 km southwest of Stuttgart (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Here Tübingen and the Neckar River (Gustav Schwab, Romantische Wanderung durch die Sächsische Schweiz, Das malerische und romantische Deutschland: In zehn Sektionen, 1 Schwaben [Leipzig 1847], plate following p. 114):



Translation © 2019 Doug Stott