Letter 329u

329u. Julie Gotter to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Jena, 10 November 1801 [*]

Jena, 10 November 1801

Dearest Mother,

My insatiable heart has finally (if such be genuinely possible) been completely satisfied by news from my good sisters, and though I discovered none of your own handwriting, I nonetheless sensed your loving concern for me in those letters as well. [1] I awaited those letters with indescribable impatience and would have written earlier myself except that I wanted to wait until your letters arrived.

By now you have doubtless heard from our cousin Karl how I am doing, and indeed probably more than is actually true. [2] Not that I intend to punish or accuse him of lying. I would sooner accuse him of gullibility — though I surely have no need to point out that everything from both my and his side is but a jest. But what a surprise for me when he showed up, and anyone who has enjoyed a similar amusement can easily imagine what a delight it was for me, even if such cannot be quite as great if the element of the unexpected was lacking.

I had just returned from a walk with Schelling, and as I entered the room I found a nice young man with Madam Schlegel. I properly returned his compliment while yet noting that his greeting seemed to presuppose an acquaintance with me. I examined his appearance from head to toe, and though his features were anything but unfamiliar to me, I nonetheless could not associate them with a specific person.

He finally spoke the words, “Do you not recognize me, Julchen?” And yet I still simply stood there speechless for a moment (the entire encounter lasted but a few moments), then after these tones had completely penetrated into my ears, I threw my arms around his neck and cried out “Carl!” [2a]

The others who were present had already surmised the presence of two cousins; I am constantly being jestingly teased because of my confidentiality and sympathy toward them [in margin: I once told Cecile about it]. But some day I will turn this warm cordiality into something different. I do realize, my dear Mother, that you have often spoken against using the familiar du, but whoever sees us more often and is familiar with the circumstances will surely condone it. [3]

We spent the evening quite contentedly entertained — I hope and in fact believe he would concur — we had so much say and relate that the time just flew by. Unfortunately, Madam Schlegel was not well — but today she is better. He parted from me weighted down with countless greetings for all of you. I very much would have liked to accompany him. [4]

I am just so happy and cheerful, my dear Mother, that you might hardly believe it, and quite so inwardly as well. This whole day I have done nothing proper, and have instead constantly been running and jumping around. Today is the first day I am here alone with Madam Schlegel. All the others have gradually disappeared. [5]

People come and go, pleasant, agreeable people, and then unpleasant ones as well. But they are quickly gone, the one displaces the other — To me life here seems quite colorful and lively, and I view it now in a much more serene and cheerful light than before [6] — except that everything seems to last but a short time. When I was looking at Carl, my heart was heavy thinking about how old I already am.

I am also beginning to be less timorous and fearful. [7] I have become much freer since Madam Wiedemann left — not as if her presence had held me in some sort of slavish fear. But since the opposite of temerity and fearfulness is sooner her own shortcoming, it was impossible for me to act differently. I had such an aversion to her disposition that I wanted at all costs to avoid becoming that way, and preferred instead to remain a good, simple soul rather than become like her. And I am indeed still the former. — —

Schlegel left on Tuesday and has already been in Berlin for several days now. Tieck will be leaving in about a week and is supposed to take the other two shirts with him, so on the next postal day please send whatever you have finished that they might be embroidered here. [8]

I have not yet told you that on Sunday I attended a ball, accompanied by Madam Loder, whom Caroline had asked to take me along. [9] So, to universal astonishment, this one time I did indeed venture out of my solitariness. It was a quite brilliant affair, and was unusually well attended and full of guests. My sisters seem to have considerable desire and yet little opportunity for dancing; were they but here, they would have ample opportunity to satisfy that inclination. I danced a great deal, and yet it did not particularly please me, for I found myself so abandoned, no acquaintances, actually no one with whom I might converse, and though I do love to dance, it could not really be a replacement for what I lacked. [9a]

I will repeat this exercise this coming Sunday. [10] Fifty newly arrived students from Livonia and Estonia gave all the professors a souper, who in their own turn will reciprocate with the ball. I promised Schelling that he could escort me there. [11] And our good Madam Schlegel, who is now quite insistent on seeing me handsomely dressed for the occasion, has had a pair of prettyish, lively reddish silk shoes made for me — but my dear Mother, from day to day I become less vain; is that not crazy? [12]

[End of letter]


[*] Source: Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften; Nachlass F. W. J. v. Schelling, no. 931.

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] In her letter to Cäcilie Gotter on the same day, Julie Gotter similarly expresses her joy at having received letters from home; earlier she variously laments, e.g., Pauline Gotter’s failure to write. Back.

[2] The same Karl (Carl) whom Caroline mentions in her postscript to Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel the previous day, 9 November 1801 (letter 329r). Back.

[2a] Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer Zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1805; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[3] The reference seems to be the following: Julie’s (or Luise Gotter’s) cousin Carl had used the formal Sie form of address when initially addressing Julie, who in her own turn, while addressing him with his first name as well, nonetheless arguably transgresses certain social bounds by embracing him. Back.

[4] Viz., back to Gotha. Back.

[5] Viz., the previous house guests and housemates at Leutragasse 5, including Madam Wiedemann and her daughter, Emma, and husband, Christian Rudolph Wilhelm Wiedemann (who had arrived from France), all of whom had returned to Braunschweig shortly after 20 October 1801 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


Wilhelm Schlegel, who had been back in Jena since 11 August 1801, had similarly returned to Berlin, as Julie goes on to mention, on Tuesday, 3 November 1801 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete):



[6] Julie had been in Jena since 31 May 1801. Back.

[7] Julie, as attested in several previous letters, arguably had at least in part an introverted or at least quiet personality. Back.

[8] Wilhelm had departed for Berlin on Tuesday, 3 December 1801. Friedrich Tieck would depart, similarly for Berlin, accompanied by Friedrich Schlegel on ca. 29 November 1801; they arrived on ca. 2 December 1801.

Back in her letter to Cecile Gotter on 11 October 1801 (letter 329l.2), Julie mentions that

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. 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.

Caroline herself seems to have been intending to embroider the shirts after receiving them from Luise Gotter, a handicraft at which she was allegedly quite deft. Back.

[9] Sunday, 8 November 1801. Schelling mentions Julie’s attendance at this ball in his letter to Wilhelm on 9 November 1801 (letter 329r) as well as the souper given for the Jena professors by the “newly arrived foreigners” and the professors’ reciprocation with a ball, which Julie now also mentions. Caroline similarly mentions the second ball in her letter to Wilhelm on 16 November 1801 (letter 330). Back.

[9a] Illustration: Albert Kindler, artist, and Johann Leonhard Raab, engraver, Die Verlassene auf dem Tanzboden (1878); Österreichische Nationalbibliothek:



[10] Sunday, 15 November 1801. Caroline mentions in her letter to Wilhelm on 16 November 1801 (letter 330) that at this ball there was

not a single young man, though, except for the aforementioned [foreign students], of which there are probably 50 here. But the ones here now are all still quite stupid, follow Ulrich in philosophy and Madam Schütz in love, hence the old Babel holds sway over them.

Concerning Anna Henriette Schütz in social contexts, see also Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in October/November 1796 (letter 173). Back.

[11] Presumably in the facilities of the professors’ club, about which one reads the following (illustration: Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1814: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet [Frankfurt]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

Here the professors’ club is also held. The usual balls are held in this hall, though as far as participation is concerned a non-resident cannot determine whether he is being betrayed or sold. For the ladies are engaged for these balls a whole three months in advance. This eternal engagement fills a newcomer with aversion, and results in boredom; indeed, the result is that Jena has the reputation of being afflicted by small-town customs.

But do feel free to attend these events! I certainly have no objection, though let me advise you to find a lady dance partner early, and then to engage this same lady for the entirety of your academic study. If you fail to heed what may seem to be a rather comical bit of advice, then you are yourself responsible if at these academic balls you end up sitting by yourself the entire evening like an old maid.


Julie’s remark that she “danced a great deal” and would essentially be repeating the “exercise” at the next ball evokes the custom of the “dance card,” a custom so ubiquitous that such cards might be included in almanacs and annual pocket anthologies, e.g., under the rubric “Engagements — Indices,” here from the Taschenbuch und Almanach zum geselligen Vergnügen für 1794 (Göttinger Digitalisierungszentrum; Georg-August-Universität Götingen):


Following this page toward the back of the almanac, the user finds sixteen forms for sequential “dance days” (Tanztag) with grids for entering the location of each dance (Ort wo getanzt wird) and for one’s partner for each scheduled dance (grids) in (1) the English and (2) the French manner:


Here are two such dance cards filled out hypothetically with the location of each dance as Julie might have experienced the events, first at the home of the current university rector, Karl Christian Erhard Schmid, (on Sunday, 8 November 1801), and, second, at the university professors’ club in the tavern Zur Rose (on Sunday, 15 November 1801).

Inside the grids, prefixed with title Herr, are the names of hypothetical partners who might have requested a dance with Julie beforehand as so trenchantly advised above (names taken at random from members of the Jena fraternity Germania during the years 1846–48; Gustav Heinrich Schneider, Die Burschenschaft Germania zu Jena [Jena 1897], 564):



[12] Regrettably, no portraits of Julie Gotter seem to be extant; she was, however, now eighteen years old, approximately, it seems, the age of the young woman in the following illustration from this same year, 1801 (Göttingischer Taschen-Calender für das Jahr 1801; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


In her letter to her mother back on 26 June 1801 (letter 322a), Julie, responding to her aunt’s fear that she might be “ruined” by the company in Jena, reassures her mother that her experiences in Jena were not seducing her into vanity:

if she [the aunt] considers the people with whom I am living to be so “godless,” then she is quite wrong. . . . Indeed, no, I can assure all of you that I will not return to Gotha in worse shape in that respect. Perhaps with a bit more conceit or pride? No, not even that; at least up to this point I have not yet had any opportunity to cultivate that particular disposition.

Concerning the shoes: It may be noted that Caroline “had a pair of prettyish, lively reddish silk shoes made,” i.e., did not make them herself, but rather had them made by the local shoemaker or cobbler, here in illustrations (1) with his apprentices (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Der Schuster mit seinen Gesellen und dem Lehrburschen [1774]; from the Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate XIX c; (2) from Christoff Weigel, Abbildung Der Gemein-Nützlichen Haupt-Stände Von denen Regenten Und ihren So in Friedens- als Kriegs-Zeiten zugeordneten Bedienten an biß auf alle Künstler und Handwercker nach Jedes Ambts- und Beruffs-Verrichtungen meist nach dem Leben gezeichnet und in Kupfer gebracht etc. [Regenspurg 1698], plate following p. 644; (3) from Schauplatz der Natur und der Künste, vol. 7 [Vienna 1781], plate 47):




Although Julie Gotter writes rosinenfarben, “raisin-colored, “she presumably means rosenfarben, a color range extending from light shades of red to pink.

Such shoes were sooner intended for special occasions than for everyday use, and though they might be appropriate for taking a walk during pleasant weather, they were generally ill-suited for inclement weather or extended use. They were reserved instead for indoor events, e.g., precisely such special social occasions as the ball Julie Gotter was to attend. And because they were not worn every day and were generally well cared for, many of these shoes are still extant and in reasonably good shape. Such is the case with the pair below (cordial communication from Sabine Schierhoff; photo: Museum Weißenfels, Schloss Neu-Augustusburg. “Ein Paar Damenschuhe, Anfang 19. Jh.”):


Note the shoes on the young women at center and left in this illustration of the waltz in Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers by Thomas Rowlandson in 1806:



Translation © 2021 Doug Stott