Letter 355

• 355. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Jena, March 1802

[Jena, March 1802]

|321| My dear friend, I have now reunited you with your daughter — safe and sound, as I hope — and would like to thank you for having allowed her to stay with me for so long. [1]

And I do think I can confidently say that you will not regret it, since I myself certainly believe our Julchen’s good sense and feelings will demonstrate as much. I repeatedly asked her to avoid any appearance of even the slightest change that someone there might view with disfavor and which might cause you and her any grievance.

Nor should that be in the least bit difficult for her, since, really, no change took place in her that would not have left her simple external appearance just as it was and |322| quite in accordance with her nature. [2]

I for my part merely wish I could have occupied her far more than was really possible given my household arrangements; [3] for activity, in every possible direction, is what is best suited for bringing Julchen along to her best advantage. . . . you should let her take over the entire household maintenance and have her practice all the industriousness and domestic tasks that fall to us.

In such an arrangement, Julchen herself will gain the most, since she does not run the risk, for example, of renouncing all her other, more intellectual interests at the same time. What then emerges is that she becomes quite adroit in all sorts of situations and circumstances in a fashion that is both quite profitable and quite charming. [4]

Your Cäcilie, I think, has already found her purpose, [5] and now Julchen can lay claim to one as well, and may my dear Luise enjoy these developments.

I do not need to assure you that I will do everything possible with regard to Cecilie’s stay in Dresden. [6]

Stay well, my best friend, and please do continue to love me.

Your Caroline


[1] Julie Gotter, who had been living with Caroline in Jena since 31 May 1801, had finally departed Jena for her home in Gotha on Saturday, 6 March 1802, whence also Erich Schmidt’s dating of this letter.

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]):



[2] In her letter to her mother on 26 June 1801 (lett er 322a), that is, not even a month into her stay with Caroline, Julie finds it necessary to write the following:

I am very sorry to hear that my aunt is so worried about the “well-being” of my soul. I have no idea why she thinks so ill of me, and if she considers the people with whom I am living to be so “godless,” then she is quite wrong. You yourself know how things stand with Madam Schlegel. And Schelling — do you not believe, given that he occupies himself so extensively with the creation, that in the process he does not also think about its creator? —

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.

This letter serves as a document, if such be needed, of the reputation of the Jena Romantics even among Caroline’s friends. To wit, there seems to have been some not inconsiderable apprehension on the part of Julie’s family in Gotha that Julie’s stay among such atypical and controversial personalities as were associated on the public cultural stage with the Jena Romantics might not be an entirely salutary setting for a young woman.

For at the time the group was constantly involved in public literary quarrels and served as the subject of biting satire such as the following, with, as some scholars believe, Caroline caricatured standing in the back of the carriage:


See the supplementary appendix on August von Kotzebue’s explanation of the caricature “The Most Recent Aesthetics,” also, e.g., on Kotzebue’s Hyperborean Ass and the Schlegels, to mention but two examples.

At least from the perspective of Julie’s family in Gotha and the group’s literary adversaries at large, the group included not only Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel, but also Friedrich Schlegel (not least as the author of the notorious and allegedly salacious novel Lucinde) and Dorothea Veit (Friedrich’s partner, a divorced Jewess with whom he was not married, portrayed above center as Lucinde herself with the naked breasts and derriére), who were still in Jena for a least part of Julie’s stay, as well as persons variously associated with the Schlegels who may have visited them and Julie — not all of whom were known to Julie’s family.

The following caraicature by Johann Gottfried Schadow appeared in Garlieb Merkel (one of the Jena Romantics’ most resolute adversaries), Ansichten der Literatur und Kunst unsres Zeitalters, no. 1 (Deutschland 1803) (also Dresden SLUB Biogr.erud.B.1022-1), i.e., after Caroline had left Jena forever with Schelling. The illustration portrays most of those other persons about whose company the Gotter family had reason enough to be apprehensive and who have variously appeared in Caroline’s correspondence:


Although Garlieb Merkel provides an at times enigmatic explanation of the caricature, the figures most important for Julie Gotter and her family are clear enough, notwithstanding that many of the citations are printed backwards as an indication of the general disposition of the Romantics in any case.

Kotzebue himself is at the top left attempting to thwart the Romantics’ siege of the artistic and aesthetic Parnassus from a rather desolate landscape below. A female figure identified physiognomically as Jewish — alluding to the Schlegels’ acquaintances with Berlin Jewish salonniéres — opposes Kotzebue, and similarly identified Jewish worshipers of the Romantics kneel at lower left.

Wilhelm Schlegel, with unkempt hair, leads the siege in a blue coat and armed with a crucifix, a sword, and a pistol but laboriously dragging behind him a white sack of “literary-crictical sins.” The small gentleman behind him with an umbrella and a book on religion is Schleiermacher (see the earlier caricature of him with an umbrella and the Jewish salonniére Henriette Herz), a book certainly not extolling traditional Lutheran religion of the sort to which the Gotter family was accustomed.

The archer in red just behind him is Wilhelm von Schütz, who, as seen earlier, helped disseminate tickets for Wilhelm’s Berlin lectures on aesthetics.

The figure behind Schütz is, of course, Ludwig Tieck atop his Puss ‘n Boots and carrying a crucifix — yet another allusion to the Romantics’ alleged proximity to Catholicism. Directly behind Tieck, a pale Friedrich von Hardenberg strides atop stilts and — already deceased (1801) and no longer really of this world — with a halo.

Friedrich Schlegel is then seen upside down atop a cow he possibly mistakes for Pegasus and reading Lucinde, uttering the words “O Saint, where are thy breasts?” Goethe himself keeps his distance in the background partially veiled to avoid being too closely associated with the Romantics despite their servile veneration of him.

And finally, the larger-than-life figure at the right with the whip is Garlieb Merkel himself, pursuing the Romantics’ remorselessly with a scourge as he genuinely did in real life.

For more information on the figures in the caricature, see Merkel’s publication mentioned above as well as Werner Busch, “Romantik verhöhnt”: Zum Berliner Literaturstreit von 1803 in Bild und Wort (Heidelberg: arthistoricum 2019); Jochen Strobel August Wilhelm Schlegel: Romantiker und Kosmopolit (Darmstadt 2017); Rainer Schmitz (ed.), Die ästhetische Prügeley. Streitschriften der antiromantischen Bewegung (Göttingen 1992).

Against this background, it is easy to understand Julie Gotter’s family’s apprehension that Julie’s extended stay among persons associated with this group may have prompted undesirable changes in her personality and self-image, and to understand Caroline’s focused desire to assuage the family.

Julie herself speaks about these apprehensions in several letters home to her family, e.g., to to Luise Gotter on 10 November 1801 (letter 329u): “but my dear Mother, from day to day I become less vain; is that not crazy?” (“Das leichtsinnige Mädchen” [“The frivolous young girl”], Berlinischer Damen-Kalender auf das Gemein-Jahr 1809; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


See esp. note 12 there with additional examples. Back.

[3] After Luise and Emma Wiedemann’s departure from Jena in October 1801 after their visit (since April 1801) and Wilhelm Schlegel’s return to Berlin in early November 1801 after his visit (since 11 August 1801), Caroline was essentially alone with her maidservants and Julie Gotter in the house at Leutragasse 5 except for Karl Schelling, who for a time occupied Wilhelm’s former room. Back.

[4] Julie Gotter would turn nineteen years old in June of 1802 (Königlich Großbritannischer Genealogischer Kalender auf das 1786 Jahr; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[5] Cäcilie Gotter was intent on becoming an artist, and Caroline herself had been trying to facilitate her further training; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm Gottlieb Becker on 21 January 1802 (letter 342a). Back.

[6] As noted in the text, Caroline uses two different orthographic forms of Cäcilie’s name in this letter.

Cäcilie had hoped to study in Dresden but was unfortunately never able to realize her dream; see Caroline’s previously mentioned letter to Wilhelm Gottlieb Becker on 21 January 1802 (letter 342a), note 10 (presumably a self-portrait of Marie-Denise Villers [1801]:



Translation © 2016 Doug Stott