Letter 357

• 357. Caroline to Julie Gotter in Gotha: Berlin, 24 April 1802 [*]

[Berlin] 24 April [1802]

|325| You must not believe, dear Julchen, that my having not yet written means I have in any way forgotten my loyal companion; [1] you would excuse me if you knew how my physical weakness has had to struggle here to keep up with the greater strains and the lack of rest. The daring deed of my coming here has almost been too much for me, and now I so yearn for my quiet existence again.

On top of that, my friends here are themselves distressed and plagued by worries. For within the past week, both the elder Tieks died, first the mother; the father managed to keep going until after the funeral, after which he, too, had to take to the bed with the same illness |326| and died last night. [2]

All these shocks have greatly endangered Madam Bernhardi (who is an excellent woman), who is pregnant, generally rather sickly, and recently also lost a child. [3] I am just trying to keep myself tolerably healthy, since it would be horrible were I to come down sick here. Blessed those still able to fret over living and dying. —

At the moment, I still do not know whether Schelling will be coming. [4] All this is also greatly distressing Schlegel, who as the most loyal of friends himself is constantly living in his friends. —

In the meantime, I have not been completely idle with regard to Cäcilie’s interests; [5] Bernhardi went to Dresden for a couple of days, and I gave him a letter to take along for Madam Rehkopf. [6] [Boarding house questions.] I really am quite distressed that nothing seems to be working out, though am admittedly accustomed to it; it will surely work out if Cäcilie but keeps her courage up. All of you please write me about it. Tiek thinks Hartmann is the leading painter. [7] I myself received this news only yesterday and have not yet had time to consider it further.

The sculptor has done some excellent busts here and certainly seems like the most excellent son and most loving brother; he sends his regards to Julchen. [8] The latest is that Friedrich Schlegel will marry Madam Veit, to wit, wed her, and will be going to Paris with her. [9] Just how and why, and whence the means to do so might come, — well, since the gods themselves do not know, the devil probably does. [10]

Let me confirm in a general way that I do indeed have many distractions here, as one puts it, but it is not really expedient now to go into detail. We have already had considerable fun; among other things, Merkel sat next to me at a souper and flirted with me. [11] Otherwise Berlin wholly displeases me.

Stay well, dear child, and extend my greetings to your family. My address is Lindenstrasse No. 66. [12]


[*] This is the first extant letter Caroline wrote from Berlin. Back.

[1] Julie Gotter began her stay with Caroline in Jena on 31 May 1801 and finally departed Jena for her home in Gotha on Saturday, 6 March 1802. Although Caroline had since written her from Jena on ca. 11 March 1802 (letter 354), she had not yet written her from Berlin, where Caroline herself had been since late March 1802 (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[2] The exact dates of the deaths of the Tieck siblings’ parents has traditionally been given as “Easter 1802.” In 1802, Easter Sunday fell on 18 April. Caroline is here writing basically a week later, on the following Saturday, 24 April 1802, and mentions that the father died “last night,” i.e., on 23 April 1802; hence the mother seems to have died during the week following approximately 16/17 April 1802 (Rudolph Zacharias Becker, Das Noth- und Hülfs-Büchlein Oder Lehrreiche Freuden- und Trauer-Geschichte Des Dorfes Mildheim, vol. 2, rev. ed. [Gotha 1815], 793):



[3] Ludwig Bernhardi had died on 28 February 1802. See also Wilhelm’s letter to Ludwig Tieck on 1 March 1802 (letter 349a).

In the meantime, Sophie Bernhardi had since early February 1802 been pregnant with Felix Theodor Bernhardi, who would be born on 6 November 1802. For many years, Sophie deceived Wilhelm (also financially) into thinking Felix was his son (Taschenbuch für häusliche und gesellschaftliche Freuden [1798]):


Documentation can be found in Josef Körner’s epistolary collection Krisenjahre der Frühromantik. See esp. the section on Felix Bernhardi’s paternity in the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s residences in Berlin. Back.

[4] Schelling joined Caroline in Berlin in late April or early May 1802. Back.

[5] Caroline had been trying to arrange for Cäcilie Gotter to continue her art studies in Dresden. See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm Gottlieb Becker on 21 January 1802 (letter 342a). Concerning Caroline’s interest in Cäcilie Gotter’s artistic talent, see also note 1 there. Back.

[6] Unidentified. Possibly Christiane Brigitte Rehkopf, widow of a former high consistory councilor and church superintendent in Dresden (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[7] I.e., the leading painter in Dresden, under whom Cäcilie might study. Back.

[8] Julie Gotter seems to have spent some pleasant time with Friedrich Tieck the previous autumn while both were in Jena, perhaps even to the point of incipient romantic interest on Julie’s part. See esp. her letter to Luise Gotter on 10 November 1801 (letter 329t) (Almanach zur angenehmen Unterhaltung für das Jahr 1804; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


For more information on Friedrich Tieck’s busts in Berlin, see supplementary appendix 326.1.

In January 1802 Tieck was commissioned to work on the plastic ornamentation in the Weimar Castle. He eventually executed the bas-reliefs in the staircase in the east wing designed by Heinrich Gentz, something he completed after returning to Weimar from Berlin on 13 June 1802 and after clearing the sketches with Goethe. His three reliefs, in a simple Doric style, adorn the two side walls and the rear wall leading to the salons. Here the staircase with two of Tieck’s pieces visible (early postcard):


He eventually also worked with Caroline planning and executing Auguste’s bust. See Wilhelm to Goethe on 4 May 1802 (Körner-Wieneke 133):

He [Friedrich Tieck] had the misfortune of losing his father a week after his mother. His parents’ illnesses, then his own disposition and the business matters that fell to him alone, since his sister was also ill and caused him considerable concern, made it impossible for him to occupy himself with his art at all for a couple of weeks. He is, however, now trying to catch up and hasten his departure as much as possible, since he himself is eager to get to Weimar. Back.

[9] This news of Friedrich Schlegel’s marriage is premature; he and Dorothea Veit would not marry until 6 April 1804 in Paris. It is, however, of some interest that Caroline had already heard these rumors in Berlin. Back.

[10] Friedrich was still having financial problems. See his letters to Rahel Levin on 15 February 1802 (letter 347a) and esp. Caroline’s letters to Wilhelm on 22 February 1802 (letter 348) and 8 March 1802 (letter 352), and, most damaging of all, Friedrich Frommann’s letter to Schleiermacher from Leipzig on 21 May 1802 after having met with Friedrich at the book fair concerning the faltering translation of Plato (letter 360a). Back.

[11] A charming and, more yet, revealing anecdote about the Jena Romantics’ arch-rival and nemesis (Berlinischer Damen-Kalender auf das Gemein-Jahr 1805):



[12] That is, Caroline was not staying with Wilhelm, who was residing with the Bernhardis at the Jungfernbrücke, Oberwasserstrasse 10, but rather at the home of Karl Wilhelm Friedrich and Anna Philippine Elisabeth Grattenauer at Lindenstrasse 66 (map excerpt here from G. D. Reymann, Neuester Grundriss von Berlin [1826]):


Here the location of both addresses, Lindenstrasse 66 at the upper left, Oberwasserstrasse 10 at the lower right; the distance between the two locations helps explain why Caroline and Wilhelm communicated in Berlin in part by means of letters and billets:



Translation © 2016 Doug Stott