Letter 370

• 370. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, September 1802 [*]

[Jena, September 1802]

|340| I was also considering sending off the draft of the memorandum beforehand, but I must myself await instructions concerning how to arrange things, since that depends on the relevant agreement with the duke. [1] This is the way things stand as of now:

In the Mereau affair, the duke indicated without further ado to the consistory that it was to list the marriage as having been annulled, and this did indeed come about at the intercession of the crown prince of Gotha. [2] The issue now is to dispose him to grant such a privilege a second time, since he might well be disinclined to do so precisely because he recently granted the same privilege and does not want the exception to become the rule, which is why one must avoid appealing to that precedent in writing as well.

I have thus |341| turned to a gentleman who is favorably disposed toward both of us and who has power enough to get this through with him; [3] and he has promised to do what he can, except that he has advised that I prepare for the eventuality of a negative response, though such an outcome does not seem really credible insofar as he has already undertaken such once before. He will negotiate the matter directly with the duke, and he is the only person to whom anything has been related; otherwise not a word or any other indication has been uttered.

There can be no doubt about his own silence, and I even promised him that I would not mention his name to anyone, which is why I must request that, should you [4] guess who it is, you might also observe precisely the same silence toward him as toward others. Even the slightest trace of any lack of discretion on my part is thus in any event a false track, and it is unseemly even to mention it on the basis of some gossip or the other. [5]

The duke has been back for a few days now, and I am awaiting further news any day. Then everything can easily be resolved even before the end of the month; and since I myself urgently wish things to hasten along, I will also diligently try to move them in that direction. [6] If the matter cannot be taken care of in this fashion, then I will immediately send the memorandum required for the other way. [7]

Hence please be quite reassured in this regard and understand that there is no need for any further tension. You recently displaced that tension even onto my brother, where it was truly superfluous insofar as he is a wholly indifferent party in all this and could hardly make any more specific claims on you. Had I known of his journey beforehand, I would have alerted him to save himself the trouble of the visit. [8]

The concern you demonstrated toward Schelling at this particular moment is what I expected from you [9] — even though for me, at the renewal of the fateful wickedness |342| that surrounded me during those days of virtually mindless, unconscious anxiety, hardly any memory can be more painful than that you were capable of falling on me precisely at that time, utterly without mercy, in announcing it completely, and were capable of repeatedly frightening the unhappy mother through the worst sort of hostility. [10]

But I intend to repress it within me forever if you will now do what perhaps circumstances make possible, and what not magnanimity — which is always nothing more than false pretense — but rather the simplest human feelings demand. You can see from the warmth with which Schelling accepts your silence toward him that I have not tried to denigrate its value. Please remain on a friendly basis with him. I am withdrawing entirely. [11]


[*] Over the course of the next several months, two subject especially occupy Caroline, Schelling, and Wilhelm Schlegel in these letters, subjects also reflected in the correspondence between Schelling and Wilhelm and, by extension, Goethe:

(1) Caroline and Wilhelm’s divorce, petitioned with Goethe’s help and secured (albeit not until 17 May 1803) from Duke Karl August of Weimar and which involves, among other things, attempts to circumvent personal appearances before the Weimar consistory (Wilhelm was in Berlin at the time, Caroline in Jena) (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Scheidung (“divorce”) [1788], Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.775):


The local church consistory generally had the last word in cases of divorce. Here Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s illustrations of (1) a meeting of hierarchical consistory members ca. 1774, and (2) an individual having to appear before such a consistory (“Ein hierarchisches Konsistorium,” 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 LXXIII d; Sebaldus vor dem Consistorium [1774]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [1-51]; both illustrations Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [1-15]):



(2) Schelling’s dispute with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung involving the insinuation that he contributed to Auguste’s death in Bad Bocklet in July 1801. That insinuation and the ensuing quarrel, however, which played out largely in the press, ultimately became less a quarrel about Auguste’s death than one between opposing philosophical camps and personalities in Jena. See in this regard esp. the supplementary appendix on the scandal surrounding Auguste’s death. Back.

[1] The “memorandum” is the petition to Duke Karl August concerning the divorce between Caroline and Wilhelm (letter/document 371). Back.

[2] Sophie Mereau and Friedrich Karl Ernst Mereau had married in 1793 and then divorced in 1801. As Schelling points out in his letter to Wilhelm on 24 September 1802 (letter 369j), although Friedrich Karl Ernst Mereau did have to appear before the consistory, Sophie Mereau was excused. Back.

[3] Wilhelm may never have known, or if he did, may never have indicated that he knew, that Schelling and Caroline were having Goethe advise them in this matter (Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1798; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[4] In this letter Caroline abandons the familiar form of address (Du) with Wilhelm in favor of the formal (Sie). Back.

[5] Wilhelm seems to have indicated in a (lost) letter to Caroline that she had leaked news of their attempt to secure a divorce; Schelling addresses this suspicion in his letter to Wilhelm on 24 September 1802 (letter 369j). Back.

[6] The divorce process was concluded neither swiftly nor easily and continued instead into May of 1803. Back.

[7] The “other way” seems to have been the one explained by Schelling in his letter to Wilhelm on 24 September 1802 (letter 369j), namely, to bribe a certain member of the consistory (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Elendere! [ca. 1782]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur JARossmaesler WB 3.23j):



[8] Unknown episode. Back.

[9] In connection with the dispute concerning the Bamberg theses, the Würzburg theologian Franz Berg was prompted by the Würzburg prince Georg Karl Ignaz von Fechenbach, whom August von Kotzebue had mocked in his play Der hyperboreische Esel oder die heutige Bildung. Ein drastisches Drama, und philosophisches Lustspiel für Jünglinge in einem Akt (Leipzig 1799) (see also the supplementary appendix to Wilhelm’s Kotzebuade), to compose a satire against the philosophical “Alexander” (i.e., Schelling). In May 1802 Berg published the anonymous Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy.

This book was reviewed in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1802) 225 (Tuesday, 10 August 1802) 327–28, the reviewer (almost certainly Christian Gottfried Schütz) quoting not only Berg’s congratulations on the prospect that Joseph Reubel might form a “triumvirate” together with Schelling and Andreas Röschlaub with the goal of dispelling death itself once and for all, but also Berg’s malicious statement insinuating Schelling’s contribution to Auguste’s death.

Wilhelm had generously — especially considering the relationship between Schelling and Caroline that had developed in the meantime — offered to become Schelling’s advocate in the bitter quarrel that had developed between Schelling and Christian Gottfried Schütz. He not only had already corresponded with Schütz (see his letter to Schütz on 18 September 1802 [letter 369h] and Schütz’s response on 24 September 1802 [letter 369k]), but also was about to publish a lengthier piece in Schelling’s defense, his To the Public. Rebuke of a Defamation of Honor Perpetrated in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (letter/document 371b).

Not only was Caroline forced to revive the entire breadth of pain and profound grief associated with Auguste’s death, but Schelling, too, had to relive the whole unfortunate course of the illness, namely, how the slanderer who was Franz Berg’s informant (the Kissingen physician Büchler) had deceived himself concerning the seriousness of the illness. Back.

[10] Unknown but apparently powerful allusion to an extremely unpleasant incident in connection with Auguste’s death; even Schelling raises the issue in his letter to Wilhelm of 24 September 1802 (letter 369j). Back.

[11] This letter seems to be the last extant letter from Caroline to Wilhelm; it is in any case the last that Erich Schmidt included in his edition of 1913 and the last included in the Digitale Edition der Korrespondenz August Wilhelm Schlegels. Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott