Letter 380h

380h. Therese Huber to Therese Forster in Colombier, Switzerland: Stuttgart, 3 September 1803 [*]

Stuttgart, 3 September 1803

I suppose we are both somewhat surprised at not having received any news from each other. The reasons at work on my part are quite simple and quite amusing. I am leading a life filled with distractions and celebrations — to wit, Madam Schelling — there is always something — and her husband introduced us to the old prelate in such a flattering light that this good old papa invited us quite graciously to come see his children at Murrhard, his prelature. [1]

We spent 3 days there, and upon our return we found Madame Liebeskind from Ansbach with her husband and a boy of 5; she was not able to resist her desire to see her companion of misfortune again. [2] It was quite amusing to find us all together again after so many years of separation, and so many different events. [3] The meeting showed it, for a spectator not alerted ahead of time would not have guessed that so many ties of custom and fate had once linked us.

Not that there was any chill among us. Caroline always has an affected air about her, and vis-à-vis Madam Liebeskind an air half proud, half reserved, sometimes insolent, sometimes confused. Madam Liebeskind is distracted, indiscreet, trusting, astonished, always good, sometimes caught up short.

For example: we — that is, we, Schelling’s brother, [4] an amiable, honest young man (amiable in the moral sense, worthy of being loved, not in the social sense, which presupposes approval), the Liebeskinds, and we (the Schellings were still in Murrhard) — had come together again, Liebeskind asked what the carmagnole was. And in a fit of gaiety I took him by the hand, him and another, and I danced the carmagnole while singing it with all the old nationalistic enthusiasm. [4a]

Liebeskind was quite delighted, the others laughed and felt swept up by my enthusiasm. Madam Liebeskind kept staring at me, tears in her eyes — She was remembering an orgy in Mainz where Caroline had danced that carmagnole with the French, the same evening that preceded the night when, according to her own admission, Crancé brought about an event that was quite important for her honor, and might have affected her tranquility had she not found a way to base the latter on foundations quite alien to that which we ordinary souls call a woman’s honor. [5]

After Madam Liebeskind confided this circumstance to me, I took the occasion to speak about this scene with my carmagnole to see whether she [6] would not show some emotion, or at least some interest. But I saw nothing, nothing at all. My countenance was the most guileless, I let everything go, I bantered a few times with Schelling, who took it quite well, on several occasions I even argued for a moment — but that did not finish very gloriously for me because I quickly sensed that everything I said seemed to contain allusions, and then I felt a bit ill at ease at having argued so poorly. —

Often when I was feeling particularly imperturbable, I tried to get a sense for Caroline’s conscience, but it is covered by a deep layer of vanity, and arrogance. — In a word, there is something unsettling about these people’s lives — it would require infinite details to introduce you to everything about them, and I am unable to provide such details.

Suffice it to say that after having observed them, after having reflected on them in every possible way, one cannot anticipate any other end than to see Schelling lose his mind. One can see nothing but insanity as the end of so many intellectual gifts preoccupied with such abstract reasoning and combined with arrogance surpassing all imagination. He scorns everything that has been said, thought, and discovered until now. There is no great man whom he does not deride, no scholar whom he does not treat like a schoolboy.

I could enumerate a thousand traits of this extraordinary arrogance. According to him, Fourcroy is a twaddler, Friedrich II “a pathetic person” — Humboldt, returning from a voyage of 5 years into the interior of South America, [7] having seen things no person had ever seen before, having had experiences in places where no human had ever set foot, was ridiculed for having run all over the world while a certain Steffens had seen exactly the same thing a priori in his office study [8] — the technical term is “One can construe all that for oneself.”

Schelling has not read Kant, but he has scoffed at him, trampling him underfoot — “I can construe all that for myself — everything he made up 30 years ago, I can conceive or represent for myself” — Now, it is not true that he has not read Kant, it is simply the custom of the sect to scoff and deride. — But apart from this absolute insanity; he is a sweet, sensitive, simple man —

We were there to see him at his father’s place — his parents are people quite respected for their goodness, and the manner in which we were received demonstrated to us that Caroline and Schelling had spoken favorably of us. Unfortunately, the entire family idolizes their son and contributes through its extreme friendship to reinforcing the illusions surrounding him.

The residence of this prelate is quite romantic, with quite spacious and comfortable accommodations next to an old monastery that at present serves the conveniences of housekeeping, a simple, cheerful church, next to which there is a small chapel, which legend dates to the time of Louis the Pious, whose sepulcher it contains, but which is, though more modern by several centuries, one of the most beautiful monuments of Gothic architecture I have seen. [9]

Behind the house there is a beautiful garden, and lovely ponds lead up to the foot of a hill one can climb by means of an old staircase covered with moss, with a chapel at the summit dedicated to St. Walderich — all this provides a most picturesque image. [10] The chapel is quite ancient, and although it has been tainted for centuries by heresy, Catholics still make pilgrimages there, presenting their homage and the tribute of their piety, which still amounts to 50–100 florins a year. The government has forbidden this idolatry, so true believers no longer dare to place their offerings in the offertory box in front of the entryway where the image of the saint used to stand. Instead they put their money in the grass in front of the portico rather than fail to complete this duty of devotion. [11] Women go there especially to obtain the good fortune of maternity. . . .


[*] Sources: Ludwig Geiger, Dichter und Frauen. Abhandlungen und Mitteilungen (Berlin 1899), 94–97; Therese Huber Briefe 1:428–29.

Schelling and Caroline seem to have left Stuttgart for Tübingen on this same day. Tübingen is situated ca. 40 km southwest of Stuttgart (map: Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]; illustration: Gustav Schwab, Romantische Wanderung durch die Sächsische Schweiz, Das malerische und romantische Deutschland: In zehn Sektionen, 1 Schwaben [Leipzig 1847], plate following p. 114):




[1] See Schelling’s letter to Therese on 18 August 1803 (letter 380f). Schelling’s siblings Beate Schelling and August Schelling were in Murrhardt at the time. Karl Schelling, in Tübingen at the time to complete his medical degree, may or may not have been in Murrhardt for the visit. Back.

[2] Caroline had been incarcerated in Königstein with Meta (at the time:) Forkel during 1793. See Erich Schmidt’s introduction to Caroline’s time in Mainz (photograph: Franz Schilling, Königstein vom Hildatempel aus [1900]):



[3] Strictly speaking, the three women were together but briefly in Mainz in 1792. In early October 1792, Caroline took in Meta (at the time:) Forkel as a housemate, but then Therese (at the time:) Forster left Mainz barely two months latter, on 7 December 1792. Although Therese had visited the Liebeskinds in Ansbach in July 1801, her letters to her daughter Therese Forster did include criticisms of Meta’s housekeeping habits. Back.

[4] Uncertain which brother is meant. Back.

[4a] “‘Sans culottes’ Dancing the ‘Carmagnole,'” Cassell’s Illustrated History of England, new and rev. ed., vol. 5 (London 1865), 613:



[5] Concerning Caroline’s pregnancy in 1793, see Erich Schmidt’s introduction to Caroline’s period in Mainz along with Caroline’s own correspondence during 1793 (A. M. Pachinger, Die Mutterschaft in der Malerei und Graphik [Munich, Leipzig 1906], 65):



[6] I.e., Caroline. Back.

[7] A puzzling statement, since although Humboldt had departed Europe on 5 June 1799, he did not return until 5 August 1804, almost a year after Therese is here writing, and in September 1803 seems to have been in Mexico City since April. Back.

[8] Possibly an allusion to Steffens’s Beyträge zur inneren Naturgeschichte der Erde (Freiberg 1801) (so Therese Huber Briefe 1:744). See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 31 May 1801 (letter 319), note 17. Back.

[9] Here Murrhardt ca. 1850, water color by Pieter Francis Peters, with the multi-story parsonage visible to the right of the Church of St. Januarius, the latter at center right (Württembergische Landesbibliothek, catalogue 379840278, Graphische Sammlungen Württembergica, Signatur Schef.qt.5385c):


The Walterichskapelle (or Walderichskapelle), not visible above, is a small devotional chapel appended to the north side of the church; although Emperor Louis the Pious allegedly provided the funds to establish the monastery complex in Murrhardt at the behest of his father confessor, Walterich (or Walderich), he is not buried in the chapel. Here the front and back on early postcards):


Here a rendering isolated from the church (R. S., “Aus der Geschichte des christlichen Kirchenbaus: Zweiter Abschnitt: Der romanische Kirchenbau: IV. Der Schmuck,” Christliches Kunstblatt für Kirche, Schule und Haus 4 [1 April 1864], 57):


For more information on the town church and parsonage, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 5 June 1803 (letter 379), note 5. Back.

[10] Therese is referring not to the Walterich (also Walderich) Chapel, the Walterichskapelle, mentioned above, but rather to the small pilgrimage church, the Walterichskirche, on the hill behind the parsonage, where, indeed, Walterich, once thought to be Charlemagne’s illegitimate son, is buried. Here in an excerpt from an 1843 lithograph showing the church St. Januarius on the left with the parsonage (partially visible behind it on its right), and the smaller Walterichskirche at right on the hill (Franz Schnorr, Stadt Murrhardt von der Nord-Seite [1843]; Württembergische Landesbibliothek Schef.fol.5382); second illustration: early-twentieth-century postcard):



Concerning the church, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 5 June 1803 (letter 379), note 6. Back.

[11] Although the grave of Walterich had been a popular Catholic pilgrimage site during Holy Week, not least because of his reputation as a healer and despite the “heresy” of the church being in Protestant hands, in 1801 the last prelate of Murrhardt, namely, Schelling’s own father, had the remaining part of the original gravestone removed (its remnants had been affixed to the wall as the offertory box of which Therese speaks) and the gravesite concealed to discourage the Catholic pilgrimage, which instead simply continued as a Protestant (and Catholic) pilgrimage.

Therese is in any case quite correct in relating that these pilgrimages constituted a not inconsiderable source of income for the town; see “Murrhardt,” Beschreibung des Oberamts Backnang, ed. Königliches statistisch-topographisches Bureau [Stuttgart 1871], 215–262, here 240). Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott