Letter 383a

383a. Henriette von Hoven to Charlotte Schiller in Weimar: Würzburg, 4 April 1804 [*]

Würzburg, 4 April 1804

I was living so quietly and in such solitude in this populous town that the letters I received from my distant friends were my only recreation. The usual Swabian illness — homesickness — often afflicted me so severely that I could not keep from weeping. Hoven was so inundated with business that I rarely saw him, and when I did, I tried to get myself together lest I dampen his courage and contentedness as well. And thus did the winter creep along. [1]

Time and understanding gradually ameliorated my gloomy disposition and taught me to recognize the good in our present circumstances and also what for Hoven was indeed a much better situation. To this was added our personal acquaintance with Count von Thürheim, the frequent contact with whom and whose goodwill and sympathy made me see everything in a more cordial light. [2]

Now I no longer felt as alien and abandoned. And now I am also breathing more easily because I have extricated myself from any relationship with my virtuous house princess. [3] You may be less surprised at this than by my considerable efforts to stay in an externally good relationship with her. You wanted me to write you exhaustively about this particular point, so now I both can and want to satisfy you.

What I had already heard about this famous lady, and the impression her personal behavior made on me, were not particularly encouraging, nor did they make me eager to seek her company. On the contrary, it was difficult for me even to imagine myself in the same building with her, which is why I resisted moving into our waiting apartment. [4] Hoven consoled me with the assertion that one can get along quite well with the devil if one but knows him.

Schelling’s parents, who have shown me so much love since my early youth, did not conceal from me that they themselves thought this evil demon might disrupt my peace. [5] So I resolved to be properly clever, pleasing, and courteous, and otherwise to keep my distance. I confess it cost me not inconsiderable effort to observe even the external signs of respect, but I forced myself for Hoven’s sake and for the sake of her husband.

She had already begun casting her net toward Hoven in Ludwigsburg. When he arrived here, she went to enormous trouble to please him, flattering, whispering, acting erudite, sweet, demure, making herself up, flitting round about him, wanting to take care of him — in a word: she engaged all her arts and charms. [6] My own arrival was an extreme annoyance to her even though she immediately behaved quite cordially toward me.

But she soon began to try to work me and abuse my accommodating behavior. My courteous resistance only made her more brazen. She tried to impress me with her erudition; I paid no attention. She made herself up like a fifteen-year-old girl and showed me these splendors with a solemn mien; I acted as if I did not see and continued to wear my usual clothes. She arranged to be picked up and driven for rides, insisting I accompany her; I excused myself. She laid lace and such and all sorts of other things out before me and added with a certain tone that I — simply must buy and have such things. I coldly replied that I had no desire to. She reproached my household; I smiled. She mocked this and that; I did not hear it, and naturally withdrew from her more and more.

In spite of that, she played the schoolmistress with me, corrected me incessantly, borrowed various things from my household as if they were there for her alone. When I was supposed to buy all sorts of things for future social gatherings in the apartment, and yet drily responded that we never intended to host such gatherings in any case, she became enraged, stormed out, scolded me for being lethargic and miserly. [6a] — — —

I calmly followed my own life plan and paid no attention to her radiant example. Neither her plentiful magnificent clothes, her trumeaux costing 100 Thaler, her carpets, expensive oven screens, Turkish seats, nor the servants prompted me to change anything in my own domestic arrangements. In return, I admittedly received an honorific title — the Swabian kitchen maid!

I can thank my upholsterer, who took his time getting the sofa to us, that this distinguished lady did not visit me even more often, since she is wont to lie stretched out on the sofa even when other visitors are present; she cannot sit on a normal chair. [6b] But she got no further with Hoven; he remained consistently the same person, courteous and serene, preferring to speak with her husband rather than with her, and visiting them increasingly less after my arrival, which, of course, she found extremely vexing, prompting her to curse the dreadful Swabian wife with whom she could get nowhere.

She no doubt expected me to be someone completely different, more cultivated, erudite, obedient and useful as a foil against which she herself might come across all the more radiantly, this poorly polished Bohemian stone! [7] I had gone out the last time she wanted to call on me; she behaved quite crudely to Minchen, [8] and — thank heaven — I have not seen her since, for six weeks now. She prompted her husband to be discourteous toward Hoven, and now these two no longer see each other.

What really got her goat was the count’s visits with us, and Hoven’s relationship with him in general. [9] The fact that we did not bring this count over to call on her, or even invite her over, this, as Hoven puts it, was the sin against the Holy Spirit — which will never be forgiven. Here she seems unable to get what she wants and unable to make things work; she wanted to train and groom all of Würzburg. The women flee her, and the men laugh at her. Her past life is also fairly well known here. According to her own statements, she has a particularly good relationship with Goethe, something I, however, quite doubt.

And what sin did you commit against her? You and Schiller are quite out of her good graces. In general, it seems to me that really no one counts for anything or has any real value for her except her own ego, not even her submissive spouse, even though she acts so very tender, kissing his hands a thousand times over and, as Hoven relates, making such eyes at him. He is an unhappy person. She will everywhere make his very existence paltrier. It is to be enormously lamented that she exerts such a powerful influence on him, even though sometimes she mistreats and tyrannizes him and then crawls on the ground. He will doubtless yet have a rude awakening.

And yet for all her erudition, she often acts quite stupidly and incautiously. For example, she once spoke with several professors about the university with the most impertinent presumption: “This person must be appointed, this other dismissed,” she cried out, “and this other should absolutely not be appointed at all — we will not stand for it.” She delivered the following instructions to the professor of art: “Organize your cabinet, then I will come and see who understands more about such things, you or I.” On yet another occasion she told President Leiden: [10] “Writers rule the world.”

These and countless statements like them have wrought no good, either for her or for her husband. At the beginning she was quite keen on keeping Paulus and us away from one another, presumably because she feared we might learn something about her past from them; but that fear was already superfluous, since Paulus could not have told us anything new. She is wasteful to an astonishing degree, but at once also stingy, full of pretention, presumptuous, imperious, importunate, critical and disparaging, posh, vain, arrogant, full of lust and cramps, in love, vengeful, always drinks one too many, in a word: she is an ugly animal! [10a] . . .

Indeed, we know perhaps more about her earlier manner of living than do those from Jena and even the happy husband himself. But, my dear friend, my letter has become much too long because of this chaste Lucretia; [11] but that is what you requested. Neither the Hufelands nor the Pauluses visit her anymore.

We frequently socialize with the Pauluses, who are quite cordial and accommodating toward us. He is an excellent man. She has considerable understanding and an entertaining liveliness about her — she seeks no social contacts, keeps quietly to herself and lives for her family. Little Wilhelm is a great joy to her; she always has him with her.

Madam Hufeland runs about in society, adorns herself excessively and otherwise seems to be a quite empty person. She visited me several times, but I feel no need to continue the acquaintance.

The Würzburg ladies are of a peculiar sort. The tone in social gatherings is coarse, the manners corrupt, luxury exaggerated. Public entertainment is dominated by such disorder and boisterousness that one is inclined to stay away. [12] The town itself has much that is worth seeing, and the surrounding area is in part quite pleasing to the eye. The Main River with its many boats lends a lively element of interest to the whole. [13] One does not notice much in the way of Catholicism except that the people diligently flock to the churches, and yet are otherwise dishonest wherever possible.

Hoven speaks constantly about the trip to Weimar; he will no doubt see you this summer. Count von Thürheim is also quite looking forward to Schiller. This man will surely please you, I already know beforehand. [14] Your loyal

H. Hoven


[*] Sources: Charlotte von Schiller und ihre Freunde 3:270–74. The editor of that volume, Ludwig Urlichs, deleted certain passages from this letter and altered others. The present translation follows the passages as restored according to the original manuscript in the Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv Weimar by Norbert Oellers, “Die Dame Lucifer zwischen Revolution und Literatur,” in Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis 1115 (1990), 121–35, here 123–24. Back.

[1] I.e., the winter of 1803–4; concerning the von Hovens’ initial period in Würzburg, see Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven’s account in supplementary appendix 381g.1. Back.

[2] Henriette von Hoven also seems to have developed a cordial relationship with Count von Thürheim’s spouse. See Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven’s account mentioned above. Back.

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

[4] Here the initial living arrangements for the Schellings, von Hovens, and Pauluses in Würzburg in the former seminary complex (Universität Würzburg, Universitätsarchiv):


It is uncertain exactly when the Paulus and von Hoven families moved from their apartments in the Old University opposite Schelling and Caroline as illustrated above and into the Borgias Building as shown below, which was not yet finished when the three families arrived. Either way, the apartments of the other two families were separated from that of Caroline by the Neubaukirche (Neuester Plan der Kreishauptstadt Würzburg, mit nächster Umgebung und Angabe der Stadt Strassenbau-Projecte [n.d.]):


See the supplementary appendix on the Schellings’ residence in Würzburg and von Hoven’s account mentioned above. Back.

[5] Presumably as the “feline” about which H. E. G. Paulus writes in his letter to Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer on 17 November 1803 (cited in Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 4 January 1804 [letter 382], note 13) (J. Collin de Plancy, Dictionnaire infernal, 6th ed. [Paris 1863], 445):


Schelling’s parents, Joseph Friedrich and Gottliebin Schelling, were currently residing in Murrhardt. Back.

[6] (1) Göttinger Taschen Calender Für das Iahr 1798; (2) Almanac de Poche pour l’Année 1756 (perhaps the French edition of the Genealogischer Schreib- und Postkalender [Berlin 1756]); both: Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



See Therese Huber’s letter to Therese Forster between 17 and 25 July 1803 (letter 380b), note 56. Back.

[6a] König. Gros-Britt. Genealogischer Kalender auf das Jahr 1784; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[6b] The overt implication is that instead of sitting on a sofa in polite conversation, Caroline instead was behaving in an inappropriately suggestive manner ([1] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Aber wie? [1787]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [5-368]; originally published in Berliner Genealogischer Calender auf das Jahr 1788; [2] Taschenbuch für 1799 [Berlin]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [3] Chodowiecki, Ein Mann entkleidet den Oberkörper einer schlafenden Frau [1796]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 2029a; [4] Almanach und Taschenbuch für Haeusliche und Gesellschaftliche Freuden auf das Jahr 1800; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):






[7] The Bohemian stone is a type of quartz that, though generally colorless, clear, and lustrous, nonetheless can contain impurities and yet, after polishing and preparation, is often successfully passed off as a genuine precious stone. Also called the Bohemian or occidental diamond, though considerably softer than genuine diamonds. Back.

[8] Presumably the von Hovens’ maidservant (Königlich Großbritannischer und Churfürstlicher Genealogischer Kalender auf das 1786. Iahr (Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[9] Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven speaks about that relationship in the account mentioned above. Back.

[10] Uncertain reference; presumably either Joseph Ignaz von Leyden or his second son, Maximilian von Leyden. Back.

[10a] Arguably the most trenchantly, even obsessively critical (and entertaining) characterization of Caroline in extant documents (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Almanac de Goettingue pour l’anneé 1786; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[11] Wife of Tarquinius Collatinus. According to legend, she was raped by Sextus Tarquinius and subsequently killed herself, bringing about the collapse of the kingdom.

Lucretia became a favorite figure in Roman legend as the model of a faithful spouse. Shakespeare treated this legend in his poem “The Rape of Lucrece” (1594). Here an illustration of her wielding the knife to commit suicide (Marcantonio Raimondi, Lucrèce [Lucretia] [ca. 1511–12]; Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Museumsnr./Signatur MRaimondi V 3.4450;), and of the oath of revenge after her death (The Illustrated History of Rome, ed. George A. Smith, 2 vols. [Philadelphia 1882], 39):

But [Lucius Junius] Brutus [who had returned to Rome with Lucretia’s husband], while they [Lucretia’s husband and father] were overpowered by grief, drawing the knife from the wound of Lucretia, and holding it out, reeking with blood, before him, said, “by this blood, most chaste until injured by royal insolence, I swear, and call you, O ye gods, to witness, that I will prosecute to destruction, by sword, fire, and every forcible means in my power, both Lucius [Sextus] Tarquinius the proud, and his impious wife, together with their entire race, and never will suffer one of them, nor any other person whatsoever, to be king in Rome.”




[12] Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1819: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[13] Late eighteenth-century engraving by an unknown artist:



[14] Both von Thürheim and the von Hovens were anticipating a visit from Schiller in Würzburg during the same spring in which Schiller would die, namely, 1805 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



Translation © 2017 Doug Stott