Letter 385

385. Caroline to Beate Schelling in Murrhardt: Würzburg, 24 July 1804

Würzb[urg], 24 July [1804]

|389| Yesterday a letter from your father and your own Herr Gross arrived, neither of which Schelling will be able to answer today. I am writing you these few lines, my dear Beate, to let you know that on Friday we sent 2 different packages for you to the address in Murrhard, both of which should arrive before the wedding. [1] But you both made such haste with things that even with the best of intentions one has a difficult time keeping up! [Gifts.]

Your mother will now doubtless have to attend the wedding ceremony without a cap, since I sent mine too late. I do hope it will look good on her. She may need it soon enough again when she visits you in Stuttgard and has to pay so many visits to other people as well. [2] I also included some tea for all of you in Murrhard. Although you will probably not be continuing the depraved custom of tea drinking, should you nonetheless be unable to tear yourself away entirely the address you need is Herr Heinrich Wilhelm Schmidt in Frankfurt, with the ℔ costing 4, 5, or 6 florins. [3]

I hardly really know whither and to whom I should be directing this. You will marry this week, yesterday the banns of marriage were published for the third time, and by my reckoning you may well already be the wife of Secretary Gross in Stuttgard by the end of the week. And it is as such that I send my greetings to you yet again with the warmest wishes, and certainly to your new partner as well.

We visited the Siebolds yesterday, Mademoiselle Minchen was also there. [4] The elder gentleman asked about you, [5] and I related to him more loudly what I had already confided to Madam Siebold more softly. [6] They were quite glad but did seem already to know about it all.

We had a very pleasant evening in Dürbach, |390| where we went on foot with considerable accompaniment, [7] with only Herr Fuchs and the young Ysenburg on horseback. [8] Schulz received us there quite hospitably in his little hut; [9] the locale itself is completely enclosed by vineyards down in the hollow behind the Steinwein vineyard. We did not return until 11 o’clock amid the most tranquil moonlight. [10]

Please do stay well for now and let us hear from you soon.

C. S.


[1] Beate’s wedding to Adolf Gross was set to take place in the church of St. Januarius in Murrhardt just two days later, on 26 July 1804, the same church in which Caroline and Schelling were wed a year earlier ([1] anonymous photograph; [2] (Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1805 für edle Weiber und Mädchen; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[2] Although bonnets and caps have often been viewed as de rigeur clothing for married women in public or even at home, the issue seems to be more complicated. There seem to be as many portraits of women from all age groups and familial status with as without headwear (see, e.g., Caroline’s portrait), and definitive documentation on the subject is difficult to find, suggesting that such headwear may well have been more a matter of taste for married women.

Even during the late Biedermeier epoch, when rather excessive bonnets came into fashion (see Luise Wiedemann), the women in the portraits are often older women and widows. In many family portraits, the wife is portrayed without, the mother-in-law with headwear. That said, headwear was indeed often worn during work at home as well as in public, e.g., by women in clothing shops, or when women left the house on errands during the day in more informal situations ([1] Schauplatz der Natur und der Künste, vol. 5 [Vienna 17757], plate 13; [2, 3] Almanach, Der neuesten Moden [Vienna 1795]):




Several points are of interest in Caroline’s remarks here. That she is sending her headwear — Caroline uses the term Haube — to Gottliebin Schelling primarily for a wedding certainly suggests that a specific kind or, e.g., local style of headwear was not really rigorously socially required in the area around Murrhardt for an event even as significant as a wedding. Further, that Madam Schelling, had the headwear arrived in time, would have worn the headwear not only of another woman, namely, Caroline, but also of a woman from a completely different region of Germany, is also revealing with respect to local custom.

That Caroline in any case does not seem terribly alarmed that Madam Schelling will likely have to attend the wedding without headwear is perhaps surprising, since one might expect her reaction to reflect instead a situation of “social alarm,” which is not the case here. That Madam Schelling might anticipate using the headwear, when it did finally arrive, for social visits with the newly married couple in Stuttgart seems more an afterthought or a reference to an attractive accessory among other pieces of clothing (Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):


Finally, and remaining cautious of over-interpretation, one might wonder why Madam Schelling did not have even a single item of headwear appropriate for the wedding or such similarly formal occasions in any case. As mentioned above, Caroline and Schelling married in the same church the previous year.

This situation and Caroline’s remarks here do in any case provide some modest documentation concerning the social customs involving headwear for married women and the occasions on which they were — or were not necessarily — worn.

In any event, the following plate, from October 1804 (anonymous, “Französischer Modenbericht,” Journal des Luxus und der Moden 19 [1804], October, 515–17), might provide an idea of what was viewed as fashionable headwear for women at the time, with the added twist that each of these pieces of headware is specified by a different name.

The figures are identified as follows: fig. 1: Hut made of Atlas; fig. 2: Capotte (Fr.) made of percale; fig. 3: Haube (the term Caroline uses) made of tulle; fig. 4: Turban made of crêpe; fig. 5: Morgenhäubchen (Germ. “morning” + the diminutive of Haube) made of organdy; fig. 6: Aufsatz (lit. “something set on top”; headpiece, headwear) made of tulle (information above and illustration: personal communication from Sabine Schierhoff):




[3] This warning against tea drinking is the second we have seen from Caroline’s household. Wilhelm Schlegel had already written to Sophie Bernhardi from Jena on 14 August 1801 (letter 327a) in response to the latter’s health complaints:

Let me implore you no longer to drink as much tea. We have almost done away with it entirely in our household because of its aesthenic effects. At the very least, do not drink it without first dissolving an egg in it.

Concerning the background to this advice, see note 15 there.

In any event, Heinrich Wilhelm Schmidt’s tea firm in Frankfurt, founded in 1730, was the oldest in Germany and continued into the twentieth century. At the time Caroline is writing, it was located in Frankfurt at Neue Kräme 20 and sold East Indian silk wares, tissues and handkerchiefs, and all sorts of tea and coffee wholesale. Back.

[4] The identity of Minchen (Wilhelmine) is uncertain. Back.

[5] I.e., Karl Kaspar Siebold, who died not quite three years later on 3 April 1807 in Würzburg. Back.

[6] Madam Siebold was considerably younger than her husband. Back.

[7] The Dürbach (Dürrbach) is a tributary to the Main River that is usually dry because of the porous river bed (Germ. dürr, “dry, arid”). The village of Unterdürrbach lies to the east along that tributary behind the Steinberg vineyard, source of the famous Steinwein grapes that Karoline Paulus already mentioned in a letter to Charlotte Schiller on 11 March 1804 (letter 382e); see esp. note 2 there.

Caroline seems to be referring either to a location in the Dürrbach Valley (Dürrbach Thal in the following illustrations), or to the village of Unterdürrbach itself; the village of Oberdürrbach is situated further north from Unterdürrbach. Here the topography on a military map from 1813 (Plan der Grossherzoglichen Haupt-und Residenz Stadt Würzburg und der Festung Marienberg [1813]):


Here with the Steinberg vineyards marked as well (Würzburg mit Umgebung Maassstab 1200 Schritte. Auf genommen u. / gezeichnet von Oberlieut. F. Harrach. Grav [Würzburg 1840]):


The walk from Caroline and Schelling’s apartment in the Old University complex to the Dürrbach Valley or Unterdürrbach was ca. 5 km depending on which route they took:


The village of Unterdürrbach on an undated postcard:



[8] A reference presumably not to city commandant Georg August von Ysenburg, as maintained by Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:646, but rather, considering that Caroline here refers to the “young Ysenburg,” more likely to his eldest son, Wilhelm Christoph von Ysenburg; the younger son, Friedrich von Ysenburg, was but seventeen at the time. Back.

[9] The identity of Schulz is uncertain. Back.

[10] Concerning Caroline’s earlier remarks on the occasion of a moonlit night, and concerning the Romantic notion itself, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter and Wilhelmine Bertuch back on 28 May 1784 (letter 41), note 11 (Johann Samuel Bach, Juliane Wilhelmine Bause, Johann Friedrich Bause, Der Sommerabend [1787]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur JFBause V 2.267):



Translation © 2017 Doug Stott