Letter 385a

385a. Henriette von Hoven to Charlotte Schiller in Weimar: Würzburg, 4 August 1804 [*]

Würzburg, 4 August 1804

The news about your trip, the description of the Berlin residents, of the city itself, all greatly pleased me. Your memories of all these wonderful things will always remain pleasant ones for you. [1] What you told me about Iffland is indeed quite interesting. A Württemberg officer brought us the news that Iffland had accepted the theater directorship in Stuttgart at a salary of 5000 Gulden and free lodging and board. The latter will probably be the most welcome to him. [2] In the meantime, however, I am still doubtful of this news. [3]

My housemate Madam Paulus will probably also be journeying to her fatherland. [4] She now keeps a horse and chaise with her brother, is constantly going out for drives, and rides like an Amazon. Her husband is more satisfied with his health than with his situation. [5]

As far as Dame Lucifer is concerned, I can say to my great relief that I have not seen her again. She now sits utterly abandoned among all her meubles. [6] No one comes to call anymore except her — friend, Professor Köhler, who refers to her as the “ideal among women,” and as the “perfection of the world.” [7] I hear that she has been dripping poison in complaining about the university, the trustees, and the administration; but that was only to be expected, since now she herself sees her own nothingness, the fruit of her presumptions and impertinence.

For six weeks now, she has had as a guest a friend from her youth, the former Madam Forkel, née Wedekind, now the wife of the senior magistrate Liebeskind in Ansbach. [8] You have no doubt already heard her about her as well. [9] Schelling’s sister has in the meantime departed. [10]

The lady’s dissatisfaction with the changes to her living arrangements is coming to rather loud expression. The seminary is being used for the university’s cabinets, and the three professors who formerly resided there are now getting different apartments in a new, more pleasant building. [11] But this lady is disinclined to make the exchange, since she is already quite pleasantly situated and settled, and perhaps not everything will fit as well into the new apartment as it did in the old one.

When she arrived, she persuaded the seminary administrators that the government was most concerned with accommodating Schelling and that one was to pay attention above all to the arrangements with respect to her apartment. They initially believed her, which is why they let her choose the best apartment, why the apartment cost the most, and why it was wholly arranged according to her fantasies. Afterward, of course, they saw that she had overstepped her bounds.

Such brazen people always win for the moment. But now her deceit and cunning no longer count for anything, people know it too well. In spite of that, however, she chose the lower story in the new building, the apartment with ten rooms, but then demanded rooms in the two other stories as well, an auditorium in the — cellar, etc. After she had already given her instruction to the workers, the trustees assigned the apartments and specified the lower story for me. Now her blood is truly boiling. She is getting the middle story, with ten rooms, but even with that her covetousness has not been satisfied. [12]

They will find that she is pushing things too far, not least because in her entire life she surely has never lived even half as well. She recently attended a social gathering at which a certain President Seuffert was present. She reproached the previous inferior administration and rather discourteously criticized the lack of trees and shade. This Seuffert, a quite valued member of the previous administration, was insulted by these remarks and responded, “Well, Madam, you are certainly familiar from your time in Mainz with the sort of conditions one can encounter in fortresses.” —

She obligingly swallowed this bitter pill. Everyone else present certainly also knew all too well what Seuffer was really alluding to. [13] She has lost everything here in Würzburg; she is also quite keen on belittling the stupid, uncultivated residents.

Schlegel was here, but there were no tender scenes or anything of that sort. Although at the Pauluses he did inquire after his former half, he did not want to see or speak with her. [14] All the same, she told everyone that Schlegel had spent — an entire night with her; this assertion prompted considerable mockery and jesting. [15]

The remarks from Goethe are excellent; she, in the meantime, never tires of telling everyone that “Goethe is the man of my heart.” [16] I already knew that quite the opposite was the case from his perspective. She does not pay much homage to Schiller, indeed, even going so far as to maintain that Schiller is incapable of — writing a poem, that he has no touch of genius — in a word, she just comes up with the craziest things. [17] Since she cannot attack Schiller from the moral side, she tries to do so with respect to his talents and scholarship. The fool! In her position she would be better advised to learn how to prepare a good soup and do laundry properly. [18]

Your loyal friend,
H. Hoven


[*] Sources: Charlotte von Schiller und ihre Freunde 3:274–77; the editor of that volume, Ludwig Urlichs, deleted certain passages from this letter and altered others. The present translation follows those 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,” Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis 1115 (1990), 121–35, here 123–24. Back.

[1] The Schillers departed Weimar on 26 April 1804 and, traveling by way of Weissenfels, Leipzig, Wittenberg, and Potsdam, arrived in Berlin on 1 May 1804 (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern [Vienna 1805]):


They departed on 17 May, stopping first in Potsdam to discuss with an acquaintance the possibility of moving to Berlin, and arriving back in Weimar on 21 May. They resided in Berlin in the Hôtel de Russie and were received quite graciously, including by August Wilhelm Iffland, Karl Friedrich Zelter, the former Jena physician Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, and even by Queen Luise of Prussia. Schiller’s plays Die Braut von Messina, Die Jungfrau von Orleans, and Wallenstein were performed during their stay there, though Schiller did not feel well during part of the stay (Ernst Müller, Regesten zu Friedrich Schillers Leben und Werken [Leipzig 1900], 168–69). Back.

[2] Iffland was corpulent and possibly had a hunched back. Concerning his stature, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 3 December 1801 (letter 334), note 7. Back.

[3] Iffland performed roles in guest appearances in Stuttgart in 1802 and 1804 and also helped with the theater’s reorganization during this period. Indeed, his support of the theater even led to negotiations to take over as director, but he declined in January 1803. It seems, however, that rumors were still circulating. Back.

[4] I.e., Swabia, presumably to the area around Stuttgart in Württemberg (South West Germany and North Italy: The War of the Second Coalition 1798–1801, map 88 in the Cambridge Modern History Atlas, ed. Ward et al. [London 1912]):



[5] In classical antiquity, Amazons were known for their sometimes extraordinary horsemanship; in the second illustration, an Amazon is mounted backward on her horse in combat with an opponent already on the ground (Giacomo Marcucci, Statue einer Amazone [1623]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur 22.1 Geom. 2° [43]; second illustration: Lucy M. Mitchell, A History of Ancient Sculpture, 2 vols. [New York 1888], vol. 2, plate III following p. 470):



Concerning H. E. G. Paulus’s situation, see the second paragraph to his letter to Christian Friedrich Schnurrer on 15 January 1804 (letter 382a), where he remarks, among other things, that the “[Catholic] seminarians are very attentive. All the more vehemently, however, does the prince bishop now object to their attending lectures on philosophy and theology by Protestants.” Back.

[6] Fr., “furniture, furnishings.” Back.

[7] Henriette von Hoven is here presumably insinuating an amorous relationship between Caroline and her exuberant admirer Martin Köhler (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, from the novel by Johann Timotheus Hermes, Sophiens Reise von Memel nach Sachsen, 5 vols. [Leipzig 1769–73]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 [147]):



[8] Berlinischer Damen-Kalender auf das Schalt-Jahr 1804; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


Meta Wedekind, like Caroline, grew up in Göttigen, though elsewhere Caroline remarks that she had earlier not known her that well. See her comments to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer on 27 October 1792 (letter 118). Ansbach is located ca. 50 km southwest of Nürnberg and ca. 85 km southeast of Würzburg (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):



[9] Meta (then: Forkel) was for a time Caroline’s housemate in Mainz, where she had arrived under questionable circumstances; see Caroline’s straightforward comments in the previously mentioned letter to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer on 27 October 1792 (letter 118). Concerning Meta’s earlier reputation in Göttingen, see Erich Schmidt’s introduction to Caroline’s stay in Mainz, note 4. Back.

[10] Caroline and Schelling had accompanied Beate Schelling, who had been staying with them since early November, back to Murrhardt in late June 1804. Back.

[11] Viz., the Borgias Building in Würzburg. See Caroline’s letter to Beate Schelling on 17–18 July 1804 (letter 384), where Caroline mentions the anticipated move; see esp. note 23 there. The three professors were Schelling, H. E. G. Paulus, and Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven.

Here a view of the Neubau Church with Caroline and Schelling’s apartment in the adjoining building on the left; the edifice immediately behind the church on the right is the Borgias Building (Historisches Album der Stadt Würzburg. Zweiunddreissig photographische Ansichten, ed. V. Jos. Stahgel, introd. Franz X. Wegel (Würzburg 1867), illus. 15):



[12] Caroline and Schelling did not move into the Borgias Building. Back.

[13] That is, to the fortress Königstein, where Caroline and eight-year-old Auguste, though also Meta Liebeskind, were incarcerated during 1793. — Despite this episode, Caroline was eventually on good terms with the Seufferts. Back.

[14] Henriette is dissembling and doubtless knew better. Wilhelm did in fact see Caroline twice during his visit on 8/9 May 1804. See his letter to Sophie Bernhardi on 15 May 1804 (letter 383f). Back.

[15] As a matter of fact, Wilhelm did indeed visit Caroline “until after 1:00 a.m.” the night of 8/9 May 1804, albeit with Schelling present as well. That he visited her again the next morning, 9 May, before 8 a.m. may well have given rise to the rumor that he had spent the “entire night” with her (Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1825: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[16] In her letter to Charlotte Schiller on 11 March 1804 (letter 382e), Henriette von Hoven had requested that Charlotte Schiller “tell Goethe on occasion that Madam Lucifer is doing him the honor of letting people know, in a modest way, that he is to be reckoned among the number of her quiet admirers.”

Henriette von Hoven seems to imagine that what was arguably an accurate statement actually meant something rather different (Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer Zum Nutzen und Vergnügen für die Jahre 1814 und 1815; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[17] Caroline had never been a particular admirer of Schiller, and this was not the first time she had disparaged him. See, e.g., her letter to Auguste on 21 October 1799 (letter 250), where she recounts an evening during which she and her guests make fun of Schiller’s “Song of the Bell.” Back.

[18] Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808:



Translation © 2017 Doug Stott