Letter 386

• 386. Caroline to Meta Liebeskind in Ansbach: Würzburg, 19 August 1804

Würzburg, 19 August [18]04

|390| I certainly do not sit down to write quite as early as you do, my dear, not at 5:30 a.m. — you also have the advantage of not having to seat yourself — But it is nonetheless the very first thing I want to do on this Sunday so that later I am not thwarted yet again and you yourself are then tempted to scold me. For I would not like to have you dissatisfied with me, just as both I and Schelling will be delighted if you genuinely were pleased and enjoyed your stay here. [1]

Next year when you finally travel to Aschaffenburg, you will, I hope, not pass us by, for then we shall see whether we can banish all thoughts of “convenient conveyance opportunities” and imperious decisions. [2] It is quite reasonable and understandable that you have forgiven Liebeskind; [3] I, however, possess no great calling to exhibit such patience toward him and will instead hold a firm grudge until I have perhaps seen him face to face and he then honestly assures me that he did not stay away out of honest willfulness — Would being less honest not be more honest? [4]

By now he has probably already left for his commission, or perhaps not yet. If you have learned that Bayard |391| traveled to Anspach at the same time you did, indeed, at the very same hour, then let me give you at least a temporary explanation. [5] As Madam Bayard explained it to me, Count von Thürheim had come to him that same evening and requested, since the wife had given birth, that he go to Baireuth by way of Anspach after all and oblige certain people there, which he then did indeed dutifully resolve to do; [6] she related, moreover, that he took the secretary along, also believing that you were already outside the city gates, otherwise the secretary could have traveled with the officer from the Corps of Engineers instead, and you yourself would already have been in Anspach at 10:00, where Bayard stayed but a few hours.

And let me confirm herewith that we did not perfidiously travel to Aschaffenburg ourselves, nor can there be any thought of such. [7] Instead, you missed something quite the opposite: On Wednesday after your double departure, [8] Marcus and his wife along with two girls from the Stengel family arrived quite unexpectedly just before the theater performance such that we saw them there for the first time. [9] This scene would have amused you greatly; they remained only until Friday, spending Thursday evening here with us.

The theater is proceeding quite tolerably; [10] when Iffland bores us with his morality at the theater, [11] we indemnify ourselves in the loge, and from now on, for the entire week, we will be excellently regaled by Gern from the Berlin theater with the Water Bearer, Don Juan, The Magic Flute, and other such marvels. [12]

Your own letter just interrupted me here in mine, and how! I will return after I have wept myself out, for the pain that has otherwise withdrawn inside me invariably seizes on such opportunities to pour itself out anew. [13] I am unable to weep over my own loss; the fear that my tears will turn into blood and land me in that place where the exhausted |392| soul can neither live nor die, a condition my own nature finds unutterably horrific, — this fear still prevents me from lamenting here on earth, that is, until an occasion such as this one comes along to which I can then but utterly surrender. That Adele is now gone is something utterly unexpected for me, utterly unbelievable, and altogether utterly terrible. And as is true for you, so also for me, my last impression is shaped by her mother’s letter, a letter expressing so completely something past rather than present, natural, pure emotion.

I wish you had not told me about it, and I do not really want to say more about it so as not to desecrate this hour with judgments and perceptions which, precisely because they concern Therese’s complicated nature, of necessity invariably bear something of the peculiarity of her own judgments and moral perceptions. At every new death among these children, [14] I cannot help recalling the words Forster either spoke or wrote to me when discussing whether he ought to let her keep custody of Claire – “Yes,” he would do it, since Huber’s children had not survived and he did not want to rob her of all children, one had seen that in Georg and Luise.

But let us say no more, for that is not what occupies me, though I similarly cannot talk about what these burning tears really mean. Death is a heavenly element of hope when it becomes the keeper of our most precious treasures in this way. Life would be unbearable and a disgrace if, robbed of these treasures, it nonetheless did not still contain some otherworldly interest, a part of that eternal bliss, and you know him who is not merely a temporal companion to me. [15]

Could we have imagined that Therese’s next letter would relate such news? Or, |393| when we once sat there so carefree in Rand[er]sacker on the banks of the Mayn, that Adele would someday be lying lifeless before her parents? [16]

Schelling’s eyes have also filled with sadness; he was so fond of this child, and he still managed to dissuade her mother when she remarked to him that the child would not live. He saw only her affectation there, and resisted the sad prospect. In him, too, such moments reawaken everything; [17] we tremble together in our grief and refrain as much as possible even from speaking.

He wishes that I write no more. [Request.]


[1] If Henriette von Hoven, who is writing to Charlotte Schiller on 4 August 1804 (letter 385a), is to be believed, Meta Liebeskind seems to have stayed in Würzburg with the Schellings for six weeks, between ca. 23 June and 5 August 1804.

Although Caroline writes on 18 July 1804 (letter 385) that Meta likely departed on Sunday, 22 July 1804, Henriette von Hoven writes on 4 August that “for six weeks now, she [Caroline] has had as a guest a friend from her youth”; that is, she does not mention that Meta Liebeskind had departed two weeks earlier, on 22 July, or, indeed, that she had departed at all.

See below concerning this dating, according to which Meta Liebeskind likely arrived ca. 23 June 1804 and departed not on 22 July 1804 as Caroline suggests, but on Sunday, 5 August 1804, i.e., two weeks earlier than Caroline is here writing. Back.

[2] Ansbach is located ca. 50 km southwest of Nürnberg, ca. 85 km southeast of Würzburg, and 165 km southeast of Aschaffenburg (map: Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]; illustration: Matthäus Merian [1648]):




[3] Johann Heinrich Liebeskind seems to have missed a chance to visit the Schellings, though this episode remains obscure. Back.

[4] In Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s play, Emilia Galotti (published in Lessing’s Trauerspiele (Berlin 1772)]), act 1, scene 4, the character of the prince is speaking with the painter Conti about the veracity (or lack thereof) in a painting of Countess Orsina (Emilia Galotti: A Tragedy, in five acts, trans. Benjamin Thompson [London 1800]; illustration: Emilia Galotti, Lessing’s Meisterdramen, vol. 2, [Berlin 1869]):


Prince. . . . Excellent, Conti — most excellent! — It does credit to your skill. But you have flattered her beyond all measure.

Conti. The countess appeared to be of another opinion — and, in fact, I have flattered her no more than art must flatter. . . . .

Prince. . . . What said she?

Conti. “I am satisfied,” she said, “if I be not plainer.”

Prince. Not plainer! — Exactly like her.

Conti. And she said it with a look — of which I own this picture shews no trace.

Prince. That was my idea, when I told you how much you had flattered her. — Oh, I know that proud contemptuous look you mention. It would disguise the countenance of a Grace. I am willing to allow that a pretty mouth may, by a little satirical contraction, acquire additional beauty; but, observe me, this contraction must not extend to grimace, as it does in the countess. . . .

Conti. Your highness’s expressions quite astonish me.

Prince. Why so? All the beauty which art could bestow upon the bold, large, prominent Medusa’s eyes of the countess, you have honestly bestowed. — “Honestly,” I say? — But you might, in my opinion, have been more honest by being less honest. For tell me yourself, Conti — does this picture express the character of the original? You have converted pride into dignity, disdain into a smile, and gloomy caprice into placid melancholy. Back.

[5] The reference is presumably to Meta Liebeskind’s return journey to Ansbach (Caroline, as is often the case, uses phonetic spelling) on 5 August 1804, and her missed opportunity to travel with companions who were going to Ansbach as well. Back.

[6] Uncertain reference (“the wife”). Friedrich Karl von Thürheim and his wife, Marie Walburga, had but a single child, the daughter Amalie von Thürheim, born on 20 July 1801.

Bayreuth (Baireuth) is located ca. 135 km northeast of Ansbach; the suggestion is to take the less direct route through Ansbach rather than directly to Nürnberg (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):



[7] See Schelling to Carl Joseph Windischmann on 6 August 1804, the week Meta Liebeskind seems to have departed Würzburg (Plitt 2:28; Fuhrmans 3:114): “Although the trip to Aschaffenburg [to see Windischmann and his wife, Anna Maria Windischmann] was planned for this week, a two-week illness has thwarted everything.” Back.

[8] Wednesday, 8 August 1804, i.e., the Wednesday after Meta Liebeskind’s and the Bayards’ departures on Sunday, 5 August 1804. Back.

[9] As mentioned above, Meta Liebeskind seems to have departed Würzburg on Sunday, 5 August 1804, whereas Caroline asserts in a letter to Beate Schelling on 18 July 1804 (letter 384) that she was about to leave on 22 July 1804. But the new Würzburg theater in town did not open until Friday, 3 August 1804. Prior to its opening, theater performances were held in Randersacker, a small community just southeast of Würzburg on the Main River (C. F. Hammer, Charte von dem Fürstenthum Würzburg, nebst dem Fürstenthum Schwarzenberg [Nürnberg 1805]):


It seems unlikely, however, that Marcus and his companions would have journeyed to Würzburg and then to the latter village for such a performance. On Saturday, 4 August 1804, Henriette von Hoven wrote to Charlotte Schiller that “for six weeks now, she [Caroline] has had as a guest a friend from her youth,” namely, Meta Liebeskind, but does not, significantly, mention her departure, speaking instead as if she were still in Würzburg. This statement seems to date Meta Liebeskind’s arrival in Würzburg to ca. 23 June 1804. If she had departed Würzburg either on the previous Sunday, 29 July 1804, the theater in Würzburg would still not yet be open on “the Wednesday after” she left.

If, however, she was indeed still in Würzburg when Henriette von Hoven is writing this letter, as might be argued from the latter’s statement, then she may well have departed on Sunday, 5 August 1804, that is, essentially six weeks after her arrival on ca. 23 June, and there was indeed a theater performance the following Wednesday, 8 August 1804, in Würzburg, namely, Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, but none on the following evening, Thursday, 9 August, when Adalbert Friedrich Marcus, his wife, and the two Stengel women, as Caroline now explains, would then have dined with Caroline and Schelling, departing then the following day, Friday, 10 August 1804.

It seems likely that Henriette von Hoven is correct, and that Caroline had anticipated incorrectly on 18 July 1804 that Meta Liebeskind would be departing on the following Sunday, 22 July 1804. Back.

[10] The new theater and theater company in Würzburg had debuted on Friday, 3 August 1804. See supplementary appendix 386.1. Back.

[11] The reference is to Iffland’s plays, not his personal performance, since he did not perform in Würzburg at this time. See supplementary appendix 386.1 concerning the repertoire. Back.

[12] In order: Jean Nicolas Bouilly (librettist) and Luigi Cherubini’s (composer) opera Der Wasserträger, oder Die Tage der Gefahr. Oper in drey Aufzügen (1805), also known as Graf Armand oder die zwei gefahrvollen Tage; orig. Les deux Journées, composed in 1800, German translation by Heinrich Gottlieb Schnieder; and Mozart’s two pieces Die Zauberflöte (1791) and Don Giovanni (1787).

Caroline is mistaken, however, concerning the pieces by Mozart. Don Juan was not performed until 28 October 1804, albeit with a repeat performance “by popular demand” on 1 November 1804. The Magic Flute, moreover, was not performed in its entirety, but only an aria by Johann Gern. The piece, however, that was indeed performed on 8 and 22 August 1804, was The Abduction from the Seraglio, with Johann Gern in the role of Osmin on 22 August .

Concerning the status and repertoire of the Würzburg theater during the month Caroline is here writing — August 1804 — see supplementary appendix 386.1. Back.

[13] Therese and Ludwig Ferdinand Huber’s daughter Adele Huber, born in 1798, had died two weeks earlier, on 4 August 1804. Their daughter Clemence had just died back on 28 May 1804, barely one month old, and Ludwig Ferdinand Huber himself would die on 24 December 1804, all in all an extraordinarily difficult year for Therese Huber. The “pain that has otherwise withdrawn inside” Caroline is the grief caused by Auguste’s death on 12 July 1800 (Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1802: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[14] Apart from the passings enumerated above, Luise Forster had died in 1791, Johann Georg Karl Forster in 1792, and Sophie Albertine Huber in 1797 (Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1811: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet):


Concerning Georg Forster’s awareness of Ludwig Ferdinand Huber’s paternity in this situation, see Caroline’s next remarks. Back.

[15] Meta, of course, was now well acquainted with Schelling, having just spent six weeks with the Schellings in Würzburg. Although the dating of the following piece is uncertain (presumably after Caroline’s death in 1809), see in any case Schelling’s Clara: or, On Nature’s Connection to the Spirit World, trans. Fiona Steinkamp (New York 2002), esp. Fiona Steinkamp’s introduction. Back.

[16] See above concerning Randersacker, southeast of Würzburg, where theater performances were given until the new theater in Würzburg itself opened on 3 August 1804. Meta Liebeskind seems to have accompanied Schelling and Caroline to such performances there during her stay in Würzburg. Back.

[17] I.e., again, everything surrounding and following Auguste’s death (C. L. Desrais and L. Sailliar [1771]):



Translation © 2017 Doug Stott