Letter 390

• 390. Caroline to Meta Liebeskind in Ansbach: Würzburg, 1 February 1805 [*]

Würzb[urg], 1 February [1805]

|398| Because you closed your last letter with “more soon,” I imagined in my usual fashion that more would indeed be forthcoming and so waited until now, when I can go no longer without thanking you for your infinite kindness with the lottery tickets [1] and Stilling. [2] I was as kind to the person who delivered it as he wanted for himself en effigie, I stuck his card up on the mirror for an entire day. [3] Do you think the young man has nothing better to do here than visit us? —

You do not seem to have seen Sturz; he thought he would meet you at a grand fête [4] after having eaten at midday at Puzelot’s. [5] I, too, gave a grand fête on Sunday, January 27, Schelling’s |399| birthday [6] — a quite nice company of people at a large table ronde; you would have been wonderfully entertained. [7]

The whole bunch of them got a little crazy after midnight, Madam Sturz left at 2:00, I followed the lead of Madame Recamier and withdrew to my bedchamber, the exertions of that day not really allowing me to stay up till between 4:00 and 5:00, when the last guests finally departed at the dawn tolling of the bells and Schelling himself finally went to bed. [8] They had made a kind of bench simply in order to secure themselves.

The following day we visited Madam Sturz, my first excursion out. All sorts of foolish stuff is going on with her — elle a le diable au corps cette femme. [9] Golimbra is away on a trip, [10] and she desoeuvré, [11] since the children, the estate, her embroidery, and the card games do not even remotely provide sufficient distraction for her.

About 4 weeks ago she came to visit me and saw a young man who is now living together with Köhler and whom the latter had brought to visit me for the first time; he is the child of good people, comes from Paris, where he has just begun his studies, is handsome and slim and tall, but is of such a delicate nature in all respects, and of such delicate ingenium, [12] that, compared to Golimbra, he behaves like the prince’s son in the fairy tale who is hidden in a cave, and then the ogre comes home, sniffs the air, and says, “I smell the flesh of a man,” pulls the young hero out and devours him in a single bite. [13]

And so it will also be. She sees him and immediately selects him for herself, something I myself did not really notice further, for who would come upon such disreputable thoughts? [13a] Nor did I really pay much attention to the fellow himself, who from top to bottom is nothing more than charmingly insignificant. She, however, invited him to come visit her, and before we know it, the affair is complete. [14]

You should have seen the comical way Köhler, on the one hand, admonished the young man (who is at most 20) |400| to beware lest he be eaten by giants, [14a] and the way I, on the other, inculcated all sorts of the most virtuous notions upon her regarding unfaithfulness toward Golimbra, with whose horses she had gone out riding with this other fellow [15] — what perfidie! — and about how the giant is, after all, certainly a more solid character, was investing in the area, had already established a good relationship with her children, etc

Then she, confessing everything with the most inappropriate openness, going on about how positively charming he was, how she found his gentleness so pleasing after the coarse personality of the jealous, dyed-in-the-wool Brit. The latter is supposed to arrive any day now, and I am wondering what will happen. Schelling is inordinately entertained by the whole thing and is telling her all sorts of outrageous things. I have also related it to you for your entertainment, but — bouche close! [16]

If you go to Ulm, you will tell me, of course. [17] If you are indeed able to arrange it, it will doubtless provide very concrete support for Therese and all the tasks occupying her. I have heard a great deal from there, from various sources, particularly concerning the son-in-law, which greatly pleased me.

For now, Therese will have a safe haven with him; he is a simple, healthy, upright forester, currently working as a head forester in Steffanried, where the entire family will go this spring and where he will marry Claire. [18] Our Professor Medicus, who was his friend and teacher in Heidelberg, related all this to me along with his idea to cede to young Greiers the position as overseer of a forestry school in Ebrach, only a few miles from here, which is actually intended for him. [19]

How wonderful! Germany is not large enough for people to avoid one another, indeed, not even the earth is large enough for that, which is why it would be foolish of people to want to do so. I emphatically encouraged Medicus in all this — even though the situation in and concerning Steffanried is perhaps more appropriate for everything, and even more pleasant. [20] In |401| the long term, being together will perhaps not work out unless the element of love between mother and daughter develops that was not there before. In any case, for now it is nonetheless truly comforting.

My sister, who lives in the same house as Forster’s sister Antonie, wrote that Antonie’s first reaction was: can Therese not recognize an avenging power at work here? [21]

Three hours after his death, she wrote quite firmly to the Forsters and Heynes, but in a way suggesting she could not even expect a pension. Why is that? —

Now I must relate to you a dream I had. I was walking down a side street, past a window in which Huber was standing. But I only partly saw him; my hat, which was pulled down fairly far over my eyes, prevented me from seeing his face. [22] But I did recognize his form, the cut of his clothes, and a vest he often wore.

While I was trying to see him, the window was transformed into the glass door leading from my blue room into the smaller one. He was standing behind it and then came in. Our dining table is now standing there, since I stay mostly in the smaller room during the winter; it was, as is usually the case, set for 3 or 4 persons. He came from the door and sat down across from me. [23] We were anticipating that Schelling would come downstairs, and in the meantime spoke quite calmly with each other, though both he and I knew full well that he was dead. There was no mention of friendship. I asked him why he had grieved us so, and told him how gladly I would have changed places with him, for, “Huber,” I said, “after all, I have more to seek in heaven than do you.” I was thinking about Auguste, just as she is always quite present for me. He said — “If you are serious, then give me your hand” — I gave him my hand across the table; his was quite warm, which I immediately noticed, since, after all, he was no longer alive.

And then |402| I woke up. But I had seen him so clearly, so naturally, and inside me everything was exactly as it would have been, that I could not forget it and continually had his image before my eyes. The words, “I have more to seek in heaven,” genuinely did come from the bottom of my heart. [24]

Since then, I have once again been completely reconciled with him. But I was never able to think him hostile. The hostile things he did derived from an opinion and view of things that lay completely outside us. The better elements in his character were doubtless inclined to remain bound in friendship to both Schelling and me.

Do not divulge anything about the idea concerning Ebrach, since Medikus, with whom I am on very good terms, related that to me in confidence.

. . . I still do not go out, not because of any concern for my health, nor from lethargy, but simply out of a pure inclination to be only precisely where I really am, just as you go out for a breath of fresh air because you love the air. Stay well, and write as soon as your journey or non-journey has been decided. [25]

N.B. The thing with Schelling is as follows: He has more students and more enthusiastic ones than ever, and at the special request of a whole group of students who had signed up, he — without really wanting to, since those students will be leaving at Easter — in fact does have to give that particular lecture course after all, which was not really supposed to be given. [26]


[*] 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]; illustration: Matthäus Merian [1648]):




[1] Uncertain reference. Back.

[2] Probably the next installment of Johann Heinrich Jung’s [Jung-Stilling] autobiography, Heinrich Stylings Leben, here vol. 5, Heinrich Stillings Lehr-Jahre (Berlin 1804), which begins with his Marburg years, which, of course, were of personal interest to Caroline. See Fritz Michaelis’s letter to her in late 1788 (letter 87), and Caroline’s letter from Marburg to Lotte Michaelis in 1789 (letter 93).

Here illustrations to the various volumes (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, in order: Titelkupfer zu Stillings Wanderschaft [1778–79]; Pastor Stollbein besucht Familie Stilling [1777–78]; Heinrich und sein Vater in der Ruine des Schlosses [1777–78]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [2-113]; [2-75]; [2-76]; title vignette to Heinrich Stylings Wanderschaft [Berlin, Leipzig 1778]; title vignette to Heinrich Stillings Häusliches Leben [1789]; frontispiece and title vignette to Heinrich Stillings Jünglings-Jahre [Leipzig 1806]):







[3] Fr., “in effigy,” “in the image”; uncertain allusion, though see Caroline’s following remark. Back.

[4] Fr., “party, celebration.” Back.

[5] Uncertain allusion, though apparently a family with whom both Meta Liebeskind and Caroline were acquainted, presumably in Ansbach. Back.

[6] Presumably a “grand” celebration (as Caroline goes on to describe) for Schelling’s thirtieth birthday. Back.

[7] French, “round table.” Presumably a convivial dining occasion similar to, if larger than the one below (Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):



[8] I.e., withdrew metaphorically like Madame Recamier (one wonders where Caroline came across the allusion). Wilhelm Schlegel did indeed make Madame Recamier’s acquaintance in Coppet.

Although Caroline does not describe just how “crazy after midnight” her guests became, the birthday party was apparently a merry one indeed (Frauenzimmer Almanach zum Nutzen und Vergnügen für das Jahr 1801; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[9] Fr., “she has the devil in her body, this woman”: a playfully bold and saucy allusion. The reference, evoked in connection with Madame Sturz and her young paramour Caroline mentions in the next paragraph, is to the recently published, overtly pornographic, and explicitly illustrated volumes by André Robert Andréa de Nerciat, Le Diable au corps, œuvre posthume Du très-recommandable docteur Cazzoné, Membre extraordinaire de la joyeuse Faculté Phallo-coïro-pygo-glottonomique, 3 vols. (8vo) or 6 vols. (12mo) (n.p. [Paris] 1803). Back.

[10] Golimbra, a character in Ludwig Tieck’s play Kaiser Octavianus: Ein Lustspiel in 2 Theilen (Jena 1804), listed in the dramatis personae of part two as “A Giant King,” and introduced before his entry as follows:

Astonished did we hear tell of a miracle,
To wit, that the Caucasian Fields were ruled by
A giant king whom no one can vanquish,
Not even the strongest heroes bearing helmet and shield,
Once this wild one rages in wrath,
He destroys hundreds of courageous warriors;
Golimbra is his name, and before him the nations quake.

Caroline is presumably using the name as an epithet for Karl Joseph Sturz. Back.

[11] Fr., “idle, unoccupied.” Back.

[12] Latin, “mind, intellect.” Back.

[13] Here Caroline evokes a variation of the popular fairy-tale topos involving a “luck-child” “whose principal [ed. note: principle] action consists of experiences of the hero at the house of an ogre (or a giant or the devil), where he is helped by the wife or daughter of the ogre” (Stith Thompson, European Tales among the North American Indians: A Study in the Migration of Folk-Tales, Colorado College Publication, General Series nos. 100 and 101, Language Series, vol. II, no. 34 [April–May 1919], 319–471, here 366).

Although the details of such tales vary widely, the fundamental morphology remains the same and usually involves a quest and includes the words (or a variation) “I smell the flesh of a man.” Caroline’s impromptu version, which plays off her reference to the Giant King Golimbra in the previous passage, differs more fundamentally insofar as the hero, unlike in the traditional tale (where it could be a prince, knight, even a pastry chef), is instead eaten by the ogre rather than saved by a female figure.

Although numerous examples of the topos might be adduced, and although it seems one cannot determine by her brief comments here exactly which version she has in mind, she was likely familiar with that of the Grimm brothers, in which the hero, rather than being a prince, is instead a luck-child destined to marry the king’s daughter, and instead of being pulled out and eaten, is instead turned into an ant by the devil’s (ogre’s) grandmother and hidden in her skirt.

See the text to this version in supplementary appendix 390.1. Back.

[13a] Carlo Goldoni, Opere Complete, vol. 5 (Venice 1909), 47:



[14] Almanac de Poche pour l’Année 1756 [perhaps the French edition of the Genealogischer Schreib- und Postkalender (Berlin 1756)]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[14a] George Cruikshanks’s Fair Library [London 1870], following p. 20, in the tale “Hop-o’ My-Thumb”:

Fee, faw, fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman;
Let him be alive, or let him be dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread!



[15] Genealogische Kalender auf das Jahr 1810; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[16] Fr., “keep it to yourself, mum’s the word!” Back.

[17] Therese Huber was still living in Ulm; her husband, Ludwig Ferdinand Huber, had died on 24 December 1804 (see Caroline’s letter to Meta Liebeskind in early 1805 [letter 389]) (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Caroline and Meta had both known Therese, née Heyne, from their childhood in Göttingen as well as from their time in Mainz. There is no evidence Meta Liebeskind made the journey; see Monika Siegel, “Ich hatte einen Hang zur Schwärmerey,” 150. Back.

[18] Stoffenried (Caroline: Steffanried), where the son-in-law was employed as a Bavarian forestry official, is located just 35 km southeast of Ulm, where Therese Huber was currently living. Here a 19th-century illustration from a children’s book of the various professions associated with forestry (Adolph Müller, Des Orbis Pictus erste Abtheilung, oder unterhaltendes und belehrendes Bilderbuch für Kinder des zartern Alters [Endter 1835], plate viii, no. 55):


On 14 or 15 December 1807, Wilhelm Schlegel visited Therese in Stoffenried, where he enjoyed tea and tartines along with Madame de Staël on his way to Vienna with the latter and two of her children (Ludwig Geiger, Therese Huber. 1764 bis 1829. Leben und Briefe einer deutschen Frau [Stuttgart 1901], 166–67) (Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no. 26):



[19] Ebrach is located approx. 50 km east of Würzburg (Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no. 23):



[20] Greyerz did not take the position in Ebrach, something Caroline likely welcomed, not particularly wanting to have Therese living so close to her again. Back.

[21] Although the Wiedemanns relocated to Kiel in July 1805, at the time Caroline is writing they were still in Braunschweig, unless, that is, as Monika Siegel maintains, the family was already in Kiel, as was also Antonia Forster (“Ich hatte einen Hang zur Schwärmerey,” 151fn2) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


Antonie’s allusion, of course, is to Therese having abandoned Georg Forster in December 1792 in Mainz only to meet up with Ludwig Ferdinand Huber later in France. In any event, Antonie and Therese never got along, and even after Antonie’s death, Therese wrote to her daughter Therese Forster 23 July 1823 (Ludwig Geiger, Therese Huber, 269): “Thank God she is dead; she did nothing but torment everyone around her and was never satisfied.” Back.

[22] The older part of the town of Würzburg, where Caroline herself lived, was full of side streets; here a typical enough example, the Sandgasse, later Schönbornstrasse, near the market square (map: Sandgasse top left, Caroline’s apartment at bottom; Fr. Harrach, Plan der Kreis-Hauptstadt Würzburg [1845]; illustration: postcard from 1898):



Period caps or bonnets with frontal brims extending down well in front of the face appeared as early as 1787 (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Ich habe Miss Beverly versprochen, Madam, dass Sie sie gütig aufnehmen würden [1787]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [5-375]):


Fashions change, however, and especially considering that as recently as 1803 Caroline had had in part emotional encounters with Ludwig Ferdinand and Therese Huber in Stuttgart and Murrhardt (see esp. her letter to Luise Wiedemann on 19 June 1803 [letter 380]), her dream almost certainly reflected a more recent iteration of hat styles, e.g., such as the following from the Journal des Luxus und der Moden, ed. Carl Bertuch 19 [1804], plates 25, 26 (Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf; also Klassik Stiftung Weimar), which in their own turn reflect an extended brim style that had become increasingly popular since ca. 1799 (cordial communication from Sabine Schierhoff):



[23] Although there seem to be no illustrations of these French doors with glass panes in Caroline’s apartment (she mentions these doors earlier in a letter to Luise Gotter on 4 January 1804 [letter 382]), they presumably resembled those in the house in Bauerbach in which Schiller found refuge in 1782; here his study with French doors leading to the sleeping chamber (August Diezmann, “Bilder aus dem Leben deutscher Dichter: Nr. 4: Ein Dichter-Asyl,” Die Gartenlaube: Illustriertes Familienblatt [1860] 46:731–35, here 733; second illustration: Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Lebt sie so nehme ich sie von der gewaltigen Hand Gottes an (1776); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki WB 3.21):




[24] Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1802: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[25] I.e., to Ulm. Back.

[26] See Ewald Karl von Sacken’s letter to Henry Crabb Robinson on 7 January 1805 (Hertha Marquardt, Henry Crabb Robinson und seine deutschen Freunde, vol. 1 [Göttingen 1964], 269–71; repr. Schelling im Spiegel seiner Zeitgenossen, ed. Xavier Tilliette [Torino 1974], 167–68):

In philosophy [at Würzburg], Schelling now has over 100 students, and even the Würzburg students themselves seem to have acquired a taste for him; he is also lecturing on aesthetics even though he was not intending to do so this semester; but there was such a clamor that he finally decided to do so, albeit not beginning until two weeks before Christmas, which is why he will probably find it difficult to finish by Easter. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott