Letter 393

• 393. Caroline to Beate Gross in Gaisburg: Würzburg, 13 April 1805

W[ürzburg], 13 April [1805]

|406| Dearest Beate, I am herewith sending you a living letter, namely, Herr Consistory Councilor Fuchs, who is also bringing along a package for you. [1] He was kind enough to take it with him and has promised either to send it down immediately from Beilstein or to deliver it himself. [2] You will see soon enough what it contains; let me merely remark that the baptism gown will follow soon. I was obstinately resolved to sew it all myself, but then it went very slowly because of the frequent interruptions that are always the case with me. [3] . . .

Please do not hold this small contribution, or rather, the smallness of the contribution, against me, and consider instead that I made it for you with the very best wishes. . . .

|407| Fuchs will have much to relate to you, and you will also have much to ask him. He will be traveling with the Niethammers (Herr Niethammer just went in to see my husband). The Fräulein in question was brought retour by her sister-in-law; the former in her own turn brought two Fräuleins along with her, namely, her youngest sister and a lady friend of the latter, and is thus putting together a proper Fräulein assemblage at her house. [4]

Ask Fuchs about Lambinon’s most recent appearances, his extreme love sickness, and, God willing, his foolish marriage; [5] you will hardly believe your own ears. He did, by the way, part from us with undying friendship and devotion. Although we have lost several good friends and acquaintances here at the end of these past six months, new ones are nonetheless continually emerging.

You will also hear about Hoven’s latest move. Poor Thomann had to die as a favor to him, and he simply cannot conceal how satisfied he is with it. [6]

According to dear Mother’s last letter, she is already with you there; I will not write her this time, since she will hear enough anyway. I feel quite sorry for dear Father in his Murrhard. If only your good parents could live in town! August should come as soon and for as long as he likes; he is always welcome here with us. [7] I know not, however, what we are to do with the Herr Magistrate; [8] at the very least, I could not easily offer him accommodations here.

Stay well; we send our kindest regards to your husband and entertain the highest hopes and warmest wishes for you yourself.


The poem by August was quite nice indeed. Boredom has had a good effect on him; and he, like Goethe, can say: [9]

[End of page.]


[1] Karl Heinrich Fuchs was traveling to Stuttgart with a native Swabian, namely, Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, whom Caroline knew from both Jena and Würzburg. Back.

[2] Beilstein is located just south of Heilbronn, the latter ca. 100 km southwest of Würzburg and ca. 50 km north of Stuttgart (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Beate Gross lived in Gaisburg in the eastern part of Stuttgart (Stutgart, mit dero Gegend auf 2 Stund. 81 G. Bodenehr fecit et excudit; Recens emendavit, auxit atque divisit R. H. Stuttgardiae [1716–50]):



[3] Presumably for the baptism of the Grosses’ first child.

Here contemporary renderings of infant baptism at home (left) by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki (Eintritt in die Welt [1797]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 437) and (right) from Elisa oder das weib wie es sein sollte, 3rd ed. (Leipzig 1798):


And, also by Chodowiecki, from 1774 in a church (Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate 84):


The child seems to have died in July 1807; see Caroline’s letter to Beate Gross on 31 July 1807 (letter 424). Back.

[4] Although the identity of these women is uncertain, the reference seems to be to a sister-in-law of Madam Niethammer. In any case, back on 26 June 1801 (letter 322a), Julie Gotter writes home from Jena that

I stayed a couple of hours at the home of Madam Niethammer, which I indeed found quite pleasant. She also has a sister-in-law there and the fiancée of her brother, Madam Schulz, a couple of young, good, upright girls whom I will occasionally visit during her absence.

(Goettinger Taschen Calendar für das Jahr 1791; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:)


Retour, Fr., a “returning [carriage],” i.e., a carriage returning whence it came and in many cases seeking paying passengers to help cover costs; at inns and other stations, such carriages often had signs or simply chalk writing on them reading “Retour nach, “returning to . . . ” In this instance: a carriage returning to Jena from Leipzig.

The “extra” or special postal carriage was arranged privately with persons whose horses and carriages were used contractually by the postal service for the purpose of changing out either or both at postal stations. These persons often owned inns or taverns in connection with the station itself, such as “Zur Post,” “Zur alten Post,” which is still seen as a restaurant and hotel name in Germany (Blankenheim, 1957 postcard; note the postal-coach illlustration above the entry):



[5] Abraham Wolfgang Küffner, Liebespaar [1796]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 1428:


Lambinon is otherwise unidentified but is mentioned in earlier letters as well. See Caroline’s to Beate Gross on 17–18 July 1804 (letter 384) and on 2 September 1804 (letter 387) with note 12. Back.

[6] Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven had advanced to the position of head physician at the Julius Hospital in Würzburg that became vacant when Joseph Nikolaus Thomann died on 24 March 1805. Von Hoven himself writes the following about Thomann in his autobiography (Biographie des Doctor Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven: Von ihm selbst geschrieben und wenige Tage vor seinem Tode noch beendiget, ed. Andreas H. Merkel (Nürnberg 1840), 164, 170–72; illustration: Rudolph Zacharias Becker, Das Noth- und Hülfs-Büchlein Oder Lehrreiche Freuden- und Trauer-Geschichte Des Dorfes Mildheim, vol. 2, rev. ed. [Gotha 1815], 793):

Thomann, a small, gaunt, weak, sickly little man, was professor of general therapeutics and clinical medicine and directing physician at the Julius Hospital; but he was also a man of considerable intellect, broad knowledge, and a quite talented clinician. He was, however, like Barthel Siebold, somewhat too easy-going, allowing his students to proceed arbitrarily with patients more often than was appropriate.

By all appearances, he was well-disposed toward me, and yet because I myself lectured on therapeutics, he viewed me as his rival; nonetheless, we always got on well together, not only because he was a genuinely good person, but also because I always substituted for him at the Julius Hospital whenever, as was often the case, he was unable to be present because of sickliness. . . .

Thus did I continue my academic career up until the death of my colleague Thomann, who died suddenly in 1805 from a stroke during a hunting expedition, which he had undertaken against my advice. During the usual Saturday faculty meeting, he mentioned that he intended to go on a two-day hunt for some recreation, and asked whether I might fill in for him at the hospital during that time.

I replied that I would be glad to do so but nonetheless would advise him instead to stay at home because of the stormy weather we were having at the time, his weak health being less trustworthy under such conditions. “Ah, certainly not,” he said, “I am feeling absolutely fine, and the bad weather makes no difference to me; the fresh air one enjoys in the forest, moreover, does my weak breast good. So please do not bother yourself by worrying.”

I acquiesced, Thomann left on the hunt that very evening, and I filled in for him the next day at the hospital. And on Monday morning his corpse was brought back to Würzburg. As already mentioned, he died from a stroke that came upon him while striding across a small ditch and immediately killed him.


Now the question was who would replace him, whether someone from outside was to be appointed, or someone already a professor be appointed primary physician at the Julius Hospital and teacher at the clinic. As teacher of special therapeutics, and already responsible for part of the clinic, I seemed to have the obvious advantage of receiving the vacated position.

But factors militating against me included, first, that I was a Protestant, and second, that I had a powerful rival applicant for the position in Röschlaub in Landshut, and an even more powerful one in Marcus. My friend Count von Thürheim, however, was not swayed in the least, and unconditionally recommended me for the position; his proposal was approved, and after several weeks I did indeed receive the position.

My promotion to this important position admittedly caused a considerable stir. That a non-native had been preferred to a native was quickly and vehemently criticized, for everyone knows what a high estimation the Würzburgers have of themselves. But they were even more opposed to a Protestant. Never before had a Protestant even been employed at the Julius Hospital, something that in the opinion of the Würzburg residents could happen solely under a Bavarian administration, whose actions in any case rarely accorded with their own wishes.

But the Bavarian administration was unconcerned with the prejudices of the Würzburg natives, focusing instead solely on filling vacant positions according to applicants’ qualifications. In the meantime, this opposition to my appointment as primary physician at the Julius Hospital lasted but a short time. The Würzburg natives, too, quickly saw that I could fill the position as well as my predecessor. Back.

[7] August Schelling does not seem to have visited Caroline and Schelling in Würzburg. Back.

[8] Uncertain identity. Back.

[9] Caroline is referring to Goethe’s Venetian Epigram no. 27, here in Goethe’s Poems, trans. Paul Dyrsen (New York 1878), 295: “Ennui! of Muses the true mother; be welcome to me!” Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott