Letter 395

• 395. Caroline to Pauline Gotter in Gotha: Würzburg, August 1805 [*]

Würzburg, August 1805

|409| Dear Pauline, all things have their proper time, their proper day, their proper hour, and that is why I am writing you precisely today and not earlier. I really know of no other reason than that. I could tell you that I wanted to exercise my right of retribution and show all of you how it is when dear friends remain silent for ages, refusing to respond to any queries |410| — but that is not the case, for I was immediately satisfied and calmed as soon as I finally saw one answer and thereby received the good news. [1]

I could reproach myself for the most abominable ingratitude toward your pink memento, but no, it was not with you that I began to fall into this particular vice, one that doubtless has always been far removed from me. On the contrary, surely no work has ever been received with more joy and warm reciprocity of feeling as was the delightful, artistic, and tasteful piece from Paulinchen’s hands, nor any more admired or more loudly praised.

And yet here I am writing to you about it only after many long months, and I wager you are all wondering whether things had simply come to an end with me. But dispense with this wise thought; your old friend will always return, and always as the same old friend. And it is merely the quiet equanimity of disposition, activities, and lifestyle that has prevented that communication from coming about. It is almost an event in and of itself for me when I write a letter, or at least a very specific act — though I must say that doing so today comes about quite effortlessly and spontaneously. —

May all of you still be as happy as when you last sent news to me, may nothing have saddened your lives in the meantime. I for my part have in the meantime heard no news from Gotha except through the physician Stieglitz from Hannover, and even then nothing from him about my closest friends. [2] One becomes increasingly aware that the great, tall Thuringian Forest lies between us. [3] The postal carriers travel in such a nonsensical direction that the closest route is always to send letters by way of Frankfurt. [4]

Were all of you closer, I certainly would already have invited one of the dear daughters of their dear mother to come stay with me; I could well use both your amiable companionship and your assistance. [5] Although my health |411| has indeed noticeably improved and now rarely loses its equilibrium, in return I cannot really ask too much of it; and if anything even halfway out of the ordinary is to happen, I would so prefer to have Julchen or Lubinchen or even Cäcilie do it even though, since the latter has become a housekeeper, I would have a difficult time overcoming my shyness at asking the artist to occupy herself with more earthly things. (Between us, Pauline, can she really prepare a soup?) [5a]

And it goes without saying in any case that your company would be quite agreeable to me. But, as I already mentioned, the way is long, and one cannot count on a stay of any duration here that might make that great distance worth the trouble. After all, we are yet again being unsettled by war cries and bartering! [6] And truly, I know not where the next moon — not to speak of the next sun — will find us. [7]

Something that has indeed caused me considerable grief of late is the even greater distance separating me from my sister and her family. Wiedemann is now employed in the furthest corner of Germany, in Kiel, after the final months of their stay in Braunschweig were made extremely bitter by serious illnesses affecting both the husband and my sister and indeed by the loss of their youngest child. My mother remained behind in Braunschweig. [8]

I am doubtful she will be able to endure this separation from her family for any length of time, and how glad would I have been to gather them all together here with me. [9] It is infinitely regrettable that Wiedemann did not accept the appointment here at the time. [10] The same reasons preventing my good friends among you from coming to see me for any length of time also prevent my mother from coming to me by herself. Moreover, we also still have our eye on the trip during which we were detoured and ended up here 2 years ago. [11] Otherwise I know for certain that Schelling’s |412| splendid, gentle disposition would greatly have cheered her old age.

I had Stieglitz pass along my regards to my brother in Marburg. I was so pleased to hear that all of you were able to see him so often. [12] His image of me may well have gotten a bit skewed and taken on a different color in his memory; [13] but that can happen so easily even when far less significant elements come between people than a separation over so great a distance along with different personalities to begin with.

But I am certain that were he to see me again today, and were he to visit with me for just 3 days, he would say: “That is my old Caroline.” And beyond even such recollection of an old inclination — he could not help loving, honoring, and acknowledging Schelling, who is surely a new antipathy as far as he is concerned. [14]

The way I hear it, a theater has once again been revived among you, and the arts have allegedly begun stirring again from the top down. They are indeed taking some rather peculiar leaps there, I must say — I recently saw a certain princely booklet with which no one with even a modicum of discretion would consider entertaining a loyal lady subject. [15] Nor does the theater seem to me to be merely the former one now risen from the ashes, like a Phoenix, but rather a fairly common sort of bird.

One can similarly speak about the theater here only in the sense of tolerating it, though I confess I am rarely absent. On the one hand, it is the only way I like to take part in public entertainment here; on the other, my love for seeing and hearing this fictional world is so great that I am willing to put up with quite modest fare. [16]

If our Cäcilie is now genuinely employing her crayon only as a way to pass the time, has she at least turned her attention more seriously to the quill? She should certainly write me sometime as well. You yourself have now chosen the needle from Minerva; [17] since people are now so thoroughly taken |413| with embroidery, you could have your hands full. Is Julchen back again?

If you answer me, or any one of you — surely my confidence in this regard will not deceive me — by and by I would very much like to learn who authored the Golden Calf. It seems to have come into the world there in your parts. I have, by the way, not yet read it. [18]

Did Madam Reichard, as she planned, follow the deceased, or did she remain here on earth after all? I could have asked the three professors who recently ventured the move from Gotha to Würzburg, but I have not seen them — nor have they yet risked a visit to me. [19]

Give my regards to Minchen Bertuch, who is probably leading a fairly leisurely life. I am hoping to hear that your dear grandfather is still alive and that everyone else in your family is also healthy, including your aunt. I embrace all of you from the bottom of my heart, and Schelling takes the same liberty.

Your Caroline


[*] This letter is the first to document the Gotters’ return to Gotha from Kassel. See the editorial note to Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 4 January 1804 (letter 382), and the editorial note to her letter to Julie Gotter on 18 March 1804 (letter 383). Back.

[1] Königl. Großbrit. Genealogischer Kalender auf das 1786 Jahr; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


“The good news” that the family had returned to Gotha? (map: Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]; illustration: J. E. Gailer, Neuer Orbis Pictus für die Jugend oder Schauplatz der Natur der Kunst und des Menschenlebens, 5th ed. [Reutlingen 1842], plate 319; map: Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):




[2] Concerning the Stieglitzes’ visit to Würzburg during the summer of 1805, see Dorothea Schlegel’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 13 July 1805 (letter 393i), note 3. Back.

[3] The Thuringian Forest (here: Thüringer Wald) begins just southwest of Gotha; travelers had to pass through it on any direct route to locales to the southwest (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]; A. Scobel, Thüringen, Land und Leute: Monographien zur Erdkunde 1, 2nd ed. [Bielefeld, Leipzig 1902], 4):



Here the further route to Würzburg (Deutschland . . . entworfen und bearbeitet von E. von Sydow und Herm. Berghaus [Gotha 1853]):



[4] The following postal map shows how much easier the direct route from Würzburg
to Gotha was compared to the (nonsensical) detour westward to Frankfurt (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):



[5] It may be recalled that Julie Gotter had been Caroline’s house guest in Jena between 31 May 1801 and 6 March 1802 (Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1813: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet):



[5a] Illustration from Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808:



[6] Concerning the military developments affecting Bavaria and thus Würzburg, see Dorothea Schlegel’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 5 August 1805 (letter 394a), note 10 with cross references. The “bartering” refers to territorial compensations, which inevitably directly involve Würzburg. Back.

[7] The Schellings did indeed leave Würzburg in May 1806 in the wake of the Treaty of Pressburg on 26 December 1805, according to which Würzburg was “bartered” to a new territorial ruler. Back.

[8] See Luise Wiedemann’s own memories of the child’s death shortly before the family moved to Kiel in the summer of 1805.

Certainly considering the transportation possibilites at the time, Kiel is indeed located at the other end of Germany, some 500 km north of Würzburg and considerably farther than Braunschweig, though later farther still from Munich (Thomas Kitchin, Map of Germany [ca. 1780]; illustration of Kiel: frontispiece to vol. 1 of H. Eckhardt, Alt-Kiel in Wort und Bild, 2 vols. [Kiel 1897]):



Sadly, Caroline never saw either her sister or her mother again. Back.

[9] Madam Michaelis did indeed eventually follow the Wiedemann family to Kiel, where she spent the rest of her life. Back.

[10] See Caroline’s letter to Julie Gotter on 18 March 1804 (letter 383), in which she mentions this potential appointment; see also note 11 there. Back.

[11] I.e., to Italy (William Shepherd, Germany and Italy in 1803, Historical Atlas [New York 1926]):


See Dorothea Schlegel’s letter Karoline Paulus on 13 January 1805 (letter 389a), note 9. Back.

[12] Presumably while the Gotters were living in Kassel, since Marburg is located ca. 90 km southwest of Kassel (as “Mahrburg”; Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):



[13] Caroline had lived with Fritz Michaelis in Marburg between the spring of 1789 and approx. late summer 1791, parting, however, on what seem to have been angry terms after otherwise obscure events (Königl. Gros-Britt.Genealogischer Kalender auf das Jahr 1784; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


See Caroline’s letter to her mother on 30 July 1791 (letter 104), esp. with note 3 with cross references. Fritz Michaelis may also have disapproved of her divorce from Wilhelm Schlegel and marriage to Schelling.

Caroline also, and especially, still had a reputation because of her time in Mainz, a reputation that even came to expression in a publication of which Fritz Michaelis may well have been aware, The Mainz Clubbists in Königstein. Back.

[14] Uncertain allusion unless it be to Caroline’s divorce (see previous note).

Otherwise, the “old inclination” may allude to what was the essentially romantic interest Caroline entertained for her half-brother in her youth. See Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 1 November 1781 (letter 28), with note 1 there.

Luise Wiedemann, moreover, mentions in her memoir of Caroline that “I believe it was in 1776 that our brother [Fritz] returned from Strasbourg, where he had attended the university; she lived in lofty friendship with him”; and in her memoir of Fritz, she remarks similarly that Fritz “greatly loved his family, love that even went as far as the romantic sort in the case of his sister Caroline.”

Though no documentation attests such, this earlier and mutual attraction may have taken a wrong turn in Marburg that could arguably account for Caroline’s precipitate and mysterious departure in the late summer of 1791. Back.

[15] Duke Emil Leopold August of Saxony-Gotha’s Kyllenion oder ein Jahr in Arkadien (Gotha 1805), a slightly scandalous publication that relates tales of both traditional and homoerotic love set in ancient Greece. Here the back-illustration at the conclusion to the volume:


For reactions and excerpts, see supplementary appendix 395.1. Back.

[16] Here the repertoire of the Würzburg theater during July and August 1805 (J. G. Wenzel Dennerlein, Geschichte des Würzburger Theaters von seiner Entstehung im Jahre 1803–4 bis zum 31. Mai 1853 [Würzburg 1853], 11–12.

Key: von: by; Tr.: tragedy; Hr.: Herr; O.: opera; Sch.: play; k. O.: comic opera; A.: act[s]; L.: comedy; gr. O: grand opera; Zum Benef.: as a benefit performance; Singsp.: singspiel; als Gast: as guest performer; zum Debut: in debut; Vorher: beforehand; Hierauf: next; zum Beschluß: in conclusion:



[17] Here Caroline is presumably alluding back to “the delightful, artistic, and tasteful piece from Paulinchen’s hands,” viz. a gift. Minerva was the protective goddess of Rome and patroness of handicrafts, artisans, and teachers; Caroline’s reference is to needlework, e.g., embroidery.

See the story of Minerva and Arachne (H. A. Guerber, Myths of Greece and Rome [New York 1893], 58–60):

Minerva was as deft with her needle as with her sword. In Greece there lived in those olden times a maiden by the name of Arachne. Pretty, young, and winsome, she would have been loved by all had it not been for her inordinate pride, not in her personal advantages, but in her skill as a needlewoman.

Arachne, in her conceit, fancied that no one could equal the work done by her deft fingers, so she boasted far and wide that she would have no fear to match her skill with Minerva’s. She made this remark so loudly and so frequently, that the goddess was finally annoyed, and left her seat in high Olympus to come down upon earth and punish the maiden.

In the guise of an old crone, she entered Arachne’s house, seated herself, and began a conversation. In a few minutes the maiden had resumed her usual strain, and renewed her rash boast. Minerva gently advised her to be more modest, lest she should incur the wrath of the gods by her presumptuous words; but Arachne was so blinded by her conceit, that she scorned the well-meant warning, saucily tossed her head, and declared she wished the goddess would hear her, and propose a contest, in which she would surely be able to prove the truth of her assertions. This insolent speech so incensed Minerva, that she cast aside her disguise and accepted the challenge.

Both set up their looms, and began to weave exquisite designs in tapestry: Minerva choosing as her subject her contest with Neptune; and Arachne, the kidnapping of Europa. In silence the fair weavers worked, and their webs grew apace under their practiced fingers. The assembled gods, the horse, the olive tree, seemed to live and move under Minerva’s flashing shuttle.

Emongst these leaves she made a Butterflie, 
 With excellent device and wondrous slight, 
  Fluttring among the Olives wantonly, 
 That seem'd to live, so like it was in sight: 
 The velvet nap which on his wings doth lie, 
 The silken downe with which his backe is dight, 
  His broad outstretched homes, his hayrie thies, 
  His glorious colours, and his glistering eies. 


Arachne, in the mean while, was intent upon her swimming bull, against whose broad breast the waves splashed, and upon a half-laughing, half-frightened girl, who clung to the bull’s horns, while the wind played with her flowing tresses and garments.

Sweet Europa's mantle blew unclasp'd,
From off her shoulder backward borne: 
From one hand droop'd a crocus: one hand grasp'd 
The mild bull's golden horn. 


The finishing touches all given, each turned to view her rival’s work, and at the very first glance Arachne was forced to acknowledge her failure. To be thus outstripped, after all her proud boasts, was humiliating indeed. Bitterly did Arachne now repent of her folly; and in her despair she bound a rope about her neck, and hung herself. Minerva saw her discomfited rival was about to escape: so she quickly changed her dangling body into a spider, and condemned her to weave and spin without ceasing, — a warning to all conceited mortals.

(Illustration by Antonio Tempesta:)



[18] Caroline is querying concerning the author because she is reviewing the novel for the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung.

The piece in question is Count Christian Ernst von Bentzel-Sternau, who lived in Regensburg, Das goldene Kalb. Eine Biographie, 4 vols. (Gotha 1802–4), a satire castigating the sort of egoism that sacrifices all more sublime interests for the sake of material goods.

Karl Ludwig von Knebel thought Moritz August von Thümmel might be the author. Knebel writes to Karl August Böttiger from Ilmenau on 4 January 1803 (K. L. von Knebel’s literarischer Nachlass und Briefwechsel, vol. 3, ed. K. A. Varnhagen von Ense and T. Mundt [Leipzig 1836], 55):

Ilmenau, 4 January 1803

First of all, as far as Das vergoldete [sic] Kalb is concerned, the first two volumes of which I am herewith returning to you, the author’s quill is easily discernible in the personal style. That quill can belong to none other than the author of the Reisen durch Süd-Frankreich etc., namely, Herr von Thümmel [Reise in die mittäglichen Provinzen von Frankreich im Jahr 1785 bis 1786, 10 vols. (Leipzig 1791–1805)]. The entirety of it derives from that mid-range sort of familiarity with the world and with people where we view and discern the follies, passions, intrigues, weaknesses, vanities, pride, and all such other chum and bait — as the real world, and feel ourselves wondrously gifted with such knowledge.

The most recent age has made this renowned knowledge of the world seem a bit outmoded, and singular Buonaparte has infinitely raised the atmosphere of the world above the significance of such beggars’ vanities and passions (which may well, however, still count for something at our small courts). The book does, by the way, exhibit wit and knowledge enough, albeit the former often a bit in excess and affected. The experienced quill of its author can hardly be mistaken. Back.

[19] Amalie Reichardt seems to have greatly admired the “deceased,” namely, Duke Ernst II of Gotha, who had died back on 20 April 1804, enough apparently, judging from Caroline’s remarks here, to have made dramatic comments concerning him.

That said, Ernst II had not been buried in the style customary for aristocracy of his status. A Freemason, he had asked to be buried wrapped in a simple linen shroud and in the clothes of ordinary life, and to be buried in the ground without a casket on the island situated in the Castle Park’s lake but without any marking indicating the spot of his burial, or at most by a tree buried on the spot. Here the location of the lake and, at its center, the island in the park (Castle Friedenstein at center, no. 1), and an 1840 illustration of the later obelisk marking the burials of other members of the royal family (map: from Gotha und die umliegende Gegend [Gotha 1796]; illustration: Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden):



Although Caroline seems to have been aware that Amalie Reichard was ill (“remain here on earth after all”), she does not realize that Amalie herself had just died on 21 July 1805 (Max Berbig, “Caroline v. Schelling und Therese Huber in ihren Beziehungen zu Gotha,” Mitteilungen des Vereins für Gothaische Geschichte und Altertumsforschung e. V. (1925), 11–25, here 22–23).

As it turned out, however, the death of Ernst II the previous year had so upset both Amalie and her husband that they were directed to spend time recuperating in Karlsbad. The stay did not go well, the journey home was difficult and rainy, and Amalie arrived home worse than when she had left. Her health deteriorated over the next several months until her death during the summer of 1805, about which Caroline had as yet heard no news.

Amalie, moreover, had been so upset by an encounter she and her husband had once had with the wife of a gravedigger — they had encountered the wife carrying wood from stolen coffins; the husband was later convicted of opening graves and robbing the corpses — that she resolved to be buried not in Gotha’s cemetery, but in the cemetery of the church of Siebeleben (today: Siebleben), a tiny village just east of Gotha (Johann Baptist Homann, Tabula geographica in qua … principatus Gotha, Coburg et Altenburg cum omnibus eorundem praefecturis tam in Thuringia quam Misnia et Franconia sitis ostenduntur [1724]):


And thus also was her wish carried out just before dawn on 24 July 1805 (Reichard, Selbstbiographie, 362–63) (Goethe’s Works, vol. 2, trans. G. Barrie [New York 1885], 352):


It may be recalled that Caroline was not on the best of terms with Amalie Reichardt; see Caroline’s letter to her in late February 1794 (letter 141), while both were living in Gotha and Amalie Reichardt had apparently voiced disapproval of Caroline’s recent past in Mainz.

In any event, Amalie Reichard’s husband, H. A. O. Reichard, lived until 1828. It was not, at least according to Therese Huber, a particularly happy marriage (see Amalie’s biogram and esp. the supplementary appendix on her having married against her wishes). Amalie herself wrote to her seventeen-year-old daughter, Charlotte, on 31 May 1805, i.e., shortly before her death in July (from the family’s literary estate; cited in the private publication Rudolf W. L. Jacobs, “Reichards berühmte Verwandtschaft,” 32):

You have seen that your father and I doubtless loved each other greatly, and can you believe, my dear, that I took him without love? and felt only friendship and respect for his character. From this you can see that it is not always necessary for a marriage to have tenderness on both sides.

Therese in any case remarks to Elisabeth von Struve on 17 September 1805 (Therese Huber Briefe 4:230–31; illustrations: [1] Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1805 für edle Weiber und Mädchen, Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [2] “Reue” [Remorse, regret], Goettinger Taschen Kalender vom Jahr 1789; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [3] Goettinger Taschen Calender vom Jahr 1785):

I, who have known this good woman [Amalie Reichard] for 21 years [since 1784/85] and take an ardent interest in her, can reconcile quite well the softish enthusiasm concerning her that may well be the order of the day in Gotha, with the iron severity with which my friend judged her [in a recent letter].

Amalie Reichard was a gentle creature full of amiable traits. Had inclination — or even merely respect — joined her with a good, upright man, she could have become one of the noblest of our sex — just imagine, however, that she knew Reichard — who was by no means a bad person, but merely a good but infinitely small, crippled one — only as: a person who was treated virtually to the point of contemptibleness, so much so that is was reckoned as an ongoing joke among the older gentlemen to doubt his manliness, insofar as dissipation during his early youth had weakened him such that he consciously won her hand only under the threatened curse of her mother, and that she was pregnant for 7 months while he was still doubting the physical possibility. —

I arranged the marriage [3 February 1786] in a way, and supported Amalie in every way that she might surrender to her fate.


At the time she loved the violinist Schlick, but he was not really worthy of her, and she did not have the steadfastness to stand up to her mother, she was penniless and had several dependent siblings [Anna Caroline Seidler, Christiane Seidler, Dorette Seidler], Reichard was a good man despite his pettiness — but what emerged was a troubled relationship.


Amalie did not have the inner strength or a desired object that might have generated grand passion, so she loved one after the other a whole host of virtuous men, as she believed, or had a virtuous interest in them — but that is a salacious moral game that will also exhaust a person — she stood, moreover, under oppressive family circumstances with Reichardt’s mother, a Molièrean [The Miser] stingy woman —

God — when I think that Amalie suffered for 20 years [of marriage] solely because her own mother had promised her she would eventually receive old Madam Reichardt’s wealth, and that she died after those 20 years without enjoying even a token from that miserly devil!



Translation © 2017 Doug Stott