Letter 396

• 396. Luise Wiedemann to Caroline in Würzburg: Kiel, 4 September 1805

Kiel, 4 September [1805] [1]

|413| Part of the ill news about which you inform me in your own letter I had already learned from the Hamburger Zeitung and had already been worried about you both; but then the very next newspaper retracted part of that news, but the reports did still seem to have some basis that Würzburg would not be completely spared by the grand personages.

Then I heard that the university was to be moved to Bamberg, which I thought would be fine with both of you, since Bamberg’s setting and everything there is simply more pleasant; [2] but then your letter frightened me anew concerning your unsettled |414| situation. Murhart will in any case probably offer you a refuge within its spacious walls if you end up having to vacate your apartment there, which Wiedemann immediately feared, and could not find another [3]

I beg you to write soon and tell me as well how the Hufelands are doing, for whom, because of their children, all this must be rather less a matter of indifference than for the two of you. [4]

Wiedemann’s opinion at the time was that the Enlightenment was proceeding too quickly, and that he did not really have faith in the longevity of it all. [5]Mother will attest her own disconsolate disposition to you herself; for me her letters are true missives of sadness. [6] [News of someone’s death.]

Had I said nothing to you about this friend’s passing? But one does see how everyone’s opinion of him is much the same, for a certain Hannoverian, Schubach, [7] who works for the government in Schleswig, told me essentially the same thing you wrote in your own letter. . . . I would think one could write to Möller and request from him whatever letters may still remain. [8] I will probably have a letter sent to Möller through Schubach; do you want to write to the latter or should I? Could one also receive the letters without postage at this opportunity? [9]

A few words also need to be said about Meyer. I thought I had reported on it exhaustively at the time. Well, enough to say that he is indeed our Meyer. [10] As soon as we arrived in this tiny nest Bramstedt, which is anything but charmingly situated, I asked the maid in the house whether she knew where a Herr Meyer lived. “Indeed, yes, in that house.” [11]

Since Madam Hoffmann in Hamburg had already told me I ought not go there myself lest I embarrass him, I had him summoned to us, upon which he did indeed immediately arrive as an upright estate lord, and was infinitely pleased about our being there; nor has he become a stranger to the world, he knew about everything, and felt at home; |415| he spent the evening with us. [12]

He said he was living quite contentedly, that he did not have much social contact but that there were a few men there with whom one could talk about things. He said he had often spent time in Hamburg during the winter — his external appearance was still the same, and it seemed to me he had not really changed at all, his eyes still amiable and clear — he was wearing a gray jacket and blue-striped linen trousers. I could not help thinking about the zebra coat in which he was so famously handsome [13] — he seems to be happier now than at that earlier time. I do not know who mentioned a miller’s wife whom he allegedly found beautiful; I did not learn anything about that except that he said the view from his window was not bad at all, and were I to stay longer, he would take me along a very charming path to a mill. . . .

Reinhold recently also said something about the poor condition of Goethe’s health and that Wieland was very much afraid for him and had written on the occasion of Schiller’s death that his fear of losing Goethe almost made him forget Schiller. [14] . . .


[1] The Wiedemanns had move from Braunschweig to Kiel in mid-summer 1805. See Luise’s Erinnerungen beginning on p. 43. Kiel is located some 500 km north of Würzburg (Thomas Kitchin, Map of Germany [ca. 1780]; illustration: Kiel in 1810, from H. Eckardt, Alt-Kiel in Wort und Bild, vol. 1 [Kiel 1897], 191):




[2] News about the university in Würzburg possibly being moved to Bamberg had already been circulating in parts of Germany; see Adalbert Friedrich Marcus’s letter to Schelling from Bamberg on 24 August 1805 (letter 395a): “Rumor is rampant here that the university will be transferred here from Würzburg.” Caroline had remarked to Luise in a letter on 5 June 1803 (letter 379) that she would have preferred to live in Bamberg rather than Würzburg (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern [Vienna 1805]):



[3] Luise had been following missives in the Staats- und gelehrte Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyischen Correspondenten concerning military, naval, and diplomatic developments associated with the Third Coalition, specifically the advance of the Austrian army toward and ultimately into Bavaria and Munich in early September 1805.


These events ultimately prompted Prince Elector Maximilian to flee Munich with his entourage and court administration for Würzburg, where they requisitioned and occupied not only the Residence Castle, but also government buildings and in some cases private apartments.

Caroline seems to have mentioned this latter possibility to Luise in her preceding letter, and Luise responds here that the Schellings could at least take refuge in Murrhardt, where Schelling’s father had a prelature. Although various professors did indeed have to vacate their apartments, the Schellings did not. See the pertinent section in the supplementary appendix on the Schellings’s residence in Würzburg.

For the missives Luise seems to have read documenting events leading up to the Prince Elector’s flight and the news about such residential requisitions, see supplementary appendix 396.1. Back.

[4] Luise’s sister-in-law Louise Hufeland was married to the former co-editor of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in Jena, and the couple had lived across the courtyard from Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel at Leutragasse 5. They had transferred to Würzburg in late 1803, contemporaneous with the Schellings, where Hufeland was now a professor of law. After Würzburg passed to Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany as a result of the Peace of Pressburg in 1806, Hufeland received a professorship at the Bavarian university in Landshut (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[5] I.e., at the time he was offered a professorship in Würzburg, which he declined. Wiedemann is referring to the educational principles of the Enlightenment as implemented by the Catholic Bavarian government in the hitherto traditionally Catholic university in Würzburg; see Kuno Fischer’s discussion of Catholic opposition to Schelling in Bavaria. Back.

[6] Madam Michaelis was not yet living with the Wiedemanns in Kiel, whither they had moved in mid-summer 1805. Caroline remarks in her letter to Pauline Gotter in August 1805 (letter 395) that “my mother remained behind in Braunschweig. I am doubtful she will be able to endure this separation from her family for any length of time” (Thomas Kitchin, Map of Germany [ca. 1780]):


See also note 9 there. Before moving to Kiel herself, she seems to have lived with Caroline and Luise’s brother Philipp Michaelis in Harburg (according to Luise in her Erinnerungen). Back.

[7] Uncertain identity. Back.

[8] Presumably Ludwig Möller, Tatter’s successor in Petersburg and likely his acquaintance in Göttingen.

Luise is presumably responding to a query from Caroline about the estate of Georg Tatter, which likely contained letters, perhaps of a compromising nature, from Caroline written esp. during her time in Mainz and perhaps earlier. See below.

Caroline could in any case not be indifferent to the news of this man’s passing. Back.

[9] Georg Waitz, (1871), 2:277fn1 (letter 324 by his numbering), wondered whether the deceased friend was perhaps Georg Ernst Tatter. Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:649, countered that the reference to Denmark (i.e., Schleswig as part of Denmark) militated against this even though Tatter did indeed die around this time (16 April 1805).

The reference to Denmark (Schleswig), however, concerns only Luise Wiedemann’s source of information, not Tatter himself, who in fact was a native of Hannover. Kiel, however, where the Wiedemanns now lived and which had been ruled since 1773 by the King of Denmark in his capacity as the Duke of Holstein, clearly had close historical ties with Denmark. A Hannoverian working for the Danish government, esp. given Denmark’s and Kiel’s historical ties with Russia, may well have had information about Tatter’s death in Petersburg and reactions to it in Hannover and beyond (W. R. Shepherd, Historical Map of Central Europe about 1786 [1926]):


The reference to retrieving letters, of course, militates in favor at least of someone close to the Michaelis family, someone who, like Tatter, might possess letters that the family might want back, and that, especially in Caroline’s case, might well be described as intimate. Scholars have since assumed the reference is indeed to Georg Ernst Tattter, e.g., Carl Haase, “Caroline Michaelis und Georg Ernst Tatter,” Göttinger Jahrbuch 29 (1981), 203–24, here 222. Tatter’s literary estate seems to have been burned after his death, including, presumably, the letters of which Luise here speaks.

A year later, the Intelligenzblatt of the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1806) 20 (1 March 1806), 168, announced that the library of the former legation councilor Tatter in Hannover was to be auctioned.

On 14 April of this year [1806] and the following days, the book collection of the former legation counselor Tatter, a collection works of historical, philosophical, and belletristic content along with appendices, will be auctioned to the highest bidder in Hannover. Requests will be accepted by Commissioner Freudenthal, antiquarian booksellers Gsellius, Ehlers, Procurator Wedemeier, court physician Lamersdorf, and municipal secretary Seeger. Catalogs [Verzeichniss der von dem Legations-Rath Georg Tatter hinterlassenen Bücher (Göttingen 1806)] can be secured from any of these personages as well as in the imperial Reichsanzeiger [imperial announcements] in Gotha, the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in Jena and Halle, the Kleefeld bookstore in Leipzig, and in the Intelligenzcomptoir in Braunschweig.


The Tatter collection [71 pages divided by volumes in folio, quarto, and octavo] includes rare and precious works, nos. 35–40 Il Museo Pio Clementino, 6 vols., and nos. 41–48 Le antichita di Ercolano, 8 vols., both with numerous copper engravings, fol., and no. 82 Esto hist. de Don Quixote, complete. Back.

[10] I.e., their acquaintance from Göttingen years. Back.

[11] Concerning Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer and his estate in Bramstedt, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 7 September 1797 (letter 185), note 8. On their way from Braunschweig to their new home in Kiel, the Wiedemanns first spent time in Hamburg, 40 km south of Bramstedt; Luise writes in her Erinnerungen, pp. 43–44:

So first we spent three weeks in Harburg, where my brother, who was also a physician, loyally took care of my husband [who was ill], and my sister-in-law also functioned as an extremely kind nurse for him. And then to Hamburg, where we spent a week in Senator Meyer’s garden house, in Grünendeich [near Stade in Lower Saxony, just west of Hamburg].

(Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern [Vienna 1805]):



[12] J. E. Gailer, Neuer Orbis Pictus für die Jugend oder Schauplatz der Natur der Kunst und des Menschenlebens, 5th ed. (Reutlingen 1842), plate 124:



[13] Concerning Meyer’s “zebra coat,” see the witty poem in Lotte Michaelis’s letter to Caroline in November 1785 (letter 64), also with note 15.

Concerning the appearance of such blue-striped pants, see the gentleman on the right in this scene from the Leipzig book fair (Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler, Leipziger Meßscenen [Scenes from the Leipzig trade fair], 3 vols. [Leipzig 1804–5]):


See esp. the following illustrations from (1) Blüthen Kränzchen oder Almanach des Scherzes und der guten Laune für das Jahr 1811; (2) Blumenstrauß für Freunde und Freundinnen zum Neujahrsgeschenk auf’s Jahr 1795; both: Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[14] Schiller had died on 9 May 1805 in Weimar; here Schiller on his deathbed (Gustav Könnecke, Bilderatlas zur Geschichte der deutschen Nationallitteratur, 2nd ed. [Marburg 1895], 319):


Since then Goethe had not been feeling particularly well, writing to Karl Friedrich Zelter on 1 June 1805 (Heinrich Düntzer, Life of Goethe, trans. Thomas W. Lyster, 2 vols. [London 1883], 2:230):

Since I wrote to you last, my good days have been few. I thought to lose myself, and lose a friend, and in him the half of my existence. The truth is, I ought to begin a new mode of life; but at my years there is no longer a way. So I just look straight before me every day, and do what is nearest, without thinking of a further sequence.

He continued to suffer from occasional spasms but did spend much of the summer of 1805 traveling; by early September, he was again feeling much better. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott