Letter 399

399. Caroline to Julie Gotter in Gotha: Würzburg, 1 December 1805 [*]

Würzburg, 1 Dec[ember 18]05

|417| Before this year passes by, a year in which, as far as I know, you have written not a single line to me, let me herewith, precisely by writing you these lines and expecting a timely answer, give you the occasion and an appropriate period of time to do penance.

Where are you and what have you been up to? Pauline is a good and upright child, [1] and toward her I must take absolutely no liberties. Quite the contrary, it is I who have owed her for longer than is appropriate. [2] Unfortunately, her merits cannot be ascribed to you, and until further notice I am considering you to be a lazy and veritably godforsaken |418| Julchen. [2a]

So, write me immediately and tell me whether you do not completely share my opinion, and tell me as well how all of you are doing, how you feel, and how all of you are otherwise comporting yourselves in the wide world. As far as my own situation is concerned, you doubtless assume that the tribulations of war have quite sufficiently frightened me, which in part is indeed true, though in the meantime we have gotten off tolerably well with it all up to this point; [3] in fact, we are now enjoying a profound period of calm after several months in which things were indeed rather turbulent. We dispatched our court, our ministers, and our privy councilors home again, our troops into the field, and our students wherever they wanted. [4]

As far as our own distinguished personages are concerned, we have maintained our apartment here very quietly. [5] For one week we paid dearly for food, for 3 weeks we had 2 men quartered here, and had 100 fewer students in the auditorium than in the previous semesters. [6] And indeed, Schelling has but 40—50 attendees at his lectures. Every day brings new victories, the likes of which we manage to attain we know not how. [7] Although the prospects are splendid, there is perhaps long and great misery lurking in ambush. For one nation or other, and one prince or other will doubtless pluck up the courage to offer opposition against the All-Devouring One, and then we can easily enough find ourselves in a new 30 Years War. [8]

A poor, peaceful scholar, of course, is likely to be the most depressed of all in a situation in which the only things that count are scorching and burning. [8a] In the meantime, however, interest in all that is happening is so great that one does not allow oneself to be plunged into melancholy merely at the thought of what might happen. —

While the court was still here, it was, to be sure, not particularly “cheerful and glittering” — for taking the side that he did have to take cost him considerable effort and compromise [9] — but one also saw many people for whom, at least as far as their external circumstances were concerned, it was not |419| at all a matter of indifference to be together. And our Herr Privy Councilors have indeed diligently visited us, as has the younger prince with his teachers, etc. But we were nonetheless happy for them when they were able to return again. [10]

All of you there have probably also been plagued with troops marching through, for Prussia is moving toward our borders, and from the other side Augereau is coming to protect us come what may. [11] — According to all the news, however, I see that things are apparently much more expensive in Upper and Lower Saxony than here, where, e.g., butter climbed to 6 ggr. [12] only during the very worst days and usually costs only 4 ggr., and where beef has not yet exceeded the price of 2 ggr.

But things can still get that nice for us as well. By the way, under such circumstances it is quite malicieux, [13] as Iffland is wont to say, that I nonetheless will have to turn to you for sausages. . . .

You have probably thought that I am like the lily of the field and simply do not want to do anything anymore. [14] But enough certainly remains here, believe me. What, however, should I request from our Cäcilie? A poem? a drawing? or a recipe? I would welcome anything from her hand. Let me entreat your dear mother not only not to forget me, but also to maintain her fondness for me.

Do you know where my sister Luise is? — I have a letter from her from Montpellier. Wiedemann, who had not yet recovered from a serious illness when he had to move to Kiel, was unable to tolerate the air there and suddenly decided to spend the winter instead in southern France. [15] Although Luise went along with him, the trip has been rendered rather bitter for her by the separation from her children; she left Emma with friends in Kiel, and little Minna in Braunschweig with her grandmother. [16]

The uncertainty concerning my own circumstances during the period when |420| this hasty decision was actually carried out, the French having just advanced into Franconia, prevented her from bringing Emma to me, which I daily regret.

There is a colonie of Germans in Rome now, the three Tiek siblings, including, to wit, Madam Bernhardi with 2 children, along with all sorts of fawning entourage members. [17]

I entreat you, please send me news about everything and everyone soon; your good grandfather is still alive, I recently made inquiries in that regard. What is your aunt doing, [18] and Minchen, and the court, and the town, and the tea societies?

Schelling sends you his regards; he is quite merry and yet uncommonly steady, strict, serious, and gentle, imperturbable, and more dignified than I can express. This is truly no joke, my dear Julchen, and all joking aside, it is nonetheless truly true that among all foreigners here [19] no one has earned more respect and love than our splendid friend. Stay well.


[*] Deutschland . . . entworfen und bearbeitet von E. von Sydow und Herm. Berghaus (Gotha 1853):



[1] Teasingly figurative reference; Pauline Gotter was almost nineteen years old at the time. Back.

[2] I.e., a letter; Caroline seems last to have written Pauline in August 1805 (letter 395). Back.

[2a] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Wie er mich würde geliebt haben [1786]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.709):



[3] See sections 15, 16, and 17 of the supplementary appendix on the military activities associated with the Third Coalition between August and December 1805. Back.

[4] The reference is to the departure of Prince Elector Maximilian from Würzburg back to Munich, whence he and his “court . . . ministers, and . . . privy councilors” had fled to Würzburg back in early September 1805 before the advancing Austrian army (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


See supplementary appendix 396.1 and the Kurpfalzbaierische Staats-Zeitung von München (1805) cclv (Tuesday, 29 October 1805), 1035:

Munich, 29 October. At 2:00 yesterday afternoon, His Majesty Emperor Napoleon departed here for the Haag in Bavaria [directly east of Munich]. An hour later the entire imperial rear guard followed.

This afternoon our Most Eminent Prince Elector arrived back here accompanied by his minister of state, Baron von Montgelas, amid the indescribable joy of his entire people. Back.

[5] When Maximilian and his court arrived in Würzburg back in early September, they requisitioned various buildings and even residences for their stay; see the pertinent section in the supplementary appendix on the Schellings’s residence in Würzburg. Back.

[6] The auditorium in which Schelling lectured was located on the second story of the building, the Schellings’ apartment on the two floors above it. Karl Philipp Kayser wrote in 1804 that (see the supplementary appendix on Schelling at the lectern and in society):

Schelling always enters with a bit of ceremonious solemnity; even though he lives but a single story higher, he always brings his large hat along into the auditorium, which he then places on the chair on the lectern.

According to Schelling’s letter to Carl Joseph Windischmann on 8 October 1805 (Plitt 2:76), the two men had been quartering in his auditorium since 7 October; that is, these men resided there during approximately 7–28 October 1805 (Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1808: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet):



[7] The French army had occupied Vienna without resistance on 13 November 1805, then moved on toward what would be the decisive battle of Austerlitz; see section 16 in the supplementary appendix on the military developments associated with the Third Coalition during November and early December 1805. Caroline could not know that this decisive battle, arguably one of Napoleon’s greatest victories, was to take place the following day. Back.

[8] See The Encyclopedia Americana, 16 vols. (New York 1904–5), vol. 15, s.v. “Thirty Years War” (illustration: anonymous):

Thirty Years’ War, so called because it lasted from 1618 to 1648, was at first a struggle, between Protestants and Roman Catholics, north Germany supporting the former, and southern Germany, with Austria at its head, the latter cause. It gave the Swedes an opportunity to extend their dominion south of the Baltic, it reduced the resources and weakened the power of Austria, and it gained for the northern states of Germany the breathing space needed to develop independent existence.

Few wars, however, have been more calamitous in their general effect on the mass of the people, and the happiness and progress of mankind.


Apart from the horrors which attended the capture of Magdeburg, and other barbarous scenes of the struggle, it reduced the peasantry and most of the townspeople to abject misery; it may be said to have effaced for a time literature and art in Germany, and it magnified the system of petty principalities, since partly effaced as a result of the Napoleonic wars, but still a powerful obstacle in the way of complete German progress.

The “horrors that attended the capture of Magdeburg,” doubtless echoing in Caroline’s reference, quickly became proverbial for some of the worst atrocities associated with the erratic, unchecked rage of soldiers after the fall of a town, so much so that a brief account of that siege and its aftermath helps illuminate the anxiety associated with the pell-mell geopolitical movements in Germany and Austria at the time Caroline is writing. See supplementary appendix 399.1. Back.

[8a] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, excerpt from a sheet of position studies (1779); Rijksmuseum):



[9] Uncertain allusion, though presumably to Schelling himself, who had not had a particularly good experience with Munich administrators over the past year but whom he likely saw during Maximilian’s stay in Würzburg; Maximilian himself was not particularly well-disposed toward Schelling. Back.

[10] I.e., return to Munich. Back.

[11] Concerning Prussia’s involvement in military developments during this period, see the supplementary appendix on the Third Coalition and the Treaty of Pressburg, esp. sections 13 and following. A missive from Erlangen dated 22 November 1805 published in the Staats- und gelehrte Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyischen Correspondenten (1805) 191 (Friday, 29 November 1805) reads:

The Prussian army, marching together with the Saxons and Hessians, is moving steadily toward the west and in part also toward the south, that is, toward Franconia. These Prussians marching toward Franconia were already expected a few days ago in Altenburg.

Gotha, situated between Eisenach and Erfurt, lay directly along the path between Berlin (and Prussia in general) and Würzburg (Central Europe 1803 after the Peace of Lunéville 1801 and the Secularisations 1803 [Cambridge 1912]):


Concerning General Augereau, see C. H. Gifford, History of the Wars Occasioned by the French Revolution from the Commencement of Hostilities in 1792 to the End of the Year 1816, 2 vols. (London 1817), 1:463, picking up after the surrender of General Mack at Ulm on 17 October 1805 (see section 8 in the supplementary appendix on the Third Coalition):

Bonaparte having ordered the states belonging to the house of Austria, in Suabia, to be taken possession of, directed the march of the Austrian prisoners for France, and the demolition of the fortifications of Ulm and Memmingen, and set out with his army, with the exception of the corps under the command of Marshal Ney, which, by stipulation, was not to leave the vicinity of Ulm until after the 25th [of October], at midnight, on the 21st for Augsburg, on his route to Bavaria. He ordered têtes de pont [Fr., “bridgeheads”] to be constructed on the bridges over the Lech, and magazines to be established beyond them.

[William R. Shepherd, “Germany and Italy in 1803,” Historical Atlas (New York 1923):]


On the evening of the 24th, he reached Munich, where he was received with great honors. He was joined here by Murat, who had left a division of the troops, with whom he had pursued the Archduke Ferdinand, under the command of Mortier and Beraguay d’Hilliers, on the other side of the Danube, to descend that river, and to observe the movements of the Austrians in Bohemia.

The Elector of Bavaria not having returned to his capital, Bonaparte dispatched an aid-de-camp to offer him escorts on the road; and receiving intelligence of the opening of the campaign in Italy, the former prepared to rejoin the army, now in full march for the Inn [River; see map above].

The disposition of the French army was thus arranged: Bonaparte, at the head of the main body, advanced towards Vienna, and had in his front a corps of Austrians, which had been reinforced, shortly before, by the first column of the Russian army. Their combined force did not exceed 45,000 men. To protect his flanks and rear, Bonaparte caused the division under Mortier, which was on the left shore of the Danube, to watch the motions of the Austrians in Bohemia, under the Archduke Ferdinand: thus he had nothing to apprehend on his left.

His right was protected by Marshal Ney, who mounted the Lech to the confines of the Tyrol, and opposed the corps stationed in that country under the Archduke John. In addition to these corps, the division of Marshal Augereau, which had subsequently passed the Rhine, occupied the parts of Suabia contiguous to the lake of Constance, so as to prevent any attempt which might be made on the rear of the French army, from the Voralberg [in Austria, at the southernmost end of Lake Constance], and, perhaps, to make head against any Prussian corps which might, since the violation of the territory of Anspach and Bareuth [Prussian territories], cross the Danube with a similar intention.

Illustration: “Passage du Rhin,” 25 September 1805, from M. A. Thiers, Collection de 350 gravures dessins de Philippoteaux, etc. pour l’histoire du consulat et de l’empire, vol. 2 (Paris 1870); map: Central Europe Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7 (Cambridge 1923):




[12] Gutergroschen or pl. Gutegroschen, 1/24 of a Reichsthaler. Back.

[13] Fr., “malicious, spiteful; fig.: mischievous, roguish.” Back.

[14] Matthew 6:28 (NRSV): “And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin” (Meister Enderle, Das Gleichnis vom Schätzesammeln (Matth. 6) [1671]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. B: 217.2):



[15] Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann had been ill when the family moved to Kiel from Braunschweig in mid-summer 1805 (Thomas Kitchin, Map of Germany [ca. 1780]):


See Luise Wiedemann’s letter to Caroline on 4 September 1805 (letter 396), note 11. Concerning the trip, see Luise’s regrettably brief account of the trip to France in her memoirs. She and Wiedemann seem to have remained in France a year, not returning until sometime in 1806 (France in 1791, from William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection; University of Texas Libraries):


Regrettably as well, her correspondence with Caroline during this period seems similarly no longer to be extant; in her letter to Luise from Würzburg on 26 April 1802 (letter 402), Caroline mentions having received a letter from Hières. Back.

[16] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Als Gros Mutter von ihren Enkeln geliebkost (1777); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung (3-153):



[17] Besides Sophie Bernhardi, née Tieck, also Ludwig and Friedrich Tieck and Sophie’s children Wilhelm and Felix Theodor Bernhardi (William Shepherd, Germany and Italy in 1803, Historical Atlas [New York 1926]):


See Dorothea Schlegel’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 13 January 1805 (letter 389a), note 17. Sophie Bernhardi was in flight before her husband, August Ferdinand Bernhardi, who was pursuing her with a court order concerning the children. This situation creates a considerable uproar later in Munich when Bernhardi, too, arrives (Berlinischer Damen Kalender auf das Jahr 1803; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[18] Uncertain reference. Back.

[19] I.e., non-natives of Würzburg and Bavaria. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott