Letter 410

• 410. Caroline to Schelling in Munich: Würzburg, 12 May 1806

[Würzburg] Monday, 12 May [1806]

|458| Here amid thousands of problems and matters of business that need attention, my most precious friend, I merely want to write a few words to give you a bit of news and myself a bit of consolation, since I am almost overwhelmed now by yearning and impatience. I can no longer sleep, and the unnatural circumstances amid which I have had to live up to this point are crashing down on me such that they utterly constrict my soul. So I must take extreme measures to spare myself, which unfortunately merely adds to the arduous list of things I have to do.

But things will soon improve, since this very morning all the coachmen in town were here vying for the chance to spirit me away. I was constantly tempted to hire the one asking the highest fare because the only thing I could think of was how much I would give could I but be there with you soon — |459| but do you know that the lowest bidder from here to Munich by the most direct route wanted 7 Carolin? You mention 5, so I must assume it was cheaper for you to piece the trip together by stages. [Calculations.] [1]

You see that I cannot yet say anything definite today. But you can indeed depend on me; I will make definite arrangements, and then at the very latest on the 20th, which is presumably the day I will be departing here, you will learn the exact, final plans concerning whether and how and where and when you are to pick me up. I will in any event spend only a single night in Ansbach. [2] [Errands.]

Someone allegedly read somewhere that you would be traveling to Rome with Alexander Humbold. [3]

This morning someone also came by and requested a quill from the archangel Gabriel, or even from the Holy Spirit, since the latter did, after all, dictate the holy scriptures, and one can choose which of the two had the most beautiful and best quills. [4] Although Gabriel’s were doubtless quite colorful, those of the Holy Spirit provided better shadow. It would be ill indeed were this transaction to be carried out without irony; although I, good, gentle, loving wife that I am, promised the quill, a certain other, diminutive, malicious person will be the one to trim it. It was Sorg who wanted one of your quills. [5]


Well, such a delight! — yesterday your letter said I would be receiving no more letters, and yet, behold! today another arrives after all! [6]

You must believe, my dear, that I am not getting anxious about the delay in having any fixed plans even though such delays might indeed make the fleeting goodwill of these people dissipate quickly enough [7] — |460| it has had the least influence on hastening my departure, which I have already sufficiently hastened amid the 100 thousand little things that have had to be arranged and taken care of.

Frank just brought me news of a coachman who will do the trip for 5 1/2 Carolin; a maidservant would also like to apply. [8]

Here, too, there is war and inflated prices and particularly evil rumors. For nothing is more certain than that the beautiful princess is already back in Munich because she could not endure it any longer with Eugène, [9] and the Düsseldorf gallery, by contrast, is leaving Munich, indeed is already packed up. [10] In Ansbach they are thinking that the French will never again depart. [11]

Adieu, my inexpressibly precious heart, I must send this off.


[1] Concerning negotiations with coachmen in Würzburg, see Carl Gottfried Scharold, Würzburg und die umliegende Gegend, für Fremde und Einheimische kurz beschrieben (Würzburg 1805), 131–32; the distinction between carriage and chaise seems not entirely clear, but see links below (illustrations in order: Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Ein polnischer Pferdestall,” Von Berlin nach Danzig: Eine Künstlerfahrt im Jahre 1773, von Daniel Chodowiecki. 108 Lichtdrucke nach den Originalen in der Staatl. Akademie der Künste in Berlin, mit erläuterndem Text und einer Einführung von Wolfgang von Oettingen [Leipzig 1923], no. 31; Chodowiecki, Heyrath aus Hochmuth [1788]; Der Kutscher [1782]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.767; AB 3.435):

Coachmen for hire. Their present number is now 25, and altogether they own seventy horses, though only a few riding horses, and then fifty town and country chaises.


This striking discrepancy between carriages and horses along with the small number of coachmen for hire attests their insufficiency in serving the public here. In addition to these coachmen for hire, there are also several persons whose chaises can similarly be hired out, namely:

4 innkeepers with 17 chaises and 22 horses
6 carters with 12 chaises and 20 horses
12 other citizens with 14 chaises and 24 horses
along with 6 riding horses

Among these one finds quite modern and nicely built, tastefully lacquered carriages.


Because no fixed fee is currently set for portage, passengers must always negotiate with the coachmen beforehand to avoid being wholly subject to their arbitrary decisions.


Engaging a carriage for visitations in town for half a day, including the gratuity for the postilion, will cost 1 fl. 30 kr.

A trip to the theater, casino, and balls costs 24 kr. per person, and the same for the trip home.

A day trip to the surrounding area, along with food for the coachman and the horses, costs 3 fl. portage and 48 kr. gratuity.

Although the carriage in the following illustration dates to a later (1838) period, the negotiation scene rings true to the account above (Samuel Sidney, The Book of the Horse, new ed. [London 1893], 524):



[2] Caroline seems indeed to have departed Würzburg on 20 May 1806, possibly on 22 May, with Schelling then picking her up in Dachau just northwest of Munich; Schelling had earlier traveled to Munich by way of Eichstädt (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern [Vienna 1805]):


(A. von Coulon, Post-Karte von Baiern [Munich 1810]; Bibliothèque nationale de France):


See earlier Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 4–5 May 1806 (letter 407), note 2. The overnight stay in Ansbach was with Meta and Johann Heinrich Liebeskind, with whom Schelling had similarly stayed when he departed Würzburg for Munich back in April. Back.

[3] Concerning Alexander von Humboldt’s situation as reflected in this correspondence, see Dorothea Schlegel’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 13 January 1805 (letter 389a), note 3.

Humboldt, who had already visited his brother, Wilhelm von Humboldt, in Rome in 1805, moved to Berlin in November 1805, where he received a handsome stipend for his research. He was in Berlin when the French came through and occupied the city following their successes in Jena and Auerstedt in October 1806, but then moved to Paris in November 1807 as advisor to the (ultimately unsuccessful) Prussian delegation that was to act on behalf of Prussian interests after this defeat, though he himself remained in Paris. Back.

[4] Apparently a private reference between Caroline and Schelling.

Schelling is presumably the “Holy Spirit” (see Caroline’s letter to him on 4–5 May 1806 [letter 407], which she concludes with the wish, “I must celebrate Pentecost with you, O you my Holy and Most Holy Spirit”) and Caroline the “archangel Gabriel,” who acts as messenger or agent for the “Holy Spirit.”

The archangel Gabriel appears notably in the story of the annunciation of Mary, Luke 1:26–38, here 35 (NRSV): “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Raphael Sadeler, Die Verkündigung [ca. 1580–1632]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 2418.4):


“Gabriele” was incidentally the name Caroline had chosen for herself in her earlier autobiographical draft of a novel. She had in any case acted as scribe, copyist, or secretary for Schelling in Würzburg in copying out his work. See, e.g., her letter to Carl Joseph Windischmann on 31 October 1805 (letter 398). Back.

[5] Is the “certain other, diminutive, malicious person” Franz Lothar Sorg’s wife? Back.

[6] Not extant. Back.

[7] Presumably a reference to the coach drivers. Back.

[8] Frank, apparently the Schellings’ manservant, is also mentioned in Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 30 April–1 May 1806 (letter 405). Caroline mentions Schelling’s attempts to secure a maidservant in Munich in her letter to him on 4–5 May 1806 (letter 407). Back.

[9] Concerning the background to this episode, see Caroline’s letter to Beate Gross in January 1806 (letter 400a) and supplementary appendix 400a.1.

Caroline’s reference to Princess Augusta’s return to Munich is making intentional, light fun of such “particularly evil rumors.” It may be pointed out, however, that Augusta’s former fiancé, Karl Ludwig Friedrich von Baden, whom she had preferred, had married Stéphanie de Beauharnais (1789–1860) on 8 April 1806 in Paris, second cousin of Eugène de Beauharnais, who in his own turn had become Napoleon’s stepson after the latter married Josephine de Beauharnais in 1796.

Princess Augusta and Eugéne resided at the Munich court after Napoleon’s fall, where Eugène died in 1824. Augusta did, however, seem to have kept her distance from Napoleon and indeed also from Napoleon’s family and court on the rare occasions when she was in Paris, thinking at least some of them to be rather crude. Back.

[10] Yet another jesting remark concerning the “particularly evil rumors,” though the rumors themselves may well have derived from news reports regarding the gallery. See supplementary appendix 408.1 concerning the transfer of the Düsseldorf art gallery to Munich in January 1806, and Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 30 April 1806 (letter 405), note 24, concerning the circumstances behind Wilhelm of Bavaria’s precipitate departure from Düsseldorf.

On 15 March 1806, an imperial proclamation from Paris arrived in Düsseldorf granting the duchies of Cleves and Berg to Joachim Murat, whereupon Wilhelm of Bavaria had to vacate the duchy on 20 March 1806. Murat entered Düsseldorf on 28 March 1806.

On 28 May 1806, the estates commission had indeed submitted a reclamation petition concerning the gallery that had been spirited to Munich, though without any response from Murat. When he did finally respond, it seems the real reason for not pursuing the matter any further was the political relationship between France and Bavaria.

Caroline is likely referring to rumors associated with this reclamation petition, e.g., the early “Missive from Munich, 2 May [1806],” Staats- und gelehrte Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyischen Correspondenten (1806) no. 76 (Tuesday, 13 May 1806):

The claim that the new government in Düsseldorf was expected to make on the Düsseldorf art collection, a collection that, as is well known arrived here a few months ago, has indeed arrived, and a missive demanding its return has already been received at the royal court. The success of this demand is all the more the subject of curiosity insofar as even the least generous estimate of the value of this object (in and of itself of inestimable worth) runs into several millions. Back.

[11] One consequence of the marriage between Eugène and Augusta of Bavaria was the exchange of the duchy of Berg, which Bavaria ceded to Napoleon, for Ansbach, which Prussia had ceded to France in exchange for Hannover, Prussia being rewarded for having remained neutral during the events associated with the Third Coalition and the Treaty of Pressburg, August–December 1805, though it also had to cede Neufchâtel (Germany and Italy in 1806, from William Shepherd, Historical Atlas [New York 1926]):


Friedrich Karl von Thürheim had been dispatched to Ansbach in connection with this exchange as indicated in the cross reference to above to Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 30 April 1806 (letter 405), note 24.

Napoleon’s decision to restore Hanover to Britain later in the summer prompted Friedrich Wilhelm III to consider yielding to factions in Berlin that opposed Prussian neutrality toward France. Although he did not mobilize his army in August 1806 as planned, and although Napoleon became persuaded that he had nothing to fear from Prussia in any case and had even ordered troop movements across the Rhine River halted, by early September 1806 new Prussian troop movements toward the south (and Ansbach) caused him concern.

Friedrich Wilhelm III’s demand on 1 October 1806 that France withdraw all its troops from Germany, which Napoleon received on 7 October, was a major factor prompting Napoleon’s military moves against Prussia (Jena and Auerstedt) that were to prove so disastrous for Prussia. Caroline’s references to Ansbach and to “war and inflated prices and particularly evil rumors” are presumably associated with news and rumors concerning these developments during the spring of 1806. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott