Letter 418

• 418. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Munich, 28 November 1806

Munich, 28 November [1806]

|476| I have of late been more distressed than I can express, or indeed am even inclined to repeat, by the fate of those peaceful regions where you, too, my dear friend, live with your family, and where I myself lived for so long and know every inch of every path and lane, regions now marked by suffering and by blood spilled in vain. [1] In the midst of the seeming tranquility that we enjoy here, the situation of the world truly has allowed us not a single moment of real tranquility. [2]

But it was thus, and doubtless had to be thus, and that which can no longer endure must perish [3] — but I think of all the unhappy, devastated people, some of whom will never again attain what they have had to forfeit amid all this! —

Although I do know in a general sense how things stand in Gotha and that you were spared the kinds of scenes that occurred in Jena and Weimar, I nonetheless entreat you and urgently ask in the name of our old friendship that you quickly send me more specific news concerning your own circumstances and those of people dear to you. —

Everyone closer to me has more or less been caught up in this cataclysm. My eldest brother is also affected in a way that is causing me considerable worry. [4] If you know anything about him, please relate it to me; if you know nothing yet, try to find out as soon as possible. [5]

My youngest brother is also in the conquered territory [6] — although my mother and sister seemed to escape the tragic end of Braunschweig by having departed for Kiel a short time before, now, even there, at this most distant locale, they are by no means secure from the advancing war; [7] Blücher fought his way to between Kiel and Lübeck; Kiel is filled with refugees. [8]

Our own fate has spared us such scenes of war until now — we have seen neither the victor nor the vanquished. |477| Of course, all of us are the vanquished. —

I am living here in the capital according to my usual, quiet manner, quite as if I were living in the country. We have a logis where the façe of the houses looks out onto an open area just outside the city, and I can see the Tyrolean Alps from my window. [9]

My husband is quite serene, quite healthy, and is as well placed in his job as he could possibly wish. As a member of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities, his time is completely his own, and he has a salary that protects him from worry. [10] I have set up my household to take care of only the bare necessities, thinking now that I never really want to settle anywhere again, and acknowledging quite literally otherwise as well that we are, indeed, only pilgrims. [11]

Although Iffland has put in an application with our king, I do not yet know for certain whether he has been accepted. [12]

What are your daughters up to? Are they also caring for the sick and wounded? [13] Your town has always excelled at being helpful in the past and is being extolled thus now as well. What I fear most for all of you there is the inflation, which at times may well have resulted in privation. Please send me news soon and remember me as someone who never ceases to think of you in her heart.

C. S.


[1] Caroline is referring broadly to the battles of Jena and Auerstedt and their aftermath as she has learned of it; those encounters and their preliminary developments also involved Gotha strategically. Caroline, of course, had lived in both Gotha and Jena in Upper Saxony.

Concerning Gotha’s position within the overall French advance before and after the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, see the section 8 of the supplementary appendix on those battles.

Concerning the experiences of the town and territory specifically, which were not the setting for a major battle during the campaign but which were promptly occupied by the French (e.g., the secondary school in Gotha, the Gymnasium, was used to house Prussian prisoners of war), see Wilderich Weick, Das herzogliche Haus Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha: Seine Geschichte und gegenwärtige Stellung in Europa (Karlsruhe 1842), 241–46 (map: J. Walch, Neueste Post-Karte von Deutschland und dessen angrenzenden Laendern [Augsburg 1813 ]):


New, harsh circumstances were in the meantime caused by Prussia’s participation in the war between Austria and France in 1805, and then also by the outbreak of war between Prussia and France in 1806. The countless consignments for the Prussian army stationed in Thuringia required enormous sacrifices from the territory, and when during the autumn of 1806 two French army corps advanced against the Prussians, passing through Coburg territory under the command of marshals Lannes and Augereau on 7, 8, and 9 October, these enemies coerced the people to take care of all sorts of needs for the troops.

After the battle of Jena, the territories of Coburg were, moreover, declared to be conquered territories on which the unprecedented cash monetary tribute of 981,170 francs was imposed, after which the entire Coburg-Saalfeld territory ended up paying 220,000 francs.

In the middle of these unfortunate events, Herzog Franz died on 9 December 1806 at the age of 56, and a few days later, on 15 December 1806, what is known as the Treaty of Posen was concluded, as a consequence of which the dukes of the Ernestine line line joined the Confederation of the Rhine along with Coburg-Saalfeld.

At the death of Duke Franz, his eldest son and successor, Duke Ernst Anton Karl Ludwig, was still serving in the Prussian army, where, loyal to the German cause, he had taken a position. Because his father had not signed the declaration for joining the Confederation of the Rhine before his death, Napoleon refused to recognize the accession of the house of Coburg and took control of the territory on 27 January 1807 through his commandant Parizot, then governing the territory through French agents until the Treaty of Tilsit on 9 July 1807.

Concerning the fate of Caroline’s acquaintances in Jena, see the account of Franz Joseph Schelver in Goethe’s letter to Schelling on 31 October 1806 (letter 417h), note 3.

Concerning her other Jena acquaintances, see her letter to Luise Wiedemann on 30 November 1806 (letter 419) with its cross references, also the supplementary appendix on the experiences of the Frommann family. Concerning the experiences of Weimar, and of Goethe and Charlotte Schiller there, see supplementary appendix 417g.1 (Taschenbuch für Geschichte und Unterhaltung auf das Jahr 1802; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[2] Munich, the capital of the new (1806) kingdom Bavaria, the latter an ally of France and indeed a contributor of forces to the French campaign, was not a scene of any of the military action during this campaign, and was essentially on the victorious side. Back.

[3] An intriguing but not entirely clear reference. Is she referring to Prussia? To the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which had ceased to exist when on 4 August 1806 Franz II laid down the imperial crown? To the geopolitical changes in Germany associated with the Treaty of Pressburg? She in any case remarks in her letter to Luise Wiedemann on 30 November (letter 419) that “truly, there is certainly no love lost regarding any of the regents who are now coming to ruin. Any country can easily enough come up with the very same sort again.” Back.

[4] Caroline’s concerns were well founded. Marburg, where Fritz Michaelis taught medicine, was now part of the territory of Hesse-Kassel, which had made the mistake of claiming neutrality during the recent French military campaigns while in reality keeping its options open with Prussia, the latter of which had just been so thoroughly defeated and routed (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


The course of events in this territory is described in Francis Loraine Petre, Napoleon’s Conquest of Prussia 1806 (London 1907), 294–99; see the supplementary appendix on Hesse-Cassel during the autumn of 1806. Back.

[5] Luise Gotter and her daughters seem to have become acquainted with Fritz Michaelis in Marburg during their stay in Kassel. See Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter in August 1805 (letter 395), also with note 12 there. Back.

[6] After taking possession of Hesse-Kassel, the French continued on to the nominally neutral city of Hamburg, occupying it on 19 November 1806 with 6000 troops, albeit utterly without resistance, the city being anxious to maintain its neutrality. The French were particularly interested in English commercial interests in the city and exacted a considerable payment from it for the English goods in city warehouses.

Caroline’s younger brother, Gottfried Philipp Michaelis, lived across the Elbe River in Harburg (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


These developments meant that two out of three of her surviving siblings were now living in French-occupied territory. Kiel, where Luise lived, was part of Denmark, though that country, too, was eventually drawn into the conflict (see below). Back.

[7] The Duke of Braunschweig, who lost sight in both eyes after being wounded in the battle of Auerstedt, had reached Braunschweig on 20 October 1806 and asked Napoleon to spare his neutral territory and to allow him to die there in peace (illustration by Richard Knötel):


Napoleon refused, so the duke departed Braunschweig on 25 October and finally reached Altona, just outside Hamburg and in Danish territory, where he died on 10 November 1806. His body was not returned to Braunschweig until 1819 rather than immediately, as Caroline notes in her letter to Luise Wiedemann on 30 November 1806 (letter 419). Braunschweig itself became (Treaty of Tilsit, 1807) part of the newly created Kingdom of Westphalia.

Luise and Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann had moved to Kiel back during the summer of 1805. See her letter to Caroline on 4 September 1805 (letter 396).

Kiel is located ca. 870 km from Munich. Never previously, not even in Würzburg, had Caroline lived so far from other family members (“Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas [Cambridge 1912]):


As reflected on this map, after the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation on 6 August 1806, both Kiel and Holstein became parts of Denmark and remained so for another nine years. Kiel was, however, affected by the ongoing geopolitical developments in connection with the Napoleonic wars. Back.

[8] The Prussian army, which had scattered and fled in disarray after the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, had reassembled in part under generals Blücher and Hohenlohe and was being pursued by the French from Jena and Auerstedt northward, where the Prussian army was hoping to regroup and, not least, await the arrival of Russian troops.

Concerning not only the complicated pursuit and the fate of these two generals, but also the reason for so many refugees in Kiel, see the supplementary appendix on the flight of generals Blücher and Hohenlohe. Back.

[9] Logis, Fr., “house, dwelling, lodging, accommodations.” Façe, in French in original.

Concerning Caroline’s residence, see the supplementary appendix on Karlsthor 7 (Johann Michael Schramm, Grundriss der Churbaierischen Haupt- und Residenzstadt München [München 1803]):


Caroline’s windows faced south and southwest; Brigitte Rossbeck, Zum Trotz glücklich: Caroline Schlegel-Schelling und die romantische Lebenskunst (Munich 2008), 329fn4, points out that “what she actually saw in front of the Tyrolean Alps was first the Bavarian Alps in the form of the [from left to right facing south] Karwendel-, Wetterstein-, and Zugspitz-massif” (ca. 120 km; “Karte von Oberbayern,” R. S. Francé, München: Die Lebensgesetze einer Stadt [Munich 1920], frontispiece):


Here with the topography indicated, along with Schliersee (Lake Schlier), which Caroline and Schelling visit during August 1808 (Wandkarte der Alpen… unter der Leitung des Vinzeux von Haardt [Vienna 1882]; Bibliothèque nationale de France; département Cartes et plans; Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



Here in a contemporary illustration looking approximately in the same direction as that of Caroline’s windows, i.e., with essentially the view she herself had to the south and southwest, to the left in the illustration ([Johann Michael von] Söltl, München mit seinen Umgebungen historisch, topographisch, statistisch, 2nd ed. [Munich 1838], frontispiece):



[10] See Schelling’s letter to Carl Joseph Windischmann on 1 August 1806 (letter 417) concerning his current professional and financial status. The latter was not yet entirely what he and Caroline had anticipated, since although he was still drawing his Würzburg salary, he had in the meantime lost the supplemental income he had enjoyed there from private lecture fees.

Things improved in this regard in 1808 with his appointment to a position in the Munich Academy of Fine Arts; see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 6 June 1808 (letter 433), also Xavier Tilliette, Schelling: Biographie (Paris 1999), 159. Back.

[11] Caroline and Schelling moved another three times inside Munich. Back.

[12] Berlin had just been occupied by the French (see section 12 in the supplementnary appendix on the battles of Jena and Auerstedt). Iffland’s petition to relocate to Munich, however, was roundly rejected (see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter and her children on 4 January 1807 [letter 420]), and he remained in Berlin, where in addition to performing he also published a new periodical, Almanach fürs Theater (1807–9; 1811; 1812) and in 1811 was appointed general director of the theater, music ensembles, and ballet.

Here Iffland as King Lear and as Privy Councillor Mantel in his own composition Die Hausfreunde (Vienna 1808) (Karl Mantzius, The Great Actors of the Eighteenth Century, vol. 5 of A History of Theatrical Art in Ancient and Modern Times, trans. Louise von Cossel [London 1909], plates following p. 208):



[13] I.e., from the battles of Jena and Auerstedt. Here the wounded and remnants of the French army after Napoleon’s Russian campaign in 1812 (“Les débris de la grande armée à Kœnigsberg,” 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], vol. 2, no. 248):



Translation © 2018 Doug Stott