Letter 423

• 423. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Munich, 10 July 1807

Munich, 10 July [18]07

This time I would have answered you earlier [1] had a lengthy indisposition not occupied me in so ill a fashion, namely, a stubborn throat inflammation that I initially neglected a bit and then had to address all the more carefully. [2] Herr Schlichtegroll almost came upon me still in bed, and it was only with considerable and laborious effort that I was able to inquire about my Gotha friends. [3]

Fortunately he is so accommodating that he also related much to me without my even having to ask, and in so doing did indeed confirm in the most persuasive manner possible all the things the mother has extolled in her daughters. Once more, however, it pains me that the distance between us is so considerable, otherwise you would certainly have to allow me one of your daughters from time to time; the rich, after all, should |499| help the poor. [4]

I could perhaps muster up the courage to come up with some rather grand and serious propositions in that regard were I myself not always on a journey insofar as precisely everything we do now is focused on a journey. [5] General circumstances along with the delays affecting the implementation of so many arrangements that have already long been made are also keeping us from carrying out ours. [6] The Academy of Sciences and Humanities has not even been opened yet, as whose general secretary Schlichtegroll has been appointed.

The Academy of Arts is waiting for the opening of the Academy of Sciences and the Humanities before it itself opens, [7] and a large number of crated antiquities and casts are waiting to be resurrected to the light. Although we do indeed possess an immeasurable wealth of such objects, nothing has been organized or arranged for viewing yet. [8]

The imminent peace treaty will doubtless again occasion many changes, though neither you nor we are really expecting any change of regent and can thus watch things unfold with a bit more equanimity. [9]

It is, of course, an unexpected enough surprise that I am socializing here with the granddaughters of our unforgettable Mother Schläger, and that even the husbands, as little as they do have in common, belong to the same corps. [10] Apart from the strangeness, however, not much there is of interest to me even though Madam Wiebeking is an extremely good and dear woman and even though I am quite fond of both her and her daughters. [Sister Schlichtegroll.]

In the meantime, the husband is indeed smoothing the way; he is so engaging, all kindness and graciousness. If I remember correctly, all of you there always thought that Schlichtegroll had an extremely loose, quiet, catlike gait, and always kept his own advantage constantly in both mind and heart . . .

I must confess he does indeed seem a bit catlike to me, but of the good-natured sort that wants only the best for itself while not seeking ill for others. He is quite fat and round, and by |500| no means as black as Madam Ketter’s cat, of which I was always so afraid. [11] [Concerning acquaintances. Illness among the Wiedemanns.] [12]

Moreover my sister is pregnant and still has our mother around her with her bad nerves and melancholic disposition. [13] As you see, there, too, is misery enough to make my heart bleed daily. That which spares me nearby grieves me from a distance. And even closer, in my innermost soul, my longing for what has been lost draws me ever more forcefully toward it in some wondrous fashion, unprompted by anything external. But about that I cannot speak. [14]

A young man recently came through here from Rome who was able to tell us much about what things are like there. He finally also got around to telling us how he once traveled with the Gotters from Gotha to Weimar. Perhaps you will immediately recall that his name is Schwarz and that he is so tall that he cannot be measured even with cubits. And yet he is more good even than tall. [15] The Germans and other artists in Rome, including the ladies Humbold and Bernhardi, have allegedly been carrying on an impenetrable tangle of intrigue, folly, and commotion amongst themselves. [16]

A pagan and a Christian party exist there, since the ladies have taken various sides. The one, Frau von Humbold, has, as it were, declared herself for Venus, and the other for the Madonna. [17] In the meantime, the beauty of the one and the purity of disposition of the other are apparently balancing each other out. The Riepenhausen brothers have, despite their considerable piety, proven to be the worst sort of mischievous and villainous good-for-nothings. [18]

Schwarz related all sorts of particulars to us about this entire scene. Madam Bernhardi, whom Schwarz assisted in every possible way, had in the end fallen into extreme distress because of debts and had even had to deal with the sbirri. [19] Baron Knorring is now back in |501| Rome again. [20] Schwarz has in the meantime returned to his own fatherland. [21]

I imagine that as a result of your stay in Cassel all of you know some of the artists who are currently staying in Rome, for example, the Riepenhausens. [22] The piety and saintliness of that entire community is nothing but mere form and mannerism. In the best of them, e.g., Ludwig Tiek, it is to be taken only poetically, and in the worst merely as the candying of an empty nut.

[Errands.] Stay well, all of you, and let me hear from you soon. Schelling sends his warmest regards.

C. S.


[1] Caroline seems to have received at least one (lost) letter from Luise Gotter or her daughters since having written them herself back on 4 January 1807 (letter 420). Back.

[2] Although it is impossible, of course, to determine exactly what ailment Caroline was here suffering, “throat inflammation” was at the time an ailment regularly covered in medical publications. Although her former physician in Jena Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland later published extensively on the condition, his publication dates to a much later period (1836) and was translated into English even later (1842) (Enchiridion medicum: or Manual of the Practice of Medicine, translated from the 6th German ed. by Caspar Bruchhausen [New York 1842]).

See therefore the supplementary appendix on the understanding of inflammation of the throat ca. 1807 of the English physician William Buchan, Buchan’s Domestic Medicine modernized; or a Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines (London 1807), 170–74. Back.

[3] Schlichtegroll, who had previously lived in Gotha, had just accepted an appointment as general secretary of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, so was living in Munich (Thomas Kitchin, Germany [n.p., n.d.]):


Caroline mentions Schlichtegroll’s sister-in-law, Charlotte von Wiebeking, and her daughters in her letter to Luise on 4 January 1807 (letter 420); see note 43 there. Back.

[4] A poignant remark Luise Gotter well understood. It may be recalled that Caroline had lost all four of her children: Johann Franz Wilhelm Böhmer, Therese (Röschen) Böhmer, Wilhelm Julius Kranz (Böhmer), and Auguste, and that Julie Gotter had stayed with her in Jena from September 1801 till early March 1802 (frontispiece to Cytherens Kunstkabinet oder Toiletten-Hand-und Kunstbuch aus eigenen Erfahrungen für ihre Freundinnen bearbeitet [Nürnberg 1804]):



[5] I.e., the long-anticipated journey to Italy, whose plans and problems extend back to 1803; see Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 22 April 1803 (letter 377b), note 1 (Germany and Italy in 1803 after the Principal Decree of the Imperial Deputation, Historical Atlas, 2nd ed. [New York 1921], 151):


Caroline had, moreover, been reading travelogues on Italy by Germans such as Friedrich Leopold von Stolberg, Reise in Deutschland, der Schweiz, Italien und Sizilien in den Jahren 1791 und 1792, 4 vols. + supplementary volume of engravings (Königsberg, Leipzig 1794) (see her letter to Wilhelm Schlegel as far back as 12 March 1801 [letter 293]). In some ways, the anticipated journey to Italy likely seemed closer to reality than ever before: “precisely everything we do now is focused on a journey.”

Stolberg’s four volumes notably included not only considerable travelogue material on Switzerland, Italy, and Sicily, but also a supplementary volume, with which Caroline was doubtless familiar, of copper engravings of Swiss and, especially, Italian and Sicilian sites. Caroline’s acquaintance with evocative engravings of the sort found in that volume and elsewhere doubtless colored her notion of what one might expect from a visit or certainly a lengthier stay in Italy, a country already boasting — as becomes clear later in this present letter — a colony of German travelers and ex-patriot artists, scholars, diplomats, and wives fleeing divorce custody battles for their children.

For a gallery of the engravings from Stolberg’s supplementary volume, click on the image below:



[6] It may be recalled that Schelling had discussed at length the possibility of taking time off for such a trip in his letter to Georg Friedrich von Zentner on 19 January 1806 (letter 400d). Back.

[7] The Academy of Fine Arts, which in 1770 had been founded as a school for the fine arts, eventually occupied part of the building complex on the Neuhauser Strasse known as the Old Academy or Wilhelminum, the former Jesuit academy, which after the latter’s prohibition in 1773 had been occupied by the police directorate, the Bavarian state library, and the Maltese Knights. Since 1783 the initially private and then state Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities had also been occupying part of the building.

Both academies were being reorganized, and in 1806 Johann Peter Langer successfully submitted a proposal for the establishment of an academy for the fine arts similar to that for the sciences and humanities. The constitution finally appeared on 13 May 1808 defining it as an institution serving the transmission and promotion of the arts, and the first students matriculated in 1809.

In October of 1807, however, Schelling became the first general secretary of the Academy of Fine Arts. Concerning the location of the offices, see the map and illustration in Schelling’s letter to Carl Joseph Windischmann on 21 February 1806 (letter 400g). By late 1809, i.e., when Caroline died, the building was occupied as follows (Friedrich Albert Klebe, Skizze von München im Jahre 1810 [Munich 1810], 185–86):

The collections and offices of the Academy of Fine Arts is housed on the ground floor of this building, while everything on the next floor and even higher belongs to the Academy of Science and Humanities with its collections, including the Royal Library, which constitutes the academy’s most important attribute. Only a series of rooms and halls in a single side wing on the fourth floor house the collection of copper engravings.

The Academy of Fine Arts originally included schools for painting, sculpture, architecture, and copper engraving, with a director (Peter von Langer), general secretary (Schelling), and 8 professors. It admitted honorary members, regular members, professors honorarios, and correspondents. The minimum age for students was, perhaps surprisingly, between 13 and 14. In 1814 the academy had 75 students (Joseph Anton Eisenmann, Beschreibung der Haupt- und Residenzstadt München und ihrer Umgebungen in topographischer, geschichtlicher und statistischer Hinsicht [Munich 1814], 113–14).

See the following illustration of the entire academy (at the time: Jesuit) complex in 1664 (Ansicht des Jesuitenkollegiums in München, Deutsche Fotothek; Foto: DDZ,2008; Aufn.-Nr.:df_tg_005238):



[8] See the report concerning the organization and contents of these collections a short time later (1814) in Joseph Anton Eisenmann, Beschreibung der Haupt- und Residenzstadt München und ihrer Umgebungen in topographischer, geschichtlicher und statistischer Hinsicht, 115–16):

Hall of Antiquities. This institution justifiably distinguishes itself from most, or perhaps even all the halls of antiquities and museums in Europe not only through the quantity of plaster casts, but also through its thoughtful arrangement, which aims both at enhancing the enjoyment of art and at facilitating and promoting instruction. The foundation is the Mannheim collection of plaster casts copied in Italy [see supplementary appendix 408.1]. These are joined by a few casts of the earlier Munich Academy [of Arts], two of which are particularly noteworthy, namely, the extremely rare casts of the faun and Mercury excavated in Herculaneum.

[Perhaps the following pieces from Herculaneum; illustrations from (in order): Domenico Monaco, The Principal Objets [sic] of Art in the National Museum of Naples: Engraved on Copperplates by the Best Italian Artists (Naples 1880), plate 80; Max Sauerlandt, Griechische Bildwerke (Königsteiin 1907), plate 95]:



The most significant enhancement of this collection came about in 1807 through the liberality of the current king, who purchased all the statues, busts, and bas-reliefs cast by Gotti in Paris, and also had the architect Nadde in Rome cast copies of architectural ornamentation from antiquity for the Academy. This hall contains the most excellent artistic pieces left by the Greeks and Romans in the way of bas-reliefs, busts, herms, statues, vessels, and urns.

The building housing this aesthetic treasure is located in the courtyard complex of the Academy building, and contains three halls, into the largest of which one enters form the courtyard through high French doors. The hall receives sufficient but filtered light through windows 16 feet high and 9 feet wide. All the statues are positioned on moveable pedestals that can be rotated quite easily to all sides. The public has access to the hall at various stipulated times, and friends of the arts can always find ready and willing guides and docents.

Here a representative illustration of the hall of antiquities in the Louvre in Paris in 1826; one can easily imagine Caroline’s anticipation at the prospect of soon having such collections so easily accessible (Johann Nepomuk Ender, Antiken Saal im Louvre zu Paris [1826]):



[9] The Treaty of Tilsit, concluded (1) between Russia and France on 7 July 1807, and (2) between Prussia and France on 9 July 1807, following the Battle of Friedland. After the rout of the Prussians at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, the surrender of Prussian fortresses, and the the pursuit of Generals Blücher and Hohenlohe during the autumn of 1806, the French under Napoleon continued their advance eastward.

In the meantime, the Russians finally came to the aid of the Prussians, whose king, Friedrich Wilhelm III, had fled even farther eastward with his court to Mehmel (“Memel”; [1] Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]; [2] “Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas [Cambridge 1912]):



(Following illustrations of the battles of [in order] Eylau and Friedland: “Charge des cuirassiers à Eylau,” “Bataille de Friedland,” Collection de 350 gravures, dessins de Philippoteaux, etc. pour l’histoire du Consulat et de l’Empire, 2 vols. [Paris 1870], vol. 1, nos. 119, 123):


Earlier in 1807, after the costly but indecisive Battle of Eylau on 7–8 February 1807, both armies went into winter quarters. The French resumed their advance in early June 1807 and on 14 June 1807 met the Russians at Friedland in a battle that, although even more costly to the French than to the Russians, prompted a Russian retreat to Tilsit.

Here Napoleon at the battle of Friedland:


On 16 June the French took Königsberg, and on 19 June Alexander I authorized his commander to ask for an armistice. Alexander met for four hours with Napoleon on a flying bridge in the Niemen River on 25 June 1807 while Friedrich Wilhelm III waited in the rain on the bank of the river (Entrevue des deux empereurs [ca. 1807–33]; British Museum Mm,2.42):


Prussia ended up having to cede nearly half its territory and face financially crippling indemnities, which was nonetheless not as bad as what Napoleon had originally intended, namely, to strip Friedrich Wilhelm III of his crown entirely and essentially eliminate Prussian statehood, something he did not do solely because of the solicitation of Alexander I.

In any case, Caroline is here referring to these considerable and complex territorial changes not dissimilar to those associated the previous year with the Treaty of Pressburg. The results of the Treaty of Tilsit for Prussia were approximately as follows (Michael Glover, The Napoleonic Wars: An Illustrated History 1792–1815 [New York 1979], 122):

[Prussia] lost all her territory west of the Elbe and all her Polish acquisitions except for a corridor linking Brandenburg with East Prussia. Within this corridor Danzig was declared a free city and given a French garrison. The Prussian army was limited to 41,000 men, all her ports were closed to British trade, she was saddled with an indemnity of 200 million thaler and forced to maintain a large army of occupation until she had discharged it. These terms were so humiliating that a quarter of her officer corps resigned. Many of them sought service with foreign armies, particularly that of Russia. . . .

Most of the Prussian lands west of the Elbe were combined with Brunswick [Braunschweig] and parts of Hanover to form a Kingdom of Westphalia for Jerome Bonaparte.

(Central Europe in 1812, from William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas [New York 1923], Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection):


Her Polish provinces, except for Bialystok [which went to Russia] and the corridor, became the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, Napoleon’s gesture to Polish nationalism, although the King of Saxony was appointed Grand Duke. Saxony, Bavaria, Westphalia, Württemberg, Baden, Berg, Hesse and the greater part of Hanover (which remained in French hands) were linked together as the Confederation of the Rhine, an agglomeration of which Napoleon declared himself “Protector.” Back.

[10] Charlotte Wiebeking, née Rousseau, and Auguste (Dorette) Schlichtegroll, née Rousseau. Caroline had mentioned these acquaintances in her letter to Luise Gotter on 4 January 1807 (letter 420), with their husbands Georg Heinrich Karl Wiebeking and Friedrich von Schlichtegroll; see note 43 there. Back.

[11] Frau Ketter is unidentified; presumably an acquaintance from Caroline’s Gotha years. Back.

[12] Uncertain allusion. Back.

[13] Luise was pregnant with her daughter Zoe, who would be born during the first week of January 1808. Luise’s childbed would be so difficult that she would be unable to attend to her mother during the latter’s final days before she died on 5 February 1808. Luise had several difficult childbeds (frontispiece to Johann Timotheus Hermes, Zween litterarische Märtyrer und deren Frauen vom Verfasser von Sophiens Reise , vol 1 [Carlsruhe 1791]):


See the passage in Luise’s autobiography (Erinnerungen, 46), and Caroline’s letter to Luise on 9 March 1808 (letter 431). Back.

[14] Viz., about Auguste; the seventh anniversary of Auguste’s death was but two days away. In her letter to Luise Gotter on 18 September 1800 (letter 268), Caroline had remarked that “[I] only half live now and am wandering about like a shadow on this earth” (Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1802: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[15] The architect and painter Schwarz was previously mentioned in Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 26 November 1801 (letter 332); see also note 13 there. He was presumably studying both architecture and painting/drawing in Rome. Here the art forms of drawing, painting, and architecture (Schauplatz der Natur und der Künste, vol. 2 [Vienna 1775], plates 1, 2, 4):




The Gotters had traveled to Weimar to attend theater performances of Friederike Unzelmann with Caroline and Wilhelm. Back.

[16] Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1831: der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet:


Concerning the Humboldts’ presence in Rome, see Schelling’s letter to Georg Friedrich von Zentner on 19 January 1806 (letter 400d), note 12. Concerning Sophie Bernhardi’s presence in Rome during 1805–6, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 4 January 1807 (letter 420), note 13. Back.

[17] A wry but not surprising social iteration of the querelle des anciens et des modernes, the “quarrel of the ancients and the moderns” ([1] Venus with Cupid, from Karl Philipp Moritz, Götterlehre oder mythologische Dichtungen der Alten, 2nd ed. [Vienna, Prague 1801], illustration 115; [2] Madonna with child, from the Taschenbuch für Damen auf das Jahr 1817):


Sophie Bernhardi would convert to Catholicism in 1810, in part hoping that the current pope would not allow her former husband, August Ferdinand Bernhardi, to take her sons back to Berlin. In any event, Wilhelm von Humboldt made no secret of his aversion to Sophie Bernhardi, even in letters to Madame de Staël (Krisenjahre 3:129, 198, here 129):

You ask me about Madame Bernhardi. At the moment, she is doubtless occupied with Knorring, in order, as the French say, to demonstrate her motivation for wanting to change her religion. . . . Her fear for her children seems to me to be well founded if the goal is to keep them away from their father indefinitely, and without any further arrangements; but not if she is simply saying that she does not really intend anything more than to stay here for one or two years, which is precisely the permission she is presently requesting from the king.

As for me, you can be assured that I will protect her to whatever extent I am able, though more out of an interest in justice than from any attachment to her herself. For I can assure you that I feel absolutely no inclination whatever toward this woman. Back.

[18] Concerning the Riepenhausen brothers, see Caroline’s earlier letter to Schelling on 25–26 April 1806 (letter 403), with note 31 there, and esp. supplementary appendix 403.1. See also Caroline’s letters to Pauline Gotter on 24 August 1807 (letter 425), and to Luise Gotter on 12 November (or December) 1807 (letter 426).

In her memoirs, Louise Seidler provides a different assessment of the brothers in Rome, where she herself studied for a time (Erinnerungen und Leben der Malerin Louise Seidler (geboren zu Jena 1786, gestorben zu Weimar 1866), ed. Hermann Uhde [Berlin 1874], 247; 2nd ed. [1875], 202; new edition [1922], 137):

The Riepenhausen brothers, Franz and Johann, who produced artistic pieces together that were quite good, kept their distance from the larger artistic circles of historians in Rome. I myself was happy to be acquainted with these two artists, whom I had already come to admire years before at the Frommann’s in Jena because of their outline sketches for Tieck’s Genoveva, which I had copied in practicing my own drawing. Their fine, well-mannered comportment was less focused on affected originality than was that of so many other artists, and their works harmonized with their entire being. They were accommodating and pleasant, if not particularly deep. They composed their works in the spirit of the ancients in a decidedly correct, legèr (Fr., “light, easy-going”], and graceful manner.

The Riepenhausens had in any case begun quarrelling with the Tiecks even during the journey to Rome in late June 1805. Roger Paulin, Ludwig Tieck: A Literary Biography (Oxford 1986), 170, remarks that

Tieck embarked for Rome in late June 1805, with Rumohr, the Riepenhausens, and his brother Friedrich . . . . Riepenhausens and Tiecks quarreled; Rumohr’s disenchantment with his protégés was already building up to the complete breach which came in Rome. For Rumohr was paying for Riepenhausens as well as for Tiecks.

After 1817, Louise Seidler, incidentally, socialized with Schelling and his second wife, Pauline Gotter, in Munich, and for a time with Luise, Cäcilie, and Julie Gotter as well, who were there for a visit (Erinnerungen [1922], 87–88) (Taschenkalender auf das Jahr 1798 für Damen; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[19] Italian, plural of sbirro, “police officer, constable,” even at the time often a contemptuous term in the sense of “copper” and dating from the medieval period and Renaissance; often responsible for the less respectable side of police work and enforcement (illustration: Dispensa N. 12: Lire 3o [Senza aumenti] [Milan n.d.])


Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:658, suggests that the Knorring-Tieck predilection for constantly incurring debts bordered on a fraudulent con-game. Back.

[20] He returned northward with Sophie Bernhardi this same year, viz., to Vienna. Back.

[21] Uncertain reference; at the time, the “fatherland” could as easily be in a principality in what is today Germany proper as in France or elsewhere. Germany, of course, was not yet united as a single state. Back.

[22] The Gotters had spent an indeterminate time in Kassel (Cassel) ca. 1804; see Caroline’s letters to Luise on 4 January 1804 (letter 382) and to Julie Gotter on 18 March 1804. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott