Letter 424

424. Caroline to Beate Gross in Gaisburg: Munich, 31 July 1807

Munich, 31 July [18]07

|501| My dear sister-in-law, because I know only too well that I cannot possibly console you, let me write you at least to show how much your pain is ours as well. [1]

The news of your recent loss took us completely by surprise, for we thought your good Fritz was in the best of health and was flourishing; but then your dear husband’s letter arrived, and the black seal startled us. [2] Your brother immediately thought of Fritz, even before the letter was opened. We had not yet seen the newspaper announcement that your dear husband mentioned and hence could not comprehend what might have robbed you so suddenly of your hope and joy until a belated letter also arrived from Karl relating the specific nature of the illness, admittedly one of the most hopeless. [3]

Thank God at least that you did not have to watch the child suffer with it for long, for such memories are precisely the ones that etch themselves most tenaciously into one’s memory, and when such an illness genuinely drags on, it is invariably accompanied by the most heartbreaking scenes.

|502| Please write me soon and calm me down by letting me know how your own health is doing now. We are having such a beautiful summer, surely it will be followed by a blessed autumn especially there where all of you are. How truly sorry I am that it has now been dampened for you, and that the blessings you see round about you will little be able to invigorate you now that your most precious, closest joy has been taken away. And your dear parents, how must they have grieved! May you gladden them again soon with another grandchild.

I asked Karl again in my last letter whether there was any prospect for precisely that, but he did not answer. If such a prospect is indeed in view, and as soon as it is, please inform me yourself. We have not had the pleasure of seeing a child of yours — the various plans we had for coming to see you simply never materialized. As you know, even the least journey is accompanied by all sorts of hindrances, and once we have settled in somewhere, we tend to stay quietly put, particularly here, where even though no particular natural charms captivate us, [4] a certain element of comfortable contentment does make us tend to stay put. Moreover, your brother also had to await the opening of the Academy, which after much delay finally took place on 27 July. [5] Although I am not for that reason promising that we will be more mobile now, I can nonetheless say that a journey is certainly more possible now.

The way the position at the Bebenhausen prelature was filled ran completely contrary to the way I myself would have wished the matter to go – but it seems the natural course of things is being thwarted at every quarter, and what happens instead is what is extraordinary and unprecedented, though to the satisfaction of very few people indeed. [6] And whom does the father now have with him to replace August? [7] You have presumably also taken little Auguste in with you, so that now our good Murhard must seem more lonely than ever [8] . . . .

|503| The Niethammers are also here; [9] although we see each other more often than before, she is not particularly happy living here. [10] [Securing wine.]

You will be doing me an enormous favor if you let me hear something from you soon. I so yearn to hear something even though it may doubtless distress me anew in my innermost soul. Please commend me to your dear husband and remain favorably inclined toward me.

Caroline Schelling


[1] Beate’s son Friedrich (Fritz) had just died. Caroline seems to have hand-sewn the child’s baptism gown back in the spring of 1805; see her letter to Beate on 13 April 1805 (letter 393), note 3. Back.

[2] The black wax seals on letters announcing a person’s death prepared the recipient for the sad news in the letter itself; in the following illustration, such a letter is held by the woman on the right (Caspar Netscher, The Letter with the Black Seal [1665]; Staatliches Museum, Schwerin):


Beate Gross’s son, Fritz, had died (illustrations in order: Nehm er ihm hin der uns ihn gab [1790]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DBerger WB 3.4; Totes Kind [1774–75]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [1-56]):




[3] Although Fuhrmans, 3:443–44, cites a letter from Karl Schelling to Schelling on 18 July 1807 in which Karl mentions a visitor who happened to arrive “precisely on the day Fritz fell ill,” Fuhrmans, 3:444fn7, points out that Karl inadvertently sent that letter to a recipient in Vienna and the Viennese recipient’s letter to Schelling.

Karl excused himself on 26 July 1807 in a letter to Schelling and reiterated what he had written earlier, apparently also now filling in the details about Fritz’s illness and death (Leipzig Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


This is the “belated letter” from Karl to which Caroline is here referring, though Fuhrmans does not include its full text, mentioning only by way of gloss in the previous letter (of 18 July 1807) that Beate’s son passed away a few days later (i.e., after 18 July). Hence the nature of the illness remains uncertain. Back.

[4] A remarkable statement considering the proximity of the Bavarian and Tyrolean alps. See, e.g., the sparse comments in her letter to Pauline Gotter on 16 September 1808 (letter 435).

Although Caroline had a sophisticated understanding of the theater, a keen and appreciative eye especially for painting among the visual arts (e.g., as the model for Louise in “Die Gemählde. Ein Gespräch von W.,” Athenaeum [1799], 39–151), and a truly gifted ear for poetry that not only prompted Wilhelm Schlegel to seek her help in scanning verse and, of course, in the edition of Shakespeare, but also inspired lines by Johann Diederich Gries extolling her ability to elicit the “magical power” of verse — nonetheless she seems never to have developed any particular aesthetic affinity for or more emotional connection with the beauty of landscapes or the natural world, or for seeking solace in nature as occasionally alleged. Back.

[5] See Geschichte der Akademie [der Wissenschaften in München] vom Jul. 1807 bis Ende 1808 (Munich 1809), xxx:

d. Public Meetings.

The reconstituted Academy was opened on 27 July 1807 in a plenary assembly. After a reading of the constitutional document and after the members in attendance were sworn in, the president spoke about “the spirit and purpose of scholarly societies” (Über gelehrte Gesellschaften, ihren Geist und Zweck: eine Abhandlung vorgelesen bey der Erneuerung der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München, von Präsidenten der Academie [Munich 1807]) in order to delineate precisely the goal of the Academy’s efforts and hopes upon embarking on this new course.”

Representative illustration from an earlier period (Jean Baptiste de Poilly, Reception d’un Academicien [ca. 1725]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 2086):



[6] Schelling’s father, Joseph Friedrich Schelling, seems to have applied for the position of Protestant abbot and head of the boarding school in Bebenhausen. The position went instead to August Friedrich Böck, and in 1807–8 the five superintendents in Württemberg, who were also prelates, were Immanuel Pfleiderer in Denkendorf, Heinrich Cless in Adelberg, Christian Friedrich Duttenhofer in Heilbronn, August Friedrich Böck in Bebenhausen, and Joseph Friedrich Schelling himself in Maulbronn (Königlich Württembergisches Staatshandbuch auf die Jahre 1807 und 1808 [Stuttgart 1808], 168).

The appointment was also announced in the Intelligenzblatt of the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1807) 68 (5 September 1807), 578. Karl Schelling had mentioned in a letter to Schelling on 23 June 1807 (Fuhrmans 3:442–43) that the “position of general superintendent of Bebenhausen has been given to Böck of Tübingen . . . who did demonstrate certain merits. Father is well [viz., presumably after hearing the news].” Back.

[7] In a letter to Schelling on 23 June 1807 (Fuhrmans 3:442–43), Karl Schelling remarks that August Schelling was to pass through Stuttgart (where Karl lived) on his way to Tübingen to work as a tutor, presumably at the Tübingen Seminary (Stift; foundation school); August Schelling apparently had previously been working as his father’s assistant (vicarius) in Murrhardt.

On 26 July 1807 (in a letter that replaced and basically repeated the misdirected letter’s content mentioned above on 18 July 1807; Fuhrmans 443–44; 444 fn7), Karl then relates that August Schelling was still in Stuttgart (or Murrhardt?) working as a vicarius and would probably remain until the autumn, after which he would likely have to continue on to Tübingen. Back.

[8] “Little Auguste” is unidentified; perhaps a child from Karl Albrecht Gross’s previous marriages? Back.

[9] Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, who had been in Würzburg with the Schellings and then in Bamberg since 1806 as a consistory councilor and school administrator, had been appointed central educational and ecclesiastical councilor by Maximilian von Montgelas in München (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


There he would exercise considerable influence on the development of secondary schools, including the emergent distinction between the Gymnasium and the more practice-oriented Realschule, while also, however, experiencing opposition from Catholic traditionalists of the same sort Schelling had experienced in Würzburg (see Kuno Fischer’s discussion of Catholic opposition to Schelling in Bavaria). Niethammer did, however, remain a successful educational administrator and, eventually, ecclesiastical councilor in the Munich high consistory. Back.

[10] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, scene from Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa; or, The History of a Young Lady (1784):


“More often than before,” viz., back in Würzburg, where Rosine Niethammer had avoided the other squabbling faculty wives, including Caroline; see her letter to Charlotte Schiller on 25 October 1804 (letter 387h) and the supplementary appendix on the ladies’ war at the university in Würzburg. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott