Letter 430

• 430. Carl Friedrich von Rumohr to Caroline in Munich: Krempelsdorf, 7 March 1808

Krempelsdorf, 7 March 1808 [1]

Gracious Lady,
Highly Esteemed Lady,

|517| Well, our friend left for Halle this morning, [2] and it is only there that many of the plans we made together will actually acquire a more specific direction. The prospect of getting a position in Munich is and remains the only one he really desires. [3] Schelling, the prospect of being much closer to the most beautiful parts of the European landscape and all the farther from the crumbling mountains that threaten to shatter all individual existence, and certainly all the other advantages that Munich currently possesses — all these considerations would doubtless draw him there even were it not his only hope.

In her last letter, Jacobi’s sister gave evidence of an ongoing interest in this important matter, [4] one Frau Sieveking will not fail to diligently pursue. [5] Be it fated to take longer, then I will certainly — between us — keep Steffens going. [6] Although it is a desperate time when one considers people’s various individual circumstances and the way even the best are having to struggle with external distress and need, it is nonetheless also divine and full of hope can one but correctly understand the rod that disciplines the good and flatters the wicked. How the lazy become active, and the weak encouraged! It is with Christian humility that I kiss the rod that chastises me in so salutary a fashion. [7]

Our friend went forth with admirable courage into a bad time. |518| I doubt not that he is up to the harsh task he has taken on for these next few weeks. Before our departure, we had some real arguments, so much so that nothing was really left except pure affection. Poor wretches that we are, we were harboring so much worry in our hearts and so often mutually misunderstood each other’s concerns that ultimately we had to explain ourselves to each other outright merely to find out that there is really no estrangement between us at all. [7a]

Now I, too, will be departing in 6 to 8 days, presumably arriving there with you around the beginning of April. I will probably also find an apartment then, since after so many miscalculations the present is now genuinely the correct, proper time when the average citizen moves. If you go to Swabia next summer, I will pay you a visit, for I am planning to search the entire country for antiquarian items. [8] I have provided myself with an extremely meager annual sum with which I plan to study in Munich and then in the summer gradually crisscross Germany in every possible direction looking for such spoils. I will also set aside a summer for Paris and for the German parts of France. [9] I will not be going to Italy until I have brought this grand task to its conclusion at least to a certain extent.

I am thinking about weaving Friedrich Schlegel and various others into this wonderful work, and if possible about establishing a society for the study of German antiquities. [10] I have no news from Tieck and thus cannot promise with any certainty that he will be coming with me. [11] Maybe he has come down ill again. [12] Why is it so difficult to bring together several people like this at least once? What splendid things could emerge from such a gathering! [13]

I would like to tell you all sorts of things about Runge. I only first got to know him this past winter, and now all my hopes are resting in him. A divine idea, a divine calling, namely, that of overwhelming art from the depths, and skill by means of the idea. It is astonishing to see what this young man, whose design and purpose are of a more limited sort, can already do, to see how far he has already gotten in the praxis of color, where it would not already be the most sublime had he coerced it as in the resolution, within painting, of the 4 pieces already familiar to you from the etchings. [14]

In several picture frames, he demonstrates an understanding of the plastic arts — in those 4 copper engravings of Gothic architecture [15] — that rather than being based on erudition has instead emerged from within himself. Just imagine what might come from such a person who fathoms and masters the essence and meaning of color as well as the application of colors, [16] who through the assessment and simple calculation of his own pictures comes upon long lost mysteries, and who is now beginning to successfully combine symbolism and hieroglyphics. Steffens needs to tell you more about him. I will be bringing you a drawing he did. [17]

I for my own part have been quite diligent this past winter accumulating considerable materials that could probably have been collected together much more easily and reliably at virtually any other place than here. How I am looking forward to possessing a large library, to being able to enjoy viewing pictures occasionally. [18]

Ah, I would indeed still enjoy seeing Dresden were it not so difficult having to travel through the mountains from Vogtland. [19] But do stay well and please receive as kindly as you always do

Your obedient
C. F. Rumohr

N.B. Please pass along my regards to Schelling and Baader. I will take care of his request but do not know whether I will be bringing the books along with me. [20]


[1] Krempelsdorf was one of the estates Rumohr inherited when his father died in 1804 (concerning that inheritance, see his letter to Ludwig Tieck on 26 September 1807 [letter 425b], note 2). Krempelsdorf is located just a few kilometers northwest of Lübeck (H. Lenz, Landeskunde der freien und Hansestadt Lübeck und ihres Gebietes [Breslau 1890], map following p. 23):



[2] Henrik Steffens had spent the winter with Rumohr at the latter’s estate in Krempelsdorf. See supplementary appendix 427.1 (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Besetztere und illuminierte Landkarte von Deutschland Elementarwerk, from the (Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate xlv):



[3] Rumohr mentions this plan in his letter to Caroline in early 1808 (letter 427); see note 1 there. Steffens’s hopes for a position in Munich were not to be fulfilled. Back.

[4] Either Lotte or Lene Jacobi; concerning these half-sisters, see supplementary appendix 406.1. Back.

[5] Presumably Johanna Margarete Sieveking, née Reimarus. Back.

[6] That is, financially; Rumohr had already provided for Steffens when the latter left Krempelsdorf for Halle, assistance Steffens gratefully acknowledged in his memoirs; see supplementary appendix 427.1 mentioned above Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Die Freundschaft (1793); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.968:



[7] These sentiments notwithstanding, Rumohr had in any case come into a sizable inheritance in 1804; as mentioned above, see his letter to Ludwig Tieck on 26 September 1807 (letter 425b), note 2. Back.

[7a] Calender für das Jahr 1796; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[8] See Schelling’s letter to his father on 11 October 1807 (letter 425d), in which he congratulates his father on being appointed to the prelature in Maulbronn and promises to visit the following (1808) summer. Such did not happen, however, until the summer of 1809. Back.

[9] I.e., the former territories of German principalities that had been incorporated into France as a result of the Napoleonic wars and geopolitical shifts on the west (left) bank of the Rhine River (“Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas [Cambridge 1912]):


It may be noted that Cologne, where Friedrich and Dorothea Schlegel were currently residing, was included in this area. Back.

[10] Friedrich and Dorothea Schlegel converted to Catholicism in Cologne barely a month later, on 16 April 1808. Rumohr himself had converted to Catholicism earlier in Dresden. Back.

[11] Ludwig Tieck (and his sister, Sophie Bernhardi), did not arrive in Munich until October 1808 (Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1818: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


[12] Ludwig Tieck suffered from chronic gout. Back.

[13] In his letter to Ludiwg Tieck on 26 September 1807 (letter 425b), Rumohr had remarked that

the Schellings, who have put up with me a great deal as a visitor at their home and with whom I have for some time spent the some of the most wonderful days I can recall, viewing and talking constantly about art together as we did — remarked with regret how so many people who were earlier friends now no longer live together.

See esp. note 4 there (Carlo Goldoni, Commedie del sig. Carlo Goldoni vol. 9 [Venice 1789], 59):



[14] The “four pieces” are Runge’s ultimately unfinished Tageszeiten (The times of the day), originally designed as wall decorations. Caroline would have been familiar with them from their initial engravings, begun in 1802–3, initially published in Dresden in 1806, then again, at the request of the Weimar Friends of the Arts, in Hamburg in 1807 (Die vier Tageszeiten in Umrissen [Hamburg 1807]: Morning, Midday; Evening, Night):





Runge’s goal was to render these engravings in color, i.e., in paintings, though he did not live long enough to do so. He painted part of Day in 1803, then Morning in small and large versions in 1808 and 1809, albeit with compositional changes; it is possibly to the early color renderings prior to 1808 that Rumohr is here referring in a sentence that is admittedly not entirely clear. Back.

[15] Uncertain allusion. Back.

[16] Runge was highly regarded by Goethe — who had long been interested in the theory of colors — as a chromaticist; see esp. Runge’s “color sphere,” which he explicates in Philipp Otto Runge, Farben-Kugel oder Construction des Verhältnisses aller Mischungen der Farben zu einander, und ihrer vollständigen Affinität (Hamberg 1810), and to which Henrik Steffens contributed an essay on the significance of colors in nature; plate following p. 15:



[17] Apparently not extant. Back.

[18] In Munich, of course, Rumohr would have access not least to the Munich art gallery (representative gallery scenes: [1] Charles Le Brun, Die Galerie deß königlichen Pallasts zu Goblin [ca. 1720]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur CRemshard AB 3.3; [2] Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Charles Pugin after John Bluck, “Exhibition Room, Somerset House,” from Microcosm of London [1808], plate 2):




[19] In Dresden one had access to the Dresden gallery and the Dresden Antiquities Collection, which Caroline had visited during the summer of 1798.

Should Rumohr travel from Lübeck to Munich via Dresden, he would then have to pass through the region of Vogtland to get from Dresden to Munich (Encyclopedia Britannica (1911) s.v. Vogtland):

Vogtland, or Voigtland, a district of Germany, forming the S.W. corner of the kingdom of Saxony, and also embracing parts of the principality of Reuss and of the duchies of Saxe-Altenburg and Saxe-Weimar. It is bounded on the N. by the principalities of Reuss, in the S.E. by Bohemia, and on the S.W. and W. by Bavaria. Its character is generally mountainous, and geologically it belongs to the Erzgebirge range

(Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


(“Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas [Cambridge 1912]):



[20] Although Rumohr did indeed come to Munich, he seems for some reason not to have remained even past July. See Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter on 16 September 1808 (letter 435). Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott