Letter 431

• 431. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Munich, 9 March 1808

[Munich] 9 March [1808]

|520| I would have thanked you earlier for your kind attention to my requests, my precious friend, had I not in the meantime been so preoccupied with other things with both body and soul such that my entire attention was diverted completely away from more pleasant things.

But perhaps you already know the answer I have to give to your question concerning my family. My mother passed away on February 5 in Kiel at the house of my sister while the latter was in childbed and thus unable to see or take care of her anymore. [1] My brother Philipp, too, was prevented from cheering her up with his own presence by the large number of sick people he himself had to attend. [2]

These circumstances greatly saddened me. We could not really wish her a longer life at this point because we ourselves were no longer able to sweeten it for her. Insurmountable emotional depression coupled with extraordinary circumspection and presence of mind would have wrecked even considerably more favorable surroundings than those in which she actually found herself. That has often enough been the source of my sorrow during these recent years. [3] Even though she herself longed for death, you can easily comprehend how the painful sadness of her joyless life befell me even more powerfully at her death, and how everything inside me was roused from its light slumber insofar as the last bond was now being sundered behind me just as were all others before me. [4]

Hence this event, one otherwise quite in accordance with the natural course of things, severed yet one more thread of life asunder within me, something I can feel in an almost physical fashion and yet which I would like to express to you as gently as possible. Immediately thereafter I came down with an inflammation of the throat that for 2 days was extremely serious indeed. [5] Although it quickly got better, I still have not yet been able to leave the room again. It is extremely cold here amid perfectly clear skies |521| and seems to have no intention of letting up, despite the fact that we are already deep into March. . . .

Ah, my dear, I have already often remarked to you that without the peculiar uncertainty of our own circumstances I would long ago already have insisted on seeing one of your daughters here with us. [6] But we have always lived here like birds on the branches, without any real accouterments except for the bare necessities in the way of furniture and that sort of thing. [7] Although things have simply not yet allowed us to live any other way, we are hoping that circumstances will soon change in the way we have so long desired. [8] But you must not mention anything about this lest it come to the attention of our countrymen. [9]

Your little school has rekindled my idea that we should indeed summon you here along with your daughters. [10] How we could use it! Your countrymen also unanimously concur in this opinion, and the matter would by no means resemble merely a chimère [11] were but a favorable opportunity to present itself. People are admittedly complaining a great deal here about the influx of foreigners and Protestants [non-Bavarians], something about which one could indeed say a great deal and a great many diverse things as well. And those people do indeed also comport themselves quite noticeably as “foreigners” and “Protestants.” —

Amid these circumstances, nothing could address this need better than a woman like you who could open an educational institute for young girls, or rather for children, under the protection of the queen and with a modest salary to ensure financial security. —

It is quite true that for several months the battered condition of our sensitive Jakobs was such that he was unable to conceal his homesickness from anyone, and such that even his gaiety, when he was able to force himself into such, seemed like despair personified. Especially the time he strayed into the carnival celebrations quite by mistake, the man was utterly unhappy, all the faces seeming like masks to him and the all the masks like faces. [12]

I already mentioned to you |522| earlier that I suspected Jakobs would have the hardest time acclimating and finding his place. The complicated circumstances, the feeling of being considered a foreigner after being a native for one’s entire life, and several things that frightened him (unnecessarily) with regard to the situation of the state itself — all that was very difficult for him; and his good wife, especially with her sickly disposition, is simply not the person to dispel such things with any real persuasion.

That said, things are nonetheless already going considerably better for him, and I honestly think he will be able to overcome it all. [13]

It has certainly not been for any lack of courage and flattery on the part of Madame Schlichtegroll that he has not been healed; for she is quite happy, is constantly looking for or, indeed, in the midst of pleasant distractions, spends not even a single day at home, at least not alone, and is constantly to be seen out and about everywhere with a surfeit of good will and constantly participating in everything the fun-loving and youthful world is up to. She is constantly arranging social events, takes care of her household with the most charming frivolity, entertains everyone with her wit while leaving it to Särchen to wait on them a bit more properly. [14]

Her husband, on the other hand, goes about quite depressed and especially with a very circumspect look, worrying whether he might be about to cause offense to someone or other. He finds little joy in his work and has begun, I believe, to worry about whether he is even equal to the task. [15]

Although Hamberger will doubtless really have the greatest struggle in this regard, he does seem to have the requisite portion of coarseness to deal with it. Her appearance, on the other hand, is wholly unsuitable for contradicting the negative prejudice concerning the good taste of the citizens of Gotha with respect to fashion and personal presentation. She looks absolutely like an old court singer or French governess, and word has it that she wears a mauve wig. [16]

By contrast, Madame Schlichtegroll has almost gotten better looking, is getting stronger, using a more delicate shade of rouge, wears jewelry around her bare neck and bosom — the latter of which is indeed in dire need of enhancement and out of the center of which |523| individual little mayflowers now blossom forth. [17] But all this is nothing but malicious prattle for the enjoyment of your high-spirited daughters. . . .

Schelling sends his warmest greetings to all of you. And I, too, hope all of you are doing very well indeed.


[1] Luise Wiedemann’s memoirs (Erinnerungen, 46) mention her difficult confinement at the birth of her daughter Zoe, whose exact day of birth is not known but who seems to have been born during the first week of January 1808 (illustration: Jahrbuch zur belehrenden Unterhaltung für Damen [1800]):

After I had had my first Zoe, my dear mother also died [February 1808], who had long been sickly. Gout, though especially also her lower abdomen. She was by far not as old as I am now, and yet was never able to engage in any particularly strenuous activity, and had had a life without any significant losses. But she did not have a cheerful disposition despite the fact that she was of a calm nature. When she followed after us and came here [to Kiel], she did have quite pleasant contacts, one especially delightful one being the elderly Dr. Kleucker, who had earlier been a tutor in my father’s house, and a [his] little boy, of whom she was quite fond. He also accompanied Mother to her grave. — My confinement with my first Zoe severely taxed me, so much so that even three weeks after the birth I only saw my mother once more. I was so severely ill that I was not permitted to go to her again. When she saw me, she thought I was an apparition from another world.


[And] then the upsetting death of little Zoe [July 1808], who, like my little boy August, died quickly from a twisted intestine. Back.

[2] Johann Jakob Mettenleiter, Arzt am Krankenbett (1788); Munich, Kupferstichkabinett:


Philipp Michaelis was a practicing physician in Harburg, just across the river south of Hamburg and ca. 100 km from Kiel (“Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas [Cambridge 1912]):



[3] In her letter to Luise Gotter back on 10 July 1807 (letter 423), Caroline had already remarked that, “my sister is pregnant and still has our mother around her with her bad nerves and melancholic disposition.” Back.

[4] For Caroline’s initial, and similar, reaction to her mother’s death, see her letter to Luise Wiedemann on 22 February 1808 (letter 429), where she similarly alludes to family members, including children, she had already lost and the cumulative effect these losses had had; see esp. note 2 there. See also her remarks in her letter to Luise Wiedemann on 2 April 1808 (letter 432) (Jahrbuch zur belehrenden Unterhaltung für Damen [1801]):



[5] Caroline had similarly complained about a serious throat inflammation in her letter to Luise back on 10 July 1807 (letter 423). Back.

[6] Caroline had suggested precisely such visits back in her letters to Luise on 4 January 1807 (letter 420) and 10 July 1807 (letter 423) (Berlinischer Damen Kalender auf das Jahr 1803; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[7] Caroline uses the same metaphor in her letter to Luise Wiedemann on 22 February 1808 (letter 429)

She and Schelling had moved from their apartment at Karlsthor 7 to an unidentified location in the apartment of Heymann Pappenheim back in December 1807 and would be moving out again in April 1808 into yet another new apartment (with yet another, final move following later). Back.

[8] Caroline and Schelling were intentionally not putting down roots in Munich that were too deep because they were counting on their long-desired journey to Italy finally materializing in connection with the establishment (in May 1808) of the new Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, of which Schelling would not only be a member but also an officer, namely, general secretary. See esp. Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 22 February 1808 (letter 429), note 11.

This consideration is also why in the next sentence she asks that Luise not relate the possibility of a change in circumstances to anyone in Gotha, or to the Munich residents from Gotha, lest knowledge of these plans spread in both locales. Back.

[9] Countrymen, i.e., residents or former residents of Gotha in either locale. Concerning the “Gotha (or Saxon) colony” that had emerged in Munich, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 12 November (December?) 1807 (letter 426), especially with notes 2 and 5 there. Back.

[10] Luise Gotter, who had been in unstable financial circumstances since the death of her husband, Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, back in 1797, may have started, or was thinking about starting, a (modest) private school for girls in Gotha. Back.

[11] Fr., “pipe dream, chimera.” Back.

[12] The reference — “masks [that seem] like faces” — is to the sometimes grotesque and bizarre costumes and masks worn during the recent celebration of carnival (Fasching in Munich (Lorenz Kopp, publisher, Februarius [ca. 1710]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur LKopp Verlag AB 3.2):


Caroline is doubtless also referencing, deftly — “faces seeming like masks — the almost cinematically disorienting impressions that can be evoked, e.g., on the Fasching streets in Munich by countenances such as those in Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s earlier studies in the Goettinger Taschen Calender vom Jahr 1786, 1787, 1788, 1789, 1791; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):





[13] In her letter to Pauline Gotter on 14 August 1807 (letter 425), Caroline speaks about how “southern Germany must look quite strange to anyone who has never really lived so far south. Jakobs, of course, would sense this even more, since he has hardly seen anything other than Saxony.” Caroline speaks on several occasions later about the difficulty Jacobs experienced in acclimating to life in Munich.

Concerning Jacobs’s uneasiness and homesickness in Munich, see the letter he wrote in November 1807 to a friend back in Gotha; text in supplementary appendix 431.1. See also Caroline’s letters to Luise Gotter on 6 June 1808 (letter 433) and to Pauline Gotter on 16 September 1808 (letter 435). Back.

[14] Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1815: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


Särchen (Sarah, Sara), presumably the Schlichtegroll’s maidservant or domestic. Back.

[15] Caroline had written to Luise Gotter on 12 November (December?) 1807 (letter 426) that Schlichtegroll,

who now occupies a position that could use and indeed adorn an extremely independent sort of man [viz. as general secretary of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities], has turned it into something quite subaltern, behaving not as the general secretary of an academy, but as the private and domestic secretary of its president, into whose arms he has utterly and completely thrown himself. Back.

[16] Marie Louise Hamberger had indeed been a court singer earlier (representative illustration: Johann Elias Ridlinger, publisher, Die angenehme Singerin [ca. 1750]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur JERidinger AB 2.61):



[17] Representative fashion approximation from 1805 (Toiletten Kalender für Damen 1805; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Translation © 2018 Doug Stott