Letter 438

• 438. Caroline to Luise Wiedemann in Kiel: Munich, February (?) 1809

[Munich, February? 1809]

[Beginning of letter is missing.]

|540| . . . The Tieks, however, have once again brought me tidings concerning a familiar adventuress about whom I have not thought for years now. [1] On scene in Vienna, who should appear but |541| — Frau von Nuys, n.b. not really onstage, but rather trying to assert her presence in the capital essentially everywhere else once more. She was already there when Schlegel arrived. [2] No doubt a charming reunion! [3]

He apparently surrendered himself with his customary good nature, doing so, moreover, with even more sentimentality than is really worthy of him. [4] He was intent on acknowledging her as something special because everyone else there was acknowledging her basically for what she really is, namely, someone with neither character nor decency. She had some connection with the French envoy, attracted the attention of the police, engaged in giving social gatherings the same way she did in Braunschweig and, also as in Braunschweig, exposed herself to incessant refus and avanies. [5] Schlegel introduced her to Madame de Staël, and only a formidable case of gout has hitherto prevented her from following Schlegel to Coppet.

She is, however, also talking about coming here, whereupon I will then promise her absolutely never to allow her to visit me. For — quite apart from any considerations of trade or profession [6] — one must maintain at least some degree of propriety and avoid making oneself so blatantly despicable. Did her daughter not marry someone near you there? [7]

How annoying that, even though Germany is certainly expansive enough, one is still so often importuned and annoyed by the same characters. It now seems that all sorts of people are being drawn to Munich in much the same way as was once the case in Jena.

We have in the meantime come into the possession of the entire bescorched Brentano clan. [8] Savigny, a jurist who married one of the Brentano women, [9] has been appointed to replace Hufeland in Landshut and is bringing along with him: Clemens (Demens) Brentano along with his wife, a Bethmann granddaughter [10] who abducted him and is allegedly a morally degenerate creature; he is also living quite abominably with her. [11] Then also Bettina Brentano, who looks like a little Berlin Jewess and stands on her head to be witty — not that she is by any means wanting in intelligence, tout au contraire, |542| but it is so sad to see how she strains, distends, and distorts that which she has. [12] All the Brentanos have an extremely unnatural nature.

That Mayor Hufeland complimented the Russian Alexander, sat at his right hand, and even got to converse with him at length — is doubtless something he would not trade even for several 1000 rh. [13]Gries had been with the Otths in Bern [14] . . .

All of you, too, are far too far away [15] — and yet, my dear, do not long to be where you are not, since everything is accompanied by some caprice or other; remember the saying:

Whoever knows something, should remain silent,
Whoever is well, should stay put,
Whoever has something, should keep it,
For misfortune will come soon enough as it is. [16] 

I can assure you that for a thousand different reasons things are quite disagreeable in Landshut, nor can anything change in that respect at least for the time being. [17] And in Heidelberg, as many people in the know have recently assured me, things are such that one can exist there only with considerable effort, everything being so lethargic, dull, and hostile [18] . . .

[End of letter is missing.]


[1] Concerning the presence of Ludwig Tieck and his sister, Sophie Bernhardi, in Munich at this time (Friedrich Tieck joined them in mid-April 1808), see Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter on 23 November 1808 (letter 436), note 11. Back.

[2] Wilhelm Schlegel had traveled to Vienna in the entourage of Madame de Staël in early January 1808 and remained until 23 May 1808. Vienna is located ca. 450 km east of Munich (Thomas Kitchin, Map of Germany [ca. 1780]):



[3] Concerning Wilhelm’s previous romantic relationship with Minna van Nuys in both Jena and Braunschweig, see the supplementary appendix on Caroline’s Rival: Minna van Nuys. Back.

[4] Toiletten Kalender für Damen 1805; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


Caroline is referring to Wilhelm’s presence in Vienna in early 1808, during which he does indeed seem to have seen a great deal of Minna van Nuys; see the following billets Wilhelm wrote to her in English (Krisenjahre 2:308–11):

(1) I am at your orders Friday afternoon for reciting the constant prince [Wilhelm’s translation of Calderon piece] or whatever you please and I shall invite Baron Seckendorf in your name. Only if Macbeth was played that evening I should prefer another day, but I don’t believe it will be the case.

May I hope to see my sweet charming Minna this evening? Do you go to Mrs. Pichler’s [Caroline Pichler]? I have no mind at all, but perhaps Lady St.[aël] will insist upon my accompanying her. In this case I should desire you to keep the door of your home open till towards ten o-clock or at least the servant attentive to my knocking. Wednesday morning

(Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1825: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


(2) Good morrow my sweet seducing harper [Minna van Nuys played the harp, Wilhelm also having composed a poem for her in that regard]. I am quite joyful in remembrance. [in German:] I am quite sorry we will not be seeing each other this afternoon. I will take care of the request to Stoll, Best, and Seckendorf. Mrs. von Pichler and [Heinrich Joseph von] Collin will probably be informed by them.

Were you unable to secure a seat in Arnstein’s loge to see [Collin’s] Mäon [Berlin 1810]?

(3) I have passed a very sad troublesome morning, your sweet lines have given me the only agreable moment.

(Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, excerpt from a sheet of position studies [1779]; Rijksmuseum):


May I see you to morrow towards the evening or after to morrow in returning from Mrs. Fl[ies] [Eleonore Flies]? Here is my french writing [probably Wilhelm’s Considérations sur la civilization en général et sur l’origine et la decadence des religions]. Fare well mean while, my charming soft friend.

at 2 ½ o’clock

(4) I have passed two disturbed nights and this last I was not above two hours in bed. I worked indeed very hard, so I am good for nothing this evening, besides it will be now to late, being half past eight. To morrow I hope to stay. Let me know, if Mrs. Pereira and Eibenberg are to morrow of the society. If you’ll invite Seckend[orf] by me, let me know it to morrow morning early, Mr. Collin will do very well for this. Good night, I wish to be rid of my headake. A thousand sweet things to my dearest M[inna].

(5) Albertine [de Staël] shall expect your Harriot [Minna’s younger daughter] another day, if she prefers it. Be so kind as to send me back my french manuscript. I want it.

I am so much disturbed in my studies by a cold I got yesterday, that I do not know if I may enjoy this evening in your society. What is the latest hour, when you permit me to come? You know, how little I care for company.

(Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1805: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


In a sad disposition

(6) My head is so taken by my cold, that I must renounce the pleasure to see you this evening. I go to bed this moment in order to be able to morrow morning to prepare and give my lecture. But I shall certainly see you after it, and tell you, how much I love the charming sweet M.[inna].

(anonymous, Galante Szene mit Handkuss [1776–1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. A: 179):


I am thankful more than I can express for her sweet comfortung lines. How much I am disappointed by all this! But we shall certainly make up for it another time.

Shall I have a carriage ready to morrow, in order to take you home in it?

Good evening my dear friend
Sunday evening 8 o’clock
1st of May

(7) I would not find a moment till now even for answering your kind note, and am afraid I shall not see my sweetest M.[inna] all this day. We dine at the French Amb[assador]’s [Andréossy] country home, as it is two leagues from the town, it will take up a great deal of time.

Mrs. Bernh.[ardi] [Sophie Bernhardi] invites you for to morrow afternoon at 6 o’clock, I shall come there as soon as I get away from Count Stadion where I dine, and then we will stay there [at Sophie Bernhardi’s] all the evening.

(Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Von Berlin nach Danzig. Eine Künstlerfahrt im Jahre 1773 von Daniel Chodowiecki. 108 Lichtdrucke nach den Originalen in der Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Mit erläuterndem Text und einer Einführung von Professor Dr. W[olfgang] von Oettingen [Berlin, Amsler & Ruthardt, Kunsthändler o.J. [1883], plate 94):


I must leave my lodging to day [Wilhelm and Madame de Staël were to leave Vienna, though the departure was then postponed until 23 May] which puts me in the greatest confusion. I am quite drowned in books and papers. To morrow in the forenoon I hope to see you a moment. As to the walk in the Prater [a forested riverside area in Vienna, not the present-day entertainment park] we’ll then agree about it.

(Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, illustration to Becker’s Almanach für 1799 [1799], Los Angeles County Museum of Art):


I must give up many parties of pleasure, in order not to offend number of people, to whom I owe the politeness of a last visit.

God bye!
Thursday at 2 o’clock [12 May 1808] Back.

[5] Fr., “refusals” and “snubs” (Carlo Goldoni, Opere complete, Commedie die Carlo Goldoni [Venice], uncertain volume):


The Austrians were gearing up for a military offensive against the French, including in Bavaria, and the secret police in Vienna were conducting surveillance on anyone with suspicious connections to French officials. Back on 10 and 17 September 1808 and 24 October 1808 (Krisenjahre 2:615, 617, 640), Friedrich Schlegel had written to Wilhelm, who had since returned to Coppet, that the Viennese police had become interested in Minna van Nuys because of her connections earlier in the year with Wilhelm himself, Madame de Staël, and Andréossy:

Every other word she speaks is “Andréossy,” and her relationship with him is generally viewed askance here. . . . Your relationship with Madam van Nuys has damaged your reputation more than I can express. For the police view her as a wholly suspicious and dangerous person; I know this for certain. Depend on it. Her relationship with Andréossy is probably the main reason.

Concerning Minna van Nuys’s problems with the Viennese police, see the pertinent section in the supplementary appendix on her life and personality. She was expelled from Vienna at 4 a.m. on 10 May 1809 (Krisenjahre 2:409) and forced, with her new husband, François Diederich Bertheau, to relocate to a private house in Brünn (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Police files specify that this intervention was prompted “by her earlier connection with Andréossy, concerning which several files were already examined,” especially her incautious remark that

as soon as the French arrive in Vienna — she would doubtless have the opportunity to deliver a letter to General Andréossy, and had already received his assurance that he would commend her so strongly to those in power in his nation that she would be treated as a person of distinction.

Caroline’s sense for Minna van Nuys’s precarious status in Vienna was thus quite on the mark, and indeed on 17 March 1809 (letter 441) she accurately predicted that Madam van Nuys would not be tolerated for long in Vienna under the present circumstances. Military developments took a different turn, however, when the French themselves occupied Vienna on 13 May 1809. Back.

[6] I.e., the “horizontal profession” (thus Josef Körner in the supplementary appendix on Caroline’s Rival: Minna van Nuys) ([1] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Suites de la Culture des Arts dègènèrèe [1784]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.615; [2] “Cobblestone Nymphs” in Vienna itself, Allmanach auf 1786 [Vienna]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[7] Elise van Nuys had married Christian Schleiden (1780–1833) on 26 January 1806 in Kiel; the couple resided for a time near Kiel. Minna van Nuys had accompanied them to Vienna, where Christian Schleiden had business. Back.

[8] Concerning this nickname (and its variation) for the Brentano clan, see Auguste’s letter to Schelling on 4/5 June 1800 (letter 261), note 7. Back.

[9] Friedrich Karl von Savigny, who married Kunigunde Brentano, had seen Caroline for the first time at a concert in Jena back in the summer of 1799, when he was traveling as a student: “Madam Schlegel’s appearance has a considerable element of independence about it; she seems to be keeping herself up quite well and is allegedly even getting increasingly pretty now” (cited in Erich Schmidt, [1913], 2:661). This statement is one of only a few that describe Caroline specifically as “pretty.” Back.

[10] I.e., of the extended family of the Frankfurt banking family Bethmann, in this case the granddaughter of Johann Philipp and Margaretha Elisabeth Bethmann. Auguste Brentano was distantly related to Sophie Bethmann: Johann Philipp Bethmann was the brother of Johann Jakob Bethmann, father of Sophie’s mother, Katharina Elisabeth Bethmann (1753–1813).

Landshut is just northeast of Munich (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[11] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Des Pfarrers Tochter von Taubenheim [1789]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung (2-97):


Concerning this brief and wretched marriage, see the supplementary appendix on Clemens Brentano and Auguste Busmann. Back.

[12] Tout au contraire, Fr., “quite the contrary.”

See Caroline’s description of the (older) Berlin Jewess Dorothea Veit in her letter to Auguste on 6 October 1799 (letter 247). Although one cannot know what stereotype Caroline has in mind in this present letter, it may be recalled that she herself had been in Berlin during the spring of 1802 to visit Wilhelm.

On the other hand, as widely read as Caroline demonstrably was one might bear in mind how she, like most people in her social class, was doubtless influenced by literary and theatrical portrayals of Jews both young and old.

Numerous representative sources might be adduced. An alleged autobiography of an Italian Jewess had even been published in German in 1770 with which Caroline may plausibly have been acquainted with the approximate title “The Jewess, or: events in the life of a Jewish woman [Frauenzimmer] composed by herself”: Antonio Piazza, Die Jüdin, oder Begebenheiten eines jüdischen Frauenzimmers von ihr selbst beschrieben (Frankfurt, Leipzig 1770):



[13] Concerning Gottlieb Hufeland’s move from Landshut to Danzig in the summer of 1808 as the town’s mayor and senatorial president, see the second paragraph of Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 2 April 1808 (letter 432), esp. with notes 6–10. As Caroline recounts above, Hufeland’s successor in Landshut was Friedrich Karl von Savigny.

Hufeland, however, was well aware of Danzig’s precarious position between the warring states of France and Russia. The town, which had already suffered considerably from the recent military campaigns and French advance into the northeastern part of German territories, had become a free city with a French commandant and garrison.

The office of mayor was commensurately difficult, and Hufeland, sensing the threat to Danzig posed by military developments, left in 1812 and returned to Landshut, albeit not without considerable criticism, to which he responded three years later in his publication Erinnerungen aus meinem Aufenthalt in Danzig in den Jahren 1808 bis 1812: Neue Beyträge zur Zeitgeschichte zugleich auch zur reinen Aufklärung mancher Vorgänge für meine Landsleute (Königsberg 1815).

In September 1808, however, the Danzig senate had dispatched Hufeland to the town of Marienwerder to provide an official greeting for Czar Alexander of Russia, who was on his way to the congress at Erfurt . After he returned to Danzig from this meeting, he and a group of Danzig representatives were to meet with a French official in Berlin to request an alleviation of the tribute demanded by the French. The official, however, had gone on to Erfurt, so the group followed behind.

A rumor started, however, that the group was in fact a deputation that had been sent to Alexander in Marienwerder to complain about French reparations and the costs of supporting the French garrison in Danzig. That is, Hufeland, hardly on the job as mayor, was already having to deal with municipal and even international problems.

In any event, concerning his meeting with Alexander in Marienwerder in September 1808, Hufeland writes in his memoirs (ibid., 46; map: John Cary, A New Map of the Kingdom of Prussia with its Divisions into Provinces and Governments [1799]; Thomas Kitchin, Map of Germany [ca. 1780]):



The idea of the city [of Danzig] providing a show of reverence for Czar Alexander, who would be passing near to Danzig on his way to his meeting with the Emperor of France, occurred not merely to me, but doubtless also to others in the city. Nonetheless, it was highly desirable that the first impetus come from the governor.

Once again, I was chosen to head the deputation. There is no need to describe the impression the monarch’s renowned amiability made on me, and any repetition of several of the remarks he made to me at dinner — where on his orders I sat next to him — some of which, considering later events, were quite strange, would seem quite at odds with the purpose of this present publication.

By contrast, the governor’s own account, which he directed to me a few months later, is directly related. According to his account, Marshal Davoust asked him whether he knew that the Danzig citizens had dispatched a deputation to Alexander in Marienwerder to complain about the French. Yet how inappropriate a presentation of complaints [mentioned above] would be in the presence of so many witnesses, not least including two French officials present in the room, is less worthy of mention than the problems that, given Davoust’s well-known behavior, such remarks would provoke were the governor not informed of the entire matter beforehand.

Although Hufeland tried to get an audience with Napoleon in Erfurt, he arrived too late, viz., on the day both emperors departed. The Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1808) 176 (Monday, 10 October 1808), 1407, did in any case report this meeting in Marienwerder, remarking that “the czar was extremely gracious, invited the deputation to dine with him, Mayor Hufeland having the honor of sitting next to the czar himself, who conversed most excellently with him during the meal.” Caroline seems to have read this account herself. Back.

[14] Charlotte Otth, née Wiedemann, was Luise Wiedemann’s sister-in-law.

In 1808 Johann Diederich Gries had taken an extensive journey to Switzerland, where he also met Wilhelm Schlegel at Madame de Staël’s estate at Coppet, after which he journeyed back to Munich and Jena by way of Bern in Switzerland.

Concerning the trip to Switzerland and Italy and his stay in Bern, see Caroline’s letter to Johanna Frommann in November 1808 (letter 437), note 1, with cross references. Elise Campe, Aus dem Leben J. D. Gries, 4 (illustration: frontispiece to Johann Friedrich Christmann, Elementarbuch der Tonkunst zum Unterricht beim Klavier für Lehrende und Lernende mit praktischen Beispielen: Eine musikalische Monatschrift, vol. 1 [Speyer 1782]), relates that during his student days in Jena, Gries

often provided piano accompaniment for the singing of Professor Hufeland’s wife and her sister, Lotte Wiedemann, who after marrying the Swiss Otth made a name for herself as a charming woman and gifted poet.



[15] 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]):



[16] Ater 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 affected later by the ongoing geopolitical developments in connection with the Napoleonic wars, and the Wiedemanns may have been considering a move to a less exposed geographical area.

Caroline cites from a familiar proverb from Martin Luther. See Johann Mathesius, Historien, Von des Ehrwirdigen in Gott Seligen thewren Manns Gottes, Doctoris Martini Luthers, anfang, lehr, leben vnd sterben (n.p. 1566), a collection of seventeen sermons on Luther’s life by one of his students that are also reckoned among the oldest sources of biographical information on Luther. Sermon 12, p. 295, focuses especially on Luther’s domestic life and household and pays particular attention to the “table talk”; Caroline has slightly altered the original verses:

He [Luther] also enjoyed reciting good German rhymes at the table as well as in the pulpit, some of which I copied from his little psalter [probably a reference to Luther’s pocket psalter, into which he wrote down the rhymes he spoke at the table]: If you know something, remain silent, / If you are well, stay put, / If you have something, keep it, / Misfortune with its broad foot will soon come.” Item: “Eat what is done; / Drink what is clear; / Speak what is true. Item: Be silent, suffer, avoid, and endure, / Lament your distress to no one, / Despair not in God, / Your succor will come any day.

Erich Schmidt cites the edition Mathesius’ Predigten über Luthers Leben, mit Erläuterungen, ed. Georg Buchwald (Stuttgart 1904). Back.

[17] Concerning conditions at the university in Landshut, see Schelling’s letters to Carl Joseph Windischmann on 21 February 1806 (letter 400g), note 5, and to Hegel on 11 January 1807 (letter 420a), note 2. Back.

[18] Caroline is probably referring not least to Johann Diederich Gries, who had passed through Munich on his way back to Jena after his journey to Switzerland and Italy. Gries wrote to a friend from Heidelberg concerning his reasons for leaving (Aus dem Leben J. D. Gries 75–76; map: W. R. Shepherd, Historical Map of Central Europe about 1786 [1926]):


Although it was indeed some sort of emotional disquiet that drove me away from Jena in the first place [in 1806, albeit before the battles of Jena and Auerstedt], my gaze quite involuntarily and repeatedly turned its attention back to those abandoned river banks. It was my wish and my secret hope to return to the old hometown of my heart in better times. Everywhere I went, I sought Jena but found it nowhere. Not here either, even though at the beginning I was quite pleased with Heidelberg.

(Illustration: Pieter Hendricksz Schut, Heidelberg [ca. 1639–90]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur PHSchut Kopie AB 3.23):


(Here the castle above the town later [unknown provenance]):

Gries continues:

Nature here is indeed inexpressibly charming, but nature alone cannot satisfy one’s spirit, which seeks to recognize itself in other, kindred spirits.

My first months here passed quickly enough amid cheerful conviviality, but that higher need remained unfulfilled. After that first rush of new, gay activity had passed, the concealed emptiness of such a life reared its head all the more oppressively. My work [translation] directed me back into myself, but it, too, cannot completely fill out one’s life.

In short, what I need I cannot find in Heidelberg, and my decision is made. I will remain here this winter [1807–8] and work quite diligently. If my plan succeeds, and if during this period I am able to complete the project to which my soul is currently devoted, then in the spring I will journey to Switzerland. Why could I not wander through that magnificent alpine country ten years ago with you and those who are no more? Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott