Letter 439

• 439. Caroline to Luise Wiedemann in Kiel: Munich, 21 February 1809 [*]

[Munich, 21 February 1809]

[Beginning of letter is missing.]

|542| . . . The question will now be whether Knorring can and will make her into a baroness even while his father is still alive. [1] He — is of Courlandic descent and certainly sufficiently enslaved in that regard, [2] and this woman’s evil spirit has certainly overwhelmed his weaker one. For there can certainly be no talk of any other allurements on her part. A person really must have dulled his capacity for sensuousness |543| as severely as has Knorring to give such an evil spirit that much free play.

I would merely like to know why they happened to come precisely here. The sculptor will also eventually find his way here, coming from Coppet, then all of them except Ludwig Tieck intend to return to Italy. The sculptor will be doing a bust of Schelling, something the crown prince wants for his marble collection of great German men, about which you have probably already read in public newspapers, though in reality it includes some less great men as well. He chose Schelling alone from Munich and the Academy, passing over even the president, a move which, as he himself says, will doubtless arouse at least some feelings of envy. [3]

You feared winter, [4] whereas I am already dealing with summer and will not really be satisfied if we simply remain here without finally embarking on a proper journey [5] — for time is passing on, and who knows how near my end may be? [6] [Financial matters.]

As far as I know, things are calm there among all of you to the extent that no one can really do much. We for our part are once again anticipating war. [7] But tell me, people are not eating horsemeat in Kiel, are they? [8] Could I but once have an oyster feast with you sometime. Schelling sends his copious warm regards and would also certainly not prove to be aloof or brittle. [9] I embrace my nieces. [10]


[*] Although Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:542, dates this letter to “late February), Waldemar von Olshausen, “Neues aus dem Caroline-Kreis,” Euphorion 28 (1927), 350–62, here 350, relates that the Munich postal stamp dates the letter to 21 February 1809. Back.

[1] Concerning the itineraries and problems of the three Tieck siblings during and following this period, see Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter on 23 November 1808 (letter 436), note 11.

Caroline is referring to the problems Karl Gregor von Knorring, Sophie Bernhardi’s alleged fiancé, was having with his own finances and with securing money from his father in Estonia (see map below), without which he would be unable to assist or certainly to marry Sophie.

Caroline writes to Pauline Gotter on 1 March 1809 (letter 440):

It is well known that Tiek himself never had any [money] in any case and has always lived off his friends. His sister now supports him, and she in her own turn is supported by Baron Knorring, who is not here, however, because he cannot leave Vienna, in part because of his relatives there and in part because of debts, since his father will not send him enough money to cover the extraordinary expenses brought on by the Tieks. And for precisely that reason he is also able to send money here only sparingly, which is why things have turned into a perpetual crisis here [for the Tiecks]. Back.

[2] The territories of the Baltic states were still dependent on the institution of serfdom; here the geography at the end of the 18th century with the regions of Livonia, Estonia, Courland, Lithuania, and Latvia (Lettia); Lithuania (Litauen) is at the bottom (Thomas Kitchin, A new map of the Northern States containing the Kingdoms of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway [London 1790]):


The grand adversary of the Jena Romantics, Garlieb Merkel, was from the area and had published a book that also discussed the plight of the serfs in Latvia, Die Letten (Leipzig 1796; 1797; 2nd ed. 1800) (frontispieces from the editions 1797 and 1800):


Concerning the Knorring estates, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter and her daughters on 4 January 1807 (letter 420), note 13. Back.

[3] It was Crown Prince Ludwig (later king Ludwig 1) who in 1807 — at the height of Napoleon’s power — initiated the idea of having busts made of distinguished German-speaking individuals and of housing these monuments in an edifice built specifically as a place for commemorating great figures and events in German history, beginning with the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (east of Münster, Cherussi defeat of the Romans under Varus in 9 A.D. by Arminius, also known as Hermann the Cherusker) but also including scientists, scholars, and women.

Although several busts were done immediately, plans for the building itself did not progress until after Napoleon’s fall. By the time Ludwig was crowned in 1825, sixty busts had been completed, and in 1826 he commissioned the construction of the edifice itself modeled after the Parthenon in Athens (Schelling later refers to it in a letter as the “Pantheon”). The cornerstone was laid in 1830 and the hall itself inaugurated on 18 October 1842 with ninety-six busts and sixty-four plaques.

Friedrich Tieck commenced work on Schelling’s bust in April 1809 after arriving in Munich from Coppet (frontispiece to Schelling als Persönlichkeit: Briefe, Reden, Aufsätze, ed. Otto Braun [Leipzig 1908]):


Friedrich Tieck was also commissioned with doing, among others, the busts of Goethe, Lessing, and Wallenstein.

A problem arose, however, because Tieck had already been planning to do a bust of Schelling in 1808 (see his letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 13 February 1808 [Krisenjahre 1:507]: “At the same time, in Germany I would then like to do your and perhaps also Schelling’s bust”). The crown prince, however, had already commissioned another sculptor with the project. Schelling essentially rejected that artist but made the mistake of telling the crown prince that Friedrich Tieck was going to do a bust in any case.

Tieck thus ended up working only in plaster, and the bust was not rendered in marble until 1859 by Arnold Hermann Lossow (the bust Tieck made of Auguste was similarly never rendered in marble, but rather only in plaster). See Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm on 2 May 1809 (letter 441a), and Sophie Bernhardi’s letter to Wilhelm on 17 September 1809 in note 2 there.

Schelling’s bust was in any case indeed included in this hall known as Valhalla (in German mythology the hall of fallen heroes; “Walhalla, that Germanic-sounding, Grecian-looking monument to the German spirit, which was to rise on the banks of the Danube,” thus Roger Paulin, Ludwig Tieck: A Literary Biography [Oxford 1986], 183); the hall is located in Donaustauf on the Danube River just below Regensburg, ca. 125 km northeast of Munich.

The Valhalla edifice is indicated on the following map just to the right of Regensburg (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


The edifice still stands today; here an illustration from Adalbert Müller, Donaustauf und Walhalla, 6th ed. (Regensburg 1844), following p. 11:


Here the broader setting of the edifice (frontispiece to ibid.):


That Friedrich Tieck began working on Schelling’s bust almost immediately after arriving in Munich in mid-April 1809 is attested by Friedrich Tieck himself in a letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 24 April 1809 (Krisenjahre 2:31): “I have not yet begun anything here in the way of work, though I will probably start on Schelling’s bust tomorrow, which I absolutely must do in any case.”

See, however, Bettina Brentano, who writes to Goethe on 20 April 1809 (Goethe’s Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde. Seinem Denkmal, ed. Herman Grimm, 4th ed. [Berlin 1890], 244; translation from Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child [Boston 1879], 216; translation altered), a letter whose dating is apparently incorrect:

Friedrich Tieck is at present employed on Schelling’s bust; it will not be handsomer than he, — and therefore very ugly; and yet it is a beautiful work.

As I entered Tieck’s work-room, and saw how the great, broad, splendid, square Schelling-head made its appearance beneath his nimble fingers [in plaster], I thought to myself, he had received instruction from God, how he made men, and that he would immediately breathe into him the breath of life, and the head would learn to say its ABCs, with which, after all, a philosopher can say so much.

And on 15 May 1809 (Bettinas Leben und Briefwechsel mit Goethe. Auf Grund des von Reinhold Steig bearbeiteten handschriftlichen Nachlasses neu herausgegeben, ed. Fritz Bergemann [Leipzig 1927], 251):

Friedrich Tieck is now doing Schelling’s bust, but it will be no handsomer than he himself, and hence quite loathsome; people often make me laugh; Schelling wants the shape of the head to be splendidly squared and broad because that would allude to the strength of his personality; Tieck does not want to make it any broader, since he wants to sculpt an elegant Schelling, and now the one reproaches the other’s obtuse sense of taste.

On 27 May 1809, Friedrich Tieck announces to Wilhelm Schlegel that “Schelling is finished, and will, moreover soon be cast” (Krisenjahre 2:43).

Concerning Schelling’s external appearance, Bettina writes similarly to Goethe the next day, 16 May 1809 (Bettinas Leben und Briefwechsel mit Goethe, 257; Fuhrmans 1:438n165): “I despise Schelling, who calls himself your friend; he is too ugly for you, and his wife even more so.”

Back on 21 October 1808, Bettina had written Achim von Arnim (Schelling im Spiegel seiner Zeitgenossen, ed. Xavier Tilliette [Torino 1974], 202):

I also saw Schelling; they wanted to introduce him to me, but since he has such a horrific-looking face, I was unable to bring myself to speak with him, and thus avoided him.

The following month, on 6 November 1808, Bettina wrote to Friedrich Karl and Kunigunde Savigny (Schelling im Spiegel seiner Zeitgenossen, 200–201):

Yesterday when I visited them [Ludwig Tieck and Sophie Bernhardi], I found Madam Schelling already there, as ugly as a worn-out fur wrap. She invited me to come visit her that evening with Madam Bernhardi, but since her husband is no less handsome than she herself, I thought that such a feast for the eyes would be a bit too opulent for my own, and that my eyes might well overeat having to gaze upon these countenances during an entire evening.

See also Schelling’s later letters to Wilhelm Schlegel from Munich on 2 May 1809 (letter 441a) and to Karl Schelling on 25 May 1809 (letter 441b). Back.

[4] Presumably because of her family’s deplorable living conditions in quarters situated on the interior lake around Kiel. Here an illustration of Kiel’s overall precarious location on the water (frontispiece to vol. 1 of H. Eckhardt, Alt-Kiel in Wort und Bild, 2 vols. [Kiel 1897]):


Here the interior Kleiner See (“Kleinkiel”; G. C. Holmer, Die Herzegl. Holstein-Gettorp. Residenz-See-und Handelstadt Kiel sambt dessen Hafen in einem accuraten Plan und Prespect entworfen [Kiel n.d. (1700–99)]; Bibliothèque nationale de France):



See Neal Evenhuis and Adrian Pont, “Nomenclatural studies toward a world catalog of Diptera genus-group names. III. Christian Rudolph Wilhelm Wiedemann,” Zootaxa 3638. 1-75. 10.1164:

After being away for almost a year [in southern France; see Caroline’s letter to Julie Gotter on 1 December 1805 (letter 399), note 15], Wiedemann and Luise returned to Kiel in May 1806. Still with no home to move into, they leased a small building complex in the institute, located on the muddy land of the monastery cemetery near the Kleiner Kiel lake, in which to live and also to set up teaching rooms and dormitories for the incoming pregnant patients

[Here an illustration of structures along the shores of the the Kleiner Kiel lake; and an illustration of the earlier Monastery of the Holy Spirit virtually directly on the shore of the lake; the newly founded Kiel university had moved out of the monastery in 1766 because of its poor condition (H. Eckhardt, Alt-Kiel in Wort und Bild, 2 vols. [Kiel 1897], 1:95, 100):]



They occupied those accommodations and shared them with incoming patients for another three years until a new maternity ward could be built and a house purchased for them in August 1809 on the Fleethörn with a yard just a few steps from the Kleiner Kiel lake. . . .

Wiedemann’s ill health was a continuing problem for him. Luise related that although the first trip to southern France in 1805–1806 helped to improve his health, he was never able to regain his former strength and vitality. Upon return to Kiel, the horrible conditions of the leased buildings on the muddy cemetery land probably did not help matters either. Jonat et al. (2005) [=W. Jonat, C. Andree, and T. Schollmeyer, Universitäts-Frauenklinik Kiel und Michaelis-Hebammenschule 1805–2005. Eine medizinhistorische Studie zum 200-jährigen Bestehen (Stuttgart 2005)] painted an unhealthy picture of rooms in cellars, dank and damp with mold growing on everything and a constant stench, not to mention two centuries of previous use of the area by local fishermen returning from the nearby lake.

Wiedemann complained about the conditions in a letter to the King: “In the complete absence of a cellar, which can hardly be dispensed with for the economy [i.e. for the functioning of the place], the ground floor is so damp that mold is growing everywhere, is inexorably destroying the floors, and is very detrimental to health.” (Jonat et al., 2005)

The architect who responded to the complaint with a personal inspection said “I was alarmed when I went in, as an obnoxious smell or rather stench wafted towards me, and I thought that familiarity must now rectify this error. Master-builder Triesberger, a robust man, told me as we came out that it had quickly made him feel sick.” (Jonat et al., 2005). Back.

[5] The reference is doubtless primarily to Italy (Germany and Italy in 1803 after the Principal Decree of the Imperial Deputation, Historical Atlas, 2nd ed. [New York 1921], 151):


Schelling’s work and esp. his illness during the spring and summer of 1809, as well as imminent military and geopolitical developments (see below) prevented the journey this time as well. Back.

[6] From the hymn “Wer weiss, wie nahe mir mein Ende” (1686) by Emilia Juliana, Countess of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (1637–1706) (D. Albert Fischer and D. W. Tümpel, Das Deutsche evangelische Kirchenlied des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts, vol. 5 [Gütersloh 1911], #631; see also Johann Sebastian Bach BWV 27, no. 1). English translation (1858) by Catherine Winkworth, Lyra Germanica: Second Series: The Christian Life (London 1863) (first two stanzas):

Who knows how near my end may be?
Time speeds away, and Death comes on;
How swiftly, ah! how suddenly,
May Death be here, and Life be gone!
My God, for Jesus' sake I pray
Thy peace may bless my dying day.

The world that smiled when morn was come
May change for me ere close of eve;
So long as earth is still my home
In peril of my death I live;
My God, for Jesus' sake I pray
Thy peace may bless my dying day.

Here from The Evangelical Hymnal, ed. David Bruening (St. Louis, Chicago 1922), no. 358:


The regrettable irony of Caroline’s allusion to this hymn is precisely that she would die on 7 September of this very year. Back.

[7] Caroline’s premonition was correct. Military events commenced on 9 April 1809, when Archduke Karl invaded Bavaria with 140,000 men, after which on 12 April 1809 a separate Austrian force invaded Italy, defeating the French viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais.

See the supplementary appendix on War of 1809 or the shorter account of the War of 1809. Back.

[8] The reference is to the economic hardships caused by the wars with England and Sweden, especially the closure of continental ports to English shipping and English supremacy at sea.

Following the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in 1806, Holstein and Kiel became part of Denmark, not returning to a German territory until 1814. In 1807, however, after Napoleon tried to compel Denmark to put its fleet at the disposal of the French against the English (the French having lost much of its fleet at Trafalgar), Denmark ended up losing essentially its entire fleet, and for its trouble was occupied by the French.

Concerning the ensuing geopolitical and military background to the economic hardships in Denmark and therefore also in Kiel, see H. Eckardt, Alt Kiel in Wort und Bild, vol. 1/1 (Kiel 1897), 223–26:

These six years of peace between 1801 and 1807 provided conditions under which commerce flourished in Kiel for a short period. . . . Around the same time, in 1806, for the first time since the exchange of the country [i.e., when Kiel became part of Denmark], a royal family once again moved into the castle in Kiel, namely, the Crown Prince and Regent of Denmark, Friedrich and his family.

The overall political situation prompted the crown prince to transfer his headquarters to Kiel, since in 1806 the war between France and Prussia had touched on Holstein’s borders at Ratekau as a result of Blücher’s occupation of Lübeck and his capitulation at Ratekau [see the supplementary appendix on the flight of Generals Blücher and Hohenlohe, autumn 1806].

It soon became impossible for Denmark to remain neutral, Napoleon demanded its alliance against England and its fleet in exchange for the Hanseatic cities and various other advantageous concessions. England heard about these negotiations through a turncoat, and before Denmark had even made its decision, England commenced hostilities against Denmark by sending a fleet of 54 warships, including 23 ships of the line and 500 transport ships, under the leadership of Admiral Gambier [seizure of essentially the entire Danish fleet and bombardment of Copenhagen]. . . .

After this successful coup, England . . . was cheeky enough to send an emissary to Kiel once again, whereupon the crown prince refused to receive him and now concluded a close alliance with France.

Now, finally, on 4 December 1807, having safely secured its prey [the Danish fleet] and devastated the capital [Copenhagen], England declared war on Denmark, and on 29 February 1808 Denmark similarly declared war against England’s only ally, Sweden.

A few days after this declaration of war against Sweden, unfortunate King Christian VII [of Denmark] died on 13 March 1808 in Rendsburg. As early as 30 October 1807, the crown prince had dissolved his headquarters in Kiel and transferred it to Copenhagen, though the court itself remained in Kiel, since the crown prince’s family stayed there for the time being. On 18 February 1808, the couple’s youngest daughter, the later Duchess of Glücksburg, was born. [Luise Wiedemann’s husband, Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann, was the attending physician at the birth; see the pertinent section in Luise’s memoirs.]

After the accession of her spouse during the summer of 1808, the new queen departed Kiel with her children and returned to Copenhagen.

Friedrich VI acceded to the throne during an especially difficult period. The state was involved in a war on two fronts, the fleet had been decimated and thereby rendered incapable of inflicting any significant damage on its dangerous enemy, England. State finances now also began to become chaotic, domestic commerce was crippled, and trade almost completely destroyed, since even before war had been declared, England had raised not fewer than 600 merchant ships worth 18 million Thaler, and almost as many over the course of the war.

To support Denmark against Sweden, a French auxiliary force under Bernadotte, consisting largely of Spanish troops, arrived in Holstein and Denmark, and preparations were made to invade Sweden. The plan had to be abandoned, however, since on 9 August 1808 the majority of the Spanish troops under the leader Romano seized the opportunity to return home from Nyborg on English ships. The Danes were able to conduct the war with greater success from Norway and under the command of Prince Christian August von Augustenburg. The fall of Gustav IV in Sweden, the accession of Karl XIII, and choice of Prince von Augustenburg as the successor to the throne brought an end to the war with Sweden, and in [December] 1809 the Treaty of Jonköping concluded.

Although Denmark continued the war with England under enormous privations and considerable bitterness, the loss of its fleet prevented it from attaining any significant success against the hated enemy, whose fleets covered the entire seaways in the north. Back.

[9] Luise Wiedemann seems to have made a remark to this effect about Schelling’s personality. Back.

[10] Emma and Minna Wiedemann. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott