Letter 440

• 440. Caroline to Pauline Gotter in Gotha: Munich, 1 March 1809

[Munich] 1 March [18]09

|543| Although I did indeed openly vent my vexation when I opened the large bundle of wool and received not a single word along with it, my dear Pauline, I was not really being fair. [1] For that particular parcel had been en route for so long that the Days of Penitence and Prayer had already been promulgated in the Gotha community and, as Jacobs maintains concerning his wife, |544| even arranged for the sake of a successful transit, whence any accompanying letter from you would also have had to endure considerable boredom. [2]

From the letter I eventually did receive from you, I can see that you did not experience any such boredom at all. Indeed, you lucky maiden! [3] You probably also attended the party on January 28 to represent one of the “element of the elements.” [4] That dear old gentleman, he has already long been talking about his silver locks, locks he doubtless still does not have. [5] But he does bind up “roses” enough for himself to make a domestic wreath of sorts, surrounding himself with young people and in so doing keeping old age itself at bay. May all the gods now double their sacred care and attention for him. And you, my dear Rose, be not proud, but rather moved and gladdened. [6]

One thing I do want to tell you about is that we have one of your rivals here with whom I really must tease you at least a bit just as I tease her with you. When a story by Goethe recently appeared in an almanac with the title “The Witless Wanderer,” I believed it could be referring to no one other than precisely your rival. [7] Alas, the story itself does not fit at all, even though that particular name seems as if it were invented especially for Bettina Brentano. Have you not yet heard of her? [8]

She is a wondrous little creature, a true Bettina (from the Venetian Epigrams) as far as physical suppleness and malleability are concerned, inwardly quite sensible but outwardly utterly foolish, seemly and proper and yet utterly beyond all propriety. [9] Even though nothing she is or does is purely natural, it is impossible for her to be any different. [10] She suffers from the Brentano family illness, namely, eccentricity that has become second nature, even though I do like her better than the others. She was in Weimar 1 or 2 years ago, where Goethe received her as the daughter of her mother, a mother whom he wished very well, and then favored with a thousand acts of kindness and love and even still writes to her occasionally. [11] |545| You can certainly ask him about her on occasion.

Although she came here along with her brother-in-law, Savigny, who has a position in Landshut, she remained even after he left so she could take singing lessons and take care of Tiek, who since Christmas has been essentially bedridden with a wretched case of gout and who has elicited a great deal of tender sympathy. [12] She has made a considerable fuss and scandal for all the people who have come to visit him, flirting with him in both word and deed, calling him by his first name, kissing him, in the process telling him the most wretched truths, though she is also quite clear concerning him, that is, is by no means in love with him or anything like that.

She spent entire days alone with him, since his sister, who was also sick for a long time, could not be with him herself. [13] Some people were even apprehensive about going to see him at all because of her, since her wit is not always quite as successful as she might like and because she is also capable of being quite crude and tiresome. She is more often to be found under a table than on it, and never in a chair. You are probably curious to know whether she is also young and pretty, but here, too, it is all quite droll insofar as she is neither young nor old, neither pretty nor ugly, and looks neither like a little man nor like a little woman. [14]

Even in a larger sense, the arrival of the Tieks was accompanied by a rather crazy set of household and financial circumstances. We already knew from earlier, and had merely forgotten it for the moment, that our friend Tiek is really nothing but a graceful and dignified rogue [15] about whom one of his friends composed a lied that begins:

A stowaway on board
Life's journey I afford;
Though such friendship immense,
Comes at my friends' expense.

But I do believe we have once more learned bye-the-bye what is really going on with this family, and the extent to which swindling constitutes an integral part of their “poesy” and “religion.” They came here from Vienna, heaven knows why |546| or what plans they may have had in mind, spent 8 weeks living quite splendidly in an inn, then moved into private quarters for 100 fl. a month, have a manservant and 3 additional domestics as well, a tutor for Frau Bernhardi’s children, etc., but not a single Heller of their own money. [16]

It is well known that Tiek himself never had any 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 von Knorring, who, however, is not here because he cannot leave Vienna in part because of his relatives there and in part because of debts, since his father is not sending him enough money to cover his extraordinary expenses on behalf of the Tieks. And for precisely that reason, he is able to send money here only quite sparingly, which is why things have turned into a perpetual crisis here. [17]

But their inventiveness and bare-faced impertinence, their cunning ingenuity has gotten them through till now. Savigny, among others, gave them a considerable sum. In the meantime, however, they are utterly exposed in all this business, and all their resources may very well soon dry up if Knorring does not come soon. Although everyone in town knows about their plight, their noble composure amid it all is unshakeable. [18] The image poor Tiek presents reflects his double quality as both sick and poor in his utter inability to help himself, and as a soft, weak, helpless person who is yet still aimable — when other people are around. [19]

Once when the conversation drifted around to Goethe, whose stature Tiek is disinclined to acknowledge as being as great as he is, Bettina quipped to him, “Just look at you, the way you are lying there; compared to Goethe, you look like Tom Thumb” — a statement that for me has an unmistakably vivid element of truth to it. [19a]

Tiek, however, has now become merely the “miserable” party amid the whole crowd, whereas his sister is an utterly despicable person, false as a cat, disloyal to everyone, and full of lies and tricks. Amid it all, her arrogance has reached laughable proportions, and it vexes her not little that she has been |547| utterly unable to make any more distinguished connections here and that all similar attempts in that regard have failed as well — she had a charming plan, namely, to have herself declared a baroness for her own person.

Even had it not been impossible in and of itself, various hindrances thwarted the plan in any case. We also had to witness the irritating scene during which her husband came to fetch the children from her, by force if necessary were she herself not accommodating. She really did let things get as far as they could, doing so because there, yet again, she was not without ulterior motives.

And so the police ended up occupying the house, and finally she divided things with the father. She is now divorced, and we may yet perhaps see her as Baroness Knorring. [20] The lawsuit with her husband was the most scandalous thing you could imagine, and she was shameless, indeed, crazy enough to entertain all the men with it.

And indeed, every time one turns around, one sullies oneself with these people — the financial problems, the malicious agitation, the cursing of others, the disloyalty they invariably have up their sleeve with anyone who does not take their side — in a word, I am sick and tired of even hearing about them. Tiek does admittedly feign a gentler posture, leaving the more concrete activity and vehemence to his sister.

But Tiek has his own ruses, just as the verse above relates. We for our part have become rather withdrawn with respect to it all, and now they will probably be carrying on about us more loudly than they did secretly before, when it seemed useful to them. I thought it not entirely improper to relate all this to you, since one can never know what may happen and when one might not want to have left the impression among really good friends that one has valued these bad friends the same as the good ones.

From Rome we heard how far these people really will go. There they tried to strike up a “business” with religion by proposing to the appropriate persons that for a pension they would recruit young artists to become Catholic |548| — except that the papal court is no longer inclined to enter into such arrangements. Indeed, Frau Bernhardi and her lady acquaintance turned Rome into a stage for their gossip and mutually malicious agitation, something variously attested by everyone who was there. She will tell you about all the various quarrels as if they do her honor, quarrels she herself admittedly did stoke in her own fashion. [21]

One further note I might mention is that the baron in whose company you saw Tiek in Gotha has been back here for several months now, having suffered no particular temptation and having become a little bit smarter. [22] He is wholly of the same opinion concerning the aforementioned things and indeed was the person who first enlightened us on the matter. They were hoping to make considerable use of him again, [23] but he managed to escape this castle dungeon without much harm, nor does he visit them anymore.

That notwithstanding, they have kept his bed linens and table setting, which they managed to get hold of before his arrival — unfortunately, through my mediation [24] — and he is having to manage with rented replacements. Their indiscretion is all the more vile with regard to the bedding because the gout is now being incorporated into them, as it were. [25] But all these bits are merely bagatelles.

You saw Werner in Weimar. He is an upright, sincere fellow, and had you spoken with him about us, I think you would have found that he is also an upright, sincere friend. His plays have a great many barbaric elements in them, and indeed are most barbaric of all in precisely those elements that are most cultured and most attuned to the modern sensibility. Otherwise his talent for portrayal is certainly grand, something attested once more by Attila. He spent a long time in Coppet, where his original personality delighted Frau von Staël, as Schlegel wrote us. [26]

The sculptor Tiek is expected to arrive from there any day now, whom I once thought was the most flighty of all the siblings but who now seems |549| the most solid, since he does after all live from what he himself earns and has only borrowed for his sister. [27] His first work will be Schelling’s bust, which he has long wanted to do simply on his own initiative — then, however, the crown prince wanted it for his collection. It was supposed to be done by a local sculptor, but Schelling managed to mediate with the prince on Tiek’s behalf to get the work. It will be executed in marble, and it will certainly be an opportunity for him to demonstrate his art.

Do you happen to know whether “The Witless Wanderer” is not perhaps a fragment from the sequel to Wilhelm Meister? To become anything in her own right, it seems she would have to have something both behind and before her. [28]

If you ever get to Jena again, have a look at a diminutive young man and old scholar whose name is Professor Oken. You will probably also encounter him in Weimar, at least I know he was to be there on 28 January, [29] indeed probably to give a presentation on light and warmth, about which he has recently written. He visited us quite often in Würzburg, and I was often delighted by the naiveté with which he was wont to bring to light so many wondrous and yet wonderful ideas. [30]

I hear that Goethe will be going to Karlsbad as early as May; and you? [31] — How will things look for us here this summer? Once again, we are standing at the threshold of war. Jakobs tells me he will be traveling to Gotha around Michaelis and could perhaps then bring you back with him. But that is a long way off. [32]

You played a trick on me by relating to Aunt Siegfried what I had written about Fräulein Wiebeking’s affections [33] — at the time there was really nothing to it, but now let me ask that you keep everything in your sensitive |550| heart and say nothing more to anyone. Fanny’s affection has in the meantime progressed quite far, albeit not so far that she herself might reveal it such that people might laugh at her. She did not realize that such a famous man as this Tiek even existed before he appeared here. Now her opinion, one he himself inculcated in her, is that compared with Tiek, Goethe is “nothing at all.” So now she is reading Zerbino , worshiping Genoveva, and is still capable of mistaking virtuous Tiedge’s Urania for a work by Tiek. [34]

Everything about Fanny is quite shallow, her education, her knowledge, her talent — that is, except for her capacity truly to catch fire. The only really solid thing about her is the fantasy she has about all this. Fritze, because of her simplicity and because she wants absolutely nothing other than what she is capable of, is considerably more charming, whereas Fanny is a little pedant through and through. You can easily see that you must by no means gossip any of this to Aunt Siegfried.

But I myself have nattered on enough. Please give my warm regards to your mother and sisters. [35] But, then, I am not really sending my regards at all, and have instead been sitting and chatting with all four of you. Stay well, all of you, and let me hear from you soon. [Errands, requests.]


[1] In her letter to Pauline Gotter on 23 November 1808 (letter 436), Caroline had made the following request (Des Herrn Roland de la Platiere, Oberaufsehers der Manufakturen in der Picardie … Kunst des Wollenzeugfabrikanten, oder, Neueste vollständige Beschreibung geschorne, glatte und gekreutzte Wollenzeuge zu verfertigen nebst den darzu gehörigen Instrumenten und den damit verfertigten Zeugen, trans. J.C. Harrepetern [Nürnberg 1782], end illustration):

At the Wiebekings, I saw some Gotha sheep’s wool that was so exquisite that I would like to ask you to send me 2 ℔ of the same sort. Our sheep here are too stupid to produce such wool. Some was supposed to be sent to us from Spain, the emissary even having already been appointed who would be importing it, when the war broke out. And so now the King of England is getting our merinos! I am quite serious in saying I would like to have some wool from your merinos


See note 20 there. — Concerning the allusion to war, see note 19 there. Back.

[2] 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.

Caroline’s allusion is not entirely clear and may be irretrievable.

The Day of Penitence and Prayer was a statutory Protestant religious holiday based on Jonah 3:4–10 that at the time was celebrated on different days in different parts of Germany, though the stipulated day eventually became more consistent throughout Germany (Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):


Bavaria, officially Catholic at the time, did not celebrate the day, and Caroline may be referring to former residents of Gotha there stipulating certain days for its celebration back in November, when Caroline had made the request for wool (in some parts of Germany, the day generally fell between 16 and 22 November), possibly involving, moreover, a trip back to Gotha, providing an opportunity for having letters delivered (Thomas Kitchin, Germany [n.p., n.d.]):



[3] “Lucky”: Pauline had been in Weimar in January 1809 (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


She seems also to have been there in November 1808; see the pertinent section in note 8 to Pauline’s letter to Caroline on 6 September 1808 (letter 434).

Here the Erfurter town gate in Weimar, i.e., the gate through which travelers from Erfurt and Gotha entered the town from the west (illustration from Wilhelm Bode, Damals in Weimar [Weimar 1912], 10):



[4] The redoute, a masked ball in Weimar celebrating the birthday of Duchess Luise and directed by Goethe and Johann Daniel Falk, was in fact not held until 3 February 1809 (representative illustration from Der Gesellschaftswagen/ Ein unterhaltendes Taschenbuch . . . Zum neuen Jahr gewidmet [n.d.]):


Concerning the date of the redoute, see Lorenz Oken to Schelling from Jena on 3 February 1809 (Alexander Ecker, Lorenz Oken. Eine biographische Skizze. Durch erläuternde Zusätze und Mittheilungen aus Oken’s Briefwechsel vermehrt [Stuttgart 1880], 205; idem, Lorenz Oken. A biographical Sketch. With explanatory notes, selections from Oken’s correspondence, and a portrait of the professor, trans. Alfred Tulk [London 1883], 123 [translation altered]; Fuhrmans 3:587):

This evening there is a redoute in Weimar. I will be going over for it. Several processionals will be presented. Goethe is delighted to be organizing the thing. I will be appearing in his processional but do not know yet what part has been assigned to me [Oken appeared as the morning star; see below].

Goethe confirms the date in his diary (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:4:9). Here an illustration of part of Goethe’s themed processional from the similar redoute the following year on 30 January 1810 in the grand hall of the Weimar castle; the processional that year was “Romantic Poesy” (Gustav Könnecke, Goethe: Eine Biographie in Bildnissen, 2nd ed. [Marburg 1900], 31):


The date is also confirmed in the missive “Correspondence and Notices: Weimar, 6 February,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1809) 31 (Monday, 13 February 1809), 247–48, which also provides a brief description of the processional and clarifies Caroline’s allusions to Pauline having perhaps represented one of the “element of the elements” (unfortunately no evidence seems to document whether she participated) (illustrations in order: [1] hunter: Taschenbuch für Forst- und Jagdfreunde für das Jahr 1802; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [2] falconer: James Edmund Harting, Biblitheca Accipitraria: A Catalogue of Books Ancient and Modern relating to Falconry [London 1891], illustration following p. 88; [3] fisherman: frontispiece to Gottfried Jacob Wagner, Der In der Edlen Fischerey wohl-unterrichtende und erfahrne Fischer etc. [Nürnberg 1729]; [4] blacksmith: frontispiece to Jacob Wahrmund, Lob, Ruhm, Ursprung und Alterthum Des Löbl. Handwercks der Schmiede etc. [n.p. 1710])::

Correspondence and Notices
Weimar, 6 February

On this past Friday evening, 3 February, we enjoyed a brilliant masquerade here in the municipal house celebrating the birthday of the reigning Frau Duchess. Several masked characters in costume had gathered for a processional, and when the Frau Duchess arrived after 9:00 p.m., this processional, following an advance group of 18 masked members whose task was to clear the way, proceeded twice quite solemnly around the hall in the following order: choragus [chorus leader], earth, air, water, fire.

Hunter as the companion of earth. Falconer as the companion of air. Fisherman as the companion of water. Blacksmith as the companion of fire.



Tutelary spirit. Four canaphorae [basket carriers], who brought Oberon’s [king of the elves] lilly, [Wilhelm] Tell’s apple, Herder’s Palms [Johann Gottfried Herder, eventually together with August Jacob Liebeskind, Palmblätter. Erlesene morgenländische Erzählungen für die Jugend (131 oriental narratives), eventually 4 vols. (1786, 1793, 1796, 1800), though the authorship is still uncertain], Tasso’s laurel wreath. Four psyches. Sun and moon. Stars. Astrologer. Rural folk, gardeners, shepherds, children. The morning star [Lorenz Oken]. The three Magi. Servant Ruprecht [folkloric companion of St. Nicholas].

Each member delivered a short address, appropriate to his or her role, in verses to the noble lady [the duchess]. The following were those of Goethe [“Aus dem Maskenzuge zum 30. Januar 1809,” Weimarer Ausgabe 16:213–14 (notes on 455–56) (approximate translation)]:


Fixed stars from those heights
Cannot be so clearly understood;
I, however, do regard the planets,
Since quite plainly they speak.
New ones, four are they,
Crowned, adorned with gracious names,
Juno, Vesta, Pallas, Ceres are called,
Small, till lately not yet known.
To me do all complain
That in heaven be they hardly queried:
"Had but a powerful spirit assembled us
In that night of creation,
Would we, too, with comely appearance
Be venerated in the lofty celestial house;
We, too, in a single orbit be traveling about, 
After the fashion of our companions.
The names we four do bear
Would we gladly do without;
Calling ourselves instead — that the world
Might praise us now and later — Louise."

Farmers, Gardeners, Shepherds.

And now come the children of the earth,
To hear what heaven has said;
So silently, so still do they proceed,
Quite astonished are they.
I do believe they are the same
Who sought the child in the manger,
And who shyly now approach
To revere their current mistress.

Behind this processional there followed, immediately after our mystical Servant Ruprecht on cothurnus, a journalist with a moveable desk, holding a grand hat under his arm that unfolded into a chair on which he sat down in order to describe the masquerade while seated at the desk. He thereupon distributed an issue of the Zeitung für die elegante Welt, to which he had allegedly sent in his description. —

What a shame that the hall was so full and so oppressively hot that no one could dance.

See the notes in Weimarer Ausgabe 16:455–56:

Goethe composed these stanzas on 27 January (see diaries 3:48) [correct: 29 January 1809; see Weimarer Ausgabe 3:4:8]; the crown prince, Carl Friedrich, had asked Goethe, who was staying in Jena at the time, to compose a short poem for the envisioned masquerade. . . .

. . . a copy of the manuscript with the following lines printed after the stanzas:

The public is asked to assemble the passageway themselves through which the processional will circumnavigate the hall by aligning themselves with the white lines marked on the floor. A trumpet and drum signal will be given to announce when it is time.

. . . In the copy found in Goethe’s literary estate in the Goethe- and Schiller-Archiv, the names of the participants have been added to the personal index (p. 3, “Arrangement of the Processional”) in the hand of Caroline Ulrich; and the author’s name “Falk” has been added by August von Goethe to most of the poems in the collection [whence the reference in Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:661 to a “collective piece”], similarly the name “Goethe” to the verses spoken by the astrologer and country folk. That these verses are indeed from Goethe’s hand is also attested by Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1809) 31 [see above], Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände (1809) 50 (February), where they are reproduced accompanied by Goethe’s name, and then without his name in Journal des Luxus und der Moden (1809) February, 120f. Back.

[5] Here Goethe in 1806 (Gustav Könnecke, Goethe: Eine Biographie in Bildnissen, 2nd ed. [Marburg 1900], 29):



[6] I.e., Pauline herself as one of the “roses” (Almanach und Taschenbuch zum geselligen Vergnügen [1800]):



[7] The enigmatic novella “The Witless Wanderer” (“Die pilgernde Thörinn”), the story of a genteel lady encountered wandering the highways and taken in for two years by a landed family, only to cause a peculiar romantic entanglement, had been published in Johann Friedrich Cotta’s Taschenbuch für Damen auf das Jahr 1809 (Tübingen 1809), 252–66. This anthology appeared in bookstores in late 1808, as was the custom.

Goethe translated this piece freely from the French and later inserted it into Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre, oder die Entsagenden (Stuttgart 1821) as part of book 1, chap. 5; several of the novellas intended for this novel were published first in Cotta’s journal. The anonymous French original, “La folle en pélerinage,” had been published in the journal Cahiers de lecture 1 (n.p. [Gotha] 1789), 121–41, a journal edited by H. A. O. Reichard in Gotha to offer French reading material for German readers (poems, novellas, theater news, etc.).

According to his diary, Goethe read his translation aloud to acquaintances during his stay in Karlsbad during June–September 1808, when Pauline Gotter probably became acquainted with it; he notes readings on 30 June and 1 July, i.e., before Pauline departed on 14 July 1808 (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:354–55; concerning the acquaintance between Pauline and Goethe in Karlsbad during the summer of 1808, see Pauline’s letter to Caroline on 6 September 1808 [letter 434]).

For the text of the novella, see supplementary appendix 440.1. For a brief discussion of its role in Goethe’s later novel Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre, about which Caroline later perceptively queries Pauline, see note 28 below. Back.

[8] The story never had any connection with Bettina, though even later, Pauline still refers to her thus in a letter from Gotha to Schelling in Munich on 23 October 1811 (Plitt 2:267–68).

The famous incident Pauline recounts in that letter between Christiane Goethe and Bettina in 1811 involved Bettina’s importunate and presumptuous visits to Goethe when he was in fact quite busy preparing materials for fall publication. Although he himself was patient with Bettina’s importunacy, his wife was not; an element of jealousy was apparently also at work.

The incident was precipitated by a difference of opinions at an art exhibition given by Goethe’s friend, Heinrich Meyer, and provides a rare account of a physical altercation between two women (illustrations: [1] Berlinischer Damen Kalender auf das Jahr 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung [2] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Der rasende Zorn eines Weibes,” from 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 xxvii; [3] Francesco Maggiotto, Zwei raufende Weiber [1756–1806]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur FdPedro AB 2.6):




I [Pauline] just spent a week in Weimar . . . A few weeks before my own visit, the witless pilgrim — Bettina — was also in Weimar, though her behavior was allegedly a bit more stable and reasonable as Madam von Arnim [Bettina had married Achim von Arnim on 11 March 1811].

I was not keen on asking Goethe about her, since he no longer wants to hear anything about her or see her because of a heated and vulgar public argument that took place between her and Madam von Goethe. For the sake of Bettina’s honor, I do hope that the rather base meanness came from only one party. In any event, only one party did escalate to the point of a physical scuffle, if one might put it thus, insofar as she tore poor Bettina’s glasses right off her face and crushed them on the ground. It might be desirable that she open everyone’s eyes to herself, albeit in a gentler fashion.

In her own turn, and with respect to Caroline’s quip about teasing Bettina with allusions to Pauline, Bettina had written from Munich to Goethe on 26 March 1809 (Bettina von Arnim, Goethe’s Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde. Seinem Denkmal, ed. Herman Grimm, 4th ed. [Berlin 1890], 236; translation from Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child [Boston 1879], 216):

Schelling, too, I seldom see; he has something about him which discomforts me, and this something is his wife, who wants to make me jealous of you; she corresponds with a certain Pauline G., of Jena: she is always telling me how dear you hold her, what amiable letters you write to her, etc. I listen, and become ill from it, and then the lady irritates me. Ah! it is all one; I cannot will that you love me best, but no one shall dare to measure with me their rights in love to you. Back.

[9] Caroline is referring to a character Goethe encountered in Venice whom he describes in his Epigramme Venedig 1790, nos. 36–47 (most of the Venetian Epigrams, albeit rendered less overt in some instances, were initially published in Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1796, 205ff.).

Weimarer Ausgabe 1:1:316–19. trans. Paul Dyrsen, Goethe’s Poems (New York 1878), 298–301; not without precedent with this collection of epigrams, the final two lines of the final epigram were not included in Dyrsen’s translation; here translated by the present editor.

Tired I was with looking forever at nothing but pictures,
Tired with treasures of art, such as in Venice abound;
For ev'n this enjoyment requires relaxation and leisure.
Delicate charms of a live body I longed to see.
Then I beheld, enchantress, in you the original of the
Boys Giovanni Bellin charmingly painted with wings;
Boys whom Paul Veronese sent up with cups to the bridegroom,
Whose companions, deceived, drank pure water for wine.

Seemingly formed by an artist's hand, this delicate creature,
Soft, with invisible bones, swims, a Mollusca in frame.
All with her is a movable limb, is a joint and is pleasing,
All is proportioned, true, moving at pleasure and will.
Truly, I have been studying men and animals, birds, fish,
Reptiles and insects and all nature's remarkable freaks;
Still, surprised, I admire you, Bettina, sweetest of wonders;
For, being equal to all, you are an angel, besides.

Do not, beautiful child, turn up your legs to Olympus;
Ganymede is not at all pleased with his Jupiter's leers.

Turn them up as much as you please! In praying we do the
Same with our arms, and we are neither so young nor so pure.

Sideways bent is your neck. Not a wonder; it often supports the
Weight of your body; a light weight, if it were not your neck.
As for myself I am charmed with the small head's drooping position.
Hardly has neck ever bent to so enchanting a power.

Does not with hideous forms, most arbitrarily painted,
Breughel, the saddest of weirds, startle, bewilder our mind?
Does not as well great Dürer, with apocalyptical phantoms,
Human impossible shapes, often endanger our brain?
Does not a poet in songs of sphinxes, sirens and centaurs
Prick with curiosity's sting every listener's ear?
Does not a dream in a strange way baffle the efforts of one who,
Sleeping, imagines he walks, whilst he is carried away?
Does not as well Bettina confuse by contorting her fine limbs?
But she immediately charms, when she alights on her soles.

Frequently I overstep the chalk line's sacred inclosure;
But if Bottegha, the child, draws it, she pushes me back.

"With these innocent souls what does he? Jesus Maria!
Bundles of linen we take down to the well in that way.
Dear me, she falls. Let's go! for I cannot stand it. How well she
Got on her feet; she is light, graceful and smiling at that."
Rightly you do, old woman, admire Bettina; you seem to
Grow much younger and fair, since you delight in my pet.

Every one of your movements charms me; especially when your
Father's remarkable skill tosses you up in the air,
Whence in a somerset's whirl with grace you safely regain your
Feet and continue your run, barely fatigued by the leap.

Every face is unwrinkled; gone are the furrows of hard work;
Sorrow and poverty flee; all who are present are glad.
Honest tar grows tender and strokes your cheek, and his purse, though
Not Fortunatus's purse, opens; he give you a mite.
And the Venetian himself throws back his cloak and assists you
More than he would, if you had called on St. Anthony, or
Begged by the Lord's five wounds, by the sacred heart of the virgin,
Or by the torments of fire, burning and cleansing the soul.
Every boy as well as the sailor, the huckster and beggar,
Draws toward you and enjoys with you your frolicsome sprights.

Truly, I like my poetical trade; but I find it expensive;
Swelling the epigrams means zechins dwindling away.

"What has turned your head, you idler? Will you not stop soon?
Making a book of a girl! Hit on a worthier task!"
Wait, very soon I'll sing about kings, the mighty of this world,
When I but better than now know that peculiar trade.
But in the meanwhile shall I sing Bettine; for tricksters and poets
Are closest of kin, constantly seeking and finding the one the other.

See supplementary appendix 209.1 with its discussion of Friedrich Schlegel’s scandalous novel Lucinde, in which Friedrich describes how the charming young girl Wilhelmine often “takes an inexpressible pleasure in lying on her back and kicking her legs up in the air, careless of her dress and the world’s opinion.” Back.

[10] In her letter to Luise Wiedemann in February 1809 (letter 438), Caroline had quipped that “all the Brentanos have an extremely unnatural nature.” Back.

[11] Caroline seems well informed about the formerly romantic and indeed continuing relationship between Goethe and Maximiliane Brentano, née von Laroche. Back.

[12] Friedrich Karl von Savigny had succeeded Gottlieb Hufeland in Landshut, the latter having been elected mayor and senatorial president in his hometown Danzig (see the second paragraph of Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 2 April 1808 [letter 432], esp. with notes 6–10) (map: Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


See below concerning Ludwig Tieck’s illness. Back.

[13] Ludwig Tieck and Sophie Bernhardi had just been through the scandalous saga of August Ferdinand Bernhardi having shown up in Munich on 24 December 1808 to serve Sophie with a court order granting him custody of her two sons, Wilhelm and Felix Theodor Bernhardi. Ludwig ended up with what was apparently his worst case of gout yet, and Sophie with her usual extreme hypochondria. See Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter on 23 November 1808 (letter 436), note 11. Back.

[14] In her letter to Luise Wiedemann in February 1809 (letter 438), Caroline similarly remarks:

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, but it is so sad to see how she strains, distends, and distorts that which she has. All the Brentanos have an extremely unnatural nature.

Bettina was on a first name basis with Ludwig Tieck even earlier in Frankfurt. Clemens Brentano writes to Achim von Arnim in 1806 (Ludwig Tieck was in Rome from the summer of 1805 till the summer of 1806, then returned from Rome to Heidelberg and then on to Frankfurt with Carl Friedrich von Rumohr; Achim von Arnim und die ihm nahe standen, ed. Reinhold Steig and Herman Grimm, 3 vols. [Stuttgart 1894–1904], 1:193):

He [Tieck] was infinitely pleased and yet also displeased among us; everyone loved him, he went about from room to room, read three of Shakespeare’s plays aloud, during which Bethmann fell asleep three times. . . .

He eventually got on a first-name basis with Bettina, she sang so wonderfully for him, her wild flight of the soul, not the aria brillante the way she used to sing. She also spoke quite nicely with him, her personality deeply moving him, he went to considerable trouble trying to persuade her to compose poetry, and she promised to do so. As far as her singing is concerned, i.e., her extemporaneous singing, I saw him weep during it, and he assured us — he, the church musician — that she alone had first completed his entire series of ideas about music, that he had never heard anything like it, and that now he knew how music arose in the first place.

In January 1809, shortly before Caroline’s letter here, Bettina herself wrote to Goethe (Bettina von Arnim, Goethe’s Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde. Seinem Denkmal, ed. Herman Grimm, 4th ed. [Berlin 1890] 217; translation from Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child [Boston 1879], 192–93):

I have been several weeks in Munich, follow music, and sing a good deal with Canon [Peter] Winter, who is a strange fish, but just suits me, for he says, “Songstresses must have their humors,” and so I can exercise them all on him. I spend much time by Ludwig Tieck’s sick-bed: he suffers from gout; a sickness which gives audience to melancholy and evil humors: I endure him as much from taste as humanity: a sick-room is, in and for itself, through its great quiet, an attractive spot; a patient who, with tranquil courage, meets his pains, makes it a sacred spot.

You are a great poet, Tieck a great endurer, and to me a phenomenon, for I did not know before, that there were such great pains: he cannot make a single movement without groaning; his face drips with sweat of agony; and his look often wanders over the flood of pain, like a tired trembling swallow, which seeks in vain a spot, where it can rest; and I stand astonished and ashamed before him, that I am so healthy; therewith also he composes Spring-sonnets, and rejoices at a bunch of snow-crops which I brought him.

(Christoph Nathe and Gottlieb Böttger d.Ä, Frau am Krankenbett [1796]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 245):


As often as I come, he first begs me to give the bunch fresh water; then I wipe, quite softly, the perspiration from his face; one can scarce do it without giving him pain; and thus I perform all sorts of trifling services for him, which shorten the time. He will teach me English, too; then he lets forth all the anger and peevishness of disease upon me, that I am so stupid, question so absurdly, and never understand the answer; I am astonished too, for I believed with other people that I was very clever, if not a genius; and now I come to such abysses, where no bottom is to be found, namely, that of learning; I must with astonishment acknowledge, that I have learned nothing my whole life.

Wilhelm von Humboldt writes to his wife, Caroline, on 4 November 1808 (Wilhelm und Caroline von Humboldt in ihren Briefen, vol. 3, Weltbürgertum und preußischer Staatsdienst: Briefe aus Rom und Berlin-Königsberg 1808–1810, ed. Anna von Sydow [Berlin 1909], 11):

A young Brentano girl, Bettina, 23 years old, Carl Laroche’s niece, has quite astonished me. This sort of liveliness, these leaps of both mind and body (for sometimes she sits on the ground, sometimes on the stove), so much spirit and so much foolishness is unprecedented. And seeing something like this after six years in Italy is certainly more than singular.

See also Ludwig Geiger, “Miscellen 35. Ein Urtheil über Bettinas Briefwechsel,” Goethe Jahrbuch 15 (1894), 296–97:

The following letter from Ludwig Tieck to Karl August Böttiger (in the Dresdner Bibliothek, Briefsammlung, Band 202), while offering nothing new regarding this much-disputed collection [viz. Bettina von Arnim, Goethe’s Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde. Seinem Denkmal (Berlin 1835) cited above], it is of some interest insofar as it was written by one of the leaders of Romanticism. Although the letter is undated, its initial words do indicate it dates to the year in which the correspondence appeared, namely, 1835. It reads:

Madam von Lüttichau told me you wished to see this childlike correspondence. Since according to agreement it belongs to me and I have just received it back from the book binder, I am pleased to send to you this sign of the times for perusal. Much that I saw and experienced, even the initial visit with me (sic) at the home of the elder Madam Goethe is absolutely false and untrue. The chronology is often self-contradictory etc., so that no doubt most of this poetry quite without any truth [an allusion to Goethe’s autobiography, Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and truth)] was written quite late.

The audacity of the authoress to expose herself in this way would be incomprehensible did she herself not thereby recede into the background such that so many young girls and women find all these confessions virtuous, pure, and innocent. When I became acquainted with Bettina in August 1806, she had to be 24, hence in 1807 25 years old — a child. She herself relates an anecdote about the expulsion of the French from Frankfurt in 1792–93, where her own behavior indicates a child of at least 10 years old. You will either be delighted or annoyed, depending.

Tieck is incorrect concerning Bettina’s age; Bettina was born in 1788 and was thus only 19 years old in 1807. Can the assertion that Bettina visited Goethe’s mother first in Tieck’s company be otherwise documented?

In his memoirs, Felix Theodor Bernhardi recalled Bettina Brentano’s presence in Munich and in his mother and uncles’ household in Munich during 1808 and 1809 (Aus dem Leben Theodor von Bernhardis, vol. 1, Jugenderinnerungen [Leipzig 1893], 37–38):

Fräulein Brentano — Bettina — the child, had also found her way to our apartment. One of the strangest phenomena the human eye has ever beheld. She was pretty, diminutive, daintily built, had dark, animated eyes, and was naive and childlike, albeit only with some considerable effort. Wondrously dressed, in a simple house dress, without cloak or shawl or carrying a reticule on her arm as was customary, she was already roaming the streets at 7:00 a.m., entering people’s houses and proving quite difficult indeed to get rid of.

Being brusque and direct with her did not help, or at least in vain did my uncle Ludwig Tieck go to considerable lengths in this regard without violating propriety. She merely became increasingly childlike. More than once, she burst into my uncle’s room early in the morning, he lying there suffering from gout, sat down on his bed and entertained him charmingly — regardless of whether his impatience with her presence reached the point of genuine rage.

She called everyone by their first names, frequently sat down on older gentlemen’s laps and declared her love for them. It was most inappropriate, however, when she perpetrated these farces on serious Count von Stadion, who [with the threat of war between France/Bavaria and Austria] was perpetually having to consider matters of utmost seriousness and significance.

She was unimpressed by his dignified disposition, and he had no other choice but to endure this wondrous creature after the fashion of the experienced man of the world, though such never did really entirely succeed. Back.

[15] Here as in her letter to Johanna Frommann in November 1808 (letter 437), Caroline’s allusion to “grace” (or “gracefulness”) and “dignity” wryly evokes Schiller’s earlier treatise Ueber Anmuth und Würde, initially published as “Ueber Anmuth und Würde,” Neue Thalia 3, no. 2 (1793) 115–230; trans. by Jane V. Curran as Schiller’s “On Grace and Dignity” in Its Cultural Context: Essays and a New Translation, ed. Jane V. Curran and Christophe Fricker (Rochester, NY 2005), 123–70. Back.

[16] A Heller was coin of low value used in both Germany and Austria.

Sophie Bernhardi’s son Felix later recalled the journey from Vienna to Munich (Aus dem Leben Theodor von Bernhardis, vol. 1, Jugenderinnerungen [Leipzig 1893], 37–38) (Thomas Kitchin, Map of Germany [ca. 1780]):


During the winter of 1808–9 [correct: in October 1808], we traveled from Vienna to Munich, though I do not really know why [to avoid August Ferdinand Bernhardi serving a court order in Vienna for custody of his children] — if not perhaps to be affected by the imminent war in Austria. The journey, which naturally lasted several days, was extremely unpleasant. We often traveled in snow storms, and my brother, who was considered sickly, was particularly affected. Our private tutor Herr Jost and his wife had been dismissed in Vienna — and a Viennese by the name of Renner had taken his place, his diminutive, helpless wife now accompanying my mother as a lady’s maid. I cannot quite remember, but it seems my uncle Ludwig traveled with us; in any case, he was with us again immediately after our arrival.

We initially lived on the Max Joseph Square, where small squads of recruits exercised daily. Cannons were positioned under the royal castle and were used for daily artillery exercises.

See Clemens Brentano concerning the tutor, Herr Renner, in a letter to Friedrich Karl von Savigny on 25 February 1809, just the time Caroline is here writing (Krisenjahre 3:389):

Madam [Bernhardi] seems to me to be projecting a modest assonance of love upon the little mustached private tutor; she gazes at him quite tenderly, sends her son [Felix] off to [Ludwig] Tieck, and spends most of her time in her quarters on the étage [Fr., “story, floor of a building”] with this iuvenis [Latin, “young man”].

(Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Der kleine Cäsar [1782]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [4-239]):



[17] Sophie Bernhardi, who in copious letters kept Wilhelm Schlegel updated on her “fate,” as she calls it, and was never at a loss for gloomy reports about the concomitant health problems, was uncomfortably aware of Caroline’s intimate initiation into her circumstances in Munich.

She writes to Wilhelm on 26 January 1809 (Krisenjahre 2:13–14). Her reference to her “recent misfortune” refers to August Ferdinand Bernhardi’s arrival in Munich on 24 December 1808, upon which the police occupied her house and forced her to yield to Bernhardi’s court order to gain custody of both her children. Bernhardi eventually yielded and left her custody of Felix Theodor, whose paternity Sophie, for the sake of financial leverage, had long tried to attribute to Wilhelm, whereas in reality that paternity belonged almost certainly to Karl Gregor von Knorring.

The manipulative crescendo (or descrescendo, depending on how one views it) in the following sequence is variously discernible in many of the letters Sophie writes to Wilhelm during this period:

I hasten to answer your extremely cordial letter, my precious friend, at least with a few words, since my health will not allow me to write much. This most recent misfortune had a horrible effect on my body, I suffer from constant fevers, and my blood seems intent on flowing out of every vein, on top of which, moreover, I periodically suffer from absence of mind, and my eyes are now so weak that I am almost blind.

(Frey, Babioles Lithographiques no. 3 [ca. 1850]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. C: 319c:)


To add insult to the injury of my misfortune, my brother is now bedridden with his gout, and Knorring is not yet here. So you can see how ill my situation is in every possible way, and how your letter was a veritable benefaction for me because it assured me of your continuing concern. I may be forced to make use of your offer [for even more financial assistance] and will therefore write to Hardenberg [who was already providing funds in conjunction with Wilhelm].

I fear my health will make it unavoidable that I use the mineral-springs spa in Pisa, though my yearning to see you again is so great that I will certainly do everything in my power to come to Coppet [neither happened]. I must now assiduously avoid thinking much about my fate, since otherwise I must fear a complete confusion of mind.

(Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1795; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:)


My single, sole thought is that I must get away from here as soon as possible, and I am awaiting Knorring’s arrival with ardent longing to come to some decision in this regard [she did not leave until 1812]. Whenever I walk over to the window and see the members of the police who were in my house and trying to tear my children away from me, I cannot but despair.

(Johann Georg Pendel, Bewaffnete Herren mit Laterne [1807]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 1980:)


I can no longer control myself, and thus flee from all people and seek consolation with God, though without finding it.

(Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, …welch ein Anblick! [ca. 1790]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 [262]:)


I am suffering greatly here from Caroline’s old malice, which is basically nothing but her triumph over my misery; that is also why I must get away from here. I am alone with my suffering here, for you can easily see that my brother can offer me no comfort; on the contrary, he and his illness and his imperious moods are but one plague more.

(Anonymous, Frau am Krankenbett [ca. 1771–1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. C: 1 oben rechts:)


Often I just want to let my soul sink from sheer loss of courage, and simply no longer concern myself with what becomes of my fate.

(Taschenkalender für Damen auf das Jahr 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:)


I wanted to write my brother [Friedrich Tieck was in Coppet at the time working on the bust of Madame de Staël; he journeyed to Munich in mid-April 1809], but I cannot, so please tell him that every bond of pain is about to dissolve, and I am about to destroy myself in despair, for all the physicians are, after all, recommending peace and quiet. Well, I will indeed finally have peace and quiet in my grave, and will never stir again — ever.

(Scene from The Sorrows of Young Werther from Goethe’s Works, vol. 2, trans. G. Barrie [New York 1885], 352:)


I know not whether my brother there has any money, but if he has some, he should really bring me some fine white material, cotton, of the sort your own shirts are made, for, after all, if I am to come to Coppet, I will simply have to have several morning dresses, but if he cannot, then it is all the same to me, though he should come now, for if he stays away much longer, he will ruin his chances for a good reception by the crown prince [see Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm on 12 December 1808 (letter 437a), note 1].

I could write more were not everything, including life itself, a matter of indifference to me.

(Frauenzimmer Allmanach zum Nutzen u Vergnügen für das Jahr 1792; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[18] Their acquaintances almost universally thought that the Tieck siblings (Ludwig, Friedrich, Sophie) were leading a financially risky and arguably irresponsible lifestyle on the Max Joseph Square in Munich. Wilhelm Grimm writes to Jacob Grimm later in 1809, on 6 August 1809 (Briefwechsel zwischen Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm aus der Jugendzeit, ed. Herman Grimm and Gustav Hinrichs [Weimar 1881], 147):

Clemens [Brentano] has nothing good to say about Tieck, who has shamefully cheated everyone out of money at one time or the other, and now no one wants to hear anything about him, so also Savigny. His poesy is ossifying and becoming wooden, and he has only the one, single, beautiful tone; he reads nothing by Arnim, saying he has absolutely no talent and merely borrows everything from him. They continue to live in the finest manner and yet without having anything, though with many servants, and Bettina has often snuffed their wax candles and told them they ought to burn tallow. Now, however, not even she goes to see them anymore.

The worst of all of them is allegedly Madam Bernhardi, who considers herself to be the premier poetess and who told Clemens that there is more wit in two lines of [Ludwig Tieck’s] Zerbino than in everything Arnim has done, whereupon Brentano asked her to show him those two lines that he might cut them out, the entire book being a bit too fat for him.

Wilhelm Grimm then writes to Jacob Grimm on 28 August 1809 (ibid., 156):

First concerning Tieck. As far as he as a poet is concerned, no one has disputed that, and everyone acknowledges his merits; the reproach is that he lingers within this one circle, within this melancholy, graceful play without moving further or even wanting to move further, indeed, moving backward insofar as he does absolutely nothing and hence is not so much resting on his laurels as being completely covered by them.

Whereby Clemens, however, believes it is all a result of, first of all, his uncommon high-mindedness toward everyone, not even excepting someone like Goethe, as if his own poesy were and must remain the only center, which is why he does not read Arnim’s poems, which are, after all, richer if not as clear and classical as his, Tieck asserting instead that it is quite ordinary stuff and merely copied from him and Schiller.

He is similarly refined in externals, keeps two manservants etc., lives quite well without possessing the least bit of wealth. And then the thoughtlessness, which is nothing less than simple badness, with which he borrows money without either being able or indeed even intending ever to pay it back, e.g., from Savigny, who wants nothing more to do with him. That is also why Bettina wrote him quite straightforwardly that she could no longer come visit him, nor does she. Back.

[19] Fr., “friendly, amiable.”

Illustration: Gottlieb Böttger d.Ä, Krankenbett mit Besuchern (1805); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 242:



[19a] Here a nineteenth-century illustration from the German version of the Tom Thumb fairy tale that underscores Caroline’s unflattering reference (“unmistakably vivid element of truth”) as well as the considerable distance from those earlier days in Jena when she and Dorothea “were almost rolling on the floor with laughter” at a sonnett composed by Wilhelm and Tieck lampooning in their own turn that grand adversary of the Romantics Garlieb Merkel (letter 252), since now it is Tieck’s turn to be thus satirized (“Die Volksmärchen II: Der Däumling,” in Die Illustrirte Welt: Blätter aus Natur und Leben, Wissenschaft und Kunst zur Unterhaltung und Belehrung etc. 13 [1865], 303–306, here 305):



[20] This letter presumaby accurately dates Sophie Bernhardi’s divorce. She did indeed marry Karl Gregor von Knorring in 1811 or 1812.

Concerning the scandalous scenes when August Ferdinand Bernhardi, thwarted from serving court orders for custody of the children in Vienna, arrived instead in Munich on 24 December 1808 to do so the help of the Munich police, see Sophie Bernhardi’s own account in her letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 4 January 1809 (supplementary appendix 440.3). Back.

[21] Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:663, maintains that what Caroline writes here about the Tieck-Bernhardi propaganda scheme for the Catholic Church was itself based on gossip from Italy. Wilhelm Schlegel, however, relates to Karl von Hardenberg — who was helping finance the Tiecks in Munich — the following on 20 May 1809 ((1930) 1:236): “Friedrich Tieck writes that the business undertaking in Rome is almost at the point where it might become profitable; I have my doubts.”

That said, none of the Tieck siblings seems to have converted to Catholicism, only Tieck’s wife, Amalie, and daughter, Dorothea, later, both of whom at this time had remained behind in Ziebingen. See Rudolf Köpke, Tieck: Erinnerungen, 2:283–84:

The assertion that Tieck converted to Catholicism need not be refuted for those familiar with his educational background and the nature of his writing and his character. But since such familiarity could not be presupposed among many, that assertion was circulated not only earlier, but has been printed today as well [Köpke is writing ca. 1855]; not long ago, an Austrian newspaper dished up the most tasteless fairy tales in this regard. Lest the life of this romantic writer end up becoming a complete myth, let me emphasize the following points:

(1) Neither Tieck’s acknowledgement of the Catholic church nor his own personality were such that a conversion to that church would have been a necessary consequence for him. The proof can be found in the preceding biography [i.e., in Köpke’s own book].

(2) The fictional piece Tieck conceived in 1802 and whose sketch he relates in the novella “Die Sommerreise,” demonstrates his position with respect to the two confessions, even during the period when he was still working on Octavian [Kaiser Octavianus: Ein Lustspiel in 2 Theilen (Jena 1804)]. Anyone who distinguishes so clearly the universally religious element from the historical Catholic Church could not be tempted to be accepted into the latter.

(3) In 1803 the Norwegian Möller, who had converted to Catholicism, urged Tieck to follow his example. This letter can be found in Tieck’s estate.

(4) The extant letters from his time in Rome contain not a trace of any possible conversion; in one passage, he finds it necessary to contradict the rumor that his sister had become Catholic.

(5) When he returned from Italy in the autumn of 1806, he visited Voss in Heidelberg and told him the following in conversation: “My main purpose was to do research into the Roman Catholic religion; it seemed to me to be a tree that had almost expired, yet a tree from whose root, if properly cultivated, a new tree might emerge, and with the original energy; I did research, and the root was rotten even into its most distant fibrils.” Voss himself, Tieck’s accuser, attests this in Bestätigung der Stolbergischen Umtriebe, nebst einem Anhang über persönliche Verhältnisse (Stuttgart 1820), 113. This statement fully accords with Tieck’s development at the time and clearly expresses his retreat from Catholic enthusiasm.

Voss was much too involved in sniffing out secret, murky goings-on to have believed such a simple assurance; for him, it was a Jesuit maneuver, though Tieck, as Voss attests, had voluntarily done it. Voss knew better. A “famous architect” had related to him the following statement from Tieck’s own mouth: Whoever would elevate himself to the ideal in art must become Catholic; “a lady observer coming from Italy” had related to him that Tieck had allegedly become Catholic, and even named the church and prelate.

That certain persons at the time who were close to Tieck and desired his conversion to Catholicism could relate nothing more than the same rumor circulating in Heidelberg emerges from Dorothea Schlegel’s letter of 1 December 1805 to Karoline Paulus [letter 399a], where we read: “We, too, have heard through rumor that Tieck has become Catholic, but nothing official yet” (also Reichlin-Meldegg 2:334). When during a later stay in Heidelberg Tieck announced his visit to Voss, adding that he would justify himself, Voss refused the visit. Voss’s hatred of the romantic element turned into open hostility toward Tieck as well.

In the book mentioned above, which appeared in 1820, Voss calls him a “not nameless crony” of the Romantic School, “a sincere extoller of the Middle Ages,” a man “who perhaps even today is still acting Protestant.” But perhaps no one contributed more than Voss to disseminating the rumor that Tieck secretly became a member of the Catholic church.

(6) In the personal communications on which this present biography is based, Tieck never once made even the slightest allusion to any such conversion.

(7) Nor did he make any such allusion to the pastor Sydow when he asked him to speak at his graveside [Köpke, Tieck: Erinnerungen, 2:142, according to which Tieck allegedly asked the pastor Sydow: “I wish for you to speak at my funeral, and not one of the zealots.”].

(8) The Catholic church has never claimed him as one of their own. It would unfailingly have summoned him back on his deathbed had he ever been a member, for it has a good memory indeed. Hence let this oft-repeated assertion be put to rest once and for all!

Rudolf Unger, Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 161, cites J. M. Raich’s footnote to Dorothea’s later query to Friedrich on 17 July 1808 (Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 1:250): “Do Knorring and Sophie belong to us [i.e., are they Catholic]? and in what sense?” J. M. Raich’s footnote to this remark reads as follows, Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne, 1:158fn:

Burchard says of Tieck: “According to a communication from his wife, he [Ludwig Tieck] genuinely did become Catholic in Rome but then never wanted to admit as much later in Germany” (David August Rosenthal, Convertitenbilder aus dem neunzehnten Jahrhundert, vol. 1, Deutschland [Schaffhausen 1872], 391). Köpke’s assertions to the contrary [Tieck: Erinnerungen 2:283–84] are outweighed by the testimony of Tieck’s own wife.

In 1807 Dorothea also learned through Friedrich of Amalie Tieck’s alleged conversion (“the anchor that rescues her,” Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 1:216). She in turn spread these rumors further, as attested by Helmina von Chézy in her memoirs (Wilhelmine Christiane von Chézy, Unvergessenes: Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben von Helmina von Chézy. Von ihr selbst erzählt, 2 vols. [Leipzig 1858], 1:264):

By contrast, Friedrich Schlegel — who since the very beginning of our acquaintance had often and with considerable fire read aloud to us the passages in [Ludwig] Tieck’s Zerbino [Prinz Zerbino, oder, Die Reise nach dem guten Geschmack (Jena, Leipzig 1799)] in which the poet makes fun of Protestantism, concerning which Dorothea had earlier occasionally remarked to me that he [Tieck] was intending to become Catholic, something I could neither comprehend nor believe — now ceased venting his enthusiasm for the Indic penitents [whom he was studying] and instead praised the idea of the pope as the highest and most perfect to which humankind had ever done homage.

Finally Dorothea writes to Friedrich from Cologne in 1807 (Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 2:216; Dorothea is alluding to the relationship between Amalie Tieck and Wilhelm von Burgsdorff, who was probably the father of Amalie Tieck’s second daughter, Agnes):

What you write me about T[ieck] makes me more sorry than I can say. Had you stayed with him, perhaps things would have gone differently, since you had considerable influence over him. The influence of his sister cannot be good for him. I cannot believe she is good; if I am being unfair to her, then may God forgive me. It does, however, seem quite likely to me that Bu[rgsdorff] is responsible for many of these things.

About ten years ago he assiduously cultivated the idea that he was a Mephistopheles; he may have made his arrangements according to precisely this notion of himself. T[ieck]’s neglect of his wife made it easy enough to the latter [Burgsdorff]. But she is a loyal soul, that much is certain. Whoever is guilty will have to answer hard. There is a great deal of malicious passion, jealousy, revenge, and I know not what else at work here.

I was surprised by your news that she [Amalie] had become Catholic [fn: Rosenthal, Convertitenbilder, 1:392]; amid all this confusion, that to me seems the most confusing thing of all, though it may well be the anchor that saves her. How sorry I feel for her! She has always been so severe in doing her duty, she will have to be even more so with that faith. Back.

[22] Concerning Carl Friedrich von Rumohr’s misadventures since leaving Munich in July 1808, see Caroline’s letter to Pauline on 23 November 1808 (letter 436), note 14; to Johanna Frommann in November 1808 (letter 437); and Schelling’s letter to Friedrich Frommann on 14 January 1809 (letter 437c), note 3. Back.

[23] Rumohr had financed Ludwig Tieck’s and the Riepenhausen brothers’s journey to Italy earlier; see Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter on 24 August 1807 (letter 425). Back.

[24] The Schellings had become close acquaintances of Carl Friedrich von Rumohr during his previous stays in Munich, sharing not least his considerable interest in art, and Rumohr likely left some items with them when he left Munich in July 1808. Back.

[25] I.e., Ludwig Tieck’s gout, who was apparently using the linens. Back.

[26] Concerning Zacharias Werner, see Caroline’s lengthy report in her letter to Luise Gotter on 12 November (December?) 1807 (letter 426), also with notes 16–19 there.

Caroline is referring to Werner’s latest play, Attila, König der Hunnen: eine romantische Tragödie in fünf Akten (Berlin 1808) (on which Giuseppe Verdi later based his opera Attila [1846]). Here the frontispiece to the edition (Vienna) of 1818:


In 1828 Thomas Carlyle maintained (“Life and Writings of Werner,” in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays: Collected and Republished, 6 vols. [London 1869], 1:103–68, here 157fn9) that Attila had “already been forcibly, and on the whole fairly, characterized by Madame de Staël,” who remarked to Duchess Luise (Madame de Staël and the Grand-Duchess Louise [London 1862], 105):

I have seen Werner, and am singularly attached to him. Such a union of intellect and soul, of nature and enthusiasm, of gaiety and melancholy, is almost unique; and how much delicacy with his strength! I wish he would renounce his systems on the stage, but I like them in private. If there is any man who can make up for the loss of Schiller, it is he.

For the full text of Madame de Staël’s discussion of Werner’s play Attila in her book on Germany (1813), see supplementary appendix 440.2. Back.

[27] Friedrich Tieck arrived in Munich from Copppet, whither he had journeyed from Rome, around mid-April 1809 (William Shepherd, Germany and Italy in 1803 after the Principal Decree of the Imperial Deputation, Historical Atlas, 2nd ed. [New York 1921], 151):



[28] See note 7 above and supplementary appendix 440.1 for the translated text.

Concerning the role of the inserted novella — the story of a woman with whom a father and son both fall in love — within the novel itself, see Susan E. Gustafson, “Asserting and Affirming All Elective Affinities in Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre,” Goethe’s Families of the Heart, New Directions in German Studies 15 (New York, London 2016), 139–84, here esp. 141 (“the story of Die Pilgernde Törin [The Crazy Pilgrim Woman] foregrounds the story of a woman wanderer that can be read in conjunction with wandering characters in both novels” [Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre]); see also 156–61, e.g. 159:

[The Wanderer] is like Wilhelm in that she is also wandering around away from her family. But even more radically than Wilhelm, she is a woman who wanders, keeps her story to herself, determines her destiny, and rejects the control of men (fathers and sons) over her life. She is a woman who has escaped the male-centered traps of aristocratic and civil families.

The character in the novel — a woman — who gives the story (novella) of the wandering woman to Wilhelm to read, namely, Hersilie, indicates “that she identified with her story. Hersilie, as we find out later in the Wanderjahre is a self-asserting woman like the pilgrim woman.”

Gustafson’s discussion, which does not mention Caroline, arguably confirms that Caroline has intuitively picked up on or intimated the interpretative significance of the missing before-and-after parts to the woman’s story, parts pointedly not revealed in the novella, yielding instead to the ruse the woman uses to extricate herself from what has become an irresolvable situation (ibid., 157):

The wandering woman decides that the only way she can convince the two men to give up on her is to convince them that her virtue is in question. She goes first to the father and, without directly saying anything about her love, she lets him interpret her elusive answers to his questions as indicating her love for his son and that she is pregnant. It is significant that she does not say that these assumption are true, but adeptly manipulates their conversation so that the father fills in the blanks with his own fantasies and assumptions.

Likewise, she then goes to the son, who immediately assumes that she is in love with his father. After speaking with her, the father assumes that she is in love with his son and the son accuses her of expecting a son from his father: “You two are giving me a son, and it is my brother. I am certain of that!” . . .

She escapes and remains a mysterious wandering woman . . . in spite of Herr Revanne’s attempts to find her. . . . Unlike many of the other women in the Lehrjahre and Wanderjahre who were caught in suffocating families, and trapped between fathers and sons who were rivals for their love, the wandering pilgrim woman asserts her right to remain a mystery, plans her escape, fools both the father and son who are vying for her love, and leaves the men who threaten to entrap her. She is a woman who flees from those who threaten to define and control her affinities. Back.

[29] At the redoute mentioned earlier. Back.

[30] Concerning Lorenz Oken’s presentations on light and heat in Weimar, see Oken’s letter to Schelling from Jena on 25 January 1809 (Alexander Ecker, Lorenz Oken. Eine biographische Skizze. Durch erläuternde Zusätze und Mittheilungen aus Oken’s Briefwechsel vermehrt [Stuttgart 1880], 204; idem, Lorenz Oken. A biographical Sketch. With explanatory notes, selections from Oken’s correspondence, and a portrait of the professor, trans. Alfred Tulk [London 1883], 121–22 [translation altered]; Fuhrmans 3:579–80):

In my essay on light [Programm über Licht und Wärme (Jena 1809)], I said some harsh things against Newton, but I will not do so in the future. The essay has been very well accepted here, and especially by the duke, so much so that he invited me to dine with him, and afterwards would have me remain talking to him on the subject till half-past eleven at night. A number of courtiers were present as well, but I felt not in the least uncomfortable.

The duke himself is a very well instructed and sensible man. He is acquainted with everything, and immediately continued these views on light, applying them to the act of seeing and to the doctrine of polarity as pervading the whole of nature. I stand in very good favour with him. He thereafter gave orders to Vulpius, the librarian, to put everything in the library at my disposal, and now this miserable creature crawls to me as if to gain some favour in this way as well. Is that not laughable? Back.

[31] See above concerning Goethe’s acquaintance with Pauline in Karlsbad the previous summer. Because geopolitical and military developments associated with the war between France and Austria made it inadvisable to go to Karlsbad, Goethe spent the entirety of May 1809 in Jena, not least working on his novel Die Wahlverwandtschaften, which Goethe had conceived a year earlier in Karlsbad.

Goethe returned to Weimar on 13 June 1809 (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:4:36), and the novel was published in October 1809 in Tübingen by Johann Friedrich Cotta, hardly a month after Caroline’s death. Back.

[32] Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael, associated not least with the schedule of the book fairs, fell on 29 September. Back.

[33] Identity of Aunt Siegfried uncertain.

In her letter to Pauline on 16 September 1808 (letter 435), Caroline had mentioned that neither Fanny nor Fritze Wiebeking currently had any marriage prospects (see also note 28 there). She had not, however, mentioned any object of Fanny’s affections except, teasingly, Ludwig Tieck in her letter to Pauline on 23 November 1808 (letter 436). Back.

[34] In order:

[35] Luise Gotter and her daughters Julie, Cäcilie. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott