Letter 442

• 442. Caroline to Pauline Gotter in Gotha: Munich, 7 August 1809

[Munich] 7 August [1809]

|557| What an irksome summer, my dear Pauline. Bad weather, war and inflation, and to cap it off, Schelling has been sick for 6 weeks now, though let me quickly add that it has been nothing really serious. [1] It began with a catarrhal fever. But then he absolutely could not get rid of the cough, so that with the constant change in the weather he still could not leave the room, though otherwise he felt tolerable.

Now we are thinking about recovering completely in the air of the fatherland, and to that end we will be traveling to Schelling’s parents in Württemberg in a week, rather close to the French border, for Schelling’s father is now the prelate in Maulbronn. [2] We will be back here at the end of September.

In the meantime, Jacobs intends to make a pilgrimage to Gotha. [3] He should be able to relate to you everything from here, for which I have neither the desire nor the calling. Above all, however, may he fulfill my own wish by bringing you back with him. He knows how serious I am about it and will do everything he can to make it happen. It seems superfluous to me to negotiate the details in writing, since he can, after all, do that much better in person and since I also am not in a position to know all the circumstances beforehand, nor how compliant your dear mother will be nor |558| the degree of inconvenience and arduousness my good Pauline herself may be willing to accept. [4]

In any event, as soon as he has arrived and you can discern how our project might genuinely be carried out, write me and have the letter sent to me here, since even from here I will receive it only a few days later and without additional postage. [5] Let me say only this much, namely, that we have plenty of space for you in both our house and our hearts and greatly desire your presence. Merely take care that you yourself not expect too much from Munich in the way of beautiful and wondrous things. Since you will doubtless be meeting so many people here whom you already know, however, it cannot possibly seem all that strange to you! Indeed, at the beginning you may well imagine you are still in Gotha, and in that regard I certainly have no fear of you becoming homesick. —

Fanny is already quite looking forward to your visit. Nor will you be jealous of the beautiful verses the Tieks compose for her once you have seen what the real story with all that is. One short letter from the old gentleman will offset all those verses [6] — though probably not in Fanny’s own estimation, in whose eyes Ludwig Tiek has tried in every possible way to put down the old gentleman and raise himself up, gout-ridden as he is. [7]

Our Fritze has other things on her mind than such delicious idealistic diversions. Perhaps you already know about them. To wit, she has a darling in the field who has gone to war to heal rather than to shoot others dead. He is a young man who was already one of Schelling’s closest acquaintances and daily companions in Würzburg, indeed, his veritable favorite, though you must not necessarily conclude that it was through us that he became Fritze’s intimate acquaintance. We did not even introduce him there. [8]

You gave me enormous pleasure by sending the poem by Goethe. I am interested not least in the sheer warmth of his empathy and engagement as such with regard to such an event. [9] Though it is peculiar, |559| the author himself was presumably not unaware of how it recalls Bürger’s treatment of a similar subject. [10] I would probably prefer it otherwise, and I always find that in such cases the dramatic mode is not always the more vivid and natural. And notwithstanding that this poem does indeed gain by being read aloud, it is also quite difficult to read, and our various orators certainly have their work cut out for them. [11] It does seem it would be quite beautiful set to music. [12]

Our pair of witless pilgrims is still here, and heaven knows are as foolish as ever. They really are doing much too much good. [13]

[Errands and requests.] A thousand regards to your mother and sisters. Speak to your mother often in advance about the trip to Munich to get her used to the idea. [14]


[1] If Caroline’s estimation is correct, Schelling had been sick essentially since 26 June 1809. Schelling writes to Luise Gotter on 24 September 1809 (letter 448): “She needed to recuperate after caring for me for two months, since I had been sick virtually since the spring” (“Weibliches Mitleid,” Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützliches Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1805; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[2] Schelling’s father had since late 1808 been prelate in Maulbronn and ephorus (rector) at the monastery school there (Franz Siegele, Kloster Maulbron [ca. 1925]; Saarländisches Schulmuseum):



[3] The reference to a “pilgrimage” reflects Friedrich Jacobs’s dissatisfaction in Munich and homesickness for Gotha; see supplementary appendix 431.1 and the third paragraph in Caroline’ letter to Luise Gotter on 9 March 1808 (letter 431) (anonymous, Market Place and Principal Street of Gotha [19th century]):



[4] Not only had a war been going on with the attendant troop movements also in the territories between Munich and Gotha, but the free flow of traffic especially on postal routes had been disrupted and was now unpredictable. Gotha is, moreover, located ca. 375 km from Munich (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]; illustration: Louis Leopold Boilly, L’arrivée d’une diligence au Terminus, rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, Paris, 1803 [1803]):




[5] I.e., Caroline and Schelling were having their mail forwarded to Maulbronn (maps: [1] “Wurtemberg,” in William Shepherd, Historical Atlas [1911], 143; image: University of Texas at Austin; [2] Germany and Italy in 1806, from William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas [New York 1926]):




[6] The “Tieks” (Tiecks) in Munich were the siblings Ludwig Tieck, Sophie Bernhardi, and Friedrich Tieck.

Concerning Ludwig Tieck’s relationship with Franziska (Fanny) von Wiebeking, see Caroline’s letter 436 above (23 November 1808:

The Wiebekings invited us to a grand water party — that is, a tea party — and in return I gave them a fête where it was the element of fire that predominated, namely, insofar as Tiek performed his readings. Whereupon Fräulein Fanny then also caught fire and fell in love with him. Try to imagine that misfortune!

Pauline Gotter had been carrying on a modest correspondence with Goethe after having made his closer acquaintance in Karlsbad the previous summer. See her letter to Caroline on 6 September 1808 (letter 434) and Caroline’s response on 16 September 1808 (letter 435).

After her daughter Fanny’s death in 1819, Charlotte von Wiebeking wrote to Ludwig Tieck on 28 December 1822 (Briefe an Ludwig Tieck 4:296–98) in reference to the poem “An Fanny,” which Tieck had in the meantime published in his Gedichte, 3 vols. (Dresden 1821–23), 1:240–42:

My esteemed friend!

Your cordial letter made me very happy indeed; if the heartfelt gratitude I felt at receiving it could have flown to you without ink, quill, and paper, you would already long have received it, and, considering that doing such good deeds for one’s friends is one of the highest of human joys, perhaps not without pleasant emotions yourself. Your remarks concerning your high estimation of our deceased, unforgettable Fanny, your heartfelt sympathy with our loss, both elevated and refreshed my sorely tested maternal heart!

Hence you can imagine my emotions when in your excellent collection I found the poem you addressed to her earlier! The deceased, and every member of our family, owe so much to your instructive company! I will never forget those wonderful days of your presence here! Were I king of Bavaria, I would certainly challenge in every way the king of Saxony’s possession of you — as it is, however, even in my powerlessness I have the advantage of the heartwarming recollection that no monarch on earth can purchase. . . .

My daughter Frau Köhler was quite gratified by your kind remembrance, and asks me to send you her warmest regards; she and I have in the little three-year-old son of our blessed Fanny, who promises to resemble her both spiritually and physically, both consolation and sweet, rewarding engagement.

Ludwig Tieck’s poem reads as follows (approximate translation):

To Fanny

From heaven did a brilliant day descend,
The meadow green, with flowery abundance newly adorned,
The nightingale did sing its summer song,
When entered this world a beauteous child,
Smiling, delighting in the splendor of spring.

Gentle spirits, those who dwell in crystal
Waters, who babble in the air,
In summer wind, fragrance of blossoms,
In cool glades, and green leaves,
All did come, all to play,
Singing sweet greetings, "To this sweet child
Does our fondness incline."

Behold, how the bright lily's white splendor
Toward you does gently incline,
And how toward you also the rose does laugh,
The violet's blue, the charming servants
Whom spring for its jests does summon,
Sweet eyes, red lips, candles burning golden,

Do all serve you, colorful radiance,
That gaze on you, quietly, gently,
With fragrance sweet refresh you,
All, all seek but to paint your likeness;
But grace and charm such as you surround
Do their arts lack, hence their fleeting life expires.

Our gift to you, nightingale's sounds,
That with tender lyre
Your breast might sing its feelings true,
And so perceive the poets' lays.
Hence heed your poet's airs,
With which the power of the god of love he shall praise,
And your beauty.

See also Armin Gebhardt, Ludwig Tieck: Leben und Gesamtwerk des “Königs der Romantik” (Marburg 1997), 202, who inadvertently, it seems, alludes to precisely the “misfortune” to which Caroline herself alludes (illustration: “Ein Thé — médisant,” Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1803: Dem Edeln und Schönen der frohen Laune und der Philosophie des Lebens gewidmet [1804], plate 5; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

One of Bettina Brentano’s acquaintances there, Ludwig Emil Grimm, relates that “Tieck read aloud a great deal of Shakespeare to the Gärtner and Wiebeking families. Tieck, one hears, was allegedly in love with Fanny Wiebeking.” [Gebhardt now references Caroline’s of 23 November 1808 (letter 436)]. But even Bettina Brentano herself, at the beginning of December 1808, wrote to her brother-in-law Savigny: “Tieck has fallen in love with Fräulein Wiebeking and hence is now considerably less interested in me.”

But now imagine Tieck in Munich at this time: without money, piling up debt, and doing so with some notoriety, plagued by violent illness, struggling laboriously to attain at least a modicum of social acceptance through lecturing, with Franziska von Wiebeking, a young teenage girl, worshipping him — unsurprisingly enough — at least temporarily, an uncommitted flirt, daughter of a family who is certainly not interested in burdening itself with the half-bankrupt existence of a married man, and the latter himself, with Henriette in the wings, toying with plans for divorce [from Amalie] — nothing fits except the thick vapors emanating from the gossip kitchens of overwrought women.



[7] Bettina Brentano had had a similar experience with Tieck’s attempts to denigrate Goethe’s stature. Caroline had already written to Pauline Gotter on 1 March 1809 (letter 440) (illustration: “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):

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.



[8] Martin Heinrich Köhler had become a medic in the 6th (Bavarian) Corps of Napoleon’s Grande Armee; he did indeed marry Fritze Wiebeking. Back.

[9] On 29 May 1809, Goethe had sent Pauline Gotter the poem “Johanna Sebus” in its first (special) printing accompanied by cordial greetings. For a translation of the text of “Johanna Sebus,” based on the life of the real Johanna Sebus, who had perished in a flood back on 13 January 1809, see supplementary appendix 276.2.

Goethe writes to Pauline Gotter on 29 May 1809 (Weimarer Ausgabe 4:20:338):

You are already acquainted with some of the contradictions of the human heart, my dear Pauline, and do not allow yourself to be led astray from applying to a distant friend your violets and mayflowers, which you could doubtless apply more advantageously nearby; and that friend in his own turn directs his rhythms and rhymes toward a departed, good young woman to offer thanks to her in the name of more noble humankind even as he seems to forget the gratitude he owes to the safe and sound lady neighbors [Pauline and Caroline von Seckendorf, with whom Goethe socialized in Karlsbad? or Pauline and one of her sisters, or her mother, who had accompanied Pauline to Weimar the previous autumn?].

With these observations, I ask you to accept this poem, which actually ought to be read aloud to be most effective. Hence do I put it into your hands and heart. Please let its author not be too far from your thoughts!

Jena, 29 May 1809

Goethe Back.

[10] For the text of Gottfried August Bürger’s ballad “Song of the Brave Man,” see supplementary appendix 442.1. Back.

[11] See Schelling’s letter to Pauline Gotter on 27 May 1810, i.e., after Caroline’s death (Plitt 2:211):

I will always be enormously grateful for anything you can relate about or especially from Goethe, and be it only verses as beautifully convivial as the most recent. Caroline often read aloud the previous verses, namely, those about Johanna Sebus, which I believe we also received from you; she attributed double significance to such readings because it did not at all seem easy to her. But she read such that Goethe himself would have been moved. Back.

[12] Caroline was quite right; the poem was soon set to music by, among others, Karl Friedrich Zelter (see supplementary appendix 276.2) and Johann Friedrich Reichardt. Back.

[13] The reference, with an underlying allusion to Goethe’s novella “The Witless Wanderer,” is to Bettina and Clemens Brentano. See the pertinent section in Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter on 1 March 1809 (letter 440), also with notes 7 and 8 and the cross reference to Goethe’s novella. Back.

[14] Pauline Gotter, of course, never made the trip to Munich to stay with Schelling and Caroline, who would be leaving Munich for Maulbronn a little over ten days later, on 18 August 1809, without Caroline ever returning. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott