Letter 445b

445b. (1) Caroline’s death certificate from the Maulbronn church register (10 March 1810); (2) Schelling’s inscription on Caroline’s obelisk in Maulbronn; (3) reactions to Caroline’s death [*]

(1) Death certificate from the Maulbronn church register

Frau Carolina Dorothea Albertina Schelling, née Michaelis, from Göttingen, late most loyal and affectionately beloved spouse of Herr Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, regular member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Munich, also director and general secretary of the Academy of Fine Arts there, [1] and Knight of the Royal Bavarian Order of Merit of the Bavarian Crown, died in Maulbronn in the Kingdom of Württemberg, whither she had come only a few days before with her spouse for a visit at the home of her parents-in-law, [2] of a case of dysentery lasting but 3 days and an accompanying case of nervous fever, on 7 September of last year, thereafter being buried on the evening of the 10th amid general participation of all who had had the good fortune of being acquainted with the excellent character traits of the blessed deceased, and amid the most profound grief on the part of her parents-in-law, though especially of her spouse, at a place where one day her father-in-law will also find his final resting place at her side. [3] Attested on 10 March 1810 as having been faithfully transcribed from the death register of the monastery church there by

General Superintendent and Praelat of the Maulbronn Monastery
J. S. S.

(2) Caroline’s epitaph on the obelisk in Maulbronn [4]

(I. front side:)
Here rests
Carolina Dorothea Albertina
Schelling, née Michaelis

The grave
of this loyal and eternally beloved person
was marked with this stone
by her surviving spouse
Fr. Wil. Joseph Schelling.

May every empathetic being stand here in reverence,
where the husk slumbers that once
enclosed the most noble heart and most beautiful spirit.

Gently may you rest, you devout soul
till the eternal reunion.
May God, before whom you now stand, reward in you
the love and faithfulness that is stronger than death.

(II. left side:)

She died
during a visit to our parents’ home
in Maulbronn
on 7 Sept. of the 1809th year
seized by the regnant epidemic
of dysentery and nervous fever.

(III. right side:)
God gave her to me,
death cannot rob me of her.

(3) Reactions to the news of Caroline’s death

Hegel writes from Nürnberg to Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer in Munich on 4 October 1809: [5]

Let me kiss the hand a thousand times over of the very best woman. —


May God — and I am sure he will — keep and preserve her according to her merit 10 times longer than that particular septem [“evil seven”], news of whose death we recently received here and about whom some [presumably the Paulus family in Nürnberg] have hypothesized that the devil himself came and fetched her. [6]

The broader allusion is to the topos of the “vain lady of the world” being fetched by the devil; here one iteration (Daniel Hopfer, Die Weltdame und der Tod [ca. 1504–1536]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DHopfer AB 3.51):


Bettina Brentano to Achim von Arnim in September 1809: [7] “Tell Clemens that Madam Schelling died four days ago; her husband is allegedly beside himself with grief.”

Franz von Baader to Dr. von Stransky from Lambach on 27 September 1809: [8]

The news about Madam Schelling’s death that I received greatly upset both me and my wife, since we knew her so well. — She was a woman of extraordinary traits and talents, and through her extremely proper and decent behavior in Munich, she put to shame both herself and the reputation that preceded her in Munich! Her husband suffers a really extraordinary loss through her death, and I fear this loss can never be replaced for him. —

But thus it is with our temporal lives, and with all the splendor of this beggar’s life! With our immortal desires, our eternal needs, all of which we bring along from a different region and which solely that different region can fulfill and satisfy for us, we perpetually search for the philosophers’ stone down here in this temporal region, and, like alchemists, continually search for gold in — filth!

Minna van Nuys (now married Bertheau) writes to Wilhelm Schlegel from Munich on 12 October 1809: [9]

I made the acquaintance here of one of Caroline’s lady friends — though I hardly dare to write this name, unsure whether the empathetic heart of my dear friend [Wilhelm] has already been informed concerning what she suffered this summer and what then happened to Schelling in mid-September. Schelling is now in Stuttgart —

I read the letter in which he first spoke about the loss [possibly that to Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer on 2 October 1809 (letter 450)] — he will be coming back here for now [Schelling did not return to Munich until late October].

Friedrich Schlegel to Wilhelm Schlegel from Vienna on 16 January 1810: [10]

I can well imagine what painful feelings and memories Karoline’s death elicited for you. —

As far as that earlier time [in Jena] is concerned, when one [Caroline] tried to sow the seeds of discord between us, just believe that much was said to you at the time that was simply not true. Since you have now brought it up, however, my wife will be writing you a bit about it all — and then it is probably best to forget those hateful things forever. [11]

Charlotte Schiller queried Johann Friedrich Cotta on 27 October 1809: [12]

If you know any details concerning the illness and death of Madam Schelling, please do relate them to me. I can well believe he will greatly lament her death, for he is one of the most human and sensitive of souls. For some of his friends, however, it is as if a chained person has been set free.

Cotta answered on 16 November 1809:

I know nothing more about the death of Madam Schelling than that she succumbed to an epidemic of dysentery — I did speak with him and found him extremely downcast — he has lost much in losing her after having finally married her.

Karl Philipp Conz, “To S.,” Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände (1810) 116 (Tuesday, 15 May 1810), 461: [13]

To. S. After the Death of His Spouse. 1809

To realm of ideas eternal,
Her fatherland, Beatrice having escaped,
And no more her earthly form be seen
By solemn son of love and song,
Then stood, by pain into grief plunged,
Soul seared through, — grand Dante.

But he having found courage once more, beyond sadness unkind,
Did in sublime radiance before him emerge
That beauteous presence, sacred, familiar,
Bestowing strength of mind and soul for lofty song.
And so did bear him, aloft, through the All, the spirit of song;
And as within himself did he her there once more find:

So also thou, whom early the deity did elect,
The world and its wonders deep to fathom,
And though the heart's precious jewel be lost,
Dare now through pain to stride, to yonder realm,
And in the realm of love and truth now trust,
Which in unclouded clarity, forever, does stand before you.

And though never be parried by what is earthly 
The arrows of death, yet does the spiritual endure,
Persist, imperishable, in hereditary dominion,
By yearning love alone exalted.
So also love, devotion, constant, unceasing,
Remain, abide, glorious amidst hostile powers.

And so to completion bring, and boldly, what thou hast begun!
For she herself, as guide on solemn path and journey,
Does from eternal suns' realm —
Of the True, of the Beautiful — light your way.
And as in Dante's creations his lady, his guide,
Did live: so also may in yours your own, and eternally.


[*] Sources for church registry: Plitt 2:168–69; Fuhrmans 3:628 (final line not included).

Sources for obelisk text: Partially transcribed in Erich Schmidt (1913), 2:583; full transcription in Plitt 2:169–70.

Schmidt presumably perpetuated the misspelling and order of Caroline’s names on the obelisk in Maulbronn from Plitt (“Caroline Dorothee Albertine”); full transcription in Fuhrmans 3:628, with an accurate transcription of the name spellings from the Maulbronn obelisk (“Carolina Dorothea Albertina”).

See also the supplementary appendix on Caroline’s gravesite in Maulbronn. Back.

[1] Schelling was not the director of the Academy of Fine Arts; that director was always an artist. As its general secretary, he had the Bavarian administrative status of a director. Concerning his ranks and titles, see his letter to Johann Friedrich Cotta on 15 May 1808 (letter 432c), note 1, and Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter on 16 September 1808 (letter 435), note 29. Back.

[2] Joseph Friedrich and Gottliebin Schelling.

The Kingdom of Württemberg had been established by Napoloeon on 1 January 1806 as a result of the earlier Principal Conclusion of the Extraordinary Imperial Delegation of Regensburg of 1803 (Reichsdeputationshauptschluss), whereupon in July 1806 it became a member of the Confederation of the Rhine (Germany and Italy in 1806, from William Shepherd, Historical Atlas [New York 1926]):



[3] Joseph Friedrich Schelling died just three years later, on 5 October 1812, and was indeed buried in the same area behind the monastery church in Maulbronn Höltys Elegie auf ein Landmädchen [1794]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.985):



[4] Here two sides of the obelisk in September 2009; some of the text has eroded because of weathering (photo by translator):



[5] Briefe von und an Hegel, ed. Karl Hegel, vol. 1, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s Werke, ed. Ph. Marheineke et al., vol. 9:1 (Leipzig 1887), 1:248. Initial illustration: Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Alcest (1775); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 (121). Back.

[6] Note to Latin septem (Germ. eine Sieben) as the equivalent of “evil woman”: Despite its Latin form, this expression has not been traced back to antiquity, but rather more likely (and even then only with a considerable measure of uncertainty) to popular German literature in the (at earliest) sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Possible sources and influences include:

• a satire (1664; and earlier) with a reference to the seven types of evil women;
• references to the evil seven in the devil’s card game;
• references to the name Margaretha, seven bearers of which banned the devil from hell (English comedies, in an adaptation of the Taming of the Shrew);
• the definition of an “evil seven [woman]” as an “evil troublemaker”;
• seven exceptionally evil women in history (the Roman Tullia; Potiphar’s wife; the queens Jezebel, Herodias, Semiramis, Alba; Job’s wife);
• the seven mortal sins, also as the daughters of Lucifer;
• female figures in Marlowe’s Faustus;
• the seven requests in the Lord’s Prayer as means of combating the seven mortal sins).

Grimms Deutsches Wörterbuch adduces no witnesses from the sixteenth century. See in this regard Friedrich Kluge, “Auszüge und Berichte ( . . . Die böse Sieben),” Zeitschrift für Deutsche Wortforschung, ed. Friedrich Kluge, vol. 1 (1901), no. 4, 363–65. Back.

[7] Achim von Arnim und die ihm nahestanden, ed. Reinhold Steig and Herman Grimm (Stuttgart, Berlin 1913), 2:334. Back.

[8] Franz von Baader’s Sämmtliche Werke, vol. 15, ed. Franz Hoffmann et al. (Leipzig 1857), 236. Back.

[9] Krisenjahre 2:73. Back.

[10] Krisenjahre 2:105. Back.

[11] See Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm on 16 January 1810 (letter 453a).

It may be recalled that in Dorothea and Friedrich’s letter to Karoline Paulus back on 19 June 1804 (letter 383j), Friedrich had quipped: “May God grant that the devil come fetch her soon, and with the pomp and circumstance appropriate to her standing; there will in any case certainly be no lack of stench” (Melchior Küsel, Invidia [1670]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur MKüsel AB 3.156; poem from illustration caption):

Who knows not this fiend? this ruinous bride of hell?
Who does constantly sow such strife  and trouble on earth?
'Tis pure envy: stoking and feeding fires,
Maligning, defaming, lying, confusing e'en the best of friends.

It's fruits? Quarrels, squabbles, war, scuffles, fighting, beating, 
Murder, injustice, persecution, torture, torment,
And such of all sorts; aye, at the table of the gods themselves
Does it altercation cause!



[12] Briefwechsel zwischen Schiller und Cotta, ed. Wilhelm Vollmer (Stuttgart 1876), 563; excerpted in Schelling und Cotta Briefwechsel 1803–1849, ed. Horst Fuhrmans and Liselotte Lohrer (Stuttgart 1965), 293fn33,8; the accompanying footnote in the latter points out that “Although Charlotte von Schiller was essentially not really one of Caroline Schelling’s friends, she does seem to have been kindly disposed toward Schelling himself.” When in 1816 the chance that Schelling might return to a university position in Jena came to nothing, Charlotte von Schiller wrote similarly to Cotta (ibid.):

Professor Fries will be coming from Heidelberg [instead of Schelling] . . . I would really have preferred that Schelling had come to us, for a personality such as his is so salutary; his lofty views, along with his gentle nature in social situations, and the love of expressing himself which he used to have, all that would have made me quite happy to have him in Jena again. But alas, it was not to be! Fries is also significant, but, I if I understand correctly, an opponent of Schelling, which vexes me greatly. Back.

[13] The background to Conz’s eloquently consoling poem to Schelling is Dante’s relationship with the woman he celebrated in his Vita nuova and Divina Commedia as Beatrice, with whom he fell in love when both were quite young. Both, however, married other persons, and after her death in 1290 Dante was grief stricken, seeking consolation then in philosophy.

See The Encyclopedia Brittanica, vol. 6, 9th ed. (New York 1890), 814, s.v. Dante:

It only remains now to give a short account of Dante’s separate works. The Vita Nuova, or Young Life of Dante, contains the history of his love for Beatrice. Like the In Memoriam [1849] of our own poet [Alfred, Lord Tennyson] it follows all the varying phases of a deep and overmastering passion from its commencement to its close.

He describes how he met Beatrice as a child, himself a child, how he often sought her glance, how she once greeted him in the street, how he feigned a false love to hide his true love, how he felt ill and saw in a dream the death and transfiguration of his beloved, how she died, and how his health failed from sorrow, how the tender compassion of another lady nearly won his heart from its first affection, how Beatrice appeared to him in a vision and reclaimed his heart, and how at last be saw a vision which induced him to devote himself to study that he might be more fit to glorify her who gazes on the face of God for ever.

This simple story is interspersed with sonnetti, ballate, and canzoni, chiefly written at the time to emphasize some mood of his changing passion.

See also Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, vol. 2 (Chicago 1922), 957–61:

As with so many other great men, a halo of legends surrounds his early life, but the essential facts are told in his book entitled Vita Nuova (New Life). When only nine years old he met the Beatrice of his later poems and formed a passion for her which never cooled and which influenced the whole course of his later life. . . .

The Divine Comedy is a descriptive narrative of an imaginary journey through “the world of souls,” of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. Beginning on Good Friday of the year 1300 and ending on the Sunday after Easter, the time of action covered by one of the longest and most dramatic poems ever written is only ten days. In learning, invention, and imaginative powers the Divine Comedy has never been surpassed.

From one startling scene to another the poet passes, reviewing rapidly the processions of shades from classical mythology and centuries of history, and with the certainty of one so wrapped in his visions as to make them the only reality. We see the souls of the dead as he saw them, in torment, or floating like golden bees in the azure from star to star. As the French critic Taine says: “His cries of anguish, his transport of joy, the succession of his infernal or blessed phantoms, carry us with him through that invisible world.”

When the action begins, Dante is lost in a forest, with his upward way barred by wild beasts. This is understood to be symbolic. The beasts were the sins which keep us from our desire for a holier life. To help him with reason and repentance, the shade of the poet Vergil appears and guides him through the lower regions of the next world. Taken across the River of Death in his sleep by the grim ferryman of lost souls, Dante awakes on the brink of Hell. Here he is obliged to pass through a gate above which is cut the terrible inscription:

Through me you pass into the city of woe.
All hope abandon ye who enter here.

The Inferno or Hell of Dante’s vision is a vast conical abyss which, by narrowing terrace-like ledges or circles, separated by steep descents, reaches to the center of the earth. As every lost soul is punished according to his sin, the wickedness and torments increase with the descent. From the moral pagans of ancient days, who dwell in the highest circle and who sorrow without suffering because they knew not the Christian God, the poet goes down to the foul black abode of brutish crime. The way is so long and steep that only on the back of a monster may he and his guide reach the lowest pit.

There lurks infamy so unbelievable that pity for those in eternal torment is turned to loathing. Climbing down the rugged limbs of Satan, who stands at the very bottom like a colossal statue, the two visitors escape through a crevice which leads back to the surface of the earth. On Easter morning they emerge at a point on the earth’s surface opposite to the holy city of Jerusalem —

Till on our view the beautiful lights of heaven
Dawned through a circular opening in the cave:
Thence issuing we again beheld the stars.

Longfellow’s translation has this lovely passage:

The dawn was vanquishing the matin hour 
Which fled before it, so that from afar 
I recognized the trembling of the sea.

In the midst of this antipodal ocean stood the mountain of Purgatory —

The mount that rises highest o’er the wave.

On its seven-terraced slope dwelt the souls of those whose lesser sins might be overcome and atoned for. Rough stairways cut in the rock let the visitors ascend from terrace to terrace, where quiet shades lived in penitence and prayer, to the earthly paradise on the summit.

This was screened by a thick forest which clothed the higher slopes. A serene place of sweetness and peace, there is a charming description of how a light breeze blows through it, turning all the leaves one way, and the gentle rustlings mingled with the songs of the birds.

Like the poet himself the reader is in a state of breathless expectancy. To understand the happiness that awaits him, you should know that in his first book, Vita Nuova (New Life) Dante had celebrated the beauty and virtues and confessed his deathless love for a lady named Beatrice, who had died young. At the end he had expressed the hope that he himself would not die until after he had written of Beatrice such things as had never yet been written of woman.

In the Divine Comedy Dante immortalized the lady of his worship, and set her up above all his desires. In the forest which hid the earthly paradise on the summit of Purgatorio, a sheet of flame suddenly barred his path. When Dante started back in alarm, Vergil had only to whisper that Beatrice waited beyond the fiery wall, and Dante leaped through it. A vision of celestial purity and sweetness, Beatrice appeared, descended from her home in the ninth heaven to be the poet’s guide through Paradiso. Taking him by the hand she floated upward with him, “from star to star.”

Gustave Doré, illustration accompanying “And I beheld myself, / Sole with my lady, to more lofty bliss / Translated,” Dante Alighieri, The Vision of Purgatory and Paradise, trans. Henry Francis Cary, illustrated by M. Gustave Doré (London, Paris, New York 1883), plate following p. 240:


Degrees of Happiness in Dante’s Heaven

According to the religious belief of the day, heaven was composed of mounting degrees of bliss, each located on some sphere of the celestial system of which the earth was supposed to be the center. The sun and moon and five of the planets were abodes of the redeemed. As Vergil had led Dante down through the abyss of Hell and up the slopes of Purgatory, so Beatrice transported him through the blue ether and roamed with him over the worlds of ineffable happiness which make up Paradise.

Gustave Doré, illustration accompanying “Again mine eyes were fix’d on Beatrice; / And, with mine eyes, my soul that in her looks / Found all contentment,” Dante Alighieri, The Vision of Purgatory and Paradise, trans. Henry Francis Cary, illustrated by M. Gustave Doré (London, Paris, New York 1883), plate following p. 274:


As they were rising to the eighth sphere or firmament, the celestial guide bade him cast his view below and look upon the earth:

Look down, once more, and see how vast a world
Thou has already put beneath thy feet
I, with my sight, returned through one and all
The sevenfold spheres, and I beheld this globe
Such that I smiled at its ignoble semblance.

In the ninth circle dwelt the hierarchy of angels who guarded and hid the mysteries of the Deity. In a vast amphitheater, whose circles of thrones rose and widened to infinity, sat the souls of those who had died without sin. Here Beatrice left the poet, seating herself remote from him on her own throne —

Gustave Doré, illustration accompanying “Answering not, mine eyes I raised, / And saw her, where aloof she sat, her brow / A wreath reflecting of eternal beams,” Dante Alighieri, The Vision of Purgatory and Paradise, plate following p. 326:


. . . . and she so far away
Smiled, as it seemed, and looked once more at me;
Then unto the Eternal Fountain turned.

As a mortal visitor Dante might not himself go into the Empyrean, but for a moment his heart was flooded with understanding of the glory of God and the beauty of holiness. The poem ends with these lines of noble submission —

But yet the will rolled onward, like a wheel 
In even motion, by the love impelled 
That moves the sun in heaven and all the stars. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott