Letter 447

• 447. Meta Liebeskind to Gottlieb Marie Schelling in Maulbronn: Munich, 14 September 1809 [*]

Munich, 14 September 1809

Most gracious Madam,

|564| My tears are indeed mixed in with your own, and I have no words with which to express my profound grief. Although we had already learned the terrible news yesterday from Professor Breyer, whose fiancée had written to him about it from Stuttgart, my entire soul resisted it. I viewed it as merely an error and was strengthened in this opinion by the Stuttgart newspaper, which reported the death of the wife of a certain Professor Pauly.

I spent that night full of good hope. Even my small children prayed to God that he might allow our good Madam Schelling to live a long time yet — but now, esteemed lady, your letter has crashed down upon my saddened soul like a harsh clap of thunder. And |565| yet I must thank you even amid these burning tears for having written to me in such detail about all the circumstances. Ah, but at least my dear friend died in the arms of the most noble, worthy people.

Nor do our tears flow alone for her — yesterday everyone who knew her was already profoundly shaken by the news, and everyone is now paying tributes of the highest respect to her eternally dear memory, respect that a woman of such rare gifts certainly deserves. Oh, my Caroline! You in whom the earlier days of my youth, but in a more beautiful reflection, stood before my soul, days that gently maintained all the ties with the past that are so precious to the human heart. [1] You my beloved! You who were once the companion of my sufferings [2] and who was now part of a beautiful, blessed existence, alas! one I was hoping to enjoy with you for so much longer yet — so now this dream of life, too, is gone, and I now stand alone in this large, desolate city that will never again return to me a friend such as you.

Ah, but pardon me, esteemed lady, for allowing my own grief to get the best of me when I should be empathizing with your pain alone, and with that of our Schelling, which is so much more justified. Ah, but I can imagine that he will cry out with me:

The bloom is vanished from my life,
For O! it stood beside me, like my youth. [3] 

May he who directs all fate pour comfort into his heart. I for my part can only weep along with him. My husband is also weeping tears of profound manly grief with me. He had an infinitely high estimation of the blessed woman. . . .

My husband and I, our souls deeply moved, ask Schelling to transfer to us the love that Caroline can now no longer give. Oh, my dear lady friend, must I now do without you? [4] How did it ever come about that my heart did not break at our last farewell? That I saw her off thus without even the slightest premonition? |566| Except that she yet spoke the ominous words: “And were I now not to return at all,” — and they pained me even though I considered them spoken merely in jest. [5]

It is with utmost respect that we commend ourselves to you and your husband. May God comfort you, may God strengthen you, O worthy parents. May he reward you for having made the passing of my Caroline so gentle. And you, my dearest, most precious Schelling, I embrace with bitter melancholy. Be careful with your health, which is probably still not the best. [6] Let it be to humankind that those powers be now devoted that here below can no longer fill Caroline herself with joy. Gracious Mother, whose dear hands I now kiss with the utmost respect! Please do write me again soon if your son is still not yet able.

Your most obedient R[äthin?] Liebeskind [7]


[*] This letter is Meta Liebeskind’s response to Gottliebin Marie Schelling’s undated letter earlier in September (after 7 September) 1809 (letter 446). Back.

[1] Caroline and Meta were both natives of Göttingen; they and the other professors’ daughters Therese Heyne, Philippine Gatterer, and Dorothea Schlözer constituted the group of young women who came to be known as the “university mademoiselles,” on which see (in German) Eckart Klessmann Universitätsmamsellen: Fünf aufgeklärte Frauen zwischen Rokoko, Revolution und Romantik (Frankfurt am Main 2008), and Die Universitätsmamsellen-Lesebuch: Fünf gelehrte Frauenzimmer, vorgestellt in eigenen Werken, ed. Ruth Finckh (Göttingen 2015) (Goettinger Taschen Calendar vom Jahr 1790; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[2] Caroline had accepted Meta, along with her out-of-wedlock child, as a housemate in Mainz in the autumn of 1792 when Meta’s reputation in Göttingen was not the best. See Caroline’s letter to Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer on 27 October 1792 (letter 118).

Caroline and Meta were then incarcerated together — with their children — in Königstein after trying to flee Mainz. See the correspondence concerning this episode beginning in April 1793, the satirical play The Mainz Clubbists in Königstein, and Johann Heinrich Liebeskind’s account of the prisoner treatment and conditions in Königstein during Meta and Caroline’s incarceration (supplementary appendix 128.1) (“Madame Lafarge dans sa prison,” in A. Fouquier, Causes célèbres de tous les peuples [Paris 1817ff], 25):


On the other hand, concerning Meta’s possible betrayal of Caroline’s pregnancy during that period, see Caroline’s letter to her on 28 August 1809 (letter 444), note 18. Back.

[3] Meta Liebeskind: “Die Blüthe ist hinweg aus meinem Leben / Und kalt und farblos seh ichs vor mir liegen.”

Original: “Die Blume ist hinweg aus meinem Leben, / Und kalt und farblos seh’ ich’s vor mir liegen.”

A remarkably perceptive, appropriate, and indeed eloquent choice of lines and even dramatic context. The lines are found Schiller’s play Wallenstein’s Tod, spoken by Wallenstein to Countess Terzky in act 5, scene 3 following news of the death in battle of Max Piccolomini, who had deserted Wallenstein earlier (trans. Schiller’s Works, ed. J. G. Fischer, vol. 2 [Philadelphia 1883], 244–45; the translator contextually renders “it” as “he” in the lines Meta quotes):

[Wallenstein sinks into profound melancholy, and looks vacantly into the distance.]

Countess. (Looks on him mournfully, then grasps his hand.) What art thou brooding on?

Wallenstein. Methinks,
If I but saw him, ‘twould be well with me.
He is the star of my nativity,
And often marvelously hath his aspect
Shot strength into my heart.

Countess. Thou’lt see him again.

Wallenstein. (Remains for awhile with absent mind, then assumes a livelier manner, and turning suddenly to the Countess.) See him again? O never, never again!.

Countess. How?

Wallenstein. He is gone — is dust.

Countess. Whom meanest thou, then?

Wallenstein. He, the more fortunate! yea, he hath finish’d!
For him there is no longer any future,
His life is bright — bright without spot it was,
And cannot cease to be. No ominous hour
Knocks at his door with tidings of mishap,
Far off is he, above desire and fear;
No more submitted to the change and chance
Of the unsteady planets. O ’tis well
With him! but who knows what the coming hour
Veil’d in thick darkness brings for us?

Countess. Thou speakest
Of Piccolomini. What was his death?

[Wallenstein by a motion of his hand makes signs to her to be silent.]

Turn not thine eyes upon the backward view,
Let us look forward into sunny days,
Welcome with joyous heart the victory,
Forget what it has cost thee. Not to-day,
For the first time, thy friend was to thee dead;
To thee he died, when first he parted from thee.

Wallenstein. This anguish will be wearied down, I know;
What pain is permanent with man? From the highest,
As from the vilest thing of every day,
He learns to wean himself: for the strong hours
Conquer him. Yet I feel what I have lost
In him. The bloom is vanished from my life,
For O! he stood beside me, like my youth,
Transform’d for me the real to a dream,
Clothing the palpable and the familiar
With golden exhalations of the dawn.
Whatever fortunes wait my future toils,
The beautiful is vanish’d — and returns not. Back.

[4] Meta Liebeskind wrote to Schelling directly on 14 October 1809 (cited in Monika Siegel, “Ich hatte einen Hang zur Schwärmerey,” 165):

Ah, my most precious friend, how could I ever even try to assuage your pain and grief, since I myself would wish never to lose this pain. . . . Occasionally, in society, I am seized by such an extraordinary yearning for her sweet company that I can hardly wait for the solitary night to come when I can then recollect everything that I will be preserving in my soul until the final breath of the most precious memory. Back.

[5] Meta Liebeskind’s final farewell to Caroline came at a social gathering at the Niethammers on 17 August 1809, the evening before Caroline and Schelling departed Munich (Schelling mentions the evening in his letter to Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer on 2 October 1809 [letter 450]) (Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1818: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet [Frankfurt]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


In 1809 the Niethammers lived at Am Maxthor 204 (see Henriette von Hoven’s letter to Charlotte Schiller on 6 August 1807 [letter 424a], note 6), the Schellings at Im Rosenthal 144; Caroline and Schelling walked home that night ([1] Taschenbuch für Grabennymphen auf das Jahr 1787; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [2] Königlich Baiersche Haupt und Residenzstadt München am 1. Januar 1809 [Munich 1809]; Bayerisches Landesvermessungsamt München, Nr. 558/03):



Meta wrote Schelling on 6 October 1809 (cited in Monika Siegel, “Ich hatte einen Hang zur Schwärmerey,” 168):

Her farewell from them [the family of Georg von Stengel] was extremely touching. Her words to Madam Schlichtegroll came during a conversation that evening at the Niethammers. They were speaking about the journey, and she said she had a feeling she would not be returning to Munich. Although Madam Schlichtegroll took it as a joke, she thought it striking enough to relate to her husband afterward, from whom I myself heard it. And he also told me that the dear deceased had been noticeably and particularly gentle and cordial toward him that evening, and had told him in her pleasant manner, “We have seen each other only quite infrequently up until now, and I have a great deal to make amends for with you, but I will make up for it all this coming winter.”

Concerning Rosine Niethammer’s interpretation of Caroline’s statements that evening, see Caroline’s letter to Meta Liebeskind on 28 August 1809 (letter 444), note 18. Back.

[6] Concerning Schelling’s illness during the summer of 1809, see Caroline’s letters to Pauline Gotter on 7 August 1809 (letter 442) and to Philipp Michaelis on 16 August 1809 (letter 443); to Beate Gross in Gaisburg in August 1809 (letter 445); and Schelling’s letters on 7 August to Carl Joseph Windischmann and Martin Wagner. Back.

[7] Concerning Meta Liebeskind’s title as Räthin, see Gottliebin Schelling’s letter to her earlier in September 1809 (letter 446), note 1. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott