Letter 448

• 448. Schelling to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Stuttgart, 24 September 1809 [*]

Stuttgart, 24 September 1809

|566| You already know, my most esteemed friend of our eternally precious Caroline, that this best, most beloved woman is now no longer of this life. It was certainly inappropriate, however, that you, as her most loyal friend, should have first heard this sad news from strangers. [1] But my unspeakable grief hardly permitted me even to write the one necessary letter to her brother in Haarburg; [2] indeed, I am still not in the requisite state of mind, nor do I know how I will manage even now to relate to you even the essential information.

And yet the idea itself of writing to you is comforting to me. I realize that your tears, too, are now flowing amid bittersweet memories, as are those of your dear daughters. You, too, have all lost a friend in her the likes of which there are no others, or only very few — and you comprehend |567| my grief. You can sense how much I have lost. —

Caroline was truly longing to take the trip to Württemberg. She needed to recuperate after caring for me for two months, since I had been sick virtually since the spring. The usual order had been reversed: instead of always being concerned for her health, I myself now became the object of her concern [3]

Alas, the arduous effort that caring for me required of her doubtless initiated the weakened condition that afterward allowed her illness to have such a swift effect. We left Munich on August 18 with her in a cheerful, serene mood, just as was always the case with her during a journey, with no problems with her health. We hastened, traveling by way of Stuttgart here to Maulbronn, [4] a monastery in Württemberg where my good parents now live, [5] with whom I spent nearly the entire summer with Caroline 6 years ago and to whom she was extraordinarily dear and devoted. [6]

During the entire trip, I was accompanied by an oppressive, painful feeling that I could not explain, just as, indeed, the entire summer I was sick more in spirit than in body. Her death has now thrown this strange feeling into terrible and clear relief. She at least seemed to have no conscious premonition. [7] The only thing all my relatives noticed was that this time she was so particularly amiable and tender toward everyone, almost as if she was actually intending to take the last drink of farewell with them. [8] To everyone she seemed as if transfigured, and even now, after her death, is hovering above them all like a divine being.

During a brief excursion from Maulbronn — to one of the most beautiful areas in the surrounding countryside here [9] — which she also wanted to take but which — alas! I am now only too certain — contributed toward exhausting her energy despite the fact that such exercise and excursions otherwise usually strengthened her — during this entire excursion she was |568| very quiet and withdrawn, and was so in a rather peculiar manner despite having an external appearance of the most perfect inner serenity. [10] A hundred times I was driven to ask her why she was so quiet and yet every time was prevented from doing so by our companions. Inwardly I was so yearning to be alone with her again and at home; but only a few hours after our return, the first signs of illness appeared. [10a]

Epidemic dysentery accompanied by nervous fever had already been running rampant in the area around Maulbronn for a month, with only Maulbronn itself being spared up until our own arrival. It was only on the second day we were there that the wife of a certain Professor Pauly there came down with it. Till three years ago, [11] upon hearing the first such news, I would immediately have left the unfortunate place and saved Caroline. At the time, I continually kept watch over her and observed every step she took that might prove dangerous. After she blossomed anew in Munich’s healthy air and had become so strong and healthy that all my relatives were astonished upon seeing her again, I had become more secure and thus allowed her to indulge her natural propensity for freedom. [11a]

Upon returning from that excursion, her first question was, “How is our good Frau Pauli?” (whom she otherwise had never seen but in whom she took a keen interest). The answer was: “She died yesterday!” —

Several hours later the first attacks came accompanied by several bowel evacuations in quick succession. Caroline herself joked about them and was not really apprehensive about anything. And the application of the usual house remedies also temporarily put a stop to the attacks. But then late that evening, she was beset by pain and fever, and early the next morning, [12] when I went to her bedside, she spoke the following words to me: “I can feel the destruction |569| advancing so quickly that I believe this time I might — die!” Alas, how truthfully had she spoken! —

Even when I first saw her, the striking change in her face already attested the vehemence of the illness, and her pulse absolutely terrified me. I talked her out of having such thoughts even though I could not entirely conceal my own distress, for all the signs pointed to her having been completely seized by the wretched illness.

From that moment on, no effort was spared in trying to save her. I put her in the care of the Maulbronn physician, a man generally considered quite skilled who had already treated a great many ill people all around the area in connection with the same epidemic. We sent an express rider to Stuttgart to summon my brother, who enjoys considerable respect here as a practical physician and in whom Caroline, too, had the greatest trust.

Unfortunately, he came too late, when nothing more could be done. —

Please allow me to pass over these days of pain and the most terrifying fear. The only, albeit weak consolation is that Caroline enjoyed every possible aid and care she needed. Amid the agonizing thought that she had to pass away during a journey, and not even in her own home, the only consolation is that at least she died in the arms of loving parents. It was for only about a day that she bore with the most noble steadfastness and genuine grandeur of spirit the enormous suffering associated with this illness.

Her final days were quiet; she had no sense of either the power of the illness itself or the approach of death. She died just as she had always wished. During the final evening, [13] she felt light and cheerful; all the beauty of her loving soul opened up one final time. The perpetually beautiful lilt of her voice turned into music. [14] Her spirit already seemed, as it were, to be free of her body, |570| hovering above it as if over the husk it would soon be leaving forever.

She passed away on the morning of September 7, gently, without struggle. [15] Nor did her grace abandon her even in death, for when she was dead she lay there with her head turned in the most charming, peaceful fashion, an expression of serene and magnificent peace on her face. — —

But alas, as long as she still lay there, as long as I could still moisten her last remains with my tears, I was not entirely unhappy. Her expression was so serene that I never came away from this gaze without being strengthened and comforted. But finally, alas, I had to take leave even of these very last remains. [15a] I accompanied her to her grave, whither she was brought with the entire solemnity appropriate to the noble deceased’s honor, honor which in life I myself — unfortunately! — was never able to show her to the extent I might have wished. But now she rests in a quiet valley before whose romantic beauty she had often lingered in quiet melancholy, in a place where someday my own dear parents will also rest. [16]

This was the end of your — of my Caroline. And I now stand here in astonishment, depressed in my innermost soul, and still unable really to fathom the entirety of my grief. My relatives have now accompanied me here to Stuttgart, but my heart and all my thoughts are where I saw her suffer and die and where her remains now slumber. [16a]

What a terrible circle of fate this death now closes! Nine years ago, the very same illness snatched her beautiful daughter away during a journey as well. [17] And so also now, during a journey, the precious life of her mother has succumbed to it as well. She is now doing well; the greater part of her heart had already long resided beyond this life. [18]

What remains now for me is the eternal grief that only death itself can relieve, sweetened solely by my memory of her beautiful spirit, her magnificent character, her most upright of all hearts, the heart that, once, |571| I was permitted to call my own in the fullest sense. My eternal gratitude follows this magnificent woman into her early grave. God gave her to me; death cannot take her from me. [19] She will again be mine, or rather, she is still mine even in this brief separation. — —

You, esteemed lady, are one of the few people with whom I am permitted to speak about Caroline completely after my own heart. You never stopped loving her, and her heart in its own turn belonged to you. [20] Please allow a portion of the friendship you bore for the beloved to pass over to me now. I will find solace in being considered a friend by those who loved her in this life. Please allow me to hear a word of caring from you and your dear daughters.

My spirit would be lifted could I but receive the final letters Caroline wrote to you. I am collecting every relic associated with this precious person. These letters will not be lost to you. [21] If you can send word to me soon, I will still be here when it arrives. I am compelled to set out on my difficult and lonely trip back to Munich. [22] I still bear the sacred obligation of ordering the belongings the blessed deceased left behind. [23] This prospect will give me the strength to return to the desolate, deserted house in which at the same time every single object will evoke anew my sweet memories of her.

Stay well, noble lady, along with your entire family. May no similar event ever cloud your remaining days again! I commend myself to you all and am and will remain most sincerely and respectfully

Your most devoted Schelling


[*] Schelling had left Maulbronn for Stuttgart with Karl Schelling and Beate Gross on 20 September 1809. Pauline Gotter addressed this letter, however, to him in Munich (according to Luise Gotter in her letter to Schelling on 3 October 1809 [letter 449]).

Maulbronn is located ca. 45 km northwest of Stuttgart (Johann Sebastian Gerster, Julius Iwan Kettler, and F. Rösler, Schauenburg’s neue Wand-karte von Baden, Württemberg und Hohenzollern [Lahr 1883]; Bibliothèque nationale de France; département Cartes et plans):



[1] 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.

The Gotters presumably learned of Caroline’s death from one of the numerous former residents of Gotha in Munich rather than from a black-sealed letter directly from the immediate family. Such black wax seals on letters announcing a person’s death were to prepare the recipient for the sad news in the letter itself; in the following illustration, such a letter is held by the woman on the right (Caspar Netscher, The Letter with the Black Seal [1665]; Staatliches Museum, Schwerin):



[2] That letter seems not to be extant; see in any case Schelling’s letter to Philipp Michaelis on 29 November 1809 (letter 452). Back.

[3] 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 1809 to Carl Joseph Windischmann and Martin Wagner (letters 442a, 442b) (“Weibliches Mitleid,” Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützliches Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1805; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[4] Concerning Caroline and Schelling’s route, see Caroline’s letter to Meta Liebeskind on 28 August 1809 (letter 442), note 2 (anonymous, Departing Postal Coach [ca. 1830]):



[5] Gottliebin and Joseph Friedrich Schelling. Back.

[6] Concerning that previous visit to Württemberg (to Murrhardt, where Schelling’s father was employed at the time, rather than Maulbronn), see the correspondence during the summer and early autumn of 1803. Back.

[7] See, however, Meta Liebeskind’s letter to Gottliebin Schelling on 14 September 1809 (letter 447), who remarks that Caroline had told her at their farewell, “And were I now not to return at all”; see esp. note 5 there. Back.

[8] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Ihre Freudenbezeugungen waren rührend (1787); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung (5-369):


Schelling uses the Swabian expression abletzen here in reference to the last drink. — Friedrich von Schlichtegroll related a similar feeling to Meta Liebeskind in his account of a final evening with Caroline back in Munich; see Meta’s letter to Gottliebin Schelling on 14 September 1809 (letter 447), note 5. Back.

[9] Caroline and Schelling’s excursion possibly took them through the area between Maulbronn and Leonberg.

See Gottliebin Schelling’s letter to Meta Liebeskind just after Caroline’s death in September 1809 (letter 446), note 7 (Clemens Kohl, Ein Mann und eine Frau bei einem Spaziergang [1795]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 1394; Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, from the Reise nach Paris; National Gallery of Art):




[10] Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1816: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[10a] Sunday, 3 September 1809 (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Nein, mein Freund, ich fühle mich, der Tod dringt auf mich ein [1782]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 [263]):



[11] I.e., until they moved from Würzburg to Munich in the late spring of 1806. Back.

[11a] Taschenkalender auf das Jahr 1798 für Damen; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[12] Monday, 4 September 1809. Back.

[13] Wednesday, 6 September 1809. Back.

[14] Concerning Caroline’s voice and talent for reading literary works aloud, see her letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 18 April 1808 (letter 432a), note 2. Mother Schlegel had written to Wilhelm Schlegel back in the summer of 1796 of having heard, “among other things,” that “she [Caroline] had such a melodic voice.” Back.

[15] 3 a.m., Thursday, 7 September 1809 ([1] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Alexander sitzt auf Minchens Totenbett [1779]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.313; [2] W. Jury, Frau auf dem Sterbebette [ca. 1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 1235):



[15a] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Minchen im Sarge (1778–1781) (Herzog August Bibliothek, Chodowiecki Sammlung [3-162]):



[16] Two representative period funeral scenes ([1] Ernst und Scherz: Ein Taschenbuch zur angenehmen und nüzlichen Unterhaltung für das Jahr 1810 [Augsburg 1810]; [2] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Höltys Elegie auf ein Landmädchen [1794]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.985):



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

[16a] Königliches statistisch-topographisches Bureau, Beschreibung des Oberamts Maulbronn (Stuttgart 1870), frontispiece:



[17] See the correspondence in this collection for May, June, and July 1800. Ironically, Schelling himself also died during a journey in 1854 rather than at home in Berlin. Back.

[18] Caroline had written to Luise Gotter on 18 September 1800 (letter 268): “I only half live now and am wandering about like a shadow on this earth.”

Similarly, in her letter to Meta Liebeskind on 1 February 1805 (letter 390), in her moving account of her dream-meeting with the deceased Ludwig Ferdinand Huber, she relates: “I asked him why he had grieved us so, and told him how gladly I would have changed places with him, for, ‘Huber,’ I said, ‘after all, I have more to seek in heaven than do you.’ I was thinking about Auguste, just as she is always quite present for me” (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Lebt sie so nehme ich sie von der gewaltigen Hand Gottes an (1776); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki WB 3.21):



[19] Schelling incorporated these lines into the text on Caroline’s obelisk in Maulbronn. See the translation in letter/document 445b.

That said, Schelling’s grief over the next several months, as seen in coming letters, continued to torment him (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Ich hatte ein grosses Verlangen, zu sehn, wo sie ihn hingelegt hätten [1783]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 [223]):



[20] Caroline and Luise Gotter, née Stieler, had known each other since their time in school together in Gotha in the mid-1770s. Back.

[21] Thus did many of Caroline’s letters end up in Schelling’s literary estate; although these seem to have been returned, Schelling married into the Gotter family in 1812, where access to such materials was understandably easier.

Caroline in her own turn had over the years requested letters back that she had written, e.g., during her potentially politically compromising period in Mainz, some of which, however, she never returned and may, regrettably, have destroyed. Schelling, too, kept certain letters longer than recipients wished. Back.

[22] Schelling was back in Maulbronn on 10 October 1809, then returned to Munich (Neue und vollstaendige Post-Carte Durch ganz Deutschland [1804]; Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans):



[23] Meta Liebeskind assisted Schelling in this task in Munich even after Schelling returned to Stuttgart in January 1810, where he remained till October of that year (Monika Siegel, “Ich hatte einen Hang zur Schwärmerey,” 170). Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott