Letter 451a

451a. Pauline Gotter to Schelling in Munich: Gotha, 7 November 1809 [*]

Gotha, 7 November 1809

Thank you, my dear friend, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your precious letter; [1] it comforts and lifts one’s spirit to find one’s own pain, one’s own love in the breast of another, to be permitted to feel that we genuinely are understood. Your grief, your love for the adored woman is balm for our wounds, and the feeling within our own hearts, moved as they are, is the only thing that can express our gratitude to you.

Alas, could we but speak with you yourself, and mix together our tears with yours, hear from your lips everything, every detail about the end of that unspeakably beloved woman! — What bliss is speaking, repeatedly and repeatedly, about her! — that is the greatest fortune I can image now that the sweetest of all, namely, speaking with her, has been withdrawn from me forever.

But you want to write to us, my noble friend, you ask the same from us, and how grateful we are to you for it, how perfectly do our most subtle wishes coincide; in this way let us sanctify the memory of our transfigured friend — the most profound grief is also the most intimate bond — let us, even at this distance, continue to live together till one day we again awaken to a reunion with the beloved for an even more beautiful existence.

You probably received my mother’s and sisters’ letters while you were still in Stuttgart, [2] along with the final, precious lines of the eternally beloved. [3] I parted from them amid tears; indeed, it was only because I was placing them in your hands that I was able to part with them at all. But your own heart can also tell you whether you might keep them long.

This present letter is hoping to find you at the place where earlier all my hopes and wishes flew. You have probably already entered the lonely house again where every object speaks of Caroline. Things are different for us here, with emptiness all around us, where no external objects remind us; but our hearts are broken, and no happiness, no merriment can cheer us up again.

Just a few days ago, for example, I received a cordial letter from Goethe accompanied by a modest gift; [4] how much joy such a token of his remembrance would have given me earlier, and how conflicted were my present feelings when receiving it now! And thus it is with everything now. Everything that earlier gave me such joy now merely awakens my grief anew; for it was precisely she who evoked most vividly all that is good and beautiful.

But let us not grumble against the dispositions of providence; and does not the good fortune and happiness of having known her, the blessedness of having been loved by her, indeed her image and her memory — do not all these things now dwell as deeply within our hearts as does the pain at having lost her? — That pain is only for this brief life, whereas the other is eternal, and no power on earth, nor any deity, can take it from us.

Stay well, most precious Schelling; my mother and sisters send their regards with both friendship and respect. May you feel the spiritual nearness of your loyal friends in your quiet hours.

Pauline Gotter


[*] Source: Plitt 2:182–84. Back.

[1] Presumably Schelling’s letter to her on 9 October 1809 (letter 451). Back.

[2] Letters to Schelling from Julie Gotter and Cäcilie Gotter seem not to be extant, or at least not previously published. Back.

[3] In his letter to Luise Gotter on 24 September 1809 (letter 448), Schelling had asked that Luise send him “the final letters Caroline wrote” to her, to be returned later. Back.

[4] Goethe had apparently sent Pauline a textile of some sort in gratitude for a gift of embroidery from her. Goethe wrote to her on 22 October 1809 (Weimarer Ausgabe 4:21:122):

I should long ago have related to you, my dear Pauline, how much I enjoyed your precious gift, but I simply did not quite know how to begin. And now a delicate weave lands in my hands containing fewer meshes than your own embroidery contains in the way of stitches, so please view it instead as simply cordial words with which I would like to respond to the charming gift. Stay very well and let me know occasionally that your health continues to be good and that you think of me.

Weimar, 22 October 1809

Goethe Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott