Letter 454

454. Schelling to Pauline Gotter in Gotha: Stuttgart, 12 February 1810 [*]

Stuttgart, 12 February 1810

|581| It is only here, in this more amiable environment, that I wanted to write you again, my dear Pauline. —

I thought I was equal to the impressions that awaited me in Munich. I |582| was wrong. The handsome apartment to which I returned alone filled me with dreadful images of horrible desolateness. Even the rich furnishings, which otherwise provided for such adornment, became oppressive through the contrast with my personal loneliness.

On the other hand, the emptiness of the people around me was doubly perceptible now that I was exposed to them alone. At the same time, my health suffered, and for over a month I was severely ill and incapable of writing even had I wanted to reveal to my friends the shattered condition of my inner soul. [1] This condition could be addressed only by my leaving my previous surroundings completely. I received a new leave of absence that I might remove to my fatherland for four months. [2]

I have been here now since the 20th [of January]; I could easily send you several initial attempts at writing to convince you that more than once I did indeed intend to write you but was then drawn away yet again; but then yesterday, your own dear letter arrived, [3] and today nothing will keep me from writing you all that I have on my mind. —

Should I first return and thank your mother, Cäcilie, Julchen, and yourself, dearest Pauline, for your thoughtful letters, for your heartfelt sympathy, flowing as it did from the most intimate feelings? In those moments, you were the most valuable friends imaginable, and will eternally remain so. I know no one who clung with such steadfast love to the beloved as did all of you; neither, however, was she herself bound to anyone by such intimate, perpetually renewed affection as she was to you. —

I still often read your letters in hours of sweet melancholy, and am so gratified at the profound empathy of your hearts. Never, ever allow yourselves to believe, as you expressed in your letter, that I could ever forget you or ever become a stranger to you. [4] I have now explained to you the reasons for my long silence. Only in solitude can such tremendous grief be overcome; we must drink the entire, bitter cup to the dregs if we are to look with circumspection for those means yet remaining that might help us regain our composure. Not even an angel sent from heaven can take this cup from us. It was here that double grief both penetrated into and emerged from within my soul, for only when the beloved herself was no longer had I finally also lost Auguste entirely. My daily song is now that of Iphigenia: “And so it is done; the grave now covers all my beloved.” [5]

Please do cordially receive your friend now, who has found himself again and has, if not lost all his grief, at least wholly comprehended and understood it. Let him often hear the gentle tones of your voice — (does Pauline sing as well?) — and help him regain his composure completely, composure that might prove worthy of the sacred feeling that must always abide within him and that can pass into sweet pain while nonetheless never ceasing to be pain.

There is so much about which we — for I am counting on you, too, not ceasing to write me — can speak. For example, Die Wahlverwandtschaften! [6] What do all of you think of it — or rather, what does Pauline think of it? to the extent, that is, that the book is indeed able to stimulate her? — Do you know anything about the author’s own thoughts on it? when and where he wrote it? These things, too, interest me. [7]

To me it seems that few, or indeed no one, among my acquaintances possess the proper perspective to judge it, notwithstanding how clearly that perspective is delineated for all who do not lack it entirely; nor do the in part tasteless, in part merely superficial assessments in public periodicals attest any better understanding. Proper factions have even formed in Munich on the subject; to wit, the noble family about whom, as I see, Caroline, too, wrote in her final letters to you, made it their business to disparage it in every possible way. [8]

Do you know how Goethe is doing this winter? — No doubt the correspondence will continue. [9] If it is appropriate to do so when you write him, please ask him to remember me and assure him of my sincere interest in his well-being.

Let me relate to you a bit about my life here. I have two brothers here [10] and a married sister. I am living as if out in the country, in a kind of garden, with a view of an amphitheater of hills whose graceful forms not even the snow can entirely conceal. Except for a daily walk around midday, I almost never leave the small house. [11] I have once again started to think, even to produce to a certain extent, and to forget the present world in a created one. Grief blends itself with the bliss of a quiet, gentle existence, and the days are once again beginning to pass by in an imperceptible and yet not entirely useless fashion. [12]

You can see now that I had no intention of withholding the precious letters from you. [13] Please forgive me for having given that impression. I have so many beautiful, loving pages written by that |583| precious hand that I considered it a sin to rob so dear a soul as you of even a single line. The relics of this precious woman cannot be in better hands than yours. I am thinking about choosing several things from among what remains that might provide particular pleasure to your mother, sisters, and you yourself. And you can help me in this respect. Although I have already thought of several things, I would like for each of you to have a special memento of the beloved. Had she herself had any premonition of her death, I know she would have asked me to do this.

I have not yet visited her resting place again. I want to see it only in the springtime. [14] — Then you will receive a rose from Caroline’s grave. [15]

Let me kiss your dear mother’s hand; please pass along my kind regards to your sisters, and please also write again soon yourself to

Your intimate friend,


[*] Partial text in Erich Schmidt (1913); full text in Plitt 2:192–94 (transitions indicated in footnotes).

Schelling had now returned from Munich to friends and relatives in Stuttgart after an extremely difficult winter without Caroline (map: (“Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas [Cambridge 1912]; illustration of Stuttgart: Neue Bildergalerie f.d. Jugend [Gotha 1831], vol. 4, plate 56, no. 368):




[1] See Martin Wagner’s account in letter/document 450b. Back.

[2] Extra material from Plitt begins here. Back.

[3] Pauline’s letter to him on 6 February 1810 (letter 453b). Back.

[4] Extra material from Plitt ends here. Back.

[5] Schelling is citing from Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera, Iphigénie en Tauride, opera in four acts, adapted from Euripides, which had premiered in 1779 in Paris with a libretto by Nicolas Francois Guillard (Théâtre National de l’Opéra-Comique. Iphigénie en Tauride. Opéra en 4 actes.; lithograph by Paul Maurou [Paris 1900]; Bibliothèque nationale de France


The German translation from which Schelling cites is Iphigenia in Tauris: Oper in vier Akten, music by Ritter Gluck (Berlin 1793).

The lines come from the end of act 2, scene 5, after Iphigenia, failing to recognize her brother Orestes, listens to him recount the fate of her family, including Orestes himself; only Electra is left behind. Iphigenia then laments, “Es ist geschehn! all’ die Lieben deckt das Grab,” approx. “And so it is done; the grave now covers all my beloved”; here from Chr. W. von Gluck, Iphigenie auf Tauris: Oper in 4 Akten; Klavier-Auszug, trans. Johann Baptist von Alxinger; piano reduction by Friedrich Brissler (Leipzig ca. 1882):


The English translation of the lines set to music is: “‘Tis enough, all my race have succumbed to the Doom,” here from Boosey and Sons’ Complete Edition of Gluck’s Opera Iphigenia in Tauris for Voice and Pianoforte with English and French Words (London 1860), 88:


These same lines, incidentally and doubtless not unknown to Schelling, immediately precede Iphigenia’s sublimely beautiful and touching aria “O malheureuse Iphigénie,” in which she laments all she has lost. —

Extra material from Plitt begins here. Back.

[6] Goethe, Die Wahlverwandtschaften. Ein Roman von Goethe (Tübingen 1809) (Elective Affinities, Novels and Tales by Goethe [London 1854], 1–245), which created something of a publishing sensation with its moral ambiguity. Arguably, however, one of Goethe’s more accessible prose works.

Concerning the story, whose premise essentially describes what happened between Caroline and Schelling (and, by extension, Wilhelm Schlegel) during the initial year of their acquaintance in Jena (1798–99), see George Madison Priest, A Brief History of German Literature (New York 1910), 210–11:

Apart from the completion of Wilhelm Meister Goethe’s last novel is Die Wahlverwandtschaften [Elective affinities]. Eduard and Charlotte, who loved each other in their youth, have been separated by circumstances, and now as widower and widow they meet again and are married. Their union is apparently happy, but it is rather one of friends than of lovers.

They realize the falseness of their situation when a Captain and Charlotte’s foster-daughter Ottilie enter their lives; Eduard is drawn to Ottilie, and Charlotte to the Captain, just as chemical elements with inherent, elective affinities are drawn to each other. The Captain resists temptation, and leaves Eduard’s house. Eduard wants a separation from his wife, and when this is denied to him he goes off to war and tries, in vain, to forget Ottilie. The child of Eduard and Charlotte, whose resemblance to the Captain and Ottilie is further testimony to the affinities of its parents, is drowned through Ottilie’s carelessness.

This accident awakens Ottilie to a recognition of her moral transgression, and she renounces Eduard forever, even if he might become free to marry her. Overcome by the shock of all that has happened, she falls ill and soon dies. Eduard follows her in death shortly after. Goethe’s purpose in telling this story was to show that passion may enter the lives of morally upright people with elemental force, and only in so far as the individual can practise man’s highest virtue and duty, renunciation, is he worthy of life.

Thus the novel afforded a counterbalance to the stories in which Romantic authors of the time championed the absolute liberty and rights of the individual. The artistic construction of Die Wahlverwandtschaften, its proportion and symmetry, its uncompromising, classic development of the moral problem at stake, make the novel one of Goethe’s most finished psychological masterpieces.

Here the principal characters in an engraving by Heinrich Anton Dähling, rendered by Heinrich Schmidt, in Urania: Taschenbuch für Damen auf das Jahr 1812 (1812), modeled loosely on the following passage from part 1, chapter 8 (Goethe’s Works, trans. George Barrie, vol. 5 [Philadelphia 1885], 259–60):

They ordinarily sat in the evening in the same places round a small table — Charlotte on the sofa, Ottilie on a chair opposite to her, and the gentlemen on each side. Ottilie’s place was on Edward’s right, the side where he put the candle when he was reading — at such times she would draw her chair a little nearer to look over him, for Ottilie also trusted her own eyes better than another person’s lips, and Edward would then always make a move towards her, that it might be as easy as possible for her — indeed he would frequently make longer stops than necessary, that he might not turn over before she had got to the bottom of the page.

Charlotte and the captain observed this, and exchanged many a quiet smile at it.

Click on the image to open a gallery of the remaining illustrations to the novel:



[7] See Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter on 1 March 1809 (letter 440), note 31. The conception of the novel seems to go back to 1807, and by May 1808 Goethe apparently had a fairly detailed story, which he then began dictating in late May 1808 in Karlsbad, continuing to work on it during that summer there. It may be recalled that Pauline socialized extensively with Goethe during precisely this period in Karlsbad; see her letter to Caroline on 6 September 1808 (letter 434), esp. the extracts there from Goethe’s diary during that summer.

Although Goethe worked on the novel during August and September 1808 as well, sustained work did not begin again until April 1809, when he also read parts aloud to the circle around Duchess Louise. In late April he then withdrew to Jena, where with one interruption in mid-summer he continued intensive work on the novel, beginning the printing and checking proofs, however, in August, even before it was finished. He sent Christiane part 1 on 15 September 1809 — just a week after Caroline had died — and on 4 October finished reading the final proofs. That is, the novel’s publication essentially coincided with Caroline’s death.

At precisely the time Schelling is here writing, the novel was indeed creating a sensation among the reading public. Mariane von Eybenberg, who had also been in Karlsbad during the summer of 1808 when Goethe was working on the novel, wrote to him on 24 February 1810 (cited in Goethes Werke, Hamburger Ausgabe, vol. 6, ed. Erich Trunz, 10th ed. [Munich 1981], 690–91):

I have never heard people talk about anything as enthusiastically, as insightfully, and as stupidly as about this novel, and never have booksellers been so besieged, — it was like standing in front of a bakery during a famine — the first four deliveries were sold out so quickly that they did not even have time to announce them in the newspapers. Back.

[8] The Tieck siblings in Munich, about whom Caroline had written extensively in her letter to Pauline on 1 March 1809 (letter 440); Ludwig Tieck’s disinclination for the novel was well known; according to Bettina Brentano (cited in Krisenjahre 3:449), Tieck referred to the novel not as the Wahlverwandtschaften (“elective affinities”), but as the Qualverwandtschaften (approx., “defective affinitives,” lit. “tormented affinities”). Back.

[9] I.e., Pauline’s correspondence with Goethe; see her letter to Caroline on 6 September 1808 (letter 434). Back.

[10] Karl and August Ludwig (1781–1860), who had an ecclesiastical position in Marbach just outside Stuttgart. Back.

[11] Extra material from Plitt ends here.

Since Stuttgart is situated in what is known locally as the “kettle,” views of the surrounding hills abound from almost anywhere in town. Such also applies, however, to Gaisburg on the eastern edge of town, “as if out in the country,” where Schelling’s sister, Beate, lived and where he would have had a view of the hills and landscape directly across the Neckar River. See in this regard Caroline’s letter to Beate on 17–18 July 1804 (letter 384), note 5.

Schelling’s letter to Pauline Gotter from Stuttgart on 14 September 1810 might support the assumption that he was living with his sister in Gaisburg. Here he recounts how his sister had gone to Maulbronn for a month around the same time — a year later — that Schelling and Caroline had departed Munich (18 August 1809), but how she had then wanted to return to Stuttgart after two weeks because of a recurrence of the epidemic of dysentery. The epidemic seemed to have abated, the weather turned good again, so she decided to stay.

Then on the evening of 8 September 1810, she suddenly reappeared “here” — that is, presumably at her home, where Schelling was staying — in tears, having lost one of her children that very morning, a year and a day after Caroline herself had died. “And now it is the first of us to slumber alongside Caroline” (Plitt 2:227). See, however, the return address Schelling provides at the end of his letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 12 March 1810 (letter 455). Back.

[12] See Schelling’s letter to to Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer on 2 October 1809 (letter 450), note 5. For an extract from his letter from Maulbronn to Pauline on 27 May 1810 in this connection, see Gottliebin Marie Schelling’s letter to Meta Liebeskind in September 1809 (letter 446), note 7. Back.

[13] Schelling seems to have enclosed letters from Caroline to the Gotters that he had requested from them earlier; see Pauline’s worried query in her letter to Schelling on 6 February 1810 (letter 453b), also with note 2 there. Back.

[14] Schelling writes Pauline (who had been in Drakendorf since early March 1810 and remained until mid-July) from Maulbronn on 17 and 27 May 1810 (Plitt 2:209–12), though he did return to Stuttgart (excerpt from “Wurtemberg,” in William Shepherd, Historical Atlas [1911], 143; image: University of Texas at Austin):



[15] Extra material from Plitt begins here and extends to end of the letter. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott