Letter 456

456. Pauline Gotter to Schelling in Munich: Gotha, 7 September 1810 [*]

On this anniversary of the passing of the best, most beloved woman, in my profound pain I turn to you, my dear friend, that I might express to you my sympathy in as heartfelt and sincere a fashion as possible, that I might express to you wholly and completely how all of us here commiserate with you even into your innermost soul. I find it comforting and quickening to write to you, just as in hours of grief one is most inclined to flee to those whose identical feelings bring them closest to our hearts; and who, indeed, could be closer than you? —

Your tears now flow together with ours within the painfully sacred memory; for we lost what can never be replaced — something I feel with my entire soul, with every fiber of my being, and which in ten years I will continue to feel just as deeply, just as painfully as today. I well realize that we can yet meet again, embrace again, and find at least an element of tranquility; but that magnificent woman is irretrievably gone, and no bliss on earth can compensate us for her loss. Nor is it merely the recurrence of this day today that brings this home to us, nay, each coming day painfully confronts the soul with this realization and reminds us of what we lost.

Today, however, I carry with me a sense of sadness I cannot overcome and cannot express. But you comprehend me, and understand me, my good friend! Alas, could our sympathy but also comfort you today, could you but realize that our thoughts are perpetually with you! Please let us know soon how you are doing; we are yearning to know. We have received no news from you since May and are longing for such to arrive. [1] I am sending these lines to Munich, since I assume you are back there again. But wherever you might be, my noble friend, be assured of the spiritual proximity of your faithful friends. [2]

Pauline Gotter

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[*] Source: Plitt 2:226. — Pauline Gotter does not realize that Schelling is still in Stuttgart; he returned to Munich in late September or early October 1810. Back.

[1] Schelling had last written to Pauline from Maulbronn on 17 and 27 May 1810 (Plitt 209–10; 210–12) after having received a letter from her on 12 May 1810 (Plitt 207–9). Pauline had then written him again on 17 June 1810 (Plitt 212–15) and 18 August 1810 (Plitt 224–25). Back.

It seems appropriate to conclude this correspondence with Pauline’s letter here a year after Caroline’s death. Pauline’s correspondence with Schelling continued, becoming increasingly intimate and contributing not a little to helping Schelling escape the emotional trough that followed his loss of Caroline. They married in Gotha on 4 (or 11) June 1812, not quite three years after Caroline’s death.

Before even the engagement came about, however, in early 1812 Schelling, now twice affected by the death of a loved one through heartbreaking illness — Auguste back in July 1800, then Caroline — asked his brother in Stuttgart to have Johann Friedrich Cotta, who was on his way to the book fair in Leipzig and would be passing through Gotha, to make discreet inquiries in Gotha concerning, not surprisingly, Pauline Gotter’s health. Cotta responded from Leipzig on 19 April 1812 (Schelling und Cotta Briefwechsel 1803–1849, ed. Horst Fuhrmans and Liselotte Lohrer [Stuttgart 1965], 73–74):

According to the wishes of your brother, my esteemed friend, I made some inquiries in Gotha concerning Pauline Gotter among some unquestionably honest, upright acquaintances — though they had no idea why I was making such queries, they related to me nothing but the most excellent, positive things concerning intellect and morality, and with respect to health matters, concerning which I specifically queried them, they assured me that she was blessed with the very best of health. —

After learning of these rare intellectual and physical traits, I resolved to hesitate not a single day longer, my esteemed friend, before relating these responses to you.

With the utmost respect,

JF Cotta

Schelling responded on 25 April 1812 (ibid., 74–75):

Let me extend to you my heartfelt thanks, my good friend, for the swift report in the matter at hand. I am as heartened by the good news — which, by the way, wholly concurs with everything I have heard from all other quarters and could glean from her own letters as well — as by your own sincere interest in the matter.

The only remaining point concerns her health, which is of the utmost importance for me and concerning which certain of the good child’s own remarks have in part made me somewhat apprehensive. I doubt not that you will be visiting Goethe [in Weimar] on your return journey. I believe he can judge this matter quite well, and his judgment would be of considerable value to me concerning the entire affair.

Please speak to him personally; you can mention my name to him, since I am acquainted with his considerable discretion. In such cases, the issue is not merely a person’s previous health, which even more distant acquaintances might fairly judge, but rather the degree of stability and strength of that health, since although feeble health can indeed be maintained through peace and quiet, moderation, and considerable caution, it often cannot sufficiently withstand disquiet, emotional distress, and all the other unpleasantness that is invariably associated with earthly circumstances.

I am sure, my good friend, that in this case, too, you will not neglect to gather as much specific information as possible should the opportunity arise. Although I can endure a great many things, the suffering and sickliness of a beloved being torments my entire being. —

I am already indebted to you for so many acts of friendship, I can only hope that I might be beholden to you in this matter as well, one that is so important for life itself. — Stay well, and return to us in good health.

devoted friend

Concerning Goethe’s acquaintance with Pauline Gotter, see her letter to Caroline on 6 September 1808 (letter 434). Schelling himself had last seen Pauline Gotter back in September 1801 in Jena, which was, in fact, their only previous meeting (Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1811; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


After receiving Cotta’s positive report, Schelling arranged a meeting with the Gotter family in Lichtenfells (just south of Coburg and northeast of Bamberg) at Whitsun 1812 (in 1812, Whitsunday fell on 17 May); Adalbert Friedrich Marcus joined Schelling in his carriage in Bamberg for the remainder of the journey.

Schelling asked Pauline to marry him, and the wedding took place on 11 June 1812 in Gotha (1st map: Franz Ludwig Güssefeld, Neue und vollstaendige Post-Carte Durch ganz Deutschland [n.p. 1804]; Bibliothèque nationale de France; 2nd map: Carl Schleich jun. and Johann Baptist Seitz, Post-Karte von Baiern. Entworfen auf Befehl Seiner Majestät des Königs von A. von Coulon [München, 1810]; illustrations: [1] Kolb nach Gerhardt, Lichtenfels [ca. 1850]; [2] Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1805 für edle Weiber und Mädchen; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):





They named their first daughter, born on 25 March 1817, Caroline (Gottlieb Böttger [n.d.]; Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig):



Translation © 2018 Doug Stott