Le monde est créé de telle sorte que le mouvement y est plus fort que l’immobilité, la dynamique plus forte que la statique : toutes les princesses endormies se réveillent - D. Merezhovsky
I meant to write about myth here, and plot, and conspiracy, and folklore - I meant to discuss Christina Wolf’s essay on Karoline von Günderode - Karoline, who was famous in the nineteenth century – Karoline, heroine and fiction of Bettina von Arnim’s book, Günderode, in which Karoline’s letters weere re-written, her life defended, her ghost drained of what was left of her living reality - Karoline, whose novelized biography was translated by Margaret Fuller and no doubt read by the heroine of the Bostonians, if not by her author. I meant to take the story of her suicide as the last act of a persistant mythomania, and use it as an intro to Creuzer’s book on symbolism - and use that to pose questions about how the great tradition encoded the little tradition, the encyclopedia encoded the labyrinth, the longing for monsters rose in the depths of philology. Georg Creuzer, an ugly, stumpy man – or so Bettina thought, and Creuzer himself thought he was bad looking – was the proximate cause of Karoline’s death. Although, as Wolf points out, that may be an unjust claim. In any case, the cause was literal – or letter-al The letters from Karoline to Creuzer that have survived the flames – ironically, in the letters saved by his wife, Sophie, a woman fifteen years older than him, the widow of his adviser at the university no less, around whom the two lovers developed their elaborate and at first exciting game of peekaboo adultery, fantasies of escape, divorce, the third who was always with them - show a woman who is advancing to the dissolution of the most radical impediment to the union of two hearts, individuality itself. Life. She was, like Kleist, in love with suicide as apotheosis. When it came, it came in the form of a letter, and that letter in the form of a crooked path that is reminiscent of both the letter of Bellerophon and the Purloined Letter of Poe. Creuzer resolved to break with Karoline once and for all, and wrote a letter to a mutual correspondent, Daub, to give to her. Daub, frightened of that responsibility, sent the letter to another mutual friend and go between, Susanna von Haiden. Susanna did not want to hand Karoline the letter, or go to where she was staying with her friends, Pauline and Lotte Serviere, so she enclosed both letters in another letter, and then faked the handwriting of the address – apparently to Pauline - and the seal. Karoline, however, was burning, burning in the Serviere house, burning to be a ghost or a bride - and so in this invisible flame, the net around her, Ananke, Indra, all the nets, the chains, we image our emotions to each other as ties, links, bonds, she saw the postman, got the letters, saw the faked address, opened it, went into her room, and emerged an hour later, seemingly in a very good mood. She announced she was taking a walk. Who knows if she procured the knife then, from the kitchen, or had it in waiting. She went to the bank of the Rhine and stabbed herself in the heart, falling into the shallows.
In a letter to Karoline, Creuzer had written of his Symbolik book that he wanted “to apply the best fruit of my manly intellectual power to a work that, insofar as it strives to reveal the center of pious, holy antiquity, would not be unworthy to be brought as a sacrifice to poetry.” But in the end, it was poetry made the sacrifice.
Philology extinguishes all flames. Rohde edited Creuzer's letters. A philologist, classicist himself, friend of Overbeck and Nietzsche.
These letters have cursed me. They’ve stopped up my thought process. Which is why I am countering, here, with the conditional, with what I might have written.
Creuzer saved his letters to Caroline, except, I believe, that last one. He burnt her letters to him – except for those stolen by his wife, Sophie. All fevers spent, he went on to become quite a successful academic, a point of transfer of German scholarship into France through his friendship with Quinet and Michelet.
The surgeon who did the autopsy on Karoline’s corpse suggested that her spinal column showed, unmistakeably, that she was the suicidal type.
What do we know about people?
Here is my translation of one of her poems.
Can I endure the hot wishes in my heart?
See the blooming crown of life
And uncrowned pass it by,
And not sadly lose all hope in myself?
Shall I criminally renounce the dearest wish
Bravely go to the kingdom of shadows
To beg for other delights, other gods
Ask the dead for new delusions?
Indeed, I climbed down into Pluto’s realm
In the bosom of the nights burned the glow of love
Longingly shadows there leaned on shadows.
He is lost whom love does not favor.
Even if he climbs down into the stygian depths
He will remain an exile from heaven’s light.
Kann ich im Herzen heiße Wünsche tragen?
Dabei des Lebens Blütenkränze sehn,
Und unbekränzt daran vorübergehn,
Und muß ich trauernd nicht in mir verzagen?
Soll frevelnd ich dem liebsten Wunsch entsagen?
Soll mutig ich zum Schattenreiche gehn?
Um andre Freuden, andre Götter flehn,
Nach neuen Wonnen bei den Toten fragen?
Ich stieg hinab, doch auch in Plutons Reichen,
Im Schoß der Nächte, brennt der Liebe Glut,
Daß sehnend Schatten sich zu Schatten neigen.
Verloren ist, wen Liebe nicht beglücket,
Und stieg er auch hinab zur styg'schen Flut,
Im Glanz der Himmel blieb er unentzücket.
ps. I asked Aimie if I could put her last comment in this post - as a sort of converstational partner. A reply ... although the word reply so quickly takes us to the legal perspective on dialogue, in which the utterance becomes a list of point, to be rebutted or defended. However, I think of this reply as a mashup, a teasing out of the whole complex of sounds and references.
A: LI, I do not quite know how to write a post on Hölderlin or offer advice on doing so, but I do hope you do! Not to put you on the spot or something, it's just that this post has been haunting me. I had previously read that Karoline von Günderrode admired Hölderlin, but I did not know about the garden of the Cronstett Sisterhood abutting the garden of the Gontard family! Hölderlin was no longer there and as far as one knows Karoline never met Susette, but who is to say she wasn't brushed by the shadows of those two, forever there, in that adjoining garden. Hölderlin wrote to Neuffer in a letter: "dear friend, there is a being in this world on whom my spirit can and will dwell for millennia..."
Shadows and letters. A hand pursuing a shadow across a blank page, and not just the shadow of one's own hand writing.
Karoline also admired Schelling. Identity philosophy which you mention in the latest post! Which makes me think of the other Caroline you have mentioned in your posts. You're right , Schiller hated her, called her Madame Lucifer. Hegel didn't much care for her either. After her death, Hegel wrote to Immanuel Niethammer that many " have enunciated the hypothesis that the Devil had fetched her." But Mr.Hegel, it would seem, was never at ease with women who, you know, had spirit. Such devils!
But let us go through the letters and the shadows to June 1800 and read a letter from Caroline's daughter Auguste to Schelling. "I tell her [Caroline] how much he [Schelling] loves you and she gets all soft; the first time I told her, she wanted to know how much you loved her. Since that was out of my ken, I quickly responded more than anything. She was satisfied, and I hope you will be as well." At this time, though Caroline and Schelling are lovers, she is still married to August Schlegel. On 12 July, Auguste who is barely 15 dies. Caroline writes to her friend Louise Gotter: "I am only half alive and wander like a shadow over the earth."
Ah, how shadows and letters gather. Caroline had already known scandal and stories on her heels after Mainz. Now, the stories say that Auguste was to be married to Schelling, or that Schelling interfered with her treatment by the doctor, or that Caroline had her killed to have Schelling for herself, or that they were practicing Schelling's "nature philosophy" for her cure. Dorothea,for one, makes no bones about it in her letters, referring to Auguste as the "sacrificial lamb". Frederich Schlegel turned against her too. The shadows grew beyond private letters and tea-parlour gossip. They made the pages of the Allgemeine Literatur Zeitung in Jena. Amazingly enough it is August Schlegel who publicly came to the support of Caroline and Schelling.
I want to quote another letter - from Caroline to Schelling in March 1801. It is when the latter is hard pressed on all sides in his philosophy. It is really all I wanted to quote in this comment which is getting insanely long.
"It occurs to me that for his [Fichte's] incomparable power of thought, his powerful mode of drawing conclusions, his clarity, exactness, his direct intuition of the I and the inspiration of the discoverer, that he is yet limited....When you have broken through a barrier that he has not yet overcome, then I have to believe that you have accomplished this, not so much as a philosopher - if I'm using the term incorrectly , don't scold me - but because you have poetry and he has none. It leads you directly to production, while the sharpness of his perception leads him to consciousness. he has light in its most bright brightness, but you also have warmth; the former can on only enlighten, while the latter is productive....In my opinion, Spinoza must have had far more poetry than Fichte - if thought isn't tinctured with it, doesn't something lifeless remain therein?"
OK, I'll admit that I love this letter. Now this is advice indeed, and quite different to the tepid whatever that Goethe and Schiller handed out to Hölderlin about philosophy, poetry and "human interests".
Caroline and Schelling will marry in June 1803. Which would be the last meeting between the old friends - Schelling and Hölderlin. Almost exactly a year ago, Hölderlin had returned from his voyage on foot to the South of France, to Bordeaux where he wrote a friend in a letter that "he had been touched by the fire of Apollo." Returned to receive a letter that Susette had died on June 22nd, 1802.
Schelling will write to Hegel about his "distress" at how gone Hölderlin seemed, and ask for his help. After all, Hölderlin was Hegel's best friend wasn't he. Hegel would demur, say that he didn't see how being in Jena could possibly help Hölderlin. "Where are my friends?", is a repeated phrase in Hölderlin's poems.
Caroline Schelling died in 1809. Shortly after her death, Schelling would write in a letter: "I now need friends who are not strangers to the real seriousness of pain..." And he had this inscribed on her tombstone:
Gott hat sie mir gegeben
Der Tod kann sie mir nicht rauben.