Charlotte von Stein

Goethe and Charlotte von Stein
Goethe and Charlotte von Stein (Ѻ) to whom he wrote more than 1,500 letters and notes, and who formed the main character to "Charlotte" of Elective Affinities.
In existographies, Charlotte von Stein (1742-1827) was a German baroness noted for her complex love affair with German polymath Johann Goethe, from 1774 to 1786, during which time Goethe sent her some more than 1,500 letters and notes, and who later formed a large part of the character Charlotte of Goethe’s 1809 physical chemistry based novella Elective Affinities.

Love letter
See also: Goethe on the soul
In early 1770s, before Goethe met Charlotte he, supposedly, was shown a portrait of her, which he responded:

“It would be a magnificent spectacle to see how the world is reflected in this soul. She sees the world as it is, and yet through the medium of love. And mildness is the predominant impression.”
— Goethe (c.1774), on photo of Charlotte von Stein [6]

Other statements made to Charlotte or related to her are as follows:

“We first know we exist when we recognize ourselves in others.”
— Goethe (c.1778), On Charlotte von Stein [6]

“My soul has grown fast to yours ... I am inseparable from you, an ... neither height nor depth can keep me from you. I wish there were some sort of vow or sacrament that would make me yours, visibly or legally. And my period of probation was long enough to think it all over.”
— Goethe (1781), “Letter to Charlotte von Stein”, Mar 12 [6]

In 1783, Goethe became tutor to Charlotte's son, Fritz, which gave him further contact with her. He found consolation in the idealized image of Charlotte, present to him even when she was not there. Yet he declared himself lonely. [6]

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Goethe, to note, seems to have been involved with or connected in some way with at least three different "Charlottes", as listed below:

Charlotte Buff (1753-1828) – Wikipedia.
Charlotte von Stein (1742-1827) – Wikipedia.
Charlotte von Lengefeld (1766-1826) – Wikipedia.

not to mention the character Charlotte of Elective Affinities; some of the details of these various Charlottes, seem to be intermixed (by mistake) in the following article.

On 17 Jun 1784, only a few months after he had discovered the human intermaxillary bone (Mar 27), Goethe wrote the following love letter to Charlotte: [5]

“My letters will have shown you how lovely I am. I don't dine at Court, I see few people, and take my walks alone, and at every beautiful spot I wish you were there.

I can't help loving you more than is good for me; I shall feel all the happier when I see you again. I am always conscious of my nearness to you, your presence never leaves me. In you I have a measure for every woman, for everyone; in your love a measure for all that is to be. Not in the sense that the rest of the world seems obscure tome, on the contrary, your love makes it clear; I see quite clearly what men are like and what they plan, wish, do and enjoy; I don't grudge them what they have, and comparing is a secret joy to me, possessing as I do such an imperishable treasure.

You in your household must feel as I often do in my affairs; we often don't notice objects simply because we don't choose to look at them, but things acquire an interest as soon as we see clearly the way they are related to each other. For we always like to join in, and the good man takes pleasure in arranging, putting in order and furthering the right and its peaceful rule. Adieu, you whom I love a thousand times.”

Very deep insight shown here indeed.

In 1758, Charlotte became a lady-in-waiting to Anna Amalia, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach whom she served until the Duchess's death in 1807. On 17 May 1764, Charlotte married "Johann Christian Kestner" or Baron Gottlob Ernst Josias Friedrich Freiherr von Stein (1735-1793).




Charlotte von Stein (house in Weimer)
Charlotte von Stein mansion
Sections of the Charlotte von Stein mansion in Thuringia. [2]
This was not a marriage out of love, but for social and political interests, or one out of "necessity" as Goethe describes it in the former marriage of Charlotte, prior to her marriage with Eduard. Often Charlotte remained alone in Weimar, as her husband had to travel a lot, serving the duke of Jena-Weimar. From 1764 to 1773 she gave birth to seven children. The four daughters died, three boys (Karl, Ernst, Fritz) survived. After her seventh child was born she had to take several cures as she was physically exhausted.

In 1774, or Nov 1775 (Ѻ), Goethe and Charlotte von Stein met in Weimar.

It was the beginning of a deep friendship which lasted for twelve years. During this time she had a strong influence on Goethe′s work and life. Goethe took into his house her eleven-year old son Fritz (her darling), in May 1783, and took over the boy′s education to her satisfaction.

During this she was in the center of social life and attention and met many famous personalities, e.g. Friedrich Schiller, Karl Knebel, and Johann Zimmermann. She frequently corresponded with Schiller's wife Charlotte von Lengefeld (1766-1826)—who, supposedly, having never fully reconciling her aristocratic background with the bohemian lives of her poet husband and his friends, encouraged Schiller in his cruelty toward Goethe's mistress and later wife Christiane Vulpius; she wrote of Goethe after Christiane's death, "the poor man wept bitterly. It grieves me that he should shed tears for such objects." [1]

Charlotte von SteinCharlotte von Stein
Anna Amalia (and her family)
Top row: Side profiles of Charlotte von Stein; Bottom row: Anna Amalia, and her family, whom Charlotte was a "lady in waiting" for from 1758 to 1807.
Husband's end
After her husband had died in 1793 Charlotte retired from society and became more and more lonely. This seems to be a turning point, during which, in the novella, Goethe began subconsciously contemplating a "what might have been" scenario, namely that if now, Charlotte, being "freed" from marital obligations, betrothed Goethe. The Eduard-Charlotte marriage, depicted in the novella, seems to capture this scenario.

In 1794 she wrote the drama Dido which was a literary self-portrait. It reflected the years from 1770 to 1790 and the situation in Weimar at that time.

References
1. (a) Charlotte von Lengefeld – Wikipedia.
(b) Damm, Sigrid, Christiane und Goethe: Eine Recherche (Frankfurt: Insel, 1998), quoted in Karin Barton, "Goethe über alles," Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Summer, 2001), pp. 630-637.
2. Charlotte von Stein mansion (in Großkochberg/Thuringia) – TrekEarth.com.
3. Pastel drawing of Charlotte (Lotte) Buff, by Gustav Koennecke (link), Bilderatlas zur Gschichte der deutschen Nationalliterature—Graz: Akademische Durck – und Verlagsanstalt, 1981.
4. Armstrong, John. (2006). Life, Love, Goethe (pg. 54). Penguin.
5. Goethe, Johann. (1784). “Letter to Charlotte von Stein”, Jun 17.
6. Anon, Kim. (2009). “Johann Goethe to Charlotte von Stein” (Ѻ), Geocities, Archive.

External links
Charlotte von Stein – Wikipedia.
Charlotte von Stein (German → English) – Wikipedia.
Charlotte von Stein – NNDB.com.

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