|Charlotte von Kalb|
Charlotte von Kalb by Johann Friedrich August Tischbein
|Born||25 July 1761|
Saal an der Saale, Electorate of Bavaria
|Died||12 May 1843 (aged 81)|
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia
|Spouse||Heinrich Julius Alexander von Kalb|
Her marriage was an unhappy one as her husband was devoted to his career and they only spent their winters together. She employed Friedrich Hölderlin, then a young poet, as a tutor for her son. She was also associated with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Von Kalb was more than just a socialite and was said to have been asked to pass on Goethe's ideas about the development of animals' skulls to Professor Johann Herder. The idea was that skulls developed from vertebrae, an idea that is now discredited.
Friedrich Schiller had an affair with von Kalb in the 1780s after they met in Mannheim in 1784. Schiller was two years older than she and they were together for a number of years; there was talk of von Kalb divorcing and remarrying. Schiller is said to have based a number of his female characters on von Kalb. Eventually Schiller convinced himself that they needed to separate, but he needed help from his family and friends to extricate himself. Schiller married in 1790.
In 1796, von Kalb began her correspondence with Jean Paul. The primary interest was intellectual but Jean Paul was flattered and arranged to travel to Weimar to meet her in person. Even then their letters were initially cool, although Jean Paul was said to be "magnetic", and he admired not only von Kalb's eyes but also "her soul". Von Kalb's letters to Jean Paul were later published, containing their entreaties of love. Jean Paul was in two minds but he decided that she was "too titanic, too heroic". They did not marry as Jean Paul might have indicated.
Von Kalb's marriage effectively ended in 1800 when she unofficially separated from her husband. His military career had ended and his financial position was poor. He shot himself in April 1806 in Munich.
She died in Berlin in 1843. Von Kalb published no books in her lifetime. In 1851, some years after her death, Cornelia was published, and in 1879, over thirty years after her death, an incomplete autobiography was published titled Charlotte. Von Kalb was judged unfavourably by women but she "fascinated nearly all the men she ever knew".