1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Stein, Charlotte von
STEIN, CHARLOTTE VON (1742–1827), the friend of Goethe, was born at Weimar on the 25th of December 1742, the eldest daughter of the Hofmarschall (master of the ceremonies) von Schardt. She became in her sixteenth year lady-in-waiting to the duchess Anna Amalia, the accomplished mother of Duke Karl August of Saxe-Weimar. In 1764 she married Freiherr Friedrich von Stein, master of the horse to the duke, and seven children were the issue of the union. Goethe, who arrived in Weimar in 1775, was soon captivated by the charm of this lady, his senior by seven years, and the Seelenbund (union of souls) they formed exercised a furthering and ennobling influence upon Goethe’s life and work. For more than ten years Charlotte von Stein was his constant companion, and by her bright and genial nature and friendship she stimulated his efforts and assuaged his cares. On Goethe’s return from Italy in 1788 the previous intimate relations between them were relaxed, and the poet’s connexion with Christiane Vulpius still further estranged them. Charlotte’s jealousy and indignation at first knew no bounds, and it was only by slow degrees that friendship was restored. Charlotte von Stein was also intimate with Schiller and his wife, and numerous interesting letters from her are to be found in Charlotte von Schiller und ihre Freunde (vol. ii., 1862). She became a widow in 1793, but continued to live at Weimar until her death there on the 6th of January 1827.
Goethe’s letters to Frau von Stein form one of the most interesting volumes of the poet’s correspondence. Her own letters addressed to him were returned to her at her request and destroyed shortly before her death. A prose tragedy, Dido, written by her in 1792 (published 1867), is of little poetical value.
Goethe’s Briefe an Frau von Stein aus den Jahren 1776–1820 were edited by A. Schöll (3 vols., 1848–1851; 2nd ed. by W. Fielitz, 1883–1885; 3rd ed., by J. Wahle, 1900). See H. Düntzer, Charlotte von Stein (2 vols., 1874); id., Charlotte von Stein und Corona Schröter (1876); G. H. Calvert, Charlotte von Stein (Boston and New York, 1877); and A. Sauer, Frauenbilder aus der Blütezeit der deutschen Literatur (1885); W. Bode, Charlotte von Stein (1910).