Sophie Mereau (Sophie Friederike Schubart; Altenburg, Germany, 27th March 1770 - Heidelberg, Germany, 31st October 1806)
Today we welcome a most remarkable lady to the salon. Writer, translator and free-thinker, Sophie Mereau lived a passionate and tragic life, searching for personal happiness even as her professional achievements flourished.
Mereau enjoyed an exceptionally good education and was the only woman to study in the seminars held by Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Fichte had an enormous influence on her writing yet she was not afraid to disagree with him and discussed differences in their approaches in writing.
In 1793 Sophie married law professor, Carl Friedrich Ernst Mereau, whose surname she used in her writing and with whom she would have two children who survived infancy. It was through her husband that Mereau met Friedrich Schiller and he encouraged her poetry and published her work in a number of journals and almanacks. Under Schiller's guidance she flourished as a poet and writer and published her first novels, as well as translating European works and publishing journals and almanacs. She was one of the most well-known figures in the literary life of the city of Jena where she and her husband made their home and she was particularly popular with the students who were tutored by Carl, some of whom became more than friends.
Whilst her career flourished, Mereau began to feel dissatisfied in her marriage as she longed for a grand and passionate romance and she embarked on numerous affairs, none of which satisfied her longings and in defiance of convention she travelled with her lovers, making no attempt to hide the scandalous relationships she enjoyed. When her little boy, Gustav, died, Sophie sought a divorce from her husband and he agreed, apparently without any animosity. Mereau took her daughter and left the marital home, her writings leaving her with more than enough money to support herself.
Mereau embarked on a passionate and volatile affair with poet and novelist Clemens Brentano but when she fell pregnant by him in 1803, the couple were married and Mereau began to withdraw from the public eye somewhat. In fact the relationship continued to be fiery even after marriage but, following a number of traumatic miscarriages, the couple grew closer. Sadly, Mereau was not to live to enjoy this new-found harmony and died whilst delivering a stillborn child in 1806.