Rahel Varnhagen (born Levin, 1771-1833) is commonly called the most important woman of German Romanticism. As a female Jew that did not belong to the nobility, she was excluded from public life for at least three reasons. Although some letters exchanged with her husband about Goethe were published anonymously, it was impossible for her to speak to a larger audience during her lifetime.

Instead, Rahel opened a salon in Berlin, an institution that soon drew in some of the most important figures of her time in Germany, such as Heine, both Humboldts, Kleist, Mendelssohn, Schlegel and Tieck. Rahel influenced many of them dramatically, on a most personal level. These men would typically describe her as their Seelenkennerin, an "adept of their souls."

This is my favorite quote of hers - Rahel wrote this in a letter to her brother in 1816, at a time she was so ill that she felt she might die.

"The more insight we have, the more agreement life will give us, even though this means more work; each finished task is endlessly balancing; and each new one rises infinitely.
That's why I truly believe that life on earth is not stiff, dead repetition, but continuous change and development like everything; for insight and through insight; and I call our time a truly new one, and I'm ready for the Great, the New, in one word, for miracles of invention, of mind power, of discovery, revelation, unfolding.

With 'readiness' I don't mean that I'm expecting to see; but I'm certain of its coming, and all confusion is ferment thereof. 'Refreshing' is probably what this is not, which, only through all efforts of thought, is possible to be comprehended!"

Quoted from Scurla 1962: Rahel Varnhagen, die gro├če Frauengestalt der deutschen Romantik. Verlag der Nation, Berlin; own translation.

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