Letter 111c

111c. Friedrich Schlegel to Wilhelm Schlegel in Amsterdam: Dresden, 13 April 1792 [*]

Dresden, 13 April 1792

Your fate has now come upon me as well — having to put on a cordial countenance on the outside while being bored on the inside. Send me the enumeration of all the important trifles, or trifling important things, that thwarted any calm response to such a letter for so long. The most important is my justification over against your harsh accusation of lack of humanity. [1] I can adequately respond only by asking you yourself to focus on the sense of my entire letter, in which you will certainly find considerable respect for [Caroline] B[öhmer]. If this overall sense insults humaneness, then I request that you throw the paper into the fire, notwithstanding there were more clear assessments there than you may have found. — But if it is only a single word or statement that contradicts that overall sense — then please do consider that the letter was not written in the most serene or calm mood. Only the sense of the whole is unequivocally my own and is the only thing I acknowledge; the externals doubtless exhibit traces of the pressured circumstances in which my own heart is almost always so anxious. — You will forgive me, however, for having assessed with such intense acumen only that which she means to you, and that which she is in and of herself only with the kind of interest that any grand and new object attracts. Here I still see more desire to enjoy occupying the premier position than for love. — Your most recent letter contains so many new demonstrations of your humanity and so many new reasons to view the matter only from a single perspective. — But I may well perhaps have completely missed the true perspective, and if such be the case, it is your own half-disclosure that is at fault. — There is one more objection I must raise. — Our own nature is admittedly the ground of all our actions. But I do believe you will never say: I am destined for ruin because I am simply thus, or I am a paltry individual because I think thus; and that is the only thing I reproached. To summarize everything I have to say about the matter: I do not reproach her for the reason you yourself left her; [2] I consider any connection with her to be dangerous for a man because of her inclination to have homage paid her. I have great respect for her, and this particular inclination is merely an aberration of that which is most noble. — I will leave it to you to determine whether I understand you, and whether you were right to make me your half-confidant and in the process to oblige me to be frank. . . .

[*] Sources: Walzel 42–43; KFSA 23:48–49. Back.

[1] Cf. Friedrich’s criticism of Caroline in his letter to Wilhelm in January 1792 (letter 111a). Back.

[2] Because of the anticipated move to Mainz. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott