Letter 184d

• 184d. Friedrich Schlegel to Auguste Böhmer: Berlin, 26 August 1797 [*]

Berlin, 26 August [17]97

My little Monkey, Auguste,

|617| Your letters, as witty as they are instructive and as funny as chronological, are not only quite pleasing to me, but useful as well. — But seriously, my dear girl, let me sincerely thank you for not leaving me all alone in my misery and for being so good about writing me. I am always so happy when I open the envelope and a page with your charming scribbling falls out into my hands.

Although you supplied me with news about all sorts of things, you did not mention Louise at all, [1] nor any of the interesting clothes you two come up with and make during Sunday coffee. I am also missing the list of books you have read in the past week. If you really do intend to read so much, then choose only genteel, exemplary books, and not such common, everyday fare, or such low literary rabble. [1a]

Considering what you are always writing me about your progress |618| in Greek, the language will soon be too narrow for you and will creep away from you. Is Wilhelm quite as satisfied with you as you are with yourself? — Once you have diligently and carefully read through a book by Herodotus, he will no longer present any problems for you, and afterward you will not find Homer too difficult.

A certain Mademoiselle Loos or Lose, [2] who came with the Viewegs and claims to be related to us, sends her warmest regards to you. Because she said she knew you and that you were an extremely pretty girl (but just to make sure you do not become too vain, let me add my response to her: “No, not really pretty at all, but certainly quite charming”), I spent some time conversing with her, though I must say I find her very Braunschweigian.

Although I see Madam Liebeskind fairly often, I find both her and her child anything but amiable. [3] I recently had to enter her name in a society book. I wrote: Liebeskind: Love [Liebe], I said, can never be too great, while children [Kind] are small. She almost took it the wrong way.

Madam Herz, an old friend of mine (that is to be understood thus: the friendship is young, the friend herself old. With you it is the reverse. There the friendship is old and the lady friend young, which is also far more to my taste) — swore to me on the sacraments — and she is a Jew — that she had absolutely nothing to do with the Jenisch business. [4] Tell your mother that. It really is the truth.

What you alluded to in your postscript about the women in Berlin and my relationship with them both saddened and astonished me. Thou cunning deceiver! — that is what I would like to tell you, just as Apollo did little Hermes. [5] You do not deserve for me to be as fond of you as I am. And now you have already also become cheeky and defiant. That makes me sad! So now I see you are quite similar to your mother, with an inclination toward jealousy that is more than Turkish. [6] How that gladdens me! — Everything happens for your sake, Auguste, that is, that I may ever increase in graciousness, as your mother has constantly preached to me, and to which I myself am now devoting all my energies from the very bottom of my heart and soul, precisely so that when we are together again I will no longer be as coarse and rough as earlier.

|619| I also promise to report absolutely everything to you if a woman loves me — (that is, of course, if I myself learn of it) — or anything like that: for it is not at all likely that I myself will love one. And by the way, I probably have as much cause for jealousy as you: quite apart from all the Campenhausens, [7] there is also Griess, the little one, and Eschen, the boy.

Do you perhaps not want to contribute to the Attisches Museum? [8] You can earn 10 rh. per printer’s sheet. It would not, however, be superfluous if beforehand you were to learn how to deal with German orthography a bit less liberally. [9]

If your mother does not write to me herself, you should always write me a great deal about her, about what she has said, whether she is merry, whether she has been stung by wasps or by other monsters, whether she is writing a novel, and all sorts of things like that. [10] Above all else, though, constantly entreat her and try to convince her to write me herself.

Yours loyal until death itself, Fritz


[*] Source: Schmidt (1913), 1:617–19 (letter no. 5); Waitz (1871), 1:358; KFSA 24:10–11 (with supplementary material). Supplementary material and altered paragraph sequence from Otto Braun, “Friedrich Schlegel an Auguste Böhmer,” Das literarische Echo 19 (August 1917) 1375–76. — Concerning the textual history of Friedrich Schlegel’s letters to Auguste Böhmer, see supplementary appendix 181d.1. Back.

[1] Presumably Louise Seidler (see also KFSA 24:319n1). Back.

[1a] Dorothea Veit will write to Schleiermacher on 15 May 1800 (letter 259s) that Wilhelm Schlegel “simply does not see that this child [Auguste], with the most intense carnal desires, checks out all the filthiest material from the lending library; he probably sees it but tells himself she does it perhaps out of a thirst for knowledge.” Back.

[2] Unidentified; apparently an earlier acquaintance from Braunschweig. KFSA 24:319n4 suggests the family of Daniel Friedrich Loos (1735–1819) and his son Gottfried Bernhard Loos (1793–1843) in Berlin. Back.

[3] Either Adelbert or Antonie Liebeskind. Back.

[4] See Friedrich’s letter to Auguste in August 1797 (letter 184c) with note 11. Back.

[5] A charming comparison on Friedrich’s part, and apparently one Auguste would catch. Concerning the background in Homer’s “Hymn to Hermes,” cf. C. C. Felton, Greece, Ancient and Modern. Lectures Delivered Before the Lowell Institute, 2 vols. (Boston 1867), 1:127:

The Hymn to Hermes is a good example of the laughing manner in which the writers of these Hymns sometimes dealt with the history and character of their deities. It has also its antiquarian value. The god [Hermes] is born at daybreak; at noon he has constructed a lyre out of the shell of a tortoise he had caught at the mouth of his native cavern; at evening he steals a herd of Apollo’s cows, which he forces to walk backward to baffle pursuit; two of them he kills and cooks, and before dawn the next morning gets into his cradle. Apollo discovers the theft, finds the young rogue pretending to be asleep under the bed-clothes, and charges him with the crime. The infant phenomenon replies in a most ingenious defence.

After Hermes’ “ingenious” excuses and asseverations, the hymn continues (The Homeric Hymns, trans. John Edgar [Edinburgh 1891], 61):

Thus he [Hermes] spake, and with many a darting glance from his eyes, he winked and looked this way and that, whistling loudly as he maintained this false tale. But with a soft laugh Far Darting Apollo addressed him: “Thou innocent! thou cunning deceiver! ofttimes, methinks, thou wilt break into goodly houses by night, and many a man wilt thou beggar by ransacking his house without noise — so knavish are thy words. And many herdsmen of the fields wilt thou harass in the mountain glens, whenas thou longest for flesh, and happenest upon the herds and the wooly sheep. Back.

[6] “Turkish,” fig. “cruel, barbarous” (The New and Complete Dictionary of the German and English Languages composed chiefly after the German Dictionaries of Mr. Adelung and of Mr. Schwan, ed. John Ebers, 3 vols. [Leipzig 1796–99], 4:491 s.v. türkisch).

Friedrich will later be a piqued at Caroline for inquiring of Meta Liebeskind, during the latter’s visit to Jena, concerning Dorothea Veit’s relationship with him. He writes to Wilhelm on 31 October 1797 (Walzel 305 [emended; KFSA 24:34 reads Liebeskind instead of Walzel’s wie sie sind, “of that sort, as they are,” explaining the reading on 342n78]; KFSA 24:34):

It is just that I was not pleased with the fact that she found it necessary to inquire about me and my circumstances from a creature such as [Madam] Liebeskind, whom she herself so despises. Back.

[7] Unidentified, though see Friedrich’s letter to Auguste on 28 April 1797 (letter 181d) with note 4. Back.

[8] Attisches Museum, periodical edited by Christoph Martin Wieland 1796–1801 (1802–10 as Neues Attisches Museum), to which Friedrich contributed in 1797. The periodical sought to introduce Germans to masterpieces of Greek literature, philosophy, and rhetoric in translation (e.g., Aristophanes and Euripides). Back.

[9] Otto Braun, “Friedrich Schlegel an Auguste Böhmer,” 1376, explicitly corrects Schmidt’s reading liebevoll ([1913], 1:619) with liberal, which KFSA 24:11 also accepts Back.

[10] Concerning evidence of Caroline’s interest in writing a novel, cf. her “draft of a novel.” Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott