Letter 325

• 325. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 10 July 1801

Jena, 10 July [18]01

|188| Because I am sending tea today in any case, let me go ahead and also answer what is finally a reasonable letter from you. —

You can put your mind at ease with regard to the printing of the Almanach. Nor do you need to press so hard to get the contributions in, since it is highly unlikely things will start within two weeks, though then they will admittedly proceed rather quickly. [1] Schelling will contribute whatever he can, whatever is not too specialized; he intends to have a look during the next few days to see whether it is better organized all together or dispersed. I think probably the former. [2]

Follow Tiek’s lead in leaving out Friedrich’s willful pieces. Quite apart from their scant consideration of propriety, they always exhibit a rather bitter tone.

I would further entreat you with regard to whatever among his poems might refer to our Auguste; if you cannot eliminate them entirely, then at least do not to include them among your own, which you will probably be arranging together. The one you once related to me, because it was directed to Madam Veit, made the same impression on me as did the visit in Franconia. I am permitted to be completely honest now without having to fear insulting you. [3]

|189| As far as Tiek is concerned, I would almost say he is residing, as it were, in a dispirited fashion in your soul. But he should at the same time be spirited. I have never seen any element of injustice in your quarrel with Unger, which is why all of us might wish you had gotten over the injustice or had taken it more lightly in order to avoid this stupid success, as no doubt you yourself probably wish, though such a feeling does not penetrate as deeply as a needle prick, whereas Tiek’s own comments are needle pricks. [4] If they had any goal, if they were to prompt you to take a step that was within your power to take, then it would be fine — but he has nothing to suggest.

Things would be ill indeed were a proper person never allowed to embarrass himself in this or that situation and perhaps take ill-advised measures. If a person is himself competent and reliable, and if the issue concerns something similarly substantive and reliable, then it will all balance out soon enough.

Tiek is correct in maintaining that things are indeed the way they are and are no better; but will that reliably still be the case at the coming Easter book fair? The gentlemen are, after all, considering things quite soberly, and you definitely must not agree to any less advantageous conditions. Have things been arranged such that a successor would definitely have to acquire Unger’s portion of Shakespeare?

It occurred to me that it might be more reasonable for you or the successor to reprint at the same time, as a legitimate edition, whatever has already been printed such that the work might thus be published complete. You may not let up from working on it as soon as you have freed yourself from your other things, for can you but maintain life and health, you will then suddenly enter the scene with it and enjoy the profit from the whole.

You should train me better for this, considering how quick to learn I now am, that I might be in a position to continually further the work myself. And to prevent bunglers and hacks from getting mixed up in it, |190| you will need to announce your intention of delivering the entire Shakespeare soon, since, if you lose the lawsuit and there is no reconciliation between you and Unger, you must, after all, make a public announcement of some sort.

I already told you once that on several occasions I was almost at the point of sending off my own letter, one that would break down all these barriers, either to Unger himself or to Madam Unger — but I was too timid to do it since you had not given me any hint of approval. Please indulge my belief that had I been with you in Berlin, the whole matter would perhaps not have gone the way it in fact did, or, if it had, that I could with complete propriety have put in a soothing word. As things stand now, I am always too concerned that they might consider you quite out of countenance had I acted on such a sudden inspiration.

Cotta will doubtless always be there as a mediator for you. [5] He probably told Tiek the same thing he told Schelling, though Tiek did indeed allow himself to be persuaded to a greater degree, e.g., concerning the sale numbers, which moreover absolutely cannot be estimated here according to the initial sales. The final enthusiasm will certainly be greater than the initial. That much on Shakespeare.

Once you see your own play performed, you will probably no longer make so much at all of this business of translating Shakespeare. [6] And you can always engage in adapting individual plays of his. — Friend, are they trimeters? [7]

That Fortunatus is enjoying such little good fortuna with Tiek is a capriccio [8] — you should not have scolded him about it. And even in a general sense, do not be too hard on him. Tiek knows that behind the admittedly sinful laxness of your friends you yourself are occasionally seduced into driving after the fashion of Jehu. And that makes him rebellious. [9] I am a little suspicious that he himself is considering composing several more horror stories such as |191| that about the aged Wulf, and, in order to secure for himself alone the entire inventory of what might make readers’ hair stand on end, would like to scare the others away. [10]

But how many ghost stories do all of you have, anyway? You cannot really classify “slender Fortunatus” in that category, since it makes no pretensions to being scary in that sense in the first place. [11] What he calls “Bürgerean” in it is probably what we here have referred to as the old Nordic idea of infidelity. [12]

By the way, as far as what elicits genuine dread is concerned, only the “Pastor” really counts. After that story, ten devils can set themselves on the grave and yet still be unable to coax even a single Christian into denying the cross. —

Your Jahrhundert will be included in the Almanach, will it not? [13]

Tiek is also convinced one can come up with something divinely funny day in and day out! We know well that this is your own, most personal triumph, but for precisely that reason it does require full inspiration. Schelling talks about it almost as does Tiek, expecting you to come up with such things on a monthly basis that he might be entertained with so much divine fun. He also recently remarked that he was convinced Schiller’s entire poetic career never coaxed the kind of genuine approval — or rather: shared joy — from Goethe as did that single “travelogue” in Kotzebue. [14]

Start getting along again with Tiek, do you hear?

Kotzebue is not yet in the area here; word has it that his children in Riga have come down with the measles. [15] A grand souper was already arranged at the Schützes’, and the town musicians already reserved.

Good Lord! Kosegarten’s Rhymes are indeed now sold out, and he is cleaning them up anew, intending to remove all that is “sentimental” in them and instead be pristinely “naive,” to which end he took to heart all the criticisms he read and all those he might have imagined himself; all this according to an announcement in the Hamburger Zeitung. [16]

Àpropos announcement: Who, my dear, bade you publish something in Kronos? [17] Do you not realize that it |192| devours its own children? Merkel once had an excellent prise on you. [18] Even in general, we were not quite satisfied with even the existence of the declaration. For what was the point? The grandezza of that magnificent satire was maintained better without it. [19]

I know not whom Tiek means when he says that you ought not allow certain people in Berlin to influence you, though I would venture to say it was such people who persuaded you to do this. I immediately classified it under the rubric of the sort of transgressions any proper person must be able — be permitted — to allow himself. Just imagine if Goethe and Schiller had accepted responsibility for having authored pasquinades against such sanglant accusations [20] or granted people the joy of seeing their names fully written out.

Gries has offered to correct the proofs of the Almanach as compensation for what you did with Tasso. [21] In the meantime, however, you will probably have already arrived yourself, for as far as I can piece things together, I may expect you at the beginning of August. [22] But do not start thinking that afterward I might go along with you back to Berlin, since that seems inexpedient to me. If Schelling is absolutely intent on coercing his philosophical discussions into reality, he must go alone. [23] You cannot imagine how strong the light is which, with so few words, you gave us concerning Fichte (a light that will not, however, be abused). So he really is completely unbelieving? Then to what purpose did he write the letter to Schelling, which I believed I showed you? To keep him at bay in order to avoid irritation and offense? [24]

Seriously, do bring Schleiermacher along with you. I will go ahead and prepare accommodations for him here in the house and would like to discuss philosophy with him, just not religion. Although Schelling says that this is the first spiritual clergyman he has ever encountered, I myself have no use for any clergyman. [25]

Do not get your hopes up that Friedrich might recover. [26] |193| It will not happen because it cannot happen gradually. Were he but able to heed quiet promptings and acknowledge the obscure disgust in such shared company — and not go there if his heart were not driving him, and so forth and so on tomorrow and the next day — then he would surely soon be loose and free of it. But there is no more freedom of that sort here, this is one of the most obstinate marriages and one of the most incurable diseases insofar as not even good health itself can get rid of it. —

I sent your enclosure on. They are living in the new house now, a few paces from the previous one. [27] Rose met “Polyp,” or Philipp, and wanted to get directions from him, but the ill-raised rascal first led her to a couple of wrong houses before finally opening wide the privy door in the right one and saying, “My mother lives here.” [27a]

Herr Friedrich had ridden out across the countryside. [28]Eduard Alton was breakfasting with Lucinde. [29] Friedrich allegedly cuts a rather imposing figure on horseback according to Schelling.

Röschlaub wrote to Schelling; he does not have an appointment in Frankfurt, but if all the conditions he set for himself in Landshut are not granted, he intends to lecture privately in Frankfurt, Munich, or he knows not where, since he intends to leave Bamberg in any case by Michaelmas because there is absolutely nothing to be expected from the prince for his or anyone else’s institute. He was in Munich and Landshut, which he described quite amiably. [30] We are very much hoping he will leave the cousine behind. [31]

Farewell for today, I must go for a walk.

Regarding the tea: I usually mix 2 ℔ of tea at 3 fl[orins] rhenish each with one ℔ at 5 fl[orins rhenish], which makes 11 fl[orins rhenish], so 3 ℔ for 1 Carolin total. To that one must add postage and accise for Berlin. If all of you want me to, I will order some and have it sent directly to the address in Berlin. Just now |194| I myself have none other in stock but the inferior 3 fl[orins rhenish] variety, of which I will send you 1/2 ℔, since it is at least pure as far as taste is concerned and, if prepared properly, certainly quite drinkable. [32]


[1] The Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802 was being printed in Jena by Friedrich Frommann. Back.

[2] See Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm on 3 July 1801 (letter 323a), note 2, concerning his contributions to the Musen-Almanach. Back.

[3] The reference is to the poem “Der welke Kranz” (“The withered garland”), which in fact was not published in the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802. See the supplementary appendix “Der welke Kranz” for the poem itself, its background, and the considerable problems its rejection generated.

Karoline Paulus had been in Bocklet during the late summer of 1800 after Auguste’s death, much to Caroline’s aggravation.

See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May 1801 (letter 319) concerning the Paulus’s current visit to Bamberg, with note 19 there, and esp. her reaction in the more recent letter to Wilhelm on 29 June 1801 (letter 323) with notes 19 and 20. Back.

[4] The reference is to Wilhelm’s (legal) quarrel with Friedrich Unger in Berlin over the continuation of the edition of Shakespeare. See Wilhelm’s letter to Caroline on 18 April 1801 (letter 309) and supplementary appendix 309.1.

Concerning Tieck’s position and Wilhelm’s aggravation with his perceived lack of effort on behalf of both the Shakespeare project and the Musen-Almanach, see Wilhelm’s letter to Tieck on 7 May 1801 (letter 313a) and Tieck’s letter to Wilhelm in early June 1801 (letter 319a). Caroline mentions this topic to Wilhelm on several occasions during the spring and summer of 1801. Back.

[5] Although Wilhelm had solicited Friedrich Cotta as a publisher for the continued edition of Shakespeare, Cotta declined but apparently was willing to act as a mediator between Wilhelm and Unger. See Wilhelm’s letter to Cotta on 23 April 1801 (letter 310c) and Caroline’s news to Wilhelm concerning the possibility of Cotta acting as such a mediator in her letters to him of 18 May 1801 (letter 317) and 25 May 1801 (letter 318). Back.

[6] Wilhelm’s anticipated five-act play Ion: ein Schauspiel (Hamburg 1803). Concerning Caroline’s initial reaction to the news that Wilhelm was composing the play, see her letter to him on 29 June 1801 (letter 323). Back.

[7] Only Apollo’s concluding discourse in Wilhelm’s Ion: ein Schauspiel, 159–61, is composed in trimeters, i.e., lines containing three iambic dipodes each, a metrical choice relatively rare in German poetry. See e.g., the final lines of the play:

_ _ _ _ _ _

Gedenkt, mir gastbefreundet, fern an Delphi noch,
Der Sonnumstrahlten Erde Mittelsitz und Thron.

See similarly Goethe in Faust II; Helena speaks (line 8648):

Der Tochter Zeus’ geziemet nicht gemeine Furcht

One dialogue is composed in trochaic tetrameters. Back.

[8] Italian, “fancy, caprice, whim.”

Tieck had criticized Wilhelm’s piece in his letter to Wilhelm in early June (letter 319a):

The poem seems to lack unity, precisely the elements prompting its composition in the first place; I do not understand it, and the roses insult me: I do not comprehend the horse and rider. Are we not receiving too many ghost stories? I read it aloud to several people and could not perceive it having any really unsettling effect on them at all.

And why do you want to send a chill up our spines in any case? Can one not criticize in this Romanze many of the same things you yourself so accurately reproached in [the essay] “Bürger”? I may be wrong here, but that is my frank opinion.

In the following discussion, Caroline seems either to have read Tieck’s letter or to have been exhaustively informed of its content. Back.

[9] Caroline is otherwise alluding to 2 Kings 9:20. The implications of the allusion are revealing given the tense relationship between Tieck and Wilhelm at this time because of disagreements concerning the edition of Shakespeare and the anticipated Musen-Almanach (see Tieck’s letter to Wilhelm in early June 1801 [letter 319a]).

The passage in 2 Kings 9 recounts the story of how King Jehu of Israel slew King Jehoram, his predecessor, through deceit in connection with a coup.

Jehu had been anointed king by a student of the prophet Elisha at a meeting of military commanders that Jehoram had not attended. Jehoram sends out messengers from Jezreel, where he is recovering from a wound in the battle of Ramoth-Gilead against the Arameans, to ascertain whether the arriving “company” of Jehu knows of peace (Jehu has cut off Jezreel from news) (NRSV):

So the horseman went to meet him; he said, “Thus says the king, ‘Is it peace?'” Jehu responded, “What have you to do with peace? Fall in behind me.”

The sentinel [on the city walls of Jezreel] reported, saying, “The messenger reached them, but he is not coming back.”

Then he sent out a second horseman, who came to them and said, “Thus says the king, ‘Is it peace?'” Jehu answered, “What have you to do with peace? Fall in behind me.”

Again the sentinel reported. “He reached them, but he is not coming back. It looks like the driving of Jehu son of Nimshi: for he drives like a maniac.”

Jehoram then rides out to meet Jehu and inquire about the peace. After luring him into this trap, Jehu murders him, drawing his bow as Jehoram is trying to escape and shooting him “between the shoulders, so that the arrow pierced his heart; and he sank in his chariot” (Jan Luyken, Joram op zijn wagen wordt door Jehu doorschoten [Amsterdam 1712]):



[10] Ludwig Tieck’s “Die Zeichen im Walde,” stanza 5:

Let him loose, the old sinner,
Let him go, the aged Wulf.
Death and sin his friends,
And hell itself his ally! Back.

[11] “Slender Fortunatus”: The final verse of Wilhelm Schlegel’s “Fortunat. Romanze” in the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, 243–50, reads:

Then fled it [the riderless horse] into the wilderness,
Where no eye it again saw,
Desiring no knight more to serve
After slender Fortunatus. Back.

[12] See above concerning Tieck’s critique. The reference here is to Wilhelm’s essay “Über Bürgers Werke,” in Charakteristiken und Kritiken 2:1–96 (Sämmtliche Werke 8:64–139, where the title is simply “Bürger”).

A certain similarity of motif does emerge with Gottfried August Bürger’s “Lenore,” Göttinger Musenalmanach (1774), 214–26, in Wilhelm’s romance, which, according to Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:623, comes across as a rather “light” piece, and not merely by comparison with “Lenore” or even Schelling’s “Die letzten Worte des Pfarrers zu Drottning in Seeland. Eine wahre Geschichte” (“The Last Words of the Pastor of Drottning”).

Bürger’s “Lenore,” which became enormously popular, involves a woman’s (Lenore’s) “immoderate and blasphemous grief at the death of her lover in the Seven Years War” and of his reappearance on horseback beneath her window. Her nocturnal ride with him ends in her death after he is revealed to be but “a grisly skeleton” (Oxford Companion to German Literature, ed. Henry and Mary Garland [Oxford 1976], s.v. “Lenore”).

Here the illustrations from the English translation of 1796 (Leonora: Translated from the German of Gottfried Augustus Bürgher, trans.W. R. Spencer, illustrations by Lady Diana Beauclerc [London 1796]):





Both “Fortunat” and “Lenore,” moreover, involve the motif of infidelity. Back.

[13] The Musen-Almanach für das Jahr concludes (274–93) with “Ein schön kurzweilig Fastnachtsspiel vom alten und neuen Jahrhundert. Tragirt am ersten Januarii im Jahr nach der Geburt des Heilands 1801,” which focuses on the turn of the century and the distinction between the old and new centuries.

See Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 2 January 1801 (letter 279) with note 8 for a description of the reading of Wilhelm’s piece at a souper in Braunschweig on New Year’s day, and, for a sampling of Wilhelm’s piece itself, supplementary appendix 279.3. Back.

[14] The reference is to Wilhelm’s Kotzebuade, which concludes with a satirical “travelogue” of August von Kotzebue’s journey through Russia, for samples of which see Schelling’s review of Wilhelm’s piece in the Erlanger Litteratur-Zeitung. Back.

[15] Caroline had written Wilhelm on 22 June 1801 (letter 322) that August von Kotzebue was expected in Weimar on his return from Siberia and would be celebrating his mother’s birthday there on 8 July, though on 29 June 1801 (letter 323) she then specifies that he is to “spend July 7 here and then land in Weimar on the 8th for his mama’s birthday birthday, the old commère.” Christian Gottfried Schütz seems to have been planning the reception for Kotzebue in Jena. Back.

[16] Ludwig Theoboul Kosegarten was reworking his two-volume poetic anthology Poesiien, 2 vols. (Leipzig 1798), for its second, revised edition (Leipzig 1802).

Caroline allegedly had “a great fright” at the appearance of the first edition, in which Kosegarten, quite to her surprise, dedicated an entire section to “Caroline Schlegel”; see the editorial note to Caroline’s “Draft of a Novel.” The section dedications, however, were omitted in this second edition.

Click on the image below to open a gallery of the illustrations to both editions:



[17] Wilhelm had the same declaration concerning his Kotzebuade reprinted in the periodical Kronos. Ein Archiv der Zeit und ihres Geschmacks (issue uncertain) as in the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1801) 113 (Saturday, 13 June 1801) 912, and the Intelligenzblatt of the Erlanger Litteratur-Zeitung (1801) 23 (13 June 1801) 177. Back.

[18] Prise, Fr., “hold, grasp, grip; take.”

Garlieb Merkel, despite Wilhelm having taken him to task earlier, had remained an indefatigable adversary of the Romantic circle in Jena (see supplementary appendix 252.1). His latest salvo was his castigation of the “clique” in his dismissal of Schelling’s review of Wilhelm’s Ehrenpforte und Triumphbogen; see supplementary appendix 296.3. Back.

[19] Italian, here: “grandeur, loftiness.” Back.

[20] Fr., “bloody, gory”; figuratively: “cutting, outrageous, biting,” as in, e.g., insults. Back.

[21] While Johann Diederich Gries was in Göttingen, Wilhelm checked the proofs of his translation of the poet Tasso, namely, Befreites Jerusalem, 4 vols. (Jena: Frommann,1800–1803), which Friedrich Frommann was printing in Jena. See Wilhelm’s letter to Gries on 10 May 1799 (letter 236c), note 2. Back.

[22] Wilhelm arrived in Jena from Berlin on 11 August 1801 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[23] Schelling was intent on meeting with Fichte, who was living in Berlin now, with the goal of smoothing over their philosophical differences. In her letter to Wilhelm on 29 June 1801 (letter 323), Caroline had mentioned that “Schelling would very much like to speak with Fichte in person if by autumn the status of things between them has not changed in any external fashion.” The reference is to the increasing philosophical estrangement between Fichte and Schelling. Back.

[24] See the second paragraph to Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 29 June 1801 (letter 323) and esp. note 6 there. Back.

[25] Schleiermacher did not make the trip to Jena, nor did Caroline ever make his personal acquaintance. Back.

[26] Viz., from Dorothea Veit’s influence and the increasing estrangement with Caroline and even Wilhelm. See the penultimate paragraph in Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 29 June 1801 (letter 323), in which, among other things, she warns Wilhelm to

prepare yourself for his shamelessness, which he gets from her [Dorothea]. . . . Could we but suddenly get him away from her again and back to his old place among us, he would doubtless do better. It is quite consistent that he now prefers to remove himself entirely from us, since he is unable to do so from her. Back.

[27] This passage is the only documentation that Friedrich and Dorothea had moved to yet a second apartment after having left the house at Leutragasse 5 back in the autumn of 1800 (Peer Kösling, Die Frühromantiker in Jena, 80fn60, incorrectly attributes this remark to Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 27 July 1801 [letter 327]). In any event, concerning their initial apartment and its location, see Friedrich and Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on ca. 1 July 1800 (letter 264c), note 2. Back.

[27a] Anonymous late-18th-century French engraving from Bilder-Lexikon der Erotik, ed. Institut für Sexualforschung, vol. 2, Bilder-Lexikon Literatur und Kunst (Vienna 1929):



[28] Uncertain allusion, although Friedrich was at the time writing to Sophie Mereau, who after her separation from Friedrich Karl Ernst Mereau had moved from Jena to nearby Camburg (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 [letter 317]).

Although Friedrich had solicited Sophie Mereau for an invitation on 30 July 1801 (KFSA 25:279), it is uncertain he was able to make the trip (KFSA 25:284, 614). For his correspondence with Sophie Mereau, see KFSA 25. Back.

[29] I.e., with Dorothea, so-called after Friedrich’s novel Lucinde. Back.

[30] Concerning Andreas Röschlaub’s professional plans, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 29 June 1801 (letter 323), note 9. Back.

[31] Auguste had earlier referred to Andreas Röschlaub’s female cousin in Bamberg — with whom Auguste herself was acquainted and with whom she had taken excursions — as “utterly repugnant” (see her letter to Schelling on 4 June 1800 [letter 261]). Back.

[32] Caroline is blending 2 parts of a cheaper tea (costing 3 florins rhenish/lb. or French livre) with 1 part of a more expensive tea (costing 5 florins rhenish/lb. or French livre). As is the case today and as was especially the case given the plethora of independent territories and principalities in Germany in the late eighteenth century, the values of currency were not always stable or even consistent across territories. Nonetheless:

2 x 3 + 1 x 5 = 11 florins rhenish = 1 Carolin. 1 Carolin = ca. 10 Gulden/florins, though in 1775 1 Carolin was generally considered to be worth 11 Gulden/florins in change/coins, just as Caroline here indicates. The Carolin disappeared from circulation, however, after the beginning of the nineteenth century, i.e., soon after Caroline wrote this letter (Therese Huber Briefe 1:462–63).

Assise, Fr.: “excise, inland duty.” — “All of you”: Wilhelm’s housemates in Berlin, namely, August Ferdinand and Sophie Bernhardi; see the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s residences in Berlin. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott