Supplementary Appendix 181d.1

Friedrich Schlegel’s Letters to Auguste Böhmer. [*]


Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:761, remarked that the originals of these letters had “unfortunately been lost since Georg Waitz had access to them,” whose copies hardly ever contained anything beyond the fragments Schmidt himself then published; since, as Schmidt continues, Waitz had the originals in front of him during the proof stage of his own publication, it was “only in the most extreme instances” that he, Schmidt, deviated from that text. The sequence of the letters, Schmidt adds, “remains unclear in many instances.”

Although Waitz never indicates the location of these manuscripts, after the publication of Schmidt’s edition Otto Braun found them in what he called “Schelling’s literary estate,” publishing supplementary material (passages not included in Schmidt) in “Friedrich Schlegel an Auguste Böhmer,” Das literarische Echo 19 (August 1917), cols. 1371–77. Unfortunately, he, too, did not indicate exactly where the manuscripts of this “literary estate” were located. None of these manuscripts is attested today in any of the various parts of Schelling’s literary estate. They may have been in the Bavarian State Library in Munich and were destroyed by bombing during World War II.

In any event, that supplementary material for some of Friedrich’s thirty-three letters to Auguste has been added from Braun’s article to the text in Schmidt’s edition as translated here. The letters were originally published in Waitz (1871), 355–75, then in Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:611–45.

Braun’s introduction follows below.

Otto Braun, “Friedrich Schlegel an Auguste Böhmer,”
Das literarische Echo 19 (August 1917) cols. 1371–77, here 1371–73.

In his two-volume edition, Caroline. Briefe aus der Frühromantik (Leipzig 1913), Erich Schmidt wrote (1:761) [as recounted in the first paragraph above]: “The originals of these letters have unfortunately been lost.” —

But those letters were not lost, they were part of Schelling’s literary estate, to which Erich Schmidt himself had access and which has been put at my disposal for assessment. [1] A comparison of those originals with the material published in Waitz (1871) and Schmidt (1913) reveals that the omitted passages are certainly not without interest. Hence in what follows I would like to publish everything the originals contained excepting what appears in Schmidt. [2] I was also able to correct false readings and dating. [3]

A few words of introduction may assist the uninitiated here. The charming figure of the “delicate child” in all her fresh, slender, blond youthfulness is one of the most fetching elements associated with the circle of Romantics — but it was also one struck down by the painfully beautiful fate of death amid the blossom of youth, a fate that in its own turn is a constituent part of that same Romanticism.


Philippine Augusta was born on 28 April 1785, the first child of the marriage between mining and municipal physician Böhmer in Clausthal and his wife Caroline, née Michaelis. All the siblings born after her died at an early age. Even as a small child, Auguste was a treasured joy and source of comfort to her mother in difficult hours; indeed, her entire disposition seemed pleasing and agreeable. “One cannot imagine a more guileless, ungrudging, cheerful soul,” Caroline writes on 29 July 1792 [letter 113].

Acquainted at an early age with difficult life situations and complicated relationships as a result of her mother’s ever-shifting fate, the child grew up without any organized instruction and yet guided by her mother’s sage ideas about education (see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 8 March 1789 [letter 91]) and by her own experiences living together with this uniquely strong and intelligent woman who in the true sense of the word became the soul of the Romantic circle.

Widowed early, Caroline early also lost the constants in her life; imprudent contact with revolutionary circles in Mainz ended with her incarceration in 1793 in Königstein, where her sufferings were exacerbated by the consequences of an earlier moment of passionate surrender to an unknown man. [4] She and her child were saved from this desperate situation, which she herself had resolved to end by suicide, by the genuinely chivalrous actions of August Wilhelm Schlegel, whom she had known as a friend in her parental home during her youth. Defying the social tribunal, he renewed his efforts to win the hand of this older woman, and she accepted, half out of gratitude, half out of prudent calculation.

In mid-summer 1796, the couple settled in Jena with Auguste, and their house soon became the intellectual and social center of the young generation of Romantics. It was amid these surroundings that Auguste’s more conscious life began, she being initiated not only into what at the time were the most “modern” cultural questions, but also into the small circle’s own all-too-human sides.


Auguste floated in a peculiarly untouched fashion through this doubtless weighty social air, precocious and mature beyond her age, yet without doubts and hesitation and also profusely spoiled by all the distinguished men with whom she teased, and yet much too graceful and flower-like to come across as an importunate bluestocking.

Her education is so unstructured and serendipitous that she receives writing lessons from her [step-] father [Wilhelm Schlegel] and arithmetic lessons from Friedrich Schlegel, her “Uncle Fritz”! But then the stakes are immediately raised, and she is to learn Greek and Italian; indeed, these letters demonstrate how much effort her uncle puts forth for the sake of this niece with the dirty hands and pure heart. She for her own part probably put the most effort into her musical training — though her mother must often enough admonish her not to neglect her work: “Your whole disposition is focused solely on amusement” (17 October 1799 [letter 249]).


But the contours of her character do not always flow in sky-blue softness of the sort that gazes back at us from the delicately inclined head in the delightful pastel portrait by Tischbein [5] — for the wag and rogue are also sitting on her shoulder.


And sometimes she can even be a “tyrannical, impertinent little creature” (Caroline to her on 17 October 1799 [letter 249]). When she does not like someone, she exhibits crude manners, “as tart as a sour apple” (Caroline to Auguste on 14 October 1799 [letter 248]).

Thus did she initially encounter the young Schelling; indeed, she must have spoken rather harshly about him — albeit not, as her mother teasingly put it, out of jealousy toward her mother, but sooner out of jealousy toward Schelling himself, disinclined to grant the significantly younger man her mother’s affection, which she in her own turn valued more than anything.

There is never any mention of real love between Schelling and Auguste, about which even at that time so much gossip circulated — warm camaraderie eventually replaced the initial disaffection. She is fully aware of the love between her mother and this friend and indeed speaks to him about it in teasing and yet unaffected frankness.

Death mercilessly intruded into this happy, pulsating life, tragically choosing precisely the youngest of the circle first. Caroline, suffering various ills in any case, had taken quite ill in the spring of 1800; accompanied by both Schelling and Auguste, she sought a complete recovery in the small mineral-springs spa Bocklet near Bamberg.

Under her daughter’s care, Caroline did quickly recover — but Auguste herself then became ill herself and, after a brief period of suffering, died on 12 July 1800. We can sense from the letters during this period how horrifically this blow affected parents and friends alike. They tried for years, variously even with Goethe’s help, to establish a worthy grave monument for her — but nothing ever materialized. The relief that Thorvaldsen created stands in Copenhagen. Its central panel shows Auguste extending the refreshing goblet to her sick mother — while she herself is being bitten in the heel by a serpent. [6]

Her true monument, however, is her own letters and those addressed to her, along with several other documents concerning her. The [First World] war has hitherto thwarted the planned collection and monographic treatment of all these materials. Hence for now may the following fragments be published instead. [7]


[*] Representative illustrations: (1) William Hoarer, Miss Hoare (ca. 1704–56); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur JFaber II V 3.2330, and Calendar für das Jahr 1803 (Offenbach); Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; (2) Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Höltys Elegie auf ein Landmädchen [1794]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.985; (3) Goettinger Taschen Calender für das Jahr 1791 (Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung); (4) “Das leichtsinnige Mädchen” (“The frivolous young girl”), Berlinischer Damen-Kalender auf das Gemein-Jahr 1809, Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; (5) Calendar für das Jahr 1803 (Offenbach) (Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung); (6) Johann Christian Berndt, after Joshua Reynolds, Das schalkhafte Mädchen (1784) (Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 178). Back.

[1] Ed. note: Here Braun mentions an extra text fragment to be added to the letter Friedrich Schlegel wrote to Caroline from Berlin in December 1798 (letter 211). Back.

[2] Ed. note: all passages omitted in Waitz and Schmidt have been incorporated into their original letters in this present edition. Back.

[3] Braun’s note: “Unfortunately, I was not able to conduct yet another comparison between the originals and this present publication [i.e., in Das literarische Echo].” Back.

[4] Ed. note: Jean-Baptiste Dubois de Crancé, of course, was not unknown to either Georg Waitz (who did not divulge the relationship in any case) or Erich Schmidt (who picked up on the earlier publication of Rudolf Haym and others in doing so). Back.

[5] Ed. note: Click on the following image to open a gallery on Caroline and Auguste’s portraits:



[6] Ed. note: Click on the following image to open a gallery on Auguste’s memorial:



[7] Ed. note: Unfortunately, Braun’s death in 1922 apparently prevented the systematic presentation of these materials. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott