Translations from Correspondence Between Goethe and Schiller.
Schiller to Goethe 23 July 1798 (2:120):
What do you say to the Schlegels’ new Athenaeum, and especially to the Fragments? I, for my part, feel that his impudent, determined, cutting and one-sided style hurts me physically.
Goethe to Schiller on 25 July 1798 (2:121):
Taken in its entire individuality, the contribution of the Schlegels seems to me after all not to be despised in the olla potrida [< olla podrida < rotten pot < Spanish pudrir, to rot, decay, but in reality from < olla poderida = powerful pot, though the French initially translated it literally as pot pourri] of our German journalism. This general nullity, the partizanship for what is extremely mediocre, the attempts to please, the mean flatteries, the emptiness and lameness among which the few good articles are lost, has a terrible adversary in a wasps' nest such as these Fragments are.
Friend Ubique [Böttiger] too, who received the first, has already been going about busily in order to bring the whole thing into discredit by reading some passages from it aloud. In spite of all that which justly displeases you, one cannot deny that the authors show a certain earnestness, a certain depth, and when regarded from the other point of view, liberality also. A dozen such numbers will show how rich and perfectible they are.
Schiller to Goethe on 27 July 1798 (2:123):
I cannot deny that I too find a certain earnestness and deep insight into matters, in both of the Schlegels, more particularly in the younger brother. But these virtues are mixed up with so many egotistical and objectionable ingredients that they lose a great deal of their value and usefulness. I must also confess that I find in the aesthetic criticism of both brothers so much barrenness, dryness, and purposeless strictness in words, that I am often in doubt as to whether they are really thinking of the same subject.
The poetical works of the elder brother confirm me in my suspicion, for it is to me absolutely inconceivable how the same individual who really comprehended your genius, and, for instance, really appreciated your Hermann [und Dorothea], which is the very reverse of his own works in character, can tolerate — I will not say admire — the meagreness and heartless coldness of his own works.
If the public can ever become happily disposed towards what is good and right in poetry, then the manner in which these two men are proceeding will rather delay than hasten the advent of that epoch; for their style excites neight liking, nor confidence, nor respect, even though it may awaken fear among babblers and brawlers; and the manner in which they expose themselves to attack, by their onesided and exaggerated style, throws an almost ridiculous light upon the good cause.
Schiller to Goethe on 16 August 1799 (2:261):
The Schlegels, as I found to-day, have added some more stings to their Athenaeum, and are endeavouring by this means — which is not ill-chosen — to keep their bark afloat. The Xenien have proved a favourite pattern. There are some good ideas in this literary Reichsanzeiger, and also a great many that are merely impertinent. In the article on Böttiger it is clear that its bitter seriousness has not allowed humour to put in an appearance. The attack on Humboldt is ill-mannered and ungracious [see Friedrich Schlegel to Caroline on 29 October 1798 (letter 207), note 19], considering that he has always been upon good terms with the Schlegels, and hence it is clear that they are not worth anything.
However, the Elegy addressed to you is good — except for its great length — and contains much that is beautiful. I also think that it shows greater warmth than one is accustomed to find in the Schlegels’ works, and several points are admirably put. I have not read anything else in this number. I do not doubt that it will find readers enough in the path which it has struck out, but the editors will not exactly gain any friends by it; I fear, there will also soon be a dearth of subject-matter, inasmuch as they have once and for all issued all their coin in aphorisms.
Goethe to Schiller 17 August 1799 (2:263):
I am quite of your opinion with regard to the warfare waged by the Schlegels. The Elegy ought to have been divided into several, in order to facilitate the reader’s interest in and survey of it.
The other jests will attract readers enough, and there will also be no want of effect. Unfortunately both brothers lack a certain inner basis of character which would keep and hold them well together. A youthful failing is not to be admired except in so far as one may hope that it will not be the failing of old age. It is really a pity that the page devoted to Böttiger is not merrier. Some of the ideas in the other rubrics are very good.
As for the rest it could in no way be expected — personal relations even considered — that one should escape from them unscathed. However, I could sooner pardon them for saying anything amiss, than I could the detestable style of these masters in journalism.
© 2012 Doug Stott