|302| During my stay in Jena, I made the acquaintance of Friedrich Schlegel, who was living with his brother at the time. He was a remarkable man in every respect, |303| slim, with regular, handsome facial features, and highly intelligent. There was something peaceful and calm, almost phlegmatic about his bearing and appearance.
(Portrait: 4 March 1798, anonymous pencil drawing; reproduced in Briefe von und an Friedrich und Dorothea Schlegel, ed. Josef Körner [Berlin 1926], following p. 20.)
Whenever he sat in his chair, spinning out an idea, he would encompass his forehead with his thumb and index finger, move these two fingers slowly toward each other, to the midpoint between the eyes, then just as slowly down over his handsome, daintily shaped nose, and then finally, the further he progressed with the development of his idea, he would draw these two fingers, now united, out over the tip of his nose and into a long line out in the air. Because he spoke slowly and deliberately, he could sometimes drive a person to despair. Whenever I interrupted his train of thought by striding animatedly back and forth, he would merely remain calmly seated.
Tieck later sketched a caricature in which Schlegel, seated, is looking straight ahead, his fingers held aloft in front of his nose, while I, my nose up in the air, am vigorously moving my hands and feet.
I quickly became quite close to Friedrich Schlegel even though even then I sensed that deep down, our views were quite different; |304| and yet I forgot this at every moment, since it is quite remarkable how two people can come together in derived results while yet starting out from completely opposite principles. Friedrich Schlegel lived wholly in history. Nature was utterly alien to him; indeed, neither brother seemed to have any sense even for beautiful landscapes and such. Such limitations on the part of even distinguished men always seemed rather striking to me, or even puzzling. Lessing, for example, as well as Wilhelm von Humboldt, both allegedly lacked any sense for music.
There was hardly any person whose personality could be as stimulating as Friedrich Schlegel’s. He grasped every possible subject he encountered in a profound and intelligent fashion. And yet, though he was indeed able to grasp easily my own ideas concerning the philosophy of nature, nonetheless all his writings prove that he was utterly incapable of productively taking a living view of nature as his point of departure.
His wit was inexhaustible and pointed. He was also one of those people who know how to appreciate wit in others, and in this respect he even appreciated Chamfort. Schlegel did, however, |305| long torment me with a certain cycle of jokes or witticisms that tended to circulate in society. There are certain, otherwise quite intelligent and excellent people who feel obligated run through this seemingly unchanging series of witticisms at every social gathering. These men have acquired a certain narrative longwindedness, a wretched thoroughness that is supposed to lend incisive emphasis to and render piquant that one particular joke that is to conclude the narrative. Anyone who has spent time in society is familiar with all of these witticisms [etc.].
Translation © 2013 Doug Stott