Supplementary Appendix: Friederike Unzelmann

Friederike Unzelmann [*]


Introduction — I. Ludwig Tieck on the Berlin Ensemble; — II. The Account of Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer; — III. Goethe in Weimarisches Hoftheater; — IV. Portraits; — V. As Nina and Minna von Barnhelm in Breslau: Eyewitness Account; — VI. The Dispute with the Munich Reviewer, Zeitung für die elegante Welt; — VII. Wilhelm Schlegel’s Poems to Friederike Unzelmann-Bethmann; — VIII. Wendelin von Maltazahn’s biogram in “Julius Caesar. Für die Bühne eingerichtet von A. W. Schlegel”; — IX. Friederike Bethmann’s Letters to Her Husband, June–July 1815; — X. Epilog.


The following takes as its point of departure but considerably expands the introductory information provided by Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:724. Readers are referred to the biogram on Friederike Unzelmann for basic biographical information and dates.

Although these materials consist largely of contemporary witnesses, several letters from Friederike to her second husband, Heinrich Bethmann, are also included to give her a personal voice as well.

Friederike was neither one of Caroline’s correspondents nor even a distant member of the Jena Romantics. She was, however, one the most famous and celebrated actresses of the period and was acknowledged as such by the Jena Romantics who saw her perform. Moreover, the theater and the dramatic arts at large were of preeminent importance to the Jena circle. Theater attendance is mentioned throughout this correspondence, and both Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel had their own dramatic works performed in Weimar — albeit not without generating disputes — and Ludwig Tieck, himself a playwright, was profoundly influenced by the Berlin theater as a boy.

Dorothea Veit draws on her recollection of Friederike’s performances in a review of a performance of Nina, oder Wahnsinn aus Liebe by a French actress in Paris. That review is included below, as is an indignant response Wilhelm sent to the Zeitung für die elegante Welt concerning a negative assessment of Friederike from a Munich correspondent.

Caroline herself translated two pieces from the French, at least one of which seems to have been performed (see letter 336), and from an extremely early age had a pronounced love of the theater. She was, as it also happens, on good terms with Friederike Unzelmann at least according to her own witness.

Friederike Unzelmann was, not least, also known for her interpretations of characters in the plays of Schiller. In 1801 Caroline, Wilhelm, and other family and friends attended several of her guest performances in Weimar, not least with the ebullient approbation of Goethe.

Friederike Unzelmann, moreover, frequently appears in Caroline’s own letters, not only in connection with those guest performances in Weimar in September and October 1801, but also in connection with her relationship with Wilhelm Schlegel, in which regard Caroline writes to Wilhelm teasingly on 16 March 1801 (letter 301):

I can already see it coming, my dear villain, that the “certain purposes” are going to cost you time. Well, I have no intention of getting angry about it. Quite the contrary, I feel genuine tenderness for Unzelinette, and it is presumably only toward your grand love affairs that I have a certain aversion.

The following passage to Wilhelm from 22 June 1801, however, is perhaps more interesting despite Caroline’s consistently teasing tone (she was herself already in a relationship with Schelling) (letter 322):

Ah, but I really must relate to you what Ludekus heard in the Roman Caesar in Erfurt and then told Luise. You allegedly were getting on so well with Unzeline that you wanted to marry her, she intending to get a divorce from Unzelmann and you from me. But Woltmann was allegedly so jealous he wanted to write me an anonymous letter to alert me of the plan in good time. — Could one make up anything crazier?

Caroline’s final sentence is to be taken with a grain of salt if not viewed as being outright manipulative.

An acquaintance with “Unzeline” provides a unique perspective on the Jena Romantic circle itself and especially on the cultural and artistic background and practices of this particular period of German intellectual and cultural history.

I. Ludwig Tieck on the Berlin Ensemble. Concerning the excellent talent at the Berlin theater in general at the time of August von Kotzebue, and concerning Friederike Unzelmann specifically: [1]

. . . just as in the larger sense during the 1780s and the early 1790s the composition of the Berlin theater was such that so many excellent talents will likely never again assemble in a single ensemble. At the top stood Fleck, whose passionate performance of the role of the misanthrope provoked trenchant applause for this first piece of the sort no other dramatic work had yet received for many years. Madam Unzelmann was equally superb as Eulalia [in Kotzebue’s Menschenhass und Reue].

She had only recently arrived in Berlin, and the magic and grace she poured into Gurli [2] and many other pieces cannot really be expressed in words. She was joined by Madam Baranius, and these two women complemented each other in beauty and charm, grace and naiveté such that one could hardly imagine them apart.

Whereas the one cut a cheeky figure, the other was more serious. If the latter took on a more reserved character, the other flirted as a farm girl or maidservant. Although Madam Baranius did not possess the considerable talents of her colleague, in whatever role she played she herself was always graceful and her performance pleasing.

II. The Account of Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer. Despite Friederike Unzelmann’s diminutive, dainty figure and relatively weak voice, her talents extended into the sublime tragic roles of Orsina, [3] Iphigenia, [4] and Maria Stuart. [5] Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer’s characterization of her seemed best to Erich Schmidt.

In the following account, Meyer recounts the performances and personnel of the Hamburg theater group under the direction of Friedrich Ludwig Schröder: [5a]

|142| On 8 May [1797] Madam Unzelmann from the Berlin theater appeared as Gurli, on 9 and 11 May as Nina, [6] on 10 May as Josephine in Edelsinn und Armuth, [7] on 12 May as Sophie in Die Aussteuer, [8] on 15 May as Gigania in Die neuen Arkadier. [9]

Where would one not have paid homage to the grace, animation, and self-assurance of her performance? The majority of Hamburg |143| spectators did admittedly believe that Madam Renner performed the role of Gurli with greater veracity, and Schröder himself was part of this majority. He saw her [Madam Unzelmann’s] performance as Nina again in July 1800 in Berlin, also writing down his assessment of it, one I will mention when discussing that year.

In neither case can I contradict his conviction. I, too, thought that this highly imaginative and singular actress, who had perfected both her style and her art, was not really called to render the unconscious innocence with all the simplicity and sweet gentleness of the ideal. For that, her beautiful eyes were too exacting, her tone and comportment too much a part of the more genteel world, and even her movements perhaps too imperious.

She was, however, unsurpassably superior and perfect when combining a kind of self-awareness and defiance that challenges and disdains prejudice — e.g., in the character of Louise in Kabale und Liebe, [10] in that of Clärchen in Egmont [11] — with an utter lack of affectation.

Where she was not, however, able to provide what nature had reserved for others, she nonetheless provided what no other actress could provide in any case. Certainly no human mouth has ever spoken so imaginatively, so warmly, and with such unprecedented, rapid transitions, childlike transitions between laughing and weeping, over all of which she poured a magic no one could resist, neither on stage nor in society at large.

The full scope of her multifarious personality could not possibly be assessed according to her appearance among strangers, or even among those from her own locale, on the basis of such a restricted number of roles. One would almost need to have seen all her roles to make such an assessment.

The daughter of a theater head, perpetually occupied from her earliest childhood, inundated by important theater roles and songs, often required to perform twenty days in a row, to devote her mornings to rehearsals, and every otherwise unoccupied hour with learning the roles themselves, it was admittedly necessary for her, if she was to avoid simply succumbing to such constant exertion, to render the |144| majority of her portrayals with a lighter touch, which may well have appeared insufficiently forceful to spectators accustomed to more sustained delivery.

Until, that is, even those spectators, like everyone around her, had learned to discern the depth of her spirit as surely as its accuracy and grace. The connoisseur could not help but notice how she utterly plumbed the depths of so many substantial roles, how she bestowed value on empty roles, and bestowed substance, meaning, and weight to lines that, had they been delivered by others, would have remained puzzling or inconsequential, and the sure-handed boldness of her performances surprised even the most hardened artistic judge.

And yet she still managed to surpass even these expectations at every new opportunity. When after losing the range, strength, and virtuosity of her voice — which are so essential for the first vocal roles — by repeated accouchement and their aftereffects, she transitioned, with her diminutive figure, into the roles of sublimely tragic heroines and women, moving within this particular circle with such royal comportment, with such unforced, natural self-assurance, that one might have believed she had performed exclusively such roles her entire life.

Although I myself had known her since the spring of 1785, and though I was certainly never blind to her obvious talents, I also had never imagined the paragon of perfection her performance of Maria Stuart in 1801 revealed to me.

[Here Friederike Bethmann as Maria Stuart; first illustration: Vienna, Austrian National Library, Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung, Porträtsammlung, Inventar-Nr. PORT_00015190_01, engraving after Heinrich Anton Dähling, presumably from the series Kostüme auf dem königlichen Nationaltheater (Berlin 1802–12); from the former portrait collection of the directorship of the k.k. Hoftheater, from 1921 part of the Porträtsammlung der Nationalbibliothek; by permission; second illustration: Nationale Forchungs- und Gedenkstätten der klassischen deutschen Literatur in Weimar; reproduced in Eike Middell, Friedrich Schiller, 2nd ed. (Leipzig 1982), 333:]


This fleeting and inadequate remark does not presume to compete with a more skillful hand, and is instead intended merely to protect these pages from ingratitude toward the deceased lady. Let it also address two reproaches not raised by Schröder, both of which are not entirely untrue.

Her movements, always charming, did not always seem in the heat of passion to correspond graphically to the lines of the play being spoken. They seemed instead to hasten forward a bit, or lag just a little behind. That much I will concede. I do not know, however, nor do I believe, that the accompanying gestures, in the case of vehement emotions, in every instance coincide precisely with such lines.

There is without a doubt, |145| both for singing and for language and movement as such, a tempo rubato that constitutes the highest expression of truth. But it simply cannot be brought under rules and artificially generated. It must derive from the unconsciousness and enthusiasm of the moment; if it does not, a senno rubato should emerge from the tempo rubato.

The master of the drawing arts is in a better position in this regard. He can indicate the traces on someone’s face, form, or clothes a past moment must inevitably leave; and yet only the master will succeed in not thereby disrupting precisely the deception he intends to strengthen. God protect us from mannerists and imitators!

It was generally conceded that no one understood the art of costume better than Madam Unzelmann. It was undeniable that she sacrificed every profit of her vocation to this area. One objected only that she also clothed peasant women in atlas [satin] and silk; and she did indeed commit this double sin against her dainty figure, which did not need such glitter, and against the incomparably more advantageous effect of less glittery and less tightly pleated material.

But she knew her audience. Not one of her female or male contemporaries knew that audience as well or sustained its satisfaction as uninterruptedly. She seemed consistently to want precisely what she convinced herself she had to do. She seemed consistently capable of doing everything she wanted by virtue of being inclined and disposed not to want anything except what she indeed could do. If acquiescence never misses the mark, and is constantly owed, then it is probably pardonable for a woman not to have been more stubborn or obstinate.

See also Schröder’s opinion of her performance as Nina (Meyer is citing Schröder’s diary entries “in quotes”): [11a]

|200| “22 July [1800]. In the [Berlin] theater, which I had to attend at least once lest I insult anyone. . . . In Nina the music was performed quite well indeed. I recalled having already seen Madam Unzelmann in Hamburg. She has no sensibility for |201| the circumstances. If one were not told she was crazy, certainly no spectator could guess as much. The kiss through which she wholly regains her senses, a kiss that elicits every possible emotion in her and ought to provoke an outcry — was received by an ordinary girl who demurely pulled her mouth back. She may well please through her voice, figure, and costume, but she is no Nina.”

(I [i.e., Meyer] am sorry not to be in a position to refute the veracity of this reproach; but I must add that it was by no means contrary to the perceptive actress herself. When, eight years earlier, I revealed my astonishment to her for choosing to rob her Nina of every expression of wildness and bitterness, which seems inseparable from madness, and especially for dispensing with the kiss so fleetingly, indeed almost imperceptibly, the same kiss that initiates the strange development of the overall course of the story — which in its own turn is meaningless without that kiss, or at least unsatisfactory — she told me I was perfectly correct.

At the same time, however, she declared she was utterly convinced that her audience would not feel any sympathy for the love of a young girl who betrayed even the slightest trace of malice or dullness; and a long kiss, or one perceived as being long and deeply enjoyed, could not help but elicit laughter and prompt mockery.

In vain did I counter with the example of the unforgettable Dugazon, who in the country where people pick up most quickly on every element of ridiculousness and hold on to it most tenaciously, remained faithful to the appearance of madness without thereby stifling sympathy, and deeply drank the kiss without eliciting anything but the most profound emotion.

[Louise Dugazon as Nina; by J.F. Janinet after C.-J.-B. Hoin:]


In vain did I attest to her that actresses infinitely beneath this level of mastery had imitated from afar this unattainable model without having been perceived as offensive.

But she maintained her opinion, |202| refraining from this daring gesture that in fact would not have been such for her in any case, she who certainly needed no foreign model to conquer even greater difficulties. This same shy disinclination to arouse malicious remarks by an excessively faithful expression of sensuous emotion also prevented her for lending the internal ardor of southern climes (which Madam Schröder-Stollmers rendered so masterfully) to Eboli, [12] a role that seemed written explicitly for her and whose personality and dalliances no one expressed more exquisitely.

I do not know what physicians might have to say about the aforementioned, more pleasant method for healing madness, though the Christian church would doubtless stand up for it.)

III. Goethe in Weimarisches Hoftheater. Goethe extols her as a welcome guest performer in Weimar in his essay “Weimarisches Hoftheater” (dated 15 February 1802); [13] Friederike Unzelmann gave guest performances in Weimar from 19 September till 2 October; Caroline, Wilhelm Schlegel, Luise Wiedemann, and Julie Gotter attended the performances, then Luise Gotter also arrived with Cäcilie and Pauline Gotter.

In the meantime, the presence of Madame Unzelmann had evoked that Ifflandian period once again. The spirit in which this most excellent actress understands how to interpret and recast individual roles for herself, the circumspection of her performance, her consistently proper and respectable presence on the stage itself, the charming fashion in which, as a person of refined sensibility, she is capable of inspiring her fellow performers through appropriate gestures, her clear recitation, her energetic and yet moderate declamation — in a word, the entirety of what nature has done for her and what she for art was a highly welcome addition to the Weimar theater, an addition whose effects have contributed and indeed continue to contribute in no small way to the success of the winter performances this year.

Schiller found her too natural. For her own part, her rather cheeky assertion in June 1815 was that “stuffing [a role] and being monotonous seems in general to be the primary characteristics of actors in Weimar.” [14]

IV. Portraits

(1) (a) 1796; (b) 1789: [14a]


(2) Fanchon das Leyermaedchen Nach dem französischen Vaudeville bearbeitet von A. v. Kotzebue in Musik gesetzt von Friedrich Heinrich Himmel, … Clavier-Auszug. Act I. (-III) (Berlin 1805), frontispiece:


(3) As Cinderella (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig: Inventarnummer K/464/2003 GOS-Nr. gr017856):


(4) Almanach für Theater und Theaterfreunde, ed. August Wilhelm Iffland (1807):

(a) cover frontispiece (now as Friederike Bethmann):


(b) As Phedra and with August Wilhelm Iffland in Die Hausfreunde:



(5) Friederike Unzelmann-Bethmann in performance.

Six sketches of Friederike Unzelmann/Bethmann in performance as Lady Macbeth along with the specific lines, and as Nina singing specific lines in the aria “Quand le bien-aimé reviendra” in a Berlin performance in 1799 (click to open gallery): [14b]


(6) Philipp Stein, Deutsche Schauspieler: eine Bildnissammlung, vol. 1, Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert, Schriften der Gesellschaft für Theatergeschichte 9 (Berlin 1907) (images forthcoming).

V. As Nina and Minna in Breslau: Eyewitness Account. Concerning her artistry in several roles, see the intriguing eyewitness sketches of her performances in Breslau in 1801 published anonymously as Clio-Thalia, oder: eine Beleuchtung der Darstellungen von Friedrike Unzelmann auf der Breslauer Bühne, im Jahr 1801 (Breslau 1801). [15]

Although all these sketches are worthy of translation, the frequent references to Nina in the present edition and Friederike Unzelmann’s performance of Lessing’s Minna von Barnhelm in Weimar — a performance Caroline, Wilhelm, Schelling, and their housemates attended — warrant their inclusion; moreover, it may be worth noting that a young Friederike Unzelman debuted as Nina in Berlin on 3 May 1788, and to considerable acclaim.


From the hand no power can the chisel wrest
That in the pyramid of art might transfigure you, Unzelmann — Nina
Magnificently and grand, in eternally radiant features,
Such that the mute stone might breathe out your name: —
Such a work might from a modest poet come, –
And I would see not the fog of the senses disperse,
Would see it not, before love's gaze that does illumine all:
Truly, I could not with eyes streaming tears,
And the coldest stone would melt before the tear of melancholy!

I prayed for Nina! The rigid eye flowed anew in tears, and love reignited the extinguished altar of the senses.

She enters, and with her hair flowing about her like heavy chains, her gaze meets us with its moaning lament. She seizes every tree, crawling, as it were, to her arbor. — She stares out into the broadness of creation, toward the highway, and here, suddenly, the animated play of our lady’s artistry unfolds. Her eyes fix rigidly on some object, then slowly pull back; the madwoman’s storm of anger, the most gruesome accompanist of this most unfortunate of women, is already surging up inside Nina: “They hinder him, perhaps! — Who? — I don’t know. — What they — the wicked!” she cries in anguish. — Her love for the village girls is no less vehement, tempestuous, even convulsive. —

She kisses her who calls her Germeuil the “well beloved,” kisses her passionately; sings to them, though the “how” of her song is inexplicable. — A soft, flutelike, melancholy tone that wells out of her breast; one that, even without artistic decoration — would convulse, crush the innermost soul, always sounding as if the voice were trying to push forth a groan yet cannot quite do so! —

She takes leave of the trees, the arbor, of everything. She calls out “adieu, adieu” several times, solemnly, rapturously, increasingly quickly, finally uttering forth her final farewells with the most hurried anxiousness. Her father comes ever closer. —

With what vehemence does she grasp Eliza, how anxiously does her gaze rest on this stranger. — She shies away from him, and is too good-natured to insult him. With the fingers on both hands violently twitching, she waves for him to come toward her. She herself approaches him, is soon at his side, leans on his shoulder with her right arm, implores him not to marry off his daughter against her inclinations, concealing her tearful face with her right hand and arm.

Her father weeps — and I do believe one may reckon it as one of those vehement, convulsive mannerisms of madness when she pulls on her father’s handkerchief three times, believing it can take away the tears. — Germeuil appears, and every account, every detail succumbs to Nina’s movements, to Nina’s gestures here.

But Germeuil’s account of Nina’s beloved — her violent command to leave her alone; Nina’s memories, so fiercely surging up that Germeuil cannot end; all this, as a series of more permanent movements and gestures, can sooner be comprehended through the mirror of art. —

In her first encounter with him, she once falls at Germeuil’s feet, but does so such that her body — a beautifully positioned grouping — rests upon his knee. He draws it away, and she remains on the ground, clinging to his foot. Can a truer expression for such madness be found, madness that certainly attests such horrific eccentricities? — Hamlet, too, sets himself on the ground during performance. Gemeuil forcefully conjures up the past

Everything is clear to her; all she notices is that he had promised to become her spouse. She queries him herself, then forcefully pulls him to the arbor, which she earlier so often embraced. — And when she finally reawakens, finally climbs out of her gloomy grave of dazed stupefaction, how her gaze lightens, how sorrow instead of rage now speaks from her. —

Who would not also feel lighter here? Her eye travels slowly, with trusting expressiveness, around the circle of her loved ones — and, touched by emotion, by omnipotent emotion, the heart of both Nina and the listener opened up!

You did not wait in vain!

The following anonymous poem appeared in a Breslau newspaper after Friederike Unzelmann’s performance as Nina (repr. in Zeitung für die elegante Welt [1801] no. 100, 807):

To Madame Unzelmann, after her Performance as Nina

Never madness, never melancholy has spoken thus,
As from you alone, in gentle embrace;
You alone the divine have kissed,
To whom nature did bestow the singing of flute.

A gentle breeze from your mouth does arise,
And celestial light in your gaze appear,
Before which new happiness now dawns —
In us alone does the wound yet grieve.

Friederike Unzelmann as Minna von Barnhelm in Breslau

Anonymous, Clio-Thalia, oder: eine Beleuchtung der Darstellungen von Friedrike Unzelmann auf der Breslauer Bühne, im Jahr 1801 (Breslau 1801), 65–68; translations from Minna von Barnhelm from Lessing’s Minna von Barnhelm, trans. Edward Brooks, Jr. (Philadelphia 1899).

Minna Barnhelm.
As you journeyed after the one [Tellheim], so also did we journey after you.

Although the character of our Minna seems to be cast in contours so definite and unmistakable that an actress need only pick up her lines correctly in order to avoid a faux pas, today’s performance [by Friederike Unzelmann] demonstrates that a certain light, individual deviation from the customary performance style of our Minna brings the portrait to life with an even higher degree of veracity and vivacity.

My own assessment has always been that Lessing created a sensitive and yet consistently jovial girl characterized not by particularly impressive wit but rather by an extremely vulnerable element of cheerfulness and lightheartedness. The majority of German writers is, however, not really satisfied with such a modest creation. In more serious drama, their creations are equipped with a genuinely tragic disposition; in tragedy itself they are the most energetic heroines of the Middle Ages, and in comedy invulnerable heroines — of wit and satire.

But not Lessing! His Minna is equally removed from both extremes. Without bedazzling wit, she nonetheless comes up with truly appropriate lines, and without being tragically inclined expresses feeling that are neither eccentric nor excessively universal, and which I find most vividly portrayed in the bourgeois dramatic genre. And yet no other role can quite interest us more. Her situations invariably result from interesting choices even if her expression and diction are not so overtly seductive and out of the ordinary; — one might wonder whether her role owes its impact more to her words or her situations, — Might we ever so oft not be content with words? Our actresses are disposed much the same as our playwrights insofar as they shape Minna into a rapturously enthusiastic or even adventurous girl. The more garish color is what pleases; the vox populi is considered correct, and the real Minna must remain silent.

The performance of our present actress was truer to Lessing’s original design. She sits at the table with grace, speaks in a light, pleasing tone of voice to Franziska, plays with a lock of her own hair, leans her head on her right hand without laying it quite wholly into it, and jumps up when Franziska accuses Tellheim of unfaithfulness, and says [act 2, scene 1], “Miserable girl! But do you mean that seriously?” The landlord enters; she sits back down and remains wholly indifferent until Franziska’s teasing elicits a smile from her, but no more than that either, — and what joy, what ebullient joy do we not hear from her? She speaks incessantly, offers Franziska money, gives it to her, and then concludes solemnly [act 2, scene 3]: “Put that aside, Franziska, for the first poor wounded soldier who addresses us.”

She falls into a serious tone after her first, ardent embrace with Tellheim, a tone with which after a slight lowering of her voice and a brief pause she says [act 2, scene 9]: “Wretched man indeed, if you love nothing!” And which she then lowers even more when she addresses Tellheim again [act 2, scene 9]: “You love me still; that is enough for me . . . Now, my dear unfortunate, you love me still, and have your Minna still, and are unhappy?” etc.

Her scene with Riccaut de la Marliniere demonstrates such a master and so profound a study of character that a precise description would be an extremely difficult task indeed. She assumes a wholly genteel air, hardly even glances at him, smiles at his petty wretchedness so unnoticeably — not least for him — expresses absolutely no sympathy such that I know of no better expression of the manner with which one might reject such insufferable figures and their immense immodesty, no better expression for Minna’s noble soul, a soul that feels with utter imperceptibility. With what entreaty and flattery [act 4, scene 3] does she extend to angry Franziska the cup of coffee!

After a brief, serious moment of reflection she picks up the droll tone once more. Werner enters with his commando-gait [act 4, scene 4: “carrying himself very erect as if on duty”]. Minna is standing stage center, at the proscenium. A chair stands directly between her and the sergeant that would disrupt his path toward her: she swiftly goes back and places the chair to the side. — She tenderly cuddles up to Tellheim, intimately catches his gaze, and tells him with a seductive tone of voice [act 4, scene 6]: “I prophesy that you will be relieved at very few doors; except at the door of a good-natured girl like myself. . . . I am so much the more secure from your blows” etc. When, finally, in the final act she plays the angry girl toward Tellheim, she uses every mute moment to smile with Franziska at her own teasing; and it is in this disposition and posture that she carries her scenes through till she is in Tellheim’s arms.

As animated and lively as the coloring and complexion of her portrayal is, all the less might one accuse them of excess. She does all of this utterly without ostentation, picks up every nuance utterly without pretentiousness such that nothing — absolutely nothing — reminds us of the artist, who, after all, knows full well that she is standing before an audience that is certainly and wholly equipped with the appropriate apparatus for applause. Not a single moment without significance; not a single element of significance without more profound meaning, — and all of it with the expression of the most charming unpretentiousness.

Every one of her performances attests her artistic sense all the more irrefutably, and I believe myself justified in adding that her evocation of Minna’s character elicits the same remark that Countess Orsina [Friederike Unzelmann’s character in Emilia Galotti] makes with respect to herself [act 4, scene 3]: “Do not laugh — for mark me, Marinelli, (with emotion) that which makes me laugh, has, like every thing in the world, its serious side.”

VI. The Dispute with the Munich Reviewer, Zeitung für die elegante Welt. Wilhelm Schlegel indignantly attacked objections to her guest performance raised by an anonymous reviewer in Munich. First that negative review from Munich, “Madame Unzelmann in München,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1803) 83 (Tuesday, 12 July 1803) 657–60:

Madame Unzelmann in Munich

Perhaps the Zeitung für die elegante Welt would be pleased to receive news and observations concerning the most recent theater events here, and in such case one would certainly not shy away from the modest effort necessary to continue such news occasionally in the future as well. Should it deny reception of these lines, however, the author will similarly make do knowing that neither it nor its readers lose anything in this regard.

[Footnote: That said, although the following assessment of Madame Unzelmann does deviate not a little from those one customarily hears in these pages, Munich does have the right to be of an opinion different than, e.g., that in Berlin. And in the case of a newspaper that must accept the varying characteristic features of the age and different locales, there is no reason differing assessments concerning one and the same subject should not stand together. Such divergences are, moreover, instructive. — The present author has, by the way, identified himself, and his name is available upon appropriate query. — The editor.]

The debuts of Madame Unzelmann here have been chosen as the first subject of these missives in part because they constitute the most important theatrical events here in some time, and in part also because they can serve as a sample and standard of the objective nature of the present reviewer, who is gathering and expressing solely the opinions of the Munich public.

The reviewer read all the long and detailed declamations in journals and newspapers concerning the talents of this truly upright artist — and smiled at the customary flutterings when the dailies here present something of this nature with such panegyrics. Although this trumpeting was unable to prompt any favorable prejudice for Madame Unzelmann, neither did it harm her — for the simple reason that everyone already knew from travelers that she was considered preeminent among the lady artists in the Berlin theater, which alone sufficed to prompt the anticipation of no ordinary actress.

She came and appeared first as Natalie in Die Korsen, [16] a role that had already been performed rather poorly here earlier. Although the animation, subtlety, and the wholly unaffectedly interwoven mignardises [daintiness] of her performance pleased everyone, here and there one did miss that particular element of dignity necessarily attaching to the daughter of a Hungarian magnate from the previous century who was by no means inclined to underestimate the advantages of his status and position. A similarly displeasing element was her wholly modern clothing, which starkly contrasted with the period costumes of her fellow actors (especially in the male roles) and was perceived as excessively soubrette-like.

Her second role was Johanna von Montfaucon, in which she had to compete with two better predecessors. Madame Lange the elder (formerly Peykrl) performs this role with considerable energy if without subtle study; the role was, however, performed with much more skill by Madame Roose. The entire audience immediately noticed — insofar as high passion requires powerful physical expression — that modest (if delicate) artistic mannerisms can neither conceal nor replace natural shortcomings.

Madame Unzelmann stretched, rose, and extended herself with clearly visible force in order to attain the height of pathos, drove her voice past the natural scope of its sonority, and degenerated into shrieking. In several passages, her movements, among which especially the way she threw back her upper body was found displeasing, became convulsive, with not a trace of the simplicity of beautiful form, only an actress trying to come across tragically through pure force. The final assessment of this role was that Madame Unzelmann fell far short of Madame Roose as Johanna von Montfaucon and was not yet even the equal of Madame Lange the elder.

Her third role was that of Nina in Wahnsinn und Liebe. Madame Unzelmann performed masterfully; all the modest charms with which seasoned and witty actors are able to spice their performances were successfully applied here. Although the audience admired the experienced artist, they did not see — a Nina plagued by madness.

The opinion here in Munich is that the artistic challenge in performing this role consists in finding the delicate middle ground between delirious melancholy and love-struck rapture, a middle ground enabling the actress to evince the traces of a mind that is genuinely and physically disordered, and to do so not just through the words and forgetfulness prescribed by the author, but also through tone of voice, countenance, and gestures, and then to wholly resolve this challenge as the piece develops by transitioning in a subtly nuanced, gradual fashion from that particular condition to one of complete presence of mind and cheerful behavior.

Thus was Nina performed by the Munich actress Madame Lange the younger; Madame Unzelmann, however, dealt quite differently with Nina. The eye of the most refined connoisseur would not have perceived even the slightest element of madness (in the narrower sense) in her, so wholly measured and reflected was her mimic behavior. Her performance was characterized solely by an extraordinarily vehement yearning for the man, though not even her delicate treatment of this ambiguous condition was able to buffer all the repugnant feelings elicited by such a creature, which seemed to suffer more from hysteria than in her soul and mind.

In her third and final performance, Madame Unzelmann debuted as Louise in Kabale und Liebe, in which role at least to a certain extent she did manage to exceed the performance of her predecessor, the aforementioned Madame Lange, the latter have been inclined to perform this roll a bit sluggishly and fretfully. Madame Unzelmann’s performance was quicker, more precise, and more decisive in the important parts of the action. She was especially impressive in the scene where Secretary Wurm dictates the letter to her; [17] by contrast, she utterly missed the scene with Lady Milford, [18] where instead of speaking modestly and yet emotionally from a deeply moved, full heart, she falls into disconnected tragic declamation, forgetting the presence of Lady Milford entirely and directing her vehement discourse to the parterre.

In addition to this and similar elements in the performance, the critic also found the long train on the dress of a poor municipal musician’s daughter and the golden, studded bracelets on her arms worthy of reproach, a reproach, however, that may well be based more on local custom than on principles of art and taste; for perhaps it is in Munich alone that a normal citizen’s daughter is denied the right to walk the streets in long dress trains, and since here a middle-class municipal musician (city musicians here genuinely do constitute a respectable guild with various rights and privileges) would seem to his master and guild mates to be a bad fellow indeed, or even a pathetic simpleton, were he to allow his daughter to wear such indicia proxima of mortal sin on her body.

That much for this time. Madame Unzelmann is and remains a fine, talented theater artist; although she certainly deserves a place among the better actors living now, it would by far not be among the preeminent tragic actors, something denied her not least by nature itself. Such is the unanimous opinion of the Munich public, which has nonetheless never ceased to be just and fair in its well-known preference for all that is not native to Munich itself. It once idolized Schröder as King Lear and as Father Rhode in Der dankbare Sohn, [19] while yet placing him rather far beneath the actor [Theobald] Marchand in the roles of the vinegar merchant [20] and Odoardo Galotti. [21]

Although it was delighted with Iffland’s excellent performance, it did find his role Pygmalion excessively comical, and too cold, heartless, and reserved in Der deutche Hausvater. [22] Although it certainly admired the artistry and jeu mignon [dainty performance] of little Thalia Unzelmann, it simply cannot recognize her as a Melpomene. [23]

It goes without saying that Madame Unzelmann was given a curtain call and loudly applauded after every performance. The Munich public considers such to be a matter of etiquette and courtesy toward any nonresident artist of renown and talent; such are the theatrical honneurs thought to be due every excellent member of one of the better German theater companies.
Munich, 26 June 1803

In this response to this anonymous Munich critic (whose name Wilhelm apparently did know), Wilhelm unfortunately exerts most of his effort in challenging the critic’s claim to speak for the entire Munich theater public (“something that seems more than doubtful given the way, at the conclusion to his account, he tries to push aside the considerable attestations of loud applause”) and his artistic judgment in the larger sense (“and I confess I am unable to comprehend how it is supposed to be instructive for those with taste for someone to attest so clearly his own lack of receptivity for beauty, on the one hand, and his eagerness to disparage it, on the other”).

But he also makes several comments concerning Friederike Unzelmann’s generally high regard among the theater public at large not only in Berlin, but elsewhere as well (“Rüge eines Urtheils über Mad. Unzelmann,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt. Mode, Unterhaltung, Kunst, Theater 91 [31 July 1803] 719–22; Sämmtliche Werke 9:227–30):

Reproach of a Review of Madame Unzelmann

To the editors of the Zeitung für die elegante Welt.
(Berlin, 23 July 1803.) Your Munich correspondent, my esteemed Herr Hofrath, through his criticism of Madame Unzelmann, has indeed ill served the theater there, which in several earlier issues of your newspaper was portrayed advantageously to the point of eliciting astonishment.

At issue here is both an artist whose status and merit are universally acknowledged, and, in part, roles that are to be reckoned among her very best and concerning which at least among the cultured in Germany there has long been but one opinion.

Insofar as the name “Munich” would not even appear in a geographical account of our literature, and insofar as, at least according to what one hears, one cannot really imagine an artistic situation obtaining there in any case (with the possible exception of music) in which a habituation to artistic excellence might inordinately enhance expectations, and insofar as, finally, with respect to the theater itself, its guest performances elsewhere seem adequately to confirm these assertions, there remains no other explanation than to assume that wherever excellence fails to please, mediocrity and inferiority must be the preference.

Of course, this conclusion itself obtains only if your correspondent genuinely were the mouthpiece of the Munich public, which you, through your annotation, seem to grant without further ado, something that, however, seems more than doubtful given the way, at the conclusion to his account, he tries to push aside the considerable attestations of loud applause. In confusing your correspondent with Munich itself, you insist that “Munich has the right to have a different opinion than, e.g., Berlin.” Permit me to point out first of all that this remark considerably displaces the boundaries of “deviating opinions,” for Madam Unzelmann has garnered admiration not only in Berlin, but also in many other large German cities, as well as from foreigners who have come here from all quarters. . . .

It seems wholly superfluous to engage in an extensive refutation of your correspondent, who bases his claims to be a connoisseur on a few French turns of phrase and, I might add, tends to measure tragic art according to stature [24] and a yardstick. I can only briefly remark in this respect that his descriptions of how Madam Unzelmann performed her roles (since, after all, she probably performed them in Munich much the same as she does here and elsewhere) are incorrect, and his remarks concerning the manner in which the roles should be performed completely distorted.

For example, in the role of Nina he demands that physical madness be portrayed, a psychological delight one would gladly grant him. We, however, have always believed that the point is to express the confusion of a sick disposition, whereby the passion provoked in such a situation should be regnant in the performance of the role, just as it is, by the way, in both the libretto and the music of this opera.

Concerning the irreproachable delicacy with which Madam Unzelmann portrays precisely this passion, whose expression is displaced beyond what is customary by the condition of self-forgetfulness, please see what has been said in Europa of Friedrich Schlegel (1:171f.) by a knowledgeable connoisseur in Paris, where the superiority of this German actress is widely acknowledged with respect to this role — one originally from a French play in any case — even over the most acclaimed Parisian actress. [25]

Concerning the profoundly moving grandeur with which Madam Unzelmann executes the few scenes in which the role of Johanna von Montfaucon consists, let me refer to what was written in the former Berlinisches Archiv der Zeit und ihres Geschmacks in this regard on the occasion of that play’s premiere, and by a critic, I might add, whose judgment otherwise has never lacked the appropriate degree of severity. . . .

Ludwig Ferdinand Huber had recently seen Friederike Unzelmann in guest performances in Stuttgart between 3 and 10 June 1803, she also returning on 27 July and appearing yet again on 11 July; in fact, during the performance of Schiller’s Maria Stuart, Huber sat in the seat in front of Caroline (see Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 19 June 1803 [letter 380]). He entered this same dispute with the Munich correspondent later in the same newpaper, “Noch ein Wort für Mad. U.,” Zeitung für die Elegante Welt (1803) 99 (Thursday, 18 August 1803) 786–89:

Another Voice for Madame Unzelmann

From Herr Legationsrath Huber.

You recently published an assessment of Madame Unzelmann in your newspaper that was not particularly favorable toward this actress, and those admirers of the famous artist who disagreed with the reasons you had for doing so would allegedly betray more passion than understanding, more partiality and engouement [26] than reflective respect toward a great talent. Although I declare myself to be one of her admirers as well, I am happy to read an assessment that did to a certain extent quite deserve to be examined, an assessment, moreover, that considerably confirmed me in my own faith.

That said, when one considers how paltry are the rewards in any case generally accorded this particular art form, one cannot help feeling a bit of indignation at a critique whose goal is to denigrate an acknowledged talent. As it so happens, it is indeed precisely in this art form more than any other that an excellent talent will find it quite difficult to sustain performances that are universally and equally acknowledged.

Indeed, such a talent finds it all the more difficult the more such acknowledgment depends on a momentary effect, and even should such an effect be elicited among a thousand people, a hundred more will deny that such is the case. – Raphael, over the course of several centuries, found one Lord Bristol who declared him to be a worthless hack. [27]

The most consummate actor, especially in Germany and especially if performing on any stage other than his company’s home stage, will find a hundred such blasphemers each and every evening, blasphemers who by no means are the sort of unsteady fanatics — as was that British iconoclast — who cannot help elevating the inferior or mediocre they already possess and with which they have hitherto been satisfied, above the good they cannot secure or to which they are simply unaccustomed.

The public to which they belong unfortunately shares their interest; that is, when even for a moment that public risks taking the path of admiration — after all, it is difficult to find a public that would not sense what is excellent regardless of how unaccustomed to such it may be — it will soon reunite with its representatives and feel rather flattered when it hears from them that they, the representatives, merely smiled indulgently beforehand at the previous adulation of Herr or Madame So-and-so published elsewhere, and that they would not be swayed from an independent assessment by such adulation, etc.

I am acquainted neither with the Munich theater nor with even a single actress your correspondent compares with Madame Unzelmann. If one genuinely does have so many actresses in Munich whom this artist was unable to equal in even her best and preferred roles, such could not but create an extraordinary sensation in Germany, so much so, indeed, that friends of the dramatic arts would doubtless be pilgrimaging in hordes to such a stage.

Your correspondent did, however, acquaint us with the standard according to which he made these comparisons, and no appearance is needed to assess them. His standard is not, e.g., figurative — but rather is no more and no less than an Elle. [28] When Madame Unzelmann appeared in the rolle of Johanna von Montfaucon, “the entire audience immediately noticed — insofar as high passion requires powerful physical expression — that modest (if delicate) artistic mannerisms can neither conceal nor replace natural shortcomings” — “although she certainly deserves a place among the better actors living now, it would by far not be among the preeminent tragic actors, something denied her not least by nature itself.” — —

Well, at least now we know what our critic is about. Were he to establish a theatrical company himself, he would choose his heroines according to such-and-such a shoe size, his tyrants according to their raw bass voice, his drunkards according to their coppery noses and the finny lines in their faces. Madame Unzelmann is allegedly a little Thalia: nature has denied her — indeed, just what has nature denied her? Stature, yes; but what of the organization that replaces everything and yet can be replaced by nothing? What would the delicate artistic mannerisms be without this organization, which is then joined by study and yet precedes study, indeed that is the driving impulse behind study and yet leaves it behind at the very moment of performance?

The Munich correspondent finds it necessary to denigrate Madame Unzelmann’s acting style because it is allegedly overly reflected, or artificial. He presents it thus as a learned or mannered style, which he then contrasts with a more natural style.

But what emerges from the entire context of his assessment is that he finds her acting style learned and mannered solely because it was reflected and artificial, and that for him a natural acting style is merely the more ordinary type based on a broad and comfortable — but also expressionless and meaningless extensive external organization of the sort one can find on any mediocre stage.

He has forgotten — or never known — that Garrick and Lekain were small, unattractive persons — and had he seen Garrick or Lekain perform in his Munich theater as German actors, it is highly unlikely he would have accorded them a greater degree of indulgence.

What remains eternally true, however, is that the art that cannot be restricted by corporeal dimensions or through any other superficial material conditions is in fact of a loftier nature and constitutes the loftiest genius, nor do I believe that any actor distinguished by figure or voice has ever attained a particularly high degree of perfection.

The correspondent found that Madame Unzelmann performed the character of Natalie in Die Korsen too soubrette-like for the daughter of a Hungarian magnate. But just who is this Natalie? A rather differently modified Gurli. —

Be one so inclined, one might easily reproach the author of Die Korsen for having given her a Hungarian magnate as a father; but the dignity of this magnate’s daughter could simply not be incorporated into the role without destroying the role itself. All one could ask of the actress was to preserve general feminine decency, and in precisely this point Madame Unzelmann left nothing lacking in the eyes even of her severe Munich critic.

By contrast, he himself severely lacked an element of general masculine decency toward this woman in his assessment of her performance as Nina. If in this particular role she did indeed treat the condition he calls “ambiguous” — and which he only too unambiguously characterizes — as delicately as he himself maintains, then here — quite on its own — to the pure all things were pure, [29] and he himself committed a not inconsiderable indelicacy toward this female artist.

We also learn from him that Iffland performed Pygmalion much too comically — so, are we to understand that a bit comically would have been fine? — and the German housefather much too coldly, heartlessly, and reservedly. Those who saw Iffland perform in Der deutsche Hausvater have no need to become acquainted with the play to which the correspondent of necessity had to have been accustomed in order to come up with such a judgment —

I can almost see this person before my very eyes, the German housefather with whom this art critic is satisfied; and the deeper reasons for his assessment can be found in Tom Jones, where Partridge compares Hamlet and the king. [30]

Stuttgart, 7 August 1803

VII. Wilhelm Schlegel’s Poems to Friederike Unzelmann-Bethmann. Wilhelm Schlegel addressed six poems to Friederike Unzelmann-Bethmann [31] (approximate renderings):

The Fairy Child To the Actress Friederike Bethmann

I knew a strange, rare fairy child,
So small and delicate was she,
Who changed her form, her mood, her sighs,
Like air and wind and sea.

This fairy child was pleased alone
By play with lively edge,
Journeyed thus round 'bout the world
Magic to make, her pledge.

One moment: an upright boyish sort,
Next: as a dainty maid is shaped,
Oft quite close, then loosely, too,
Her slender figure draped.

First she chooses gems and gold,
Then embroid'ry finely sewn,
All the wealth the earth yields forth
Seems made for her alone.

To her such things no radiance lend,
From her they draw their light:
Her hair provides the gems' wreath fine,
Her arm makes jewelry bright.

And when, a flower in the field,
She has no adornment sought,
Such blue eyes are beshamed alone
By the wild Forget-Me-Not.

Changed and changing hastens she,
Through time and space she goes,
With cheer, chagrin, with wounds, in health,
But how? — one hardly knows.

With lofty mind and noble blood
She summons, with chivalrous renown,
From helmets' plume her warriors great,
And slays opponents down.

A shepherdess in the alps, she sings
At work a bright refrain,
Her modest hut ne'er being disturbed
By love's chagrin and pain.

He who now drives her from her mind
Through wood and vale outside,
She sees not the beloved's approach,
But asks where he might bide.

In wonderland as wild-eyed maid
So light and brisk of strides,
To tease the jealous man and then
Each and every man besides.

Is now the hero's loving heart,
Who fame seeks o'er the sky,
And flees as freedom to heavens above
When for freedom he then does die.

She dwells as queen, devout and true,
In the dungeon, quiet and grand,
Where every lad would in her stead
On the scaffold proudly stand.

Most recent came she, quite distraught,
Soon then the coffin sealed,
Which 'neath the flowers, 'neath the wreath
Her flow'ring life concealed.

But 'tis to be such ever more?
My heart quakes in my chest.
Too gruesome, this appearance, harsh,
Too cruel, even as a jest.

But not for naught this gracious child
With fairy power endowed:
For tomorrow she laughs, in the blossom of youth,
Whom today you did just enshroud.

The varied change she does normally love
Now she herself concludes:
A slight, deft sign from her, and then
The stage no more deludes.

With sense and upright, noble mind
Friendship's delicate knot she ties,
And that, I say, is her merit true,
For her friendship never dies.

And yet amid such trust and jest
Does the notion oft arise,
Querying my heart, my sense, my mind:
How she this magic does devise?

The subtle creatures round about her now
Do strengthen and encourage me
For 'tis not by chance they follow her,
Here some mystery must be.

When in the ring so wondrously
Her beauteous cockatoo
does swing and then call out by name:
Jaquot! Jaquot! 'tis you! . . .

When her little pug then peers at her
With eyes so serious and stark,
And with his paws does plead and whine
And jealously yap and bark . . .

When beneath the weight her steed does rise
So high and proud with verve,
Following her commands exact and true
His goal: her best to serve . . .

Think I: of steady mind they are,
Transformed, and changed, but still,
Bearing round the fairy child the yoke
Of wishes yet to fulfill.

Hence do beware who only sees!
A single glance can lead astray,
You'll then know neither up nor down
And never get away.

How now: do I of sorcery warn,
Myself beguiled, in trance?
Transforms she not this song's serious mien
To the tone of a sweet romance?

Thus at last do I lay at her feet
This playful melody,
Who is my song's true heart and soul,
And my true muse, yes: she.

To Friederike Unzelmann. On the Occasion of Sending her my Poems

Though the poet seeks to speak to future generations,
On mute, dead pages does his song sadly sleep,
Till soulful voice does it awake
And 'mid modest circle does cordially court
Approval mild and quiet.
The stage arts shine before contemporary eyes,
The magic of a strange, other world envelopes
The moment of acclamation, and delight,
And a thousand enraptured hearts do glow.
But ah! it lives but in the artists' own lives,
And their immortal work dies out with them.
Posterity can but believe these wondrous things
They never saw; no image, no descriptive word
Can encompass, grasp life's delicate breath,
The powerful, inspired soul of the present.
Hence is it the poet's duty to attest these things,
For he alone ignites the imagination,
Prompting forms and figures to freshly move, to move anew
Of unseen things: and so he awakens
In distant, yet unborn generations
An audience for the favorite of Thalia.

Humbled do I offer you these songs,
Of which none has yet claimed your praise.
When try I did, both softly and timidly,
You accepted the homage, as befits you,
Of forced feelings' tribute,
With benevolence, as a free offering.
Were I to succeed thus in a fashion wholly worthy of you,
I would have attained the most beautiful victory:
For that poem can be sure of favor
That addresses your spirit in gracious cultivation;
The Graces' mystery will it unfold,
And a muse therein visibly hold sway.

The Actress Friederike Unzelmann To the Public after the Curtain Call

Do return home in peace,
For I will not be coming out onstage.
For you cry at every bit of rubbish
All the same: Bravo! Bravo!
Does not the entire house oft rage
Like a pregnant mountain, "O miracle!"
And what comes is but a mouse.
Whosoever so willingly comes back out,
Truly, will soon come down as well.
Hence, though you may behave more crazy still,
And howsoever topsy-turvy,
Such that the house itself groan and collapse
Beneath the wild and riotous goings-on:
Not a single mouse will stir today.
Ladies and gentlemen, nothing will come of it;
Go in peace, return but home!
Lamptrimmers, extinguish now!

To Friederike Unzelmann as Nina

Though of grief's reveries,
And of lost raptures,
    Nina, you were healed.
Yet did you to all your listeners bequeath
The tender anguish
And delusion of beguiled hearts.

Friederike Unzelmann

Here you view not Melpomene alone, nor Thalia only,
But rather her image whom both did groom.

An Fr. U.

Deaf and mute you seem born, and turned into a deaf mute
Me: mute out of sheer admiration, deaf to the words of others.
Even had severe nature denied you inspired conversation and a pleasing voice,
Still would you thus beguile and delight.
Ah, but how I would then labor to teach you signs,
That you might express the heart, and the stirrings of delicate emotion!
Ah, but how I would then practice the eloquence of gaze,
Till I saw myself understood in your responding gaze!
But those who will not hear — are the forever deaf,
As we daily hear, and perhaps no instruction can them help.
Though you are as deaf as fate, and as mute as the future to our queries,
Though speaking and hearing indeed: were you now yet mute and deaf!
Be you now silently angry with me, so do you become the mute Turk
Who hands me — alas, the condemned — the garroting cord.

A hand other than Wilhelm’s wrote on the back of a copy of a translation of a sonnet by Petrarch: “Madame Unzelmann à son logis” (“To Madame Unzelmann at her residence”): [31b]

Say, from what vein did Love procure the gold
To make those sunny tresses? From what thorn
Stole he the rose, and whence the dew of morn,
Bidding them breathe and live in Beauty's mould?

What depth of ocean gave the pearls that told
Those gentle accents sweet, though rarely born?
Whence came so many graces to adorn
That brow more fair than summer skies unfold?

Oh! say what angels lead, what spheres control
The song divine which wastes my life away?
(Who can with trifles now my senses move?)

What sun gave birth unto the lofty soul
Of those enchanting eyes, whose glances stray
To burn and freeze my heart — the sport of Love?

As an aside, one might consider the quite different relationship Friedrich Schlegel seems to have had with Friederike Unzelmann as reflected in the following anecdote (with an example of her talent for deft repartee) recounting an evening in the Berlin salon of Rahel Levin in 1801 (presumably in December 1801, since Friedrich was in Berlin only between 2 December 1801 and 27 January 1802) (Mrs. Vaughan Jennings, Rahel: Her Life and Letters [London 1876], 43–45; translation altered; illustration: Goethe’s Works, vol. 4, trans. G. Barrie [New York 1885], 300):

Upon the sofa beside the hostess was seated a lady of great beauty, a Countess Einsiedel, listening with languid interest to the pedantic talk of a gentleman spoken of as the Abbé; in the background stood Frederick Schlegel in conversation with Ludwig Robert. The door opened suddenly, and a laughing, picturesque figure entered, and rapidly took possession of the arm-chair beside Rahel.

“What is this?” cried Rahel. “Is there no Maria Stuart? I thought you were . . . ”

“Only think,” answered the lively lady, “Mortimer is ill, so Iffland has brought out another piece, in which there is nothing for me to do. I turn it, therefore, to the best account, by coming to spend the evening with you.”

“This is charming,” said Rahel, “and best of all you already find here two special admirers, Schlegel and my brother.”

Baron Brinckmann, in his character of adorer-general, was here about to step forward, when Frederick Schlegel, with the awkwardness peculiar to him, advanced and said in a solemn, confused way, that it was not he, but his brother August Wilhelm, who was the enthusiastic admirer of Madame Unzelmann, and who had already sung her triumphs as “The Elf” [the “Fairy Child” above]. At this specimen of gaucherie the company received a shock, but the actress with unruffled self-possession replied smilingly, “I am already quite aware of this, thank you; I perfectly understand the difference between the two brothers. But if I do not exact more from you than I do from your brother, you need have no anxiety about playing his part for one short evening.”

Other visitors now entering, Baron Brinckmann was driven from his vantage ground between Rahel and Madame Unzelmann, and took refuge with Count S— in a window-niche, where he began to expatiate upon the new arrivals, among whom were Majors Schack and Gualtieri. They were interrupted by Schlegel, who complained indignantly that Madame Unzelmann had no true idea of art.


“I can make no way with her at all,” he said, “she does not in the least understand my remarks upon her very best characters, and returned me the most stupid answers.”

Schack, who had overheard this last sentence, took him up immediately.

“Oh, you critical gentlemen expect too much! Madame Unzelmann understands art perfectly in her own way: she plays it, and brings it bodily before you, and you yourself admire it. Why should you insist on her expressing it in your manner also. To expect that divine woman to — to — reason, is as monstrous as it would be for us to demand that you should act as she does. That would be something worth seeing.”

“Bravo, bravo, Schack!” cried a voice behind him. It was Rahel, who had risen, attracted by the animated talk in the window-niche.

VIII. Wendelin von Maltazahn’s biogram in “Julius Caesar. Für die Bühne eingerichtet von A. W. Schlegel.” See also Wendelin von Maltazahn, “Julius Caesar. Für die Bühne eingerichtet von A. W. Schlegel,” Jahrbuch der deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft 7 (1872) 48–81, here 48–49, where he notes yet another birth year for her:

Friederike Auguste Conradine Unzelmann, née Flittner, born — according to her own statement — on 24 January 1771 in Gotha (in 1760 according to E. Devrient, in 1769 or 1770 according to other sources), [32] was the daughter of an administrative official.

After the death of her father, her mother married the actor Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Grossmann there in 1775, who at the time was engaged with the Seyler theater company; soon thereafter he became codirector of the Royal Cologne Company in Bonn, later establishing a second company in Mainz and Frankfurt am Main with his spouse, dying 1796 as director of the theater in Hannover.

It was his considerable merit to have trained his highly gifted stepdaughter in the art of acting. She debuted onstage in 1778 in Bonn with the royal company, married the actor Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand Unzelmann in 1784 after the death of her mother in Mainz, after which the two then moved to Frankfurt am Main, where she “enchanted everyone with her inimitable performances and magnificent singing.”

She then moved to the Royal National Theater in Berlin under Professor Engel, debuting on 3 May 1788 as Nina in the singspiel Nina by André. This particular performance, a brilliant success, had to be repeated three days in a row. She continued to develop her enormous talent, reaching her pinnacle in the tragedies of Schiller. —

After divorcing her husband, Unzelmann, in 1803, on 26 May 1805 she married the actor Heinrich Eduard Bethmann (born 1774 in Rosenthal near Hildesheim), who was already engaged at the Royal National theater, which he left, however, soon after the death of his wife on 16 August 1815, who also belonged to that company up till her death.

The earthly remains of the celebrated artist rest next to those of Iffland — who had died on 22 September 1814 — in Berlin in the Jerusalem Cemetery next to the Halle Gate; an undecorated plate with the name of the deceased on the wall over her grave marks the spot.

IX. Friederike Bethmann’s Letters to Her Husband, June–July 1815. The following excerpts from a letter to her husband, Heinrich Eduard Bethmann, give Friederike a voice apart from the stage itself and, of course, the accounts of others: [33]

She writes from Weimar on 15 June 1815:

|286| I like it here very much indeed and have been quite cordially received. If you were here, there would be nothing left to desire; as it is, however, that which is dearest to me in the world is exactly what I lack, namely, your dear company. — The day before yesterday we went |287| to the theater and saw a performance of Johann von Paris; [34] I liked it better than the performance at home [in Berlin] because Mademoiselle Jagemann performed and looked much better, and because [Karl] Strohmeyer [1780–1844] sang and performed much better than Madam Müller and [Lebrecht Gottlieb von] Rebenstein [1788–1832]; the orchestra is utterly beneath criticism.

Yesterday I had a tour of the castle, which is quite beautiful, and where I was piqued to find that my statue is displayed here rather than in the Berlin castle, and that so little is done to honor artists there at home. At the theater we then saw a performance of Adolph und Clara, [35] in which Carl alone was any good, whereas Madam Heigendorf was quite dreadful; then Die Mitschuldigen, [36] in which everyone was dreadful.

Just as, in a general sense, the theater is quite miserable here; Herr Wolf was especially miserable and pathetic. That evening I dined on nothing but silver at the home of Madam Heigendorf; the duke was unable to attend because our crown prince [Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1795–1861)] is here, with whom he dined.

Today we saw Camilla, [37] and tomorrow morning we will travel on further. Only imagine, Madam Schütz is performing guest roles in Bauzen, earning 100 Thaler for four roles. Remarkable how far things can get with — — — — people!

She continues in a letter from Liebenstein on 18 June 1815: [38]

|287| I was charmed by my hometown, Gotha; it is truly something divine, and I have every reason to be glad that I myself come from such a beautiful place. . . .

But I still owe you a description of Camilla. Here it is. I went to the theater with great expectations but was sorely disappointed. Herr Strohochse [Karl Strohmeyer] cannot compare even remotely with Fischer; his voice is all he has, he sings badly, that is: utterly without taste, and |288| really does perform like a straw man or fool’s gold, moreover constantly behaving in a most inelegant and nonchalante fashion. She whom you formerly worshiped sang badly and performed her entire role miserably except for a single moment, when she sees the child starving to death and her chilly stiffness left her somewhat.

Although young Herr Genast, with whom Papa is so taken that he insists he has a voice like Strohmeyer, performed the role of Rebenstein like a lampost, he had stuffed a couple of calves for himself compared to which those of fat Herr Koch looked like pipe stems; then the other figure as gaunt as lanky Weber; indeed, stuffing and being monotonous seem in general to be the primary characteristics of actors in Weimar.

Madame Wolf gave a speech in honor of the grand duchess in a tinkle-tone voice, and though she was wearing an extremely extravagant dress nonetheless did not carry a fan, which is like a man insisting on not wearing a hat at such an occasion; in general, no one has any idea of what is proper.

Another part of Friederike Unzelmann’s personality emerges in a letter from Liebenstein on 23 June 1815:

|289| The countryside here surpasses anything you ever saw in Töplitz; it is simply impossible to imagine it this charming. The house where I am staying is located on top of a mountain and beside a mountain; in front of my door there is a beautiful terrace with countless linden trees and benches, then a rock spring, then a large, green space with a large spring fountain. The back of the house is located next to the large castle garden, which extends up the mountain and from which one can then get right to the ruins.

To the side of the house there is an extremely dark area with large trees, and from the rocks water plunges into a pool, in a grotto; one of my windows looks out on it. Though all this is admittedly divinely beautiful, there are no people to animate the landscape; of course, only one person is really lacking for me, and he surpasses the entire human race, and without him everything is dead for me in any case, and I am only half alive when I am unable to share my life with him. —

Once we are back together again, let us worry about us alone, and otherwise laugh at the world of the theater rather than let it annoy us. I am always with you in thought and am happy every day to know that our separation is becoming ever shorter.

From Liebenstein on 3 July 1815:

|290| . . . Your assurances of your love and faithfulness animate and strengthen my heart; it has only been here in the evening of my life that I received a heart worthy of my own after having squandered that heart in the spring of my life on ungrateful and bad people who were utterly unworthy of me. In return I am yours in body and soul, and however I can contribute to your happiness will but secure my own.

From Liebenstein on 10 July 1815:

|290| Tell no one that I will be returning [to Berlin] earlier, for I wish to keep the days yet left to me for myself, and do not want to get back into the yoke so quickly. . . .

An indication of the celebrity status of Friederike during this period is reflected in her frequent invitations from nobility; from Liebenstein on 19 July 1815:

|292| The weather is constantly dreadful, and society just as little to be enjoyed, for the people know not why they are living; though they are sincerely good, they are also equally stupid.

I am tired of it! like Margrave Azo.

Count Hatzfeld, who was formerly an envoy in Berlin, is also here; but he is no longer at all as good company as before, and as such he fits in quite well with the others; I cannot even make fun of the others with him.

Let me entreat you again not to tell anyone connected with the theater that I am returning earlier. I want to enjoy my leave of absence in peace.

We have already had tea several times with the duchess, yesterday as well, when she had no rest until she made me sing. I sang the Cavatine from the Marriage of Figaro and with Madam Limann the duet from the Swiss Family, then also a small duet without accompaniment, and everyone was delighted and could not thank me enough; a certain Princess Hohenlohe was also there, a sister-in-law of the former one. The entire court is so remarkably human that one must be mindful not to forget where one is.


X. Epilog. Friederike Bethmann died in Berlin from unknown causes on 16 August 1815, that is, shortly after writing these letters. She is buried in Cemetery II of the Jerusalems- und Neue Kirchengemeinde in Berlin alongside her son, Friedrich Unzelmann.


[*] Based on Erich Schmidt, (1913), 1:724n202. — The literature on Friederike Unzelmann is extensive. Besides the adulation — though also criticism — reflected in contemporary accounts and countless reviews of her performances, there are also numerous anecdotal accounts, e.g., of her being cited by the Berlin authorities for insulting the theater audience for having, in their own turn, allegedly insulted her daughter onstage (Ruth B. Emde, “Zwei Berliner Theaterskandale: Friederike Bethmann-Unzelmann,” in Emde, Schauspielerinnen im Europa des 18. Jahrhunderts: Ihr Leben, ihre Schriften und ihr Publikum [Amsterdam, Atlanta 1997], 291–97), or as general reminiscences (Bilder aus Romantik und Biedermeier: Erlebnisse von F. W. Gubitz, ed. Paul Friedrich [Berlin 1922], in the chapter “Der Theaterdichter und Rezensent [1809–1817]”). See in general also Irmgard Laskus, Friederike Bethmann-Unzelmann: Versuch einer Rekonstruktion ihrer Schauspielkunst auf Grund ihrer Hauptrollen (Leipzig 1927). Back.

[1] Schriften, vol. 5, Phantasus. Zweiter Theil (Berlin 1828) (a volume Tieck dedicates to “W. v. Schlegel in Bonn”) 471–72. Back.

[2] The beautiful, naive, virtuous Indian girl (a “child of nature,” according to her father) in Kotzebue’s Die Indianer in England (Leipzig 1790) (N.B. Indians from India rather than North America); see also Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in March 1797 (letter 181) (Friedrike Unzelmann as Gurli; unknown artist):


To open a gallery of Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s illustrations to Kotzebue’s Die Indianer in England, references to which occur elsewhere as well in this correspondence, click on the image below:



[3] In Lessing’s Emilia Galotti, first performed in Braunschweig on 13 March 1772, published in Lessing’s Trauerspiele (Berlin 1772) 241–394. Back.

[4] In Goethe’s Iphigenie auf Tauris. Ein Schauspiel, unpublished, second prose version 1783, verse version published in Goethe’s Schriften, vol. 3 (Leipzig 1787) 1–136. Back.

[5] In Schiller’s Maria Stuart. Ein Trauerspiel (Tübingen 1801). Back.

[5a] Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer, Friedrich Ludwig Schröder. Beitrag zur Kunde des Menschen und des Künstlers, 2 parts in 3 vols. (part 2 in 2 vols.) (Hamburg 1819; rev. ed. Hamburg 1823) 2:142–45. Back.

[6] In the play Nina, oder Wahnsinn aus Liebe. Back.

[7] August von Kotzebue, Armuth und Edelsinn. Ein Lustspiel in drey Aufzügen (Leipzig 1795). Back.

[8] August Wilhelm Iffland, Die Aussteuer: Ein Schauspiel in fünf Aufzügen (Leipzig 1796). Back.

[9] Christian August Vulpius, Die neuen Arkadier: Eine heroisch- komische Oper in zwei Aufzügen (Weimar 1796). Back.

[10] Schiller, Kabale und Liebe. Ein bürgerliches Trauerspiel in fünf Aufzügen (Mannheim 1784). Back.

[11] Goethe, Egmont, in Goethe’s Schriften, vol. 5 (Leipzig 1788) 1–198. Back.

[11a] Friedrich Ludwig Schröder. Beitrag zur Kunde des Menschen und des Künstlers, 2:201–2. Back.

[12] Princess Eboli, one of the queen’s attendants in Schiller’s Don Carlos. Infant von Spanien (Leipzig 1787). The actress Karoline Bauer relates an anecdote about Friederike Unzelmann in this role in her memoirs, Aus meinem Bühnenleben. Erinnerungen von Karoline Bauer, ed. Arnold Wellmer, 2 vols., 2nd ed. (Berlin 1877) 2:123–24:

A very nice anecdote indeed has been preserved involving Franz Mattausch in the role of Don Carlos and Friederike Unzelmann in that of Princess Eboli, one attesting especially the ingenious presence of mind of the great Friederike.

It is the gripping scene (act 2, scene 8) in which the princess, in love and blinded by passion, has given Philipp II’s letter to his son, a letter equally compromising for both her and the king; Carlos holds the letter up and rejoices (trans. Don Carlos. A dramatic Poem, from Schiller’s Works, ed. J. G. Fischer, vol. 2 [Philadelphia 1883] 35):

Carlos This letter comes, then, from the King! Princess,
That changes all indeed, and quickly, too.
This letter is beyond all value — priceless!
All Philip’s crowns are worthless and too poor
To win it from my hands. I’ll keep this letter.

But Eboli throws herself before him in vain.

Eboli (Throwing herself prostrate before him as he is going.) Almighty Heaven!
then I am lost for ever!

Carlos exits triumphantly with his precious letter . . . but, O malheur, our good, somewhat careless Franz Mattausch drops the letter onto the stage without noticing. Everyone in the audience — as well as Eboli-Unzelmann — immediately notices.

But what can be done to prevent this tragic-passionate scene from becoming a farce? Friederike Unzelmann hesitates not a single heartbeat. Before the audience has had time even to wonder whether it genuinely has reason to break out in derisive laughter — like a lightning bolt — like an igniting spark — like a panther, the ingenious lady pounces on the dangerous, compromising letter, rips it to shreds and — casts it from herself with the cry of despair:

My God, not the right one!

She then rushes to the door and cries out:

Prince! yet another word! Prince, listen — but he departs!

And the Berliner — how enthusiastically do they cheer their magnificent — their one and only Unzelmann! Back.

[13] Journal des Luxus und der Moden 17 (1802) March 136–48, here 139. Back.

[14] Cited in Krieg, Literatur und Theater: Mittheilungen zur neueren Geschichte, ed. Wilhelm Dorow (Leizpig 1845) 288 (not 287 as in Schmidt [1913] 1:724n202]). Dorow in general provides considerable biographical material from Friederike Unzelmann’s life, his section subtitles and pagination including:

Friederike Unzelmann, later Bethmann (263–65);
A. a–f. Briefe und Gedichte von Brinckmann und A. W. Schlegel an dieselbe (266–73);
B. Briefe Seiner Majestäat Friedrich Wilhelms III., des Grosskanzlers Beyme und Ifflands an dieselbe (273–76);
C. Ueber den beabsichtigten Abgang der Bethmann in Briefen des Königs, Fürsten von Hardenberg, und von Stägemanns im Jahr 1812 (276–80);
D. Die Errichtung eines Monuments für Iffland durch Madame Bethmann 1814, in Briefen des Königs Majestät, Fürsten von Hardenberg, Göthes, Kotzebues, K. Winklers (Theodor Hell) (280–86);
E. Auszüge aus Briefen der Bethmann an ihren Mann (286–92).

This present supplementary appendix includes some (though not all) the materials from E (excerpts from her letters to her husband and all the poems to her composed by Wilhelm Schlegel, i.e., more of the latter than are included in Dorow’s material). Back.

[14a] In order: (a) engraving by Isaac Jacob Clauce after Friedrich Wilhelm Bollinger, reproduced in Paul Legband, “Die Schauspielerfamilie Unzelmann,” Bühne und Welt: Zeitschrift für Theaterwesen, Litteratur und Musik 5 (1903) no. II (April 1903–September 1903) 887–94, here 891; (b) Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung, Porträtsammlung, Inventar-Nr. PORT_00015192_01, from the former portrait collection of the directorship of the k.k. Hoftheater, from 1921 part of the Porträtsammlung der Nationalbibliothek; by permission; (c) As Cinderella in the opera of that name Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig: Inventarnummer K/464/2003 GOS-Nr. gr017856. Back.

[14b] In order in the gallery: as Lady Macbeth from Wilhelm and Moritz Henschel, Caractere der Madame Bethmann, vol. 1,6 of Ifflands Mimische Darstellungen für Schauspieler und Zeichner: Während der Vorstellung gezeichnet zu Berlin in den Jahren 1808 bis 1811 / verfertigt und hrsg. von den Gebrüder Henschel (Berlin 1811); and as Nina: engravings after Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung, Porträtsammlung, Inventar-Nr. PORT_00015189_01, PORT_00015189_02, from the former portrait collection of the directorship of the k.k. Hoftheater, from 1921 part of the Porträtsammlung der Nationalbibliothek; by permission.

Concerning the 1799 performance as Nina, see esp. the review (interestingly with slightly different versions of these two illustrations) by Johann Gottlieb Rhode in the Berlin: eine Zeitschrift für Freunde der schönen Künste, des Geschmacks und der Moden 1 (1799), “Ueber die Oper: Nina, oder Wahnsinn aus Liebe,” who emphasizes that these engravings demonstrate Friederike Unzelmann’s art rather than provide an accurate portrait of her. Back.

[15] The sketches were reprinted in part in Karl von Holtei, “Die verstorbene Bethmann (Friederike Unzelmann) in Breslau,” Beiträge zur Geschichte dramatischer Kunst und Literatur 3 (1828) no. 3, 221–59 (albeit with an incorrect title for the original). The roles described include (with original pagination as well as the pagination in Holtei’s reprint):

(1) 5–10 (222–27 in Holtei): as Orsina in Lessing’s Emilia Galotti;
(2) 11–16 (227–32 in Holtei): as Gurli in August von Kotzebue’s Die Indianer in England;
(3) 17–20 (232–35 in Holtei): as Blanca in August von Kotzebue’s Bayard, in Neue Schauspiele, vol. 8 (Leipzig 1801) 3–272;
(4) 21–24 (235–38 in Holtei): as Nina in d’Alayrac’s Nina;
(5) 25 (238 in Holtei): as Minchen in Kotzebue’s Das neue Jahrhundert, published in Kotzebue’s Neue Schauspiele, vol. 5 (Leipzig 1801) 1–90;
(6) 25–28 (238–41 in Holtei): as the title character in Kotzebue’s Johanna von Montfaucon (Leipzig 1800);
(7) 29–35 (242–44 in Holtei): as Josephine in Kotzebue’s Armuth und Edelsinn (Leipzig 1795);
(8) 36–37 (not in Holtei): as Rosine in Johann Rautenstrauch, Der Jurist und der Bauer (Vienna 1791);
(9) 38–41 (not in Holtei): as Julie in Iffland’s Mann von Wort (Leipzig 1800);
(10) 42 (not in Holtei): as Gigania in Christian August Vulpius, Die neuen Arkadier (Weimar 1796);
(11) 43–53 (not in Holtei): as Maria Stuart in Schiller’s Maria Stuart (Tübingen 1801);
(12) 54–58 (not in Holtei): as the Princess in Iffland’s Elise von Valberg (Leipzig 1792);
(13) 59–60 (not in Holtei): as Eulalia in Kotzebue’s Menschenhass und Reue (Berlin 1790);
(14) 65–68 (245–49 in Holtei): as Minna Barnhelm in Lessing’s Minna von Barnhelm oder Das Soldatenglück: Ein Lustspiel in fünf Aufzügen (Berlin 1767);
(15) 69–70 (249–50): as Collin, in Johann Friedrich Reichardt’s Lieb’ und Treue: Ein Liederspiel in einem Akt (1800);
(16) 71 (251 in Holtei): as Medea in Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter, Medea, music by Georg Benda (Gotha 1775);
(17) 72–76 (251–55 in Holtei): as Madame Fresen in Iffland’s Der Fremde (Leipzig 1800);
(18) 77–80 (255–59 in Holtei): as Chatinka in Franz Kratter’s Das Mädchen von Marienburg. Ein fürstliches Familiengemälde (Frankfurt 1795).

See Wilhelm Schlegel to Goethe on 14 August 1801 concerning the whereabouts of Friederike Unzelmann just prior to her guest appearances in Weimar between 19 September and 2 October 1801 (letter 327c):

[She is] presently in Breslau, whence she wrote me on 1 August that she had already appeared once and was performing one day after the other. Hence the twelve roles for which she has been engaged will have been performed before the end of August. In the meantime, however, since she will likely also be performing a number of others, she will remain there until early September.

Ongoing reviews of these Breslau performances were published over several issues in Die Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1801). Back.

[16] August von Kotzebue, Die Corsen (Leipzig 1799) (often spelled Korsen in letters and memoirs). Back.

[17] Schiller, Kabale und Liebe, act 3, scene 6. Back.

[18] Act 4, scene 7. Back.

[19] J. J. Engel, Der dankbare Sohn: ein ländliches Lustspiel in einam Aufzuge (Vienna 1772). Back.

[20] Louis-Sébastien Mercier, La brouette du vinaigrier (Neuchatel 1775), trans. by Friedrich Ludwig Schröder as Der Essigmann mit seinem Schubkarren: Schauspiel in 2 Acten (publication uncertain). Back.

[21] In Lessing’s Emilia Galotti. Back.

[22] O. H. Gemmingen, Der teutsche Hausvater (Mannheim 1780). Back.

[23] Thalia, muse of comedy; Melpoemene, muse of tragedy. Back.

[24] Sämmtliche Werke 9:228 reads “nature” (Natur). Back.

[25] Dorothea Veit, “Die Aufführung der Nina,” Europa, eine Zeitschrift 1 (1803), 171–74, here the primary passages concerning Friederike Unzelmann:

Madame [Joly] St. Aubin, the best actress in the comic National Theater, or Theater Feydeau, performed the role of Nina to considerable applause; she is renowned within this particular genre of the highly sentimental, which here is called naive. Because one is glad to have the opportunity in Paris to be reminded of Germany, we, too, went to see Nina solely with the intention of having it evoke the performance of Madame Unzelmann in this role; in very few passages indeed, however, can the French actress compare well with the latter.

It is, after all, highly peculiar that precisely this character, created by a Frenchman who presumably found or at least viewed his model in one of his female compatriots, has been performed by a German actress with by far greater subtlety, with incomparably more delicatesse, and by far with more feeling than by the French actress.

Although Madame St. Aubin’s figure is not displeasing, and though she is quite nicely suited as a soubrette or young peasant woman, she is by no means Nina, nor can she be compared in this regard with the soft, hovering, as it were disembodied essence of the German actress.

One was unpleasantly distracted by the noise of every step she took; every movement was harsh, abrupt, and unmusical. Even her tone of voice — which in Madame Unzelmann is quaking, unsteady, delicate, melting, and then light, with cheerful, childlike melancholy, like the irregular, fantasy-rich tones of a [glass] harmonica — was here a bit deep, almost ordinary, without inner modulation, shrieking, whining, and as if spoken in her sleep in the passages depicting the madwoman, just as in general she exhibited more the appearance of an imbecile than a madwoman.

The transitions were harsh and sudden, or stiff and beholden to cadence. Nothing of the sweet, yearning surrender, the expression of inner love in the moments of remembrance, nor anything of the upright, refined propriety of good upbringing and noble manners that never leave Madame Unzelmann and, as it were, surround the disordered girl like a guardian angel. . . .

Madame St. Aubin performed neither as tastefully nor as appropriately as Madame Unzelmann is wont to do. . . . That said, the performance of what is in part such moving music was excellent; although the orchestra itself is well appointed and very well rehearsed, Madame St. Aubin’s singing remains far behind that of Madame Unzelmann.

In any event, our goal was attained: we were reminded of Germany, and in the most pleasant fashion at that, for the German actress’s victory over the French actress could not have been more complete. Back.

[26] Fr., “infatuation.” Back.

[27] Lord Bristol was a rich Englishman living in Rome who, because of his wealth, sought to play the art critic and, as it were, bully others into joining his opinions. “He particularly hates Raphael,” so J. G. Seume, Spaziergang nach Syrakus im Jahre 1802 (Braunschweig, Leipzig 1803) 380–83, here 380. Back.

[28] An ell, a measure varying considerably in its length but at the time generally taken as being shorter than an English yard. Back.

[29] Titus 1:15. Back.

[30] Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, 4 vols. (London 1749), vol. 4, book 16, chap. 5, 166–67:

Little more worth remembring occurred during the Play; at the End of which Jones asked him [Partridge], “which of the Players he had liked best?” To this he answered, with some Appearance of Indignation at the Question, “The King without Doubt.” “Indeed, Mr. Partridge,” says Mrs. Miller, “you are not of the same Opinion with the Town; for they are all agreed, that Hamlet is acted by the best Player who was ever on the Stage.” “He the best Player!” cries Partridge, with a contemptuous Sneer, “Why I could act as well as he myself. I am sure if I had seen a Ghost, I should have looked in the very same Manner, and done just as he did. And then, to be sure, in that Scene, as you called it, between him and his Mother, where you told me he acted so fine, why, Lord help me, any Man, that is, any good Man, that had had such a Mother, would have done exactly the same. I know you are only joking with me; but, indeed, Madam, though I was never at a Play in London, yet I have seen Acting before in the Country; and the King for my Money; he speaks all his Words distinctly, half as loud again as the other. — Any Body may see he is an Actor.” Back.

[31] In order: “Das Feenkind: An Friederike Unzelmann” (Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, 101–6; Sämmtliche Werke 1:235–39); “An Friederike Unzelmann bei Uebersendung meiner Gedichte” (Sämmtliche Werke 1:240–41); “Die Schauspielerin Friederike Unzelmann an das Publicum, als sie am Schluss des Schauspiels herausgerufen wurde” (Sämmtliche Werke 1:242); “An Friederike Unzelmann als Nina” (Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1799, 73; Sämmtliche Werke, 1:243); “Friederike Unzelmann” (Sämmtliche Werke 2:37); “An Fr[iederike] U[nzelmann]” (Sämmtliche Werke 2:38). Back.

[31b] Sämmtliche Werke 4:51 (manuscript: Dresden B); translation: Petrarch, The Sonnets, Triumphs, and Other Poems of Petrarch, trans. by “various hands” (London 1875), 198. Back.

[32] And 1768 according to yet others, including her gravestone in Berlin. Back.

[33] All excerpts from “Auszüge aus Briefen der Friederike Bethmann an ihren Mann,” Krieg, Literatur und Theater, 286–92. Back.

[34] Joseph Ritter von Seyfried, Herr Johann von Paris. Eine komische Oper in zwey Aufzügen, nach dem Französischen des St. Just, music by Boieldieu (Vienna 1812). Back.

[35] Nicolas d’Alayrac, Adolph und Clara, oder: die beiden Gefangenen. Singspiel in 1. Act; performed 14 June 1815 in Weimar. Back.

[36] Goethe, Die Mitschuldigen, in Goethe’s Schriften, vol. 2 (Leipzig 1787) 241–368. Back.

[37] Ferdinando Paër, Camilla: eine Oper in 3 Akten (Bonn 1799), performed on 15 June 1815 in Weimar with Caroline Jagemann as Camilla. Back.

[38] Liebenstein (officially Bad Liebenstein after 1907; the name originally applied only to the castle whose ruins Friederike will also mention), a mineral-springs and health spa in the northwestern part of the Thuringian Forest, approx. 70 km west Weimar and just east of Salzungen (maps in order: Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]; Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no.18):



It is surrounded by several mountains, to which Friederike also refers in her letter (H. Schwerdt and Z. Ziegler, Meyers Reisebücher: Thüringen, 2nd ed. [Hildburghausen 1871], plate following p. 287):


Here the castle ruins above the town (Ludwig Bechstein, Wanderungen durch Thüringen, Das malerische und romantische Deutschland in zehn Sektionen 4 [Leipzig n.d.], plate following p. 268):


That she was taking a leave of absence from the Berlin theater and died unexpectedly on 16 August 1801, apparently shortly after arriving back in Berlin and shortly after writing these letters, suggests she was here for what was apparently an otherwise unspecified but serious health condition. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott