Suppementary Appendix: Garlieb Merkel on C. G. Schütz, the A.L.Z., and Wilhelm Schlegel

Garlieb Merkel on Christian Gottfried Schütz,
the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, and Wilhelm Schlegel [*]

|77| Schütz was reckoned among the most famous scholars in Jena. Even Wolf and the elderly Voss, the translator of Homer, Virgil, etc., spoke with great respect about his philological erudition. Like Wolf, however, he was at once also a witty intellect, a philosophical thinker, and — something Wolf was not — a deft literary businessman and quite resolute and determined in all the practical areas of life.

Although he was allegedly not happy in his family life, the assertion — supported by proofs adduced to the contrary — was made that he was in fact not being deceived, but rather merely derisively overlooking what he could not prevent. Once when his son, as a student, presented one of Schütz’s colleagues with a tin-kettle serenade and smashed in his windows, Schütz said to him: “If you are intent on pulling such boyish pranks, then you do not belong at the university,” thereupon sending him back to the Gymnasium in Gotha for another year.

Such were the stories one heard. These and similar features, along with the Rhadamanthus role attributed to him in literature, [1] made me eager to behold his external appearance, which I imagined as being quite stately and imposing. I found myself quite disappointed, however, when an occasion I no longer recall led me to make his acquaintance. Instead of the powerful man I was expecting, I saw a withered, tired figure with a dull gaze. Only an occasionally mischievous ray from his eyes and a bit of hastiness in his speech and movements, though admittedly considerably more the spirit of his speech, concurred to a certain extent with the idea I had conceived of him.

Otherwise everything about him bore the stamp of a man who, in the words of an extremely accurate expression |78| I once heard, had sat himself into a crumple at his writing desk. Even his gait attested scholarly neglect; he always stepped forward first on his heels. His conversation, animated and full of witticisms, demonstrated not only his considerable erudition, but also — which is much more — his penetrating understanding, though here, too, a certain erosion had become discernible, namely, of his inner disposition. He had examined and considered an entire world of ideas and objects, and now sensed that there was nothing new that might yet ardently interest him.

He received me quite cordially and invited me over a couple of times as his guest, where — thanks to his tasteful wife — things were almost as elegant as at the home of Loder, and even when I had left Weimar, he yet demonstrated more than once his cordial attitude toward me. For example, during my stay in Copenhagen, an extremely insidious attack on me had been sent in to the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, to wit in the form of questions that had to be answered within a stipulated time, which, however, I at that great distance could not possibly have accommodated. Schütz put it aside until I had returned to Weimar. Only then was it printed and refuted with all due haste.

As a professor, Schütz provided very little for the university at the time. In the six months I spent there, he only announced — and quite late, at that — a single lecture course of three hours a week, if I recall correctly. This announcement created a stir among the students, who were overjoyed at the prospect of hearing him lecture once more. At the third of fourth lecture, however, he declared himself unable to continue because of his sickliness; he even allowed the students to take back their honorarium, which was no small |79| sacrifice if all those subscribers genuinely had paid. For there were over one-hundred-fifty attendees, and the modest honorarium was, after all, three Laubthaler. This cancelation was universally lamented, for Schütz lectured as intelligently and with as much attention-riveting animation as Platner, and yet much more thoroughly. I never heard a better docent. Perhaps Wolf alone might have surpassed him.

Schütz genuinely did suffer from chronic physical ailments, likely the result of his sitting so long during his studies and writing. The main obstacle to his lectures, however, was the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, whose editorial duties burdened him with a truly infinite amount of work.

The establishment of this newspaper — one that for many, many years was extremely important — was in fact the implementation of a quite fortunate idea conceived at the right time. I myself do not know who originally came up with the idea, whether Bertuch or Schütz; but the alliance precisely of these two men in its implementation did in any case ensure its success from the outset.

The situation of criticism at large in Germany at the time contributed most to the newspaper’s advantageous position. There were essentially only two critical periodicals of note that the new newspaper would have to surpass. The Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen, which had commenced with the founding of the university in Göttingen and was initially supported — or rather guided — by the great Haller, had maintained its dignified reputation and continued to offer quite valuable assessments in a dignified tone; its weekly pages, however, published in octavo format, were much too stingy to expand beyond only the most important publications in scholarly literature.


The Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliothek, founded, edited, and published by Friedrich Nicolai in Berlin, though |80| encompassing all the branches of literature, nonetheless in every respect bore the imprint of narrow-minded, bibliopolic speculation, speaking only about such writings that were published in Germany itself, since only such tended to appear and be noted at the Leipzig book fair. Its external, narrow German font on gray printing paper was anything but inviting and demonstrated all too clearly that the paper was calculated to produce high profits. The honorarium offered to scholarly contributors was calculated according to the standard that had obtained at the middle of the century and was too paltry to lure or compensate any genuinely active participation.


Its greatest transgression, however, was the one-sided, narrow disposition in which it was edited. Nicolai, a well-informed man but neither a scholar nor a philosophical thinker, nonetheless considered himself both because Lessing and Mendelssohn had once been his friends, and he considered himself capable of functioning as a literary authority because respected intellects had joined him and his Bibliothek simply for want of any more appealing center.

Although he genuinely did acquire considerable influence for several years, such could not but be diminished by the appearance of talented younger minds and the continued development in the various scholarly disciplines and literature. Because he was soon unable to keep up with this development, both he and most of the friends who had aged along with him fell prey to the age-related foible of viewing the level at which they themselves stood as the pinnacle of knowledge and accomplishment. He tried to prohibit forward movement, directed refined hostility toward anything and everything new, and — quickly became the object of various ridicule.

Besides these two critical periodicals, various so-called scholarly newspapers had emerged in |81| Gotha, Erfurt, and several other smaller towns where this or that bright, though also dull writer and a bookseller possessed a modest measure of entrepreneurial spirit. These papers vegetated along for a shorter or longer period of time without receiving much attention. Even some political newspapers also offered book reviews. But all these publications merely revealed the need for a well-organized critical organ without, however, fully satisfying that need, and all were then overshadowed once the plan of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung itself emerged.


Conceived according to scholarly rather than bibliopolic goals, this plan encompassed the entire literature of cultivated nations and aimed at promoting the progress and development of all scholarly disciplines by providing news about them quickly, for it was to appear daily as a full half printing sheet in quarto format. At the head of each specialized discipline it positioned a scholar renowned in precisely that discipline, albeit with the guarantee that there was to be no coercion applied to his equals in the discipline in the expression of their opinions; when necessary, several different assessments of one and the same object of discussion were to be published. —

The not insignificant honorarium of 18 Thaler in gold per printing sheet, and even the novel external appearance of the newspaper, contributed toward it quickly acquiring an authority before which everyone bowed. The greatest philosopher of the age, Kant, inaugurated things by reviewing the most admired work of the period, namely, Herder’s Ideen, [2] unfortunately by belittling it. — A separate, large house was built outside Jena as the editorial headquarters, in which Schütz himself |82| lived and which among students and residents alike was known simply as the Literatur.

The concept underlying the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung was without a doubt an extremely grand and perspicacious one for Germany at the that time, as was also its initial implementation, behind which one could everywhere discern the support of a highly cultivated — if not rich and powerful — prince and his wise minister, Geheimrath Voigt.

The initial effects of the Literatur-Zeitung were trenchant, considerable, and beneficent. It was through its influence alone that German literature first acquired a center of the sort none of the many capitals and residences in Germany at the time were able to provide, as well as an identifiable character and the appropriate respect among other nations; these effects, moreover, endured and indeed continued to grow even as the newspaper itself was already in demise. When I myself came to Germany, this demise was already discernible and the underlying reason silently acknowledged.

Schütz, sickly and no longer a young man, was not long able to do justice both to the enormous workload associated with editing the newspaper, on the one hand, and his obligations as a professor, on the other. He felt exhausted and had to seek assistance not merely for the business part — such assistants were not risky in any case — but also for the intellectual part, for the thinking involved in the enterprise, — and it was in the latter case that each person had to be assured a certain room for free play, that is, for bringing himself and his own individuality to bear, something that could and indeed did become a problem.

Schütz’s choice fell on young men of scholarly background and intellect; their intellect and their goals, however, were not the ones originally driving the periodical, and as such they distorted its character and led the periodical itself down |83| false paths.

One of the earliest assistants was Reinhold, a former monk who had been received into Wieland’s house and indeed had become the latter’s son-in-law, in which regard, he had to choose a specific scholarly discipline and quickly master it such that it might provide him with an income as a normal burgher. He chose what at the time was the still new and relatively unknown critical philosophy, studied it with considerable but, according to the judgment of other Kantians and of Fichte, not particularly successful zeal, published a couple of books and reviews in its spirit, and soon found an income as a professor and contributor to the Literatur-Zeitung that permitted him to marry.

The Literatur-Zeitung itself had raised the flag of Kantian philosophy in its very first issue, though more as a decorative item than genuinely to follow it. But once Reinhold began weaving it increasingly and ubiquitously into the newspaper, treating it, moreover, as the most important element, it was only to be expected that when other reviewers in their own turn began viewing that philosophy as the newspaper’s identifying feature, Kantian principles became, as it were, the livery of the paper’s critics. Although Reinhold was lured away by a lucrative professorship in Kiel, the paper’s ponderous character persisted. New editorial assistants introduced new, strange shades to that character, since the most important thing to every such person involved was to bring himself to bear.

When I myself arrived in Jena, a couple of young men were making decisions at the newspaper whose self-conceit and presumption was provoking general ill will, and whose behavior finally forced Schütz, whom they had even begun pushing to the side, to exclude them from any further contribution.

In what was known as Paradies, a promenade in Jena, I had often encountered a young man who always cut |84| an extremely important countenance. In response to my query who it was, I was told not “His name is,” but rather “That . . . is August Schlegel.” “That . . . is!” This expression already presupposed an acknowledged reputation, so I eagerly asked just what the basis of that reputation might be. “He works with the Literatur-Zeitung.” I was directed to a number of poems and critical treatises . . . and I finally also read some of his translations, which were executed with diligence and skill in rendering the original with considerable faithfulness. . . . A good translator’s relationship with a great writer is like that a scribe capable of painting a beautiful script has with the perspicacious minister whose decrees he prepares. And yet I was convinced that Herr Schlegel’s “ministers,” namely, Dante and Shakespeare, had never appeared with as much pride and sense of importance as Schlegel himself betrayed. I found myself together with him in society on a couple of occasions, and his conversations clearly instructed me that I was dealing with — a blowhole.

Schlegel seems genuinely to have envisioned elevating himself, like Gottsched and then Klotz, to be the omnipotent authority at least in the so-called belles lettres. What he did not have strength enough to create for himself, namely, a setting and instrument, was supplied by the Jena Literatur-Zeitung, [3] whose editors could not but welcome such a formidable, knowledgeable, and at the time tasteful contributor.

Within a very short time, he took control of what was known as the belletrist section, and as the ultimate judge over life and death assumed an extremely refined, aggressive tone. The editors were glad to have his reviews, since Schlegel was, after all, speaking in the name of their newspaper, which especially after |85| the appearance of the Xenien seemed to need something of this sort to help maintain its reputation. [4]

In the meantime, there was a whole series of celebrities who had been there before Schlegel and overshadowed him; one after the other and with increasing vehemence, he attacked those in whose case such attacks seemed expedient, while elevating others. He declared a series of intellects of extremely mediocre talents to be geniuses, and created followers who could not apostatize because their own reputation stood or fell with his own. This particular group included especially his brother, Tieck, Novalis, and whoever otherwise approached him with deep reverence and fit in with the circle.

These developments, too, the owners of the Literatur-Zeitung calmly observed. Schlegel, however, was not interested in possessing merely unproductive authority; it was also to provide him with a good income, something that, people said at the time, eventually created friction and disunion. By expanding most of his own reviews to the size of treatises, Schlegel managed to bring in eight hundred Thaler honorarium in a single year.

The size of this sum finally brought to the editors’ attention the fact that he alone had written a third of the annual volume, leaving for all the other branches of literature and all the other contributors together only two thirds, of which a not inconsiderable portion had similarly been devoted to his friends for belletrist reviews. [5] The editors became understandably nervous about risking the more universal character of their newspaper, and when Schlegel again delivered a treatise instead of a review of Herder’s Terpsichore, Schütz, as editor, struck half of it without conferring with the author. [6]

Schlegel took this indelicacy quite |86| ill. A dispute ensued in which he declared his intention of withdrawing work on the Literatur-Zeitung. The editors accepted this offer, and the previous allies now became enemies. [7]

Although this split did not really damage the newspaper, it did suffer from imitations that emerged in both Leipzig and Erlangen that, although unable genuinely to maintain the same standard, nonetheless did for several years steal from it not a few quite excellent intellects as contributors. [8]

An even greater detriment was that its primary goal had been attained, to wit, that it had indeed stirred Germany’s literary spirit into animated activity, that spirit now being indefatigably engaged in creating new forms through which their form was gradually becoming obsolete.

Finally, the two genuinely split. That is, the newspaper became its own doppelgänger, with Schütz moving to Halle, transferring publication of his own Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung thither, while his previous senior assistant, Eichstädt, supported by the duke, began publishing a continuation of the previous newspaper in Jena, bearing the previous title Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, to which both Goethe and Schiller guaranteed their participation. [9] It was left to the public to decide which newspaper it intended to view as the true continuation. To my knowledge, that decision is yet outstanding.


[*] On this same topic, see also Wilhelm Dilthey on the break between the Romantics and the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (supplementary appendix 258a.1), and, perhaps surprisingly, Urban Wiesing’s essay on the scandal surrounding Auguste’s death.


Source: Garlieb Merkel über Deutschland zur Schiller-Goethe-Zeit (1797 bis 1806), ed. Julius Eckardt (Berlin 1887), 77–86. — Garlieb Merkel, it should be pointed out, became one of the most resolute adversaries of Wilhelm Schlegel and the entire early Romantic circle. His name appears in numerous letters and even satirical verse of the group during the Jena period, even after he himself had relocated to Berlin.

Merkel’s itinerary during the period under discussion in this chapter of his book is of some interest insofar as he does mention, e.g., arriving in Jena, moving to Weimar, and returning from Copenhagen. He had begun studying medicine in Leipzig in the spring of 1796, continuing it then that same autumn in Jena while simultaneously seeking out the company of literati, prompting his move to Weimar in the spring of 1797, where he became a close family acquaintance especially of Herder, who in his own turn facilitated Merkel’s obtaining a position as private secretary to the Danish minister Count Ernst Heinrich von Schimmelmann in Copenhagen in the autumn of 1797. Merkel returned to Weimar in mid-December. Back.

[1] In Greek mythology, one of the three judges of souls in the underworld; here on the right (Carl Ottfried Müller and Carl Osterley, Denkmäler der alten Kunst [Göttingen 1835], plate lvi, no. 275a):



[2] Kant’s review of Herder’s Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, 4 vols. (Riga, Leipzig 1784–91), was published in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1785) 4 (Thursday, 6 January 1785) 17–20, 21–22. Back.

[3] Strictly speaking, the official title of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung was just that, without the qualifier “Jena,” though it was occasionally referred as such. After Schütz moved it to Halle in 1804, its title was still officially Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, though it began being referred as the “Halle” or “Hallesche” Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in contradistinction to its successor in Jena, which was begun by Goethe and Heinrich Karl Abraham Eichstädt and genuinely did bear the official title Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung on its title page.

Concerning the split between the two journals and the new names, see Schelling’s letter to Heinrich Karl Abraham Eichstädt on 20 December 1804 (letter 388f), note 1. Back.

[4] The Xenien were a satirical collection of epigrams concluding Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1797. These Xenien (a title drawn from the Roman poet Martial, referring originally to gifts distributed to departing guests but here used satirically) were authored by both Goethe and Schiller in response to what they considered the uncomprehending and hostile reaction to Schiller’s periodical Die Horen during 1795.

For Caroline’s reaction, see her letters to Luise Gotter on 3 October, 15–17 October, and esp. 22 October 1796 (letters 170, 171, 172).

Christian Gottfried Schütz was the object, e.g., of xenion 82:

82. Sign of Sagittarius [Germ. Schütze, "archer"]
If you have successfully passed by there, approach the aiming Hofrath
With assurance, for he loves and understands this jest.

Schiller thought little of Schütz’s critical ability and after initial participation was uninterested in publishing in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, expressing to Christian Gottlob Voigt on 9 December 1803 his disdain for the “factory of the old literary tooth powder.” Back.

[5] Exaggerated assertions, namely, that Wilhelm was consciously expanding his reviews for the sake of monetary gain and that his reviews occupied a third (and more by extension to his “friends”) of the annual volume. An examination of the volumes for 1796–98 could determine that percentage. Wilhelm, moreover, did not contribute anything during 1799, when the break with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung came about. Nor did he earn eight hundred Thaler in a year solely from these reviews, an unpaginated list of which he published as an addendum at the end of the third volume of Athenaeum (1800) following page 164.

Merkel is writing in hindsight and is conflating years in any case, since this particular initial dispute did not result in an immediate break with the newspaper as he goes on to suggest. Back.

[6] At issue is Wilhelm’s review of Johann Gottfried Herder’s Terpsichore, parts 1–3 (Lübeck 1795–96) in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1797) 53 (Thursday, 16 February 1797) 417–24; 54 (Friday, 17 February 1797) 425–32; 55 (Saturday, 18 February 1797) 433–37 (Sämmtliche Werke 10:376–413).

Schütz did not strike “half of it without conferring with the author,” but rather changed only — as Schütz himself described it — “a couple of turns of phrase at the beginning of your review.” For documentation, see Schütz’s and Wilhelm’s exchange of letters in early December, 10 December, and 25 December 1797 (letters 192a, 192b, 194b). Back.

[7] There was no such break yet; although the dispute did continue to smolder, including later with Schelling, a definitive break, documented in this present edition, did not occur until late 1799. Back.

[8] Leipziger Literatur-Zeitung, Erlanger Literatur-Zeitung. Back.

[9] The previous title was Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung; see note 3 above. — Schiller in fact declined to contribute to the new version. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott