Supplementary Appendix 280.1

Reviews of
(1) Johann Bernhard Vermehren, Briefe über Friedrich Schlegels Lucinde (Jena 1800)
(2) Schleiermacher, Vertraute Briefe über Friedrich Schlegels Lucinde (Lübeck, Leipzig 1800). [*]

Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1800) 366 (Thursday, 25 December 1800) 692–94, 694–96:

Judging from these letters, the author seems to be a morally inclined and modest young man whose understanding, however, currently severely lacks both the training and the enrichment with the knowledge necessary to make any sort of judgment worthy of notice in matters of art.

Although despite his preference for the intellectual sections of the book whose assessment he undertakes he is indeed indignant at the naked and immoral elements of the portrayal itself, and although it seems as if passages such as the following, its concealed Aretinonian prurience notwithstanding, were unable to corrupt his more effectively preserved heart (Lucinde p. 265 [trans. 119]): [1]

The indefinite [viz. in women] is more mysterious, but the definite [in men] has greater magical power. The charming confusion of the indefinite is more romantic, but the noble refinement of the definite is more like genius etc.,

nonetheless the golden tinsel strewn about in them did succeed in bribing his understanding. Hence one everywhere finds echoes from Lucinde, e.g., p. 128, where he writes that “clothes are a monstrous product of propriety and convention; garments that cover everything merely attest a morally corrupt culture” etc., which applied in the fashion of a parody to objects of different provenance might sound equally as good: “Apothecaries are a monstrous product of propriety and convention, and apothecary beakers attest a morally corrupt culture.”

The question is merely: what next? Would it be advisable to shatter all apothecary beakers and close down the apothecaries? And until such crucial questions are answered, I would think we should also relieve girls of their scarves. When the author does here and there begin to pursue a soundly motivated artistic judgment on his venerated author, an element of moderatism that is unfortunately painfully out of place in such matters leads him astray yet again.

For example, although he does indeed note the high degree of psychological wrongheadedness in having a loving couple, in the midst of the most ardent, indeed smoldering emotions of passion, expound subtle explications on the nature of jealously (Lucinde p. 102 [trans. 72–76]), he does not notice that the beginning of this same conversation, where the pedantically adorned Julius borrows a metaphor from little Wilhelmine while walking through the door with a naive “please! please!” [trans. 68] is just as wrongheaded and unsuccessful; quite to the contrary, the author views this as an accurate character portrayal.

Hence it should come as no surprise that in his eyes, Herr Schlegel’s poetically cast prose appears as pure and genuine poesy. As an example, he adduces the following passage from Lucinde, one which, as is usually the case, is light on ideas and heavy on words, imagery, and metaphors (Lucinde p. 220 [trans. 106]):

When the sunlight of happiness is refracted by the last tear of yearning, Iris is already painting the eternal brow of heaven with the delicate colors of her rainbow. The happy dreams come true, and the pure outlines of a new world arise from Lethe’s waves, beautiful as Anadyomene, and unfold their shapes in place of the vanished darkness.

The desire to surpass such profusely colored, unpoetic frostiness generates metaphors such as that on p. 42, where one of the ideas that hovered before the author while composing his Lucinde is called a “star” around which the suns of his genius allegedly revolve, and on p. 48, where those who are pure in love are similarly compared to two stars, and those of the opposing dynamic with a pair of hostile comets that intersect at but a single point. One can at least see here that if this discourse does lack a bit of light and warmth here and there, the guilt is not to be ascribed to the author, who did, after all, enlist virtually the entire firmament in his service.

One would hope that in the meantime writers such as Schiller and Goethe will not ask that the reviewer, after such examples, adduce examples prompting Herr Vermehren to call Wallenstein a completely drastic drama and to declare Wilhelm Meister a perfect novel protagonist. Nor why he attributes considerable aesthetic beauty to what really are rather garishly articulated conditions of sensual desire in Maria Stuart, namely, when she meets with the rapturous Mortimer. [2] None of this is anything other than tiresome echoes of the Schlegelian school and as such deserve no further mention.

Something a bit funnier is the comparison between [Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi] Woldemar [Flensburg 1779] and Lucinde drawn in the fashion of a surgical procedure. It reads as follows (p. 213): “Woldemar gives us from above what Lucinde gives us from below.” — This reviewer concurs completely with the author here and does not doubt for a moment that posterity will not hesitate to make use of Lucinde — from below.

On p. 230 Herr Vermehren politely bows before the editors of the [Berlin periodical] Archiv der Zeit. As is well known, this grand literary journal, in addition to its many bundles and packages also has a small critical trailer in which it often enough takes along both friends and blind passengers for almost nothing. This time, it took pity on poor, universally censored Lucinde and allotted her a comfortable seat.

There are, however, those among the public who can only shake their heads at such behavior, not least when they recall that the same editors, not a year-and-a-half ago, took offense at certain Hellenic miscreations that Herr Schlegel was inclined, in the first issue of Athenaeum, to refer to as pure poesy; [3] but who can blame an honest man if, over the years, this or that kind of poesy becomes increasingly clear to him!

Precisely this seems to be the case with Messieurs Fessler and Rambach, and in that sense they are sufficiently justified in the eyes of the public; but we must leave in abeyance whether as worthy a servant of the church and of religion as Reverend Schleiermacher will be grateful to the author for having tried, on p. 232, to convince the public that the Reden über die Religion and that certain essay on Lucinde were by one and the same author, [4] and instead we will combine the review of this book with that of another deserving no less attention as a psychological phenomenon. Without, however, allowing anyone among our readers to harbor the suspicion of so insulting a presupposition, namely, that one might need a serious refutation of the principles presented in these writings, we will make do with viewing this last little piece from its lighter and more entertaining side as well, namely:

Vertraute Briefe über Friedrich Schlegels Lucinde (Lübeck, Leipzig 1800) [5]

This reviewer is so immersed in the most recent mystical philosophy, which is destined, through these present letters and Herr Schlegel’s Lucinde, to surpass the entire coming century, the poesy of love contained in these masterpieces has so mightily excited his mind, has spoken so profoundly and so meaningfully to his very heart that for several days he has been unable to speak except in verses, and even now cannot guarantee that this review itself will in fact end in prose.

And indeed, what can be more sublime, more emotionally moving than when the serious goddess of wisdom herself condescends to participate in the diminutive games of humankind, when she touches common reality with her hieroglyphic staff, thereby suddenly jolting us a couple of centuries forward! How differently the world looks from this higher perspective!

The petty laws of foolish modesty are annulled; the most fleeting phenomena of the lectern are now embodied, and the most abstruse syllogisms from the year 1800 walk about with Christian given names, eat, drink, sleep, knit vests, and have someone read to them from Lucinde. What one never thought possible has come about; the most contradictory extremes have moved closer to one another, and all the petty, pathetic artistic demands of correctness in drawing and comportment of characters has, happily, been swept aside! There we see one of the most charming creatures, Eleonore by name, who knows Lucinde by heart and often enough serves up pithy passages, much to many a recipient’s chagrin.

Eleonore, to whom nothing is offensive in Friedrich Schlegel, who has no problem with someone jesting about the most intimate center of beautiful sensuality if it but be done in a sacred manner, as is the case in Lucinde, indeed, who has advanced to such a degree in art of worshiping the universe in her beloved that in the most beautiful situation she sees nothing but a mimetically beautiful portrayal of a parody of the body with respect to the mind.

There is also a sweet child, Caroline by name, who rigorously nibbles about, as she herself says, in Lucinde. She also despises the deficient hetaerae who allow their lovers everything, even the final act, and then suddenly declare it all to be crude and animalistic. — Blissful freedom from prejudice, inimitable triad, sublime, unprecedented spiritual accord, how long will you delay in permeating the entire contraband kingdom of heaven of common souls with the fullness of your celestially sublime harmony? O Jakob Böhme! Jacob Böhme!.

And you fresh blossoms of sensuality, when will our women, smiling, musing, embrace the altars of the gods with you! When will the old desire of our bodies cheerfully revivify? And what does Ernestine mean with her alleged dissonance, which intrudes so importunately in “Sehnsucht und Ruhe” [trans. “Yearning and Peace,” 125–27]? [6] Is not precisely this clear manifestation of the material world the pinnacle of the intellectual?

And who is to say that this sensually beautiful dialogue, with its subtle allusions to the infinite, could not also unfold as follows:

Julius. When will true love's kiss this longing slake?

Lucinde. In longing alone does peace dwell, Julius.

Julius. Ah! would I could fathom the romantic in you!

Lucinde. Your ingenious brilliance beguiles Lucinde!

Julius. How I am swept away by such fetching confusion!

Lucinde. As in sublime position it proves itself?

Julius. Yet soon the blossom of the romantic
is withered, and flees back into the gloomy sanctuary.

Lucinde. Temporary, such energy,
though tempestuous it be, genius cannot long be.

Julius. Must the finite to infinitude expand?

Lucinde. Must the infinite nonetheless as finitude fail?

Julius. Comfort take, for in the fair center dwells united
what individually oft seems excessively transient indeed.

Lucinde. O, most gracious parodies, o sweet myths of the soul,
O you fairest blossoms of earthly life.

Both. O n'er granted, rare theory!
Thus do the Romantic and  Genius couple

(exit to the pavilion)


[*] The complete title of Schleiermacher’s piece was Vertraute Briefe über Friedrich Schlegels Lucinde zur richtigen Würdigung derselben. Back.

[1] The reviewer refers to pagination in the original editions, the pagination in brackets to the translation Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde and the Fragments, trans. Peter Firchow (Minneapolis 1971). Back.

[2] Schiller, Maria Stuart. Ein Trauerspiel, (Tübingen 1801), act 3, scene 6. Back.

[3] “Elegien aus dem Griechischen,” Athenaeum (1798) 107–40, which included fragments from Phanocles, Hermesianax of Colophon, and Callimachus; Friedrich seems to have authored the introductions, Wilhelm the translations. This part of Athenaeum also became an issue for Christoph Martin Wieland; see the section on Greek translations in supplementary appendix 194c.2. Back.

[4] The reference is to Schleiermacher’s review of Lucinde in the Berlinisches Archiv der Zeit; see supplementary appendix 257a.1. Back.

[5] The full title of Schleiermacher’s book was Vertraute Briefe über Friedrich Schlegels Lucinde zur richtigen Würdigung derselben. Back.

[6] Dorothea Veit similarly strongly picks up on this “discordant note” in Schleiermacher’s piece and indeed even provides a response “in Lucinde’s name.” See the final paragraph of her letter to him on 16 June 1800 (letter 263a). Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott