Supplementary Appendix 285.1

Rudolf Haym on the Personal Strife among the Jena Romantics [*]

No, Wilhelm Schlegel was quite mistaken when he sought the Romantic school’s primary point of coalescence in its poetic productions. But if not in such productions — then what other positive bond could have served that purpose?

Although the members did indeed share a great many common ideas and views, they also deviated one from the other in multifarious other points. Although they had lived together and engaged in intense interpersonal exchange amid the most stimulating convivial interaction, nonetheless instances of personal antipathy also emerged, and precisely this personal proximity generated all sorts of the most vexing and irritating entanglements, squabbles, and quarrels.

And indeed, the closer one examines the personal relationships between the various members of this circle, all the more astonished are we at the degree of domestic dissatisfaction that in the background was so quietly contributing to the circle’s dissolution. Although Dorothea could humorously enough accept that “it is à l’ordre du jour for everyone here, as is quite natural in a republic of nothing but despots, to quarrel and squabble like schoolboys,” nonetheless she herself and her Friedrich, who were initially ” venerated and loved like the patriarchs” [Dorothea to Schleiermacher on 16 January 1800 (letter 258g)], were soon those most severely affected by this discord.

Friedrich — whose personality exhibited so many disagreeable elements in any case, and who through his disorganized lifestyle, especially his lack of sound economic sense, exposed so many weak spots — quickly got on most members’ bad side. Nor did he ever develop any closer relationship with Schelling, who arguably was even less congenial and doubtless exhibited considerably more off-putting high-mindedness; the concurrent lectures [winter semester 1800–1801) and philosophical differences merely widened the gap between the two men.

The real fomenter of hatred, however, was Dame Lucifer. The cordiality with which she had initially received her brother-in-law and his lady friend was gradually transformed into inordinately passionate hostility. Although Schleiermacher’s correspondence only vaguely alludes to these “Carolingian quarrels,” Friedrich’s and Caroline’s letters to Wilhelm sufficiently indicate the degree of this hostility.

No one who reads this correspondences can come away without at least some measure of sympathy for Friedrich and Dorothea — regardless of how much vexation they may well have caused — and of indignation toward the indefatigably agitating, gossipy Caroline, who constantly delighted in the others’ misfortunes. Who knows whether in the end she may not have succeeded in depriving Friedrich of his own brother’s friendship had not other elective affinities come into play.

Although literary history must by no means ignore these things, it is nonetheless best advised to hasten as quickly as possible past them.

In any case, Caroline now hated Friedrich; at the same time, she had ceased loving Wilhelm. And while she was yet writing flattering letters from Jena to Berlin to her “dear, sweet Wilhelm,” she had become Schelling’s intimate lady friend, whom she herself, profoundly mourning, had consoled in his pain for the beloved, her own child, Auguste Böhmer, who had died suddenly in the blossom of life. This shared pain and mutual consolation had brought the two closer together, and the mother gradually took the place of the daughter for Schelling, and since the restrictive understanding of conventional morality did not exist for this creatively erudite group, neither did the marital relationship between Caroline and Schlegel present any hindrance to planning for a closer relationship in the future.

One episode in this relationship and the accompanying course of events is reflected in the literary epilogue to Wilhelm’s play Jon [in 1802], and we thus have no reason to illuminate from extant epistolary documents the increasing disinclination and conflicts of the one couple, and the growing intimacy of the other.

It is even less our task to determine the degree of culpability or fault on the one or other side. We need ascertain only that both Schlegel and Schelling were able, with utter diplomatic aplomb, to remove their scholarly and literary relationship from the influence of these personal affairs. They had never been close friends the way Tieck and Novalis were; but even after they had become rivals, they nonetheless never ceased exchanging scholarly material and opinions with mutual and respectful interest, to view themselves as allies, and to assist one the other in both scholarly and private matters.

The greater merit was doubtless performed by Schlegel, since it was primarily he who put aside all other considerations when the issue was common literary interests. He possessed the perfect pliability of a solely political personality. “I am,” he writes to Tieck after the latter had declared himself on Friedrich’s side in the quarrel between the latter and Caroline [28 April 1801 (letter 312d)],

in favor of a general peace and am trying in every way to bring it about. In any event, you will likely not be choosing the right party if you take Friedrich’s side against Caroline. Believe me, he has got mixed up in this thing in an indiscreet fashion that is, frankly, too intimate for me as well, and has done so solely because of his touchiness, since he is unfortunately not at all free of such pettiness. You know as well as I do what is to be said about Madam Veit. When I get to Jena, there is to be absolutely no more talk of such taking sides; if there is, then I myself will take sides against Friedrich.


[*] Die romantische Schule 714–16. Haym’s discourse follows immediately on his discussion of the ultimate literary and commercial failure of the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, in which Wilhelm Schlegel had placed such high hopes as a successor to Schiller’s defunct periodical Die Horen. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott