Supplementary Appendix 296.3

Garlieb Merkel on the publication of Schelling’s review of Wilhelm Schlegel’s Ehrenpforte und Triumphbogen in the Erlangen Litteratur-Zeitung [*]

Postscript. Because it is everywhere appropriate to mention a beautiful gesture, I have no reservations about using the final pages of this letter to relate one that is quite noteworthy.

The clique about which I have had to relate so much to you finally landed in a truly pitiable situation. After the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in Jena had cleansed itself of them, and the editors of the Neue allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek [1] had discovered and closed off the secret paths along which the clique had smuggled positive reviews of their pathetic creations into that particular journal, and after the mocking laughter of all reasonable people in the reading public had forced them to dismantle their own platforms one after the other from which these charlatans hawked their wares, they were for a time reduced to striking out at their chastisers in anonymous pasquinades.

This pathetic situation touched the heart of an editor of the Erlangen Litteratur-Zeitung so deeply that he resolved to transform his journal into a hospital and to admit them forthwith.

This ray of good fortune miraculously refreshed the clique. With the charming confidence that well merited the generosity of their new patron, here, too, they surrendered themselves over to their hyperborean nature, and have already published a long review praising the Ehrenpforte für Kotzebue, a pasquinade of such base nature that another distinguished newspaper, as we hear, chose not to taint itself by admitting even a mere announcement of the piece in its Intelligenzblatt.

Unfortunately, the panegyrist suffered the same, customary fate as his compatriots, namely, by blathering on and demonstrating only that he is capable neither of praising nor even of writing. He assures us that this literary trash is an enduring “model and pattern,” that it will “doubtless open a wide path for itself through the German reading world quite on its own initiative” (doubtless so, since everyone keeps a considerable distance from such moral dung-carts quite on their own initiative). —

And that the author’s art has elevated itself to a new Potenz (Potence perhaps? After all, he did not find it advisable to put his name on it), and that a street ballad in which Kirghisians are turned into Quergisen, Cossacks into Klozakken, Tscheremissen [the Mari language and people] into Zähregissen, and Samoyeds into Dummojeden etc., in a word: in which little more than schoolboy wit is engaged [2] — that this piece will be immortal. —

It would be quite regrettable if the benevolence of the editor of this newspaper were to bring it to ruin. The reliable allegation is that the acceptance of this particular review was what moved Herr Hofrath Meusel to give up his own participation in the editorial duties of this newspaper and in so doing to rob it of what yet gave it an element of authority.


[*] Garlieb Merkel, Briefe an ein Frauenzimmer über die wichtigsten Produkte der schönen Literatur 5 (1801) 2 (January–April) 474–76, in a postscript to his twenty-ninth letter. For Schelling’s review, see supplementary appendix 296.2.

Wilhelm’s lengthy title translates approximately as “Gate of Honor and Triumphal Arch for the Theater President von Kotzebue Upon His Anticipated Return to the Fatherland”; concerning this “gate of honor” and “triumphal arch,” see esp. Kotzebue’s 1803 responding caricature “The Most Recent Aesthetics.” Back.

[1] Neue allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek 56 (1801) 1:142–206, a lengthy and critical review of the earlier quarrel between Schelling and the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. Back.

[2] For an explanation of these neologisms, see Schelling’s review (supplementary appendix 296.2). Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott