The Saturday Literary Circle in Stuttgart 1802
Ludwig Ferdinand Huber was a member of one particular circle (also called “literary circle” or “Saturday circle” because of its custom of meeting on Saturday night), as was the publisher Johann Friedrich Cotta. In July 1802, the Hubers hosted this circle for the first time, Therese Huber anticipating eighteen guests for what she called the “grand circle,” though the circle normally consisted of only thirteen members. In any case, she points out to her daughter that she only had to host it once every seventeen months. 
In fact, however, she ended up with twenty-one guests on 17 July 1802, and a week earlier than anticipated, since the circle wanted to host August Wilhelm Iffland, who was in Stuttgart at the time. Although “no woman would ever dare stick her nose” in this circle, as Therese put in that same letter, women not being allowed as members, on this occasion she was indeed invited to take her place at the table and even to preside.
Iffland was also introduced to this society during his stay in Stuttgart. I never encountered him there [in the regular meetings], meeting him for the first time instead at the home of Huber . . . at a dinner he gave in Iffland’s honor [what Therese Huber calls the “grand Kränzchen“], and to which Conz and I were invited. We arrived at Huber’s after the invited society was already assembled. The company was numerous, the table splendidly set, the food excellent, nor was there any dearth of exquisite wine, though the champagne flowed especially freely, of which Iffland was known to be quite fond. The main topic of conversation at the meal was naturally the dramatic arts and mimicry, for how could anything else be discussed in the presence of such a master of both?
It was not until the end of the meal itself that the conversation became more general, including among other things a discussion of the most recent negotiations in the consistory. The consistory secretary at the time was Grüneisen, also a former pupil at the Stuttgart academy, as sharp a wit as Haug, but even more talented that Haug in the art of imitating other people’s voices. Although Iffland was as yet unacquainted with either in this regard, he was soon to have a sample of their arts.
Such commenced when Grüneisen was asked whether nothing interesting had been discussed in the consistory meetings of late. Although Grüneisen initially claimed nothing of the sort had transpired, after some reflection he did own that, as a matter of fact, something of interest had come up when one of the consistory members thought it might be advisable to petition the territorial sovereign to expel from Stuttgart a certain foreign actor [i.e., Iffland] currently staying there, the man allegedly being no real actor at all, but rather someone who had made a pact with the devil by virtue of which he was able to transform himself into every person he seemed to be portraying onstage.
A vote was taken, but the suggestion was rejected; in fact, the director of the consistory itself took the side of the suspicious actor and indeed of the theater in general, assuming, of course, that only moral plays were being performed, as, e.g., [Mozart’s] The Magic Flute, in which he was especially fond of the Sarastro, though it was a shame the latter was a pagan rather than a Protestant cleric, as which he might then easily be recommended for a prelature. —
Although this compliment greatly flattered Iffland, the great mimic was even more entertained insofar as while telling the story Grüneisen had imitated the voices of the various consistory councilors in the most convincing fashion imaginable. Iffland could not say enough about Grüneisen’s talent, insisting that only by experiencing such in person could anyone really believe such talent existed.
This complement was the signal to have the entire consistory speak, first individually, then together, and finally singing, Grüneisen having all the consistory councilors sing a freedom song while dancing around a freedom tree, the individual voices being clearly distinguishable.
The funniest thing about the entire performance was that one of the those very councilors was present that evening, sitting, moreover, directly across from Grüneisen, and quite entertained at hearing the voices of his colleagues, then even his own as well, but pretending to be asleep without, however, being able to disguise his smile in the peaceful expression of someone sleeping. —
Haug displayed his own arts after Grüneisen had finished. Iffland admired him no less than Grüneisen, and when finally the two spoke together, imitating first this, then that voice, the outbursts of approval and laughter seemed to know no end.
Finally Iffland himself was asked to provide a sample of his arts. He was pleased to do so, performing a dialogue between two Jews, an educated Jew and an uneducated one, the first recounting to the second the history of the Jewish people. Both spoke Jewish-German, but each in a different dialect, convincingly portrayed by the mimicry, and especially by the expression of astonishment when the uneducated Jew heard that the Jews once had kings.
The company remained until deep into the night,  and I can safely say that I have never been in a company that laughed more than this one, or was any more entertained.
The meal Therese Huber served that evening consisted of: 
an excellent meat bouillon soup with two kinds of meatballs, also a chocolate soup, then roast beef, two stuffed geese, chicken aspic, four salads, one bread tourte,  two of fruit, one lemon crème, and one raspberry, and fruit on four plates, everything prepared by me personally, and everything a success. I myself plucked the poultry and crushed the sugar, and peeled the salads.
Illustrations: (1) Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Und ich zur ewigen Glückseeligkeit bestimmt werde herzlich lachen, wenn Ihr verdammt werdet (1781); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 (232); (2) Iffland in Molière’s comedy The Miser, act i, scene 3, ca. 1810 [Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim]. Back.
 Tourte, a raised or savory pie a top crust and with fish, meat, or fruit inside; one modern recipe includes stale bread or brioche, apples, dried raisins, rum, vanilla, milk, sugar, eggs and butter. Back.
Translation © 2017 Doug Stott