Supplementary Appendix: Heinrich Beck’s Chameleon and the Romantics

Heinrich Beck’s Dramatic Satire Das Kamäleon and the Romantics

The actor Heinrich Beck from Gotha, acquainted with Schiller from the latter’s Mannheim period and with August Wilhelm Iffland, derided the Romantics — and especially Ludwig Tieck, even mocking Tieck’s financial problems — in his play Das Kamäleon, performed on 3 November 1800 in Berlin (Das Kamäleon. Lustspiel in fünf Aufzügen [Frankfurt 1803]).

See Wilhelm Dilthey’s brief remark in Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:249n*:

Chamäleon, by Beck, a farce that in the character of an inferior writer named Schulberg satirizes both Schlegels, Ludwig Tieck, and August Ferdinand Bernhardi; it was performed by Iffland on the Berlin stage probably toward the end of 1800.

In explanatory letters to Ludwig Tieck on 14 and 22 November, Iffland did indeed maintain that the character of “Schulberg” was modeled after neither Tieck nor Friedrich Schlegel. Tieck, however, justifiably rejected these explanations, since the play’s tendentiousness was clearly influenced by August von Kotzebue’s satire Der hyperboreische Esel.

The play itself is an entertaining romantic comedy with an element of intrigue. Irene, the vivacious and intelligent daughter of a wealthy country baron, has been maneuvered by her upward-striving stepmother into an arranged marriage with Eduard, the son of a town-dwelling count whose finances desperately need the dowry to which the country baron has agreed. Irene, however, is in love with Dellau, who is already in the service of her father, while Eduard is in love with Josepha, the orphan of the count’s deceased secretary and, as a commoner, unfit for marriage to Eduard. Schulberg is the financially unsuccessful “poet” and (so Eduard) “superficial windbag” summoned by the count to entertain the bride-to-be’s parents when they arrive for the official engagement, since, as the count explains, “such a person will sooner know what genre of conversation these people prefer.”

Because Irene’s mother makes pretensions to being well read and to being familiar with the more cultivated classes and pursuits of society, she and Schulberg get along famously. During their initial meeting, Schulberg utters lines reminiscent of the Romantics, assuring the count, for example, that “nowadays people demand something transcendental,” and that (recalling Friedrich Schlegel), “true understanding resides in the incomprehensible.” Irene, meanwhile, determined to sabotage the arranged marriage, makes herself amusingly unbearable to her hosts, but in intentionally different ways (she is the “chameleon” of the title), including Eduard, the count, and poor Schulberg, all of whose writings she cleverly derides.

Meanwhile, Irene’s mother and the otherwise insufferable Schulberg (who has insulted Irene’s father for reading something as “stale” as Gellert) fall into extemporaneous verse-making but are interrupted by Irene, who happens upon them, and decide to meet clandestinely in the library.

Irene’s father, in the meantime, demands that Schulberg explain what he was doing so intimately with his wife with all the “verse-making,” to which Schulberg responds, “It was not lessons in verse-making, but rather the gracious lady’s own divine spark of genius, which through contact with my own ignited in bright flames.” In a later encounter with Schulberg, Irene’s father ridicules Schulberg’s references to the “cultivated world” in a fashion that might well be taken as an aside at the Jena Romantics (act 4, scene 2):

Cultivated world? The devil take culture that poisons hearts and ruins morals! I have heard here and there about this disastrous writing frenzy that is now so fashionable. A gang of cheeky anti-moralists have joined together, and I am guessing you, too, belong to that gang. If such be the case, then never show your face to me again! Corrupters of morals are the same to me as highwaymen!

The extended scenes between Irene’s mother and Schulberg take place in act 3, scenes 1–2 (the setting is a garden):

Baroness. But do come, good man! — I am not so fond of being in this societé. Let us speak here about the arts and sciences.

Schulberg. Your Grace has a true sensibility for such.

Baroness. Please, please! — Though it is true that I get every book worth the effort. My husband does not read much.

Schulberg. The Herr Baron is a genuine man of nature.

Baroness. I thank you! so, so, passable.

Schulberg. But your Fräulein Daughter has probably not yet decided whether she should choose sentimental or energetic books?

Baroness. Generetic? What is that supposed to mean?

Schulberg. Energetic, that is to say — Energetic, lively and spirited and robust.

Baroness. Really? Bien obligé. I will make a note of that. For example, my pastor gave me as novel, Clorinde — and, well, it is quite — energetic — right?

Schulberg. Highly energetic!

Baroness. But just imagine: my husband says the book is — if you will allow — obscene.

Schulberg. Let him be! He cannot elevate himself to this lofty height.

Baroness. I must say, I find what the book says about amiability and love quite charmant. I am as if — O God! how shall I put it? — as if possessed, obsessed after reading the book.

Schulberg. One might also say: inspired.

Baroness. Inspired — yes, I am inspired.

Schulberg. I am wrong. Your expression has more lilt! Our current inspiration is as a matter of fact nothing other than the most sublime obsession.

Baroness. Ah, you speak like an angel.

Schulberg. Tell me I speak like a Satan, whom I more highly respect. Angels are out of fashion.

Baroness. The dear angels — out of fashion? My God, what one does not learn by contact with such great minds! But that is a bit difficult, since one learns early on, even as a child, to despise Lucifer, or Satan, — so I do not think I really have the courage to —

Schulberg. Satan is a renowned genius.

Baroness. Do you mean that? — So, there is nothing really to everything people say — you know — about the hoofed feet and long tail?

Schulberg. Pooh! Childish prattle; old wives’ tales.

Baroness. A genius? Well, well! So Satan was once — to put it in German — an energetic scholar?

Schulberg. Metaphorically one can —

Baroness. My God! But this is truly something new! When I get home and prove that Satan was actually a famous, respectable, angry scholar, that will cause a stir in the entire neighborhood.

Schulberg. Here is my hand! — I will come to you and help you enlighten the riffraff!

Baroness. You can live with us.

Schulberg. I will count on it. — But, what about your Fräulein Daughter?

Baroness. Do not worry, Herr von Schulberg! I will know how to inculcate my cheeky daughter with the proper respect for the sublime poetic arts.

Schulberg (kisses her hand reverently). Such I would expect of a lady with so much spirit and intellect.

Baroness. Let us sit down a while in the shade and chat further. (They sit down.) How many languages do you speak?

Schulberg. Eleven languages.

Baroness. And can you speak them all?

Schulberg. As well as my mother tongue.

Baroness. What a genius! And when you write poetry, is it not true that you add something of all these languages so your readers cannot fail to notice how learned you are?

Schulberg. That — well, you see — is not the intention, though it cannot be helped that, indeed — from time to time.

Baroness. And which vocation does Herr von Schulberg have?

Schulberg. Playwright.

Baroness. Of what sort?

Schulberg. For everyone.

Baroness. Ah, — that must garner for you a great deal of honor and money?

Schulberg. If there were not so many cabals!

Baroness. Ah, true merit cannot but ultimately break through all cabals.

Schulberg. When it is allowed to appear. I have more than twenty pieces in my desk — copied out quite cleanly — do you think I might be able to have one performed?

Baroness. Appeal to the public!

Schulberg. I already have. I have proven in print that it is abused. By getting nothing but Kotzebuean, Ifflandian plays, and the old hack-pieces by Lessing, while the masterpieces of more recent playwrights are left lying about. I have not attributed a single farthing of merit to these pieces, and instead have critically flayed into nothing all the plays that garnish approval.

Baroness. That must create quite a stir.

Schulberg. One must engage firebrands, otherwise one attains neither reputation nor honorarium.

Baroness. If only nothing happens to you, my good man!

Schulberg. What can happen to me?

Baroness. Well, if someone you energetically deride decides to get energetic himself —

Schulberg. If such would only happen! then my fortune would be made! The flames of ignited wrath would flow out in reams and reams! The publisher would become wealthier than the chasemaster of Vienna. Until then, however — unfortunately — my economic situation is, well, extremely restricted.

Baroness. How sad!

Schulberg. Creditors are arch-energetic.

Baroness. Those wicked men!

Schulberg. A creditor is a serious beast.

Baroness. You charm me with your powerful language.

Schulberg. All my furniture has been pawned — I no longer even have a chair. Those witty people from the East [Jews] — as refined as they perceive, as wise as they judge, just as barbaric are they in garnishing and seizing.

Baroness. The traitors!

Schulberg. I have already — as God is my witness — spent nights in sentry huts and in a portechaise.

Baroness. Come to me, you noble, unappreciated man! To me! Let my castle be yours! — Damask shall clothe you, Rhine wine animate you —

Schulberg. And your praise peal out around the world. From the wings of a seraph will I pluck a quill and write it down.

Baroness. Is it not a crying shame that such a superb genius is only a playwright! Does Herr von Schulberg have no other vocation?

Schulberg (answering glibly. I am a member of several learned societies.

Baroness. Ah! — if you will but allow — for that I have far more respect.

Schulberg (again glibly). Yes, it is quite honorable. But you, gracious Lady! How is it that you are not a member of a learned society?

Baroness (utterly surprised). Me? — Oh, my God! — But surely you jest, Herr von Schulberg!

Schulberg. Absolutely not. I am honored to assure you that I know more than twenty ladies who are regularly attending members of learned societies, not one of whom possesses even a tenth of your intellectual gifts.

Baroness (affectedly). You make me blush.

Schulberg. This penetrating power, this animated feeling for everything, united with so much grace and enchanting femininity

Baroness (with ridiculous emphasis). Do stop, do not make fun! you are rending my heart.

Schulberg. How divine! — Verses! — as true as I live, and — extemporaneously.

Baroness (daintily smiling into her fan). The nearness of a great poet must be contagious.

Schulberg. No, no! that is it, the ever-flowing spring from which a wealth of physical and intellectual harmony bubbles forth.

Baroness (gazing tenderly at him). Herr von Schulberg! I beg you, control yourself — (again with affected emphasis) The power of cleverness is already beginning to sink.

Schulberg (gazes upon her with apparent ecstasy). Evan! evoé! [cry of the raving female maenads, followers of Dionysus]

Baroness (continues). The goblet of bliss does flow! — but stop, otherwise I must die!

Schulberg (at her feet). That is too much! Divine one! —

At this point Irene, who has chanced upon the couple, feigns fear that her mother really is about to die, after which her mother and Schulberg arrange to meet in the library lest they be interrupted again.

Irene has in the meantime met with Josepha and renounced her own claims on Eduard, also securing her father’s consent, who has in the meantime become annoyed with his citified hosts but agrees to lend Eduard’s father the dowry money to save Eduard’s inheritance and future with Josepha. Irene arranges for the entire company to intercept her mother and Schulberg in the library, thereby also putting her mother into a position in which she, too, must accept that Irene will not marry Eduard.

The scene in the library, of course, is the high point of the play and is played for considerable comic effect, with Irene’s father finally discovering Schulberg hiding in a closet, “straight and rigid as a candle, as if nailed in place,” Irene’s mother standing “decimated” and speechless, whereupon Irene’s father exclaims, “Donnerwetter! Why, it is the poet himself — in person!”

Here the library scene in the frontispiece to the first edition of the play (also Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. A: 152):


Tieck’s tedious exchange with Iffland went as follows. Iffland’s letters can be found in Briefe an Ludwig Tieck 2:44–47; Tieck’s letters (actually, the entire exchange) in Johann Valentin Teichmanns literarischer Nachlass, ed. Franz Dingelstedt (Stuttgart 1863), 284–90.

Tieck writes to Iffland early in this exchange (no date, probably early November 1800):

Your esteemed sir has not yet been so good as to send me the manuscript I requested. Let me entreat you yet again not to view my recent visit as a complaint, and even less to withdraw the piece for my sake, since it has proven to be so successful and you would thereby incur financial losses; I would certainly be less than gratified through such action, since you can doubtless understand that something must be said from our side about the matter.

I myself have taken on this task and am now requesting that you send the manuscript to me during the next few days or allow me to have it picked up at the theater itself, considering that I have more time just now than I will later, though I would like to receive the entire piece, unabridged, just as it was performed on the first day. Otherwise I hope only my review will entertain you as much as your performance did me.

L. Tieck

Iffland responds to Tieck from Berlin on 14 November 1800:

At your recent visit, esteemed Sir, you expressed rather animated agitation concerning a caricature, expressed in a comedy called Das Kamäleon, agitation deriving from mere hearsay but which caused you considerable chagrin and also pained me greatly.

Because I genuinely respect you and your work and have always tried to the best of my ability to demonstrate such, I asked you on the spot whether you were demanding performance of the piece be suspended.

You did not express any specific opinion at the time, are not demanding it now, wishing instead to have the piece repeated, in which desire you are certainly in the right, nor could I justly withdraw it either.

Let me repeat that I am utterly convinced that this flaccid caricature could be interpreted as referring neither to you nor to anyone distinguished by the dignity characterizing a true scholar, hence neither can I understand why — as you write — anything need be said from your side. I believe to the contrary that the misunderstanding which, as you say, certain individuals allegedly had in this regard can too easily cause universal misunderstanding should any public declaration be made.

I grant access to the manuscript, which you recently and even yesterday have repeatedly demanded for perusal, solely that you might see for yourself that no reference of any sort occurs in it that any scholar in good conscience would have reason to relate to himself.

Obligations to a playwright who has entrusted a manuscript to the stage here exclude any and all occasion at which I might submit for perusal a piece which, after all, the author might consider not sufficiently developed and which he is certainly free to alter as he wishes prior to publication and which prior to publication should be judged solely by attendance at its actual performance rather than through cold reading of that play.

You billet to me explicitly threatens precisely such an examination.

In the meantime, in order to honor my word, which I gave to you quite unaffectedly and certainly not for such purposes, I will try to reach an agreement with my old friend and thus will send the manuscript to you, but only to you, and with the justified expectation that you send same back as soon as your own perusal is complete and under the indispensable condition that no one sees it but you. For I need not remind you what is self-evident in any case, namely, that in allowing the publication of individual scenes from a comedy the playwright has written solely for performance I would be violating my own obligations, nor can I allow anyone else to do so.

Your devoted

Tieck responds to Iffland (no date, probably mid-November 1800):

Esteemed Herr Director!

My own lethargy prevented me from answering your letter earlier, something I am, however, to a certain extent forced to do now before I communicate to the public and to you yourself my opinion, not of the comedy in question, but of the flaccid caricature, as you call it, and your performance in the theater. Doing so has become all the more necessary insofar as I, even as little as I do get out in society, nonetheless must constantly and everywhere hear about how I recently paid a visit to you and requested the withdrawal and repression of this poor Kamäleon, with regard to which you yourself must admit that such would be quite out of character for me in any case, nor would anyone who knows me even a little believe such a thing of me.

You yourself know that I requested my visit not be taken as a petition and complaint, that I repeated this in my billet and even told you that as far as I was concerned you could continue to perform the piece not least because of financial considerations. But that I desired the performance to be repeated? Here you completely misunderstood me, I who as a person am indeed as such interested and involved in this matter, could neither wish such nor can I compromise myself to such an extent by entreating you to repress the thing.

Allow me now to remind you of the content of our conversation. There was no mention of complaint; instead I presented the matter to you and asked to see the manuscript itself, since on the evening I was in the theater, much was left out and abridged, and since I know, moreover, and since it is sufficiently well known how skilled you are in extemporaneous delivery and how unskilled many other actors her are at memorizing, so much so that the latter themselves, in times of distress, often enough must take refuge in extemporizing.

Hence nothing could be more natural than my own request, and I fail to see how you could deny the manuscript of the comedy itself to someone who, justly or not, felt personally attacked, since the point, after all, was to ascertain what really was spoken and what had been repressed. I have not passed the book along to anyone else — but as a man who has no interest in disputing with a completely defenseless person, could you really deny, for example, Bernhardi, were he, too, to express a desire to have a look at the manuscript? It seems to me that this is the least the attacked person might expect.

In the conversation in which I related to you concerning myself that it was in fact no merely empty talk that I myself found more of the attacks simply because I myself was best able to understand them, you voluntarily were the first to offer to repress the piece while simultaneously assuring me that no one would know anything about our discussion. I offered no response other than to entreat you yet again not to take my visit as a complaint or petition for that sort of thing, and I added nothing to that response because I could not give the response that really should be given and yet did not want to give the improper response.

You finally agreed with me, and I entreat you earnestly to recall precisely that, and I do think — your own memory will prove as accurate as mine on this point — that you finally admitted to me that, as a matter of fact, the Schlegels were indeed intended as targets, and that one could at most also interpret it as referring to me were someone not familiar with my work, about whose merit you yourself were certainly persuaded etc.

I made no response to this admission than that I was seeking to protect my friends against such treatment, not against critique as such, nor against jesting, satire, or even trenchant criticism, and after all this you now write to me that no scholar with a good conscience nor any distinguished by the dignity characterizing the true scholar could possibly interpret this caricature as referring to himself. Do you yourself not see the circle in which you are moving here? Precisely that is the question.

In the meantime, you sent the manuscript to me, and I do as a matter of fact believe that to an even greater extent than before I have found there the personalities, the specific pasquinade personalities who lack merely contours and understanding in order to fulfill a tendency for which no one, least of all an artist, should allow himself to be used. —

Let me return to our conversation and remind you yet again that you finally admitted to me that the author was either stupid (I will unfortunately again be called crude) in wanting to depict a caricature of us, the fifth of the party [allusion to a select group of literati in the play to which the character Schulberg belongs], the absurd ones, etc., whereas in reality that caricature, because of his own lack of understanding, turned into a moral pasquinade; or — and concerning this you remain quiet as a church mouse — it was all quite intentional, in which case he was being malicious, as was he who wanted to perform it.

And now you call him your old friend. I myself am not thus acquainted with the author, otherwise I would not have said that to you myself, nor would I have to repeat it now yet again. But what I said to you in person I am certainly permitted to say now in writing as well, hence let us both give him the benefit of the doubt in assuming he was simply stupid, something that I myself find quite likely.

Please excuse me for going on at such length, but I thought it advisable to present the matter to you again just as it stands and just as you yourself seemed to understand it during our conversation. Amid your considerable work obligations, as you yourself said, you simply do not have time to concern yourself with literary incidents such as this, nor, as you also assured me with the sincere, charming modesty of an artist, do you possess the requisite scholarly background to know who in this rather lively, agitated dispute is in the right.

Assume for a moment (such is, after all, not wholly impossible) that we were in the right. And if we are in fact not in the right? Can you in either instance turn your theater into a tribunal? You are, I hope, now convinced that this play does indeed exhibit a tendency to engage in personal references; but if you are not yet so convinced, then I must once more request that you entrust the manuscript to me that I might publish my demonstration and proof that the play is indeed referring to specific persons.

But you did finally concede to me in conversation the names of those specific persons — and what I now could demand of you? or rather not I, but every person so attacked, perhaps also every impartial observer? Precisely the proper, right response about which I just spoke but which I could not simply state at the time; if, however, you now ask me only as a friend, I can say it in writing: — the least would be to stop performing the play; or to distance yourself publicly from any and all personal attacks, either in the newspaper or in posters, and to ask those who might have reason to feel insulted by this pasquinade to pardon you, since you did not properly discern the unseemly nature of such attacks beforehand. —

This would be the condition under which I would honorably drop the matter entirely, a condition about which, however, I am not hesitant to speak.

L. Tieck

Iffland responds to Tieck on 22 November 1800:

Esteemed Sir!

The follies and vices rendered both ridiculous and abominable in successful performances onstage are universally evident. Individual characteristics of an accurately portrayed character will inevitably apply to some people even if these people were utterly unknown to the playwright and artist, neither of whom present individuals as such, preferring instead to have especially their comical characters viewed as representatives of a certain type of fool. It is thus unprecedented to see a miser, a slanderer, or an intrigant step up to tell the playwright and artist to cease portraying the miser, the slanderer, or the intrigant because “it resembles me!” Only Molière’s Tartuffe allegedly elicited a similar reaction.

Judge for yourself therefore how I must have felt when a man such as you came to me and protested that the pathetic character of Schulberg was being interpreted as referring to him. At that moment, I could but consider you ill and wish one had referred you to a physician rather than to me.

In the meantime, however, I did treat you as an ill person who was nonetheless worthy of respect and whom one spares even if one does not know how to heal him. I feared irritating you by offering more resistance than necessary, I gave in excessively to your repeated importunacy, so much so that, once a person was determined to force an interpretation, then certain of Schulberg’s exaggerated utterances might well seem to intend an imitation of the language of Friedrich Schlegel; I even left it to you to judge whether a piece ought to be temporarily withdrawn from the stage here, a piece, one might add, that could be understood as referring to you personally only were one unfamiliar with it in the first place.

I quite naturally presupposed that your better judgment would return and quickly point out to you what your own powers of reason can more charitably assert than can someone else’s.

You misunderstood me, and your last letter proves to me that you are now even further removed from the sort of disposition on which kind consideration and moderation might exert a salutary influence. And yet I cannot in good conscience lose sight of what I in any case now perhaps no longer owe to you.

No, good sir! You are not Schulberg, nor is any one of your friends. None of you flatters himself as being noble without so being; none crawls, grovels, mooches, and borrows from petty grand persons; none courts a foolish old woman in order to shield himself from Jewish creditors; none spends his nights in empty sentry boxes and portechaises. God forbid that it become impossible to portray a base, filthy fellow and his gang without having to borrow the prototype from you and your friends!

The local theater’s library would be transformed into an empty space if every mistrustful person had the right to remove every play exhibiting but a single characteristic in which he might think is even distantly similar to his own; theatrical performances would eventually cease altogether if only such faults might be portrayed as are in fact found nowhere at all in the country.

Your literary and corporeal existence, and perhaps even your name, are wholly unknown to the author of the Kamäleon.

I myself am currently living in the same town as you and yet have read nothing of yours apart from Franz Sternbald [Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen: Eine altdeutsche Geschichte, 2 vols. (Berlin 1798)] and your two letters to me. The latter, indeed, I would gladly have spared you writing.

Please consult your better understanding. See whether you truly can justify interpreting Schulberg as referring to you and your friends.

I for my part will neither justify such nor prompt such speculation.


Wilhelm Schlegel wrote cautiously to Iffland concerning the matter on 4 March 1801 (Johann Valentin Teichmanns literarischer Nachlass, 275, where the letter is dated “4 February” even though it should be dated “4 March”; “4 February 1801” is impossible, since Wilhelm did not travel from Braunschweig to Berlin until 21 February 1801; one might also point out that in that year, 4 February and 4 March both fell on a Wednesday, as explicitly indicated):

Wednesday, 4 March [1801]

Forgive me for not returning the Kamäleon before today; visits and business matters have prevented from reading it before this morning. It goes without saying that it has remained locked up in my desk. After reading the piece, I cannot but be convinced that the author did indeed have my friends and me in mind in the role of Schulberg; I have taken the liberty of noting the most obvious passages with inserted pieces of paper. I myself cannot judge whether this intention might be proven legally.

In the meantime, I remain of the opinion that it was not necessary for anything to be done from our side, and I believe that had I been present, I would have simply allowed this attack along with so many others to pass unnoticed, since it is of no advantage to wage war either in jest or seriously against that which is insignificant.

I hope to have the pleasure of conversing with you again soon, until which time I remain respectfully

your devoted
A. W. Schlegel

Wilhelm had written to Schleiermacher on 16 December 1800 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:249–50; KGA V/4 365–66):

My dear friend, do you realize what an excellent prank you played on me with the half-reported news about the Chamäleon? I was not a little intrigued by it, and I wracked my brains in vain trying to figure out why a couple of strangers just passing through could have made a remark about it and about Iffland’s continuation of [Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s play] Der Essighändler [Germ. trans. Berlin 1798] — and then immediately retracted their remark after finding out that I was A. W. Schlegel. If you are interested in making it up to me, then not only bring me up to date on all outstanding news in this matter, but also gather as much detailed information as you can about the circulation and impression made by this diminutive piece.

Tieck’s long-winded rejoinder, “Bemerkungen über Parteilichkeit, Dummheit und Bosheit. Bei Gelegenheit der Herren Falk, Merkel und des Lustspiels Camäleon 1800. An Diejenigen, die sich unparteilich zu sein getrauen,” Ludwig Tieck’s Nachgelassene Schriften. Auswahl und Nachlese, ed. Rudolf Köpke, 2 vols. (Leipzig 1855), 2:35–93; here esp. 36, 70–88, which was also supposed to settle scores with Johann Daniel Falk and Garlieb Merkel, remained unfinished even though August Ferdinand Bernhardi had already announced it in the Berlinisches Archiv der Zeit und ihres Geschmacks in December 1800 (the journal thereafter ceased publication).

Wilhelm wrote Tieck from Braunschweig in December 1800 (Lohner 54–55) after hearing from Schleiermacher (in the latter’s letter of 6 December 1800 [letter 276c]) that Tieck was working on a “polemical piece”; Wilhelm’s letter here may have prompted Tieck to put the piece aside and not publish it after all):

Dearest friend, I hear that you intend to publish something against Merkel and Falk — but I would be quite sorry if you were to do so, since these sniveling dogs truly are not worth it. I delivered an aside to them in the Kotzebuade, and I will be having a bit more fun with little Merkel; he must eventually be completely laughed out of Berlin.

Just for God’s sake do not seriously defend yourself. Surely you will not let such a pathetic attack, which cannot but fill any even marginally reasonable reader with disgust, prompt you to deviate from the imposing maxim of continuing to attack, but of surrendering up one’s own things insofar as something might be undertaken against them. At most one can leave defensive maneuvers to good friends. It seems to me that Bernhardi has already said quite enough about the Merkelian Briefe [Briefe an ein Frauenzimmer über die wichtigsten Produkte der schönen Literatur (1800–1803)].

For her part, Caroline long suspected Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer of having had a hand in the matter (see her letter to Luise Gotter on 23 January 1801 [letter 283]).