Supplementary Appendix: Friedrich Heinrich Bothe and Ludwig Tieck

Rudolf Köpfke’s Account of the Relationship between
Friedrich Heinrich Bothe and Ludwig Tieck [*]

Ludwig had already earlier taken notice of one of his schoolmates who at this time made what was even for Ludwig himself a rather peculiar impression on him. It was Friedrich Heinrich Bothe from Berlin, the same schoolmate to whom Ludwig owed his acquaintance with Holberg’s comedies. Bothe had assiduously and successfully applied himself to the study of ancient languages and literature . . . He was capable and not without taste and sensibility for the linguistic side of poesy; nor did his own attempts at the time lack recognition by his teachers. Moreover, he also had a pleasing external appearance. But a consciousness of his own striving, and the seriousness with which he went about his work gave him a somewhat stiff demeanor and disposition, and not without a bit of precociousness he found manly dignity primarily in a cold, distant demeanor. Ludwig, perpetually moved by his own passions, was infinitely different from him. And yet it was precisely on Bothe that he focused the fullest, most ardent ray of friendship. Without being aware of the natural one-sidedness of this intellect, and without suspecting what he was doing, he attributed to Bothe all the distinguished character traits of an ideal that his own poetic imagination had conjured; in his eyes, Bothe was the most gifted, charming youth of all; Bothe alone was worthy of having Ludwig divulge to him his innermost thoughts and feelings; Bothe alone was supposed to be and indeed he alone permitted to be Ludwig’s friend.

Eventually, and with an effusive emotional storm, he had offered the Elect the more intimate form of address, “Du,” which in his mind would seal this alliance of souls. But how shocked was he when Bothe initially evaded this rapturous offer with extraordinary coolness and then finally essentially rejected it entirely. Bothe could not understand the consuming ardor Ludwig suddenly was forcing on him, since Bothe himself had never experienced any corresponding feelings. Nor did he understand the deep sensibility that needed to communicate and share its own treasures. Hence he ultimately found Ludwig’s behavior odd and inexplicable. These discoveries made Ludwig extremely unhappy. He could not imagine that such tempestuous love could not but be reciprocated; the other person simply had to feel sympathetically moved. He thus began to doubt himself and yet simultaneously to feel drawn to his brittle companion by an almost magical power. And yet the more insistent he became, the more cold and distant and rejecting did Bothe become. A searing hot pain cut through his soul. Ludwig found himself painfully unacknowledged, and the best he had to offer seemed spurned. . . . The most passionate and tempestuous scenes resulted. Pain, anger, rage ravaged his soul. He often broke down in tears, he entreated, he implored. In vain! Bothe remained precocious, cold, and closed off.

Their literary sharing was not, however, broken off, indeed, they even took walks and short hikes together. But Bothe everywhere remained the same. Not even lengthier periods of time together made him inclined to be more intimate, nor did their shared tribulations and adventures open Bothe’s heart. . . .

Ludwig finally had to realize, painfully, that his tempestuous love was in vain. He fell into melancholy and depression. . . . As was customary, he accompanied the friend home from school one afternoon. And again he besieged him with futile pleading. But then he was seized by enraged despair; he had become an unbearable burden and surfeit to himself. At just the moment they passed over the Gertraudten Bridge, Ludwig had an idea. He would cast this despised life from himself by plunging into the water before his friend’s very eyes. His death would finally touch this rock-hard heart and persuade him how much Ludwig had loved him. He stepped up to the edge of the bridge and, in despair and yet quite childishly, pushed a large rock off into the water that was positioned there as ballast. The stone plunged into the water with an enormous noise. Without even turning his head, however, Bothe continued on his way. Ludwig’s anger at this new show of hardness now intensified to blind rage. He ran after the friend and caught up with him at Dönhoff Square. He could hardly speak, so upset was he. He finally cried out, “So, now I know who you really are! Was that really a human reaction you just showed? What would you have done had I really plunged into the water?” “I would have felt inexpressible contempt for you,” Bothe replied. Ludwig was speechless, and went home in tears.

But he was mistaken. He had by no means really recognized who this obstinate friend really was, and he would yet suffer a great deal before such recognition would come.

[Köpke relates a scene in which Ludwig, enraged at Bothe’s continued behavior, throws a temper tantrum in his own room, even smashing out windows. His usually stern and severe father, however, offers no punishment, instead merely pointing out to Ludwig how excessive and foolish his behavior had become over someone who cared not a bit for him. “I fear,” his father concludes, “this rage will one day make you very, very unhappy.”]

Ludwig had never heard his strict father speak thus, had never heard such a tone of voice from him. . . . He was profoundly moved; he sensed the truth of his father’s words and gradually came to his senses. He would finally sunder these bonds with Bothe entirely.

Again the friends had taken a foot-journey together. But just as they left Brandenburg, Bothe suddenly announced that he must return, and must do so alone. Nonetheless Ludwig insisted on accompanying him. “I have no use for you,” Bothe replied coldly, “and will go back alone!” Again the old passion ignited in Ludwig. Weeping and imploring Bothe at least to tell him the reasons behind this unexpected decision, he continued along beside Bothe for a time. But since Bothe continued on his way without saying even a word to Ludwig, Ludwig’s patience finally gave out, and his love seemed all at once to turn to hatred. “Then just go on, you stupid boy!” he cried out defiantly. But in the same instant, he was terrified at his blasphemy and wanted to ask the insulted Bothe for forgiveness. But Bothe simply continued on without paying the slightest attention to the spurn. . . .

It was, however, precisely with that boyish outcry that Ludwig had freed himself; he remembered his father’s words, and the veil that had been over his soul was lifted. He began to doubt and yet also to examine things, and finally he viewed the harsh friend with new eyes. The transfiguring shimmer with which he had surrounded Bothe had disappeared. Bothe now seemed utterly a thing of indifference to him, and quite ordinary, just like many of his other schoolmates. And in the end, his earlier passion was even a puzzle to Ludwig himself.

Hence from the richness of his own heart there had emerged a bitter sense of human frailty, indeed, to the point of self-loathing, and his own overflowing bliss had generated a feeling of profound, cutting pain the likes of which had had hitherto not experienced. It was the bitter experiences accompanying that pain that prompted him to begin examining and distinguishing more closely the human character.


[*] Rudolf Köpke, Tieck: Erinnerungen, 1:64–69. Here Köpke is writing about Tieck’s youth in Berlin. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott