Supplementary Appendix: The Romantics and the Erlanger Litteratur-Zeitung

Rudolf Haym’s account of the
Romantics and the Erlanger Litteratur-Zeitung [*]


[After the failure of the Romantics’ Jahrbücher project and the final issue of Athenaeum] An uncertain and brief replacement emerged for at most sporadic criticism. Beginning in 1799, the Jena Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung had acquired competition in the Erlanger Litteratur-Zeitung edited by Johann Georg Meusel. At the initiative of the publisher, Professor Mehmel had joined as second editor in July 1800.

The journal was quite open to the new movements in scholarship and literature, and Mehmel had accepted exclusive responsibility for both the philosophical and aesthetic rubric, his explicit intention being “in the future to allow only the premier, best intellects of the nation to speak, and in this way to reconcile the hitherto variously and oft vexed spirit of philosophy and art.” [1]

Just as the fate of the Romantics’ Jahrbücher project was being decided, Mehmel renewed his solicitation among the heads of the Romantic school. In a printed circular, the editors described a spirit of rigorous dedication to the truth as their guiding slogan, a spirit that was to remain constant even amid the storms of controversy, and by cleverly using the break between Schlegel and Schelling, on the one hand, and Christian Gottfried Schütz’s journal [the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung], on the other, Mehmel declared in a letter to Wilhelm his resolve to stand up for the direction represented by the Romantics over against the “cry of the philistines.”

He apologized for his journal’s previous silence concerning the Schlegels’ works, referring to a couple of asides made against their opponents, and promised imminent steps to make positive restitution. And all this, N.B., precisely at a time when the Jena Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung had already published a whole series of reviews by Huber, all of which vigorously polemicized against the factional spirit, the aesthetic and specifically the ethical paradoxes of the Athenaeum group, [2] — at a time when nearly all the other critical journals had sounded the alarm in special defamatory publications, indeed, even on stage, against both the literary and the personal comportment of the Schlegelians.

At least Schleiermacher seized this opportunity with both hands. He, who judged the “vulgarity” of the Jena Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung no less harshly than did Schelling, he, who even after years still firmly believed that criticism could be in no better hands than his and Wilhelm Schlegel’s, and who thus never ceased lamenting the failed Jahrbücher project, — the critical pieces he had intended to publish in those Jahrbücher he now deposited in the Erlanger Litteratur-Zeitung, which even Fichte had already distinguished by his own review of Bardili’s Logik. [3]

His discussion of Schiller’s adaptation of Macbeth provided a new demonstration of the thoroughness and conscientiousness of his critical work. His reviews of the collected essays of the two Schlegels, of Lichtenberg’s miscellaneous writings, and of Engel’s Lorenz Stark [4] proved that he had also made considerable progress in the technical aspects of reviews.

Finally, his review of an essay by Friedrich Ast on Plato’s Phaedrus provides a glimpse of the preliminary work he was doing in preparation for the grand undertaking, to be done together with Friedrich Schlegel, of translating Plato. [5]

Apart from Schleiermacher, Schelling used the Erlanger Litteratur-Zeitung in an even more resolutely partisan fashion for purposes of Romantic propaganda. It was Schelling who composed the review of Wilhelm Schlegel’s Kotzebuade, a review that so effusively celebrated as a poetic masterpiece what was in fact merely a witty pasquinade that it caused a falling out between Meusel and Mehmel.

Although Mehmel continued editing the journal with another colleague all the more resolutely in the direction already taken, it was able to maintain its competition with the Jena Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung for only a brief period, and the Erlanger Litteratur-Zeitung already ceased appearing during mid-1802.

It was not until 1804, when Schütz along with his journal moved from Jena to Halle and a new Jena Literatur-Zeitung was initiated under Goethe’s auspices, that the Romantics again found refuge. That said, even had they still formed a self-enclosed party at that time, the spirit of the new journal was freer and more tolerant. They served, but did not rule.


[*] Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule, 744–46. Back.

[1] Mehmel to Wilhelm Schlegel on 26 July 1800 (Josef Körner, [1930], 1:116). Back.

[2] See supplementary appendix 256.1 and supplementary appendix 256.2. Back.

[3] See Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 10 November 1800 (letter 274), note 5. Back.

[4] Johann Jakob Engel, Herr Lorenz Stark: ein Charaktergemälde von J.J. Engel (Berlin 1801). Back.

[5] These reviews can be found in volume 4 of Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben, 540–79. He had also been solicited to review Wilhelm’s edition of Shakespeare but did not feel qualified. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott