Caroline’s Review of August Lafontaine

Caroline’s Review of August Lafontaine

“Mode-Romane. Lafontaine,”
in “Beyträge zur Kritik der neuesten Litteratur,”
Athenaeum (1798) 149–67. [*]

|149| Because the point where literature touches most directly on convivial life is the novel, it is precisely there that the enormous gap between the classes of the reading masses is revealed most strikingly, masses one views as a unity by means of the merely postulated concept of a “public.” Here the endeavors of the master, whose vision penetrates into limitless vistas ahead of his age, can encounter the most lively and varied strivings for culture; here as well, however, the dull contentedness of the tradesman, capable solely of winding up and unwinding the same, confused tangle of events, |150| labors incessantly to satiate flaccid vacuity.

The free-floating, indefinite way this genre is still handled, even after so many, indeed countless attempts, merely strengthens the belief that art may very well have no demands to make on the genre at all, and that the real secret is simply to permit anything and everything, whereas it sooner suggests the real loftiness of the task, which, like a surd equation, can be solved only through infinite approach. Who does not consider himself capable of writing a novel? No one would dream that, along with manifold other, and also quite important, demands, it also requires a full, meaningful life. How otherwise could popular novelists be so fertile, and the fertile so popular?

Having written but one novel counts for absolutely nothing; an author must reappear at almost every book fair to avoid being struck from the list of favorites. I have even heard of writers who admit they are hastening with all their powers to disgorge the inventory of novels they yet bear within themselves before the facility of both their quill and their imagination grows stiff with advancing age. How different from the brittle restraint of the reserved genius, who like the lioness gives birth to but a single cub, which is, however, a lion! The former have no cause to swagger simply because for the moment they seem to outshine the latter, for their fame will similarly grow stiff as soon as they can no longer to keep it constantly warm.

|151| Given such indefatigable torrents, an author must naturally come up with rather peculiar aids to disguise the want of independent spirit; and, indeed, nothing, not even the most tasteless crudity, has been left untried. Whoever can produce novels without summoning ghosts and invoking the giants of some chimerical time in the distant past, whoever makes do with straightforward passions without recourse to secrets and mysteries, is demonstrating his esteem for both himself and his public. And even if he does not go to excessive trouble with characters, if he but has a certain quantity of the former at his disposal, he can be sure of winning over the medium, average reader, who, already too well-bred for the coarse or outrageous adventure but not yet sufficiently receptive for the serene, calm perspectives of genuine art, nonetheless does have considerable need of sentimentality.

Lafontaine is such a writer. Hence one cannot really be surprised at the considerable success he has enjoyed. The preference for Jean Paul is something much more extraordinary, who does not serve up such light dishes, whereas Lafontaine, by contrast, can be enjoyed all at once, with incredible alacrity, and in entire volumes, especially if one has already read a bit by him and can thus greet his favorite descriptions like old acquaintances one passes on the street. Even in the same work, he repeats scenes so generously that the more practiced reader is spared half his reading time, though the publisher admittedly saves nothing with respect to the number of pages. Because the empty pages are always sold along with the others, however, |152| this practice no doubt does not cost the latter as much as the author himself, who can be content with having seemed to fill up those pages. [1]

It is true that we should probably not take him so seriously. This cheerful man is hardly concerned with excellence; rather, despite the frequency with which he presents eternity as the grand point de vue, he nonetheless seems primarily concerned with temporality. In order to make things as comfortable for oneself as possible, one now comes up with morality, virtue, innocence, and love that must count as such once and for all: tailored somewhat to sell, untenable, but easy on the eyes.

Yet even if one is inclined to view him as jovially as he himself views his own activities and endeavors, nonetheless the concepts of all those aforementioned things he is disseminating among people are in fact not a matter of indifference, and it is worth asking how, despite the considerable good will and faith with which he attempts to be moral, he nonetheless ends up promoting the already powerful inclination toward lethargy and passivity. It is quite certain that were he capable of viewing himself more rigorously as a writer, he would also be capable of holding human nature in higher esteem.

In his earlier pieces, he seemed inclined to take a simultaneously unique and complaisant path, even though he can never have had a really pure understanding of what a poem is, since he was able to refer to his scenes as “poems” and even view them as approximations of the tragic poetic arts. At the time, he presumably had no more lofty ideal of the latter at that time than “tragic |153| Arnaud” (Saint Julien), [2] then mistaking poesy for that particular kind of fire to which the French refer with the expression verve, and which he himself possesses in abundance.

Amid all that, however, more refined elements did suggest the presence of potential that might permit one to hope, assuming the writer was still a youth, for significant developments yet to come. Encores such as the counterpart to the Sabellian marriages, or “Kunigunde,” [3] were simply ignored and allowed to pass, as were various blemishes in his more complex stories.

He committed his first really striking and inexcusable indelicacy with respect to Julien in “Liebe und Redlichkeit auf der Probe,” [3a] and that he did not keep Rudolf von Werdenberg [4] free of excesses such as the incident with Heloise, shows the considerable extent to which he lacked any sense for the unity and organic structure of a work, and that he was focusing solely on luxuriant coloration and not in the slightest on the actual contours of the drawing itself. Unadorned passion, without any genuinely intellectual or handsomely sensual ingredient, adequately supplies such coloration for him.

He himself admits in the preface to the second edition of Die Gewalt der Liebe that he is illuminating but a single emotion of the human heart (in which sense all his writings might be called the Gewalt der Liebe [power of love]), and what is more, only a couple of sides of that emotion. [5] It is bad enough that of them all, he was able to comprehend only the most base and weak! And bad enough that the initial germs sprouted forth as a mere profusion of foliage, |154| which without trunk or fruit never elevates itself above a certain height!

Even though his reading of the ancients, [6] which he engages quite pleasantly, one might even say: in a feminine fashion, prompts him to be more rigorously serious, as is the case in his more recent Greek stories, he nonetheless still treats everything with an element of tension, blow for blow, everything topsy-turvy, economizing on sacrifices and deaths for the fatherland as little here as he does on kisses elsewhere. The changing colors and tumultuous life stand in such conflict with the dignity of the subject matter that one easily enough discerns the extent to which he was really familiar with it.

For it is precisely this play of colors, along with his florescent diction [7] and flowing rhetoric, which wants for nothing with respect to the graces of carelessness, that have already convulsed many a young bosom and confused so many more mature judgments that Clara du Plessis has been placed alongside La nouvelle Héloïse, [8] and, on the basis of his most inferior productions, Lafontaine himself has with considerable pretention been styled [9] as an artist (Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung 98, no. 47 [10]).

He himself must find it somewhat amusing to hear himself prattle on about “art,” since one should sooner presume that he himself makes very little of such things even in the works of others. Well, let him continue to please in this way, like a fresh young girl who possesses neither definite features nor soul in her eyes, but who does have a couple of quite rosy cheeks and dainty lips. It has already often enough been the case that the most noble figures went unnoticed while a huge |155| crowd gathered around a pretty face of this sort, one that appealed to everyone precisely because it offered nothing more to read than what anyone can understand in any case. His writing is quite obviously the ill-raised “daughter of nature,” and one would very much wish that his portrayals (including the dramatic attempt of the same name) [11] might possess an equal portion of nature.

But can anything possibly be more unnatural, and at the same time more immoral, than his children’s love affairs? He simply assumes, without further ado, that the first thing that stirs in a human being is interest in the opposite sex. Experience at least shows that when such an early relationship does develop, it manifests itself initially as aversion. One often witnesses a segregation among children between boys and girls. Or even if particular habits and drives might have established such alliances, later differences in education and training sunder them just as often as they continue successfully or unsuccessfully for both parties.

With his presupposition, Lafontaine injects an alien element of irritability into healthy nature. Were things to progress so far that physical contact prompted as intense feelings in children as when Lissow guides Käthe’s hand while teaching her to write in Flaming, [12] their youth would indeed be closer to wilting than to maturing, and parents and supervisors alike would justifiably be at fault. If innocence is indeed like the delicate blossom of a “snowflake that a mere breath devours” (Flaming), [13] then but |156| a single glance at most of Lafontaine’s books will surely destroy it in young creatures. In the stories of morality, in Die Gewalt der Liebe, in Flaming, in Clara du Plessis, in Werdenberg, children are everywhere falling in love with one another. Lafontaine is their true Ovid.

It is indeed significant that he so often displaces love into the period of unthinking childhood. In Lafontaine, love consistently bears something of the character of its origins, something of empty affection and blind force, and what he remarks with respect to Borde and Anne (in Saint Julien) applies quite precisely here: “Both were young; that is the whole secret.” [14] This secret of stopping at the halfway point is what constitutes the secret of his innocence, of which his heroes, again as he himself puts it, possess so indescribably much. When in the case of more spiritual love he is intent on proceeding with the requisite subtlety and psychological insight, he instead makes do with merely prodding vanity and describing youthful ebullitions, in a word: he reduces such love to mere accidentals.

Similarly, when describing lofty innocence, he is inexhaustible in depicting all sorts of intimate relationships and sensual insinuations in which there is nonetheless to be no sensuality and that lead nowhere. Although a painter can easily enough dash off a figure hovering above the ground, anyone who tries to imitate that same position in reality quickly loses his balance. Lafontaine has wholly mistaken the essence of beautiful humanity in this alleged innocence. |157| The more perfect the organization, the more securely must the senses, too, possess an element of noble excitability. Forsooth, permission to pursue them with such impunity would betray the presence not of purity, but of an enormous dulling of the senses and lack of imagination that is anything but charming or attractive.

He, however, believes he has done nature justice and rescued good manners as well when he permits both children and adults a whole plethora of intimacies one can hardly stand to watch, and has them feel no more in the process than in the case of a cordial nod of the head. Both — nature as well as good manners — have considerable right to lodge bitter complaints about him. The only readers to whom he appeals are those whose sensibility is not put off by such offensive admixtures, readers whom he places into a flattering state of mind where there is no need to resist temptation since, after all, virtue remains inviolate.

One need but take the character of Jacobine in Flaming as one example among many. From the outset, she is living with Lissow in the most extreme and unforced casualness. “She offered him her pretty cheek for a morning kiss, he took her in his arms in the presence of her parents and caressed her. She went to him whenever she pleased and sat next to him, his arm around her. If her father came to join them, he seated himself on the other side and similarly put his arm around her body.” (Quite often indeed in Lafontaine, spectators must thus sanction the private intimacies of love.) |158|

Lissow was a young man who had never told Jacobine that she might become his wife. She is presented to us as the purest, most sublime soul. In the meantime, given her upbringing she could hardly fail to know what intimate familiarity is, and reserve concerning each such familiarity that was not the first, abrupt confession of love or its consequences had to guide the stirrings of so cultivated a young girl. Sacred, involuntary reserve in surrendering oneself is what constitutes innocence, not Lafontaine’s unending guilelessness in surrender, which makes his women more or less into Gurlis regardless of how noble he may try to portray them. [15] Jacobine, even as Lissow’s spouse, takes this guilelessness so far as to “offer her pretty cheek” to the young, handsome, and rich Maltese knight, a friend of the family, “whenever he came and whenever he left.” [16] How thoughtless would a demure woman have to be to behave such a manner? How would she have to reproach herself if such resulted in the same sort of disaster as on this particular occasion!

Yet another of Lafontaine’s moral levers is the beneficence and in general all the touching emotions arising from crude good-heartedness. Not that he neglects to add the appropriate dose of wisdom in words, adding to Flaming, for example, old Grumbach, who reigns with his generosity; but regardless of how intensively he engages this device, no more noble metal emerges in the makeup of this virtue than this material |159| drive of giving, with which he elicits his tears and calms distressed souls.

All that remains above it all, however, is merely the dry moral of the story itself. For he well knows, of course, that heroism, action, learning, culture, and moderation can otherwise also be part of it all; but since he himself has never exercised the latter, it all comes out like the description of enormous deeds of bravery where a single person routs or slays entire hordes. Once such a hero begins thus to be victorious, one already knows beforehand that he will get through it without a scratch. It is easy enough to talk about sacrificing oneself, controlling oneself, etc.; what is important is showing how this happened, and then a single feature can be more valuable than a hundred.

Lafontaine, however, to the extent he is permitted in matters concerning the business of book factories, seems convinced that in all things, much accomplishes more than little. Even the shortcomings and folly he mixes in with the deluge of virtues are unable to add spice to them, and are just as little capable of producing a genuinely natural counterfeit of a human being as are those virtues of producing an ideal one.

Over the course of his writing career, Lafontaine has come up with various remedies. He has, for example, taken recourse in humorous and antithetical character development, or warmed himself with foreign models. Saint Julien is based on The Vicar of Wakefield, Flaming has a bit of Siegfried von Lindenberg, at the beginning of “Natur und Buhlerei” one senses that he has the best of intentions of creating another Werther, [17] and |160| the most piquant thing [18] is that he has recently started Jean-Paul-Richterizing quite respectably. Although the cradle discourse in the grove in Saint Julien is not quite in costume, it does nonetheless demonstrate how much can be done in this genre through simple mechanics. Several other scenes, such as that with the rowing of Borde and the captain’s family, are in their own turn wholly in the style of French sensibility, whose superficiality at the very least spews out electric sparks.

It would perhaps be unfair to judge Lafontaine solely on the basis of Flaming, notwithstanding it is his fattest book. For just that reason, however, incidents proliferate in such excessive breadth, and such a considerable quantity of raisonnement, satire, instruction, and examples have had to be squeezed in, and the comical element be exploited to the point of being so threadbare, that nothing remains afterward but wearying surfeit. Moreover, philosophy is not at all Lafontaine’s thing, neither the rigorous nor the humoristic sort. Hence the universality he is pursuing here could not but degenerate into general banality and triviality.

Should one not, among other things, assume that Hilbert’s discourses (in part three) are to provide the perspective from which the philosopher, or healthy human understanding, is to take Flaming’s own foolish acts and the enthusiasm of honest people more or less within the same pale, just as the preface to Flaming does with uncritical hypotheses and critical philosophy? And now behold, how flippantly and facilely he expresses himself here. “But just listen to someone who has been in Rome! With delight bordering on frenzy |161| he will tell you about a head — out of stone or bones, which makes no difference — and finds in Apollo’s countenance material for days of reflection and for the most sublime feelings. Should you then see Apollo himself, you would believe that the person was out of his senses.”

This particular view is explicated much more fully and counts among his more brilliant passages. But will readers also reckon the following passage, from the sphere of morality, among the more brilliant or sound? “Thou shalt be virtuous, is the eternal command of reason; and thou shalt be happy, the equally eternal, equally rigorous command of all our feelings. These two — let me call them instincts of our nature — these two fundamental drives of our moral and emotional nature must never contradict each other. They are equally regnant, equally eternal, and equally necessary; the two, grand streams of life through which we are what we are.

They eternally exchange natures with each other. Virtue becomes the source of our happiness, and from the indelible wish to be happy, virtue in turn acquires its strength. The command of the one is as it were the echo of the other; one resounds from the throne of judgment of the Eternal, the other rustles down to us from the ocean of eternal love. Be virtuous! be happy! Two tones that ring out at the same time, producing the most beautiful harmony of the cosmos; two streams from a single source, encompassing paradise before |162| reuniting again. The command of the one without the other is dead, terrible, and abominable. Be happy without virtue! and the earth crumbles beneath human happiness. Be virtuous without happiness! and the throne of love topples beneath this barbaric command.

The two belong eternally together, two trunks from the same root. They have one nature, one essence, and both command without providing reasons. Be happy! only a fool asks why. Be virtuous! only a madman asks the cause. The one maintains emotional, feeling nature, the other moral nature. The two together constitute our essence, united and indivisible.” This is indeed an illumination of virtue and happiness from every side, and is the formative content of what he calls wisdom. The most fortuitous chance occurrence is the haste with which in the final pages he is forced to dispense with the French and Kantian revolutions. In the case of the character Iglou, one would prefer to repress the rather profane suspicion that Mignon in Wilhelm Meister [19] might have served as a model for this creation, since one cannot deny that at the beginning the impression she makes is more canine than human, something not at all reconciled by the lofty cultivation he confers on her later.

Lafontaine, by the way, shares this inclination to take grotesque figures as it were to the point of ennoblement with Müller von Itzehoe; several of our comic writers, including Wezel, who far surpasses these two, similarly often begin quite comically and then end up so being so serious that the entire nature of their subject and |163| book is utterly altered. [20] Their comical element transitions into the sad, for those who make claims to both genres and are unable to be purely comical can also never elevate themselves to the tragic; which is why Müller becomes dry, Wezel gloomy, and Lafontaine convulsive.

As far as I know, even the Lafontainian reading public prefers his Saint Julien to Flaming. It is precisely through the reminiscences from the Vicar of Wakefield that it acquires a more substantial physiognomy. It is true that the strokes meant to describe the character came out a bit rougher, and are not always connected one with the other. It was quite possible for a man such as the vicar to describe himself with all his petty weaknesses, since he had just enough superior bearing to rough out the portrait with the slight hint of self-mockery that in fact constitutes the charm of that portrayal.

Saint Julien, however, is governed by a weakness that cannot tolerate so open a confession, neither from the perspective of inner probability nor from that of effect. Fear overcomes him not merely to the point of foolishness, but also baseness. The vicar presents his wife as nothing more than what she genuinely is; Saint Julien declares his own to be the best woman for him in all of France. But he is unable thereby to ennoble all the ordinary features attaching to her, as is in fact his intention. In her character as well as in his own, what is bad there, on the one hand, is simply too bad, and the intended result, on the other, |164| too lofty; what emerges is an incongruity revealing the inauthentic nature of the fiction. [21]

Portraying even an extremely ordinary personality in the full breadth of its truth and yet with its limitations can be the object of the most mature poesy; but doing so requires an element of restraint that Lafontaine admittedly quite lacks, since such is, after all, found only in mature poesy. For all his description, Lafontaine never gets around to genuinely portraying. How childishly are some of the initial, characteristic family scenes structured, with so much talk about the ancients and about Brutus. What convincing argumenta ad hominem! And then quickly three or four examples of the same thing, one after the other, interspersed with explicit reports of how each behaved. When the proper element is missing, you can sing and talk about it as much as you like; one may well believe, but one will not see, and surfeit can never provide it.

Hence one must also take him at his word that Anna is an extraordinary being. The mysterious announcement gradually dissolves into nebulous vapor. But then Adelaide steps forward as the “rare creature” who “is distinguished from them all by her character. Her heart was the living breath of love, and yet simultaneously as strong as a diamond, her open eyes serene, not with the frivolous sensibility of youth, but radiating a ray of eternal life, seeming to gaze past misery into a world full of peace and calm, and the tears clinging to her long eyelashes |165| revealed the misery lying between her and eternity. Her voice was gently and seriously triumphant like the hallelujah singing of the angels, her cheeks radiating the gentle flush of dawn etc.”

And thus it continues for entire pages. Such alluring words! Could one but compose poetically with words alone, Lafontaine would be our man. But the whole merely reveals how little poetic substance lies behind these words, and that they are at most to be viewed as musical decoration.

Although Jean Paul also occasionally makes music thus, it genuinely is his imagination that is at play, not merely some mechanical, manual dexterity. The former seizes the imagination in its own turn, indeed often all too forcefully; the latter is to move our heart, but just as not every friend of music will be content with mere dexterity, so also will not every heart be moved by Lafontaine. He has never particularly engaged understanding, instead always making straight for the heart (albeit one that has neither head nor senses). That notwithstanding, it is precisely the understanding, where it allies itself with the heart, that may alienate some of his spoils, since it can be neither won through mere ardency, nor deceived by its mere semblance.

The end of Saint Julien is too weak to prompt anything but the pious wish that all those who have been innocently guillotined [22] might be assembled once more on this earth in as intact a condition of life as are the resurrected in this family saga.

|166| One might sooner find the better Lafontaine in the story “Natur und Buhlerei.” The young man is admittedly not as distinguished as alleged. He longs for the country, scorns the city, which is too restrictive for his emotions. That which oppresses such a person could in the end be blown away like a feather. Werther’s sufferings reached a bit more deeply than to have him speculate [23] over the smiles of a few pretty young girls had it occurred to him to kiss dried jasmine blossoms from his father’s garden.

Why does Lafontaine, here, too, and quite out of place, use a tone of voice and expressions that evoke such a comparison, however fleeting? This accords perfectly with the pathetic call later from the friend who functions as Eduard Bomston. [24] “I order you, young man, to remain there and complete your path!” The young man preaches with infinite ardor about his feelings and eternity, and passionately, indeed heatedly defends the impressions of youth. This quite discountenances worldly people, [25] thereby demonstrating his considerable superiority. Through a beneficent act his beloved destroys any and all suspicions he might yet harbor concerning the goodness and sincerity of her character; here, too, however, Lafontaine can get no further.

But as far as the two girls and the course of the story otherwise are concerned, one finds an element of warmth and that more refined luster in Lafontaine’s treatment that raised the pleasant hope that he might indeed acquire excellence in the genre of such stories. |167| How little do we find here in the way of fully developed elements! What little we do encounter prompts one to recall with both pleasure and regret the Bagatellen of Anton Wall, [26] who was lost for both the world and himself. What grace [27] especially in his Antonie! [28] Only a gray Apollo now occasionally summons up the memory of Meisner, [29] whom Lafontaine as it were replaced. His stiff elegance always had something dead about it. He was as prim and precious as Lafontaine is animated and unforced, and he never managed, as has Lafontaine, to be called “charming.”

Although Meisner easily surpassed Lafontaine as far as understanding is concerned, it was understanding of the arid sort, [30] one unable to captivate the intellect. And yet he was an extremely popular writer. Nor can Lafontaine become more; that is little enough, but still too much for what on the whole is the tendency of his products to drag one down, [31] products lacking poesy, spirit, and even romantic power and lift. [32]


[*] Reprinted — as noted: with some alterations — in Wilhelm Schlegel’s Kritische Schriften 1:290–307; Sämmtliche Werke 12:11–27.

An anonymous “B.” made the following dismissive remark concerning this review in the article “Etwas über Teutsche LieblingsSchrift-Stellerei, ihren Schaden, und ihre Vortheile,” Allgemeiner Literarischer Anzeiger (1799) 56 (Thursday, 11 April 1799), 557–59, here 558: “But let me pass over the criticism Schlegel [earlier identified as Friedrich rather than Wilhelm] visits upon poor Lafontaine — all of whose merits are ignored while his flaws, both real and imagined, are examined in the crassest light.” Back.

[1] In Wilhelm Schlegel’s Sämmtliche Werke 12:13, this last sentence was replaced by the following:

One would think that eventually even the most shallow of devotees would become aware of these weakly disguised repetitions, and that the habit of constantly exhausting his own writing would damage the writer’s reputation. Back.

[2] August Lafontaine, St. Julien (Frankfurt, Leipzig 1798), 16, in reference to the son, Louis:

His heart became ever softer, his character ever gentler; the youthful energy of his heart transformed itself into gentle melancholy, which nonetheless had nothing offensive about it. He was not serious, but rather cordial, like an angel from heaven; his imagination left the earth, elevating itself into the fields of eternity. Under the hands of a saint, he himself would have become a saint, or a rapturous enthusiast. The music of his sister’s lyre brought tears to his eyes; Plutarch ceased to be his favorite. He fled the noise of the city, and the darkest, quietest corners in the Tuilerie Gardens became his preferred places. There he would sit with tragic d’Arnaud, or gentle Florian, or rapturous Petrarch in his hands, and read. My wife had been right; his heart had been dipped in tenderness, his nature nothing but a single sigh of the most faithful love.

Here the frontispiece and the emotive title vignette to the novel:




[3] In Lafontaine’s collection Die Gewalt der Liebe in Erzählungen (Berlin 1797), 81–94. Here the title vignette:



[3a] Die Gewalt der Liebe in Erzählungen, vol. 2 (Berlin 1799), 25–222; here the title vignette to that vollume:



[4] Rudolf von Werdenberg: Eine Rittergeschichte aus den Revolutionszeiten Helvetiens (Basel 1793). Here, from the richly illustrated second edition of 1797, the vignette from the title page (to accompany the text on p. 83) along with the other illustrations within the novel (August Lafontaine, Rudolph von Werdenberg: eine Rittergeschichte aus den Revolutionzeiten Helvetiens, rev. ed. [Berlin 1797], in order: the vignette on p. 3 [the initial page of novel]; the frontispiece [to accompany the text on p. 230]; then the illustration following p. 396 [to accompany the text on p. 397], and the “happy-end” vignette on p. 448, the final page of novel):






[5] Die Gewalt der Liebe in Erzählungen, 2nd ed. (Berlin 1799), iv: “These stories illuminate but a single emotion of the human heart, namely, love, and that emotion only from a couple of sides.” Back.

[6] Wilhelm Schlegel, Sämmtliche Werke 12:15 reads “acquaintance with the ancients.” Back.

[7] Germ. blühende Diktion; ibid., 12:15 reads “ornate/flowery writing style [blumenreiche Schreibart].” Back.

[8] Klara du Plessis und Klairant: Eine Familiengeschichte Französischer Emigrirten (Berlin 1795); Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Julie ou la Nouvelle Héloïse (Amsterdam 1761). Click on the image below to open a gallery of illustrations to several editions of Lafontaine’s Klara du Plessis:



[9] Wilhelm Schlegel, Sämmtliche Werke 12:16 reads “ennobled.” Back.

[10] Anonymous review of A. H. J. Lafontaine, Familiengeschichten, 1, vols. 1–2, Die Familie von Halden (Berlin 1797), Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1798) 47 (Saturday, 10 February 1798) 373–76. Back.

[11] Die Tochter der Natur: eine Familienscene in drey Aufzügen (Görlitz 1793; rev. ed. 1798). Here the frontispiece from the edition of 1798:



[12] Lafontaine’s Leben und Thaten des Freiherrn Quinctius Heymeran von Flaming, 4 vols. (Berlin 1795–96). Here, in order, the frontispiece to vol. 1 (the only vol. with such) and the title vignettes to all four volumes of this first edition:






Click on the following illustration to open a gallery of all the illustrations to the Leben und thaten des freiherrn Quinctius Heymeran von Flaming from the Gothaischer Hof Kalender zum Nutzen u. Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1798:



[13] Gustav Freier (August Lafontaine), Leben und Thaten des Freyherrn Quinctius Heymeran v. Flaming, vol. 2 (Kreuznach 1798) 394: “Innocence is like the delicate blossom of a snowflake; a mere breath devours it.” Back.

[14] August Lafontaine, Saint Julien (Frankfurt, Leipzig 1798), 85; Borde and Anne are characters in the novel. Back.

[15] Gurli, a young, naīve, “close-to-nature” female character in August von Kotzebue’s comedy in three acts, Die Indianer in England (Leipzig 1790). One of the signature “naīve” roles of the accomplished actress Friederike Unzelmann, here depicted in the role (unknown artist):



[16] Leben und Thaten des Freyherrn Quinctius Heymeran v. Flaming, 394:

His heart was full of Jacobine, but his sense quite unoccupied. And how could Jacobine’s quiet innocence, her chaste simplicity have provoked sensual desire? He walked along next to her; and she put her soft hand into his. She held up her pretty cheek to him whenever he came and whenever he went. Such was their habit, or became their habit; for admittedly, the first kiss he pressed on her cheek set his entire heart into tumult. No ambiguous allusion, not even the tiniest, could excite his imagination. Jacobine did not even know what it meant to want to please someone. Toward the knight she was always just as natural, just as cordial; and she always clung to her husband with unspeakable passion. She was beautiful, attractive, and in the fresh blossom of youth; but all that was only for her husband. For the knight she was nothing but kind, cheerful, cordial, and hence his sensuality remained calm. His relationship with her had become habit. Back.

[17] In order: Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (London 1766); Johann Gottwerth Müller, Siegfried von Lindenberg (Hamburg 1779) (see Caroline’s undated letter to Lotte Michaelis from Marburg [letter 93], note 5); “Natur und Buhlerei” in Lafontaine’s collection Die Gewalt der Liebe in Erzählungen, vol. 3 (1797); Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (Leipzig 1774). Back.

[18] Wilhelm Schlegel, Sämmtliche Werke 12:16 reads Germ. das Ergötzlichste, “most amusing, delectable, entertaining.” Back.

[19] Mignon, one of the central characters in Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister. Back.

[20] Wilhelm Schlegel, Sämmtliche Werke 12:23 reads “utterly transformed.” Back.

[21] Germ. Fiktion; Wilhelm Schlegel, Sämmtliche Werke 12:24 reads “invention, creation (Germ. Erfindung). Back.

[22] Ibid., 12:25 reads “executed.” Back.

[23] Ibid., 12:26 reads “brood.” Back.

[24] Character in Rousseau’s novel Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse. Back.

[25] Germ. dekontenanzirt; Wilhelm Schlegel, Sämmtliche Werke 12:26 uses Germ. aus der Fassung bringen, “disconcert, take aback, put out, rattle.” Back.

[26] Pseudonym of Christian Leberecht Heyne; Bagatellen, 2 vols., (Leipzig 1783). Back.

[27] Germ. Grazie; Wilhelm Schlegel, Sämmtliche Werke 12:27: Anmuth. Back.

[28] Antonie, the seventeen-year-old protagonist in Anton Wall, “Antonie. Aus der geheimen Geschichte einer Residenz,” Bagatellen, vol. 1, 60–96. Here the frontispiece:



[29] Wilhelm Schlegel, Sämmtliche Werke 12:27: “Meisner’s memory has already rather faded.” Back.

[30] Germ. von der dürren Gattung; Wilhelm Schlegel, Sämmtliche Werke 12:27: von der trocknen Art, “of the dry sort.” Back.

[31] Ibid, ” tendency of his novels.” Back.

[32] Caroline uses the German term romantisch in this final expression; Wilhelm, Sämmtliche Werke 12:27, uses the broader term romanhaft, a term referring to the romantic in the original sense of “as in or characteristic of a novel [Roman], novelistic.” See also Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 16 June 1780 (letter 16) with note 1. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott