Letter 112a

112a. Friedrich Schlegel to Wilhelm Schlegel in Amsterdam: Leipzig, 5–28 July 1792 [*]

[Leipzig] 5 July [17]92

It is only with a certain measure of coercion that I can write entire sheets of letters full in a single pass the way you or C[aroline] B[öhmer] are able. That is why my own letters always contain less than they should and yet still cost me considerable effort. Hence from now on I intend always to have a sheet ready in my desk on which I can write in increments whenever the mood strikes me. . . .

15 July [1792]

Many thanks for the torn pages from the divine prophecy [1] — You will receive them back in my next mailing, for I must first get to the bottom of them. My good friend, you share your secrets the way women share their favor — increasingly more and yet never everything. — I should sooner be quite reproachful of your inclination toward artificiality when in fact only the greatest simplicity ought to reign, but you are more accustomed to sweet reproaches from sweet lips than to masculine ones; moreover, I am currently too satisfied with both you and your fate to revile you.

But do tell me, did you seriously believe a human brain would be able to decipher the meaning of these torn letters? — In truth, were it not [Caroline] B[öhmer], were this phantom of no greater interest to me than the reality of the real women I know ( — a phantom whose true acquaintance might perhaps even be dangerous for me — ), I would not even try to surmise the spirit behind these individual sounds.

Well! enjoy your youth and your secret joys. If they endure, you will be revived, and then the time will have come for you to become everything you can be. [Caroline] B[öhmer] very subtly remarks that she is “no longer worried about your spirit and intellect etc.” Your happiness will give you infinite power, and part of that new power will also be directed toward me; our friendship will receive new life.

Fr[iedrich] Schl[egel]

Although I do not really need to return [Caroline] B[ömer]’s letters to you with the next mail, I have probably already put it off too long. The delay would not have happened had I not wanted to write at least something on the matter as well, something the illness of an acquaintance and similar such things prevented me from doing. . . .

Copy out as many passages as possible from her letters. I found the small piece from her first one enchanting; it contains so much love and reality; more than is usually the case in [Caroline] B[öhmer]’s letters. I will not risk ascertaining my own thoughts on this entire connection and on her influence on you until you have given me a more thorough introduction. In the meantime, I can even now rejoice in your happiness, indeed perhaps you have already reached the pinnacle of your happiness, and perhaps the time has now come for you to become that which you will ultimately remain for your entire life. Use your happiness for the sake of your own excellence.

You would be bestowing a grand present on me with Sophie’s portrait, [2] and an even grander one with your own, which I already requested from you once before. Have yourself painted now, in the happiest disposition of your spirit; what I love most in you is most visible when you are happy. [3]

You still owe me the story of your entire connection with [Caroline] B[öhmer]; you are aware of that, are you not? — I am also prepared to make do with halved letters. Here you have them back, with gratitude; you can see that they were quite dear to me, considering how long I kept them. One of my most pleasant pastimes has been to divine the grand whole of her spirit from the many fragments you allowed me to see. — What a woman! — You fortunate man, and you dare complain? — What I would not bear with such happiness! But I cannot even begin to think about what a woman might be for me, or that I so wholly lack one of the greatest goods.

So, then, stay well, my friend. Soon I will write considerably more.

Fr. Schl.

28 July 1792


[*] Sources: Walzel, 50–54; KFSA 23:56–59. Back.

[1] That is, excerpts from Caroline’s letters to Wilhelm. Back.

[2] Although “Sophie” was originally thought to be a singer in Amsterdam, she is likely to be identified as Sophie Tischbein, wife of Johann Friedrich August Tischbein, with whom Wilhelm socialized in Amsterdam. See the supplementary appendix on Sophie Tischbein as the Amsterdam Sophie. Back.

[3] Presumably an anticipatory reference to Wilhelm’s later portrait that Caroline would receive in Lucka. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott