Letter 135.1

135.1. Friedrich Schlegel to Wilhelm Schlegel in Amsterdam: Leipzig, 16 September 1793 [*]

[Leipzig, Monday] 16 September 1793

I received your letter of 5 September to C[aroline] B[öhmer] last Wednesday just as I was about to go out there. [1] It gave her great joy — I am hoping to receive the answer to it with tomorrow’s messenger so I can yet enclose it.

Hence for now only this much. I found both her health and her mood to be exceptionally good, nor has she received any bad news in the meantime; I have enclosed a letter from Philipp. [2]

This time I spent a rather long time there, not returning until Saturday, when we had extremely good weather; my fatigue and the arrival of my friend Carlowitz prevented me from writing you that same evening. I would have written you much sooner, and had twice started what was to be an extremely long letter. [Obligations in Leipzig] . . .

Right afterward I was sick for a week and utterly incapable of writing you what I wanted. I received your two letters at about the same time. Many thanks for the three Ducats. [3] Your letter largely addressed my worries. Let me only say quite briefly that those worries will, I hope, not return, that I have indeed not yet received any letter from Charlotte, but rather only a brief note, since she is sending me letters from Hannover, [4] that Göschen’s letter to Körner did in all likelihood arrive in time, and that you can absolutely rely on his discretion regardless of how gossipy Mademoiselle Stock is, and that, finally, the latter has not learned of B.’s condition.

But let me answer at greater length to clarify some rather confused notions you have concerning things. — Madam Fleischer is the sister of Göschen’s wife; she saw you here; Göschen himself identified you to her under your own name, and she writes to Mlle. Stock on every postal day. —

The latter is Körner’s sister-in-law, Huber’s former beloved and thus an archenemy of anything even remotely associated with the Forsters, and my sister’s most intimate lady friend; they are especially wont to gossip about things of this nature together. —

Was it not wholly grievous that Charlotte learned of her presence here and her condition? Could I have foreseen what would come of all that? —

A great deal in my letter intended merely to indicate what possible consequences a certain pretence — which to me did not seem sufficiently considered to be entirely implemented — might have. — If contrary to all expectation Charlotte yet learns something, I will act according to your instructions. I am not that worried; I think I can guarantee Körner’s discreet silence; — it was enough to make me extremely worried indeed, however, that with almost complete certainty both he and Mlle. Stock were aware of B.’s presence here (and presumably also of her condition, though I learned only later that such was not the case) and of her name.

Since I wrote you that Göschen’s entire family knew about B.’s condition and was extremely curious to learn her name as well, and since you know that the elderly Heinsius also belongs to that group, how can you then possibly believe that Göschen told him you were here, something he in any case doubtless very well knew long before? You are being quite unfair to him. Göschen has acted with irreproachable selflessness and discretion. —

The fact that I dispatch two messengers weekly and am absent for several days from time to time can well arouse the curiosity of my landlady, my domestic, and my manservant; you can easily enough see whether that is a dangerous situation. Since Easter I have broken off all my connections here; only rarely does anyone come to see me, since I myself go to no one and moreover rarely accord a smiling face to those who do come.

Carlowitz is no longer here; if he is visiting, as during these recent days, or if Hardenberg or Schweinitz come, whom I am expecting for the trade fair, you can easily see that it will not be particularly difficult to conceal my messages and errands and such from them. And even were someone to notice anything, he would immediately come upon the most natural explanation and not really find it worth his trouble to inquire further.

How can you possibly come upon the idea that my parents might learn of my visits in L[uck]a? — But Charlotte could also learn that I was constantly with her in Göschen’s house for six days [5] if she learned the other as well. —

I will not say anything to her [Caroline] even should something bad yet happen. She absolutely cannot change her location now in any case. Such would not yet be necessary even were she discovered, which would not be such a disaster; but why torment her needlessly? If you think it necessary, then do it yourself; I for my part think that this prospect, as modest as the matter is, would cause her more incessant grief than would genuinely bad news. —

Hence I will continue my visits in L[uck]a (with the greatest possible caution, that goes without saying), indeed, I will even alter my plan to go to Dresden soon (which I was thinking about doing around Michaelmas) and instead remain here as long as she does. The latter is necessary and appropriate not least because of the smaller requests, which over the long run Göschen cannot reasonably be expected to fulfill; then also, in what is in so many respects a critical situation there really needs to be someone around on whom she can wholly rely should an emergency arise; and finally, as little as I may well mean to her, she would nonetheless perhaps miss me simply because I am absolutely the only person who sees her. —

In all this I am sacrificing nothing, or only very little. I could in any case not travel yet, at least the greater half of my debts would have to be paid off first; and the projects for which I need the library could easily enough be postponed for several months. My solitude here is quite salutary and in fact forces me to be diligent. in Dresden I cannot avoid distraction and social contact during the initial period. And finally, contact with her generously compensates me for any pleasantries Dresden may offer. As far as my sister and parents are concerned, to whom I have already announced the trip, [6] I will find an appropriate way to explain that it will be merely delayed rather than canceled, especially since I have not yet made firm plans in any case. —

I have perhaps given you an incorrect impression of our dealings with each other; I should have written about it in a simple and serious fashion rather than in a whimsical mood and half in jest. —

She made an extremely animated impression on me, to which during the first few days I wholly surrendered myself, trying also to get a bit closer to her, become acquainted with her, wanting permission to solicit assiduously an exchange and friendship with her; but just as she appeared to be expressing a measure of concerned interest in this regard, I saw with utter clarity that even the mere attempt at such would only lead to the most vehement clashes, and if any friendship were to be possible between us, it could only be the late fruit of numerous false starts.

You can easily sense how inappropriate this would be given her situation — hence I abandoned any and all self-interested considerations; there was now absolutely no more talk about me. My inclination is to reckon that as a sacrifice for you, since this abstinence has become so infinitely difficult for me. —

Hence I positioned myself in the simplest, most straightforward relationship with her, with the respect of a son, the openness of a brother, the unaffectedness of a child, the undemanding selflessness of a stranger. That is how I now act toward her, and it had to be thus because the important thing was that I be useful to her, not that she become my lady friend. —

It could thus very easily happen that she might assess me in so strange a fashion that you yourself would not recognize me in her description; but I do hope she will be satisfied with me, with my zeal and goodwill in all the small matters I am able to take care of for her, and it also seems I now have her trust, since she tells me so much. [7]

I really would like to know something more definite about your plans for the future. . . . What projects do you have planned for the free time that is to follow your service years? and how much longer are the latter to last? [8] Does it depend on S[ophie]? [9]

You said something in your last letter that I almost cannot comprehend. You seem to regret not having gone to Maynz a year and a half ago. [10] I now believe you would have found your ruin there, and then I would also have feared for your freedom at the time. Are you forgetting your relationship with S[ophie]? or do you have such a low estimation of it? I have an extremely high regard for it, and I am also pleased that, I hope, you are thereby forever free. — . . .

B.’s things have now arrived, including a sofa, bureau, [11] and many other small conveniences she has had to do without for so long. So do not worry anymore. Although one can admittedly not expect the food out in the country to be wholly appropriate for so delicate a constitution in this condition, she has been accustomed to making do for several months now, and it does not seem to be harming her health. [12] . . .

I will relate everything else in my next letter, indeed soon; otherwise this letter today will be much too big, for I still have much to write. — sent the 17th of September.


[*] Sources: Walzel, 111–16; KFSA 23:130–34. Back.

[1] That is, go out to Lucka. Wilhelm’s letter was written in Amsterdam on Thursday, 5 September 1793, and seems to have arrived in Leipzig on Wednesday, 11 September. This letter also attests Friedrich’s visit on 11 September; as he goes on to mention, he returned to Leipzig on Saturday, 14 September. Back.

[2] Perhaps a letter of thanks to Wilhelm from Caroline’s brother Philipp Michaelis for having assisted Caroline. Back.

[3] Mentioned in Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm on 28 August 1793 (letter 134). Back.

[4] From their parents, though their father, Johann Adolf Schlegel, died the very day Friedrich is here writing. Back.

[5] Beginning 2 August 1793. Back.

[6] Namely, to Dresden at the end of September 1793 (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[7] Concerning Friedrich’s first impressions of Caroline, see also “Caroline in Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde. Ein Roman (Berlin 1799),” supplementary appendix 132a.1. Back.

[8] Wilhelm Schlegel’s contract with his Amsterdam employer, the banker Henry Muilman, still had four years left. Back.

[9] Wilhelm’s love interest in Amsterdam, apparently Sophie Tischbein. See the supplementary appendix on Sophie Tischbein as the Amsterdam Sophie. Back.

[10] I.e., approximately when Caroline herself moved to Mainz; apparently Caroline declined Wilhelm’s offers to do so. Back.

[11] Fr., here: “writing table.” Back.

[12] Caroline was the daughter of a renowned university professor and had grown up in privileged or at least pampered bourgeois circumstances, yet had just spent three months incarcerated in Königstein, where, as she herself pointed out, she had to pick vermin off herself daily. The tiny village of Lucka, however, had been chosen precisely for its remoteness and rural character, its seclusion, and the privacy and anonymity she needed.

Here the Altenburger Strasse in Lucka in an anonymous photograph from 1912, just over a century later, looking toward the town hall in the distance and, behind it, the steeple of the Church of St. Pankratius: