Letter 135.2

135.2. Friedrich Schlegel to Wilhelm Schlegel in Amsterdam: Leipzig, Sunday, 29 September 1793 [*]

[Leipzig, Sunday, 29 September 1793]

My dearest Wilhelm, if you received my last letter, then you have doubtless also already excused my silence. I had promised you some news, namely, about her [Caroline’s] health until she was better. And you received that news in two letters from her, the second of which, I cannot deny, lay unsent here for several days through my own fault. But believe me when I say this was the only time. Both of you are always equally impatient, never considering the time the letter must remain here in any case.

To wit, messengers leave twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. If your letter arrives here on Wednesday, as did your last one, which I received on the 25th, [1] she simply does not receive it until Sunday morning, or late Saturday evening. And so also with her letters. What is irksome is that she had to wait a painfully long time for letters from you because of the foolish translation, which is coming to nothing in any case. [2] . . .

Things are still going fairly well with [Caroline] B[öhmer]’s health, though not so well a few days ago. The stove in her room proved to be completely unusable and had to be changed. For several days she had to live downstairs among the whole family, in the common room, which had an extremely bad effect on both her mood and her physical condition. [3]

But everything is back in good order now, and she wrote me a quite cheerful letter yesterday. She also enclosed a piece of embroidery, the good woman, which Madam Göschen will sell at the trade fair. She probably did not write you anything about that, or? — . . .

I am curious to read what you wrote to B. about Anmuth, to wit, whether you wrote about it in a different tone than you did to me. [4] One cannot judge it more severely than I, and I said as much to B. and wrote as much to Körner (with considerable restraint, of course), [5] who was also not pleased with it. But how can one fail to recognize the great man in it? . . .

Because I still have not yet received any letter from Charlotte, I cannot answer you on this point. [6] . . .

B.’s opinions on poesy are quite new and pleasing for me. She penetrates deep into the interior, something also discernible when she reads aloud, such as Iphigenie, [7] which she reads magnificently. If her judgment were pure, perhaps I could not find it to be so inexpressibly true and profound. She is fond of the Greeks, and I am sending her one after the other.

Leipzig, 29 September 1793

I will no longer acknowledge excuses.


[*] Sources: Walzel, 117–19; KFSA 23:135–37. Back.

[1] Wednesday, 25 September 1793. Back.

[2] Friedrich had been trying to broker one of Wilhelm’s translations with Georg Joachim Göschen (see KFSA 23:435n2, 3, and 412n3). Back.

[3] Friedrich mentions in a letter to Wilhelm on 28 August 1793 (letter 134) that “the family with which she is living consists of a sickly, miserly, cranky physician, and his oppressed and tormented kinfolk.”

Here two illustrations of representative enough common rooms at the time in rural settings (William Baillie, “Bauernstube mit fünf Figuren um einen Tisch” [1767]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur WBaillie AB 3.50; William Baillie, “Bauernstube mit vier Figuren um einen Tisch” [1768]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur WBaillie AB 3.52):



And an illustration from an earlier period that may more accurately reflect what Friedrich seems to be describing (Adriaen van Ostade, Die Familie in der Stube [1647–84]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 1920a):



[4] The reference is to Schiller’s essay “Über Anmuth und Würde,” generally translated “On Grace and Dignity” (better perhaps: “On Gracefulness and Dignity”), which he had finished on 20 June 1793 and then published in his own periodical Die Neue Thalia 3, no. 2 (1793), 115–230, and in a special printing as well. See Eugen Kühnemnann, Schiller, trans. Katharine Royce, 2 vols. (Boston, London 1912), 2:105–6:

In his essay on “Grace and Dignity” Schiller is already considering dramatic material and deals with the artistic portrayal of men as we see them in action, claimed by duty or smitten by fate. In the beautiful soul, duty and inclination are blended in a perfect union. Such a soul obeys the mandates of duty as if such obedience were the spontaneous outcome of its own nature. In the sublime character the moral will maintains its superiority in spite of the assaults of sorrow or of fate. Grace and dignity express the manifestation of both these forms of life. Back.

[5] Christian Gottfried and Minna Körner were extremely close friends with Schiller. Back.

[6] The concern had been whether their sister Charlotte Ernst in Dresden had learned anything more specific about Caroline’s location and condition (Caroline was now almost eight months pregnant) and about Wilhelm’s relationship with her. See Friedrich’s letters to Wilhelm on 21 August and 16 September 1793 (letters 133a, 135α). Back.

[7] Goethe’s Iphigenie auf Tauris. Ein Schauspiel, in Goethe’s Schriften, vol. 3 (Leipzig 1787), 1–136. Concerning the differences between Goethe’s version and the original by Euripides, see supplementary appendix 432a.1; for the original illustrations to this 1787 volume with Iphigenie and other remarks concerning Caroline’s relationship with the play, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter and Wilhelmine Bertuch on 28 May 1784 (letter 41), note 8. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott