Letter 150d

150d. Moritz Schlegel to Wilhelm Schlegel in Amsterdam: Harburg, 22 June 1795 [*]

Harburg, 22 June 1795

Dearest brother, rest assured that I correctly and punctually took care of your commissions and delivered your letters, particularly also the letter to Eschenburg, [1] though I hesitated to write to you again in Holland because I was utterly uncertain concerning the time of your departure. . . .

According to your last letter, which included a missive to Karl that I also immediately expedited to Hannover, your departure really does seem to be quite imminent. Nonetheless I do not want to miss the opportunity to send on to you this letter from our mother I received. Since it contains absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, there is no worry should it fail to find you there and fall into someone else’s hands. You will doubtless be prudent enough to arrange at your departure from Muilman’s house for any subsequent letters to be forwarded on to you. Since our mother left so much empty space on this sheet, perhaps you will be pleased if I use it to add a few words.

According to what you have said, I can entertain little hope of seeing you soon; but I do implore you not to neglect anew in Germany the correspondence we have now reestablished, and to send me news from time to time about everything you are doing. It is still my most ardent and zealous wish that you not come to regret the decision you have made. [2]

The only thing that really worries me is that your situation may require you to engage excessively in journalistic writing without providing sufficient and appropriate leisure for you to establish your reputation firmly by publishing a major original piece. It is undeniable that this insufferable journalistic business is spreading out in a horrible fashion quite to the detriment of true culture, degrading all our best minds into amusing social companions of the contemporary world and thereby robbing posterity of their work, and that ultimately it will devour the entirety of our literature.

To the extent it has been published, I have read your “Dante” with great pleasure; [3] it betrays considerable study, considerable art in versification, and an extremely accurate sense of taste in the simple, serious tone of antiquity characterizing Dante, a tone you have reproduced with utter accuracy; it cannot but elicit the approval of connoisseurs. Of course, it goes without saying that it is not at all directed at the broader world of shallow readers; nor will you put much stock in the praise of those parrots who find everything beautiful published under Schiller’s auspices.

Otherwise I must candidly confess to you that your essay is almost the only thing I find satisfactory in this journal. [4] Abominable abuses are being perpetrated there by way of a kind of Kantian pseudo-philosophy whose initiator is probably Fichte and which is even more ethereal than Reinhold’s, moreover with several infinitely wearying, extraordinarily precarious philosophically sounding concepts being thrown about. Even the essay on aesthetic education is nothing more than a brilliant conceptual game. [5] And this from the journal that was announced in such lofty words and praised with such considerable bloviation in the Literatur-Zeitung as a salutary means of regenerating our culture. [6] . . .


[*] Source: Körner (1930), 1:24–26; 2:11–12. — Harburg is located just across the Elbe River from Hamburg; Caroline visited her brother Philipp Michaelis there in the spring of 1801 (The German Dominions of the King of Great Britain Comprised Under the Name of Electorate of Brunswick Luneburg [London 1778]):


Here Harburg ca. 1825 (Haldenwang after A. Radl):



[1] Körner (1930), 2:11, notes that although no letter from Wilhelm Schlegel to Johann Joachim Eschenburg seems to be extant for 1795, Eschenburg himself addresses the issue in a letter to Wilhelm’s brother Karl Schlegel from Braunschweig on 9 April 1795 (i.e., before Caroline herself has arrived in Braunschweig), noting that he would be pleased,

after the loss of our excellent Ebert [who had died on 19 March 1795 and with whose wife Caroline would become acquainted; see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 20 May 1795 (letter 150)], if I could in any way contribute toward fulfilling the wish expressed at Gärtner’s death by your late father, namely, to see your esteemed brother appointed to a position at our Collegium Carolinum. There will, however, doubtless be no thought of filling that position anew.

The Collegium Carolinum had been founded in 1747 as a kind of gymnasium illustre in which students not necessarily on a trajectory to become scholars in the traditional sense might be instructed in the belles-lettres and humanities, including Greek and Roman culture. It was located on the Hagen Market across from the Grand Opera and the Church of St. Catherine (Friedrich Wilhelm Culemann, Braunschweig [1798]; Stadtarchiv Braunschweig, H XI 5 18):


Here the school in 1746 (Anton August Beck, Collegium Carolinum in Braunschweig (1746); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur AABeck AB 3.34) and later in the 19th century (Festgabe: Braunschweig “Einst und Jetzt”: dargestellt in Wort und Bild [Braunschweig 1897], 18, 19):




Assuming Karl Schlegel was acting on Wilhelm’s behalf, Wilhelm was apparently thinking about a position at that institution in Braunschweig even before Caroline had left Gotha; Wilhelm and Caroline would eventually (summer 1796) move to Jena; had he secured a position there, his and Caroline’s (and Auguste’s) later lives would doubtless have been far different (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[2] Namely, to leave his steady employment in Amsterdam and return to Germany without concrete professional prospects, or, as becomes clear in the remainder of this paragraph, only the prospect of journalistic writing. In general, see esp. W. H. Bruford, part IV, “Reactions on Literature,” chap. I, “The Profession of Letters,” Germany in the Eighteenth Century: The Social Background of the Literary Revival, 271–90, here 271, 286:

It was only in the second half of the eighteenth century that it became possible for a German writer to take up literature as a whole-time profession, and even at the end of the century Germany had probably fewer professional authors than England. The number of authors of the first rank who were entirely dependent on the public was of course small in both couintries. Nearly all the considerable writers either possessed private means or exercised some lucrative profession. . . .

Apart from the men of letters proper there were journalists and publicists, some of whom made a precarious living by writing. It is usual to make a distinction between periodicals and newspapers, but at this early date the distinction was not so clear as it is to-day, for newspapers did not necessarily appear daily or contain very much in the way of current news.

That Moritz Schlegel’s concerns in this present paragraph were not without some justification — Wilhelm Schlegel possessed neither “private means” nor a “lucrative profession” — can be seen not only in Bruford’s remarks here, but also in the following, gently satirical illustrations of professional writers by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki in 1780 ([1] “Der Schriftsteller,” Illustrationen zu Erasmus’ Lob der Narrheit in sechs Abteilungen [1780]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki WB 3.32; [2] Szenen aus dem Alltagsleben [n.d.]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 161):




[3] “Dante’s Hölle,” in Schiller’s periodical Die Horen 1, 3 (1795), 22–69; 2, 4 (1795), 1–13; 3, 7 (1795), 31–49; “Ugolino und Ruggieri. Fortsetzung von Dante’s Hölle,” 3, 8 (1795), 35–74. See Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm on 7 December 1794 (letter 148c), notes 2 and 3. Back.

[4] I.e., Schiller’s periodical Die Horen. Back.

[5] Schiller, “Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen,” Die Horen 1, 1 (1795), 7–48; 1, 2 (1795), 51–94; 2, 6 (1795), 45–124. See the introductory remarks to the translation Friedrich Schiller, Aesthetical and Philosophical Essays; The Ghost Seer; and The Sport of Destiny, trans. Nathan Haskell Dole, vol. 5 (Boston 1902), xiv–xv:

The characteristics of the beautiful are, according to Kant:

1. The pleasure it procures is free from interest.
2. Beauty appears to us as an object of general enjoyment, without awakening in us the consciousness of an abstract idea and of a category of reason to which we might refer our judgment.
3. Beauty ought to embrace in itself the relation of conformity to its end, but in such a way that this conformity may be grasped without the idea of the end being offered to our mind.
4. Though it be not accompanied by an abstract idea, beauty ought to be acknowledged as the object of a necessary enjoyment.

A special feature of all this system is the indissoluble unity of what is supposed to be separated in consciousness. This distinction disappears in the beautiful, because in it the general and the particular, the end and the means, the idea and the object, mentally penetrate each other completely. The particular in itself, whether it be opposed to itself or to what is general, is something accidental.

But here what may be considered as an accidental form is so intimately connected with the general that it is confounded and identified with it. By this means the beautiful in art presents thought to us as incarnate. On the other hand, matter, nature, the sensuous as themselves possessing measure, end, and harmony, are raised to the dignity of spirit and share in its general character.

Thought not only abandons its hostility against nature, but smiles in her. Sensation and enjoyment are justified and sanctified, so that nature and liberty, sense and ideas, find their justification and their sanctification in this union. Nevertheless this reconciliation, though seemingly perfect, is stricken with the character of subjectiveness. It cannot constitute the absolutely true and real.

Such is an outline of the principal results of Kant’s criticism, and Hegel passes high praise on the profoundly philosophic mind of Schiller, who demanded the union and reconciliation of the two principles, and who tried to give a scientific explanation of it before the problem had been solved by philosophy.

In his “Letters on Æsthetic Education,” Schiller admits that man carries in himself the germ of the ideal man which is realised and represented by the state. There are two ways for the individual man to approach the ideal man; first, when the state, considered as morality, justice, and general reason, absorbs the individualities in its unity; secondly, when the individual rises to the ideal of his species by the perfecting of himself. Reason demands unity, conformity to the species; nature, on the other hand, demands plurality and individuality; and man is at once solicited by two contrary laws.

In this conflict, aesthetic education must come in to effect the reconciliation of the two principles; for, according to Schiller, it has as its end to fashion and polish the inclinations and passions so that they may become reasonable, and that, on the other hand, reason and freedom may issue from their abstract character, may unite with nature, may spiritualise it, become incarnate, and take a body in it. Beauty is thus given as the simultaneous development of the rational and of the sensuous, fused together, and interpenetrated one by the other, an union that constitutes in fact true reality. Back.

[6] Schiller’s announcement of his new periodical, Die Horen, filled the entire issue of the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1794) 140 (Wednesday, 10 December 1794) 1129–36, where one reads, among other things (1131–32), that the new periodical would

collect together individual features contributing toward the ideal of ennobled humanity, which, though posited by reason, is nonetheless so easily lost from view in experience, and, to the extent it is able, work toward the quiet construction of better concepts, purer principles, and more noble manners, on which ultimately all true improvement of societal circumstances depends. . . . Respectability and propriety, justice and peace will thus constitute the spirit and rule of this periodical. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott