Letter 163i

163i. Wilhelm Schlegel to Schiller in Jena: Jena, 28 June 1796 [*]

[Jena, 28 June 1796]

Tuesday morning. Although I had a very good time of it indeed in Weimar yesterday, the return trip here went quite poorly. [1] I was soaked through, indeed, so much so that I was also unable to protect the book I had received and was bringing back, namely, Herder’s Briefe. [2] I have sent it to the bookbinder to have it rebound; if traces nonetheless remain, I will secure a new copy entirely, though such is impossible for me to do immediately today. In the meantime, I have charged the maidservant with delivering it to you in any case as soon as it is back from the binder, since you may perhaps want to read in it in the meantime.

I am to send warm regards to you and your esteemed wife from Geheimrath Voigt, from Goethe, and from Herder. The latter is not aware of wishing rhyme ill — believing instead that he showed it considerable respect. [3] We enjoyed a broad discussion on the topic. I also spoke with Böttiger — who had just received the translated discourse of Lysias from my brother with an introduction for the Attisches Museum. [4] He related to me that although Wieland was quite content in Switzerland, he would nonetheless likely be returning sooner than originally planned. [5]

In the meantime, stay very well, and pass along my warmest regards to your wife. Heaven has failed to smile on me yet again today, for I will be traveling to Merseburg in an uncovered carriage. But, then, I am not one to make much of bad weather. [6]

I told Goethe about my journey and its reason. He remembered having seen my lady friend in Mainz at the Forsters and was struck at how astonishingly times have changed since then. [7] I also told him about my lady friend’s narrative, which you yourself now have. [8]

Again, stay very well.



[*] Source: Körner-Wieneke 35. Back.

[1] The visit was Wilhelm’s first to Weimar. Jena is ca. 20km from Weimar (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]; Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



Here Weimar in 1785 viewed from the west, approaching the Erfurt Town Gate, i.e., the gate for travelers approaching from Erfurt (illustration from Wilhelm Bode, Damals in Weimar [Weimar 1912], 10):



[2] Illustration from Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Von Berlin nach Danzig. Eine Künstlerfahrt im Jahre 1773 von Daniel Chodowiecki. 108 Lichtdrucke nach den Originalen in der Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Mit erläuterndem Text und einer Einführung von Professor Dr. W[olfgang] von Oettingen (Berlin: Amsler & Ruthardt, Kunsthändler o.J. [1883]), plate 64:


Otherwise the reference is to Johann Gottfried Herder, Briefe zur Beförderung der Humanität (Riga 1793–97), here the seventh collection, 1796. The work essentially continues Herder’s historical and cultural survey, Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, 4. vols. (1784–91), now also influenced by the French Revolution and with a slightly didactic intent, encouraging readers to be better human beings and promoting a certain understanding of national feeling. See esp. W. H. Bruford, Culture and Society in Classical Weimar 1775–1806 (Cambridge 1962; here 1975), 231–35. Back.

[3] See Schiller to Goethe on 18 June 1796 (translation Correspondence between Schiller and Goethe from 1794 to 1805, 2 vols., trans. L. Dora Schmitz [London 1877], 1:162):

His [Herder’s, in the seventh collection of his Briefe zur Beförderung der Humanität] irreconcilable hostility to rhyme, I also think [is] carried too far, and what he adduces against it I consider as being very far from sufficiently satisfactory. Be the origin of rhyme ever so common and unpoetical, we must consider the impression it produces, and this cannot be reasoned away by any argument. Back.

[4] Karl August Böttiger was co-editor, with Christoph Martin Wieland, of the periodical Attisches Museum. Friedrich Schlegel, “Der Epitafios des Lysias,”Attisches Museum 1 (1797), 2:213–78 (Jugendschriften 1:181–93). Back.

[5] Wieland was in Switzerland from late May till September 1796. Back.

[6] Wilhelm does not otherwise mention this side excursion to Merseburg, nor is it known whom he would be visiting there. Merseburg is located ca. 55 km northeast of Jena (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Note the uncovered carriage at the left in the following excerpt (Pieter Nolpe, Landschaft mit kleiner Brücke über einen Fluss [Amsterdam ca. 1633–53]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur PNolpe AB 3.44):



[7] Goethe’s house in Weimar (illustration from Wilhelm Bode, Damals in Weimar [Weimar 1912], 73):


Wilhelm may well be trying to counter Caroline’s reputation from the Mainz period, which preceded her essentially everywhere she went subsequently.

Goethe had visited Georg and Therese Forster at their residence in Mainz on 21 August 1792; see also Caroline’s letter to Karl Schlegel and his wife in July 1796 (letter 167). See Goethe, Campaign in France in the Year 1792, trans. Robert Farie (London 1849), 3 (illustration: Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):

Afterwards I passed two pleasant evenings [in Mainz] with the Sömmerrings, Huber, the Forsters, and other friends. Here I already felt myself in my native air again. Almost all of them being former acquaintances and fellow-students connected with Frankfort (Sömmerring’s wife being a Frankfort person); the whole of them intimate with my mother, whose genial qualities they valued, repeating many of her most successful sayings, and asserting more than once my great resemblance to her in cheerfulness of manners and liveliness of conversation; what recollections and sympathies were excited in us by our unaffected, innate, and habitual confidence in each other! Some good-natured jokes about scientific and learned matters, which we could indulge in without restraint, put us in the best humour.


About political matters we were silent, as we felt the necessity of mutual forbearance; for whilst they did not altogether repudiate republican opinions, I, on the other hand, was hastening undisguisedly to join an army which had taken the field to crush these opinions and destroy their influence.

In a handwritten outline of his trip (Weimarer Ausgabe 33:363), Goethe enumerates:

Forster and wife.
Mad[am] Böhmer, [the] later [Mad.] Schlegel.
Sömmering, and others. [Discussion of] Comparative anatomy stimulated.
Considerable republican tension in the feelings of those assembled.
I became uncomfortable in the company.

Caroline remarks after her first meeting with Goethe in Jena — the first since that day in Mainz — (letter to Julie Schlegel on 18 July 1796 [letter 167]): “It made me very glad indeed to see Göthe again, and to find him so gracious and charming at that. He spoke about how merry and uninhibited we all had been back then and how afterward things had changed so suddenly.” Back.

[8] This “narrative” Wilhelm imputes to Caroline is unfortunately otherwise unidentified and has apparently not been preserved. In any case, of course, it is of some note that Caroline had apparently been writing in Braunschweig. In this context, scholars generally adduce her draft of a novel. Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott