Letter 167

• 167. Caroline to Karl and Julie Schlegel in Hannover: Jena, 18 July 1796 [*]

[Jena, [18] July 1796]

|392| The hill and cliff dwellers on the banks of the rushing river Saale send greetings to the inhabitants of the royal residential city on the flat banks of the quiet river Leine, assuring the latter that the former are indeed doing quite well. Nor are you probably expecting to hear anything different from us in that regard just now. I have related to Mother the manner in which we are doing well, and would like to request merely that you decipher for her any passages in my letter she may not be able to read. —

Göthe fastened the final part of Wilhelm Meister behind him on his horse (for he is a valiant and fearless rider despite his corpulence), brought the manuscript over here, and Schiller said yesterday that in the next few days he would invite us to a reading of it. [1] I wish you could hear it along with us, but without having to leave where you are. 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. [2]

|393| I made Fichte’s acquaintance at the club, a short, stocky man with fiery eyes, quite untidily dressed. He had his son, Immanuel Hartmann, baptized. We also had a couple of professors from Halle here, Beck and Gilbert.

Jena seems to me to be a thoroughly scholarly and yet quite merry tavern. [3] Between us, the students still look a bit more barbaric than the ones in Göttingen; it is as if all of them have an extremely scorched teint to their skin. [4]

It has been hot the past few days, and in that regard your raspberry vinegar has quite refreshed us, my dear Julchen. Let me thank you again for it. I hope you have also kept some paper for yourself so that you, too, can write us now and then.

[Wilhelm:] Dearest Karl, please take care of the letter to Moritz as soon as possible. I hope you have received ours, namely, one from Gotha and one from here immediately during the very first days. I am quite happy that Caroline is so pleased with the area here; in her company, I myself find it more beautiful, since before it seemed almost melancholy to me. Of course, I had become accustomed to Dresden. . . . His notorious review of the Musen-Almanach is in the 6th issue of Deutschland. It is, by the way, notorious only among us, for I have not otherwise heard anything about any damage it may have done. [5] It is outrageous that Caroline writes at such length and then squeezes me into this tiny space. Adieu, Carl, adieu, dear sister. [6]


[*] Concerning the dating of this letter, see note 1 below. — Caroline’s portion of the letter was first published in Waitz (1882), 33–34, where Waitz, who dates the letter only to “July 1796,” remarks that the manuscript was part of the collection of “Herr Kestner” in Dresden, the reference being to Georg Wilhelm Eduard Kestner. Wilhelm Schlegel’s postscript was first published in Körner (1930), 1:34, who identifies it as a postscript to this letter. — It might be recalled that Julie Schlegel’s mother had a hostile view of Caroline (see Mother Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm in June 1796 [letter 163f]).

Caroline, newly arrived in Jena, mentions the surrounding topography in the first paragraph, including a reference to the “rushing River Saale” that flows by and through Jena, here on a map clearly illustrating its course (Carl Schreiber and Alexander Färber, Jena von seinem Ursprunge bis zur neuesten Zeit, nach Adrian Beier, Wiedeburg, Spangenberg, Faselius, Zenker u. A. von Carl Schreiber u. Alexander Färber: Mit Kupfern, Karten, Lithographien u. Holzschnitten [Jena 1850], map following p. 52; illustration: Bertius, Iena: Gesamtansicht von Osten [1616]):




[1] Concerning Wilhelm Meister, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 17, 18, 20 July 1796 (letter 166) with note 3, and esp. note 6 there, which dates Goethe’s return to Weimar to the evening of 19 July 1796, he having visited Caroline on 17 July 1796.

Caroline goes on to say on 18 July in that letter (letter 166) that “we went to the Schillers’ afterward,” i.e., also on 17 July. Because she mentions in this present letter that “Schiller said yesterday that in the next few days he would invite us to a reading of it [Wilhelm Meister],” this letter is likely to be dated the same as the second part of letter 166, namely, to 18 July 1796.

That said, it seems appropriate to leave this present letter here for simplicity’s sake and because the third part of Caroline’s letter (letter 166) was written on 20 July, making it awkward if not impossible to position this letter between those sections in letter 166. Back.

[2] Concerning Goethe’s visit to Mainz three years earlier, see Wilhelm Schlegel’s letter to Schiller on 28 June 1796 (letter 163i) with note 7. The reference, of course, is to the siege and subsequent French occupation of Mainz and then the siege of Mainz by the Prussians and coalition armies. Back.

[3] Taverns and inns at the time enjoyed an ambiguous reputation depending on location and clientele. Caroline’s qualification “scholarly” sets her metaphorical tavern apart, for example, from the following three, increasingly less genteel or “scholarly” examples of taverns from the eighteenth century by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki (first illustration from Chodowiecki’s Von Berlin nach Danzig: Eine künstlerfahrt im jahre 1773, von Daniel Chodowiecki. 108 Lichtdrucke nach den originalen in der Staatl. akademie der künste in Berlin, mit erläuterndem text und einer einführung von Wolfgang von Oettingen [Leipzig 1923]; final two unknown publication information):




See in this regard esp. the supplementary appendix on Jena’s tavern and merry activities at Triesnitz (Driesnitz). Back.

[4] Students in Jena were known for their sometimes crude manners and tendency to drink and duel (Ernst Borkowsky, Das alte Jena und seine Universität [Jena 1908], in order: dueling students, Jena in the distance: 99; “Three students, smoking and drinking, receive a guest”: 107; industrious student [on the left], carousing students [on the right]: 109):




Here an illustration of a duel in Jena ca. 1760 (Hans Kufahl and Josef Schmied-Kowarzik, Duellbuch: Geschichte des Zweikampfes [Leipzig 1896], 245) and from a history of one of the student corporations (fraternities) (Heinrich Schneider, Die Burschenschaft Germania zu Jena [Jena 1897], 88):




[5] That essay, critical of the almanac as well as, specifically, of Schiller’s poem Würde der Frauen (see in general Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 10 February 1796 [letter 162] with note 8), and containing a comparison between Schiller and Goethe decidedly unflattering to Schiller, while not enough to estrange Schiller immediately on Friedrich’s arrival in Jena, did nonetheless contribute to such estrangement, since Friedrich was not yet done with critical assessments of Schiller’s work (he later reviews Schiller’s periodical Die Horen). Back.

[6] See letter 173a for Karl Schlegel’s belated response (Karl Schlegel to Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel on 13 November 1796). Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott