Letter 173a

173a. Karl Schlegel to Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena: Hannover, 13 November 1796 [*]

Hannover, 13 November 1796

Just how one gets to the point, most cherished sister, of not writing at all, indeed of even leaving unanswered those letters that have given one such joy, well, that is something you can easily enough learn from the example of your dear Herr Spouse and his philosophical Herr Brother.

These two renowned non-writers may well serve to excuse me for having left a letter unanswered for so long that, moreover, so wonderfully describes the happiness of the hill-and-cliff dwellers on the banks of the rushing River Saale to the inhabitants of the royal residence on the high banks of the brownish River Leine (you are certainly free to impute flat banks to it, albeit contrary to the descriptive name Hannover, Hohes Ufer [high bank/shore]) [1] and, through its merry tone, has prompted cries of delight among the latter residents, cries to which even in the midst of this royal residence they are always happy to lend an ear.

I do in any case still have one advantage over my aforementioned brothers, namely, that they deal exclusively with material in which everyone likes to participate and that they themselves push toward communication — whereas I deal only with practical-legal matters with which I am hardly welcome even among my own professional colleagues. Nor was it always thus with Wilhelm, since (notwithstanding that such monotonous order generally sets in only after marriage) before his marriage he was in fact the most regular and exemplary letter writer, and it almost seems that in his marriage contract with you he has entered into a division of labor whereby he leaves the real letter writing to you while reserving the postscripts for himself. —

From my silence, however, you would only quite incorrectly deduce a lack of interest and concern on my part. My mother has often delighted us by relating to us your letters and the pleasant news they always contain. . . .

Most cherished sister, although you referred my mother to me with respect to clarifying the epigrams in Schiller’s Almanach, [2] I have until now only caught glimpses of them from others, since it was already sold out at Dieterich’s in Göttingen, where I had intended to purchase it. I also quite doubt I will be able to decipher them all if they genuinely do all have a specific reference. [3]

I hear from Dresden that you are planning to travel there together at Easter, and indeed I would very much like to participate myself were it not so infinitely far away. [4]


[*] Körner (1930), 41–42. Response to letter 167, in which Caroline mentions the locations of both letter writers and the rivers flowing through their respective towns; note that the Leine River also flows through Caroline’s hometown Göttingen, approximately halfway between Hannover and Jena (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[1] Hannover viewed from the west across the Leine River in 1798 (Johann Heinrich Ramberg, Hannover, aufgenommen von der Westseite am Leine-Strom [1798]; Historisches Museum Hannover):



[2] An odd remark, since in her letter to Karl Schlegel in July 1796 (letter 167), to which this letter is responding, she asks only that he “decipher for her any passages in my letter she may not be able to read”; perhaps she mentioned there some of the Xenien in Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1797. Back.

[3] Caroline’s discusses the Xenien in her letters to Luise Gotter on 4 September, 3 October, 15–16 October, (esp.) 22 October, and October/November 1796 (letters 169–173). Back.

[4] Karl Schlegel likely heard this news from Charlotte Ernst; Caroline and Wilhelm would be in Dresden from 10 April till 20 May 1797 (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]; illustrated map: Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):




Translation © 2012 Doug Stott