Letter 182a

182a. Schiller to Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena: Jena, 1 June 1797 [*]

[Jena, 1 June 1797]

Although it was with great reluctance, I can assure you, that I decided to take this unpleasant step, circumstances have longed demanded it. [1] I have nothing with which to reproach you yourself and am certainly inclined to believe your asseveration that you have no reason to reproach yourself with respect to any behavior toward me.

Unfortunately, these considerations change nothing, since no mutual trust can obtain between us given the considerable reasons for annoyance your brother has provided and indeed continues to provide me. Not even exemplary goodwill can maintain a relationship rendered impossible by a natural weave of circumstances. Complete security and unrestricted trust must reign in my most immediate circle of acquaintances, and precisely that, given what has happened, cannot obtain in our relationship.

Hence better that we dissolve it, an unpleasant act of necessity to which we — both innocent, as I hope — must yield. I owe as much to myself, since no one can comprehend how I can at once be both the friend of your household and the object of your brother’s insults.

Please assure Madame Schlegel that I took not even the slightest notice of the ludicrous rumor that she was the author of that particular recension, and that in the larger sense I consider her too sensible to get mixed up in such things. [2]



[*] Sources: Briefe Schillers und Goethes an A.W. Schlegel, aus den Jahren 1795 bis 1801, und 1797 bis 1824, nebst einem Briefe Schlegels an Schiller (Leipzig 1846), 19; Schillers Briefe, ed. Fritz Jonas, Albert Leitzmann, 7 vols. (Stuttgart 1892), 5:197; Körner-Wieneke 40. Dating according to Schillers Calender. Nach dem m Jahre 1865 erschienenen Text, ed. Ernst Müller (Stuttgart 1893), 43. — This letter is the response to Wilhelm and Caroline’s letter to Schiller on 1 June 1797 (letter 182); concerning the break with Schiller in general, see supplementary appendix 181g.1. Back.

[1] Schiller wrote to Christian Gottfried Körner from Jena on 3 June (Correspondence of Schiller with Körner, trans. Leonard Simpson, 3 vols. [London 1849], 3:123): “As the Humboldts have left, and I have broken off intercourse with the Schlegels, I shall be much alone this summer.”

Alexander von Humboldt had left Jena for Dresden on 30 May 1797 with Caroline von Humboldt, her children, and another family, arriving in Dresden on ca. 3 June. Wilhelm von Humboldt had left Berlin for Dresden on 11 June; the two brothers settled their recently deceased mother’s estate while in Dresden. Körner responded on 10 June (ibid., 3:124–25):

I had not more than half an hour’s conversation with Alexander von Humboldt, and found him very interesting. Frau von Humboldt was also much more agreeable, gay and lively than when she was last here. She spoke a great deal about the Schlegels. I can understand that their disagreeable manners must finally preponderate. But their natures are not common, but only distorted.

Wilhelm Schlegel has been spoilt latterly by his wife and his profession as a critic. During his first visit to Dresden, he really pleased me very much, because of the love he manifested for the Arts and for the higher walks of what is beautiful. I never thought him a productive genius. Frederick is more so, in his line, but with him there is still much of the rudis indigestaque moles [Ovid: “a rough and unordered mass”]. Back.

[2] Concerning this arguably condescending remark about Caroline being “too sensible to get mixed up in such things”: Schiller, obviously, suspects nothing about Caroline’s engagement on Wilhelm’s behalf in supplying literary reviews for the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, four of which, in fact, would appear within the next two weeks (14, 15 June 1797).

The regnant view of women’s engagement in intellectual matters at the time largely coincided with the following illustration, according to which such “learned” or “scholarly women” inevitably, thus the thinking, neglected precisely their household and family, often with — as illustrated below: multiple — disastrous consequences (“Die gelehrte Frau,” Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1803: Dem Edeln und Schönen der frohen Laune und der Philosophie des Lebens gewidmet [1803], plate 6; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Translation © 2012 Doug Stott