Letter 196

• 196. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Jena, 21 February 1798

[Jena] 21 February [1798]

|448| [Errands. Cäcilie.] [1] Schiller’s head has acquired an astonishing resemblance to Madam Schiller, once more proving the assertion that spouses always greatly resemble each other in appearance or at least come to do so . . .

In the matter of Die Horen, either just tell people you did not know about it — nor did anyone in Jena [2] — or persuade them it will be reappearing in the most radiant splendor, for example, with Wallenstein. [3] I have already planted that idea in several people’s heads.

A charming Berliner recently visited us, the Swedish envoyé in Berlin itself, who is now going to Paris in a similar capacity. [4] [Maidservants.]


[1] Concerning Luise and Cäcilie Gotter’s visit in Jena, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 11 February 1798 (letter 195) with note 2, there also remarks about Cäcilie not feeling well and an earlier reference to Cäcilie’s attempt to draw a portrait of Schiller, which Caroline similarly mentions in the next sentence here. Back.

[2] The allusion is to the demise of Schiller’s periodical Die Horen (the title is plural, whence the “they” (Germ. sie) in Caroline’s original following reference, here rendered as “it”). — Schiller had begun editing his periodical in 1795 with lofty expectations (see, e.g., Moritz Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 22 June 1795 [letter 150d] with note 6), but modest circulation numbers prompted the publisher, Johann Friedrich Cotta, to cease publication with the third volume in 1797.

In a certain sense, Wilhelm and Friedrich viewed their periodical, Athenaeum, which was about to begin publication, as a kind of successor to Die Horen that simultaneously issued “discreet polemic” against the earlier periodical in its own (unpaginated) preface; see esp. Heinz Härtl, “Athenaeum’-Polemiken,” Debatten und Kontroversen: Literarische Auseinandersetzungen in Deutschland am Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts, ed. Hans-Dietrich Dahnke and Bernd Leistner, 2. vols. (Berlin, Weimar 1989), 257–58:

Hence the Schillerian “ideal of ennobled humanity” corresponded largely with the Schlegels’ anticipated striving “for the highest possible universality in that which directly aims at cultivation,” and, analogous to the program of Die Horen, subject matter not related “to art and philosophy, both of which are taken in their entire scope,” was to be excluded.

On the other hand, the Schlegels, unlike Schiller, declined to impose upon themselves “strict silence regarding the most popular topic of the day,” and their own goal of not avoiding “views related to the multifarious striving of our nation and age” deviated from that of Schiller to “exclude all references to the contemporary course of things.”

Nor did the preface to Athenaeum say anything about “beauty . . . having to accommodate itself to rules, acquiring value only through being commensurate with rules”; instead, that preface emphasized the principle of “the highest degree of free communication” through a variation of both form and content. In Die Horen, “all freedom” was to be permitted “that is compatible with good and beautiful morals,” thereby excluding anything “stamped with the impure spirit of partiality.”

By contrast, the Schlegels announced that they would “never, for reasons of propriety, say only halfway” that which they viewed as the truth, and the guiding principles of Schiller’s announcement — “propriety and order, justice and peace” — play absolutely no role in the preface to Athenaeum, being instead quite contrasted by the latter’s very vocabulary.

Hence despite essential shared principles, the periodical program of the Schlegel brothers differed from that of Schiller especially in two points. It did not subordinate “the beautiful” to moral-ethical values, and the editors imposed fewer restrictions on themselves. The Schlegel brothers also clearly tried to prevent Athenaeum from falling into the self-contradiction between the articulated program ideal, on the one hand, and its realization, on the other, of the sort that had, after all, characterized previous polemic against Die Horen. Back.

[3] The first evidence of Schiller’s work on his dramatic Wallenstein trilogy dates to early 1791, while he was yet working on the history of the Thirty Years’ War. In 1793 several scenes had already been composed, but in March 1796 he developed a different concept, beginning intensive work on the project again in late autumn of the same year, i.e., just after Caroline and Wilhelm had moved to Jena. Although he initially composed his scenes in prose, in the autumn of 1797 he switched to iambic pentameter, not finishing the overall trilogy, however, until the spring of 1799.

That said, Caroline is writing here in February 1798. The first part of Schiller’s Wallenstein trilogy, Wallensteins Lager, premiered in Weimar on 12 October 1798; the second, Die Piccolomini, on 30 January 1799, and finally the third, Wallenstein’s Tod, on 20 April 1799. The printed edition, published by Johann Friedrich Cotta in Tübingen, did not appear until June 1800: Wallenstein: Ein dramatisches Gedicht von Schiller. Erster und Zweyter Theil (i.e., 2 vols.: Wallensteins Lager and Die Piccolomini in vol. 1, Wallenstein’s Tod in vol. 2). — This trilogy plays an important role in Caroline’s and others’ correspondence over the next two years. Back.

[4] Concerning Karl Gustaf von Brinckmann’s presence in Weimar and Jena during this period, see Wilhelm Schlegel’s letter to Goethe on 19 February 1798 (letter 195d) with note 4 (Wilhelm made Brinckmann’s acquaintance on 19 February 1798). Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott