Letter 199b

199b. Wilhelm Schlegel to Georg Joachim Göschen in Leipzig: Weimar, 27 April 1798 [*]

Weimar, 27 April 1798

For perhaps three months now I have owed you a response to an extremely kind letter — I have been frightfully buried in work and am only now beginning to breathe more easily. [1]

We have been here in Weimar for several days and are full of admiration for Iffland. [2] My wife wrote you a couple of days ago [3] — something of which I was not aware, otherwise I certainly would have enclosed a missive for you as well.

I certainly need to justify not having taken care of your Doolin yet. [4] Now that I am enjoying a bit of respite from Shakespeare and Athenaeum, that will be my first project. I must say to your consolation that it would assuredly not have been done any earlier even had the editors chosen to assign it to someone else. [5] You have probably noticed that for three months now not a single review has appeared in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung under the rubric of belles lettres. An obvious and considerable deficiency, to be sure. As I said, in a few days, as soon as I return to Jena, I will get to the project and then commend its dispatch to you straightaway.

Would you be so good as to forward the enclosed letter to Cotta. I did not know whether it would get to him without a specific address. It is merely a small financial request. [6]

My wife joins me in sending our warmest regards to both you and your dear wife. She will be coming to Leipzig later than the Ifflands, who I have heard will already be departing for Leipzig Saturday week. [7] How I wish you could be here now with your family, since Iffland will not be performing in Leipzig.

I am very sorry I will now not be coming through Leipzig on my way to Berlin. I will presumably be going to Dessau with Tischbein. [8] Stay well and remember me kindly.

A. W. Schlegel


[*] Source: Körner (1930), 1:74, notes 2:29n59. Back.

[1] Wilhelm’s work included his edition of Shakespeare, reviews for the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (though see Wilhelm’s remarks later in the letter), and the initial issues of Athenaeum. Back.

[2] Concerning Iffland’s Weimar performances, see Caroline’s undated letter to Luise Gotter in April 1798 (letter 199) with note 5. Back.

[3] Although Körner (1930), 2:29n59, thought that Caroline’s letter to Göschen had been lost, it is doubtless her letter to him on 26 April 1798 (letter 199a). Back.

[4] Johann Baptist von Alxinger’s chivalric poem Doolin von Maynz. Ein Rittergedicht (Leipzig, Vienna 1787), which Göschen published in 1797 in a second, improved edition. Here the author frontispiece and the five engravings in the new edition (engravings for, in order: canto 1, stanza 11; canto 4, stanza 72; canto 5, stanza 63; canto 7, stanza 17; and canto 10, stanza 62):




Wilhelm had promised in an unpublished letter of 23 October 1797 to review it; on 7 February 1799 he excuses his not having kept the promise (Karl Gödeke, “Vier Briefe A. W. Schlegels an Göschen,” Weimarisches Jahrbuch für deutsche Sprache, Litteratur und Kunst 4 [1856], 26–30, here 26–27; for the complete letter to Göschen, see letter 219b):

[Regarding praise for a different piece.] . . . such is not quite the case with Doolin, which is why I still owe you this review, and why I have from time to time simply postponed it. I have also resolved, should I indeed publish it, to say everything positive I can about the tasteful production of the book itself, to compare the new edition [i.e., Göschen’s own] favorably with the old one, but otherwise to speak the truth — according to my own conviction, of course.

Concerning that conviction see Aug. Wilhelm Schlegels Vorlesungen über Philosophische Kunstlehre, ed. Aug. Wünsche (Leipzig 1911), 213:

Alxinger was trying to imitate Oberon [see also Caroline to Luise Gotter on 15 May 1780 (letter 15), notes 1 and 2] in Doolin von Mainz, which he composed in completely free, 8-line stanzas; but his poem utterly lacks interest. Its entirety is paltry and completely lacking persiflage. If it is thus to lack jest, everything must be treated quite purely, even the tone of the speakers must be characterized by noble simplicity and naiveté. Back.

[5] I.e., the editors of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. Back.

[6] The (lost) letter to Cotta was requesting the outstanding honororium for Wilhelm’s contributions to Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für 1798, which Wilhelm was disinclined to request from Schiller himself, who was now hostile toward Wilhelm because of, in turn, Friedrich Schlegel’s own earlier hostilities with Schiller; concerning the break with Schiller, see supplementary appendix 181g.1 and supplementary appendix 194c.1. Back.

[7] Caroline and Auguste departed for Dresden by way of Leipzig accompanied by Johann Diederich Gries on 9 May 1798; the Ifflands apparently departed for Leipzig on 5 May on their return to Berlin (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[8] Johann Friedrich August Tischbein spent several weeks in Weimar and Jena that spring; see also Caroline’s letter to Göschen on 26 April 1798 (letter 199a).

The most direct route from Jena to Dessau was by way of Merseburg and Halle rather than Leipzig (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Wilhelm does, however, seem to have traveled through Leipzig on his way to Berlin; see his letter to Georg Joachim Göschen from Berlin on 26 May 1798 (letter 200e) and to Gottlieb Hufeland from Dresden on 1 July 1798 (letter 201d). Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott