Letter 200d

• 200d. Friedrich Schlegel to Auguste Böhmer in Dresden: Berlin, May 1798 [*]

[Berlin, May 1798]

There is not much time to write, dear Auguste. I only want to let you know very briefly that I have Wilhelm here now and was very pleased to receive your letter yesterday. [1] I will write you a thorough letter very soon concerning coming and not coming. [2] I will definitely be coming, and soon, though I seriously doubt it will be possible for me to come right now with Wilhelm, and I only hope you will not be angry with me. [3]

Give my regards to all our friends, also to Friedrich Richter, with whom your mother so frequently speaks. [4] Does she also wish for me to come? You have written nothing about that. [5]

Tell her also that on the next postal day she will be receiving 3 or 4 advance sheets of the 2nd issue of Athenäum, a copy of the 1st issue for Charlotte, [6] and a long letter for Hardenberg.

Write me often and long. Your doing so really is the greatest joy for me.

Your Friedrich Sch.

2nd Michaelmas [?]
i.e., in the greatest haste.


[*] Source: Schmidt (1913), 1:629 (letter no. 16); Waitz (1871), 1:364; reprinted in KFSA 24:130. Supplementary material from Otto Braun, “Friedrich Schlegel an Auguste Böhmer,” Das literarische Echo 19 (August 1917), 1377.

Dating: Although Braun redates this letter to 2 October based on his reading “2tn Michaelis” (2nd Michaelmas), KFSA 24:388.67n1 maintains that such would not accord with 2 October in any case, since Michaelmas falls on 29 September (Josef Körner, Briefe von und an Friedrich und Dorothea Schlegel, ed. Josef Körner [Berlin 1926], 608, perpetuates the dating). Nor, based on other epistolary considerations, was Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin during the autumn of 1798, since Friedrich writes to him in Jena from Berlin on 29 September 1798 and Caroline writes to Friedrich on 14 October 1798 about Wilhelm’s conversations with Goethe and about her and Wilhelm’s stay in Dessau (letter 204).

The second issue of Athenaeum, moreover, appeared not that autumn, but rather in late May 1798; sending advance sheets for that issue makes sense only in May. Hence this letter was written shortly after Wilhelm’s arrival in Berlin ca. 20 May and shortly before Friedrich’s promised letter to Friedrich von Hardenberg, one he did indeed write on 28 May. According to KFSA, “2nd Michaelmas” is thus likely a misreading; unfortunately, because the manuscripts to these letters have been lost, there is no possibility of checking against the original.

Concerning the textual history of Friedrich Schlegel’s letters to Auguste Böhmer, see supplementary appendix 181d.1. Back.

[1] Caroline and Auguste had been in Dresden since the evening of 12 May 1798, Wilhelm in Berlin since ca. 20 May (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[2] That is, to Dresden. Back.

[3] As it turned out, the brothers did indeed travel on to Dresden together, though not until approximately 30 June 1798. Back.

[4] Concerning Jean Paul’s (Friedrich Richter’s) conversations with Caroline, see his letters to Christian Otto, Jean Pauls Briefwechsel mit seiner Frau und Christian Otto, ed. Paul Nerrlich (Berlin 1902), 62, 69–70, 74–75.

Jean Paul left Leipzig for Dresden on 15 May 1798, i.e., just before Wilhelm Schlegel’s arrival in Leipzig on his way to Berlin. Jean Paul remained in Dresden until 30 May, after which he returned to Leipzig. Wilhelm. still in Berlin, laments having just missed him (see his letter to Georg Joachim Göschen on 26 May 1798 [letter 200e]).

Josef Körner, Krisenjahre, 3:12–13n6, suggests in his commentary to Wilhelm’s letter to Georg Joachim Göschen on 26 May 1798 (letter 200e) that it was “in the house of Geheimer Finanzrath Georg August von Manteuffel” (1765–1842) that Caroline met Jean Paul; in a footnote to that statement, however, he continues:

Just which of the many Dresden “Manteuffels” is meant here is not clear from Jean Paul’s letter; Eduard Berend’s interpretation (Die Briefe Jean Pauls, 4 vols., ed. Eduard Berendt [Munich 1922–26], 3:436, 548) is in any event wrong in identifying it as Otto von Manteuffel (1777–1812); it is more likely the Saxon Hof- and Justizrath Ernst Friedrich Adam von Manteuffel [1762–1822; husband of Johanna, née Wagner); old connections seem to have obtained between the Manteuffel and Schlegel families.

In any event, on 8 June 1798 (Jean Pauls Briefwechsel mit seiner Frau und Christian Otto, 62), Jean Paul — otherwise perpetuating familiar misinformation about Caroline’s time in Mainz — mentions having attended a souper in May at the Manteuffels’ house in Dresden, “where I saw Schlegel’s highly original wife, who was Custine’s spouse and is Böhmer’s daughter” (does Richter mean Georg Ludwig Böhmer or Georg Wilhelm Böhmer?). Friedrich Schlegel provides what is perhaps a snippet from Caroline’s version of the dinner conversation with Jean Paul at the Manteuffels’; in a letter to Schleiermacher from Dresden on 3 July 1798 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:76; KFSA 24:141), he remarks:

Friedrich Richter is a complete idiot; he also remarked that Meister violated all the rules of the novel. To the question whether such a theory even existed, and where one might find it, the beast responded: “I am indeed acquainted with one, for I composed it myself.”

Jean Paul was in fact working on aesthetic questions at the time, though his Vorschule der Aesthetik would not be published until 1804; in it, he treats the novel and Wilhelm Meister specifically.

On 15 August 1798, Jean Paul writes (Jean Pauls Briefwechsel mit seiner Frau und Christian Otto, 69–70; illustration: Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, scene from Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa; or, The History of a Young Lady [1784]):

Schlegel attacked me in his Athenaeum the same way he attacked Klopstock, Friedrich Jakobi, Lessing, Garve, etc. In return, I smacked the sea dog on the nose once or twice in a description of village libraries in a lightly armed note in the Halberstadt Quartalschrift. I will take it (the note) to Herder, then you will receive it.

Through his energetic wife, with whom I spent an entire souper quarreling in Dresden, I admittedly fired off all of his artillery fireballs along with my own.


Friedrich Jakobi will also be delivering a musket ball to this Baal in Babylon in a book on tolerance. He respects solely the humoristic element in my work, and is calling me a “great writer”; but with regard to everything else, he merely barks noisily at me. And quite rightly so, for as long as even a single sheet of my work has three readers, his rotten-egg poetics has three fewer.

Concerning Jean Paul in Athenaeum, see, e.g., Friedrich’s letter to Caroline from mid-February 1798 (letter 195b), note 5. Caroline mentions Jean Paul several times in her review of August Lafontaine.

On 24 August 1798 (Jean Pauls Briefwechsel mit seiner Frau und Christian Otto, 74–75), Jean Paul writes that “my cordial dinner conversations in Dresden with Madam Schlegel allegedly, according to Herder, prompted the Schlegel brothers to revise and even reprint their assessment of me.” Back.

[5] There is little reason for Friedrich to make such a query were he not apprehensive at least to a certain extent about Caroline’s disposition toward him, concerning which see his undated letter to Wilhelm and a similarly undated one to Auguste in February/March 1798 (letters 198, 198a). Back.

[6] Caroline and Auguste were staying with the Ernsts in Dresden. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott