Letter 200f

• 200f. Friedrich Schlegel to Auguste Böhmer in Dresden: Berlin, 28 May 1798 [*]

Berlin, 28 May [17]98

|629| We are living here quite contentedly, dear Auguste, and at least with regard to myself, also very diligently, since the 2nd issue of Athenäum is not yet completely ready. [1]

Let me ask your mother to send the two advance proofs to Hardenberg as soon as she has read them.

Yesterday evening we were at the Ifflands, this evening we will be here, tomorrow evening we will be at Nicolai’s, and so it goes, on and on like that. If Wilhelm did not go to the theater each evening, making it possible for me to work, I simply could not endure it. I almost always spend the night here with him in the Tiergarten. [2]

|630| All that is fine and good, but, after all, you and your mother are not here as well. You will probably say that is all the more reason for me to go ahead and come now with Wilhelm, else you will be angry. Please do not do that. I am coming, and am coming soon; but it simply will not work for me to come with Wilhelm.

I have collected together all sorts of things here that I need for work that I have already begun, things I cannot get in Dresden. And in the beginning one always loses at least some time, and yet I cannot really afford to miss the opportunity now. I will get no rest until the 4th issue of Athenäum has been printed or is at least completely ready to be printed. [3]

I am very happy living together with Schleiermacher and am loath to leave him. [4] But he also has a journey he must take this summer. [5] Can you really hold it against me that I would prefer to travel at the same time with him than to have to do without him twice in a row

As you see, there are reasons why I do not want to come right away. But even were I not to present any such reasons, you still should not be angry with me, as little as I should be angry with you for not having come here. Rest assured that no one’s company is as dear to me as yours. Although grownups know and understand more than you do, you have probably noticed that I value certain other things more highly and that I enjoy talking with you just as much as with your mother. —

You cannot yet fully understand that there are considerations and thoughts that sometimes make it impossible for someone to do something that person would otherwise be quite capable of doing, as if that person did not have either the power or means to do it. — Even if I lived in the most unpleasant of circumstances here and had not even a single friend, I still would not come to Dresden in any different fashion than I have already long planned.

Now, you are probably saying, “My, but this is quite a serious letter.” — You must attribute it to yourself if the letter seems too serious. You seem to me to have become an extremely sensible person, |631| not as if you were not already such last spring, but you are even more so now. And then you threatened to get angry with me. — I really do need to do everything I can to keep you from carrying out that threat.

How are you getting along in Dresden society? Have you not already begun feeling a bit bored with it? There is nothing wrong with that, one must certainly be allowed to feel that way as well, and — just between us — even I myself have occasionally practiced and learned to be that way precisely in that society there. —

Regards to your mother, to Charlotte, and to the littlest Auguste.

Your Friedrich


[*] Source: Schmidt (1913), 1:629–31 (letter no. 17); Waitz (1871), 1:364–65; reprinted in KFSA 24:130–31. Supplementary material from Otto Braun, “Friedrich Schlegel an Auguste Böhmer,” Das literarische Echo 19 (August 1917), 1377. — Concerning the textual history of Friedrich Schlegel’s letters to Auguste Böhmer, see supplementary appendix 181d.1. Back.

[1] The second issue of Athenaeum would appear in July 1798. Back.

[2] Thiergarten (“zoological garden,” today: Tiergarten): a large park on the western outskirts of Berlin at the time, just outside the Brandenburg Gate, which was originally designed as its entrance, here in an illustration prior to 1789 leading into the wooded Thiergarten in the background (Adolf Streckfuss and Leo Fernbach, 500 Jahre Berliner Geschichte: Vom Fischerdorf zur Weltstadt, Geschichte und Sage [Berlin 1900], 381):


After the earlier gate was demolished in 1788, a new structure was built, here in an illustration from 1795, i.e., approximately the time Friedrich was in Berlin (Almanach zur Kenntniß der Preußischen Staaten für Reisende und Einheimische [1795]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Although the Thiergarten began as a hunting reserve for Brandenburg princes, in 1742 Friedrich the Great instructed his architect to transform it into a recreational park for Berlin residents, initially in a Baroque style; here the park essentially as Friedrich would have been familiar with it, in 1765 with the overall town at the right, then in 1832 (first excerpt: Der Tiergarten bei Berlin, seine Entstehung und seine Schicksale [Berlin 1840], final plate; second excerpt, with the Brandenburg Gate: B. Metzeroth, Berlin [Hildburghausen 1832], from Meyer’s StädteAtlas, vol. 2 [Berlin 1832]; Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin B 54/97 a:1832):


Here the grounds in an engraving ca. 1800 by Leopold Ludwig Müller:


See John Russell, A Tour in Germany: And Some of the Southern Provinces of the Austrian Empire, in the Years 1820, 1821, 1822, 2 vols. (Edenburgh 1824), 49–50:

The citizens of Berlin believe that nothing of this sort can be finer than their Thiergarten, an extensive plantation, in which there are too many firs. It commences outside of the Brandenburgh Gate; here there are no suburbs; from between the Doric columns of the portal, you at once enter the wood, where carriages and pedestrians toil along in the same deep sand, for, though there are some verdant and refreshing spots, the walks are not even gravelled.

Along its southern boundary is a line of small but handsome villas, in which the higher class of citizens seek refuge in summer, from the sultry heat of the city. On the north it is bounded by the Spree, and the portion of it in the neighbourhood of the river is the Vauxhall of Berlin. The bank is lined with coffee-houses; rustic benches and tables are fixed beneath the shade of umbrageous limes and elms; beer, coffee, and tobacco, are the sources of enjoyment; crowds of pipes, ready to be stopped, are piled up like stands of arms.

Here a 1787 illustration of the the entrance to the Richard Coffee House, representative enough of the coffee houses in the Thiergarten at the time (illustration: “Eingang in den Richardschen Kaffeegarten,” in the article by Franz Weinitz, “Der Berliner Tiergarten: Vortrag,” Mittheilungen des Vereins für die Geschichte Berlins 17 [1900] no. 1, 23):


Numerous itinerant venders wander from room to room, and tree to tree, displaying seductive layers of segars [cigars], from the genuine Havannah, down to the homely Hannoverian or Bavarian. As evening comes on, and the boats return up the river, with the parties which have been enjoying Charlottenburg, if the weather does not drive the happy crowd within doors, numerous lamps are hung up among the trees. The clouds of smoke aid the dimness of twilight, and both render the shady recesses of the wood fit scenes of intrigue and assignation.

Here another view by Friedrich August Calau in 1796 showing one of the promenades:



[3] An odd statement unaddressed in Waitz (1871), Schmidt (1913), who took over the reading from Waitz, or KFSA 24, which took over the reading from Schmidt; for the fourth issue of Athenaeum would not appear until August 1799. Waitz originally read “das IVte Stück,” Stück normally (including in the first paragraph of this letter) referring to an “issue” (Germ. Heft is sometimes also used).

Although Friedrich had originally (and optimistically) envisioned six issues per year of twelve printer’s sheets each, Wilhelm wanted to reduce the number to four. Although the publisher, Vieweg, was originally in agreement with six, envisioning two issues per volume and three volumes per year, ultimately Athenaeum was published for only three years (volumes 1–3, 1798–1800) with two issues per year (1/1, 1/2; 2/1, 2/2; 3/1, 3/2). Even the initial issue (1/1) was more modest than Friedrich envisioned, and by August, after the second issue (1/2) appeared, he was writing Schleiermacher about not worrying whether Athenaeum would be appearing in four or six issues annually (see Ernst Behler, Die Zeitschriften der Brüder Schlegel [Darmstadt 1983], 24).

Hence this reference to the fourth issue seems to derive from a misreading by Georg Waitz, possibly for Arabic “2nd,” since in the initial paragraph of this letter, Friedrich — at least according to Waitz’s reading — uses an Arabic numeral (“das 2te Stück”) rather than the Roman numeral Waitz reads later in the letter (“das IVte Stück”). Because the manuscript to this letter seems not to be extant, a comparison is impossible. Back.

[4] Friedrich had moved in with Schleiermacher in the Charité hospital complex in Berlin on 21 December 1797; Schleiermacher had been a chaplain there since September 1796. Back.

[5] On 16 July 1798, Schleiermacher traveled to the spa Freyenwalde (modern Bad Freienwalde) ca. 50 km northeast of Berlin on the Oder River to spend time with Markus Herz and his wife, Henriette; he returned to Berlin on Friday, 20 July (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]; illustration: Almanach zur Kenntniß der Preußischen Staaten für Reisende und Einheimische [1795]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




Translation © 2012 Doug Stott