Letter 201b

• 201b. Friedrich Schlegel to Auguste Böhmer in Dresden: Berlin, late June 1798 [*]

[late June 1798] [1]

|631| If you want me to write you letters that are excessively serious or even reasonable — though heaven forbid such a thing — then you need but threaten to become angry with me if I do not come immediately at your bidding. You impatient little thing!

If you want droll responses, then write me droll letters.

It is causing me considerable work and trouble that Wilhelm is so charming, so famous, and yet such a stranger here, for I usually have to go along with him everywhere. With is an abomination. [2] Indeed, I sometimes turn aside and mutter with Basko:

Might I but merit
Separation from these people
Who now do so bore me. [3]

I may be coming to Dresden quite soon with Madam Veit and her sister Henriette, of whom Wilhelm is very fond indeed and about whom he has probably already written more to your mother. At the end of this week, we may be traveling together to Potsdam. [4]

Wilhelm is moving about here in the very best circles. Yesterday he was with |632| War Minister Oh-So-Fusty at Baroness Oh-So-Dowdy’s, and this morning we are going to Princess Meyer’s. [5]

Very soon he will have gotten a stomachache at least once in every house in Berlin.

The poetry he has composed here will be forwarded in a large crate, with cartage.

We are expecting the ball master Reichardt here in a few days. He is to review all the trumpets in Berlin, since they all will be used for the homage. [6]

Regards to Charlotte, to Ernst, to little Auguste, and to the larger one as well, to the doctor’s wife, to Hardenberg, and to whomever else you think appropriate. [7]

Your Friedrich S.


[*] Source: Schmidt (1913), 1:631–32 (letter no. 18); Waitz (1871), 1:365–66; reprinted in KFSA 24:138–39. One correction (“with“; see below) 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] Dating from KFSA 24:393n73.1, which points out that the “homage” to Friedrich Wilhelm III in Berlin took place on 6 July 1797. Back.

[2] According to Schmidt (1913), 1:762, Waitz (1871), 1:365, first transcribed “Hirt,” then changed it to “Veit.” The reading “with” (Germ. Mit) is from Braun (see editorial note above). Back.

[3] From Goethe’s Claudine von Villa Bella. Ein Singspiel, D. Goethes Schriften, vol. 3 (Berlin 1776), 87–176, first performed in Vienna on 13 June 1780, revised (second) version published in 1788 in Leipzig; performed in Weimar on 30 May 1795; here an engraving by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Quäle deine liebe Seele nicht! (1775), from Goethe’s Claudine von Villa Bella, Goethes Schriften (Berlin 1775) (Herzog August Bibliothek, Museumsnr./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [7-538]); Pedro speaks to Claudine in a dungeon, “Torment not your soul, my dear!”:


Friedrich’s citation cited from Weimarer Ausgabe 11:283. These lines are sung by the character of Basco (described in the dramatis personae as “an adventurer”) at the very end (act 3; as indicated in Gesänge zu der Oper Claudine von Villa Bella [Munich 1810], 44); Basco speaks the lines as an aside (whence Friedrich’s allusion). Back.

[4] Friedrich would not arrive in Dresden until 30 June (see Caroline’s undated letter to Luise Gotter at the end of June/early July 1798 [letter 202]) (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Dorothea Veit and Henriette Mendelssohn, however, did not accompany him and Wilhelm. In her letter to Wilhelm from Berlin on 16 August 1798 (letter 202f), Henriette Mendelssohn — who play at least a minor role in this correspondence, even visiting the Schlegels in Jena and apparently making a particularly pleasant impression on Auguste — mentions that she had not yet made Caroline’s acquaintance.

Potsdam is located just outside Berlin (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[5] The implication, of course, is that Wilhelm was socializing with increasing frequency with Berlin’s higher society; though an amusing (and affectionate) remark on Friedrich’s part here, Wilhelm’s acquaintance with that group played a not inconsiderable role in his decision to relocated to Berlin in February 1801 and take the financial risk of inaugurating his Berlin lectures. Here several examples of Berlin fashions at the time (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Königlich Grosbritanischer Historischer Genealogischer Kalender für 1796 and 1793; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[6] See note 1 above. Back.

[7] The “doctor’s wife” is unidentified.

Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis) was not in Dresden at the time, but did spend “several days” in Dresden in early- to mid-July (according to Friedrich Schlegel to Schleiermacher in mid-July 1798 [KFSA 24:144]), after which he left for a health stay in Teplitz (Töplitz) from ca. 15 July till mid-August 1798, having noticed the initial signs of his incipient tuberculosis. See Caroline, Friedrich, and Wilhelm’s letter to him on 1 July 1798 urging him to come to Dresden (letter 201b). He returned to Dresden for a weekend in August after the stay in Teplitz.

Concerning consumption, tuberculosis, Germ. Schwindsucht, to which Hardenberg eventually succumbed and which generated voluminous medical literature at the time, see the supplementary appendix on consumption and tuberculosis. Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott