Letter 202i

202i. Luise Iffland to Caroline in Dresden: Berlin 8 September 1798 [*]

Berlin, 8 September 1798

What I now add for you, my dear Madam Schlegel, your good husband is certainly permitted to know himself. He is fearful concerning this coming winter, and concerning the professor[ship]. [1] I would be more fearful for you with respect to this change had the men even without office and position not already made such concern into a habit for us.

It was nonetheless not all that bad with the new Nina; [2] at the very least the frequent pangs of conscience were a good sign — by now your charming amiability will have long extinguished the attraction of other charms.

But do come despite the risk and complete your triumph. [3]

I hope you are pleased to hear assurances of the most cordial respect from your

most devoted
L[uise] Iffland [4]


[*] Source: This letter is the postscript to a letter from Luise Iffland to Wilhelm Schlegel; it was originally published in Waitz (1882), 57, albeit with incorrect dating to 8 July 1798, which Erich Schmidt (1913), 724, perpetuated. The full letter to Wilhelm (i.e., the material preceding this postscript) is published in Ella Horn’s essay on the background to the premiere of Hamlet in Berlin, quod vide concerning the entire affair surrounding the troubled history of this performance as well as the progressively troubled relationship between Luise Iffland and her husband, August Wilhelm Iffland, on the one hand, and the Schlegels, on the other. Back.

[1] Wilhelm’s recently acquired a professorship in Jena. Back.

[2] The reference is to Friederike Unzelmann — with whom Wilhelm had become infatuated — in the title role in the play Nina; the expression “not all that bad” refers, cattily, precisely to this infatuation.

Concerning the role, see in the supplementary appendix on Friederike Unzelmann esp. the section on Friederike Unzelmann as Nina. There also find Wilhelm’s poems to her, including the following:

To Friederike Unzelmann as Nina

Though of grief's reveries,
And of lost raptures
    Nina, you were healed.
Yet did you to all your listeners bequeath
The tender anguish
And delusion of beguiled hearts.

See in this conext esp. supplementary appendix 263.1, Johann Gottlieb Rhode, “Ueber die Oper: Nina, oder Wahnsinn aus Liebe,” Berlin: Zeitschrift für Freunde der schönen Künste, des Geschmacks und der Moden 3 (1799), 277–92, with the following emotional illustrations of Friederike Unzelmann in the role:




[3] For reasons explained in Ella Horn’s essay, the Schlegels did not return to Berlin for the premiere of Hamlet in Wilhelm’s translation. Back.

[4] As little a “woman of the world” as Caroline may well have been (she intensely disliked Berlin during her stay there during the spring of 1802), she doubtless quite understood the disposition behind this letter.

That said, she never really viewed Friederike Unzelmann (“Unzeline,” “Diaboline Unzeline,” “Unzelinette,” or “Unzelinchen,” as she called her) as a serious rival for Wilhelm’s affections. Indeed, in May 1802 Caroline, Wilhelm, and Schelling enjoyed a dinner together at the home of Friederike Unzelmann in Berlin. See also Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in late June/early July 1798 (letter 202), note 7 Back.

Translation © 2012 Doug Stott