Letter 205

• 205. Friedrich Schlegel to Caroline in Jena: Berlin, 20 October 1798 [*]

Berlin, 20 October [17]98

|462| This time, too, I am not yet including the letter on Shakespeare! [1] I will be happy if Wilhelm has cleared things up with the professorship enough to get impatient about it. [2] — This damned brooding! — Well, in return, the “incomprehensibility” [3] and “independence” will also be finished like a veritable thunderstorm. —

We are waiting longingly for the Allmanach. [4] Marianne has told me much about much, fanning the flames of desire even more. [5] |463| But I am also anxious for news from the old gentleman, for words of comfort and helpful instruction. For I must tell you, my courage has been renewed and refreshed to continue my essay on Meister, or rather to finish it, in one fell swoop. [6] — Here people view me as advocatum diaboli. Even in the larger sense, there has been an enormous outcry here about us and our impudence. — Various people have pressed Madam Herz on various occasions for information (these people thus do indeed know their sources), insisting one knows for a fact that the next issue will publish a horrific attack on Garve. [7]

The miserable brochure just published in Leipzig unloads directly against the whole of Athenaeum, though especially against me, and against the fragments in the Lyceum. [8] Kästner is alleged to have written that we had the xenionean inclination [9] to make illiberal humanity classical. [10]

Listen, you know that I also wanted to write something in general about the Greeks for Athenäum. It was supposed to be a dialogue, but now I have reconsidered and think it better to leave this particular form to Wilhelm. It will be easier and more attractive for me if I may do it as a lady’s letter addressed to you. I can easily use your little mysticisms as beginning, occasion, and stimulus. It will be even nicer, however, if in addition to agreeing you might also sacrifice yourself by reading the kritische Griechen and the unfinished Poesie once more [11] and write about how it appears to criticism as viewed from your wholly human seat of judgment. For precisely that is the point at issue. It is even more important, however, that you let me know whether you want to be credited as “Caroline” or just how. —


|464| Hardenberg is in Weissenfels. Please see that he gets this letter soon, and if you see him, please give him my warmest and most tender regards in person as well. [12] And after you [Wilhelm] have seen him, write and tell me everything worth knowing and writing. —

Let me tell you that since I have been here I have also read several novels and that as a result Richter’s esteem has been considerably enhanced for me. He is far more original than Hippel even though the latter is his model. In truth, he has annihilated him and made him superfluous. Hippel’s own spirit, by the way, resides in the words, “I love Mine in Tine.” [13] Jacobi, too, has read quite a bit of Hippel. My undying opinion now is that Jacobi has cultivated the element of softness to the point of artificiality, is vain with regard to his own vanity, moreover vain to the thousandth particle precisely about being vain. —

We perhaps ought not over-estimate the modicum of grace in Sterne too one-sidedly. To me he seems even poorer than Richter. What I like best in Smollet is that he is so serious with his bad humor. I think Swift is the greatest of all: I find his Gulliver so profound and systematic that he himself probably does not even realize how divinely great the notion really is. Otherwise he would not so often abuse and treat it in such a wretchedly base fashion. [13a]


Hence, as I said, I cannot entirely leave Richter alone. — By contrast, I do now believe that Voss and Wieland are the Garve and Nicolai of poesy. There is apparently a genuinely evil principle, an Ahriman, in German literature now. [14] That is what they are, negative classics. It seems to me that all their thoughts and endeavors are not merely insignificant and less good; their poesy is in fact absolutely negative, no less than French poesy from Corneille to Voltaire. It is not just that it possesses no value at all, |465| it possesses actual non-value and must thus be declared to be in a state of siege. And I hope to God that Wilhelm’s annihilation of the old Wieland not remain merely an unlaid egg. [15]


I have not yet lost anything through death. There you are quite right. I could yet lose much. Some things would, however, have a different effect on me than on one of you. The reason is that I, as it were, live only in and on what we call world or earth. It seems to me as if modern history were now beginning once more anew, and as if all people were being divided anew into clerics and laity. You there are children of the world — Wilhelm, Henriette, also Auguste. We are clerics — Hardenberg, Dorothea, and I. You may determine your position yourself if you are not opposed to cutting humankind thus right down the middle; and if, unlike Böttiger, you are not interested in carrying things on both shoulders, you will probably have to decide, like the Tyndarids, to be sometimes here and sometimes there. [16]

But seriously, my religion is beginning to creep out of its theoretical egg, and I hope your own little novel will follow closely behind it. — We, namely, religion and I, were encouraged insofar as some of my thoughts on immortality seem as immediately and clearly plausible to Madam Veit as some on nature and organization were to you.

Stay well and write little letters and a short novel.



Toward me as well, Fichte is as upright and decent as he is everywhere. If there were more of his sort around, it would be a pleasure to be alive and to be a German.

Pasemandi and the Allmanach just arrived. [17] Both will |466| now cost me time again; and yet both are welcome, including the former, since he brings a letter from Fichte.

Henriette is now quite charming and loves you as well, or at least to the extent her admiration permits; in a word, no less than is certainly proper. But why this Jacobian “now” alongside her “charming”? — Because she is something now. [18]

How many pounds of love letters do all of you really want from the old lady? [19] — I have not collected any more for some time now. Henriette, Madam Veit, and Schleiermacher received them alternately. — Schleiermacher’s assessment is that they are interesting only en masse. I will accordingly send them as freight. — But I did finally, through unequivocal clarity, bring her to reason.


[*] Reprinted in KFSA 24:184–86. Back.

[1] Apparently for Athenaeum, which, however, contains no such article by Friedrich. Back.

[2] Concerning Wilhelm’s professorship in Jena, see Wilhelm Schlegel to Gottlieb Hufeland from Dresden on 1 July 1798 (letter 201d), note 8. Back.

[3] “Über die Unverständlichkeit,” Athenaeum 3 (1800) 337–54, initially conceived as the periodical’s concluding trump. Back.

[4] Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1799 (Tübingen), which appeared in the autumn of 1798. Here the frontispiece:



[5] Marianne von Eybenberg, née Meyer, had been an intimate acquaintance of Goethe since 1795; see her letter to him on 10 July 1799 contra her Jewish compatriot “Lucinde”/Dorothea, a personal acquaintance (Ludwig Geiger, “Einundzwanzig Briefe von Marianne von Eybenberg . . . ,” Goethe Jahrbuch 14 [1893] 27–142; here 37):

What do you think about Schlegel’s Lucinde? Oh, but what a question! Do I not already know what you are bound to think about it? In order to breathe clean air again, I paid homage to your Iphigenie; only in the shade of the leafy sacred grove could I once again feel refreshed.

In a letter to Wilhelm Schlegel from Jena on 18 June 1798 (Körner-Wieneke 71), Goethe expresses his pleasure that Wilhelm had made the acquaintance of these Berlin ladies: “The acquaintance of my esteemed lady friend in Berlin doubtless gave you much joy. I have considerable esteem for both women and have every reason to be grateful for their regard for me.” Back.

[6] See Caroline’s letter to Friedrich on 14 October 1798 (letter 204) concerning Goethe’s reaction to Friedrich’s essay “Über Goethe’s Meister,” Athenaeum (1798) 323–54; Jugendschriften 2:165–82; KFSA 2:126–46. Back.

[7] Henriette Herz, a friend of Schleiermacher, the latter of whom harshly dispenses with the final writings of the “popular philosopher” Christian Garve in “Garve’s letzte noch von ihm selbst herausgegebene Schriften,” Athenaeum (1800) 129–39, under the rubric “Notizen.” See ibid., 132–33, where Schleiermacher paraphrases Garve as follows: He, Garve,

believes himself “capable of dividing all the sciences” — an extremely multifaceted word for him — “into those in which one reflects on experience, and those in which ideas are combined; morality, or the doctrine of human beings, as well as the entirety of philosophy belongs to the first type.” In this one statement, one finds the entire, inexhaustible chaos of unphilosophy and intellectual dullness, of which all his writings are, as it were, merely effusions. Back.

[8] The “miserable brochure” (a mere 48 pages) directed against the “Fragmente” in Athenaeum and the kindred Lyceum fragments is the Ankündigung und Probe einer Ausgabe der römischen und griechischen Classiker in Fragmenten. Enthaltend die Fragmente von Cicero’s erster catilinarischer Rede, mit philologischen Epigrammen und Idyllen begleitet. Nebst einer Vorrede in Fragmenten von Friedrich Schlegel. Rom 1798 ([Leipzig] 1798).

Wilhelm Herbst, Johann Heinrich Voss (Leipzig 1876), vol. 2, pt. 2, 237 with fn1, points out that according to the Neue allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek 56 (1801) 277–78, the author is “a Leipzig philologist and virtuoso” who identifies himself as “Gottlob Dieterich Schlägel, rector of the city school and currently vicariating mayor in Birnamswalde.” That issue of the Neue allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek remarks that “his satire certainly lacks neither spirit nor wit, nor also obscure, affected, playful passages. . . . This elderly rector could only shake his head when reading the fragments published in Lyceum and Athenaeum” (the same author also did a review — “not without wit” [Herbst 237] — of Voss’s translation of Homer).

Herbst could not yet identify the author, who was in fact Paul Emil Thieriot. — Herbst’s reference is reprinted in C. Redlich’s review of Herbst’s book in Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie 6 (1875), 350–55, here 353–54. Back.

[9] The Xenien were a collection of satirical and biting epigrams composed by Schiller and Goethe against literary enemies (the collection concluded Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1797). See Caroline’s letters to Luise Gotter on 4 September, 3 October, 15–17 October, and 22 October 1797 (letters 169–72). Back.

[10] Kästner, from Göttingen, experienced this “xenionean inclination” personally when the notorious “Litterarischer Reichsanzeiger” in Athenäum sent his wit “into retirement” (Athenaeum 2 [1799] 335):

Dismissal from Service

Insofar as

no one can successfully make fun of the contemporary age who is not already standing on its summit;

insofar as mathematics risks serious and dangerous reprisal when it presumes to mock philosophy;

insofar as in a condition in which certain notions have become fixed — e.g., when after the events of the current French war someone is still unable to cease with the battle of Rosbach — no truly new ideas can be expected;

insofar as one might reasonably expect that satirists and epigrammatists would turn the severity of their own censure against themselves and, rather than dispensing their useless paper schnitzels into all the Taschenbücher [smaller format books and anthologies] and even into the Litterarischer Anzeiger, transport them to a very different location;

insofar, finally, as nothing provides a more depressing reminder of the lot of all things human than when a half-witty idea, due to the departure of the pliability otherwise necessary for turning it into true verse, falters and stops, utterly exhausted, halfway toward its goal of becoming an epigram:

therefore, insofar as these things do obtain, the wit of Hofrath Kästner is graciously dismissed into an honorable retirement with grateful acknowledgement of its many years of service and with full retention of all titles and remunerations. Back.

[11] Griechen und Römer includes the essay “Über das Studium der griechischen Poesie.” Back.

[12] The letter Friedrich enclosed for Hardenberg (dated 20 October 1798) was published in Walzel, Zeitschrift für die österreichischen Gymnasien (1891), 105–6 (KFSA 24:183–84; Novalis Schriften 4:501–2). In it, he mentions his intentions to begin work on his novel Lucinde, something he indeed seems to have done around mid-December. Back.

[13] The quote comes from part 3 of Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel’s Lebensläufe nach aufsteigender Linie, 3 vols. (Berlin 1778–81; repr. Leipzig 1846), part 3, 2:337–38; also (Leipzig 1859) 2:305, though it actually reads (past tense) “loved” rather than (present tense) “love.” The passage concerning his successive wives — Mine and Tine (pronounced “Meena” and “Teena”) — reads:

Doubtless the question will have arisen in the excellent hearts of some of my lady readers regarding just how I, in my second marriage, was able to forget the first marriage so quickly and so profoundly. Admittedly neither Tine nor I, from the time we were publicly united, ever expressed any thoughts out loud about Mine; in our hearts, though, she was never even a step away. I loved Mine in Tine! — The human heart is a wondrous thing. Why did we avoid the name Mine? Was it because Tine feared that her predecessor would somehow do her harm? Was it because I myself feared that Tine would fear precisely that? Or what was it?

Often the connoisseur of human beings, he who frequents all things human, knows quite precisely what the other person is thinking, and simply chooses to leave well enough alone without holding anything against that person; as soon as the other person transforms those thoughts into words, however, all that changes! I did not forget my Tine because of Mine, nor Mine because of Tine. They were one and the same to me. How wondrous! Yes, truly wondrous! But what is love? (The most natural thing in the world.) What has it become? When it has been such a delight, what is it other than rapturous enthusiasm.

Here the frontispiece to vol. 3:1 (1781), depicting the Justizrath and Gretchen, after their marriage, at Mine’s grave and amid universal weeping (the author is kneeling behind Gretchen), and its title vignette (depicting a scene from later in the book; the character Elisa prays in a corner where a bed has stood and is interrupted):



Here the remaining frontispieces to (in order) vols. 1 and 2:


And the title vignettes to (in order) vols. 1 and 2:




[13a] Jonathan Swift, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World: In Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, 4 parts in 2 vols. (London 1726), a biting satire on European society, politics, religion, philosophy, historians, and human folly at large.

Here the illustrations from the first edition showing the locales Gulliver visited in the four parts, including (first double illustration) Lilliput with its six-inch inhabitants (part 1) and Brobdingnad with its inhabitants as tall as steeples (part 2); (second double illustration) the flying island of Laputa and neighboring continent with its capital of Lagado, where Gulliver satirizes scientists and philosophers (part 3), and the country of Houyhnhnms, the island of the horses endowed with reason; and finally (third double illustration) closer views of Lilliput (top) and Laputa/Lagado (bottom):





[14] Ahriman, the Grecized version of the Avestan angro mainyu (“evil spirit”), in Parsism the embodiment of all that is evil, the supreme devil, and the initiator of the 9999 illnesses. Back.

[15] Concerning Wilhelm’s proposed “annihilation” of Christoph Martin Wieland, see in general the supplementary appendix on the the break with Wieland and specifically the section on Wieland’s annihilation. Back.

[16] That is, sometimes in heaven, sometimes on earth. In Greek mythology, the twins Castor and Pollux, the Dioscuri, as sons of — according to Homer — Leda and Tyndareus, King of Lacedaemon, were also known by their patronymic Tyndaridae; they share their immortality, spending half their time below the earth, and half in Olympus (Philipp Gottlieb Seeger, Die Götter der alten Griechen und Römer: nach ihren Herkünften, Thaten, Nachkommenschaften, Tempeln, Vorstellungen, Benennungen und Bedeutungen, 2 vols. [Frankfurt am Main 1777], plate following 1:774):



[17] Erich Schmidt’s reading of Friedrich’s often extremely hasty handwriting was initially “Posemandi” (as printed in [1913] 465) rather than “Pasemandi”; the reference, however, as Schmidt himself points out ([1913] 729) is likely to a certain “Herr von [Anton] Pázmándi [or “Pázmándy”], from Böng in Hungary,” who attended a meeting of the mineralogical society in Jena along with several other Hungarian members (Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung [1799] 9 [Saturday, 26 January 1799] 72; bracketed first names supplied from István Gál, Ungarn und die Nachbarvölker [Budapest 1944], 49; translation [!] from The Philosophical Magazine: Comprehending the Various Branches of Science, the Liberal and Fine Arts, Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce, ed. Alexlander Tilloch, vol. 3 [London 1799 ], 317, in a report on “Learned Societies” under “Intelligence and Miscellaneous Articles”):

On the 13th of January last the Mineralogical Society of Jena celebrated, at the ducal palace there, the first anniversary of their establishment: on which occasion the director, Professor Lenz, gave a history of the Institution, and of the progress of the Society; M. Samuel Nagy, secretary of the Hungarian nation, read a chemico-mineralogical history of Hungary; M. [Ladislaus] Von Öri of Kots in Hungary, delivered a congratulatory address in Latin; M. Aarn of Leibitz, in Hungary, delineated a view of the great importance of mineralogy to Hungary; Dr. Von Gerstenberg shewed the influence of mineralogy on the wants of human life and the prosperity of society; and M. Pansner, of Arnstadt, gave a short view of the superstitious employment of many species of stones in ancient and modern times. The sitting was closed by the Secretary returning thanks to the members assembled for the part they had taken in promoting the object of the Society; and by M. [Anton] von Pazmandi, of Böng in Hungary, expressing his wishes for the future success of the Institution.

His Serene Highness the Duke of Saxe Weimar and Eisenach has been pleased to grant the Society permission to hold their future sittings in the large hall of the ducal palace, and to deposit their collection of minerals and books in the museum of Charles Augustus.

Johann Friedrich Fuchs
Secretary of the German Nation for the Society of Mineralogy in Jena Back.

[18] A playful juxtaposition of Henriette Mendelssohn with the character of Henriette in Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi’s novel Woldemar (Leipzig 1779), which in 1796 Friedrich had reviewed in an unmerciful fashion in the journal Deutschland 3 (1796) issue 8, no. IX, 185–213. Here the frontispieces with Henriette from the edition of 1817:



[19] The “old lady,” otherwise, and with (according to Erich Schmidt) monotonous tactlessness, referred to as the “Cat” or the “Ungermonster,” is Friederike Unger. The Ungers’ house was a grand social gathering place in Berlin; the Tiecks lived there in 1798. See Rudolf Köpke, Tieck: Erinnerungen, 1:228:

Through the two books Herzensergiessungen eines kunstliebenden Klosterbruders and Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen, Tieck had become more closely acquainted with the bookseller Unger, a man who enjoyed a not insignificant reputation among artists and scholars. Alongside his publishing business, which included a printing shop, he himself was a woodworker whose talent was widely acknowledged. His wife was charming, talented, widely educated, and was a writer herself. She had also already translated a great deal from foreign literatures and tried her hand in her own works as well. Her pension [boarding school] story, Julchen Grünthal, was quite popular and had been favorably reviewed by A. W. Schlegel [more likely: by Caroline]. The Ungers kept an extremely sociable house in which one could always anticipate meeting the very best of society, and in which Tieck enjoyed many a cheerful and pleasant hour himself.

Friedrich (Walzel, 317) refers to Madam Unger in December 1797 as “my lady friend à toute bride [at full speed]” (“Unfortunately, I must squander considerable time, to wit: at the Ungers’, or rather with Madam Unger, who is my lady friend à toute bride“) and in January 1799 to one of her novels as “Ungermonstrousness” (Walzel, 400fn3: “The reference is presumably to Einfache Darstellung aus dem menschlichen Leben von der Verfasserin der Maria Müller [Berlin 1799]” (ed. note: whose author, however, was Charlotte von Ahlefeld [1781–1849]); in April 1799 he also (Walzel, 413) juxtaposes her husband, Johann Friedrich Unger, as a loveable weakling next to his wife, the latter of whom who was still proudly conscious of her aristocratic lineage.

That Friedrich had an affair with Friederike Unger is not entirely certain. Friederike Unger herself writes Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer on 5 October 1798, speaking about herself and her husband in the third person (Elisabeth Campe, Zur Erinnerung an Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm Meyer, den Biographen Schröder’s. Lebensskizze nebst Briefen von Bürger, Forster, Göckingk, Gotter, Herder, Heyne, Schröder u. A., 2 parts in 1 vol. [Braunschweig 1847], 2:41 [not 47 as in KFSA 24:414]):

And Madam Unger? The return of her health has brought, if not her beauty, then most certainly a more cheerful disposition. She is more inclined to write than to chat. Several young scholars, who, although not really courting her, are nonetheless always welcome as guests, include Friedrich Schlegel the Chamfortianizer and Woltmann the Describer of States, the latter of whom is living with the Ungers. But the former spends more time with the “daughters of Israel,” thereby resisting the resolute lady enemy of the Jews. Madam Unger would perhaps be able to write stimulating books were she but able to dedicate her efforts completely to one task; as it is, however, her life is an eternal struggle between the housewife and the writer, with an occasional dash of the weak, sickly woman of the world thrown in.

Karl August Varnhagen von Ense writes to Rahel Levin on 21 September 1808 about his experiences at an evening social gathering (Aus dem Nachlass Varnhagen’s von Ense. Briefwechsel zwischen Varnhagen und Rahel, 4 vols. [Leipzig 1874–75], 1:40; illustration: Berlinischer Damen-Kalender auf das Gemein-Jahr 1809; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

We also spoke quite a bit about Friedrich Schlegel, about whom that afternoon Bernhardi had related to me the story of an affair — which he at least tolerated — with Madam Unger, and about how Schlegel used it to get an advance on his honorarium from her husband. Truly, none of us younger men is capable of such crudeness, or of such — why not call it as it is — of such vulgarity.


Material from an undated (KFSA 24:261–62: April 1799) letter to Wilhelm (Walzel, 416; KFSA 24:262) may belong in this context: “What bizarre notions, dear Caroline, namely, that I wronged your husband. He wronged himself. I thought I was reporting miracles to him as something quite pleasant.” Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott