Letter 207

• 207. Friedrich Schlegel to Caroline in Jena: Berlin, 29 October 1798 [*]

Berlin, 29 October [17]98

|468| The last time I wrote, I was talking about Possemandi [1] and the Allmanach, [2] so let me begin there again as well. —

As far as Schiller is concerned, alongside the heroic self-renunciation in the Goethesque prologue, [3] which seems to me like a hollowed-out fruit rind, I admire nothing as much as I do his patience. For to cut out such long dragons in paper, in words and rhymes, certainly requires a considerable element of impertinent patience. [4] By the way, his fortune reminds me of his misfortune, namely, that his Aesthetic Letters did not really emerge purely for him, and were disrupted. [5] But now they are in his blood, and the whole business with dignigrace has spread over the inner parts. [6] Rarely, moreover, does much time pass before he once again vents in various poems that are more aesthetic than poetic. |469| If the first eleventh of his Wallenstein is as Goethesque as the prologue, then I am not particularly anxious to see all eleven elevenths. I can imagine that such a laborious imitation might be deceptive in performance and in its initial impression when being viewed, but during actual reading that deception cannot but disappear. — I had hoped that perhaps in the Thirty Years War he might discover a middle genre between his old and new follies. [7]

Among Goethe’s things, I especially adore the Metamorphose; [8] and the Schöne Müllerin, that goes without saying. [9] The long idyll to the actress contains considerable picturesque fatherliness. [10] Everything you wrote me about Goethe is splendid and wonderful, especially that he is satisfied and that he understood the irony. [11] But also that you wrote me such a proper, organized account of everything and, as it were, might even be willing to exchange letters with me. — Good luck! Continue on, I am now regularly staying up till 1:00 a.m. That provides plenty of time for writing.

But I can concur neither with him nor with you in the manner in which you take Sternbald. [12] Have you both already forgotten the Volksmährchen, and does the book itself not state clearly enough that it neither is nor intends to be anything but sweet music of and for the imagination? [13] — He may well be no more a connoisseur of painting than to the extent he has two eyes, is always working on paintings in his mind just as is his Franz, and loves Vasari more than anything. [14] Was Ariosto more thoroughly instructed in the art of war?

Because he wished it, I took Possemandi to Bendavid and gave him Nicolai’s description of Berlin. [15] I was not able to do anything more for him, he lived far away; but I did go there every day without being able to meet him until one morning I learned he had not come home that entire night. |470| Since he had been introduced to high society, I thought he would no longer need the service of scholars. — But do not say anything about this to Fichte if he knows him well.

Henriette is not merely full of joy, but quietly extremely gratified at the thought of being welcome among you. I, too, think you will be taking her along from here. [15a] — How the old Ungermonster will then talk and lament and carry on! She is just now striving for pride and respectable chilliness. In the meantime, though, I am not entirely sure she will not be having a relapse of tenderness. Heaven forbid!

It is rather depressing that her amiable husband is constantly so surrounded and occupied. You are going to find her rather difficult to digest. As is proper, he has a girl, which provided H. [F?] with a modest but malicious bit of delight when she heard about it. Except that she is actually supposed to be a Jewess.

Henriette sends her warm regards to you all. Will that not be the most peculiar thing if you were to get such a Henriette? — And you can well believe it will be a sacrifice for me if I have to relinquish her. — You want to know more about my plans concerning my family members? – I had already come up with something for you and Auguste while I was in Dresden. You are to write a little novel, and Auguste is to learn to ride. That will suffice. One should always take care only of immediate concerns, says abbé Goethe; and for you two, those concerns are the most immediate. [15b]

Tieck’s Amli is now working on a new Magelone. [16] Perhaps it is less from a lack of artistic sensibility than from internal fatigue that she falls asleep so often. [17]

Baggesen is now in Paris, [18] and Humbold is laboring and tormenting himself trying to respect him because he is allegedly a genius; he also had me a copy sent of his aesthetic essay on Hermann. [19]

|471| Madame Unzelmann recently inquired quite courteously about Wilhelm and sends her regards to him. [20] Leviathan continues to send regards.

Marianne is quite thick with Goethe, is otherwise quite elegant, quite genteel, and insignificant enough. [21]

Brinckmann is dissatisfied and unhappy in Paris. [22]


If only I would receive a letter soon from Hardenberg! I do, however, as little have a project for him as I do for myself. One of the most appealing and urgent among my projects would be a Pandora for Schleiermacher. I would hope that when we do have to divorce, he will again find a good woman who is worthy of him. [23]

Hülsen will indeed be married in a few weeks and will be establishing a boarding school. [24] So that much is correct. But where will Schelling, the granite, find a granitesse? Must she not at least be of basalt? [25] Nor is this question wholly unfounded. For I do believe that he has un tant soit peu capacity for love. [26] If he wants Madam Le[vi], I will send her. He made an impression on her. [27] With regards to me, she said that I sat among you like the messiah and that you also treated me quite apostolically.


[*] This letter picks up on several topics Friedrich discussed with Caroline in his letter to her on 20 October 1798 (letter 205). — Reprinted in KFSA 24:188–90. Back.

[1] Concerning Anton Pázmándi, see Friedrich’s letter to Caroline on 20 October 1798 (letter 205) with note 17. Back.

[2] Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1799; here the frontispiece:



[3] Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1799 included Schiller’s “Prolog zu Wallensteins Lager” (241–47), which Erich Schmidt, (1913), 730, called the “grandest of all dramatic discourses.” Friedrich’s references to its “Goethesque” character (he goes on to call it a “laborious imitation”) is likely alluding to its use of Knittelvers after the style of Hans Sachs, at which Goethe had also tried his hand. Back.

[4] Schiller’s romance “Der Kampf mit dem Drachen” (The fight with the dragon) Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1799, 151 (illustration: Schillers Werke, ed. J. G. Fischer, vol. 1 [Stuttgart, Leipzig 1877], 132):



[5] Schiller’s lengthy aesthetic treatise, “Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen,” Die Horen (1795) vol. 1, no. 1, 7–48; no. 2, 51–94; no. 6, 45–124. Back.

[6] An allusion to Schiller’s treatise Ueber Anmuth und Würde on gracefulness and dignity (which Friedrich parodies with the mocking neologism dignigrace), initially published as “Ueber Anmuth und Würde,” Neue Thalia 3, no. 2 (1793) 115–230. Back.

[7] Geschichte des dreyssigjährigen Krieges, which appeared in Georg Joachim Göschen’s Historischer Calender für Damen (1791–93; book edition Leipzig 1802), a popular history of the Thirty Years War Schiller wrote for financial reasons. Back.

[8] Goethe’s “Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen,” Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1799, 17–23. Back.

[9] Goethe’s ballads about “the beautiful Mlle. Müller” in Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1799: “Der Edelknabe und die Müllerinn. / Altenglisch” (beginning lines “Wohin? Wohin? / Schöne Müllerin!”), 102–4.; “Der Junggesell und der Mühlbach,” 107–10; “Der Müllerin Verrath,” 116–19; and “Reue,” 129–32 (illustrations to each ballad in order from Deutsches Balladenbuch, ed. Adolf Ehrhardt et al., 2nd ed. [Leipzig 1858], 117–24):

“The Page and the Miller’s Daughter”:


“The Youth and the Millstream”:


“The Maid of the Mill’s Treachery”:


“The Maid of the Mill’s Repentance”:



[10] Goethe’s “Euphrosyne. Elegie. Zum Andenken einer jungen, talentvollen, für das Theater zu früh verstorbene Schauspielerin in Weimar, Madame Becker, gebohrne Neumann,” Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1799, 1–13. Back.

[11] I.e., the irony discussed in Friedrich’s review of Wilhelm Meister in Athenaeum; see Caroline’s letter to Friedrich on 14 October 1798 (letter 204). Back.

[12] Ludwig Tieck, Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen, 2 vols. (Berlin: Unger, 1798). Caroline had raised this issue as well in her letter to Friedrich on 14 October 1798 (letter 204). Back.

[13] Tieck’s Volksmährchen (Berlin 1797), which Wilhelm discusses in Athenaeum (1798) 167–77.

See John George Robertson, A History of German Literature (New York 1902), 423:

It was Wackenroder also who opened Tieck’s eyes to the poetry that lay concealed in “Märchen” [fairy tales] and “Volksbücher” [folk books, chap books]; and to Tieck’s interest in such things we owe the three volumes of Volksmährchen (1797), which, besides the Gestiefelte Kater and a dramatic “Ammenmährchen” Ritter Blaubart, contained two charming fairy tales, Der blonde Eckbert and Die schöne Magelone [see below]. In all these “Märchen,” Tieck displays the fondness for ridiculing the creations of his own imagination, which was common to all the members of the [Romantic] School; in fact, this so-called “Romantic irony” — which Tieck once characterised as “jene letzte Vollendung eines Kunstwerks, jenen Äthergeist, der befriedigt und unbefangen über dem Ganzen schwebt” [“that final completion of a work of art, that ethereal spirit that hovers, satisfied and unaffected, over the entire piece”] — was regarded by the Romanticists as the most potent means of heightening poetic or dramatic effect.

In an earlier review, Wilhelm had already acknowledged and praised two of the pieces: Ritter Blaubart. Ein Ammenmärchen (Berlin 1797) and Der gestiefelte Kater, ein Kindermärchen in drey Akten mit Zwischenspielen, einem Prologe und Epiloge von Peter Leberecht. Aus dem Italienischen. Erste unverbesserte Auflage. Bergamo, auf Kosten des Verfassers bei Onorio Senzacolpa (1797) [Berlin 1797] (both plays appeared in the Volksmährchen and separately in 1797). Here the title vignettes to both 1797 editions:



That review appeared in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1797) 333 (Thursday, 19 October 1797) 161–65 (Sämmtliche Werke 11:136–43); in an addendum in 1827, Wilhelm glorifies his and Tieck’s time together in Jena with a reference to Tieck’s own words in Phantasus.

Wilhelm concludes his review in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (165):

As one can see, things are fairly topsy-turvy here; let us hope the author never regrets having thus entertained both himself and others! For — if we have understood him correctly — then he would in fact have made fun of the public itself. As is well known, the sacred people of Athens were graciously receptive whenever someone got the best of them from the stage; but not all nations possess the gift of understanding jests to the same degree, and some would even venture to maintain such is not really the most flattering and universal characteristic of our own countrymen.

Be that as it may, since the public cannot in person requite what has been thus received, let those do it whom Peter Leberecht has particularly put on wartime footing. But let jest be the weapon of choice, for such a demon [1828: poltergeist] cannot be banned by seriousness.

In an “annotation” of 1801 (Sämmtliche Werke 11:143–44), Wilhelm writes:

Let me remind those who perhaps wish to compare this [review] with other public assessments of the writings of my friend that I wrote this review of Blaubart and Der gestiefelte Kater before I had made the personal acquaintance of the author or carried on any correspondence or had any other relationship with him, indeed even before I knew his name or where he was living. For I would not want thereby to justify the base views of such readers who simply cannot imagine a selfless alliance among friends of the arts for the sake of mutual awakening and cultivation.

And in an 1827 annotation (Sämmtliche Werke 11:144–46) regarding the inclusion of this early review of Tieck’s work among his collected writings, Wilhelm writes (illustration: scene from The Sorrows of Young Werther from Goethe’s Works, vol. 2, trans. G. Barrie [New York 1885], plate following 303):

Notwithstanding one is certainly justified in expecting something more significant with respect to the famous name of my friend Ludwig Tieck than hasty reviews of a couple of his early pieces, I could not do without including this essay [on Ritter Blaubart and Der gestiefelte Kater from the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung] here precisely because it was written so early. . . .

It still pleases me even today, in fact, I am to a certain extent proud to have been the first person in Germany to have recognized and welcomed this rare poetic genius who afterward so brilliantly redeemed the prediction I vouchsafed my contemporaries, namely, that new and extraordinary things could be expected from his creative wealth. I soon sought him out myself, he chose a residence nearby [in Jena], and just as a common enthusiasm for poesy and art — generally also in concurrence with respect to the objects of our admiration — had brought us together, so also did it inspire our time together.

Our animated, sociable circle then acquired considerable variety with the addition of other friends who were either already famous or would later be so. A continually renewed reflection on perfected works of the spirit was our favorite past time, and our greatest joy the discovery of misunderstood or forgotten documents of genius. And even the publicly expressed conflict among our opinions stimulated our spirit.


Most of what we all later carried out (or did not carry out) originated during this period. Since that time, I have lived in the most intellectual, witty, cultured circles and have become acquainted with many of the most remarkable contemporaries in both Germany and abroad, and yet my memories often longingly turn back to that free, fertile community of spirits, all of whom were at the age when one is indeed intoxicated with hope, a sentiment my friend Tieck has also expressed in the dedicatory preface of his Phantasus.

Ludwig Tieck, Schriften, vol. 5, Phantasus. Zweiter Theil (Berlin 1828) (a volume Tieck dedicates to “W. v. Schlegel in Bonn”), writes in his dedicatory preface (no pagination) (illustration: Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):

Although we have not seen each other since 1802, neither my recollection nor love has ever faded. I dedicate this book to you because it contains those poetic pieces of which you, with clear eyes, were the first to take notice. Your sophisticated, versatile mind was the first to draw attention to these compositions, defending them moreover against unjust attack and wrongs.

We soon thereafter made each other’s personal acquaintance. That wonderful time in Jena, though it was there that I first experienced those painful attacks of gout, were one of the most radiant and cheerful periods of my life. You and your brother Friedrich, — Schelling with us as well, and all of us young and full of striving, Novalis-Hardenberg, who often journeyed over to visit us: these spirits with all their various plans, all our prospects for life, poesy and philosophy constituted as it were an uninterrupted celebration of wit, cheerful disposition, and philosophy.


It was at that time, during the marvelous spring weather, that you composed your Tristan, which was unfortunately never finished but which could have become a national epic [Ed. note: For a translation of the first two stanzas of canto 1, see Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe on 30 May 1800 (letter 260c), note 2.]; what beautiful songs came from your lips, what jest, criticism, learnedness, and poesy was expressed and even disputed — the likes of which not even the most witty, clever book could ever recount or replace.

You provided fraternal assistance to me during my illness, and cordial help with the translation of the third volume of Don Quixote, help which both earlier and later I was loathe to do without; and all the goodwill, the learned, scholarly support, wit and seriousness, friendship and disputes were graced with such comeliness and nobility in your being, contributing together to the charm of your beautiful, human nature, that this cordial image of you has since never ceased to accompany me.

I am happy here to recollect all this and in so doing openly greet you the way I have so often done silently and in thought. In old age, too, the muse will continue to favor you. — L. Tieck

The Schlegels did not, however, review Tieck’s Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen; see Wilhelm to Gottlieb Hufeland, editor of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, 16 July 1798 (Erich Schmidt, “A. W. Schlegel an Gottlieb Hufeland,” Litterarische Mittheilungen. Festschrift zum zehnjährigen Bestehen der Litteraturarchiv-Gesellschaft in Berlin [Berlin 1901], 22–25; here letter 202a.1): “I will be glad to relinquish the review of Sternbald; I have not yet done any work toward it.” Back.

[14] The friends Ludwig Tieck and Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder were familiar with Giorgio Vasari’s artists’ biographies. Back.

[15] Friedrich Nicolai’s excellent Beschreibung der Königlichen Residenzstädte Berlin und Potsdam, 3rd ed., 3 vols. (Berlin 1786), which includes the historically valuable map of Berlin in 1786 keyed to various structures and locales; here an excerpt showing the Charité medical complex at the top left corner, where Friedrich was living with Schleiermacher:


Friedrich, however, is making a joke about putting someone at the mercy of the literary adversary Nicolai’s description of Berlin. Back.

[15a] Henriette Mendelssohn would be visiting the Schlegels soon in Jena; see Caroline’s queries in this regard in her letter to Friedrich on 15 October 1798 (letter 204) (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Ankunft der Tochter bei der Familie [1792]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki-Kopie Z AB 3.14):


The Schlegels would not be picking her up in Berlin as intimated. Back.

[15b] An allusion to Wilhelm Meister, possibly to book 8, chapter 5, in which the protagonist, Wilhelm Meister, toward the end of the book, is hearing some of the life lessons he is to learn, e.g., on self-development. The character Jarno is speaking (Goethe, The Collected Works, vol. 9, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, trans. Eric A. Blackall and Victor Lange [Princeton 1989], 339; illustration of this scene from Goethe’s Works, vol. 4, trans. G. Barrie [New York 1885], 351):


You will often have the opportunity to hear the Abbé [another character in the novel with whom Friedrich jestingly identifies Goethe] on this subject, so let us perceive quite clearly what we are and how we can develop ourselves, and be just toward others, for we only deserve respect if we respect others. . . .

No one is ever happy until his unlimited striving has set itself a limitation. Don’t be guided by me; go to the Abbé. . . .

Don’t think of yourself, but of those around you. Learn to appreciate Lothario’s fine qualities, see how his farsightedness and his activities are indissolubly bound up with each other; he is always moving forward, always expanding and taking others with him. He always has a world around him, no matter where he may be, and his very presence invigorates and instigates.

On the other hand, look at our dear doctor with his totally different disposition. Where Lothario always works in wide perspectives for the whole, the doctor directs his clear-sighted attention on the most immediate concerns, providing the means for activity rather than stimulating activity himself. His work is like good housekeeping, his influence consists in gentle encouragement of each in his own particular sphere, his knowledge is a continual process of collecting and transmitting, receiving and bestowing on a small scale. Back.

[16] Friedrich is referring to Amalia Tieck’s anticipated child as “Magelone” after Tieck’s lyrical adaptation of the old chapbook, “Die wundersame Liebesgeschichte der schönen Magelone und des Grafen Peter aus der Provence,” in the Volksmährchen (Berlin 1797). Some of its poems were later set to music by Brahms, Romanzen aus der ‘schönen Magelone’ (op. 33). The child, however, was Dorothea, who would be born on 26 March 1799 and later worked as a translator on the Schlegel-Tieck edition of Shakespeare.

That said, because not the least of the contributions the Romantic inclination made to German intellectual history at the time was the rediscovery of the Germanic past and Middle Ages (see as well Wilhelm Schlegel’s work on the Nibelungenlied), both literary and historical, it is perhaps worth noting at least in passing Tieck’s own not inconsiderable contribution. See Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen, “Literary Aspects of the Romantic School,” Essays on German Literature, 3rd ed. [New York 1893], 337–41, supplementary appendix 207.1, which includes a gallery of the woodcuts from the original Magelone-Volksbuch. Back.

[17] An allusion to Friedrich’s assessment of Amalie Tieck in his letter to Auguste in October 1798 (letter 203e) and Caroline’s jesting response in her letter to Friedrich on 15 October 1798 (letter 204) (excerpt from Sebastian Mansfeld, Adeliger trifft auf schlafende Frau im Garten [after ca. 1751]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 1665):



[18] Jens Baggesen, the (according to to Erich Schmidt) “Strudelkopf” Dane who was so spiteful toward the Romantics later, especially in his Der Karfunkel; oder, Klingklingel-almanach. Ein Taschenbuch für vollendete Romantiker und angehende Mystiker (Tübingen 1810):


Baggesen was also the author of, among other things, the Parthenais oder die Alpenreise. Ein idÿllisches Epos in neun Gesängen (Hamburg, Mainz 1803); here the illustrations from the Amsterdam edition:



[19] In the “Litterarischer Reichsanzeiger” in Athenaeum (1799) 333, Humboldt’s (in Erich Schmidt’s opinion) affected Aesthetische Versuche. Erster Theil: über Göthe’s Herrmann und Dorothea (Braunschweig 1799) is offered as the prize to anyone managing to read all the way through Friedrich Wilhelm Basilius von Ramdohr’s book Venus Urania. Über die Natur der Liebe. Über ihre Veredlung und Verschönerung, 3 vols (Leipzig 1798) (for full text, see Ramdohr’s biographical entry). Back.

[20] One of Wilhelm’s poems to Friederike Unzelmann, “An Friederike Unzelmann, als Nina,” had also just appeared in Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1799, 73; for the translation, see the supplementary appendix on Friederike Unzelmann, section VII, Wilhelm’s poems to Friederike Unzelmann-Bethmann (fourth poem). — See esp. Luise Iffland’s letter to Caroline on 8 September 1798 (letter 202i). Back.

[21] Concerning Marianne von Eybenberg and Goethe, see also Friedrich’s letter to Caroline on 20 October 1798 (letter 205). Back.

[22] Karl Gustav von Brinckmann had visited Caroline and Wilhelm in Jena in mid-February 1798 on his way to Paris, where he was taking up a new diplomatic position. Back.

[23] Friedrich referred to his and Schleiermacher’s living arrangements together in the Charité hospital complex in Berlin as their “marriage.” In his letter to his sister, Charlotte Schleiermacher on 23/30 May 1798 (letter 200g), Schleiermacher perceptively remarks:

Schlegel and Madam Veit have brooded over various concerns about how I am becoming colder toward him and Madam Herz colder toward her, her oldest and most inseparable friend. . . . Schlegel honestly admitted to me that he is jealous of Madam Herz, and that my friendship with her grew more quickly and intensely than he ever could have managed with me, that he felt restricted almost solely to my understanding and my philosophy, whereas she possessed my innermost heart. Back.

[24] August Ludwig Hülsen would marry the widow Leopoldine Christiane Dorothea Kriele, née von Posern, on 3 March 1799. Concerning the boarding school, see his biographical entry. After his wife’s death in 1800, he abandoned the project. Back.

[25] A rejoinder to Caroline’s remarks about Schelling in her letter to Friedrich on 14 October 1798 (letter 204). Back.

[26] Fr., “ever so little.” Back.

[27] Rahel Levin had made the acquaintance of the Schlegels and Schelling in Dresden during the summer, when she took an excursion to Saxon Switzerland with them. See Friedrich’s letter to Henriette Herz on 24 August 1798 (letter 202g) and Schelling’s letter to his father on 20 September 1798 (letter 203b) with note 2. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott