Letter 209

• 209. Friedrich Schlegel to Caroline in Jena: Berlin, ca. 20 November 1798 [*]

[Berlin, ca. 20 November 1798]

|474| I did not respond on the last postal day because I was unable until today to extort any decision from Vieweg, who has been occupied with transferring his enterprise. [1] And as it is, his decision is one that according to the enclosure is for all practical purposes none at all. — But I will in the meantime negotiate with him on a date on which we might hope for an answer, while otherwise taking no note of the first half of his letter — his complaints about the tone. If Wilhelm concurs, we will simply tolerate this attempt to be tactful. —

I am otherwise quite disposed to dignity at this point and consider our literary union to be the only thing of importance and everything else as petty and non-essential. Nor am I particularly wedded to the journal as the specific form once the scoundrels sour us on it. Though it does have certain advantages, not the least being that it is the fastest and most direct way for one to establish a relationship with Herr Public.

|475| Hence Wilhelm’s letter really did have the intended effect on Vieweg after all, at least as well as one might have expected. A moxa at just the right time is as salutary for a publisher as it is for a nation. [2]

Because I believed, however, that things would run completely aground quickly enough, and because the goddess of opportunity offered herself to me, [3] I did provisionally discuss the assembled writings with Unger. Unfortunately, he barricaded himself — albeit it in the most cordial way — behind the formulaic complaint that he already had “so very much material.” Woltmann is complaining to Tieck that he feels oppressed by the Ungermonster, the so very erudite and darling wife, though he knows not how. But he in his own turn may well oppress the husband, whom he has impressed more than might be appropriate. –

Unger is likeable but as a person is a weakling, and as a businessman has no principles and is somewhat reckless. We will not even speak about the old lady.

. . . Here I am returning Hardenberg’s letter, the divine one, with gratitude. [4] Please relate to him, too, whatever you think is appropriate about me. I can indeed write to him, but not what I write to you. — You no longer appear quite as maternal and tender as before.

In the Propyläen to the Propyläen, part IV contains yet more fatherliness and dignigrace and a slight element of popular entertainment [5] — What the Weltkunde offers and says about Wallenstein pleases me quite well. [6]

I am just about to write to the new schoolmaster Hülsen. He admittedly is someone who seems to be proceeding rather wondrously down rather wondrous paths. But when all is said and done, a professor is, as it were, merely a schoolmaster to the nth degree. And since Hülsen’s “she” is also a schoolmaster, he may now intensify the identity along with her to any degree of dignity he chooses in order to fill the gap.

You already know now how my close friends are doing. — Nothing further has happened yet. [6a]

|476| By the way, it would indeed be good if Athenaeum were reviewed in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. They do, after all, review plenty of things for which they do not really have (or want to have) a qualified person. I would think you would simply order it straightaway.

My prophetic vision tells me that Woltmann intends to grant Berlin and Prussia the honor of his becoming the country’s Spittler and Müller. [7] His [or: S(pittler’s?)] reception here has not been as splendid as was W[ilhelm’s? or: (W)oltmann’s?], [8] but he does manage to get around almost more in bad company, particularly among the ordinary councilors.

Zelter often inquires about Wilhelm and has set the “Schwann” and “Adler” to music from Wilhelm’s Melodien; the crazy architect and fellow; but not the “Taube”! It contains some very good ideas, musically good ideas, but nothing of the poem itself, absolutely nothing. When he goes wrong, he does so properly. The “Old German Miller’s Maid” is a little better. [9]

I am indeed quite glad to hear about Wilhelm’s professorial energy and expansiveness, and also about his intentions regarding Woltmann’s fur.

That Huber is getting along with Kotzebue [10] can be no more annoying than that Schelling claims to judge Hardenberg. I have no pique on that account with the good Granite except when he tries to pick out that sort of gherkin for himself, as he is occasionally wont to do. [11]

Are you not also of the opinion that I ought rather to seek both my temporal and my eternal happiness first with my own (written) novels than with translated histories? — But I did indeed conscientiously take to heart Wilhelm’s penitential sermon even though I myself was already seriously thinking in a similar vein earlier. — My writing should genuinely soon be experiencing a revolution of sorts.

I would like to know as soon as possible whether W[ilhelm] has agreed on any date, and if so, how late a date.

|477| I am thinking about writing Frommann soon concerning Lucinde. [12] I do have a certain inclination to get in touch with him, since he is paying Tieck quite well. [13]

May all of you stay well, and please write me soon, including Auguste.


I would be very grateful if Wilhelm could wait with the 35 rh. until the fate of Athenaeum has been decided one way or another.

As far as what one understands by translating, tell him that none of the ancients would really need to be translated except Plato and, as his complement, Aristotle. In 10 years that will certainly be early enough; nor will any of the petty bunglers in the way of precursors and collaborators do much damage in this regard. – As far as ancient histories are concerned, I would like to translate half and then dioscurize and excerpt half. But that is an entire project.


[*] Reprinted in KFSA 24:198–200. — Dating determined from Friedrich’s mention of an “enclosure” from Friedrich Vieweg. See Vieweg’s letter to Friedrich on 18 November 1798 concerning the disappointing sales figures for Athenaeum (prompting KFSA 24:420n118.1 to date this letter to ca. 20 November 1798) (Josef Körner, “Briefe von und an Friedrich Schlegel,” Mitteilungen des Vereins für die Geschichte Berlins 44 (1927), no. 2, 61–64, here 62; also KFSA 24:197–98):

I read your most recent missive yesterday and also answered that of your esteemed brother. Today, however, let me ask that you have him read over these pages once more calmly; if he then approves and returns them to me, I will immediately issue my answer from yesterday. Please be so kind as to remind him that from the very outset, our references have been to “an attempt that should be made,” and that it is not my fault if I experienced what was for me alone a quite ill outcome even before the third issue, an outcome forcing me to await the better outcome, one you yourself are still promising, before I increase my own losses, and that this can happen quite without any disadvantage for the two of you, since this journal is not time sensitive.

I am putting this request to you because I still trust that your brother, after more calm reflection, will himself disapprove of the tone of voice he allowed himself to use toward me. I for my part will then try to forget that tone of voice. . . .

Your most devoted,
Friedrich Vieweg

18 November [1798]


[1] Friedrich Vieweg was in the process of relinquishing his Berlin publishing privilege and moving his firm from Berlin to Braunschweig, in which capacity he reappears in Caroline’s later life and letters (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):

Braunschweig_Berlin_Jena_ map


[2] Moxa (Spanish): “(1) a flammable substance or material obtained from the leaves of certain Chinese and Japanese wormwood plants, esp. Artemisia moxa; (2) [Friedrich’s sense here:] this substance or a similar one of cotton, wool, or the like, placed on the skin usually in the form of a a cone or cylinder and ignited [ed. note: moxibustion, essentially cauterization] for use as a counterirritant” (Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary [2004]). It was also used to treat hydrocephalus. Here a rather grim collection of instruments used in its application to other maladies as well (frontispiece to William Wallace, A Physiological Enquiry Respecting the Action of Moxa, and Its Utility in Inveterate Cases of Sciatica, Lumbago, Paraplegia, Epilepsy, and Some Other Painful, Paralytic, and Spasmodic Diseases of the Nerves and Muscles [Dublin 1827]):


Concerning the application to a patient’s skin, see Baron D. J. Larrey, On the Use of the Moxa, as a Therapeutical Agent, trans. Robley Dunglison (London 1822), 5:

A Porte-Moxa, also represented in the margin, is intended to fix this cylinder upon the precise spot where we wish the application to be made. The metallic ring of this instrument is isolated from the skin, by three small supports of ebony, which is a bad conductor of caloric. After having set fire to the extremity of the cone, the combustion is kept up by m eans of a blow-pipe; it should not, however, be too much hastened, on the contrary, it should be made to go on slowly. In order to apply the Moxa properly, the precise spot, where we wish to place it, should be first marked with a little ink, and all the surrounding region covered with a wet rag, having a hoel in the middle, so as to leave bare the part which has been marked: this rag prevents any sparks from coming in contact with the skin.


Moxa was also used to treat podagra and gout. Back.

[3] The “goddess of opportunity” or “of the propitious moment,” Gk.καιρος, used by Goethe in a classicizing style in the fourth Roman elegy, “Römische Elegien”, Goethe’s neue Schriften, vol. 7 (Berlin 1800), 123 (elegies, incidentally, whose metrical form in this version of 1800 Wilhelm Schlegel helped Goethe improve in 1799 prior to their publication); Eng. Selected Poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, trans. Christopher Middleton and Michael Hamburger (Princeton 1994), 103:

And the goddess we serve? She is called Opportunity. Know her!
Often to you she appears, always in different shapes.

The understanding of kairos in Greek mythology proper and its Roman derivatives generally involves a god rather than a goddess, the latter emerging only later. Here kairos in a representation from Turin after the sculptor Lyssipus dating to late antiquity (from W. H. Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der Griechischen und Römischen Mythologie, facsimile 18 [Leipzig 1890], 899, s.v. Kairos):



[4] Hardenberg’s “divine letter” is unknown; it is uncertain what connection it has with the letters Caroline mentions in her letter to Hardenberg on 15 November 1798 (letter 208). Back.

[5] Concerning “dignigrace,” see Friedrich’s letter to Caroline on 29 October 1798 (letter 207) with note 6. — Friedrich is referring to the concluding part of the introduction to the Propyläen; see the conclusion to that preface in Prefaces and Prologues: To Famous Books. The Harvard Classics, ed. Charles W. Eliot (New York 1909–14), vol. 39:

But it is time to conclude this introduction lest it anticipate and forestall the work, instead of merely preceding it. We have so far at least designated the point from which we intend to set out; how far our views can and will spread, must at first develop gradually. The theory and criticism of literary art will, we hope, soon occupy us; and whatever life, travel, and daily events suggest to us, shall not be excluded. In closing, let us say a word on an important concern of this moment.

For the training of the artist, for the enjoyment of the friend of art, it was from time immemorial of the greatest significance in what place the works of art happened to be. There was a time when, except for slight changes of location, they remained for the most part in one place; now, however, a great change has occurred, which will have important consequences for art in general and in particular. At present we have perhaps more cause than ever to regard Italy as a great storehouse of art — as it still was until recently. When it is possible to give a general review of it, then it will be shown what the world lost at the moment when so many parts were torn from this great and ancient whole.

What was destroyed in the very act of tearing away will probably remain a secret forever; but a description of the new storehouse that is being formed in Paris will be possible in a few years. Then the method by which an artist and a lover of art is to use France and Italy can be indicated; and a further important and fine question will arise: what are other nations, particularly Germany and England, to do in this period of scattering and loss, to make generally useful the manifold and widely strewn treasures of art — a task requiring the true cosmopolitan mind which is found perhaps nowhere purer than in the arts and sciences? and what are they to do to help to form an ideal storehouse, which in the course of time may perhaps happily compensate us for what the present moment tears away when it does not destroy?

So much in general of the purpose of a work in which we desire many earnest and friendly sympathizers. Back.

[6] The journal Neueste Weltkunde, 4 vols. (Tübingen 1798), edited by the historian Ernst Ludwig Posselt. Schiller turned down the offer of editorship, though Ludwig Ferdinand Huber later joined Posselt. Eventually (1799), the journal became Johann Friedrich Cotta’s Allgemeine Zeitung (Tübingen) (N.B. not to be confused with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, which split in 1804). Back.

[6a] At issue is Friedrich’s relationship with Dorothea Veit and her marital status. See his letter to Caroline on 27 November 1798 (letter 210). Back.

[7] Karl Ludwig von Woltmann is derisively juxtaposed with the more significant historiographers of Württemberg and Switzerland (Ludwig Timotheus Spittler and Johannes Müller). Back.

[8] See KFSA 24:420n15, which points out that the manuscript read’s neither “His” (Seine) nor “Wilhelm,” but rather “S.” and “W.” “S.” could be but is not necessarily “Spittler,” while “W.” could be but is not necessarily either “Woltmann” or “Wilhelm,” though, as KFSA points out, it seems a bit odd that Wilhelm would be compared with a historian. Perhaps Friedrich simply made an error in writing. Back.

[9] Karl Friedrich Zelter set Wilhelm’s Lebensmelodien (Schiller’s Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1799, 111–15; Sämmtliche Werke 1:64–68) to music; the initial stanzas alternate between a “swan” and an “eagle” (seven each); Zelter did not, however, include the concluding three strophes of the “doves”; this piece was preceded there by Goethe’s “Der Junggesell und der Mühlbach. Altdeutsch” (Friedrich calls it the “Old German Miller’s Maid”).

In a letter to Zelter in March 1799, Wilhelm mentions the composition — which he apparently had not yet heard — and the difficulties Zelter apparently had with the conclusion (Körner [1930], 86):

. . . not heard . . . of your composition, hence I must admittedly simply proceed blindly. If this difficulty with the conclusion can be resolved, then I do genuinely believe I have finally succeeded in composing a musical poem. At the very least, the Lebensmelodien have prompted several musical friends and musicians to try their hand at setting them to music. A certain Herr von Lehmann in Dessau played a brilliant improvisation of them for me and intends to set about actually putting the composition on paper. —

It is so difficult for the poet to offer the musician pure and grand masses that are not at the same time empty and meaningless as poesy. I believe it unjustified to reproach a musician for preferring to compose an opera by Schikaneder than by Gotter — the former may well be a rather ungainly and awkward servant, but he is definitely a faithful and devoted one. A true intimacy, free of coercion, between the two art forms likely rarely takes place. It would be wonderful if you could submit an essay for our Athenaeum on what you consider lends itself to composition and what does not so lend itself etc. We here would very much like to invoke the spirit of all the arts — and it is especially with respect to music that we need friends to come to our aid. Back.

[10] Friedrich is referring to the recent (7 November 1798) public reconciliation in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung between Ludwig Ferdinand Huber and August von Kotzebue after a public dispute (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Illustrationen zu Erasmus’ Lob der Narrheit in sechs Abteilungen [1780]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki WB 3.31):


The dispute involved August von Kotzebue’s critique of literary reviewers in Fragmente über Recensentenunfug, Beylage zu der Jenaer Literaturzeitung (Leipzig 1797), to which Huber had responded in his heated “declaration” concerning Kotzebue’s own “declaration of war,” “Erklärung über Herrn von Kotzebue Kriegserklärung,” Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1797) 94 (Saturday, 5 August 1797) 790–92.

Huber and Kotzebue later celebrated a solemn, public epistolary reconciliation in the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1798) 159 (Wednesday, 7 November 1798) 1317–20, with Huber beginning his own peace offering with the words:

The reasons I am making the following two letters [from himself and Kotzebue] public will doubtless emerge from the letters themselves. In making them public, I have, moreover, the approval of the man to whom the first is addressed and from whom the second comes.

Kotzebue’s letter begins: “Your letter was an extremely pleasant surprise to me.” Huber then concludes the exchange in the Intelligenzblatt by remarking: “Since one is wont to accuse the public of observing literary feuds with a certain element of malicious enjoyment, should it not also be allowed to derive a bit of enjoyment from a literary reconciliation?” (Chodowiecki, Die Freundschaft [1793]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.968):



[11] Concerning Schelling’s nickname “the Granite,” see Caroline’s letter to Friedrich on 14 October 1798 (letter 204) and Friedrich’s response on 29 October 1798 (letter 207).

Friedrich himself later regularly referred at the table to “my gherkins” as if they were his “private” possessions; see Caroline’s letter to Auguste on 30 September 1799 (letter 245).

Friedrich has obviously picked up on Schelling’s trenchant disinclination toward Friedrich von Hardenberg. Schelling — much like Caroline — never quite warmed up to Hardenberg. In a letter to Wilhelm on 29 November 1802 (letter 373a), Schelling remarks straightforwardly that “I can hardly endure this [Hardenberg’s] frivolity toward objects, this sniffing around at everything without really penetrating into even a single one.” Back.

[12] Only the second direct mention of Lucinde after the first in a letter to Hardenberg on 20 October 1798 (Oskar Walzel, “Neue Quellen zur Geschichte der älteren romantischen Schule,” Zeitschrift für die österreichischen Gymnasien [1891] 103–8, here 105; Novalis Schriften 4:501; KFSA 183–84): “This winter I think I will probably be flippantly finishing a flippant novel, Lucinde” (see the possible indirect mention in Friedrich’s letter to Auguste earlier in November 1798 [letter 207c]).

Caroline also participated in the genesis of the novel with editorial deletions, thereby gaining Dorothea’s praise in a letter on 26 March 1799 (letter 225a), though Dorothea there offers an artificial justification of the novel, and admits to Schleiermacher shortly thereafter, on 8 April 1799, from Berlin that she alternately got “hot spells” and “cold chills” at the thought of such things being made public (Dorothea v. Schlegel geb. Mendelssohn und deren Söhne Johannes und Philipp Veit. Briefwechsel, ed. J. M. Raich, 2 vols. [Mainz 1881], 1:10; KFSA 24:266; illustrations: [1] Calender für das Jahr 1803 (Offenbach); Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung: [2] Bergoldt, Ein Liebespaar in einem Zimmer [ca. 1797–1836]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. A: 395.6):

As far as Lucinde is concerned — ah, as far as Lucinde is concerned! — Sometimes I get hot spells, but then later cold chills at seeing something so profoundly interior turned inside out — something that was so sacred to me, and so intimate; and now simply out there, exposed to all the curiosity seekers, all the ill-wishers.


In vain he tries to strengthen me with the notion that you would be more courageous even than he. —

But alas, it is not the boldness that frightens me! Nature, too, celebrates worship of the highest in open temples, and does so loudly, throughout the entire world — but love? —


But then I consider that all these pains will pass away with my own life, and life along with it; and what passes away should not be so highly esteemed that one would for its sake refrain from producing a work that will be eternal. And indeed, only when all these secondary things have fallen away will the world judge it fairly.

The book incorporates Caroline into its story as the romantic ideal woman (see Caroline in Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde) notwithstanding she herself objected to the book being published (see her letter to Friedrich von Hardenberg on 20 February 1799 [letter 222]). Friedrich, on the other hand, confesses on 7 May 1799 that what she wrote him about it was “the most beautiful thing that anyone has said to me about it” (Walzel, 419; KFSA 24:282; see letter 236b).

Concerning Schelling’s reaction to the novel, see Henrik Steffens, Was ich erlebte, 4:317–20, in a memoir recalling this heady time within the Jena circle when a confluence of the natural sciences, poesy, and philosophy seemed to be taking place — and in the midst of which the Lucinde scandal erupted (illustrations: Retif (or Restif) de la Bretonne, Les contemporaines; ou, Avantures des plus jolies femmes de l’âge présent, 42 vols. in 12 [Leipsick 1780–85]):

And though everything was thereby consecrated from within the one source of the all-encompassing spirit, and though the constructions of art themselves became animated even as I encountered them, and though I became ever more intimate with even the mysterious tones of music, which seemed to touch existence in its most profound depths, depths where language is unable to follow — nonetheless, even amid the radiance of this light, tempting demons also emerged for me, amid the luminescence of this day of the spirit also powerful nocturnal aberrations.

And indeed, precisely such an aberration, cloaked in the garment of the age, one never subsequently to be expelled again, emerged quite early, touching on the most delicate point of sensuality, a relationship whose profound natural ground ought to both bind and retain a person with the unconsciousness and even security of a natural law, namely, the relationship between the sexes. No aberration is more dangerous than when this particular relationship, instead of being acknowledged in its divinely ordained place in the natural order, instead seeks to emancipate itself and in so doing falls prey to the power of self-willed reflection.

And in mentioning this aberration, I am doubtless also obliged to recall the literary scandal occasioned at precisely this time by Friedrich Schlegel. A fragment published earlier in Athenaeum had already prompted indignation. “It’s hard to imagine,” it reads, “what basic objection there could be to a marriage en quatre” [trans. Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde and the Fragments, trans. Peter Firchow (Minneapolis 1971) 165]. And now the all-too-notorious Lucinde was published.

It is utterly mistaken to assume that this book made some grand impression on the narrower circle of allies at the time. I can assure the reader that I hardly took the time to page through it even briefly myself even though I heard a great many people talking about it. Its subject simply did not attract me. There is a common proverb that applies in its full force here. “One cannot,” it goes, “simultaneously cultivate ideas and love.”

As I distinctly remember, Schelling was highly indignant when the book appeared. In the atmosphere of the time, everyone had to bear the consequences of the culpability incurred by one, and it was with a kind of rage that opponents promptly generated a public scandal over this affair, which, after all, seemed to prove precisely what one might expect from this new, “dangerous” movement.


I was utterly indifferent to the entire matter. I thought too little of the opponents who were employing such weapons, and, seized by the power of the grand spirit of the time, I found that all these weapons seeking to repress it were simply too impotent in any case.

Caroline was not the only person on whom certain characters in the novel were modeled, since it also incorporated Charlotte and Auguste Ernst. Concerning the roles these figures play in Lucinde, see the excerpts from Isaac-Julien Rouge’s commentary, Erläuterungen zu Friedrich Schlegels Lucinde (Halle 1905), supplementary appendix 209.1. Back.

[13] Although the publisher Carl Friedrich Ernst Frommann published Ludwig Tieck’s Romantische Dichtungen, 2 vols. (Jena 1799–1800), see the discussion of the later problems Frommann would have with Tieck concerning precisely this issue of finances. Friedrich similarly became entangled in his own problems with Frommann concerning the delayed translation of Plato he had promised to deliver with Schleiermacher. See Friedrich’s comments below. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott