Letter 211

• 211. Friedrich Schlegel to Caroline in Jena: Berlin, mid-December 1798 [*]

[Berlin, mid-December 1798]

[Beginning of letter is missing.]

|481| . . . cease being a precious creature. Perhaps she will come of age once more through an imaginative bit of chance. [1]

I have yet another, more important and more profound worry. Schleiermacher’s relationship with Madam Herz is corrupting and ruining him both in and for himself and for me and our friendship. The femaleness of this woman really is so base that she herself, and she alone, must possess this fifth man on the cart if she is to derive pleasure from it. [2]

They mutually enflame each other’s vanity, but rather than being any great element of pride, it is instead a case of foolish tipsiness such as that brought on by inferior punch. Every tiny, ever so pathetic exercise of virtue they credit to themselves as oh-so-high merit; Schleiermacher’s spirit and intellect are shrinking, and he is losing his sense for what is great. In a word, I am basically going crazy with all these damned, tiny “delicate, innermost hearts”! — And yet in this entire matter her conduct toward us has been beyond reproach. [3]

|482| The worst part is that I can see no way for Schleiermacher to be saved from the snares of this antique. [4] I have no idea whether you yourself view all this as rapturous excess or as a mere trifle. But this is just the way friendship between men works, namely, that once the most delicate blossom is gone, the whole thing is gone as well; it is unlikely I will ever find a friend who harmonizes and perceives every fiber of my spirit as sensitively and profoundly as he. And it just so happens that I am an infinitely social and, as far as friendship is concerned, insatiable beast.

By the way, people are dying here as well. Seven sentries recently froze to death in a single night, [5] and a good woman was just brought into the house who, to save her child, let herself be run over and was killed. And yet, as gray and pale as she is, she does have a quiet, cordial look about her.

My warm regards to Auguste, whom I will greatly admire if after her wonderful impatience she now also exercises patience.


[*] The original manuscript of this letter seems to have been lost. — Letter reprinted in KFSA 24:211. — Extra material (“and a good woman . . . look about her”) from Otto Braun, “Friedrich Schlegel an Auguste Böhmer. Von Otto Braun (Münster i. W.),” Das literarische Echo, 19 (August 1917), col. 1371n1 (see also supplementary appendix 181d.1 with note 1). Redating from “early December” (Schmidt [1913]) to “mid-December” according to Josef Körner, ed., Briefe von und an Friedrich und Dorothea Schlegel (Berlin 1926), 611, no. 9, albeit without explanation; KFSA 24:211, 426n124.1, follows Körner’s dating.

Chronological note: Caroline’s review of The Health Springs (see letter 207a) appeared on 8 December 1798 Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1798) 374 (Saturday, 8 December 1798) 633–36. Back.

[1] “Bit of chance” corrected by Josef Körner, Briefe von und an Friedrich und Dorothea Schlegel, 443, based on the same expression in a letter Friedrich wrote to Friedrich von Hardenberg on 17 December 1798: “Through an imaginative bit of chance, my lady friend is the daughter of the elderly Mendelssohn”; Körner remarks in his note (443) that “at first glance, one might easily read the noun [Zufall, here: ‘bit of chance’] as the meaningless word Juden [‘Jew’], as did indeed happen in Schmidt (1913), 1:481, line 13 from the bottom.”

Concerning Henriette Mendelssohn’s journey to Vienna and decision to try out her independence, see Friedrich’s letter to Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel on 15 December 1798 (letter 212). Also earlier Caroline’s letter to Friedrich 14–15 October 1798 (letter 204) with note 30. Back.

[2] Concerning Friedrich’s jealousy of Henriette Herz, see Schleiermacher’s letter to his sister, Charlotte Schleiermacher, on 23/30 May 1798 (letter 200g). — Friedrich referred to his and Schleiermacher’s living arrangements together in the Charité hospital complex in Berlin as their “marriage.” In that letter to his sister, 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.

[3] Viz., toward Friedrich and Dorothea Veit; see supplementary appendix 210.1.

“Pathetic exercise of virtue”: See Friedrich’s letter to Caroline on 27 November 1798 (letter 210) concerning the “alliance of virtue”. Back.

[4] Likely a reference to a women who is up in years; Friedrich similarly remarks to Auguste in August 1797 (letters 184c, 184d) that Henriette Herz was an “old coquette” and “old.” Back.

[5] That is, froze while on duty during the night (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Die Schildwache, from the series “Dance of Death” 1791; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.899):



Translation © 2013 Doug Stott