Letter 212

• 212. Friedrich Schlegel to Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena: Berlin, 15 December 1798 [*]

Berlin, 15 December [17]98

|482| To the extent I still can write, I am writing to you between anxiety and hope.

I was unable to write sooner because I have just come from Fröhlich [1] and have just received word from Henriette, which, however, is admittedly not much better than no news at all. Although she definitely intends to write on the next postal day, today she can only send her regards and thanks; but everything is allegedly just still too confused for her. Everything with Vienna is in order except for the details of the actual stipulations; but even in this case, she only became sure of things today. [2] The husband is an extremely wealthy Jewish banker. Since no relative or acquaintance is traveling to the book fair, her travel plans to Leipzig and on to you were now depending on the Viennese negotiations. If the latter were in order, her position was that she would if need be borrow money to pay for the trip and all the necessary arrangements. As a traveling companion she will then accept one of the merchants who would be traveling to the book fair in any event, and will be paying for the carriage and extra-post alone.

So, that was her decision, a decision in which your letters, which I just sent her yesterday, have, one hopes, strengthened her. —

But what will happen now — now that I am the happiest of men and have progressed so far that I can no longer go |483| and yet the day after tomorrow will find my lady friend in her own logis and know that before a week is up she will be divorced — I simply know not. [3] For Joseph and a dreadful third sister, whose face is merely a confused amalgamate of the two original, genuine sisters, and who got mixed up in this chaos at just the wrong time — these two, let me repeat, can easily find offence in the journey or militate against it. I now no longer see Henriette every day, and such a young, delicate, independent creature does, after all, need uninterrupted attention and care.

You are probably surprised that everything was decided so quickly and nicely. Although we will be staying here in Berlin this winter, in the summer I am thinking we will probably be in Jena or Dresden. [4] Rejoice that my life now has a firm grounding and footing as well as a center and distinct form. Extraordinary things can happen now!

In and of themselves, your objections to the new title of our journal are quite good. [5] It is just that we will perhaps not be in a position to make use of it. That is to say, it will not be our choice to make in any case; instead, if Fröhlich cannot come to terms with Vieweg, it is indispensable for him that his undertaking be wholly independent of the beginning Vieweg has made, and he wishes this to be the case to as great an extent as possible. But I think it highly improbable that he will reach an amicable settlement with him concerning Athenäum.

The thing is this: if this improbability does not happen, then if the next issue of our journal appears as the third issue of the 1st volume of Athenäum or even as the 1st issue of the 2nd, Fröhlich must then buy up a considerable number of copies of the previous issues from Vieweg, and must do so at the |483| retail price, which even with the customary booksellers discount would be a considerable sum. This will be necessary because one would, after all, be demanding and expecting complete copies from him. It is a wholly different story if a set of issues or some other full increment has already been concluded with one publisher, and now a new publisher enters the picture; then quite of itself neither the one nor the other is particularly bothered.

Although I will go ahead and conclude things with Vieweg, I will perhaps not make use of Wilhelm’s letters because, after all the trouble, I am, unlike Wilhelm, wholly disinclined to grant Vieweg first rights to the 1st issue. Among other dirty tricks, he also told Fröhlich that he had already come to an agreement with us concerning the reduction of the honorarium, even though I had, of course, reported to him that you had by no means concurred with my suggestion. He has now also told Fröhlich again that he would in all events still take the third issue. He ought, however, to probably just leave that be, though I do not even believe he really wants it.

Hence I arranged things with Fröhlich from the very outset anticipating the highly probable scenario that he will in fact not reach an agreement with Vieweg, and that the journal will now begin with a new title. For in that case, this is essential. Nor does this seem inappropriate to me, since anyone can see that if the publishers change in this way — quite in the middle of things, with no hiatus at all — they would certainly otherwise be considerably disturbed. And this can easily be explained in the announcement; and such would be more considerate than is really even called for, if indeed we owed Vieweg any such consideration. Moreover, it will certainly be no secret that we have fallen out with him.

To cap it off, Böttiger has also already reported in the Merkur that the Athenäum will be ceasing publication. [6] I would also like to see Wilhelm give this |485| bumptious messenger of the gods a hearty payback in his announcement of the new journal.

Fröhlich wants to commit to four issues, each with 12 printer’s sheets, one more or less, but at 20 gr. per issue. Vieweg told him that he in his own turn had been planning to reduce the number of printer’s sheets in following issues and initially to attract buyers only with a lower price. He will sign a written contract with us, and I have provisionally arranged an honorarium of 2 louis d’ors, though for a relatively smaller format. For the format of Athenäum really is larger than it needs to be. In accordance with Wilhelm’s wish and demand, I told Fröhlich he was to give no one an advance for Athenäum; instead, every issue is to be reckoned when it is finished, albeit with the exception that since the manuscript has lain fallow for so long, he should go ahead and sign over to you the approximate payment as soon as we have concluded things with Vieweg. —

The printing can begin right after the New Year. Let me now ask that you write and tell me whether either of you has any objection to any of these points! As far as my own debt is concerned, I will either send it along with Henriette if she does indeed depart now, or sign it over simultaneously with the other sum.

Your objections to the title Dioscuri do not convince me. [7] On the other hand, the journal certainly must by no means have a title that you two find unpleasant. Let me merely ask that on the next postal day you send me another one. [8]

Please do not be annoyed that I am not writing more. Besides everything else, I cut the thumb on my right hand and also have to go into town just now for urgent business.


[*] Repr. KFSA 24:211–14, with material omitted by Schmidt (1913) (extra material from “Since no relative” to “carriage and extra-post alone” from KFSA 24:212, lines 3–10). Back.

[1] The anticipated new publisher of Athenaeum. Back.

[2] Concerning Henriette Mendelssohn’s journey to Vienna (over 500 km from Berlin) and decision to try out her independence, see Caroline’s letter to Friedrich on 14–15 October 1798 (letter 204) with note 30; and Friedrich’s letter to Caroline in mid-December 1798 (letter 211) (W. R. Shepherd, Historical Map of Central Europe about 1786 [1926]):



[3] Logis, Fr., “house, dwelling, lodging, accommodations.” — Concerning Dorothea Veit’s divorce, see supplementary appendix 210.1. Back.

[4 Friedrich would arrive in Jena in early September 1799, Dorothea in early October 1799. Back.

[5] The fate of Athenaeum was uncertain because of unexpectedly low sales figures and change of publishers. See Friedrich’s letter to Caroline in November 1798 (letter 209). Back.

[6] Der Neue Teutsche Merkur (1798) 3, no. 11 (November), 304–5, in the section “Auszüge aus Briefen,” reports that the publisher will allegedly conclude with the second issue of Athenaeum “unless, as one might certainly hope, several readers or, rather, purchasers might be found”; Böttiger adds the footnote: “At the very least, the small number of copies of Athenäum purchased proves nothing contra its internal goodness.” See the detailed discussion in supplementary appendix 194c.2. Back.

[7] In Greek mythology the twins Castor and Pollux, the Dioscuri, who share their immortality, spending half their time below the earth, and half in Olympus. Back.

[8] The title remained Athenaeum. The next issue (vol. 2 [1799], no. 1) appeared in early March 1799. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott