Letter 225a

• 225a (was 231). Dorothea Veit to Caroline in Jena: Berlin, 26 March 1799 [*]

[Berlin] 26 March [1799]

|528| Things are admittedly now quite different than we here had imagined them; but who could have suspected it? [1]

This time, my good friends, it would be unfair to believe a certain someone had his confusing hand justifiably in play! Friedrich could not but suspect the worst; neither Herr nor Madame Unger related even the slightest information to him concerning their decisions, nor, certainly could he very well ask, since he never found them alone. Although Friedrich really did leave nothing undone in trying to stay on cordial terms with Herr Unger, Madame Unger truly did behave excessively mischievously toward him.

Not a single time this winter did she invite him to dinner, and yet he was there five or six times because it was the only time when he could even hope to see Herr Unger, though even then he usually found only her there, regardless of how often he complained to her that he never found her husband at home, and though he specified the time quite precisely when he might be able to speak with him, and yet there was never any reaction from Unger’s side — unmistakable proof that she never delivered his messages to Unger.

But how is he to behave now, when it is, after all, so necessary that he remain on at least semi-cordial terms with him, since you will be staying with them? And how likely is it now that he will be able, as he would like, constantly to be around you and also in your company at midday and in the evening if they never invite him in the first place?

But all this can have some extremely unpleasant consequences; he cannot allow anyone to notice the real nature of the relationship — or misrelationship — lest he disturb poor Unger; and yet there is almost no other way open, since one cannot very well advise him to write to Madame Unger, as he initially wanted, can one? —

Please advise us, my good Schlegel! — although all this is admittedly more something for Caroline’s consideration, you are familiar with local circumstances here! —

I for my part cannot imagine the arrangements with the garden apartment being so terrible, for I do not believe Madame Unger is intending to stuff all of you together into the small garden rooms (which would be impossible in any case), though she is likely planning to use a few rooms for this, something she can easily do since the house has so many rooms; then it would actually be quite nice [2] — except for the enormous distance! But you will not be able to avoid this even if you prefer the apartment in town, since she will then doubtless move into town herself during this time so she can really enjoy your company!

So you can see how necessary it is that one learn beforehand what she has in mind with the garden apartment so you can consider that in making your decision; but she is divulging absolutely no clues, we cannot learn anything, so the surest way to ensure your comfort and convenience is to prefer the apartment in town, for whatever reason — the theater — in a word: whatever you want. Although Friedrich still considers his idea about the chambre garnie an excellent one, I do not entirely share his opinion; [3] would you be able to accept that better than my house? She has, after all, still given you no reason |529| for not keeping her promise! Now you will have to go to the Ungers, and I am still hoping that in this considerable interim period we can still find a way to reestablish the good relationship with Friedrich as well. —

Please reward me for my resignation, dear friends, keep your word that you will find as much time as possible to spend with us! —

The weather will have to decide whether we come to meet you in Potsdam or accompany you there on your way back, since Potsdam’s splendors certainly include the cute little surrounding area, the likes of which we do not have here in Berlin itself. The military review and maneuvers must also be finished, otherwise the place will be full of foreigners and soldiers, and it will be almost impossible to find appropriate lodging. [4] But if you would perhaps like to see it, we could do that as well as long as we make arrangements several days ahead. It is at these maneuvers that you would have the best opportunity to see the beautiful queen. [5]

Henriette will probably be coming to visit you from Leipzig and has presumably already written you about it; [6] I see her less frequently now than I would like. I will pass along your regards and interest to her as soon as I see her. You probably did not find in Friedrich’s last letter an appropriate answer to your own letter; but he did not find it until the next day in the manuscript you had sent him. —

Please do not be impatient for having not received more of Lucinde; Friedrich believes it would probably be better to wait until he can send more at once. Especially the “Apprenticeship” should not be read in bits and pieces. [7] Your corrections were very good, my dear Caroline! I was hoping for as much, and that is why it had to be sent to you and why I went ahead and hastily copied it when Henriette had no more time for it. |530| I could not prevent the printing from going ahead, but it will be reprinted again with your changes. —

How wonderfully you described how one feels with all the criticism and changes and deletions! If you yourself feel that way, how can I complain? I with my inexperience and ineptitude! When we finally see each other, I will be able to tell you about all sorts of distress, though also about some fun — but he accepted your changes and his brother’s criticisms quite gracieus, did he not? —

Oh, I do hope you will be pleased with little Lucinde once you have read more of it. And please do not reproach me any further because of individual passages, my dear Caroline, my justification is in the book itself, in the dithyrambic fantasy; [8] I am also confident in maintaining that it contains justifications for most of the objections.

“Four unlicked bears”! [9] — My dear Schlegel, should I give them to you? No, I should not, not even were you three times the wit. Did I not have so frightfully much respect — I would like to respond, but I think, God willing, that the respect will probably calm down; if not sooner, then surely when I come to Jena.

Dear Caroline, you have anticipated my own wishes with your proposal! — I really would like someday to have the chance to live with you for a time! — We can discuss the ways and means in person. [10] I always thought the obstacles were insurmountable and was hesitant even to mention my wishes in this regard; but now that you consider it doable, I have once again found the courage to carry out this grand plan. For many reasons, I will not always be able to live in Berlin; and where else would I rather be than among you, with you. And what a fortunate, salutary thing for Friedrich! —

Only look, |531| my dear, if what you say about Friedrich is true, namely, that “he slanders his friends but not the woman who is closest to him at just this moment,” it is so only because of his love of his own paradoxes, or he finds here more that needs to be excused. But seriously, you simply should no longer believe in these slanders. —

That I earlier did nothing to get closer to you is to be attributed to my own clumsiness; but now that I have dared to do so, and now that you have so graciously received me, I can now give myself to you with undivided trust. —

I will write you again soon. A whole crowd of people has just arrived and are awaiting my orders concerning the move, which to our great joy will be taking place in the next few days, and I am quite busy with it all. [11] Stay well.


My regards to Auguste. Does she really want absolutely nothing to do with the older sister? [12]


[*] Also published in KFSA 24:255–57 with material not published in either Schmidt (1913), 1:528–31 or Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 1:6–9. — Renumbered here to accommodate chronological positioning of other letters. Back.

[1] At issue are accommodations for Caroline, Wilhelm, and Auguste during an anticipated trip to Berlin for the premiere of Hamlet; see especially Friedrich Schlegel’s letters to Caroline in early March 1799 (letters 224b, c), Dorothea to Wilhelm and Caroline on 9 March 1799 (letter 224e), and Friedrich to Caroline in late March 1799 (letter 225). Neither the premiere nor the journey came about as planned. Back.

[2] Concerning the house, see Friedrich’s letter to Caroline in early March 1799 (letter 224c) with note 1 and the cross references there. Back.

[3] Friedrich makes this suggestion in his letter to Caroline in early March (letter 224c). Back.

[4] Potsdam originated as a garrison town under Friedrich Wilhelm I, then from 1745 was turned into the royal residence by his son, Friedrich II of Prussia (illustration of Friedrich II, at bottom center, reviewing a miltary parade; Franz Ludwig Catel, Parade im Lustgarten, mit dem Stadtschloss Potsdam auf der rechten Seite [ca. 1806]):



[5] Here a portrait of Luise of Prussia by Johann Friedrich August Tischbein from 1798, the format and disposition of which unmistakably resemble Tischbein’s portrait of Caroline from the same year:



[6] That is, visit Caroline and Wilhelm in Jena. Henriette Mendelssohn’s journey to Vienna (she would not leave until 7 April) is mentioned in several letters during the late winter 1798–99 and early spring 1799; see, e.g., letters 202f, 207b, 207c, 211, 212 (with cross references).

Although Henriette and others have spoken about her staying longer with the Schlegels in Jena, it seems she was there but a single afternoon, namely, 16 April 1799. See her letters to Dorothea on 16, 18, 19 April 1799 (letters 230c, d, e). Auguste also laments her brief visit in her letter to Friedrich Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck after mid-April 1799 (letter 232), where in her poem she refers to Henriette Mendelssohn as “my sister.”

Concerning letters that discuss her itinerary, see her letter to Wilhelm on 2 March 1799 (letter 224a), according to which she planned to leave Berlin for Leipzig on 7 April, a departure Dorothea confirms in a letter to Karl Gustav von Brinckmann on 4 May 1799 (Franz Deibel, Dorothea Schlegel als Schrifstellerin im Zusammenhang mit der romantischen Schule. Palaestra XL [Berlin 1905], 165; KFSA 24:279). One of Henriette’s logistical problems with the trip — as also suggested by Auguste’s letter — was finding appropriate traveling companions (“Le coche de voyage du dix-huitiéme siécle,” in anonymous, “La locomotion terrestre: Les ancients coutures de voyage,” La nature: Revue des sciences etc. 16 [1888], premier semestre, no. 768 [18 February 1888], 177–79, here 177):



[7] The chapter “Lehrjahre der Männlichkeit” in Lucinde; translated by Peter Firchow as “Apprenticeship for Manhood,” Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde and the Fragments (Minneapolis 1971), 77–105. Back.

[8] The chapter “Dithyrambische Fantasie über die schönste Situation,” a paian to Friedrich’s love for Dorothea, both spiritual and physical; translated as “A Dithyrambic Fantasy on the Loveliest Situation in the World,” Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde and the Fragments, 46–50, here 47 (representative illustration: Toiletten Kalender für Frauenzimmer 1796 [Vienna]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Yes: I would have thought it a fairy tale that there could be such happiness and such love as I feel now — and such a woman, at once the most delicate lover, the most wonderful companion, and the most perfect friend. For in friendship particularly I sought for all that I lacked and didn’t expect to find in any woman. In you I’ve found everything and even more than I could have hoped for; but, then, you’re not like the others. You’re untouched by the faults that custom and caprice call female. Aside from your little idiosyncrasies, the femininity of your soul consists simply in your making life and love synonymous.

The chapter’s passages on physical love prompted some of the sharpest accusations of literary impropriety once the book was published, including the following whimsical passage (ibid., 49):

We have to lessen and cool the consuming fire with playful good humor, and therefore the wittiest of all the shapes and situations of happiness is for us also the loveliest. One above all is wittiest and most beautiful: when we exchange roles and in childish high spirits compete to see who can mimic the other more convincingly, whether you are better at imitating the protective intensity of the man, or I the appealing devotion of the woman. Back.

[9] Uncertain allusion from a letter (with criticisms?) Wilhelm had apparently written concerning Lucinde. Perhaps an allusion to the four novels that appear to the narrator in Lucinde in a “waking dream”? See Friedrich’s letters to Caroline in late March 1799 (letter 225) with note 3. Back.

[10] Caroline seems to have issued an invitation to Dorothea and Friedrich to move in with her, Wilhelm, and Auguste at Leutragasse 5 in Jena, which did indeed happen during the autumn of 1799. The discussion “in person” was to take place during Caroline’s visit to Berlin, which, however, did not materialize. Back.

[11] No further mention seems to have been made to this new apartment; because Schleiermacher mentions to Henriette Herz on 12 April 1799 — that is, more than two weeks after Dorothea wrote this present letter — that Friedrich was “for all practical purposes” living with Dorothea in the apartment on Ziegelstrasse (KGA V/3:84), perhaps Dorothea moved into a larger apartment on Ziegelstrasse itself. Back.

[12] Henriette Mendelssohn being the “younger sister.” Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott