Letter 230a

230a. Ludwig Tieck to Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena: Berlin, March/April 1799 [*]

[Berlin, March/April 1799]

In the end you will be quite seriously angry with me, and I honestly know not whether I can present adequate excuses; I would instead prefer to reproach you yourself and in so doing claim some of the right for myself.

To wit, that you are not coming to Berlin after all has vexed both me and everyone else for the foreseeable future. Could I but come to some understanding of the reason! And now Beschort, of all people (as I have heard), is to take over the role of Hamlet, and he will doubtless present himself the way Costard did in the case of Pompey the Huge in Love’s Labour’s Lost, and the whole thing will then doubtless also be a case of labour lost. [1]

I am utterly without excuses with respect to the review, [2] even were I to adduce a bit of illness, my wife’s accouchement, [3] and that sort of thing. But let me relate to you an anecdote about Professor Schlegel. [4] One evening when this Schlegel was taking a walk with Tieck through the streets of Berlin, Tieck inquired whether he might not be inclined to review the recently published Sternbald [5] in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, to which Schlegel responded: “Ah, my friend, but surely you have long passed beyond the praise and criticism of the Literatur-Zeitung!” — Now, although I do not intend to answer you similarly with respect to the review — though I am indeed convinced that for you such is 1000 times more the case — I instead promise to send off the review inside 6 weeks. [6] It is just that the more I work on it, the more timid I get. You shall also assuredly get some contributions for Athenaeum, should you but want to include them. [7] . . .

Stay well and continue to remain kindly disposed toward me, write to me; I am not feeling well today, which is why I am closing for now, but I will write you a quite long-winded letter soon in which I intend to ask you for advice about how one might best and most quickly begin should one be inclined to move to Jena. [8] If I do not visit you this summer, we will not see each other at all, since I will surely be staying in Giebichenstein until Michaelmas. [9] But then that would spoil the pleasure I would have in making the acquaintance of your wife, whom I increasingly admire and to whose acquaintance I had so inexpressibly looked forward. Give her my very kindest regards.

If only she is pleased with the review once I have it finished! — What do you think of Don Quixote? [10] — You have not written for a long time now. Adieu!

Your friend,
L. Tieck


[*] Source: Lohner 38–39. Back.

[1] Costard, the clown in Love’s Labour’s Lost, act v, scene ii, as Pompey the Great in the play-within-a-play Play of the Nine Worthies, who, having preened himself as the “thrice great Pompey” (3x “I Pompey am”) bests the other “worthies” (Alexander the Great, Hector) and, in crescendo, is ultimately declared “Pompey the Huge” (the other participants in the scene constitute the audience; text from Shakespeare’s Complete Works, ed. W. J. Craig [London 1966]):

Cost. I Pompey am, —

Boyet. You lie, you are not he.

Cost. I Pompey am, —

Boyet. With libbard’s head on knee.

Berowne. Well said, old mocker: I must needs be friends with thee.

Cost. I Pompey am, Pompey surnam’d the Big, —

Dumaine. “The Great.”

Cost. It is “Great,” sir; Pompey surnam’d the Great;
That oft in field, with targe and shield, did make my foe to swear:
And travelling along this coast, I here am come by chance,
and lay my arms before the legs of this sweet lass of France.

If your ladyship would say, “thanks, Pompey,”
I had done.

Princess. Great thanks, great Pompey.

Cost. ‘Tis not so much worth; but I hope I was perfect. I made a little fault in “Great.”

Ber. My hat to a halfpenny, Pompey proves the best Worthy. . . .

Dumaine. Most rare Pompey!

Boyet. Renowned Pompey!

Ber. Greater than great, great great, great Pompey! Pompey the Huge!

See Iffland’s letter to Wilhelm on 5 November 1799 concerning why he assigned the role to Beschort. Concerning Beschort’s performance, see also the review of the premiere (with an illustration). See also Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Auguste in November 1798, note 10. Back.

[2] Of the Shakespeare translation. Back.

[3] Tieck’s daughter, Dorothea, was born on 26 March 1799. Back.

[4] Viz., Wilhelm himself during his previous stay in Berlin in the spring of 1798 before journeying on to Dresden with Friedrich. Back.

[5] Tieck’s novel, Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen, 2 vols. (Berlin 1798). Back.

[6] Tieck never finished the promised review. Back.

[7] Neither Tieck nor Schelling published anything in Athenaeum. Back.

[8] The Tiecks did indeed move to Jena; on 21 October 1799, a Monday, Caroline wrote to Auguste (letter 250) that “the Tieks arrived on Thursday,” which would have been 17 October. Back.

[9] Tieck made a side trip to Jena from Giebichenstein in July 1799. Back.

[10] Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote, 2 vols. 1605, 1615, translated by Ludwig Tieck as Leben und Thaten des scharfsinnigen Edlen Don Quixote von la Mancha, 4 vols. (Unger: Berlin 1799–1801); volume 1 (1799) reviewed by Wilhelm Schlegel in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1799) 230 (Saturday, 20 July 1799) 177–83; 231 (Saturday, 20 July 1799) 185–89 (i.e., that coming summer) (Sämmtliche Werke 11:408–26). Volume 1 was also reviewed by Friedrich Schlegel in Athenaeum (1799) 324–27. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott