Letter 232

• 232. Auguste Böhmer to Friedrich Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck in Berlin: Jena, after mid-April 1799 [*]

[Jena, after mid-April 1799]


Letter to Fritz and Tiek

You are yourself prob'ly quite out of sort,
And your powers of reason are coming up short,
But who could expect much more now of you
When our world-famous Fichte is in such a stew? [1] 
A dispensation I thus grant you for now
From having to write me a letter somehow.		
But as soon as your senses seem to come round
(till then, I am sure, we will cover much ground)
|532| You are oath-bound to write me a letter once more
and my loyal, true servant remain evermore.
I, too, have reason for ire on this day
For that evil old man whisked my sister away —
He took her, and swiftly, straightaway from this place
Ere we even had time for a single embrace,
O that he might burn in that very hot place! [2]

What now, though, alas, is a poor girl to do?
But wait, and listen, sweet things might come true,
An ending, but this time quite happy, I’m sure,
She, you, Madam Veit, we will be oh so clever
And lure you all down here to stay on forever. [3] 
For now, I own, it is probably best
That Tiek and you come here this summer to rest, [4] 
But let me not catch you now changing your mind
Or I promise to pay you back rightly in kind
And scold you up one side and then down the other
And in autumn not come to Berlin with my mother, [5] 
And for spite I will not read Zerbino by Tiek, [6] 
Hence I would advise you quite swiftly to seek
The fastest way here, else fear ye my pique!

And now I must urgently make this request:
That Madam Unger you drown, and quickly, that pest,
As I would in your place, I am sure that is best. [7] 
And if one more bit of advice I may teach
A millstone round about her neck I beseech,
That dry land she ne’er be able to reach;
For such weeds we can ne’er so easily get rid.
You can see now how crazy I lately have got,
|533| Full of sillies that threaten me quite to besot.
The reason? 'Tis simple: Herr Faust have I read,
Whose spirit now rules in my own spirit's stead. [8] 
But now: 'tis good night! For it drones ten o’clock,
So om'nously, in fact, that it gives quite a shock.

I entreat you for now, be not angry with me
For not being in bed, where I now ought to be,
For boring you rudely, for surely you see
'Twas ne'er my intention to get in the way,
'Twas just to amuse, in my own little way.
But if just the right mood now be on the wane
To read these fine lines, then put them aside — struggle not in vain,
For their spirit abides, there shall it remain.
But now, my warm greetings after this you have read
And anon, yes, anon, I go quickly to bed.

To Friedrich Schlegel
and his Bosom Buddy
Ludwig Tiek.

Though this little piece be no fine oration,
neither does it need refined decoration.


[*] The original manuscript has been lost. First published in Briefe an Ludwig Tieck, ed. Karl von Holtei, 4 vols. (Breslau 1864), 1:27–29 (Holtei identifies the writer as “?Auguste?”). Not in Waitz (1871). Reprinted in KFSA 24:274–76.

Dating: Erich Schmidt dates the poem to “March/April 1799”; KFSA 24:456n168.2 suggests “after mid-April 1799” to accord with Henriette Mendelssohn’s prior departure from Jena on 16 April 1799, though that date is problematical. See the editorial note to Friedrich’s undated letter to Auguste after mid-April 1799 (letter 230f) with cross references esp. to Henriette’s letters to Dorothea Veit on 16, 18, 19 April 1799 (letter 230c, d, e). In any event, Auguste’s reference to “my sister” (see below) is in fact to Henriette Mendelssohn.

Concerning the “Knittelverse” metric form Auguste uses in the original German, see Caroline’s letter to Friedrich on 14–15 October 1798 (letter 204), note 15. Back.

[1] Fichte had been dismissed from his position as a professor in Jena on 29 March 1799; concerning his atheism dispute, see supplementary appendix 215a.1. Back.

[2] Henriette Mendelssohn seems to have visited the Schlegels quite briefly in Jena, possibly on 17 April 1799, then traveled on to Dresden and Vienna accompanied by an Italian merchant. Concerning the complicated chronological questions, see Henriette’s letters to Dorothea Veit on 16, 18, 19 April 1799 (letters 230c, d, e) and Friedrich’s undated letter to Auguste after mid-April 1799 (letter 230e).

Henriette (“my sister”) and Auguste seem in any case to have gotten along quite well indeed, well enough for Auguste to lament here her precipitate departure for Vienna (Taschenkalender für Damen auf das Jahr 1799, Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung). Auguste was about to turn 14, Henriette was 24; the caption to this illustration coincidentally reads: “‘Ah, but how I intend to love you, Henriette!’, and she threw herself onto Henriette’s breast”:



[3] Friedrich would indeed move to Jena from Berlin in early September 1799; Dorothea and the Tieck family followed in October. Back.

[4] See Friedrich’s undated letter to Auguste after mid-April 1799 (letter 230e). Tieck would move his family to Giebichenstein outside Halle in July 1799, and on 17 July he would make a side trip to Jena, without Friedrich, who would not come to Jena until early September, albeit then as a permanent resident; Dorothea followed in October.

During these two weeks, Tieck lived with the Schlegels at Leutragasse 5. It was during this visit that Tieck first made the acquaintance, at Wilhelm Schlegel’s initiative, of Friedrich von Hardenberg, who was similarly in Jena in mid-July for two weeks. The two of them — Hardenberg and Tieck — then dined with Goethe on 21 July. Hardenberg later accompanyied Tieck back to Giebichenstein and journeyed back to Weissenfels on 29 July.

The Tiecks returned to Berlin but then moved to Jena in October 1799, similarly visiting Hardenberg in Weissenfels on their way (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


See Novalis Schriften 857; also Roger Paulin, Ludwig Tieck. A Literary Biography (Oxford 1986), 99–104; and, with precise documentation concerning where the Tiecks lived after arriving in Jena, Peer Kösling, Die Frühromantiker in Jena, 43–45. Back.

[5] By now it was clear that the Berlin premiere of Hamlet would not be taking place until the autumn of 1799 (it did in fact premiere on 15 October 1799), and that the Schlegels’ anticipated spring journey to Berlin would not materialize. Neither, however, were they able to attend the premiere in October. See Ella Horn’ s essay on the background to the premiere of Hamlet in Berlin. Back.

[6] Ludwig Tieck, Prinz Zerbino, oder, Die Reise nach dem guten Geschmack (Jena, Leipzig 1799), simultaneously published in Tieck’s Romantische Dichtungen, 2 vols. (Jena 1799–1800), here 1:1–422. One of the factors militating in favor of the Tiecks living in Jena was that his two-volume Romantische Dichtungen was currently being typeset by the Jena publisher Friedrich Frommann; because the typesetters were having difficulty deciphering Tieck’s handwriting, Wilhelm temporarily took over reading the proofs; after the Tiecks left Jena in July 1800, Friedrich then took over this task (Kösling, Die Frühromantiker in Jena, 44, 83n92. Back.

[7] Concerning the difficulties with Friederike Unger with respect to the Schlegels anticipated journey to Berlin, see Friedrich’s letter to Caroline in early March 1799 (letter 224c); Dorothea to Wilhelm and Caroline on 9 March 1799 (letter 224e); Friedrich to Caroline in late March 1799 (letter 225); and Dorothea to Caroline on 26 March 1799 (letter 225a). Back.

[8] Auguste presumably read the version “Faust. Ein Fragment,” in Goethe’s Schriften, vol. 7 (Leipzig 1790), 1–160. Here an illustration of Faust and Mephistopheles from 1840 (Göthe-Gallerie: Stahlstiche zu Göthe’s Meisterwerken / nach Zeichnungen von Julius Nisle [Stuttgart 1840–41], issue 3, Faust: Erster Theil):



Translation © 2013 Doug Stott