Letter 243

• 243. Dorothea Veit to Caroline in Jena: Berlin, 3 August 1799 [*]

[Berlin] 3 August [1799]

|554| What on earth should I write? My poor weak head is racked and crazed! [1] Friedrich had to put off sending his letter [2] until the next postal day because we were still expecting a letter from you that might put an end to all our despair, and also because on the previous postal day Fichte did not do as he intended and write to you to familiarize you with his own plan for the winter. [3]

But no letter from you today, either? My dear friend, if only you could see our impatience! You have usually been so conscientious about responding and writing — has Tieck seduced you into non-writing? [4] That is his particular vice. — You will probably be receiving Fichte’s letter at the same time as this one. [5]

What is to be done now? Or rather: what have you decided? For as far as we are concerned, we are abiding with our decision to come to Jena if you still consider that to be the best thing despite all the changes; but if you approve Fichte’s suggestion (as an aside, let me point out that it would rescue you from the plague of having to stay with Madam Unger), [6] I can but say that we will be sincerely satisfied with that as well, you will simply need to write me then, and immediately, in fact as soon as possible, and let me know that it will indeed happen so that I can rent lodging, domestics, and furniture; if we go at it all together, it will surely not cost you any more here than in Jena. We must also make provisions for Schelling in our house if he intends to come, as Fichte is hoping.

In a word, everything will go very well, it is simply that we must make a decision soon. Admittedly, all this depends on how you may have arranged things differently, and perhaps unalterably, with Tieck. So you can imagine with what feverish impatience we are waiting for letters from you. |555| This very moment, Friedrich had the rather unsettling thought that one of you must be sick! But that is highly unlikely, since surely one of you would have written! But we simply do not know what to think.

Friedrich received a letter from Charlotte, who is counting on being in Jena on 8 October — but this visit, too, should not keep you from coming to Berlin; Charlotte will then either come here as well, the inoculations are proceeding quite thoroughly here and are very frequent, or you can come after Charlotte leaves.

Please do not be impatient with us for already coming up with new plans; they are not ours in any case; Fichte insisted on it; nor will the implementation be difficult at all if you think it a good idea. Only please do make a decision soon, my dear Caroline, everything affecting what will happen this winter has to happen within the next four weeks. —

My eldest son has successfully recovered from the measles; [7] but because I visited him quite often, I myself probably brought this illness home with me to my Philipp, and now he is ill with it, but in a fortunate way, almost without being ill, except that he is occupying all my time and is always wanting to be entertained.

Stay well. Pass along our regards to our Schlegel.



[*] Also in KFSA 24:305–6, with additional concluding lines (beginning with “My eldest son,” included here) from a copy of the letter by Franziska von Longard, in the Schlegel literary estate of Hans-Joachim Dopfer, Sigmaringen. Back.

[1] Dorothea’s opening lines recall and in part quote a verse from Gretchen’s song at the spinning wheel in Goethe’s Faust (lines 3374ff., here 3382; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust. A Tragedy, trans. Bayard Taylor [Boston, New York 1870], 154; illustration of the scene in Faust from Julius Risse, Göthe-Gallerie: Stahlstiche zu Göthe’s Meisterwerken nach Zeichnungen, no. 4 [Stuttgart 1840], plate xvii):


My poor weak head
Is racked and crazed;
My thought is lost,
My senses mazed. Back.

[2] To Caroline on ca. 1 August 1799 (letter 242). Back.

[3] Concerning Fichte’s (ultimately unsuccessful) plan to assemble a Jena “colony” in Berlin, see Friedrich’s aforementioned letter to Caroline (letter 242), esp. the second paragraph; see also Fichte’s correspondence with Schelling and Johanne Fichte between July and November 1799 (supplementary appendix 241.1). Back.

[4] Tieck had been visiting the Schlegels in Jena since 17 July 1799. Back.

[5] That letter does not seem to be extant. Back.

[6] The prospect that Wilhelm and Caroline might have to lodge with the Ungers during an anticipated visit to Berlin was the subject of several anxious letters from both Friedrich and Dorothea. See, among several others, Friedrich’s letters to Caroline in early and late March 1799 (letter 224c, 225), and Dorothea’s letter to Caroline on 26 March 1799 (letter 225a). Back.

[7] Friedrich mentions in his letter to Caroline on ca. 1 August 1799 (letter 242) that both of Dorothea’s sons were ill. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott