Letter 243b

243b. Wilhelm Schlegel to Ludwig Tieck in Dresden: Jena, 16 August 1799 [*]

Jena, 16 August 1799

We were happy to have some sign of life from you yourself — Hardenberg had already notified us of you arrival in Giebichenstein.

I have admittedly been a bit vexed at your silence, and that you thereby did indeed miss out on something quite nice. To wit, right after your departure I began composing poetry and have managed to produce a number of sonnets and a canzonet. I originally wanted to send the latter to you first and have you then forward it on to Friedrich, but in my anger I sent the copy to Friedrich, and you yourself will now not see it until you send me the review announced in your Fischartianisms, i.e., on doomsday in the afternoon. [1]

I am glad to hear that the first volume of your Dichtungen is done, and that Zerbino can now commence his journey in search of poor taste, I mean of course: out into public. [2] It is especially good that it is appearing at the same time as the latest issue of Athenaeum, a copy of which I myself finally also have and which, indeed, I find quite entertaining. Friedrich reports that the “Litterarischer Reichsanzeiger” has caused a sensational stir in Berlin and that its insulted opponents have already raised considerable cries of zetermordio [3] against it. Caroline is plagued by such anxiety concerning the consequences that she has not yet dared even to look at it, and wherever she sees it lying around, even from afar, she immediately covers her head with her hands. [4]

It remains to be seen whether this particular motif will ultimately be able to break through and make it possible to continue Athenaeum. Frölich did not think twice before immediately announcing the continuation of the offensive rubrics. [5]

How droll if in the final analysis all our wonderful, serious things could stay alive only at the expense of the deviltry. Since it was I who produced almost everything this time, I can for the time being rest on my laurels and let all the rest of you do everything now. [6] Bernhardi has offered to contribute various things, [7] and you, I hope, will not fail to be generous, especially if you consider that deviltry is in fact the most tender way to prove your love for me, more tender even than with reviews. But do so quickly — I would very much like to see the next issue appear by Michaelmas, so if you do hack out anything, send it to me immediately. [8]

I myself would be quite disposed to compose various poetic pieces were I not obliged to get to this cursed Richard II, which I simply have not been able to get in the flow of because I am in such utter chaos with all the other distractions. [9] Between us, the sonnets are among the best things I have ever done. [10] But now I am quite curious about your Genoveva. [11] Do remain steadfast in your resolve not to have the printing begin until it is genuinely finished.

Goethe is still in Weimar. — My relatives, who went over and spoke with him, found him in a very good mood. I do not yet know what he thinks about Athenaeum — I only just sent it to him today.

Stay well — warm regards to you your wife from everyone here. . . .


[*] Sources: Holtei, Briefe an Ludwig Tieck, 3:230–32; Lohner 40–42. — This letter is the response to Tieck’s letter to Wilhelm from mid-August (letter 243a). Back.

[1] Concerning Tieck’s promised but undelivered review of the edition of Shakespeare, see Tieck’s letter to Wilhelm in March/April 1799 (letter 230a); Gottlieb Hufeland’s letter to Wilhelm on 2 May 1799 (letter 236a); Wilhelm’s letter to Gottlieb Hufeland in July 1799 (letter 242b); and Tieck’s previous letter to Wilhelm (letter 243a). Back.

[2] Friedrich Frommann in Jena had just published volume 1 of Tieck’s Romantische Dichtungen (Jena 1799), containing Prinz Zerbino, oder, Die Reise nach dem guten Geschmack (1–422) and Der getreue Eckart und der Tannenhäuser (423–92) (here the vignette accompanying a translation of the latter; Ludwig Tieck, Tales of Fairy Land [New York 1879], 77, and an illustration by Moritz von Schwind, “Der getreue Eckart, from ‘Der blonde Eckbert,'” Moritz von Schwind, Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben 9 [Stuttgart, Leipzig 1906], 92):



Wilhelm’s quip about the work’s “journey in search of poor taste” alludes to the subtitle of Prinz Zerbino, the “journey in search of good taste.” Back.

[3] The second issue of Athenaeum (1799) had just appeared (August). — Zeter, from the roots for zieht her, “come hither,” was originally an obligating interjectory cry for help in case of assault, murder, robbery, rape, and so on, then a legal term used in court for pressing charges, then a general cry of woe. Mordio (from the root for “murder”) was similarly used (see also, e.g., feurio “fire!”), and was esp. common during the sixteenth century. The two together eventually became a fixed vernacular expression. Back.

[4] Toiletten Kalender für Frauenzimmer 1796; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



Concerning the “Litterarischer Reichsanzeiger oder Archiv der Zeit und ihres Geschmacks,” the Schlegels’ satirical asides at their literary adversaries that concludes Athenaeum (1799) 318–40, see Friedrich’s letter to Caroline in July 1799 (letter 241), note 2.

For examples, see

[5] In previous letters, the friends had discussed possibly publishing an entire satirical journal of such “deviltries.” They were not, however, continued in the next (and final) volume (1800) of Athenaeum. Back.

[6] Wilhelm was largely responsible for the content of the second issue of Athenaeum in 1799. Back.

[7] August Ferdinand Bernhardi would contribute a review of Johann Gottfried Herder’s Eine Metakritik zur Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 2 vols. (Leipzig 1799) in Athenaeum (1800) 268–83. Back.

[8] Tieck never published anything in Athenaeum. — The next issue of Athenaeum did not appear until April 1800. Back.

[9] König Richard der zweyte (i.e., The Tragedy of King Richard II) appeared in 1799 in volume 5 of the edition of Shakespeare along with König Johann (i.e., The Life and Death of King John). Back.

[10] Not entirely clear which sonnets are meant; possibly the series of sonnets Gemählde (Sämmtliche Werke 1:328–30): “Cleopatra von Guido Reni,” “Leda von Michel Angelo,” and “Io von Correggio,” though the first had already been published in 1790. In any event, Wilhelm was preparing for the publication of his Gedichte (Tübingen 1800). Back.

[11] In 1799 in Hamburg, Tieck had come across Volksbuch materials that inspired and provided the basis for his play; the play was ultimately published in volume 2 of his Romantische Dichtungen (Jena 1800), 1–330, as Das Leben und Tod der heiligen Genoveva (Jena 1800), and also inspired the Riepenhausen brothers’ illustrations to the piece.

Tieck’s Genoveva was published along with the Sehr wunderbare Historie von der Melusina (331–464) and Leben und Tod des kleinen Rothkäppchens (465–506). Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott