Letter 247c

247c. Dorothea Veit to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, 11 October 1799 [*]

Jena, 11 October 1799

Let me first immediately express my horror and concern over Jette’s terrible accident.

I am still hoping the hand has not really been completely sundered! Poor, dear Jette! I implore you, my friend, see to it that she writes me something as soon as her condition allows that I may be sure of her recovery.

Your letter and the news of this dreadful event came to me yesterday while I was having tea with the Schlegels, Schelling, and the wife of Professor Paulus; [1] I was quite contented and had almost forgotten that there are still such troubles in the world, and then, so suddenly, and in such an unpleasant fashion, I was reminded of precisely that! I entreat you, Schleyermacher, at least have sympathy with such torments of the soul, which amid happiness certainly hurt more than amid unhappiness, just as a healthy body can tolerate pain less than a sick one; write me as soon as possible how she is doing, for I am quite upset about it all. Must she be in such pain while I myself am doing so well?

Yes, Schleyermacher, I am doing well. I am enjoying wonderful peace and calm coupled with lovely conviviality; people here are treating me with love and accommodating cordiality, I have a beautiful apartment, am able to go walking in the most beautiful landscape at any moment I choose — in a word, you can imagine it as a quite charming life indeed.

I felt at home from the very first moment, with not a single moment of awkwardness between us; hence my imagined gêne [2] with respect to having to deal with unfamiliar domestics has also been alleviated; they are just like my own, and Caroline understands how to share the gouvernement with me in that regard in the best possible fashion by letting me take care of this or that utterly without compulsion or awkwardness, for example, by letting me make tea, pour coffee, clean up the room, distribute; this way of doing things allowed me to be viewed from the very first day as sharing control.

Till now we have been living very quietly among ourselves, and I have not yet really had any occasion to put on any dress other than my normal, day-to-day one, and thus is it likely to remain the entire winter, given everyone’s plans, for the Schlegels themselves have completely withdrawn from all society, clubs, concerts, and all public gatherings of that sort. [3]

Each person has his own, small, nicely furnished quarters in the same house; we are each of us alone, or we visit one another. Schelling is a guest at the midday meal. During the evening, everyone studies Italian together. Namely, Dante. — The Schlegels are the masters, the rest of us pupils. Toward 10:00, each has again withdrawn to his own retreat. [4] Tieck’s presence will change nothing except that instead of Dante, often something else may be read aloud. [5]

Caroline is really quite charming, my good friend! And be it only for playing the hostess so easily and lightly and in so pleasant a fashion, such that one cannot but feel comfortable in the house. But she is so in so many other respects as well; she is quick to help, agreeable, and indefatigable in trying to make each person comfortable.

She speaks quite nicely, sometimes with a bit of pathos, though in society she does not really stand out through imagination or wit, just as she similarly allows nothing of her real merits to be noticed. In society she acts in a quite ordinary fashion, just like any other proper woman. I have not yet noticed any sign of arrogance, that is to say, she is slow to speak or pass judgment on things she does not understand, though she does often have her own opinion of things and does indeed try to bring it to bear.

She does, however, demonstrate various caprices, and moods, often with not inconsiderable vehemence, though after saying something harsh she then understands how to make one forget all about it quickly and in a very fine way. Nor is she at all as lively and funny as one might conclude from her letters; I cannot yet really say whether that is merely a momentary gloomy mood or a genuine inclination to melancholy. —

Mademoiselle Levi told me she was quite the coquette toward her husband, [6] but I would qualify that by saying she is very much the coquette! indeed, extremely so, but then also in a nice fashion, something one cannot deny her completely. At the same time, her coquetterie does not really disrupt the company, since she does not play the coquette just at random, so to speak, but instead takes a specific purpose or other as her goal, and in such cases who would not be inclined to be discreet? since she is so modest?

But she does not suffer from that one shortcoming some women have who simply play the coquette randomly, namely, that of obscuring every other woman around her; to the contrary, she delights in all such merits on the part of others. Nor is it entirely a matter of her own arrogance that she becomes so involved in the business and vocation and projects of her husband, it is rather Wilhelm’s fault, who not infrequently forces her to become involved. She doubtless does, however, have sensibility for all that is beautiful and good.

She is not beautiful, but quite pleasant and agreeable. She has the same sort of face, and even a distant resemblance, with Madame Waitsch, including that she appears younger than she is; [7] she has brown hair, which she wears short and curly around her head; she is as tall as I, but her figure is more delicate and gracieuse; in both her figure and her gaze she has something of the cidevant Madam Fraenkel, also in the shape and color of her eyes. [8]

She dresses simply but nicely, and with quite good taste; so also with the arrangement and furniture throughout the house, so also the table, nice, clean, dainty, and simple. Because she makes all her own clothes, she is able to change what she wears quite often and without great cost, and always appears fresh and dainty, and all her clothes also look very good on her. [8a]

The weather has prevented me from enjoying much of the surrounding area. Today was a tolerable day, I was outside at a promenade laid out along the banks of the Saale River, called Paradies. You cannot really expect landscape descriptions from me, but you can imagine what effect such a pleasant, mountainous area has on a Berliner! On the way here from Leipzig, the landscape is so romantic and grand that I have a difficult time imagining how Switzerland or the Silesian mountain range might have anything more sublime, and yet at the same time so charming and salutary. —

Jena itself is an ugly town, but I do not see much of it, we all live in a kind of rear edifice, all the windows look out onto the courtyard. I myself live downstairs, one flight up Caroline, then Wilhelm, and finally, in the uppermost story, Friedrich.

The particular type of marital situation existing between the two (discounting the endless, anxious teasing and quarreling), is just about as I would imagine it among cultivated people; that is to say, one does not notice much evidence of the sacrament; they live together more as loving friends who are together voluntarily. But their petty quarrels, which sometimes can go quite far indeed, make me quite anxious; Caroline laughs at me on this account, but every time one arises I simply have to get away. [8b]

Only imagine, I spent a morning in Weissenfels on my way here from Leipzig. A certain Doctor Lindner, who was traveling with me, [9] visited Hardenberg, but I took no steps to see him, as curious as I in fact was. Lindner was not even permitted to tell him I was there.

Hardenberg seems terribly paradoxical and obstinate given everything I hear about him; he is quite in love with Tieck and with his wife, as Tieck’s wife, and scorns everyone else. Everyone else, people say. [10] No one can say how long this delerium will last. Enfin, [11] however, his personality, which I always suspected as being thus, has not really encouraged me much to anticipate him by taking the initiative myself to make his acquaintance.

What is horrible, however, is that Goethe is here and that I will probably not get to see him! [12] for they are disinclined to invite him because, as is only reasonable, he hates the gawking; he visits no one but Schiller, though the Schlegels themselves and Schelling visit him daily in his quarters in the old castle, where he is residing; [13] he will be staying here only until next week. No one visits Schiller, so it seems I will have been in Rome without having kissed the pope’s slipper. [14] It is unfair and, what is more, stupid, and what is even more, ridiculous; but no one can help me!

I was unable to write you from Leipzig; I was there for only a single day and hardly had either peace or calm or even accommodations where I might lie down, much less write. Even though I had only a small room in which I could hardly even turn around, and only one bed together with Philip, it was still so expensive that I preferred not to wait for transportation and instead went ahead and departed early Saturday in a leased carriage, [14a] but the roads had become so bad from the rain that I did not arrive here until Sunday at midday.

After people had already been expecting me for several days, I finally arrived, but unexpectedly; but the way my heart pounded ever harder when I first saw the tops of the mountains surrounding Jena, then saw it from the mountains down in the valley for so long before actually reaching it, [15] and then the town gate, the street, the house, and then got out of the carriage — and was a stranger, and Friedrich finally came down the stairs, quietly and deliberately, as if he were not impatient at all, and then Caroline with all cordiality — it was a singular feeling! [15a]

All these things, my dear Schleyermacher, were wonderful and heartening — With Friedrich, however, of whom I am growing increasingly fond the more I see others alongside him, things just do not seem to want to progress; work is becoming increasingly difficult for him, and he increasingly gloomy because of it. I am careful not to allow him to notice my profound concern, since that would utterly depress him, and Wilhelm and Caroline also agree that he ought not be tormented, so we leave him in peace, that really is the only thing one can do to prevent him from being decimated. Wilhelm, as he told me himself, also went through a period like this, which is why he is hoping things will eventually change for Friedrich as well.

Nor is there much hope of finding translation work for me. Wilhelm, who will be traveling to Leipzig next week, intends to try to find something, and Caroline, too, will do her best. But they have not been particularly encouraging; they say this is just not the right time for it, and that there are already so many others who monopolize these projects. —

What will happen now? — Berliners seem unable to rest — they can as little imagine a life as they can a novel without a real conclusion, and now in my case take holy baptism to be a complete retirement and dissolution. [16] What if they were just to treat me as if I were dead? that would rid them of the uncertainty, and it would be no small service to me as well. —

If you have seen Jonas, please do write me about him, my dear Schleyermacher [17] — Philipp has quickly enough become the darling of the entire house here, and is acting as if he had always lived in Jena; he attends a drawing school for children a couple of times a week. Next week he is also to start school. I cannot, however, find anyone who will take me to see the teacher; no one knows him. —

I visited Madam Fichte; God preserve us! how could the husband trumpet his lack of poesy like that! But she is doubtless upright and good-natured. [18]

Give Fichte the warmest regards in my name, tell him I promised his wife he would be here at the beginning of next month, and that this good news moved her to tears of joy. [19] Stay well.

D[orothea] V[eit]

I will write Madam Herz soon, I consider this letter to be also intended for her. A thousand regards.


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:127–28 (frag.); Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 10–16; KGA V/3, 216–21); Wieneke (1914), 300–302 (frag.); KFSA 25:12–15. Back.

[1] Illustration from Iris: Ein Taschenbuch für 1804 (Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Both Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel had amorous designs on Karoline Paulus at one time or other. Nor were they the only persons interested in her. See the supplementary appendix on Karoline Paulus’s reputation.

The Pauluses play an important role in Caroline and Wilhelm’s life in Jena especially after Auguste’s death, and, unfortunately, also for Caroline and Schelling’s in Würzburg; concerning the increasing animosity, see the supplementary appendix 239.1. Back.

[2] Fr., here: “uneasiness.” Back.

[3] Wilhelm’s quarrel with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung had been escalating, and he was about to state publicly — in the paper’s Intelligenzblatt — that he would no longer be contributing. Gottfried Hufeland, one of the editors of the A.L.Z., and his wife lived just across the rear courtyard at Leutragasse 5; although they were among the Schlegels’ initial social acquaintances in Jena, those relations were now strained because of Wilhelm’s (and soon: Schelling’s) quarrel with the paper. Some of the more critical and satirical pieces in Athenaeum had also ruffled feathers, and Friedrich’s notoriety as the author of Lucinde was similarly a contributing factor, as attested not least by Schiller; see the latter’s vexed remarks in a letter to Goethe on 19 July 1799, cited in Friedrich’s letter to Caroline from Berlin on ca. 1 August 1799 (letter 242), note 7. Back.

[4] It may be recalled that Caroline began learning Italian when she was fifteen; see her letter to Julie von Studnitz on 28 September 1778 (letter 2).

“Withdrawn to his own retreat”: The apartment was obviously large enough for each resident to retreat for work and leisure essentially away from the others (Calendar für das Jahr 1803 [Offenbach]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[5] Ludwig, Amalie, and Dorothea Tieck would be arriving from Berlin on 17 October 1799. — Ludwig Tieck was always known as having an excellent ability to present literary pieces, even plays, aloud; see esp. the supplementary appendix on his talent. Here an illustration of Tieck reading aloud during his sojourn in Dresden (A. von Sternberg, “Tieck’s Vorlese-Abende in Dresden,” Die Gartenlaube 8 [1861] 116–17, here 117):



[6] Rahel Levin had met Caroline in Dresden, and indeed had even taken a day excursion with the Schlegels to Saxon Switzerland outside Dresden on 24 August 1798 to visit the Uttewalder Grund; see the initial paragraph of Friedrich’s letter to Henriette Herz on that day (letter 202g), with note 1. Back.

[7] Caroline had just turned 36 years old on 2 September 1799.

The following portrait portrays the artist Friedrich Georg Weitsch (Waitsch) and his wife, Christiane Elisabeth, in 1800, Friedrich Georg Weitsch. Se ipsum. Pinxit. Ano 1800, viz. Der Künstler und seine Frau Christiane Elisabeth geb. Schröder (1766–1842); Städtisches Museum Braunschweig 1200-0934-00:




[8] Caroline Tischbein, who spent time with Caroline but a month earlier with her family, describes Caroline quite similarly in her memoirs (representative illustration: Wiener Damenkalender zum Nutzen u. Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1801; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


She was not beautiful at all, hardly even pretty, but her nice, supple, diminutive figure was quite graceful, as was her entire being, and her countenance, a bit disfigured from pock-marks, was so captivating, her eyes radiated so much intelligence, and her lips revealed such beautiful teeth when she opened them, that one can easily enough comprehend the excessive affection she elicited not only in Schlegel, but in many other men as well.

“Ci-devant,” Fr. “former, previous”: Sophie Fraenkel, née Meyer, had been divorced from her first husband, Michael Joseph Fraenkel, since 1796 or 1798. Back.

[8a] Representative illustrations: (1) Georg Friedrich Schmidt, Die Frau des Künstlers, Dorothea Louise Schmidt, nähend (1753) (Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur GFSchmidt V 3.5240); (2) Taschenkalender für Damen auf das Jahr 1800 (Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[8b] Göttinger Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1799, Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


Caroline Wilken, née Tischbein mentions a similar scene during her and her family’s visit with the Schlegel’s earlier in the autumn and summer of 1799 before the Tischbein family had left for Dessau with Auguste (supplementary appendix Memoirs of Caroline Wilken):

My mother — unlike myself — soon noticed, as she later recounted, that a relationship had developed between Schelling and his hostess under which Schlegel suffered greatly. I can still recall that after a modest ball at the Schlegels’ home, after all the guests had departed and I myself had returned to the hall to fetch something or other, Schlegel and his wife strode in together quite agitated. He was weeping, while she looked extremely resolute and flushed with anger. I observed all this quickly and later related it to my mother. “They probably had an argument,” she responded casually, and I gave it no further thought.

Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Cher Lindorff – au nom du ciel calmez vous (1786); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.705:



[9] Friedrich Ludwig Lindner was an acquaintance of David Veit, Simon Veit’s nephew, in Berlin as well as with Henriette Herz and Rahel Levin. These contacts likely provided the channels through which he became Dorothea’s travelling companion on this trip (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[10] See Caroline’s reaction to Hardenberg’s position in her letter to Auguste on 30 September 1799 (letter 245), and Dorothea’s earlier comments in her letter to Sophie Bernhardi on 7 October 1799 (letter 247b). Back.

[11] Fr., here “ultimately,” “in a word, in short.” Back.

[12] Goethe was in Jena between 16 September and 14 October 1799 (according to his diaries, Weimarer Ausgabe 3:2:259, 265). Back.

[13] The Jena city castle, also known as the old castle, stood at the site of what is today the main building of the Friedrich Schiller University; although the stump of the castle tower — the tower having served as the fourth corner tower in the northeastern part of the city walls — has been preserved, the castle proper was dismantled when the new university building was built during 1905–8; here on a city map from 1884, with Leutragasse to the left (Plan der Residenz- und Universitätsstadt Jena [1884], Städtische Museen Jena: Stadtmuseum und Kunstsammlung DE-Mb112/lido/obj/12070842):


Here another town map with Caroline’s residence at Leutragasse 5 at center (Matthäus Seutter, Grundriss der berühmte Thüringische Universitaets Stadt Iena an der Sale, mit Anzeige ihrer vornehmste Gebäude in Kupfer gestochen u. Verlegt durch M. Seutter. S.K.M. Geogr. in Augsp. [Augsburg 1731]):


Here a photograph from 1863 (from Dirk Endler, Das Jenaer Schloss: Die Residenz des Herzogtums Sachsen-Jena, vol. 6 of the series “Dokumentation” of the Städtische Museen Jena [Rudolstadt, 1999]):


Photograph from 1908 (Adolf Stier, Jena, Die deutschen Hochschulen: Illustrierte Monographien 2, ed. Theodor Kappten [Berlin 1908], 20):



[14] Concerning the tense relationship with Schiller, see supplementary appendix 181g.1. Back.

[14a] Saturday, 5 October 1799 (“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):


Concerning Dorothea’s route from Berlin to Jena, see see the editorial note to Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Auguste on 7 October 1799. Back.

[15] See also Dorothea’s letter to Sophie Bernhardi on 7 October 1799 (letter 247b). Caroline reacted similarly when she herself came to Jena during the summer of 1796 (Caroline to Luise Gotter on 11 July 1796 [letter 165]):

Schlegel was afraid the rock cliffs at the entrance to the town might frighten me off. But I only paid attention to what is good and pleasant about the place and have already become quite good friends with this romantic valley.

Here a view of Jena with the surrounding hills in 1840 (see also letter 165, note 8; illustration: Jena from the northwest, ca. 1840, by Eduard Lobe; Bildrechte/-herkunft: Sammlung Jenaer Stadtansichten [Stadtmuseum Jena 13011]):



[15a] Illustration: Georg Steinhausen, Geschichte der Deutschen Kultur (Leipzig, Vienna 1904), 698:



[16] Dorothea was not baptized until 6 April 1804 in Paris, when she and Friedrich married in a Protestant ceremony. This theme recurs in her correspondence with Schleiermacher, himself a member of the clergy. Back.

[17] Jonas Veit, Dorothea’s eldest son, had stayed behind in Berlin with his father, Simon Veit, commensurate with the divorce stipulations. Back.

[18] Fichte wrote from Berlin to Johanna Fichte on 10 October 1799 (this and following: Fichte Briefwechsel [1930], 2:176–77; Gesamtausgabe III/4:108): “Madam Veit is no doubt there among you now.” She responded on 16 October 1799:

So, Madam Veit is now here, and could not tell me enough about how happy you are; this did wonderful things for my soul, as you can well imagine. . . . The Schlegels are courting Goethe to a remarkable extent, every day one of them is with him, and Goethe himself has become rather genteel, visiting no one but Schiller, and perhaps also Griesbach, voila tout [‘that is all’].” Back.

[19] Fichte returned to Jena temporarily from Berlin in December 1799; he and his family left Jena for good in March 1801. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott