Letter 258g

258g. Dorothea Veit to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, 16 January 1800 [*]

Jena, 16 January 1800

Friedrich has composed some marvelous terza rima, [1] coming down three flights of stairs after finishing each one to read it to me separately, and since I, stupidly, cannot possibly grasp the sense of each immediately, though the brilliance of each verse does indeed wash over me and please me, he immediately shouts at me so vehemently that I almost die on the spot from fright. . . .

I am definitely also coming [to Berlin] this summer, that much has been decided, I just still do not yet know when. How we arrange the travelling will depend on the Schlegels and will almost certainly not be decided until Madam Ernst is here, she is coming in March. [2]

Wilhelm has now even come up with the unfortunate idea of spending the entire winter in Berlin! Because Tieck will then be back there, from whom he simply does not want to be too far removed, and you can well imagine that Friedrich has no intention of remaining away from where you and Wilhelm and Fichte and Tieck are living. [3]

For me the whole thing is sad, but what can I do, where am I to go by myself? It is highly unlikely that Caroline will go along to Berlin. And even in general, things are happening here that the mouth has not heard, the heart has not seen, no eye has said, and no ear has seen, as Bottom says. [4] I cannot write about it all because there is simply too much to tell, but I will have much to tell you when I see you again.

It seems increasingly more probable to me that you would not get along with Caroline quite as long as I have managed to. But I manage in a rather remarkable way. Even though it is à l’ordre du jour for everyone here, [5] as is quite natural in a republic of nothing but despots, to quarrel and squabble like schoolboys, I alone am spared all that, and I am still fortunate enough to be treated kindly and respectfully. And Friedrich most of the time as well. The two of us are venerated and loved like the patriarchs.

My dear friend, I really must hurry, which is why my writing is so confused, though I would really like to converse with you longer, I simply do not have the time.

Refined convivality
Costs a fine bit of time. [6]

Would you be so kind and ask Veit, when you see him, whether he intends to do me the favor I asked him for in my previous letter, and pay 6 louis d’or to Fichte when he comes [back] to Berlin? I gave him an assignation, and I do hope he will not send it back. [7] . . .


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:150 (frag.); Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 28–30; Wieneke (1914) 311–13 (frag.); KGA V/3 345–48; KFSA 25:45–46. Back.

[1] Friedrich’s “An die Deutschen,” Athenaeum (1800) 165–68, which begins:

Have you your sublime ancestors already eternally forgotten?
You, disunited all, blunt-heads all,
Scholars, laymen, masters and subjects alike! Back.

[2] Concerning Charlotte Ernst’s anticipated visit to Jena during the spring of 1800, see Caroline’s letter to Auguste on 17 October 1799 (letter 249) with note 5. Back.

[3] Friedrich wrote Schleiermacher on the same day (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:149; KGA V/3 349–50; KFSA 25:47):

Let me tell you confidentially that I will probably be in Berlin this winter with Wilhelm. What do you think about that? And do you really think it advisable given my relationship with Dorothea? — But tell no one, and in general when in doubt be more secretive with everything I write. Gossipmongers are much too focused on us just now.

“Ein Thé — medisant,” Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1803: Dem Edeln und Schönen der frohen Laune und der Philosophie des Lebens gewidmet (1804), plate 5; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[4] “Bottom’s Dream” in Shakespeare, A Midsummer-Night’s Dream, act 4, scene 1 (Bottom is speaking) (illustration: William Harvey, The Pictorial Edition of the Works of Shakspere, ed. Charles Knight, vol. 1, Comedies [London: 1839–42]):


God’s my life! stolen hence, and left me asleep! I have had the most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was — there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, — and methought I had, — but man is but a patched fool, if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.

Dorothea’s reference is presumably to the relationship between Caroline and Schelling. Back.

[5] Fr., “on the agenda (of the day).” Back.

[6] As seen from the beginning of this correspondence, “refined conviviality” in its various and many iterations was of considerable social significance throughout society (Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1817: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; and 1818; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):





[7] At issue are alimony (or child-support) payments; although Dorothea had solicited Schleiermacher to ask Simon Veit for four advance payments (in her letter to Schleiermacher on 6 January 1800; this passage not included in letter 258c), she had only received three. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott