Letter 258i

258i. Schleiermacher to Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena: Berlin 18 January 1800 [*]

Berlin 18 January 1800

Many, many thanks for your deviltry, which leaves everything else far behind in its wake! [1] You are now surrounded by such a halo of hellish fire that one cannot even consider worshiping any devil other than you. Such a piece admittedly belongs not at all in the company of small arabesques, and I am now happy to put aside that on Melchior Striegel and everything else. [2] What a thorough critique, and what vivacity! And the “Wettgesang” on top of it all — I swear, I am utterly beside myself. Well, if that does not come across — then one really ought simply to give up. You really must give my piece on Garve a place in front that its short life may last at least until the reader gets to the poets. [3] . . .

The pieces of Huberiana greatly entertained me; the groaning of creation has always been an amusing sight for me. [4] Your own response, however, if I may say so, seems to me to be too good, on the one hand, and not good enough, on the other; there is too much of you in it and not enough for Huber. Despite the considerable and terrible malice, you are nonetheless remarkably good natured; his soi disant [5] faith in the possibility of a better critique through you and yours honestly did quite mislead you into saying something to him about you yourself, and then, on the other hand, you could not really refrain from telling him that he could not understand it in any case. That cannot but create bad blood, and why would one want to do that to a poor person who in fact has nothing but his own good blood?

And what you say about the effect of his review will again strengthen his erroneous belief that the notion of party is the predominant one for you. In this way, you have given him a horrible number of unpleasant feelings, and yet he will still think he is in the right. If things do get so far that one has to deal with those who are poor in spirit like this, my own choice would be simply to battle the alleged element of morality from the inside out. The principium contradictionis is the only stimulant for such personalities, and in this way you could have worn him out while maintaining the appearance of genuine devotion and cordiality, an operation that might even have been able to help him a bit. . . .


[*] Sources: Josefa Elstner and Erich Klingner, “Briefe Friedrich Schleiermachers an August Wilhelm Schlegel,” Euphorion 21 (1914) 736–38; also in KGA V/3 354–56. Back.

[1] On 6 January 1800, Wilhelm had sent Schleiermacher copies of parts of his recent correspondence with Ludwig Ferdinand Huber, including an otherwise lost letter to him from Huber (see Wilhelm’s letter to Schleiermacher on 16 December 1799 [letter 257d]) and his own response to Huber (Wilhelm’s letter to Huber on 28 December 1799 [letter 258a]), along with a copy of his critical examination of poetic elements and stylistic considerations in Friedrich von Matthisson, Friedrich Wilhelm August Schmidt (known as Schmidt von Werneuchen), and Johann Heinrich Voss (Athenaeum [1800] 139–61), and his “competition” parody, “Wettgesang,” between those three poets (Athenaeum [1800] 161–64; concerning the latter, see Caroline’s letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 27 December 1799 [letter 258], note 19). Back.

[2] A piece composed for Athenaeum but not published, on Joseph Franz von Ratschky, Melchior Striegel: Ein heroisch-episches Gedicht für Freunde der Freiheit und Gleichheit, new ed. (Leipzig 1799). Back.

[3] Wilhelm accommodated Schleiermacher’s request by positioning his review “Garve’s letzte noch von ihm selbst herausgegebene Schriften,” Athenaeum (1800) 129–39, just before Wilhelm’s own “deviltry” in the critical examination of poetic elements in Matthisson, Voss, and Schmidt (ibid., 139–61), which in its own turn is followed by the “Wettgesang” on the three poets (ibid., 161–64). Back.

[4] Romans 8:19–22 (NRSV):

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Back.

[5] Fr., “so-called.” Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott