Letter 258m

258m. Dorothea Veit to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, 14 February 1800 [*]

Jena, 14 February 1800

. . . I will be coming [to Berlin] this summer, though I cannot yet say whether before or after St. John’s Day. [1] Wilhelm has the house until Michaelmas, [2] and he wants me to be here for most of the summer, and since Friedrich also wants that, I cannot do much about it, though I have not given my word definitely and can thus return if I wish. Nor can I really reckon the advantage of being able to come to Berlin for free during the book fair, since even if I figure the journey here from Leipzig, along with Friedrich’s separate journey, and especially the freight cost for my luggage, it will still not be that much less; but as I said, I am not making any definite plans, and perhaps I will come just after the Easter book fair after all.

Caroline is thinking about returning to Dresden with Charlotte, who will be coming here next month, and spending the summer in Dresden. [3] Although I myself would like to do that as well, not a few considerations are holding me back. Perhaps I will make it there another time.

One major reason I cannot do it now is that a certain antipathy is developing between Caroline and Friedrich — — you already know that side of Friedrich! the monster that stalks toward him from the midst of the flowers of friendship itself — except that this time it is not the usual frog of public opinion; we might perhaps politely call it a nimble spider whose artificial web he would prefer to avoid. —

Since Tieck is definitely staying until St. John’s, so also does Wilhelm not want to leave before then; then he intends to travel to Göttingen and Hannover, and to come to Berlin at Michaelmas, where he will spend the winter; Caroline is not coming along, she will remain in Dresden until further notice. It would take too long to explain why and how Caroline will not be traveling with Wilhelm, so I will relate all that to you in person! [4]

Hence I myself will in all likelihood be remaining here until Wilhelm leaves, so as not to leave the two men here helpless, without a woman. I do not at all, however, want to stay any longer than that, even though Wilhelm is trying to convince me to stay here with Friedrich all the way to Michaelmas even should he leave at St. John’s. —

What do you think? what am I supposed to do in this big house all alone with Friedrich? I do realize Friedrich would like to see that happen, but I myself simply do not know, I could not so easily decide. If I come at St. John’s, I can in any case live in a chambre garnie [5] until Michaelmas, but then the question (you and Madam Herz need to put your wise heads together and advise me) is whether at Michaelmas I should take a normal apartment, or remain in a chambre garnie. I am truly perplexed as to how? and where? —

My own inclination would be to find a quiet, small house in a rear garden somewhere, with an expanse of sky before me, not far from one of the town gates; and were it a genuine garden house, and the garden at my unrestricted disposal, I do not think I could pay too much for it, and in that case I might even decide to remain the following summer in Berlin, something I could not very well do if it were in a dark, undesirable area without a garden; you know how I despise having to go out for air on Unter den Linden, [6] and what other choice would I have without a garden?

I must also consider that it cannot be too far from the Hartung School, [7] and that during the winter Wilhelm would like to live somewhere near the theater, and accordingly Friedrich not far from Wilhelm, and I not far from Friedrich. —

So I really do not have much choice except to take a chambre garnie that one can give up every 4 weeks (that is, for the winter), in the area of the Gensdarmes Square, [8] or Schleusen Bridge [9] — but are those not exorbitantly expensive? And what shall I do about furniture? Madam Bernhardi does not intend to keep my desk and sofa past Easter. Although Fichte will probably take my sofa, what about my wonderful desk? which I would like to keep. —

I feel like I am standing in the midst of a complicated chess game — please advise me which resolute move to make, have Madam Herz help you, and God help you both.

Why did Madam Herz not send me the yellow rose guirlande for which I asked her in a separate note? [10] I entreat you, dear Jette, send it to me, you will receive the money from Fichte, only go ahead and spend it. It is for Caroline, and she is probably thinking it rather disobliging of me. I entreat you, my dear Schleiermacher, if Madam Herz perhaps does not have the time, ask Mademoiselle Levi to take care of it. It should be a guirlande of small yellow roses and green leaves, the flower people can pack it in a wooden carton and send it here through the post office.

Caroline has been so obliging to me that I really must do whatever is possible to repay her. . . .

Fichte will be departing next month; [11] we see very little of him here; [12] when he is united with his other half, he is neither as merry nor as sociable as when he lives by himself. . . .

To the extent these wretched money problems allow, I am living quite without serious concerns; and if the modest demands I make in the way of happiness seem not yet enough, keep in mind that I am loved continually, with the most tender love, by a beloved friend, despite all the dangerous neighbors and surroundings; that I am living in peace with everyone while everyone else is quarreling; that those who have otherwise shown consideration and respect for no one have not denied such to me, and that those who leave no one unabused nonetheless must refrain from abusing me.

With God’s help I have managed to accomplish that much, even though Friedrich often enough reproaches me for my nonsensicalness, as he calls it — but this reproach does not really bother me in its usual sense, since I am actually getting further along than the others, and what more can I ask for? but I am indeed bothered by the sense that he must be associating with it and that I do not really get. [13] Can you perhaps get me on the right track to understand what he means by it? —

Be that as it may, I feel so rich in so many other gifts and blessings that it would probably be quite wrong and even sinful were I to allow my financial poverty to depress me excessively. If good fortune might but favor me such that I might support my friend for a few years, I would doubtless be taken care of! It is quite certain, and is something one can sooner discern here than in Berlin, that in a few years he cannot but take some very grand steps indeed.

And he is also working quite conscientiously and tirelessly now, but how can one demand that an artist deliver a work of art at every fair just so he might have something to live on? He cannot produce more, and only a few circumstances need but coincide for him also to earn more, something for which we certainly must and indeed may also hope, but I cannot drive or force him or push the artist down to the status of a tradesman, I simply cannot, nor would it succeed in any case. What I can do, however, can be found in these parameters: provide him with peace and quiet, and myself earn bread by engaging in a humble trade until he can do so. And I have sincerely resolved to do exactly that. [14] — —

What do you think about the modest army of reviews by Wilhelm that has come to light on this occasion? [15] That will cause some dainty rumblings! To me it is as if someone being taken to court is now confessing to having escaped after committing countless murders and crimes. Not a bad way for someone quite innocently to get the property back of which he was earlier robbed! —

I am quite right with what I recently told you about the republic of despots; I will be glad to accept what you say about vanity, but in return you must accept what I said about despotism. [16] . . .

My health is so so, la la! I am limping through as best I can, paying attention to my diet, then also with my daily dose of quinine and valerian, and in this way I am able to avoid at least the more serious spells; [17] but I feel myself getting weaker every day, and now I am absolutely certain that I inherited my father’s basic health disposition, I suffer from the same ailments. This spring I was planning to take advantage of the beautiful surrounding area, and to drink the Pyrmont spring water, but I cannot possibly think of that now that I owe money to Madam Lange. [18]

To get myself out of this current embarrassing situation, I have considered the only way out I can see, namely, that you might once more make use of your reliable credit with Veit. He is glad to give you money, and if nothing otherwise is specifically holding you back, there would be no problem at all. That is, you should take 150 rth. from him for a year, immediately giving 100 to Madam Lange before Easter, and keep 50 rth. for yourself. Would you be willing to do this? —

You request it next Easter from me, and I issue you a written receipt in return as “received.” If I am still alive, I will have no trouble paying you back, since the second volume of Florentin will then be finished; [19] but if I die, no one will resist paying this sum for me, even though the 2000 rth. I leave behind belongs to the children. [20]

I confess quite frankly that a huge stone would be lifted from my heart were I no longer to owe money to bad people! —

Oh, my good friend! I am so ashamed that am asking you to do so much for me and to consider so many things, how will I ever be able to repay you? When will I be able to provide you with pure pleasure when you receive my letters? without requests, errands, and worries? . . .


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 155–56 (frag.); Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 33–41; KGA V/3 385–93; KFSA 25:60–65. Back.

[1] June 24, traditional birthday of St. John the Baptist. — Dorothea mentions this Berlin trip, which never materialized, in her letters to Schleiermacher on 16 January 1800 (letter 258g) and to Rahel Levin on 23 January 1800 (letter 258j). Back.

[2] September 29, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. Back.

[3] Neither Charlotte Ernst’s nor Caroline’s trips materialized; see Caroline’s letter to Auguste on 17 October 1799 (letter 249), note 5. Dorothea’s journey to Berlin by way of Leipzig would in any case not have taken her through Dresden. Jena is 75 km from Leipzig, Berlin 150 km from Leipzig, and from Leipzig to Dresden it is then another 100 km (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[4] The reason was presumably the crisis in their marriage caused by Caroline’s relationship with Schelling, though other factors may also have been at work. As described here, Wilhelm was in any case anticipating a far-flung journey (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[5] Fr., “furnished apartment.” Back.

[6] One of Berlin’s most splendid streets; see Grundriss der Königl. Residenzstädte Berlin Im Jahr 1786 von neuen zusammengetragen und gestochen durch D. F. Sotzman (Berlin, Stettin 1786) (the theater is labeled “vvv” to the left, the Schleusen Bridge, which Dorothea mentions below, as “z” to the right):


Here the promenade ca. 1800 (Adolf Streckfuss and Leo Fernbach, 500 Jahre Berliner Geschichte: Vom Fischerdorf zur Weltstadt, Geschichte und Sage [Berlin 1900], 401; second illustration: Genealogischer Kalender auf das Gemeinjahr 1769, Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[7] A school led by August Hartung since 1785 (KFSA 25:422fn30). Back.

[8] Concerning the current iteration of this square and the Berlin theater, see Friedrich’s letter to Caroline in early March 1799 (letter 224c), note 3. Back.

[9] A bridge in central Berlin that crosses the western branch of the Spree River at the Spree Island; see Grundriss der Königl. Residenzstädte Berlin Im Jahr 1786 von neuen zusammengetragen und gestochen durch D. F. Sotzman (Berlin, Stettin 1786) (the theater is labeled “vvv” to the left, the bridge as “z” to the right):


Here a closer view with the Schleusen Bridge indicated at center (Friedrich August, Hildner, Plan de la ville de Berlin; levé et dessiné par ordre et privilege privatif du Roy sous la direction du Marchall Comte de Schmettau [1748]; Harvard University, Harvard Map Collection):



[10] Fr., “garland, wreath.” Back.

[11] Fichte had been in Jena since December to close up his household and would be returning to Berlin permanently, where he had moved in July alone, with his family. Back.

[12] One reason was that Fichte was avoiding the Schlegel household; he had sought out Schelling several times in the latter’s own residence only to find that Schelling was spending considerable time with the Schlegels, i.e., with Caroline, and Fichte was disinclined to frequent the latter’s house, not least also because of his rather low opinion of the brothers. See his letter to Karl Leonhard Reinhold on 8 February 1800 concerning plans for a new periodical (Fichte Briefwechsel [1930], 2:216):

I cannot conceal from you that the Schlegel brothers, because of their unholy entanglement with Schelling (without the latter of whom I can do nothing, nor ought to, since the initial idea was his in any case) are participating in this plan; I can, however, promise that this participation will become quite subordinate, and they you will never have anything to do with them directly except to the extent you yourself determine.

I and everyone I know finds the elder Schlegel detestable because of his arrogant shallowness, and I will certainly know how to keep him at a distance; the younger, however — as paradoxical as this may sound to you — is an essentially upright person who strives indefatigably for what is very best, and a person who also accepts discipline, and whom one may well yet mold into something if he can but get rid of his stubborn immaturity and choose a better ideal than is his brother, whom he surpasses tenfold as regards inner substance.

See also Fichte’s letter to H. E. G. Paulus on 31 May 1800, i.e., after Fichte had returned to Berlin and after Schelling, Caroline, and Auguste had journeyed to Bamberg (Gesamtausgabe III/4 259):

For some time now, a rumor has been circulating here concerning Schelling and Madame Schlegel that has made me quite indignant. I believe that I now know the true nature of this matter, at least as concerns its disposition before the law.

If Schelling — as I absolutely cannot believe he could — has not genuinely caused a public scandal, I would very much like to be informed of the contradictory circumstances that I might in my own turn refute and shame the liars and slanderers wherever I may find them.

Fichte, of course, was disingenuously angling for information with this request. Back.

[13] Germ. Unverständigkeit, “senselessness” in the sense of “thoughtlessness,” on the one hand, “senselessness” in the sense of “nonsenicality, stupidity, foolishness, daftness,” or even “ignorance,” on the other. Back.

[14] Dorothea earned extra money doing translations; see also below concerning her novel. Back.

[15] At the end of first volume of Athenaeum (1800), following page 164, Wilhelm Schlegel had published a complete enumeration of the 145 reviews he (and Caroline) had published in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung to support his contention in the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung 145 (Wednesday, 13 November 1799) 1179 (letter/document 255a; for the enumeration, see note 1 there) that “almost all the reviews of any significance regarding belles-lettres have been my own.”

The expression Dorothea uses — presumably intentionally — is “Wilhelms,” that is, von Wilhelms, which refers to both Wilhelm and Caroline, indicating that Dorothea, too, was aware that Caroline had authored some of those reviews. For a list and translation of those reviews, see Caroline’s literary reviews for volume 1. Back.

[16] Dorothea had used this metaphor in her letter to Schleiermacher on 16 January 1800 (letter 258g). Back.

[17] Concerning Dorothea’s use of valerian, see her letter to Schleiermacher on 28 October 1799 (letter 252a); on valerian, see also note 22 there. Back.

[18] An otherwise unidentified woman in Berlin. Dorothea spends much of this letter discussing other financial problems as well. Back.

[19] The second volume of Dorothea’s novel Florentin. Ein Roman herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel, vol. 1 (Leipzig 1801) never appeared. Back.

[20] Jonas Veit and Philipp Veit. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott