Letter 258r

258r. Wilhelm Schlegel to Johann Diederich Gries in Göttingen: Jena, 16 March 1800 [*]

Jena, 16 March 1800

Dearest friend,

You no doubt think I am an incorrigibly lazy and untrustworthy correspondent for not having responded immediately after your wonderful parcel of books arrived. [1]

In the meantime, I must adduce in my own defense that the parcel genuinely was rather long in transit, and we did not really receive it until a few weeks ago. I have also been in the peculiar position lately of having to compose poetry more or less directly into the printing press. I had postponed until the end of my translation of the second part of Henry IV several projected poems that were to be included in my new collection, and as a result the printing press itself was nipping at my heels. [2]

Caroline would have written you earlier as well except that she has been sick for two-and-a-half weeks now, and, moreover, is still bedfast. [3] The malady began with severe catarrhal fever that then turned into nervous fever and had us extremely concerned.

The actual illness itself now seems to have lifted, and she would have been doing tolerably well since yesterday had not an inflammation on her leg — caused by a mustard plaster and made even worse by the remedies inadvertently used in connection with it — had not caused such considerable pain. [4] I am hoping that these, too, will soon abate and that I can then report to you that she has completely recovered. —

Her physicians have, as it were, resolved to go ahead and follow the Brunonian method, and this does indeed seem to have had a beneficial effect. [5]

This winter has in general been one replete with illnesses. Our friend Tieck is still suffering from his gout; although he still comes to visit us, he does not do so without either I or my brother helping him along. [6]

Schiller has also suffered extremely dangerous bouts of cramps; although the physicians had already completely given up on him, he himself wanted to be kept alive just a few more days that he might get his affairs in order, so they administered all sorts of stimulants and fortifiers, [7] and behold: he came through it and is now completely healthy again. [8]

It seems one ought to remember this means of extending life for similar cases.

Madam Hufeland is also not at all healthy. What they have discovered is that she has a tapeworm, and the remedy used to address it has caused her so much trouble that they had to interrupt its use. Although the physician is hopeful that the tapeworm is now gone, such is probably not really the case. —

We still, by the way, are not seeing the Hufelands socially at all now. [9]

Doctor Eckard died yesterday of nervous fever; truly, a great loss for Jena.

So much for the medical news from Jena; not particularly comforting, to be sure. Now for other news, something more cheerful.

We all, including Tieck, found your poem to Auguste quite graceful and witty. You really should seriously think about composing poems of jest; you are always so successful with them, and you have hitherto devoted your talent in this area solely to poems of social jest. [10]

I was truly surprised by the news of the publication of your translation of Tasso. [11] Although I can well imagine that you had sufficient reasons to have it appear now, it seems it would have made a more imposing impression had you waited until completing the whole thing. People are disinclined to believe such can really be done, since so many versified translations, e.g., of Ariosto, have run aground. Let us hope such does not happen to yours.

Let me compensate you for my negligence by paying some interest on your book loans, as it were. I am enclosing apart from the promised parody [12] also an Italian sonnet to Bonaparte I wrote some time ago but which I do not think I have sent along to you; [13] if possible also the advance proofs of my Gedichte to the extent they are here. If I cannot send them along, you will definitely receive a complete copy in two weeks. Several of the poems in it will be new to you.

I am also returning Gracian, part 2, Galatea, and Lazarillo, as the last books we still had from the package sent to my brother and Tieck in Berlin. [14] We will soon also be returning the books we recently received, as well as several others from the previous parcel. . . .

You performed a very great service for us both by assembling and sending the parcel and by relating to us the information concerning what books are available in that particular area. Many, many thanks.

A. W. Schlegel

. . . Here are the proofs of my Gedichte; you are the first mortal to receive them. Only three printer’s sheets are yet outstanding, and you shall receive those as well very soon.


[*] Source: Körner, (1930), 1:106–7. — Concerning Gries’s itinerary and sojourn in Göttingen, see Wilhelm’s earlier letter to him on 10 May 1799 (letter 236c), with note 2 and the editorial note to Caroline’s letter to Gries on 27 December 1799 (letter 258), which includes an additional cross reference to her letter to Auguste on 16 September 1799 (letter 244) with note 11. Back.

[1] Wilhelm had requested that Gries secure and send along several books from the Göttingen university library; see Wilhelm’s letter to him on 12 January 1800 (letter 258e), which contained an addendum of book requests, primarily Spanish (not included here), some of which were presumably preliminary studies for Wilhelm’s later Blumensträusse italiänischer, spanischer und portugiesischer Poesie (Berlin 1804). Back.

[2] Wilhelm’s collection of poetry, Gedichte (Tübingen 1800). — He had written Goethe on 28 February 1800 (letter 258o) that “I am now finished with both parts of Henry IV, with the second part of which I had considerable trouble.” The translation of of the two parts of King Henry IV appeared in volume 6 of Wilhelm’s edition of Shakespeare, König Heinrich der vierte: Erster Theil, König Heinrich der vierte: Zweyter Theil (Berlin 1800). Back.

[3] Caroline seems to have taken ill around 1 March 1800; this date concurs with Auguste’s chronology in her letters to Luise Wiedemann on 30 March 1800 (letter 258w) and to Luise Gotter on 31 March 1800 (letter 259) (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Alexander sitzt auf Minchens Totenbett [1779]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.313):



[4] “Blistering plasters” were part of the recommended treatment of nervous fever. See also Auguste similar case history in her previously mentioned letters to Luise Wiedemann on 30 March 1800 (letter 258w) and to Luise Gotter on 31 March 1800 (letter 259), in the latter of which she explains that the complications from the mustard plaster resulted when the “wrong salve” was applied after the plaster itself had remained on Caroline’s leg too long. Back.

[5] Wilhelm is referring to Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland and, surprisingly, Schelling. Although Hufeland was Caroline’s general physician at the time, Dorothea Veit recounts in her letter to Schleiermacher on 17 March 1800 (letter 258t) that

I now have the opportunity to become acquainted with the Brunonian method, and since I am unable to get any further revelation concerning it, I must make do with merely worshiping the miracles it performs. To wit, Hufeland initially treated Caroline with an anti-Brunonian method, but she got noticeably worse.

Schelling, however, then badgered Hufeland to the point that he finally gave in and allowed her to be given volatile stimulants and continuous fortifiers such as quinine, Hungarian wine, nourishing cremes, and strong bouillon, and behold, miracles take place before our very eyes. Moreover, she would already have recovered completely had not a wretched mustard plaster on her calf caused an inflammation that in its own turn caused her to take several steps retrograde.

For more on the Brunonian method, see Dorothea’s letter. That Schelling had to “badger” Hufeland is not surprising, since in 1799, along with Hufeland’s book on nervous fever (Bemerkungen über das Nervenfieber und seine Complicationenen, in den Jahren 1796, 1797 u. 1798, vol. 1 [Jena 1799]; for a synopsis and extracts see the supplementary appendix on nervous fever), Hufeland also published a book resolutely contra the Brunonian method, Bemerkungen über die Brownsche Praxis, vol. 1 (Tübingen 1799) (vol. 2, as in the case of the book on nervous fever, does not seem to have been published). The book’s Latin motto was non videri, sed esse (“not seeming but being,” “to be rather than merely to seem”). Back.

[6] Tieck suffered from rheumatism and gout his entire life. See Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe on 28 February 1800 (letter 258o) along with note 5 there.

Josef Köner, (1930), 2:44, still accepted Rudolf Köpfke’s explicit assertion, Tieck: Erinnerungen, 1:249, that during this period the Tiecks were living in the same apartment as the Schlegels at Leutragasse 5. Their residence, however, was likely a house at the former intersection of Grietgasse and Fischergasse on the eastern edge of Jena at the time (Peer Kösling, Die Frühromantiker in Jena, 44–45, 84n95). Back.

[7] See Ernst Müller, Regesten zu Friedrich Schillers Leben und Werken (Leipzig 1900), 144:

16 March: Schiller falls ill with nervous fever (after undergoing bloodletting a few days prior). The illness lasts almost to the end of March. Slow recovery. Loyal care from his young friend, the physician [Franz Joseph] Harbaur [1776–1824; see Lieselotte Blumenthal, Schillers Freund Harbaur (Berlin 1989)].

Stimulants and fortifiers were customarily prescribed for asthenic (diminished capacity for irritability) nervous fever. Back.

[8] See Schiller to Joseph Charles Mellish on 16 March 1800 (Schillers Briefe, ed. Fritz Jonas, Albert Leitzmann, 7 vols. [Stuttgart 1892], 6:138):

To my great misfortune, a severe illness befell me at the end of this undertaking, rendering me wholly incapable of any activity for four weeks and from which I have still not recovered. It was a kind of nervous fever that simultaneously moved to my chest [catarrhal fever?] and for several days had me in the gravest danger.

(Illustration [excerpt]: anonymous, Frau am Krankenbett [ca. 1771–1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. C: 1 oben rechts):



[9] Caroline had already written to Gries on 27 December 1799 (letter258) that “since Schlegel’s break with the A.L.Z., we do not even see our closest neighbors anymore.” The Hufelands lived across the courtyard in the rear part of the house at Leutragasse 5. Concerning Wilhelm’s break with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, see his missive to the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung on 13 November 1799 (letter/document 255a). Back.

[10] Although Gries eventually published his poems to Caroline and Wilhelm, the one to Auguste seems to have been lost.

That said, volume 2 of his Gedichte und poetische Übersetzungen (Stuttgart 1829), which, unlike the more serious volume 1, contains occasional poems and “jests” of the sort to which Wilhelm here refers, does contain a sonnet from 1797 that originally was likely addressed to Auguste, namely, “The New Cassandra,” printed, moreover, on the page (8) preceding the poem “Caroline” (9), the latter also from 1797 (approximate rendering).

Concerning the original Cassandra, see William Smith, A Smaller Classical Dictionary of Biography, Mythology, and Geography, 11th ed. (London 1868), 99–100 (illustration of Cassandra and Apollo, ibid.):

Cassandra, daughter of Priam and Hecuba, and twin-sister of Helenus. In her youth she was the object of Apollo’s regard, and when she grew up her beauty won upon him so much that he conferred upon her the gift of prophecy, upon her promising to comply with his desires; but when she had become possessed of the prophetic art, she refused to fulfil her promise.

Thereupon the god in anger ordained that no one should believe her prophecies. On the capture of Troy she fled into the sanctuary of Athena (Minerva), but was torn away from the statue of the goddess by Ajax, son of Oileus. On the division of the booty, Cassandra fell to the lot of Agamemnon, who took her with him to Mycenae. Here she was killed by Clytaemnestra.


The new Cassandra

Just as Cassandra's lips most fair,
Where Amor his throne did set,
And whence the breath of love alone did come:
Might to all Trojans proclaim curse and revenge;

Just as she, as songstress of doom,
Did ally herself with hell's own gloom
And not love and life but death proclaim:
No soul on earth can believe such claim.

Thus, too, fair child, on your own path,
Will your poetic gifts little serve revenging;
For your element is certainly not hatred and wrath.

Aye, whosoever knows your heart's ardent bliss,
Can easily see that instead of avenging,
Your gracious lips will be set for — a kiss! Back.

[11] Gries’s translation of Tasso’s Befreites Jerusalem, 4 vols. (Jena 1800–1803). — Concerning Gries’s circumstances, itinerary, and negotiations with the publisher Friedrich Frommann, see the previously mentioned editorial note to Caroline’s letter to Gries on 27 December 1799 (letter 258) along with the cross reference there back to Caroline’s letter to Auguste on 16 September 1799 (letter 244).

Less than two weeks after Wilhelm wrote this letter, Gries arrived in Jena (28 March 1799) to deliver the Tasso manuscript personally to Frommann; he remained until 28 April and in the meantime also unexpectedly received his law doctorate (see Aus dem Leben J. D. Gries 39–41, which picks up where the editorial note to letter 258 leaves off):

The primary purpose of his present return to Jena, however, was thwarted; Frommann was unable to get Tasso to press immediately and had to postpone it until after the [Easter] book fair, thereby robbing Gries of the possibility of correcting the proofs himself until much later; as a result, however, cordial personal contacts in Jena took the place of that work.

But just as even the briefest absence can result in changes both in one’s own life and in that of one’s friends, so also did Gries now find that war had broken out between August Wilhelm Schlegel and Hufeland. Gries, intimately acquainted with both families, had to observe the strictest neutrality lest he himself experience unpleasant consequences.

Karoline Schlegel, moreover, was initially ill, and he was unable to see her immediately; and yet he had to admit to himself that his reunion with this particular woman, whom he repeatedly referred to as the brightest, most intelligent he had ever known, was what had made his return to Jena so desirable in the first place. She, too, who exerted such an enchanting spell over the hearts of all the men, always enjoyed being around the poet, who knew about her relationship with Schelling, and always treated him with the warmest cordiality.

Now as well, after her recovery [?], Gries was the celebrated guest and friend in the animated literary circle that Karoline had assembled. Friedrich Schlegel and his later wife, Madam Veith, as well as Ludwig Tieck were present at the time in Jena as well; the acquaintance with Tieck made a quite pleasant impression on Gries. . . .

But now an event took place in Jena that Gries had not at all anticipated. Even though he had many wholly other concerns in Jena than jurisprudence, he was nonetheless acquainted with the law professors there, including especially Hufeland.

And so it happened that during a conversation with the latter concerning Gries’s imminent doctoral promotion that Hufeland himself took the bull by the horns. He had no trouble convincing Gries to pursue the requisite steps there straightaway and to leave the preparatory steps to Hufeland himself. Gries, who was wholly unprepared for so precipitate a development, was now plunged into the middle of things without really knowing how.

Certain things were to be made easier for him, the second examination waived, and his dissertation put off until later. Everything was now ready for the big day, and Gries was already studying up on contracts and witness interrogations, in which regard his friend Arnold Heise provided loyal assistance.

Amid all these activities, suddenly and quite unexpectedly the scribe of the actuarial council arrived with a citation for the examination and the demand for 156 Thaler from the Herr Doctor in spe [“in hope, future”], putting Gries in a quite awkward situation; various attempts were made to come up with the sum, and after all had failed, it turned out that one poet came to the aid of another.

Who would have thought that Torquato Tasso, who knew so little about the ways of the world, would end up assisting his own translator acquire the doctor’s cap? And yet precisely such was the case. With the manuscript in his pocket, Frommann loaned him the hard cash, and Gries now went into his examination quite optimistically, where — yet another stroke of luck — the five examiners had quite by chance been transformed into three, all of whose questions Gries then answered with considerable presence of mind and self-assurance, even the questions Gries understood less than he did ottava rima.

For but a single moment might he have been a bit embarrassed, namely, when amid the infinite confusion of questions to and fro from the elderly examiner Gries heard the words, “Quando vixit Ulpianus [when did Ulpianus (one of the last great Roman jurists) live]?” He could just as well have asked Gries “When did Nebuchadnezzar live?” In the meantime, however, Gries mustered up all his courage and boldness and cheekily responded, “Vixit ante Justinianum [he lived before Justinian],” with which the old gentleman did not seem particularly pleased but which he nonetheless had to accept.

And since our poet never lost his composure during the entire actus [performance], he was soon told that the faculty had found him quite worthy of the doctoral cap. That very evening, the new doctor was ardently welcomed among all his friends and, in the traditional fashion, celebrated with the merriest of punch.

His departure for Göttingen, delayed several days by this intermezzo, soon arrived, and Gries left his beloved Jena on 28 April 1800, richer in commendations, poorer in money. On his return to Göttingen, this time he spent a short period with Schiller in Weimar, whom he met just as Schiller had recovered from a serious illness and was now busy with his Macbeth [Schiller’s adaptation, Macbeth: ein Trauerspiel von Shakespear zur Vorstellung auf dem Hoftheater zu Weimar eingerichtet (Tübingen 1801)] (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[12] Wilhelm’s “Wettgesang” from Athenaeum (1800) 161–64; see Caroline’s letter to Gries on 27 December 1799 (letter 258), note 19. Back.

[13] The sonnet was indeed written in Italian; for a discussion and translation, see supplementary appendix 258r.1. Back.

[14] Books requested in Wilhelm’s letter to Gries on 12 January 1800 (letter 258e) (“Galatea por Cervantes,” “Lazarillo de Tormes [novel, 1552]”), with the exception of Baltasar Gracián (1601–58), who was not mentioned there. Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott