Letter 258u

258u. Friedrich Schlegel to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, 21 March 1800 [*]

Jena, 21 March 1800

Your letter was a real breath of fresh air. I am almost to the point that I need someone else to take some joy in me just so I myself can take some as well, for here there is certainly no dearth of annoyance and vexation. You are already sufficiently acquainted with our financial distress, and I only hope that when you receive this letter at least Frölich, that sad character, will have fulfilled his obligations.

Caroline, moreover, is ill with nervous fever, and even though it is not really dangerous, it is excessively tedious, and among other things is also keeping Dorothea from working. [1] In a word, there is almost nothing to extol with us except that we are healthy and are composing verses in the Italian and Spanish fashion. . . .

I was quite diverted and touched [note from Dorothea: and I laughed at you both] that you waited until the drawing of the lottery before writing. So, you find it so reasonable and necessary that we must win that you are surprised and astonished when we do not. As a man of God, perhaps you have more specific information, and your confidence confirms my own not a little. [2] . . .


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:161–62 (frag.); KGA V/3 431–33; KFSA 25:78–79. Back.

[1] Friedrich writes similarly to Schleiermacher from Jena on 28 March 1800 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:162; KGA V/3 442; KFSA 25:79): “Everything here is rather sad just now, so you, too, must be satisfied with a sad letter. — Caroline is still sick, Dorothea still disrupted and out of sorts, and we still without money.” Back.

[2] See J. G. A. Ludwig Helling, ed., Geschichtlich-statistisch-topographisches Taschenbuch von Berlin und seine nächsten Umgebungen etc. (Berlin 1830), 231 (illustration from Joseph Richter, Bildergalerie weltlicher Misbräuche: Ein Gegenstück zur Bildergalerie katholischer und klösterlicher Misbräuche [Frankfurt, Leipzig 1785], illustration preceding p. 191):


The lottery was established in Berlin in 1740, first with the Class Lottery followed later by various others, to wit, in 1763 by the Numbers Lottery designed by the Italian Calzabigi. In 1769 the Class Lottery was changed to the form it still exhibits [1830]. The Numbers Lottery was closed on 18 May 1810 because the low fee had given rise to all sorts of abuses and enticed people to play in various illegal ways.

Similarly Adolf Streckfuss, 500 Jahre Berliner Geschichte, 4th ed. vol. 1 (Berlin 1886), 442 (illustration of a lottery headquarters with excited crowds ca. 1782 from Schauplatz der Natur und der Künste, vol. 8 [Vienna 1782], plate 17):

A lottery was established in Berlin as early as 1740. It consisted of a simple, single-class lottery or 20,000 lots, each of which was purchased for 5 Thaler. Later, in 1763, the Italian Calzabigi established the Numbers Lottery (Lotto) and in 1767 the Class Lottery. . . .

Although Lotto and the lottery brought in significant sums [for the state], it also led to considerable gambling addiction among the population. There was hardly a single poor day-laborer, hardly a single maidservant who did not risk a couple of Groschen in order to try their luck in Lotto. To the considerable profit of the state and entrepreneurs running the games, thoughtless players were enticed to wager the last Groschen left in their purses.


Although other gambling was muzzled by strict laws, once Lotto had ignited a person’s gambling urge, that person no longer cared about punishments, and the result was that the vice of gambling increasingly spread in Berlin throughout all classes.

The following lithograph of the numbers lottery, though composed some thirty years later in Munich, nonetheless reflects the disposition of lottery players as described above; Friedrich and Dorothea were becoming similarly increasingly desperate for financial relief (F. Kaiser, Münchner Volksleben: Die Zahlenlotterie [Munich ca. 1830–50]):



Translation © 2013 Doug Stott