Letter 259c

259c. Dorothea Veit to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, 4 April 1800 [*]

Jena, [Thursday] 4 April 1800

Although the business with Caroline’s nervous fever is finally over, she herself is nonetheless still bedridden and sufficiently miserable, and is now suffering from such spells of hysteria, and with such painful tediousness, that we have — all of us — almost run out of patience.

Her physicians tell us there is no real hope for complete recovery until she is able to travel to a mineral-springs spa, which is indeed now planned for the middle of May; and so yet again I have been robbed of the hope of making Charlotte’s acquaintance, for she cannot very well come here amid such circumstances. [1]

And it would also be very good were Caroline gone. Things are simply too complicated, tangled, and distorted, nor could she possibly recover her health in such a situation, her condition demands the utmost peace and calm. And how is she to find such here having to labor to ensure that the moody defiance and defiant moods of the two men are kept at bay, [2] along with all the petty, wearisome subterfuge and trouble required in a situation as ugly and dirty as this? —

Heaven grant me health and preserve my gift of keeping my own relationships straightforward, simple, and pure, then let everything else take whatever course it will and can! . . .

How did you not understand the name “Kuckunz”? [3] it is the disguised art-cuckoo, and refers to the author of the Volksmährchen, [4] especially his views, and the way he criticizes. Here everyone found precisely this name quite clear and well chosen, even Tieck himself was amused with it; for it was read aloud to him half against my will by Signora Zarticosa, [5] as revenge because she was quite dissatisfied with her own part.

But she was the only one who did not find it utterly amusing; to my considerable delight neither the host Bonafides nor Master Kuckunz were insulted by it; and so it was merely a friendly bit of fun, though she and her awkward friend wished it otherwise.

My dear friend, I know not whether you would be more fond of me now were you to witness how diplomatically I negotiate things here, for Caroline’s illness precludes any and all brazen talk. I myself can hardly tolerate myself like this. Friedrich does not think I am coarse enough, though at the same time he certainly cannot deny that I can be quite genteel.

But I simply cannot and must not be coarser now; in reality I have no cause to complain about any wrongs, on the contrary, I owe a great deal to Caroline, for she was the first to publicly acknowledge me; and even if it was only a matter of courage alone, I will nonetheless never forget that courage! [6]

Nor am I inclined at all to think she is guilty of as much intentional behavior in all this as Friedrich seems to think; indeed, only now do I see that she is wholly unreflective and highly egoistic, but like a thoughtless child is focused solely on the present and is not even remotely capable of any more long-range planning. [7]

But she treats Friedrich in an extremely undignified manner, is utterly incapable of understanding him, and is extremely arrogant toward him; and on this point I can tolerate no joking! She wants me to accompany her to the mineral-springs spa; she will be going to Franconia, to the spa in Bocklet, [8] and, frankly, it would be beneficial for me as well; but how can I stay together with Friedrich’s enemy? in this matter I will not hide my true feelings from her. [9] . . .


[*] Sources: Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 47–51; Wieneke (1914) 318–19 (frag.); KGA V/3 450–53; KFSA 25:80–82. Back.

[1] Charlotte Ernst had been planning to come to Jena that spring, with Caroline planning to return to Dresden with her; neither Charlotte’s nor Caroline’s trips materialized; see Caroline’s letter to Auguste on 17 October 1799 (letter 249), note 5. Back.

[2] Wilhelm and Schelling. Back.

[3] “Kuckunz” (from Germ. Kunstkuckuck, see Guckguck, Kukuk, “cuckoo”). Dorothea is referring to a satirical piece she wrote in jest concerning the various members of the Romantic circle, a piece otherwise unknown but which had been sent with her letter to Schleiermacher on 17 March 1800 (letter 258t), in which she asked whether he could guess the allusions. Friedrich Schlegel refers to it in his letter to Schleiermacher of early April 1800 (KGA V/3 466; KFSA 25:88):

I still must say something about Kuckunz. How can you read so dreadfully? That happens when, in the oriental [here: Near Eastern] custom, one so completely neglects the vowels in writing [e.g., as in Hebrew]. — You read Kucknug, even though in this area one could indeed so easily construe this beautiful assonance Kuckunnz from Kuckkuck [“cuckoo”], Kunst [“art”], and Kunz (the adversary of Hinz [in the German expression Hinz und Kunz as a synonym for “everyman,” “John Doe”]).

See KGA V/3 466fn51–56:

In Dorothea’s manuscript, the u-curve was obviously shifted to the right such that Schleiermacher exchanged the “n” and “u” while reading, and also did not recognize the ‘z’ (almost identical with the ‘g’ in Dorothea’s [deutsch, a particular handwriting style at the time] handwriting. Back.

[4] Ludwig Tieck, Volksmährchen herausgegeben von Peter Leberecht (Berlin 1797). Back.

[5] Signora Zarticosa (“Zarticosa” possibly [?] resonating with Germ. zart, “tender, gentle, soft,” and Italian cosa, “thing,” perhaps distantly also with kosen, “make to love to; caress, fondle”) is Caroline, Bonafides probably Wilhelm Schlegel, and her “awkward friend” Schelling.

Dorothea had mocked Caroline using this name in the aforementioned jesting piece of “deviltry” (not extant), which she sent to Schleiermacher and in which she satirized the Jena circle in general (Dorothea mentions the piece in her letter to Schleiermacher on 17 March 1799, though that brief passage is not included in letter 258t). Unfortunately, the piece seems to have been lost. Back.

[6] Dorothea was not only a divorced, single woman, but was also essentially identified as Friedrich’s unmarried partner and was, moreover, a Jew. That Caroline accepted her into her household and otherwise went about her business as usual in Jena, at least initially, was a significant gesture (illustrations: Almanach, Der neuesten Moden [Vienna 1795]):




[7] Dorothea uses the same adjective (unverständig; here: “thoughtless, unreflecting”) to describe Caroline that, according to her own letter to Schleiermacher on 14 February 1800 (letter 258m), Friedrich had used allegedly ambiguously in describing Dorothea herself:

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.

See note 13 in that letter. Back.

[8] Bocklet in 1837 (Augustus Bozzi Granville, The Spas of Germany, vol. 2 [London 1837], 322):


Bocklet (at the time: Bocklet, without the designation “Bad”), in the Rhön Mountains, a group of low mountains in central Germany, located around the border area where the states of Hesse, Bavaria and Thuringia come together; Bocklet itself is located in a bend in the Saale River in Franconia about 10 km north of Bad Kissingen, 32 km north of Schweinfurt, 7 km west of Münnerstadt (the nearest postal station), and ca. 75 km northwest of Bamberg, where Caroline, Auguste, and Schelling would initially be staying.

Bocklet had long been (and still is) a popular spa with several healing springs, its treatments consisting of drinking the mineral waters and bathing in the springs (Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no. 18, here with the way stations Schweinfurt, Bad Kissingen, and Münnerstadt between Bamberg [lower right] and Bocklet [upper left]):



[9] Friedrich wrote to Schleiermacher in an undated letter from early April 1800 (KFSA 25:88; illustration: Göttinger Taschen Calendar Für das Iahr 1797; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

You cannot believe how I yearn to be one with her as far as external circumstances [viz., marriage] are concerned as well. — Then we would have but a single goal and could move about freely. I would like to avoid putting her in a position of being dependent on Caroline again.



Translation © 2014 Doug Stott