Letter 260f

260f. Dorothea Veit to Rahel Levin in Berlin: Jena, 2 June 1800 [*]

Jena, 2 June 1800

It is with the greatest impatience that I await your final decision, my dear Levin, since that is what will determine how long I will yet remain here. [1]

I am almost afraid you will not be coming after all, since two postal days have already passed on which you might have written me. You would, however, be quite wrong in not coming, since things are really very good here. There is nothing here to disturb one’s existence, which is, I think, about all one can really ask of bourgeois life; moreover, here one does not have to make even a tenth of the sacrifices as in Berlin, not even amid the most restricted lifestyle; the best this place has to offer, namely, nature itself, can be enjoyed with very little expense in that regard.

So please do make a valiant effort and come; I have saved up all the smaller excursions I wanted to take this summer in the surrounding area, all of which are quite delightful, until I can undertake them in your company.

It would take too much time to write about Caroline’s story, so I will relate it to you in person sometime. You are admittedly quite right about making allowances; [2] that is indeed the first thing one must do; nor am I particularly unsatisfied with the “what” in this instance, but rather merely with the “how”! Neither of us would have done it that way! [3]

So, you were pleased with Schelling? That surprises me. I for my part have found that one must love him in order to find him amiable. If you are intent on taking the situation as a Henriade, [4] you will also have to consider que l’auguste verité n’ y est point descendue des cieux. [5] That in itself is already quite bad. Who turns a masquerade into an eternal, perpetual preoccupation? —

Whether Wilhelm is rassasié, occupé ou aveugleè? — tous les trois, ma chère enfant. [6] Nor has he exactly always comported himself to the best in all this, and often one did not know whether to curse, laugh, or weep, which is also why one generally ends up doing all three at once.

I am quite pleased that you found my description of spring childlike. [7] Do you really believe one can have the proper sense for it without being a child? —

Children are something heavenly, dear Levy! my Philipp is the joy of my life, the boy has such wonderful talents! Do you ever chance to see my Jonas? if you do come for a visit, have him over beforehand specifically so you will be able to give me a full report. —

And do please send word soon whether you will be coming. Indeed that you will be coming. You need to dispense with your fear of the students. A humane tone has become increasingly predominant, and one is quite safe, I myself take walks alone in the hills and have never had even the slightest unpleasant encounter. You will find the leisurely mischievousness of the students here quite cultivated compared with the bustling coarseness of the Berlin military and merchant apprentices, who constantly fill the streets there.

One cannot go about outside here without hearing about Wilhelm Meister, transcendental philosophy, and poetic meters! And in the meantime also the sounds of guitars and violins coming from every house! Can one fear such people? [8]

If you have perhaps read Pauline, [9] write and tell me something about your reaction. I found it extremely interesting the way beautiful Pauline, through simple virtue and nobility of mind, turns into Madam Unger. [10] Adieu. Salut et amitié. [11]



[*] Sources: Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 1:[13]–[14] ; Wieneke (1914) 324–25 (frag.); KFSA 25:115–16. Back.

[1] Concerning Rahel Levin’s plans to visit Jena, see esp. Dorothea’s letter to her on 28 April 1800 [letter 259l]). In the meantime, Caroline and Auguste had left Jena along with Schelling, leaving Dorothea and Friedrich Schlegel in the house at Leutragasse 5 with Wilhelm Schlegel, who had in the meantime returned from Leipzig (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


Dorothea had, moreover, spoken on several occasions during the winter of 1800 about returning for a visit to Berlin (see, e.g., her letter to Schleiermacher on 14 February 1800 [letter 258m]) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[2] The letter in which Rahel Levin made these remarks to Dorothea does not seem to have been preserved. Back.

[3] It may be recalled that Dorothea was granted a divorce from Simon Veit back on 11 January 1799 after having moved out on her own in Berlin. Back.

[4] An allusion to Voltaire’s epic poem in ten cantos, La Henriade (1723 as La Ligue, 1728 as La Henriade), about Henri of Navarre, later Henri IV of France. A German translation had appeared as Heinrich der Vierte. Ein Heldengedicht in zehn Gesängen, trans. Johann Christian Schwarz (Mannheim 1796) (KFSA 25:460fn5).

Here the frontispiece and dramatic illustrations to each of the ten cantos from the 1751 French edition (the translation includes no illustrations; Oeuvres de M. de Voltaire, new ed. [Paris: 1751]; British Museum; The Trustees of the British Museum):






[5] “That august truth has certainly never simply descended from the heavens.” KFSA 25:461fn8 notes that

in a copy of the letter by Franziska von Longard, which served as the basis of Raich’s publication [of this letter], the following Alexandrines are included after the text that are likely the source of Dorothea’s expression here:

Soudain la vérité, si long-tems attendu
Toujours chere aux humains, mais souvente
Dans les tentes du Roi inconnue, descend du haut des Cieux.
Truth on a sudden, so long time desir'd
 E'er dear to mortals, but so oft unknown
In the king's tent, descends from heav'n's high arch.

Eng. from The Henriad: A Poem, trans. Charles L. S. Jones (Mobile 1834), 221; translation altered to fit this version; the original reads:

Toujours chère aux humains, mais souvent inconnue,
Dans les tentes du roi descend du haut des cieux.
E'er dear to mortals, but so oft unknown,
To the king's tent descends from heav'n's high arch.

These lines derive, with a slight alteration, from “Chant Dixième” of La Henriade.

Although Dorothea’s negatively formulated expression is not attested there, she clearly is playing on the following lines from the first canto:

Descends du haut des cieux, auguste vérité;
Répands sur mes écrits ta force et ta clarté;
Que l'oreille des rois s'accoutume à t'entendre.
C'est à toi de montrer, aux yeux des nations,
Les coupables effets de leurs divisions
From heav'n descend, O truth august! and spread
O'er all my page, thy force, thy light; and let
The ears of kings thee learn to hear and know!
'Tis thine t' announce what they should understand:
'Tis thine t' th' eyes of nations to pourtray
Of their divisions the dire state and end. (trans. ibid., 41) Back.

[6] “Sated, busy, or blind? — all three, my dear child.” Back.

[7] In her letter to Rahel on 28 April 1800 (letter 259l). Back.

[8] Although students and student organizations in Jena could, notwithstanding Dorothea’s asseverations, be unruly, day-to-day life with them was generally tolerable.

Here several students from Leipzig at the time, then various student scenes from Jena, including in front of the Burgkeller tavern; the guitar player is Karl Ludwig Sand in prison, the member of a Jena Burschenschaft (student fraternity) who was also the convicted assassin of August von Kotzebue (1819) ([1] anonymous, Studenten Trachten in Leipzig [ca. 1776–1850]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. C: 302; [2–5] Gustav Heinrich Schneider, Die Burschenschaft Germania zu Jena [Jena 1897], 63, 73, 165, 149):







[9] Anne-Louise-Germaine de Staël, “Histoire de Pauline,” Recueil de morceaux détachés (Lausanne, Paris 1795), 143–203. Back.

[10] Friederike Helene Unger has elsewhere similarly been an object of derision and epithets in the letters of Friedrich and Dorothea. Back.

[11] Fr., “well-being [as a salutation] and friendship.” Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott