Letter 264a

264a. Wilhelm Schlegel to Johann Diederich Gries in Göttingen: Jena, 22 June 1800 [*]

Jena, 22 June 1800

My good friend, enclosed you will find all the books we still had from the Göttingen library. Please be so kind as to ask Fiorillo to determine which he charged out in his own name, then please deliver those to him and take the rest to the library administration itself. [1]

Some time ago my brother listed a number of books and asked Hofrath Heyne to send them to us by way of Lorenz; [2] we have not yet received them, however, nor three other books we requested . . . Should that list have gotten lost, I still have an extra copy. . . .

I immediately forwarded your letter on to my wife; [3] she has probably answered you herself in the meantime, even though till now she has still not been able to write much. [4] She is now taking the mineral springs in Bocklet, and we will simply have to see how she responds to this course of treatment. [5]

We are all doing quite well here, and your friends send their regards. Tieck will be departing in a few days. [6]

I have been working diligently on the proofs of your Tasso and hope that no significant printing errors will go unaddressed. [7] I just finished proofing the conclusion to the 4th canto.

Stay very well and let us here from you again.

A. W. Schlegel


[*] Source: Josef Körner (1930), 1:112–13. — Gries had left Jena at the end of April 1800 to return to Göttingen (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


Concerning his stay in Jena and his itinerary during this important summer and autumn of 1800, see the editorial note to Wilhelm’s letter to him on 10 May 1799 (letter 236c). Back.

[1] See Wilhelm’s letter to Gries on 16 March 1800 (letter 258r), note 1. Back.

[2] In a letter of 22 June 1800 — i.e., on the same day as this letter — Wilhelm sent Heyne a copy of the recent publication of his own poems (Gedichte [Tübingen 1800]) and thanked Heyne for helping secure books from the Göttingen library (Körner, [1930], 1:113). Friedrich had written Heyne on 27 April 1800 (Briefe von und an Friedrich und Dorothea Schlegel, ed. Josef Körner [Berlin 1926], 29). Back.

[3] This letter appears no longer to be extant. Back.

[4] Caroline’s letter to Gries of 27 December 1799 (letter 258) is her last extant to him; she would, however, see him later in Würzburg. Back.

[5] Caroline and Auguste had departed Bamberg for Bocklet on ca. 12 June 1800 (not 8 May as in Körner, [1930], 46).

See Auguste’s letter to to Luise Wiedemann on 30 March 1800 (letter 258w), note 7, in connection with the home baths and mineral springs Caroline’s physician Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland had recommended. Back.

[6] Ludwig Tieck and his family lived in Jena for only eight months. They had arrived in Jena on 17 October 1799 and departed at the end of June 1800.

After departing, they first visited Friedrich von Hardenberg in Weissenfels, then the Reichardts in Giebichenstein outside Halle, and Amalie Tieck’s family in Hamburg, before moving to Berlin in the autumn of 1800 (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795])


Concerning Tieck’s increasing dissatisfaction with Jena, see Roger Paulin, Ludwig Tieck: A Literary Biography (Oxford 1986), 109–10:

While providing much flow of soul, Jena was, alas, no feast of reason. The heady speculations of Athenaeum were tempered by domestic trivialities. The spirit of the clique and the coterie had been present in letters even before Jena . . .

Now their exclusiveness was absolute. Dorothea could claim to Schleiermacher that “the whole church” was assembled. But it, too, was by schisms rent asunder: Fichte against Schelling and then the Schlegels; Friedrich and Dorothea against Schelling.

Above all, Caroline, whose personality dominated the whole circle, was filled with skepticism and disfavor. She knew that her relationship with August Wilhelm was pretence as she longed for Schelling. Not always fair or dispassionate, she was a good judge of character all the same, notably of her Schlegel brother-in-law. She knew the follies and dangers of idealism, having had her fingers severely burned in the Mainz republic while most of the young men were still enthusing about liberty at a safe distance . . .

There was much of the clever professor’s daughter as well as the Romantic Egeria; she sensed that Tieck was not a good working partner for August Wilhelm; she (vainly) advised him to translate first those Shakespeare plays which would attract an audience (Lear, Othello, Macbeth), not to be caught up in the esoteric and the suppositious (little imagining that it would be left to the then babe in arms, Dorothea Tieck, to provide the Macbeth translation).

Tieck’s position in all this soon approached the invidious. For all seemed to agree in their contempt for his hapless wife, Amalie. Small wonder, then, that Tieck and Amalia found Weissenfels and the Hardenbergs more congenial; indeed, one might consider whether Tieck was not attracted by the simple dignity of this aristocratic family which stood in marked contrast to the oppressively close atmosphere of bourgeois Jena. . . .

But the reality of Jena was different. Tieck was in financial straits, struggling to keep on good terms with his publisher, Frommann. He was to learn — from Novalis, the professional man, not the poet — that a wandering existence, without any fixed post, was a barrier to obtaining credit. He discovered that Jena meant living with petty literary feuds fought out by the Schlegels in full force with minor satirists and inimical editors.

To compound all this, he fell victim to a severe rheumatic complaint which rendered him almost immobile for most of the winter of 1800. . . .

Much of this may explain the scandalously defamatory tone of a letter written to Sophie on 6 December 1799 [letter 257c], in which the Jena circle is mercilessly reduced to eine Einzige Schweinewirthschaft, an accumulation of human frailties.

On the other hand, the Jena circle in its turn had some reason, if not to be displeased with Tieck, at least to tax him with cultivating a certain feline solitariness. Dorothea Veit saw it one way: in the Despoten Republik the Tiecks were the outlaws. August Wilhelm, as one of the despots, saw it less charitably. For had Tieck not been asked by him to produce something on Shakespeare, or a satire, or had he not promised something on Böhme, for Athenaeum, that organ to which both Bernhardi and Sophie had contributed and which had made so much of Tieck himself?

Then there had been at the beginning of 1800 the rather grand announcement of a common project on Cervantes, but not a word had been written (or ever was to be). The recent descent into Böhmer’s mystical obscurities had been accompanied by a marked unwillingness of Tieck’s part to see the clarity of his own situation. In short: he was living off others, owed money, and was with Novalis affecting a religiosity which even Jena found excessive. Back.

[7] Gries’s translation of Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered (1580–81) as Befreites Jerusalem, 4 vols. (Jena 1800–1803). Wilhelm was correcting the page proofs after Gries himself had to return to Göttingen.

Concerning Gries’s circumstances, itinerary, negotiations with the publisher Friedrich Frommann, and the frontispieces to the 2nd edition of his translation, see the 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). Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott