Letter 265j

265j. Friedrich Schlegel and Dorothea Veit to Wilhelm Schlegel in Bamberg: Dornburg, 6 August 1800 [*]

Dorenburg, [1] 6 August 1800

Dorothea journeyed here for a few days because of her health, whence the postmark of my letter, though also its brevity. [2] Your last letter gave me considerable joy, as did much of the news it contained. I was inexpressibly moved by the inscription. [3]

Today I am writing primarily to ask you a question. It is so important to me, and for so many reasons, to know whether Karoline and Schelling will be returning to Jena for the winter that I would like to appeal to your friendship in asking that you alert me to such as soon as you might learn anything about it; if such is to remain a secret, you can certainly rely on me to be both dependable and cautious in the matter.

You have not yet touched on this point at all, and in vain did I search for something about it in your last letter. And it almost seems as if something in your last one did touch indirectly on it. We are not to retain Rose, [4] and yet before your departure you said that even were you return for a time, she could nonetheless remain ours. —

Is Karoline perhaps intending to keep her for herself? If such be the case, then tell her that Lene has inquired in the eventuality that you would again engage a cook. [5]

I would merely ask that you alert us beforehand when she will be coming. It would, after all, be better if in that case we moved out of here for a few days.

You further warned against taking any steps with respect to lecturing in philosophy. — Do you perhaps know that Schelling will be returning and perhaps has the same intentions? — That would doubtless stand in my way, and I would be quite sorry not having known about it beforehand. But now I cannot go back. 60 students have signed up, and in the next few days I will have to apply for my doctoral candidacy with the faculty; otherwise it is too late. [6] — Do let me know what you know about this matter; I implore you. [7]

Please forgive me for writing such a dry and utterly self-centered letter; I will very soon write more and better. Nothing at all of consequence has arrived for you the last few days, a letter from Eschen accompanying his translation of Horace can no doubt wait until next time. [8] Beresford [9] paid me a visit yesterday; he greatly regretted missing you and might be spending the winter in Jena. —

One important bit of news: Kotzebue is certain to return. [10]

I will send Petrarch together with Gries’s Tasso [11] and Athenaeum. [12]

Give my regards to Karoline. If I find out anything more specific, I will be more disposed to write her in greater detail, something I will then also not be remiss in doing.

Dorothea sends her warm regards.


[Dorothea:] You have written us so many splendid things, but we cannot possibly respond in kind; things are and will always remain the same as they were. A child of Berlin cannot but view it as a case of extreme ingratitude whenever someone is not yet sufficiently satisfied with the area around Jena. [13] Please do remain kindly disposed toward us.


[*] Sources: Walzel, 431–33; KFSA 25:151–52.

That Friedrich speaks openly in this letter with Wilhelm about Caroline and Schelling’s possible return to Jena (Friedrich was gauging whether to try to lecture on transcendental philosophy, previously Schelling’s academic fief in Jena) shows that the two were now considered essentially a permanent couple, even for Wilhelm. Back.

[1] Dornburg (Friedrich’s orthography differs; he also uses the spelling “Karoline” instead of “Caroline” in this letter), a town located in the valley of the Saale River 15 km northeast of Jena and known especially for its three spectacularly situated castles. See Henrik Steffens’s letter to Caroline on 26 July 1799 (letter 242d), note 1 (Thüringen in Wort und Bild, ed. Thüringer Pestalozzivereinen, vol. 2, [Leipzig 1902], 257):



[2] Dorothea spent twelve days in Dornburg, Friedrich one at the beginning and then five later (according to Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm on 25 August 1800 [letter 266b]). Back.

[3] Presumably about Auguste. Back.

[4] In her letter to Luise Gotter from Bamberg on 18 September 1800 (letter 268), Caroline mentions that she was taking the liberty of sending her maidservant, Rose, ahead to Gotha to meet her and Wilhelm when they stopped there on their way from Bamberg to Braunschweig (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[5] Lene had apparently been dismissed when Caroline left Jena. As early as ca. 1 August 1800, however, Friedrich mentions in a letter to Schleiermacher that he had “word from Wilhelm that he is healthy, is working, and will be returning here approximately in September” (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:211; KGA V/4 182; KFSA 25:150). Back.

[6] Friedrich submitted his application on 20 August 1800 (full text KFSA 25:159). Dorothea mentions in her letter to Schleiermacher on 28 July 1800 (letter 265i) that students were soliciting Friedrich to lecture on transcendental philosophy. See in general Friedrich’s letter to Ludwig Tieck later that summer, on 22 August 1800 (Briefe an Ludwig Tieck 3:314–16; Lohner [1972], 42–43):

I have, by the way, now had myself promoted to doctor, and will be lecturing on idealism this winter, for which sixty students have already registered. Schelling and his followers may perhaps be returning as well, in which case there will be idealism and realism enough to go around, which does not otherwise really bother us, except that I wish Wilhelm would finally get completely out of these disputes [with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung]. You will no doubt see him this winter in Berlin, though for now he will probably be staying away for a bit.

As attested by this present letter, Friedrich was indeed worried about Schelling’s return. — Otherwise this passage shows that Wilhelm seems to have been planning quite early — more than a month before he and Caroline went to Braunschweig at the beginning of October 1800 — to go to Berlin for the winter rather than return to Jena.

As it turned out, he accompanied Caroline to Braunschweig but moved to Berlin in February 1801. He did not return to Jena until August 1801, and then for only three months. For all practical purposes, Wilhelm had left Jena for good. Back.

[7] By 12 September 1800 Friedrich had still received no answer from Wilhelm (Walzel, 440; KFSA 25:177): “I asked you about Schelling’s return. You probably forgot.” Back.

[8] Friedrich August Eschen had written the letter to Wilhelm from Rümlingen near Bern in Switzerland on 30 May 1800 (letter 260b). Unfortunately, he was killed in a snow-bridge accident in Switzerland on 7 August 1800, the day after Friedrich wrote this letter.

Concerning Eschen’s translation work with Horace, see Friedrich’s letter to Caroline on 12 December 1797 (letter 192c), note 7. In a letter to Tieck from Bamberg on 14 September 1800 (letter 267a), Wilhelm expresses his dismay at having read about Eschen’s death and only then receiving the letter and translation. Back.

[9] Wilhelm had reviewed Beresford’s translations from German to English in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (KFSA 25:493fn18). Back.

[10] August von Kotzebue’s banishment in Siberia and eventual return to Germany from Russia was the subject of his two-volume work Das merkwürdigste Jahr meines Lebens (Berlin 1801), which was immediately translated by none other than Benjamin Beresford as The Most Remarkable Year in the Life of Augustus von Kotzebue: Containing an Account of his Exile into Siberia, 3 vols. (London 1802). Here the frontispiece — “From an original Drawing by Bolt of Berlin — to vol. 1 of Beresford’s translation, i.e., contemporary with Wilhelm’s composition discussed below:


To wit, Kotzebue’s return provided Wilhelm the occasion to revenge Kotzebue’s satire on the Jena Romantics, namely, Der hyperboreeische Esel oder Die heutige Bildung. Ein drastisches Drama, und philosophisches Lustspiel für Jünglinge, in Einem Akt (Leipzig 1799), which had been performed during the Leipzig book fair in the autumn of 1799 (see Caroline to Auguste on 21 October 1799 [letter 250] and supplementary appendix 250.1).

Wilhelm’s piece, echoing Friedrich’s remarks here in part of its title, was distributed in December 1800 with the title Ehrenpforte und Triumphbogen für den Theater-Präsidenten von Kotzebue bei seiner gehofften Rückkehr in’s Vaterland. Mit Musik. Gedruckt zu Anfange des neuen Jahrhunderts (Braunschweig 1801). The piece, which became known as Wilhelm’s Kotzebuade, is mentioned several times in later letters; one of its musical pieces was even popular among the children of Jena. Back.

[11] Unknown edition of Petrarch. — Tasso’s Befreites Jerusalem, trans. Johann Diederich Gries, part 1 (Jena 1800); Wilhelm had helped Gries with the proofs during the spring of 1800. See Wilhelm’s letter to him on 22 June 1800 (letter 264a), note 7. Back.

[12] The second issue of Athenaeum (1800), the sixth and final issue overall, had just appeared (August 1800). Back.

[13] See Dorothea’s rhapsodic descriptions of Jena and its surroundings in her letters to Rahel Levin in Berlin (esp. on 28 April 1800 [letter 259l]). Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott