Letter 266b

266b. Friedrich Schlegel and Dorothea Veit to Wilhelm Schlegel in Bamberg: Jena, 25 August 1800 [*]

J[ena], 25 August 1800


My dear Wilhelm, what terribly evil motives you attribute to me for having not yet written to you myself! And yet not a shred of it true, not even a shadow of obstinacy but merely the modest conviction that Friedrich can relate everything to you much better than I.

And I somewhat differently than he? how am I to go about that? My not writing was so wholly unintentional that I had already resolved, quite on my own, to relate various things to you today in Friedrich’s name, since Friedrich himself really is immersed in his work, and then your two letters arrived at once; so now he thinks it necessary to answer you himself, but since you have raised such demands with me on that account, I will not be dissuaded from my own intention of writing.

To tell the truth, I have not been doing so well of late that I should have risked writing to you about our life, the whole thing could too easily have degenerated into nothing but melancholy. But now things are going a bit better again.

Dorenburg [1] was very good for me, and you should not make fun of me on that account! Indeed, my dear Wilhelm, my stay in that lovely area genuinely refreshed me, I was out there for twelve days, though Friedrich for only one on the first occasion, and then for five later. Ritter was with us the whole time Friedrich was there. We did indeed visit the Rudolphsburg and Kösen, then also the Tautenburg. [2]

The latter is situated in the midst of an extraordinarily beautiful forest of the sort one does not otherwise see in the area around here, nor have I ever encountered such a forest anywhere else myself.

We were all enchanted by the Rudolphsburg, except that we could not really enjoy it as we should have because that day it was so oppressively hot. The completely preserved entrance enormously moved me; when I approached to within a few steps, I half expected the warder to give the signal from above, and then one of the noble figures to come out to greet me.

Have you ever been in the chamber that is still so marvelously well preserved? We lingered there quite a while, amid various conjectures about who may have inhabited it. I was a bit apprehensive we might even hear some voice or other reproaching us for being so nosy.

And the view all round about! What wonderful, delightful things reveal themselves all at the same time to one’s distant gaze, what a delightful, constantly changing tableau; animated, bustling life in whichever direction one looks! [2a] What can possibly have restricted the human spirit so severely today? Why should no one today, with childlike ebullience, simply think “it is so beautiful here, let us remain!” and then with the strength of giants complete a piece of work that outlasts centuries! —

So you see, my good friend, I am still quite full of all these impressions. Do not laugh at the fact that it was but a single mile from Jena that I found so many treasures. It is simply so beautiful there one would gladly travel thirty miles to experience it. I at least had such a sense of well-being there as if I were 30 miles from all “refined” taste and all “genteel” society; [3] I need only turn around, and it is as if none of these things even exist for me, and I am living completely for nature and my heart.

Nor should you tease me so excessively about family celebrations, you evil person! You can believe your experienced lady friend when I say that in the final analysis they are among the most beautiful things God has made. Admittedly, of course, the family must be suitable for such, otherwise family celebrations too easily turn into a teaming nest of ants where one is ill-advised to sit down.

Your two poems are magnificent, dear Wilhelm. I cannot find it in my heart to give either of them preference, even though the pain is of a quite different character in each. But that is precisely why they belong completely together, the gentle, melancholy, yearning sadness in the Lied, and the almost bitter, stinging pain in the sonnet; both are excellently expressed. [4] The Lied moved me to tears, I wish I knew how to compose music, but even then, the music could only provide an accompaniment to the musical words.

Were the occasion not so utterly dreadful, I confess I would not at all be displeased that you yourself feel a bit weak. Now you will perhaps believe others later when they say that a person does indeed need strengthening and time for recovery. Is that not true, my dear Wilhelm: it is indeed possible for a person to feel very, very tired?

Ritter visits us quite often, and I have grown very fond of him; trust me when I say that he is one of those rare phenomena on this earth, a quite virtuous young man! And he will yet become quite charming and amiable, only watch and give him time. He has already begun by delivering the half Laubthaler he owed you. [5]

Friedrich will be writing you more extensively about financial matters. We have still not yet received anything except in part what came from the sale of the furniture in Berlin. [6] But all that is only coming about gradually. The doctoral degree cost almost 50 Reichsthaler, [7] but that outlay is merely an expense. At the Michaelmas book fair we will be receiving money from everywhere, and then you will be paid without fail. I am sending you the calculation, as you asked. I have not yet been able to pay invoices.

But remain calm and depend on it getting done as soon as possible. Lene has agreed with utter delight to move in with Caroline again at Christmas, please be so good as to write me by return mail and let me know whether I should hire her, and how much I should pay her. [8] She is pressing for a decision because she wants to hire herself out elsewhere should Caroline not want her. —

Rose stands completely at your service, in Braunschweig, or in Rome, if need be. [9] She is not getting married and is quite happy that she can stay. Rose is a dear, amiable creature, it would be a real sin if she perhaps had to suffer under Lene. I would have given anything to have kept her for myself, but you do have precedence here, and I have already hired someone else. I am very disinclined to let Rose go; I am really fond of her.

Yes, yes, the little Sea Monkey gave the Besinged such a spectacular farewell that he is now utterly burned out rather than merely besinged; [10]

Rose developed an aversion to her epouseur [11] and contends she “must learn an awful lot before she can think about marrying.” —

And now all of you complain that you are not influencing your epoch! and are doing so after the fashion of genuine prophets, namely, through women! —

The Pauluses have returned safely, [12] she is still very weak, but quite on the way to recovery. Both she and he are being unusually cordial toward us. —

Schleiermacher will probably be visiting us here in November and asks that if at all possible you arrange things such that he will find you here as well. [13]

So, stay well, my friend! May God give you both comfort and joy. —



Because I have so much work to do today, I was thinking of having Dorothea pass along my regrets to you and just letting her write; but because I received two letters at once from you today, I cannot avoid writing at least a few lines in response. . . .

Your news about Caroline’s health worries me. Pass along my warm regards to her.

Dorothea’s health is also often costing her considerable time just now; if you consider that the moment it improves she is immediately diligently back at work, and then all the unpleasant correspondence to Berlin, [14] perhaps you will excuse her for not writing more often. . . .

You probably already know that Mademoiselle Levi will not be coming, and is in fact probably already in Paris by way of Wesel, and hence that at least this time this bitter cup has fortunately passed us by. [15] . . .

Although I was quite pleased by your letters today, I was hoping to find more in them about your travel plans or return. —

And also whether Schelling will be coming; though as far as my own lectures are concerned, you can tell him that as little as we may well otherwise concur on things, at least with respect to these philosophical matters I see no reason to have anything but a cordial relationship with him. [16]

Stay well.
Friedrich S.


[*] Sources: Dorothea’s letter: Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 47–51; Friedrich’s letter: Walzel, 433–36; both: KFSA 25:165–69. Back.

[1] See also Friedrich to Wilhelm on 6 August 1800 (letter 265j), note 1, and Dorothea to Schleiermacher on 22 August 1800 (letter 266a), note 2. Back.

[2] An understandably salutary excursion into the countryside for Dorothea, who had grown up in the trenchantly urban setting of Berlin. The reference is to the castle ruins of Rudelsburg (Rudolphsburg) and Tautenburg (representative illustration of visitors to such castle ruins: anonymous, Eine Burgruine in bewaldeter Landschaft, in der sich eine Gruppe von Spaziergängern befindet [ca. 1801 ff.]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. C: 839):


Rudelsburg (ca. 1170) is situated on the east bank of the Saale River on a rocky ridge, approximately 85m above the river and above Saaleck, near the town of Bad Kösen and ca. 20 km from Jena. Its romantic location and surrounding landscape increasingly made it a tourist destination in the nineteenth century (Ludwig Bechstein, Thüringen, Das malerische und romantische Deutschland: In zehn Sektionen 3, 2nd ed. [Leipzig 1847], plate following p. 104):


Here in an illustration from 1836 (Saxonia: Museum für Sächsische Vaterlandskunde, vol. 2 [Dresden 1836], following p. 28):


A similar view from the late nineteenth century, and similarly romanticized (Gustav Heinrich Schneider, Die Burschenschaft Germania zu Jena [Jena 1897], 139):


Here in an illustration from Hugo Hagendorff, Das Soolbad Kösen nebst den Saalufern und den nächsten Städten: Ein Wegweiser für Badereisende (Berlin 1859), final plate in book (Dorothea goes on to speak about the restored gate):


Tautenburg (ca. 13th century) is located about 11 km northeast of Jena in the midst of the Tautenburg Forest on a small mountain spur surrounded by the u-shaped town of Tautenburg at its base (underground passageways allegedly led from the castle to houses in the village and even to the neighboring village). Only the Burgfried tower (or “keep”) is preserved. Here illustrations from early postcards:



And here the Tautenburg as it looked in 1722 and 1828; the tower remaining today is at the center of the complex ([1] Burkhard Gotthelf Struwe, Castrum Tavtenbvrgvm [Ienae 1722]; Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden, Kartensammlung, Signatur/Inventar-Nr.: SLUB/KS B3055; [2] Ruinen oder Taschenbuch zur Geschichte der verfallenen Ritterburgen und Schlößer 3 [1828], plate following p. 186):



Here a map showing the locales about which Dorothea here speaks (Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no. 19):



[2a] Here an illustration (1787) of the landscape in which the Rudolphsburg is located (Karl Benjamin Schwarz, Das Bergschloss Rudolphsburg bey Kösen an der Saale [1787]):



[3] Germ. Meile; concerning this measurement, see Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 22 August 1800 (letter 266a), note 2. Back.

[4] The two poems are “Sinnesänderung” (the Lied, “Change of heart”) and “Auf der Reise” (the sonnet, “During the journey”) in his cycle for Auguste (and Friedrich von Hardenberg), “Todtenopfer,” Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802) 171–86; reprinted as “Todten-Opfer für Augusta Böhmer (Im Sommer und Herbst 1800),” Sämmtliche Werke 1:127–40. See the supplementary appendix Offerings for the Deceased. Wilhelm mentions these two pieces in his letter to Ludwig Tieck on 14 September 1800 (letter 267e). Back.

[5] This is not the last attestation of Ritter’s ongoing financial distress; such reemerges later in his relationship with Schelling. Concerning the Laubthaler and Dorothea’s otherwise subtle irony in this passage, see KFSA 25:507fn16:

In Germany, people referred to the French écus [shields] de six livres as Laubthaler, a silver coin, because of the laurel branch on the side with the lily shield. One Laubthaler had the value of 39 Groschen, i.e., a bit more than 1 ½ Reichsthaler (1 Reichsthaler = 25 Groschen); hence Ritter’s payment was commensurately modest; that is, Dorothea’s news is intended ironically.

Ritter used Laubthaler coins as silver plates in his experiments with Galvanic electrical charges and columns [see esp. Caroline’s letter to Friedrich von Hardenberg on 4 February 1799 (letter 219), note 6].

Here a photograph of a French Ecu de 6 livres de la Convention 1793:



[6] Dorothea had been corresponding with Schleiermacher and Henriette Herz about selling furniture and other household items left behind in Berlin. She and Friedrich would be moving during into a new apartment during the coming autumn; see their letter to Schleiermacher ca. 1 July 1800 (letter 264c). Back.

[7] See Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm on 6 August 1800 (letter 265j), note 6. Back.

[8] The question of whether and which maidservants to retain became an issue not only when Caroline and Wilhelm decided not to return to Jena immediately, but also when Dorothea and Friedrich decided to move out of the apartment at Leutragasse 5; see also Friedrich and Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm on 6 August 1800 (265j). Back.

[9] “Rome” seems an odd reference, since Wilhelm had already decided on at least a journey to Berlin if not a permanent stay.

In any event, he would accompany Caroline to Braunschweig in early October 1800 and then move to Berlin in February 1801, whereas she would remain behind in Braunschweig and, after a trip to Harburg and Hamburg during the early spring, return to Jena on 23 April 1801 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):

Braunschweig_Berlin_Jena_ map

The reference may, on the other hand, and less oddly perhaps, be to Caroline accompanying Schelling to Rome. If such be the case, then this remark documents how early Schelling was already seriously considering a stay in Italy and how early it had already been decided that Caroline would accompany him (Central Europe 1803 after the Peace of Lunéville 1801 and the Secularisations 1803 [Cambridge 1912]):


Although Caroline’s decision to seek a divorce from Wilhelm is generally dated later (e.g., after her trip to Berlin during the spring of 1802), this remark presumably dates it to the summer of 1800. It is, moreover, difficult, given the circumstances of the relationship between Caroline and Schelling — which even Wilhelm at this time acknowledges — and Auguste’s death, not to surmise that Caroline had already been thinking about a permanent separation from Wilhelm, as difficult as such might well appear (and prove) to be.

In any event, although Rose met Wilhelm and Caroline in Gotha after they left Bamberg, and accompanied them to Braunschweig, ultimately she remained in Braunschweig with Caroline after Wilhelm departed for Berlin in late February 1801 and returned to Jena with Caroline in April 1801. Back.

[10] The little Sea Monkey (Germ. Meeräffchen, from Meer, “sea,” and Affe, “ape, monkey”) is Sophie Mereau (the nickname plays on the pronunciation of Mereau), the Besinged (Germ. angebrannt) Clemens Brentano. Concerning Brentano’s nickname, see Auguste’s letter to Schelling on 4/5 June 1800 (letter 261), note 7.

Friedrich remarks similarly to Ludwig Tieck from Jena on 22 August 1800 (Briefe an Ludwig Tieck 3:315; Lohner [1972] 42): “The young Angebrentano was also here, presenting himself as one who is now completely burned out.”

The unfortunate reference, however, is to his recent break with Sophie Mereau. Brentano himself writes on ca. 18 August 1800 from Frankfurt to his sister, Sophie Brentano (who was gravely ill at the time; Sämtliche Werke und Briefe, Frankfurter Brentano-Ausgabe, vol. 29, ed. Jürgen Behrens and Detlev Lüders [Stuttgart 2009], 290): “Sophie [Mereau] executed me, and at that very moment I wept at her wrongness the way a saint weeps at the blindness of his henchmen.” Back.

[11] Fr., “suitor, man interested in marriage”; here an illustration of such a proposal (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Heirahts Antrag des Landmanns [ca. 1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [3-188)]:



[12] From Bocklet; see Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 28 July 1800 (letter 265i), note 2. She also mentions their return in her letter to Schleiermacher on 22 August 1800 (letter 266a). Back.

[13] Schleiermacher’s trip did not materialize despite Dorothea’s considerable anticipation; see her letter to him on 22 August 1800 (letter 266a). Back.

[14] Dorothea was corresponding with various persons in Berlin concerning the sale or forwarding of furniture, financial matters, and esp. with Simon Veit about custody issues with respect to her son Philipp Veit. Back.

[15] Dorothea had implored Rahel Levin to visit them in Jena from Berlin that summer, though her letters give no hint at Friedrich’s disposition as expressed here (see her letters to Rahel Levin on 28 April and 2 June 1800 [letters 259l, 260f], esp. letter 259l, note 1). Rahel remained in Paris from the summer of 1800 to the spring of 1801 (W. R. Shepherd, Historical Map of Central Europe about 1786 [1926]):


That said, Friedrich’s letters to Rahel Levin during December 1801 in Berlin suggest that a far different relationship had developed between them, at least from his perspective. Back.

[16] Friedrich, already committed to lecturing at the university in Jena on philosophy, was apprehensive lest Schelling’s presence create problems for him; see his letter to Wilhelm on 6 August 1800 (letter 265j). As it turned out, Friedrich’s apprehensions were not ill-founded. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott