Letter 267e

267e. Wilhelm Schlegel to Ludwig Tieck in Hamburg: Bamberg, 14 September 1800 [*]

Bamberg, 14 September 1800

Many thanks for your heartfelt and cordial letter, which prompted me to weep a great many salutary tears. I am admittedly much more easily moved at present than ever before; it is as if I had saved up all my tears for just this, and I have occasionally had the feeling that I might simply dissolve in tears. If our beloved do indeed live in our feelings and emotions, as you say, then Auguste has never lived more than now; although I did realize that I greatly loved her, her death has now summoned the entirety of my concealed love for her to the surface. My painfully sweet memories of her are nourished beyond even that by a picture here which, though painted almost two years ago now, nonetheless resembles her. We also received a drawing made from this painting; she now stands in my room, surrounded by a soft halo, where hourly I gaze upon and worship her. [1]

Caroline thanks you from the bottom of her heart for your heartfelt sympathy. A couple of weeks ago she was suffering from an indisposition that quickly exhausted all her energy; although it is better now, she will probably not recover completely. And how could such be possible in any case amid such grief, which often keeps her awake half the night, weeping? [1a]

I am enormously obliged to you for having written so quickly to your brother. [2] I have almost given up hope that he will return to Germany and agree to work on the monument, though, since not long after sending off the letter to you I received one from him sent to me in Jena in response to the one sent through you last winter; there he says he is hoping to go to Italy for the winter.

In the meantime, however, who knows whether given the uncertain prospects for peace and the unsettled times he will not decide to change plans and instead follow the Humboldts’ lead in spending the winter in Berlin with you and other friends. [3] That would be splendid. In any event, it cannot hurt for you to have written him, since his commission to me was to admonish you to do precisely that. Even if he cannot accept the suggestion with respect to the sarcophagus, he will in any case receive some news of your own activities. I myself have not yet responded to him because he has not sent me his address, which I entreat you not to forget to include in your own next letter to me.

In case your brother does not return, I have had some tentative queries made to Schadow. If he cannot or does wish to take the project on, or if his price is excessive, I will first seek Goethe’s advice in the matter, namely, concerning whom one might best query in this regard. Perhaps Dannecker in Stuttgart. —

I admittedly would like to be present when the concept is worked out. —

The unsettled conditions of war have not yet allowed me to make any decision regarding whether I might be allowed to place the monument in a beautiful location along the fountain promenade I have already chosen. [4]

This matter is extremely important to me, and we will not spare any cost to realize it — a considerable sum has already been put aside for it. . . .

I for my part have now earmarked for the Taschenbuch everything I am composing from now on, and I have various ideas and plans. — I composed a Lied and a sonnet on the object of my grief; although I have not yet had either the peace and quiet or the leisure to do so, I intend to compose an entire series of such. [5] . . .

I know not whether I already wrote you as much, but after your departure from Jena I began a burlesque, or rather a composition and collection of burslesques concerning Kotzebue’s Siberian arrest and journey. [6] I have in the meantime put it aside, of course, because I am simply in no mood to work on anything of that sort just now. It must be published just when he returns to Germany.

But I now read in the Allgemeine Zeitung that he is still imprisoned, in Schlüsselburg. [7] If his release is delayed too long, I might decide to publish these things in the Taschenbuch, naturally under the special rubric: Ehrenpforte und Triumphbogen für den Theater-Präsidenten von Kotzebue bei seiner gehofften Rückkehr in das Vaterland der Plattheit, which would doubtless cause a great éclat. [8] I have already finished 6 sonnets, several epigrams in distichs, a Lied that might be set to music, and a Romanze. To all this I will yet add more sonnets and epigrams, an epistolary travelogue in terza rima, and a quite small dramolette. [9] — It goes without saying that nothing should be said of any of this beforehand.

Schelling will doubtless contribute several pieces, including first of all the “Last Word of the Pastor etc.,” and then presumably several Lieder. [10] He would probably compose more poetry now were he not losing so much time because of sickliness. He most recently translated a complete canto from Dante’s Paradise in terza rima, which he is currently polishing and which he then intended to offer you for publication in the journal. [11] I could then at least add an annotation on how one must translate him. [12] . . .

Especially recently, I have been quite diligent here. I became very sour on Henry V, and, although I do love the piece, was wholly disinclined to work on it. Finally this stone has been lifted from my head, and Henry VI compensates me through the facility and rapidity with which it is proceeding. Two acts were finished in six days, and I am thinking about expediting the whole thing from here yet. [13]

Then I will accompany Caroline to Braunschweig, then also go to Hannover for several days etc. and then back to Jena. There I will immediately begin work on the Jahrbücher project and then presumably come to Berlin in the second half of the winter, where we really should spend a lot of time together. [14]

I genuinely yearn for our conversations and readings. You will perhaps find me changed in some ways, — it inevitably draws one’s sensibility away from the external world when one lives primarily with a departed being. —

The spots on the first page are traces of tears — and I mention it not because it is a rarity — for these libations on the grave of the beloved girl will be continually renewed, I will never cease to weep over this death. When I first received the news, I thought I would lose my mind, — and this raging, indignant grief returned when I visited her grave in Bocklet. [15] Even when I am in the mildest, most serene mood, melancholy is always close by.

Stay very well, my beloved friend; my warmest regards to your Amalie, and a kiss for little Dorothea. If you answer me from Hamburg, address the letter to Braunschweig, c/o Professor Wiedemann, otherwise to Jena. Again, adieu.

A. W. S.

Only imagine, a few days we quite by chance read in a French newspaper that our good Eschen had fallen into an ice crevice during a journey in the Alps and died a horrible death. I was so terribly grieved at this news. He sent me his translation of Horace along with a letter I received only after he was already dead. [16]


[*] Sources: Briefe an Ludwig Tieck 3:232–38; Lohner 45–49.

This letter is Wilhelm’s response to the letter Tieck wrote him on 27 August 1800 (letter 266c).

Concerning the Tiecks’ departure from Jena and their itinerary, see Wilhelm’s letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 22 June 1800 (letter 264a), note 6. Back.

[1] Sophie Tischbein mentions this drawing in her letter to Caroline on 28 August 1800 (letter 267); see also note 2 in that letter.

Although its fate is unknown, it was, as Wilhelm here confirms, an iteration of Tischbein’s 1798 portrait, but with a halo presumably after the customary portrayals of the saints and esp. the Virgin Mary, as in the following 18th-century rendering (Auguste’s portrait, included for comparison, from Erich Schmidt’s 1913 edition of these letters) (Giovanni Battista Piazzetta [painter] and Marco Alvise Pitteri [engraver], Trinitatis, delicia Virgo Maria [ca. 1722–86]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur MAPitteri AB 2.39):



[1a] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Mariane allein auf ihr Kämmerchen macht kummervolle Betrachtungen (ca. 1742–1830); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 (250); illustration to Pierre Carlet de Marivaux, La Vie de Marianne:



[2] Wilhelm wanted to query Friedrich Tieck about accepting the commission to undertake a memorial for Auguste for the cemetery in Bocklet.

See his letter to Schleiermacher on 21 August 1800 (letter 265m), in which Wilhelm also mentions Johann Gottfried Schadow, whom he had charged Schleiermacher with querying about the same project. Wilhelm in the meantime still did not know how Friedrich Tieck would respond. Back.

[3] Schadow himself petitioned on Friedrich Tieck’s behalf on 1 November 1800 with the appropriate ministry in Berlin for a prolongation of the stipend enabling Tieck to study in Paris, and this time also for a stay in Italy (Edmund Hildebrandt, Friedrich Tieck. Ein Beitrag zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte im Zeitalter Goethes und der Romantik [Leipzig 1906], 14); the petition seems not to have been granted.

Humboldt and his family were living in Paris at the time; they did not return to Berlin until the summer of 1801. Friedrich Tieck similarly returned to Weimar in September 1801 in connection with his commission to work on pieces for the renovated castle there, a commission worked out through Humboldt and Goethe. Tieck had dinner with Goethe on 6 September 1801 and met with him thereafter as well (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:34, 36). Back.

[4] Concerning the military conditions during the autumn of 1800, see Wilhelm’s letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 7 July 1800 (letter 265a), note 5. — Concerning the tree-lined fountain promenade in Bocklet, see the gallery on Bocklet. Back.

[5] Concerning these poems and the cycle, see Friedrich Schlegel and Dorothea Veit’s letter to Wilhelm on 25 Auguste 1800 (letter 266b), note 4. Back.

[6] See Wilhelm’s letter to Schleiermacher on 8 September 1800 (letter 267d), note 1 and the additional cross references there. Back.

[7] The Allgemeine Zeitung in Stuttgart, not the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in Jena.

Kotzebue was held in Schlüsselberg (also Schlisselburg, Noteburg), 25 km east of St. Petersburg with a fortification built in 1323 originally guarding access to the Baltic Sea on an island at the head of the Neva River; at the time it was being used to house political prisoners (Eustache Hérisson and Paul-André Basset, Carte routière de la Pologne, de la Lithuanie, de la Prusse et d’une très grande partie de la Russie d’Europe… où l’on peut suivre la marche des armées françaises [Paris 1813]):


Illustration in 1630 by Moritz Bodenehr:



[8] Fr., “uproar, scandal.”

August von Kotzebue did not depart Petersburg for Germany until 29 April 1801. He had been in Russia since April 1800, where he was unfortunately arrested at the border on suspicion of being a Jacobin and thereafter exiled to Siberia. Paul I, flattered by a play Kotzebue had written about Peter III, pardoned him and granted him an estate in Livonia.

Kotzebue recounted these experiences in his book Das merkwürdigste Jahr meines Lebens (Berlin 1801); trans. by 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).

The final title of Wilhelm’s piece was 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); i.e., it was published separately rather than as part of the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802. Back.

[9] Several pieces from Wilhelm’s Kotzebuade are discussed in volume 2 of this edition. Back.

[10] Besides the “Last Words of the Pastor of Drottning” (118–28), Schelling also contributed “Lied” (“Lied”) (241–43), “Thier und Pflanze” (158–59), and “Loos der Erde” (273) to the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802. For translation of the latter two pieces, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 15 May 1801 (letter 316), note 15. Back.

[11] See esp. Caroline’s letter to Auguste on 14 October 1799 (letter 248), note 9. Back.

[12] At this point, Wilhelm discusses various literary projects, including especially the Romantics’ Jahrbücher project. Back.

[13] The reference is to volume 7 of the edition of Shakespeare; see also Wilhelm’s letter to Schleiermacher on 8 September 1800 (letter 267d), note 2.

Although Brigitte Rossbeck, Zum Trotz glücklich: Caroline Schlegel-Schelling und die romantische Lebenskunst (Munich 2008), 195–96, conjectures that Caroline once more joined Wilhelm in his translation work in Bamberg as a distraction from her grief, and specifically on these volumes, she adduces no documentation. Back.

[14] Concerning Wilhelm’s ambitious itinerary, see his letter to Schleiermacher on 8 September 1800 (letter 267d), also with note 5. Back.

[15] N. Monciau and Pierre Philippe Choffard, Trauriger Mann auf einem Friedhof (ca. 1776–1800); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 444a:



[16] See Eschen’s letter to Wilhelm from Rümlingen bei Bern in Switzerland on 30 May 1800 (letter 260a); concerning Eschen’s translation work with Horace, see Friedrich’s letter to Caroline on 12 December 1797 (letter 192c), note 7. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott