Letter 269a

269a. Friedrich Schlegel and Dorothea Veit to Wilhelm Schlegel in Gotha: Jena, 30 September 1800 [*]

Jena, 30 September 1800


I was in an extremely awkward situation having to hold back Fichte’s letter to you for so long, since I did indeed know how important it was to you. [1] But your letter made me utterly uncertain whether the letter would still reach you in Bamberg, [2] and I thought that if in that case I were to send it as an enclosure to Schelling or Röschlaub, [3] and they were to forward it to you, the slowness of the postal service from here to there and back and their own uncertainty of where to address the letter in any case — since you are not staying in any one place very long — would cause you to receive it even later still.

Hence I chose the more certain course of sending it along with Rose, whom you will be receiving again in good condition and quite healthy; [4] it seems to have been to her advantage for the tanner to have dismissed her; [5] whether she is as innocent as she is healthy, however, seems to me to be an entirely different question. Although Dorothea does contend such to be the case, she has had considerable temptation and ample opportunity to lose what can never be regained. [6] . . .

Rose received 2 Laubthaler for the trip on your bill. She is bringing along everything requested.

Do not take it so seriously that Schleiermacher may seem a bit overly sensitive, since such does, after all, derive from a good principle, namely, his desire to take a serious part in this entire enterprise. [7] It may well have appeared to him after the most recent negotiations that Fichte or Schelling wanted to lay claim to philosophy in the narrower sense, something with which he cannot, of course, be satisfied. . . .

As far as the business with the apartment is concerned, although we thought about it for a long time, we finally thought it better to go ahead and move into the new one, [8] since otherwise more or less everything would have gotten confused and the landlady herself excessively hostile.

We have not, however, abandoned hope of living together with you, which is why we would now like to ask whether you might consider living with us, namely, in my room with me, just as we also did for a while last winter, a time that for me was in fact the most pleasant of the entire winter. The room and sleeping chamber are spacious enough for that situation to work as well or even better. Whatever you want from your furniture or books we can have carted over from one house to the other for 8–12 Groschen. . . .

Stay well, my beloved friend, and come to us soon; I have much to discuss with you. And, by the way, we shall also live well toglether. Dorothea sends her warm regards. Florentin will be printed soon. [9] — Give our regards to Caroline.


Please do what you can to remember me kindly to the entire family, especially Mother and Karl. [10]


Is it not droll that Friedrich is sending along to you an inventory of Rose’s virtues? I for my part, however, contend that his suspicions are unfounded, even though — she was not courted shabbily at all. [11]

Goethe is still here. [12] He now seems intent on learning something, is very diligent, and is having one privatissimum after the other. [13] He is also, by the way, quite merry, and Friedrich recently spent an entire evening dining with him tête-à-tête. [14]

We, by the way, are living frightfully withdrawn. Madam Paulus and Ritter are the only other faces I see now. [15] . . .


[*] Sources: Walzel, 440; Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 52–53; Wieneke (1914) 332–33 (frag.); KFSA 25:187–90. Back.

[1] The reference is to the tedious correspondence between the members of the Jena circle (including Schleiermacher) and Fichte regarding a potential shared publication to replace, first, the lost possibility of publishing further with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, and, second, Athenaeum, whose final issue had appeared in August 1800.

In the letter in question (6 September 1800, Fichte Gesamtausgabe III/4 301–3), Fichte, though underscoring the similarity of the two, now competing projects (his with the Berlin publisher Johann Friedrich Unger, and the Schlegels’ with the Tübingen publisher Johann Friedrich Cotta, tentatively to be called Kritische Jahrbücher der Deutschen Literatur, though in this present letter Friedrich suggests a new title, Annalen der Litteratur “or something similar”), felt obliged to Unger. Although he kept open the possibility of a shared project should the one with Unger never get off the ground (it did not), Wilhelm had already heard from Schelling that Fichte had in fact declined any further participation in the Schlegels’ project (Fichte to Schelling, 13 September 1800; Fichte Gesamtausgabe III/4 306–10; KFSA 25:526fn1).

For a summary of the history of these ill-fated projects, projects that were, however, extraordinarily important to the Romantic circle as the circle itself began to unravel and disperse, see the supplementary appendix on the Romantics’ Jahrbücher project. Back.

[2] Although Wilhelm’s letter to Friedrich has not been preserved, Wilhelm and Caroline were to leave Bamberg on 1 October 1800 for Braunschweig, traveling by way of Gotha; Schelling and Johann Diederich Gries left on the same day and travelled with Wilhelm and Caroline as far as Coburg, then took the separate postal route to Jena. See Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 18 September 1800 (letter 268), note 1, and supplementary appendix 268.1, note 9. Back.

[3] Both Schelling and Wilhelm were receiving their mail through Andreas Röschlaub in Bamberg. Back.

[4] The maidservant whom Caroline had earlier retained in Jena and who would now be returning to her service, meeting her and Wilhelm in Gotha; see Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm on 4 September 1800 (letter 267b), note 2; Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 18 September 1800 (letter 268); and Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm on ca. 23 September 1800 (letter 268a). Back.

[5] Apparently Rose had been in the employ of someone else while Caroline was away. Back.

[6] Rose seems to have been courted while Caroline and Wilhelm were away; on 26 November 1801 (letter 332), Caroline mentions in a letter to Wilhelm that Rose “is waiting for the one who promised to return,” identified in a letter on 10 December 1801 (letter 335) as “a certain Herr Moser” (Taschenbuch der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet 1804; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[7] I.e., the Jahrbücher project, which was unraveling amid competing projects (and personalities). Back.

[8] The the new apartment somewhere along the Graben in the southeast corner of Jena. See Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm on ca. 23 September 1800 (letter 268a), notes 2 and 3. Back.

[9] Dorothea’s novel, Florentin. Ein Roman herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel, vol. 1 (Lübeck, Leipzig 1801) (vol. 2 never appeared). Back.

[10] From Gotha, Caroline and Wilhelm would journey on to Göttingen (in this same letter, Friedrich similarly asks Wilhelm to fetch certain books from Johann Dominik Fiorillo there by Boccaccio), after which Wilhelm would visit his family in Hannover, while Caroline would proceed on (and remain in) Braunschweig. Back.

[11] Frontispiece to Moritz August Thümmel, Reise in die mittäglichen Provinzen von Frankreich im Jahr 1785 bis 1786, vol. 8 (Leipzig 1810):



[12] Goethe was in Jena on 3–6 September 1800, then again from 12 September to 4 October 1800; his diary notes visits from Friedrich on 5, 20, 25, 30 September and 3 October (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:2:304–9); see also Goethe’s letter to Wilhelm on 12 July 1800 (letter 265c), note 3. Back.

[13] Privatissimum, private instruction or lectures. See Goethe to Schiller on 16 September 1800 (Correspondence Between Goethe and Schiller 2:336; illustration: Genealogischer Kalender auf das Jahr 1810; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

The philosophical colloquia with Niethammer are still being continued, and I have no doubt that I shall in this way gain an insight into the philosophy of these later times. As one cannot keep aloof from the contemplation of nature and art, it is absolutely necessary to become acquainted with the prevailing and powerful modes of conception.



[14] According to Goethe’s diary (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:2:306): the evening of 25 September 1800 (Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):



[15] See Johann Wilhelm Ritter’s letter to Friedrich Karl von Savigny on 17 December 1800 (Elsa Rehm, “Unbekannte Briefe Johann Wilhelm Ritters an Arnim, Savigny, Frommann, Schelling und andere aus den Jahren 1800–1803,” Jahrbuch des Freien Deutschen Hochstifts [1971] 32–39, here 44, 45):

My acquaintance with Friedrich Schlegel has brought about a great deal, in fact almost everything. Without really worshiping him, I genuinely have learned an astonishing amount from him. One must admittedly live with him, however, if one is really to get to know him.

His lover, Madam Veit, is my female friend. I am eating both at midday and in the evening in her and Schlegel’s company, and also otherwise spend a great deal of time there; in a word, it is as if I am at home there.

Concerning Ritter’s suggestion that Dorothea was his “female friend,” see Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 31 October 1800 (letter 273b), esp. with note 21. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott