Letter 272a

272a. Mother (Johanna Christiane Erdmuthe) Schlegel to Wilhelm Schlegel in Braunschweig: Hannover, 21 October 1800 [*]

[Hannover,] 21 October 1800

Dearest Son,

You have probably, as I hope and ardently wish, now arrived safe and sound in Braunschweig. [1] You probably also found your dear wife, to whom I send my warmest regards, on your arrival in Seder [Söder], and I am sure your stay there provided diversion and distraction for you both. [2] You will also be quite content in Braunschweig, though the separation from your dear wife will be difficult. [3] — —

I was very happy and greatly enjoyed your visit among us here, I just wish you yourself had not looked as though you were suffering from such grief and so much work. [4] — —

Here I am sending you the dreadful piece with the earnest request that all of you leave our good, sick Brandes in peace; [5] he surely means well, for the general good. I must repeat again that I along with Lottchen and countless other good people simply cannot approve of all of you making such enemies of the whole world. [6] For now do not say anything to Fritz about a visit to us. I as a mother cannot be satisfied with him given his previous behavior. [7] — —


[*] Source: Waitz (1882), 86. Passages Waitz did not include are indicated by “—.” Back.

[1] Mother Schlegel is still reckoning by the original timetable for Wilhelm and Caroline’s visit to Söder, which was to arrive on 16 October 1800 and be back in Braunschweig on 21 October 1800; see the second paragraph of Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 15 October 1800 (letter 272).

They instead arrived on 19 October and departed on 22 October 1800. Wilhelm was thus still in Söder when this letter was written (Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no. 13; Söder is located just west of Holle):


Here Braunschweig from a distance (frontispiece to Wilhelm Görges, Vaterländische Geschichten und Denkwürdigkeiten der Vorzeit . . . der Lande Braunschweig und Hannover 1 [Braunschweig 1843]):



[2] Concerning the visit to Söder, see Caroline’s aforementioned letter to Schelling on 15 October 1800 (letter 272). Back.

[3] Unclear allusion, since Caroline and Wilhelm returned to Braunschweig together.

The reference is presumably to Wilhelm’s anticipated trip to Berlin, which did not, however, take place until late February 1801, though his initial plans seem to have been to journey there shortly after New Year’s 1801 after a brief stay in Jena (see his letter to Schleiermacher on 1 December 1800 [letter 276b], with note 1) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):

Braunschweig_Berlin_Jena_ map

See also Dorothea Veit’s letter to Schleiermacher from Jena on 31 October 1800 (letter 273b), note 15; in that letter, Dorothea mentions that “Wilhelm is not here yet but will be coming soon.” Back.

[4] Wilhelm and Caroline had departed Bamberg on 1 October 1800, arrived in Gotha on 4 October, where they seemed to have spent at least a couple of days, then continued on the Göttingen, where they spent two-and-a-half days.

Concerning the stay in Göttingen and their route, see Caroline’s undated letter to Luise Gotter on 16 September 1800 (letter 268), note 1. Caroline, however, continued on to Braunschweig with Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann, while Wilhelm went to Hannover to visit his mother (Leipziger Taschenbuch für die erwachsenere Jugend männlichen Geschlechts zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1791):


Caroline and Wilhelm met up again at Söder on 19 October.

Quite apart from the fatiguing journey, Wilhelm was, like everyone else involved, still grieving over Auguste’s death back in July. He was also having to acknowledge that Caroline’s relationship with Schelling had now clearly superseded that with Wilhelm himself. He was, finally, apparently keenly aware (whence the journey to Berlin) that his professional prospects in Jena were limited in any case. On balance, one can easily understand his dejected and weary disposition (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Der Schriftsteller,” Illustrationen zu Erasmus’ Lob der Narrheit in sechs Abteilungen [1780]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki WB 3.32):



[5] Presumably Ernst Brandes’s article on the dangers of excessive reading, published in several installments, “Ueber die Leserei der Modebücher und ihre Folgen in einigen Klassen der höhern Stände,” Neues Hannöverisches Magazin 10 (1800). Concerning this article and the reaction, see Mother Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm on 12 February 1800 (letter 258l). Back.

[6] That is, through their literary feuds and especially Athenaeum, the latter of whose final issue, however, had appeared in August 1800. Wilhelm seems to have intimated that he and Friedrich Schlegel might attack Brandes as well. Concerning Wilhelm’s understanding of the adversarial nature of his and Friedrich’s work, see the pertinent section in Wilhelm’s letter to Minna van Nuys on 13 September [1799 (letter 243e). Back.

[7] The reference is esp. to Friedrich’s novel Lucinde, though also to his alliance with Dorothea Veit; see Mother Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm on 5 January 1800 (letter 258b). Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott