Letter 273a

273a. Dorothea Veit to Wilhelm Schlegel in Braunschweig: Jena, 28 October 1800 [*]

Jena, 28 October 1800

Friedrich has charged me with answering all your questions. You can imagine how my deep friend is immersing himself ever more deeply in his deep undertaking and how it is taxing both his time and his thoughts. [1]

The publika were quite full considering the small number of students. [2] His lectures commenced yesterday, and he just left for his second one; [3] both times we counted between 60 and 80. Notwithstanding that ten will probably drop out, and that there are several freeloaders, he is nonetheless getting paid well enough; and every day several gentlemen arrive with their little Laubthaler. [4]

It would not be a bad idea at all if he would properly work out his lectures so he could then have them published without spending any more time on them. But he cannot; [5] he improvises completely and takes nothing with him to the lectern but a quarto sheet with + = φ∩ and the sorts of scribble marks you already know from his notebooks.

The reaction is divided; many complain they do not understand him, and yet precisely they, of course, are the most expansive critics. But do come soon that you may hear him yourself, which he greatly desires. What is a bit odd is that people are extolling his personal appearance, his voice, his language, and bearing. Imagine! —

Friedrich is sending along everything you requested, including the letters from Fichte. [6] Friedrich does not believe that Fichte is the cause of Schelling’s withdrawal, believing instead that Schelling must have other reasons. [7]

I confess I would not at all be sad to see the Annalen remain unborn. [8] “Tristan,” [9] Lucinde, Shakespeare, [10] those are all something different from Annalen! —

Friedrich has not yet spoken with Frommann since his return from Leipzig, but given what he said before the book fair, he will indeed be keen on having the Charakteristiken etc. printed. [11] Unger has not sent any 7th Shakespeare here. [12]

We know no particulars concerning Kotzebue, the newspapers contain nothing more than what anyone can hear in any tea coterie as well, and vice versa. [13] Go ahead and publish your deviltry; he can congratulate himself for having prompted such a thing. It is, after all, the best thing he has ever occasioned. We are greatly looking forward to it. [14]

. . . Florentin genuinely is being printed, to my considerable anxiety. [15] God knows I wish we could say the same about Lucinde. [16] But my friend has not forgotten how to write fiction despite his current philosophizing, for Friday was my birthday, [17] and he composed three poems for me: two sonnets, which will be published at the beginning of Florentin, [18] and another poem, which I will enclose here if I have time to copy it out.

It is about a wilted garland of violets that Auguste once wove for him, and which he gave to me. [19] It is divine! and is it not once more the entire Friedrich who gives me this touching memorial amid a huge bouquet of the most magnificent flowers, fruits, beautiful flames, and music? [20] An offering for the deceased amid the most flourishing life! [21]

Yes, indeed, thus did we celebrate my birthday! Had you but been here, our own delight and the golden, inner peace round about would surely have reconciled you most warmly with family celebrations. Once you are back with us again, I want to tell you all about it. You will be quite pleased. . . .

We have the keys to the house here; Mademoiselle Faber is watching after things. [22]

I did bring your piano over here with me; would it be too inconvenient for you to let me keep it for a while yet? Please be so good as to write and give me a response if you still can. [23]

But let me tell you something funny about how Friedrich has tumbled into philosophizing. Yesterday evening he fell asleep on the sofa, and when it got late, and I woke him, he said, still half dreaming, “Yes, yes, I will analyze myself right away,” then, because I could not keep myself from laughing horribly, he repeated it several times so seriously. So do come soon and live with us; things are quite nice and cordial here. [24]

Adieu, my dear friend.


[*] Sources: Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 1:53–56; Wieneke (1914) 333 (frag.); KFSA 25:194–95.

It will be recalled that Dorothea Veit and Friedrich Schlegel were no longer living in the house at Leutragasse 5, but rather since perhaps mid-September in an apartment in the southeast corner of town near Fichte’s former residence. See Friedrich and Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on ca. 1 July 1800 (letter 264c), note 2. Back.

[1] As Dorothea points out shortly, Friedrich began lecturing at the university on 27 October 1800. Back.

[2] Publikum, pl. publika: unpaid public lecture. Back.

[3] Friedrich was lecturing on “Die Bestimmung des Gelehrten” (“the vocation of the scholar,” his publikum) and transcendental philosophy (his paid lecture, though the first session was generally gratis) (KFSA 25:533fn2). Back.

[4] One Laubthaler = 39 Groschen, which was approx. a bit more than 1 1/2 Reichsthaler (KFSA 25:534fn4). Back.

[5] Friedrich’s disinclination to follow this advice caused trouble later with the Jena publisher Christian Ernst Gabler, who paid him an advance of 150 Reichsthaler to publish the traditional synopsis or outline of his lectures. Gabler eventually sued Friedrich (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 6 March 1801 [letter 296]). Back.

[6] In connection with the Romantics’ attempts to establish a new scholarly journal. Back.

[7] Concerning Schelling’s withdrawal from participation in Wilhelm’s projected Kritische Jahrbücher der deutschen Litteratur, see Rudolf Haym’s essay on the Romantics’ Jahrbücher project. Back.

[8] Friedrich had suggested the name Annalen der Litteratur for the anticipated project in a letter to Wilhelm on 30 September 1800 (not included in letter 269a; see KFSA 25:188). Back.

[9] Concerning “Tristan,” see Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe on 30 May 1800 (letter 260c), note 2; Wilhelm never finished the project. Back.

[10] I.e., Wilhelm and Caroline’s edition of Shakespeare. Back.

[11] Wilhelm Schlegel and Friedrich Schlegel, Charakteristiken und Kritiken; Friedrich Frommann printed the volumes. Back.

[12] Shakspeare’s dramatische Werke: übersetzt von August Wilhelm Schlegel, vol.7 (Berlin: Unger 1801) contained Wilhelm’s translation of The Life of King Henry V and The First Part of King Henry VI as König Heinrich der Fünfte and König Heinrich der Sechste: Erster Theil. Dorothea had produced the clean copy that was sent to Friedrich Unger in Berlin. Back.

[13] Concerning August von Kotzebue’s return to Germany from Siberia and incarceration, see Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm on 6 August 1800 (letter 265j), note 10. Back.

[14] August Wilhelm Schlegel, 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), Wilhelm’s Kotzebuade, reprinted in Sämmtliche Werke, 2:257–342 + 4 pages of musical score. (the piece was published anonymously and with no indication either of the publisher [Johann Friedrich Vieweg] or of the place of publication). The play is mentioned in several later letters. Back.

[15] Dorothea’s novel, Florentin. Ein Roman herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel, vol. 1 (Lübeck, Leipzig 1801). Back.

[16] Friedrich never finished volume 2, the novel’s continuation. Back.

[17] Dorothea had turned 36 on 24 October 1800. See the description of the celebration in her letter to Schleiermacher on 31 October 1800 (letter 273b). Back.

[18] The two untitled sonnets published at the beginning of Florentin were later given the titles “An die Dichterin” and “Farbensinnbild” (reprinted in Friedrich von Schlegel’s Sämmtliche Werke [Vienna 1846], 9:115–16).

An approximate prose translation of the second poem, which in part describes Dorothea’s birthday celebration, is found in her letter to Schleiermacher on 31 October 1800 (letter 273b) mentioned above. The first poem reads as follows (approximate prose translation):

To the Authoress

Quickly flees the spirit this world's
Petty turmoil, realm of nonsense,
Away, to jest's serene regions,
Most sacred feeling concealed within.

Yet once cool ether caresses it easily, lightly,
Then never again can it live below,
Quickly solemnity rewards jest,
To renew in its own image.

Desires that drew you to poetic arts,
Cheerful solemnity that envelopes you:
Let that now be your silent, hidden life;

Yet what you composed that you might flee:
You must now — owing it solely to that world —
Now to it return, in jesting presence. Back.

[19] Concerning the poem “The Withered Garland,” which aroused Caroline’s ire and became an object of bitter contention between Friedrich and Dorothea, on the one hand, and Wilhelm, on the other, see Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm at the end of December 1800 (letter 277c) and Caroline to Wilhelm on 10 July 1801 (letter 325). Back.

[20] KFSA 25:535fn26 points out that Wilhelm would not have understood this allusion to “flames,” one Dorothea explains to Schleiermacher in her letter on 31 October 1800 (letter 273b). Back.

[21] An allusion to the title of Wilhelm’s cycle of poems for Auguste and Friedrich von Hardenberg, Todtenopfer, Offerings for the Deceased. Back.

[22] The keys were to the apartment at Leutragasse 5, which Friedrich and Dorothea had vacated and which now stood empty; Caroline did not return until 23 April 1801. Mademoiselle Faber, not otherwise identified, is also mentioned in Friedrich and Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm on 4 September 1800 (letter 267b) and was possibly a resident in the front part of the house on Leutragasse. Caroline mentions her in a letter to Wilhelm on 6 March 1801 (letter 296). Back.

[23] The piano became yet another contentious issue for Caroline immediately after her return to Jena; see her letter to Wilhelm on 27 April 1801 (letter 312). Back.

[24] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Mussje! (1789); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki AB 3.814:


Friedrich and Dorothea had invited Wilhelm to live with them in their new apartment in letters to him on ca. 23 September 1800 (letter 268a) and 30 September 1800 (letter 269a). I.e., it was clear Wilhelm and Caroline would in any case not continue living together. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott