Letter 273b

273b. Dorothea Veit to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, 31 October 1800 [*]

Jena, 31 October 1800

It is with a pounding heart and a blushing face, as if I should instead hand them to you personally, that I am sending you these page proofs; [1] the rest will follow as soon as I myself receive them. But you are receiving them secretly, my dear friend, at least for now, though you can entrust the secret to Madam Herz and, if you think it appropriate, to your lady friend as well. [2]

If I might follow my own conviction, however, I would ask that you not write me your opinion of it, since such can be of no help now, it must be finished and I need all the courage I can muster, though Friedrich still contends it is quite entertaining, whereas the further we go the more childish it seems to me. [3]

The two sonnets are by Friedrich and will be placed at the beginning of the book. [4] He composed them for me a week ago on my birthday. In fact, the second was actually performed word for word amid all sorts of flames and colors and flowers. [5]

To wit, he gave me the sonnets that morning; then that evening we were invited to the Pauluses, and I was led into a room where I was first greeted by green, red, and white flames that Ritter had produced chemically. [6] These colors have more than one meaning; for us they mean faith, love, and hope; [7] in the first person, Ritter is meant, as the white flame, while the second, red one, is Friedrich, and I have the green color of hope.

During this fire, Philipp and little Paulus, both of whom were quite dazzlingly adorned, brought me a festoon of orange blossoms and a garland of myrtle and laurel, Madam Paulus approached with the children and crowned me with it, Friedrich standing alongside her, who handed me ripe bitter oranges and roses in a bowl, and (here you will recognize the whole Friedrich), in the midst of this tumult of life, fire, blossoms, and fruit, while Ritter played the aria from Erwin und Elmire on the piano, “mit vollen Athemzügen saug ich Natur aus Dir,” and Madam Paulus sang it, [8] — he brought me a wreath of wilted violets that Auguste had once sent him, along with an extremely moving poem about it. [9]

The fête was absolutely beautiful, and while all these things gradually emerged like familiar appearances, I myself felt I was in a dream in which one dreams that one is dreaming. [10] Only after everything was together did I remember that it was the sonnet. [11]

Friedrich will not be writing you yet; in his usual way he is so single-mindedly involved with a project now that it is impossible for him to do anything else. Just now he is again completely immersed in the lectures. [12] Although it is impossible to say whether he is beginning to weigh heavily on these things or the things on him, it is certain he is getting quite soured on life! May God help him and grant him peace! —

Just how the lectures will go depends on the approval they elicit, and that approval in its own turn depends on the lectures — but here is where peace and composure abandon him.

It is not yet certain just how many paying attendees he will have; and his sanguine hopes have seduced him into expenditures to which one objects only in vain; indeed, if one does object to these things, it detrimentally affects both his mood and his work. You of all people are familiar with that side of him. —

I received 40 Friedrichsdor from Bohn. [13] I had intended to use it to pay back you and Mademoiselle Levin, [14] and was overly joyed to be able to do so; but now it must wait after all!

Wilhelm is not here yet but will be coming soon. [15] Cotta wrote and seems to be withdrawing. [16] Wilhelm is quite at ease with the fact that the Annalen will be going the same way as many other such projects; Friedrich wishes nothing more than precisely that; Ritter is beside himself with delight.

And you, my friend? what is your haste with these Annalen? do you have nothing better to do? Think instead about your novel, [17] about Plato [18] — let Friedrich think about Plato, about Greek poesy, [19] and about Lucinde, and Wilhelm about Shakspeare and “Tristan” [20]

Look, those are completely different things; I was very apprehensive about this critical journal thing. Leave criticism at home, it is an ill trade in ill hands; and none of you should soil your hands with it anymore, for you learn nothing from all your criticizing, and the others do nothing more than simply say “thank you kindly.”

Ritter, who began as my spiritual son and has become my spiritual husband, and would welcome the opportunity to be at least one of the two physically, sends his warm regards. [21] Your birthday is coming up on 21 November, and we would like to breakfast with you. Adieu, may God bless the Charité for you. [22] Our living conditions are quite pleasantly situated, and we are expecting you. [23]



[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:239–41; Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 92–94; KGA V/4 309–12; Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 1:56–58 (frag.); KFSA 25:195–97. Back.

[1] For Dorothea’s novel, which would appear in 1801, Florentin. Ein Roman herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel, vol. 1 (Lübeck, Leipzig 1801). Back.

[2] The “secret” is Dorothea’s authorship of the novel, since it appeared anonymously. — Schleiermacher’s “lady friend,” Eleonore Grunow, was the unhappily married wife of a Berlin pastor. Schleiermacher had been emotionally attached to her since 1798, and she to him, and in 1799 had promised to marry her should she divorce her husband. The relationship continued until 1805; ultimately she decided to remain in her present circumstances (Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1795; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[3] Dorothea soon tired of the second volume, just as Friedrich tired of the second volume of Lucinde. Neither was finished. Back.

[4] See Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 278 October 1800 (letter 273a), note 18. Back.

[5] That second poem, with the later title “Farbensinnbild,” reads in approximate translation as follows:

Allegory of Colors

May noble courage establish the white altar,
And imagination hover high in purple flames,
And soon you will see love at the center,
Where the flaming columns ignite in green.

Myrtle will weave through brown locks,
Your friend stand before you with golden fruit,
The children come to you in flowers,
With rose and laurel the sister will you bind.

Earlier painters did have the custom
Of speaking a picture's meaning in but a single stroke,
Which would write the chord of colors beneath.

Thus may this picture, too, boldly dare
To hint at poesy's inner heart,
In colors playing around sweet love. Back.

[6] See Fragmente aus dem Nachlasse eines jungen Physikers, 2 vols., ed. J[ohann] W[ilhelm] Ritter (Heidelberg 1810), 1:159–60, in which the discussion of colors is associated with chemistry:

242. Parallels:

Yellow Bright Blue
Red Green Violet
Oxygen Nitrogen Hydrogen
Acid alkali


243. White is the color that is so beneficial to the eyes, whose health it preserves; white is the light of the sun. That is why the natural person is so beholden to white; it represents purity, innocence, love, harmony, etc. Blue is the color of those who suffer, neutralizing their red, which is more weakly refrangible; red is the color of those who are active, satiating the more strongly refracted violet.

To reestablish harmony, the eye, after lengthy fatigue, longs through blue toward red, after lengthy yellow toward blue, toward purple after green, toward green after purple, toward black after white. Water is also white, harmony, purity, innocence, the source of all that is on earth. Back.

[7] 1 Cor. 13:13 (NRSV): “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Ritter does not mention any religious significance associated with the colors. Back.

[8] Elmire’s aria in Goethe’s Erwin und Elmire: Ein Singspiel (Leipzig 1788) (rev.; from 1774/75), premiered in May 1775 in Frankfurt; act 2, scene 6 (German text from Weimarer Ausgabe 1:11:321–22); Johann Friedrich Reichardt put it to music in 1790, the piano score was published in 1793 (approximate translation; illustration of Elmire by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Elmire in der Einöde; Frankfurter Goethe-Haus / Freies Deutsches Hochstift):


Breathing deeply
Do I draw from you, O Nature,
Painful delight,
How my heart
Lives and
Quakes and
Strives within!
Gentle breezes
Accompany me lightly,
Past joys
Alas! rustle in the wind,
Seize the quaking,
Striving breast.
Heavenly times!
Alas, how swiftly
Does joy dawn and gaze
And disappear!
You laugh, pleasant valley,
And you, O pure sun in the sky,
Fill my heart once again
With springtime bliss it long has missed.
Woe is me! Alas! once my soul was pure,
Enjoyed your blessing in such peace.
Hide, O sun, from my pain,
Be wild, O nature, in storms approach!
The wind roars,
The streams rush,
The leaves rustle,
Desolately down into the valley.
On steep-hewn height,
On naked rocks,
Do I lie and plead;
On desolate paths
Through storm and rain,
I feel and flee
And seek torment.
How wonderful that in my heart
New hope now stirs!
O, love, do turn away these pains
That my soul does hardly bear.

A lovely piece whose piano intro and initial lines follow below (Johann Friedrich Reichhardt, Erwin und Emire: Ein Singespiel in Zwei Akten von Goethe: In Musik Gesetzt [Berlin 1793]):



[9] “The Withered Garland”. Concerning the original garland, see Friedrich’s letter to Auguste on 5 May 1798 (letter 200a). Back.

[10] Friedrich von Hardenberg had published the following in Athenaeum (1798) 254 (78 in original pagination): “We are close to awakening when we dream that we are dreaming.”

Here a representative illustration of such a celebratory gathering of family, friends, and children with presentations (Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1818: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[11] I.e., the sonnet “Allegory of Colors” (“Farbensinnbild”) mentioned earlier. Back.

[12] At the university; he had begun lecturing on 27 October 1800. Back.

[13] Honorarium from Friedrich Bohn, who published her novel, Florentin. 1 Friederichsdor was the equivalent of 5 1/3 Reichsthaler (KFSA 25:536fn25). Back.

[14] Dorothea owed both Rahel and her maidservant, Line, money (see her letter to Rahel on 10 April 1800, passage not included in letter 259d):

Will your Line not be getting impatient until I return? Console her, Schleiermacher is supposed to take care of my debt with the first money that comes in. Will she reconcile herself to it possibly not happening until I myself return? Back.

[15] This may be the circumstance to which Mother Schlegel alluded in her letter to Wilhelm on 21 October 1800 (letter 272a), when she remarks that “you will also be quite content in Braunschweig, though the separation from your dear wife will be difficult.” Back.

[16] See Cotta’s letter to Wilhelm on 10 October 1800 (letter 268e); also Rudolf Haym’s essay on the Romantics’ Jahrbücher project; Dorothea’s mention of the Annalen (Friedrich’s early suggestion for the title) is referring to this ill-fated project. Back.

[17] Concerning Schleiermacher’s plan to write a novel, see Hermann Patsch, Alle Menschen sind Künstler. Friedrich Schleiermachers poetische Versuche, Schleiermacher-Archiv 2 (Berlin/New York 1986). Back.

[18] The translation of Plato Schleiermacher was undertaking with Friedrich, which eventually beaome a touchy issue in their relationship. Back.

[19] The anticipated continuation of Friedrich’s Geschichte der Poesie der Griechen und Römer (Berlin 1798), which Friedrich never wrote. Back.

[20] Wilhelm never finished his anticipated adaptation of the Tristan legend. See see Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe on 30 May 1800 (letter 260c), note 2. Back.

[21] See Clemens Brentano to Friedrich Karl von Savigny on 4 June 1803 (Clemens Brentano. Sämtliche Werke und Briefe, Frankfurter Brentano-Ausgabe, vol. 31, Briefe III (1803–1807) [Stuttgart 2009]), 120: “He [Ritter] bedded Madam Veit daily for two full months, whence his break with [Friedrich] Schlegel.”

Similarly to Savigny on 14 June 1803 (ibid., 114): “Every day I hear more stories about the disgracefulness and lasciviousness of Madam Veit; she formally offered Majer coitus as an initiation into the clique” (illustration with the caption: “The spirit of the age intends for us to approach ever more closely to truth” [Genealogische Kalender auf das Jahr 1811; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache Theodor Springmann Stiftung]):


Brentano continues: “Ritter passed through this filthy door countless times, and now I also understand many of her statements against me” (Johann Georg Pendel, Das Schleifermädchen aus Schwaben [1796]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 2026):


And to Achim von Arnim on 18 March 1806 (ibid., 509) (illustration: Georg Christian Schule, Mann, zum Bett einer schlafenden Frau schleichend [1802]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 2581):

Madam Veit really is a strange woman. [Karl Wilhelm Gottlob] Kastner assures me that Ritter swore to him that he danced the St. Veit’s Dance in so chivalrous a fashion that she herself finally had to declare herself vanquished. How utterly disgusting!


Considering what Dorothea herself wrote to Brentano in mid- to late November 1800 (Wieneke [1914], 337; KFSA 25:204), she was likely unaware Ritter would be writing so candidly to Brentano: “For surely you recall how Ritter, too, hated me last summer. Now, however, he loves me all the more for it, he himself will write and tell you as much.”

See also later remarks Dorothea makes about Friedrich Maier (Majer), who at the time was in Würzburg, in a letter from Cologne to Karoline Paulus on 13 January 1805 (Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus 40):

Sugar-sweet Majer and the innocent, egg-white Mlle Martiningo? Well, that will certainly yield an extremely delicate meringue; the question, however, is whether he really did make a leap, as you believe, from the witty and bright Mereau to the witless, dull Mlle Mart. [presumably related to Gotthard Martinengo]. After all, we do not know which stages he probably did not just pass over in his journey from the one to the other.

And yet neither would a genuine leap of that sort surprise me, since after men have loved themselves into exhaustion on an intelligent woman, they are indeed often inclined to rest up with a more earthly one; and if you really take a closer look at it, the difference between the two women is not at all so very great, Mlle Mart. has perhaps done just about as much in philosophy as little Sophie in poesy.

In any event, give our good Majer my warmest regards, he should just continue on loving, it becomes him, otherwise he may well become too fat. It is very nice to have heard something about him, and Friedrich, too, will be quite pleased.

Clemens Brentano, who referred to Majer as the “god kama” (to Sophie Brentano on 31 October), also comments on Majer’s corpulence (10 November 1804; Briefwechsel zwischen Clemens Brentano und Sophie Mereau, 2 vols., ed. Heinz Amelung, [Leipzig 1908], 2:110): “It is rather funny that Maier [Majer] is in Würzburg; he has probably become ten times fatter, making it all the easier for him to float along the river of the world like an empty bubble.” Back.

[22] Schleiermacher moved into a residence in the Berlin Charité hospital in October 1800. Back.

[23] Schleiermacher’s trip to Jena never materialized. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott