Letter 277e

277e. Schleiermacher to Charlotte Schleiermacher in Gnadenfrei: Berlin, 27 December 1800 [*]

Berlin, 27 December 1800

. . . Although Madam Veit did not make me angry, the rather remarkable turn of fate she has experienced, and the overt and reprehensible elements of her behavior in the eyes of the world do greatly grieve me, indeed are of considerable concern for me precisely because I am so fond of both her and Schlegel. She had quite valid and, for those of us familiar with the overall situation, sufficient reasons for leaving here. Schlegel’s brother and sister-in-law invited them to come stay with them, and she is living in their house in Jena. [1] Friedrich is also living in Jena, and you can imagine how the world talks about this whole set of circumstances. [2]

Moreover, the two of them being indeed committed to each other from the bottom of their souls, they would also be allied in the most legal and sacred fashion had such not been made impossible by the conditions under which alone her husband agreed to allow her to keep the youngest boy, who absolutely needs her maternal care and prudent upbringing. [3] Although that has not really been a problem until now, when the elder Schlegel, who for some time now has not lived on the most harmonious of terms with his wife, sooner or later separates from her, I indeed do not know what the poor woman will do. [4]

These are all quite unfortunate entanglements, deriving, moreover, from the contradictions in our laws and customs that even the very best people often cannot escape. One more factor is that Schlegel has, not entirely without some culpability on his own part, made a great many enemies in the literary world, and this particular relationship, whose true disposition almost no one really understands, has least escaped the attention of any of them, which is why poor Madam Veit must put up with being cast about in all these quarrels and satirical broadsides sometimes by name, and sometimes anonymously. [5]

It is an extremely unfortunate story, and I feel sorry for them both from the bottom of my soul, for it is because they have acted more simply and honestly than the world is accustomed to seeing that they have had to endure such hurtful vexation.

So you see, I, too, have enough to endure with and for my friends, as is also appropriate and as a sensitive heart cannot really otherwise expect. Among them all, Madam Herz gives me the least concern, though here, too, I can foresee a time and circumstances where I will have to worry no less about her. Schlegel is also causing me some more immediate unpleasantness in a certain respect, but those are the least of my worries, and the easiest to deal with. [6]

To wit, there are those who, despite the fact that for now I have absolutely nothing yet to do with the scholarly world, extend their literary enmity toward him on to me as well simply because I am his personal friend; [7] but I take no notice of all that, continue quietly on my way, and more or less anticipate that they will soon have had their fill. . . .


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 1:254–55; Schleiermacher als Mensch. Sein Werden und Wirken. Familien- und Freundesbriefe, vol. 2, Sein Werden. Familien- und Freundesbriefe 1783 bis 1804 (Gotha 1922), 195–96; KGA V/4 377–78.

Charlotte Schleiermacher was living in Gnadenfrei, the Moravian colony founded in 1742 in what at the time was the town of Ober-Peilau (modern Piława Górna in Poland), just southwest of Breslau (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Besetztere und illuminierte Landkarte von Deutschland Elementarwerk, from the (Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate xlv; illustration: Abraham Louis Brandt, Gnadenfrei [Pilava Gorna/Polen] [1755]; Sächsische Landesbibliothek, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden, TS Mp.140.1):



Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:736 cites this letter in his notes to Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Caroline on 19 February 1799 (letter 221) in connection with his (Schmidt’s) brief remarks on Schleiermacher’s relationship with the Romantics (see note 7 there). Back.

[1] For some reason, Schleiermacher, who was familiar with the situation, does not point out that although Dorothea and Friedrich had indeed earlier lived in the house at Leutragasse 5 with Wilhelm and Caroline, they had since late September 1800 been living in a different apartment in a different part of town. Back.

[2] Friedrich and Dorothea were not married, and Dorothea was, moreover, a Jew, and Friedrich the author of the notorious Lucinde. Back.

[3] One of Simon Veit’s conditions for granting Dorothea a divorce and custody of her youngest son, Philipp Veit, was that she not remarry. Her eldest son, Jonas Veit, remained in Berlin with his father. Dorothea and Schleiermacher had, however, corresponded about the prospect of Dorothea converting to Christianity and of her and Friedrich marrying. See Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 16 June 1800 (letter 263a); also Dorothea’s letter to Auguste in June 1800 (letter 263), note 5. Back.

[4] I.e., as an unmarried mother, and should Friedrich not remain in the same town; Dorothea herself earlier expresses concerns about her predicament. Back.

[5] The reference is to the scandalous reception Friedrich’s novel, Lucinde, had received. See esp. supplementary appendix 252g.1. Back.

[6] The reference is to the ill-fated collective translation of Plato Friedrich and Schleiermacher were planning, which later caused such unease between them because of Friedrich’s disinclination to work steadily and reliably on his parts. This subject recurs in later letters. Back.

[7] Schleiermacher is not being entirely forthright here, since he had indeed been a participant in Athenaeum and had, as his letters demonstrate, encouraged Wilhelm in the latter’s various “deviltry” undertakings, i.e., literary satires. Wilhelm on occasion had even found it necessary to rein in some of Schleiermacher’s more overtly aggressive satirical plans. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott