Letter 282b

282b. Dorothea Veit to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, 17 January 1801 [*]

Jena, 17 January 1801

. . . Confusion with your health? We, too, have it. In your money purse? We, too. In your bourgeois situation? There, too, certainly no lack with us. [1] And yet we are more contented than you, our dear friend, seem to be; and yet it was precisely this friend who so eminently instructed me to be content despite such confusion, indeed to do away with it entirely.

So I cannot but believe that some other, greater sort of confusion than the aforementioned is vexing you and causing your ill-humor. What is wrong, my dear Schleier? Were you only here, you could live with us. How completely differently, how much more easily can one bear such wretched concerns here than in Berlin! But I will forgive you for not writing anything at all about what is really bothering you. Do not forget how you tormented me for facta!

Wilhelm is still not here yet, mentions Caroline only quite peripherally in his letters, and is observing complete silence concerning anything related to his plans, hence we do not know whether Caroline will be coming along or not. [2] Here in town, people seem to think so; others maintain she will be traveling directly to Berlin with Wilhelm! which we tend to believe less than that she will be returning here with him so she can once more perform the same spectacle of the “tender spouse” and “unfortunate mother” she allegedly performed in Bamberg, Gotha, Göttingen, and Braunschweig, quite to the confusion and astonishment of all the tea circles in those towns. [3]

Wilhelm is an odd fellow; I will never understand him. I am convinced, and absolutely believe, that something quite noble dwells in his innermost heart, but people still get quite the wrong impression of him. It seems to me that he is the most objective of poets; for it is futile to try to get to know him, personally, through his poems . . . such itself would then have to constitute the subjectivity in them — — Actually, I am a bit piqued with him at the moment, whence all these attacks.

My dear Schleier: if you still have any trust in my opinion, then do not get mixed up in any critical journal, and do not advise Friedrich to do so either; I detest this entire enterprise; and if possible my next poem will express this hatred. [4]

Yesterday Philipp made a remark on all this that quite pleased me. He was romping about the room, and when I made it clear to him that his making such a racket disturbed my work, and that if I work badly, I will also receive bad reviews, he then naturally asked what that meant, namely, to be reviewed. I told him that Hofrath Schütz writes a newspaper in which he treats everyone disgracefully who writes a book he does not like, and that is what “reviewing” is! “So, then, wise up,” Philipp said, “and do not torment yourself with such things, and if Hofrath Schütz really does such things, then write a newspaper yourself, and write in it that Hofrath Schütz understands absolutely nothing about any of it! And that will be the end of all the disgrace.” —

Now, you tell me yourself, is that not the quintessence of all critical journals? And can one offer a more fundamental judgment on them than that? Your conjectures concerning Plato, and your translations, that is the best review! [6]

Adieu, I still have a million letters to write today. My regards to Eleonore.

How are the Tiecks? [7]

I just opened up Florentin and, among other unseemly typos, on page 309 found “petrified” crystal instead of “petrifying”; that irks me. [8] . . .


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:253–55 (frag.); Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 98–100; KGA V/5 30–32; KFSA 25:220–22. Back.

[1] Schleiermacher had written Friedrich Schlegel from Berlin on 10 January 1801 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:251; KGA V/5 8; KFSA 25:215):

It just seems like such a long time since we heard anything at all from each other, so long in fact that I simply cannot refrain from writing even though I am just now caught up in nothing but confused entanglements from the midst of which there is not much that can be said. Confusion with my health, confusion with my purse, in my bourgeois circumstances, and God knows where else. Back.

[2] Although Wilhelm’s itinerary seemed yet to be in flux, he was in any case definitely intending to move to Berlin; the question was whether and when he would first journey to Jena and whether Caroline would accompany him, as seems to have been the initial plan (see her letter to Luise Gotter on 23 January 1801 [letter 283]). Concerning his anticipated itinerary, see the final paragraph in his letter to Schleiermacher on 1 December 1800 (letter 276b) and the accompanying note. Back.

[3] Dorothea is essentially reciting Wilhelm and Caroline’s route from Bamberg to Braunschweig at the beginning of October. See Wilhelm’s letter to Schleiermacher on 8 September 1800 (letter 267d), note 5.

Wilhelm would not return to Jena at all until August 1801, and Caroline (N.B. without Wilhelm at all) not until 23 April 1801. Back.

[4] Dorothea is referring in the more immediate context to the ill-fated Jahrbücher project, and more broadly to public (i.e., in journals) engagement in criticism in general, so much of which had already entangled the Jena Romantics in time-consuming, fatiguing, and ultimately fruitless squabbles and quarrels. See her similar comments at the beginning of supplementary appendix 280.2. Back.

[6] Schleiermacher had written in his letter of 10 January 1801 (see above) that “the only pleasant thing I can relate to you is that I am at work on Plato, indeed, with body and soul.” He and Friedrich were planning a translation of Plato together, though Friedrich’s procrastination and gradual disinclination eventually caused ill will between the two. Back.

[7] Tieck and his family had left Jena in late June 1800, visited Friedrich von Hardenberg in Weissenfels, the Reichardt family in Giebichenstein just outside Halle, and Amalie Tieck’s family, the Albertis, in Hamburg, before moving to Berlin the autumn of 1800. In the spring of 1801, they moved from Berlin to Dresden (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]; Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



Concerning Ludwig Tieck’s growing dissatisfaction with Jena, see Wilhelm’s letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 22 June 1800 (letter 264a), note 6. Back.

[8] This typo did indeed make it onto page 309 of the first edition of Florentin. Ein Roman herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel, vol. 1 (Leipzig 1801): “Alles ist zerstört! Julianens holde Gestalt durch ein Gewicht angefesselt, verzerrt; das eigne, schöne, bewegliche Leben von versteinertem [instead of “versteinerndem”] Krystall umstarrt” (“Everything is destroyed! Juliane’s gracious figure fettered, distorted by a heavy weight; one’s own beautiful, animated life rigidified round about by petrified [should read: petrifying] crystal”). Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott