Letter 292

292. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Braunschweig, 27 February 1801 [*]

[Braunschweig] Friday, 2:00 [27 February 1801]

|49| I was not intending to write you today so that I might do a better job with it on Monday, but yet another parcel from Fiorillo has arrived that requires haste. You must charge him for the postal fees. Since you already have the next manuscript in hand, neither his son nor my own comforting assurance can help him any. [1] So how will you be able to do so, my poor, tormented friend?! Since Unger has begun printing the 8th volume of Shakespeare, it is up to you to finish it. [2] Should the younger Fiorillo not be able to get to it quickly? [3] Ah, how stupid I am for being unable to help.

As a hasty extra few words, let me add just this much: namely, that to my great joy I already received your letter yesterday afternoon, and to my equally great astonishment learned from it how soon all of you arrived there, while I here was still conscientiously involved with aiding your journey by accompanying you in thought. [4]

Do not pass along the bit about Wilhelm Tell to anyone else; it was merely a Jena |50| rumor. [5] Schelling recently spent a few days with Goethe again, [6] and Schiller assured him: no Wilhelm Tell, but rather something entirely different, a dramatic piece, in the form of an almanac (you may well already have learned all this), to be published by Unger. Unger himself, however, will allegedly not see the manuscript beforehand — which seems rather improbable to me, so now let us see what happens. [7] Will it not likely be something satirical? It will not be published until the autumn. The Tower of Babel is not a bad idea, I mean as a vehicle, something could probably be made of it. [8]

So, my dear, I do hope you will remain steadfast. Goethe is well and amiable and bubbling over with bon mots aimed at all the bad poets; his face allegedly looks a bit saggy. [9] He has left the room in which he lay sick so as not to be reminded of that condition. Schiller relates that the primary theme of all his hallucinations was the philosophy of nature, nature, and philosophy. [10]

Schütz himself has offered a portrayal of Fichtean atheism. [11] Concerning Hufeland’s review, Schelling writes with the same expressions, and with the same suspicion or certitude of Eschenmayer. Blessed he who has two friends with such acumen. [12]

I should probably dispense with the whole notion of jesting. The old duchess was buried, and there has still been no theater for a long time now. [13] And I, locked up here in this small rear room with a wealth of sunlight tempting me to go outside — and yet I do not particularly want to; it only makes me even more depressed!

That is not a good sign at all that Tiek must be such a hypochondriac. Your presence will doubtless be quite good for him, you are such a helpful friend. [14] Stay well and do also remain mine. This letter must be on its way.


[*] Although Erich Schmidt was initially unclear whether the postscript to this letter as originally printed in (1913), 2:51, belonged to this present letter, he eventually, (1913), 2:605, concluded that it does not.

Reviews mentioned in the postscript and found or examined afterward suggest a considerably later terminus a quo. Because the latest of those reviews dates to 6 June 1801, this postscript is now positioned as letter 320b after Dorothea Veit’s and Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Schleiermacher and Henriette Herz on 15 June 1801 (letter 320a). Back.

[1] Although the specifics of this paragraph are not entirely clear, Caroline had mentioned this matter earlier in her letter to Wilhelm on 24 February 1801 (letter 290); see esp. note 11 there. Back.

[2] Vol. 8 of the edition of Shakespeare (1801) contained König Heinrich der Sechste: Zweyter Theil, König Heinrich der Sechste: Dritter Theil (The Second Part of King Henry VI and The Third Part of King Henry VI); this volume, incidentally, would be the last published until 1810, namely, vol. 9 with König Richard der Dritte (Richard III), and the penultimate on which Wilhelm himself worked. Back.

[3] Presumably to the piece mentioned in note 1 above. In any event, the overall reference is to Wilhelm having too many obligations at once. Back.

[4] Caroline had written Wilhelm on 24 February 1801 (letter 290) that she thought he had likely already arrived. Given her remarks here, he seems to have arrived at latest on 23 February 1801. Back.

[5] Caroline had similarly written Schelling about the possibility of Schiller working of such a piece; see her letter to Schelling on 13 February 1801 (letter 286), note 8. Back.

[6] Schelling had visited Goethe in Weimar on 21–22 February 1801, having dinner at Goethe’s with Schiller on Saturday evening, 21 February 1801 (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:7) (illustration of Goethe’s Weimar house on an early postcard: “Vor dem Goethehaus zu Weimars klassischer Zeit”):



[7] The “almanac” would turn out to be Unger’s Kalender auf das Jahr 1802. Die Jungfrau von Orleans (Berlin: Unger, 1802); here the frontispiece:



[8] The piece Der Thurm zu Babel oder die Nacht vor dem neuen Jahrhundert. Lustspiel das Göthe krönen wird (Deutschland 1801) (The tower of Babel or the night before the new century. A comedy that will crown Goethe), doubtless not by August von Kotzebue, on the whole (thus Schmidt, [1913], 604) fairly dull, unimaginative, and disorganized, in inferior, inconsistent forms and forced rhymes, but decidedly anti-Goethean.

See the annotated edition in Rainer Schmitz, ed., Die ästhetische Prügelei: Streitschriften der antiromantischen Bewegung (Göttingen 1992).

See esp. Ludwig Geiger, Aus Alt-Weimar. Mittheilungen von Zeitgenossen nebst Skizzen und Ausführungen (Berlin 1897), 12–18, where Geiger gives a fairly detailed synopsis of the play.

The play unfolds approximately as follows:

After an introduction by the philosopher Karl Leonhard Reinhold, Goethe provides an unrestrained self-portrayal to the Schlegel brothers. Schiller laments pathetically. Christoph Martin Wieland holds forth with Clemens Brentano. Jean Paul appears, and Johann Daniel Falk together with Ludwig Tieck, the latter corrupted by the Schlegels, perform a duet. Johann Diederich Gries lies at Wilhelm Schlegel’s feet. Karl August Böttiger lets loose at Goethe, who turns him away and kicks Garlieb Merkel and both Schlegels in the rear. Lucinde refers to “where I combine the sparks of swinishness with the steam of Greekness.” Böttiger talks rubbish about the fame of Weimar-Jena, and so on.

In the finale, “down in the foundations of the tower,” Simon Oswald (a young physicist in Munich) and Schelling break down the front wall. Schelling asks Goethe to provide light for his world and disassembles everything into the elements. When the tower collapses at midnight, the spirit of the coming century says: “Thou who eternally recreates, O Nature . . . take German literature down into your grave.”

Schmidt (1913), 2:605, suggests the author may well be a classical philologist, and finds it incomprehensible that Ludwig Tieck could suspect Clemens Brentano (see Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 6 March 1801 [letter 297]). Karl Ludwig von Knebel writes from Ilmenau to Herder’s wife, Caroline, in Weimar on 6 February 1801 (Von und an Herder. Ungedruckte Briefe aus Herders Nachlass, ed. Heinrich Düntzer and Ferdinand Gottfried von Herder, 3 vols. [Leipzig 1861–62], 3:185):

Give my regards to the Consecrated One [Herder] in his sanctuary, who, like Moses, will descend in radiance from the Mount of God and bring us words of life. His golden words will endure, even though much of what now astonishes us will perhaps turns to dust before its time.

I was convinced anew of this by a pasquinade that [Johann Isaac von] Gerning [1767–1837] brought with him from Weimar, Der Thurm zu Babel, which appears to have come about not without a certain measure of spirit and considerable insight into many of these things. It will be a shame if the author proves unable to elevate himself to more sublime satire. Back.

[9] Concerning Goethe’s preceding illness, see Caroline’s entire letter to Schelling in early January 1801 (letter 281), esp. with note 1. Caroline presumably had this information from one of Schelling’s letters, who had, as noted above, had visited Goethe on 21–22 February 1801 in Weimar. Back.

[10] See also Goethe’s letter to Schelling on 1 February 1801 (letter 285b), note 1. Here Goethe’s sleeping chamber in his house in Weimar (Franz Neubert, Goethe und sein Kreis, 2nd ed. [Leipzig 1922], 184):



[11] Uncertain allusion, obviously from one of Schelling’s letters recounting current events in Jena. Back.

[12] In the Erlangen Litteratur-Zeitung, ed. H. E. A. Mehmel (1801) no. 22, 169–75, Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland’s System der praktischen Heilkunde. Ein Handbuch für akademische Vorlesungen und für den praktischen Gebrauch, vol. 1: Allgemeine Therapeutik (Jena, Leipzig 1800), is criticized with reference to, among other things, Schelling’s Brunonian doctrine of sensibility by Schelling’s correspondent, the later Tübingen professor Carl Eschenmayer in Kirchheim. Hufeland’s work had been announced in the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1800) 196 (Saturday 22 November 1800) 1637–38:

In this work, the author seeks to contribute toward resolving the current dispute between various parties in the medical sciences by addressing the increasingly urgent need for a perspective in which the good points of the various parties and perspectives might be engaged and united in praxis, and a perspective through which a comprehensive view of the healing arts and the attendant possibilities for efficacious applications might be presented. . . .

The contents include: chap. 1: Therapeutic methods of nature; 2. A general theory of healing; 3. Medications and remedies, their general effects and application; 4. Healing procedures and differences of medical application for a given purpose; 5. Pathogenesis and differences in the basic illnesses from a therapeutic perspective; 6. The fundamental method of the healing arts; 7. The excitative method; 8. The fortifying method; 9. The ameliorative method; 10. The weakening method; 11. The specific method; 12. The antagonistic method; 13. The restorative method; 14. The evacuative method; 15. The method of altering the material properties and circumstances of the organic body.

Numbers 7–10 were especially evocative of the Brunonian (Brownian) method. Hufeland had sent Schelling a copy of his book back on 7 September 1800, when Schelling was still in Bamberg, obviously unaware of the distance separating his and Schelling’s views of medicine; his letter read as follows (Fuhrmans 2:250):

Jena, 7 September 1800

Most esteemed Herr Professor,

You are receiving herewith a book that I would like to see read and reviewed more by you than by anyone else.

Please accept it also as a sign of my unchanging esteem and friendship.

I was pleased to hear that we may again hope to see you among us this winter, and I am already looking forward to the hours I may spend in your interesting company. — But I hope to see you even earlier than that, perhaps as soon as 12 days, and to spend several days in Bamberg.

Please be so kind as to relate this information to Herr Röschlaub beforehand and assure him that I am looking forward to making his personal acquaintance.

With sincere respect,

Hufeland, who was Caroline’s primary physician in Jena during her bout with nervous fever during the spring of 1800, did indeed travel to Bamberg when Caroline, Wilhelm, and Schelling were still there following Auguste’s death on 12 July 1800. Cf., however, Johann Diederich Gries’s brief but revealing assessment of Hufeland’s visit in supplementary appendix 268.1, esp. note 7 there.

On 8 May 1801, after the review appeared, Schelling wrote to Eschenmayer, the author of the review (Plitt 1:331; Fuhrmans 2:317): “Your review of Hufeland has elicited admiration everywhere. It has been found to be refined, clear, profound, and annihilating in the most polite way.” Hufeland had already published his misgivings concerning the Brunonian method; see Wilhelm’s letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 16 March 1800 (letter 258r), note 5. Back.

[13] The dowager duchess Philippine Charlotte had died on 17 February 1801. Caroline similarly mentions the official period of court mourning in her letter to Wilhelm on 24 February 1801 (letter 290); see also note 4 there. The cancellation of theater performances, for example, was a common form of court mourning, indeed, even in cases of national or territorial disasters; see, e.g., Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm on 15 December 1800 (letter 276d), esp. with note 3. Back.

[14] Here a hypochondriac (anonymous, Taschenbuch für Studenten und ihre Freunde [Halle 1797], illustration following p. 164):

Behold! how he hunkers low in his chair, cloaked in blankets and towels,
Gazing at his decoctions and pills and preparations and powders,
His drops and balsam and salves and all sorts of remedies.



Translation © 2014 Doug Stott