Letter 294a

294a. Goethe to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Weimar, 2 March 1801 [*]

Weimar, 2 March 1801

I was sure of your cordial concern with respect to the illness that befell me, and I would like to thank you also for your expression of that concern. [1] The malady was powerful indeed, but I have felt better more quickly even than I might have hoped.

I am herewith returning the sketch of the memorial along with Meyer’s opinion, with which I concur. [2] I cannot, however, refrain from adding that I consider it sinful that a work of art that is to be good and beautiful be relegated to a barbaric land, outdoors, especially during the present age, when one cannot know to whom the real estate will belong even next year. [3]

If it is to serve as a cenotaph, [4] if one is permitted to play thus with one’s pain, then I would advise spending money and art not for spa guests and sanctimonious clergymen, but rather for the circle of family and friends. I would recommend engaging the utmost in material, creativity, art, and technology in having a couple of urns made, about the size that would fit in a room, and there to position them for the melancholy enjoyment and meaningful adornment of one’s own residence.

One urn would portray the praiseworthy and hopeful traits of the deceased, and the deceased’s favorite past times during her life; the other would portray the disposition of the survivors.

I was bound to come upon this idea all the more because a man as skilled as Professor Schadow is indeed inclined to work for you for such a reasonable expense, as his estimate demonstrates, and because our own homes and properties are by no means so rich in art that we are constrained to push such formative works outside and place them at public crossroads. [5]

Please do forgive me this sincere opinion! Each of us, of course, has his or her own, quite personal way of viewing the things of this world. [6] You should do what you think best according to your own inclinations.

If I succeed in coming up with something lyrical that might be of use to you, I will send it to you by and by. Just now I have nothing at all, hence such would depend completely on chance whether I might be able to serve you in this regard. [7]

I am quite pleased that you found my celebratory play worthy of a bit of applause. [8] The effect during performance surprised even me, and I would very much like to adapt something similar one day, though with a larger cast and for a larger theater. . . .

What you say about the advantages of the French theater I myself have seen quite well; [9] but such a strange turn has come about in the Germans that it will be more difficult than ever to teach them to appreciate certain characteristics which they themselves do not possess. There is in this people a peculiar admixture of originality and excessive imitation.

Enough for this time. Stay well, give my regards to your worthy spouse, let me hear from you occasionally, and come back to us again soon.



[*] Source: Körner-Wieneke 114–15; sometimes incorrectly listed as being addressed to Carl Friedrich Moritz Paul Graf von Brühl on 28 February 1801. Back.

[1] Goethe had come down ill just after New Year’s; see Caroline’s letter to Schelling in early January 1801 (letter 281); Wilhelm had expressed his own concern in a letter to Goethe in early February 1801 (letter 285a). Back.

[2] Wilhelm had mentioned the memorial for Auguste in that same letter to Goethe in early February 1801 (letter 285a); concerning the background, see note 4 there. Back.

[3] Caroline herself had already considered the possibility that, because of the course of the War of the Second Coalition and the Treaty of Lunéville, the area where Auguste was buried may well pass to a different state (it did indeed pass to Bavaria); see her letter to Wilhelm on 1–March 1801 (letter 293), notes 18, 19, and 20. Wilhelm had similarly mentioned the military campaigns in the area in his letter to Schleiermacher on 22 December 1800 (letter 277b). Back.

[4] A tomb or a monument erected in honor of a person or group of persons whose remains are elsewhere, as would be the case of Auguste, since the memorial was being planned for the fountain promenade in Bocklet (see Wilhelm’s letter to Ludwig Tieck on 14 September 1800 [letter 267e]). Concerning the military conditions during the autumn of 1800, see Wilhelm’s letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 7 July 1800 (letter 265a), note 5. Back.

[5] Wilhelm had been communicating with Schleiermacher concerning the possibility of engaging Schadow to do the memorial. See the previously mentioned letter to Tieck on 14 September 1800 (letter 267e), then his letters to Schleiermacher on 5 and 27 October (letters 269b, 272c), 14 November 1800 (letter 275a), 1 December 1800 (letter 276b), Schleiermacher’s to Wilhelm on 6 December 1800 (letter 276c), and Wilhelm’s to Schleiermacher on 22 December 1800 (letter 277b).

Concerning the preliminary sketches for the memorial and its eventual realization, see the gallery on Auguste’s memorial.

The plans were not, however, for positioning the memorial at a “public crossroad”; concerning the tree-lined fountain promenade in Bocklet where the memorial initially was to stand, see the gallery on Bocklet (here in 1831, illustration by J. B. C. Foerisch, frontispiece to C. J. Haus, Bocklet und seine Heilquellen für Aerzte und Nichtärzte [Würzburg 1831]):



[6] For Caroline’s reaction, see her letter to Wilhelm on 26–27 March 1801 (letter 303). Back.

[7] For the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802; Goethe did not contribute anything to this anthology. Back.

[8] Goethe’s play Paläophron und Neoterpe, which Wilhelm had read aloud as part of the entertainment at the souper he and Caroline had given in Braunschweig on New Year’s Day 1801; see Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 2 January 1801 (letter 279), esp. note 7 there. Although the play had been performed at the court in Weimar on 24 October 1800, it was would not be performed publicly in the Weimar Theater until 1 January 1803. Back.

[9] Goethe is here responding to Wilhelm’s letter to him in early February 1801 (letter 285a); see Wilhelm’s remarks there as well as the explanatory remarks in note 5 there concerning the theater offerings in Braunschweig. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott