Letter 303a

303a. Friedrich Schlegel to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 27 March 1801 [*]

Jena, 27 March 1801

I arrived back here yesterday from Weissenfels, where the morning of the day before yesterday, the 25th, I watched Hardenberg die, the day after I wrote you my last letter from Weissenfels by way of Leipzig. [1] It is certain he had no idea he was in fact dying, and even in a larger sense it seems impossible to imagine dying as gently and as beautifully as did he. The entire time I was around him, he exhibited an indescribable serenity, and even though the enormous weakness that overcame him the final day made it extremely difficult for him to speak himself, he did follow everyone else’s conversation in the most amiable fashion, and that I was yet able to see him is more dear to me than anything else. —

Please pass along this news to Tieck and Schleiermacher. I will reserve relating further details until I can do so in person.

A few business matters. . . .

Now a few words yet regarding Athenaeum. [2] I am not in favor of accepting this new lowering of the honorarium. [3] The attendant loss is the least worry, since with this format we were already working with a loss with respect to the previous honorarium.

My reasons are as follows. It has become increasingly clear to me that the booksellers’ fundamental principle is becoming — and indeed is — to offer us a meager honorarium, the excuse always being that because our things are not “popular,” they have only mediocre sales. That is doubtless the only concrete harm our adversaries have inflicted on us. Now, while it is true that we cannot do anything positive to counter that, we must continue on and wait for success. At the same time, however, I do think it necessary for us to be tenacious concerning certain conditions, and that we do not allow ourselves to be mistreated, otherwise things will almost certainly become even more crazy.

Think it over with Tieck; it does certainly deserve serious consideration. —

I am all the more in favor of this insofar as I have for some time had yet another wish with regard to Athenaeum. Tieck’s Poetisches Journal will reliably not go beyond the fourth issue, which is how far the contract extends. [4] Now, I was thinking that the two journals should be combined, with you and Tieck editing it under the title Neues Athenaeum. —

The format would be approximately that of Tieck’s journal. I am certain we could find publishers enough who would at least offer us a bit better terms than we have had for either of these two previous journals. —

I would no longer be mentioned on the title page and would leave the editorship to you two, as with the Almanach, though I would admittedly continue to participate with even more love and enthusiasm than with the continuation of Athenaeum under such wretched terms. — Indeed, if such might commend the plan to you, I will absolutely promise to contribute a translation of one or two pieces by Sophocles.

This combination in and of itself is certainly reasonable, since there exists no misunderstanding or divergence of opinion in the essential concept. I do, by the way, believe it would be quite salutary for Athenaeum if poesy were to become even more the center of the whole, though certainly with the most liberal allowances in all other directions as well. For us as well, this would be best constituted by precisely such a union. And the Athenaeum itself, after all, increasingly tended toward precisely that center the further along it went (following our own mutual inclinations), since such was at least initially not really the case.

Nor can the adjective New really be viewed as an epitheton ornans, [5] since the two of us certainly now stand on a higher level of production and opinion than the one on which we originally began Athenaeum; and it would be a colossal irony to use that word to refer to that which for a whole series of years was already much too new even for the better ones, while for us it was already half antiquated.

So do consider this suggestion. —

Although you and Tieck often differ in your opinions in literary-critical matters, you doubtless concur with respect to general principles, that is, your fundamental views, and such shared editorial duties are the best way to come to an understanding with each other and find the common point between seemingly opposing extremes. [6]

I have been told that author of the review of your Ehrenpforte in the Erlanger Zeitung is Brentano. Although I have not read it yet, you probably already have. Hence this note. [7]


[*] Sources: Walzel, 471–72; KFSA 25:250–52. Back.

[1] Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis) died at 12:30 p.m. on 25 March 1801 (Karl von Hardenberg in a letter to Dietrich von Miltitz on 26 March 1801 [Novalis Schriften 4:680]; the church register puts the time of death at 1:00). Concerning Hardenberg’s death, see supplementary appendix 303a.1. Back.

[2] The final issue of Athenaeum had appeared in August 1800; on the other thand, the Romantics’ Jahrbücher project had not materialized. Back.

[3] Uncertain allusion; perhaps Wilhelm, who since late February had been living in Berlin, had tried to negotiate with Athenaeum’s final publisher, Heinrich Frölich. Back.

[4] Ludwig Tieck’s Poetisches Journal (1800), published by Friedrich Frommann in Jena, was limited to issues 1 and 2. Back.

[5] “Ornamental epithet.” Back.

[6] Nothing ever came of this project, nor was there any other continuation of Athenaeum. Back.

[7] The anonymous review in the Erlanger Litteraturzeitung (1801) 35 (19 February 1801) 273—78 (Fambach 4:540–44) was by Schelling. See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 5 March 1801 (letter 296), and Schelling’s to Gottlieb Mehmel, the journal editor, on 6 January 1801 (Fuhrmans 1:239):

Attached you will find, esteemed Herr Professor, a contribution to the Litteraturzeitung — albeit in an area you probably did not expect. But this is an extremely special case, to wit, in my opinion the reviewed piece, Ehrenpforte und Triumphbogen etc., is one of the most witty and imaginative products of this sort.

For the text of that review, see supplementary appendix 296.2; for Garlieb Merkel’s reaction to the review, see supplementary appendix 296.3. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott