Letter 308a

308a. Dorothea Veit to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, 16 April 1801 [*]

Jena, 16 April 1801

You, too, my dear Schleiermacher, must forgive me for not having written in so long. Things here are just so peculiar. Because all, really all our friends and acquaintances are absent, we hardly can get around to all the writing. We are living here as solitary as the Robinsons. [1] Ritter is away, Madam Paulus is away; [2] they really were the only people we were seeing more regularly, not counting people who visit us sporadically. [2a]

You related quite a bit of truly delightful things about my good Sancho Florentin. [3] The poor man now has to put up with all sorts of things he never dreamed of when he was still wandering about like a ghost and as a mere idea in my body. And did I really and truly give birth to him and bring him into real reality merely for him to be praised by Merkel, [4] condemned by Brentano, [5] and to have the city of Hamburg declare him a citizen? [6] What a wretched fate! —

We, too, had already heard about this last rumor; but to whom might we owe this rather robust interpretation? —

Part two was supposed to be finished by the book fair but unfortunately is not — this past winter has not been particularly conducive to my poesy, and for several weeks now my health has unfortunately also been very bad. [7]

I must go to Leipzig in a week or so; [8] what will I find out during this visit? After the book fair, I think I will be able to transfer money to you through Wilhelm to pay our debt with Bütow. [9]

Might it not be possible, my dear Schleiermacher, for you to send me my tea machine through someone traveling to Leipzig? My Wedgwood tea service, of course, must still be there, and white cups, a large tea platter, and handsome glasses. [10] Did Madam Bernhardi keep these pieces? So, we still have demands to make on her; if they are there, and are not being sold, then I would very much like to see these worthy persons again. If only you could find an occasion to send them on to me! . . .

Karoline is expected to arrive any day now. [11] We will be watching quite objectively to see how she behaves when she arrives. Any courtesy on her part will be requited with similar, and the same in the larger sense! As paradoxical as it may or may not seem, I for my part consider Caroline to be extraordinarily obtuse, and it is there that I see the basis of all curiosa. [12] Wilhelm’s blindness in this respect remains absolutely incomprehensible to me, for she possesses not even the slightest spark of objective sensibility for him. Everything, absolutely everything! about her is mere ostentation and superficiality.

So you see, my dear friend, how very much I, thank God, am utterly over this person. Hence you have no need to worry about me in that regard. She will do nothing more to me! Nor are we anxious about Friedrich, since there, too, she has lost her dominion. Since she was only able to hurt and vex us when we found her interesting, such is no longer to be feared.

The story with Dalton and Madam Meyer is truly puzzling to me now that I know he is still looking for finances to make things right with her. [13] Why do you think my letter to Jette was so polemical? I really was in that disposition when I wrote. I was admittedly and indeed still am of a quite polemical mind against Dalton, nor did I make any effort to conceal that in my response to him. For the rest, however, I do indeed believe it would not be right to offer advice here.

She, since things have already gotten this far, cannot avoid considering it her greatest misfortune having to countenance never belonging to him. For a woman who was for so long so cold and reserved, that is no joke, even though this feeling of affection after surrender cannot by a long shot be called love. But how can one make this clear to her in a cold, objective fashion? Given her feeling of inner necessity, will she not have contempt for any such advice and immediately reject it?

And what will one gain in the process apart from her mistrust? She can never become more unhappy than if one were now to rob her of the hope of someday settling down her — for her so uncharacteristically vehement — feelings. And without the union or at least the prospect of union with her, let us say “disturber of her peace,” she will never find such. The effected postponement is, by the way, good, perhaps everything in this calm sea will now right itself on its own accord.

For the first time, I am very, very dissatisfied with Dalton. He cannot love her, so what was the point of this whole thing? He should never have allowed himself such false behavior here at the end of his career as an adventurer. [14] He is already sufficiently tested so as not simply to give in to the initial, best impression. And if he thought he ought to do something finally to settle down, he was certainly on the mark, but the means were very ill indeed, and for the time being the only thing he has accomplished is to disturb her peace of mind. Enfin, [15] in reality it is a quite stupid trick!

Forgive me for writing so much about this matter, but I had to in order to acquaint you with my view so that you in your own turn would not accuse me of superfluous polemics. . . .

I still must constantly keep in mind that people are everywhere claiming to see Dalton in the character of Florentin. [16] . . .


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:267–68 (frag.); Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 103–7; KGA V/5 94–99; KFSA 25:255–58. Back.

[1] Allusion to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719). Here four vignettes from the 5th German edition 1720 (Daniel Defoe, Das Leben und die … Begebenheiten des Robinson Crusoe etc. Von ihm selbst beschrieben und aus dem Engl. ins Teutsche übers., 5th ed., vol. 1 [Franckfurth, Leipzig 1720]):



See Caroline’s 1806 review of several recent adaptations in German. Back.

[2] Johann Wilhelm Ritter did considerable traveling during March and April 1801. On Tuesday and Wednesday, 3–4 March 1801, he was in

  • Gotha performing experiments for Ernst II on Tuesday morning, for whom Ritter was also to deliver a “grand machine” the latter had ordered,
  • then spent two days in Eisenach and
  • returned through Gotha on Friday, 6 March 1801,
  • then traveled on to Erfurt that same day.
  • On Saturday morning, 7 March 1801, he traveled to Weimar, where he was expecting to meet “the Schlegels,” who did not, he remarks, arrive until Sunday (8 March),
  • so he returned to Erfurt on Saturday, 7 March (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


He was still in Erfurt on Thursday, 12 March, but was planning on returning to Weimar the next day and to Jena on Saturday, 14 March, or even as early as Friday, 13 March 1801, since he wanted to be in Jena for Friedrich Schlegel’s doctoral disputation on Saturday, 14 March.

He was back in Erfurt on 22 March after attending the theater in Weimar on Saturday evening, 21 March (Wallenstein[s Tod]); he remarks, however, that he would be returning to Gotha.

  • On 2 April he returned to Weimar (the day, as he mentions, of the Battle of Copenhagen).
  • On 14 April (two days before Dorothea’s letter here), he was still in Weimar and planning on remaining at least a couple more days, then
  • on 4 May remarks that he was still living there

Source: letters of 12, 24 March, 14 April, 4 May 1801 to Friedrich Frommann in Jena; Alltägliches Leben um 1800, Quellen zur Geschichte Thüringens 21, ed. Heidi-Melanie Maier (Erfurt 2004), 108–15.

According to Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 6 July 1801 (letter 324), Ritter was still living in Weimar (strictly speaking: the village of Oberweimar) in July 1801 (A. W. Ludwig, Charte über den grosten Theil des Fürstenthums Weimar in 8 Sectionen nach einem Originale von Wibekind copiert durch A.W. Ludwig [1789]; Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans):


Karoline Paulus had gone to Bocklet during the summer of 1800 because of a protracted illness (see Dorothea’s and Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 21 December 1800 [letter 277a], note 1 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


Caroline mentions to Wilhelm on 20 April 1801 (letter 310) that “Madam Paulus has indeed gone to Bamberg, and to Franconia in general, for the summer [of 1801].” “Franconia in general” included Bocklet again, a circumstance that severely vexes Caroline later.

Concerning the Paulus family’s spa visits to Franconia, see Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 28 July 1800 (letter 265i), note 2. Back.

[2a] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Der Besuch beim Pastor Fabritius,” Von Berlin nach Danzig. Eine Künstlerfahrt im Jahre 1773 von Daniel Chodowiecki. 108 Lichtdrucke nach den Originalen in der Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Mit erläuterndem Text und einer Einführung von Professor Dr. W[olfgang] von Oettingen (Berlin, Amsler & Ruthardt, Kunsthändler o.J. [1883], plate 68):



[3] Playful reference to the protagonist in Dorothea’s novel Florentin. Ein Roman herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel, vol. 1 (Leipzig 1801), as Sancho Panza from Cervantes’s Don Quixote (1605, 1615). Back.

[4] In the twenty-sixth letter of his Briefe an ein Frauenzimmer über die wichtigsten Produkte der schönen Literatur‎ (Berlin 1801) no. 7, 413, 424–26, Garlieb Merkel remarks the following:

That I may, my dear lady friend, save you once and for all from the erroneous notion that only the mediocrity of a writer be demonstrated if he but be widely read, I must ask you today to follow me into a region into which you would otherwise likely never descend, namely, into the region of absolute aesthetic nothingness . . .

Florentin, ein Roman, herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel. “Edited by,” but likely not “written by,” at least not since Herr Schlegel has come into possession of genial wit, and has discovered that he is indeed a great man. For this book is neither cheeky nor bombastic; and though it be in no respect distinguished enough to merit many words, it is nonetheless infinitely better than many of the other fashionable books being passed from one hand to the next. The style is in general light and flowing, occasionally effervescent; and though the characters are no works of art themselves, they are drawn with a fair amount of clarity; the events are rather adventurous, but they do manage to amuse.

So, then, why did the author not identify himself? And if he be an other than Herr Schlegel, how could he insult both himself and the public with the notion that a name such as the one with which he did indeed preface his book could possibly serve to commend the book to reasonable and moral people? —

Is it perhaps Herr Schlegel himself who is here presenting us with one of the pieces from his youth whose authorship he no longer wishes to acknowledge? But ah! he should not have rejected this demonstration that at one time, at least, one might justifiably have expected something of him!

When the femmes savantes and the withered coquettes who here and there still close themselves off into their chamber to enjoy undisturbed the sophistic debauchery of his Lucinde are one day quite — aged, when he himself one day — is one not permitted to hope? — realizes that bombast and sublimity are as different as the swelling of a consumptive and the musculature of a Hercules, when he realizes that the foremost goal of an orator and poet must be to be understood, and that brazen smutty jokes only provoke disgust, — then he can retrieve no fairer title from the entirety of his own past than: editor of Florentin.

He has, by the way, equipped his charge with two sonnets. The first begins:

May noble courage establish the white altar,
And imagination hover high in purple flames,
And soon you will see love at the center,
Where the flaming columns ignite in green.

I must confess that I was unable to get very far with this recipe for bonnet makers. When I encounter such pedantic jesting, I feel as if I am watching a bow-legged village schoolmaster trying to dance a polka.

Concerning Friedrich’s sonnets, see Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 31 October 1800 (letter 273b) with note 5. Back.

[5] In a letter to Clemens Brentano on 27 February 1801 (KFSA 25:240), Dorothea had asked him his opinion of the book without telling him she was the author. Although his letter of condemnation has not been preserved, see his remark to Friedrich Karl von Savigny in mid-July 1801 (Clemens Brentano, Sämtliche Werke und Briefe, Frankfurter Brentano-Ausgabe, vol. 29, Briefe I (1792–1802), ed. Jürgen Behrens and Walter Schmitz; also Liselotte Kinskofer [Stuttgart 1988; 2009], 355): “Since sending that bit of criticism, I have received not a single line from Madam Veit — an author’s insulted pride.” Back.

[6] This reference has yet to be clarified (KFSA 25:592fn7). Back.

[7] Part two was never finished; Dorothea writes later about why she was having such trouble making progress. Back.

[8] In her letter to Wilhelm on 31 May 1801 (letter 319), Caroline remarks that Johann Diederich Gries had related to her that Dorothea had lost all her teeth and wanted to have new ones put in while she and Friedrich were in Leipzig (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


See esp. Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 5–6 March 1801 (letter 296), note 31. Back.

[9] A Berlin merchant. Back.

[10] Joseph Wedgwood and Thomas Bentley Company, famous London sellers of pottery and black porcelain. See Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 1 (3?) September 1785 (letter 60), with note 6. Back.

[11] Caroline arrived on 23 April 1801 and moved back into the apartment at Leutragasse 5. Back.

[12] Latin, “curious, strange things, events, situations.” Back.

[13] The story between Eduard d’Alton and Dorothea’s sister Recha Meyer, née Mendelssohn, is unclear. See in any event Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 27 July 1801 (letter 327) relating that Friedrich had try to persuade her, Caroline, that d’Alton had fathered Philipp Veit. The letters to Henriette Herz (Jette) and D’Alton Dorothea mentions are not extant. Back.

[14] Göttingischer Taschen-Kalender für das Schalt-Jahr 1808; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


Concerning D’Alton’s reputation as an adventurer, see Friedrich’s letter to Caroline from Berlin in late March 1799 (letter 225). Concerning D’Alton’s relationship not only with Recha Meyer, but also with Dorothea’s younger sister, Henriette Mendelssohn, see Dorothea’s letter to Karoline Paulus from September 1804 (letter 387b). Back.

[15] Fr., here: “in a word, in short.” Back.

[16] As does Caroline in her letter to Wilhelm on 6 July 1801 (letter 324):

Eduard is the lover whom Madam Veit had several years ago, the prototype for Florentin whose portrait she owned and whose story she told to Auguste at such superfluous length.

In her letter to Wilhelm on 27 July 1801 (letter 327), Caroline refers to D’Alton as “the real Florentin, in person.” Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott