Letter 310b

310b. Ludwig Tieck to Friedrich Schlegel in Jena: Dresden, 23 April 1801 [*]

Dresden, 23 April 1801

Dearest friend,

Although I have been here for twelve days now and have wanted to write you every day, I have still not gotten round to it. But that is just as well, since I would merely have caused you concern without being able to assuage it, which is not the case now.

To wit, Madam Ernst, your sister, has just taken a turn for the better and is recovering from a dangerous nervous fever; [1] they had almost given up all hope, but I saw her yesterday, and she is now walking again and is feeling stronger, and the physician is now certain she will fully recover. She sends her warm regards and has long wanted to write you herself but has postponed it because of her illness, and afterward was simply too weak, so now she has charged me with reporting this misfortune to you myself and immediately to put you at ease as well.

Although she is still weak and must avoid any and all more vehement stimuli, the physician does nonetheless want her to go to Pillnitz as soon as the weather improves, from which you can see that for the moment she is completely out of danger. I visited her several days ago and could not but marvel at her liveliness. I am quite happy about her recovery and about her closer acquaintance. There is something quite delicate and reflective about little Auguste, were she only not of such a weak and sickly constitution. But write nothing about that to her mother, otherwise she will worry that the child made that impression on me. —

My dearest Schlegel, how I would like to have come visit you in Jena! But all sorts of circumstances have arisen forcing me to abandon that wonderful trip for now, mostly my health, which I cannot entrust to such unstable, unreliable weather. I suffer quite readily from colic, which occasionally becomes dangerous. [2]

Why do you not come here instead, at Pentecost if you can, then you will still find the Bernhardis here, who will be arriving on 10 or 12 May, with Schütz. I will, of course, accept your cordial invitation, if not now then probably in the autumn; it is probably most logical for me to live with you if you have space, something I will be glad to do without further consideration.

Wilhelm had told me you were living in rather tight accommodations, and he managed to get me to promise I would stay with Caroline rather than with Frommann; [3] you know how he is in such situations, and how weak I am in saying yes without taking it all that seriously afterward.

He is peculiar that way. I once spoke with him quite openly in Jena about Caroline and his relationship with her, but since then have never again inquired about her except to send her my regards and my condolences last autumn, and then in Berlin he has forced me to see and listen to her letters and opinions, he writes her on every postal day, and does not at all seem to sense how comical it is all becoming. [4]

I was wretchedly sorry for having promised him, especially because he attached so much importance to it, from which I conclude that it is a request he received from her, with the intent of providing some opportunity or other to gossip or agitate, all of which would, however, have prompted me absolutely not to stay with her. But do not believe that all this has made me abandon the trip; that would be too petty. It was simply my sickliness and a project I have to attend to; I also wrote Wilhelm and gave him my sincere opinion. [5]

I really do wish with all my heart that your quarrel with Schelling could be settled in one way or the other; it really is like a sickness, and is a hindrance. I do not see how it is possible, though, since he is weak, and believes Caroline unconditionally, and since she herself no doubt is glad to see this alienation, —

I really know not what Wilhelm’s intentions are with respect to Hardenberg’s book. You did not say in your lette. He wanted for me to finish the novel, the impossibility or even unseemliness of which I myself tried to demonstrate to him, but he could not understand, so finally I gave in to him merely to avoid an argument, since, after all, ultimately it is up to me alone not to do it. [6] I am wholly of your opinion that we, his friends, should respect everything he left behind as something sacred. Surely Wilhelm and Schleiermacher are not serious about changing or eliminating or adding anything, are they? I confess I was loath to leave the book behind, but the Bernhardis are to bring it along for me. Schleiermacher took it during the final days, having neglected to read it for an entire year. —

This depressing loss of our friend did contribute to my decision to put off the trip for now. [7] You cannot imagine how this repressed grief has upset me, made me anxious, and almost entirely decimated me since winter; nor can I get relief by speaking about it. [8]

When I first heard about his illness, I already considered him dead, indeed, ever since I have known him I have viewed him as someone already deceased, and my suspicion did not deceive me. And yet even this premonition was wholly unable to dull me, I was prepared to sense the pain even beforehand. For me it is not the separation, or the distance, that cuts into me, since one can easily enough come to terms with that. Instead, it is for my soul — and is probably the same for you — what a lost limb is for the body. He was necessary for us, he was one with us, thought and love had a common root, and now so much in me lacks the one element from which it might acquire life. It is as if the love inside me had been torn; it is no longer a loss that has happened to me merely as a human being.

If I am convinced of the influence, the effect of the stars on me and my life, if I perceive or sense the friendship of plants, of heaven and water with me, then how much more intimately must I sense the most immediate, direct, necessary influence, indeed the breath that kindred souls pour into me; and so he is not lost to us merely for now, but for always.

Our life must be a common, shared one if otherwise we genuinely belong to one another, and thus the most cruel cut has now been made in this unity. Long afterward I often understood his ideas and feelings, just as always things must first take root, deeply, within me before emerging later, so that he himself often emerges, quite unexpectedly, in a word, in a new meaning. And thus would the union, the mutual alliance, and the necessary uniqueness of every one have become increasingly beautiful. For one could not understand one another at all were one not already wholly thinking and feeling the same thing; it must always remain a matter of approaching ever closer, so that every word in us can seek out yet another new path. [9]

But forgive me for this confused prattle. How I wish your were here, or I there! Give my warm regards to Ritter. I have quite properly described how I still react to his conversations, the few I had with him and which I have preserved so well. Save a bit of your wine for the autumn, as well as some of your poems and conversations. Give my regards to Madam Veit, tell her I do wish the 2nd part of Florentin might appear soon. [10] . . .


[*] Sources: Lohner 61–64; KFSA 25:262–65 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[1] Concerning Charlotte Ernst’s illness: Wilhelm Schlegel wrote Tieck from Berlin on 13 April 1801 (Lohner 59):

Dearest friend, it was not until a few days ago that I learned to my horror the news of my sister’s illness from the landscape painter Veit, who did, however, simultaneously add that she had reliably also already begun to recover; afterward I heard from the Bernhardis that all of you already knew about it. I will not rest until the first news comes from you, and I hope you will not postpone sending it a single postal day. I do not want to write just now to my sister and Ernst — give them my most loving regards.

(Illustration: anonymous, O! Kinder, Kinder [ca. 1776–1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. A: 371.9):


Tieck similarly mentions Charlotte Ernst’s recovery in his undated letter to Wilhelm Schlegel in April 1802 (letter 310a); see the editorial note there for earlier references to her illness. Back.

[2] Tieck presents similar excuses to Wilhelm in his undated letter to the latter in April 1801 (letter 310a). Back.

[3] Wilhelm, at Caroline’s initiative (see her letter to him on 26 March 1801 [letter 303]), had arranged for Tieck to stay in the apartment at Leutragasse 5 should he come to Jena (see Tieck’s letter to Wilhelm in April 1801 [letter 310a]). Friedrich was livid (see his letter to Wilhelm on 6 April 1801 [letter 304a]). Back.

[4] Bergisches Taschenbuch für 1798 zur Belehrung und Unterhaltung; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


“Last autumn,” i.e., at the death of Auguste; see Tieck’s letter to Wilhelm on 27 August 1800 (letter 266c). Back.

[5] In his letter to Wilhelm on ca. 21 April 1801 (letter 310a). Back.

[6] Concerning the idea of having Tieck finish Friedrich von Hardenberg’s Heinrich von Ofterdingen, see Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm on 17 April 1801 (letter 308b). Back.

[7] Concerning the death of Friedrich von Hardenberg on 25 March 1801, see supplementary appendix 303a.1. Back.

[8] Concerning Tieck’s unusually close friendship with Hardenberg, see supplementary appendix 242a.2. Back.

[9] Arguably one of the most eloquent statements from the Jena group itself regarding the ultimate personal, artistic, and scholarly alignment and community the members, at one time or another and in one iteration or another, all envisioned. Back.

[10] Dorothea never published the second part of Florentin. Ein Roman herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel, vol. 1 (Leipzig 1801). She would, however, still be working on it as late as July 1805; see her letter to Karoline Paulus from Cologne on 13 July 1805 (letter 393i), in which she does, however, express doubts about being able to finish. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott