Letter 313a

313a. Wilhelm Schlegel to Ludwig Tieck in Dresden: Berlin, 7 May 1801 [*]

Berlin, 7 May 1801

Dearest friend,

You have likely already learned quite enough from other publishers regarding what has transpired between me and Unger with regard to Shakespeare. [1]

Sander made a few suggestions to me here in this respect and merely wanted to find out more about sales at the book fair. Now he writes me that the results of that query were such that although a rich man might well undertake it successfully, for him personally, given his modest means, the enterprise would be too much.

Tell him he would have done me a true service of friendship had he related to me the precise results of his queries. Have him tell you everything, and then write it all down so you will have data to present to the other publishers. Then speak with Cotta, to whom I had already written before Sander spoke with me. [2] Ask him whether he actually received my letter. I still have not received an answer from him. If he is not interested, then speak with other publishers, Bohn in Lübeck, Nicolovius, Wilmanns, etc., all of whom are upright people one can trust. Although Frölich has already more or less made requests in this regard, I have no faith in him paying promptly.

The contract would have to be made immediately for all 13 volumes (which is how many there will be now after the 8th [with the spurious plays], and which can be ready in 5–6 years). [3] A print run of the same sort Unger last did, namely 200 on vellum, 1300 on writing paper; a couple of hundred extremely inferior copies toward the reprint will be included in the sale. —

If anyone is willing to pay 60 louis d’or per volume or 3 louis d’or per printer’s sheet, you can almost go ahead and accept, since I will in all likelihood not receive more than that. If anyone wants to offer as much as Unger hitherto, leave it in abeyance and let me know at once. If anyone is interested in offering less, however, do not bother with it.

For various reasons I cannot travel to the book fair now, and will thus certainly acknowledge your friendship in the enthusiasm you exert in this matter, which I would very much like to get moving again as soon as possible. If I cannot come to terms with any publisher, then I will take it over myself and offer the books to readers on cash in advance; and if my esteemed countrymen do not support me in an appropriate fashion, then I will simply let it lie, and they can kiss my behind! [4] . . .


[*] Briefe an Ludwig Tieck 3:246–48; Lohner 66–67.

This letter documents Wilhelm’s attempt to get Ludwig Tieck to assist in securing a new publisher for Wilhelm’s now troubled translation of Shakespeare. Back.

[1] Concerning the problems with continuing the translation of Shakespeare with the publisher Friedrich Unger, see Wilhelm’s letter to Caroline on 18 April 1801 (letter 309), and esp. supplementary appendix 309.1. Tieck responded brusquely to Wilhelm concerning this and other matters in early June 1801 (letter 319a). Back.

[2] On 23 April 1801 (letter 310c). Back.

[3] Lohner, 235, notes that it was probably at Tieck’s initiative that Wilhelm was going to follow Johann Joachim Eschenburg’s lead in including the inauthentic plays in his translation plans. See also Wilhelm’s letter to Gottlieb Hufeland in late April 1799 (letter 235a) concerning the review of Eschenburg’s translation in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, and Hufeland’s response on 2 May 1799 (letter 236a); also Wilhelm’s letter to Christian Gottfried Schütz on 21 October 1799 (letter 249d), with note 4. Back.

[4] No publisher was found, nor did Wilhelm offer the continuation under subscription.

Ultimately it was Friedrich Unger’s publishing firm, headed after Unger’s death in 1804 by his wife, Friederike Unger, and after Unger’s reconciliation with Wilhelm, who finally picked up the next volume (vol. 9), the last volume with which Wilhelm himself was involved, albeit not until 1810.

Wilhelm became quite piqued with Tieck by the end of May, when Tieck still had not responded to this letter. Wilhelm wrote to him on 28 May 1801 (Lohner 68):

It is absolutely in no way very courteous or refined of you, Friend Tieck, that you still have not written me. You doubtless received the letter with my requests in Leipzig, and if you were unable to do anything in that regard, you should at least have told me as much so that I myself might have undertaken further steps. If I did not know you better, this neglect might well make it seem that you care precious little about the fate of my Shakespeare.

But let me herewith relieve you of any and all writing in this matter, — I am through other channels now as well informed concerning these things as I could ever be through a letter from you.

Moreover, now Cotta has referred me to you concerning arrangements with the printing of the Almanach. Verily, to the right person! Why the devil are you still waiting to relate that sort of news to me? Do you think we actually have time to spare? If the Almanach is to appear by Michaelmas, the printing must begin at latest by July. Considering how much tedious work I have willingly assumed with respect to publication, I would think it should not seem too onerous to you to write me a few lines. . . . Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott