Letter 318

• 318. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 25 May 1801

[Jena] Second Day of Whitsuntide [25 May 18]01

|150| I cannot write to you in as animated and cheerful a fashion as would best befit the sacred Whitsuntide celebration, for I am just now working my way out of one of my customary attacks and relapses and have been extremely weak for several days now, for which I know of no other cause except that I was perhaps a bit busy in the house; for the rest, though, my illness — like the world itself — is more likely carrying the ground of its existence precisely within itself rather than drawing it from elsewhere. —

Had I felt as bad yesterday as I did the day before, I would have had Kilian fetched; but the usual remedies seem to be performing their usual services. —

The only thing that really irks me is that I will not be able to respond to the content of your letter of the 16th as sensibly as I would like. [1]

I think it is quite good that no other steps have been taken from Tiek’s side etc.; [2] the guild passes on all such information further, and the good cause of Shakespear would merely be the worse for it. I had already thought about what you suggested, namely, that I might play a covert role through casual, light-hearted letters after my façon, [3] and had I felt better, Madam Vieweg would indeed have received such a letter from me, albeit not with an overt request, but as something I would mention along with 10 other incidental things through which I would have been able to coax at least the regnant mood and opinion from her. And I will do precisely that very soon. —

One must, however, avoid shopping the project around. Do not enter into any more discussions in which the acceptance of the project is yet uncertain. Schelling did maintain that I failed to articulate the real implications of his advice recently that he asked me to pass along to you. [4] He believes that you should either take a pause, since after a certain period of time it cannot fail to come through for you, or, if you think such is not advisable just now, |151| you should reconcile with Unger, something which after hearing Cotta’s asseverations concerning Unger’s considerable vexation Schelling thinks is quite possible without any detriment to your own dignity and rights. [5]

I am assuming you have related everything to Fichte. Perhaps he, too, might function in a prudent enough fashion as a mediator between you and Unger and would not be averse to doing so. I would suggest him as the most likely person. Moreover, Schelling or I (if you prefer) will write to Cotta and relate to him anything you tell us.

I will not, however, be speaking with Fromman, since there is still time to inquire concerning printing costs and that sort of thing insofar as the choice will probably not be for a subscription plan. [6] Fromman, moreover, is simply too insolent for me to try to discuss anything like that with him and in addition is someone who is probably not particularly sorry about the distress and embarrassment you are now in.

He has allegedly become considerably more self-important of late. Although I have not seen him yet, yesterday on the Driesnitz, Luise was in his and the Hufelands’ company, and that particular part of his personality seemed quite noticeable to her even though she was not in the least predisposed to expect such. —

Bohn is expected — with whom Friedrich could speak except that I do not see Friedrich now and hence cannot pass along to him any instructions or such about the matter, and indeed, any new attempt whose outcome is yet uncertain is extremely disadvantageous for you. [7] Do not undertake anything with Frölich; everyone is in agreement concerning his disrepute. —

If Madam Unger were not there, I would probably go ahead and write to Herr Unger in such a way that, by means of a bold resolution, I would, like a new Orpheus, fit the stones or type back together again. [8]

I will await your next thoughts on the matter. At the same time, though, my dearest friend, just do not go and start doubting God and human beings on me, or start thinking excessively about how, after all the years of toil and honest work, things are going no better etc. [9] Dispel all such thoughts |152| the way you would swat a fly. And behold how fate occasionally casts even more favored or privileged people up on the rocks. When Schiller first undertook the Horen, do you believe he was rolling in money? [10] Do you think he is constructing such wretched witches’ scenes as those in Macbeth for any other reason than money? [11]

Be but completely, completely confident. I have not been anxious for even a single moment, and I have as much overview as anyone. —

Several thoughts just occurred to me. If it indeed be true that fewer of the last volumes of Shakespeare have been sold, could the choice of plays have had any influence in that regard? [12] Does the stupid public even understand this historical sequence? You should have taken straightaway Macbeth, Othello, Lear, and everything that was once in possession, and for heaven’s sake do not now take on any of his “unrecognized masterpieces” such as Oldcastle etc. [13] And yet how is it possible to anticipate such stupidity completely? [14]

Let me say nothing about Schiller’s Macbeth. It is much, much worse than you dare imagine and has thoroughly filled us with genuine disgust. For example, the way he wanted to make the witches — morally consistent with the soap-boiler story from Gellert or la Fontaine — Is such to be endured? [15] You absolutely should get in after him in the next volume with the genuine translation. He certainly deserves it; he has also brought Schelling’s entire wrath down on himself. Goethe is willing to grant him the income for now, and is in general doubtless utterly indifferent to his creations, otherwise he surely could not stand it. —

Were you to adapt Shakespeare’s plays for the theater, you, too, could earn a little something, [16] it is just that one would have to fear that Schiller might repress such plays in Weimar and Iffland not take them on in Berlin in the first place.

I know not what I should say concerning your theatrical projects. Translating and also adapting Greek plays |153| for the stage, that is doubtless good [17] — but does Schlegel really want to expend energy on a genre whose success is by no means assured, particularly just now, when what is called for is not exercises of that sort but rather success, and when the latter is at his disposal in so many other genres?

From here it seems to me that his surroundings have deceived him, and that he has become excessively taken by “fairy children.” Consider things carefully, my dear heart, and seek advice prayerfully. So you are probably intending to stay at a distance from me until the intrigue is finished? — No, come and engage in dialogue with the venerable master. There you will find sure footing. [18]

The visit to Madam Meyer greatly entertained me. But what is it about her that prevents so much appeal and splendid endowment from spectacularly breaking through and asserting itself? Perhaps simply the consciousness of the rival shackles her freedom and thus also her charm. When I heard about her in Mainz, I had approximately the same image of her as I now do of Unzeline. [19] — I really do fear that Unzeline’s most cherished plans will not come to fruition, since the actors in Weimar will not begin to perform again until the beginning of October. [20] Moreover Mademoiselle Jagemann is becoming extremely domineering. At the same time, though, Goethe will surely do everything he can for Unzeline. [21]

It just occurred to me that at the Hufelands’ Luise heard the following concerning Geheimrath Voigt, namely, that Goethe had come to him and inquired whether the following measures contra the actresses were legal. Because they still did not want to perform, shortly beforehand they reported that they were sick. So he was thinking about stationing a soldier before their beds who would dispense medication and whom they would have to pay, since he could not, after all, send them to the guardhouse as he could the gentlemen. [21a]

It is admittedly unpardonable that Tiek is doing nothing. His body |154| does keep him terribly captive. I do hope, though, that Quixote is finished, is it not? [22] How have you all arranged things with the Allmanach? Will the honorarium be distributed equally among the contributors? And do the two of you not receive any privileges in that regard as editors? It seems to me that out of the 300 rh. you ought to receive more than 20 louis d’or.

The Loders have journeyed to Dresden. They will probably visit the Ernsts when they get to Pillnitz.

I spoke with Madam Hufeland, and did so completely without taking any initiative myself, just as I wanted. [23] She was coming to see Luise, [24] but we had just gone to see a merchant and met her along the way; she immediately came directly up to me, extended her hand to me, and asked about my health. Since she was unable to turn around and accompany us as Luise then suggested, I told her that she should pay us a proper visit soon, an invitation she gladly accepted and which will indeed come about this week.

That same evening, Hufeland himself was coming down the steps just as we were about to take a walk, and you absolutely cannot imagine his embarrassment. [25] I remained back a bit, since I was still waiting for something, and admittedly stood there rather coldly and rigidly while he was trying to speak with Luise but was utterly unable to get out what he wanted to say, having completely lost both his head and his tongue. Hence he was unable to offer me anything but a most humble bow, though I am sure the next time everything will be back as it should be.

Madam Bohn and Madam Fromman just announced themselves for a visit.

Madam Hufeland will also be coming. [25a]


We had a horrific thunderstorm yesterday that lasted almost the entire afternoon. Luise experienced it up on the Driesnitz, as I mentioned earlier. [25b]

Schelling and I read Fichte’s |155| letter to Reinhold, which in its own turn completely reconciled us with the Sonnenklarer Bericht. Schelling insists it is one of the best things Fichte has written and is quite smitten with it, and also believes he can discern in it the sign from Fichte for which he has long been waiting. [26]

I have still not heard anything from Friedrich Tiek. [27]



Yet another thunderstorm endured! There are probably none in Berlin, but, then, in return the summer is beautiful here.

Fromman sent me 10 Carolins from Nicolovius. Did Friedrich’s note not say 12? It was accompanied by a note from Nicolovius himself with the address: 10 C. for Mad. S. from N., so Fromman did not make a mistake. [28]

Kotzebue really is expected here. Do you not want to receive him here? [29]

Cotta sent Nicolai the first copy of the piece. Nicolai, though, had already read it in manuscript form. Gedike probably passed it on to him.

Schelling believes that if you do not reconcile with Unger, then his behavior must indeed be made public and boiling lead poured into him. He is quite beside himself that the booksellers have writers so under their thumbs, and in that regard the business with the theater is admittedly splendid.

Unger will be publishing the Mädchen von Orleans as an Allmanach. [30] Schiller told Schelling that from now on he would no longer write anything without having three sujets in reserve at the same time, [31] for the torment of figuring out where to find a new one once the previous has been dispensed is allegedly simply too great to endure.

Stay well, my dear Schlegel.

Again, adieu.


[1] Wilhelm’s letter does not seem to be extant. Back.

[2] Wilhelm had charged Ludwig Tieck — futilely — with querying publishers at the book fair in Leipzig concerning the outstanding volumes of Wilhelm’s edition of Shakespeare. See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), note 4. Back.

[3] Fr., “way, manner, fashion.” Back.

[4] In her letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317):

Schelling is advising a quiet pause and ultimately a reunion with Unger. He will gladly relate the necessary details to Cotta so that you do not have to do it. Back.

[5] In her letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 cited above (letter 317), Caroline had related to Wilhelm what Schelling in his own turn had related to her after having spent an evening in Weimar with Johann Friedrich Cotta. Concerning the quarrel with the Berlin publisher Friedrich Unger, see esp. supplementary appendix 309.1. Back.

[6] See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), note 6. Back.

[7] Johann Friedrich Bohn had published Dorothea Veit’s novel Florentin. Ein Roman herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel, vol. 1 (Leipzig 1801), and was married to Johanna Frommann’s sister. Back.

[8] Orpheus, focal point of the religious movement of Orphism, the original Thracian god being generally understood as a singer. Caroline is here referring to the view of him as influenced by the Lithica, Gk. λιθικα, Eng. “Stones,” a poem (one of three passed down under the name Orpheus) of 768 verses containing a discourse on the wondrous properties of stones, albeit a poem dating probably no earlier than the 4th century BCE and probably not even related to the religious movement of Orphism (so The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Scullard, 2nd ed. [Oxford 1970], s.v. Orphic literature).

Indeed, the poem was only ascribed to Orpheus in the twelfth century, possibly because of a poem mentioned in the tenth century about stones that “dwelt on the mode of engraving of stones, while the Orphic Lithica now extant touches their magical and medicinal qualities, as antidotes, and their efficacy in conciliating the gods” (though also on the engraving of precious stones as talismans; “Orphic Poetry,” review of Orpheus Poetarum Graecorum Antiquissimus. Auctore Georgia Henrico Bode [Georg Heinrich Bode], Commentatio Praemio region Ornata [Göttingen 1824], North American Review 21, n.s. 12 [1825], no. 49, 388–97, here 391–92). Several lines in it suggest that the singer Orpheus engaged in magic.

Finally, “Aeschylus and Euripides say that Orpheus attracted trees and wild beasts and even stones and was able to charm whom he wished” (Oxford Classical Dictionary, s.v. Orpheus). Here an illustration of Orpheus among the animals (Jan Sadeler, Orpheus inmitten der Tiere [1576–1600]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur 22.1 Geom. [14-5]):


Caroline’s allusion suggests that she herself, like Orpheus, might well charm the type (typographical characters in printing) into the proper order once more just as did Orpheus the stones with his singing.

At the same time, her allusion seems to be evoking a specific passage or episode involving Orpheus, one to which Francis Bacon — with whom she and Wilhelm may or may not have been acquainted — alludes in his chapter on “Orpheus, or Philosophy,” in The Essays, or Councils, Civil and Moral, of Sir. Francis Bacon (London 1701), 42, where he quotes the fable of Orpheus: “So great was the power and alluring force of this harmony that he drew the woods and moved the very stones to come and place themselves in an orderly and decent fashion about him.”

Caroline and Wilhelm had in any case translated The Merchant of Venice in vol. 4 of their edition of Shakespeare (as Der Kaufmann von Venedig [1799]), in whose act 5, scene 1, Lorenzo speaks the lines (text: Shakespeare Complete Works, ed. W. J. Craig [London: Oxford, 1966]):

If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
Or any air of music touch their ears,
You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
Their savage eyes turn’d to a modest gaze
By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones, and floods;
Since nought so stockish, hard, and full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature. Back.

[9] Caroline is offering this encouragement for the second time; see her letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), note 9. Back.

[10] Schiller’s periodical Die Horen. Eine Monatschrift, 12 vols. (Tübingen 1795–97), generally recognized as one of the foundational periodicals of the classical period in German literature and cultural history. Back.

[11] Johann Friedrich Cotta had just published Schiller’s adaptation Macbeth: Ein Trauerspiel von Shakespear zur Vorstellung auf dem Hoftheater zu Weimar eingerichtet (Tübingen 1801) on 27 April 1801; see also Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 7–8 May 1801 (letter 314), note 12. Back.

[12] Concerning the inventory of Wilhelm’s edition of Shakespeare and Friedrich Unger’s sales numbers, see also Wilhelm’s letter to Caroline on 18 April 1801 (letter 309). Back.

[13] The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle, attributed to Shakespeare in 1619 and included in the Third and Fourth Folios of his plays, but almost certainly not his work; its author is unknown. Caroline’s remark attests considerable literary acumen. Back.

[14] See Erich Schmidt, (1913) , 2:617–18:

Caroline quite appropriately suggests that, after completing the English royal plays, Wilhelm avoid the doubtless inauthentic plays such as Oldcastle and instead translate such primary pieces as Macbeth, Othello, and Lear. Although Wolf Heinrich von Baudissin did an acceptable job with the last two, Ludwig Tieck’s daughter, Dorothea, was simply not up to the task of translating Macbeth.

As pointed out in several earlier contexts, the last volume of the translation of Shakespeare with which Wilhelm was associated was vol. 9, König Richard der dritte, which did not appear until 1810. Back.

[15] Caroline mistakes Christian Gellert for Friedrich Hagedorn; for an explanation of this entire literary complex, and for remarks concerning Schleiermacher’s review of Schiller’s piece and Wilhelm’s satirical verses on it, see supplementary appendix 318.1. Back.

[16] The subtitle of Schiller’s Macbeth adaptation is “adapted for the Weimar court theater.” Back.

[17] In Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), the “tragedy by Euripides” refers to plans for Wilhelm’s adaptation Ion: ein Schauspiel (Hamburg 1803). Considerably more is said about this play in coming letters. Back.

[18] Caroline is alluding to a competition that Goethe, with Schiller’s assistance, had announced in November 1800 for the best dramatic “intrigue,” scheduled for mid-September 1801 and with a prize of 30 ducats. But none of the thirteen entries won.

The subject recurs in several letters over the next year, e.g., Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 29 June 1801 (letter 323), 15 February 1802 (letter 347), 22 February 1802 (letter 348); also Wilhelm’s letters to Sophie Bernhardi on 14 August 1801 (letter 327a), 4 September 1801 (letter 328a), 18 September 1801 (329e), and 3 October 1801 (letter 329k). Back.

[19] Johanna Henriette (Rosine), née Schüler, was initially married to the tenor Friedrich Eunicke in Mainz (thus Caroline’s acquaintance and reference here), then from 1796 was in Berlin, where she married Dr. med. Meyer (thus her acquaintance with Wilhelm). Although she is generally said to have married Meyer in 1802, Caroline here, in 1801, refers to her unequivocally as Madam Meyer.

According to Friedrich Ludwig Schröder, F. L. Schmidt, and Carl Ludwig Costenoble, Carl Ludwig Costenobles Tagebücher von seiner Jugend bis zur Uebersiedlung nach Wien, Schriften der Gesellschaft für Theatergeschichte 18–19, ed. Alexander von Weilen, 2 vols. (Berlin 1912), who (2:80) criticize her rendering of the protagonist in Schiller’s Die Jungfrau von Orleans. Eine romantische Tragödie and then (2:82) praise her “mimic portrayals,” she was arguably an inferior tragedienne whose true artistic talent lay rather in the “illustrative poses” or “living illustrations” after the fashion of Lady Hamilton, in which she excelled in a singular fashion and which Caroline also considered to be her true talent (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 7–12 June 1801 [letter 320]). Back.

[20] Concerning the actors’ performance schedule outside Weimar, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315), note 2. Back.

[21] Concerning Friederike Unzelmann’s performances in Weimar during the autumn of 1801, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315), note 10. Back.

[21a] (1) excerpt from Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Vorstellung einiger öffentlichen Strafen,” from the Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI (Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774), plate xxxiv; (2) Johann Michael Mettenleiter (ca. 1795):




[22] Tieck suffered from gout. — Caroline is here referring to his translation of Cervantes’s Leben und Thaten des scharfsinnigen Edlen Don Quixote von la Mancha, 4 vols. (Unger: Berlin 1799–1801). Back.

[23] Caroline (and Wilhelm) had not been on speaking terms with the Hufelands — their neighbors across the courtyard at Leutragasse 5 — since Wilhelm’s and Schelling’s break with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in the autumn of 1799. See Caroline’s letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 27 December 1799 (letter 258):

We see almost no one except one another now; those who are mere acquaintances have pretty much separated themselves from our real friends. Since Schlegel’s break with the A.L.Z., we do not even see our closest neighbors anymore.

And to Wilhelm on 5 May 1801 (letter 313):

I have not yet seen Madam Hufeland; Luise is dining over there this evening. The least I owe myself is not to take even the smallest step in that regard, and particularly since Schelling has already done something that for me was still quite unexpected at this particular time [namely, pick up cordial relations with the Hufelands again], I must be all the more restrained, otherwise there will just be some sort of stupid story. It is also quite convenient for me that she does not simply come over here quite without inhibition, since I have not yet been able to arrange any retreat for myself in the house and simply can no longer engage in forced frivolity. It will happen soon enough on its own.

Gottlieb Hufeland had been one of the editors along with Christian Gottfried Schütz. Back.

[24] Caroline’s sister, Luise Wiedemann, was Madam Hufeland’s sister-in-law. Back.

[25] Goettinger Taschen Calender für das Jahr 1791; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


The Hufelands lived across the courtyard from the Schlegels; their apartment and steps are to the right, the Schlegels’ apartment to the left (photo: Stadtmuseum Jena):



[25a] The visit did not go as well as expected; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 7–12 June 1801 (letter 320) (Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

She [Madam Hufeland], in any case, was a bit uneasy when she visited me, and it is possible that precisely because of that uneasiness she did not invite me personally to visit her as well, which I was planning to wait for. But when I am able again, I will go ahead and go over there after all before she goes to Liebenstein with Madam Niethammer, since I really have no interest in carrying all this superfluous tension any further.



[25b] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Im Unwetter zwischen Körlin und Köslin,” Von Berlin nach Danzig: Eine Künstlerfahrt im jahre 1773, von Daniel Chodowiecki. 108 Lichtdrucke nach den originalen in der Staatl. akademie der künste in Berlin, mit erläuterndem text und einer einführung von Wolfgang von Oettingen (Leipzig 1923), plate 8:



[26] Concerning Fichte’s “letter” to Reinhold (Antwortschreiben an Herrn Professor Reinhold) and Crystal Clear Report (Sonnenklarer Bericht), see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), notes 29 and 30, in which Caroline remarks:

but do tell, what is it that drives Fichte to cast his doctrine and teaching down at people’s feet like a sack of wool and then to pick it up and throw it down in front of them yet again?

Concerning Schelling’s reaction to the former, see his letter to Fichte on 24 May 1801 (Fichtes und Schellings philosophischer Briefwechsel [1856], 74):

My esteemed friend, a few hours ago I received your Antwortschreiben to Reinhold and have already read it several times. It stirred me and in places even greatly moved me; indeed, it is the sign I have long been expecting from you, the most important gift you could give me. I am now free of all doubt and view myself anew in concurrence with that with which it is more important for me to be in harmony than the concurrence of the entire rest of the world would or could be.

Henceforth I will never again feel awkward saying that precisely that which I myself intend is merely the same that Fichte himself thinks, and you can view my own presentations as mere variations on his theme. I will no longer be held back by the timidity of presenting something as our common, shared assertion that in fact might perhaps be mine alone, and that might even stand in the way of the presentation of your own ideas to the reading public.

For I see from your piece here, and you yourself will have seen from the “Darstellung meines Systems” [Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik 2 (1801), no. 2], which you have certainly already received, that we both allow only one and the same absolute knowledge that remains the same, recurring knowledge in all cognition, and whose presentation and revelation within all knowing constitutes our shared task.

See Schelling to Goethe on 25 May 1801 (Goethe und die Romantik 1:217):

Jena, 25 May 1801

Fichte has charged me with sending to you, esteemed Herr Geheimer Rath, the enclosed copy of his missive to Reinhold along with his regards and the assurance of the sincere concern he has taken in your recovery. I am also taking the liberty of enclosing the copy he intended for Schiller.

This piece by Fichte represents for me a long-awaited sign, and it seems to me also to represent an important gift, not only as regards the genre to which it belongs, namely, that of polemics, but also for philosophy as such. Indeed, perhaps the only thing needed now is the proposition that all positing is merely a positing of the infinite. At the least, what directly follows from this is that there is only one object of knowing within all knowing and thus also only one cognition.

See finally Schelling to Wilhelm on 3 July 1801 (Plitt 1:344):

Fichte’s missive to Reinhold has elicited our complete admiration; I am reading it again and again. It is among the most magnificent things Fichte has written. Back.

[27] Concerning a memorial and bust for Auguste. See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), note 1. Back.

[28] Friedrich Nicolovius in Königsberg, who was publishing Wilhelm’s and Friedrich’s Charakteristiken und Kritiken. Back.

[29] After the assassination of Paul I in March 1801, and after his own return from exile in Siberia, August von Kotzebue lived in Weimar, Jena and later in Berlin. Concerning his immediate return and its background, see Wilhelm’s letter to Ludwig Tieck from Bamberg on 14 September 1800 (letter 267e), note 8; Kotzebue had departed Petersburg for Germany on 29 April 1801. Back.

[30] Kalender auf das Jahr 1802: Die Jungfrau von Orleans. Eine romantische Tragödie (n.p. [Berlin] 1802); here the frontispiece:



[31] Fr., “subjects, themes, topics.” Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott