Letter 318a

318a. Wilhelm Schlegel to Schelling in Jena: Berlin, 26 May 1801 [*]

Berlin, 26 May 1801

Please forgive me, dearest friend, for not having answered you earlier. I am in the meantime proceeding on the assumption that whatever might interest you in my letters to Caroline is indeed written for you as well and is accordingly being related to you.

You have probably read my newest poems; [1] I have not yet been able to produce anything more than these during my stay here because, amid the various distractions that robbed me of so much time especially at the beginning, I have also translated one and a half plays by Shakespeare, though I do yet hope to do some things for the Almanach now. [2] I have not yet received anything new from Tieck since his departure, nor can I really admonish him with any urgency at this distance now. [3]

In her recent letters to me, Caroline copied out a few smaller poems in distichs. [4] If you would like to contribute something of this sort, it would be most welcome, [5] all the more so because we almost wholly lack any poems in the forms of antiquity except for an excellent piece Mnioch recently sent us, in which in connection with a portrayal of the world views of antiquity and modernity he also fittingly juxtaposes the classical and rhymed meters, the stanza and the hexameter, and the terza rima and the elegy. [6] . . .

You mentioned certain changes in the “Last Words of the Pastor.” I for my part can think of no passages where such seem necessary and would be hesitant try to do anything with it myself for fear of ruining something. But if you yourself would like to incorporate different readings, I will be glad to send a copy of the poem to you. But as I said, I myself do not believe such is needed. [7]

I will be happy to offer my services to you in your study of the metrical forms of antiquity. Indeed, I am looking forward in general to speaking with you in person about your poetic projects and plans.

I have arranged for a copy of the Charakteristiken und Kritiken to be sent to you, as well as Fichte’s Nicolai. Might you perhaps review the latter in the Erlanger Litteratur-Zeitung? [8] Fichte would be quite pleased should that piece quickly become the topic of conversation. —

The Sonnenklarer Bericht was probably not of much interest to you. By contrast I do hope you will be quite pleased with the letter to Reinhold. In my opinion, it is a polemical masterpiece, as worthy of admiration with regard to dialectics as to urbanity, though the latter will likely not be acknowledged as such because of the lack of the oh-so-popular element of “humanity.” In general, the Bericht is for the people, while the piece on Nicolai seems to be written for the entirety of the reading public, and Reinhold for the more distinguished, to wit, for the virtuosos and connoisseurs. [9]

Fichte, by the way, is doing well and is quite jovial. To my considerable joy, I recently saw the new issue of your journal at his residence and immediately solicited him to loan it to me as soon as he no longer needed it. [10]

Who do you suppose did the review of Athenaeum in the Erlangen Zeitung? [11] I cannot get a copy of it to read just now, just as in a general sense I hardly see any scholarly journals; it would simply be too circumstantial to arrange anything given the indefinite brevity of my stay here, [12] and ultimately one does not really lose anything and indeed is able to concentrate all the more effectively on one’s own projects.

Let me hear from you again soon, and let me know as well what you think of Caroline’s health. I hope the more pleasant season will have a salutary effect on her. Stay very well.

A. W. Schlegel


[*] Sources: Plitt 1:344–46; Fuhrmans 2:331–32. — This letter is the response to Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm on 20 April 1801 (letter 309a). Back.

[1] Caroline mentions Wilhelm’s poems in her letters to him on 27 April 1801 (letter 312) and 5 May 1801 (letter 313), mentioning specifically ” “The Fairy Child”, “Die Warnung: Romanze “ (“The Wandering Jew”), “An Buri, über sein Bildniss der Gräfin Tolstoy, geb. Baratinsky,”; Wilhelm’s Romanze “Fortunat” has also been discussed (e.g., Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315). Back.

[2] The most recent volume of the edition of Shakespeare to appear was vol. 8, König Heinrich der Sechste: Zweyter Theil, König Heinrich der Sechste: Dritter Theil (The First Part of King Henry VI, The Second Part of King Henry VI), though it is uncertain exactly when the volume appeared during 1801. Back.

[3] I.e., nothing new for the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802; Tieck had moved to Dresden at latest by mid-April 1801 and had also just returned from the book fair (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795])



[4] Presumably the epigrams by Schelling (in couplets, distichs) Caroline mentions in her letter to Wilhelm on 5 May 1801 (letter 313). None of these poetic attempts have been preserved (Fuhrmans 2:331n4). Back.

[5] Schelling contributed four pieces to the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802 under the pseudonym Bonaventura:

(1) “Die letzten Worte des Pfarrers zu Drottning in Seeland. Eine wahre Geschichte,” 118–27 (“The Last Words of the Pastor of Drottning”);
(2) “Thier und Pflanze,” 158–59;
(3) “Loos der Erde,” 273;
(for the text of the latter two pieces, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 15 May 1801 [letter 316], note 15);
and one piece under the pseudonym “LL.”:
(4) “Lied,” 241–42 (for the text of this piece, see Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 13 February 1801 [letter 286], note 13);
(all except “Loos der Erde” repr. in Sämmtliche Werke 10:431–39). Back.

[6] See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 26–27 March 1801 (letter 303), note 30. Back.

[7] Schelling had queried Wilhelm about these possible changes in his letter of 20 April 1801 (letter 309a). Back.

[8] No review of the latter piece by Schelling appeared, though Schelling did approach Gottlieb Hufeland in a letter in the summer of 1801 (or perhaps May) about reviewing “the piece by Prof. Fichte that recently appeared”; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm of 5 May 1801 (letter 313), note 31.

Despite the earlier quarrel with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, Schelling did try to reestablish cordial relations at least with Hufeland (letter 313 cited above), who lived across the rear courtyard from Caroline and Wilhelm at Leutragasse 5 (steps on the right [photo: Stadtmuseum Jena]):


Imagine, Schelling visited Hufeland this morning; for some time now, Hufeland has been infinitely cordial toward him, so much so that he remarked that he really must do something for him, and when Schelling says something like that, then Hufeland must have played fast and hard indeed with his quota of sweetness.

Although Hufeland may have declined Schelling’s offer to do review one of the pieces, the relationship between Schelling and Fichte was becoming increasingly precarious in any event (see Fuhrmans 1:248n44). Back.

[9] 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. Concerning Schelling’s reaction to the former, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 25 May 1801 (letter 318), note 26. Back.

[10] Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik 2 (Jena, Leipzig 1801), no. 2, with Schelling’s “Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie,” 1–127. Back.

[11] Anonymous review in the Erlanger Litteratur-Zeitung (1801) no. 76 (20 April 1801). Back.

[12] Possibly an indication that Wilhelm had changed his mind about staying longer in Berlin, whereas earlier he was contemplating a lengthier stay; see, e.g., his letter to Schleiermacher back on 1 December 1800 (letter 276b):

I should not forget to mention the following. My trip to Berlin is not intended as merely a brief visit of 4 or 6 weeks, but as a genuine stay of residence during which I will be setting myself up to work.

Wilhelm eventually remained in Berlin (excepting his final visit to Jena between 11 August and 3 November 1801) until April 1804 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



Translation © 2015 Doug Stott