Letter 319a

319a. Ludwig Tieck to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Dresden, early June 1801 [*]

[Dresden, early June 1801]

Dearest friend,

It is quite understandable for you to be angry with me, and I certainly merit it. But not as angry as you perhaps believe. Although I have been neglectful and less than efficient at addressing certain business matters, I can never forget a friend like you. So do not be quite so angry, though I do know it is considerably easier to reconcile you than to anger you. . . .

I took care of your requests in Leipzig in a manner that I considered most advantageous for you. [1] The disposition of everyone seemed to be that no one wanted to take on the project just now, since anyone who does undertake it must purchase the previous volumes from Unger. I have already spoken at length and quite frankly about it with Cotta (who will certainly not take on the project), and this much is certain, namely, that we have overestimated the sales and Unger’s profits. I am sick of the entire quarrel.

Although Unger is in the wrong, you yourself are not so wholly in the right, if I may speak frankly, especially insofar as you filed a suit against him, as he related to me on the last day. He took the entire matter quite seriously, certainly differently than you initially intended. Do not believe so wholly without qualification everything certain people in Berlin may say to you; his wife is worthless, that much is certain, though on the other hand I hardly believe that Woltmann is involved in it. [2]

Forgive me if I believe that the matter must certainly vex you thus, and if such happens, then it would have been better had you simply given in; I fear it will considerably hamper the enterprise. I spoke about it with Nicolovius, who was not entirely disinclined, just not for now, as similarly also with others, though so that you might begin anew with each one I did not tell anyone I was inquiring on your behalf. That seemed the most acceptable way to proceed. Just do not allow yourself to back off your previous conditions, for I am sure all of them will be expecting you to do so, these street peddlers, as most of them surely are. In any event, I did speak with Wilmanns, Vieweg, Nicolovius, and Cotta. . . .

I am quite angry at “Fortunatus,” or rather should perhaps be angry with myself instead, considering how little effect it had on me. The poem seems to lack unity, precisely the elements prompting its composition in the first place. I do not understand it, and the roses insult me. I do not comprehend the horse and rider. Are we not receiving too many ghost stories? [3] I read it aloud to several people and could not perceive it having any really unsettling effect on them at all.

And why do you want to send a chill up our spines in any case? Can one not criticize in this Romanze many of the same things you yourself so accurately reproached in “Bürger”? [4] The lack of the necessary coherent context? I may be wrong here, but that is my frank opinion. Why do you not write another divinely comic piece, like the “Wettgesang,” [5] “Kotzebue’s Travelogue,” [6] where I, Friedrich, and 20 other writers could sell our souls to the devil and still never come up with something that masterful? If my own request and the good of the Almanach mean anything to you, then contribute a magnificent piece of that sort, something the rest of us would have to pass on even if you were to ask us to do such a thing. [7] . . .


[*] Sources: Ludwig Tieck und die Brüder Schlegel. Briefe mit Einleitung und Anmerkungen, ed. Henry Lüdeke (Frankfurt 1930), 77ff.; Lohner 69–72.

Response to Wilhelm’s letters to Tieck on 7 May 1801 (letter 313a) and on 28 May 1801 (cited in note 4 of letter 313a). This response reflects, among other things, the failure to find an interested publisher for Wilhelm’s edition of Shakespeare, the next volume of which accordingly did not appear until 1810. See Josef Körner, (1930), 60:

the party that suffered most in what was in truth a merely trifling affair was German literature, since this quarrel caused an irremediable interruption in Schlegel’s magnificent translation work, mutilating it and reducing it to a torso.

That Tieck addresses this letter to “Professor Schlegel in Berlin, unfranked. To be delivered at the Friedrich Werder Gymnasium c/o Sub-rector Bernhardi, at the Jungfernbrücke, no. 10″ (Lohner 236), provides at least a tentative terminus a quo for Wilhelm’s move from his initial residence at Friedrichsstrasse 165 to the Bernhardis’ residence.

Bernhardi at the time was sub-rector (from 1808 rector) of the humanistic secondary school Friedrichswerdersches Gymnasium at this same location and lived in one of four private apartments put at the disposal of the faculty in the school building itself, which was located at the corner of Alte Leipziger Strasse and Oberwasserstrasse at the Jungfernbrücke (Jungfern Bridge, whence also the double address; today the bridge is the oldest in Berlin; D. G. Reymann, Neuester Grundriss von Berlin [1826]):


Here the Jungfernbrücke in 1909 looking across to the opposite side of the canal from the building at Oberwasserstrasse 10; the front façade of the building and its fourth-story dormers are visible at the far left of the photograph (photograph by Waldemar Franz Hermann Titzenthaler):


See the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s residences in Berlin. Back.

[1] Viz., in finding a publisher to pick up the stalled edition of Shakespeare, which has been an ongoing topic in Caroline’s letters with Wilhelm. See esp. Wilhelm’s letter to Caroline on 18 April 1801 (letter 309) and the accompanying supplementary appendix 309.1 concerning the quarrel with the publisher Johann Friedrich Unger, and Wilhelm’s futile letter to Johann Friedrich Cotta on 23 April 1801 (letter 310c). Back.

[2] Karl Ludwig Woltmann had been involved in establishing a competing critical journal with Unger over against the Romantics’ Jahrbücher project. Back.

[3] I.e., for the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802. Tieck had received his copy of the poem “Fortunat” from Caroline, who was enthusiastic about the piece; see her effusive comments in her letter to Wilhelm on 7 May 1802 (letter 314). She also mentioned Schelling’s praise in her letter to Wilhelm on 8 May 1801 (letter 314) and downplayed Tieck’s criticism here in her letter to Wilhelm on 10 July 1801 (letter 325).

Two “ghost stories” were already being included in the Musen-Almanach: Schelling’s “Die letzten Worte des Pfarrers zu Drottning in Seeland. Eine wahre Geschichte,” 118–27 (“The Last Words of the Pastor of Drottning”) and Tieck’s own “Zeichen im Walde. Romanze,” 2–24. Back.

[4] Wilhelm’s essay on Gottfried August Bürger, “Über Bürgers Werke,” in Charakteristiken und Kritiken 2:1–96 (Sämmtliche Werke 8:64–139, where the title is simply “Bürger”). Back.

[5] Wilhelm’s parody of poetic competition, “Wettgesang,” in Athenaeum (1800) 161–64; see Caroline’s letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 27 December 1799 (letter 258), note 19. Back.

[6] “Kotzebue’s Travelogue,” a verse parody of August von Kotzebue’s journey back from exile in Siberia, Ehrenpforte und Triumphbogen für den Theater-Präsidenten von Kotzebue bei seiner gehofften Rückkehr in’s Vaterland (Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1801), 97–103, i.e., part of Wilhelm’s Kotzebuade. Schelling, who was esp. fond of this part of the Kotzebuade, could hardly praise it enough in his review of the piece. Back.

[7] Wilhelm took Tieck’s advice (which Caroline and Schelling shared) by contributing a Shrovetide play under the pseudonym Inhumanus, “Ein schön kurzweilig Fastnachtsspiel / vom alten und neuen Jahrhundert. / Tragirt am ersten Januarii im Jahr nach der Geburt des Heilands 1801,” Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, 274–93, which according to its title was performed on 1 January 1801, to wit, at a souper Caroline and Wilhelm gave in Braunschweig; see Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 2 January 1801 (letter 279). Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott