Letter 320

• 320. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 7–12 June 1801

[Jena] 7 [–12] June [1801]

|161| Your recent missive suggests that you found several passages in my own less than pleasing, [1] but — at your humble service — said passages duly compensated me for similar such, since considerable stretches of Your Excellency’s own caused me an almost unacceptable feeling, and are intended herewith to cut short same.

You do not at all take my own modest points of opposition as being applicable only in the present, and instead are continually adding to them all my previous ones as well, such that, indeed, this monstrous thing emerges. But many small bad habits do not add up to one large one, and I am not as bad as you maintain, nor especially am I all that specifically disinclined toward you. It is instead a general manner, and I regretted it as soon as I had implemented it against you thus and left it standing solely because deletions of that sort invariably look suspicious [2] and because I thought — well — that you yourself would appropriately cross it out, something you did indeed do, albeit less with a gracious than with an ungracious disposition. I myself can do nothing further than to accept such with grace.

Moreover, I do see the strength of your |162| reasoning, nor do I doubt in any way the strength of your means in general, for since my own former unbelief in those means, they — along with my own insights — have infinitely increased.

Please remember that at the time, I was an utterly dependent child and a little lost sheep in matters of art. Do what you think is best, my most gracious friend, and it will be well done. I grant you herewith my own particular sanction, nor would it ever occur to me in any case that the adaptation of a Greek tragedy for the theater might be an ill-advised undertaking, one you do seem inclined to commence. [3]

As far as my allegedly derisive comment is concerned, I swear and resolutely asseverate that it did not at all seem to be such, but rather merely impish or cheeky, and it must have come across quite differently on paper than it probably would have from my own lips. What else do you want?

I, however, do want something else, since I am indeed vexed that you so severely misunderstand me with regard to your remaining in Berlin. [4] When I invite you to come, it truly is an expression solely of my own longing for your presence and is not at all intended to make you anxious. Do you really consider me so completely off that, after your having returned to me all the external peace and quiet of which I am still capable, I would want to press you to do this and that and try to tie you to me completely? I am happy if you find a place somewhere that pleases you, if you manage to attain a goal that is dear to you.

You prompted my questions because you never said that you would not be coming until so late, whereas I was actually expecting you from week to week insofar as you yourself really seemed to be postponing your coming merely from week to week rather than as rigorously as you indeed are doing.

Now I know it, and now I will also no longer worry myself with it. |163| Just do come whenever you want, you will always find us at home. [5]

In addition to the other things I have requested that you pick up for us, [6] please also bring Schleiermacher along, with regard to whom we have suddenly experienced new illumination and new interest. Schelling will write you about all this in a letter within the next six weeks, though what he actually said was that it would happen within the next 6 days. [7]

10 June

I was intending but then unable on the last postal day [to post the letter] — I was already not feeling well beforehand, but then it overwhelmed me such that I actually had to put my quill down, and I do hope that for once you may have waited for a letter from me with at least a bit of perplexity.

11 June

The couple of days of cooler weather again derailed me, though Kilian did not, by the way, prescribe anything more than a regular glass of Bishop of fresh bitter orange three times a day; [8] I can view this only as a mystical, spiritual prescription through which a person becomes first a pope by means of the bishop, and then a god by means of the Trinity. [9] A goal toward which, by the way, my entire manner of life strives, along with everything I do and everything I do not do. —

Luise has been in Weimar for several days now with Ludekus. My own condition prevented me from traveling over there yesterday for the performance of Maria Stuart. [10] Since Mademoiselle Jagemann and Madame Vohs are now bitter enemies, they must be performing these roles with wholly accurate demeanor, which would certainly also include their normal demeanor. [11]

Goethe departed last week after having had legitimacy bestowed on his son beforehand, then taking along only the latter and |164| his Geist on the journey. [12] People in Weimar maintain that Goethe’s finances are in a terrible mess, and are so because of Madam Vulpius, who is using the money to support not only her own disorder but also her entire clan. The day after Goethe’s departure, she gave a banquet for her people in Goethe’s best rooms, the Evan Evoe of which resounded throughout the entire neighborhood. [13] Ah, weeds, such women!

Goethe traveled by way of Goettingen and can quite easily visit Soeder on the same route back. I will see to it that Brabeck is alerted to the possibility. [14]

There is still no sign of Friedrich Tiek. [15]

Is it perhaps possible that Ludwig has not yet finished Don Quixote, commensurate with the response one receives to queries in bookstores: “Not yet finished.” [16] Why does Tiek not move here entirely instead that he might have access to some sort of care? In Dresden he once again has the most splendid opportunity for idleness. [17]

When your letter arrived, I really had already spoken at length with Bohn about Unger. [18] He understands the entire matter and does not for a moment doubt the direct influence both of Vieweg and of Madam Unger. And yet he cannot imagine any other resolution than for you two to come to an agreement again, and, given all the signs, it can only be that Unger himself has made statements to this effect. [19] Unger allegedly had hitherto given absolutely no indication that the Shakespeare project would not work, and the initial stage of your quarrel — according to Bohn — also proves quite the opposite

I myself could do nothing else with Bohn except to guide him toward the proper perspective. For I did indeed send Madam Vieweg the sort of epistle I described to you in which, at the end, I casually remarked that if Vieweg did not already have all the chemistry baggage, then he should take Shakespeare, since that project would certainly be as solid as the Bible or as Voss’s Homer and not as expensive as the latter. [20]

But because |165| Bohn would be speaking with Vieweg en route, I had to be extremely careful not to give Bohn even the slightest impression that I was making an offer. —

It is highly probable that Vieweg and Madam Unger are instructing Unger’s lawyer, not Unger himself, and, once started, they would indeed be inclined to go to extremes.

As far as Cotta’s position as mediator is concerned, the distance does not really make much difference. [21] The main issue could be settled with a single laconic letter. There is no need for haste, since a later publication date for the 8th volume would conceal any broader delay from the general public.

Unfortunately, however, far too much now depends on the outcome of the lawsuit, and who can trust the judges? [22] One must remain undeterred in every way, otherwise Mama Campe is correct after all in maintaining that though one’s enemies might torment and beat one down to the point of burdensome ill-humor, such may in fact actually be their own indirect web — and may the gods protect us from that! Even if things always go well for such dogs, I myself still believe in a sacred, eternal lot.

Moreover, things will also change externally again. Let us just sit quietly for a while and wait and see. I am currently reading Plato on justice. A certain Wolf has translated it anew. (“A certain” — only a fool could speak thus about the real one.) [23] But tell me, when will Schleiermacher-Friedrich’s Plato be published? I long for it. [24]

Have you already chosen something from Euripides? [25] Madam Meyer would surely be quite successful with Phaedra. [26] All of you would do well to train this woman also to portray living statues and perform silent mimic art. Who could prevent from her giving public performances of this sort? And with your help, her personality could attain its real calling before falling into ruin. [27]

My dear friend, I also have a small dilettante to send your way. I got on Cécile’s track and discovered that she |166| has been inwardly quite busy, so am sending you a couple of things here that she herself does not yet even know I have. [28] She presumably has a whole supply of such things. To be sure, what we have here is paternal talent that, if coupled with more spirit and soul, would perhaps even be able to boast of being better than our fathers. I, however, would be for simply allowing it to abide quietly on its own. One must deal severely with such hopeful youth and provide some balance to the inevitable facile encouragement. [29]

Meyer remarked that he would advise her to take up copper engraving — he was particularly opposed to the idea with Tischbein, who is allegedly not an artist at all etc. You are familiar with all that, but I do intend to speak properly with him about her perhaps when we pick up Luise in Weimar. [29a]

Julchen is doing quite well with herself, I only wish I could occasionally provide a bit of distraction for her, which has been virtually impossible here just now. There are simply no girls her age here.

That notwithstanding, she does seem to like being here, and often enough she seems to take a charming interest in our wise conversations, especially when, during our walks, Schelling begins with his revelations, e.g., — to mention but the one yesterday — when he explains why nature denied a beautiful song to birds with burning metallic colors, and beautiful plumage to others. [29b] She also has considerable expectations for when you yourself come and pay your attentions to her.

To my query on the enclosed note I received the enclosed written response. Soon thereafter Friedrich sent yet another basket full of books, to which I responded that as far as the Volksmärchen were concerned you wanted the restoration in natura and I merely wanted to remind him. [30] He took the reference “in natura” quite literally and sent Philipp’s copy; you can imagine in what condition. |167| But I suppose it is better than nothing at all. They ought at least to return all the books, since I am having to repress asking about a great many other things simply to avoid becoming drawn into a petty quarrel. Books are eternal, one can always ask for them again; but not bed linens.


Yesterday, during a short walk with Schelling and Julchen, we encountered Hufeland and Schütz together. [31] You should have seen how literature got pushed to the side. I have not yet spoken with Hufeland.

She, 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 continuing all this superfluous tension any further. [32]

12 June

I went ahead and carried out the aforementioned plan yesterday, since she will be leaving tomorrow. I let her know, and she then received me quite graciously, though her spouse did not appear, being allegedly not at home. [32a]

Gries says that Bothe, who is currently in Erfurt, is now supplying all the belletrist reviews in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung; if he had not heard it for a fact from Hufeland, I would have my doubts, since Briareus was, after all, similarly parodied in the Gigantomachie and because Bothe’s translations from the Greek were recently quite justifiably criticized. [33]

Schelling took care of submitting your declaration, which in the meantime to me seems more a local measure with regard to Berlin than a more general one, and at least till now has received no response suggesting they would not be including it. [34]

|168| Since Schelling will again definitely not get around to writing today, let me but say that only now is he reading the Speeches on Religion, which he earlier had only glanced at, and that they have captivated him perhaps more than any one of you (though he has not yet gotten to the last one) and that he views them as something thoroughly cultivated and complete, indeed to the point of delight; but I do not want to anticipate anything more of what he might say, since he himself intends to write. [35] Please see if you cannot get hold of a vellum copy for him; he would like to buy one for himself.

Is it really not possible for Schleiermacher himself to come here with you and stay a bit? Invite him on my behalf as well — if he does not come here, then probably nothing more will come of our acquaintance, since I doubt the Brandenburg Gate will ever see my countenance. [36]

I do not think I will send you the issue with the Identity, since even though a Greek tragedy is quite identical with the Identity, I really want to have directed you to the tragedy as a single totality. [37] Does Schleiermacher not have any of these issues? And how am I to know when Friedrich sends you the Charakteristiken?! In a word, nothing will come of this.

I will take care of the Franconian Lustgärtlein; I would already have done so had I not waited for an answer from Marcus, which, however, has not arrived. [38] Do you think Madam Paulus could have intercepted it? [39]

Apropos, whither will Friedrich be traveling? Perhaps also to Franconia, with the Tailor? (That is our cipher for Paulus. The Frommans are the Bread Rolls, since their children look like rolls on which someone has painted a nose, eyes, and mouth, and everyone there looks like they are stuffed with rolls.) In this regard I would almost be curious to hear how it is possible for Friedrich to travel in the first place, certainly not on his own power or means.

To wit, a few days ago, Gabler came to Schelling |169| with some correspondence he has had with Friedrich and which Schelling has refused to read. He wants the money back he advanced Friedrich, since at least for now nothing will come of the book. Friedrich genuinely did already pay him back 50 rh., and Gabler intends to sue him for the remaining, almost 100 rh., along with indemnity, namely, interest. [40] Schelling advised against it to spare philosophy the annoyance. The worst thing is that Friedrich just managed to entice from Gabler beforehand what he has long owed Schelling in the first place. —

It was in this spirit also that Herr Zapf appeared wanting to tap me on account of the wine you did not drink. [41] I sent him, along with the bill I found here, to Friedrich, and indeed, he did not return. I had to pay 10 rh. for wood for the year 1800. 4 louis d’or for Succow was sufficient in our opinion here, as well as 12 for Hufeland. I am glad Philipp assigned you the money. I have not yet heard anything more from there. [42]

Have you not seen Herr Fischer of Hirschfeld in Berlin? All of you will soon have Brinkmann back again. [43]


Dear Schlegel, I am sitting at your writing desk because downstairs is being cleaned, but it is so cool that my hand is stiff. It was just this way a year ago as well. Today is Corpus Christi Day. [44]

How much depends on the weather during a year — until it all becomes a matter of indifference.

I am tempted to send you the letter describing this day’s journey, since the package with my and her letters is lying here open before me. [45] Shape into a poem in your soul the way we moved toward death along that flower-strewn path. |170| Remember the hill on the Mayn, with the three pictures of white stone and the inscriptions, the highest love, the highest pain, the highest sympathy [46] — Remember the grievously slain mother, this is the celebration of the death of her only darling. But she, too, will not abide on earth, and indeed is already no longer on this earth; her, too, heaven will take.

Once you have gathered yourself, then please do open the letter that I genuinely would like to enclose, and compose a poem once more, aspiring toward the child, and for the mother.

We are doing everything possible to keep ourselves propped up, and Schelling is so good, strengthening my soul in this struggle and elevating me to the highest pinnacle of being, though himself physically bent over virtually into the grave.


I would yet speak with you about alien things that I might prepare for myself a transition to greater serenity, about an impression I recently had.

Among the returned books, I found Voss’s Aeneid, and for the first time I think I have an idea of what this work is about such that I am quite astonished. [47] I was never able to imagine it as being so bad.

First, it does not seem epic to me at all — nowhere does the piece linger serenely, being characterized instead by such restlessness and passion that it seems more modern even than modern itself. And that is supposed to be modeled after Homer? Well, in this way we can certainly recognize him much better.

I sense Kotzebue in it — excepting the respect for work and art that glimmers out of this shoddy piece of construction and artificiality [48]

What a teeming mass of useless goings and comings and of truly Nordic ghosts and apparitions. The reference to Rome is the best thing in it, |171| and yet how unepic. —

Again a light went on for me regarding how in all this Virgil prompted Dante. The imitation is quite strong in Klopstock. I was pleased to recall a hint from Goethe where with regard to Laocoön he so profoundly disparages the poet’s passage and will brook absolutely no comparison with that particular work of art. [49]

How wondrous, the way the most sublime of re-emergent art picked up again on this inferior Virgil, and how from such impurity Dante emerged with all his drama and plastic sensibility. But no genre really reemerged in a completely pure form, particularly not the epic, at most perhaps the lyrical (in Petrarch) as the weakest. Hold it not against me that I am relating things you already know; for me, they are new, and are things I have discovered for myself.

One really must thank the Lord that there are such tireless people in the world as Voss, who have such an inborn talent for translating Homer and also Virgil. [50]

I confess it pains me that Friedrich, unlike virtually everything he has done since, did not finish his History of Greek and Roman Poesy. That is his true calling, and I just enjoyed reading the fragment again. [51]

Stay well. I must close, for my head is so heavy it yearns to lie down.


[1] The first paragraph in this letter is a response to Wilhelm’s (annoyed) response (not extant) to Caroline’s letter to him on 25 May 1801 (letter 318). Caroline’s initial, stilted, intentionally standoffish style constitutes some of the initial documentation attesting the incipient tension between her and Wilhelm. Back.

[2] I.e., deletions in a letter of things one perhaps wishes one had not said. Back.

[3] At issue is Wilhelm’s plan to adapt a piece by Euripides; the result was Wilhelm’s Ion: ein Schauspiel, which premiered in Weimar on 2 January 1802. References to this play recur with increasing frequency in coming letters. Back.

[4] Caroline had been querying Wilhelm regularly concerning when he would return to Jena (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[5] An extraordinary remark in German insofar as Caroline, who was, after all, still married to Wilhelm, switches from the familiar form of address Du in this one sentence to the formal Sie, reverting back to Du immediately in the following sentence, an unmistakable signal of personal distance. Back.

[6] Gifts for Luise and Emma Wiedemann; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), also with notes 51–53. Back.

[7] Schelling had taken a new interest in Schleiermacher’s Über die Religion: Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Verächtern; see his letter to Wilhelm on 3 July 1801 (letter 323a). Back.

[8] Caroline had not been feeling well and had earlier spoken of summoning the physician Konrad Joseph Kilian; see her letters to Wilhelm on 25 May and 31 May 1801 (letters 318, 319). Back.

[9] Bishop: a hot drink made of, among other things, wine (sometimes port), bitter oranges, and cloves. Julie Gotter remarks in her letter to her sister Cäcilie Gotter on 9 June 1801 (letter 319c) that Caroline had wanted to query Cäcile “about the paper in which you customarily wrapped the bitter oranges.”

Concerning the drink itself, see Commisionsrathe Riem, Die Getränke der Menschen: oder Lehrbuch sowohl die natürlichen als auch die künstlichen Getränke aller Art näher kennen zu lernen und nach der bessten Bereitungsart aufzubewahren (Dresden 1803), 270–71:

Roast juicy bitter oranges over a gentle flame until they become thoroughly hot and begin to burst, and also turn black. Then rub a split nutmeg nut over the singed rind, place the oranges in a large vessel, pour red wine over them while they are still warm, usually Pontac [a dark red, rather harsh-tasting French wine; some recipes similarly suggest Medoc], and then mash them with a large spoon; add several piece of sugar that have been dipped in water beforehand, and stir the entire mixture thoroughly.

Some people also roast the rind of coarse bread and add it to the wine; others add a small piece of cinnamon. [Some recipes suggest letting the mixture steep overnight and then be strained before drinking.]

If one uses white wine instead of red, the drink is usually called a Cardinal. If one uses champagne, it is called a Pope [whence perhaps Caroline’s allusion]. One might also point out that this drink usually tastes a bit more mellow if instead of just wine one also adds a bit of water, which can constitute up to a third of the concoction or perhaps a bit more. The more water is added, the less harmful the Bishop is to one’s health. Back.

[10] In her letter to her sister Cäcile on 9 June 1801 (letter 319c), Julie Gotter similarly mentions the anticipated trip over to Weimar, not yet knowing, of course, that Caroline’s “condition,” viz., ill health or indisposition, would prevent the excursion from taking place.

Schiller’s Maria Stuart. Ein Trauerspiel (Tübingen 1801) was performed on 10 May 1801; the Weimar company performed only twice more (13, 15 June 1801) before concluding its season in Weimar and moving to Lauchstädt for the main summer season. Concerning the actors performance schedule outside Weimar, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315), note 2. Back.

[11] That is, in the mutually adversarial roles of Maria Stuart and Queen Elizabeth; here the encounter between the two women in act 3, scene 4 (nineteenth-century rendering from Schiller’s Works. Illustrated by the Greatest German Artists, ed. J. G. Fischer, Hjalmar H. Boyesen, vol. 2 [Philadelphia 1883], plate following p. 292):



[12] Goethe, traveling with his son, August, and personal secretary, Ludwig Geist (Caroline’s play on words in German involves Geist, “spirit”), left Weimar on 5 June 1801. On the return trip, he spent time especially in Göttingen in order to pursue chromatic-historical studies.

His diary notes that he had considerable contact with professors there, including Christian Gottlob Heyne, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, Christoph Meiners, and Johann Stephan Pütter.

He also made the acquaintance of the physician involved in the death of Lotte Michaelis, namely, Friedrich Benjamin Osiander.

He returned to Weimar on 30 August 1801 (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:15–20). Back.

[13] Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1812: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet:


Caroline chooses a trenchant metaphor: “Evan! evoé,” the cry of the raving female maenads, followers of Dionysus, who, dressed in long garments and with flowing hair, raged through the forests, capturing fawns, tearing them apart alive, and ripping off their flesh with their bare teeth.

Here (1) dancing maenads (David Funck, Tanzende Bacchanten [1525–50]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur HHopfer AB 3.21); and (2) maenads killing Pentheus, King of Thebes (in Euripides’s play The Bacchae); Johann Wilhelm Baur, Die Mänaden töten Pentheus [1751–1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 135):




[14] Such did not happen, though Caroline had mentioned this possibility to Goethe himself. See her letter to Wilhelm on 31 May 1801 (letter 319). Concerning Söder Chateau, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May–1 June 1801 (letter 319), note 3. Back.

[15] Concerning Friedrich Tieck, whom Wilhelm and Caroline wanted to engage in creating a memorial and bust for Auguste, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May–1 June 1801 (letter 319), note 4, with additional cross references. Back.

[16] Joseph Richter, Bildergalerie weltlicher Misbräuche: Ein Gegenstück zur Bildergalerie katholischer und klösterlicher Misbräuche (Frankfurt, Leipzig 1785), illustration preceding p. 149:


The reference is to Tieck’s translation of Cervantes’s Leben und Thaten des scharfsinnigen Edlen Don Quixote von la Mancha, 4 vols. (Unger: Berlin 1799–1801). Back.

[17] Ludwig Tieck suffered from chronic gout and was currently living in Dresden (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[18] See Wilhelm’s letter to Caroline on 18 April 1801 (letter 309) and supplementary appendix 309.1 concerning this quarrel. Caroline presumably spoke with the publisher Johann Friedrich Bohn during the latter’s recent stay in Jena with his wife (Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1798; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


See Julie Gotter’s letter to her mother, Luise Gotter, on 8 June 1801 (letter 319b), also with note 6. Back.

[19] This reconciliation did not come about until the autumn of 1803; but Unger died in 1804, and the next volume of the edition of Shakespeare did not appear until 1810. Back.

[20] Caroline had mentioned sending Madam Vieweg a letter in which she, Caroline, would quietly and unobtrusively mention Wilhelm’s Shakespeare project; see her letter to Wilhelm on 25 May 1801 (letter 318).

Caroline is referring to the recent books on chemistry Vieweg was publishing; see her letter to Wilhelm on 5–6 March 1801 (letter 296), note 35. Vieweg did not publish any of Johann Heinrich Voss’s translations of Homer. Back.

[21] Caroline had discussed this possibility in her letter to Wilhelm on 25 May 1801 (letter 318); Cotta lived in distant Tübingen (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Besetztere und illuminierte Landkarte von Deutschland Elementarwerk, 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 xlv):



[22] Wilhelm had filed a lawsuit against Unger; see his letter to Caroline on 18 April 1801 (letter 309). He eventually lost (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Die Geldstrafe vor Gericht,” 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):



[23] In the first edition of Caroline’s letters, (1871), 2:100n1, Georg Waitz identifies “a certain Wolf” as “Friedrich C. Wolff, my excellent teacher, rector of the Gymnasium in Flensburg, and a close acquaintance of my parents.”

The reference is to Platons Republik oder Unterredung vom Gerechten. In zehn Büchern, trans. Friedrich Carl Wolff, 2 vols. (Altona 1799).


As Wolff himself explains in his preface, the translation was begun by Rudolf Boie (1757–16 April 1795; younger brother of Heinrich Christian Boie), Wolff’s friend in Eutin. Johann Heinrich Voss, whose assistant Wolff was at the school at the time, encouraged Wolff to finish the translation (Boie had already done up to the eighth and ninth of ten books) and publish it under both his own and Boie’s names.

Voss and Wolff, however, determined that Boie could not have viewed his own manuscript as ready for publication, but rather only as a preliminary study. Hence Wolff undertook to revise the entire translation and published it under his own name (with Voss’s concurrence), too modest to attach the name of his esteemed friend to his own, perhaps inferior work.

The Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1800) 206 (Friday, 18 July 1800) 161–68, published a collective review of Platons Republik oder Unterredung vom Gerechten, trans. Fr. Carl Wolff, 2 vols. (Altona 1799) and Platons Republik, vol. 1., trans. G. Fähse (Leipzig 1800); among other things, the reviewer remarks the following:

Herr Wolff’s work actually emerged from an incomplete translation of the first seven books left behind by the late Boie of Eutin, of which the first book had already been published as a sample in the Deutsches Museum and is also included here with slight changes. The late Herr Boie’s translation of the remaining books was such that he could not possibly have thought them ready for publication, and it is these books that constitute Herr Wolff’s own contribution. He presents them simply as a translation without any but the most essential annotations and without any introduction. . . .

An assessment of the translations in and for themselves: After careful comparison of several books and selected individual passages with the original, we must say that Herr Wolff’s translation on the whole not only exhibits the merit of faithfulness to an extremely high degree, but also excellently renders the admixture and alternation of simplicity and poetic lilt, the unaffectedness, precision, and elegance of Plato’s style in this particular work, and the pleasing tone of the more subtle and refined language of conversation. Back.

[24] Friedrich Schlegel left the publisher Frommann completely in the lurch with regard to the translation of Plato, which had already been announced in several periodicals for the following Easter book fair. Ultimately Schleiermacher completed this enormous piece of work by himself. See Schleiermacher’s letter to Friedrich on 27 April 1801 (letter 312b), also note 10 there. Back.

[25] Viz., to do as an adaptation; see above. Back.

[26] In Euripides’s play Hippolytus (performed 428 BC), Phaedra is Hipploytus’s stepmother, whom Aphrodite causes to fall in love with him. Schiller did an adaptation of Racine’s Phèdre in 1805.

Here a sarcophagus illustration of Euripides’s Phaedra seated and surrounded by seven maidservants, one of whom holds Phaedra’s right hand and arm and two of whom hold stringed instruments. A nurse lifts Phaedra’s head covering from behind with one hand and holds her hair with the other. Phaedra’s work basket (καλαθος) is visible beneath the stool. Alongside the stool, Eros raises his bow and draws an arrow from his quiver (N. Wecklein, Ausgewählte Tragödien des Euripides für den Schulgebrauch Erklärt, vol. 4: Hippolytus [Leipzig 1885], plate following p. 20):



[27] Johanna Henriette Meyer did indeed come to excel in such portrayals after the fashion of Lady Hamilton; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 25 May 1801 (letter 318), note 19. Back.

[28] Luise and Cäcilie Gotter had visited Weimar in early May (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 5 May 1801 [letter 313]), and Luise had earlier sent Caroline a letter inquiring about an educational situation for Cäcilie to develop the latter’s artistic talent (drawing). Cäcilie was to stay in Weimar initially, and Luise Gotter was wondering about the possibility of her staying with the Tischbeins in Leipzig. Cäcilie had then visited Caroline in Jena for a day the week of 25 May 1801, and her sister Julie had arrived on 31 May 1801 for a lengthier stay. Back.

[29] Facile in French in original. Back.

[29a] Caroline is relating part of the conversation concerning Heinrich Meyer that Julie Gotter similarly recounts to her sister Cäcile in her letter on 9 June 1801 (letter 319c). Back.

[29b] Julie had remarked to her sister Cäcile on 9 June 1801 (letter 319c) that when they are together with Schelling, “it is always quite entertaining, though not always, for often the conversations are so philoso. . . . that they simply go over my head.”

See Schelling’s later Philosophy of Art, 141:

For the most part, the most primal, simple, and pure colors are found in the inorganic bodies the minerals. The most general coloring medium in nature appears to be the metals. Yet wherever the metallic character disappears most completely, it reemerges as total transparency. Specific and unique coloring and living colors appear first in blossom and some fruits of plants, then in the features of birds, which feathers are themselves a plantlike growth, then in the colored covering of animals, and so on. As simple as the art of coloring in monochromatic bodies may appear, the production of that coloring with all possible determinations of individuality is extremely difficult, since besides the color itself other specific effects must also be expressed, such as dullness and luster. Back.

[30] Ludwig Tieck, Volksmärchen, 3 vols. (Berlin 1797). — In natura, Latin, here: “in-kind payment.”



[31] Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1808):


Although the Schlegels and Schelling had not been on good terms with the Hufelands or Christian Gottfried Schütze since Wilhelm’s and Schelling’s break with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in the autumn of 1799, a slight thaw had been taking place, and Caroline had even arranged for a visit from Madam Hufeland. See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 25 May 1801 (letter 318), note 23; Schelling had similarly begun speaking with at least Gottlieb Hufeland again.

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):



[32] Leipziger Taschenbuch für Frauenzimmer zum Nutzen und Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


Rosine Niethammer had been ill and was going to Liebenstein to take the waters. Back.

[32a] Genealogische Kalender auf das Jahr 1810; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[33] In the parody Gigantomachia, the character of Bryareus (Caroline spells it Briareus) represented Christian Gottfried Schütz, one of the co-editors of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung.

Euripides Werke, trans. Friedrich Heinrich Bothe (Berlin, Stettin 1800), had just been condemned in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1801) 139 (Tuesday, 12 May 1801) 321–28. An anonymous reviewer begins his review of Bothe’s translation thus:

A translation of the tragedies of Euripides probably represents one of the most difficult, questionable tasks for any of the modern languages today, even for our own, extraordinarily pliable language.

Whereas the singers of the Iliad and Odyssey constantly animate the translator through the rich wealth of their cheerful singing, and whereas Aeschylus and Sophocles elevate the translator on the wings of their own enthusiasm, the more sober disposition of Euripides and his often rather empty volubility exposes the translator to the double risk of either adding too much of his own personality and thereby transgressing against his very obligation as translator, or of bringing ambiguous credit on the spirit of the author among modern readers through excessively conscientious faithfulness to the original.

Although it by no means follows that one ought not translate this poet at all, it does follow that whoever undertakes to string this bow must draw on a feeling for the spirit of antiquity forged by experience as well as an authentic artistic sensibility in combining an uncommon degree of diligence, on the one hand, and, drawing from one’s own poetic talents, an uncommon empathy with the spirit of the original, on the other.

And even if in so doing the translator is still not able to conceal the poet’s sobriety, he will at least allow the poet without vexation to maintain his own unique personality, and will not do anything to weaken the overall coloring that in fact constitutes the greatest merit of this tragedian. Only a translation that also managed, through art, to render the negligent grace of the original, however, would earn our approbation; in all other translations, although we might well praise the translator’s knowledge and diligence, we would also invariably regret the lost time and wasted effort.

We regret we are unable to reckon Herr Bothe’s translation among those that have been successful. We certainly believe him when he says he would have had plenty to say had he “enumerated the difficulties to be overcome” in the project; and even without his personal assurance that he is but a human being with human powers, we would be inclined to ease some of the more severe demands.

Yet even if we apply a less severe standard, his accomplishment still comes up consistently short. Although we would not deny that the author has the requisite talent to translate Euripides, we cannot view this present work as anything but an exercise that he has prematurely presented to the public. It is reasonable to expect us to adduce support for this assessment, and we believe we have sufficient at our disposal to convince even the author himself of the accuracy of that assessment and of our own impartiality in the matter. Back.

[34] The reference is to Wilhelm’s public “declaration” of authorship of his Kotzebuade, which would appear in the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1801) 113 (Saturday, 13 June 1801) 912. Schelling writes to Wilhelm concerning the placement of this declaration in a letter on 3 July 1801 (letter 323a). For the background and text of Wilhelm’s declaration, see the supplementary appendix on the Kotzebuade, section 9. Back.

[35] See Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm on 3 July 1801 (letter 323a). Back.

[36] Although Schleiermacher did not make a visit to Jena, Caroline did manage to visit Berlin during the spring of 1802, during which she did not, however, make Schleiermacher’s acquaintance. She is quite right: nothing more came of their acquaintance. Back.

[37] Caroline is referring to the “identity” of nature and spirit as discussed in Schelling’s “Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie,” Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik 2 (1801) 2, which he had been going over with her “line by line”; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), also with note 37. Back.

[38] Mauritius Knauer, Franckenthalischer Lust-Garten, Das ist: Beschreibung Der Wallfahrt Zu denen Vierzehen Heiligen Noth-Helffern, Die in dem Kayserl. Hoch-Stifft Bamberg gelegen, und dem Closter Langheim des Heil. Cistercienser-Ordens einverleibt (Würzburg 1653; Bamberg 1752, 1782, 1685, etc.), a guide to the pilgrimage sites of the “fourteen holy helpers in times of need” associated with the imperial see of Bamberg and the Langheim Monastery.

See also Caroline’s letters to Wilhelm on 19–20 July 1801 (letter 326) and 27 July 1801 (letter 327).

Caroline does not specify in letter 327 which “older edition” Adalbert Friedrich Marcus eventually genuinely did send. For the illustrations to the edition of 1752, click on the image below:



[39] Karoline and Sophie Paulus were currently in Bamberg, where Marcus also lived. See also Dorothea’s and Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel in December 1800 (letter 277a), note 1. Back.

[40] Concerning Friedrich and the Jena publisher Christian Ernst Gabler, see Friedrich’s letter to Schleiermacher on 23 January 1801 (letter 283a), note 4. Back.

[41] Caroline here uses a play on the name Zapf, “a tap (on a barrel, etc.),” and the German verb anzapfen, “to tap (a barrel etc.), “to tap, touch someone for money”; also: “to tap (or pump) someone for information.” Back.

[42] Concerning this debt to the physician Hueland, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May 1801 (letter 319), note 20, esp. also with the cross reference there to her letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), note 16. Back.

[43] “Fischer von Hirschfeld” unidentified. — Concerning Karl Gustav Brinckmann’s return to Berlin from Paris, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May 1801 (letter 319), note 28. Back.

[44] “The Feast of Corpus Christi commemorates the institution and gift of the Holy Eucharist, observed in the W[estern] Church on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday” (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd ed., ed. F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone [Oxford 1978], 349, s.v. Corpus Christi).

In 1801, Easter Sunday fell on 5 April, Trinity Sunday on 31 May; the following Thursday — Fronleichn[am] below — was 4 June 1801 (Neuverfertigter Kalender auf das Jahr 1801. Welches ein gemein Jahr von 365 Tagen, und das erste im 18ten Jahrhunderte ist [Leitmeritz 1801]):


But Caroline is writing on Friday, 12 June 1801, and is using the expression “Corpus Christi” in this letter to refer not to the feast day, but rather to the day she and Auguste departed Bamberg for Bocklet, namely, 12 June 1800 (see Auguste and Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 8/9 June 1800 [letter 262]) — figuratively: the path to Calvary, where Auguste died one month later. Back.

[45] I.e., the package of letters from Caroline and Auguste from the previous year after the latters’ departure from Jena; had the package not already been “open,” Caroline would have not been authorized to open it herself. In any event, those letters seem no longer to be extant. Back.

[46] Bamberg is situated on the Regnitz River, a tributary of the Main River, along which Caroline and Auguste, and later Wilhelm, traveled on their journey from Bamberg to Bocklet. Bocklet itself is situated on the what is known as the Franconian Saale River. The three white stones or inscriptions “on the hill on the Mayn [River] are an intriguing but unidentified reference. Caroline lated lived in Würzburg on the Main River (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[47] Johann Heinrich Voss’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid; Voss published the entirety of Virgil’s works as Des Publius Virgilius Maro Werke, trans. J. H. Voss, 3 vols. (Braunschweig: Vieweg 1799); vol. 1: rural poems; vol. 2: Äneïs i–vi; vol. 3: Äneïs vii–xii.

Here the frontispieces to the two volumes on the Aeneid from the edition Prague 1800:



[48] Wilhelm himself was inclined to speak derogatorily about Virgil, and August von Kotzebue’s Expectorationen. Ein Kunstwerk und zugleich ein Vorspiel zum Alarcos (n.p. 1803), 19–21, make fun of the fact that, in his Berlin lectures, Wilhelm wrinkled his nose when speaking about Virgil.

Kotzebue has the character “A. W. Schlegel, the Mad” respond as follows to Goethe’s insistence that “in a word, the only faith that brings salvation, namely, that in Goethe and Schlegel, will be established” (illustrations: [1] Göttinger Taschen Kalender Für das Iahr 1800; [2] Göttinger Taschen Kalender Für das Iahr 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Yes! Yes! Amen! Amen!
They must believe, especially the ladies,
Who must behold me at the lectern
And praise me without understanding a single word;
In droves will they flock to me,
With their cicisbei and reticules,
To spend an hour in my chairs,
That they might afterward declare:
"When the lecture was delivered
I was present a couple of times,
And while I knitted my socks
I learned to scold Wieland
And smear the Göttinger,
And wrinkle my nose at Virgil;
The whole of aesthetics in a nutshell
Costs me but two Friedrichs d'or,
And all while exposing my shapely leg
To the entire assembly,
And my elegant negligé
Was also admired in passing.
Whatever oppresses me in north and south
I criticize along the banks of the Spree
According to the true critical standard
Which was always loads of fun."

See also the reference to Virgil’s having been “crushed” by the carriage of the “Most Recent [i.e. Romantic] Aesthetics” in Kotzebue’s 1803 caricature. Back.

[49] Caroline is giving a one-sided presentation of Goethe’s view from the article “Über Laokoon” in his Propyläen: eine periodische Schrifft 1 (1798) no. 1, 1–19.

The Laocoon marble group, a copy (ca. 50 BCE) of an otherwise lost original, probably once stood in the palace of the emperor Titus, then in an opulently decorated room near Nero’s golden house, where it was rediscovered in January 1506. It is currently housed in the Vatican, since 1960 in its original form (though here depicted without Laocoön’s right arm, as familiar during the eighteenth-century; image source: Wilhelm Lübke and Max Semrau, Grundriss der Kunstgeschichte, 14th ed. [Esslingen, 1908], 313).


In his essay, after discussing the Laocoön group in depth, Goethe asserts that “[i]n a word, we dare boldly affirm that this work exhausts its subject and happily fulfills all the conditions of art.” He concludes his essay with the following remarks (Goethe’s Literary Essays, trans. J. E. Spingarn [London 1921], 33–35):

It is doing Virgil and poetic art a great injustice to compare even for a moment this most succinct achievement of Sculpture with the episodical treatment of the subject in the Aeneid. Since the unhappy exile, Aeneas, to recount how he and his fellow-citizens were guilty of the unpardonable folly of bringing the famous horse into their city, the Poet must hit upon some way to provide a motive for this action. Everything is subordinated to this end, and the story of Laocoon stands here as a rhetorical argument to justify an exaggeration if only it serves its purpose.

Two monstrous serpents come out of the sea with crested heads; they rush upon the children of the priest who had injured the horse, encircle them, bite them, besmear them, twist and twine about the breast and head of the father as he hastens to their assistance, and hold up their heads in triumph while the victim, inclosed in their folds, screams in vain for help. The people are horror-struck and fly at once; no one dares to be a patriot any longer; and the hearer, satiated with the horror of the strange and loathsome story, is willing to let the horse be brought into the city.

Thus, in Virgil, the story of Laocoon serves only as a step to a higher aim, and it is a great question whether the occurrence be in itself a poetic subject.

See also the supplementary appendix on the Laokoön dispute between the Schlegels and Alois Hirt. Back.

[50] Concerning Voss’s translation of Homer, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 26 November 1801 (letter 332), also with note 17. Back.

[51] Friedrich’s unfinished Geschichte der Poesie der Griechen und Römer (Berlin 1798), of which only the first part of the first volume appeared, i.e., vol. 1,1 (repr. Jugendschriften 1:231–362). Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott