Letter 320a

320a. Dorothea Veit and Friedrich Schlegel to Schleiermacher and Henriette Herz in Berlin: Jena, 15 June 1801 [*]

[Jena] 15 June 1801

[Dorothea:] My dear friend, we had the best of intentions in deciding not to relate anything to you of our misery until it had passed; we had not anticipated that Veit would relate it to you instead. —

Indeed, I was again in extremely dire straits. I had not been doing well for some time, sometimes it was my teeth, sometimes this, sometimes that; then Leipzig, with its dank cellar air and drafts: [1] all the various discussions and negotiations that took place there made me smolder inside, while the dank air made me cold on the outside.

In a word, all those things contributed not a little to the outbreak of the malady. But I remained intrepid until we returned here, where evil finally managed to gain the upper hand and I had to patiently give in. —

I have received almost no medication other than Castor oil [2] and, especially, opium, [3] enfin [4] — — —

The most annoying and unfortunate thing was that Friedrich, too, finally succumbed to the disquiet and having to stay awake with me at night and to the nocturnal chills, and himself had to stay in bed for several days! So now just imagine the two of us, lying across from each other, the one crawling over to the other to supply whatever is needed — — but now we are both well on our way, indeed are moving with ever stronger steps toward recovery, and now feel only “a bit weak and weary,” like Little Red Ridinghood’s grandmother. [5]

But how, how often did I think of my watchman and friend in Berlin when I so clearly saw how Friedrich labored and yet would absolutely allow no one to relieve him! But he would have relinquished caretaking to you. —

And you, dear Jette! how I have missed you, just imagine how I was completely, wholly without any lady friend during this illness, Madam Paulus is not here, and several other ladies paid me only courteous visits! [6] Yes, yes, things went fine, so do not worry — it is also good to find out what one is capable of in an emergency such as this.

Dear friends, please forgive these few lines, writing is very arduous for me just now, I am getting a bit of a headache.

Remember me fondly, warmest regards.

If you happen to see Veit, give him my warmest regards, and if he perhaps receives a parcel for me with shoes from Vienna, please just have him send it to me here. [7]

[Friedrich:] Good friend,

Please do forgive me for not having written in so long. It is almost 2 weeks now that I myself have not been well. Although now I only have a bit of a head cold, it is so egregiously strong that I am capable of almost nothing. . . .

Karoline has finally managed to bring Wilhelm to the point of having fallen out with me. He has behaved very poorly indeed in it all. . . .

[Dorothea:] I have not yet seen the aforementioned Karoline at all, despite the illness! Cela est fort! [8]


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:287–88 (frag.); Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 107–9; KGA V/5 141–43; KFSA 25:277–78. Back.

[1] Concerning Dorothea’s teeth and journey to Leipzig in April/May 1801, see Caroline’s letters to Wilhelm Schlegel on 5–6 March 1801 (letter 296), note 31, and on 31 May 1801 (letter 319), also Friedrich’s letter to Schleiermacher on 18 May 1801 (letter 317a), in which he speaks of her teeth, resulting illness, and relapse; see esp. note 1 there ([1] Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]; [2] illustration of Leipzig in 1747: excerpt from Johann Christoph Müller, Abbildung der Königlichen und Churfürstlichen Sächsischen, Weltberühmten Kauf- und Handels-Stadt Leipzig: mit der dabey liegenden Gegend von Süd-Ost anzusehen [Gera, 1747]; [3] Leipzig market square, Karl Ramshorn, Leipzig und seine Umgebungen mit Rücksicht auf ihr historisches Interesse [Braunschweig 1841], plate following. p. 128):




Dorothea similarly mentions the visit in her letter to Schleiermacher on 16 April (letter 308a). Back.

[2] See the Encyclopaedia: Or, A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature etc. (London 1798), 321:

This oil is directed by the London college to be prepared in the same manner as that of almonds, the seeds or nuts being taken from the husks before putting them into the mortar. Palma Christi, or castor oil, (See Oleum, Palme Christi, and Ricinus), is a gentle and useful purgative: it generally produces its effects without griping, and may be given with safety where acrid purgatives are improper.

With adults, from half an ounce to an ounce is generally requisite for a dose. This article, however, is very seldom prepared by our apothecaries, being in general imported under the form of oil from the West Indies: hence the Edinburgh college have not mentioned it among their preparations, but merely given it a place in their list of the materia medica. But when our apothecaries prepare it for themselves, they are more certain of obtaining a pure oil, and one too obtained without the aid of heat, which is often employed, and gives a much inferior oil.

It is therefore with propriety that the London college have given directions for the preparation of it by the apothecary himself. But even the London college have not thought it necessary to give directions for the preparation of the expressed oils, which, as well as the oleum ricini, are also introduced into the list of the materia medica by the Edinburgh college. Back.

[3] Concerning the use of opium in the treatment of nervous fever (Caroline had heard from Johann Diederich Gries that Dorothea had come down with nervous fever; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May 1801 [letter 319]), see Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe on 23 March 1800 (letter 258v), note 4. Back.

[4] Fr., here: “and finally.” Back.

[5] Dorothea cites the passage correctly from Ludwig Tieck, “Leben und Tod des kleinen Rotkäppchens. Eine Tragödie,” Romantische Dichtungen, 2 vols. (Jena 1799–1800), 2:468.

At their first encounter, near the beginning of Tieck’s version (scene 1), Little Red Ridinghood has the following exchange with her grandmother. Although the scene does not occur in the original fairy tale by Charles Perrault, here in any case is the scene in which Little Red Ridinghood encounters the wolf in her grandmother’s bed, which occurs in scene 5 of Tieck’s piece (illustration: Contes des fées. Tales of Passed Times by Mother Goose. With morals. Written in French … and Englished by R. S., Gent. i.e. Robert Samber; or rather, by G. Miège [London 1796], plate 6):


Translation here from The Life and Death of Little Red Ridinghood. A Tragedy, adapted from the German of Ludwig Tieck by Jane Browning Smith (London 1851), 10–11, who translates this particular phrase, Germ. [et]was matt, “a bit weak and weary,” as “but so, so”:

(The door opens gently, and
Little Red Ridinghood comes in

Red Ridinghood. Good morning, Granny! How d’ ye do?

Grandmother. Thank you, my darling, – but so, so.

Red Ridinghood. I came quite softly in for fear
I should disturb you, Granny dear!
I would not even give a tap,
Lest I should wake you from your nap.

Concerning further references to Little Red Ridinghood, see the pertinent section in Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 17 March 1809 (letter 441). Back.

[6] Anonymous, Das Frauenzimmer in der Irre oder Geschichte der Mademoiselle von Baisigny von ihr selbst geschrieben (Nürnberg 1770):


Karoline Paulus was in Bamberg; see Dorothea’s and Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm in December 1800 (letter 277a), note 1.

Concerning the Paulus’s stays in Bocklet in general, see Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 28 July 1800 (letter 265i), note 2. Concerning Caroline’s vexed reaction to the present stay, see esp. her letter to Wilhelm on 31 May 1801 (letter 319). Back.

[7] Dorothea’s sister Henriette Mendelssohn was living in Vienna at the time (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):



[8] Fr., “that is strong [harsh]!” Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott