Letter 323

• 323. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 29 June 1801

Jena, 29 June [18]01

|179| Nothing could be more refreshing than what you suddenly reveal to me here, my dear Schlegel. One act already finished, 500 verses, and when the thing is finished it will be a play, but not a translated one, and you yourself seem to be satisfied! [1] Indeed, this prospect makes me indescribably happy, and it is quite in order that |180| you did not keep it from me any longer; nor do I want anything further and have no intention of perhaps opening the lid to the container from time to time. Instead I will keep it tightly closed until the appropriate day when it will open quite on its own.

Do not, moreover, tell me anything more — though I do see that if you intend to finish such a work there, such will likely also keep you from coming in July, and I must now dash the anticipation of your arrival among my housemates yet again, who, as it were, have been going out daily with lighted oil lamps to meet you — but in the end all of us may well be standing there like the foolish virgins! [2] Schelling and I have come up with the idea of picking you up later in Berlin ourselves if you still have not come in a timely manner during the second half of the summer, since he would very much like to go to Berlin to conduct some philosophical discussions there. [3]

Only do not view this as perhaps a project that gives you license to settle in and stay there with a good conscience. Instead continue to plan diligently on returning soon. But most of all, continue to concentrate on the splendid execution of your splendid undertaking.

At most what I have imagined is Euripides adapted for the Berlin theater. [4] What is certain is that you are staying fresh and are sprouting forth ever anew, and God will also grant that you yet flourish properly. You are not going about it the same way as the other, related plants, who allow themselves to wilt in so despicable a fashion. I am simply unable to calm myself down regarding Tiek. [5] Although I do yet entertain the hope that he will reemerge one day, I doubt he will ever again properly escape a certain stunted condition.

So, all of you, too, are anxious to see how things will turn out between Fichte and Schelling? You are all on the right track, since there is every possibility now and the warriors themselves |181| are certainly worthy. Has Fichte persuaded you that the speculative philosophy of nature is not tenable?

If only you would write me more about this simply for my own entertainment, I assure you I would not betray anything to Schelling were you to forbid it. For even if the great letter does come, Fichte’s true disposition will doubtless still be somewhat disguised in it. [6]

Schelling is in a hearty mood. He is hoping he is in the right and yet totally respects the sacred strength of his opponent. If the two genuinely do appear publicly with this, it will all be done in an honest and dignified manner that cannot help but put everyone else in their place. For his part, Schelling would very much like to speak with Fichte in person if by autumn the status of things between them has not changed in any external fashion.

Hence say nothing further about it. On the other hand, do not conceal from me whether Schleiermacher thinks he is already in a position to judge one way or the other.

If today, too, Schelling does not finish his letter to you, you must take my word that his own thoughts have chained and bound him such that he has not even been coming to meals. [7]

I recently forgot to relate to you a very good idea that Röschlaub had, albeit a material one: he is having Brown’s Elements published by Goeschen in a special edition with a Latin preface. He is currently on a journey to see Weikard; [8] some believe also to Munich, and that he might receive an appointment in Landshut, just as he already received one in Frankfurt for a position as a physician, except that because the position is wholly focused on clinical practice, he did not accept. [9]

Nothing really interesting is going on here now. Although Kilian will ultimately probably receive permission to lecture, it will still doubtless not really help Jena get any further along. [10]

|182| Brentano is in Göttingen working on an intrigue for a competition! [11] These intrigues will doubtless be so entangled that no one will be able to make heads or tails of them. [12]

Kotzebue is supposed to spend July 7 here and then land in Weimar on the 8th for his mama’s birthday birthday, the old commère. [13] We have been entertaining ourselves with the idea of having him serenaded with Bu bu bu and then having a bass singer deliver the ode of chastisement — indeed, for the first time we even wished our miserable Winkelmann were here, who would be just the person, especially given his enterprising nature for such things. Schelling is about to go crazy because he cannot do it. Luise and Julchen are both willing to disguise themselves and sing along.

Luise is again in a good mood, and everything has returned to normal. [14] Today she is particularly jovial because the elderly Gleim has become blind and Himly would like to have him operated on in Braunschweig and to that end wants to rent him accommodations in her house for three months. [15] A very fortunate development indeed.

Emma continues to develop most charmingly. Schelling takes Luise by the arm and carries on awful propos. [16] Wiedemann is writing quite often; [17] I will definitely ask him about Friedrich Tiek, he can seek him out once more. No one in Weimar has heard anything from him either. [18] Are none of the artists there willing to paint your portrait without charge, my good friend?

Although the weather is nice again, I myself am not yet feeling all that well. We were in Dornburg yesterday. The Melishes are also here, but they are allegedly putting on such noble airs and he behaving so stupidly that I have not the slightest desire to act again as if I knew them.

Let me thank you for the sentiments you expressed, dear Wilhelm — you surely would have had her forbidden from traveling to Franconia were such in your power. [19] Yes, I confess that, when I first learned that it was certain, it took all my energy and powers of abstraction to turn my thoughts away |183| from the notion that this place was to be thus desecrated.

I wept bitterly but did not want to say anything to you, wanting instead to conquer this emotion myself. What a worthless, impure person she is! Let her go ahead and cast herself into the dirt there — in the light where she dwells, none of you can have anything to do with her. And she allowed herself to boast that she “enjoyed my child’s affections”? Never. Never. That you may believe on my most faithful assurance. [20]

I must say it is quite ill of Friedrich not to write you at all. In any event, prepare yourself for his shamelessness, which he gets from her. — For amusement we thought about how it would be if Veit were to take her back again because she stayed so long in Leipzig. [21]

Friedrich cannot love her — it has already been a long time since he loved her, and during that winter she herself no longer even believed such still to be the case. [22] But what he does not do for the person, he will indeed do for the principles. —

Could we but suddenly get him away from her again and back to his old place among us, he would doubtless do better. It is quite consistent that he now prefers to remove himself entirely from us, since he is unable to do so from her. —

I am also wholly convinced that the only object that cannot be removed between him and Schelling is precisely this stone.

Please do not neglect to write me, and be it only something brief. Whenever a letter does not come, I immediately feel disoriented again.

Stay very well.


[1] Wilhelm’s five-act play Ion: ein Schauspiel (Hamburg 1803), premiered in Weimar on 2 January 1802; coming references to the title include the homophonic version Jon. Back.

[2] See Matt. 25:1–13 (NRSV) (anonymous, Das Gleichnis von den klugen und den törichten Jungfrauen [ca. 1501–50]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. E: 65 [10]):


Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten virgins took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.

As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.”

Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.”

And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut.

Later the other virgins came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Caroline’s housemates were Luise Wiedemann and her daughter, Emma, and Julie Gotter. Back.

[3] Wilhelm arrived in Jena on 11 August 1801; Schelling did not visit Berlin until the spring of 1802, when Caroline herself went as well. Back.

[4] Wilhelm’s play, though strictly speaking not an adaptation of the sort Caroline here invokes, was nonetheless a recasting of the Euripidean version rather than an entirely new play. Back.

[5] Wilhelm had been having his problems with Ludwig Tieck; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May–1 June 1801 (letter 319), note 26. Back.

[6] The anticipatory reference is to Fichte’s letter to Schelling of 31 May/7 August 1801, Fichtes und Schellings philosophischer Briefwechsel (1856), 80–93, which Schelling answered at length on 3 October 1801, ibid., 93–108.

See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315) with note 17 and esp. note 22, with cross references to Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 January 1802 (letter 341), which includes Schelling’s letter to Fichte on 25 January 1802, the last extant letter of the correspondence between Schelling and Fichte.

The relationship between the two philosophers was entering a critical stage that effectively ended with a break. See in general The Philosophical Rupture Between Fichte and Schelling: Selected Texts and Correspondence (1800–1802), ed. Michael G. Vater and David W. Wood, Suny Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy (Albany 2012). Back.

[7] Schelling did not finish his letter to Wilhelm until 3 July 1801 (letter 323a). Back.

[8] John Brown, Elementa medicinae (Edinburgh 1780) (first edition of first volume; the completed two-volume work was published in 1784), Eng. trans. The Elements of medicine; or, a Translation of the Elementa medicinæ Brunonis. With large notes, illustrations, and comments. By the author of the original work, 2 vols. (London 1788).

This work was first introduced in Germany by Melchior Adam Weikar, who in 1801 was a private docent in Heilbronn, as Johann Browns Grundsätze der Arzeneylehre; aus dem Lateinischen übersetzt, trans. A. M. Weikard (Frankfurt/Main 1795) (here the frontispiece from the 2nd ed. 1798):


Weikard also pubished an Entwurf einer einfachern Arzeneykunst oder Erläuterung und Bestätigung der Brownischen Arzeneylehre (Frankfurt/Main 1795). This particular edition (by Weikard, with a Latin preface) seems never to have gotten off the ground.

Brown’s theories were being developed further by Röschlaub himself and Adalbert Friedrich Marcus. Back.

[9] Röschlaub accepted the position in Landshut in 1802 as professor of pathology and medicine and with an appointment for clinical practice as well; he remained there until 1824 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


The distinction Caroline is here drawing is that between what had hitherto been known as surgeons, on the one hand, and university-trained theoretical physicians, on the other, a distinction that would play a role in the assessment of Schelling’s alleged “intervention” in the treatment of Auguste in July 1800 in Bocklet. See the section on this issue in the supplementary appendix on the scandal surrounding Auguste’s death. Back.

[10] Concerning Konrad Joseph Kilian’s problems in Jena, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 20 April 1801 (letter 310), also with note 17 there; also Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317). Back.

[11] Clemens Brentano’s was entering his romantic comedy Ponce de Leon (Göttingen 1804), an adaptation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, in the “intrigue competition” Goethe had announced (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 25 May 1801 [letter 318], note 18). See also Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 15 February 1802 (letter 347). Back.

[12] Caroline is essentially correct, since ultimately none of the entries was declared the winner. Back.

[13] Commère, Fr. familiar term of endearment (originally: a godfather called the godmother ma commère), though the term could also refer to a “gossip” ([1] (Frauenzimmer Almanach zum Nutzen u. Vergnügen für das Jahr 1799; [2] “Ein Thé — medisant,” Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1803: Dem Edeln und Schönen der frohen Laune und der Philosophie des Lebens gewidmet [1804], plate 5; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Caroline had related this news earlier in her letter to Wilhelm on 22 June 1801 (letter 322). Back.

[14] After returning from her visit in Weimar, Luise Wiedemann had allegedly been in an ill mood, “Asmodeus” having gotten into her, as Caroline relates to Wilhelm in her letter to him on 22 June 1801 (letter 322) (see note 46 there). Back.

[15] Karl Gustav Himly remained a lifelong friend of the Wiedemanns. Back.

[16] Fr., (potentially inappropriate) “conversation, exchanges, words.” Back.

[17] Concerning Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann journey to France, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 1–2 March 1801 (letter 293), note 12. Back.

[18] Concerning Friedrich Tieck, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May–1 June 1801 (letter 319), note 4. Back.

[19] Karoline Paulus was in Bamberg with her daughter, Sophie; see Dorothea Veit and Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm in December 1800 (letter 277a), note 1. Concerning the Pauluses’ 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.

[20] Caroline seems to have been so upset and vexed by the presence of Karoline Paulus in Bamberg (and Bocklet) during this summer (Dorothea Veit eventually joined Karoline Paulus there) that she wrote a letter warning Adalbert Friedrich Marcus of both women; see Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm on 16 January 1810 (letter 453a) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[21] Dorothea had been in Leipzig between ca. 20 April and 10 May 1801; she and Simon Veit had been divorced since 11 January 1799. Back.

[22] Caroline is referring to the first winter Friedrich and Dorothea spent in Jena, namely, 1799–1800.

Concerning these issues, see Friedrich’s startlingly direct remarks in the third paragraph in his letter to Caroline on 27 November 1798 (letter 210), and then Rudolf Haym’s lengthy discussion in supplementary appendix 210.1. Dorothea herself seems to have been anxious about Friedrich’s love and her future when on 23 January 1800 (letter 258j) she remarks to Rahel Levin:

My dear, have you thought again about your plan of living together with me? or have you again found it not to your liking? or think it impossible to carry out? I still flatter myself that something might yet come of it; only do not let yourself start thinking it impossible. The better I get to know you, and the better I get to know myself, the more am I convinced that we could get on quite well together.

Similarly, in a letter to Schleiermacher on that same day, 16 January 1800 (letter 258g), she voiced her apprehension about what she would do should Friedrich follow Wilhelm to Berlin in the autumn of 1800 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



Translation © 2015 Doug Stott