Letter 327b

327b. Friedrich Schlegel to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, 14 August 1801 [*]

Jena, 14 August 1801

Beloved friend,

I really should not be writing you today.

Yes, that is certainly a peculiar opening for a letter you are sooner justified in having expected much earlier. It is already late evening or even later, and I have to depart at 3:00 a.m. I have been tormented by impatience insofar as it was only today that I received news from Dorothea from the mineral-springs spa. [1]

But that is no excuse for you. Hence focus sooner on my lethargy, which I have already confessed in a letter to Wilhelm and which you yourself have seized upon. [2] Actually it was merely a word, an incorrect name, and I should honestly have said sadness instead. It has often seized me with such force that I simply could not immediately overcome it. But that matters little.

But you can easily enough imagine how timid I was with respect to the content of the letter you wrote me concerning my relationship with Wilhelm. [3]

Let me say nothing of that now, and please believe in the meantime that my own external actions did indeed correspond to my inner disposition, which was far different from Karoline’s lies (and that is the correct word) and Wilhelm’s vacillation. [4] . . .


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:289–90 (frag.); KGA V/5 187–88; KFSA 25:283. Back.

[1] Dorothea was in Bocklet, where H. E. G. Paulus and his family were also staying (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


The reason Friedrich had not received a letter was that the letter Dorothea had indeed written him had been incorrectly delivered to Paulus in Bocklet. Such would not have been a problem except that in that letter, Dorothea had apparently made some trenchantly disrespectful comments to Friedrich about precisely H. E. G. and Karoline Paulus.

Although the exact sequence of confrontations between H. E. G. Paulus and Dorothea is uncertain, and only her letters to him have been preserved, Dorothea desperately, almost frantically tried to assuage Paulus with explanations, apologies, and mea culpas, and also to persuade him to return the letter to her, albeit in vain (he seems to have kept the damaging letter, though such does not appear in his literary estate).

Apparently, however, peace of some sort was effected by the time Friedrich arrived to pick her and Philipp Veit up and return to Jena, since the two families returned to Jena together, and the matter seems to have rested thereafter, with Dorothea continuing her correspondence with Karoline Paulus till 1817 (some of the correspondence concerning Caroline is included below).

Dorothea’s letters to H. E. G. Paulus in this matter were originally published in Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus 1–6, then, with more precise annotations, in KFSA 25:281–82; 284–85; 285–87 (nos. 180, 184, 185 there). Back.

[2] Friedrich wrote about his “lethargy” in a letter to Wilhelm on 31 July 1801 (Walzel, 486–87; KFSA 25:279–80):

Dearest brother, please do not be annoyed that I have not answered you until now. You cannot believe how much time I have lost amid various hindrances, among which my lethargy is admittedly to be reckoned. . . . Please give my regards to Schleiermacher. I should long ago have responded to his cordial letter, but my lethargy has been great indeed.

Schleiermacher was in any event becoming increasingly irritated with Friedrich’s delay in producing any genuinely substantive work on the translation of Plato the two were planning but which Schleiermacher ended up doing essentially alone. Back.

[3] Friedrich’s relationship with Wilhelm was increasingly troubled by Wilhelm’s ambiguous relationship with Caroline, and even more overtly troubled because of the utter falling out between Caroline and Dorothea, concerning which see Julie Gotter’s unequivocal remarks in her letter to her mother on 18/21 August 1801 (letter 327d.1). Back.

[4] For Friedrich’s response to Schleiermacher’s (lost) letter and for his own version of the disrupted relationship between, essentially, all the Jena Romantics because of the romantic relationship between Caroline and Schelling, see his undated letter to Schleiermacher before mid-September 1801 (letter 328j). Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott