Letter 327c

327c. Wilhelm Schlegel to Goethe in Kassel: Jena, 14 August 1801 [*]

Jena, 14 August 1801

I have finally arrived back here after a long absence, and with the confident certainty that despite that absence you will not have forgotten me entirely. I had been anticipating the pleasure of greeting you immediately in person in Weimar. Since, however, I must for the time being postpone that pleasure, allow me at least to do so in writing from here. . . .

First I have a request to deliver to you that cannot wait. To wit, Madam Unzelmann is offering to perform on the Weimar stage during the second half of September, and is resolved to carry out this visit as soon as she knows she will be welcome, that she thereby will cause no disturbance, and that she will otherwise disrupt no standing relationships. [1] She needs no formal or official invitation, merely a sign from you.

Had she been able to assume that she would find the theater company in Weimar, she would not have made this tentative inquiry at all, and would instead simply have come. But since the theater usually does not reopen until October, she felt she had to make special arrangements. [2] Nor is she in the slightest concerned with pecuniary conditions, since her disposition this time is simply to apply her talent solely for the honor and her own pleasure. She explicitly told me that if she could but play the role of Maria Stuart and then hear your and Schiller’s assessment, that alone would suffice to satisfy her. [3]

She departed Berlin on 24 July and is presently in Breslau, whence she wrote me on 1 August that she had already appeared once and was performing one day after the other. Hence the twelve roles for which she has been engaged will have been performed before the end of August. In the meantime, however, since she will likely also be performing a number of others, she will remain there until early September. [4]

Since the journey here is not short and requires a journey of five or six days, she would arrive approximately in mid-September. [5] Her leave of absence is to last two months, though she could probably prolong it such that her stay in Weimar might last 10 or, at most, 14 days, during which time she would be pleased to perform as often as circumstances allow. She is already accustomed occasionally to appearing daily onstage.

Her request to me was to set things in motion with you immediately upon my arrival here, or to do so with Schiller in your absence. But since both of you are away on journeys, [6] I did not want to wait another postal day to write you, believing, moreover, that my letter would more likely reach you in Cassel, Geheimer Hofrat Loder having related to me that you would be leaving Göttingen just now.

As you can see, this matter cannot be postponed; if at all possible, please do write immediately to Breslau from your current location (Madam Unzelmann’s address there is: in the City of Paris) [7] that she might make arrangements and determine more precisely her own time of arrival. [8] People have assured me here that Iffland will be arriving at the beginning of September, something which I, given my acquaintance with the current situation of the Berlin theater, do not really believe. [9]

If in the meantime such were true, the actors would not have to be recalled earlier specifically because of Madam Unzelmann, and you yourself could decide whether you would like to surprise the Weimar public with the appearance of the premier actress of Germany by not having anything publicized about her visit beforehand. To this point, this plan has been kept a complete secret both here and in Berlin. She herself, of course, would need to hear something definite from you as soon as possible. [10]

I am writing in haste and will wait to relate everything else in person. Until then, stay well; I hope to see you soon in good health. [11]

AWSchlegel . . .


[*] Sources: Goethe und die Romantik, 1:106–9; Körner-Wieneke 118–20. Back.

[1] Wilhelm feared a reaction from the increasingly imperious Caroline Jagemann and her entourage at the prospect of Friederike Unzelmann coming to Weimar to perform; see the final paragraphs of his letter to Sophie Bernhardi on 21 September 1801 (letter 327f).

Caroline had already guessed earlier that Wilhelm was trying to arrange guest performances for Friederike Unzelmann in Weimar. See esp. her letter to him on 11 May 1801 (letter 315), with her references to a certain “diminutive lady artist.” For an enumeration of Friederike Unzelmann’s performances during the visit to Weimar, see note 10 there. Back.

[2] Concerning the Weimar company’s itinerary, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315), note 2. Back.

[3] Friederike Unzelmann did indeed play the role of Maria Stuart during her initial performance in Weimar on 21 September 1801.

Concerning the contested role of Johanna in Schiller’s most recent play, Die Jungfrau von Orleans (Berlin 1801), and Caroline Jagemann, Caroline remarks in her letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315) that “the question is whether Mademoiselle Jagemann would allow anyone to keep her from being the first one to perform it [the role of Johanna]”; see esp. note 5 there. Back.

[4] See the eyewitness account of Friederike Unzelmann’s performance in Nina in Breslau during this engagement in 1801.

Here Breslau ca. 1800 (illustrations 1 and 2: Gustav Roland, Vollständige Topographie von Breslau nach den besten Quellen [Breslau 1840], plate following p. 68, and plate 9 at the back of the book; illustrations 3 and 4: Topographische Chronik von Breslau, First Quarter [Breslau 1805], plates following pp. 136, 190):






[5] It was indeed a long journey. Breslau is located ca. 450 km from Weimar (map: Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Besetztere und illuminierte Landkarte von Deutschland, 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; illustration: “Le coche de voyage du dix-huitiéme siécle,” in anonymous, “La locomotion terrestre: Les ancients coutures de voyage,” La nature: Revue des sciences etc. 16 [1888], premier semestre, no. 768 [18 February 1888], 177–79, here 177):




[6] Concerning Schiller and Goethe’s absence from Weimar at this time, see Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie Bernhardi on this same day, 14 August 1801 (letter 327a), notes 9 and 10. Back.

[7] The inn City of Paris, also a coffeehouse, was located in Brelau at Weidenstrasse 25; the locale, a spacious, well-built edifice, also hosted balls and concerts and had a garden in the rear that was popular in the summer especially in the evenings on concert days (Karl Christoph Nencke, Breslau. Ein Wegweiser für Fremde und Einheimische [Breslau 1808], 28). The theater was located one street over, on Taschengasse. Back.

[8] Friederike Unzelmann arrived in Weimar on 19 September 1801 (illustration of Weimar arrival from 1864 [note railway cars at center right], H. Schwerdt and Alexander Ziegler, Neuestes Reisehandbuch für Thüringen [Hildburghausen 1864], plate following p. 352):



[9] Wilhelm was correct; Iffland did not go to Weimar. Back.

[10] Goethe, who received Wilhelm’s letter in Kassel, responded on 18 August 1801 (Goethe und die Romantik, 1:109–10; Körner-Wieneke 120):

Many thanks for your cordial missive, and be assured of my own joy at your successful return. I, too, will soon be in your proximity again and am looking forward to many pleasant and instructive meetings.

I am extremely pleased that Madam Unzelmann has decided to come to us; please be so kind as to relate that to her as hastily as possible along with my warmest regards. Although I myself will be writing her with the next direct post, such does not depart until the day after tomorrow, hence it will depend of which of our letters reaches her first. Stay well and visit me as soon as I return to Weimar. Back.

[11] Wilhelm did indeed visit Goethe in Weimar on 31 August (the day after Goethe’s return) and 1 September 1801 (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:33–34). Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott