Letter 328

• 328. Wilhelm and Caroline Schlegel to Sophie Bernhardi in Berlin: Jena, 24 August 1801 [*]

Jena, 24 August 1801

I have now received the second letter in good order as well, dearest friend, and in return hope that my lengthy letter from the previous postal day will now be in your hands. [1]

Today I must burden you with a couple of enclosures written with regard to attendance at my lectures, to which I am now turning my entire attention as the means to spend the coming winter with my Berlin friends. Now that I have been thus spoiled, Jena simply seems too lonely and gloomy a place to spend the more inclement time of the year. [3]

Please be so kind as to enclose a dozen of the printed announcements in the letter to Madam von Berg, and several with that to Madam Liepmann as well, and in each case to note at the bottom of one of them which of my friends will be distributing the subscription tickets. [4]

In distributing the remainder one should probably not forget Mademoiselle Levin and Madam Herz. [5] You will doubtless have no trouble figuring out who in the larger sense should receive them. If Humboldt is there, he should certainly receive several along with my kind regards, since he demonstrated such kindness here. [6] Mademoiselle Levin can see that Brinkmann receives some; perhaps this greyhound can round up some hares for us etc. [7]

Please pass along my kindest regards to Schleiermacher for now, and ask that he view things as if I had written him myself and enclosed all these handsome requests in my letter, as I, by the way, must surely yet do [8] — for just imagine: here I find that Schelling, Caroline, my brother, and everyone here are busy reading his sermons and are, moreover, quite taken by them. [9] They themselves had to purchase them because Schleiermacher did not distribute any complementary copies. Tell him that if he still has a copy left over he should, of course, save it for me. Tell him that it has merely been his manner of speaking about it and the inferior printing that have kept me from taking appropriate notice of it, and that I will be getting back to it.

Let me cite here for you one small passage, albeit adapted, with which I was uncommonly pleased:


The craving of the lazy person is fatal,
for lazy hands refuse to labor.

In these few words we find an extremely faithful and instructive description of the condition and lifestyle of our friend Ludwig Tieck etc. [10]

He has still not written me. This is not, however, a shortcoming that runs in the family, since your own hands are inclined to write all too much, something from which, given your health, you really should wean yourself and instead let other people take care of things for you.

You must, if I am to be satisfied with you, send me quite precise and thorough news concerning both your general health and the measures you are taking to maintain it. If only Bing does not neglect anything; he is just so sleepy.

I really do wish you would consult Marcus by letter; he gave cause for some hope that he would be here this autumn. You should not, however, put off any longer writing out a formal history of your malady and your previous illnesses and then sending it on to me sealed.

Best regards to Bernhardi, and to your parents as well, from whom amid the chaos of my final days I impolitely neglected to take leave. [11] I embrace your little Wilhelm in thought.

My brother has returned from Bocklet with Madam Veit and the Pauluses. [12] I have already seen him a couple of times again, though heaven has hitherto preserved me from her. I am resolutely avoiding any meeting. We see none of the Paulus party now, nor do we thereby lose anything if we could but pry my brother loose from them.

Adieu, dearest friend! And again: stay very well.

A. W. S.

I have composed another hundred verses or so in Ion and will soon be finished with act two. [13]

Please give me specific instructions whether I should ask Goethe to wait until the end of September for a comedy of intrigue. [14]

[Caroline’s postscript:] [15]

|209| Although I would very much like to thank you for sending Schlegel back to me in so handsome and healthy and spirited a condition, I am almost tempted to send him back to you again, for we cannot do a thing with him. None of us is good enough, and nothing seems to please him as well as did the place whence he just came. He is constantly crying out for “Berlin,” which doubtless actually only means: for the Bernhardis, where everyone took care of him and he was able to live quite according to his heart’s desire, whereas here everything is futile patchwork.

So, quite honestly, my love, there will not be much in the way of gratitude coming your way, for you have thoroughly spoiled our friend. I will package him up quite tidily and be satisfied if he may but arrive back at your house perhaps not entirely broken by his brief period of penitence here. If possible, I will deliver him there myself that I might see under what circumstances he has finally become so content. [16]

And when I consider the joy it gives me to see him thus, my disposition softens after all in gratitude toward you, and I think with pleasure about the time when I will meet you myself.

Caroline S.


[*] Sources: Wilhelm Schlegel’s part of this letter: Holtei, Dreihundert Briefe, 3:68–70; Caroline’s part: letter 328 in Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:209, where Schmidt does not identify this letter as a postscript to the letter Wilhelm Schlegel wrote to Sophie Bernhardi on the same date. Josef Körner, (1930), 2:56, identifies it as such in his notes to Wilhelm Schlegel’s letter to Sophie Bernhardi of 14 August 1801 (letter 327c.).

Wilhelm uses Sie in this letter, the formal form of address, rather than du; see the editorial note to Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie on 14 August 1801 (letter 327a) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[1] The references are to the letter Sophie forwarded with her letter to Wilhelm on ca. 20 August 1801 (letter 327e) and mentions in the initial paragraph there, and to Wilhelm’s own, lengthy letter to Sophie on 21 August 1801 (letter 327f). Back.

[2] Wilhelm’s series of lectures in Berlin between December 1801 and Easter 1804, published in part in Friedrich’s journal Europa, though in a better-known edition later in the nineteenth century by Jakob Minor, Vorlesungen über schöne Literatur und Kunst. Back.

[3] Wilhelm presumably realized Caroline would be adding a postscript to this letter and would thus have read these lines herself. Back.

[4] Concerning the announcements and tickets, see Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie on 21 August 1801 (letter 327f), notes 18 and 19.

Concerning the possible identity of Madam Liepmann, see Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie on 21 August 1801 (letter 327f), note 20. Back.

[5] Karl von Holtei, Dreihundert Briefe, 69, misread “Levin” as “Krayn,” a scribal error perpetuated by Jakob Minor in his introduction to Wilhelm’s Vorlesungen über schöne Literatur und Kunst, 1:vii, and finally corrected by Josef Körner, Krisenjahre, 3:23. Back.

[6] Wilhelm von Humboldt returned to Berlin in early September 1801; he had visited Schiller in Jena on 1 August 1801, and Caroline on 7 August 1801. Back.

[7] I.e., additional attendees. Back.

[8] Almost certainly an allusion to Sophie’s suggestion in her letter to Wilhelm on ca. 20 August 1801 (letter 327e) about how to get (private) letters to her by way of Schleiermacher:

Could you not enclose a letter, address it to Schleiermacher, and in that one yet another letter that I could give to Schleiermacher lest I be embarrassed should Bernhardi speak to Schleiermacher about the letter that came for him? Back.

[9] Schleiermacher, Predigten (Berlin 1801). Back.

[10] This passage, from Prov. 21:25 (NRSV), provided the text for Schleiermacher’s sermon, which continues: “In these few words we find an extremely faithful and instructive description of the condition and lifestyle of him who delivers himself over to subservience etc.”

See Wilhelm’s letter to Schleiermacher himself from Jena on 7 September 1801 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben3:291; KGA V/5 194):

I have already written to Bernhardi with respect to your sermons, which he has probably already related to you. Since I found our friends here so busily occupied with reading them, I, like [Till] Eulenspiegel [main character and practical joker of a 15th- and 16th-century Volksbuch recounting his comic escapades], thought I would also give it a try.

Alas, my experience was, of course, precisely that of a secular person. To the considerable annoyance of the others, I remarked that these were probably Romantic sermons, considering how much irony they contained, especially in the one in which Christ’s death is presented as a desirable model.

And then the excellent sermon about the text: “The craving of the lazy person is fatal, for lazy hands refuse to labor,” seems to me to be an obvious caricature of Tieck, one I would very much like to read aloud to him.

Concerning Wilhelm’s editorial problems with Ludwig Tieck, see the editorial note to Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 19–20 July 1801 (letter 326). Back.

[11] Johann Ludwig Tieck and Anna Sophie Tieck. Back.

[12] Friedrich had departed Jena for Bocklet on 15 August 1801 to pick up Dorothea, who had been there with the family of Heinrich Eberhard Gottlob Paulus (text corrected according to Krisenjahre 3:442: “with Madam Veit and the Pauluses,” rather than “with Madam Veit and [Herr] Paulus,” as in Dreihundert Briefe 3:70). See also Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie on 21 August 1801 (letter 327f), note 36 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[13] Wilhelm Schlegel, Ion: ein Schauspiel (Hamburg: Friedrich Perthes, 1803); the play, which Wilhelm had started in Berlin (see Caroline’s letter to him back on 18 May 1801 [letter 317]), is discussed in coming letters up to and even beyond its premiere in the Weimar theater in January 1802. Back.

[14] Sophie’s play Donna Laura. See Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie on 14 August 1801 (letter 327a), note 16. Back.

[15] Caroline’s double-entendre throughout this paragraph is precisely calculated. She had already remarked in her letter to Wilhelm on 19–20 July 1801 (letter 326): “It almost seems to me he [Ludwig Tieck] suspects you and his sister of admiring each other with a bit too much forbearance.” Back.

[16] Toiletten Kalender für Frauenzimmer (Vienna 1796); Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



Translation © 2015 Doug Stott