Letter 328e

328e. Wilhelm Schlegel to Sophie Bernhardi in Berlin: Jena, 4 September 1801 [*]

Jena, 4 September 1801

I received two letters from you, my dearest friend, one with the enclosure for me, the other with the enclosure for your brother, which will be delivered to him as soon as he arrives. [1] I spent Monday and Tuesday in Weimar paying my respects to the old master, who had just arrived back, but your brother was not yet there. [2]

I have heard nothing from Weimar since, where I did indeed leave instructions to alert me of his arrival as soon as possible. He promised Goethe some pieces for the competition that he himself would be bringing along. The peculiar thing is that while I was in Weimar, an entry for the competition arrived from a different artist studying in Paris, an entry Tieck himself was supposed to have brought but which now arrived by post. [3]

With regard to the commissioned work in the castle, which I recently wrote about based on Humboldt’s statements, that should be corrected by adding that, as Goethe said, there are indeed various things to be done in the castle, and they were indeed expecting Friedrich Tieck, but since he was not there, the specifics were yet to be determined. [4]

I did have a chance to see the Rape of Hylas at Goethe’s house as well. It is masterful, and here he is probably more in his element than with the drawings Schadow has from him. [5] What is peculiar is that that the brothers share absolutely nothing in their artistic character. [6]

That much about this particular brother. The other still has not written. [7] I sent him the initial proofs and wrote a few accompanying lines. [8] It is quite ill behavior for him not to send Bernhardi’s poem back or to relate to me his opinion of it. [9]

Both Goethe, to whom I read it aloud, and my brother are quite taken by the “Zeichen im Walde.” [10]

I am truly quite sorry the news of your health is not better, my dear friend. [11] I wish I knew some absolutely reliable remedy to recommend to you. Just try not to become too annoyed with having to pay such attention to your diet and the medicines should they seem to have no immediately discernible effect; over the long run, they cannot but have the desired effect.

Unfortunately, things are no better here, either. Caroline has again been bedridden for a week and has suffered extremely severe attacks of cramps. She is now recovering. [12]

The best remedy actually within one’s own power is doubtless to cheer oneself up and distract oneself, and I wish you could but find a way to do this for yourself just now by engaging in entertaining activities. Frankly, however, you are not making me particularly hopeful.

I asked Goethe about the comedy of intrigue. [13] Being two weeks late would not make much difference, to the contrary. In fact, he told me he would be very obliged were I to catch something else in the net for him. Only five pieces have been submitted thus far. The authors of a couple have declared they are not interested in competing, and one piece he himself examined did not seem to please him very much. Of course, the deadline has not yet entirely passed. —

If I could but tell Goethe for certain that he can expect to receive something from me, the deadline could almost surely be extended to the beginning of October. Please do consider this seriously, — of course, you should by no means tax yourself by writing if you have chest pains, though I am hoping such is no longer the case. Discuss this matter with Bernhardi as well.

I myself have been quite diligent indeed. The 3rd act of Ion is finished except for a few lines, and I am hoping the remaining acts will also proceed very quickly. [14] I am now viewing all the work I do each day as a kind of cleaning-up that will hasten my return to Berlin. I confess I am not entirely convinced I will find the appropriate audience for my lectures there, but neither do things really depend on that entirely. [15]

You would always fall short with your proof demonstrations against Caroline, my dear, for the facts are on her side. [16] And were I to enumerate to you everything I have here and, on the other hand, would have to do without there, the mere fact that such counts for so little would constitute yet one more proof of how eagerly I am longing to return to Berlin, that is, to my circle of friends there. [17]

Now just a few requests and small favors. Please be so good as to request from Unger in my name the proofs of Shakespeare volume VIII from sheet x on. [18] There should only be two or three more. Further, was Bernhardi not intending to entrust to me a copy of his excellent burlesque on Iffland, to the extent it is indeed already finished? I promise to be most discreet with it; no one will see it apart from a few connoisseurs and friends, to wit, my brother, Schelling, and Goethe. [19]

Goethe has still not seen the essay by Schadow and is unable to secure it here. [20] Might it be possible for Bernhardi to inquire with the publisher whether the piece might not be available as an individual copy? If not, then Goethe would send his regards to Schadow with a request to have the sheets sent to him, since no one here subscribes to the journal. I think Buri could probably take care of this most expediently.

It would probably be better to send all these things to me together, and to write on the outside: printed matter.

Give my kind regards to Buri; I will write to him myself on the next postal day. I would have done it today were that very letter not to include a rather lengthy narrative, for which my work simply leaves me no room today.

Please ask Schütz whether he was so kind as to take care of my request concerning payment of my court costs. [21] I will write him soon concerning the approval his poems have enjoyed among his friends here.

Tea is now prescribed for you. [22] You would be doing us a great favor were it possible for you to send us 2 bottles of maraschino, 2 Breslauer, and 2 Danziger from Berlin, moreover packed carefully enough that nothing gets broken in transit. The inventory I brought along myself has run out, and it is difficult to get things like that here. It is not for me; the maraschino is for Caroline, and the other things for Schelling as well.

So, those are the many favors and requests I have; but please take care of them only as the occasion arises and when convenient.

I was quite entertained by your news of Nicolai’s piece, as well as by the description of Lünpling. [23]

Who told you that about Madam Meyer? I am certainly willing to live with the fact that I understand her talent better than she my wit. It can have no influence on my opinion. [24]

You really have excessively gotten the best of me by summoning me back to Berlin for the sake of Schodeli. [25] Is she now not going to Poland at all? [26] Give her my kindest regards if she is getting ready to do so, but no sooner than that.

One more thing: Since Schodeli was with you when you wrote the letter, she will presumably be coming just as often in the future as well, and the accusation that she is coming solely to see me will, of course, hold no water. [27]

This letter must now be posted; I do not even have time to read through it again. My most cordial regards to Bernhardi.

Stay very well, and send me better news soon about how you are doing.

Ever yours,
A. W. Schlegel


[*] Source: Josef Körner, (1930) 1:128–31. Wilhelm inadvertently dated this letter “August.” — In this letter, Wilhelm uses Sie, the formal form of address.

Concerning the use of Sie and du, the informal form, in his correspondence with Sophie, see the editorial note to Wilhelm’s letter to her on 14 August 1801 (letter 327a) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[1] In her letter to Wilhelm on ca. 28 August 1801 (letter 328c), Sophie had asked him to pass along an enclosed letter to her brother Friedrich Tieck, who was expected to arrive soon in Weimar from Paris.

When this present letter was prepared for publication in the edition of 1930, Josef Körner had not yet found the packet of letters in Coppet with the two letters (strictly speaking: three) Wilhelm mentions here: The first was Sophie’s letter of 25 August 1801 (letters 328a) with the enclosure of her letter of the same day to Wilhelm only (letter 328b), the second that of ca. 28 August 1801 (letter 328c) with the enclosure for Friedrich Tieck. Back.

[2] Goethe was in Pyrmont from 5 June till 30 August 1801. Caroline speaks about Goethe’s visits in Göttingen and Pyrmont esp. in her letter to Wilhelm on 22 June 1801 (letter 322). His diary notes Wilhelm’s visits in Weimar on 31 August and 1 September 1801 (Wilhelm also visited Goethe in Weimar on 8 September 1801; Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:33–34).

Wilhelm did not make Friedrich Tieck’s personal acquaintance, however, until 9 September 1801, and in Jena rather than Weimar, where Wilhelm found him upon his, Wilhelm’s, return from Weimar after his visit to Goethe on 8 September (Körner-Wieneke 120) (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Caroline was similarly anxious to make Tieck’s acquaintance because of her and Wilhelm’s plans to query him about doing work on Auguste’s memorial. Back.

[3] Concerning the artistic competition in Weimar, see Sophie’s letter to Wilhelm on ca. 30 August 1801 (letter 328d), note 1.

The artist was Johann Franz Gareis; see J. F. Reichardt, Vertraute Briefe aus Paris geschrieben in den Jahren 1802 und 1803, 3 vols. (Hamburg 1804), 1:31, 36:

Paris, 8 November 1802

I just managed to catch this year’s exhibition of paintings, drawings, copper engravings, and sculptures that has been open daily since the fifteenth of Fructidor. . . .

The pieces by foreign artists that acquit themselves quite well include several landscapes and portraits by our fine [Friedrich Georg] Weitsch [1758–1828; married to Johanne Christiane Waitsch, who allegedly resembled Caroline] and a composition by Gareis from Dresden, which this fine young artist, who has been working here for more than a year with great diligence, did specifically for this exhibition, albeit rather in haste.

It is Orpheus demanding his Eurydice back from Pluto and Proserpina. Although the picture exhibits a consistent, unique composition, it was hung rather disadvantageously next to [Pierre-Narcisse] Guérin’s magnificent [Phèdre et] Hippolyte (1802).

Franz Gareis, Orpheus vor Pluto und Proserpina (before 1803; SLUB/Deutsche Fotothek 72017658); Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, Phèdre et Hippolyte (1802) (Universitaire Bibliotheken Leiden, though the painting itself is housed in the Louvre in the 1802 hall):




[4] Wilhelm von Humboldt returned from Paris earlier than Tieck and had passed along information concerning the latter’s supposed itinerary (Maurille-Antoine Moithey, L’Europe: Divisée en tous ses Royaumes et subdivisée en ses principales parties [Revue et Corrigée] [Paris 1785]; Bibliothèque nationale de France):


The earlier structure of the Wilhelmsburg — the Weimar castle — had burned on 6 May 1774 down to only a few elements (anonymous; Klassik Stiftung Weimar):


By 1788 the costs of securing the structure prompted Karl August to plan a new structure, to which purpose he established a commission in March 1788. After various delays caused by finances and the French Revolution, the basic construction was finished in 1796.

In late 1800, the remaining interior rooms began to be addressed along with various exterior features, and it is in conjunction with these finishing touches that Friedrich Tieck was to be engaged.

The duke and his family finally moved into their quarters in early August 1803 (castle illustrations from Wilhelm Bode, Damals in Weimar [Weimar 1912], 44, 47):





[5] This sketch by Friedrich Tieck, Rape of Hylas by the Nymphs, as we know from a remark Wilhelm made in a letter to him on 11 June 1836, later adorned a room in Wilhelm’s own house in Bonn. Here a reproduction of that drawing (graphite and ink) “attributed to Friedrich Christian Tieck” from a Pennsylvania auction:


That letter similarly attests that Wilhelm possessed others of his paintings as well (Edmund Hildebrandt, Friedrich Tieck: Ein Beitrag zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte im Zeitalter Goethes und der Romantik (Leipzig 1906), 132–33). This drawing, Rape of Hylas by the Nymphs, is indeed listed as part of Goethe’s art collection in Christian Schuchardt, Goethe’s Kunstsammlungen, 3 vols. (Jena 1848), 1:290, no. 682.

Edmund Hildebrandt, Friedrich Tieck, 30fn4, remarks concerning this and the other drawings by Tieck listed there:

Here Tieck comes across as an imitator of the school of Raphael, with unmistakable elements of Marcanton, Giulio Romano evident as well. Probably as a result of his Berlin studies of engravings of the Roman school, his treatment of the naked human body also inclines toward exaggeration, whereas his composition, by contrast, is clear and measured. Back.

[6] The “brothers,” that is, Ludwig and Friedrich Tieck. Back.

[7] 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.

[8] For the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802. The “accompanying lines” have not been preserved. Back.

[9] August Ferdinand Bernhardi’s “Der Traum,” in the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, 261–72. See Wilhelm’s remarks in his letter to Ludwig Tieck from Berlin on 10 July 1801 (Briefe an Ludwig Tieck, 3:264–65; Lohner 85–86): “The enclosed poem in stanzas has also been submitted for inclusion [Wilhelm intentionally does not mention the author’s name] . . . Send ‘The Dream’ back immediately as well.” Then Ludwig Tieck to Wilhelm (undated, ca. 12 September 1801) (Lohner 88):

I am returning the manuscript here; it cannot be by anyone but Bernhardi, something also evident by the fact that it is well composed, then becomes too long-winded and falls into mannerism, and has a dull ending. I have nothing against including it in the Almanach; save it for last.

Tieck then wrote Sophie Bernhardi in September 1801 (unpublished; manuscript: Dresden; Krisenjahre 3:24) about the

poem with which you two tried to play a trick on me. It was not just after the first stanza, but after the very first line that I immediately recognized it as Bernhardi’s, there could be no doubt, and I thought you two had simply forgotten to mention him because it was so obvious. I sent it on to Schlegel, and if he asks my opinion, it will be: it begins well, just as all of Bernhardi’s pieces do, then, as is also generally the case with him, becomes long-winded, falls into mannerism, and ends flat.

The first four lines of Bernhardi’s initial stanza read (approximate rendering):

Once did human sorrow deep my heart afflict,
Though I myself was feeling well and good.
Content, inclined to jest was I,
To grief a stranger long,
Did then lament, "Human mis'ry does run so deep,
Happiness itself: but vanity and trifle etc."

Finally, Bernhardi himself provides a surprisingly frank assessment of his own poem in his review of the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802 in Kynosarges, (Berlin 1802), 121–53, here 150:

A poem with the title “Traum” [“Dream”] is presented under the name “B.,” one that does indeed exhibit many nice individual passages; the beginning is especially successful, and various individual stanzas in the middle of the poem.

But the main idea, which was in fact quite well qualified as a good basic inspiration, especially in a poem of modest format, is excessively embodied by being drawn out into this long series of stanzas, thereby losing the necessary humoristic, fleeting elements, acquiring an inappropriate element of materiality and an even more striking and noticeable element of disproportion through the various ornamentation and embellishments, the latter of which cannot be excused by the format of dreams. Back.

[10] Ludwig Tieck, “Die Zeichen im Walde. Romanze,” Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802, 2–24 (also in Tieck’s Gedichte [Berlin 1841], 468–87).

Caroline was less complimentary about this piece, finding it “much too drawn out” (see her letter to Wilhelm on 6 July 1801 [letter 324], with note 3). The piece was nonetheless included in many subsequent ballad anthologies; here a mid-nineteenth-century illustration from the Deutsches Balladenbuch, ed. Adolf Ehrhardt, Theobald von Der, Hermann Plüddemann, Ludwig Richter, and Carl Schurig, 2nd ed. (Leipzig 1858), 173:


Bernhardi, on the other hand, in his review of the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802 in the quarterly Kynosarges (Berlin 1802), 121–53, here 144–45, praised this “mystical-dramatic romance” as a “perfect masterpiece,” a “work of art that cannot be sufficiently praised.” In any event, the piece begins:

Ah, my son, how horiffically howling
Does the Unke lament from the moor!
Do you not also hear the ravens cawing?
The ghosts aloft in storm? Back.

[11] Wilhelm had queried Sophie quite earnestly concerning her health earlier. Her response came in her letter to him on ca 28 August 1801 (letter 328c):

I thank you for your great concern for my health and only wish I could give you the kind of report you demand, and since you so easily become vexed with your friends if they do not follow your instructions precisely, one might easily enough fear it will also happen even should these excellent instructions, though precisely followed, nonetheless not seem to help, and thus it is with me, and I should be very sorry indeed were that to make you angry with me.

I will respond at greater length as soon as these severe toothaches that have been tormenting me for weeks have abated. Back.

[12] In his letter to Sophie on 14 August 1801 (letter 327a), his first since returning to Jena, Wilhelm had already noted that “unfortunately, I found Caroline in bed and already sick for two weeks.” See esp. Julie Gotter’s letter to Luise Gotter on 18/21 August 1801 (letter 327d.1). See esp. note 13 there (Taschenkalender auf das Jahr 1798 für Damen; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[13] See Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie on 14 August 1801 (letter 327a), note 16, and Sophie’s letter to Wilhelm on ca. 28 August 1801 (328c), note 6. Back.

[14] Wilhelm Schlegel, Ion: ein Schauspiel (Hamburg: Friedrich Perthes, 1803). Wilhelm had begun the play in May 1801; by mid-June the first act was finished, by the end of August the second, and on 19 October 1801 the entirety (Wilhelm announces such in a letter to Goethe on 19 October 1801 [Körner-Wieneke 121]) (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Lateinisches Elementarbuch/Masculina; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums. Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung 3-177):


References to the play recur in coming correspondence. Back.

[15] Wilhelm’s anticipated lecture series on the fine arts and literature discussed in previous letters. Back.

[16] That is, proof demonstrations contra Caroline’s postscript to Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie on 24 August 1801 (letter 328). Sophie presented her counterargument in her letter to Wilhelm of ca 28 August 1801 (letter 328c) (when preparing this letter for publication in the edition of 1930, Josef Körner had not yet seen letter 328c). Back.

[17] Wilhelm departed Jena for Berlin on 3 November 1801 (Dilligence [19th century]; Bibliothèque municipale de Bordeaux, Album d’illustrations diverses] [278]):



[18] Volume 8 of Wilhelm’s edition of Shakespeare appeared at the Michaelmas book fair 1801 and contained the second and third parts of Henry VI. After the dispute with his publisher Johann Friedrich Unger, only one more volume appeared (volume 9 [1810]). Back.

[19] The final volume of August Ferdinand Bernhardi’s periodical Bambocciaden, 3 vols. (Berlin 1797–1800), concludes with his dramatic parody on Iffland, “Seebald oder der edle Nachtwächter. Familiengemälde in einem Akt.” Wilhelm sent that third volume to Goethe on 11 September 1801 (Körner-Wieneke 120). Here the frontispiece to that volume:



[20] Johann Gottfried Schadow, “Über einige in den Propyläen abgedruckte Sätze, die Ausübung der Kunst in Berlin betreffend,” Eunomia, ed. Fessler and Rohde (1801) June, 487–519; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 19–20 July 1801 (letter 326), notes 24 and 25. Back.

[21] That is, costs in connection with his ultimately futile lawsuit against Johann Friedrich Unger. Concerning the outcome of the suit, see Wilhelm’s letter to Unger at the end of 1801 (letter 338a). Back.

[22] Wilhelm had earlier tried to dissuade Sophie from drinking tea because of its allegedly weakening or debilitating effect (in Brunonian parlance: asthenic); see his letters to her on 14 and 27 August 1801 (letter letters 327a, 327f). Back.

[23] Sophie mentions Nicolai’s piece at the beginning of her (first) letter to Wilhelm on 25 August 1801 (letter 328a); see also note 1 there. —”Lünpling”: doubtless Herr von Tümpeling mentioned in that same letter (328a). Back.

[24] Sophie had related to Wilhelm in her letter to him on 25 August 1801 (letter 328a) that the Berlin actress Johanna Henriette Meyer had been “unfaithful” to him, to wit, by opining that Wilhelm had been “unfair” to August von Kotzebue in his (Wilhelm’s) parody, Ehrenpforte und Triumphbogen, and that Kotzebue in his own turn was allegedly “much wittier” in his own satire against the Romantics. Back.

[25] Mademoiselle Schede in Sophie’s letter of 25 August 1801 (letter 328a): “Mademoiselle Schede is longing indescribably for your return, she is with me here and has charged me with sending her warmest regards” (another item Josef Körner had not yet seen when preparing this letter for publication in the edition of 1930). Back.

[26] Uncertain reference. Back.

[27] Toiletten Kalender für Frauenzimmer 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



Translation © 2015 Doug Stott