Letter 328h

328h. Sophie Bernhardi to Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena: Berlin, ca. 10 September 1801 [*]

[Berlin, ca. 10 September 1801]

I am sending the material for as many of your requests as I have been able to take care of.

I would have taken care of the brandy immediately had you been more specific about the types, but now I do not know whether you want Danziger kümmel. [1] Salo Saroni does not have it now and will not be getting it for about a week, so you will probably just have to be patient until then, since I really do not want to have to send two crates. [2]

I cannot pass on your request to Schütze until this evening, nor is that so terribly urgent. [3] Unger has offered Gratenauer the possibility of coming to a settlement, but out of respect for him — that is, for Gratenauer, not for you, since he allegedly wants nothing more to do with you. So it would probably be a good idea if you would write to Gratenauer lest he enter into a settlement in his usual crazy manner without saying anything to you about it and then later you have some reason to be dissatisfied with it. [4]

I can easily understand Unger’s willingness to enter into a settlement. What happened to him is that someone bought Ramler’s poems for half price that Sander had published without the title, and someone told him Sander would readily give him the title for it, so the man innocently goes to Sander to ask for it. [5] But Sander discovered that this copy of Ramler was a reprint and kept it.

Everyone knows that Sander had Ramler’s poems printed with Unger, and so it is no doubt quite unpleasant for him if these two stories get out at the same time, though I myself believe he himself had nothing to do with this incident, and yet given how disorganized his business is, he must nonetheless take responsibility for it.

But please do not write any of this to Gratenauer; even if one is sure of certain things, one still cannot always assert them publicly, and he could put me in an awkward position.

I cannot tell you much about your lectures because it has only been such a short time. Most people will not be sending for the billets so quickly that Schütze is distributing each afternoon at 3:00 at the casino. [6] If Bernhardi or Schleiermacher had taken care of it, many people would not yet have bought any at all, since it would have sounded rather pitiful had one written on the announcement that they could be secured at the Charité, and certainly too pedantic that they could be picked up at the school.

As it is, the whole thing sounds much more elegant. [7] Fröhlig printed the announcements on very nice paper and also offered to secure 10 people to attend, though 2 of them are most certainly his wife and sister.

I myself have done as much as possible for these lectures and even overcome my aversion to the French language and recently had a conversation in French with a Grusian prince. [8] Since this young man is traveling as part of his education and would like to learn German, I recommended he attend the lectures, and he was immediately prepared to take billets for himself and even for a doctor who was with him, and also to persuade two Polish counts to attend.

So your prospects look very good indeed for having an international audience, and you can always offer a prize to guess who among them all will understand you least. Although I do not doubt for a moment that you will get the appropriate number of attendees, I am a bit anxious that some will almost surely put off securing the billets because they think they still have plenty of time until the 1st of November. [9]

Burgsdorf has also promised to recruit many people to attend. [10] I have not been able to give Humbold any announcements because he has not been so courteous as to visit me yet, though he has spoken a great deal about it with all the Jews, saying he himself must attend and is very much looking forward to seeing me. [11]

Schedeli was indeed here when your letter arrived, and I passed on your regards to her, which greatly pleased her. Moreover, she certainly deserves it, for no one has gone to more trouble for your lectures than she, who in the most horrid weather, and without a conveyance walked from one end of the city to the other to alert all her friends, both gentlemen and ladies.

She has visited me even more often than when you yourself were still in Berlin, and yet that merely proves my assertion, for when she could no longer see you, she had to make do with the consolation of merely speaking about you, and with whom else could she do that better than with me? And I can honestly confess that we really have not spoken about much else; indeed even when our conversation occasionally seemed to drift in another direction, she very quickly returned to this more interesting subject. [12]

My interest in the comedy of intrigue has become rejuvenated recently, [13] and Schedeli’s love, which in reality has disrupted things because she has visited me every single day, might provide me sufficient material, namely, the way she is using this whole affair with the lectures merely as an “intrigue,” as a way to see you and in that way keep the novel going. And you yourself would not cut a bad figure at all in the story, the way you are always so embarrassed by this affection and yet nonetheless have this infinite longing to accompany her home late at night, and I as well, the way I maliciously see to it that you do not get the opportunity to do so and indeed, quite to the contrary, even take steps to prevent it. [14]

But this unhappy person has now departed, so let me speak seriously about the comedy. I will send it off to you before the end of this month with the request that you read through it, and if it simply seems too bad to you, that you send it back to me without presenting it, since I really do not want to expose myself with it. I have sent my brother a poem; if he finds it worthy of inclusion he will probably send it on to you. I did not want to hurt his feelings again, so I sent it to him first. [15]

I am very much looking forward to your Ion, and I must praise you for being so diligent. [16] Will Madam Unzelmann be performing in Weimar? [17]

I saw Mademoiselle Jagemann in Die schöne Müllerin, but I was not all that pleased with her even though her performance did indeed demonstrate the superiority of the Weimar theater over the one here. [18] For example, I certainly admired the way each of her gestures and positions were so consistently appropriate and almost always picturesque, though one could admittedly also quite clearly see that all her movements were acquired or learned. But if everyone performs quite in agreement, the result will at least always be something whole even if not always something grand. In a word, this Mademoiselle Jagemann seems to me to be the female version of Iffland, only worse.

I recently had an argument with Bernhardi’s father, who was contending that both you and your brother were wholly prohibited from even setting foot in Göttingen. I did not want to believe it, but he wrote down exactly where this proscription could be found, so I am enclosing his note here. Are you two really so “dangerous” that people are averse even to your presence? That I would find enormously funny. [19]

Things are going more tolerably with my health. I have resolved to take several drops of opium each day, and the conscientiousness with which Bernhardi is watching over it would do honor even to you yourself. And now alongside it I also need to keep taking all the other prescribed remedies so punctually that indeed I do not merit a reminder in each and every letter. If with all these things I still do not get healthy, however, then I think I have a perfect right to scold all of you.

This letter is becoming almost too long, but since everything in the world is transient and eventually comes to an end, so also with this letter, as much as it resists, and should you have trouble reading all the ill-written words, then to your great consolation you are here arriving at the very last ones, wherewith I remain with regards,

S[ophie] B.[ernhardi]

You promised to proceed discreetly with Bernhardi’s poem, but he finds that unnecessary. [20] On the other hand, let me ask that you do proceed thus with Schädeli, and not to take the wrong way what I wrote simply in jest.

And now I really do want to pack this letter up quickly, otherwise it is quite capable of and may well begin all over again.

Stay well. I am really very sorry to hear that your wife is not doing well; please pass along to her my warmest regards. [21]


[*] Source: Josef Körner, Krisenjahre, 1:19–22. In this letter, Sophie uses Sie, the formal form of address. Concerning the use of Sie and du, the informal form, in her correspondence with Wilhelm, see the editorial note to Wilhelm’s letter to her on 14 August 1801 (letter 327a).

This letter is positioned between Wilhelm’s letters of 4 and 18 September 1801 (letters 328e/328f, 329e). Back.

[1] In his letter to Sophie on 4 September 1801 (letter 328e), Wilhelm had requested two bottles each of Maraschino, Breslauer, and Danziger for himself, Caroline, and Schelling.

Danziger Kümmel, or Karbe, a liqueur made with various spices Concerning the preparation, see C. G. Weinlig, Verbesserter Branntweinbrenner und Liqueur- und Essigfabrikant, nebst verschiedenen Beiträgen zur Oekonomischen Chymie, rev ed. (Frankfurt 1802), 72:

I ℔ caraway,
8 Loth coriander [ca. 4 ounces],
4 Loth fennel [ca. 2 ounces],
3 Loth cinnamon flower [ca. 1.5 ounces]

1 handful of salt, ground, added to the alembic [a distilling apparatus in the form of a rounded, necked flask], over which one pours 4 measures of spiritus vini and 1 measure of water, distilled, sweetened, mixed, and filtered with 3 pounds of sugar dissolved in 4 measures of water. Back.

[2] To be read Sala Tarone. The reference can be both to the Italian merchant J. Sala, known as Sala-Tarone, and, more specifically, to his establishment, Sala Tarone & Co., the ownership of which Sala Tarone passed to his only son, Joseph T. Sala, on 1 June 1812

In 1801 the shop, which sold Italian wares and specialties along with fine wine, was located at Unter den Linden 32, though an element of uncertainty obtains in identifying the location and establishment because there were two establishments by that name in Berlin at the time: one in town and one in the Tiergarten. See supplementary appendix 328h.1. Back.

[3] Wilhelm had solicited Wilhelm Schütz (see his [first] letter to Sophie on 4 September 1801, letter 328e) to take care of the costs of Wilhelm’s unsuccessful suit against Johann Friedrich Unger.

Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Grattenauer, a close friend of Prussian and, later, Austrian political writer Friedrich Gentz (1764–1832), also merited Wilhelm’s gratitude by putting his own apartment at Wilhelm’s disposal for the latter’s anticipated lectures on the fine arts and literature in 1801–2. See Gentz’s letter from Berlin to Schiller in Weimar on 14 March 1802 (Karl Ende, “Beitrag zu den Briefen an Schiller aus dem Kestner-Museum,” Euphorion 12 [1905], 364–402, here 397):

The bearer of this letter is the Justiz-Commissarius Grattenauer from Berlin. He will be spending several weeks in Weimar and the surrounding area on business and has urgently requested that I help provide access to you, esteemed friend.

In a hundred other cases I would have declined such requests, but here I could not.

He is one of my oldest friends. He has always taken a lively interest in the arts and sciences, and this winter, by putting his rooms at the disposal of [Wilhelm] Schlegel for his lectures, has become even more intimately associated with the literary interests of Berlin. Hence please forgive me for boldly requesting a cordial reception for him. I have urged him not to misuse that reception.

As seen later, Grattenauer’s visit and presence in Weimar during this period also explains how he was eventually able to accompany Caroline from Jena to Berlin during this same month, March 1802, and how she was then able to stay with his family in their Berlin apartment at Lindenstrasse 66 (Unter den Linden 66) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


Here the promenade along Unter den Linden ca. 1800 (Adolf Streckfuss and Leo Fernbach, 500 Jahre Berliner Geschichte: Vom Fischerdorf zur Weltstadt, Geschichte und Sage [Berlin 1900], 401):



[4] Just ten days after this letter, Wilhelm wrote to Johann Friedrich Cotta on 20 September 1801 (Briefe an Cotta. Das Zeitalter Goethes und Napoleons 1794–1815, ed. Maria Fehling [Stuttgart, Berlin 1925], 259): “After the legal decision, Unger made overtures to my attorney concerning a amicable settlement.”

What in fact had happened was that Wilhelm was granted the right to destroy three hundred copies of the reprinted first volume; to prevent that from happening, however, Unger came forth with an offer to settle. The ninth and final volume appeared in 1810, also published by Unger in Berlin. See also Wilhelm’s letter to Unger in late 1801 (letter 338a).

The basis of the dispute was that Unger had reprinted the first part of Wilhelm’s Shakespeare translation without informing Wilhelm of such, and had then refused compensation.

In any event, Wilhelm relates to Sophie on 18 September 1801 (letter 329e) that he would have Grattenauer suggest the Berlin bookseller Johann Daniel Sander as a mediator. Back.

[5] Karl Ramler, Poëtische Werke (Berlin: Sander 1800). The enterprise of such double printings, generally to the author’s financial disadvantage, was a widespread but not illegal abuse in German publishing at the time (for further documentation [in German], see Körner-Wieneke 239). Even in this legal dispute with Wilhelm Schlegel, however, one can probably assume Unger was proceeding in good faith. Back.

[6] See Thomas Boylston Adams, Berlin and the Prussian Court in 1798: Journal of Thomas Boylston Adams, Secretary to the United States Legation at Berlin (New York 1916), 7fn4 (illustrations: [1] Retif [or Restif] de la Bretonne, Les contemporaines; ou, Avantures des plus jolies femmes de l’âge présent, 42 vols. in 12 [Leipsick 1780–85], vol. 7 [1780], 170; [2, 3, 4] Spiel-Almanach [Berlin 1800]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [5] Berliner Almanach für Karten- Schach- und Pharosphieler auf das Jahr 1805 etc.; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

The Casino was a suite of rooms appropriated for reading the newspapers, journals, etc., and also for dining, card-playing and billiards. It was supported by annual subscriptions upon a liberal footing. Strangers were given full privileges upon introduction by a member. Such places were common in all German towns and, in fact, all over the Continent. They were essentially like the modern gentleman’s club.






Concerning the handling of advertisements (avertissements), entry tickets (billets), and fees for his Berlin lectures, see Wilhelm’s original request in his letter on 21 August 1801 (letter 327f) and his response on 18 September 1801 (letter 329e) to Sophie’s report here. Back.

[7] Schleiermacher had been the pastor at the Charité Hospital in Berlin since 1796, Bernhardi subrector at the Friedrich Werder Gymnasium since 1798 (at Jungfernbrücke/Oberwasserstrasse 10; see the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm Schlegel’s residences in Berlin). These two friends had been two of Wilhelm’s suggestions for distributing the entry tickets and collecting the fees. Back.

[8] Germ. gruschisch: Although Josef Körner, Krisenjahre, 3:22, prudently glossed this expression with a question mark, it seems possible that, given Sophie’s consistently creative orthography – and possibly also the subsequent reference to two Polish counts — she in fact means ruschisch < russisch, Russian. Back.

[9] Although according to the printed announcement the lectures were to begin at the beginning of November, the actual start was delayed until 1 December.

See Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in late November (letter 333); also Sophie’s letter to Wilhelm on ca. 30 September 1801 (letter 329j), who mentions problems with beginning too early in November, when people would be returning to the city from the countryside outside Berlin. Back.

[10] Wilhelm von Burgsdorff had made Wilhelm’s acquaintance at the end of 1796 in Jena, where he did, however, find Wilhelm thoroughly unpleasant and not particularly impressive.

See Wilhelm von Burgsdorff from Jena to Karl Gustav von Brinckmann on 12 December 1796 (Briefe an Brinkmann, Henriette von Finckenstein, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Rahel, Friedrich Tieck, Ludwig Tieck und Wiesel, ed. Alfons Fedor Cohn, Deutsche Literaturdenkmale des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts 139 [Berlin 1907], 58):

It is cold [in Jena], and although I am not really making much of an effort to become particularly better acquainted with Jena and its residents, they themselves come to visit us here, and then it is quite nice.

I have in this way seen both Schlägel’s quite often. I do not find the eldest interesting enough even to sacrifice a cheap tea hour to him. In fact I find him to be thoroughly unpleasant, as little as he may well seem such at first glance. He says what anyone could know anyway even if he does not know it at that very moment. He seems to know much and one could likely learn a great deal from him, but he himself does not make me particularly inclined to do so. I can help neither myself nor him, — I simply find nothing in him at all.

When Burgsdorff renewed the acquaintance in March 1801 in Berlin, he often found Wilhelm’s company boring (to Rahel Levin on 24 March 1801, Briefe an Brinkmann, Henriette von Finckenstein, 181; for the text of the passage, see Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie on 4 September 1801 [letter 328f], note 8). That notwithstanding, he writes to Rahel on 15 October 1801 (ibid., 183):

To the considerable shame of Berlin, Schlegel’s lectures will probably not get going, for he must first have signatures, to be secured from Kriegsrath Schütz or Madam von Berg, before he even comes. So engage your own powers, and even more so those of Madam Grothausen, on behalf of the project. Back.

[11] Wilhelm von Humboldt had been back in Berlin since the beginning of September and was acquainted with several of the Jewish salons (Goethe’s Works, vol. 4, trans. G. Barrie [New York 1885], 300):



[12] Genealogische Kalender auf das Jahr 1810; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[13] Concerning the intrigue, intended for a competition in Weimar, 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] Toiletten Kalender für Frauenzimmer 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


As Sophie points out in the next paragraph, “Schedeli” seems then to have departed for Poland (see Wilhelm’s [first] letter to Sophie on 4 September 1801 [letter 328e]). Back.

[15] Wilhelm writes to Ludwig Tieck on 17 September 1801 (Lohner 91): “Your sister mentioned a poem for the Almanach she sent on to you; I hope you have not held it up, it still would be an extremely welcome addition.” Tieck responds from Dresden (undated, September; Lohner 93): “I will not be sending you the poem by my sister because I do not consider it to be an entirely successful piece.” Tieck then writes to Sophie herself (Moses Breuer, Sophie Bernhardi geb. Tieck. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der deutschen Romantik [Borna-Leipzig 1914], 54fn1):

I cannot quite understand the poem you so kindly sent along to me — is that my fault or yours? I believe you were rather bothered having to write in stanzas, and that without them it would have been more beautiful and expressive

He goes on to recommend that she incorporate it into the preface to her Wunderbilder und Träume in elf Märchen (Königsberg 1802). The reference is probably to the allegory “Lebenslauf” that appeared in Bernhardi’s quarterly Kynosarges (Berlin 1802), 17–21, which thus was not included in Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802 (which appeared in bookstores on 26 November 1801 [KFSA 25:630–31).

In general, this episode epitomizes what was at times a childish competition between Wilhelm and Ludwig Tieck to promote or repress Sophie Bernhardi’s literary efforts.

The first three stanzas (of thirteen) of Sophie’s poem read as follows (approx. prose translation):

A child lay slumbering on green meadow,
In a valley from the world closed off,
An amiable rose bush its shade offered, 
Now sheltering the small one from the sun's rays.
Love, offended by people,
Strides full of vexation toward this valley,
Where it finds, its breast full of gentle peace,
The child, solitary, separated from the world.

The goddess approaches the fragile child,
Its gaze rests on its figure in reflection.
Touches the child, loosens slumber's reign:
"Awaken," it says, "behold meadow and forest,
Observe the delicate flowers, and may
All the world proclaim to you my omnipotence."
It kisses the girl, a glowing spark
Sinks into her heart with that kiss.

The child awakens, and sees not the goddess,
But does behold colorful flowers' radiance,
Sunlight in the blue heavens above,
Roses hanging from green branches.
A gentle breeze touches its face,
Flattering thus the child's tender cheeks;
It seem all the world now greets her,
Kissing her, now awake, with the breath of love. Back.

[16] In his (first) letter on 4 September 1801 (letter 328e), Wilhelm relates his continued work on his play Ion: ein Schauspiel (Hamburg 1803), and on 19 October 1801 he reports to Goethe that he has in fact finished (concerning the chronology, see letter 328e, note 14). Back.

[17] Friederike Unzelmann gave seven guest performances in Weimar between 21 September and 2 October 1801. Wilhelm had initiated the event and variously reports on it in his letters. Concerning her performance schedule in Weimar, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315), note 10. Back.

[18] Concerning Jagemann’s Berlin performances in 1801, see Johann Valentin Teichmann, Johann Valentin Teichmanns literarischer Nachlass, ed. Franz Dingelstedt (Stuttgart 1863), 67–68 (illustration of Queen Elisabeth, Maria Stuart, act 2, scene 2, from Schiller’s Works, ed. J. G. Fischer, Hjalmar H. Boyesen,, vol. 2 [Philadelphia 1883], 276):

A welcome guest from Weimar also performed in the old theater over the course of this summer [1801; concerning the old theater, see Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe on 28 April 1801 (letter 312c), notes 6 and 7)].

Mademoiselle Jagemann, the later Frau von Heygendorf, came to Berlin during the month of August and gave her first guest performance on the 21st of that same month as Myrrha in the opera Das unterbrochene Opferfest, and then as Mariane in Soliman II., as Röschen in the singspiel Die schöne Müllerin [by Giovanni Paesiello (1788), from 1797 one of Jagemann’s favorite roles], as Oberon, Amenaide in Tancred, as Bertha in Lilla, as well as in Hausfriede and in the comedy Leichter Sinn, each time with extraordinary success.

Finally she also appeared as Sextus in Mozart’s Titus, an opera that premiered on 16 October, as Elisabeth in Maria Stuart,


and finally as Eurilla in the comedy Das Kästchen mit der Chiffer [Antonia Salieri, Lorenzo Da Ponte, Das Kästchen mit der Chiffer: Eine komische Oper, in zwey Aufzügen (1795)], all with no less acclaim, such that on nineteen successive evenings she performed eleven roles of the most varied sort. Back.

[19] Johann Christian Bernhardi had come across this rumor in an issue of August von Hennings’s Annalen der leidenden Menschheit 8 (1800), 412:

The semi-annual instructions of the Hannoverian administration to the prorector [at the time: Christian Friedrich Ammon] in Göttingen in the autumn of 1799 explicitly prescribed the cautela [Latin, “precautionary measure”] not to grant the Schlegel brothers any stopover whatsoever in Göttingen.

Hennings, whose intention with this notice was to extract a bit of revenge for Wilhelm’s attack on him in the “Litterarischer Reichsanzeiger” in Athenaeum (1799) 330–31 (Sämmtliche Werke 8:37–38), could in fact adduce the Rescript of the Hannoverian University Board of Trustees of 26 September 1800 (letter/document 269), which while not prohibiting Wilhelm himself from spending time in Göttingen, did indeed proscribe such for Caroline and Friedrich Schlegel.

The piece in Athenaeum reads as follows:

The editor [August von Hennings] of the Genius der Zeit and Musagetes is now publishing Annalen der leidenden Schriftstellerei [Annals of tormented hack writing] in issues that appear not “irregularly,” but rather “of necessity”: an institution the need for which is so universally sensed that it cannot but enjoy grand success.

Here a military hospital has been opened where all the tired, burdened, and downtrodden can at least have the comfort of showing their wounds even if such cannot thereby be healed. Here some of our aged writers will lament how the golden age of our literature ought not be over yet, and others will air their justified displeasure and vexation at the progress of art and science. Compassionate souls will scorn the inhumanity of criticism that takes no prisoners with its harassment.

The unprecedented brazenness of some who dare have their own opinion is reported with dizzying astonishment, while wit and mockery are condemned to the depths of hell as the real sin against the Holy Spirit.

From one issue to the next, the editor himself will lament and scold one particular Xenie that was coined against him a number of years ago [by Goethe and Schiller; see Hennings’s biogram]. Reports will be issued of the death of such world-wise individuals who died of grief from but a single line penned against them.

Because “writing” is, as appropriate, taken in its broadest sense, even schoolboys can publish their unfairly judged exercitia here and summon the world itself to decide between them and their preceptors. We have been flattered to hear that these Annalen will also be discussing Athenaeum in one fashion or the other.

Wilhelm only cautiously contradicts this rumor in his letter to Sophie on 18 September 1801 (letter 329e). Back.

[20] Concerning August Ferdinand Bernhardi’s poem “Der Traum,” see Wilhelm’s (first) letter to Sophie on 4 September 1801 (letter 328e), note 9. Back.

[21] In his (first) letter to Sophie on 4 September 1801 (letter 328e), Wilhelm had related that “Caroline has again been bedridden for a week and has suffered extremely severe attacks of cramps.” Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott