Letter 328j

328j. Friedrich Schlegel to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, before mid-September 1801 [*]

[Jena, before mid-September 1801]

You now have so much to read that it would be almost sinful to give you yet more. But you will nonetheless have to put up with a bit anyway. —

First concerning your Sermons. [1] Do you realize that I am quite inclined to view them as your best work? that is, as a piece of work as such, and not from any contradictory disposition, but from pure affection. They are so full of peace and calm, and free from any trace of seeming forced.

Please do not hold it against me that I have been so averse to answering your letter. It is simply incredible how far Karoline is capable of extending her indirect sphere of influence given Wilhelm’s weakness or strength of faith. To wit, even your own letter contains several things you yourself have accepted on faith from the faithful, [2] which certainly cannot be held against you, though I could not but immediately perceive what the source was. One particular passage from the Barber of Seville fits perfectly here — “Slander — you really were sent by Bazile” [3]

I can just as unmistakably recognize what information about me comes from Karoline. And as valued as your demonstration of friendship surely is to me, in what prompted you to write in the first place I sensed nothing more than merely a new attempt on Karoline’s part to deceive you, too, concerning me, if such were at all possible, or, even more preferable, to alienate you from me, just as she did with Fichte, Tieck, etc. and all my friends, albeit hitherto, the one exception being Wilhelm, without success. —

I now felt it was absolutely imperative, indeed was my duty, to cleanse myself in your eyes. But having to excuse oneself is difficult business. One is easily inclined to think that the other person might have spared one the trouble of doing so.

Your letter does contain one absolutely incorrect statement: “I have not visited Karoline since her return here.” [4] — Such did indeed take place, moreover, in a quite formal fashion, and after all the obviously crude behavior and secret tricks she permitted herself toward me, such was in fact something quite extraordinary. [5] Nor was it a merely insignificant visit; it might best be described as an offer to be on good terms externally.

She, however, neither understood nor acknowledged nor reciprocated that offer, and thus did it remain. Nor was such at all her intention in any case, as you may certainly believe, otherwise I would have, for Wilhelm’s sake, gladly offered my hand to even the faintest appearance of hope and reconciliation. Her sole intention was instead to separate me and Wilhelm, because I am the only person whose influence on Wilhelm she has considered significant enough to have feared at least to a certain extent.

The fact that she tries to put all the blame on Madam Veit, as if the real quarrel were between the latter and her rather than originally with me, an interpretation Wilhelm has also encouraged with you — accept at least one fact in this regard — is absolutely unfounded and is a barefaced lie, for she herself knows only too well that such is simply not the case, unless she has now taken complete leave of her senses.

The only time anything happened resembling, not so much a crude quarrel as a distancing between her and Madam Veit, was long after she had already announced her complete hostility toward me in harsh, arid words, and the occasion itself was that she was simply utterly unable to contain her rage toward me, transgressing instead the most basic proprieties in the process. [6]

Were you but here, I could easily explain all these things to you quite clearly.

As far as the violent intrusion into Wilhelm’s circumstances is concerned, it is quite easy to cleanse myself of that. — When I came to Jena, I was quite sufficiently occupied with myself. [7] But it was pleasing for me to see that Karoline and Schelling both loved me exceedingly, admired me, indeed, almost worshiped me.

I doubtless also saw that they were interested in each other, but it was not something I really took note of, since, after all, Karoline had had a relationship with both me and, later, Hardenberg, one which, despite its vivacity, was nonetheless merely one of friendship and which to me seemed to be the same as the one with Schelling. I was so unsuspecting that, when the day after Wilhelm’s departure for Leipzig that which I could not help but notice did indeed happen, I was genuinely quite surprised. [8]

I would not have remained silent except that Karoline anticipated me. I thought that was good, and was completely calmed by the explicit promise that everything would soon be both bound and separated quite according to what was right and proper — hence I said absolutely nothing about it, so much so that Wilhelm once expressly accused me of engaging the notion of discretion to a rather “colossal” degree.

Only later, when I unfortunately saw that it was nothing but lies and that Karoline intended to keep them both and exploit them both, and saw how horribly this brought Wilhelm down and would bring him down even more — only then did I begin to speak confidentially with Wilhelm about his relationship, albeit not before having gently queried beforehand whether he was comfortable with such discussions. Far removed from rejecting the idea, he charged me in the most forceful way with continuing with it, sacredly promising me that Karoline would never succeed in making him mistrustful of me. [9]

There was no reason for me to object to Karoline’s love for Schelling had it but been as straightforward as Schelling’s. But her crooked personality, her dishonest artifice — becoming aware of these and then losing all respect for her was, I confess, necessarily one and the same thing. You must also bear in mind amid all these considerations that for me, Karoline was more than merely Wilhelm’s wife, for she had also long had a closer relationship with me. [10] And may the devil take such relationships if in them one person is not supposed to look out for the other. —

In my explanation of the sudden death of my friendship for Karoline, I must be allowed to presuppose that there are indeed some very noble, extraordinary personalities that are simultaneously so highly corruptible that they can turn from good to bad in the blink of an eye. Karoline and Schelling are such personalities. When I arrived, Schelling especially was enjoying what was perhaps the most unique and beautiful moment of his life. Unfortunately, his behavior, too, could not but greatly displease me, and certain circumstances convinced me that he had very quickly lost his initial innocence and uprightness.

I do not deny for a moment that I desired most fervently Wilhelm’s separation from Karoline and that I lost myself in hopes regarding the new life that would emerge for him with the freedom such separation would bring, that I advised him both overtly and more subtly to pursue precisely that course, and that at the aforementioned occasion I related all this to Karoline quite openly. [11]

Hence she may well hate me if she perceives as a reason for such the fact that I would gladly have separated Wilhelm from her and indeed would gladly have done even more to bring precisely that about had I only been able. So she may well hate me. But she should not lie, if such is possible for her now that, given her current duplicity, it has not become second nature to her in any case.

Wilhelm and Schelling, quite apart from this burdensome set of circumstances, also had an extremely strong antipathy toward each other, something both often calmly acknowledged and just as often quite loudly divulged. Hence there were scenes enough in that sense. During one of them, Wilhelm violently demanded that I decide on the spot either for Schelling or for him. Because I did not hesitate for a moment, I became the reason Schelling no longer came to the midday meals. But with no insults from my side; I merely no longer spoke with him and acted as if he was not there, in which behavior, of course, Dorothea and also the Tiecks followed my lead. [12]

Karoline then cut loose at me in a rage, and because I demonstrated my own manner of thinking to her quite openly and quite calmly, she renounced all friendship with me and declared her complete hostility, [13] and because she became sick soon thereafter, she made it known in no uncertain terms that I was the cause, and that it was the aggravation with me that had made her sick. [14]

Unfortunately, that illness dashed all my hopes. For I had hoped that in its initial heat the discord would result in such an éclat that the mere necessity of the procédé would bring about precisely that which was basically the best thing for everyone involved in any case. [15]

Because Wilhelm is most vulnerable from the angle of sympathy, Karoline was able to regain a firm hold and gain time to harness all her energy anew. And to my considerable astonishment I soon saw that Wilhelm now fancied himself as occupying a position of impartiality between me and Karoline. You know me well enough to know that I was too proud to have it out with him, and an element of contempt unfortunately now joined what sympathetic concern I still had.

I must mention yet one more circumstance that contributed not a little to destroying Karoline’s standing in my eyes, namely, the boldfaced intention she revealed to marry Auguste off to Schelling. This sort of calculated intention involving so young a girl in this sort of relationship filled me with indescribable revulsion, perhaps the way incest would those who believe in such. I will never defend myself regarding the purity of this motive. Wilhelm often spoke about it to me with the same revulsion. [16]

[End of sheet.]


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:292 (frag. with footnote explanation of omitted material; see below); Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:614–16, as part of his extensive notes to Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 11 May 1801 (letter 315; Schmidt similarly reprints but part of Friedrich’s letter here, albeit considerably more than did Dilthey and with summary comments concerning omitted material); KGA V/5 201–6 (first full publication of letter); KFSA 25:287–90.

Caroline and Friedrich Schlegel were essentially completely estranged at this point, and Wilhelm and Friedrich similarly so except for literary projects. The main cause, it seems from earlier correspondence, was Dorothea Veit (see, e.g., Julie Gotter’s letter to her mother, Luise Gotter, on 18/21 August 1801 (letter 327d.1).

The present letter answers an otherwise unknown letter from Schleiermacher to Friedrich in which Schleiermacher apparently addressed the relationship between Friedrich and Wilhelm Schlegel. Friedrich mentions but does not answer that letter in his letter to Schleiermacher on 14 August 1801 (letter 327b), then mentions it again in the second paragraph here and responds.

Because Friedrich presupposes an answer to the present letter in his letter to Schleiermacher on 21 September 1801 (letter 329g), KGA V/5 201n1095 dates this letter broadly “between mid-August and mid-September [1801]” (similarly KFSA 25:616: “before 14 September 1801”). In his note to the short fragment of this letter in Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben, Wilhelm Dilthey (3:292n**) remarks concerning the rest of this letter (which he did not include):

Friedrich Schlegel’s discussion here with Schleiermacher concerned his relationship with his brother, a relationship Karoline Schlegel had disrupted and concerning which the omitted part of the letter as well as a lengthy letter from Dorothea Veit [to Schleiermacher] related the most detailed information to their friend [Schleiermacher].

Since Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:614, in his notes to letter 315, provides an extensive summary of the parts of Friedrich’s present letter not included in Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:292, but does not mention Dorothea’s “lengthy” letter, he apparently no longer had access to the latter, a loss all the more regrettable insofar as Dorothea doubtless also extensively addressed Caroline’s role in the brothers’ incipient estrangement. Whether that letter is one already incorporated into this present collection is uncertain. Back.

[1] Schleiermacher’s Predigten (Berlin 1801). In letter to Sophie Bernhardi on 24 August 1801 (letter 328), Wilhelm remarks that on his arrival in Jena, he found everyone reading Schleiermacher’s sermons, and requests that Sophie solicit Schleiermacher to save him a copy as well should Schleiermacher still have any (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 [165]):



[2] That is, from Wilhelm. Back.

[3] Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, Le barbier de Séville, ou la précaution inutile. Comédie en quatre actes (Paris 1775), original music by Antoine-Laurent Baudron; German Der Barbier von Sevilien, oder die unnütze Vorsicht. Lustspiel in vier Akten und mit neuer Musik von J. André (Offenbach 1776).

The character Bartholo has the following exchange in act 3, scene 2, concerning a deception involving letters (Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, The Figaro Trilogy, trans. David Coward [Oxford 2003], 46–47; here Bartholo, the Count, and Rosine in a previous scene; Alexandre Fragonard, Scène de la lettre dans le Barbier de Séville [Rosine, Bartholo et Almaviva] [1827; Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Bibliothèque-musée de l’opéra):


Count [tries to take the letter back but Bartholo grips it firmly]. It’s at that point that I can be of help. We’ll show her the letter and, if it becomes necessary, [conspiratorily] I shall say I got it from another woman who’d been given it by the Count to prove his love to her. It’s not hard to imagine in which direction the hurt, the shame, her outraged feelings will take her . . .

Bartholo [laughing]. Slander! My dear boy, now I know you really were sent by Bazile. . . . But if all this is not to look as if it were all arranged in advance, wouldn’t it be a good idea if she were to meet you beforehand?” Back.

[4] That is, “I, Friedrich, have not visited etc.” Back.

[5] Presumably a reference to Friedrich’s awkward visit to Caroline at Leutragasse 5 on 24 April 1801, the day after her arrival back in Jena (Mode Almanach für Damen auf 1802; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


See her letter to Wilhelm on 24 April 1801 (letter 311). For Friedrich’s version of the meeting, see his letters to Wilhelm on 27 April 1801 (letter 312a), and on 18 May 1801 (letter 317a). Back.

[6] Berlinischer Damen-Kalender auf das Gemein-Jahr 1806; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[7] Friedrich had returned from Berlin to Jena in early September 1799 after having lived in Jena earlier from August of 1796 till the summer of 1797 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[8] Wilhelm had departed for Leipzig on 15 October 1799 (see Caroline’s letter to Auguste on 14 October 1799 [letter 248]), where he was planning to speak with the publisher Johann Friedrich Unger.

Friedrich’s reference is doubtless to an expression of affection between Caroline and Schelling (Johann Georg Pendel, Junges Paar auf einem Sofa, zu einem jungen Mann aufblickend, der gerade das Zimmer betritt [1803]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 2017):


Friedrich’s reference to Caroline’s relationship with Friedrich von Hardenberg comes as somewhat of a surprise, since Caroline never seemed to warm up to Hardenberg’s personality or manner of thinking, and Hardenberg in his own turn was unusually and harshly judgmental of Caroline (and by extension: Schelling) after Auguste’s death in July 1800. Back.

[9] This asseveration on Wilhelm’s part unfortunately did not prevent the brothers from continuing to experience difficulties in their relationship during the coming years, difficulties that included but were not limited to the problems Friedrich is here discussing (Calender für das Jahr 1796; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[10] Caroline mentions this relationship as well in her letter to Wilhelm on 7 May 1801 (letter 314). See also the supplementary appendix on Caroline in Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde. No particularly close relationship between Caroline and Friedrich von Hardenberg is otherwise documented. Back.

[11] I.e., back on 24 April 1801? Or earlier? (Étienne Fessard, Gespräch zwischen Mann und Frau (1749); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 712a):


See below. Back.

[12] Friedrich’s remark dates these developments to the period well over a year earlier, since Ludwig Tieck and his family had already left Jena for good during the early summer (late June) of 1800.

This dating is confirmed by Friedrich’s remark about Schelling ceasing to come to the midday meals. Schelling had begun taking his meals with the Schlegels on 10 May 1799, and at one point, Caroline had 15–18 people at her home for the midday meal (see her letter to Luise Gotter on 5 October 1799 [letter 246]). When exactly Schelling ceased coming to such meals is uncertain.

That said, Friedrich is describing events between his own arrival back in Jena (early September 1799), Dorothea’s initial arrival in Jena (6 October 1799), Wilhelm’s journey to Leipzig (mid-October 1799), and the Tiecks’ departure from Jena (early June 1799), and seems first to have noticed an overt extra-marital relationship between Caroline and Schelling while Wilhelm was away in Leipzig, viz., mid-October 1799.

Although one may well speak about intellectual exchange among the circle of Romantics in Jena during that period, even lively and rich intellectual exchange, these documents effectively preclude speaking about an intimately bonded circle of Romantics in Jena ever having existed at the level of personal relationships. Back.

[13] Königl. Gros-Britt.Genealogischer Kalender auf das Jahr 1784; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[14] Commensurate also with the dating discussed above: beginning in early March 1800, when Caroline came down with nervous fever and, incidentally, Auguste was still alive Taschenkalender auf das Jahr 1798 für Damen; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


As just mentioned, what is known as the early Romantic circle in Jena seems literally never to have had a genuinely harmonious period once all the actants were in Jena itself. See in this regard esp. Ludwig Tieck’s trenchantly critical and revealing letter to Sophie and August Ferdinand Bernhardi on 6 December 1799 (letter 246c). Back.

[15] Éclat, Fr., here: “burst, crash, sudden uproar”; procédé, Fr., “behavior, conduct; process, operation.” Back.

[16] Dorothea similarly maintains that Caroline’s original plan was to “marry off” Auguste to Schelling in order to keep Schelling near and, as Friedrich suggests above, to exploit both Schelling and Wilhelm.

To complicate such documentation, Dorothea remarks to Schleiermacher on 15 May 1800 (letter 259s) that “although her mother [Caroline] initially fooled her into thinking that Schelling was to marry her, when Auguste finally saw what the real state of affairs was, she withdrew, even though Schelling was instructed to court her.” See esp. note 16 there.

Even given the hostility of Friedrich and Dorothea toward both Caroline and Schelling, however, and especially given Friedrich’s stated aversion even to the notion, it seems unlikely that they simply invented this issue as a way to, as it were, sling more mud at Caroline. Even Caroline’s letters to Auguste during the autumn of 1799 arguably suggest that something of a “manufactured” relationship between Schelling and Auguste was afoot.

In any case, this present letter seems initially to have had the desired effect, at least in part. See Friedrich’s letter to Schleiermacher on 21 September 1801 (letter 329g); see also, however, the consternation of both Friedrich and Dorothea in their letter to him of 25 September 1801 (letter 329h), in which they respond to what they perceive as yet more misunderstanding on Schleiermacher’s part. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott