Letter 329c

329c. Wilhelm Schlegel to Friedrich Schlegel in Jena: Jena, 14 September 1801 [*]

Jena, 14 September 1801

It is up to you whether and when you intend to answer Caroline’s letter, but it has nothing to do with the issue. It is not Caroline, but rather I who am now demanding it back, and indeed I consider myself justified in doing so for the following reasons.

First, the timeline you adduce is completely incorrect. Before me here I have a letter from you dated 2 February 1801 in which you write: “Give my regards to Caroline and tell her I will answer her letter in detail as soon as I have the time.” [1] Hence you already had the letter eight and a half months ago.

As far as the other timeline is concerned, the last thing that transpired between you and Caroline was at her departure from Jena. I was myself present, and at the very least it was no declaration of hostility. [2]

When after Caroline’s return to Jena I mentioned something about you having still not answered it, you countered: [3]

Nor was it at all a letter one could answer with such haste etc. I will also confess to you that even were I to consider such rapprochement a possibility, any response I might make to the letter would put me in an extremely awkward position insofar as the letter itself is of such an ugly disposition that my response, and were it written in ever so considerate a fashion, would be highly unlikely to dispose Karoline favorably to such rapprochement. [4]

Does this not state clearly enough that you did not intend to answer it at all?

I then demanded the letter back, proving to you from your own statements that you could have no proper reason for refusing it me. [5] You did not respond, and I did not pursue it further, since I was intending to come to Jena soon myself in any case.

Although I had not forgotten about it when I arrived, I did not want, amid our discussions of literary and more indifferent matters — the only ones you left me — to raise an issue that could not avoid touching on all the various causes of alienation and mistrust. Caroline anticipated me because she wanted to spare me the unpleasant discussion; [6] unfortunately, however, such was no longer possible after all.

On 18 May you wrote: “If you believed its (the letter’s) intention was to promote even the possibility of rapprochement, then you are quite deceived.” [7] As a matter of fact, I am indeed still persuaded that such was Caroline’s intent, and from your own behavior since her return, from what you yourself wrote me about her (in which regard you have still not addressed my own response), [8] and even from your billet to me today [9] I must conclude that you were of too hostile a disposition yourself to respond in any accommodating or obliging fashion to that intention.

Hence I find Caroline’s gesture to have been well-intentioned if premature, and considering that your comportment does indeed affect me as well, and that I must represent her rights, [10] I have the right to withdraw that gesture to the extent possible and to render it as having not been made, something I do by demanding the letter be returned. You can see what sort of light your own intransigent refusal to return the letter cannot but cast on your insinuation concerning its disposition.

You accused Caroline (in your letter of 18 May) of trying to separate us. Why, then do you not surrender the letter over to me in precisely this regard? She is quite willing to have it subjected to my perusal.

Let me ask you yet again to consider your decision very carefully, and not to push things to the extreme.

Jena, 14 September 1801



[*] Walzel, 487–88; KFSA 25:291–92. — Response to Friedrich’s letter (Wilhelm calls it a “billet” in this letter) to Wilhelm on the same day, 14 September 1801 (letter 329b), whose timelines Wilhelm here challenges.

Concerning the background to this “epistolary affair,” see the editorial note to Wilhelm’s letter to Friedrich on this same day, 14 September 1801 (letter 329a). Back.

[1] Walzel, 456; KFSA 25:226; Caroline similarly refers to this letter in her letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315). Back.

[2] With Auguste on 4 May 1800 (see Schiller’s letter to Goethe on 5 May 1800 [letter 259q]) for Bamberg and Bocklet.

Wilhelm accompanied them to Saalfeld, where they met up with Schelling. According to Wilhelm’s remarks here, Friedrich saw Wilhelm, Caroline, and Auguste off when they departed Jena (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Caroline and Auguste continued on to Bamberg with Schelling. See Schelling’s letter to Adalbert Friedrich Marcus on 3 May 1800 (letter 259o), note 7. Back.

[3] Caroline arrived back in Jena from Braunschweig on 23 April 1801. Back.

[4] Friedrich to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317a). Back.

[5] The letter in which Wilhelm made these demands is no longer extant. Back.

[6] Caroline apparently demanded the letter back from Friedrich either in writing or in person. Back.

[7] Friedrich to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317a). Back.

[8] Wilhelm’s response is not extant. Back.

[9] Letter 329b. Back.

[10] To wit: as her husband. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott