Letter 329k

329k. Wilhelm Schlegel to Sophie Bernhardi in Berlin: Jena, 3 October 1801 [*]

Jena, 3 October 1801

It was not until yesterday at midday that I returned from Weimar, where I spent eleven days with Schelling and the ladies of the house in honor of Madam Unzelmann, so utterly cultivating the art of noble leisure that I could not even manage a letter to a friend, since I was subject to constant interruptions and never alone. [1]

Our time was divided between the theater, the exhibition, and society. I saw a great deal of Goethe, in part in the theater itself, and in part mornings while he sat for your brother, who was our constant companion. Our theater experiences, and all the other things, I will save for relating in person, limiting myself here to only what concerns your brother, whom I now love like my own. Although he had planned to write you himself, I am unsure whether he has already genuinely carried out that resolution.

Goethe’s bust had already gotten quite far along and is coming out wonderfully. It is a piece that cannot but bring him esteem in all of Germany. Madam Unzelmann, who saw it the last day and could view it without considering anything of an artistically technical nature, was wholly delighted at the striking resemblance. [2]

At the same time, doing this piece provides him the opportunity to enter into an unforced relationship with Goethe himself, something which, given his initial reserve, is difficult to maintain. Friedrich Tieck has also been quite frank toward him, even appropriately denigrating the entries in the art competition, which Goethe accepted with good humor. [3]

I am sending a catalog of the exhibition, which I hope you will be so kind as to send along to Buri on occasion. The 3 portraits by Buri are the drawings of Goethe, me, and Madam Vohs. [4]

Among the sketches by your brother, one was inadvertently omitted from the catalog, a splendid Neoptolemus slaying Priam. [5] Then a couple of heads by him from Raphael’s Transfiguration were also added, pieces Goethe received from him only later. [6]

A couple of competition paintings were also added during the exhibition. —

I need not tell you that Buri’s and Tieck’s things were for me the best and only pieces in the exhibition. I am considering sending a more thorough report to Genelli for his wonderfully entertaining letter to me; he is probably out in the countryside just now. [7] Hence just pass along the preceding brief news to Buri the next time he visits.

In a couple of free hours he also sketched Catell in black chalk, simply with the stump, and the result bore a remarkable resemblance. He will now probably also spend a couple of days here drawing Schelling the same way. [8]

Some possibilities have opened up for him with three larger-format bas-reliefs in the castle [9] — though he will be negotiating not with Goethe, but with Genz. He was intending to do some sketches of them after our departure from Weimar. If he is offered fairly good terms, these bas-reliefs, which could perhaps take 9 months, might perhaps provide him the means to go to Italy. They will probably require him to spend part of the winter in Weimar.

His brother is pressing him to come to Dresden — but he has resolved not to do so for now, and will instead likely return to Berlin either with me or even sooner. [10]

So, as you can see, he is advancing quite nicely on his career path and will doubtless enjoy extraordinary success. In the future, I myself will probably no longer be able to bear the title “Monsieur Diligence” so par excellence.

Commensurate with your last letter, I let Goethe know that he can yet be expecting a comedy of intrigue to be submitted late. Please do not make a liar of me in all this. [11]

Had you but sent your poem directly to me! [12] Ludwig Tieck is playing the grand artistic judge and writes that he considers it not strong enough, so did not send it to me at all. But I for my part am no less curious to see it and would thus implore you to send it along to me. It is admittedly too late for the Almanach which is ready, as you see, for I am enclosing here the first complete copy I received, though I do ask that for now you not let anyone see it outside our circle of friends. [13]

Your elder brother, by the way, wrote me a quite cordial letter and sent me the prolog and first act of a comedic literary satire he wrote this summer but whose publication is now being thwarted by various hindrances. [14]

Given what you said in your last letter, I might almost give up hope of finding enough attendees for my lectures. [15] In the meantime, however, that will not alter my decision to return to Berlin. If possible we must still try to bring it about. I will not be kept away, regardless of whether my presence is desired or not. I have written the necessary details in this regard to Schütze; let me ask that you please pass these along to him and also discuss this matter with him.

Although I received a letter from Schleiermacher, I cannot yet answer it with this post and thus ask that you pass along my regards to him. [16]

Caroline sends her kindest regards as well. It is highly unlikely she will be coming along to Berlin just now, though she may perhaps do so in the second half of the winter. [17]

Best regards to Bernhardi, with whom I am looking forward to philosophizing away and criticizing away many a pleasant hour. And please also send along more favorable news concerning your health very soon — if you but genuinely believe, things will improve without fail. [18]

Stay very well, my dear friend.

A. W. Schlegel

Schelling and I together have not infrequently been sighing for the promised spiritual stimulants —they would provide considerable consolation on these autumnal days. [19]

Has still nothing further happened in the matter with Unger? [20]


[*] Source: Josef Körner, (1930), 1:140–43. — 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). Back.

[1] Friederike Unzelmann gave guest performances in the Weimar theater between 21 September and 1 October 1801 (representative illustration from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Minna von Barnhelm oder Das Soldatenglück: Ein Lustspiel in fünf Aufzügen [Berlin 1767]; here Minna in act 2, scene 7; Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 [74]):


Concerning the background to Friederike Unzelmann’s guest performances in Weimar, see Wilhelm’s letters to Goethe on 14 August 1801 (letter 327c), and to Friederike Unzelmann herself on 7 September 1801 ( letter 328g).

For her performance schedule during this visit, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 (letter 315), note 10. See also Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in September 1801 (letter 329).

The “ladies of the house” included Caroline, Luise Wiedemann, and Julie Gotter. Luise Gotter and her other two daughters, Cäcilie and Pauline also journeyed over from Gotha for these performances (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[2] Wilhelm Schlegel’s critical assessment of the bust is found in his essay on the Berlin art exhibition of 1802, “Ueber die berlinische Kunstausstellung von 1802,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1803), nos. 4–9 (Sämmtliche Werke, 9:158–179 (see supplementary appendix 326.1 for the text).

See also his epigram “Auf Goethe’s Brustbild von Friedrich Tieck” (“On Goethe’s [head-and-shoulders] bust by Friedrich Tieck”) in Sämmtliche Werke 2:37:

[Friedrich Tieck’s bust of Goethe; Edmund Hildebrandt, Friedrich Tieck: Ein Beitrag zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte im Zeitalter Goethes und der Romantik (Leipzig 1906), plate 2, following p. 24:]


Behold here Goethe's consecrated head: with equal power encompassing
Alongside matters of state also art, poesy, and nature.

After already having commenced his first lecture series in Berlin, Wilhelm writes to Goethe on 19 January 1802 (Körner-Wieneke 124):

[Friedrich] Tieck has quite diligent here, and has just completed the bust of Madam Unzelmann, who wished to be modeled by him.

[Bust of Friederike Unzelmann 1802 by Friedrich Tieck; reproduction 4906, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin:]


Schadow finished his of Madam Meyer a bit earlier, which by comparison with his usual, factory-like work allegedly came out very nicely indeed, though I have not seen it myself. As for your own bust [by Friedrich Tieck], as soon as the first cast was ready, I presented it to my audience the day before yesterday as a bit of artistic news. It seems to be enjoying considerable approval.

Wilhelm’s presentation likely occurred in connection with his eleventh lecture, which was devoted to sculpture (Körner-Wieneke 242; Vorlesungen über schöne Literatur und Kunst 1:127–50) ([1] Schauplatz der Natur und der Künste, vol. 2 [Vienna 1775], plate 3; [2] Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate 58c):




[3] The reference is to the artistic competition of 1801 sponsored by Goethe and the Weimar Friends of the Arts. Here such an exhibition from a slightly earlier period (Michel Vincent Brandon, The Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Painting, in the Year 1771; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museumsnr./Signatur REarlom AB 2.45):


The competitions (one had already been held in 1800) offered young artists the opportunity to treat a stipulated theme and compete for prize money.

The competition of 1801 had a deadline of 25 August 1801 and lasted through Michaelmas (29 September) (representative illustration by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate LVIII b):


References to these competitions recur in coming correspondence. See esp. Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 16 November 1801 (letter 330). Back.

[4] The sketches of Goethe and Wilhelm seem to have been lost. Bury’s portrait of Friederike Vohs was long incorrectly thought to be that of Christiane Goethe:



[5] Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, and Priam, king of Troy during the Trojan War. Neoptolemus slays Priam during the sack of Troy at the same altar of Zeus where he has just slain Priam’s son Polites. Back.

[6] These drawings seem not to have been preserved. Here Raphael’s Transfiguration (1520):



[7] Hans Christian Genelli’s lengthy letter to Wilhelm on 15 September 1801 can be found in Josef Körner, (1930), 1:132–36; its conclusion is included in the present edition in Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie on 21 August 1801 (letter 327f), note 18. Back.

[8] Tieck finished the sketch of Schelling on 8 November 1801:


In her letter to Wilhelm on 16 November 1801 (letter 330), Caroline mentions standing behind Tieck during the execution of this drawing, doubtless similar to the the gentleman in the following illustration of such a portrait sitting, in which Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki (at far left) does the portrait of a seated subject while another gentleman (behind Chodowiecki’s right shoulder) looks on (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Von Berlin nach Danzig. Eine Künstlerfahrt im Jahre 1773 von Daniel Chodowiecki. 108 Lichtdrucke nach den Originalen in der Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Mit erläuterndem Text und einer Einführung von Professor Dr. W[olfgang] von Oettingen [Berlin, Amsler & Ruthardt, Kunsthändler o.J. [1883], plate 91):


Schelling similarly mentions the finishing touches to the portrait in his letter to Wilhelm on 9 November 1801 (letter 329r). Back.

[9] Tieck was eventually commissioned to execute the bas-reliefs in the staircase in the east wing designed by Heinrich Gentz, something he completed after returning to Weimar from Berlin on 13 June 1802 and after clearing the sketches with Goethe. His three reliefs, in a simple Doric style, adorn the two side walls and the rear wall leading to the salons. Here the staircase with two of Tieck’s pieces visible (early postcard):



[10] Friedrich Tieck returned to Berlin with Friedrich Schlegel on 2 December 1801 and, as mentioned above, returned to Weimar on 13 June 1802 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[11] The reference is to Sophie’s comedy of intrigue that Wilhelm was hoping to enter in Goethe’s competition. 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.

[12] Sophie’s poem “Lebenslauf,” which appeared in August Ferdinand Bernhardi’s quarterly Kynosarges (Berlin 1802) 17–21. See Sophie’s letter to Wilhelm on ca. 10 September 1801 (letter 328h), note 15. Back.

[13] Wilhelm is speaking only of the proofs. The Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802 appeared publicly on ca. 1 November 1801; Goethe had already read it by 8 November and expressed his approval (see Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie on 18 September 1801 [letter 329e], note 13). Copies appeared in bookstores on 26 November 1801 (KFSA 25:630–31) (anonymous engraving, 18th century):



[14] Ludwig Tieck’s “Anti-Faust oder Geschichte eines dummen Teufels” (Anti-Faust, of the story of a stupid devil), of which only the prologue and first act were finished. Tieck wrote to Wilhelm in late September 1801 (Lohner 93):

What I have been doing? Let me here send you part of a comedy that is finished but which I must yet copy out, for which I unfortunately have not yet found the time.

As you can see, I am beginning to be more careful with my works, perhaps to the same extent the works themselves are getting worse. I also intend to send it to you as I progress with the copying. Let me request that you give it to Friedrich as well, and that both of you give me your honest opinion about it, and whether it is worth the trouble to have it published.

To understand it completely, you must know that I initially wanted to publish the comedy as a small-format pocket book, for Freunde des Scherzes und der Satire, exactly like Falk [see letter274c, note 4], though in the meantime I could foresee that the bookseller, after seeing the manuscript, was not satisfied, and began quarreling with me about it, so that afterward I could come to no agreement with Falk.

and so do teach us
That a deity shapes our purposes
Regardless of how carefully we may plan them.

The numbers you encounter refer to several annotations that will be found in the back. —

If you think Frommann might be interested or have the courage to publish it, you could show it to him, or someone else there, since here in Saxony the censor will make any publication impossible; the following acts are even worse than the beginning.

The piece was never published. Back.

[15] In her undated letter to Wilhelm in late September 1801 (letter 329i), Sophie had mentioned the trouble his friends were having getting people to commit to attending his lectures. Then, in her letter to him on ca. 30 September 1801 (letter 329j), which Wilhelm had not yet received, she mentions that “your lectures will certainly come to fruition. . . . Eventually there will be even more than 60 attendees, but even that would be enough.” Back.

[16] Schleiermacher’s lengthy letter to Wilhelm on 17 September 1801, first published in “Briefe Friedrich Schleiermachers an August Wilhelm Schlegel,” ed. Erich Klingner, Euphorion 21 (1914) 767–69; now KGA V/5 206–8; not included here. Back.

[17] During mid- to late March, Caroline traveled to Berlin (by way of Braunschweig?). She did not, however, stay with Wilhelm in Berlin, and returned to Jena at the end of May accompanied by Schelling and, part of the way, Wilhelm. More is said about the trip and journey back to Jena in letters from that period (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[18] In her letter of late September 1801 (letter 329i), Sophie had remarked that “I hope you are still as healthy and happy as you recently wrote. I cannot say the same for myself; on the contrary, despite all the fortifying remedies I am becoming weaker by the day.” Back.

[19] That is, “spirits” in the sense of alcoholic beverages. In his letter to Sophie on 4 September 1801 (letter 328e), Wilhelm had requested three types of brandy. Sophie queried him further about this order in her letter to him on ca. 10 September 1801 (328h); see esp. (also concerning her Berlin source for filling the order) notes 1 and 2 there.

In any event, in the letter Sophie wrote Wilhelm on ca. 30 September 1801 (letter 329j), which crossed this one in the mail, Sophie explains that she was not yet able to get the desired brandies. Back.

[20] That is, in his quarrel with Johann Friedrich Unger concerning what Wilhelm considered to be an illegitimate reprinting of a volume of his edition of Shakespeare. See supplementary appendix 309.1. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott