Letter 329p

329p. Sophie Bernhardi to Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena: Berlin, ca. 20 October 1801 [*]

[Berlin, ca. 20 October 1801]

I am hoping, my dear friend, that soon I will no longer need to write you and that we will have you in our midst again. [1] Because my Wilhelm is now better, at least some of my worries have been addressed. [2] So do please finally come now with my brother. [3]

I anxiously anticipate every postal day. I have had to do without him so long now and am so longing to take him in my arms — I eagerly open every letter, and then instead of the anticipated joy I invariably find the succinct news that “I will be coming in a few weeks.” And for him, those “few weeks” do not even seem like a real delay at all, as if “a few weeks” did not comprise an enormous portion of my life. Please urge him on quite properly; let me entrust you with that task. Indeed, do it just the way you urged me on to good health here. [4]

We received the Mädchen von Orleans and read it with considerable pleasure. [5] I know not whether you still remember what I once told you about my brother’s tragedy Rudolph von Felseck, [6] but Schiller’s piece seems to have been done much the same way, with the slight difference that it was not just Caspar der Toringer alone that was copied, [7] as my brother quite innocently did, but rather — in order to make it truly wondrous — something from everything Schiller knows. And that is how this romantic tragedy came about. Next to Fiesko, it is probably the worst thing he has ever done. [8] If I am indeed to admire Schiller, then it is after every new piece he produces that I admire Die Räuber anew. [9]

From my wholly terrible writing here you can no doubt see that I do not have much time.

In haste let me merely ask, and seriously, first, that you come very soon. Second, that you write to me what decision you have made concerning your accommodations, and, third, when you will be coming. [10] And finally and fourth, that you ask in Bernhardi’s name to speak with the Literaturzeitung. [11]

Stay very well. Stay healthy and happy. Bernhardi sends his regards and wants me to tell you that he is very much looking forward to seeing you again.

S[ophie] B[ernhardi] [12]


[*] Source: Krisenjahre 1:33–34. — 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) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[1] Wilhelm departed Jena for Berlin on 3 November 1801. Back.

[2] Sophie’s son had been having problems with his eyeteeth; see the opening lines to her letter on ca. 30 September 1801 (letter 329j) and her (first) letter on 13 October 1801 (letter 329m). Back.

[3] Wilhelm and Sophie had been variously discussing the possibility of Wilhelm traveling back to Berlin with Sophie’s younger brother, Friedrich Tieck, though such did not happen (see Sophie’s letter on ca. 30 September 1801 [letter 329j] and her [first] letter of 13 October 1801 [letter 329m]). Back.

[4] Beginning with his letter to her on 14 August 1801 (letter 327a).

The final sentences and entreaties in this paragraph, although overtly intended to speed Friedrich Tieck’s return, are in fact directed to Wilhelm himself. Back.

[5] Schiller was anticipating the first copies of his Die Jungfrau von Orleans. Eine romantische Tragödie (Berlin: Unger, 1801). Schiller had solicited such a copy from Georg Joachim Göschen in Leipzig in a letter on 15 October 1801 (Schillers Briefe, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, ed. Fritz Jonas, 7 vols. [Stuttgart 1892–96], 6:307–8), a date thus contributing to dating Sophie’s otherwise undated present letter.

Concerning the play, see also supplementary appendix 314.3. Back.

[6] Ludwig Tieck’s unpublished early attempt at writing a tragedy in six acts. According to Edwin Hermann Zeydel, Ludwig Tieck, the German Romanticist: A Critical Study (Princeton 1935), 15, the play still existed in at least partial form in 1855, as attested by Rudolf Köpke, Tieck: Erinnerungen, but has since been lost. Back.

[7] Joseph August Graf von Törring-Cronsfeld, Kaspar der Thorringer. Historisches Schauspiel in 5 Akten (Vienna 1785), one of the most successful plays dealing with a chivalric background in the wake of Goethe’s Götz von Berlichingen mit der eisernen Hand. Ein Schauspiel (1773), often performed and reprinted. Back.

[8] Schiller’s play Die Verschwörung des Fiesko zu Genua: Republikanisches Trauerspiel (Mannheim 1783); Wilhelm wrote in his Über dramatische Kunst und Litteratur. Vorlesungen 3 vols. (Heidelberg 1809–11), 419 (Sämmtliche Werke 6:420; trans. Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, trans. John Black, 2nd rev. ed. by A. J. W. Morrison [London 1904], 519): “Fiesco is in design the most perverted, in effect the feeblest [of Schiller’s pieces].” Here three illustrations from Friedrich Schiller’s Works (London 1903):



[9] Schiller’s first play, Die Räuber (1781), was a favorite of the Tieck siblings in their youth. Ludwig Tieck writes to Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder from Göttingen on 28 December 1792 (Dreihundert Briefe 4:72): “O, it is a magnificent, divine piece — I feel as if I should fall down before Schiller and worship him.”

Ludwig himself tried his hand at a reworking of the piece as early as 1789. See Zeydel, Ludwig Tieck, 15, 346:

The version of Schiller’s Die Räuber was perhaps his first literary endeavor. Though dated 1789, it may be older and was perhaps written as a school exercise or as an acting version for himself and his friends. Köpke [Tieck: Erinnerungen] described the first four acts, now lost, as covering 213 pages and being “partially a revision of Schiller’s work and partially a copy of the Mannheim stage version.”

Schiller’s play continued to exert extraordinary influence even in Tieck’s later story Abdallah. Eine Erzählung (Berlin 1795) (frontispiece):


Rudolf Köpke attests that even at an advanced age, Tieck considered Die Räuber to be Schiller’s greatest accomplishment (Rudolf Köpke, Tieck: Erinnerungen, 2:193):

[Schiller] began with his greatest work. In Die Räuber he articulated in the most powerful fashion a single idea, directing a terrible question to the deity: How is the misery of so many millions of people to be reconciled with divine love and providence? The power with which this idea is pursued, the defiance inhering within it, counterbalances whatever weaknesses the piece may otherwise exhibit as a work of art.

To open a gallery of Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s illustration to Schiller’s piece, click on the image below:


Concerning negative criticism of Schiller’s Die Jungfrau von Orleans similar to that of Sophie’s here, see supplementary appendix 329p.1. Back.

[10] Wilhelm had queried Sophie on this topic in his letter on 18 September 1801 (letter 329e) (“What shall I do about accommodations?”); she responded with suggestions on 13 October 1801 (letter 329m) (“If you would be willing to restrict yourself a little and would be satisfied having the small room as your apartment in which Bernhardi resided during the summer”). Wilhelm returned to Berlin in early November 1801.

As it turned out, Wilhelm resided with the Bernhardis once he returned to Berlin, a decision with serious personal consequences. See the section on the paternity of Felix Bernhardi in the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s residences in Berlin. Back.

[11] Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule, 758* (3rd ed. [1914], 820*) was already aware that August Ferdinand Bernhardi continued to work with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung even after Wilhelm’s break with the journal in November 1799. See Schleiermacher’s letter to Wilhelm on 12 April 1800 (KGA V/3 471):

He [Bernhardi] will have no difficulty giving up doing the literary articles in the Archiv der Zeit for the sake of the Jahrbücher [which Wilhelm, Friedrich, and Schleiermacher were all planning as a replacement for the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, with which they had broken]; but I fear neither he nor his wife [Sophie], with whom he actually constitutes a single contributor, can be counted on with respect to novels, since he is now working quite a bit with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in this area. Back.

[12] This letter, the last extant one that Sophie sent to Wilhelm before his return to Berlin on 3 November 1801, is also the final letter in their correspondence from this period included in this present edition.

Although several exchanges are presented later in different contexts, Sophie soon became involved in lengthy and extremely unpleasant divorce proceedings with August Ferdinand Bernhardi, during which time she was in fact no longer in Berlin (custody of the children became a tense point of contention) and had also — significantly — taken up with Karl Gregor von Knorring, whom she would eventually marry.

In any event, in all subsequent correspondence Wilhelm and Sophie use the formal form of address, Sie. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott