Letter 329q

329q. Friedrich Schlegel to Ludwig Tieck in Dresden: Jena, 5 November 1801 [*]

Jena, 5 November 1801

Beloved Friend,

You must forgive me for not having written you for so long. I was quite occupied and also often disrupted by the sickliness of Madam Veit, which often made me extremely ill-humored. Nonetheless I am very much looking forward to seeing you soon. [1] We have much to say to each other, so let us spend a great deal of time together. . . .

Wilhelm returned to Berlin a few days ago. [2] I saw him fairly often while he was here, and on several occasions had some quite interesting conversations with him, though I must say he is getting increasingly pedantic, and is becoming more long-winded and harsher. [3]

Although we did not really touch on family matters, Karoline saw to it that I was certainly sufficiently aware of them on a couple of occasions. Among other things, Wilhelm once insulted me in such a way as to make it impossible for me to continue my participation in the Almanach, as sorry as that makes me both for the project itself and for you. [4]

You will perhaps recall that last winter I composed a poem, “The Withered Garland,” and anyone who knows me and my circumstances will easily enough guess that it refers to Auguste and is directed to a lady friend of mine [5] (which does not, however, have anything to do with the poem). [6] At the time, Wilhelm not only wrote me two pages full of praise for the poem’s meter and style, but also wrote in the strongest language about how it touched him, and how fond he was of it and how much he valued it. —

I mentioned it to him explicitly at least four times in a detailed enumeration of everything I was intending to contribute to the Almanach, and every time he accepted it with the grandest, most animated demonstrations of approval — until recently, when the Almanach was almost finished, he sends it back with silly, contemptuous prattle about personal [7] “inner religion,” and that I would not want to argue with a person whose “heart was wounded” etc.

You know me well enough to know whether I put much stock in seeing such a poem of mine in print or not. You must, however, also sense what an inestimable personal insult attaches to the return of precisely this poem. For a long time I was utterly perplexed as to what I should do. I finally decided not to answer at all, for had I, it could not easily have been done except in a fashion that would invariably have rendered impossible any relationship between us. —

But in order to avoid similar danger — from which even the utmost caution could not entirely protect me, since the poems one contributes to an Almanach always more or less tend toward the subjective side, and since Karoline knows how to bring up the most inappropriate elements in this regard, and also because Wilhelm’s behavior in this point is so undignified and especially so contrary to his usual punctuality as an editor that I am justified in assuming that Karoline was the initiator of the insult, and because I cannot possibly participate in a project whose invisible editor is a person who in every respect has behaved disgracefully toward me — because of all these considerations, I must adhere to this decision not to participate, and I wish merely that — something that must happen sooner or later — I will not come to words with Wilhelm in a way that would render all future closer contact between us impossible. Hence if you write him about this matter, do so in as restrained a manner as possible.

Your brother has been in Weimar for a while, and now and then also here, where I have seen him a few times, though not much, since he is lodging with Wilhelm and is kept tightly tethered there. [8] The way he speaks about his own art, however, though I cannot say it really displeases me, nonetheless makes me think that some lengthier contact with you might indeed be desirable. He is not at all clear about essentials, and suffers considerably from half-measures, lack of knowledge, and incorrect ideas with respect to less essential elements (which inevitably will soon enough greatly affect the essentials). But he needs to spend quite a bit of time with you, and you would need to work on these things gently with him.

Otherwise I admittedly know very little about him. A few weeks ago he paid me an extremely cordial visit and also wanted to do my portrait for you. But since he has been back here again there has been no further talk about it, and I know nothing more than that he is instead now doing Schelling’s portrait. [9]

Indeed, even in the larger sense I must tell you that his behavior toward me this last time around has rather embarrassed me, and if your brother is indeed discourteous toward me, I will certainly not hold it against him, since I am now already anticipating it. But I am probably also certainly permitted to assume that the cause is a new round of gossip-mongering from the same old, familiar cowl. [10]

Madam Veit sends her warm regards to you, and we both send them to your wife. We look forward to finding you content and well settled in Dresden. [11] I am especially looking forward to seeing little Dorothea, and little Auguste as well. . . .


[*] Sources: Briefe an Ludwig Tieck 3:316–21; Lohner 97–101; KFSA 25:302–5.

On the same subject, and with much the same wording, see Friedrich’s letter to Schleiermacher on 25 September 1801 (letter 329h). Back.

[1] Friedrich departed for a stay in Berlin on 29 November 1801 and arrived there on 2 December (KFSA 25:631). He returned to Jena in early February after a stopover in Dresden, where he presumably saw Tieck (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795])



[2] Wilhelm had departed for Berlin on 3 November 1801; he never returned to Jena. Back.

[3] Concerning Wilhelm’s inclination to pedantry, see Sophie Bernhardi’s letter to Wilhelm on ca. 10 September 1801 (letter 328i), note 7. Back.

[4] The Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802 was originally envisioned as a collection of poems from, essentially, the earlier Jena circle (Wilhelm and Friedrich, Ludwig Tieck, Friedrich von Hardenberg, and Schelling). Its only issue appeared in bookstores on 26 November 1801, though proofs were available in early October. Back.

[5] The poem was composed for Dorothea Veit’s birthday on 24 October 1800 (see below). Back.

[6] Concerning the poem “The Withered Garland” (“Der welke Kranz”), see Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm at the end of December 1800 (letter 277c) and Caroline to Wilhelm on 10 July 1801 (letter 325).

Concerning the original garland, see Friedrich’s letter to Auguste on 5 May 1798 (letter 200a).

Concerning Dorothea’s birthday celebration at which Friedrich presented her with the poem, see Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 31 October 1800 (letter 273b).

And finally, concerning Wilhelm’s rejection of the poem, see Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm in late December 1800 (letter 277c). Back.

[7] Holtei, Briefe an Ludwig Tieck, and Lohner read Persönlichkeit, “personality”; Hermann Patsch, KFSA 25, reads persönlich, “personal; personally,” which seems to make better contextual sense. Back.

[8] Concerning Friedrich Tieck’s work in Weimar, see Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie Bernhardi on 3 October 1801 (letter 329k), note 9. Back.

[9] Tieck finished the drawing of Schelling on 8 November 1801; see Wilhelm’s letter to Sophie Bernhardi on 3 October 1801 (letter 329k), note 8. Back.

[10] I.e., Caroline. Friedrich is sneeringly referring to Caroline by way of the metaphor of a nun’s (or monk’s) habit and implicitly of a gossiping or backbiting nun. Here the basic, cowled (hooded) Capucine habit illustrated in Maximilien Bullot, Histoire des Ordres Monastiques, Religieux et Militaires et des Congregations seculières, vol. 7 (Paris 1718), plates following pp. 210, 208:



[11] The Tieck family had moved to Dresden in the spring of 1801 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



Translation © 2015 Doug Stott