Letter 329s

329s. Schleiermacher to Charlotte Schleiermacher in Gnadenfrei [*]

Berlin, 10 November 1801

. . . You already know that the elder Schlegel spent most of the summer here. Although he traveled to Jena in August, he is already back here again and will be staying the entire winter. [1] He, too, is greatly occupying me because of my concern for him.

I do not know if I already wrote you about the awkward and regrettable relationship he now has with his wife, who is rewarding him for the great respect he has demonstrated toward her, and for his more than fatherly tenderness and love toward her daughter from her first marriage, with unfaithfulness that she is bothering neither to conceal nor to deny, making him the mockery of ordinary people, as well as — because he is so well known in Germany — within an extremely broad circle.

God knows why he does not have the courage or desire to separate from her completely, and how it is possible for him even to maintain a sort of intimate friendship with the young man whom she loves and favors. [2] His exaggerated good nature notwithstanding, he can, of course, given the nature of things, not endure being in her proximity for very long, and he was doubtless happy when the time drew near and his obligations summoned him back here. [3]

The foulest part of all is that this woman is doing everything she can to estrange the two brothers from each other because Friedrich gave Wilhelm the advice any reasonable person would give him and because he perhaps occasionally let her sense the contempt she deserves. In any event, her efforts have not been entirely unsuccessful, and now Friedrich and Madam Veit, who would prefer simply to live in peace and quiet, are suffering from it emotionally.

I cannot express to you how profoundly this wretched and unfortunate situation grieves me, and how infinitely sorry I am for Wilhelm having to see him in this condition. —

Even in a general sense, nothing in the world is more difficult than marrying. When I consider all my acquaintances both near and far, my heart breaks at how few happy marriages there are among them. [4] . . .


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 1:285 (frag.); full text of this passage in Schleiermacher als Mensch. Sein Werden. Familien- und Freundesbriefe 1783 bis 1804, ed. Heinrich Meisner (Gotha 1922), 234–35; KGA V/5 247–48.

Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:736, cites this letter in his notes to Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Caroline on 19 February 1799 (letter 221) in connection with his (Schmidt’s) brief remarks on Schleiermacher’s relationship with the Romantics (see note 7 there).

Charlotte Schleiermacher was living in Gnadenfrei, the Moravian colony founded in 1742 in what at the time was the town of Ober-Peilau (modern Piława Górna in Poland), just southwest of Breslau (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Besetztere und illuminierte Landkarte von Deutschland Elementarwerk, from the (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 xlv; illustration: Abraham Louis Brandt, Gnadenfrei [Pilava Gorna/Polen] [1755]; Sächsische Landesbibliothek, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden, TS Mp.140.1):):




[1] Wilhelm had arrived in Jena on 11 August 1801 and departed on his return journey to Berlin on 3 November 1801 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[2] Wilhelm and Schelling maintained this close relationship despite an occasional derogatory comment later from Wilhelm to others concerning Schelling. Indeed Schelling actively assists Wilhelm and Caroline along the rather tedious and complicated path of securing their divorce from Karl August and the Weimar consistory during the coming two years.

Here Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s illustrations of (1) a meeting of hierarchical consistory members ca. 1774, and (2) an individual having to appear before such a consistory (“Ein hierarchisches Konsistorium,” from the 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 LXXIII d; Sebaldus vor dem Consistorium [1774]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [1-51]; both illustrations Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [1-15]):




[3] Wilhelm’s obligations included primarily his pending Berlin lectures.

Schleiermacher assumes a decidedly disingenuous posture here insofar as he not only was aware of Wilhelm’s intimate relationship with Sophie Bernhardi, but also served as an intermediary for intimate letters between them during Wilhelm’s absence from Berlin so as to deceive Sophie’s husband, August Ferdinand Bernhardi. See, e.g., Sophie’s letter to Wilhelm on ca. 20 August 1801 (letter 327e):

Would it absolutely not be possible at all for you to write me? Could you not enclose a letter, address it to Schleiermacher, and in that one yet another letter that I could give to Schleiermacher lest I be embarrassed should Bernhardi speak to Schleiermacher about the letter that came for him?

See also note 5 there. Back.

[4] Although such transcends the scope of this present collection, Schleiermacher had his own problems with marriage, both before (Eleonore Grunow) and after marrying the much younger widow Henriette von Willich (1788–1840) in 1809. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott