Letter 334b

334b. Goethe to Schelling in Jena: Weimar, 5 December 1801 [*]

[Weimar, 5 December 1801]

Many thanks for sending the Almanach, [1] which represents a kind of purgatorio. The participants are neither on earth nor in heaven nor in hell, but rather in a rather interesting middle condition that is in part painful, and yet in part quite agreeable.

The Almanach by Vermehren admittedly does not come off to its best advantage next to it. The fiery wind from Friedrich Schlegel’s laboratorium is not able to lift the balloon up and elevate that much ballast after all. [2]

I am hopeful things will go quite well with our tragedy. Here the role assignments: [3]

Ion — Demoiselle Jagemann
Xuthus — Vohs
Creusa — Madame Vohs
Pythia — Madame Teller
Phorbas — Graff
Apollo — still in suspenso [4]

The complete dépêche will be sent to Berlin on Monday or at latest on Thursday. [5]

I wish you serenity of the spirit during these short days! With this wish I commend myself to your remembrance.

Weimar, 5 December 1801



[*] Sources: Plitt 1:350–51; Goethe und die Romantik 1:220–21; Fuhrmans 2:361. This letter is Goethe’s response to Schelling’s letter to him of 29 November 1801 (letter 333a). Back.

[1] Schelling had included two copies of the Musen-Almanach in his letter. Back.

[2] Johann Vermehren had wanted to edit Schiller’s Musen-Almanach after Schiller withdrew, but instead published his own, the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802 (Leipzig 1802), to which Friedrich Schlegel also contributed poems.

See Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm on 20 February 1801 (letter 289a), note 5, and, for a partial list of contributors, Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 7–8 May 1801 (letter 314), note 57. Back.

[3] These were indeed the assignments for Wilhelm’s play Ion: ein Schauspiel (Hamburg 1803) on opening night in the Weimar theater, 2 January 1802. Back.

[4] Latin, “in a state of uncertainty, abeyance.” As it turned out, Friedrich Haide played the role of Apollo.

Here the colorized copper engraving by Friedrich Tieck depicting the costumes for the characters in Wilhelm’s Ion that appeared in a review of the play as copper engraving 8 (albeit incorrectly listed as 7) in “Weimarisches Hoftheater: . . . Colorirte Darstellungen der antiken Costumes im Ion, wie sie auf dem Hoftheater in Weimar erschienen,” Journal des Luxus und der Moden 14 (1802) (March), 136–48. The characters are from left to right: Pythia, Xuthus, Ion, Creusa, Phorbas:



[5] Fr., “dispatch; express; letter”; here: a copy of Wilhelm’s manuscript of Ion with certain passages eliminated for its Berlin performance.

The following Tuesday was 8 December, the following Thursday 10 December. The play was eventually performed in Berlin on 15 May 1802, but only twice more, its final performance being on 30 January 1811 (C. Scharffer and C. Hartmann, Die Königlichen Theater in Berlin. Statistischer Rückblick . . . vom 5. December 1786 bis 31. December 1885 [Berlin 1886], 46). Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott