Letter 335c

335c. Friedrich Schlegel to Rahel Levin in Berlin: Berlin, December 1801 [*]

[Berlin, December 1801] [1]

My dear friend, I so yearn to see you that I can endure it no longer and must at least tell you in writing that I am here and want nothing more than to see you often, indeed, very, very often. [2] I have the warmest regards to pass on to you — and much to speak with you about on my own account as well. — I would already long have come to see you except that my suitcase is not yet here, [3] which is why I have not yet been able make any visits at all.

If you will permit, I will come anyway; and it would be more wonderful still were you to give me a specific time straightaway when I would be sure of finding you at home. [4]

Eternally yours,
Friedrich S.


[*] Sources: Briefe von und an Friedrich und Dorothea Schlegel, ed. Josef Körner (Berlin 1926), 34–35; KFSA 25:315. Back.

[1] Friedrich had arrived in Berlin from Jena with Friedrich Tieck on 2 December 1801. He remained there until 27 January 1802 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[2] Friedrich’s letters to Rahel Levin are of some interest given his indefatigable and trenchant opposition and indignation at Caroline’s increasing affection for Schelling while she was still married to Wilhelm Schlegel.

Friedrich seems in fact to have vacillated romantically between Dorothea Veit and Rahel Levin even during his earlier time in Berlin, when he became acquainted with them both in late summer 1797. Dorothea, incidentally, was by no means immediately taken with him, writing to Rahel in a letter probably from September 1797 (Körner [1926], 15–16; dating ibid., 438; KFSA 24:14–15), presumably in reference to Friedrich:

Here is S[chlegel?]’s letter back, dear L[evin] — the only thing I still found charming about this person was his modesty and self-awareness. Wondrously enough, however, he has exchanged those traits for a kind of arrogance so brazen that the most cultivated young gentleman of the eighteenth century would have no need to be ashamed of it. No, he is far, far from being refined enough for such impertinence. Madame la Comtesse deserves a solid nose fillip for giving this person the opportunity to assume the principes of Vicomte de Valmont; a knife in a child’s hands!

[Vicomte de Valmont, the seducer in Choderlos de Laclos, Les liaisons dangereuses, 4 vols. (Paris 1782); here Valmont with (in order) Cécile and Madame de Tourvel (edition of 1796)];


And what impudence! Raising up his eyes to you! and admiring your magnanimity for having acted on his behalf, and toward him, in a fashion void of all personal interest. Ridiculous! Ridiculous! and very kind of you for not understanding his letter.


Dorothea, however, acknowledged later how Rahel “recognized Friedrich’s mind and loved him when he was still the object of general persecution” (3 April 1812; Körner [1926], 453), with Karl August Varnhagen von Ense providing the complementary assessment that “apart from Friedrich Schlegel and Prince Louis, no one else seems to have completely and thoroughly recognized this personality [viz., Rahel]” (ibid.).

Dorothea wrote to Varnhagen on 29 May 1833 (Körner [1926] 438): “What lived in Rahel that was both beloved and kindred to me . . . became even more sacred to me through her feeling for Friedrich,” and Helmina von Chezy wrote in her eulogy for her friend Dorothea (Allgemeine Zeitung [1839] 241 [29 August 1839], supplement; cited by Körner [1926], 438):

Dorothea stood high above all other women . . . in the eyes of her husband. She was life and being for him, all others were mere appearance. Rahel alone shone within him as a star of the first order; he felt for her, he had erected an altar for her in himself whose consecrated flame never extinguished.

Compare, however, Dorothea’s effusive letter and reaction to Friedrich’s current (1801) relationship with Rahel in her letter to Rahel herself at the turn of the year 1801/02 (letter 335h), esp. note 1. Back.

[3] Friedrich’s suitcase had apparently gotten stuck in Halle, ca. 70 km northeast of Jena (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


Dorothea mentions the problem in her letters to Ludwig Tieck on 17 December 1801 and to Schleiermacher on 18 December 1801 (letters 335e, 355f). See also Caroline’s malicious remark in her letter to Wilhelm on 12 January 1802 (letter 340): “I heard from the Frommans that he [Friedrich] had some new clothes made for himself when the suitcase took so long to arrive — perhaps Miss Levy [Rahel] paid for them.”

KFSA 25:643n14, 644n4, speculates that perhaps the only explanation for Friedrich not having transported his suitcase himself on the way to Berlin is that he made an interim stop in Camburg to see Sophie Mereau. Concerning Friedrich’s romantic interest in Sophie Mereau as well, see the editorial note to Dorothea’s letter to Clemens Brentano on 25 July 1800 (letter 265f). Back.

[4] Rahel Levin was living at Jägerstrasse 54 in Berlin (center right, bottom), Friedrich with Schleiermacher at the Charité hospital complex (upper left), and Wilhelm Schlegel with the Bernhardis at Jungerfernbrücke 10/Oberwasserstrasse 10 (bottom right) (D. G. Reymann, Neuester Grundriss von Berlin [1826]; illustration: Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1803 für edle Weiber und Mädchen; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):





Translation © 2016 Doug Stott