Letter 339

• 339. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 4 January 1802 [*]

[Jena, 4 January 1802]

|248| Upon returning yesterday morning, 3 January, from the performance of Ion, [1] full of joy and anxious to write to you, I found your insufferable, unjust letter of 29 December waiting for me. [2] I was absolutely inconsolable at having been so content and having been thinking of nothing but you, then only to find myself so disharmoniously annoyed by your unseemliness.

|249| I wrote and then sent the letter off in a timely fashion. [3] Can I help it if the postal service is so completely dreadful now? [4] — When have I ever neglected to write and send news? You probably received my letter of the preceding week on that very Tuesday.

As far as the books are concerned, things are still just as I explained to you. [5]

You probably noticed that my news was calculated to arrive as early as Kotzebue. [6] It is quite natural that he did not take it with him afterward and was also already informed about the events and sensation concerning the actors in Weimar. [7]

You have ruined a great joy for me and, quite frankly, do not deserve for me to say even a single word to you about Ion. The only thing I can do for you is enclose the playbill. You can now put everything together for yourself.

If you ever treat me this way again, I will not write another letter and will also not come. [8]

In the same, ill vein, do you consider Schelling capable of having something published in the Literatur Zeitung contra Fichte? [9] After I recently told you something quite the opposite concerning his intentions in that regard? What subaltern person can have told Fichte such a thing, and how on earth can Fichte believe it? Might the whole thing derive from the aforementioned request that Schelling asked you to pass on to Fichte and which you seem utterly to have forgotten? In that case, Paulus must have learned of it — and who could then have related it to Fichte? [10] I suspect, however, that the whole thing derives solely and exclusively from Schad or Fichte’s former famulus. Schelling will write and relate to you the necessary details.

It was quite ill of Catel to have given me no word at all of his departure, particularly since he left much earlier |250| than he told me he would and was intending to come by once more and indeed to send me the drawing of the table. [11]

I am enclosing the shirt, since Schelling is sending the Journals. [12]

It is very cold, my room refuses to get warm, and I am burning a frightful amount of wood. [13]

Stay well, my ill-behaved Schlegel, and please pass the enclosure along to Madam Bernhardi. [14]

[Enclosure with the inscription: Give Schlegel this enclosure only after you have read the complete letter with him.]

To Sophie Bernhardi

Since rumor has it that the author of Ion lives in your vicinity, my dear Madam Bernhardi, it occurred to me that it would perhaps not be uninteresting to you to hear something about the premiere of that play in Weimar. [15]

And so let me begin immediately by telling you that it was the most perfect performance I have yet seen in this theater, a theater, after all, justifiably renowned for its harmonious outfitting and situation. The performance itself appeared to have been directed with genuine love, and the indescribable effort that invariably went into it succeeded such as to provide a magnificent testimonial to what sincere effort of that sort can indeed accomplish.

From the very first moment, however, something even more becoming, namely, the extremely amiable personality of Mademoiselle Jagemann, also guaranteed that the performance would captivate the audience. There cannot possibly be a more splendid Ion with regard both to outright appearance and to the tone of her voice, complemented by overall clarity, daring, and coyness of personality, which in this case was moderated in an especially charming fashion by the inner disposition of the tender and gracious role itself.


When the curtain rose and the radiant scenery |251| came into view, and she then greeted the morning as it bathed the peak of Mount Parnassus in red, it was as if a fresh breeze had come over us, and when after completing her ceremonious task she reached for her light weapons, her voice took on such a beautiful lilt, truly like that of a golden bow, that the entire audience seemed instantly captivated, and Pythia’s initial words were lost amid applaudissement. [16]

Thus it went from the first moment to the last, apart from slight mistakes, which did, however, end up being turned to their advantage.

She greeted the arriving queen with the most sublime grace, speaking the following words with the sacred reticence of youth: “Utter no blasphemy, unknown queen!” Just as she similarly rejected the king’s tenderness with the genuine pride of a consecrated youth. Just as beautifully, however, did she later kiss his brow and eyes and hold the mother’s head in her hands as she kissed her, like Amor and Psyche. [17]

It was with infinite gracefulness that she unpacked the basket and held the two golden-ringed serpents aloft, they hanging and writhing across her two hands. And she presented herself as a true youth of the gods in petitioning the father for a sign with the words: “I ask not as boldly as does Phaeton” [18] — and then freely and piously peers into the god’s eyes while the others incline their heads toward the ground.

The only thing lacking was that she was unable to sing the hymn, since the music had arrived only the previous day. But in return she spoke it all the more beautifully, more musically than as declamation, as was, I thought, also appropriate. The poetic meter was fully evident and was accompanied by individual passages on the forte-piano — with parts taken from the music that had just arrived — during which she appeared to be playing on the lyre.

The play is to be performed today as well without the musical score, which |252| will, however, doubtless lend new charm to the third performance. The music is allegedly quite well done. [19]

The character of Creusa succeeded beyond expectation. [Madame Vohs as Creusa:]


One could overlook the natural but all too gracious amiability and several instances of childish tones in her speech. One could, however, admittedly not quite comprehend how she could want to kill Ion (except perhaps out of recklessness, as in the case of Maria Stuart and her spouse). [20]

On the other hand, there was absolutely no trace of the discordant bitterness a different actress might perhaps have excessively emphasized, and she has the merit of having tied the piece together most excellently through her monologue, which among all the more lengthy discourses appeared precisely as the shortest, keeping the spectators in a state of ongoing tension. She spoke it incomparably well, and quite correctly with respect to the meter, and even bordering on tragic passion. Her concealment could, it is true, have been more comely and more effective, similarly also her disclosure as the discovery approaches.

But really, she was quite tolerable, and perhaps even most pleasing of all when she presented herself to Xuthus in the final scene. She knelt before him with complete dignity, notwithstanding appearing in a general sense perhaps excessively attractive in a common sort of way.

As for Xuthus, let me say that his role seemed to be rendered even better than the author himself might have imagined, who accorded him merely the elements of magnificence and royal splendor. [Johann Heinrich Vohs performed the role:]


In Vohss’s portrayal, he also appeared quite dignified and sensible, never seeming to be at a disadvantage, not even when characters were trying to win him over by flattering him with admonitions of dignity and understanding. His demeanor was as masculine as it was kingly when he spoke the words: “Stand up, Creusa, queen, stand up.” [21] Indeed, his ability to remain so imperturbably upright introduced an extremely effective element of harmony into the whole.

We had already heard beforehand from Goethe that Phorbas was Graff’s absolutely best role; and as such indeed did we, too, |253| perceive it. [Johann Jakob Graff as Phorbas:]


He stood quite grimly during the explanation concerning Ion, wrapped in his cloak, then suddenly cut loose, never pitifully, always vehemently pressing the queen. [22] The lengthy narrative at the beginning was in the best of hands with him delivering it.

One possibly could have been reconciled with Madame Teller’s performance [as Pythia].


Her inferior figure and the insufferable positioning of her feet were hidden from sight by the endlessly flowing sections of her garment. She always spoke correctly, and her tone came off better than that of Mademoiselle Malcolmi would have, which would have merged into one with Creusa.

If you now consider that throughout the entire play not a single memory lapse and not a single incorrect recitation of meter, even amid the most difficult passages, disrupted the overall impression, that not a single entrance or exit of a character was miscued, and that even the more concealed subtleties in the portrayal came off correctly, then you can perhaps imagine how pleased I was.

The least successful part of the play was the beginning of the third act. Creusa burst in utterly without grandeur, and Ion was not passionate enough. Strangely enough, it was Xuthus’s discourse, which we all found too long and epic, that finally righted things again. The recitation was perfect, and the audience clearly attentive while listening to the discourse.

The set was just as one might anticipate given the pleasant but less than sumptuous character of the theater. [23] To be sure, the magnificent columnar arrangement was lacking. I am enclosing a rough sketch of how the temple was configured. [24] The columns provided a swatch of white running alongside it, while the wall was reddish. The steps also seemed to me to have led downward on both sides. Vessels with water from the Castalian Spring and with garlands were positioned on the steps — those with the garlands right up next to the temple itself. And |254| while Ion was occupied with them, they were drawn up from inside the temple in the aforementioned form.

The portal to the temple did not have a gate and was thus always open. A light from inside the temple itself illuminated the figures standing in it. The character of Pythia came across splendidly in this setting, during Creusa’s monologue. At the appearance of Apollo, a cloud descended before the temple such that when the entrance again appeared empty and the cloud descended further, surrounding the whole setting, Apollo then stepped forward without the audience having been able to see him actually entering. Behind him, what was presumably a curtain was drawn away, for a transparent sun became visible in whose radiance he then stood.

The altar was on the audience’s left, the laurel tree on their right. An attempt was made to evoke traces of transformation on the latter in order to characterize it as Daphne herself. [25] The tree seemed to push forth as if out of a sheath. Unfortunately, however, its sacred foliage did not move when Apollo appeared. That particular element came off too ponderously. [26]

With respect to the offerings, my criticism was that although they were certainly nicely arranged, they were all borne on a single bier, and by only two slaves. A procession of slaves each bringing a single gift would have been more effective in my opinion. — I must, however, give credit where credit is due and commensurately praise the basket that portrayed Ion’s cradle, especially its golden serpents.

To the left of the temple, the view was open and unobstructed, while to the right the rock formations crept up quite close.

You can have your brother describe the costumes for you. They so closely resembled the drawings with which he is familiar that it seemed one was seeing pictures that had come to life.

[From left to right: Pythia, Xuthus, Ion, Creusa, Phorbas]


Not even a single pleat or fold was different. Ion was as comely as his own rendering. [27] Hair adorned in the Apollinian fashion, chiton with golden embroidery, cloak, quiver, bow, |255| everything flawless.

On several occasions, Phorbas simply stood there thus.

Creusa wore a blue and an excessively light-blue garment; instead of silk, which it certainly could have been, it was made of colored cotton and simply did not offer a striking enough appearance.

Xuthus’s striking resemblance to the drawing, however, almost coaxed a smile from us; even his face was the same, his hair and beard curling into exactly the same locks. His chiton was off-yellow, the cloak itself a different red than that of Ion, and arranged just as prescribed. It looked quite excellent indeed.

Pythia was similarly swathed, with the hems and borders of all her garments broadly embroidered in silver. Creusa’s embroidery was mixed with colorful foil, and her belt and diadem were also of foil. That should not have been thus.

Now the only one remaining is Apollo. I am not saying that our Herr Hayde played Apollo like a Turk. [28] He did not ruin it; he spoke his trimeters quite properly and looked just fine from a distance. But if Ion really did look like a young Apollo, with the bent nose, the beautifully curved lips, blue eyes, and blond hair, then one can say that Apollo looked approximately like an aged Ion.

That said, however, an extraordinarily pleasant experience emerged from the entire conclusion to the play and by the effect brought about by the radiance emanating through the entire theater. No doubt this particular effect could have been implemented even more spectacularly in a larger theater; but even here, the result was a universal stirring of pleasure among the audience.

Goethe had instructed Mademoiselle Jagemann to position herself, while performing her temple service at the beginning of the play, in the same place in the temple opening as did Apollo at the end of the play — and to linger there |256| for several minutes. This positioning provided a beautiful evocation of the beginning of the play at the end and, at the same time, provided a connection between father and son by means of a more striking resemblance. [28a]

It was in this fashion that Goethe himself appropriated the play and in turn tried to inspire the actors with its spirit. He — virtually like the author himself — lived and breathed within the play as the invisible Apollo.


The day we departed to see Ion, the weather was crystal clear. We arrived in Weimar at the head of six carriages. After everyone was basically gathered together, there were 19 carriages standing between the two inns on the marketplace alone, not to mention the riders and pedestrians. [29]

Schelling immediately went to see Goethe, who at the beginning of the week had let us know that the performance would be on 2 February [January] and that people had been attributing it to no fewer than four different playwrights. He sent me six billets for Loge D, where, as chance would have it, the Bertuch family was seated on one side, together with both the elder and younger Schütz, and on the other the high priest himself along with his wife and daughter and the Hufelands. The elder Schütz had pressed himself into a corner and hardly moved, so intently was he listening, and I almost suspected that he and Böttiger had come with Euripides himself in their pockets. [30]

At the beginning, Herder conducted an elegant preludial conversation with the pliant Herr Hufeland on Greek drama. Although I did not hear the content word for word, its intent was obviously that of pure disparagement. [31] Afterward he spent a frightful amount of time on his tiptoes that he might see and hear better, since he was unable to get a seat in the front. His spouse seemed to be |257| particularly pleased with the character of Pythia. At the end of the fourth act, she looked up at him several times and asked whether it was not “quite delightful,” something which he had no choice but to confirm. [32]

There was probably not a single person in the entire theater who did not imagine he knew who the author of the play really was. The parterre was filled with students. Although most were anticipating a simple translation, they were then informed otherwise, presumably in part by the young Vosses, [33] and in part, albeit with some reluctance, by the elder Schütz. [34]

Schelling remained at Goethe’s through yesterday and brought back all sorts of news for me. First and foremost, he confirmed what one could learn elsewhere, namely, that the play had received broad acceptance and had made a pleasing impression, which is also what I heard here.

One peculiar element is that the narrative of the festival was quite well received in the parterre (citizen section). [35] Meyer, Mephistopheles, [36] remarked in response that this was certainly no surprise, since it was something the philistines could understand only too well, to them it seemed like shooting at the popinjay. [37] The other Meyer was sitting with Böttiger, whom he then asked: “Well, how do you like it?” whereupon they exchanged the same question several times until Böttiger finally blurted out: “Well, if Schlegel writes another such play, then I can leave my mythology unwritten!” Meier initially thought this was supposed to suggest that the play contained so much scholarly learning — but “by no means,” according to Böttiger! For “even his Primaner [38] knew better that the Phythian Games and the Bacchanalias were not celebrated at the same time.” [39] They have resolved to tease Böttiger mercilessly about this and to maintain that Schlegel intentionally committed the error merely to see whether Böttiger would indeed notice it.


|258| A few individual comments of my own: The motif of the cave of Trophonius came across with extraordinary clarity and was quite compelling, and the repetition of previous visions provided an effective retrospective. [40] Further: If anything in the play is too long, then it is Phorbas’s narrative. If it contains circumstantial references that are perhaps less important, things I cannot really remember precisely just now, they should be eliminated. The more obvious elements already suffice to inform the spectator, who is not really able to comprehend the whole of the discourse.


Goethe, by the way, did not omit even a single line and altered only very few things, among others in Apollo’s discourse:

Because of my revealed previous company.

which had read:

Because of my revealed affection for the bride.

He explained the alteration in his usual, joking manner, for which I was glad; I had recalled the words beforehand and was almost afraid to hear the alteration, since Apollo really does stand there quite exposed in that scene. [41]

The copy that was sent to Berlin does not include this change.

Except before the hymn, the music did not yet exhibit any anticipatory elements in the interludes, nor did Reichard compose anything of that sort.

Goethe has resolved to continue to develop the performance of Ion further. He intends to let the actors perform it a few more times undisturbed and then to begin anew. [42]

He is not going to be performing The Brothers again for the time being because the actors performed so poorly the last time. [43]

|259| He spoke very nicely about what they thought would be appropriate to expect of the actors and the public by and by. First they had had to take in the three plays by Schiller (which in the meantime they expectorated again undigested), and had in general forced them to listen properly. Now that the public had also swallowed Ion, the company could begin building things up again with something quite solid on this foundation.

On the duchess’s birthday they will be performing Turandot by Gozzi in an adaptation by Schiller with Italian masks. [44]

I am counting on you yourself seeing Ion here sometime after Easter. [45]

Stay healthy — and give my regards to your brother. [46]

So, friend, thus it was; you can be totally and completely satisfied. I was delighted. My hopes were high after everything Goethe had written, while my heart was nonetheless still pounding as I sat there waiting, but I calmed down as soon as I saw and heard Mademoiselle Jagemann. We, Schelling and I, immediately looked at each other, and now everything went ahead as if in one flowing piece.

Schelling was as happy as a child; that much I simply must say to his credit. For the first time, he comprehended the piece and now has a thousand things he wants to discuss about it. If he does not yet relate all these things to you today, it is only because of the crush of present circumstances insofar as the journals are being sent out.

Performed the way it was, the play makes a wholly unclouded impression; had you but been here to enjoy it. If only you are able to do so in Berlin! [47] Goethe has as yet received no response from there. If you are deprived of that joy, you can blame your indiscreet confidantes. [48] — But if worse comes to worse, could not one of the ladies promote Ion as her benefit performance? [49]

In the meantime, I do not believe |260| it possible for Madam Unzelmann to play the part of Ion as excellently as did Mademoiselle Jagemann. You simply cannot imagine how utterly magnificent she looked and how splendidly she comported herself. The duke went to every location in the theater to view her. As it happened, Vohss faltered just a bit when he revealed the possibility to Ion that he may be his father, the only tiny incident of faltering in the play. At that very moment, the duke had just positioned himself so near on the balcony that it also distracted the actors for a moment; but it was only a fleeting shadow within the overall performance.

Goethe acted with infinite love with regard to both you and the play itself. I do not know what Kotzebue said there, but it may be that the actors were rebellious at the beginning. [50] Indeed, Mademoiselle Jagemann was allegedly stupid enough to consider Ion a “thankless role,” but he [51] overcame all such thoughts.

One hopes they are now satisfied, since all of them certainly garnered considerable applause. Heyde announced to the audience that they would go ahead and perform Ion immediately again, the very next performance, and was received and dismissed with loud applause. [52] Madam Unzelmann never received such hearty applause. [53] Nor can there be any question of it having been universally well received, doubtless with some exceptions, some reservations, and even against one’s will, but well received nonetheless.

Many families from here who usually attend were not there. Loder was there — he also went and picked up his wife today from Drakendorf to take her there. [54] The Frommans, the Hufelands. But not Paulus or Madam Veit, also not the Vermehrens etc. But they will probably still attend! There were even a great many Weimaraner there for abonnement suspendu. [55]

Goethe, by the way, has not said anything about pay. If he does not do so, then just grant it to him as a gift this time, considering he comported himself so well otherwise. He did mention, albeit without any specific reference, that |261| the business of putting on this performance did cost them quite a bit, something I do believe, since everything was new.

If only instead of your discourteous accusations you had let me know how I need to arrange things with the Elegante Zeitung. [56] It is essential that no one beats us to it, and essential that the actors be praised. (In Weimar the Elegante Zeitung is considered to be a bunch of market women, as Mademoiselle Vulpius assures me.) But since I have no instructions from you and, given the inferior condition of the postal service, cannot expect to receive any from you until Thursday, as I was hoping, I will entrust myself to my own original, sound resolution to ensure that no one beats us to it. Schelling will send it off. One can, of course, always deliver a supplement oneself with respect to the piece. [57]

Goethe has assured us that to this very moment he has told neither Schiller nor Meyer who the author of the play really is. He says he himself would have greatly enjoyed it had it remained a secret, but it has been mercilessly revealed. All the students know, and how, really, can it be otherwise?

The talk has been that Schiller was satisfied — “I would be surprised, though,” Goethe said, “that it pleased the old fellow” (whom he apparently no longer sees on a daily basis). Meyer, the professor, responded by saying he sat next to him during the 2nd act, during which it did indeed please him. [58]

I cannot repeat to you often enough how well it went and how from the very outset it captivated and held everyone’s attention.

Schelling is worried that you will pay absolutely no attention to the Journal in this collision with Ion — but if you do not do it today, then you can do it tomorrow. [59]

Goethe will be arriving here on the 12th for several weeks, since he does not intend to have anything to do with the performance of Turandot. [60]

|262| We are now thinking about how of the success of Ion can provide a foundation for your lectures here. [61]

I have written today amid almost incessant strong headaches caused by the cold weather. If I have forgotten anything, please excuse it on that account.


[*] Caroline, Schelling, and Julie Gotter had just attended the Weimar theater company’s performance of Wilhelm’s play Ion: ein Schauspiel on 2 January 1802. The company performed the play again on the day she is writing, 4 January 1801. The supplementary appendix on reactions and issues concerning Ion provides additional background and reactions to the performance.

Schelling refers to this present letter in his own letter to Wilhelm on the same day (letter 339a), expressing his highest admiration for both the piece itself and the performance. Back.

[1] Although Caroline wrote “February,” she means January, and makes the same error later in the letter. It may also be noted that she and Julie Gotter stayed overnight in Weimar after the performance on 2 January. Schelling did as well, but with Goethe. See Julie Gotter’s letter to her sister Cäcilie Gotter on 4 January 1802 (letter 339b):

Madam Schlegel was also quite entertained and satisfied with the performance. We dined afterward in the Erbprinz, where we also stayed for the night because Caroline did not want to risk returning to Jena at night. Back.

[2] Wilhelm’s letter is apparently no longer extant. Back.

[3] Caroline seems to be referring to her letter to Wilhelm on 20–21 December 1801 (letter 336). Back.

[4] In her letter to Wilhelm on 3 December 1801 (letter 334), Caroline had already similarly complained about the slow postal service (“Abbildung eines blasenden Postillions zu Pferde etc.,” Katalog des Reichs-Postmuseums [Berlin 1897], p. 114, no. 22):



[5] Caroline mentions the books in her letter to Wilhelm on 20–21 December 1801 (letter 336); see esp. notes 9–11 there; and in her letter to him on 28 December 1801 (letter 338); see note 16 there Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Da stehn sie prangend beÿ einander; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.244):



[6] August von Kotzebue was one possible (albeit rejected) courier for Caroline’s earlier letter; see her letter to Wilhelm on 20–21 December 1801 (letter 336). Back.

[7] The Weimar actors seem to have had some initial reservations about performing Wilhelm’s play Ion; see below. Back.

[8] I.e., will not come to Berlin (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[9] At issue is the allegation that Schelling published (or would publish) something in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung critical of Fichte after the latter’s dismissal from his university position in Jena in 1799. As Caroline goes on to point out, Schelling himself addresses this issue in his letter to Wilhelm on this same date (letter 339a).

Caroline had already mentioned problems with Fichte in her letter to Wilhelm on 10 December 1801 (letter 335); see esp. notes 11 and 12 with additional cross references. The deteriorating relationship between Fichte and Schelling was entering a crucial stage. Back.

[10] Uncertain allusion; in her letter to Wilhelm on 23 November 1801 (letter 331), Caroline tells Wilhelm not to mention Schelling and Hegel’s plans to publish a critical philosophical journal. Back.

[11] Uncertain allusion. Friedrich Catel was in any case originally to take along to Berlin Caroline’s letter and a parcel for Wilhelm but had to cancel at the last moment. See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 20–21 December 1801 (letter 336). Back.

[12] Schelling and Hegel’s Kritisches Journal der Philosophie I, 1 (1802). The shirt was one made by Luise Gotter that Caroline had then embroidered. See Julie Gotter’s letter to Luise Gotter on 10 November 1801 (letter 329u). Friedrich Tieck was originally supposed to take the shirt to Berlin. Back.

[13] Erasmus von Rotterdam, Ergötzlich und Lehrreiche Gespräche (Frankfurt, Leipzig 1735), 39:


Caroline refers again to the cold weather at the end of this letter. Goethe similarly confirms the consistently cold weather during January 1802 in his diary, mentioning sleigh rides no fewer than eight times before leaving for Jena on 17 January (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:45–46) (Almanach der Musen und Grazien für das Jahr 1802; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[14] In her ire, Caroline addresses an enclosure to Sophie Bernhardi, with whose family Wilhelm was residing, to avoid writing directly to Wilhelm about the performance of Ion. The following text is, strictly speaking, addressed to her rather than to Wilhelm.

Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:259, cites Caroline’s instructions on the enclosure only later in the letter to indicate where the contents of the enclosure end and Caroline’s letter directly to Wilhelm recommences.

Here I indicate Caroline’s exposition to Sophie Bernhardi by full-width horizontal lines (Caroline uses short horizontal lines for minor divisions); I also cite the enclosure cover at the beginning of the exposition and indicate the exposition’s end with a footnote in addition to the full-width horizontal line. Back.

[15] Wilhelm, of course, was residing with the Bernhardis in Berlin.

Readers can compare this account of the performance with Caroline’s published review cited in the supplementary appendix on Ion (source information for the actors’ portraits below can also be found in the supplementary appendix on Ion).

Excerpts from Friedrich Tieck’s costume designs for the play’s character (see below) are included here for reference. Caroline did not include these illustrations in her letter, but she knew that Wilhelm was familiar with them.

That illustration was reproduced as part of Goethe’s article, “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. Back.

[16] Applaudissement, Fr., “applause”; in French in original.

“Morning as it bathed the peak of Mount Parnassus in red”: Parnassus, the mountain range above Delphi (the village of Castri/Castro occupies the original site; map: L. S. de la Rochette, Greece, Archipelago and Part of Anadoli [London 1791]; Bibliothèque nationale de France):


See William Smith, A Smaller Classical Dictionary of Biography, Mythology, and Geography, 11th ed. (London 1868), 301–2 (illustrations: [1] Parnassus peaks: Wilhelm Creuzbauer, Parnassus [1830]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Sammlung Wagner A153; [2] Castalian Spring: Jean-Baptiste Martin, Views in Greece, from drawings by Edward Dodwell [London 1821], unnumbered; [3] Pythia prophesying: H. Leutemann, “Die Pythia auf dem Dreifuß zu Delphi,” in Otto von Corvin, Geschichte des Alterthums, Illustrierte Weltgeschichte für das Volk I [Leipzig/ Berlin 1880], 375; [4] village: Alfred John Church, Pictures from Greek Life and Story [London 1893], 54):

Parnassus, a range of mountains extending S.E. through Doris and Phocis, and terminating at the Corinthian Gulf between Cirrha and Anticyra.

But the name was more usually restricted to the highest part of the range a few miles N. of Delphi. Its 2 highest summits were called Tithŏrea and Lycōrea; hence Parnassus is frequently described by the poets as double-headed.


The sides of Parnassus were well wooded; at its foot grew myrtle, laurel and olive-trees, and higher up firs; and its summit was covered with snow during the greater part of the year. It contained numerous caves, glens, and romantic ravines.

It is celebrated as one of the chief seats of Apollo and the Muses, and an inspiring source of poetry and song. Just above Delphi was the far-famed Castalian spring, which issued from between 2 cliffs.



These cliffs are frequently called by the poets the summits of Parnassus, though they are in reality only small peaks at the base of the mountain.


The mountain also was sacred to Dionysus, and on one of its summits the Thyades held their Bacchic revels. Between Parnassus Proper and Mt. Cirphis was the valley of the Plistus, through which the sacred road ran from Delphi to Daulis and Stiris; and at the point where the road branched off to these 2 places (called σχιστη) Oedipus slew his father Laius. Back.

[17] Amor (Eros, Cupid), god of love, and Psyche, his beloved. familiar from books 4–6 of Aupleius’s in part risqué second-century narrative The Metamorphosis or Golden Ass.

Caroline seems, however, to have a specific visual image in mind. The theme does not appear in catalogues of the Dresden gallery, but does appear in those of the Dresden Antiquities Collection. That is, if Caroline is indeed recalling a piece from her stay in Dresden during the summer of 1798, which seems a plausible assumption, it may be the following, cited in Hermann Hettner, Die Bildwerke der Königlichen Antikensammlung zu Dresden, 3rd ed. (Dresden 1875), 102, no. 70; second half of the second century CE, after a late-Hellenistic original from the late second century BCE (photograph from Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, “Gruppe von Eros und Psyche,” inventory no. Hm 211):


Wilhelm, who had been in Dresden as well, would recognize the allusion. Back.

[18] Phaeton, son of Apollo who asked the latter for permission to guide the god’s sun chariot for a day. Unable to control it, he ventured too near the earth, igniting part of it before being slain by Zeus with a bolt of lightning (Hendrick Goltzius, Phaeton fährt den Sonnenwagen [1590]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur HGoltzius nach AB 3.76):



[19] Concerning Ion’s hymn in act 2, scene 1, and its music, about which Caroline makes a similar remark in her review, see note 29a in that review. Back.

[20] In act 1, scene 4 of Schiller’s play Maria Stuart. Ein Trauerspiel (Tübingen 1801), Mary and her lady’s maid, Hannah Kennedy, speak about the anniversary of Mary’s husband’s death, which Mary herself had initiated. Kennedy presents a litany of excuses for Mary’s actions (Mary Stuart. A Tragedy, trans. Joseph Charles Mellish [London 1801], 15–18):

Kennedy. You did not murder him — ’twas done by others.
Mary. But it was known to me; — I suffer’d it,
And lured him, flatt’ring, to the toils of death.
Kennedy. Your youth excuses you – your tender years – . . .
You were provok’d by bloody injuries,
And by the rude presumption of that man,
Whom out of darkness, like the hand of heav’n,
Your love drew forth, and above all exalted;
Whom through your bridal chamber you conducted
Up to your throne, and with your lovely self,
And your hereditary crown, distinguish’d: — . . .
Yet did he, worthless as he was, forget it.
With base suspsicions, and with brutal manners,
He wearied your affections, and became
An objet of deserv’d disgust to you: –
Th’ illusion, which till now had overcast
Your judgment, vanish’d; angrily you fled
His foul embrace, and gave him up to scorn.
And he, did he attempt to win again
Your favour? Did he implore your pardon? . . .
No; the base wretch defied you: . . .
And strove, through fear, to force your inclination. . . .
You were not, when this deed was perpetrated,
Yourself – belong’d not to yourself – the fire
Of a blind frantic passion then possess’d you,
And bound you to a terrible seducer,
The wretched Bothwell; – the despotic man
Rul’d you with willful masculine presumption,
And heated with his philters, and the arts
Of hell, your passions . . .
Those cheeks, which were before
The seat of shame-fac’d blushing modesty,
Glow’d with the flames of unrestrain’d desire etc. Back.

[21] Act 5, scene 3, the scene Caroline has just cited; the scene’s stage instructions read: “Creusa throws herself down before Xuthus, grasps his knee with her left hand while raising her right hand toward his chin.” Back.

[22] Representative illustration from A. E. Haigh, The Attic Theatre: A Description of the Stage and Theatre of the Athenians and of the Dramatic Performances at Athens, 2nd ed. (Oxford 1898), fig. 21:



[23] Concerning the set, see Wilhelm’s own instructions in the supplementary appendix on Ion. Back.

[24] Apparently no longer extant, though in the following description Caroline emphasizes the symmetric character of Greek architecture generally valued by German cultural historians at the time (Richard Brown, Sacred Architecutre: Its Rise, Progress, and Present State etc. [London 1845], 2nd plate following p. 202):



[25] In Greek mythology, Daphne, a nymph, declined Apollo’s advances and fled. When he finally caught up with her, she asked that her father, the river god Peneios, transform her into a laurel tree (Johannes Claudius, Daphne and Apollo [ca. 1665–99]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur PVSomer AB 3.2):



[26] In his instructions for the set, Wilhelm explicitly requests that these leaves rustle at Apollo’s entrance. Back.

[27] I.e., as Friedrich Tieck’s own rendering in the preceding illustration; source: Goethe, “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. Back.

[28] See Adelung (1799), s.v. Türke: “They say popularly or vulgarly of a Man that is rough, hard, inexorable and without the least Pity or Compassion, er ist ein rechter Türke, he is a true, a downright Turk.”

Although Friedrich Tieck’s costume illustrations omit Apollo, one might imagine the costume to resemble the following of Phaeton and Apollo by an anonymous artist from an 18th-century edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses:



[28a] For a more thorough discussion, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 15 February 1802 (letter 347), note 6. Back.

[29] The two Weimar inns on the Market Square were the Erbprinz and Elefant; Weimar theater location at bottom center ([1] Hand-Atlas der Erde und des Himmels in 70 Blättern, ed. Heinrich Kiepert, C. und A. Gräf, C. Bruhns [Weimar 1855]; [2] Wilhelm Bode, Damals in Weimar (Weimar 1912), 23):




[30] Karl August Böttiger, who after being satirized in the “Litterarischer Reichsanzeiger” in Athenaeum (1799) 328–40, here 328–30 (“A scholar whom our nation respects as a many-sided conrector, who already edits two fashion journals . . . has resolved to found and maintain a completely new Journal of Journalism etc.”), had wanted Georg Joachim Göschen to publish a critical piece against Christoph Martin Wieland’s enemies (see supplementary appendix 194c.2), but desisted when Göschen rejected the notion because of his “former relationship” with Wilhelm Schlegel.

In his own Prolusio prima de Medea-Euripidea: cum priscae artis operibus comparata (Vimaria [Weimar] 1802), Böttiger did, however, refer to Wilhelm’s anti-Euripidean epigram on the three Athenian tragedians as being “insolent.” Wilhelm’s epigram reads (Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802 26; Sämmtliche Werke 2:35):

The Tragedians

Aeschylus summons titans up and gods down;
Sophocles gracefully presents all the heroes and heroines;
While Euripides, a sophistic rhetorician, gabs away in the marketplace.

In return, Wilhelm treats him derisively, and with an allusion back to the satire in Athenaeum, in his Berlin lecture series (2:359–60):

I alluded to this relationship [just discussed in the lecture] between the three tragedians in an epigram of as many lines, concerning which Herr Böttiger, in a Prolusio de Medea Euripidis, engaged in an invective against me by assuring his readers, on the occasion of a moving discourse by Medea, that none such insolent faultfinders could ever, regardless of the effort put forth, come up with anything similar.

But such was not the point in any case. It goes without saying that if one is characterizing three important poets in three lines one will necessarily touch solely on the most general and essential elements, and will otherwise be wholly unable to add anything concerning possible qualifications. And I would then ask Herr Böttiger whether he indeed views a “sophistic rhetorician” as something so inferior, or perhaps sooner as something far superior to a modern literatus who sometimes dabbles in antiquities, sometimes publishes a fashion journal.

A rhetorician, at least among the Greeks who constituted his audience, needed considerable talent in a general sense, and a sophistic rhetorician an uncommonly high degree of acumen in order to defend an inferior cause. Among the Greeks, moreover, the marketplace was not merely the locus of buying and selling, but of all business and common assemblies, indeed, it was also the center of their social exchange in general.

The meaning is thus that Euripides took a genre that should have been wholly idealistic and brought it excessively close to real life and contemporary circumstances.

One might note that Wieland himself was now translating Euripides’s Ion. See Wieland’s letter to Böttiger on 19 January (not “February” as in [1913], 2:633) 1802, (“Mittheilungen von Zeitgenossen über Goethe,” Goethe Jahrbuch 1 [1880], 314–59, here 329 [for the text of this letter, see the supplementary appendix on Ion]).

Although Goethe would, however, brutally suppress a negative review of Ion that Böttiger himself wanted to publish, thereby creating what Wieland would describe as essentially an “open war” between Goethe and Böttiger (see the section in the supplementary appendix on Ion), Wieland nonetheless writes to Böttiger on 11 April 1802 (“Mittheilungen von Zeitgenossen über Goethe,” 331):

Let me say that Goethe paid me an equally unexpected and pleasant afternoon visit this past Thursday. We spent several quite contented and intimate hours together talking about various things . . . he also touched equally unaffectedly on Schlegel’s Ion and my translation of Euripides. In general, he seemed quite unaware of anything that might require an apology, and I almost believe that this really is the case with him. Back.

[31] Note on Caroline’s German: Here she uses a form (angesehen) of the German word ansehen, which today implies “to look at, behold” to mean “intend” (absehen) as it could at that time. Michael Bernays, “Caroline,” Schriften zur Kritik und Litteraturgeschichte, vol. 2 (Leipzig 1898), 283–311, here 311, points out that earlier writers often, and Goethe almost always, used ansehen in this sense. Back.

[32] Nonetheless, Caroline Herder rages against the “shameless” Ion in a letter to Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim from Weimar on 1 March 1802 (Von und an Herder. Ungedruckte Briefe aus Herders Nachlass, ed. Heinrich Düntzer and Ferdinand Gottfried von Herder, 3 vols. [Leipzig 1861–62], 1:301):

He [Herder] was piqued and caught up in holy fervor concerning the drama. The most recent law of the theater holding sway here and indeed becoming more brazen and insolent by the day stakes everything in dramatic art on representation and declamation, to which the content of the play is distantly subordinated, or is not considered at all with respect to the audience. We are now supposed to sit like wooden puppets down in the parterre and gape at the wooden puppets on stage and listen to their declamations, and, just like that, leave the theater empty and disconsolate.

Schlegel translated Euripides’s Ion, but in an utterly un-Greek fashion, and with utterly insulting shamelessness and immorality. Instead of Pallas, Apollo himself appears and recounts the scene in the cave with Creusa [actually, Creusa, not Apollo, recounts this scene in her monologue] with such insolence that one’s ears and eyes simply expire.

And thus they intend to present the Greeks to us and acquaint us with them. My husband wanted to include something about this in Adrastea [6 vols. (Leipzig 1801–4); a collection of Herder’s later writings], but he withdrew the pages, not wanting to get into a fray with Goethe, the theater director.

Goethe is also the author of the theater article about Weimar in the March issue of the Modejournal [“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 most important thing in the whole world just now is this marionette play on stage! And to think what it could be and become according to the rules of Aristotle! Back.

[33] Heinrich and Abraham Voss. Back.

[34] Wilhelm’s intention was neither to translate nor even to adapt Euripides, but rather to treat the original material of the fable in a new fashion, something he points out in his rejoinders to both Caroline and Schelling in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt; see their exchanges in the supplementary appendix on Ion. Back.

[35] Act 2, scene 3 (Xuthus speaks):

The firstling-festival of the days of my child
Admonishes me today, like a long-silent creditor,
And with the accumulated usury
Of so many a year do I intend to repay him.
Not in vain has Apollo reminded me
To extol him highly, whose providential sign
Led the gracious son to me: to him
Shall a full hecatomb fall,
And round about each and every altar
Shall the paean of adorned choruses rejoice to him.
In the meantime, whosoever desires shall with us
Share the goblet’s pleasure and a common meal;
Herolds shall invite Delphi’s
renowned residents to celebrate our festival,
That they may in the future also remember the day
On which Xuthus found his desired heir.
Come, my son, let us see to it and dispatch
Such that surfeit grace this banquet, and order,
And that nothing our dignity does beg might be lacking.
You yourself shall be the host, and shall to yourself
Bring the homage of honorific gifts,
Though through giving rather than receiving,
With full hands from my rich treasure
Distributing among the congratulatory people.
Thus shall I see how for the first time
You learn how to administer the royal office: for
To give generously is the ruler’s obligation,
And that his own grandeur might serve everyone’s pleasure. Back.

[36] Caroline’s nickname for Heinrich Meyer, from the character in Goethe’s Faust. She uses it here to distinguish him from the following Meyer (Majer). Back.

[37] See Adelung (1799), s.v. Vogelschiessen: “the Entertainment of shooting at a wooden Bird fastened on the Top of a very high Pole or Tree; a Divertisement of Shooting to hit the Mark.” Here an illustration of such entertainment in Bern in 1800 (Eduard von Rodt, Die Schützenmatt in Bern 1801 [1880]):



[38] Primaner, a pupil in the highest class of a secondary school. Back.

[39] The Pythian Games in Delphi in honor of Apollo, celebrated in the third year of each Olympiad, and the festival of the contrasting god Dionysus (Bacchus), celebrated at different times and in different locales but originating in Athens. Here the stadium in Delphi ca. 1908 (O. Fritsch, Delphi: die Orakelstätte des Apollon [Gütersloh 1908], 128):



[40] Trophonius, originally a Boeotian oracular god. The reference is to repetitions (“thus did Trophonius prophesy”) during the play of Trophonius’s prophecy, initially delivered in a cave, that, instead of the desired progeny, the family of Xuthus would instead find nothing but the ruin of his lineage. Back.

[41] Wilhelm later altered the reading in act 5, scene 4, which is found both in the first printing (Ion [Hamburg 1803], 160–61) and in Goethe’s version above, Vorgenossenschaft, (approx.) “earlier company,” to Mitgenossenschaft, (approx.) “shared company” (Sämmtliche Werke 2:145):

In the play’s concluding scene, Apollo speaks to Ion, Creusa, and Xuthus in turn, here to Creusa and Xuthus:

Accept him back, O Creusa, well taken care of,
A remembrance of the beautiful desire that yet still delights me,
For the gratitude of the heavenly ones is imperishable.
Weave, yet long blooming, round your glorious diadem
Laurel together with the olive tree's leaves.
And you, Xuthus, will not scorn the gracious bed
On account of my own revealed earlier company [Vorgenossenschaft].

Wilhelm’s later change, with the continuation of the discourse:

On account of my own revealed shared company. [Mitgenossenschaft]
Godlike beauty has oft enticed gods
To approach in love; and thus has the strength of heroes been begotten.
Hence be Ion's father, just as your ancestor Deucalion
Together with Zeus was the father of your father.
Before the constellations complete the year's course,
Your spouse's womb shall bear a second offspring,
Whom you shall call Achaeus etc. . . . Back.

[42] The play was never performed again in Weimar after January 1802. Back.

[43] Concerning Friedrich Hildebrand von Einsiedel, Die Brüder. Ein Lustspiel nach Terenz in fünf Akten (Leipzig 1802), see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 20–21 December 1801 (letter 336), note 52, with cross references to illustrations. Back.

[44] Schiller’s Turandot. Prinzessin von China. Ein tragicomisches Mährchen nach Gozzi (Tübingen 1802), an adaptation of Carlo Gozzi’s (1720–1806) Turandot (1762). It was performed in Weimar on Duchess Luise’s birthday, 30 January 1802 (Das Repertoire des Weimarischen Theaters, 42). Back.

[45] Sophie Bernhardi and her family did not spend the summer in Jena as tentatively planned (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 20–21 December 1801 [letter 336], note 7) and thus never saw Ion performed in Weimar. Back.

[46] Caroline now transitions back to addressing Wilhelm Schlegel directly.Back.

[47] The play premiered in Berlin on 15 May 1802. Caroline and Schelling attended both the premiere and the performance on the following night with Wilhelm. Back.

[48] Namely, those who revealed Wilhelm as the author, including Friedrich Schlegel and Dorothea Veit. See esp. Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 20–21 December 1801 (letter 336). Back.

[49] I.e., one of the actresses in Berlin. Back.

[50] I.e., what Kotzebue, on his return to Berlin, said about the “sensation” among the actors mentioned at the beginning of this letter, viz. apparently some resistance to performing the piece (illustrations: Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1819: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet 1819; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[51] Presumably Goethe; or perhaps Caroline Jagemann as the (male) character Ion. Back.

[52] The play was performed again on 4 January 1802, i.e., the evening on which Caroline is writing. Back.

[53] I.e., never received such applause during her guest performances in Weimar during the autumn of 1801, all of which Caroline had attended. Back.

[54] The village of Drakendorf is located ca. 8 km southeast of Jena (map: Franz Ludwig Güssefeld, Topographische Charte der umliegenden Gegend Von Jena / nach eigenen Messungen und andern Origin. Zeichnungen [Jena 1800]; reprinted in August J. G. K. Batsch, Taschenbuch für topographische Excursionen in die umliegende Gegend von Jena [Weimar 1800]; illustration: etching by Ludwig Hess [ca. 1815]; Heimatmuseum Drackendorf):




[55] Fr., “suspended subscription,” applicable to theater or concert performances at which the price reduction associated with subscriptions is not valid or is “suspended” and at which instead a special entrance fee is charged. Back.

[56] I.e., with the Zeitung für die elegante Welt with regard to her review of Ion. Back.

[57] Such was precisely Wilhelm’s reaction after his dissatisfaction with the piece. See the supplementary appendix on Ion for the series of rejoinders in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt. Back.

[58] Schiller does in any event allow in a letter to Christian Gottfried Körner that the role of the mother (Creusa) sustained the piece. He writes to Christian Gottfried Körner from Weimar on 5 July 1802:

The Ion of Wilhelm Schlegel can indeed be enjoyed insofar as it is based on the piece by Euripides, which he on the whole does follow, often even in his exact wording. Although this piece does genuinely contain much that is quite ingenious and well said, however, the Schlegelian nature also glimmers through quite to its detriment. Ion himself has lost much of his interest as a character, whereas the mother gains here and there. It is also she who carries the piece in the stage production. Back.

[59] Collision in French in original. — Schelling fears Wilhelm will pay no attention to Schelling and Hegel’s Kritisches Journal der Philosophie now that Wilhelm is so distracted by this news of Ion. Back.

[60] Caroline is mistaken on both counts. Goethe did not depart for Jena until 17 January 1802. He returned to Weimar on the morning of 28 January 1802, then attended the rehearsal of Turandot that same evening and the performance itself on 30 January 1802. He did, however, return to Jena on the morning of 8 February 1802, then back to Weimar on 21 February, back to Jena on 4 March, and back again to Weimar on 22 March (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:46–53). Back.

[61] Wilhelm did not return to Jena to lecture, continuing instead his Berlin lectures until the spring of 1804. Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott