339b. Julie Gotter to Cäcilie Gotter in Gotha: Jena, 4 January 1802 [*]
Jena, 4 January 1802
Even though your thank-you letters leave you no time to write even a couple of words to your sister, it is with no less pleasure that I will nonetheless, sans rancune,  take time to converse with you today.
I am heartsick at having been unable to have you pass along my expressions of gratitude in my own hand immediately to the generous donors of my beautiful Christmas gifts, for my joy and gratitude were doubtless no less profound than your own. The only consolation left me is that I was sufficiently confident that your eloquence would take care of this obligation with far more grace than would have been possible for my unpracticed, stiff quill.  —
On Saturday I was treated to an almost unprecedented sort of entertainment. At midday we traveled over to Weimar to attend the performance of a new piece after the Greek, Ion, whose author was supposed to remain anonymous but who instead, as the result of indescribable indiscretion perpetrated by a person quite close to him, became a public secret.
You have probably already guessed both his name and the source of the gossip that betrayed his authorship. Schlegel had gone to extraordinary lengths to remain anonymous; no one knew about his authorship except for us,  the Bernhardis, and Madam Unzelmann.  He had given the piece to Goethe to perform in Weimar and then to send along to Berlin, which is precisely why he was especially concerned with remaining anonymous, since Iffland would perhaps otherwise not accept it or would in any case doubtless engage in all sorts of chicanery to prevent its performance.  And indeed, the old gentleman was as rigid as stone, not divulging the author’s name even to Schiller or Maÿer.
But then Friedrich, to whom Schlegel had related it beforehand with the explicit condition of saying absolutely nothing about it, not even to Madam Veit,  nonetheless could not resist, and then she — whether out of revenge, envy, or simple gossip mongering — impulsively told her friends, who in their own turn were indefatigable in relating it to everyone in Jena.
This whole affair is quite annoying, not least because it can very easily hurt him in Berlin, and I am doubly glad now that I did not relate a single word of it to all of you even though I was quite certain you would say nothing.
In any event, the performance itself went quite well indeed, creating an extremely harmonious whole. The difficulties the actors experienced because of the verse forms and the fact that the piece itself was of a wholly different nature from that to which they are accustomed, disappeared,  and the result was a performance directed and executed with great love and interest, and which was similarly viewed and heard by the audience with, it seemed, considerable attentiveness and universal interest. 
And quite independent of the fact that I was already quite positively predisposed out of affection for the author and also because I was already interested in various other aspects of it, — the impression it made on me still considerably exceeded my expectations. I was already familiar with both the characters and their lines because Tieck had painted their costumes and I myself already copied out the entire play. 
How I wish you could have seen it, my dear Cäcile, it would have been an inexpressible delight for you. I was also sorry that Schlegel himself was unable to attend;  after all, the first dramatic piece a person writes, and its first performance, must elicit a feeling — with what shall I compare it? — that is quite unique and for precisely that reason must be very peculiar.
Let me try to give you in a few words an admittedly very weak, sketchy portrayal of the overall piece. I have always considered myself so little capable of portraying in words something I have seen, and these things themselves are so alien to me — and yet perhaps you will be pleased to hear at least something quite bad about it rather than nothing at all.
The setting is at Delphi, before the temple of Apollo positioned in the background on 4 columns and up to whose interior hall several steps lead.  An altar was positioned in the foreground to the left, to the right the laurel tree into which Daphne has been transformed, and then some other trees and such of the sort one might imagine in Delphi. 
[Illustration of character costumes by Friedrich Tieck 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. From left to right: Pythia, Xuthus, Ion, Creusa, Phorbas:]
Ion enters, Apollo’s temple servant, who was also dressed as such. Mademoiselle Jagemann performed the role. She wore a tunic of delicate white material, twice gathered and extending to her knees (thereby also completely exposing her beautiful legs to view), and with laced sandals, a red cloak on top fastened on her right shoulder, her body encompassed by a handsome belt whose largest portion was draped down over her back. Otherwise the same hair ribbon as that of Apollo, and a garland in her hair. He ascends the steps and affixes garlands on the temple while offering a discourse to Apollo.
Let me give you at least a small, if pathetic account of the story.
She is soon rewarded for having done so, for the little boy grows into a magnificent, devout, pure, and noble youth whom she then makes the temple servant of Apollo, for whom the youth develops an especially childlike love. She is speaking with him, however, about his wondrous and mysterious birth when Phorbas enters the scene, who announces to Pythia the arrival of his master and mistress, Kreusa, Queen of Athens, granddaughter of Erichthonius and sole heir to the throne, and her spouse Xuthus, who as a reward for his bravery has received Kreusa and, with her, the scepter of Athens.
They have come to query what the Delphic oracle had prophesied to Xuthus 16 years ago, namely, that he would become the ancestor of two thriving sons from whom 2 noble and powerful lines would emerge. But there is still no hope that this prophecy might genuinely be fulfilled; since the marriage has been infertile; and since Kreusa is the last branch of the house, there is great despair. They have brought magnificent gifts to offer to Apollo, and Pythia leads the servant and retinue into the temple.
Kreusa now appears and is mightily attracted to the youth’s serene appearance. She is seized by peculiar emotions, and, once she is alone, her words betray that she herself was once Apollo’s beloved. She has no idea what might have happened to the child she once placed in a cave.
Xuthus now enters, terrified and beside himself, for he has just visited the cave of Trophonius,  who has prophesied terrible things for him. He adjures Kreusa to return immediately, but she is unmoved. Thus ends act 1.
Ion sits beneath the laurel tree singing a hymn and accompanying himself on the lyre. [13a] Xuthus exits the temple in great expectation, sees Ion, and ardently embraces him; Ion quickly frees himself and asks about the reason for such intimacy. “You are my son!” To wit, the oracle had commanded him to greet as his son the first person he might meet.
The boy’s wondrous joy at seeing his father is then expressed quite touchingly. He relates his story to Xuthus, which makes the latter suspicious, or rather certain, that this is indeed his real son. Ion longs to see his mother as well, about whom Xuthus knows nothing. Xuthus directs him to prepare to depart and follow him to Athens. The farewell profoundly moves Ion.
Kreusa now arrives accompanied by Phorbas, eager to learn of the success of the oracular prophecy; she is profoundly shaken to hear that Ion is his son. Father and son now leave to arrange a celebratory festival of joy.
Phorbas in the meantime breaks out in loud lament that this alien youth is to inherit the throne of Athens, and advises Kreusa to kill him, all the more so because the prophecy of Trophonius might be interpreted as meaning that misfortune and ruin may come from a youth.
Although Kreusa’s heart vehemently resists this notion, her despair at having been so wholly forgotten and abandoned by Apollo finally convinces her to agree to the plan.
Phorbas possesses a drop of blood of the Gorgon capable of causing instantaneous death; he plans to put that drop into a goblet.
Kreusa enters with flying hair, for her attack has failed, and she now tries to save herself from Ion, who is pursuing her, in a rock crevice. Ion now enters, wildly searching for traces of his mother. —
Pythia, whom this unusual commotion has roused from the temple, finds no one, and is extremely concerned about what has happened to her Ion. Xuthus enters with his retinue, which brings Phorbas in fetters. Pythia questions him.
Meanwhile Ion has accidentally spilled the goblet of wine containing the poison, which immediately kills the doves that drink it. Kreusa has accused herself and fled. Pythia, quite aghast at these events, advises Xuthus to send for Ion to prevent him from killing Kreusa and thereby bringing her damnation down upon himself as well.
Kreusa returns, exhausted, and has resolved to await death here. Amid this hopeless situation, she completely discloses Apollo’s love for her, how she hid the child in Pan’s cave, well protected and sheltered, but how Apollo would then have had it killed by wild animals.
She tightly embraces the altar so that her blood will indelibly taint it when Ion slays her. Pythia has overheard this confession and is profoundly moved. Ion arrives, still searching for Kreusa, sees her, and orders her to turn loose of the altar. She defies him and assures him she will never leave it. Ion prepares his bow and arrow, Kreusa covers herself just as Pythia steps between them and holds Ion back.
Pythia wants to give Ion the things she once found in the basket with him. He opens the basket and is astonished at finding a fresh olive branch, and even more so at finding a pair of golden-ringed serpents, which, as he has heard, according to Athenian custom were placed in the cradle of royal children.
Kreusa becomes increasingly restive and anxious and finally jumps up and swiftly embraces of Ion. It is revealed that she herself is his mother. The scene is quite touching. Kreusa asks Ion to flee with her, since she is too ashamed to return to her spouse. But Pythia mediates and makes it possible.
Xuthus and Ion; he [Xuthus] is quite perplexed at the youth’s story, who petitions on behalf of his mother as well as for a pardon for aged Phorbas. Xuthus finally agrees. Then Pythia and Kreusa arrive. Although Xuthus himself does believe in these miraculous events, he is worried that others may well doubt their veracity.
Ion steps forth boldly and asks Phorbas to provide a sign. There is thunder and lightning, the laurel tree moves, and a cloud descends; the god himself appears in the temple hall. Everyone falls to the earth in astonishment and joy and confirms the miracle.
Madam Teller performed the role of the priestess, wearing a white garment of the sort you have always wanted. It covered her completely, its edging embroidered, she held a green branch in her hand, and I believe she also wore an embroidered ribbon around her forehead. She tried very hard, and were her voice more pleasant, she, too, would have been; but still, she did perform quite well.
Phorbas was performed by Graff. Goethe insists he has never performed a role as well. He portrayed the vivacity of the elderly man extremely well. He wore a gray slave’s tunic. Over that a white woolen cloak, which was also attached at the shoulder. With gray hair and a beard, he looked just like the small picture of the character.
Xuthus wore a yellow undergarment under a scarlet cloak opulently decorated with gold à la Greque  and on whose corners hung golden balls; and in general, his appearance was quite splendorous. Vohs performed this role excellently, and with such dignity, that one cannot help but admire this particular Xuthus. Although previously I have not really been able to bear the character, during this performance he came across much more impressively than in the text. 
Madam Vohs also performed the role of Kreusa better than I had imagined beforehand, and some parts quite well indeed even though she did miss some things. Not passionate enough and often without any real emotion. But she did speak the long monologue quite beyond my expectation; and, astonishingly, learned it by heart. She also wore a white undergarment beneath a blue cloak that was quite nicely decorated with embroidery, and a diadem in her hair.
But I simply cannot say enough about how heavenly Ion looked. I am convinced that Madam Unzelmann will not perform it as well.  It was also as if the role had been written specifically for Mademoiselle Jagemann. She expressed the clear, definite, pure, demure, reserved elements of the character so beautifully — there can hardly be another role that suits her so advantageously.
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. 
I really am somewhat angry that none of you write at all. I only found out by chance that Sophie has been so ill.  Recently at a ball, I was almost scared to death when Mereau, in his clumsy, stupid fashion, told me that she was in danger and that today he had even heard she was dead.  Although he was quite embarrassed when he saw how utterly beside myself I was at the news, and tried to persuade me it was merely a false rumor, I simply could no longer regain my composure and participate in the evening’s entertainment, and the next morning I was so hoping to find letters — and found nothing but a couple of lines in which Pauline writes “you probably already know that Sophie is quite dangerously ill” —
Do pray, how could I have learned of it? Today the Frommanns came by and also asked me about her. All of you should be ashamed at being so negligent and not writing me a thing. If Mother does not write me now and then, I can be sure of learning nothing.
Lotte’s letter shamed me from the top of my head down into the farthest tips of my toes.  Her magnanimity is without equal and should be held up in some newspaper or other as a model. At the same time, however, she showed me her unattainable loftiness and my immeasurable lowliness in such a stirring fashion that a considerable amount of time indeed will have to pass before I might even come close to her, and if neither she nor anyone else helps bolster my courage, I know not what will become of it all.
Those to whom all of you recently dispatched your letters have no time today to write or take care of requests. And given your negligence, I really should not write today either, though I simply cannot bring myself not to. My letter is like a stream — watery — and because it constantly flows, it must at some point or other finally pour its liquid into a grand pond along with many other small branches.
Adieu, my dear sister. Please ask Pauline to send a pane of glass that fits into Schelling’s small lantern; his broke; and soon if possible. Perhaps the foot basket is finished and she can pack it inside. 
My warmest regards to all our friends and relatives. And especially warm regards to our good mother and aunt.  I tenderly embrace all of you in my thoughts.
Concerning the background to Julie Gotter’s stay in Jena, see the editorial note to her letter to Cäcile Gotter on 8 June 1801 (letter 319b) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):
 In French in original; “with no hard feelings.” Back.
In the meantime, it [Wilhelm’s authorship] has become so little a secret here that I have received various billets querying me about when Ion would be performed. I am quite anxious to learn whether you have sensed any unpleasant effects there caused by this indiscretion. Might Iffland be so brazen as to decline to accept it?
See esp. note 5 there.
Concerning the later premiere of Hamlet and Wilhelm’s (and Caroline’s) eventually strained relationship with Iffland and his wife, see Ella Horn, “The Background to the Premiere of Wilhelm Schlegel’s Translation of Hamlet at the Royal National Theater in Berlin.” Back.
 Although Friedrich had departed for Berlin with Friedrich Tieck back in late November 1801, Dorothea was still in Jena; see Julie’s letter to Cäcile on 14 December 1801 (letter 335d.1), note 12. Back.
 Concerning the verse forms and meter used in the play, see Wilhelm’s explanation in one of his anonymous self-reviews in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt in response to initial reviews by Caroline and Schelling. Back.
 That is, Wilhelm possibly finished the play in Jena before returning to Berlin in early November 1801, and in any case had Julie Gotter in Jena prepare the copy that was to be sent to Goethe for the performance in Weimar. And indeed, on balance Julie writes with fairly standard and legible Current handwriting except when she is either in a hurry or excited or both. Back.
Concerning Delphi itself, see William Smith, A Smaller Classical Dictionary of Biography, Mythology, and Geography, 11th ed. (London 1868), s.v. “Delphi” (illustration of Castalian Spring: Jean-Baptiste Martin, Views in Greece, from drawings by Edward Dodwell [London 1821], unnumbered):
Delphi (-orum: Kastri), a small town in Phocis, but one of the most celebrated in Greece, on account of its oracle of Apollo. It was situated on a steep declivity on the S. slope of Mt. Parnassus, and its site resembled the caves of a great theatre. It was shut in on the N. by a barrier of rocky mountains, which were cleft in the centre into 2 great cliffs with peaked summits, between which issued the waters of the Castalian spring. It was regarded as the central point of the whole earth, and was hence ealled the “navel of the earth.”
It was originally called Pytho, by which name it is alone mentioned in Homer. Delphi was colonised at an early period by Doric settlers from the neighbouring town of Lycorēa, on the heights of Parnassus. The government was in the hands of a few distinguished families of Doric origin. From them were taken the chief magistrates and the priests.
The temple of Apollo contained immense treasures; for not only were rich offerings presented to it by kings and private persons, but many of the Greek states had in the temple separate thesauri, in which they deposited, for the sake of security, many of their valuable treasures.
In the centre of the temple there was a small opening in the ground, from which, from time to time, an intoxicating vapour arose. Over this chasm there stood a tripod, on which the priestess, called Pythia, took her seat whenever the oracle was to be consulted.
[Illustrations (1) The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, 12 vols., rev. ed. (New York 1914), 4879, s.v. Pythia; (2) 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]
The words which she uttered after exhaling the vapour were believed to contain the revelations of Apollo.
They were carefully written down by the priests, and afterwards communicated in hexameter verse to the persons who had come to consult the oracle. If the Pythia spoke in prose, her words were immediately turned into verse by a poet employed for the purpose. The oracle is said to have been discovered by its having thrown into convulsions some goats which had strayed to the mouth of the cave. The Pythian games were celebrated at Delphi, and it was one of the 2 places of meeting of the Amphictyonic council.
An artist’s rendering of the original layout of the sacred precinct in Delphi and the Temple of Apollo (H. Luckenbach, Olympia und Delphi [Munich, Berlin 1904], 44, 45):
The sacred precinct in 1908; the remains (foundation) of the Temple of Apollo are at left (Hugo Hoffmann, Delphi, die Orakelstätte des Apollon, Gymnasial-Bibliothek 48 [Gütersloh 1908], 44, 89):
The seat of Pythia’s oracle, the αδυτον, in the temple interior (ibid., 95):
 The stage and set decorations for Wilhelm’s play, according to his own stipulations (see below) and Julie Gotter’s description here, seem to have been precise but sparse rather than complex and elaborate, presumably comparable, with Wilhelm’s props, to the following set example for Euripides’s play Medea.
The second illustration, undated but prior to 1907, shows the Weimar stage in the late nineteenth century, i.e., not the stage for Wilhelm’s production, but the later iteration (illustrations:  Brander Matthews, A Book About the Theater [New York 1916], medea plate following p. 148;  Christian Hecht, Streit um die richtige Moderne, [Weimar 2005], there credited: private collection):
Concerning Daphne, see William Smith, A Smaller Classical Dictionary of Biography, Mythology, and Geography, 11th ed. (London 1868), 137, s.v. “Daphne”:
Daphne. Daughter of the river-god Peneus, in Thessaly, was pursued by Apollo, who was charmed by her beauty; but as she was on the point of being overtaken by him, she prayed for aid, and was metamorphosed into a laurel-tree (δαφνη), which became in consequence the favorite tree of Apollo
Johannes Claudius, Daphne and Apollo (ca. 1665–99); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur PVSomer AB 3.2:
Wilhelm provided Goethe with set directions for the performance, and because Julie functioned as the copyist for the text that was sent to Weimar (Wilhelm finished the text in Jena at latest by 19 October 1801), one might reasonably assume she also copied out the set directions that were sent to Goethe, with which she was thus intimately familiar and which similarly accounts for her detailed description here and in the following synopsis, that is, quite apart from her having attended the performance.
Wilhelm could assume, moreover, that his audience was familiar both with the Delphic background of the play as well as with Euripides’s classic version of the play, though Wilhelm insists that he reworked the original myth rather than merely compose a new version “after” Euripides, “after the Greek” as Julie mentions earlier in the letter.
Concerning Euripides’s version, see Warner’s Synopsis of Books Ancient and Modern, ed. Charles Dudley Warner, 2 vols. (Akron 1910), 2:190:
Ion, a drama, by Euripides (423 B.C.). The story, wrought into a drama of high patriotic and of profound human interest by Euripides, was that of Ion as the ancestor of the Ionians, or Athenian Greeks, reputed to be the son of Xuthus and his wife Creusa, but in reality a son of Apollo and Creusa.
The god had caused the infant to be taken by Mercury from the cave where his mother had left him, and to be carried to his temple at Delphi, and brought up as a youthful attendant. Ion’s character, and the part he plays as a child devotee at the time of the play, offer a singularly beautiful parallel to the story of the child Samuel in the Hebrew Scripture.
The situation in this play, which circumstances had created, is that of Creusa, the mother, in a distracted state, seeking unwittingly the death of her own son. One of the finest passages is a dialogue of splendid power and beauty between Ion and Creusa. For freshness, purity, and charm, Ion is a character unmatched in all Greek drama.
The whole play is often pronounced the finest left by Euripides. Its melodramatic richness in ingenious surprises was a new feature of Greek drama, which was especially characteristic of the new comedy of the next century.
One might compare this version to the synopsis of Wilhelm’s play that Julie now provides.
The three illustrations inserted into Julie’s synopsis are (1 and 3) by C. E. Brock from an 1890 production of Euripides’s Ion at the University of Cambridge; the two scenes essentially coincide with Wilhelm’s concept: (1) Stephen Powys as Ion; (2) Stephen Powys as Ion and E. A. Newton as Creusa. Source: University of Cambridge, Cambridge Arts Theater, Faculty of Classics; and (3) 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. Back.
 Wilhelm adapts the legend of the brothers Trophonius and Agamedes (A New Classical Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, Mythology and Geography, ed. William Smith [New York 1878], 29, s.v. Agamedes):
Agamedes and Trophonius distinguished themselves as architects: they built a temple of Apollo at Delphi, and a treasury of Hyrieus, king of Hyria in Boaotia. . . .
In the construction of the treasury of Hyrieus. Agamedes and Trophonius contrived to place one stone in such a manner that it could be taken away outside, and thus formed an entrance to the treasury, without any body perceiving it. Agamedes and Trophonius now constantly robbed the treasury and the king, seeing that locks and seals were uninjured, while his treasures were constantly decreasing, set traps to catch the thief.
Agamedes was thus ensnared, and Trophonius cut off his head to avert the discovery. After this Trophonius was immediately swallowed up by the earth. On this spot there was afterward, in the grove of Lebadea, the cave of Agamedes, with a column by the side of it. Here also the oracle of Trophonius [which Xuthus consults], and those who consulted it first offered a ram to Agamedes and invoked him.
A tradition mentioned by Cicero . . . states that Agamedes and Trophonius, after building the temple of Apollo at Delphi prayed to the god to grant them in reward for their labor what was best for men. The god promised to do so on a certain day, and when the day came the two brothers died. Back.
[13a] As the son of Apollo, the god of oracles, music, and the poetic arts (Carl Ottfried Müller and Carl Osterley, Denkmäler der alten Kunst, 3rd ed., ed. Friedrich Wieseler [Göttingen 1877], vol. 2, no. 1, plate 130d):
 In her initial review of the play, “Ion, a Play after Euripides Performed at the Court Theater in Weimar,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1802) 7 (Saturday, 16 January 1802), 49–54 (text see the supplementary appendix on Ion, part III), Caroline remarks with polite understatement that “Herr Haide performed equally well in speaking the god’s lines composed in festive trimeters, lines which — considering that the magnificence of a god is indeed infinite — might have been spoken perhaps even more resonantly. Back.
 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:
 Fr., “in the Greek fashion.” Back.
 The play, of course, had not been published yet. Julie is speaking about her acquaintance with the text from having functioned as its copyist. It seems similarly clear that she is referring to Friedrich Tieck’s costume illustrations — which she must have had before her — in all these character descriptions. Back.
 Returning to Jena by way of the Mühlthal, especially at night, could be perilous because of the danger of highwaymen (Charles G. Harper, Half-Hours With the Highwaymen, vol. 2 [London 1908], 287):
 Friedrich Karl Ernst Mereau was himself a native of Gotha and as such kept in touch with family and acquaintances there. Back.
 Lotte is presumably Julie’s aunt Lottchen mentioned in earlier letters; the background to Julie’s remark here is uncertain. Back.
“Foot basket,” Germ. Fußkorb; Fr. chancellière; Italian paniéra da piedi, also Eng. “foot muff.” A fur-lined (or otherwise lined) basket for warming the feet. Known in English as an “opera basket” after its use in loges (“Fußkorb: Tapisserie- und Häkelarbeit,” Der Bazar: Illustrierte Damen-Zeitung 10  45 [1 December 1864], 370–71; illustration ibid.):
This practical foot basket provides a cozy winter accessory for any living room or study, functioning not only as a spacious holder for the feet themselves, but also, with a heating bottle inside, as a foot pillow, and — a not inconsiderable advantage indeed — can be made wholly by a woman herself and quite without the assistance of any craftsman.
Translation © 2019 Doug Stott