Letter 345

• 345. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 1 February 1802

[Jena] 1 February [18]02

|289| So, my worthy friend — “lovely and witty,” but in your opinion “absolutely and utterly not proper“? [1] Oho! And on top of it all, is it not entirely your [2] own fault? I requested that you yourself let me know how, and how not, you wished to have your play discussed. [3] You could have let me know even without my having requested it, since you already knew that the review must not be late. [4] When I queried you about it, you replied that it was “not a concern” — and yet now such concern!

I certainly concede some of those concerns to you and even earlier conceded to you that I was not entirely satisfied with the review, nor was Schelling. There is a certain consciousness that runs through it, the tone is not sufficiently firm. But to say anything more about the play than was absolutely necessary would have been utterly contrary to my own conviction, and the last thing I wanted to do was tell the story itself, which for many, indeed the large majority of spectators here would have ruined the not insignificant charm of anticipating how it would be resolved. I know from my own experience how it enhanced my interest and anticipation; and, indeed, you yourself, even when I asked while you were finishing it, did not want to divulge anything to me beforehand, and certainly no details, so as to preserve the overall impression completely, though this particular measure would have been superfluous in my case in any event — and now you want to dismember it for the public? |290| I cannot condone that. [5]

In order to rectify Spatzier’s temerity, and indeed to contradict the general impression, something now allegedly needs to happen, and you are an utter fool to ask me whether I will take it ill against you with respect to my small, modest essay. Go ahead and negate it completely; it wanted nothing more than to oblige you, to serve the cause: it makes not the slightest claim for itself. If it does not attain that goal, then it has no desire even to remain alive and will willingly allow itself to be squashed like a violet. It already pointed out on its own initiative that it is inadequate, thereby leaving room for expansion.

But the simple assurance that the play belongs completely to the German author just as much and perhaps even more so than does Iphigenie to its own would accomplish more than a discussion of the differences, which is appropriate only after the larger performance. [6] That is how it seems to me; all of you there now need to go ahead and do whatever you think is best. [7]

But you may not raise the objection with me that that particular charm and appeal can take place but once. If it attained it once in a particular form, then it will maintain itself in that same form, and the first impression will more or less be repeated each time, something that is especially true if we view the entire matter in the less lofty sense that we have to assume when speaking to the public.

As for my allegedly being “too shy” to say that the play is a “good play,” it is not shyness at all in this case, but rather confidence. I knew one could leave that to the spectators themselves; they cannot but take a liking to it, since it is both excellent in and of itself and oriented toward soliciting acclamation. But one must take care not to make them rebellious beforehand, something that can so easily happen. There is no need for a friend to anticipate them by saying, “I have seen the play, whereas you have not”; one can simply and confidently present it before one’s enemies without any such prologue.

Although I do not flatter myself into thinking you will actually follow a bit of advice from |291| your lady friend, I will nonetheless write again today to entreat you to reflect carefully especially on the initial consideration; let me also send you some additional data on the matter that I copied from the most recent newspaper issue and which you have perhaps not yet seen.

How do you like the Greek play in German iambics and the Salzburger Ion? And are they not writing from Gotha as if from the most distant Thule? [8] Böttiger did not report it there, he would not have put Knebel instead of Einsiedel nor have mentioned choruses. [9] I am thinking about having a slight correction find its way there with approximately the following wording: “Neither The Brothers of Terence, translated by Herr von Knebel, nor Euripides’s Ion with choruses, adapted by A. W. Schlegel, has been performed in the Weimar theater insofar as the former was rendered into German by Kammerherr von Einsiedel, and the Ion that was in fact performed belongs entirely to its German author.” [10]

The thing with Alarcos is truly a bit wondrous. Iffland is highly unlikely to go to the trouble of performing it; he wanted to get rid of Friedrich with those 6 louisd’or, on whom once again the curse of money has played a wretched trick here. [11] That Alarcos, if performed before Ion, would for you . . .

[A page is missing.]

Even though we were certainly not disposed to such while sitting there before the stage of Ion, we could not avoid the unseemly comparison, and so particularly missed the more gracious quality of the lingering impression.

Tell Madam Unzelmann that she should request Turandot, perhaps as |292| her benefit performance. She will perform it magnificently, and will appear quite exquisite. [12]

A very large group of people had assembled on the previous day for the redoute in honor of the duchess’s birthday — not a single space was available in any inn where one might go in, so I went on with Julchen to the house of Madam Ludekus, who received me quite graciously. I mention this because a charming young girl there told me that she was not allowed to attend Ion, which thus already seems to have acquired a notorious reputation from this side. The elder Madam Kotzebue is allegedly particularly active in this regard. [13] Kotzebue himself sat to the right of the ducal loge in the lap of good favor. Schiller seems to have managed to rid himself of him from seats on his left.

My seat was in the larger side loge next to a rather corpulent gentleman who, as soon as he got settled with the seats, addressed me by saying how glad he was to have Madam Schlegel as his neighbor. I for my part then asked him whom I might have the pleasure of having as my own neighbor, whereupon he identified himself as Geheimrath Schmidt, an old friend of your father, of Klopstock, and of all the poets of that period. This background also seems to be the treasure from which he has since drawn his nourishment, since he has not really seen Klopstock for 40 years now. [14] He asked me about you and about all your other siblings, and I responded quite courteously to all his queries, as is always the case with my courteousness.

At the redoute, there was a processional with a Victoria, the heroic song, the muse, Amor, the pastoral poem, etc., of which the enclosed stanzas by Goethe were part. His son played the part of Amor. [15]


Madam Veit has apparently genuinely departed. Vermehren, who is easily a more competent friend in such things than Paulus, with |293| whom Madam Veit has not had much contact of late, made the departure possible, and even vouched for Hb. with Schirmer, as it were. [16] So, now they are with Charlotte.

I am passing over a large part of your letter with silence and ask only that you let me know immediately and definitely whether you will in any case be spending the summer here, otherwise I am letting my cook go and will take additional measures as well. [17] Your not having let me know soon enough has caused me considerable problems this time as far as expenses are concerned. [18]

My mention of what Madam Vieweg said did not require so extensive a response, and was merely a fortuitous combination of ideas that prompted me to write about it in the first place. [19] Please finally stop believing that I am trying to hide in some foolish way or, like a child, think I can hide behind someone’s apron. If I mention again that we have both given the impression that my journey is virtually certain such that it is almost necessary for precisely that reason, I am saying nothing more than just that: namely, that what one announces in such a way one is always best advised to go ahead and carry through. [20]

So, be good now, put aside your vexation, and write me like a reasonable friend and let me know the final word about my coming. I am hoping that the next letters I receive from Braunschweig will determine once and for all that I need no more money from you for it. [21]

unwavering friend


[1] The reference in this initial paragraph is to Caroline’s review of the premiere of Wilhelm’s play Ion: ein Schauspiel (Hamburg 1803) in the Weimar theater on 2 January 1802. Concerning the background to her composition of that review in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt, see her letters to Wilhelm on 4 January 1802 (letter 339), 11–14 January 1802 (letter 340), and 21 January 1802 (letter 342). Back.

[2] Caroline changes and then alternates here (in the coming paragraphs as well) between the familiar du form of address and the formal Sie, a conscious and willful gesture on her part to distance herself from Wilhelm and convey her pique with his dissatisfaction with her review despite her earlier pleas for guidance (see letters cross-referenced above). This incipient estrangement between the two becomes significantly more pronounced after her journey to Berlin later in the spring, when the use of Du is dropped altogether. Back.

[3] See esp. Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 28 December 1801 (letter 338), in which she solicits instructions and advice from him ahead of time concerning the review, a solicitation he seems not to have addressed in any satisfactory fashion. Back.

[4] To avoid having anyone else review the play first. Back.

[5] Wilhelm did not heed Caroline’s advice here, instead publishing a synopsis of the play’s action as part of the letter to the editor in “Jon, neues Original-Schauspiel,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1802) 41 (Tuesday, 6 April 1802,), 321–25. See the text of that synopsis in the supplementary appendix on Ion. Back.

[6] Goethe’s Iphigenie auf Tauris, Goethe’s Schriften, vol. 3, 1–136 (Leipzig 1787). Concerning the differences between Goethe’s version and the original by Euripides, see supplementary appendix 432a.1; for the original illustrations to this 1787 volume with Iphigenie, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter and Wilhelmine Bertuch on 28 May 1784 (letter 41), note 8. Concerning Caroline’s special relationship with this play, see her letter to Johann Diederich Gries on 18 April 1808 (letter 432a), note 2. Back.

[7] What Wilhelm in fact now does is initiate the exchange of letters concerning the play to the Zeitung für die elegante Welt described and in part translated in sections 3 and 6 in the supplementary appendix on Ion. Back.

[8] Thule, on early maps and literature a reference to a place situated in the extreme north, possibly Norway, Orkney, Shetland, Scandinavia at large, or even Iceland or Greenland. The term then became a cipher for an extremely distant, remote location as such, generally beyond the boundaries of the known world.

Caroline’s first reference in this paragraph is to a review of Ion in the Oberdeutsche allgemeine Litteraturzeitung in Salzburg, to which Wilhelm briefly responds in “Correction concerning the Play Ion” signed by “Sg.,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1802) 25 (Saturday, 27 February 1802), 199, emphasizing the originality of the piece over against a simple-minded correspondent in the Salzburg journal. In this same issue, Wilhelm similarly addresses a review by a correspondent from Gotha who spoke only about the “German adaptation” of Euripides and about the choruses. Back.

[9] A reference in the review of the play in Gotha that seems to have mistaken these names. Back.

[10] Friedrich Hildebrand von Einsiedel, Die Brüder. Ein Lustspiel nach Terenz in fünf Akten (Leipzig 1802) was performed in Weimar on 21 December 1801 (Das Repertoire des Weimarischen Theaters, 42). Concerning Wilhelm’s review of Friedrich Hildebrand von Einsiedel’s play 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. — Wilhelm’s play Ion has no chorus. Back.

[11] The reference is to Friedrich’s play, Alarcos (Berlin 1802); see the supplementary appendix on reactions to the play. Friedrich apparently negotiated with August Wilhelm Iffland concerning a performance in Berlin. See his letter to Iffland in Berlin in January 1802 (Heinrich Finke, Ueber Friedrich und Dorothea Schlegel [Köln 1918], 16fn; KFSA 25:323):

Through our Herr Unger you offered me 6 louisd’or as honorarium for Alarcos. I must assume that this is some sort of misunderstanding. Should such not be the case, however, it would be superfluous to respond to such an offer, since you undeniably possess understanding enough to know that I can as little accept these 6 louisd’or from you as you can have offered it to me. If, however, you should wish to engage this piece gratis, I would be pleased to agree under the condition that the roles be filled according to my wishes.

See Friedrich’s letter to Schleiermacher on 8 February 1802 (letter 346a) and Caroline’s to Wilhelm on 15 February 1802 (letter 347). KGA V/5 321n4–11 notes that apparently a rumor was circulating suggesting that Iffland had offered Friedrich double the original sum. Friedrich’s letter to Iffland above shows the rumor to be untrue. Even had Iffland offered double the honorarium, the sum was still an insult, since Iffland would pay Wilhelm 101 Reichsthaler 8 Groschen for the performance of Ion (KFSA 25:648n10, citing Johann Valentin Teichmann, Johann Valentin Teichmanns literarischer Nachlass, ed. Franz Dingelstedt [Stuttgart 1863], 461). Back.

[12] Schiller’s Turandot. Prinzessin von China. Ein tragicomisches Mährchen nach Gozzi (Tübingen 1802), an adaptation of Carlo Gozzi’s (1720–1806) Turandot (1762), was performed in Weimar on Duchess Luise’s birthday, 30 January 1802 (Das Repertoire des Weimarischen Theaters, 42), then in Berlin on 5 April 1802 as the benefit performance of Christine Eigensatz, albeit without success; the heroine, Turandot, daughter of the emperor of China, was allegedly “utterly obscured” by Friederike Unzelmann in the role of Adelma, the emperor’s Tartar princess and Turandot’s slave.

Here representative characters in a scene from Gozzi’s original Turandot (Georges Francois Louis Jacquemot, Turandot, 3rd act, 4th scene (n.d.); Piarista Múzeum):


See Wilhelm’s review of the Berlin performance in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1802) 78 (Thursday, 1 July 1802), 626–28, here 626 (Sämmtliche Werke 9:189–91, here 189–90):

Although Turandot, ein tragicomisches Mährchen von Gozzi as adapted by Schiller, on the whole received a rather cold reception, the performance itself also warranted such. It was performed first on 5 April [1802] as the benefit performance of Demoiselle Eigensatz, who herself performed the role of Turandot, or rather did not perform it, but rather ruined it.

Even if a theater director is so obliging as not to limit the actors in the choice of a piece, he should nonetheless certainly deny assigning them a wholly unsuitable role lest the bénéfice become a maléfice [evil spell, sorcery] for the audience. Nor was Herr Bethmann in any way up to the role of Prince Kalaf [Prince of Astrakhan], a role sooner suitable for Herr Mattausch.

Solely the role of the emperor [Altoum, of China] was performed quite well by Herr Unzelmann, with an element of pathos bordering on caricature, and that of Adelma performed masterfully by Madam Unzelmann, with breathtaking energy and proud grandeur — so much so that next to her, the princess was utterly obscured. Back.

[13] Although Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:700, identifies Madam Ludecus as the wife of Johann Wilhelm Karl Ludecus, such is difficult to reconcile here given the context (little seems to be known about Johann Wilhelm Karl Ludecus’s wife in any case).

The point the young girl has made is that either she herself or, less likely, Madam Ludecus was essentially not permitted to attend the performance of Wilhelm’s play Ion (Hamburg 1803) in Weimar on 2, 4 January 1802, and that the “elderly Kotzebue” was allegedly particularly involved, namely, the mother of August von Kotzebue, with whom the Schlegels, and esp. Wilhelm, had an ongoing quarrel copiously reflected in these letters.

That Kotzebue’s mother would have anything to say about someone in the house of Madam Ludecus not attending Wilhelm’s play makes sense only if Madam Ludecus is indeed Kotzebue’s sister, the wife of Johann August Ludekus.

In her letter to Luise Gotter on 5 February 1801 (letter 345b), moreover, Julie Gotter mentions seeing Minchen Conta during the same visit, confirming the identity of this particular Madam Ludecus (Ludekus).

That said, it is otherwise often difficult to determine which Weimar Ludecus is meant, since there were several. In Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 7–12 June 1801 (letter 320), for example, the Herr Ludekus with whom Caroline’s sister Luise was spending time seems to have been Johann August Ludekus; Luise herself confirms in her memoirs that she had been a guest of this particular Ludecus — or so it seems — during her trip to Jena in 1799, and that this particular Ludecus had gone to Braunschweig to settle the estate of the mother of Anna Amalia.

On the other hand, in her letter to Wilhelm on 22 June 1801 (letter 322), Caroline mentions another Ludekus who brought her rumors from a tavern in Erfurt concerning Wilhelm and Friederike Unzelmann. Schmidt, ibid., identifies this Ludekus as well as Johann Wilhelm Karl Ludecus, albeit without explanation, notwithstanding Caroline had, barely ten days earlier, spoken about Johann August Ludecus. Back.

[14] Johann Christoph Schmidt had been a contributor to the Bremer Beyträge, a group of mid-eighteenth-century German writers, among them Johann Elias Schlegel (Wilhelm and Friedrich’s uncle), who objected to the restrictive, neoclassical principles laid down by Johann Christoph Gottsched according to which “good” literature was to be produced and judged; they demanded room for the play of genius and inspiration, and their literary organ was the Neue Beyträge zum Vergnügen des Verstandes und Witzes (Bremen 1744–48).

Here the frontispieces to four of the original volumes, which clearly reflect the aesthetic and artistic sensibility of that earlier generation about which Caroline here speaks:





Goethe was wont to say in jest that “Schmidt is what I am [literally: who is equal to me],” citing a line from one of Klopstock’s works. “Wingolf” was the temple of friendship in the Bardic Elysium, and Klopstock had written a number of odes to friends in Leipzig published in 1767 as Wingolf; the passage to Schmidt reads as follows (Odes of Klopstock from 1747 to 1780, trans. William Nind [London 1848], 13):

Two more [friends] I see. One hath our ancestry
And fonder friendship bound in mutual vow;
And one, the charm of sweet society,
Pure taste, and the exalted brow.

Schmidt is what I am: and the Valkyres bright
Call us together to the sacred grove:
And Rothè yearn'd for Wisdom's freer light,
And lived to Friendship and to Love. Back.

[15] Goethe’s stanzas, which Amor delivers, in “Maskenzug. Zum 30. Januar 1802” at the redoute mentioned earlier for Duchess Louise (Weimarer Ausgabe 16:210–11):

Processional 30 January 1802

When, accompanied by the herald of fame herself,
Heroic Song ignites the spirit,
Striding to and fro on fields of deeds,
Crowning its own head with laurel,
Preparing a monument above the clouds,
Founding the most comely longevity on transience,
Thus it seems it has its goal attained.

Yet when the muse's gaze does find us,
Who joins with the most dangerous one of all,
Then does a new heaven open for us,
Then does the new, more comely world beckon brightly.
Here one learns to long, learns to hope,
Where fortune keeps us clinging to a delicate thread,
And where one enjoys more, and more still,
The more tightly does the circle of circles close.

Soon you feel her invitation,
The Gracious One, who with innocence herself allied,
And rock and tree, on all your paths,
Through her divine touch seem vivified;
The hills' naiads with childlike greetings beckon,
The sea's nymphs greet you on the shore.
Those who stride solitary through the quite Valley of Tempe,
Sense they are surrounded, in company.

But let us not all too softish become,
For then do we receive all too oft a shock.
But up! Who with us does dare to play?
Sometimes secretly teasing, sometimes in the light of day!
Is it Momus [satire, mockery] who in urban crowds,
A Satyr, who in field and meadow does play?
What has pained us are but common farces,
We laugh as soon as we are annoyed.

They advance, by the wild swarms surrounded,
Which imagination spawns in its realm.
The wave surges, its confused striving
Forcing it, uncertain, to all sides.
Yet to all is given a single goal,
And each feels, and inclines, brightly moved,
Toward the sun that this colorful fest does gild,
A sun that sees and knows, animates and bears all. Back.

[16] Erich Schmidt did not include in his edition the text that begins after “made the departure possible” and extends to the end of the sentence. The omitted text reads as follows in the manuscript (Digitale Edition der Korrespondenz August Wilhelm Schlegels; line breaks as in original; transcription by the translator):

und Hb. [Hl.?] bey Schirmers gleichsam
gut gesagt.

“Hb.” is an uncertain reference.

Dorothea seems to have departed Jena on 27 January 1802, meeting Friedrich, who was coming from Berlin, in Leipzig and continuing on with him to Dresden, where they did not arrive until 4 February 1802.

Jena is 75 km from Leipzig, Berlin 150 km from Leipzig, and from Leipzig to Dresden it is then another 100 km (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Concerning her delayed departure because of pressure from creditors, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 28 January 1802 (letter 344). In Dresden they were to stay with Charlotte Ernst.

It was, however, not really Vermehren who made Dorothea’s departure from Jena possible financially, but the Berlin publisher Georg Reimer and Caroline von Schlabrendorf. See Friedrich’s letter to Schleiermacher on 4 February 1802 (letter 345a). Back.

[17] Wilhelm did not return to Jena for the summer; indeed, he never returned to Jena. Back.

[18] See Wilhelm’s letter to Caroline on 26 January 1802 (letter 343), in which he addresses this issue for the future. Back.

[19] See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11–14 January 1802 (letter 340). The nature of the “quarrel” with Charlotte Vieweg is uncertain. Back.

[20] The reference is to her anticipated journey to Berlin (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[21] Presumably news from Luise Wiedemann. Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott