Letter 345a

345a. Friedrich Schlegel to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Dresden, 4 February 1802 [*]

Dresden, 4 February 1802

I have been here for several days now among the most affable people in the world and am simply letting myself enjoy this wonderful peace and quiet, the best part being that I feel I will be able to work. [1] . . .

I found Dorothea healthier even than I had hoped, actually very well indeed, better, in fact, than has long been the case. She greatly enjoyed your letter, and you will doubtless forgive her for not answering it today. [2] You know how it is the first few days in a strange place. We are eating and visiting with the Ernsts. Dorothea is living in what is at least until now a rather inferior chambre garnie, [3] but in the house next door. [4]

Little Auguste is a divine child whom I greatly love.

Poor Dorothea had to endure some considerable trouble yet. The 150 Reichsthaler got stuck in the mail for a full postal day, and during that time Karoline had announced to the petty creditors that they should go ahead and get their money themselves. [5]

Life with you this last time will always be unforgettable for me. It was doubtless no less fruitful than the first time. [6] . . .

What is the clique up to? [7] How are things at the Jungfernbrücke? [8]


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:302–3 (frag.); KGA V/5 317–18; KFSA 25:327.

Friedrich had been in Berlin since early December 1801. Because Dorothea Veit’s final departure from Jena was fraught with uncertainty and the sort of financial anxiety that would dog the couple essentially for the rest of Friedrich’s life, and because with her departure the couple’s time in Jena unequivocally came to an end (they would return to Weimar for the performance of Alarcos at the theater there at the end of May, only to leave the following day for Paris), supplemental materials from several pertinent letters are included in the notes to this present letter. Back.

[1] Frontispiece to Heinrich Matthias August Cramer, Unterhaltungen zur Beförderung der Häuslichen Glückseligkeit (Berlin 1781):


Friedrich had departed Berlin on 27 January 1802, met Dorothea Veit in Leipzig, who was coming from Jena, and continued on to Dresden with her. 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]):


Dresden in 1748 with the bridge over the Elbe River:



[2] Schleiermacher’s letter is not extant (KFSA 25:652). Back.

[3] Fr., “furnished apartment.” Back.

[4] Because Friedrich and Dorothea were not married, they could accordingly also not reside together at the house of his sister in Dresden, whence the furnished room next door for Dorothea. Here the Dresden market ca. 1760 (Canaletto Bellotto [1760]):



[5] Dorothea had written Schleiermacher a chaotic and desperate letter on 21 January 1802 from Jena frantically wondering about the money that seemed to have gone astray and whether something might have happened to Friedrich (Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 117–18; KGA V5 305–6; KFSA 25:325):

Dear Schleyermacher, I am writing you a few words today because I do not know whether Friedrich is still in Berlin. To my considerable horror and not inconsiderable anxiety, I received nothing from Friedrich today, neither a letter nor money. I did receive a cordial note from Madam Herz, however, that consoles at least insofar as I know that Friedrich cannot be sick, otherwise she surely would have mentioned something about it, and you, too, would have informed me had such been the case.

But what can it be? No matter how hard I think, I cannot imagine how he can leave me alone amid such distress and anxiety. But what can it be?

I will write him tomorrow in Halle [where Friedrich would be stopping on his way to Leipzig and Dresden; see map below], since perhaps everything is going according to our arrangements, and it is just that his letter and the money got stuck somewhere. My letter will be in Halle by midday on Monday.

If I receive the money on this coming postal day, I will depart immediately on Wednesday morning, but to Leipzig, since Friedrich must travel from Halle to Dresden by way of Leipzig in any case, so why should I go to Halle?

(Illustration: J. E. Gailer, Neuer Orbis Pictus für die Jugend oder Schauplatz der Natur der Kunst und des Menschenlebens, 5th ed. [Reutlingen 1842], plate 319; map: Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



But if no money comes, then something has happened, that much is certain, and then I cannot depart at all [ed. note: being unable to pay their bills in Jena]. Should Friedrich already have left when this letter arrives, then please write him immediately — but wait, that cannot help at all — write to me then immediately so I can learn whether something is going wrong or has gone wrong.

Please forgive me for this disorganized letter, my dear friend; next time I will do better.

Your Dorothea

In his own turn, prior to 22 January 1802, Friedrich wrote an equally desperate letter to the Berlin publisher Georg Reimer soliciting earlier payment on an advance, presumably to help pay his debts in Jena, without which he and Dorothea could not leave Jena or Berlin for either Dresden or Paris. Dorothea, as has been seen, had already been in considerable distress because of these unpaid debts (KFSA 25:324):

Esteemed Friend,

I am taking the liberty to come to you with a request that is extraordinarily important to me.

I had absolutely been counting on receiving a significant sum of money just now. Unfortunately a peculiar convergence of circumstances has now brought about a delay in this matter and at the moment has put me into a most awkward and extremely embarrassing position.

Might you be so kind as to issue an exchange for the 200 Reichsthaler you promised me for mid-April, payable perhaps at the Leipzig Easter book fair or on 1 May; such would help me enormously, since I could quite easily immediately secure cash for it.

I cannot express to you how important this is to me precisely at this particular moment. You would thereby oblige me to the most extreme gratitude. I entreat you, please do not decline my request. –

Schleiermacher sends his regards.

Friedrich Schlegel

If you do fulfill my request, might I ask that you issue me the exchange as early as tomorrow?

Although Reimer did indeed advance Friedrich the money, Friedrich never delivered the promised dramatic pieces, considering instead that his work on his and Ludwig Tieck’s edition of the works of Friedrich von Hardenberg sufficed to cover the debt (Novalis Schriften, ed. Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich Schlegel, 2 vols. [Berlin 1802]; see KFSA 25:649, on letter 226 there; also KFSA 25:650n4 on letter 227 there). Friedrich had also borrowed money in Berlin from Caroline von Schlabrendorf (see KFSA 654n4).

Finally, see also Dorothea’s letter to the Ramann Brothers wine merchants in Erfurt on 19 January 1802 (letter 341b), and Philipp Veit’s mention, in December 1801, of creditors arriving on a Saturday night. In a letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 28 January 1802 (letter 344), Caroline mentions Friedrich and Dorothea’s “truly disastrous household finances”; see note 13 there.

Here a man is forced to pay a fine in court (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate xxxiv):



[6] The “first time” was when Friedrich moved in with Schleiermacher’s Berlin apartment on 21 December 1797, where he remained until moving back to Jena in early September 1799, a sojourn interrupted only by Friedrich’s visit to Dresden in the summer of 1798.

Schleiermacher was of a divided mind concerning Friedrich’s stay this time. In a lengthy letter to his sister, Charlotte, on 29 January 1802 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 1:287–89 [incorrectly dated]; Schleiermacher als Mensch. Sein Werden. Familien- und Freundesbriefe 1783 bis 1804, ed. Heinrich Meisner [Gotha 1922], 237–39; KGA V/5 307–8; Eng. trans. The Life of Schleiermacher as unfolded in his autobiography and letters, vol. 1, trans. Frederica Rowan [London 1860], 276–78 [translated altered]), Schleiermacher expresses his frustration and, at times, irritation with the visitor, who stayed longer than Schleiermacher had wished:

It is the long-expected and long-wished-for visit of Friedrich Schlegel that has prevented me from answering your last letter, dear Lotte, and from fulfilling my promise to write to you before the close of the last year. From the 2nd of December until the day before yesterday he lived, or at least dwelt, with me.

Had I known beforehand that he would stay so long, I should, of course, have arranged matters differently, and not have allowed myself to be withheld from writing to you. But after the first fortnight already he intended to depart every post-day, and yet he remained, because he could not bring his business to a conclusion.

In consequence, I was constantly delaying my letter-writing and other matters, partly in order to enjoy his company as much as possible during the time, and partly in order to be able to write afterwards more in peace and quiet.

It is, also, this visit that has made it impossible for me to send you any money. It was rather expensive to me in consequence of its being protracted so much longer than I expected, and also because Schlegel, most unfortunately for himself, has no end of little necessities and self-indulgent habits.

That it was a great pleasure to me to have this long-missed friend with me, you may conceive. Several of the objects of his visit were, indeed, not attained, in spite of its long duration; for instance, we did not devote near as much time as we had intended to conversation and study relating to our common labours [the translation of Plato, which Schleiermacher ended up finishing himself]; but knowing him as I do, and consequently foreseeing that he would most likely be induced to take part in all kinds of recreations and to enter into all kinds of connections, I had calculated upon this, and was not therefore rendered anxious by it.

One thing only I regret, and that is, that the loss of time to me has been so much greater than the enjoyment I have had in Friedrich’s society. During the two years and a half that I have not seen him, his whole nature has become more strongly developed; the tendency of his mind is more evident, he is more decided as to what he will and must effectuate in the world, and so likewise all the traits in his character, which attract me and repel me, stand out more distinctly and decidedly. Henriette Herz felt more attracted towards him, and was on a more friendly footing with him than formerly, to which, indeed, various circumstances have contributed.

The unpleasant feelings associated with the critical period of his connection with her friend [Dorothea Veit], have now passed by; he has, for a length of time, been faithfully attached to this friend, and really makes her very happy, and has lifted her up into a higher sphere of existence than she previously enjoyed; and he is earnestly bent upon legitimizing his connection with her, in the eyes of the world, in the only manner which stands open to them.

What he thought of me, I cannot exactly tell. But I know that he always looked upon me as being, in my way, already completed and unchangeable. He seemed also to have a very correct and clear conception of our points of divergence, and to be conscious of those points in himself which I could not approve of.

Many of my acquaintance, who are sincerely anxious for my weal, but who do not know me very intimately, and who misunderstand many things in Schlegel, and take an exaggerated view of such of his qualities as displease them, have also on this occasion felt great alarm lest my close intimacy with him might eventually affect me injuriously, and might untune my mind and lead to changes in my views.

But I cannot conceive how any one can entertain such fears, relative to a person, whom they believe to possess any degree of firmness or inner worth, and I leave it to time to prove to them that I am still the same that I ever was.

Henriette Herz confirms this impression in a letter to Ehrenfried von Willich on 14 January 1802 (Schleiermacher und seine Lieben. Nach Originalbriefen der Henriette Herz [Magdeburg 1910], 25), i.e., while Friedrich was yet in Berlin:

Schleier derives little joy from Schlegel, and it vexes him greatly that he sees so little of him. You can imagine that I am too discreet to speak about it with him, but he told me a bit about it all, and I myself saw the rest.

Concerning the two men’s understanding of each other, on which Schleiermacher touches in the letter just cited, see Friedrich’s lines to Schleiermacher from Dresden on 8 February 1802 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:303–4 (frag., but complete for this excerpt); KGA V/5 320–22; KFSA 25: 29):

But tell me how you can be so opposed to our journey to France? Or do you not know how profoundly it is connected to my innermost being, and that I have greatly missed the kind of dualism of life I am seeking there, which is as necessary to me as is the dualism in my art and learning? I can only live two opposing lives or none at all.

Or perhaps you do know that, and merely want to point out to me how what is indeed necessary for me does not really seem possible to you, at least not within time. You may well be right, just as people are more right than even they realize when they view me as being crazy. You are doing that now as well, or should be doing it, rather than coming to me with such reasoned arguments that have no bearing on things, so much so that it would be a sacrilege even to take note of them.

KGA I/3 311 (cited in KFSA 25:654n11) points out that Schleiermacher took issue with Friedrich’s assertions here, remarking that “tolerating and even positing contradiction the way Schlegel does signals an excess of imagination over reason.”

These considerations notwithstanding, Schleiermacher was morosely depressed after Friedrich’s departure (Dilthey, Leben Schleiermachers [1970], 539; [1870], 534–35; KGA I/3 299; illustration: Schauplatz der Natur und der Künste, vol. 8 [Vienna 1782], plate 40):

Never before have I driven through the dead city with such aversion as when Friedrich departed. It was as if I was alone, all my dreams were fluttering toward me with extraordinarily unpleasant faces, and it was as if all the bad dispositions of all those who were sleeping wanted to enter into me, the only living person. —


When on my way back home I saw people coming from a redoute, that made it even more unbearable.

Sadly, although neither Friedrich nor Schleiermacher realized as much at the time, they would never see each other again (König. Großbrit. Genealogischer Kalender auf das 1785. Jahr; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[7] The “clique” is presumably the circle around Henriette Herz (KFSA 25:652n19). Back.

[8] The residence of August Ferdinand and Sophie Bernhardi in Berlin.

Wilhelm was residing with the Bernhardi couple in their residence near the Jungfernbrücke, on Oberwasserstrasse 10, in the building also housing the Friedrich Werder Gymnasium (KGA V/5 318n34; KFSA 25:652n19).

Here the bridge and building an undated drawing; Jungfernbrücke 10 is on the right just past the bridge (Jungfernbrücke von Norden; Landesgeschichtliche Vereinigung für die Mark Brandenburg e.V., Archiv Berlin-Mitte):


See the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s residences in Berlin. Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott