Letter 346

• 346. Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 8 February 1802 [*]

[Jena] Monday, 8 February [1802]

|293| This missive is simply to relate to you the following in all haste concerning Ion.

|294| Böttiger could not help but write an article on Ion for the Modejournal that, first, maintains that if one is determined to do it differently than did Euripides himself, then one must do it better, something you did not do; [1] along with the pertinent points of discussion in this regard. Second, however, your play was allegedly exceedingly offensive. [2]

Until this very hour, however, things have gotten no further than his own satisfaction in having written the article, for Goethe learned about it and became so incensed that he immediately sought refuge in nothing less than heavy artillery, to wit, telling both the duke himself and Voigt that he wanted nothing more to do with the theater direction if such “blowflies” were constantly allowed to come in afterward and squat on the best material they were performing. [3]

He allegedly demanded that in the future everything that was published in Weimar concerning the theater be subject to his censorship. They were glad to grant him such, and he did indeed engage its full force against Böttiger and against his deceit (since the latter had already showered praise on the performance as such). He then announced the formal resolution to Bertuch and, as I know now from Madam Froriep, took over responsibility for the theater article himself, though especially for Ion. [4]

The Modejournal is now waiting only for his essay before appearing this month, indeed, he even promised to send them the costume drawings. [5] — Böttiger then wanted to submit his article to the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, which, however, having already been alerted by Bertuch, did not have the heart to accept it.

At the same time, the wretched fellow utterly abandoned his previous work with the Allgemeine Zeitung, for which Cotta was paying him 400 rh. annually, because of what Hegel and Schelling have said about it in their Journal. [6]

So, and now God’s judgment is allegedly in pursuit of them.

|295| I am sorry I cannot relate any direct information to you from Goethe for today. [7] Schelling has not spoken with him since all this happened, for when we were in Weimar a week ago he graciously had to repair to Schiller rather than Goethe. [8] And although Goethe did indeed arrive here again this morning, it is impossible for Schelling to speak with him before the postal coach leaves. [9]

But I do not want to delay this news in any way, particularly if I might prevent you from trying too hastily to accomplish through friends there what Goethe has already resolved to do himself; and even afterward, such could still be taken care of by those friends if something or other still were not quite sufficient. [10]

If only it had already been performed there, then all of them could do whatever they like.

Unless something entirely unforeseen happens in the meantime, I will be in Berlin the last week of this month. So anything you still want me to take care of or bring, let me know immediately. [11]


[*] In her letter to Wilhelm on 1 February 1802 (letter 345), Caroline had mentioned that she would “send you some additional data on the matter [concerning his play Ion] that I copied from the most recent newspaper issue and which you have perhaps not yet seen.” This present letter seems to include at least some of that information. Back.

[1] Modejournal is shorthand for the cultural-historical periodical published by Friedrich Justin Bertuch in Weimar, Journal des Luxus und der Moden (1786–1827), though the actual title underwent several changes. Böttiger’s article was published only posthumously, i.e., not in the Modejournal itself; see below. Back.

[2] See the section on the scandal concerning Creusa in the supplementary appendix on Ion. Back.

[3] Blowfly, Schmeißfliege, for Scheißfliege, the “great fly” that befouls things with its dung (Adelung, s.v.; illustration: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, 6th ed., vol. 20 [Leipzig 1908], illustration following p. 1036) (see also below):


See the section on the scandal concerning Böttiger’s review in the supplementary appendix on Ion. Back.

[4] As noted above, Friedrich Justin Bertuch was the publisher of the Modejournal. Charlotte Froriep was his daughter and had been married less than a year to Ludwig Friedrich Froriep. See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 5 May 1801 (letter 313), note 41. Back.

[5] Goethe’s assessment of Ion appeared as part of his account “Weimarisches Hoftheater,” Journal des Luxus und der Moden 14 (1802) (March) 136–48, here 140–43. See his review in the supplementary appendix on Ion. Back.

[6] Böttiger had made the following remarks in the Tübingen Allgemeine Zeitung (1801) 310 (6 November), 1238, as part of a general survey of new publications appearing at the recent Leipzig book fair:

The consensus hitherto has been that Schelling was constructing his idealist temple of nature on Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre (Science of knowledge); indeed, even Fichte himself seemed to believe as much. Now, however, Schelling has fetched a robust and valiant champion to Jena from his fatherland [i.e., Swabia] to announce to the astonished public that Fichte, too, stands far below his insights. Thus the haste with which even the highest infallible authority ages in these parts.

Schelling responded in the first issue of the Kritisches Journal der Philosophie I (1802) 1, 119–21, with a footnote from Hegel.

Schelling begins with a play on words using Böttiger’s name, which can variously be pronounced as a homonym of one of the words for a “barrel maker, cooper,” Böttcher (also Binder, Büttner; illustrations: [1] Christoff Weigel, Abbildung Der Gemein-Nützlichen Haupt-Stände Von denen Regenten Und ihren So in Friedens- als Kriegs-Zeiten zugeordneten Bedienten an biß auf alle Künstler und Handwercker Nach Jede Ambts- und Beruffs-Verrichtungen meist nach dem Leben gezeichnet und in Kupfer gebracht etc. [Regenspurg 1698], illustration following p. 444; [2] frontispiece to L. Hetsch, Das Lied vom Heidelberger Fass [Stuttgart 1840]; [3] “Ein Thé — medisant,” Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1803: Dem Edeln und Schönen der frohen Laune und der Philosophie des Lebens gewidmet [1804], plate 5; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [4] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Illustrationen zu Erasmus’ Lob der Narrheit in sechs Abteilungen [1780]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki WB 3.31):

As grand and comprehensive as the activities of these [other] journals are, there are nonetheless certain individuals whose industry surpasses even those journals, including a certain cooper of distinguished personality and diligence who alone is capable of binding with but a single hoop, fashioned from but a single piece of iron, the grand Heidelberg Tun [4 versions between 1591 and 1751, holding almost 60,000 gallons of wine] of literature, which at every new book fair is filled with the most varied ingredients.



A considerable portion of the reading public cannot but be infinitely pleased, without demanding any more precise or correct details, to acquire herewith a broad and general survey at each and every yield of that book fair, and more yet: to attain what can only be described as a complete acquaintance with all the more recent novelties and other peculiar phenomena from the field of natural history through his instructive metaphors drawn from zoophytes, duckbilled platypuses, and from all three realms of nature and art, and who, since one can never hear enough blather and idle talk in daily life, are here further regaled with town gossip from the scholarly world.


Since everything is imitated in Germany, one might well fear that, as mentioned above, namely, that philosophy and every single area of literature, though especially business, attracts a swarm of insects, so also a new species of large, fat blowfly might emerge that descends not only on individual products, but on the entirety of literature.

Precisely such a fly, probably unnoticed by the editors, recently descended upon Hegel’s publication Differenz des Fichte’schen und Schellingischen Systems der Philosophie in the account of the book fair in the Stuttgart Allgemeine Zeitung, and we are all the more keen to draw attention to it insofar as it offers an excellent example of the sort of credible gossip and objectively grounded news the reading public can expect from this particular source.

[Footnote: Concerning the remark the author of these book-fair accounts offers, namely, that “Schelling has fetched a robust and valiant champion to Jena from his fatherland to announce to the astonished public that Fichte, too, stands far below his insights,” I can despite all paraphrases and mitigation say nothing more than that the author of that remark is a liar, as which I am thus now declaring him in the most unmistakable language; and all the more so insofar as I believe I will by so doing earn the gratitude of so many others who find his impishness, half-lies, passing shots, etc. onerous and burdensome. D. Hegel.]


Caroline’s assertion that Böttiger had “utterly abandoned his previous work with the Allgemeine Zeitung,” however, sooner reflects her own wishful thinking than reality, since nothing in the extant correspondence between Cotta and Böttiger suggests that such was the case. See Ernst Friedrich Sondermann, Karl August Böttiger. Literarischer Journalist der Goethezeit in Weimar, Mitteilungen zur Theatergeschichte der Goethezeit 7, ed. Norbert Oellers and Karl Konrad Polheim (Bonn 1983), 230–31. Back.

[7] I.e., anything concerning the reception of the manuscript of Ion in Berlin; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 21 January 1802 (letter 342), note 14. Caroline responds to the same question from Wilhelm in her letter to him on 28 January 1802 (letter 344). See also Goethe’s letter to Schelling on 5 December 1801 (letter 334b), where this issue first arises. Back.

[8] Caroline, Schelling, and Julie Gotter had gone over to Weimar to attend the performance of Schiller’s play Turandot. Prinzessin von China. Ein tragicomisches Mährchen nach Gozzi (Tübingen 1802), an adaptation of Carlo Gozzi’s (1720–1806) Turandot (1762), which was performed in Weimar on Duchess Luise’s birthday, 30 January 1802 (Das Repertoire des Weimarischen Theaters, 42).

Caroline mentions the trip over in her letter to Wilhelm on 1 February 1802 (letter 345), and Julie mentions it in her letter to Luise Gotter on 5 February 1801 (letter 345b), with note 6 there.

See also Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 22 February 1802 (letter 348), in which she mentions her reservations about saying anything publicly (i.e., in a review) about the play. Back.

[9] Goethe arrived in Jena on the morning of 8 February 1802 and remained until 21 February 1802; he spent the evening of 8 February with Gottlieb Hufeland (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:49–51). Back.

[10] Ion would not be performed in Berlin until 15 and 16 May 1802. Back.

[11] Caroline does not seem to have left for Berlin until after 18 March 1802. Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott