Letter 347a

347a. Friedrich Schlegel to Rahel Levin in Berlin: Dresden, 15 February 1802 [*]

Dresden, 15 February 1802

I am unfortunately having moments again when I am quite anxious that you seem so averse to the trip to Paris. [1] We almost have no choice; at this point, it would almost be as difficult to remain as to go, I mean with respect to the one area where everything has become so difficult for us, namely, finances.

We cannot possibly need more there than we have needed amid our previous ill financial management and endless travels round about Germany. I can use my stay there to make money immediately in various ways, — the kinds of work I can do there well simply as a result of my own studies are almost the only ones that earn anything of note. Georg Forster earned nearly three thousand Thaler annually in this way earlier.

Although I will probably not earn that much, my German projects, which are gradually being compensated properly after all, will also provide a significant contribution; and more important than that is the hope of establishing some other external existence than the literary one, the living from which is becoming increasingly unbearable to me the longer I stay with it. — Alas, my whole life has been an inseparable weave of love and distressful need! [2]

I could probably relate this business with the 400 Reichsthaler to Charlotte if it served any purpose, since they will not help me in any case; [3] but given her frugal arrangements, I could not possibly ask for even more money from her after she has taken us in so hospitably for months. To do so, moreover, after arriving here four weeks later than I had told her, and to tell her that I arrived here with only two louis d’or, which, moreover, I had in fact borrowed from a half-acquaintance in Leipzig, would be to rob her of all confidence and trust, and give her an indelible picture of the most wretched disorder. . . .


[*] Sources: Galerie von Bildnissen aus Rahel’s Umgang und Briefwechsel, 2 vols., ed. K. A. Varnhagen von Ense (Leipzig 1836), 1:231–2; KFSA 25:331–32. Back.

[1] Friedrich and Dorothea Veit were planning to leave Germany for Paris at the end of May 1802 following the performance of his play Alarcos in the Weimar theater (Maurille-Antoine Moithey, L’Europe: Divisée en tous ses Royaumes et subdivisée en ses principales parties [Revue et Corrigée] [Paris 1785]; Bibliothèque nationale de France; illustration of Paris in 1750 viewed from the Pont neuf: Vue et perspective du Pont Neuf à Paris. N° 58 [1750]; Bibliothèque nationale de France):



This letter documents yet again the financial difficulties they were experiencing, difficulties that were not, as Friedrich hoped, solved in Paris. Much of Friedrich’s correspondence during this period involves anxious discussions of loans and financial distress.

Rahel perhaps sensed the risk of his going to Paris, since she herself had been in Paris recently. She had left Berlin in mid-July 1800 as the companion to Caroline von Schlabrendorf on a journey to Paris, where she remained until April 1801 (KFSA 25:447fn1). Back.

[2] KFSA 25:656n3 speculates that Friedrich may be citing here from an otherwise unidentified source (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Der Schriftsteller,” Illustrationen zu Erasmus’ Lob der Narrheit in sechs Abteilungen [1780]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki WB 3.32):



[3] The not inconsiderable sum of 400 Reichsthaler may have been the loan Friedrich received from Caroline von Schlabrendorff; he was also hoping for a loan of 200 Thaler from the banker Sarah Levy (Levi; née Itzig; 1761–1854) in Berlin to settle debts in Jena, as mentioned in his letters to Rahel Levin on 8 February and 1 April 1802 and to Schleiermacher on 12 April 1802 (KFSA 25:330, 345, 353–54 [letters 233, 247, 253 there]). Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott