Letter 349a

349a. Wilhelm Schlegel to Ludwig Tieck in Dresden: Berlin, 1 March 1802 [*]

Berlin, 1 March 1802

Although your sister wanted to write these lines to you herself, I implored her to leave to your brother or me the sad business of sending this news along.

The little boy died during teething, the malady got out of hand quite suddenly, all the teeth were trying to break through at the same time. He was a handsome, lively, strong child with magnificent large eyes; we were all quite fond of him and are now full of grief over his death. I am hoping you will not have to be overly concerned about your sister’s health even though she is extraordinarily weakened at the moment. [1]

You will receive more news soon. Bernhardi is quite upset, and your brother very depressed. Stay well, give my regards to your wife, I simply cannot write more today. [2]

A. W. Schlegel


[*] Source: Lohner 107–8. Back.

[1] Illustrations in order: Nehm er ihm hin der uns ihn gab (1790); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DBerger WB 3.4; Totes Kind (1774–75); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung (1-56):



This loss and Sophie’s fragile health and state of mind prevented her from completely finishing her Wunderbilder und Träume in elf Märchen (Königsberg 1802). In a letter to the publisher Friedrich Nicolovius on 13 March 1802 ([1930], 144–45), Wilhelm thus suggested the manuscript be filled out by a “lengthier, dramatized fairy tale composed completely in verse.”

That dramatized fairy tale, “Die Bezauberungen der Nacht. Ein dramatisirtes Mährchen,” accordingly is the final piece in the collection, a piece in which, in Wilhelm’s words, “an imagination as rich as it is delicate and pleasing . . . comes to expression even more brilliantly in the musical and variously alternating metric choices of the play.” Back.

[2] In his annotations to this letter, Lohner, 242, incorrectly remarks that “this was the second child that Sophie Bernhardi had lost within a single year.” He adduces Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 8 March 1802 (letter 352), in which she mentions this event and then remarks that

it was best for all of you, and certainly for me, that I was not yet there [in Berlin]. It was just so when the dear, handsome little boy died virtually in my arms a year ago; I would have felt like the angel of death etc.

Caroline’s reference, however, is not to a child of Sophie Bernhardi (Caroline had never been in Berlin and had not yet made Sophie’s personal acquaintance), but rather to August Ferdinand Wiedemann, who had died on 10 March 1801; see her letter to Wilhelm on 16 March 1801 (letter 301):

Yesterday morning it was a week since I took the beautiful, precious child from its mother, who had dressed it, and could hardly keep it in my arms it was so lively. Half an hour later, it was taken to its room, wailing, and not brought out again until it had slumbered into death.

See note 1 there. During August 1801, Sophie was sooner anxious lest her other child, Wilhelm Bernhardi, die; see her letter to Wilhelm on ca. 30 September 1801 (letter 329j).

Concerning Ludwig Bernhardi’s birth during the summer of 1801 and its implications for the relationship between Sophie Bernhardi and Wilhelm during that summer, see her letter to Wilhelm on 25 August 1801 (letter 328b), in which she writes:

I cannot deny to myself that even if I do not deceive Bernhardi, I am concealing things from him, and often when I am cordial toward him it seems like an act of unfaithfulness toward both you and him.

See esp. note 4 there. At the same time, however, she would later convince Wilhelm, at least for a time, that he was the father of Felix Theodor Bernhardi. Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott