Letter 377d

377d. Wilhelm Schlegel to Schelling in Jena: Berlin, 7 May 1803 [*]

Berlin, 7 May 1803

I had to write you in such haste on the previous postal day that I cannot refrain from sending my regards yet again before your departure, should you indeed be keeping to the same imminent date. [1]

You will perhaps be pleased to learn what I myself have heard from reliable sources, namely, that circumstances in Rome are gradually improving, and that especially the prices of food are coming down, whereas till now one has invariably encountered the spectacle of continuing famine and the most severe misery among the native residents. [2]

Humboldt’s presence can doubtless be of considerable use to German travellers. [3] He is an extremely good position now. The minister of foreign affairs, Haugwitz, who is uncommonly satisfied with the job he is doing, [4] has arranged for him also to become the agent of the German Protestant imperial estates, which will earn him 2000 Thaler, such that altogether he will now have 5600 Thaler, a considerable sum for Rome, putting him all the more in a position to keep a good house.

Since you have been so kind as to offer your services in securing various requests in Italy, let me take the liberty of mentioning the title of a book I have sought in vain in German libraries and whose possession I would greatly value. It is the poems of the great Michelangelo, among which a couple in Vasari have made me enormously eager to read. Only once have I had and missed the opportunity to purchase them; Goethe similarly never saw them in Italy. [5]

Since you seem to be anticipating a lengthy stay in Rome, perhaps you can arrange for me to send you small parcels and books there. In this case, let me ask that you let me know where I should address such things should I happen to have something for you. I am hoping to be able to get letters to you post-free in care of Humboldt’s address in Rome.

At Michaelmas a second volume of the Spanisches Theater will already be appearing. [6] In the autumn I will also be publishing a pocketbook anthology of poetic translations under the title Blumensträusse Italiänischer, Spanischer und Portugiesischer Poesie. [7] I would like to ask permission to include in it the two sonnets from Petrarch you sent me a while back. The one, of course, with the date found in Petrarch. I have already read it aloud here on several occasions and found that this sonnet in particular always comes across quite well. You would be giving me a valuable gift, and could perhaps suggest a cipher to put under the two sonnets to distinguish them from my own contributions. . . . [8]

Caroline has raised my hopes that you might be relating news to me about a new work by Goethe. Let me herewith urgently entreat you to do so. [9]

Kotzebue is currently away on a trip; it is very much as if he had taken flight. The considerable trouble he has incited during his time here has quite lowered public opinion of him and even that of the court. [10]

The Gate of Honor and Triumphal Arch was read amid great laughter by the king, the queen, the queen mother, in word: by the entire court. . . .


[*] Sources: Plitt 1:458–59; Fuhrmans 2:499–501. — Answer to Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm on 22 April 1803 (letter 377b). Back.

[1] Wilhelm’s letter from the previous postal day seems not to be extant. In any case, Schelling had written Wilhelm on 22 April 1803 (letter 377b) that he and Caroline were planning to depart Jena “in the middle of next month.” Back.

[2] In that letter to Wilhelm on 22 April 1803 (letter 377b), Schelling had expressed concern that his and Caroline’s anticipated journey to Italy and Rome might be complicated or even thwarted by war. See note 1 there. Back.

[3] See letter 377b, note 2. Back.

[4] It may be recalled that Caroline had become acquainted with Count von Haugwitz’s wife, Johanna von Haugwitz, in Braunschweig, and had even heard rumors that Madam Haugwitz would be separating from her husband. See her letter to Wilhelm on 24 February 1801 (letter 290). Back.

[5] Giorgio Vasari’s discussion of Michelangelo in Le Vite delle più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (1550; revised 1568), includes the sonnets “Se con lo stile o co’ colori havete / Alla Natura pareggiato l’Arte” and “Giunto è già’l corso della vita mia / Con tempestoso mar’ per fragil barca” (Vasari, Lives of Seventy of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, trans. E. H. and E. W. Blashfield and A. A. Hopkins, 4 vols. [New York 1902], 4:163, 179):

If with the chisel and the colours, thou
Hast made Art equal Nature, now thy hand
Hath e'en surpassed her, giving us her beauties
Rendered more beautiful. For with sage thought
Now hast thou set thyself to worthier toils,
And what was wanting still, hast now supplied,
In giving life to others; thus depriving
Her boast of its last claim to rise above thee,
Is there an age whose labours may not hope
To reach the highest point? yet by thy word
All gain the limit to their toils prescribed.
The else extinguished memories thus revived
To new and radiant life, by thee, shall now
Endure, with thine own fame, throughout all time.
Now in frail bark, and on the storm-tossed wave,
Doth this my life approach the common port
Whither all haste to render up account
Of every act, — the erring and the just.
Wherefore I now do see, that by the love
Which rendered Art mine idol and my lord,
I did much err. Vain are the loves of man,
And error lurks within his every thought.
Light hours of this my life, where are ye now,
When towards a twofold death my foot draws near?
The one well-known, the other threatening loud.
Not the erst worshipped Art can now give peace
To him whose soul turns to that love divine,
Whose arms shall lift him from the Cross to Heaven.

The first edition of Michelangelo’s poems seems to have been Michelangelo Buonarroti, Rime raccolte da Michelagnolo suo nipote (Florence 1623):


The poems, however, had been edited to conform to seventeenth-century conventions and not restored until an edition in 1863.

Goethe had been in Italy 1786–88 and 1790. Back.

[6] Wilhelm’s Spanisches Theater, vol. 1 (Berlin 1803); vol. 2 did not appear until 1809. Back.

[7] Blumensträusse italiänischer, spanischer und portugiesischer Poesie (Berlin 1804). Back.

[8] Concerning these sonnets (Caroline’s translation was included, Schelling’s was not), see the supplementary appendix on their Petrarch translations; also Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 January 1803 (letter 374e), with note 3 there.

Plitt 1:336 dates the following postscript to 20 May 1801; Fuhrmans 2:501–2 attaches it to this present letter. Back.

[9] Uncertain reference, though Schelling had mentioned such a piece in his letter to Wilhelm on 22 April 1803 (letter 373b; not included). Fuhrmans 2:495fn2 identifies it as Goethe’s drama Die natürliche Tochter (Tübingen 1803) (as a pocketbook for 1804), which had premiered in Weimar back on 2 April 1803, then been repeated on 16 April (Das Repertoire des Weimarischen Theaters 47).

Of considerable interest, of course, is the implication that Wilhelm was still corresponding with Caroline, since such letters seem not to be extant. The last extant letter from Caroline to Wilhelm before this date is that in September 1802 (letter 370). Back.

[10] Kotzebue had in any case been busy trying to bring about an appointment in Berlin for Karl August Böttiger; see (in German) Ludwig Geiger, “Berliner Analekten: 1. Böttigers Berufung nach Berlin,” Euphorion 1 (1894), 350–65. Böttiger moved to Dresden instead in early 1804. Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott