Letter 383e

383e. Dorothea Veit to Karoline Paulus in Würzburg: Paris, ca. late April/early May 1804 [*]

[Paris, ca. late April/early May 1804]

. . . He (Wilhelm, that is) will be traveling to Switzerland with Madame de Staël, if, that is, Madame de Staël’s travel plans have not changed because of the news of her father’s death; [1]

Friedrich will then have a rendez-vous with them somewhere or other where they will spend a few days as a favor to him; it is still not certain where this rendez-vous will take place, most likely in Frankfurt. I am hoping that on that occasion some of the misunderstanding between the brothers will be clarified, at least in appearance. It is highly unlikely they will be able to convince each other, since their opinions are just so different. [2]

How have I been doing in Paris? Dear soul, I am doing well; and then again, not well. Considering that my Friedrich — whom I worship — loves, indeed reveres me in the most tender fashion imaginable; that my Philipp is becoming a fine and adroit and charming boy; that I am loved, honored, and esteemed by everyone around me, everyone I socialize with, and everyone who lives with us; that I have the opportunity to expand my learning, that I daily have all the treasures of art right here before me, and that I take the opportunity to enjoy them; that I can see how Friedrich is acquiring new scholarly treasures and how he is esteemed by everyone who gets to know him — considering all these things together, you can well imagine that I may qualify as the happiest woman in the world; and to that extent I am indeed doing very well, better even than I perhaps deserve. —

But insofar as my health is quite unstable, so much so that I often must spend weeks at a time in bed, able to do nothing, which also greatly limits my activities in general that would otherwise contribute to my happiness; [3] and insofar as we constantly had to contend with enormous worries and concerns, everything here being so frightfully expensive, and that it has so often been almost impossible just to move forward; to the extent this inflation has caused us more privations than real pleasures in this capital fairly overflowing with such copious pleasures; and finally, insofar as one has to live with the French, and with Parisians — to that extent I have been doing anything but well.

We have often sat before the fireplace and thought of our German friends, the German circle of friends, and then — here no one, absolutely no one with whom one is even remotely tempted to become more intimate! [4] Not a single woman with whom I would have exchanged even ten words! But we supported each other patiently in steadfast love amid the often horrible storms all around us; it was as if we had been exiled to the wilderness, but we remained true to each other in faithful love, and that, my beloved friend, is how one ultimately gets through the worst.

(Let me tell you, Friedrich is the best, the most excellent, the most affectionate husband, [5] he really is, and is so in every life situation, and every day I get to know him better merely makes my love and my infinite reverence for him grow; could God but grant that I be completely worthy of him! If my death could make him happier than my life, I would die just as gladly as I now try to keep myself alive for him.) —

Friedrich has been gone for eighteen days now, and I, too, will be following after him in about three weeks; a few smaller tasks are keeping me here a bit longer just now. That is, we will be spending the summer and perhaps this coming winter in Cologne. Several people from Cologne lived with us here this past winter with whom we got along so well that they invited us to visit them there. Friedrich accepted the invitation initially to the extent that he traveled with them, and took several small trips down the Rhine River. But he was so pleased when he stayed at our friends’ home, everyone there being so fond of him that they asked him to spend several months there, that he wrote that I should follow after him; and indeed, I am preparing for the trip now. [6] . . .

How pleased Friedrich will be when he sees your letter! [7] — But I hardly know whether to tell him about it, given what you write in it about that woman. [8] Friedrich, I fear, will not take it as indifferently as I. But I do hope his joy at seeing something from you will extinguish and silence all the hatred. [9] . . .


[*] Source: Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 8–10.

This letter presages major changes in the lives of both Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel. Friedrich and Dorothea had been in Paris since the summer of 1802; although the exact date of their move from Paris to Cologne seems to be uncertain, Dorothea here alludes to the death of Jacques Necker, who had died on 4 April 1804 (Charles Colbeck, The Public Schools Historical Atlas [London 1905], 68):



[1] Germaine de Staël’s father had died in Coppet, on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, on 9 April 1804, while she was in Berlin as part of her tour of Germany. It was there that she met and was so impressed by Wilhelm Schlegel that she invited him to join her entourage as tutor to her two children and return with her to Coppet (Thomas Kitchin, [Composite of] Europe divided into its empires, kingdoms, states, republics, &c [1787]):


Since Wilhelm’s Berlin lectures were drawing to a close and he had no definite prospects for the future, he accepted her invitation, remaining with her thereafter until her death in 1817.

The first journey, of course, was back to Coppet from Berlin, a journey part of which Wilhelm describes in considerable detail in his letter to Sophie Bernhardi on 15 May 1804 (letter 383f). It was during that journey that the group passed through Würzburg, where Wilhelm visited not only Schelling and Caroline, but also the Paulus family. Back.

[2] Germaine de Staël and her traveling companions did not travel through Frankfurt, and Wilhelm and Friedrich did not meet again until the latter visited Coppet from early October till mid-November 1804. In any event, the brothers were divided by differing opinions esp. about Wilhelm and Caroline’s divorce in May 1803 and the circumstances leading up to it, and by Caroline’s remarriage to Schelling. Back.

[3] Illustration: Wiener Damenkalender zum Nutzen u. Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1801; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[4] Friedrich and Dorothea had become quite close to the Paulus family in Jena (Berlinischer Damen kalender auf das Iahr 1799; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[5] Dorothea had converted to Protestantism on 4 April 1804 and married Friedrich on 6 April 1804 (Schauplatz der Natur und der Künste, vol. 4 [Vienna 1776], plate 32):



[6] Although Friedrich and Dorothea did move to Cologne sometime during the late spring of 1804, they had hardly been there a couple of months before they were already wishing they could leave.

Although Friedrich had the opportunity to travel as a distraction, Dorothea was essentially confined to their small apartment with few friends or social outlets; one might bear in mind that she was a divorced Jew who had converted to Protestantism now living in a Catholic town, that she and Friedrich were still suffering from chronic financial problems, and that Friedrich still had no secure professional position or income. Back.

[7] Karoline Paulus had apparently taken the initiative to contact Friedrich and Dorothea again. Back.

[8] That is, Caroline, who initially lived in the same building as the Pauluses in Würzburg (see the supplementary appendix on the Schellings’ residence in Würzburg). Here the initial living arrangements for the Schellings, Hovens, and Pauluses in Würzburg in the former seminary complex (Universität Würzburg, Universitätsarchiv):


It is uncertain exactly when the Paulus and von Hoven families moved from their apartments in the Old University opposite Schelling and Caroline and into the Borgias Building, which was not yet finished when the three families arrived, while the Schellings remained in their original apartment. Either way, the apartments of the other two families would have been separated from that of Caroline by the Neubaukirche (Neuester Plan der Kreishauptstadt Würzburg, mit nächster Umgebung und Angabe der Stadt Strassenbau-Projecte [n.d.]):



[9] It did not; Friedrich (and Dorothea) continued to denounce and otherwise inveigh against Caroline in letters to earlier acquaintances. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott