Letter 383j

383j. Dorothea and Friedrich Schlegel to Karoline Paulus in Würzburg: Cologne, 19 June 1804 [*]

Cologne, 19 June 1804


To my considerable delight, I found your dear letter on my arrival here. My warmest thanks for all your love and for all the kindness! Heaven seems intent on providing all good things for me again, with love and friendship and goodwill now coming at me from all sides, and now you as well, you beloved creature! —

Friedrich will write you himself in detail about your wonderful suggestion; had it but come last year, we would already be there with you; but now it must wait at least a little while longer, and God knows how I am becoming more impatient by the day. But we must see you in person, that much is certain, since all these things can be discussed much differently in person than by writing back and forth.

Even before your letter arrived, Friedrich had already committed to lecturing here, having been invited by the most distinguished and respected men here, and so he must keep this commitment, along with a philosophical lecture series he agreed to do for a smaller circle, namely, for our more intimate friends; [1] then he will be free, and an appointment in Würzburg would be extremely honorable for him and quite welcome in any case, quite apart from the joy of living near you. Perhaps God can help us figure out a way to get used to the state of war again, for we have become so accustomed to the sweetness of peace! —

We are living here among nothing but friends, followers, and admirers of Friedrich; absolutely no squabbling or quarreling. The reception we have enjoyed here is just so exceptionally respectful and good-natured, well, I simply cannot say enough good things about it. [2] . . .

I have not yet had anything to do with the women here, though we do regularly pay visits. They are quite inclined to adorn themselves after their own fashion, gossip, compete to see who has the prettiest things, and are very good housekeepers. [2a] Even though Rousseau said somewhere that this type of woman is the best, I would still quite prefer my diminutive, malicious, dearest devil, as you refer to yourself. My social contact with women in Paris became so distasteful and annoying that I have sworn never again to engage in any contact beyond the merely formal. I need not tell you how often and longingly I thought of you. —

I was absolutely, positively astonished at what you wrote me about Markus. [3] Even though from the very outset I did not trust his judgment, I did trust his heart, and the straightforward disposition I thought I discerned in him. But even with all that, I would have expected more strength from the baptismal water! [4] — My God, the things we will have to tell each other! . . .

How sad that Schleiermacher cannot go to Würzburg, for now he will surely become completely Prussianized; and for your sake, too, it is a shame, since he is an excellent man and a true, sincere friend once he has indeed become your friend, nor can there be any doubt at all that we would have become yours. [5]

Have you not learned from Wilhelm what he has against me? [6] For if he is not on good terms with his ci-devant wife, then I really do have no idea what he wants from me. [7] — But — basically I should not let any of that bother me now — all these things are just so distant now that I really do have to go to some effort just to remember them. If I am doing well for even a single moment, why, I forget everything bad that ever happened to me. [8]

That your little girl is getting to be so pretty I already learned from Elberfeld, [9] nor could I have expected anything different. How is she doing with music? Is she still so fond of horses and dogs? Please give her my regards, and give your youngster, little Wilhelm, a big kiss in my and Friedrich’s names. . . .


We were just so pleased by your good news, my most valued friend, all the more so since we hardly believed you remembered us so fondly. — It is admittedly rather astonishing that you are now living under the same roof as Madam Schelling; but, then again, not all that astonishing, since thorns and thistles, cockles and other foul undergrowth are invariably able to grab a foothold in even the most fertile wheat field. May God grant that the devil come fetch her soon, and with the pomp and circumstance appropriate to her standing; there will in any case certainly be no lack of stench. [9a] . . .

If we could all meet again just once, we could discuss everything in person, including the cordial wish you express concerning having us living quite close to you again. —

Let me be quite open about what I think of the plan. For some time now, I would have accepted any genuinely solid appointment, since my single, fondest wish is to have a secure and peaceful existence for my wife; given extremely advantageous conditions, I would even have gone to Moscow and Dorpat. [10] How much more, then, to Würzburg, the beautiful region where so many things are happening, and near you! —

My only reservation and cause for concern is my disinclination toward any and all war, a disinclination I have developed precisely by having enjoyed a condition of peace. [11] And especially since the warring powers are so close to one another there. A few literary murders at a distance is not really so bad; but in one’s own house, kitchen, cellar, and bedroom — I quite prefer complete peace. . . .

Many thanks for your hint regarding the wicked Bamberger; [12] I will not forget it. Though I have not really had any opportunity yet to act against it. —


[*] Sources: Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 12–14.

Concerning Dorothea and Friedrich’s presence in Cologne (Cölln on the map below), see Dorothea’s letter to Karoline Paulus in late April/early May 1804 (letter 383c), note 6. Cologne is located on the Rhine River ca. 300 km by postal carriage from Würzburg on the Main River (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):



[1] Although Napoleon’s initiative to reestablish a university in Cologne did not materialize at the time, Friedrich continued the lecturing he had begun in Paris. As Dorothea suggests, he lectured both publicly, as a professor at the post-secondary l’école supérieure, and privately. Topics included the history of literature, the development of philosophy, universal history, logic, and German language (see Klaus Peter, Friedrich Schlegel, Sammlung Metzler 171 [Stuttgart 1978], 54). Sulpiz Boisserrée and his brother, Melchior, were instrumental in bringing Friedrich and Dorothea to Cologne. Back.

[2] Dorothea’s euphoria quickly dissipated, and her years in Cologne unfortunately became among her dreariest (Frauenzimmer Allmanach zum Nutzen u Vergnügen für das Jahr 1792; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[2a] Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):



[3] Presumably an allusion to Adalbert Friedrich Marcus’s close relationship with Schelling. The suspicion that he might be the author of the anonymous article in the Kilian-affair had not yet emerged when Karoline Paulus likely wrote this letter to Dorothea. Back.

[4] Marcus had converted from Judaism to Catholicism in 1781. Both Dorothea and Karoline Paulus had been closely acquainted with Marcus during their stay in Bamberg during July and August 1801. Back.

[5] Schleiermacher, who had experienced problems with the ecclesiastical authorities in Berlin because of his association with the Jena Romantics and had become involved in an ultimately hopeless relationship with a married woman, Eleonore Grunow, essentially escaped Berlin by accepting the position of pastor in the village of Stolp in Pomerania in the spring of 1802 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]; illustration: Eilhard Lubinus [1618]):



In 1799 Schleiermacher had promised to marry Eleonore Grunow, with whom he had been emotionally attached since 1798, should she divorce her husband, and hoped his absence would finally prompt her to take action.

It did not. The relationship continued until 1805, when she finally decided to remain in her present circumstances. Schleiermacher was just as little pleased with his isolated situation in Stolp, where the climate proved extremely detrimental to his health and his literary work progressed only laboriously. It was in this situation that the possibility of accepting an appointment in Würzburg offered a not inconsiderable element of hope.

H. E. G. Paulus was instrumental in Schleiermacher receiving just such an appointment in Würzburg. Although the Prussian government ultimately declined to release Schleiermacher from his obligations in Stolp in any case, Schleiermacher himself, initially attracted to the offer, was not unaware of the problems he would likely encounter in Würzburg. He wrote to Karl Gustav von Brinckmann on 24 March 1804 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 4:96–97):

Perhaps you have heard since your last letter about what has now become my definite transfer to Würzburg. The climate here [Stolp] sits very ill with me, I am in a most unfavorable situation as far as my work is concerned, and nothing is keeping me here that is worthy of any real consideration.

Moreover, I have also learned from several sources that because Behme [C. F. von Beyme (1765–1838), Prussian minister] is quite indisposed toward me, it is highly unlikely I will ever be called back to Berlin. These were the most important factors I considered. On the other hand, I do realize that I will be surrounded by a thousand miseries there, and that in this regard Schelling and Karoline represent horrific considerations for me.

Other considerations played a role for Schleiermacher as well, considerations that underscore yet again the ephemeral nature of customary references to the cordial intellectual, professional, and personal relationships between the members of the Romantic group in Jena. Schleiermacher writes to Count Alexander zu Dohna in 1804 (Schleiermacher als Mensch: Sein Werden: Familien- und Freundesbriefe 1783 bis 1804, ed. Heinrich Meisner [Gotha 1922], 334):

Under these circumstances [viz., the poor prospects for a position elsewhere], it is admittedly quite reasonable to go to Würzburg, and yet the whole thing does not seem quite as attractive as you have assumed. The necessity of otherwise having to remain here [Stolp], the larger and more distinguished forum, and the splendid climate are the only positive points. Otherwise much militates against it. My isolated situation was quite favorable for my literary peace of mind, something I will suddenly lose, and the whole anti-Schlegelian and anti-Schellingian party, which had almost forgotten about me, will raise its outcry against me anew.

And yet considerably more vexation awaits me in what I might expect from Schelling, against whom despite the considerable appearance of concurrence I nonetheless am quite opposed, and who is much too shrewd not to notice precisely that situation and much too arrogant and imperious to put up with it. Unfortunately it is highly unlikely that he will choose to disdain me in any overtly sovereign fashion, which I would in fact prefer; hence I can anticipate incessant apparent attacks or covert teasing of the sort one professor can inflict on another.

Add to that the former Caroline Schlegel, who perhaps still hates me for other reasons, a half dozen wretched followers who stand at Schelling’s disposal at the university, and several of his adversaries who are not much better and who will try to draw me into their opposing party — well, you can see what misery awaits me there.

Concerning those earlier tensions, see esp. Henrik Steffens’s letter to Schelling on 18 October 1800 (letter 271b), note 8.

In any event, during the autumn of 1804, the Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm III, appointed him professor extraordinarius and university preacher in Halle. Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, who had been a professor extraordinarius of theology in Jena since 1798, had hoped to be appointed regular (full) professor of theology when Paulus himself left for Würzburg in 1803. Because there were some questions about his orthodoxy, however, he did not receive that position. Once it became clear that Schleiermacher would not be able to accept the Würzburg appointment, Paulus initiated Niethammer’s appointment there instead.

Thus did it come about that, from Jena, Schelling, Gottlieb Hufeland, Paulus, and Niethammer all ended up with positions in Würzburg, but Schleiermacher in Halle (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Besetztere und illuminierte Landkarte von Deutschland Elementarwerk, from the (Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate xlv)



[6] Although it is unclear what prompts Dorothea’s query here, see her letters to Wilhelm 25 November 1809 (letter 451c) and 16 January 1810 (letter 453a). See also her reference to a mysterious “Bamberg letter” in her letter to Schleiermacher on 19 November 1801 (letter 330a). Back.

[7] Ci-devant, Fr., “ex-, former,” i.e., ex-wife, Caroline.

Concerning Wilhelm’s stopover in Würzburg on 8/9 May 1804, during which he visited both the Pauluses and Schellings, see his letter to Sophie Bernhardi on 15 May 1804 (letter 383f). Karoline Paulus apparently mentioned his visit to Dorothea. Rudolf Unger, Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 126n14, incorrectly maintains that Wilhelm did not seek out Caroline in Würzburg, as does Unger’s source, Henriette von Hoven, possibly consciously and maliciously, in her letter to Charlotte Schiller on 4 August 1804 (letter 385a) (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Ich stand da, albern und betroffen genug [1794]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [6-444]):



[8] These remarks not withstanding, Dorothea does indeed return to precisely these issues in her future correspondence with the Pauluses. Back.

[9] Uncertain reference; Elberfeld is located near Wuppertal, north of Cologne. Back.

[9a] An allusion to the topos of the “vain lady of the world” being fetched by the devil. Here one iteration (Daniel Hopfer, Die Weltdame und der Tod [ca. 1504–1536]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DHopfer AB 3.51):



[10] It was not uncommon at the time for German professors to be “recruited” to Foreign universities such as Moscow and Dorpat in Estonia. Back.

[11] I.e., war among colleagues and neighbors. Back.

[12] Adalbert Friedrich Marcus; see above. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott