Letter 387d

387d. Dorothea and Friedrich Schlegel to Karoline Paulus in Würzburg: Cologne, 20 September 1804 [*]


Cologne, 20 September 1804

Our Friedrich left this note behind for you, dearest Paula; he departed yesterday and will be gone a couple of months, going to Geneva to see his brother and make the acquaintance of Madame de Staël, then to Paris, hoping then to be back here in November. [1] . . .

What in the world does your Wagner want from Friedrich? We heard here that he attacked him in an extremely crude fashion — do you not know what he wants? You know Friedrich, he does not even read such things, so these gentlemen ought to save themselves the trouble. [2]

We hear and see nothing of the Brentanos, which is one of the good things for me about being here, namely, that one hears nothing of such monkeys; [3] here people are more concerned with relics of the Three Wise Men than with Clemens Brentano. It was to be anticipated that Sophie would not be happy with him; and I for my part am quietly convinced that some secret urgency forced her into this comical marriage. [4]

Is it really true that Madam Vermehren has remarried? [5] I still cannot believe it. Madam Asverus in Würzburg! Oh, my God, the times these names reminds me of! [6] — And yet I cannot deny that despite all the annoyance and vexation I had in Jena, I still often look back at that time with real longing. Next to Dresden, I was never fonder of a town than I was of Jena. Do you have any idea why they let it go to ruin? All that is quite incomprehensible. Do you know anything about Ritter? [7]

I have been very, very lonely since Friedrich left. Cologne is the most unsociable town among all the towns of the entire world. Apart from the tea circles, where one must play cards, there is not a single other form of convivial socializing here, and those circles do not even deserve that appellation in any case; and they only take place during the winter. [7a]

The Protestants here exhibit a different tone and manner altogether that I find utterly repugnant. These Protestant women are so proud to be Protestant, and in such a repugnant manner, and the Protestants here are, moreover, nothing but rich Dutch merchants — Bah! —

In a word: I am utterly alone here, and have time enough on my hands to become the most diligent, God-fearing, and virtuous woman in the world, and, indeed, am already almost such! Especially, however, I am still your old Dorothea. . . .

I recently read Sophie Brentano’s novel. [8] The most interesting thing about it for me was the way she mentions the relationship with Friedrich, and the very dainty light she succeeds in casting on that relationship. I do not know whether she herself genuinely views it through rose-colored glasses, or whether she simply wants to puts those glasses on her readers. In Eduard und Amanda, it is Antonin whom I firmly believe she specifically modeled on Friedrich.

Otherwise I have nothing much to say about the book. I find the arrogance of this sort of highly subjective portrayal rather wretched; it just seems sinful and blasphemous. [9]

Adieu, my dear, and remember me with love.



[Cologne, 19 September 1804 ]

Although you insist that I, too, write you, I would far prefer to sit down with you and just chat for an hour or so; writing is such a sad substitute. . . .

(And now they are even bringing Voss to Würzburg! — That will make for a very nice bit of commotion; the blacksmith-clanging of his verses along with the rattling and tinkling of philosophical deduction!) [10]

You asked about my assessment of Schelling’s Religion etc. [11] But I cannot supply you with such; the simple reason is that I have not read it, nor yet had any intention of doing so. The books he writes are in any case a bit on the boring side; especially, however, as concerns opinions on religion, I find those of the Dey of Marocco or the emperor of the Turks to be considerably more interesting than those of Schelling. [12] There must be a great many people in Bavaria talking about religion for him to think that he, too, has to add his two-cents worth. Believe me, he would never on his own initiative come up with the idea that there could even be such a thing as religion. I know that much from having been around him earlier. [13]

It will in any event be considerably more fun for me if he writes a book on art; at least in that case there will be something to laugh about. [14] But he will probably be better advised simply to stay together with Marcus and examine theories of gout, scabies, epilepsy, and other things belonging more specifically to his area of expertise and whereby he can, if need be, make use of his wife as an excellent symbol. [15]


[*] Source: Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 23–28 (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):



[1] Friedrich’s journey took him far afield indeed; he was, however, still in Paris during the first week of February 1805, where he had fallen ill, and did not return to Cologne until ca. 10 March 1805 (Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus 45; W. R. Shepherd, Historical Map of Central Europe about 1786 [1926]):


Clemens Brentano explains the motivation for this trip a bit differently in his letter to Sophie Brentano, née Mereau on 31 October 1804 (letter 387i.), namely, that Friedrich “had left Madam Veit in Cologne and was now visiting Madam de Staël in Coppet to see whether he, too, might somehow get in with her entourage.” Back.

[2] Concerning Johann Jakob Wagner’s break with Schelling, notably on the occasion of Schelling’s Philosophie und Religion (Tübingen 1804), which Friedrich mentions below, see Schelling’s letter to Carl Joseph Windischmann on 16 September 1804 (letter 387c) and his letter to Hegel on 3 March 1804 (letter 382c), note 4.

Dorothea’s reference to the “gentlemen” almost suggests she is associating Wagner’s opposition to Friedrich with Schelling’s as well, which was not the case. Wagner was opposed to the Romantic understanding and practice of the poetic arts in any case, and to Friedrich specifically. In his System der Idealphilosophie (Leipzig 1804), he remarks that “[i]n modern art, the masculine principle is discernible as philosophy, the feminine as feeling” (p. 252), then glosses in footnote 253*:

Recently, the study of philosophy and art has presented us with products in which these two elements manifest themselves completely as a caricature. One need but recall the poetic works of the two Schlegels, Tieck, and their consorts. In Lucinde this affectation of philosophy was pushed to the point of tainting and spoiling the natural, and Alarcos is the monstrous product of a particular study of art that thinks it has comprehended the spirit by ascertaining mere mannerism. Tieck’s poetic offspring derive from the belief that philosophy can produce poets, and the sonnets of all three men together reveal the anxiety and embarrassment of a paltry nature that is intent on acting as if it blessed with abundance.

A vehement critique of precisely these remarks appeared in an anonymous (Wagner suspected: Schellingian) review of his book in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1804) nos. 135, 136 (10, 13 November 1804), 1075–77, 1083–86; he responded in the same journal (1804) 148 (11 December 1804), 1187:

Since my own aesthetic philosophy derives from my view of philosophy in the larger sense, which rejects Schelling’s Platonizing, it does indeed also vehemently oppose those particular distortions of art caused by the speculation of which Messieurs Tieck, Schlegel, and their consorts are guilty, and does so quite unconcerned about the fact Herr Schelling, who is related to those gentlemen by his own skewed views, may take their freakish products under his wing. Back.

[3] Clemens Brentano had married Sophie Mereau on 11 December 1803. Dorothea earlier uses another variation of the “monkey” metaphor to refer to Sophie Mereau; see Friedrich and Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 25 August 1800 (letter 266b), esp. with note 10. Back.

[4] Sophie Mereau had become pregnant in 1803 by Clemens Brentano. Even so, she apparently was not immediately convinced of the necessity of marriage or even that Brentano would make an appropriate husband.

During the autumn of 1803, Brentano seems to have comprehended only slowly that she was pregnant in the first place, she hitherto only having made allusions to her condition in letters. When she finally did resolve to marry him, she did so despite intimations of a troubled marriage to come, indeed, viewing the future as an “abyss” (A. M. Pachinger, Die Mutterschaft in der Malerei und Graphik [Munich, Leipzig 1906], 70):


See in this regard esp. Julia Augart, Eine romantische Liebe in Briefen: zur Liebeskonzeption im Briefwechsel von Sophie Mereau und Clemens Brentano (Würzburg 2006), 187–89. Back.

[5] After her second husband’s death on 29 November 1803, Henriette Vermehren married the Jena professor of mathematics Johann Heinrich Voigt in 1804; although some sources date this third marriage to 1805, Dorothea seems to be talking about the remarriage as a fait accompli. Back.

[6] Christiane Louise Asverus seems to have paid Karoline Paulus a visit in Würzburg; that is, the reference is not to her husband, Ferdinand Asverus, having received a faculty appointment there. Back.

[7] Johann Wilhelm Ritter had taught briefly in Jena during the winter of 1803–4 but was still having financial difficulties; in 1805 he received an appointment to the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Munich, at which time he reemerges in Caroline’s letters. Back.

[7a] Illustration: Carlo Goldoni, Opere complete, vol. 6 (Venice 1909), 47:



[8] Amanda und Eduard. Ein Roman in Briefen, 2 vols., ed. Sophie Mereau (Frankfurt 1803) (third illustration: Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1804: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet [Frankfurt]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):





[9] The character’s name is actually Antonio. Concerning the relationship between Friedrich Schlegel and Clemens and Sophie Brentano (formerly Mereau) in Jena, see Dorothea’s letter to Clemens Brentano on 25 July 1800 (letter 265f), esp. the editorial note, and Clemens Brentano’s letter to Stefan Winkelmann in February 1802 (Achim von Arnim und die ihm nahe standen, ed. Reinhold Steig and Herman Grimm, 3 vols. [Stuttgart 1894–1904], 78; illustration: Göttinger Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1798, Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

What I otherwise know is that you were quite right back when you said that you found the Schlegels’ [Friedrich and Dorothea, thought they were not yet married at the time] meddling in all this [Clemens’s interest in Sophie Mereau] suspicious, since now I know for certain that he thoroughly abused me in my friendship with him. . . . [later letter:] These people consider themselves the highest tribunal of love, and, as I now know, sabotaged my relationship with Mademoiselle Mereau. For Friedrich loved her himself.


See also the supplementary appendix on Eduard d’Alton concerning his role in Dorothea’s novel, Florentin. Ein Roman herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel, vol. 1 (Lübeck, Leipzig 1801) (vol. 2 never appeared). Back.

[10] Concerning Johann Heinrich Voss’s connection with Würzburg at this time, see the pertinent discussion in the supplementary appendix on the “ladies’ war in Würzburg.” Voss had moved from Eutin, just north of Lübeck and northeast of Hamburg, to Jena in 1802 (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Although he did not accept an appointment in Würzburg, what Friedrich apparently did not realize when writing this letter was that H. E. G. Paulus was quite keen on having Voss, a rationalist ally and an earlier friend from Jena, appointed in Würzburg to counter the influence (or even implementation) of the new educational plan for secondary schools being promulgated.

See Kuno Fischer’s discussion of this plan in the supplementary appendix on Bavarian Catholic opposition to Schelling.

It was precisely because of that plan that Voss declined the offer of an appointment in May 1804, then visited Würzburg that summer, thereafter publishing an extremely critical, three-part review of the Lehrplan für alle kurpfalzbayrischen Mittel-Schulen, oder für die sogenannten Real-Klassen (Prinzipien), Gymnasien, und Lyceen: Vom Kurf. General-Schulen- u. Studien-Directorium entworfen (München 1804), in the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1805) nos. 77, 78, 79 (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 1, 2, 3 April 1805), 1–23, prompting a defensive response from the educational directorate in Munich. Back.

[11] Philosophie und Religion (Tübingen 1804), in which Schelling moves in the direction of theosophical speculation; the publication had already prompted Johann Jakob Wagner to break with Schelling (see note above). Back.

[12] Dey, Arabic/Turkish, a ruling official or military leader of the Ottoman Empire in northern Africa. Back.

[13] See Friedrich’s reference to Schelling suffering from an “attack of irreligion” in a letter to Schleiermacher from Jena on ca. 15 November 1799 (letter 255c). Back.

[14] Schelling had lectured on the philosophy of art during the winter semester 1802–3 in Jena and then repeated the lectures in 1804 and 1805 in Würzburg, though they were not published until after his death. Friedrich likely knew about Schelling’s efforts from Wilhelm Schlegel, to whom Schelling had written in that regard on 3 September 1802 (letter 369d); see the pertinent section in that letter. Back.

[15] Both Friedrich and Dorothea increasingly include maliciously petty comments such as these in their letters to Karoline Paulus. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott