Letter 389a

389a. Dorothea Schlegel to Karoline Paulus in Würzburg: Cologne, 13 January 1805 [*]

Cologne, 13 January 1805

I am expecting Friedrich any day now; he was sick in Paris and wrote me on the 29th of December that he had recovered and would soon be departing, but since then I have no further letters from him. [1] Because I am now so impatient, restive, and ill-tempered — I must do something to refresh myself, and that would be to chat with you a bit. —

You praise my calmness, my love of solitude — but so often all of that, too, just seems to abandon me, and a restlessness, or yearning, overcomes me that I simply cannot quell; and then I simply no longer know what I want, and I seem to be unsuccessful at everything I try, till even my wishes and hopes seem hardly worth thinking about. I could improve were I around you, that much I can sense. —

It is a great favor you do for me by telling me all about the debates within the scholarly republic, since otherwise I hear absolutely nothing of these things, and it is, after all, always so amusing — or annoying, depending on how one feels about it at the time. That it has become an empire, as you say, is certainly funny enough; I wonder whether the other powers will also recognize it.

I suppose one has to put up with the fact that there is so much talk about Schelling in this new empire; after all, people also talk a lot about yellow fever! Indeed, an epidemic! [2] I know absolutely nothing about Alexander von Humbold’s philosophy of nature. But Friedrich will relate all that to me, since he has seen him quite often in Paris. [3]

Nor have I read anything by your Fischer, nor even know what he has written. Since when do you think I am so enormement learned that I will have read all these things so quickly? [4] It just shows you have not seen me in a long time. I read precious little, and am especially unfamiliar with the most recent literature. —

Marcus’s letter greatly pleased me; he really is quite witty, that you cannot deny. I am, however, nonetheless angry with him for having gotten mixed up in such a gossip cauldron; [5] how could he allow himself to be manipulated like that? [6] That it was supposed to be merely a “jest” is a poor excuse, and a poor jest at that, if such it really is supposed to be. Although it is laudable enough that he saved himself, he will always remain marked. How did it happen that he went over to their side? [7] How was it possible to draw him away from you? I am very glad indeed that he is now turning to your side again.

Just do not take it all so seriously, my dear, and try, especially since the great devil is in retreat, [8] to stay on good terms with everyone else, even if you might very well object to something about every one of them. But absolutely nothing good will really come about unless everyone sticks together, and one must simply take things as they are in the larger sense; although none of them counts for very much alone, as a party, if one must have one at all, they are, taken together, quite useful.

But just look at me giving you rules of prudence when I have so few myself and am able to apply even fewer. —

Word has it that Schelling will be taking a journey to Italy via France; that must doubtless be an occasion to withdraw from Würzburg amid a fanfare of drums and trumpets, or? [9] And will Madam Martha Schwerdtlein be going along as well? I mean, to Italy? [10] Or will she remain instead in the witch’s kitchen, perhaps skimming the cauldron and making the young monkeys behave? [11]

If, by the way, the Most Excellent One intends to lie about Friedrich, he certainly ought to do it in a more graceful way than with all his stupid, foolish prattle about “estranging students” or whatever it was he said; one need see Friedrich but a single time to know it is a lie. [12] Could he not perhaps have said instead that Friedrich courted Caroline and was jealous of him? [13] At the very least that would have been a more romantic lie.

But, then, he will eternally remain a “clumsy Swabian,” which is why all the oh-so-refined Lower Saxon cultivation of his instructress will come to naught and nothing. [14]

Tieck in Würzburg? at the Schellings’? no visit to you? Listen, unless you have seen him yourself, with your own two blue eyes, do not believe a word of it. He is too fond of you for that, and too cross with the Schellings. [15] That much I know, nor can time change anything about it. There is certainly some misunderstanding here; perhaps it was the sculptor Tieck, who has long been on good terms with the Schellings, [16] it seems increasingly likely to me that it was him rather than Ludwig Tieck, since the sister was with him, who as far as I know has been living with the sculptor in Weimar for a while. In a word — it likely is not, nor can it really have been Ludwig Tieck. [17] . . .

You see, my dear, the great ill is precisely that Friedrich cannot even reckon the enemies of his enemies as friends in this war with the crowd. He really is standing all alone, so one really cannot hold it against him if he often becomes bitter. His enemies are as busy as ants, and his so-called friends think they have performed some sort of miracle if they hammer out a verse or two for him or ape this or that fragment. No one offers real help. —

The special school where he is supposed to receive an appointment has still not come about; [18] and if, as we hear, the war becomes more generalized, at least for now there will be no more talk at all of establishing any school, and then we will be back where we were, and all that time and energy and effort will have been for naught. We cannot wait much longer for some sort of support to materialize, and yet it still seems as if nothing is going to work; there is certainly no lack of sincere effort. His study of Samscritt [Sanskrit] demanded really great sacrifice, and now who knows whether it will ever be rewarded? [19] . . .

But it is a sad, precarious existence, being so dependent on booksellers, at least for him, who is always working and yet is simply incapable of arranging his works such that he gives the booksellers what they want at a particular time; [20] and so all this worrisome torment and slavery that are constantly beating him down will, I fear, ultimately damage his spirit. —

But keep all my complaints here secret, dear heart, I am lamenting to you, and to no one else, regardless. I am lamenting to you because I need to, and my heart really does already feel lightened — sometimes I think he is doing so poorly because of me, and that I was wrong to combine my own ill luck in worldly matters with his — and I would absolutely despair were I not aware of how I love him as no other person can, and that I would do anything, anything for him. —

Stay well, dear, grieve not for me, it is not as bad as it perhaps seems to me just now in this moment of ill humor and impatience. . . .

Apropos [21] Huber is dead; [22] Wilhelm should marry his widow, that would certainly be another interesting match for him. [23] . . .


[*] Source: Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 37–42.

In part a sadly eloquent testimony to Dorothea’s dreary circumstances and depressed state of mind during her period in Cologne. As Carola Stern, “Ich möchte mir Flügel wünschen”: Das Leben der Dorothea Schlegel (Reinbeck 1990), 221ff., points out, in Cologne Dorothea was a divorced Jew among Catholics who had expelled Jews from the town during the Middle Ages and did not accept divorce in any case, and a converted Protestant among those same Catholics who largely viewed Protestants as commercial competitors in a town that was, frankly, not doing well economically:

In Cologne, where, after all, everything was supposed to take a turn for the better for Dorothea and Friedrich, Dorothea reached the low point of her entire life. Everything that had previously constituted such an important part of her existence — salons and circles, Romantic conviviality, lady friends and friendship unions — she now had to do without; never again will she be this poor, this lonely, this despairing. . . .

[After borrowing money from so many friends, much of it never repaid,] Friedrich and Dorothea saw only that those others were living in incomparably better circumstances. They, the Schlegels, were living in a tiny apartment, in a single room. The Schellings were living in Würzburg in a stately apartment with rooms connected by French doors. They, the Schlegels, had hardly a penny to their name, whereas August Wilhelm, whom Madame de Staël had engaged as tutor for her son and as her own literary colleague, received an annual salary of twelve thousand francs. Professor Paulus, too, had a healthy salary.

As Stern also points out, however, it was in Cologne that Friedrich and Dorothea eventually converted to Catholicism on 16 April 1808. Back.

[1] Concerning Friedrich’s journey, see Dorothea and Friedrich’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 20 September 1804 (letter 387d), note 1. Back.

[2] A tongue-in-cheek reference to current publications on the subject from scholars associated with Schelling: Carl Eschenmayer, “Appendix zu den Schriften über das gelbe Fieber,” Jahrbücher der Medicin als Wissenschaft, ed. Schelling and Adalbert Friedrich Marcus, 1 (1806), 2, 37–57, an article Schelling himself had in his possession for some time; also Adalbert Friedrich Marcus, Beyträge zur Erkenntniss und Behandlung des gelben Fiebers (Jena 1805) (preface dated April 1805), also published in Marcus’s own journal, Magazin für specielle Therapie und Klinik 2 (1805) 1, 1–202 (in which, significantly, he unequivocally distanced himself from the Brunonian method of defective or excessive excitation). Back.

[3] Alexander von Humboldt had returned to Europe on 3 August 1804 after a five-year research trip that took him to the Canary Islands, South America, the Caribbean, and Central and North America; he arrived in Paris on 7 August 1804, remaining there until 15 March 1805; see Therese Huber’s letter to Therese Forster on 3 September 1803 (letter 380h):

There is no great man whom he [Schelling] does not deride, no scholar whom he does not treat like a schoolboy. I could enumerate a thousand traits of this extraordinary arrogance. According to him, . . . Humboldt, returning from a voyage of 5 years into the interior of South America, having seen things no person had ever seen before, having had experiences in places where no human had ever set foot, was ridiculed for having run all over the world while a certain Steffens had seen exactly the same thing a priori in his office study

See also note 7 there. With respect to the philosophy of nature, Karoline Paulus may have been querying Dorothea about previous works such as Humboldt’s Versuche über die gereizte Muskel- und Nervenfaser, nebst Vermutungen über den chemischen Prozess des Lebens in der Thier- und Pflanzenwelt (Berlin 1797). Back.

[4] Enormement, Fr., “enormously”; in French in the original. Back.

[5] Dorothea is referring to the scandal involving Adalbert Friedrich Marcus and Konrad Joseph Kilian; see supplementary appendix 383f.1. Back.

[6] I.e., manipulated by Schelling. Back.

[7] I.e., to the Schellingian faction. Marcus was previously good friends with the Paulus family, and, as seen later, likely duplicitous with Caroline. In any event, concerning his relationship with Karoline Paulus, see the supplementary appendix on Karoline Paulus’s reputation, esp. note 6 there. Back.

[8] Although Caroline and Schelling did not leave Würzburg until the spring of 1806, Schelling’s position was already clearly precarious, as has been amply demonstrated by the correspondence in this edition covering 1803 and 1804. Back.

[9] Caroline and Schelling’s journey to Italy had been planned since 1803 (see Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 22 April 1803 [letter 377b] and to Georg Friedrich von Zentner in mid-August 1803 [letter 380d]; also Caroline’s letters to Luise Wiedemann on 5 June 1803 [letter 379]; 19 June 1803 [letter 381]; and 8–17 September 1803 [letter 381]) but been thwarted by the war.

Concerning the route via a return route through France, see Johann Wilhelm Ritter’s letter to Hans Christian Örsted on 22 May 1803 (letter 378b).

Caroline and Schelling were still making plans for the trip in 1804 (see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 4 January 1804 [letter 382]) and 1805 (see Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter in August 1805 [letter 395]) and even 1809 (see her letter to Luise Wiedemann in mid-March 1809 [letter 441]) and Schelling’s letter to Philipp Michaelis on 29 November 1809 [letter 452]).

The trip never materialized. Concerning the initial hindrances, see Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 22 April 1803 (letter 377b), note 1. Now, in 1805, a third coalition had been formed against France between Great Britain — which had already been at war with France since May 1803 — Austria, Russia, and Sweden. See The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of World History, ed. William L. Langer, 2 vols. (New York 1975), 1:620:

[In 1805] Napoleon hastily broke up the camp of Boulogne and shelved his plans (genuine or pretended) for an invasion of England. The French armies under Davout, Soult, Lannes, and Ney, marched quickly to the Rhine to meet the Austrian armies under Archduke Ferdinand and General Mack. In Italy, Masséna commanded the French against the main Austrian army under Archduke Charles. Napoleon then took over the chief command in Germany, crossed the Rhine, and marched toward Bavaria, which had been invaded by the Austrians. Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden, Hesse, and Nassau supported the French (William R. Shepherd, “Germany and Italy in 1803,” Historical Atlas [New York 1923]; Würzburg at center):


That is, Schelling’s ultimate territorial superior, Prince Elector Maximilian, was supporting the French. In the meantime, Napoleon’s stepson, Eugène de Beauharnais, whom Caroline mentions later in her correspondence, was to become viceroy of Italy.

With these French military movements toward and through Bavaria, which culminated with Napoleon’s arguably greatest victory, at Austerlitz on 2 December 1805 against the combined Austrian and Russian armies, followed by the Treaty of Pressburg between France and Austria, the Schellings were living in a militarily precarious region, a military theater, moreover, that extended into Italy. The terms of the Treaty of Pressburg eventually prompted the Schellings to leave Würzburg for Munich. Back.

[10] Martha Schwerdtlein is a character from the early versions of Goethe’s Faust published as “Faust. Ein Fragment,” Goethe’s Schriften, vol. 7 (Leipzig 1790), 1–160. Dorothea is comparing Margarete’s (Gretchen’s) neighbor Marthe Schwerdlein (Dorothea spells the name “Martha Schwerdtlein”), and her somewhat base interest in finding a partner for Margarete, with Caroline’s imputed earlier interest in finding a partner, viz. Schelling, for Auguste (see Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 15 May 1800 [letter 259s]), but then conflates the character with another from the scene “Witch’s Kitchen” (see below).

In the Faust fragment, Margarete discovers a second box of jewelry Mephistopheles has planted in her room to help Faust seduce her, the first having been handed over to the priest by Margarete’s mother (Moritz Retzsch, Illustrations of Goethe’s Faust, engraved by Henry Moses (London 1843), plate 11):


Margarete arrives at her neighbor’s, Marthe Schwerdlein (Goethe’s Schriften 7:102–3; Faust: A tragedy in two parts; with the unpublished scenarios for the Walpurgis night and the Urfaust, Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, trans. John R. Williams [Ware, Hertfordshire 2007], 190; although what became known as Urfaust is not identical with “Faust. Ein Fragment,” the following passages are the same in both versions; the illustration by Eugène Delacroix [1828] depicts the later version in which Marthe [seated] and Gretchen [Margarethe] examine the boxes with Mephistopheles himself; second illustration: Moritz Retzsch, Illustrations of Goethe’s Faust, engraved by Henry Moses (London 1843), plate 12):


Margareta [enters]: Oh, Martha!

Martha: Gretchen, what’s the matter pet?

Margareta: Oh, Martha, I’m in such a sweat;
There’s another box of jewels for me!
A lovely box, it’s made of ebony,
Such precious things in it, I swear
They’re even finer than the others were.


Martha: Don’t show them to your mother, then,
Or else she’ll give them to the priest again.

Margareta: Look at this necklace, and this ring!

Martha: [dressing her in some jewels]
Oh Gretchen, you’re a lucky thing!

Margareta: I can’t wear them in public, that’s forbidden,
Or to church — I’ll have to keep them hidden.

Martha: Just you come over to my place
Whenever you like, and put your jewels on,
See yourself in the mirror and do up your face —
We’ll have our little bit of fun.
Then maybe at a wedding or a party
You gradually start to dress a bit more smartly —
A gold chain first, then pearl drops in your ear;
We’ll tell your mother that they weren’t too dear.

After arranging a meeting with the two women to facilitate Faust’s seduction of Margarete, Mephistopheles returns to Faust (Goethe’s Schriften, 7:114; Faust: A tragedy in two parts, 195):

Faust: Well, what’s the news? Did you get anywhere?

Mephisto.: Ah, bravo! All on fire — that’s what I like to see!
Soon Gretchen will be yours, I guarantee.
At Martha’s place, this evening — she’ll be there.
That woman’s born to be a go-between,
By far the finest pimp I’ve ever seen. Back.

[11] The witch’s kitchen is another scene in Goethe’s “Faust. Ein Fragment”; see Goethe’s Schriften, vol. 7 (Leipzig 1790), 63. The witch appears later in the scene to give Faust a magic potion, the monkey is responsible for tending the kettle. The stage directions read as follows (illustration from Goethe’s Works, ed. George Barrie, vol. 2 [Philadelphia 1885], 43; second and third illustrations: Moritz Retzsch, “Hexenküche,” Illustrations of Goethe’s Faust, engraved by Henry Moses [London 1843], plates 6 and 7):

Witch’s Kitchen

A large kettle stands over the fire on a low hearth. Various figures can be seen in the steam rising from the kettle. A female long-tailed monkey sits next to the kettle and skims off the foam lest it boil over. The male monkey sits next to it together with the young monkeys and warms himself. The walls and ceiling of the room are adorned with the strangest sorts of witches’ utensils.





[12] The reference is to Friedrich’s competition with Schelling in Jena in the autumn and winter of 1800/1801 as Friedrich tried to appropriate for himself, after Schelling’s absence, the students attending lectures in transcendental philosophy. See Caroline’s letter to Schelling in October 1800 (letter 273); Friedrich’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 10 November 1800 (letter 274a); and Friedrich’s letter to Schleiermacher on 23 January 1801 (letter 283a). Back.

[13] See in any case Caroline in Friedrich Schlegel’s Lucinde. Ein Roman. Back.

[14] Caroline was originally from Göttingen, in Lower Saxony. Back.

[15] See from quite early Ludwig Tieck’s letter to his sister, Sophie Bernhardi, and August Ferdinand Bernhardi on 6 December 1799 (letter 257c). Back.

[16] Friedrich Tieck had done the bust of Auguste under Caroline’s close supervision in Weimar and was still being considered for work on the memorial. Bertel Thorvaldsen would eventually complete the final tryptich and bust adaptation. Back.

[17] In the early winter of 1804, Ludwig Tieck, who had been living in Ziebingen, southeast of Berlin, accompanied his sister, Sophie Bernhardi, to southern Germany. Because her ill health allegedly required a warmer southern clime, the plan was to proceed on to Italy (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):


Moreover, she had separated from her husband, August Ferdinand Bernhardi, taken up with Karl Gregor von Knorring, and was already involved in a custody battle for the couple’s two children, Wilhelm and Felix Theodor Bernhardi. They travelled to Munich by way of Erlangen and Landshut (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):


Friedrich Tieck was to join them in Munich, but Ludwig’s gout flared up so severely in Munich that Sophie proceeded on the Italy in the spring of 1805 with Knorring and her children but without Ludwig and Friedrich, the latter of whom was delayed in Weimar. Ludwig and Friedrich Tieck left for Italy in late June 1805 with Carl Friedrich von Rumohr and the Riepenhausens. See also Dorothea’s letter (with Friedrich’s postscript) to Karoline Paulus on 24 March 1805 (letter 392a) (Dilligence [19th century]; Bibliothèque municipale de Bordeaux, Album d’illustrations diverses] [278]):



[18] In Cologne, the anticipated reopening of the university did not come about, and Friedrich was lecturing in part privately and in part as a professor at the secondary school, the école supérieure. Back.

[19] Dorothea soon reached a breaking point of sorts when on 4 February 1805 she finally wrote a desperate and awkward letter to Karoline Paulus herself asking for money (Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 43). Back.

[20] Anonymous engraving, 18th century:



[21] Fr., here: “on the subject, speaking of.” Back.

[22] Ludwig Ferdinand Huber had died on 24 December 1804 after having taken a trip to Leipzig in the autumn to take care of his deceased father’s affairs. See Caroline’s letter to Meta Liebeskind in early 1805 (letter 389). Back.

[23] Dorothea might have known something about Wilhelm’s possible liaison with Therese Huber, née Heyne, in Göttingen during his student days. See the possible insinuation in Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Wilhelm on 21 November 1792 (letter 188b); see also note 1 there. On the other hand, see Wilhelm’s account of his meeting with Therese Huber (and of her own reaction to the meeting) in his letter to Sophie Bernhardi on 15 May 1804 (letter 383f). Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott