Letter 399a

399a. Dorothea Schlegel to Karoline Paulus in Würzburg: Cologne, 1 December 1805 [*]

Cologne, 1 December 1805

. . . How are you living there? Have things calmed down for you again? [1] People here are saying that you had reconciled with the Schellings, and were now living quite cordially together. Is that right? And how do you feel about it? Although I still cannot quite believe it, it does seem it would be a good thing were it really true. Please do not forget to write and tell me how these things stand. [2]

We, too, have heard the rumor that Tieck has become Catholic, though nothing official yet. It does not seem to me that the public act would be particularly important, since he has already long been Catholic in his heart, and many others along with him. There is probably not much to Sophie Brentano’s Catholicism; she is simply one of those migratory birds who must fly wherever the wind blows. But it does seem better that this empty-headedness again come to faith, where at the very least she might learn a bit of humility instead of parroting empty prattle about paganism and unbelief and fancying herself a philosopher, though now I am admittedly utterly forgetting that Sophie Brentano will become as empty a Christian as she was a pagan. She will remain insignificant whether she believes or not. [3] . . .


[*] Sources: Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus 72–74 (complete letter); Reichlin-Meldegg 2:334 (abridged); Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 1:157–58.

Rudolf Unger, Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 161fn74.3, provides the correct resolution “Sophie Brentano,” that is, the former Sophie Mereau, which Raich, Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne, 1:158, had understandably carried over from Reichlin-Meldegg, 2:334, who had provided only the initials “S. B.,” as “S[ophie] B[ernhardi].” Back.

[1] The Paulus family had lost their apartment as a result of the flight of Prince Elector Maximilian and his court to Würzburg ahead of the advancing Austrian army in early September 1805; see Dorothea’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 12 October 1805 (letter 397c), note 2 and the pertinent section in the supplementary appendix on the Schellings’s residence in Würzburg.

Maximilian and his court had since returned to Munich; see Caroline’s letter to Julie Gotter on 1 December 1805 (letter 399), note 4. Back.

[2] Both Dorothea and Friedrich Schlegel suspected that the Schellings were behind Friedrich’s failure to secure a faculty appointment in Würzburg; see Dorothea’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 12 October 1805 (letter 397c) with additional cross references; hence one can understand Dorothea’s discomfiture at the prospect of the Pauluses having made peace with the Schellings. See in any case Dorothea’s later remarks in her letter to Karoline Paulus at Christmas 1805 (Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus 74–75):

I was not really serious with my remarks about the Schellings; I simply did not really know how things stood, or what the situation was, or whether perhaps external circumstances had made it necessary for you to conclude a separate peace that you were concealing from me lest I become depressed; hence the liberty I took in asking was merely to learn the truth from you about it. All the better if there is nothing to the whole thing; please do not become unfaithful to us, my dear! Should, as I said, you ever have to conclude such a peace, I myself would prefer to make peace as well rather than risk being separated from you. Back.

[3] Ludwig Tieck was in Rome from the summer 1805 to the summer of 1806. Rumor had it that he and Sophie Bernhardi had not only converted to Catholicism, but were also recruiting converts for the Catholic church; see Caroline’s letter to Pauline Gotter on 1 March 1809 (letter 440), and esp. Rudolph Köpke’s refutation in the notes to that letter (Tieck: Erinnerungen). Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott