Letter 400h

400h. Dorothea and Friedrich Schlegel to Karoline Paulus in Würzburg: Cologne, 23 February 1806 [*]

Cologne, 23 February 1806

[Dorothea] . . . Since we have no idea what conditions will be forthcoming, neither can we determine yet whether Friedrich will be accepting the position here; although it is certainly true that in these bad times one must probably be content with moderate terms, if they end up being too poor, one cannot ask Friedrich to squander his best years and his precious time on such shabby nonsense and simply let himself be buried in Cologne.

In that case, however, something else must admittedly be risked; we are still hopeful that things will turn out well. But things just move so slowly here, so unbearably slowly! All these unresolved circumstances are something quite unpleasant and awkward for someone who is not rich, and invariably bring about an especially ruinous disorganization in one’s household. Instead of angelic patience, one ought to speak of Colognian patience, since even angels would become impatient here. —

A few days before your last letter, we had already learned of the changes with Würzburg from the newspapers, and were not a little worried about you. [1] Although I wanted to write to you immediately, I, as one often does, imagined things from a distance to be quite different and more exaggerated than they perhaps were, and we thought that perhaps you had already left, so I really did not know where I could address my letter.

What will you two be doing now? Will chance perhaps smile on us and bring us closer together again? But how is one to maintain such a hope? —

Actually, it would be an extremely tasteless trick indeed on the part of the former ruler of Würzburg were he not to provide for his professors! Although one must admittedly be prepared for all sorts of rottenness now, that truly would be disgraceful! One would think he would be ashamed even in his own eyes; at the very least, you should have your entire salary until you have found an appropriate position! One hears that Erlangen is to become Bavarian; is that true? And will you not receive a position there? —

What a remarkable time this is! This never-ending exchanging and mixing up among states! How is it possible for a territorial lord to become attached to his state, or for the citizens to become attached to their lord? For next week they may very well belong to a different one. Wars are no longer a profound chess game, but a card game, and after every game the pictures and trumps are redistributed anew, and each player plays them as fast as he can. In the meantime, the bets accumulate, and someone ultimately has to pay. [2] This time, it is poor, deceived Austria.

Ah, but the game is not completely over yet; things are looking quite bellicose in the world again, and the wishes of the opposing parties now concur in insisting that neutral egoism be properly given the once over! [3]

We suspect that the Schellings will dust off their old plan and move to Rome. [4] Godspeed, if such be the case. I would, however, very much like to be a fly on the wall when Madam Schelling, Madam Bernhardi, and Madam von Humbold get together; what a fine squabble that will be, since all three have the same pretensions and all three are equally full of gossip and intrigue; a delightful scene! [5] Be sure to write me immediately should our suspicion be confirmed so that we may properly enjoy this whole notion. —

That the Würzburgers are pleased with the restoration of their pictures of the saints is not only pardonable, but also quite natural; why were they taken from them with such violence in the first place?! This forced, coerced Enlightenment cannot anticipate any better results. [6] There was so much talk for so long about “freedom of conscience” and “tolerance,” but now that things have become serious, we find that we were demanding such things only for ourselves, and are by no means particularly inclined to let those partake of it who may think differently.

The Protestants demanded freedom of worship, received that freedom, and now they will not grant the same freedom to Catholics, indeed, they persecute and hate them precisely because they now demand that freedom. Let us be honest, Elisa! It is comical enough that one transformed the Capuchin into a harlequin. But why in the world did they have to perform that piece? [7] . . .

If one considers Catholics now, they can certainly be excused if they are disinclined to see their clerics, the educators of their youth, and their pastors made to look ridiculous, and the Capuchin friar is ridiculous, no one can deny that. How would we be crying out about barbarism if the Catholics put a Protestant pastor or a professor in their costumes and put them onstage and made them speak lines that a Hanswurst could just as easily speak?! [8] — Do you remember how I myself played the Capuchin in Bocklet? People could not stop telling me that I came across as a kind of Hanswurst; I never wanted to believe it, but now it has all become clear. [9] . . .

I hate our age’s Enlightenment from the bottom of my soul; nothing good has come of it, no, nothing, not a single thing! I prefer Catholicism precisely because it is so very old; nothing new is of any value. — We have not yet changed our religion, or rather, our confession; no one has asked us for a confession of faith, so we do not really feel entitled to make one; but should it be demanded, we are resolved [10] . . .

26 February

. . . That visitor was nothing but a student from Cologne who was in Würzburg a year ago, then went to Göttingen, and is now here. His name is Schmitz, he is a medical student, an arch-Schellingian, and a mighty braggart, it seems. We did not really get that involved with him, we found his whole manner displeasing. When he began talking about the Schellings, we did not respond, and instead started talking about something else.

In the meantime, however, we continue to hear about how the Schellings slander us and cannot cease being acharné against us, [11] nor do they shy away from spreading even the most vulgar lies about us, and rail against every work Friedrich publishes. [12] It is no doubt not without ulterior motives that they let themselves sink so low to relate such things to wholly ordinary students, students with whom one is normally not on such terms. But if their intention is to harm us in Cologne, then they have badly miscalculated; nothing is more useful to us here than not to be respected precisely by Schelling and his “-ians.” They have criticized Europa, [13]Lessing,” this marvelous piece! [14] and fell like Harpies upon my romantic pieces, which admittedly were published under Friedrich’s name. [15] . . .

[Friedrich’s postscript:] Finally, allow me to send my warm regards as well, though I will not intrude into your dogmatic dispute with my wife. You yourself can see what sort of sermon you have prompted. But just to prove how infectious such disputation and sermonizing can be, let me at least add just this one thing from my own repertoire — when you view us as being a bit partial toward the Catholics, I can only confess that this is in part indeed the case, based on personal friendship — —

I have encountered such universal respect and such ardent friendship only among these utterly condemned people. My former and so-called “friends,” however, including all the Calvinists, Lutherans, Moravians, theists, atheists, and idealists, excepting perhaps solely my one biological brother (who is a very poor Calvinist), have all behaved like a true band of gypsies toward me. [16]

I do at least hope that the most recent explosion, amid which all the pagans were expelled, does not include you, and that your former gaiety and cheerfulness have remained the same. [17] . . .


[*] Source: Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 81–90 (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):



[1] Rudolf Unger, Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 165, points out that from January till 1 October 1806, H. E. G. Paulus remained in Würzburg service as a professor with his previous salary but without a definite position, assuming that the Bavarian government would provide for him now that Würzburg had changed hands.

Although the possibility of an appointment in Erlangen arose in July 1806, it did not materialize, and Erlangen, which since 1791 had been Prussian territory, in any case was occupied by French troops in the autumn of 1806 and in 1807 incorporated along with Bayreuth into France (it did not return to Bavaria until 1810).

Paulus was given similar assurances in August 1806, but it was not until November that he received a provisional appointment as a professor in Altdorf. On 3 March 1807 he was definitively appointed consistory and educational counselor in Bamberg and genuinely put to work again. The interim period was difficult and depressing for the family. Here the possibilities (A. von Coulon, Post-Karte von Baiern [1810]):



[2] This imagery is taken from the card game l’Hombre, an extremely popular but complicated card game at the time played by three persons but only forty cards, viz., without the eights, nines, and tens (illustration: Carlo Goldoni, Opere complete, vol. 6 [Venice 1909], 47):



[3] See Rudolf Unger, Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 165:

Following the Peace of Basel in 1795, Prussia had renounced any active policies over against France in order to secure “egoistically” the neutrality of northern Germany by means of a line of demarcation. Despite Austria’s expectations, it did not enter the Third Coalition against Napoleon, and instead, after a feeble attempt at mediation, concluded an alliance with France on 15 December 1805, i.e., before what was for Austria the extraordinarily costly and humiliating Treaty of Pressburg (26 December 1805), followed by the even more repressive Treaty of Paris on 15 February 1806. These maneuvers, however, could merely delay the violent confrontation with Napoleon’s rapacious and faithless policies, and on 9 October 1806 Prussia was forced to declare war.

That declaration of war, as seen in later letters and documents, was a disaster for Prussia. Back.

[4] Concerning Caroline and Schellings’s latest plans for Rome, see Schelling’s letter to Georg Friedrich von Zentner on 19 January 1806 (letter 400d) (William Shepherd, Germany and Italy in 1803, Historical Atlas [New York 1926]):



[5] Concerning the three Tieck siblings in Rome at this time, see Caroline’s letter to Julie Gotter on 1 December 1805 (letter 399), note 17. Concerning the presence of Wilhelm and Caroline von Humboldt in Rome at this time, see Schelling’s letter to Georg Friedrich von Zentner on 19 January 1806 (letter 400d), note 12.

In her letter to Luise Gotter from Munich on 10 July 1807 (letter 423), Caroline’s report about the interaction among the families in the German colony in Rome begins with the words, “The Germans and other artists in Rome, including the ladies Humbold and Bernhardi, carried on an impenetrable tangle of intrigue, folly, and commotion among themselves” (Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1831: der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet):


[6] Bavaria had tried to reshape the trenchantly traditionally Catholic disposition of university in Würzburg on the basis of Enlightenment principles, notwithstanding that Bavaria itself was predominantly Catholic. This attempt put Bavaria at odds not only with the traditionalists in Würzburg, but also with Schelling, whom the Bavarian administration had mistaken for an Enlightenment-influenced philosopher after the model of Kant. See esp. Kuno Fischer’s discussion of Catholic opposition to Schelling in Bavaria. Back.

[7] The reference is to the character of the Capuchin friar in act 1, scene 8 of Schiller’s play Wallensteins Lager (Tübingen 1805) (“Wallenstein’s camp”), the first part of Schiller’s Wallenstein trilogy.

Dorothea is reacting, it seems, to a report from Karoline Paulus concerning the Würzburg performance of the piece. Karoline Paulus seems to have thought that the performance or manner of portrayal had “transformed the Capuchin,” i.e., the character of the Capuchin friar, into a comical or even ridiculous harlequin, i.e., satirized the Catholic friar perhaps even more than is already the case in the scene.

Schiller’s piece had been performed in the Würzburg theater as part of the New Year’s celebration on 1 January 1806, then repeated on 19 January 1806. The Piccolomini, the second part of the trilogy, was performed on 2 and 22 February 1806, Wallensteins Tod (Wallenstein’s death), the third part, on 23 February 1806, the day Dorothea is here writing (I. G. Wenzel Dennerlein, Geschichte des Würzburger Theaters von seiner Entstehung im Jahre 1803–4 bis zum 31. Mai 1853 nebst einem chronologischen Tagebuch und einem Anhang: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des deutschen Theaters [Würzburg 1853], 16–17). In her extant letters Caroline does not mention having seen these performances.

Dorothea is indignant that the Würzburg theater had performed a piece with a scene with an essentially anti-Catholic bias in the first place in Würzburg itself, especially after it had been decided less that a week before, on 26 December 1805 in the Treaty of Pressburg, that Würzburg would be ceded by Enlightenment-influenced Bavaria to Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Catholic brother of the emperor himself, to which Dorothea alludes earlier in this letter. Here the Capuchin delivering his speech (K. A. Böttiger, “Könnte nicht drein schlagen? etc.,” Minerva für das Jahr 1811 [Leipzig 1811]):


Concerning the notion of the “Capuchin’s discourse,” which in the meantime had become a satirical reference, see Schelling’s “To the Public” on May 1805 (letter/document 393b), note 5. For a translation of the text of this discourse in Schiller’s play, see supplementary appendix 400h.1. Back.

[8] Hanswurst (Hans Wurst), the clown that extemporized in plays in an often obscene, vulgar fashion and was the object of a campaign by Johann Christoph Gottsched during the 1730s to have it banned from the stage altogether. In his letter to Schelling on 1 February 1806 (letter 400e), Lorenz Oken used the English name for the same character, “Jack Pudding”; see note 2 there. Hanswurst was usually dressed in an appropriately comedic style (illustration from Friedrich W. Ebeling, Floegels Geschichte des Grotesk-Komischen, 4th ed. [Leipzig 1887], plate following p. 174):



[9] Uncertain reference, apparently to an amateur theater in Bocklet similar to that in Bamberg with which Auguste was supposed to perform the lead role of Nina during the summer of 1800 before falling ill (see Dorothea’s letter to Auguste in June 1800 [letter 263]). On 20 July 1801, Dorothea, after being ill, journeyed to Franconia and Bocklet with Philipp Veit and H. E. G. Paulus, where Karoline Paulus and her daughter, Sophie, were already staying. Dorothea returned with Friedrich on 22 August 1801. Back.

[10] Not surprisingly, Friedrich and Dorothea converted to Catholicism on 16 April 1808 in Cologne. See Dorothea’s remarks about Catholicism in her previously mentioned letter to Auguste in June 1800 (letter 263). Back.

[11] Fr., “doggedly, tenaciously, relentlessly.” Back.

[12] See Friedrich to Wilhelm Schlegel on 27 February 1806 (Krisenjahre 1:294):

The Protestant professors in Würzburg will probably all jump; the consistory has already been dissolved. Hufeland will be going to Landshut, and the Schellings, too, people say, will be leaving. The latter, by the way, seem to be surpassing even themselves in their vulgarity with their low and base reproaches and lies about me; most of that, however, is probably to be attributed to Karoline. Back.

[13] Friedrich’s periodical, Europa: eine Zeitschrift, ed. Friedrich Schlegel (1803–5). Back.

[14] Friedrich Schlegel, “Ueber Lessing” Lyceum der schönen Künste 1, no. 2 (Berlin 1797), 76–128; conclusion published in his Charakteristiken und Kritiken, 221–81. Back.

[15] See William Smith, A Smaller Classical Dictionary of Biography, Mythology, and Geography, 11th ed. (London 1868), s.v. “Harpies”:

Harpies, that is, the Robbers or Spoilers, described by Homer as carrying off persons, who had utterly disappeared.

Thus they are said to have carried off the daughters of Pandareos, which is represented on one of the Lycian monuments, now in the British Museum. Hesiod represents them as fair-locked and winged maidens; but subsequent writers describe them as disgusting monsters, being birds with the heads of maidens, with long claws and with faces pale with hunger. They were sent by the gods to torment the blind Phineus, and whenever a meal was placed before him, they darted down from the air and either carried it off, or rendered it unfit to be eaten. Phineus was delivered from them by Zetes and Calais, sons of Boreas, and 2 of the Argonauts.

Later writers mention 3 Harpies; but their names are not the same in all accounts. Virgil places them in the islands called Strophades, in the Ionian sea, where they took up their abode after they had been driven away from Phineus.

(Carl Ottfried Müller and Carl Osterley, Denkmäler der alten Kunst, 3rd ed., ed. Friedrich Wieseler [Göttingen 1877], vol. 2, no. 2, plate 896):


Here Aeneas is threatened by a band of harpies (Adam Elsheimer, Aeneas von Harpyen bedroht [1680]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur Museumsnr. / Signatur JSKüsel AB 3.73):



[16] Rudolf Unger, Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 169, suggests the reference here may well be to former colleagues among the early Romantic circle and beyond, including Schleiermacher, Ludwig Tieck, Fichte, Johann Wilhelm Ritter, and Henrik Steffens. Friedrich seems to be jestingly referring to Wilhelm Schlegel as a “poor Calvinist” because Wilhelm had since May 1804 been part of the entourage of Madame de Staël, whose chateau Coppet, is located on Lake Geneva, just up the shore from Geneva itself, the original center of Calvinism (Carte des environs du lac de Genève (n.d.); here as “Copet”):



[17] The reference is likely to the Catholic restoration in Würzburg to which Dorothea earlier alludes (“pictures of the saints”) inaugurated by the transfer of Würzburg to Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott