Ten days were spent at Metz, where Charles de Villers gave her a crash course on Kant, not leaving her much the wiser. The sojourn in Frankfurt was extended to three weeks: Albertine went down with scarlet fever or so it was believed. The banker Bethmann, once less welcoming to an impecunious Friedrich Schlegel, received her. Hers to Germany may be compared with his in the other direction, except that his was voluntary, hers enforced. Both were driven by curiosity, he filled with the sense that the wealth of knowledge amassed in Paris should be made available to the Germans and on their terms , she with the awareness that the French needed to be made acquainted with the philosophy and literature of what was for so many an unknown country.
For it needs to be said that the recital there of German institutions—literary, educational, political—had a marked slant towards those persons and those places that she actually visited; and as with England there was to be next to no reference to the lower orders. The hope of meeting Jacobi 28 never came about.
But Weimar 14 December to 1 March was different. We may pass lightly over her unconventional attire and headdress, her volubility, her receiving visitors in bed—for a celebrity need not be conventional.
There was no love for the First Consul in Weimar, and everyone seemed to have read Delphine. Karl August and his duchess, Louise she would correspond with the duchess over a longer period , also the dowager duchess Anna Amalia 30 received her graciously. To show her good will, she translated ballads by both into French. Then there was Kant. She also mentioned her search for a tutor for her sons. One wonders what criteria were behind these sponsorships. Now, he was a professor. The diminished party left for Berlin on 1 March She did not come unannounced.
And she met August Wilhelm Schlegel. First impressions were more than favourable and she could write to her father on 23 March in these terms:.
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I have met here a man who displays more knowledge and wit in literary matters than anyone I know; it is Schlegel. Benjamin will tell you that he has some standing in Germany, but what Benj. I am doing what I can to urge him to come with me. Benjamin will enjoy his conversation on the subjects close to his heart, and most importantly, I am sure that he will not displease you, as his manners are simple and discreet, and it will give you pleasure to see each one of us in his study hard at work.
It was an arrangement that suited the situation of exile, where in his own way Schlegel would become indispensable.
But there were lessons to be learned and manners to be acquired. He would soon establish that she and her circle evinced a good deal of scepticism and worse for the cherished notions of poetry and art that he had been expounding in Jena and Berlin and were much more open in their judgments on things German and far less censorious.
The Coppet circle was not to be a continuation of Jena, nor was it a salon. Dogmatism, over-eager insistence, intolerance, gratuitous acerbity and polemics were not part of this style, as they had been in Jena and still were in Berlin. There would be time to think over the details of their working relationship. Assuming that she attended the very last part of his Berlin Lectures, and assuming that she was able to follow them, she would have heard his section on Italian poetry of which she was a ready recipient and on which she had already pronounced.
Had they thought about their differences? Except, of course, that both authors had moved on since then, or were in the process of so doing. Clearly, their notions of human progress diverged irreconcilably. She in her turn had meanwhile been attacked by Chateaubriand and was allergic to the aesthetic Christianity that he was propounding.
They could not even begin to agree on most of the crucial points for which she stood. She had sought to extract from the French Revolution as much as might be beneficial for France and for humankind in general, even when this involved perilous engagement in politics. He knew from the bans and edicts issued against Caroline and from the Fichte affair that German professors had to steer clear of political entanglements.
For Schlegel at this stage was not interested in questions of liberty, the cosmopolitan connotations of literature, or the social values of the novel, in old issues that still echoed in France under new guise, such as the Querelle des anciens et des modernes or the divide between North and South, especially a notion of the North that had Bards, Skalds, Danes, Scots and Ossian in unhistorical hugger-mugger.
There would be time for their views to converge on some points: for instance, knowing that she was concerned with the relation of Racine to Euripides may have been one factor among many in his decision to compare the two Phaedra stories. On French culture in general, there was his ostinato voice of hostility; and there was more to come in that Comparaison of and in the Vienna Lectures. Then there were the real red rags like her bracketing of Homer and Ossian! There would be time for both of them to become somewhat more accommodating.
Like her heroine Corinne in Italy she would become more conciliatory towards Catholicism.
At most perhaps Benjamin Constant, who spent the rest of the years after agonizing over whether he should or should not marry her, saw Schlegel as a potential rival. Their relationship has been seen as slavish devotion his to her , but also an increasing dependence she on him. It has led to all kinds of speculation about his sexuality or its lack , his willing domination, his submission to women, pathological traits which he may or not have had, his failure to enter into any kind of lasting bond.
It has permeated an old-fashioned vitalist literary criticism that sees Schlegel the translator or commentator as merely receptive, not creative. It takes us into areas which the modern biographer treads at his or her peril. For Schlegel was not the only man who was to be driven to near-distraction by her. She overturns biographical certitudes; she is a phenomenon of nature. Thus in one sense Schlegel was bound, yet in another he was free, free of the pressing need for ready income. He was no longer beholden to publishers and review editors, all and sundry, and could pick and choose, except of course when the subject was her Racinian roles or her novel Corinne.
It gave him security in uncertain times. His movements in the years were determined by her itineraries and her exiles. There were none of the frantic peregrinations of his brother Friedrich or the Tieck family. He escaped the worst of the political turmoil in Germany after and indeed until Thus it was that Schlegel could provide a solid ground, a focal point, moral and financial support even, for an extended Romantic circle, a Jena in diaspora. The real conditions of his service were set out before he left Berlin with her and her two children.
If he were to stay for only six months, he would receive 60 Louis, if permanently Louis annually about francs monthly. That devotion was soon to be put to the test. This led to a hasty departure for Weimar on 19 April. Her father meanwhile had died in Geneva on 9 April. Constant, hardly arrived back in Coppet, left at breakneck speed for Weimar, reaching there at midnight on 20 April.
They left for Gotha on 1 May and again were received at court. He found Schlegel hypersensitive if one of his favourite theories or poets was challenged, taking it as a personal affront. Clearly the German professor and the Franco-Swiss private scholar had yet to find the measure of each other. Constant did, and found his person as unappealing as his philosophy. Nevertheless he could not be aesthetically indifferent to his physical environment, the park, the bosky landscape extending to the lake, mountains such as he had never seen before.
It was his late equivalent of the Berliners Tieck and Wackenroder being overwhelmed by the Franconian countryside in , but this was on an altogether grander scale. What did he mean?
In fact he was to rely on two Genevan scholars, his fellow comparative linguist Marc-Auguste Pictet 71 and the immensely learned Guillaume Favre 72 to supply him with recondite antiquarian details. He had been allocated the bedroom formerly belonging to Madame Necker. He took his breakfast in his room at seven, not being required to appear with the rest of the company.
At three-thirty was the midday meal, at ten supper.
He had the mornings free until one, taught till three, with another hour later in the afternoon. As said, we do not know exactly what was the nature of his tutoring, and with his views on education he may have needed to rein in his learning. True, Albertine later confessed that she failed to see the Homeric qualities in the Nibelungenlied , 74 which suggests a Berlin lecture scaled down for children.
It is the human side of Schlegel, which tends to be lost sight of, the aspect that those many later testimonies to his vanity and self-importance either did not know about or chose to ignore. Sophie, not surprisingly, wanted money. It would not be done until Unger was hoping for volume nine of Shakespeare, 78 that was to contain King Richard III , a request Schlegel would be five years in fulfilling. It is difficult to place them in order of priority, for so often her schemes and plans opened up opportunities for him to make statements on his own native national literature.
First he had to surmount some adjustments to the life-style of Coppet. How much Schlegel knew of the company that he would be sharing, is open to question. He may not have been prepared for what seemed like a constant stream of visitors. Three figures who were or were to become major members of the Coppet group put in an appearance during the same summer. They would make Schlegel acutely aware of how different his background was from theirs and, despite his professorial erudition, how narrowly provincial in some respects.
He was about to publish an account of his Italian journey. Benjamin Constant had studied at Oxford, Erlangen and Edinburgh and had had a rapid career as a political publicist until Bonaparte put paid to it. Hardly any of the remarks about Schlegel in their journals or correspondence is respectful. A fourth, Mathieu de Montmorency, from one of the great French aristocratic houses, had served in the American War of Independence and had been deeply involved in the French Revolution. It was to him that Schlegel later addressed the extraordinary letter of August in which he contemplated a return to the bosom of the church.
Free social and intellectual concourse Coppet and its circle certainly afforded, yet it had occasionally also the atmosphere of a court presided over in regal style by One who yielded only to Napoleon—and that unwillingly.