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Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 27 - Matthias Goerne

Schubert & the Schlegels
Matthias Goerne (baritone), Christine Schäfer (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
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Label: Hyperion
Recording details: March 1995
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown & Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner & Antony Howell
Release date: November 1996
Total duration: 77 minutes 4 seconds

Volume 27 of the Schubert Edition is devoted to settings of the famous Schlegel brothers, August and Friedrich, whose lives and work are written about at length in Graham Johnson’s notes, with much information never presented before in English. Some of Schubert’s greatest and most attractive songs appear on this disc, including the three Petrarch sonnets (two of them translated by August Schlegel, the delightful but almost unknown Wiedersehen, and the sublime Im Walde.

All of the music on this album is also available as part of the specially priced box set The Complete Songs of Franz Schubert: ‘This is an archive of glorious Lieder singing as much as it is a definitive treasury of the greatest Lieder ever composed’ (The Guardian).


‘Another jewel in the Schubert Edition crown’ (BBC Music Magazine)

‘A most valuable addition to the series, one of the most important achievements in the history of recording’ (Classic CD)

‘Wonderfully sung’ (Hi-Fi News)

‘This further instalment of Hyperion's glorious Schubert enterprise brings us superb singing, magnificent accompanying and quite a few rarities from Schubert's sumptuous bounty … an awesomely beautiful Lob der Tränen … [a] profoundly poetic interpretation of Die Sterne. Graham Johnson's notes are as meticulous as his playing, and the recording is top class’ (Musical Opinion)

‘How many recitals bring together the greatness of poet and composer, singer and performer, with such depth?’ (Soundscapes, Australia)

«Voix ductile et idéalement souple, tenue de souffle et de ligne vocale, Matthias Görne est déjà un grand liedersänger. Un très beau disque» (Répertoire, France)

'Joven artista de voz cálida, meravillosa dicción e impostación perfecta' (CD Compact, Spain)
It seems that brothers have often had a large part to play in the history of literature, but nowhere was this more so than in nineteenth-century Germany. The Goncourts were a great French phenomenon, of course, but they were no less remarkable than the brothers Grimm (who now adorn the banknotes of their country), and Germany can also boast many other pairs of siblings: the Stolbergs, the Humboldts, the Manns, and of course the Schlegels, August and Friedrich. For a great deal of their respective careers they were mutually dependent on each other; they were called the ‘Dioscuri of critics’, ‘die beiden Götter-Buben’ (‘the two heavenly lads’). Although neither was a poet pur sang, their lyrics inspired Schubert to music on a sufficient number of occasions to allow us to devote a disc in this series to their work. In modern times the important role that the Schlegel brothers played in the development of the intellectual life of the German-speaking world is little appreciated by their countrymen, let alone by the average English-speaking listener who would be more likely to know about Hegel than Schlegel (given a minimal interest in philosophy), and even more likely to know (or care) about neither.

The Schlegel family, Protestant and traditional, simple yet intellectually ambitious, came from Meissen in Saxony, not far from where Matthias Goerne, the singer on this disc, was born and brought up. The father Johann Adolf Schlegel merits an entry in the reference books in his own right as a theologian, translator, fabulist and aesthetician. There was also an uncle Elias, one of the most distinguished literary critics before Lessing. The family of seven children included two gifted girls who played a lively part in their brothers’ lives from time to time, pouring cold water on some of their more pompous ideas, and helping them out of financial difficulties.

An older brother, Carl August Schlegel (1761–1789), displayed typical family fortitude: he was an engineer in a Hanoverian regiment in the service of George III, made a map of the Indian interior, and died in Madras. The first edition of August Schlegel’s poetry (Tübingen, 1800) contains a memoir of Carl August, and a note about the sad circumstances of his death.

For the earlier period of their careers, the lives of August and Friedrich ran in biographical tandem. They both had a highly developed sense of family destiny, which is hardly surprising considering the intellectual distinction of their lineage. Friedrich found in his elder brother a ‘father, friend and teacher’, and they wrote verses to each other bolstering an unashamedly elitist Schlegelian pride. They saw themselves (as Friedrich wrote) ‘So wie zwei Kämpfer, die heimlich steigen / Zur Nacht die Felsenkluft empor, / Den Waffernbrüdern den Weg zu zeigen, / Und zu erspäh’n das stille Thor’ (‘Like two warriors stealthily climbing the ravine by night to show their comrades-in-arms the way, and to espy the secret gate’). August wrote to Friedrich in the autumn of 1802: ‘Du folgest deinen Zielen, / Und jedes Unternehmen / Des Forschersinns ist dein’ (‘You follow your goals, and every venture of the inquiring mind is yours’). This poem continues:

Und was wir beide ernten
Dem andern aufzuspeichern,
Ist uns wilkomm’ne Pflicht.
So mögen wir Entfernten
Einander doch bereichern.
And what we both reap
To store up for the other
Is our welcome duty,
Thus we may enrich each other
Though we are far apart.

August (1767–1845), Friedrich’s elder by five years, seemed at first to be the more gifted of the two, and in some ways he was. He went to university in Göttingen where his teacher Bürger named him his ‘Son in Apollo’. Together, professor and pupil worked on translating Dante and a German version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; this was to set the pattern for August’s greatest achievements in his later career. After four years as a private teacher in Amsterdam (where Friedrich wrote to him: ‘We stick to our habits in that you write a great deal and I read a great deal’) he moved to Jena in 1795 and established, together with his brother, the journal Athenäum, one of the most important organs of the new romantic school. He married the forthright Caroline Böhmer (née Michaelis) who was his fiercest critic and whose tactlessness exacerbated an explosive situation regarding the brothers’ low estimation of Schiller (in contrast to their strong admiration for Goethe). August contributed to Schiller’s Horen and Musenalmanach, but the great poet memorably named Caroline ‘Dame Lucifer’. In 1803 she was to leave Schlegel for the philosopher Schelling. In 1798 August was professor of philology in Jena. In 1801 he had a series of readings in Berlin (‘Über schöne Litteratur und Kunst’) which established him as a literary historian of some importance throughout Europe (these essays influenced Coleridge and Hazlitt, among others). In 1803 his classical drama Ion (inspired by Euripides) was produced in Weimar without much success. The importance of this period for the brothers, and for the fledgling school of Romanticism, is more fully covered in the section on Friedrich below.

It was after the Jena years that their paths diverged. August spent fourteen years in the company of Madame de Staël, either as a companion on her many travels, or at Coppet, her estate near Geneva. It seems that they were not lovers (she had a liaison with Benjamin Constant at that time) but that Schlegel was rather Staël’s counsellor and mentor in all matters pertaining to Germany; he was responsible for the education of her children, and the source of many of the ideas that emerged in her masterful De l’Allemagne (1813). It was a life that suited him: evening conversation at the highest level with the greatest minds of the age (who came to visit Madame de Staël in a never-ending stream), days largely free for reading and study (‘I can immerse myself for days at a time in Latin etymology’, he wrote in 1805) and a feeling, in mixing with the great and the good, that he was occupying the centre stage of European thought. In 1808 he gave an important series of lectures in Vienna anticipating his brother’s success in that city, and in 1812 he undertook a dramatic journey to St Petersburg and Moscow in the retinue of the Swedish King Bernadotte.

Between 1797 and 1810 August Schlegel produced his greatest work – the translation of seventeen of Shakespeare’s plays. In sending his brother’s version of Romeo und Julia to a friend, Friedrich proudly wrote: ‘Were I [the literary critic] Körner I would say “This Goethe cannot do”. But as I am Friedrich Schlegel I say to you “Friend, this is more than poetry”.’ These translations represent one of the greatest literary achievements of nineteenth-century Germany. Some of the most complicated passages, including English word-play, are seemingly effortlessly rendered with a grace and ease (and accuracy) that sometimes beggars belief. Novalis remarked of his earlier efforts: ‘I am convinced that the German Shakespeare is now better than the English one.’ August was not unaware of his own importance in this field, as may be deduced from these lines which rather underestimate the important roles of Lessing, Wieland and Bürger in Shakespearean translation, all of whom had provided a solid foundation for his work:

Der Erste der’s gewagt auf deutscher Erde Mit Shakespeares Geist zu ringen und mit Dante, Zugleich der Schöpfer und das Bild der Regel: Wie ihn der Mund der Zukunft nennen werde, Ist unbekannt, doch dies Geschlecht erkannte Ihn bei dem Namen August Wilhelm Schlegel.
The first who ever ventured to make and exemplify rules of translation into German whereby Shakespeare’s spirit and Dante’s were captive: how posterity will judge him, time will tell, but to this generation he was known as August Wilhelm Schlegel.

Sadly there is no Schlegel version of some of the greatest tragedies like Macbeth or King Lear (although there is a remarkable Hamlet). His work was completed by Dorothea, Ludwig Tieck’s daughter, and her husband Graf Wolf Baudissin. After the death of Madame de Staël August took up an appointment as professor of oriental literature at the newly established University of Bonn where he was renowned for his lectures given in the most elegant riding attire, attended by liveried servants. When he was granted patent of nobility in 1815 (and thus able to add the ‘von’ to his name) he refused even to open letters which omitted this courtesy. Such vanity in matters of personal appearance and station made him the butt of Heine’s mockery. This slightly ridiculous self-absorption, a family trait it seems, should not obscure Schlegel’s important contributions to the study of language and literature from all ages and countries. His translations of Spanish and Italian were almost as popular as his work on Shakespeare, and his devotion to Sanskrit and other oriental studies in the later part of his life broke new ground. He was one of the first to see writers in the broader terms of their historical and national contexts. This may have caused him to underestimate Milton, for example, who came from a Puritan and thus ‘unromantic’ background; but Schlegel’s work in contrasting such writers as Euripides and Racine established a new concept of comparative literature. His role as one of the founding fathers of Romanticism ensures for him an enduring place in German literary history.

As a poet in his own right August von Schlegel is no more highly estimated today than he was in his own time. His profound understanding of the ways and means of literature was not matched by a natural gift for original poetry. However, his work as a theorist and apologist contributed in no small way to the intellectual climate in which Schubert’s talents were to flourish, and it is inevitable that Schlegel poems reflect the new mood of literary and personal freedom which warmed the composer into musical action. This poet’s work is to be found rather haphazardly in Schubert’s oeuvre over a nine-year period. Of the ten August von Schlegel settings and translations, seven are included on this disc. Of the missing songs, Die verfehlte Stunde, D409 (1816), and Die gefangenen Sänger, D712 (1821), are respectively included in volumes 32 and 34 of this series. The last of all the Schlegel settings (from either brother) was August’s Abendlied für die Entfernte (September 1825) which may be found in volume 6. Why Schubert returned to Friedrich von Schlegel’s work in August 1825 and then set two poems by August a little while later (the first of these, Wiedersehn, is included here) is something of a mystery. Perhaps it implies that the composer continued to associate the brothers together in his own mind, long after they had ceased to be sympathetic to each other’s work.

Friedrich Schlegel was the youngest of seven children. By the precocious standards of his siblings he was a late developer, and his family despaired of his displaying any talent. Indeed he was a cause of worry in childhood, with frequent fantasies about suicide. At the age of fifteen he was sent to Leipzig to be apprenticed to a banker named Schlemm, and there he awoke from his adolescent torpor. From now on he was to be the most relentlessly energetic of all the Schlegels. His first passion was Plato and the literature of the Greeks, and he joined his brother at the University of Göttingen to study philology, history and philosophy. As a student he displayed stunning mastery of detail and the beginnings of a lifelong ability to synthesize smaller currents of history or thought into a seemingly inevitable and logical single stream with larger, even universal, significance. Schlegel aimed to be the Winckelmann of Greek literature, expounding the classical writers in the same way that the great historian had brought alive the artistic achievements of the ancients. He went on to study in Leipzig where he met Friedrich von Hardenberg (‘Novalis’) who made a deep impression on him. The respect was mutual, for Novalis wrote to him: ‘I have never known a man like you. For me you have been the High Priest of Eleusis. Through you I have learned of heaven and hell.’ Four years later Novalis was more critical of Schlegel’s writings: ‘They charm without satisfying: they break off at the exact moment when we were attuned to expect the highest – just an infinity of allusions and promises’. Even at this early point, Schlegel’s admirers regretted that even greater achievements did not flower as a result of the strivings of his ever-active brain.

In Berlin Friedrich Schlegel visited the salons of Henriette Herz and Rahel Levin. It was there that he met Dorothea Veit, the daughter of Moses Mendelssohn and the aunt-to-be of the yet unborn composer Felix Mendelssohn. Eight years older than Friedrich, Dorothea left her husband for him (the relationship occasioned an anti-Semitic outburst from Schlegel père). She became his lifelong companion (they were married only in 1804) and his most ardent and long-suffering propagandist. Friedrich’s dream of collaborating with his brother on a large project came to fruition with the publication of Athenäum. In six issues of this paper (1798–1800) were united the talents of the early Romantic school. Friedrich Schlegel was the theorist and philosopher, August Schlegel the philologist and critic; Friedrich Schleiermacher was the moralist and theologian of the Romantic academy, Ludwig Tieck its storyteller, and Novalis the esoteric mystic. At the core of Athenäum were Novalis’s Hymnen an die Nacht (some of which were set by Schubert in 1820), Friedrich Schlegel’s aphorisms under the title of Ideen, and his Gespräch über Poesie. The stream of his thoughts written down in a large number of notebooks become the famous Kritischen Fragmenten which enlarged on the irony of Lichtenberg and brought the aphoristic style of Chamfort to German literature. In the tantalizing and elusive art of the fragment, Schlegel’s mastery of small forms found its best expression; the fragment would later turn out to be (as Charles Rosen points out in The Romantic Generation) central to Romanticism itself, in music as much as literature.

Schlegel wrote: ‘Our poetry lacks a focus of the kind that mythology was for the ancients’; his aim was to seek a new mythology for new times. A new language was to be invented where poetry became a hieroglyphical expression of nature transfigured by ‘Phantasie und Liebe’. In his mysticism and redefinition of the meaning of symbolic forms, Schlegel opened a path that was to lead to the early work of Nietzsche and the French symbolists. This Schlegelianismus der Physik paired electrical sparks with flowers, and blossoms with the female form; precious stones were ‘mineral flowers’, and so on. Novalis and Schlegel planned a ‘Symphilosophie’ in which would occur wondrous ‘Mischungen und Entmischungen in physikalischen Chaos’ (‘blendings and unblendings in physical chaos’). This reflected also Dr Johnson’s definition, as Friedrich himself noted, of ‘Witz’, or humour – ‘a combination of dissimilar images or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike’ where ‘the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together’.

The Romantic circle soon centred on August’s house in Jena. In September 1799 Friedrich moved in, followed by Dorothea, then by Ludwig Tieck who had been more or less discovered by the brothers; his masterful translation of Cervantes’s Don Quixote stems from August Schlegel’s interest in Spanish literature. They were joined by the philosopher Schelling (this was to break up August’s marriage) who, like Friedrich Schlegel, suddenly found himself writing lyrics for the first time; both were considered rather clumsy poets, but here poetry was not considered an end in itself, rather was it a vehicle for ideas. Schleiermacher wrote of Friedrich: ‘Transcendence pervaded him, the eternal was his beginning and end, the universal his only and everlasting love.’ The majority of the Schlegel texts which Schubert set date from this heady period. In Schlegel’s Sehnsucht nach dem Unendlichen there is for the first time a religious and pantheistic note to his writings, and it is this, also the binding thread of the Abendröte poems, which inspired Schubert to give to this part-time poet an enduring musical voice.

Members of the Schubert circle might also have been able to lay their hands on a copy (as Bruchmann suggests was the case in his autobiography) of Schlegel’s notorious novel Lucinde, famous throughout the German-speaking world since its appearance in 1799. Scarcely shocking to modern eyes, it was considered scabrous at the time, particularly since its author had recently taken up with a married woman. (Dorothea had to endure its publication at this least tactful of times, but as always she put Friedrich’s career before her own dignity.) Lucinde advocates a type of sexual freedom which must have been appealing to Schubert’s generation, for it scornfully denigrated the pretence of innocence where none existed, and placed women in a new light as responsible and responsive sexual beings. It is a plea for an exchange of roles between the sexes, and an androgynous understanding of love. Unashamed eroticism seems part of Schlegel’s depiction of a universal pantheism, and this too surely played its part in the composer’s enthusiasm (and that of his friends) for Schlegel’s work.

At this point the Schlegels were uneasy guests in Goethe’s domain. Their opposition to Schiller embarrassed the great man, but Friedrich had written ‘Goethe’s poetry is the dawn of true art and pure beauty’ and the lion of Weimar was not unaware of the value of the brothers’ admiration for his standing in the literary world. Indeed the Schlegels initiated Goethe’s fame as more than just the author of Götz and Werther; they placed the work published since his return from the Italian journey (above all Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre) at the forefront of literature. Goethe, in endeavouring to return the compliment, encouraged Friedrich’s efforts as a playwright; the play Alarcos (influenced by Calderon) was given in Weimar in 1802, but its experiments in assonant rhyme resulted in its being laughed off the stage, despite Goethe’s own thundering efforts to bring the house to order. Apart from this, Goethe (whom Friedrich Schlegel nicknamed ‘Der alte Herr’) regarded him as a ‘stirrer’ and a ‘stinging nettle’; there was never much personal sympathy between them.

The rest of Schlegel’s story must be swiftly told for the purposes of this essay. Shortly after the Alarcos debacle he moved with Dorothea to Paris which was his base for a series of lectures and a serious study of Sanskrit with the young Scottish scholar Alexander Hamilton. This coming to terms with the Orient was to bear fruit with his celebrated study Über Sprache und Weisheit der Indier; with unrelenting industry he also mastered the history of art and architecture in this period. At this point he had astonishing and serious visions of European unity. These seem surprisingly modern today, and remind us that the present French–German axis is not new; indeed, people like Stefan Zweig and Romain Rolland had had similar ideas later in the century. Schlegel then moved to Cologne where he gave a series of readings (the brothers seem to have made as much a stir with their lectures as Liszt was later to make with his piano recitals) which formed the basis of his equally famous history of German literature. It was here that he married Dorothea, and this concern with religious formality and an attempt to establish a new age of medieval faith and aesthetics signalled the next decisive change in his life.

In April 1808 both Friedrich and Dorothea converted to Catholicism. This occasioned a scandal similar to that of the publication of Lucinde. Soon afterwards the couple made their way to Vienna where brother August had given a series of lectures. Not to be outdone, Friedrich planned a series of talks on recent history in Vienna in 1810 and established himself there as a social lion as well as a publisher of various papers which were increasingly conservative and royalist. He met Eichendorff and even suggested the title for that great poet’s novel Ahnung und Gegenwart. But he became increasingly interested in the trappings of public life. Firmly renouncing Napoleon, and adopting the stance of a patriotic Austrian, he also took part in field campaigns in Hungary in 1809, not neglecting to study that nation’s language and literature when he was there. He came to the notice of Metternich himself and dabbled as a civil servant (no doubt attempting to emulate Goethe’s mid-life role in the administration of Weimar), taking an active part in background diplomacy during the Congress of Vienna. It is notable that the secret police were detailed to follow Schlegel (Metternich trusted no one); the poor sleuths were obliged to write long reports concerning Schlegel’s visits to various hostelries to take refreshment (sometimes as many as fourteen in one day). He ate a great deal (this was reflected in a figure growing ever more portly) and was also something of a heavy drinker. His sense of self-importance knew no bounds, although he failed ever to achieve any position of real significance in the Austrian government.

As early as 1808 Schlegel had vigorously recanted his former beliefs: ‘This aesthetic daydreaming, this unmanly pantheistic fraudulence, this playing around with formulae, all these must cease: they are unworthy of these great times and no longer appropriate.’ We are thus faced with the fact that long before Schubert discovered Schlegelian pantheism, the poet himself had renounced it, and in the composer’s home town no less. In the same way Schubert had discovered Faust at the moment (1814) when Goethe was already engaged in the West-östlicher Divan; readers sometimes take a long time to catch up with their authors’ latest ideas. By 1809 Schlegel was a crony of Metternich, a knight of the Papal Order of Christ and a member of the Wiener Akademie der bildenden Künste (Academy of Fine Arts). He had achieved far more in terms of rank than any of his relatives, and the noble ‘von’ was to follow in 1815.

Not everyone was impressed – least of all August who, for all his vanity, remained a liberal and fell into a rage on reading Friedrich’s religious articles in the journal Concordia. Goethe wrinkled his forehead sceptically on hearing of the conversion from Friedrich’s own lips; he later wrote that ‘a man of such a kind’ simply became ‘more and more coarse’. Heine referred scornfully to Friedrich’s ‘religiösen Privatmarotten’ (‘private religious quirks’). Friedrich von Gentz, playing on the meaning of the Schlegel family name, wrote: ‘Seit einegen Jahren hat ihn die religiöse, oder besser kirchliche Wut vollends zum Narren gemacht, woran seine Frau grossen Anteil hat … Der Unterschied zwischen den beiden Brüdern ist heute ungeheuer gross, und nach meiner Einsicht völlig zu Gunsten von A.W. Er ist freilich sehr eitel, aber voll Leben und Tätigkeit, und Talent. F. ist jetzt … der wahre Blei-Schlegel, der andre mehr als je, ein Stahl-Schlegel’ (‘For some years now his religious or rather sectarian mania has thoroughly made a fool of him, to which his wife has greatly contributed. The present difference between the two brothers is vast, and in my view wholly in favour of A.W. He’s certainly very vain, but full of life, activity and talent. F. is now the leaden drumstick, the other more than ever a steel drumstick’).

The very things that had appealed in Schlegel’s work to the Schubert circle (and which were later to appeal to Schumann) – Lucinde and the Athenäums-Fragmente – were excluded from the Schlegel Gesamtausgabe in a spirit of unashamed revisionism. But unless one was in the forefront of the most recent literary developments, how would one know of Schlegel’s change of heart? Above all, how could one know that a man of liberal and universal sympathies had turned into a prig? One can only imagine how eagerly Schubert might have grasped the opportunity to meet Schlegel in person, having read the poet’s earlier works. How this might have come about, and when, is difficult to say, for there are no documentary sources which conclusively prove that composer and poet ever met. But we know that many of Schubert’s friends were in contact with Schlegel. Helmina von Chézy (authoress of Rosamunde) had been one of his students in his pre-conversion Paris days, and Matthäus von Collin, Karoline Pichler and Craigher von Jachelutta had all been connected to Schlegel in one way or another. As late as 1876 Franz von Schober claimed that Schlegel had praised his libretto for Alfonso und Estrella (Schubert’s D732).

One thing is certain. By 1827 Schubert’s friend Johann Senn, in a heated correspondence with Franz von Bruchmann (not in the Documentary Biography) denounced the ‘reformed’ Schlegel in no uncertain terms as a fraud and a humbug. It is likely that this was a view held by the whole Schubert circle, and of course at this late stage of the composer’s career Schlegel no longer played any part in his musical life, although he was a witness at Bruchmann’s ill-fated wedding to Juliana von Weyrother in June 1827. We are indebted to Lisa Feurzeig, a pupil of the distinguished Schubert scholar Susan Youens, for sharing a great deal of her fascinating new research in this area, in particular about the stormy and intense friendship between Senn and Bruchmann. Some of this material has the deepest significance for the history of the whole Schubert circle, but it also touches on the threads which connected that circle to Schlegel. Feurzeig can provide no conclusive proof of a link, but a fascinating series of probabilities make it almost certain that Schubert encountered Schlegel, and found him unsympathetic. This hinges on the fact that Franz von Bruchmann, a complicated and highly strung young man who had been a beloved part of the Schubert circle, reflected Schlegel’s own pattern of conversion, and renounced the lifestyle of his former friends with vehemence. There is no doubt that Bruchmann was under the influence of Schlegel and his latest writings as an antidote to ‘the new pagan era … a great pantheism’ (itself Schlegel-inspired) which according to the self-flagellating Bruchmann had been disastrously embraced by the circle.

In her thesis, Feurzeig adds much interesting information concerning Schlegel’s practice of the healing powers of animal magnetism (a phenomenon of the time which prefigured Freud’s therapeutic work) and raises the possibility that Schubert had been somehow involved, through a girl named Marie Schmith, one of Schober’s girlfriends, in sessions in which the disturbed Marie had been treated. There is also the question of the break-up of the relationship between Justine von Bruchmann and Franz von Schober. The latter had formerly been a friend of Bruchmann’s but in the light of the new Catholicism he became the Devil incarnate in the convert’s eyes, and Bruchmann had no compunction in ruthlessly suppressing the match. Behind these events somewhere stands the figure of Friedrich von Schlegel, a type of éminence grise representing all the power of the religious backlash which marked the period, and which is also typical of the metamorphosis of an open-hearted young man into a rigid pillar of the establishment. Bruchmann, tormented by what seems to be sexual guilt (the letters referring all too obliquely to this are in themselves vital evidence of the mores of the Schubert circle) becomes insupportably smug and evangelical about the behaviour of his former friends, even sweeping Goethe out of his pantheon.

If Schubert had encountered Schlegel in the flesh, how disappointed he would have been! There would have been no trace of the poet of Abendröte; instead he would have been talked at by a proselytizing bigot and crackpot; a man aspiring to spiritual ecstasy who all too obviously relished all the panoply of worldly power; a man who had been fearlessly logical and was now given to the hocus-pocus of magnetism as parodied long before by Mozart in Così fan tutte; a man who now wished to slam doors shut – the very doors he himself had previously opened. And there is some evidence that Schlegel was also something of a sexual hypocrite, ‘helping’ young ladies spiritually in the manner of the bogus monk who takes the dying girl’s confession in Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch. In short, Schlegel, the adopted Viennese, would have represented everything about the Austrian establishment which Schubert and his friends loathed. And even if his reactions were not as vehement as Senn’s, Schubert would have written Schlegel off as a crashing bore at the very least, along with a good many of the writer’s former friends.

This change of heart and direction has happened time without number to writers, of course, as they move from left to right, but seldom as precipitously as to Schlegel. Many of his former fans must have felt let down and betrayed, just as in England there are those who preferred the unreformed Malcolm Muggeridge and the younger Paul Johnson to the older ‘improved’ vintages. The adoption of religiosity should not obscure Schlegel’s contributions to culture, however, for these are the very real achievements of a man whose theories, formulated in his prime, bore fruit in all sorts of unexpected directions. The neo-Marxism of Benjamin, Lukács and Adorno looks back to Schlegel, as does the literary theory of Szondi, the philosophy of Dilthey and Gadamer, as well as more recent trends in feminism and the theory of literary deconstruction. One’s most abiding impression of Friedrich von Schlegel is of restless questing and searching, and a fruitless attempt to fill a personal void which no amount of work and success could achieve. As Tieck, an incomparably greater artist if not intellect, wrote to August von Schlegel after Friedrich’s death: ‘As you well know, he found fulfilment neither in scholarship and art, nor faith and religion.’ This one-time ‘Dictator of Philosophy’ had become ‘The Dictator of Catholicism’ and in changing the world of thought, and continually reinventing his role in it, he had somehow failed to change himself.

Graham Johnson © 1996

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