SCHLEGEL, August Wilhelm von. Hannover 5.9.1767 — Bonn 12.5.1845. German Indologist, Classical Scholar and Art Historian. Professor in Bonn. Son of Johann Adolf S., priest and author, of and old cultural family, nephew of the poet Johann Elias S., himself started early the career of a poet. Brother of —> Friedrich S. and Carl August S. (1761–1789), an officer and cartograph who died in India. After gymnasium in Hannover started theology at Göttingen, but soon moved to philology (Heyne, Bürger). He soon started also a career of translator (Dante, Shakespeare). In 1791-95 he worked as butler at Muilman’s commercial house in Amsterdam and had much time for literary work, taking Schiller and Goethe as models. Back in Germany he married the widow Caroline Böhmer in 1796. Helped by his wife, he worked as a critic in Jena and became acquainted with Goethe and Schiller. His Shakespeare translation earned him an ao. chair at Jena University and he lectured on aesthetics, Greek, Latin and German literary history and philology. With his brother Friedrich, L. Tieck, Schleiermacher and Novalis he founded the early romantic school, represented by the Athenäum. In 1800 he moved to Braunschweig, 1801 to Berlin, where he lectured on art theory and classical and romantic literary history, trying to create a general history of romanticism. In 1803 he divorced on the ground of estrangement, met Madame de Staël, became the tutor of her children and followed her in 1804 to Switzerland and Italy. In 1805 they lived in Rome and Geneva, in 1807 traveled in France (Auxerre, Rouen), 1807 again in Switzerland. AWvS started now writing in French. In 1807 he parted from de Staël and went to Vienna, where he lectured on drama. In 1808 he traveled, partly with de Staël, in Germany, and lived some time in Switzerland. In 1810 they went to Paris, but soon fled back to Switzerland and 1812 through Vienna, Kiew, Moscow and St.Petersburg to Stockholm, where AWvS became the secretary of Bernadotte and a Councillor of State. In Sweden he worked against Napoleon and planned a German federation led by the Habsburgs. Now he readopted the title of nobility given to his family in the 17th century and then forgotten. After the fall of Napoleon they went through Holland to England and Paris, then to Switzerland and Italy. Living in Paris 1816–18 (where de Staël died on 14.7.1817) he started the study of Sanskrit under Chézy (and Bopp) and soon on his own. In 1818 AWvS returned to Germany and married in Heidelberg the 18 years old Sophie Paulus, but the marriage did not last long. In 1818 he was invited to become the Professor of Literature and Art History at the newly founded Prussian University of Bonn, which he soon turned into a chair of Indology. In 1825 he was the Rector of University, but otherwise little appreciated by his colleagues at Bonn, although much more among Indologists. In 1820 he visited Paris and in 1823 London for MS. study. He was still interested in art history, too, and severely criticized the Roman Church and his brother who had joined it.
In German literature the fame of AWvS has not really lasted, if not as a translator. As a poet he was a master of form, but rather shallow and without genuine feelings. Somewhat better was his work as dramatist and satirist. As a critic he was sharp, but often too one-sided and uncompromising. He never wrote lyrics after 1811, but many satirs and epigrams, where he attacked, i. al., Goethe and Schiller. One of his last works was an edition of the French writings of Friedrich the Great. At the time of his death he was forgotten or despised by all but Indologists.
As an Indologist AWvS was a pure philologist, in contrast to the linguist Bopp. Together with his student Lassen he developed Bonn into the first centre of Indology in Germany. In order to publish his works, the critical editions of the Bhg, Hit. and the Northern recension of the Rām., he procured the first Sanskrit types in Germany. He did good work, but with the rapid development of studies it soon became antiquated.
Publications: a study of geography in Homer, in Latin, 1788;
– first poems published in Göttinger Musenalmanach and Akademie der Schönen Redekunste, then in many places; satires and dramas; articles and reviews on literature, art and philology in GGA, Jenaer Allg. Lit.Z., Athenæum, Europa, Heidelb. Jahrb., Deutsche Museum; Poetische Werke. 1-2. 1811; Kritische Schriften. 1-2. 1828.
– Über des Dante Alighieri Göttliche Komödie. 1791; translations from Dante; transl. Die Dramen des Shakespeare. 1-8. 1797-1801; 9. 1810; Blumensträusse italienischer, spanischer und portugiesischer Poesie. 1804; Spanische Theater. 1-2. 1803-09 (Calderon).
– Considérations sur la civilisation en général et sur l’origine et la décadence des réligions. 1805.
– Comparaison entre Phèdre de Racine et celle d’Euripide. 1807; Vorlesungen über dramatische Kunst und Literatur. 1-3. 1809-11, 2nd ed. 1817, tr. into French, Dutch, English, and Italian.
– articles on Swiss dialects and customs, 1808-10; Observations sur la langue et la littérature provençales. 1818; Sur le système continental et sur les rapports avec la Suède. 1813; political writigns against Napoleon, 1813; studies on Italian and classical art history, 1816-17
– edited with F. Schlegel: Athenäum. 1-3, 1798-1800; Charakteristiken und Kritiken. 1-2, 1801.
– edited and mainly wrote: Indische Bibliothek 1–3:1, Bonn 1820-30 (9 fascicles), with e.g.: “Über den gegenwärtigen Zustand der Indischen Philologie”, 1:1, 1820, 1-27 & 2:1, 1824, 1-??; “Die Herabkunft der Göttin Ganga”, 1:1, 1820, 28-96 (tr.); review of Bopp’s Nalus, 1:1, 1820. 97-128; “Zur Geschichte der Elephanten”, 1:2, 1820, 129-231; “Indische Sphinx”, 1:2, 1820, 232-256 & 2:3, 1826, 284-327; “Ramayana-editionis prospectus”, 2:1, 1824, 135-148; “Indische Erzählungen”, 2:3, 1826, 259-283 (tr.); “An Herrn Prof. Heeren … über die Abtheilung von den Indern in dessen Ideen…”, 2:4, 1827, 373-473.
– edited: Bhagavad-Gita id est ΘΕΣΠΕΣΙΟΝ ΜΕΛΟΣ sive Almi Crishnae et Arjunae colloquium de rebus divinis. Textum recensuit, adnotationes criticas et interpretationem latinam adjecit Aug. Guil. a Schlegel. 1823, Editio altera auctior et emendatior cura Chr. Lasseni. 54+298. Bonnae 1846.
– “Observations sur quelques médailles bactriennes et indo-scythiques nouvellement découvertes”, JA 2:2, 1828, 321-349;
– edited with C. Lassen: Hitopadesas, id est Institutio salutaris. Textum codd. mss. collatis recensuerunt, interpretationem latinam et annotationes criticas adjecerunt A. G. a Schlegel et Chr. Lassen. Pars I. 16+133 p. [text]. Pars II. 16+204 p. [commentary]. Bonnae 1829-31.
– edited: Râmâyana, id est carmen epicum de Ramae rebus gestis, poetae antiquissimi Valmicis opus. Textum codd. MSS. collatis recensuit, interpretationem Latinam et annotationes criticas adjecit. 1:1-2. Bonnae 1829-38; 2:1. Bonnae 1838.
– “Einleitung über die Zunahme und den gegenwärtigen Stand unserer Kenntnisse von Indien”, a supplement to the Berliner Kalender auf das Gemein Jahr 1829.
– Reflexions sur l’étude des langues asiatiques. 1832.
– Commentatio de zodiaci antiquitate et origine. 42 p. Bonn 1839.
– Vorlesugen über schöne Literatur und Kunst. Ed. by J. Minor. 1-2. 1884; Sämmtliche deutsche Werke. 1-12. 1846-47; Œeuvres écrites en français. 1846; Opuscula latina. 1848.
Sources: Windisch 75-82; J. John, N.D.B. 23, 2007, 38-40; Franz Muncker, A.D.B. 31, 1890, 354-368; Wikipedia with two portraits and further references; pictures also in Rau 4 and Titus Galeria.