Supplementary Appendix 380a.2

Schelling and Hölderlin’s meeting in Murrhardt in June 1803

The poet Friedrich Hölderlin departed on foot from Nürtingen in Swabia, just southeast of Stuttgart, for Bordeaux on about 10 December 1801 to work as a private tutor, having once worked in that capacity, unsuccessfully, for Charlotte von Kalb. [1]


He was initially detained as a foreigner by French authorities (Napoleon was in the process of trying to have himself declared consul for life) during an arduous journey plagued by inclement, cold weather, floods, and other problems. He spent four days in Lyon (ca. 8/9 January 1802), then continued on to Bordeaux (600 km), presumably largely on foot, sleeping, as Hölderlin himself put it, with a loaded pistol. He arrived in Bordeaux on 28 January 1802. Here a map with Stuttgart, Lyon, Bordeaux on the French coast, and Paris: [2]


By mid-May 1802, however, he was already on his way back to Germany via Paris, having left his position for unknown reasons. He arrived back in Stuttgart in mid-June or early July 1802, exhausted and agitated, “as pale as a corpse, gaunt, with hollow, wild eyes, long hair and beard, and clothed like a beggar,” “announcing himself monosyllabically simply as ‘Hölderlin’.”

After a time at home in Nürtingen, where his brother had discerned “unmistakable signs of mental incapacity,” his condition improved. An attending physician in Stuttgart had a student read to him from Homer whenever one sensed an “outbreak of rage” coming on; the reading seemed to calm him.

After stays with various friends, including in Regensburg, and a return to his poetry and translation (including of Sophocles, which he seems to have mentioned to Schelling), Hölderlin finally met Schelling again as recounted in Schelling’s letter to Hegel on 11 July 1803 (letter 380a).

A final meeting between Schelling and Hölderlin took place ca. 24 June 1804 in Würzburg, after which Hölderlin spent two years in Homburg von der Höhe, just north of Frankfurt and east of Königstein and Kronberg (where Caroline and Auguste had been incarcerated), before returning Tübingen in mid-September 1806, where he spent the rest of his life (Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no. 18):


On 11 February 1847, Schelling recalls Hölderlin’s visit to Murrhardt in the summer of 1803 in a letter from Berlin to Gustav Schwab, editor of the first edition of Hölderlin’s works: [3] (illustration: K. T., Waldlandschaft mit Baumtunnel, Wanderer, im Hintergrund eine Gebäudegruppe mit Turm [ca. 1776–1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. B: 52):

Esteemed Sir,

I am much obliged to you for having sent me the new edition of Hölderlin’s works; [4] please pass along my sincere gratitude to your son as well, though it was a melancholy pleasure for me to think back on the personality of my friend, who disappeared so long ago (even before his death).

My memory’s two end points are, first, my own entry into the school in Nürtingen, where Hölderlin protected me, who was so much younger, from those other pupils inclined to mistreat me, and, second, Hölderlin’s appearance in Murrhardt, where in the spring of 1803 — I used to think he had come from Tübingen, but now it seems more likely to have been Nürtingen — a few days after I myself had arrived [on 30 May 1803] for a visit to my parents, he arrived without accompaniment, on foot, having come to see me directly through the fields, as the crow flies, as if led by instinct. [5]


[Here a map with Stuttgart, Nürtingen (Niertingen) to its southeast, and Murrhardt to the northeast] [6]


It was a sad reunion, for I soon saw that this delicately strung instrument had been destroyed forever. Whenever I broached a topic that once interested him, his initial response was always correct and appropriate, but by the next sentence he had already lost the thread. I did, however, experience in his company how great is the power of inborn, inherent grace. During the 36 hours he spent with us, he said nothing inappropriate, nor did or said anything contradictory with his earlier noble, proper, courteous nature.

It was a painful farewell on the main road — I believe at Sulzbach [ca. 6.5 km west of Murrhardt]; I never saw him again after that. [7]


During a visit Christoph Theodor Schwab (Gustav Schwab’s son) paid Schelling in 1849 in Berlin, Schelling spoke a bit further about Hölderlin’s visit to Murrhardt when Caroline was there in June 1803: [8]

When Hölderlin was already insane, he once walked from Nürtingen, straight across the fields and in an extraordinarily short period of time, straight to Murrhard, where he knew Schelling to be; he spent the night with Schelling’s parents, ate with them, participated in the conversation when something of interest to him was being discussed, said various things that were quite cogent and reasonable, but then, after having spoken 20, 30 words, lapsed into gibberish, into nonsense, the most striking thing being, however, that he did absolutely nothing unseemly.

Schelling’s memory (“I never saw him again”) overlooks Hölderlin’s visit to Würzburg ca. 24 June 1804; see Schelling’s letter to Hegel from Würzburg on 14 July 1804 (letter 383m).


[1] This and following information from Hölderlin. Eine Chronik in Text und Bild, ed. Adolf Beck and Paul Raabe (Frankfurt 1970), 62–75.

Map: Trigonometrische Carte von Schwaben, zur Übersicht der Berechnungen, auf welche sich die neuen Carten gründen (Dillingen 1802); Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart, 19Cg/107.

Hegel was born in Stuttgart, Schelling in Leonberg. Both studied at the Stift in Tübingen with Hölderlin, and Hölderlin and Schelling attended the Latin School in Nürtingen. Back.

[2] Eustache Hérisson, Nouvelle carte d’Europe où sont tracées les principales routes des divers états qui la composent (Paris 1813); Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans. Back.

[3] Friedrich Hölderlin, Sämtliche Werke, Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe, 7 vols., ed. Friedrich Beissner, vol. 7.2: Dokumente 1794–1822, ed. Adolf Beck (Stuttgart 1972), 252–54. Back.

[4] Friedrich Hölderlin’s sämmtliche Werke, 2 vols., ed. Christoph Theodor Schwab (Tübingen 1846). Back.

[5] Hölderlin might have heard of Schelling’s arrival from Nathaniel Köstlin (1744–1826), Hölderlin’s former teacher in Nürtingen. Back.

[6] Historische Landkarte vom Schwäbische Reichskreis (ca. 1680). Back.

[7] Historische Landkarte vom Schwäbische Reichskreis (ca. 1680). Back.

[8] Friedrich Hölderlin, Sämtliche Werke, Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe, vol. 7.3: Dokumente 1822–1846, ed. Adolf Beck (Stuttgart 1974), 453–54. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott