Erich Schmidt’s Introduction to Würzburg

Erich Schmidt’s Introduction to Caroline’s Time in Würzburg [*]


|643| In the autumn of 1802, the archepiscopal territories of Würzburg and |644| Bamberg were secularized and assigned to electoral Bavaria. [1] The prince bishop Georg Karl Ignaz von Fechenbach then resigned as territorial regent at the end of November. A year later, after brief vacillation between Bamberg and Würzburg, the reorganization of the university in Würzburg was announced.

The university trustee, Count Friedrich Karl von Thürheim, was until 1806 a territorial commissar in Franconia; Thürheim was a Swabian, and earlier a fellow student of both Schiller and the Ludwigsburg physician Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven, whom he now appointed to a professorship in Würzburg. Von Hoven had previously applied for a professorship in Göttingen, but that position had been given to Karl Gustav Himly: [2]

Hence nothing came of the possibility in Göttingen; Himly filled the empty position. But then I received a letter from Schiller, who wrote that a professorial position had come open in Jena for which I was perfectly suited, that he had already taken certain steps on my behalf, that Boder and several other professors were favorably disposed to me as well as Goethe and Wolzogen, and that I should be prepared for an offer very soon. The offer did not come, however, for the autumn academic holidays had arrived.

Then, however, I received an unexpected visit from my fellow Swabian Paulus, who made no secret of the fact that he had been charged by the university administration in Jena to inquire whether I was really the man to fill the empty position at the university. He would, he continued, write accordingly to the trustees, but he also advised me against accepting the position, Jena allegedly no longer being what it was earlier. He himself, he said, was inclined to leave Jena, as was also Schelling and several other professors, and he would instead advise me to apply for a professorship in Würzburg, which was similarly both his and Schelling’s intention, something I could, moreover, do with all the more certainty of success insofar as the head university trustee there was my childhood friend, Count von Thürheim. [3]

The suggestion seemed quite cogent, and I was all the more inclined to follow it because Hardegg, who had studied in Würzburg for an entire year, had already spoken often about the excellent medical facilities there. Moreover, after Paulus, Schelling soon came to me as well to give me the same advice. His own understanding of the situation brought my decision to a head, and just as I was about to write to Count von Thürheim, I received a letter from Thürheim himself asking whether I might not be interested in a professorship in Würzburg. I immediately said yes, and several weeks later I received my appointment.

Schiller, of course, was immediately informed, but he could not really hold it against me for preferring the position in Würzburg over one in Jena; indeed, he instead quite approved even though he was sorry that fate did not seem to want us to be together again. Since I had not yet received the appointment in Jena, there was no need to decline it.

So, with things thus settled, nothing was left but for me to request my leave from Württemberg service from my territorial sovereign. The electoral prince unwillingly granted it, and I, too, found it difficult to leave behind my fatherland, my family, and all the friends I had made as a physician as well as, I believe, as a person. They, too, found it difficult to see me go. We parted with melancholy on both sides, and on the evening before my departure they gave me a farewell banquet at an inn that not even the most illustrious personages in the city would miss.


On 7 November 1803 (letter 381c), Thürheim invited Schelling, to whom on 29 November 1803, Goethe, with regret, sent discharge papers, to accompany “my good Hoven” to a meeting in Bamberg concerning the university reorganization.

In Munich, academic negotiations were in the hands of the minister Georg Friedrich von Zentner, a former law professor who was deeply involved in the process of secularization and in university reform. The Enlightenment inclinations of the ministry of Maximilian von Montgelas, ever keen on keeping up with fashion, had a heavy hand in drafting the constitution of the university, which despite its clerical trappings had long been influenced by rationalism.

The university was now organized into two sections: a general section and one for specific disciplines, each with four sub-sections instead of the previous “faculties” or departments. Two subsections in the new “section for imparting the knowledge required for the training of religious teachers of the people” now brought together Catholic and Protestant theologians, including Paulus, whereas Schleiermacher’s appointment was not approved, as was also the case with those of the philologists Johann Heinrich Voss and Friedrich Creuzer. In the university senate, Schelling was the only person who uninhibitedly recommended Friedrich Schlegel’s efforts to secure an appointment. [4]

From among the Jena faculty appearing in the present correspondence, the jurist Gottlieb Hufeland received an appointment. Schelling, however, and with considerable vehemence, successfully opposed the appointment of Christian Gottfried Schütz, who had promised to bring along the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, which in its own turn had been transplanted from Jena to Halle, though this episode need not be pursued further here. [5]

Schelling’s strong personality and his brilliant teaching success initially secured considerable influence for him, though precisely that influence also attracted considerable attacks and feuds. Schelling’s impetuosity in dealing with both open and secret enemies of his philosophy of nature, however, resulted in extremely sharp official reprimands in April and November 1804. [6]

Malicious agitation from Munich was supported by the Berlin journal Der Freimüthige. [7] There was really no way he could, in the long run, feel comfortable in this “despicable nest,” where Caroline, too, despite considerable recognition and admiration, remained isolated, bombarded by the poisonous gossip of Charlotte Schiller’s zealous friends.

|645| Schelling also had to struggle against the decree of the former prince bishop strictly prohibiting seminarians from hearing lectures from either him or Paulus, a situation that was smoothed out only after a rather lengthy epilogue. The Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung followed these disputes for several years, finally prompting Schelling himself to publish the open letter, “An das Publicum,” against “unprecedented persecutory rage.” The letter begins: [8]

Since I began teaching here, indeed, since even the possibility of such emerged, a fanatical, more recently unprecedented persecutory rage has endeavored to oppose that which it calls my “teaching” even in the state to which I now belong, but to oppose that teaching not with reasons, but with lies and calumniatory personal particulars.

Quite soon, however, political events once more intervened in the fate of Würzburg, and as a result also of Caroline and Schelling. In the (fourth) Peace of Pressburg on 26 December 1805, which ended hostilities after France’s defeat of Austria at Ulm (25 September–20 October 1805) and Austerlitz (December 2) in the War of the Third Coalition and effectively ended the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, the kingdom of Bavaria received Tyrol and Ansbach from vanquished Austria, and in exchange ceded its recently acquired Würzburg territory to the previous prince elector of Salzburg, Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, brother of the emperor Franz I of Austria. This development led to considerable involuntary personnel changes at the university in Würzburg.

At the swearing of the oath of allegiance conducted by the imperial commissar Johann Aloys von Hügel, Heinrich Eberhard Gottlob Paulus reported that he was sick, and Schelling simply did not go. Schelling published his own, anonymous account in the Intelligenzblatt of the Jenaische allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung: [9]

I. Universities and other public educational institutions

From letters from Würzburg, 10 March [1806]. The well-known transfer of Würzburg to the prince elector of Salzburg has undeniably placed Protestant scholars whom Bavaria called into its service from abroad into what for the moment at least is an embarrassing situation they could not have foreseen. Bavaria has offered no declaration concerning its completely altered circumstances and the resulting consequences.

The reason may derive from the political measures and current fluctuations, in which even the possessions of states has not yet been determined and accordingly no immediate determination concerning the locales and conditions of these men’s transfers. It would be unfair to expect anything different from a government that has previously always acted justly in such matters.

The public course of events has hitherto been as follows: Apart from Herr Hufeland, who was transferred to Landshut to fill Feuerbach’s position, Herr Stahl and Herr Medicus, who are to fill the unoccupied positions in physics and the cameral sciences, Herr Niethammer and Herr [Karl Heinrich] Fuchs, the protestant clergymen, went to Bamberg in their capacity as consistory councilors, insofar as with the loss of Würzburg only a few Protestant pastorates were lost, and the remaining ones unconditionally transferred.

After these events there was a solemn presentation with the imperial commissar for property seizure, Herr von Hügel, though with no oath-taking. The demand to submit lectures for the next semester was met by: Paulus, Martini, Mannert, von Hoven.

Apart from those who had already been placed, both Paulus, who reported being ill, and Schelling were absent at the actual oath-taking ceremony. A few days thereafter, the secretary of the university related in person to all professors who had been newly appointed by the Bavarian organization and who had sent in their lectures that although Herr von Hügel had indeed tentatively authorized the publication of the new lecture catalogue, he could make no assurances to these teachers concerning their future, since such was reserved for the discretion of the new government. There is considerable curiosity concerning the final disposition of this peculiar situation.

If no new university is established, and none acquired, something which with respect to Erlangen has thereby for now become quite doubtful insofar as it was not occupied with the principality of Ansbach, then one can anticipate the dispersal of these previous members of the university of Würzburg. Mannert has allegedly declared his desire to remain in Würzburg. Word has it that Schelling has received an invitation to stay, which perhaps was based on his distinguished reception by Herr von Hügel; in the meantime, however, he has declared in no uncertain terms that he will not be staying here and will, they say, be departing for Munich very soon. —

Such is the current conflicting state of affairs of this enterprise, which began with such grand expectations but a few years ago. A history of the university of Würzburg under Bavaria, written by an impartial hand, could not but be quite interesting. It is sufficiently well known that amid this mixture of quite contradictory elements, a considerable presence of inferior elements restricted the sum of that which was good, and that especially personal relationships exerted an extremely disadvantageous influence.

Nonetheless, more happened on behalf of the whole than one might have thought under those circumstances; neither were the effects entirely lost on Würzburg itself, as the residents in part acknowledge and will in part yet come to acknowledge.

Schelling left Würzburg for Munich in April 1806; Caroline followed him in May.


[*] Erich Schmidt (1913), 2:643–45, provides the basis for this introduction. The footnotes for this section are my own, as are the full citations of materials Schmidt only cross-references or excerpts. Illustration: Würzburg in 1623; frontispiece to C. Heffner and D. Reuss, Würzburg und seine Umgebungen: Ein historisch-topographisches Handbuch (Würzburg 1852).

Würzburg is located on the Main River approx. 95 km west of Bamberg and 120 km east of Frankfurg am Main; as Caroline herself recalls, Auguste was buried in Bocklet, approximately 60 km north of Würzburg (Map of the Empire of Germany including all the states comprehended under that name with the Kingdom of Prussia, &c. [London 1782]):


Here a broader view of Würzburg’s location in relationship to some of the locales involved in Caroline’s earlier life (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[1] Concerning the original geopolitical developments that resulted in the territorial changes assigning Würzburg and Bamberg to Bavaria, Adalbert Friedrich Marcus’s letter to Schelling on 30 April 1803 (letter 377c), note 3 (“South West Germany and North Italy: The War of the Second Coalition 1798–1801,” The Cambridge Modern History Atlas, ed. A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, Stanley Leathes, and E. A. Ben [London 1912], map 88; [University of Texas, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection]):



[2] Biographie des Doctor Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven: Von ihm selbst geschrieben und wenige Tage vor seinem Tode noch beendiget, ed. Andreas H. Merkel (Nürnberg 1840), 153–54; illustration: Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Von Berlin nach Danzig. Eine Künstlerfahrt im Jahre 1773 von Daniel Chodowiecki. 108 Lichtdrucke nach den Originalen in der Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Mit erläuterndem Text und einer Einführung von Professor Dr. W[olfgang] von Oettingen (Berlin, Amsler & Ruthardt, Kunsthändler o.J. [1883], plate 94. Back.

[3] Concerning the problems at the university in Jena and the anticipated exodus of faculty members, see Paulus’s account in supplementary appendix 377c.1. Back.

[4] Those efforts notwithstanding, Friedrich was never stopped excoriating both Caroline and Schelling in letters. Back.

[5] See Schelling to Georg Friedrich von Zentner in mid-August 1803 (letter 380d), a draft of which was preserved in Caroline’s handwriting. Back.

[6] See Thürheim’s letter to Schelling on 22 April 1804 (letter 383c); Schelling’s to Thürheim on 26 September 1804 (letter 387e); and Thürheim’s to Schelling on 7 November 1804 (letter 387k). Back.

[7] E.g., Der Freimüthige (1804), nos. 4, 47, 254, concerning his lectures delivered in an “earthy straw bass” voice. Back.

[8] Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1805) 48 (6 May 1805), 417–22. Back.

[9] Intelligenzblatt of the Jenaische allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1806) 29 (28 March 1806), 233–34 (letter/document 401c). Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott