Supplementary Appendix: Schelling at the Lectern and in Society

Schelling at the Lectern and in Society [*]



There was nothing I wanted more to do [in Würzburg] than to attend the lectures of some of the most distinguished university professors. I attended Schelling’s lectures several times, Johann Jakob Wagner’s once, and H. E. G. Paulus’s once. I entered Schelling’s auditorium with reverence, as if entering a temple of wisdom. Two steps led up to the rather large, handsome lectern with a projecting desktop.

Schelling always enters with a bit of ceremonious solemnity; even though he lives but a single story higher, he always brings his large hat along into the auditorium, which he then places on the chair on the lectern. He steps up lightly. When he bows to his audience, some of whom stand up upon his entrance, it is not particularly intense but nonetheless certainly noticeable.

After taking his papers out of his bag, he began his magnificent lectures by uttering almost inaudibly, “Gentlemen.” And though he does indeed read everything from his notes, he does so such that it sounds like an extemporaneous speech. His discourse flows lightly from his lips, as befits such a genius. His voice, though a bit weak, is quite pleasant. He accents and emphasizes significant elements almost not at all, instead reading the most devastating statement just as lightly as the most ordinary truth. He often emphasizes only the very first word in a sentence; the rest then floats forth in a light, quick flow.

Students who are unfamiliar or not at all familiar with his views must have enormous trouble following him, or cannot follow along at all. Hardly has one gotten hold of a single idea before the next hastens forward. One idea pushes the other aside. His dialect is Swabian, but quite moderated, not broad at all, but rather refined and delicate. The haste with which he speaks ameliorates the severity of what he says. He takes snuff prodigiously.

His auditorium, which usually contains chairs, was quite full, in one lecture I counted about 70, in the other almost 50 attendees. The former lecture was on general philosophy, the latter on the philosophy of art. . . .

I saw Schelling not only in his study and at the lectern, but also in society, to wit, at the casino, where there was also dancing. The locale is quite nice and is located in the same building in which the theater was set up. [1] Schelling entered in his professor’s uniform: a blue coat with gold embroidery on the collar and wraps, and with a grand hat with a gold band and tassel. Somehow I found this decorative clothing out of place on the philosopher.

Hence I was similarly astonished when I saw just such a hat in the hand of Professor Paulus when we were in the library having a look at the New Testament that Griesbach had just published with Göschen.

Schelling socialized at the casino with ladies, professors, and students, the latter of whom encouraged him to dance. He similarly asked me whether I danced. He himself does not. Although I would have liked to converse with him a bit, I thought insignificant, ordinary topics not worthy of a question, and yet questions concerning loftier, grander topics seemed appropriate to neither the time nor place. So I remained silent, keenly aware of the depressing nature of my situation in the presence of such a genius.

He occasionally stood or sat next to his wife, who was engaged in the casino games. He himself did not play. All the more, however, did his gaze take in the room, doing so, moreover, with — a lorgnette. [2] His own example prompted me to take out my own, for otherwise I espied no eyeglasses. A young girl who was about to dance gave him her handbag to hold. I also saw him put a shawl around the shoulders of the same young girl after the dance.


[*] Karl Philipp Kayser, May 1804, cited in Franz Schneider, Reiseerinnerungen eines Heidelberg Professors aus dem Jahre 1804, Neues Archiv für die Geschichte der Stadt Heidelberg 13 (Heidelberg 1928), 46–53, 55–56; reprinted in Schelling im Spiegel seiner Zeitgenossen, ed. Xavier Tilliette (Torino, 1974), 148–52, here 149, 152.

Illustrations: The Schellings occupied the two stories above Schelling’s auditorium (second story), which in its own turn was above the university library; Caroline’s living quarters were on the third story, Schelling’s study on the fourth (here viewed from the north (Universität Würzburg, Universitätsarchiv; essentially the same illustration in R. Fick, ed., Auf Deutschlands hohen Schulen: Eine illustrierte kulturgeschichtliche Darstellung deutschen Hochschul- und Studentenwesens [Berlin, Leipzig 1900], 358).

In Jena, Schelling had at times attracted two hundred people to his lectures, something he himself mentions to Wilhelm in a letter on 29 November 1802 (letter 373a). As mentioned later in this account, his numbers in Würzburg were respectable if not quite those reflected in the seventeenth-century illustration of an overflowing lecture hall (anonymous, Studenten im Hörsaal [ca. 1600–25]; Dutch school; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur C Geom. 2° [228]). Back.

[1] This casino in Würzburg (others could be found in other towns) would have been the one run by a certain Herr Bevern in the theater building, where he also had facilities for balls and a coffeehouse (Carl Gottfried Scharold, Würzburg und die umliegende Gegend: für Fremde und Einheimische kurz beschrieb en [Würzburg 1805], 16, 32). Here a contemporary coffeehouse in Leipzig (anonymous, Richters Kaffeehaus in Leipzig [ca. 1790–1800]):


Concerning specifically casinos in Würzburg in 1805, see Scharold, ibid., 37–38:

Casinos. The customary means of promoting social conviviality are conversation, dancing, and gaming. At no time have these means been more urgently needed than precisely now, with Würzburg having passed to a wise and liberal government, an event prompting the transfer of a great many businessmen and members of the military, from various mother states, who were quite strange to us and, indeed, to whom we ourselves were quite strange.

What was needed at the time was a central locale where people could get to know one another, and nothing could serve this purpose better than the establishment of a casino, three of which were then genuinely established, namely, that of Peter Himmelstein in the Reurer Gasse, that of royal glazier Limb next to the Chapel of St. Mary, and that of Herr Bevern on the Graben. Neither status nor birth nor wealth play any role in admission to these facilities; cultivation and an upright character in general provide the standard. Members of the aristocracy, counselors, professors, physicians, scholars, artists, and academics amuse and entertain themselves quite without affectation within this social assemblage.

These casinos are accessible only during the winter, and always begin on specific days at 6:00 p.m. and conclude at 10:00 p.m., until which time one dances after both the German and Scottish fashion. Dining is available everywhere. Bevern alone has established a casino that is open daily and also offers reading materials. Subscriptions are by the month, though non-residents are granted entry even without such. Back.

[2] Johann Georg Pendel, Ein Paar verlässt unter neugierigen Blicken eine Gesellschaft (1799); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 2023):



Translation © 2017 Doug Stott