Letter 213a

213a. Schelling to his Parents in Schorndorf: Jena, 29 December 1798 [*]

[Jena, 29 December 1798]

. . . Your news about Carl made me very happy indeed. What an excellent plan; he will be grateful to you for the rest of his life for allowing him first to spend two years studying the preparatory sciences.

But — preparatory sciences in Tübingen? That sounds like studying politics in Abdera. [1] Since, should I still be living, I will quite certainly be coming to Württemberg next autumn, I hope to convince you to put Carl in my care here, that he might spend those two years studying the preparatory sciences here and then medicine proper in Tübingen. [2]

You probably already know that that one can now study neither philosophy nor chemistry nor physics nor anatomy in Tübingen, the foundations of all medical knowledge, and that medicine has acquired a completely altered form about which nothing is known in Tübingen. I hope to assuage any concerns or objections you might have, be they economic, moral, or of whatever other sort.

Let me thus ask but this one thing of you, namely, not to make an irrevocable decision in this regard before having heard me out. I have no selfish reasons for wanting to have Carl here; in fact, it is quite certain he will cost me both time and effort. But surely you will trust me to know how things stand with medicine these days, and also to know that one absolutely cannot prepare oneself for it in Tübingen, although, once one has acquired its true principles, one can indeed learn the mechanical skills there.

I can promise you in advance that, if you but approve my plan, in 8–10 years Carl will be one of the preeminent physicians in Germany. [3] I do hope you will not hold up to me the example of young Paulus, who, quite senselessly, has still been living rather loosely and over whom his brother-in-law has absolutely no authority. [4] Carl will cost you no more than 400 Gulden annually, that is, 800 in two years, and will learn a great deal. What a small outlay considering its purpose.

I know from my own experience how much depends on a good beginning, and how difficult it is later to fill in the gaps in one’s earlier instruction. Do you really believe Carl will ever become a solid anatomist without receiving thorough instruction in anatomy right from the beginning?

But it would be immodest of me to try to tell you what you yourself already know better; I cannot believe that, blind to the truth, you can seriously be considering sending him to Tübingen for two years to be — ruined in the preparatory sciences. Or can you write and tell me exactly which preparatory sciences you mean and how and under whom he is to learn these in Tübingen. Surely you are referring to anatomy, chemistry, physics, philosophy, ancient literature? . . .

Just a brief word with respect to the manservant. [5] When I wrote you, I was hoping to have a stove installed in one of my rooms. Just when things were ready to go, I was forbidden from doing so. So tell the man that I cannot house him this winter, and hence that if he has another offer, he should go ahead and accept it. I have in the meantime engaged a maidservant. If by summer he still has no position, I certainly intend to remember him then. . . .



[*] Sources: Plitt 1:258–60; Fuhrmans 2:166–68.

A letter attesting how early Schelling began following developments in the academic study of medicine and how strongly he felt about the quality of what he calls the “preparatory sciences” in Jena. This altered form of medicine grounded in university studies plays a role in his and Caroline’s life for the next several years, including especially later in Würzburg, as well as in the events and scandal surrounding Auguste’s death in July 1800. Significantly, however, some of these developments also involve the controversial Brunonian method, and it is likely to this particular development that Schelling is referring more narrowly with the expression “altered form.”

This letter also provides the background to Karl Schelling’s study of medicine in Jena, which he began in the winter semester 1799–1800, matriculating on 4 November 1799; Karl figures in the letters of both Caroline and Schelling during the next several years. Back.

[1] That Schelling chooses this particular metaphor betrays his nascent sense of superiority with respect to his scholarly development and presages the disdainful nature of the arrogance that unfortunately comes increasingly to expression over the remaining course of this correspondence.

To wit, Abdera was an ancient port city in Thrace (exact site unknown) whose inhabitants, even in antiquity and for some unknown reason, were considered to be stupid and backward simpletons or yokels. Christoph Martin Wieland had derided the narrow-minded provincial citizens of his own time in his satirical novel about the “history of the Abderites,” Geschichte der Abderiten. Eine sehr wahrscheinliche Geschichte (Weimar 1774) (illustrations by H. Ramberg in the deluxe edition of Wieland’s works published by Georg Joachim Göschen; vols. 1 and 2 [Leipzig 1781]; vols. 1 and 2 [1796], the latter also repr. Gustav Könnecke, Bilderatlas zur Geschichte der deutschen Nationallitteratur, 2nd ed. [Marburg 1895], 247):




[2] Tübingen is located ca. 35 km southeast of Stuttgart, Schorndorf ca. 26 km to the east of Stuttgart (Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no. 23):



[3] Carl Schelling did indeed later become one of the highest-ranking medical advisors in Württemberg. Back.

[4] The reference is to Karl Paulus’s less than steady or upright student life in Jena, which his brother-in-law, Heinrich Eberhard Gottlob Paulus, was unable to influence. Karl Paulus reappears later in Würzburg. Back.

[5] See Schelling’s letter to his parents of 12 November 1798 (letter 207d). Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott