Letter 250a

250a. Fichte to Schelling in Jena: Berlin, 22 October 1799 [*]

22 October 1799

. . . One request for Schlegel: Merkel, an impudent, audacious, base fellow who is carrying on here in Berlin to his heart’s delight, is maintaining all over town that the Schlegels received a reprimand from the duke through Loder [1] because of their literary Notizen, [2] and a prohibition to the effect that they were to cease therewith effective immediately. Goethe, moreover, allegedly circulated a disapproving circular among the academic community in both Weimar and Jena [with respect to] those same Notizen.

Someone needs to send me a detailed, formal, harsh dementi of these rumors, of which I will make use in the appropriate circles to Merkel’s utter shame. — In an academic meeting recently, I quite nicely informed this Merkel of such, the same man who, moreover, also quite unabashedly and zealously railed and blasphemed about Schlegel’s Lucinde. . . . [3]


[*] Sources: Fichtes und Schellings philosophischer Briefwechsel (1856), 22; Fichte Briefwechsel (1930) 2:179; Fuhrmans 2:202. Back.

[1] Justus Christian Loder was prorector of the university in Jena at the time. Back.

[2] The “Notizen,” notes on contemporary literature and other pieces, were published in Athenaeum (1799) 285–327. Back.

[3] Fichte seems to be referring to something Merkel said in conversation rather than in a publication. Merkel did, however, publish the following remarks in 1801 in his otherwise sooner positive review of Dorothea Veit’s novel, Florentin. Ein Roman herausgegeben von Friedrich Schlegel, vol. 1 (Lübeck, Leipzig 1801), on whose title page Friedrich is listed as the editor for an anonymous author (Garlieb Merkel, Briefe an ein Frauenzimmer über die wichtigsten Produkte der schönen Literatur, vol. 2 [January–April 1801], 26th Letter, 425–26):

Why did the author not identify himself? If he be anyone other than Herr Schlegel, then how could he insult both himself and his readers by implying that such a name positioned at the beginning of his book might possibly serve as a recommendation for reasonable and moral people? — Or is he perhaps Herr Schlegel himself, who is here publishing something he composed during his youth and yet no longer wishes to claim?

Ah! He should not have rejected precisely this documentation that he once gave readers justifiable reason to hope! When one day the femmes savantes and withered coquettes may wish to close themselves up in their dainty rooms that they might enjoy undisturbed the sophistic debauchery of his Lucinde, — when they have sufficiently aged, and when he himself one day — for why should one give up hope entirely? — has finally comprehended that bombast and sublimity are as different as the tumors of a dropsy-plagued person, on the one hand, and the muscular fullness of Hercules — when he has comprehended that the goal of a rhetorician and poet must be that one understands him, and that cheeky, smutty jokes merely elicit disgust — then he will be able to adduce no more tolerable a title from his entire previous life than precisely as “Editor of Florentin.”

For Wilhelm’s reaction to Merkel, see Caroline’s letter to Auguste on 28 October 1799 (letter 252) and supplementary appendix 252.1.

In 1806, the anonymous author of Testimonia Auctorum de Merkelio, das ist: Paradiesgärtlein für Garlieb Merkel (Cologne 1806), a collection of in part biting satirical pieces contra Merkel, used the following caricature as his frontispiece:



Translation © 2013 Doug Stott