Letter 250c

250c. Fichte to Johanne Fichte in Jena: Berlin 23/26 October 1799 [*]

Berlin 23 October 1799

. . . Imagine, I received a letter today from Warsaw according to which I had recently died right here in Berlin of a “heated bilious attack.” Now that is something I had not yet heard, namely, that people are saying I am dead; but it pleases me, since such legends mean long life and good health, something for which I am even now quite preparing myself.

To wit, you have never seen me as healthy as I now am. Not a trace of coughs or colds, even amid the current autumn fog. Such is the effect the Berlin climate is having on me; yet another reason why I cannot even think about returning to the climate in Jena, which is so detrimental to me.

Yesterday evening I took a walk out in open nature itself for the first time in a long while (although I do go for walks almost every day, I do so only in town). It was an autumnal day; I thought of you, ardently of you . . . I want you to know that there are wonderful places to take walks around here.

Only imagine, these canailles in Jena, who simply cannot yet cease with their lies, are now spreading lies abroad and writing such to Berlin as well, and finding believers even — in Berlin itself, namely, to the effect that I petitioned the government for permission to lecture and was denied. Please be so kind to ask my friends Schelling, Niethammer, Paulus (whose letter I did answer, though without addressing this point) to contradict this mendacious rumor everywhere — one that at once also betrays their enormous stupidity, since in Berlin such petitioning is in any case absolutely unnecessary. If they can find out who the initiator of this rumor is, I would be much obliged.

These filthy beasts; once they have discovered where I am living, and that I have not yet been ruined, they cannot help starting their childish teasing all over again! I must confess to you that I find these pathetic people increasingly contemptible. We often asked each other, “But where are things better?” and in our naiveté answered, “Nowhere.” But I can now tell you from experience that it is better everywhere there are no scholars who subsist on such activity.

As far as Schelling and Madam Schlegel are concerned, be extremely careful and on your guard! I entreat you for the sake of our love. I have already been informed by someone else, and such that I must ask you to be very discreet in the matter. Schelling is making a bad name for himself, which makes me very sorry. Were I myself present in Jena, I would warn him. The greatest ill is that in such matters the actors think no one notices anything, since, indeed, no one says anything to them about it until it becomes a full-blown public scandal. Why does the husband not put an end to all this?

But tell me, how can you possibly believe that I might want to live again among rabble of the sort I now recognize the Jena residents to be, who, as I now know, have always behaved so vilely toward us? Or that I should not want to shorten as much as possible the trip there I will be taking out of love for you? [1] The Hufelands were here. [2] She told me you had extended greetings to her through her sister. [3] You are much too good. They are the true Jena gypsies. He made himself look universally ridiculous here because of his secretive, reserved, and yet foolish behavior.

26 October

Do not imagine that the seriousness with which I let fly these few words concerning the Jena residents means that I am somehow annoyed with them. One is not annoyed by something one despises. . . .


[*] Sources: Fichte Briefwechsel (1930), 2:180–81. Back.

[1] Fichte would return to Jena in December 1799 to close up his household, returning then to Berlin with his family in March 1800. His house was located in the southeast corner of Jena along the Löbdergraben and just off the former tower at that corner. The Löbdergraben earlier constituted roughly the southern town wall, then a street of the same name. Fichte’s house is indicated at lower right (Leutragasse 5 also indicated at center left; Stadtplan von Jena [1909]; Städtische Museen Jena: Stadtmuseum und Kunstsammlung):


Here the house in 1984; today it houses the Museum of Romanticism (photo by translator):



[2] Gottlieb and Konradine Luise Hufeland had visited his hometown of Danzig and passed through Berlin and Leipzg on their way back to Jena. Back.

[3] Sophie Wiedemann had been visiting the Schlegels that autumn; see Caroline’s letters to Auguste on 14 and 17 October 1799 (letters 248, 249). Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott