Letter 262b

262b. Wilhelm Schlegel to Goethe in Weimar: Jena, 13 June 1800 [*]

Jena, 13 June 1800

I cannot thank you enough for your cordial engagement in my so annoying and yet, from another perspective, insignificant affair. In retrospect I admittedly cannot help but be a bit ashamed that I expected you to read the insulting pieces by Hofrath Schütz. Justizrath Hufeland has now also published something in the matter in which I am mentioned; it is quite subtle and genteel with respect to the former matter, its only flaw being that it is utterly insignificant. [1]

I copied out verbatim the missive to the Academic Senate and turned it in. You greatly helped me with this advice; it would never have occurred to me that I might still take that step, the significance of which I certainly do discern. If it is unsuccessful, I will have to consider what further steps might be taken. I will assuredly not act too hastily. [2]

I will be coming to Weimar tomorrow afternoon. It would be very helpful to me should you have perhaps a quarter hour free for me before the performance. [3] After my arrival I will inquire at your house whether and when I might speak with you. If you do not have time tomorrow, and yet still want to tell me anything in person concerning this matter to avoid having to put it in writing, I could perhaps stay overnight in Weimar if Sunday morning would be more convenient. [4]

My kindest regards.


[*] Source: Körner-Wieneke 108. — Response to Goethe’s letter to Wilhelm on 10 June 1800 (letter 262a) (which also includes a copy of the missive to the Academic Senate mentioned in this letter); see also Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe on 30 May 1800 (letter 260c). Back.

[1] The “other matter” was Schelling’s concurrent dispute with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. Gottlieb Hufeland published a declaration in the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1800) 77 (Wednesday, 11 June 1800) 639–40 (repr. Fambach 392–93), addressing a personal insult leveled against him by Schelling in the latter’s Ueber die Jenaische Allgemeine Literaturzeitung. Erläuterungen, vom Professor Schelling zu Jena. (Aus dem ersten Heft der Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik besonders abgedruckt) (Jena, Leipzig 1800) (see Schellings “declaration” against the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung on 2 November 1799 [letter/document 252d], note 4). Hufeland’s declaration reads in part:

Herr Schelling, who is so keen on making us out to be petty people, has stooped to a kind of comportment toward me that at least to my way of thinking is itself extremely petty and undignified. Not only has he made private discussions public, he has also drawn from private discussions related to him in return the most arbitrary conclusions solely for the purpose of vilifying and reviling others. —

On page 5, for example, he remarks

just how unserious they [the A.L.Z.] were about publicizing true and accurate assessments of my enterprise is even more persuasively demonstrated by the fact that the same Dr. Steffens, without my knowledge, had expressed to a friend his willingness to review my and others’ publications in the field of the philosophy of nature were he to be asked to do so, a friend who then also drew Herr Hufeland’s attention to the excellent qualifications of this scholar for such work.

Unfortunately, since from certain personal communications they had surreptitiously learned that Herr Steffens’s assessment of the value of my work was too favorable for the purposes of the A.L.Z., no offer to do such a review was made to him; Herr Schütz also assured me afterward that his colleague [Hufeland] had never mentioned the matter to him.

The pure facts to which Herr Schelling so flippantly imputes ignoble intentions are, briefly, the following:

At the time Herr Steffens, according to Herr Schelling’s own version, was still attending the latter’s lectures here, Herr A. W. Schlegel informed me that Herr Steffens was excellently qualified and inclined to work for the A.L.Z., especially with respect to an assessment of Schelling’s publications.

Since, however, Herr Steffens was still a student of Herr Schelling at the time (a situation hitherto not viewed as a particularly compelling reason to expect an unbiased assessment), and since Herr A. W. Schlegel recommended him (who considering his publicly known studies at least to me did not seem in any better position than I myself to function as a competent judge of the excellent qualifications of this particular scholar), I admittedly found no particular reason to follow up on his suggestion.

In the meantime, an extended period of cordial social contact had already sufficiently informed me of this young scholar’s talents, and I had long resolved to recruit him for the A.L.Z.; Herr Schlegel’s attestation of his inclinations in that direction strengthened my decision. I could not, however, but be reminded of the guidelines of the A.L.Z. to which we have adhered for our readers since 1785 [the founding year], namely, not to allow any current student at the academy to work for the A.L.Z..

We have, moreover, preferred to adhere too closely to the letter of this law rather than to allow deviations on the basis of even the most incisive factors that might seem rather arbitrary to others.

At the time, Herr Steffens was in any case about to begin a lengthier journey, and it was then that I immediately wanted to issue the invitation to him, one that afterward was postponed yet again by the fact that he decided instead to attend the mining academy in Freyberg, where, of course, he would be attending lectures again. These considerations were the sole reason I had hitherto not yet mentioned anything about the matter to my friend and co-editor. —

Any other alleged reasons for my behavior are merely the stuff of dreams. I do recall that Herr Steffens, while yet residing in Jena, would regularly pay a cordial visit to my home at least one evening each week, on one occasion of which he inquired about my opinion of Schelling’s philosophy of nature, and in his own response may have mentioned the deviating Kantian ideas [the A.L.Z. had traditionally promoted Kant’s philosophy and its derivatives].

But how does it follow from this what Herr Schelling — with such admirable and upright conclusion mongering — concludes? —

I was all the less in a position to assess the Schellingian system insofar as the key concepts of that system resided too far outside the scholarly pursuits in which I myself am engaged for me not to be prompted to postpone a more intensive study of those concepts by the author’s own constant reminders of how he was replacing the views in his former publications with different and better ones in his more recent publications.

G. Hufeland Back.

[2] Although the Academic Senate filed this missive away without taking action on it, Wilhelm was adamant about not letting the matter drop; see his letter to Goethe of 11 July 1800 (letter 265b). Goethe answered on 12 July (see letter 265c), with Wilhelm again, in a letter to Goethe on 13 July, taking advantage of the possibility of visiting Goethe on 16 July in Weimar together with Friedrich Schlegel.

Peculiarly, Goethe’s diary has a lacuna on that day. Because Wilhelm took no further action for the moment, however, it is likely that Goethe’s advice calmed him down (see Weimarer Ausgabe 4:15:319–20).

Oddly — or perhaps not — later in life Wilhelm could no longer even recall the issues that occasioned this tedious dispute whose consequences, however, prompted changes not only in the lives of the Romantics, but in the journalistic landscape of Jena itself (see Körner-Wieneke 235). Back.

[3] Schiller’s Maria Stuart premiered in the Weimar theater on Saturday evening, 14 June 1800, and was repeated on 16 June 1800. Friederike Vohs played the role of Maria Stuart, Karoline Jagemann that of Queen Elizabeth. Published later as Maria Stuart. Ein Trauerspiel (Tübingen 1801). Back.

[4] Wilhelm seems to have had a brief audience with Goethe the morning of 14 June 1800 (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:2:299 (illustration: Bergisches Taschenbuch für 1798 zur Belehrung und Unterhaltung; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Translation © 2014 Doug Stott