Letter 265k

265k. Schelling to Goethe in Weimar: Bamberg, 8 August 1800 [*]

[Bamberg, 8 August 1800]

I would have taken advantage sooner of the permission I received to write you had so many other things not prevented me from doing so. I was hoping to accompany my letter with various sorts of interesting scientific news or even with one of my own pieces of work; only now has the latter become possible. [1]

Persuaded of your kind interest in the progress of my investigations into the philosophy of nature, I am taking the liberty of having the printer’s sheets of the second issue of my periodical sent along to you as soon as they have been printed. I must request a certain measure of indulgence on your part insofar as I have intimated rather than really worked out several ideas concerning the dynamic construction of the color palette in the piece.

The new system of medicine is being implemented here with a degree of theoretical and practical rigor and precision doubtless hitherto unobserved anywhere. [2] The point receiving the most attention here is precisely the difficult issue of praxis in determining in each individual case the present degree of asthenia or sthenia and then the appropriate or proportional stimulant; an extremely interesting corpus of rules for treatment has already been abstracted from both theory and praxis. [3] Because I have already met several friends of my own investigations into the philosophy of nature, friends who have requested I deliver several lectures on the subject, I now find myself in an extremely pleasant and instructive position of mutual exchange.

Yet another noteworthy literary item here is a resident who possesses a treasure of all sorts of old German manuscripts. Schlegel, who was summoned here by the extraordinarily painful misfortune that befell his daughter, [4] has found that this man owns quite a few interesting items. Among other things, he has a quite refined likeness of Hanns Sachs carved from wood (the inscription reads “Meyesteer Hanns”), which I would be glad to send to you if I knew you were interested. [5]

Schlegel has charged me with sending you his regards. —

I myself still know not whether I will be able to carry out my plan of going to Vienna this autumn, or whether I will have to postpone it till next summer. If the latter, then it is quite possible, should I decide not to remain here, that I would spend the winter in Jena again. [6]

I commend myself to your good favor, which I value above all else, including for the future . . .

Bamberg, 8 August 1800



[*] Sources: Goethe und die Romantik 209–11; Fuhrmans 2:232–33. Goethe had returned to Weimar from Jena on 4 Auguste 1800 (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:2:303). Back.

[1] Schelling included proofs of his Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik (1800) I, 2 with the letter; the periodical appeared in September. Contents:

It is of some interest to mention these contents because Goethe later remarks in his diary that he spent virtually the entire day of 17 September 1800 studying Schelling’s philosophy of nature by way of this issue; he then wrote to Schelling in Bamberg on 27 September 1800 (in response to this present letter).

In that response, Goethe makes a remarkable statement concerning his affinity with Schelling’s philosophy (Goethe und die Romantik 211–12; Fuhrmans 2:259–60):

I received the second issue of your journal and have found much in it that is instructive, stimulating, and pleasing; had you concluded with the charming poetic fragment, you would have left us with a wholly pristine bit of enjoyment [Schelling had concluded instead with the sharp criticism of Reinhold].

The general observations on pages 22ff. were written directly both out of and to my own convictions, and I can hope that I will gradually understand you completely, including in all details.

Since having to withdraw from the traditional form of research in the natural sciences and hover about like a monad, thrown back solely on myself, in the intellectual regions of science, I have rarely sensed a draught drawing me either hither or thither.

Such a draught, however, is unambiguously drawing me toward your doctrine. I am hoping for a complete union in this sense, one I hope to bring about sooner or later through a study of your writings and, even more preferably, through your personal company, as well as through a cultivation of my own unique characteristics into the universal, a union, moreover, that must be all the purer the more slowly I am prompted to proceed and to remain faithful to my own manner of thinking.

Herr Doctor Niethammer [with whom Goethe met on numerous occasions in August/September 1800] has helped me better understand the System des transcendentalen Idealismus [Tübingen 1800], and as a result I will increasingly be able better to appropriate also the deduction of the dynamic process [the conclusion to which issue I,2 of Schelling’s journal contained]. Only then will it be time for me to present the details of my own assessment or objections.

Hence do continue to live well and remain active, and should you not return to us so soon, please do let me hear from you from time to time and about that with which you are immediately surrounded. . . .

Schelling visited Goethe very soon after returning to Jena in October, as early as 9 October according to Goethe’s diary (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:2:309) Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[2] Viz., the system based on the Brunonian method (see also “Of the Brunonian Doctrine”). Adalbert Friedrich Marcus and Andreas Röschlaub were the key figures in developing this system in the practice of medicine in Bamberg. Back.

[3] Schelling had increasingly more contact with physicians over the course of the next few years and was becoming increasingly interested in the interface between medicine and his philosophy of nature.

On 4 August 1800, he, Caroline, and Wilhelm paid an official visit to the Bamberg General Hospital and presumably took a tour of the facilities (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Mon cher Ami!” [1783]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.569):


They signed the guest register on that same day, the Gästebuch des Allgemeinen Krankenhauses zu Bamberg (Bamberg 1792–1807) (Stadtarchiv Bamberg, Historischer Verein Bamberg, Rep. 2, Nr. 590b, p. 107; reproduced in Romantische Liebe und romantischer Tod, 191).

Here the front of the hospital in 1797 (Adalbert Friedrich Marcus, Kurze Beschreibung des allgemeinen Krankenhauses zu Bamberg [Weimar 1797]):


Both Adalbert Friedrich Marcus and Andreas Röschlaub worked at the hospital implementing the Brunonian method, though the two physicians would later have a falling out concerning this doctrine.

Concerning the hospital and the facilities Caroline, Wilhelm, and Schelling toured during their visit, see the supplementary appendix on the Bamberg General Hospital. Back.

[4] Auguste, of course, would today be called Wilhelm’s stepdaughter. Back.

[5] Goethe answered on 27 September 1800 (Goethe und die Romantik 212): “Give my regards to Herr Schlegel, and if the small likeness of Meister Hans can be acquired for a reasonable price, I would be quite pleased to own it.” Back.

[6] Schelling did indeed return to Jena at the beginning of October rather than go to Vienna (concerning the latter, see Schelling’s letter to Fichte on 12 September 1799 [supplementary appendix 241.1, entries 5, 6 and note 13]).

As it was, however, Johann Diederich Gries would arrive in Bamberg on about 17 September 1800 precisely with the plan to have Schelling accompany him to Vienna (W. R. Shepherd, Historical Map of Central Europe about 1786 [1926]):


See Wilhelm Schlegel’s letter to Gries on 7 July 1800 (letter 265a), note 6, and supplementary appendix 268.1. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott