Letter 274d

• 274d [was 271]. Caroline to Schelling in Jena: Braunschweig, 18 November 1800 [*]

[Braunschweig] Tuesday morning [18 November 1800]

|4| I prayed earnestly to heaven that I might be illuminated and granted salutary thoughts before this letter had to be posted, and it answered my prayers. Were I inclined, or rather were I even able to write down everything that has happened inside me, it would all end up being as deep and as woeful as are your own pages.

But I must spare myself such and thus will give to you only the kind of peace |5| from God in which my own heart has been resolved, full of confident hope that I will be able to relate this peace to you as well. I have a deep, heartfelt fondness for you, I kiss your forehead, both of your dear eyes, and your sweet mouth. That is quite the blessed sign of the cross.

Even were I able to muster a lengthy counter to your understanding of things, and produce heaps of enthusiastic, reasoned responses correcting your own faulty views, it would still be nothing more than a rhetorical exercise — it is enough that I promise my friend that I do want to live, indeed, enough that I am threatening to continue living should he in his own turn seek death thus at such an untrue hour. [1]

You love me, and even should the vehemence of the pain now tormenting you one day deceive you with hatred and in so doing tear me to pieces, you still love me, for I am worthy of it, and we have indeed recognized each other inwardly for all eternity, or this entire universe is trumpery.

Let me repeat once more: Why can I not tell Goethe that he needs to support you with his clear eyes? He is the only person who might exercise the appropriate influence over you. At least allow yourself to surrender completely to his affection and his hopes in you, and consider that you do have some very good friends indeed — as good, in fact, as this century is able to produce.

Write and tell me what you are actually working on now; on the Journal, certainly, that much I can guess, but I know not the theme. [2] Friedrich’s countering ploys have greatly amused me. [3] I learned in passing from Wilhelm that he is viewing his lectures from an extremely sublime perspective, to wit, he is allegedly quite unable to abstain from irony, the students being unimaginably stupid.

And yet irony really is useful in almost any situation. All your conversatorium, [4] by the way, will invariably prompt all sorts of partisan rage, tricks, and quips and cranks, which is why |6| I was not particularly pleased with it from the outset. Just make sure you always manage to speak a kind, humane word to Wickelmann that he may once again profess your divinity. One must see to it that nothing is neglected in this game. [5]

The Pauluses are a Jewish-like and judaizing bunch, but you still should not avoid them completely. [6]

Wilhelm is beginning to have the same opinion of Madam Veit as we — I also told him how much she gossiped and lied about personal matters in our household, something he acknowledged was certainly an ill way to treat him personally as well.

Have you already seen the most recent issue of Propyläen? [7]

Please do not ever worry about your letters; I always receive them personally and directly from the hand of the letter carrier; only sometimes, however, do I answer them crosswise ☓ as in Friedrich’s philosophemes. [8] I must also test to see to whether from

death bliss

pain love

I can extract life and peace. You will doubtless not want to press me too hard to reveal whence I derive my primal axioms in this regard. How irksome when one knows something for certain and then is also supposed to render an account of the source from whence one has it.

Goethe is now also ceding the poem to you, delivering his Nature over to you. Since he cannot appoint you his heir, he is giving you a donation among the living. [9] He loves you like a father, I love you like a mother — what wondrous parents you have! Vex us not. And amid your most recent intentions, did you also think of your good father and your good mother, those who perhaps more simply but certainly just as forcefully and lovingly gave you your first life? Ah, what black fog it was that enveloped my friend’s head. [10]

I myself intended to suggest that I might send you something for your tormented little sister. [11] |7| The only thing preventing me from already having done so is that I simply never go out. Please let me know whether you would prefer to give her something to wear or something as a memento, and whether she wears earrings.


It is perhaps a peculiar contrast for me to write you so serenely after such a letter. But I have lived a lot in these few days, and part of my innermost being is that a smile can verge on the most unspeakable distress.

You wakened me again, and no doubt we will now torment each other quite properly with all this writing back and forth, and will generate a thousand contradictions, and yet in the end we nonetheless will construct something for ourselves that will redeem everyone.

Please do not leave me. I love you. I wish I could tell you how much, though even in your arms I would still be unable to express it to you. [12]


[*] Was letter 271. Dating of this letter takes as its point of departure Caroline’s repetition of Friedrich Schlegel’s remark about the role of irony in his attitude toward his lectures. Erich Schmidt (1913), 599, remarks after the fact concerning his own positioning of this letter (as letter 271) before that to Schelling on 15 October 1800 (letter 272):

I was too uncritical in retaining Georg Waitz’s sequence of letters [Waitz (1871) similarly positions this letter before that to Schelling on 15 October 1800]. This letter can only have been written after Friedrich Schlegel’s Habilitation (inaugural lecture, 18 October 1800). Admittedly, according to Walzel, 444, he had even already delivered his second lecture beforehand, on 17 October 1800. Friedrich does, after all, write to Wilhelm Schlegel from Jena on 17 October 1800 (Walzel, 444):

The reason I have written so little is that I just delivered my second lecture. Since this is something so totally new for me, it is keeping me extremely busy, and I hope you will thus excuse me. Until now, I am quite satisfied with my success.

Hermann Patsch, however, KFSA 25:532, points out that in any case, according to university archives in Jena Friedrich delivered his inaugural lecture on 18 October 1800, without which he could not have lectured earlier. See also Dorothea Veit’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 28 October 1800 (letter 273a), in which she remarks that Friedrich’s “lectures commenced yesterday.” Hence the letter in Walzel, 444 would have to be dated from 17 October to 27 October 1800.

Friedrich then writes on 10 November 1800 (Walzel, 445 [letter 274a in present edition]) that he already has approximately sixty students attending his lecture:

I just arrived back home, quite fatigued, from my lecture, and must thus ask you to make do with these paltry lines, since the letter must get to the post immediately. Dorothea has not been well for several days.

I have about 60 students and am nonetheless being paid as poorly as with all my previous work. The presentation and exercise involved does give me a great deal of pleasure, but the students are inexpressibly stupid, and I must be mindful not to view the entire affair solely from the perspective of irony.

It is this quip about irony and less-than-erudite students that Caroline repeats in this present letter. The first Tuesday after Friedrich’s letter on 10 November 1800 was 11 November, but postal day in Jena was Tuesday itself (KFSA 25:537), so Wilhelm could not yet have received the letter. Hence this present letter is presumably to be dated to the following Tuesday, 18 November 1800. Back.

[1] The reference is to Schelling’s apparent mention of thoughts of suicide (Schwerdtgeburt, Ein Erhängter wird von seinem Galgen gelöst [1814]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 1832):


For Caroline and Schelling, as for essentially anyone familiar with contemporary literature at the time not only in Germany, but in Europe broadly, the notion of suicide of a younger person was especially associated with the pistol-suicide of Werther in Goethe’s best-seller Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (Leipzig 1774) (illustration by Jean Duplessi-Bertaux from the French translation Werther: Traduction de l’Allemand de Goete par C. Aubry, 2 vols. [Paris 1797], illustration following vol.2:166):



[2] Schelling’s Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik, ed. F. W. J. Schelling, 2 vols., 4 issues (Leipzig 1800–1801). Back.

[3] Friedrich had been lecturing on philosophy in Jena since 27 October 1800; concerning the academic friction between him and Schelling, see Schelling’s letter to Fichte on 31 October 1800 (letter 273c), though also Friedrich’s own letter to Schleiermacher on ca. 17 November 1800 (letter 274b) and Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm on 28 October 1800 (letter 273a). Friedrich was worried about competition from Schelling even during the summer of 1800; see his letters to Wilhelm on 6 August 1800 (letter 265j) and 25 August 1800 (letter 266b). The nature of what Caroline calls “countering ploys” is uncertain. Back.

[4] Here: seminar, colloquy. Back.

[5] Either an orthographical error or written intentionally as such in jest (Germ. wickeln, “swaddle, swathe”) as a cipher for Stephan August Winckelmann, eventually one of Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann’s colleagues at the Anatomical Surgical Institute in Braunschweig, though he died in 1806; his introduction to dynamic physiology, Einleitung in die dynamische Physiologie (Göttingen 1803), exhibits a slightly Schellingian disposition.

In Göttingen and Jena, Winckelmann was acquainted with Clemens Brentano, at the end of whose novel Godwi oder das steinerne Bild der Mutter, ein verwildeter Roman von Maria, 2 vols. (Bremen 1801/02), Winckelmann makes a cameo appearance.

Here the title pages and frontispieces, and a third illlustration, “Ottilie,” from the Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1803: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet 1819 (Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




See Achim von Arnim und die ihm nahe standen, ed. Reinhold Steig and Herman Grimm, 3 vols. (Stuttgart 1894–1904) vol. 1, Achim von Arnim und Clemens Brentano, ed. Reinhold Steig, 26–27 (Brentano writes from Jena in late 1801 to Winckelmann in Göttingen):

I have already been here two weeks. Friedrich Schlegel has gone to Berlin, and I am beginning to lose interest in waiting for him. Madam Veit is interesting to me only because of her naiveté; she thinks she is the final authority on love.

All your friends here are nothing, and you are nothing for all of them. Wrangel and I are the only ones who do justice to you. Kohler, ah, your excellent Kohler, always allegedly such a childlike, good-natured person with sense — yet he thinks nothing of you.

And so all of them, even your much-praised Rehbein says that there is absolutely nothing behind your medicine. The only one who values you is Fries, whom I love. Madam Veit, too, thinks you are a nothing, and is no longer quite so fond of Ritter either, simply because he has become his own man.

Concerning Ritter’s relationship with Friedrich and Dorothea, see also Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 31 October 1800 (letter 273b), note 21.

After Auguste’s death in July 1800, when Wilhelm, Caroline, Schelling, and Ludwig Tieck had all left Jena, Friedrich and Dorothea began seeing Ritter frequently. Friedrich writes to Tieck on 22 August 1800 (Briefe an Ludwig Tieck 3:314–16; Lohner 43), after complaining about how insufferable Brentano’s company had become:

Ritter is about the only person we are seeing now. We see him almost every day, his social skills have undergone a truly astonishing development recently, and I find his company about as pleasant as one can find the company of a mortal.

On 11 January 1802, Brentano writes to Achim von Arnim from Marburg; he discusses the failure of a plan to secure Ludwig Tieck a theater directorship in Frankfurt, in which connection Brentano had himself hoped to find work. Brentano had even suggested to Tieck that they start a new theater company. He then mentions Winckelmann (Achim von Arnim und die ihm nahe standen 1:27–28; map: Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):

I left Göttingen at odds with Winckelmann because of his mendacious temperament, but he ran after me all the way to Frankfurt. Everything I predicted came about, he has not a single friend apart from me and you. I just came from Jena, where, among other things, I encountered general contempt for Winckelmann among his so-called friends. People there think he is nothing but a windbag, even Friedrich Schlegel does. I told him so, he acknowledged it and turned in renewed friendship to me, and indeed, I do quite love his potential!

I had a peculiar experience in Jena. I am on quite stiff terms with Friedrich, and even stiffer with Madam Veit [see Auguste’s letter to Schelling on 4/5 June 1800 (letter 261), note 7]. I traveled as far as Gotha with Ritter, and spoke a great deal about you. Ritter, dear Arnim, is the greatest man of our time, whereas Schelling seems in a laughably precarious position, as does Goethe.



[6] As Dorothea Veit became increasingly hostile toward Caroline and offended by her relationship with Schelling, all the more intimate did she become with Karoline Paulus.

As chance would have it, H. E. G. Paulus, Karoline Paulus, and their daughter, Sophie, had been in Bocklet from July to mid-August 1800, i.e., when Auguste died and shortly thereafter. Gossip concerning Caroline and Schelling quickly took flight (“Ein Thé — medisant,” Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1803: Dem Edeln und Schönen der frohen Laune und der Philosophie des Lebens gewidmet [1804], plate 5; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Because of this essentially unbridled gossip, Schelling was quite unsure whether he should have contact with Paulus after returning to Jena in October 1800.

Concerning the Pauluses in Bocklet, see Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 28 July 1800 (letter 265i), note 2. Back.

[7] Goethe’s periodical Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift, herausgegeben von Goethe (1798–1800); this issue (vol. 3, no. 2) would be the last. Back.

[8] Friedrich Schlegel occasionally used mathematical notation to describe philosophical and literary (or aesthetic) relationships, particularly in his working notebooks, including even the square-root symbol. Back.

[9] Goethe was negotiating with Schelling concerning a grand poem on nature that was never fully actualized. Concerning the background to this collaboration and its tentative results, see the editorial note to the supplementary appendix on Schelling’s stanzas to Caroline at Christmas 1799. Back.

[10] I.e., thoughts of suicide (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, excerpt from a sheet of position studies [1779]; Rijksmuseum):



[11] I.e., for Christmas. Back.

[12] Not surprisingly, copious illustrations of embrace are found in popular contemporary literature (Gott wenn ach! [ca. 1797–98]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [7-514]):



Translation © 2014 Doug Stott