Letter 284

• 284. Caroline to Schelling in Jena: Braunschweig, January 1801 [*]

[Braunschweig, January 1801]

|33| The mareschino arrived, and I need to give you a prompt report. [1] One bottle was broken. I, however, ever the optimist, gave thanks to God that they were not all broken, since I had already prepared myself for it. For I was thinking, who will be packing them? If my friend does it himself, then they are as good as delivered. So this break probably was not caused so much by the packing, though one should have used something other than a box. The glass is very thin.

As far as the taste is concerned, check and see whether the word mareschino is also on yours. On the one I opened and that as a matter of fact did taste a bit different to me, I found the words Rosolio di Ananas; [2] on the bottle that is still sealed, the right word, and that is probably the correct one. In the case of the former, either a mistake was made or, if the inventory was perhaps no longer as large, a cunning swap.

Only imagine how much the French may have drunk up. They are keeping Bamberg, it seems; [3] hence the postal service will probably continue during the renewed cease-fire, will it not? [4] Schlegel is still here and has descended deep into Shakespeare. He is waiting for frost. We still have cold, wet fog, and many people are sick, here in our house as well, but not I; the only thing I have is a dreadful, indeed frightfully dreadful mouth, and it looks hideous; but, then, you will not see it.

Please send me the Journal if you have not already done so; [5] I cannot wait for Schlegel, he is still thinking that he needs to go there, and I think so myself if certain things are to get done. [6]

I intend to give it a thorough read, though for me a little always accomplishes more than does a lot. What you wrote me about the plant that disassembles water, the |34| animal organism that disassembles iron, and human reason that disassembles everything — is occupying me day and night. Whenever I cannot sleep and do not allow myself to dream, I imagine this wondrous and yet so utterly natural sequence and try to comprehend whatever is within my power. And so what disassembles our own reason? Will we not do it ourselves one day? Ah, please do become a prophet for me in these matters as well.

I can see very clearly how your tracing of poetically creative nature will arrange itself into a splendid poem quite on its own. [7] You may recall the short poem by Goethe in which Amor paints the landscape, and yet does not paint it, but merely draws the veil back from what is already there, and then the point comes at which the rays of the sun once again shine so brilliantly — yes, so also will your genius become the love that animates everything. [8]

I absolutely do not hold it against you at all that you prefer not to talk about the details with me either; you must, after all, bring it to completion totally by yourself. Were I in your place, I, too, would be unable to disclose anything beforehand, and though I did ask you to do so — one often asks for something in a given moment that one understands quite differently in another.

Could you but provide some sort of transition for me from my caves and mountain peaks to your philosophy, preferably a thorough transition, since, I might add, nothing is easier for me than to stand precisely where reason — grasps itself. [9] I think I have comprehended quite well everything you have written to me — in letters — and it would be truly splendid if you could carry out what you recently spoke about, namely, a presentation you were thinking about directing or addressing to me. So please do go ahead and commence with it. Now it will be all quite natural. —

I would be very happy indeed |35| could I but comprehend something of how Fichte is changing his system. [10]

Just think, we took it as a given that Fichte was remaining stationary — indeed we did! like the sun in the valley for Gideon, or however that story goes. [11] I love these surprises . . .

[End of sheet.]


[*] Excerpts from this letter were translated by Lisa C. Roetzel in Theory as Practice: A Critical Anthology of Early German Romantic Writings, ed. Jochen Schulte-Sasse (Minneapolis 1997), 446–47. Back.

[1] Italian maraschino, a sweet liqueur made of distilled, bitter wild Morello cherries and at the time considered to be of medicinal use in strengthening the heart. Back.

[2] Concerning Rosolio di Ananas, see Charles G. Bode, Wines of Italy, rev. ed. (New York 1974), 52:

About 1420, a doctor of Padua concocted what was probably the first known liqueur by mixing brandy with attar of roses and added honey to sweeten it. He invented this mixture merely to prepare a pleasantly tasting medicine-brandy for one of his lady-patients, the reputedly very spoiled and extremely fussy mistress of one of the town’s noblemen.

But in doing so he was even more successful than he had anticipated. First the gentle lady’s friends developed all sorts of illnesses in order to qualify for that delicious medicine. By and by they dropped all pretences and simply asked the doctor to sell this medicine of his which they so much enjoyed drinking. Very soon the doctor’s rosolio — “oil of roses” — as he called it, became fashionable all over Italy, with no medical purpose attached to it.

From this original rosolio a number of other mixtures of brandy, honey, and fruits and herbs were developed, with oranges, cherries, apricots. They were all called rosolio, although the use of attar declined increasingly. Every Italian court had its rosolio specialists. Towards the end of the Fifteenth Century the Italians were doing a brisk export trade with their rosolios, and when Catarina de’ Medici left Florence to marry the Dauphin of France, who became King Henry II., she included in her entourage a number of rosolio experts.

The liqueur to which Caroline is referring was flavored with pineapple. Back.

[3] Concerning the French in Bamberg, see Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 15 December 1800 (letter 276d), note 7. Back.

[4] Caroline’s reference to Bamberg here is unclear. Back.

[5] Uncertain reference, though Schelling had published parts of his poem “Heinz Widerporst’s Epicurean Confession of Faith” (lines 184–249) anonymously in his own Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik 1 (1800) no. 2, 152–55, with the title “Noch etwas über das Verhältniss der Naturphilosophie zum Idealismus,” (Yet something else concerning the relationship between the philosophy of nature and idealism), with the concluding note that the “continuation” would follow (it did not; repr. Sämmtliche Werke 4:546–48). Back.

[6] I.e., go to Jena; Caroline had earlier mentioned Wilhelm needing to “prompt” Friedrich Schlegel for some reason (see the final paragraph in her undated letter to Schelling in January 1801 (letter 280) and the accompanying note. Wilhelm did not make it to Jena until August 1801 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[7] Here Caroline seems to be referring to Schelling’s poem on nature, which he never finished. Back.

[8] Caroline is referring to Goethe’s poem “Amor als Landschaftsmaler,” “Amor/Cupid/Love the landscape painter”(1787) (Weimarer Ausgabe 2:182); for the translation, see supplementary appendix 284.1. Back.

[9] Caroline is alluding to Faust’s first monologue (J. W. von Goethe, Faust. Part I, The Harvard Classics 19 [New York 1909], 22; illustration: George T. Andrew et al., Songs and Scenes from Goethe’s Faust [Boston 187], 13):


In thy dear light, ah, might I climb,
Freely, some mountain height sublime,
Round mountain caves with spirits ride,
In thy mild haze o'er meadows glide,
And, purged from knowledge-fumes, renew
My spirit, in thy healing dew!

Otherwise the expression “transition from my caves and mountain peaks” may also allude to her recent reading of the works of George-Louis Leclerc Buffon concerning the formation of the earth and cosmos. See her undated letter to Schelling in January 1801 (letter 282), esp. with note 1. Back.

[10] Regrettably, Schelling’s letters to Caroline containing these materials are no longer extant. For a selection of texts covering the break between Fichte and Schelling, see “Selections from Fichte-Schelling Correspondence,” in part 1, “Critique in the Wake of German Idealism,” Theory as Practice: A Critical Anthology of Early German Romantic Writings, ed. Jochen Schulte-Sasse (Minneapolis 1997), 73–90; and The Philosophical Rupture Between Fichte and Schelling: Selected Texts and Correspondence (1800–1802), ed. Michael G. Vater and David W. Wood, Suny Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy (Albany 2012). Back.

[11] Should read: “Gibeon”; see Joshua 10:12–14 (NRSV; alternate reading; illustration of Joshua 10:13 by Gustave Doré, in La Grande Bible de Tours [Tours 1866]):

On the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the Lord; and he said in the sight of Israel,

"Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon."

And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
until he [the Lord] defeated his enemies' force.


Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice; for the Lord fought for Israel. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott