Letter 285b

285b. Goethe to Schelling in Jena: Weimar, 1 February 1801 [*]

Weimar, 1 February 1801

My sincere thanks for your interest in my recovery; [1] I hope things will very soon be such that I will have the pleasure of seeing you again in a few days; [2] for unfortunately, the last time we parted, my illness had already quite taken hold of me, so much so that I quickly thereafter lost consciousness of my own condition. [3] I could feel even during your own presence here at the time that I was beginning to lose full use of my intellectual powers.

Given the attempts I have made during the past few days, things seem to have returned much to their former condition. But such will be seen more reliably only during the time to come. My physical ills diminish daily, and my energy increases, so let us see how far we gradually can get by caring thus for both mind and body.

Please do write me from time to time about whatever you happen to be interested in at the moment. Such will also generate more points of contact in me.

I read your addendum to the Eschenmayer essay with considerable pleasure. [4] If I may use a metaphor, I was like someone who comes upon familiar paths in the twilight and is able to find his way quite well even without being able to recognize clearly every single object he passes.

Fichte’s announcement in the Allgemeine Zeitung has also occupied and entertained me. [5] . . .

Stay well and please do let me hear from you again soon.



[*] Sources: Plitt 1:323–24; Goethe und die Romantik 1:214; Fuhrmans 2:307–8. Back.

[1] Schelling had written Goethe a lengthy letter on 26 January 1801 (Fuhrmans 1:240–44) primarily about his, Schelling’s, current philosophical thinking, especially with respect to the philosophy of nature. Goethe addresses none of these issues in his response here, though at least according to Caroline and Schiller he did indeed dream or hallucinate about such during his illness.

Schelling had, however, begun the letter by expressing his joy at Goethe’s recovery from the serious illness the latter had suffered following the New Year’s Eve celebration with Schelling, Schiller, and Henrik Steffens (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 27 February 1801 [letter 276]; for Steffens’s account of the New Year’s celebration and his remarks on Goethe’s illness, see supplementary appendix 279.1.

Concerning Goethe’s illness, see Caroline’s undated letter to Schelling in January 1801 (letter 281), note 1. Back.

[2] Schelling dined with Goethe and Schiller at Goethe’s Weimar residence on 21 February 1801 (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:7; illustration of Goethe’s Weimar house on an early postcard: “Vor dem Goethehaus zu Weimars klassischer Zeit”):



[3] Schelling had returned to Jena on 4 January 1801 (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:1). Back.

[4] K. A. Eschenmayer, “Spontanteität = Weltseele oder das höchste Princip der Naturphilosophie,” in Zeitschrift für speculative Physik II, no. 1 (1801), 3–68. Schelling’s “addendum” (ibid., 111–46) was his “Anhang zu dem Aufsatz des Herrn Eschenmayer betreffend den wahren Begriff der Naturphilosophie und die richtige Art, ihre Probleme aufzulösen,” an “enormously important essay,” thus Fuhrmans 2:307n3, “that shows Schelling decisively on the path toward his philosophy of identity.” Back.

[5] Fichte’s “announcement”: “Ankündigung der neuen Darstellung der Wissenschaftslehre” in Johann Friedrich Cotta’s Allgemeine Zeitung (1801) no. 24 (24 January 1801), Beilage no. 1, 1–4, in which he speaks — condescendingly, in Schelling’s view — about Schelling as his “talented collaborator.” Caroline mentions this piece in several later letters.

For the text, see J. G. Fichte, Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre and Other Writings, trans. Daniel Breazeale (Indianapolis 1994), 185–202; also 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), 85–92. The new version of the Wissenschaftslehre that Fichte was announcing here never actually appeared as such. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott