Letter 291

• 291. Caroline to Schelling in Jena: Braunschweig, February? 1801 [*]

[Braunschweig, February? 1801]

[Beginning of letter is missing.]

|47| . . . certainly not once. Before I write him anything that also concerns you, I will wait for your permission. Then everything will be completely clarified.

One thing you can definitely count on is that I will be spending the summer near you. That which I have to discuss with Schlegel in order to secure my own situation — it will not be anything contra my own feelings, which you have mentioned a couple of times in this context — As well as I have lived with him here under one roof, we can certainly also come to an agreement in the future if he remains on good terms with me. [1]

If you want to know the truth, it would be extremely convenient for me just now were I frightfully wealthy. But wealthy or not, I intend to do nothing that would make me sacrifice my friend; that notion has recently risen before me like a bright star after I previously had been living in such fog.

|48| I would still very much like to respond to several important things in your letter, but I simply lack too much to do so, and hardly have the time.

I was unable to get hold of Fichte’s explanation. [2] My powers of divination, however, do tell me that you are probably not far off with your reference to the bittersweet element. Although I can probably not determine so precisely whether Fichte has genuinely elevated himself above consciousness and reflection — I do know for certain that he cannot get so far beyond his own “I” that he should not like to push another “I” aside were it to arouse the kind of premonitions in him that you indeed do. [3]

I am also very much of the opinion: Do not allow yourself to be pushed away. Resistance, I think, could probably be carried out such that only the truly initiated would become aware of it [4] — for you can continue building without worrying about him, he is so enormously far behind as far as knowledge and poesy are concerned that not even with the totality of his conceptual power can he imitate your nature, hence you have no real need to protect yourself against his robbing you of what is yours, and an open, public schism would result in monstrous confusion. It is, after all, the philosophy of nature through which your idealism has become something different from his and which he simply has to allow to stand. —

I really must try again to determine whether this publication has not arrived here at all; Schlegel went searching for it three times in vain at the reading club.

Do not neglect to write Fichte what you have planned. [5] I will be surprised if he speaks to Schlegel about you. [6] I do not quite understand how he manages to be false given his otherwise upright character, but sometimes there is very definitely something like that at work in him. It should not surprise you — such falseness is often merely a kind of versatility, a lack of good, resolute partisanship for a friend |49| that at the very least would prevent such a person from disclosing to others any judgment of that friend. —

If anyone is acting irreproachably in this matter, it is Schlegel, and I am sorry to see that he receives so little reward for doing so. Given his vanity, it says a great deal that the whole thing does not anger him any more than it does when he occasionally learns how people disparage him who will never attain his degree of fame. And he is cultivated enough to go along with it. Perhaps he would even speak up in defense of Ritter. [7] He does not make much at all of such falseness, and he is more honest and sincere than all the rest of you.

As far as Berentano [sic!] is concerned, you can rest assured that in [8] . . .

[End of sheet.]


[*] An excerpt from this letter was translated by Lisa C. Roetzel in Theory as Practice: A Critical Anthology of Early German Romantic Writings, ed. Jochen Schulte-Sasse (Minneapolis 1997), 447. Back.

[1] At issue are future living arrangements. Back.

[2] Likely Fichte’s “announcement” concerning the future form of his philosophy (see Goethe’s letter to Schelling on 1 February 1801 [letter 285b], note 5).

Caroline later also reads Fichte’s Sonnenklarer Bericht an das grössere Publikum über das eigentliche Wesen der neuesten Philosophie. Ein Versuch den Leser zum Verstehen zu zwingen (Berlin 1801); Eng. trans. “A Crystal Clear Report Concerning the Actual Essence of the Newest Philosophy: An Attempt to Force the Reader to Understand,” trans. John Botterman and William Rasch, in Fichte, Jacobi, and Schelling. Philosophy of German Idealism, ed. Ernst Behler (New York 1987), 39–115.

See in this context Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), where she also writes: “do tell, what is it that drives Fichte to cast his doctrine and teaching down at people’s feet like a sack of wool and then to pick it up and throw it down in front of them yet again?” See esp. note 29 there. Back.

[3] Much of Fichte’s previous philosophy involved an examination of the principles of cognition associated with the I, self, or ego and the relationship between those principles (and the knowing self) and the world. Back.

[4] That is, only the truly initiated among Fichte’s and Schelling’s readers and followers; the object is to avoid a public schism. Back.

[5] Schelling writes to Fichte on 15 March 1801 (Fichtes und Schellings philosophischer Briefwechsel [1856], 70–73, here 71–72):

Your announcement of a new presentation of the Wissenschaftslehre could not but interest me, and you can easily judge how very much I am anticipating it [the new version of the Wissenschaftslehre] and the Sonnenklarer Bericht.

I am in any case quite obliged to you for the passage in that announcement in which you deem my own work worthy of mention, and must in any case, and without any further examination, recognize it as true, since you yourself know that, especially with respect to my works on the philosophy of nature, it was precisely not my intention to gain access with the public for the transcendental perspective of the sort generally attributed to you, or even for the perspective that, given the above discussion, does indeed stand in contradiction to that which I myself intend.

Differences in their philosophical positions made it increasingly difficult for Fichte and Schelling to see each other as philosophical allies. For a selection of texts covering the break between them, 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.

[6] Fichte was, however, becoming cozier with Wilhelm Schlegel since the latter’s arrival in Berlin, at least according to his own account. Back.

[7] Uncertain allusion. Back.

[8] Erich Schmidt, (1913), 2:604, suggests that the rest of the letter probably discussed Clemens Brentano’s novel Godwi oder das steinerne Bild der Mutter, ein verwildeter Roman von Maria, 2 vols. (Bremen 1801/02). Concerning the novel’s general disposition, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 10 December 1801 (letter 335), note 36.

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):





Translation © 2014 Doug Stott