Letter 323a

323a. Schelling to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 3 July 1801 [*]

Jena, 3 July 1801

Please forgive me, my good friend, for not answering until now. I have recently been quite occupied with my study of the work of others, especially some older pieces, and am now occupied with my own. The continuation of my Zeitschrift will be appearing soon, and I am just now extremely busy with it. [1]

I would still very much like to contribute something to the anthology. What Caroline copied out for you is a collection of fragments from a series of poems in elegiac and epigrammatic form. [2] When you come, I will show you what might be worthy of publication. [3] You yourself can then judge whether such is worth the trouble. So, then several more of my poetic projects! Beforehand, however, you must yet divulge to me some of the secrets of this art form.

As far as the “Pastor” is concerned, I almost fear the later improvements more than I do the initial mistakes. I am well aware that they were not particularly successful, and since it is, after all, a poem that deviates from the rules, I think I would prefer to take back at least some of the corrections to avoid it seeming to deny its own character. [4]

I am obliged to you for the copy of the Charakteristiken, which has proven to be extraordinarily instructive and entertaining reading. I greatly regret not having sent your copy of my Zeitschrift to Berlin at the same time as that for Fichte; [5] now I no longer think it worth the trouble.

Eschenmayer published a review of the Entwurf of my philosophy of nature in the Erlanger Zeitung quite in the spirit of the essay you may have read in the penultimate issue of my Zeitschrift, and I would not be surprised were Fichte to have found it to be quite good. [6]

Fichte’s missive to Reinhold evoked our complete admiration; [7] I am reading it again and again. It is among the most splendid things Fichte has written. I do not know who wrote the review of Athenaeum in the Erlanger Zeitung, even less who wrote the review of your Gedichte. This is real mangy dog’s work, or rather ass’s work. [8]

There was also a review of my Idealismus there, doubtless by Steffens. [9] Have you by chance had a look at his Beiträge? An excellent piece and an invaluable acquisition for the philosophy of nature and all areas of physics. [10]

He recently journeyed to the Rhine, Franconia, Bamberg, etc., and will be spending the rest of the summer here as soon as he can get away from Freiberg. [11]

I must also relate to you that people genuinely seem to have viewed your declaration with respect to the Kotzebuade in the Literatur-Zeitung as a scoop. They immediately printed it and — at least until now — have asked nothing for it.

You have made me quite eager to see Fichte’s letter. [12] But I am so sure of my position that I cannot doubt that Fichte — will concur with me, at least in the future. [13] Unfortunately I myself realize that to the extent I have hitherto been able to explain myself such was not yet possible.

I must yet write and tell you that I have become an extremely enthusiastic reader and admirer of the Reden über die Religion. [14] You know how things went for me as a result of unpardonable neglect or lethargy with respect to it. But now I admire the author as a mind whom one can view along the exact same lines as the first original philosophers. Without such originality, it is not possible to have penetrated into the innermost realm of speculation without leaving behind even a trace of the various stages one had to traverse.

As it is, this work seems to me to have emerged solely from within itself, and as such is not only the most beautiful portrayal, but also itself an image of the universe, and yet at the same time whoever would produce something of this sort must have engaged in the most profound philosophical studies — or have written with blind divine inspiration. [15]

As far as Caroline’s health is concerned, she seems — apart from weakness affecting primarily her nervous system that she will likely never entirely overcome — to be in a disposition that at the least does not seem to presage any more deeply penetrating malady, allowing for some element of not unfounded hope that we will not be losing her. Although the recent cool weather has been a bit hard on her, there have been no further ill effects. What she needs most is peace and quiet. She is in a serene mood, reads a great deal, and also quite surrenders to the joy of not avoiding even more profound studies. [16] She enjoys the fresh air as much as possible. . . .

Stay well and contented.



[*] Plitt 1:343–46; Fuhrmans 2:333–36. — This letter is Schelling’s response to Wilhelm’s letter to him on 26 May 1801 (letter 318a). Back.

[1] Schelling’s Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik. There was no continuation at this time, issue II/2 (1801) was the final issue before Schelling found a new publisher. Troubles with the original publisher, Christian Ernst Gabler, would follow Schelling later even to Würzburg.

His new publisher, Johann Friedrich Cotta, renamed the journal Neue Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik in 1802. Back.

[2] For the Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1802. Caroline had variously related to Wilhelm that Schelling was working on material that might be included (18 May 1801 [letter 317]; 6 July 1801 [letter 324]; and 10 July 1801 [letter 325]).

For a list of these materials, see Wilhelm’s letter to Schelling on 26 May 1801 (letter 318a), note 5. Back.

[3] Wilhelm returned to Jena from Berlin temporarily on 11 August 1801 and departed on his return journey to Berlin on 3 November 1801. Back.

[4] Concerning these corrections, see the supplementary appendix on the “Pastor of Drottning,” note 7. Back.

[5] In his letter to Schelling on 26 May 1801 (letter 318a), Wilhelm mentioned having seen the most recent issue of Schelling’s Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik at Fichte’s residence in Berlin. Caroline in her own turn, in her letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), had suggested he secure that copy for himself to read. Back.

[6] Concerning this review, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 22 June 1801 (letter 322), note 20. Fichte did indeed find it good. In a marginal note to his letter to Schelling on 7 August 1801 (Fuhrmans 2:344), he remarked:

I am just now reading the Erlanger L. Z. no. 67 [7 April 1801, where the review of Schelling’s philosophy of nature appeared]. What is said on p. 531 completely coincides with my own thoughts, except that I would have expressed myself categorically rather than with doubt. Back.

[7] See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), note 30. Back.

[8] See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm in mid-June 1801 (letter 320b), note 2. Back.

[9] Schelling was likely incorrect in his assumption that Steffens authored the review of his System des transcendentalen Idealismus (it may have been authored by the Fichte follower Johann Baptist Schad). See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 22 June 1801 (letter 322), note 20. Back.

[10] Henrik Steffens, Beyträge zur inneren Naturgeschichte der Erde, 1. Teil (Freyberg 1801), which Steffens dedicated to Goethe; see Caroline’s remarks in her letter to Wilhelm of 31 May 1801 (letter 319) and Goethe’s reaction (note 17 there). Back.

[11] Concerning Steffens’s journey, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May 1801 (letter 319), note 18, and on 22 June 1801 (letter 322), note 17. Back.

[12] Schelling was awaiting Fichte’s answer to his own letter of 24 May 1801. Although Wilhelm had probably written Caroline in this regard, that response has not been preserved.

See in any case Caroline’s remarks to Wilhelm on 29 June 1801 (letter 323), also with note 6 there. Back.

[13] He did not; this period, was, in fact, the beginning of the end of their relationship. Back.

[14] Whence also Caroline’s entreaties to Wilhelm during this period to have Schleiermacher visit Jena (in her letters to Wilhelm on 7 June 1801 [letter 320] and 10 July 1801 [letter 325]).

Concerning Caroline’s reaction to Schleiermacher’s book, see Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Caroline in July 1799 (letter 241), note 11. Back.

[15] Concerning Schelling’s initially cool reaction to Schleiermacher’s piece, see Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Caroline on 19 February 1799 (letter 221), note 7. Back.

[16] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, study of woman reading from 1779; Rijksmuseum:


Schelling had been going over his “Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie,” Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik 2 (1801) 2, with Caroline “line by line”; see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 May 1801 (letter 317), also with note 37. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott