Letter 369a

369a. Schelling to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 19 August 1802 [*]

Jena, 19 August 1802

. . . I have two bits of news yet to relate to you.

The recent news that the duke had returned from Pyrmont was unfounded, since he is currently still traveling about in the area around the Rhine River. [1] Geheim Rath Voigt is similarly absent, being himself with the duke. Caroline has charged me with relating this news to you.

It is now unavoidable that this will cause delays in the process already embarked on; otherwise everything has been done and secured from Caroline’s side to ensure that, should this particular path indeed be successful, the final result will be afterward quickly attainable after all.

Nonetheless, persons who have taken an interest in the matter assure me that, despite all the precautionary measures, it is not certain the duke will comply. Should such be the case, Caroline is of the opinion that one ought then to seize the usual course of action without further reservation after mutually agreeing to such. [2]

Enclosed you will find, apart from Bruno (in connection with which it is extraordinarily annoying that, because of Unger’s neglect, I have to send a copy back to Berlin even though in Leipzig I gave him the most specific instructions), [3] also the first issue of my Neue Zeitschrift. [4]

In the latter, you will find under “Miscellaneous” an essay [5] I would like for you to be aware of insofar as it prompted Schütz to perpetrate a horrible abomination against me, Caroline, and more or less also you by citing and excerpting — as an act of vengeance — the underlined passage from a review, which I have cut out and enclosed for you, of a pasquinade with which I am only generally familiar, namely, Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy. [6]

You can and will easily imagine what effect this vile abomination had on both of us. I cannot say that the matter itself was wholly unexpected for me, since I was already aware of the measures this person — who deceived us so horrifically — had taken days before in an attempt to shunt the blame onto me. Caroline has now related to me everything about it, including what you yourself have done in the matter and how it represents something new as little for you as for her. [7]

I am touched in acknowledging the consideration for me, though it does now doubly pain me. What I myself must now do in the matter is clear enough to me to know that nothing can bend me so far as to make me desecrate that sacred name. [8] Beyond that, however, I have no specific thoughts yet.

I did relate the entire matter to Goethe and am now awaiting his opinion on it. [9] There is not a single person here who is not indignant to the utmost degree over the entire matter; nor did anyone besides Schütz know about it; Griesbach is outraged. [10]

Please let me know soon what you think; since we began this entire quarrel with the Literatur-Zeitung together, I would also like to conclude it together and finish Schütz off. [11]

I must close for today. Stay well and maintain your friendship for me.


[*] Sources: Plitt 1:384–86; Fuhrmans 2:421–23. Back.

[1] Schelling had related this information in his letter to Wilhelm on 30 July 1802 (letter 368b); see note 5 there. Back.

[2] As emerges in later correspondence, “persons who have taken an interest in the matter” included primarily Goethe, who was, however, trying to keep a low profile in the affair.

Caroline and Wilhelm’s original plan for securing the divorce was to circumvent the consistory and appeal directly to the Duke of Weimar; should such fail, their only other course of action would be to appeal to the consistory, a more involved and risky process generally requiring personal appearances, in this case before consistory members not always cordially disposed toward the couple (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Scheidung [“divorce”] [1788], Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.775):


The local church consistory generally had the last word in cases of divorce. Here Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s illustrations of (1) a meeting of hierarchical consistory members ca. 1774, and (2) an individual having to appear before such a consistory (“Ein hierarchisches Konsistorium,” from the Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate LXXIII d; Sebaldus vor dem Consistorium [1774]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [1-51]; both illustrations Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Chodowiecki Sammlung [1-15]):




[3] Bruno; oder, Über das göttliche und natürliche Princip der Dinge: Ein Gespräch (Berlin 1802), had been published in May by Friedrich Unger, whom Schelling had personally instructed to send Wilhelm a copy in Berlin. Both Schelling and Caroline had traveled through Leipzig in May 1802, during the book fair, on the way back to Jena from Berlin. Back.

[4] Schelling’s Neue Zeitschrift für speculative Physik, whose first issue appeared in August 1802. Back.

[5] “Benehmen des Obscurantismus gegen die Naturphilosophie,” Neue Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik 1 (1802) 161–88; trans. “The Comportment of Obscurantism contra the Philosophy of Nature”. Back.

[6] The passage, which Schütz excerpts in his review in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1802) 225 (Tuesday, 10 August 1802) 327–28, implies that Schelling was in some way responsible for Auguste’s death (original text in the Encomium):


Except may heaven forbid that he suffer the misfortune of killing in reality those whom he heals in ideality, a misfortune that befell Schelling, the One and Only, in Boklet in Franconia in the case of M. B.*, as malicious people maintain.

Concerning these various pieces and their sequence, see Fuhrmans 2:422n10 (biblographical information completed by translator):

The summer of 1802 brought yet another serious clash between Schelling and the Jena Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. — [Christian Gottfried] Schütz, as senior editor, had already published a review [of what were known as the Bamberg theses] in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1802) 101 (Saturday, 3 April 1802) 31–32, that made its way through other journals as well, a mocking piece about how with the help of the Schellingian philosophy of nature one might be awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine in Bamberg.

The review cited and ridiculed the candidates’ theses. Schelling, who had already long been annoyed with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, believing that virtually all its reviews were written to include side remarks critical of his philosophy of nature, responded with his article “The Comportment of Obscurantism contra the Philosophy of Nature.”

This response — as so often already in the past as well — was ruthless. Schelling’s issue [of the Neue Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik] containing this article was probably not even yet in the hands of readers in Jena when the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung published yet another review [Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1802) 225 (Tuesday, 10 August 1802) 327–28].

A similarly mocking review had been published in other journals concerning, again, how with the help of the Schellingian postulates one might be awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine in Bamberg. The Würzburg theologian [Franz] Berg had incorporated this review into a small piece (only twenty-nine pages), Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy, containing an account of how a certain [Joseph] Reubel had been promoted to Doctor of Medicine with Schellingian theses after apparently proclaiming, with Schelling’s philosophy, a new philosophy through which death itself would be overcome.

To this was added (and cited in its entirety in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung [1802] 225 [Tuesday, 10 August 1802] 328) [the underlined passage that had so profoundly upset Schelling and Caroline and to which Schelling is referring in this letter]: “Except may heaven forbid that he [Reubel] suffer the misfortune of killing in reality those whom he heals in ideality, a misfortune that befell Schelling, the One and Only, in Bocklet in the case of M[ademoiselle] B[öhmer], as malicious people maintain.” —

It was this remark that profoundly upset Schelling and eventually prompted Wilhelm Schlegel’s piece, To the Public. Rebuke of a Defamation of Honor Perpetrated in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (letter/document 371b). In a very practical sense, the piece damaged both Schelling and Schlegel and rendered both more or less “impossible” in Jena. Back.

[7] Uncertain allusions. Back.

[8] I.e., of Auguste. Back.

[9] Probably in person, since Goethe was in Jena between 3 and 27 August 1802 (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:61–63); he seems to have read Schellings Zeitschrift on 5 August 1802 (ibid., 61). Back.

[10] Johann Jakob Griesbach, leader of the theological faculty at the university in Jena, had since 1800 been co-editor of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung; Gottlieb Hufeland had stepped down because of all the feuding. Back.

[11] Concerning Schelling’s and Wilhelm’s break with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung back in the autumn of 1799, see their correspondence during that period esp. with the editors Christian Gottfried Schütz and Gottlieb Hufeland. See also their public statements, viz., Schelling’s declaration in the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung on Saturday, 2 November 1799, and Wilhelm’s farewell statement in the Intelligenzblatt on Wednesday, 13 November 1799 (letters/documents 252d, 255a). Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott