Letter 369b

369b. Wilhelm Schlegel to Schelling in Jena: Berlin, 27 August 1802 [*]

Berlin, 27 August 1802

What you related to me in the conclusion to your letter of the 19th [1] upset me so much, and the inestimable vileness and infamy of the behavior in the excerpt from the A.L.Z. that you enclosed incensed me to such a degree that for the time being I can think of nothing else and hence will immediately take up my quill and write you that we might consider this matter together. [2]

First, as far as the accusation and its sources presented by that particular pasquinade are concerned, I was met on my arrival in Bocklet by similar gossip that had been spread among a whole group of people, none of whom admittedly knew anything about medicine (I must specifically except the Martinengos in this respect, whom you might otherwise suspect; in my presence they did not allude even remotely to anything of this sort, notwithstanding their understanding of medicine was inclined to cling to the old ways and they themselves did not seem to have much trust even in Marcus). [3]

Hence I thus urgently implored Marcus to do everything to quash such talk. The local physician did make a report to him as soon as he arrived; he had committed the medical history to writing and wanted to have it published in a medical journal, but Marcus dissuaded him by pointing out how in so doing he might well risk exposing his own medical weaknesses.

The very first day I was there, [4] he was among the guests at the midday meal and spoke to me immediately after the meal, adducing in his own defense the essay he had handed over to Hofrath Marcus, an essay the latter would in fact be handing over to me. I responded that I was myself no physician in any case and was in no position to judge such things, but that it had not occurred to me to attribute any culpability to him, and that I was instead inclined to believe the remarks by Marcus and Röschlaub to the effect that the coincidence of two so malevolent maladies had rendered the illness incurable in any case.

I was quite forceful in telling him this in order to calm him down, since it was quite obvious that his concern for his own reputation had prompted his zealous efforts to shunt the guilt off on someone else. I accepted the essay and kept it, since I did not again have occasion to speak with its author. [5] I am still safekeeping it sealed among other documents pertaining to the deceased. Your prescriptions are included, which admittedly contain nothing but opium; but since I am not inclined to open these materials just now, I no longer really know whether I have such in the original or only as copies.

On my return to Bamberg, I did not think it prudent to say anything to you about this because it could only evoke the most painful emotions. You acted according to the reasoning of your own convictions, and no extant or even possible medical science can assess all the possible variations of any one, individual case with irrefutable certainty.

There was, moreover, nothing one could do about such gossip in any case, and what I would have considered the most effective measure in the event that it might at some point appear in print — which amid such complicated circumstances, considering that the attending physician had been dissuaded from writing by an authority that was quite important to him, seemed highly unlikely to me — namely, that Röschlaub would immediately, during his stay in Bocklet itself, have made a report of the case’s medical history, which was apparently his intent, as you yourself mentioned in your letter — that possibility was in fact lost at the very outset, nor was there really any further chance for it to have been retrieved.

Since then I have repressed beneath the most profound silence everything pertaining to these circumstances, indeed even as often as after my departure from Bamberg I nonetheless of necessity had to speak about the circumstances of the illness with relatives and acquaintances in Gotha, Göttingen, Hannover, and Braunschweig. [6]

Although both last summer and this summer I caught wind of the possibility that this rumor had in fact not yet died out there, I still believed, for the reasons mentioned above, that it was better not to say anything to you about it. During my visit in Dresden this past spring, [7] I learned from . . . [8]


[*] Sources: Plitt 1:386–88; Fuhrmans 2:425–26; Briefe 2:1:457–59. Back.

[1] Letter 369a. Back.

[2] Wilhelm is referring to the passage Schelling underlined in Christian Gottfried Schütz’s recent review in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1802) 225 (Tuesday, 10 August 1802) 327–28:

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. Back.

[3] I.e., the “old ways” with regard to physicians as opposed to university-centered medical theory and, in this case, also the Brunonian method.

See esp. the section on surgeons and physicians in the supplementary appendix on the scandal surrounding Auguste’s death. Back.

[4] In Bocklet, whereas Schelling and Caroline remained in Bamberg, whither they had returned from Bocklet to meet Wilhelm when he arrived from Jena approx. on 24 July 1800 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[5] This essay does not seem to have been preserved. Back.

[6] Caroline’s circle of friends in Gotha: Luise Gotter and her daughters and her numerous acquaintances over the years; in Göttingen: Wilhelm’s brother Moritz Schlegel and his wife, Charlotte; in Hannover: Wilhelm’s mother, brother Karl Schlegel, the latter’s wife, Julie Schlegel, and Wilhelm’s circle of acquaintances in Hannover; and in Braunschweig: Caroline’s sister, Luise, along with her husband, Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[7] After accompanying Schelling and Caroline from Berlin to Leipzig. Rather than continuing on to Jena with them, Wilhelm had traveled on to Dresden, returning to Berlin on 13 June 1802 (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[8] The conclusion to the letter is missing, though in it Wilhelm likely offered to take measures against the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in Schelling’s stead.

The result was Wilhelm’s To the Public. Rebuke of a Defamation of Honor Perpetrated in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (letter/document 371b) (the piece appeared in October 1802). Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott