Letter 371b

371b. Wilhelm Schlegel, To the Public. Rebuke of a Defamation of Honor Perpetrated in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (Tübingen 1802) [*]

|2| In issue 225 of the Jena Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung this year, a pamphlet was noted, or, as they put it, reviewed, Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy, which had appeared without indication of place of publication, though such is presumably Würzburg, and which addresses several disputes that arose in Bamberg concerning the study of medicine and the influence of philosophy, especially of speculative physics, on such study. The reviewer reprinted the following passage from that brochure:

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.

|3| The name indicated by initials must undeniably be understood as Mademoiselle Böhmer, and the facts that have been distorted into this defamation are as follows.

On 12 July 1800, after an illness of hardly twelve days, my stepdaughter, Augusta Böhmer, died of dysentery, accompanied by other dangerous paroxysms, in the fifteenth year of her life during a stay at the health springs in Boklet in Franconia. Professor Schelling, who arrived there after the initial days of her illness, offered his advice, in part of the negative sort with respect to several points concerning which he could not be of the same opinion with the physician or surgeon who had been summoned, and in part of the positive sort, which was, however, restricted to the continuation of opium as the familiar primary treatment against dysentery.

When the aforementioned additional paroxysms then also set in, the applied measures were insufficient for controlling the malady, which after several instances of apparent improvement so quickly took over that Professor Röschlaub, who had been summoned per estafette from Bamberg |5| nine miles away, [1] arrived in Boklet only after the patient had died.

When I myself arrived in Bamberg shortly thereafter [2] and first spoke with Professor Röschlaub concerning the loss I had suffered, he, who had had the opportunity to inform himself immediately, on site, concerning all the circumstances of the illness, told me, “Your daughter died of a convergence of two maladies, either of which alone would have sufficed to bring about her death.”

The Bamberg court physician Hofrath Marcus, in whose company I returned to Boklet a few weeks later, [3] similarly told me, after having made various queries there concerning the medical history of the deceased, that he was “increasingly convinced that any and all human help would have been insufficient in this particular case.” I can guarantee that I am relating precisely, without embellishment or addition, the personal statements of these two men, both of whom have made such meritorious contributions to the art of healing in Germany; for everything associated with that most painful event of my entire life |6| has been etched all-too-deeply into my memory.

That much will suffice to inform otherwise uninformed readers concerning the facts addressed by the author of the aforementioned brochure.

The charge of having caused a person’s death, of having medically poisoned that person, is of such gravity that it cannot under any circumstances be raised except when accompanied by an exhaustive medical history and supported by medical evidence from which the charge cannot but emerge as the inevitable conclusion. Wherever such a charge is plainly stated, moreover, by someone with not the slightest understanding of medicine, it constitutes slanderous defamation.

The piece Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy, whose pathetic nature is sufficiently illuminated by the excerpted passages through which the reviewer sought to commend it to his readers, is accordingly sufficiently branded as a pasquinade solely by the passage cited above. The addition “as malicious people maintain” does not provide the author any excuse, for how, |7| if these words were not meant merely derisively, would he have joined the company of such indeed malicious and worthless people who try to spread such gossip without reason, without knowledge of the case, and without the capacity to judge it in any case?

This piece thus undeniably constitutes a case of libel. But a few insignificant pages, penned by a flaccid author and focusing on a merely local event, would hardly have drawn attention beyond the horizon of the province where they were written, and would instead, like so many other, similarly ephemeral and vague products of our literature, have perished in well-deserved obscurity. The reviewer in the A.L.Z. thus made it his business to support this contemptible author’s malicious intentions by disseminating this previously little-known defamation as far as possible through the channels of the A.L.Z.

Let me repeat: he specifically made this his business, for why else would he have emphasized precisely the passage cited above, a passage not in the slightest capable of throwing any light |8| on the perspective that is crucial to the entire dispute, an assessment or even a mere remark concerning which one searches in vain in the so-called review. Nor does the reviewer add even the slightest statement of disapproval concerning the passage cited.

Legally there can be no question that anyone who reprints a pasquinade or reprints that through which the latter qualifies as a pasquinade, not with the purpose of perhaps refuting or at least of condemning it, but simply reprints it as such — in a word: the intentional disseminator of a pasquinade — incurs the same culpability as the initiator of such. From this it irrefutably follows that the above reviewer, who had the aforementioned defamatory passage reprinted in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung not only without condemnation, but also — at least given what little he does personally add — with his general approval of the piece in which the passage originally appeared, and who thereby, by way of several thousand copies of the A.L.Z., brought it to the attention |9| of a whole plethora of readers who otherwise would never have seen the original piece, — from this, I maintain, it irrefutably follows that this reviewer, like the original author, is a worthless, dishonorable libelist and calumniator.

It is certainly no complement to the A.L.Z. that it suffers a contributor capable of such actions; nor can one doubt that the editor of a journal is legally responsible for what it publishes, just as similarly, without exception, in a territory with neither censorship nor any higher authority over writers, the government or police can call that editor to account and punishment for publishing that which is legally forbidden. In the case at hand, however, one can demonstrate that the directing editor, Hofrath Schütz in Jena, participated even more intimately in this attack on the honor of Professor Schelling.

The latter was already involved in a dispute with the aforementioned editor of the A.L.Z. a couple of years ago, in connection with which he portrayed with the strongest of colors, in a piece of his own, |10| the character of this journal (if it be possible to attribute character to something so wholly without character), uncovering, moreover, in context the modus operandi followed by that journal in numerous instances, to which Hofrath Schütz, choosing the ultimate refuge of impotent rage, responded with vulgar invectives. [4]

More recently, in an essay with the title “The Comportment of Obscurantism contra the Philosophy of Nature” in the first issue of his Neue Zeitschrift für speculative Physik, Professor Schelling once more rebuked the weak points exposed in the A.L.Z. in a review of several theses defended by medical doctoral candidates in Bamberg, albeit with considerable restraint insofar as he left it to readers themselves to draw the highly probable conclusion that Hofrath Schütz himself was the author of that extraordinarily ignorant and malevolent review.

Shortly after this piece by Professor Schelling appeared, a review appeared in issue 225 of the A.L.Z. There is no possibility that the editor might excuse himself |11| by insisting that the reviewer covertly slipped in personal attacks which he, the editor, simply did not notice, since the attack was of the crudest sort and the name of the insulted person clearly spelled out. Moreover, the piece reviewed is itself in part similarly directed toward decrying the aforementioned Bamberg theses.

Who, then, can doubt that Hofrath Schütz should have sufficiently read through the review of a piece which so directly relates to an issue with respect to which such a short time before the comportment of the A.L.Z. itself had been so thoroughly rebuked? Who can be persuaded that he somehow failed to notice when Schelling’s name was mentioned in such an obvious and, with respect to literary feuds, so unprecedented a context?

I myself, acquainted with Hofrath Schütz’s reviewing style through lengthy earlier observation, find it highly likely that he himself is the author of that review; I do not, however, intend to assert such, since I am unable to provide legally sufficient proof. The few lines from the reviewer himself do not suffice |12| to demonstrate that the writing style concurs with that of Hofrath Schütz. Moreover, this manner of clutching to minutiae amid one’s incapacity to assess the whole of a literary piece or even to establish a perspective for such, this sort of empty copying out with which Hofrath Schütz is wont to fill the pages of his reviews, could just as easily derive from other, equally incompetent contributors to the A.L.Z. who share this inclination with him.

Hence as I just mentioned, I do not intend to assert that he himself really authored this review; but enough, he did indeed authorize its inclusion in the A.L.Z., he did not delete the defamatory passage against Professor Schelling, and he engaged in such actions at a point in time when he would unavoidably draw suspicion to himself. To wit, finding it impossible to produce even the appearance of cogent refutation against Professor Schelling’s critique of a review in the A.L.Z., he instead sought refuge in the vilest of artifices by avenging himself on his literary adversary through an attack residing wholly outside the scholarly sphere, |13| and by wounding him in an all the more sensitive and thus grievous fashion, knowing that Professor Schelling would be unable to defend himself without repeating the most distressing of all accusations and thereby drawing the attention of readers to it anew.

It is precisely this last consideration that has prompted me to take up my quill in this matter. Were Professor Schelling being attacked on the basis of medical evidence, he would doubtless be capable of defending himself with precisely such facts. Unfortunately, one cannot argue in this way against this sort of indefinite, random charge; nor is perhaps the initiator of such a charge capable of comprehending even the most basic medical evidence in any case. Moreover, one cannot enter into discussion with such a vile slanderer on an equal basis, nor respond to him the same way one would respond to an upright man disputing such a case on the basis of scientific evidence.

The only appropriate response to the former is legal prosecution or public rebuke. It is to this latter course of action that I myself feel called, being the most thoroughly informed member of the |14| family of the deceased concerning whose death such accusations have been disseminated against Professor Schelling.

It cannot but pain me that the zeal that inspired him to improve the lot of the ill is now being made a crime; it cannot but enrage me more than any other person, touching as it does on my saddest and most sacred memory, to see the bitter fate that prematurely snatched away the purest graciousness and most charming amiability from so beautiful a life, — to see that fate now turned by vile scoundrels into the instrument of vulgar vengeance and of the most wretched passions; indeed, it cannot but wound me in the most profound, painful fashion to see an adored name publicly mentioned or even merely alluded to in such soiled surroundings.

Hence I do confidently hope that no one who reads this declaration will think that I merely seized this opportunity to take vengeance on the A.L.Z. for former insults. To the contrary, anyone who has followed the literary scene over the past few years |15| knows that since my public notice of withdrawal from participation in this journal, [5] I have responded with appropriate silence both to the vulgar, derisive attacks made by Hofrath Schütz against me in his own response to Schelling’s piece, [6] as well as to the various direct and indirect attacks made in the A.L.Z. against me and my brother, and that in my current endeavors in the spheres of art and scholarship I now move in regions where a pathetic creature such as the current A.L.Z. does not even exist for me.

That notwithstanding, here a completely different, personal interest is at work, and this alone, along with a consideration of the many readers that the A.L.Z. may still undeservedly have, or, to express myself perhaps more precisely, a consideration of the many copies of that journal that are still disseminated and sent out, could prompt me to break that silence.

In order to eliminate any and all ambiguity with respect to the disposition of Hofrath Schütz in this matter, I sent him, before publication of this present declaration, |16| a letter leaving a way out open to him. [7] To wit, to allow for the possibility that the rebuked passage crept into the journal through oversight, I asked that he redress the matter and provide satisfaction by reprinting issue 225 with a different review in the place of that which has been here rebuked, and to send that new issue to all subscribers together with a notice in the Intelligenzblatt of the A.L.Z. declaring that first version of issue 225 invalid; this admittedly still incomplete satisfaction, however, has been refused.

Hence nothing more remains for me to do except to deliver publicly to the inner condemnation inevitably inhering in such actions, and to the indignation of all upright people, the intentional dissemination of a dishonorable libel as portrayed above, dissemination of which Hofrath Schütz has incurred liability as editor of the A.L.Z.

August Wilhelm Schlegel


|17–19| A.
Review of the publication Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy

|19–22| B.
Missive to Hofrath Schütz
from A. W. Schlegel


I, the undersigned, do hereby attest that in order to cut off any and all excuses on the part of Hofrath Schütz, the preceding letter was handed over directly to him by a reliable person commensurate with the instructions of Herr Professor Schlegel.

This took place on Friday morning, 24 September. On the following Wednesday, 29 September, that is, after an interim period of 5 days, a period one will find quite sufficient for composing and publishing the following correction signed by the reviewer, the Intelligenzblatt dated Saturday, 25 September was distributed with said correction.

|23| My duty with respect to that correction was not only to view it as a refusal, and to pass along for publication the piece I already had at my disposal and with the authority of Herr Professor Schlegel, but also formally to reserve and maintain for him the use of same as a fully valid piece of evidence for all the assertions and presumptions he has made in the preceding discussion, and to this end also to arrange for that correction to be printed among the supplements in the present publication.

Jena, 30 September 1802


|23–24| Correction.

|24| D.

Hofrath Marcus in Bamberg and Professor Röschlaub in Landshut personally forwarded for publication the following opinions concerning the content of the defamation contained in the piece Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy and reprinted in the A.L.Z.

|25| I.
Opinion of Hofrath Marcus

Because I am generally quite fond of reading witty satire and finding other examples of clever inspiration, and often do so with considerable amusement even when such are directed against things to which I am otherwise favorably disposed, I quite unaffectedly picked up the notorious Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy assuming it would not contain any crude or pasquinian caricatures, all the more so since people were identifying Herr Ecclesiastical Rath and Professor Berg in Würzburg as the author of that particular brochure.

When, however, I came to the passage in which Herr Professor Schelling is accused of having caused the fatal outcome of the illness of M. B. in Boklet in Franconia, I instinctively cast the disgraceful pasquinade from me. I found it utterly incredible that someone who has become the spokesman for Franz Ludwig could so debase himself by repeating the coarsest, shabbiest rubbish perpetrated by Boklet washerwomen. That said, however, |26| never in my wildest dreams would I have even remotely imagined that one might try to disseminate such vileness further by repeating it in the Jena A.L.Z.

I owe it to the truth, honor, and dignity of the distinguished founder of the discipline of the philosophy of nature to declare

that according to a precise familiarity with the circumstances that I had the occasion to acquire for myself, the passage in the Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy accusing Herr Professor Schelling of being responsible for the unfortunate outcome of the illness of M. B. in Boklet is founded on a false rumor and contains the crudest and most shameless and disgraceful calumniation.

Bamberg, 10 September 1802

Dr. Adalbert Friedrich Marcus
Public Instructor at the Clinic and
Directing Physician of the General Hospital

|27| 2.
Opinion of Professor Röschlaub

I the undersigned do herewith declare according to both duty and conscience that the reference to Doctor and Professor Schelling contained in the brochure Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy intimating that he contributed in the slightest fashion to the fatal outcome of the illness of M. B. in the year 1800 in Boklet, or that he himself even brought about such by directing her treatment, constitutes not only a vile calumniation, but also one based on no evidence other than the most pathetic twaddle spread by wholly uninitiated and uninformed persons, and that I myself am prepared to document and otherwise support this assertion in every possible way through solid evidence, all the more so insofar as I myself received the most precise information from the most unbiased witnesses in Boklet, whither I had arrived but a few hours after the aforementioned death, information according to which only |28| an outright medical ignoramus or a person with malicious intent could attribute even the slightest culpability to Professor Schelling.

Landshut in Bavaria
18 September 1802

Dr. Andreas Röschlaub [9]


[*] Source: August Wilhelm Schlegel, An das Publicum. Rüge einer in der Jenaischen Allg. Literatur-Zeitung begangnen Ehrenschändung (Tübingen 1802); pagination here as in original.

See Dorothea Veit to Schleiermacher from Paris on 21 November 1802 (Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:327):

What do you think about Wilhelm’s quarrel with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung? I for my part do not find it appropriate for him to get involved in so emotional a fashion, it was absolutely up to Schelling alone to defend himself incisively and objectively from a medical standpoint the same way he had been attacked from a medical standpoint, without any sentimentality. Friedrich is not entirely of my opinion on this, but I do fear that the way things stand at present, it will all turn into another ugly esclandre [Fr., “scandal, scene], where every person who reads it will simply think whatever he wants.

Concerning the significance of Wilhelm’s piece within the overall context not only of Auguste’s death, but also of the hostility between the Jena Romantics and the editors of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, see the supplementary appendix on the scandal surrounding Auguste’s death. Back.

[1] Fr., “express courier, messenger.” Nine German (imperial) miles = ca. 68 km. Back.

[2] Ca. 24 July 1800 (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[3] Prior to 21 August 1800. Back.

[4] See Schelling’s declaration in the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung on 2 November 1799, and the editorial response (letter/document 252d). Back.

[5] See Wilhelm’s farewell in the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung on Wednesday, 13 November 1799, and the editorial response (letter/document 255a). Back.

[6] I.e., in response to Schelling’s “The Comportment of Obscurantism contra the Philosophy of Nature.” Back.

[7] Dated 18 September 1802 (letter 369h). Back.

[8] On 18 September 1802 (letter 369h). Back.

[9] Christian Gottfried Schütz countered in a piece dated 1803 Species facti nebst Actenstücken zum Beweise dass Hr. Rath August Wilh. Schlegel der Zeit in Berlin mit seiner Rüge, worinnen er der Allgem. Lit. Zeitung eine begangne Ehrenschändung fälschlich aufbürdet, niemanden als sich selbst beschimpft habe / von C. G. Schuetz. Nebst einem Anhange über das Benehmen des Schellingischen Obscurantismus (“Species facti [the particular character or peculiar circumstances of the thing done; the particular criminal act charged against a person] along with documents proving that Herr Rath Schlegel, currently residing in Berlin, has rebuked no one but himself with his Rebuke, in which he falsely accuses the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung of having committed a defamation of honor / by C. G. Schuetz. With an addendum concerning the comportment of Schellingian obscurantism”) (Jena, Leipzig 1803).

On the cover of his own copy of this piece, Schelling wrote: “Not read, coming as it does from the hand of a dishonorable person.”

See in any case the Intelligenzblatt of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1802) 211 (Saturday, 13 November 1802) 1695:

A pamphlet addressed to the public by Herr Rath August Wilhelm Schlegel contains a declaration by Herr Hofrath Marcus in Bamberg attesting that according to the precise information he himself had the opportunity to acquire, the passage in the brochure Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy (see A.L.Z. 225 of this year) accusing Herr Professor Schelling of causing the unfortunate outcome of the illness of M[ademoiselle] B[öhmer] by means of an incorrectly applied treatment, is based on a false rumor, an opinion with which the testimony of Herr Professor Röschlaub, also provided there, concurs, who, arriving but a few hours after the death of M. B., was allegedly able to acquire the most precise information from impeccable witnesses in Bocklet with quite the opposite assessment of that particular insinuation. Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott