Letter 373a

373a. Schelling to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 29 November 1802 [*]

Jena, 29 November 1802

Many thanks for sending Dante [1] and the material from Hardenberg’s literary estate. [2] You will receive the translated canto from the former as well as the introduction to my lectures as soon as it is possible for me to have a copy made; the ones I have are such that I cannot really give them to anyone to copy. Caroline has the first volume of Novalis Schriften; please send me the beginning of the second when the occasion arises, it will interest me perhaps more than the rest. I can hardly endure this frivolity toward objects, this sniffing around at everything without really penetrating into even a single one. . . .

This winter I am able to think of hardly any other work except my lectures, with which I am quite happy. In the two courses, I have altogether over 200 students, and for one of them the auditorium does not have enough space. [3] I am also giving a privatissimum to a Hungarian count, who came here specifically for that reason and is a man of rare educational and cultural background. [4]

Now that I have dared to give them, the lectures on aesthetics are giving me enormous pleasure and are providing me with a wealth of perspectives. [5] I have hitherto dealt largely with mythology, with which I am beginning. [6] Yet another fortunate circumstance is that my reading and study of especially the authors of antiquity now coincide with my professional obligations. [7] . . .

The Literatur-Zeitung was used solely as packing paper, whence also quite a bit of it has remained behind. It could not be sold because of all the pages that have been cut out. [8] Caroline assumes she can presuppose the best with regard to Madam Bernhardi’s health under the present circumstances and does send her regards and sympathy. [9]

As I see from today’s Hamburger Zeitung, a rather strong alliance has been formed against you, and even corpulent Sander has abandoned neutrality. [10] I doubt not for a moment that you will have great and effective fun with all that and will remain courageous amid the considerable entertainment. The battle between the Elegante Zeitung and Der Freimüthige will doubtless become quite comical; if only Spazier were not such a poor moyen for me. [11] . . .

The business with the account of the art exhibition [12] — that was, to be sure, great fun to watch; although in Rome every person skilled in weaponry could also insult the triumphator, [13] being the common soldier who had to serve as the organ of the subsequently secured satisfaction is not really something one would find desirable. You are racking your brains trying to figure out the author? — Here people were actually rather certain about it, generally believing it was Bode, who did, after all, demonstrate at least some wit in the Gigantomachia. What do you think? [14] — That he understands nothing of art is no argument to the contrary; he was probably assisted by artists (Schadow?). This person is synthetic in any case. —

Goethe also seems to share this opinion, since he remarked that doubtless some scamp did it, which in our southern dialect refers to a subject not entirely lacking a certain touch of genius but whose shabby volition makes him useless. . . .

Still no news from Weimar! [15] It will be necessary to make a personal inquiry. I have not been there since. . . .

Stay well and let me hear from you.


. . . You no doubt saw what the Literatur-Zeitung or Schütz did, and I have no need to add anything. [16]


[*] Sources: Plitt 1:431–34; Fuhrmans 2:469–72. Back.

[1] Schelling had made this request in his letter to Wilhelm on 1 November 1802 (not included here). Back.

[2] Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis), who had died in March 1801, left behind a considerable literary estate, including “Die Lehrlinge zu Sais” and “Heinrich von Ofterdingen.”

Friedrich Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck had in the meantime published a two-volume collection in 1802, volume 1 containing “Heinrich von Ofterdingen” and volume 2 poems, fragments, and “Die Lehrlinge zu Sais”: Novalis Schriften, 2 vols. (Berlin 1802) (with subsequent editions). Back.

[3] Lectures on the philosophy of art and on his system of identity; see Caroline’s letter to Julie Gotter on 29 November 1802 (letter 373) concerning the number of attendees. Back.

[4] Caroline mentions this private instruction in her letter to Julie Gotter on 29 November 1802 (letter 373); see esp. note 7 there. Back.

[5] Schelling’s lectures on the philosophy of art. Back.

[6] In the “General Section of the Philosophy of Art,” which begins the lectures, Schelling quickly moves to a “construction of the content of art,” which includes as its initial section a “derivation of mythology as the content of art.” Back.

[7] The section immediately following the derivation of mythology as the content of art is a “contrast between ancient and modern poesy in relation to mythology.” Back.

[8] An allusion to the current quarrel with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung and esp. its editor Christian Gottfried Schütz. Back.

[9] Sophie Bernhardi had given birth in Berlin on 6 November 1802 to Felix Theodor Bernhardi. For financial reasons and as a means of soliciting sympathy, for several years in letters to Wilhelm she insinuated the boy was in fact Wilhelm’s son. Wilhelm had long been residing with the Bernhardis in Berlin.

In any case, two weeks after the birth of Felix Bernhardi, the Bernhardis’ eldest son came down ill, causing Sophie’s condition to worsen. See Caroline’s letter to Julie Gotter on 2 January 1803 (letter 374). Back.

[10] See Caroline’s letter to Julie Gotter on 29 November 1802 (letter 373), note 9.

Although Schelling remarks that he found this information in “today’s” Staats- und gelehrte Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyischen Correspondenten, there was no issue on Monday, 29 November 1802, the day on which both Caroline and Schelling mention this announcement in letters. Issue no. 190 appeared on Saturday, 27 November, no. 191 on Tuesday, 30 November 1802. Neither issue (including supplements) contains this announcement.

Schelling is referring instead to the rubric “Von gelehrten Sachen,” i.e., announcements of publications generally pertaining to scholarship and “learned” matters, in the Staats- und gelehrte Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyischen Correspondenten (1802) no. 188 (Wednesday, 24 November 1802), unpaginated but page 3 and following of that issue, which reads as follows:


The literary world has its own system of checks and balances just as does the political world. Whenever on the one side presumption, conceit, and mystical verbiage seek to impress the public, so also on the other side do good taste and healthy human understanding join forces to protect it. The former wail and scold, the latter speak and mock; the former boast and make grand claims, the latter smile and present proofs.

But just as the greatest ministers in England sense the need for a publication with which to counter the rage of the opposition, so also should good taste and healthy human understanding have one in which they may respond on a daily basis lest they be shouted down. Those who remain silent are essentially absent, and those who are absent — thus the familiar proverb — are always in the wrong.

Thank God that the admirers of that particular pristine good tase of the sort passed down to us by Lessing, Wieland, Engel, etc. still the larger, albeit quieter party by far. By contrast, the dismissive, arrogant, but fashionable tone that has emerged among students and incroyables of both sexes daily engages every possible trumpet available, for example, in Jena or Leipzig.

It has thus become necessary to find a common forum for all who still delight in genuine beauty, who are disinclined to allow their enjoyment of such to be diminished by obscure, outrageous fiats, and who, finally, are quite unpersuaded that it is only during that past few years that the sun itself has been raised aloft anew by a couple of brash poetasters.

Indeed, for precisely that reason it has become necessary to establish a newspaper in which idols are not worshiped, mysticism not tolerated, and mockery of the public not allowed, a newspaper in which one never ceases to laugh at serious foolishness and to mock foolish seriousness, and in which one can mischievously entertain the public with the immorality and folly of these partisan leaders.

We the undersigned accordingly announce a newspaper with the title

Der Freymüthige [the upfront and forthright],
Berlin Newspaper for Cultured and Unbiased Readers


That we do not, unlike some of our colleagues, presume to belong to “no” party is evident from what has just been said. We therefore declare explicitly that we intend to represent with all our powers the party of good taste and healthy human understanding. Thus may the initial part of the title of our newspaper be justified.

We similarly hope to merit the second part of our title as well by delivering for cultured readers short, reasonable, and comprehensible assessments of all recent products of the fine arts; by delivering interesting news not only from the German stage, but from all the best theaters in Europe; by comparing on such occasions the taste of Germans with that of foreigners, and by providing dramaturgical fragments as well; by extracting the best scenes from unpublished pieces; by citing other nations’ assessments of German writers; by excluding no genres of the fine arts or literature; to include all reliable news concerning more renowned writers (to the extent, however, that such does not concern a person’s private life); and even by providing an enduring corner for the discussion of ever-changing fashion.

One need not even fear being bored by journalistic filler items, since they will consist of piquant historical anecdotes and forgotten items that genuinely deserve not to be forgotten. Indeed perhaps this or that new invention and discovery in science and the arts will be presented to the public if, that is, they can be presented in light and pleasing garb, since without such nothing should really be presented in a periodical devoted primarily to the fairer sex.

This brief account of what this newspaper will present probably ought to be followed by an account of what it will not present. No arid enumerations of plays that have been performed; no prologs and epilogs; and absolutely no verse, with rare exceptions; no boring mineral-springs news; no descriptions of regular celebrations at court and elsewhere; no reviews that need to be accompanied by a commentary; no praise for paltry items that happen to bear a famous name; but also no unjust reproaches, for even Hyperboreans will receive their just praise now and then when such is deserved.

This enterprise is being undertaken by, apart from the editors themselves, a number of men whose names have already long been favorites among the public and who will be mentioned later. We and all of them stand surety that despite the mischievous tone that will invariably characterize this newspaper, humanity itself — belittled as it is by certain groups of people — will never be harmed. We will instead stringently adhere to the rule that nothing ought to be printed that could not be related in person in any gathering of cultured and mannered people.

G. Merkel.

The bookseller below has assumed publication of this new newspaper. Four numbers will appear weekly, each a half printers sheet in large quarto format, elegantly printed, and several pages of an Intelligenzblatt with announcements; also, monthly, at least one interesting copper engraving and from time to time sheet music, each a half printers sheet.

The annual volume will cost 8 Thaler Prussian Courant, and can be had anywhere in German for this price. Orders should be placed with the fine post offices or newspaper brokers and booksellers, all of whom are being asked to indicate their orders during December in unfranked letters insofar as only a few copies are to be printed over and above these orders; that is, this or that aficionado who orders too late may not be able to receive a whole copy.

Any letters concerning this new newspaper should be addressed either to the undersigned bookseller or to the “Editors of the Freymüthige in Berlin.”

Berlin, 20 October 1802
Sanders Bookseller Back.

[11] Fr., here: “intermediary.” Back.

[12] In the Zeitung für die elegante Welt; the exhibition took place in Weimar between 24 September and 31 October 1802. See below. Back.

[13] Latin, referring to a victorious Roman general. Back.

[14] See esp. Caroline’s letter to Julie Gotter on 29 November 1802 (letter 373), note 11. Fuhrmans, too, 2:471fn8, suggests that Theodor Heinrich Bode was the author, a suspicion entertained by many contemporary scholars as well. Back.

[15] Regarding the divorce petition between Caroline and Wilhelm (see letter/document 371). Back.

[16] The reference is to a tepid acknowledgement of the affidavits of Adalbert Friedrich Marcus and Andreas Röschlaub contradicting the excerpted passage in the review of the Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy insinuating that Schelling was somehow responsible for Auguste’s death. See Wilhelm’s To the Public. Rebuke of a Defamation of Honor Perpetrated in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (letter/document 371b), note 9. Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott