Letter 373b

373b. Johann Gottfried Herder to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Weimar, 14 December 1802 [*]

By virtue of this missive, the professor of philosophy extraordinarius August Wilhelm Schlegel in Jena is hereby summoned to appear in person before the president and councilors appointed to the Princely Saxon High Consistory in this place on 1 February of the 1803rd year at the proper morning hour, at latest at 10:00, duly to present himself, and in the matter of his petition for marital divorce as presented to the highest instance, to await the presentation, interrogation, and then what follows. Please to proceed accordingly.

Weimar, 14 December 1802
Princely Saxon President and Councilors
appointed to the High Consistory,

Herder [1]


[*] Manuscript source: A. W. v. Schlegel, Briefwechsel, August u. Caroline Schlegel, Signatur Mscr.Dresd.e.90,XIX,Bd. 22, Digitale Sammlung August Wilhelm Schlegel, Sächsische Landesbibliothek, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden.

Transcription from Johann Gottfried von Herder, Briefe: Gesamtausgabe 1763–1803, vol. 9, Briefe: Nachträge und Ergänzungen 1763–1803, ed. Wilhelm Dobbek and Günter Arnold (Weimar 1988), 797.

Transcription here follows line breaks in original:

Kraft dieses wird dem Professor Philosophiae
extraordinarius August Wilhelm Schlegel zu
Jena citiert, vor den zum Fürstl Sächsisch Ober-
Consistorio allhier verordneten Präsident und

den ersten Februar des künftigen 1803st. Jahres
zu rechter VormittagsZeit, längstens um 10 Uhr, in
Person zu erscheinen, sich gebührend anzumelden,
und wegen seines höchsten Orts angebrachten Eheschei
dungs Gesuchs, Vortrags, Vernehmung und sodann
das Weitere zu gewarten. Wornach sich zu achten.
Signatum Weimar den 14. Dec[em]b[e]r 1802.

Fürstl. Sachsish. zum Ober-Consistorio verordnete
Praäsident und Räthe
Herder Back.

[1] This summons was sent not directly to Wilhelm in Berlin, but to Caroline in Jena along with a similar summons to her. Schelling quickly queried Goethe about this disturbing development on 28 December 1802 (letter 373c), then sent Wilhelm’s to Berlin on 7 January 1803 (letter 374b).

The circumvention of such a summons to appear personally before the High Consistory in Weimar was precisely what Caroline and esp. Wilhelm were perhaps most interested in accomplishing with their divorce petition to Duke Karl August (letter/document 371) apart from being granted the divorce itself (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Scheidung [“divorce”] [1788], Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.775):


Schelling discusses this issue at length in his letter to Wilhelm on 24 September 1802 (letter 369j). See also Goethe’s letter to Schelling on 9 October 1802 (letter 371d), note 3. See virtually all of Wilhelm’s correspondence with Schelling during September and esp. October 1802.

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]):



Wilhelm esp. wanted to avoid such an appearance not least because the consistory’s members included, of course, Herder, who was less than cordially inclined toward the Schlegels since the performance of Ion in early January 1802 and the scandals it generated.

Perhaps even more importantly, however, Karl August Böttiger was a member of the consistory, whose negative review of Ion and even of Goethe’s production had been suppressed by Goethe himself.

Indeed, Böttiger, who would soon leave Weimar and move to Dresden because of such hostile relationships, is today suspected of having been the author of the notorious review of the Weimar art exhibition that took place between 24 September and 31 October 1802, a review that enraged Goethe (see Caroline’s letter to Julie Gotter on 29 November 1802 [letter 373], note 10).

It is difficult, moreover, to imagine that either Herder, who seems to have had a hand in that review as well and who for some time had not been on cordial terms with Goethe, or Böttiger was not aware that, of all people, it was Goethe who was shepherding Caroline and Wilhelm’s attempt to circumvent the authority of the consistory by appealing directly to the duke.

In any event, for either Caroline or, esp., Wilhelm to be coerced to appear personally before the consistory as a supplicant whose behind-the-scenes advocate was Goethe was not a pleasant or, one might surmise, particularly promising prospect. See also the supplementary appendix on Böttiger and Caroline’s remarks in the Kritisches Journal der Philosophie.

The only other possibility was to bribe one of the other members of the consistory to excuse both Caroline and Wilhelm from the appearance. See in this regard Schelling’s letter to Goethe on 2 October 1802 (letter 370a). Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott