Letter 374g

374g. Schelling to Goethe in Weimar: Jena, 9 February 1803 [*]

Jena, 9 February 1803

Perhaps, esteemed Herr Geheimer Rath, you have received more direct information concerning the course of the matter in question with the Weimar consistory and the result of 1 February. The latter is demanding more persuasive reasons. [1]

This particular news, moreover, only today reached Madame Schlegel by way of a letter dated today from Herr Hofadvocat Hufeland. [2] Since no decision in this matter can be made on the spur of the moment, and since in any case one must await word from Schlegel himself, to whom the same missive was sent by his own representative, I wanted to give you news to this effect from Madame Schlegel in case something might done through your own beneficence to give this matter a more favorable turn.

Ill health has hitherto kept me from coming over to Weimar myself. I am hoping to ride over next Sunday and will take the liberty of requesting in person your kind guidance in this matter. [3] . . .



[*] Sources: Goethe und die Romantik 1:231; Fuhrmans 2:488. Back.

[1] I.e., sufficient reasons for not appearing before the High Consistory with regard to the divorce petition.

Although this particular requirement seemed indeed already to have been circumvented by direct intervention of Duke Karl August in mid-January, the High Consistory, as Schelling points out to Wilhelm in his letter him on 11 February 1803 (letter 374h), had become “enraged after a rescript from the duke, in response to the petition Caroline had submitted, enjoined them to wave the personal appearance.”

The clumsy behavior of Wilhelm’s and Caroline’s attorneys — who now play an increasingly visible role in the divorce process — seems also to have played a role.

Here attorneys in court ca. 1774 (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, 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 xxxiv) and before a panel of judges ca. 1788 (Frauen Zimmer Calender Auf das Jahr 1788; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[2] Hufeland was representing Caroline in the divorce petition. Back.

[3] Illustration: frontispiece to Ludwig Hünersdorf Anleitung zu der natürlichsten und leichtesten Art Pferde abzurichten, 3rd ed. (Marburg 1805):


Goethe wrote to Schiller on Saturday, 12 February 1803 (Correspondence Between Goethe and Schiller 2:444): “Would you care to dine with me to-morrow? Schelling is probably coming over.”

Following Schelling’s visit, Goethe likely addressed Christian Gottlob Voigt in the matter, who seems to have helped resolve things (Goethes Briefwechsel mit Christian Gottlob Voigt, 4 vols. [Weimar 1949–62], 2:324).

Nicholas Boyle, Goethe: The Poet and the Age, vol. 2, Revolution and Renunciation: 1790–1803 (Oxford 2000), 732 (illustration: Calendar für das Jahr 1796; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung), remarks that after Caroline “came to him [Goethe] and asked him if he would assist her and August Wilhelm to secure from the Duke the dissolution of their marriage,”

Goethe promised to do what he could — which meant, essentially, enlisting Voigt’s support for them in presenting their case and implicitly commending it to the Duke — provided that his part in the affair was kept completely secret. No doubt he was anxious to help both Schlegel and Schelling, but his ability to concentrate on literary or scientific work must have been reduced by the thought that he was contributing to the final disintegration of the circle which had begun to constitute itself in Jena in 1796.



Translation © 2016 Doug Stott