Letter 374h

374h. Schelling to Wilhelm Schlegel in Berlin: Jena, 11 February 1803 [*]

Jena, 11 February 1803

Because I was not feeling well, I was unable to go over to Weimar in person to hear the result of 1 February [1], and then the day before yesterday, Caroline finally received a letter from her attorney with regard to that situation as well as the news that the consistory was now demanding “sufficient reasons,” which were to be related through the authorized representatives on 15 February.

This whole thing is nothing but chicanery on the part of this most esteemed High Consistory, which became enraged after a rescript from the duke, in response to the petition Caroline had submitted, [2] enjoined them to wave the personal appearance.

Another reason may also be the clumsy behavior of the attorneys, since Mereau, too, was required to produce a more detailed explanation along with more convincing reasons at his own personal appearance; [3] but since he insisted that the ones he had already presented were sufficient, the case was resolved without further ado.

Although measures have already been taken to counter this bit of chicanery as well, [4] Caroline has for now done nothing, nor given any further instructions, anticipating that news from you in this matter will arrive tomorrow, since your representative has doubtless similarly informed you concerning this turn of events. Should such not be the case, and should no letter arrive tomorrow, she will request that the date of the personal appearance be postponed and will otherwise adjust her instructions completely according to your own, since you in your own turn could not possibly be at a loss to find circumstances in the initial petition [5] that are certainly decisive enough in and for themselves if singled out and emphasized as such, such as, for example, the circumstance of childlessness mentioned merely as an aside in that first missive. —

I should point out by way of explanation that Caroline herself was not previously acquainted with her attorney, the entire arrangement having been made instead by Geheimrath Voigt, whose own presupposition was that the consistory would immediately take the hint and acquiesce.

I will ride over to Weimar myself tomorrow and then bring you up to date at the first opportunity.

We have finally also gotten a look at the Kotzebuean gossip rag, as well as at the most recent elevation of this individual. [6] One can admittedly not get involved with him directly, though it would be desirable if someone could make Spazier into a mouthpiece, since he is so poor in wit, though admittedly, if Kotzebue has not simply made it up, he, too, will not be able to keep silent. Because time is short, I must close in the hope that you are doing well and staying healthy during this harsh winter.



[*] Sources: Plitt 1:449–51; Fuhrmans 2:488–89.

At issue in this letter is the tactic to be used to circumvent the customary required appearance before the High Consistory before being granted a divorce.

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]):




[1] See Schelling’s letter to Goethe on 9 February 1803 (letter 374g), note 1. Back.

[2] Schelling mentions this petition to Duke Karl August in his letter to Wilhelm on 7 January 1803 (letter 374b). Back.

[3] See Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm in September 1802 (letter 370), note 2. Back.

[4] Presumably by Goethe and possibly Christian Gottlob Voigt. Back.

[5] Viz., the original petition to Duke Karl August (letter/document 371). Back.

[6] The reference is to the anti-Romantic periodical Der Freimüthige; for the announcement, see Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on this same day, 29 November 1802 (letter 373), note 10.

See also Caroline’s letter to Julie Gotter on 29 November 1802 (letter 373), note 9 and the supplementary appendix on Kotzebue’s caricature of “the most recent aesthetics” and Garlieb Merkel’s publication of the caricature “the storming the Parnassus” in Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter in March 1802 (letter 355) (there also reference to “the most recent aesthetics”).

Kotzebue had become a member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, and there were even rumors that he might be appointed a minister. At the same time, several teasingly cutting announcements appeared in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt, precisely the periodical with which Der Freimüthige was engaged in literary war. See the anonymous entry in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1803) 17 (Tuesday, 8 February 1803), 132 (illustration: Goethe’s Works, vol. 4, trans. G. Barrie [New York 1885], 300):

Sudden Fancy Concerning the Promotion
of Herr von K[otzebue] to Membership in the Berlin Academy of Sciences.
(sent in from Berlin)

When lately an argument arose at a social gathering concerning whether Herr von K. had been accepted into the Berlin Academy of Sciences as a membre extraordinaire or ordinaire, B. proposed a middle designation that found universal approval, namely, to consider him a membre extraordinairment ordinaire [Fr., “an extraordinarily ordinary member”].


The same gentleman resolved the difficulties raised by the question of exactly which class he might be reckoned to by suspecting quite astutely that the philological class would choose him as one of their own, thereby remaining true to the literal meaning of its own appellation as a “word-loving” class [Gk., philo-logos] insofar as Herr v. K. had indeed undeniably manufactured a great many words in his various writings.

Although this entry was anonymous, Wilhelm was, of course, living in Berlin at the time, and the piece arguably demonstrates a character remarkably similar to those in the bitingly satirical “Litterarischer Reichsanzeiger” in Athenaeum (1799) 328–40, concerning which Wilhelm wrote to Ludwig Tieck on 16 August 1799 (letter 243b), that “Caroline is plagued by such anxiety concerning the consequences [of the “Litterarischer Reichsanzeiger”] that she has not yet dared even to look at it, and wherever she sees it lying around, even from afar, she immediately covers her head with her hands” (Toiletten Kalender für Frauenzimmer 1796; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Schleiermacher in any event believed that Wilhelm and August Ferdinand Bernhardi had authored at least some of these anonymous anti-Kotzebue entries in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt (KGA 6:312). Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott