Letter 380e

380e. Therese Huber to Christian Gottlob Heyne in Göttingen: Stuttgart, 16 August 1803 [*]

Stuttgart, Tuesday, 16 August 1803

. . . What you say about the Schlegels and Schelling mirrors our feelings exactly. [1] I already once remarked to Huber that I would not be at all surprised if poor Schelling did not lose his mind in a couple of years, or hang himself. Are you personally acquainted with him? Considering his writings, which I do not read, [2] and his reputation, which is so terrible, I expected Gargantua, [3] a sacripant, [4] and instead find a cheerful, modest person who jests in a gay, childlike fashion and who, though lacking any more urbane air, nonetheless is manly and calm.

Only when the discussion turns to scholarly things does he become dismissive, and yet decent, intelligent, and, though the whole of it is mere sectarian quibbling, also quite human. It seems he enjoys being around children most of all, treating them quite morally, kindly, while behaving quite the child himself with them. [5]

Your concern that Caroline might become importunately intimate with me is unnecessary. It is as if we had made a contract never to mention the past; she seems to have no feelings for anything, for neither human weal nor human woe. She speaks spitefully about everyone from earlier times. [6] And yet everything that formerly involved her and me seems dipped in the River Lethe. [7]

There can be no bigger contrast than she and I. She is enormously erudite, never mentions domestic, quotidian things, spends little time with other women, is deliberate, well groomed, dignified. I, on the other hand, exhibit and play the little housemama, always dress without makeup, seem 15 years younger with my ease and gaiety, and go on endlessly with all sorts of foolish prattle, whereby the philosopher Schelling helps me out with so much ease and graciousness that even Caroline cannot help laughing despite her considerable aesthetic dignity.

I cannot get involved in scholarly conversations, there is no real alternative in that regard, but then I never get involved in literary conversations in society in any case. I immediately broke off every such discussion with Caroline. [8] Then she solemnly summoned me to admire Herr Tiek, Alarcos, and all that sort of thing, also Calderon, and Opiz and Lohenstein, [9] but I modestly said that my own taste had developed rather late, and then only in a French-speaking country abroad, and one would need to pardon my conventionality, I acknowledge its limitations, but a mind that tries to cultivate itself between 28 and 38 years of age invariably becomes obstinate etc. [10]

Well, she sympathized, but cannot comprehend how that fits with the rest of my personality, also considers me to be a degenerated person and speaks instead with Huber, who is less conventional than I. Otherwise she seems to be neither curious nor interested in anything concerning my own situation, neither my friends here nor my household, nothing seems to draw her attention.

She does seem quite happy so see my children when she is around them, and says I am quite lucky to have them. [11] She treats Claire with extraordinary warmth, but also with reason, chastising her, praising her, admonishing her. —

The way we are around each other, one might think we only made each other’s acquaintance two days ago. But without anything being forced, everything quite pleasant.

In September they will be going to Italy, where they plan to spend the winter. Just now they are staying with Schelling’s father. [12] People say that Schelling is trying to get a professorship in Heidelberg. [13] They have said absolutely nothing about their plans, and we have not asked them anything. . . .


[*] Sources: Therese Huber. Die reinste Freiheitsliebe, die reinste Männerliebe. Ein Lebensbild in Briefen und Erzählungen zwischen Aufklärung und Romantik, ed. Andrea Hahn (Berlin 1989), 122–24; Therese Huber Briefe 426–27. Back.

[1] Presumably a reference to Wilhelm Schlegel and Friedrich Schlegel rather than to Wilhelm and Caroline as his former spouse. Back.

[2] And yet Therese was able to provide considerable information concerning Schelling’s writings to her daughter Therese in her letter to the latter between 17 and 25 July 1803 (letter 380b), extracted presumably from her conversations with her husband, Ludwig Ferdinand Huber. Back.

[3] In François Rabelais’s (1494?–ca. 1553) pseudonymous (Alcofribas Nasier) satirical novels, including Gargantua, La vie très horrificque du grand (1534), an amiable giant, king, and warrior noted for his enormous capacity for food and drink (illustration: The Inestimable Life of the Great Gargantua Father of Pantagruel, vol. 1 of The Works of François Rabelais, trans. T. Urquhart and P. Motteux [London 1901], plate following p. 164):



[4] Fr., “rascal, scoundrel.” Back.

[5] Therese speaks similarly of Schelling in her letter to her daughter Therese between 17 and 25 July 1803 (letter 380b). Back.

[6] A statement difficult to reconcile with Therese’s asseveration that they never “mention the past.” Back.

[7] In Plato (Republic 621a; Phaedrus 248c) the river Amelete on the plain of Lethe; whoever drinks from that river forgets (Gk. lethe, “forgetfulness, oblivion”) all memory of earthly life (Plato, The Republic of Plato in Ten Books, trans. H. Spens [London 1906], 347):

And after he had passed by it, as all others passed, they marched all into the plain of Lethe amidst dreadful heat and scorching, for he said that it is void of trees and everything that the earth produceth. That when night came on they encamped beside the river Amelete, whose water no vessel contains; a certain measure then of the water all of them must of necessity drink, and such of them as are not preserved by prudence, drink more than the measure, and that he who drinks always forgets every thing.

Here John Flaxman’s and Gustave Doré’s interpretations of the motif from Dante’s Divine Comedy, “Purgatory,” canto 31 (Dante Alighieri, The Vision of Purgatory and Paradise, trans. Henry Francis Cary, illustrated by M. Gustave Doré [London, Paris, New York 1883]): “The beauteous dame, her arms expanding, clasp’d / My temples, and immersed me where ’twas fit / The wave should drench me.”

John Flaxman’s illustration: Composizioni di Giovanni Flaxman, concernenti la Divina commedia di Dante Alighieri [Carlsruhe 1807(?]), plate xxxi. Doré’s illustration: The Vision of Purgatory and Paradise, trans. Henry Francis Cary, illustration following p. 140:



Click on the following image to open a gallery of selections from Flaxman’s illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy:



[8] Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808:



[9] Therese spells it “Lobenstein.” Wilhelm Schlegel adduces both Martin Opitz and Daniel Casper Lohenstein in his reassessments of German literature and poesy in his Berlin lectures, the former especially in connection with the formal elements of poetry. Back.

[10] “Abroad”: French-speaking Switzerland. Therese had left Mainz for Switzerland in December 1792, when she was twenty-eight years old. Back.

[11] Claire Forster, Louise Huber, Adele Huber, and Viktor Aimé Huber. Therese’s eldest daughter, Therese Forster, was currently in Switzerland. Back.

[12] Schelling and Caroline had been in Cannstadt between 28 June and 4 August 1803, thereafter in Murrhardt.

A few days earlier than Therese is here writing, on 9 August 1803, Christian Friedrich Schnurrer wrote to H. E. G. Paulus from Tübingen (Schelling im Spiegel seiner Zeitgenossen. Ergänzungsband. Melchior Meyr über Schelling, ed. Xavier Tilliette [Torino 1981], 43):

Herr von Palm received a visit from Herr von Schelling [odd reference or reading, since Schelling did not receive the Bavarian title of nobility (Personaladel, lifelong but not inheritable) until 1812]. We are still anticipating his visit here. . . . Perhaps the professor will put off his visit to Tübingen until he departs Württemberg [in Swabia] and sets out for Switzerland. I am quite curious to see him and, even more, his wife, an old acquaintance [Schnurrer had studied in Göttigen under Caroline’s father in 1766–68]. I have been assured that at the wedding she was identified as Widow Böhmer [i.e., presumably rather than the divorced spouse of Wilhelm Schlegel], and that the Herr Prelate of Murrhardt is quite pleased with the idea that his son married a daughter of the great Michaelis

Concerning Schelling and Caroline’s visit to Tübingen on 3 September 1803, see her letter to Luise Wiedemann on 8(?)–17 September 1803 (letter 381). Back.

[13] According to Fuhrmans 3:2, Schelling seems to have travelled to Heidelberg either from Murrhardt or Cannstadt, i.e., in June or July 1803, a journey Therese seems to have known about (Historische Landkarte vom Schwäbische Reichskreis [ca. 1680]; illustration: Pieter Hendricksz Schut, Heidelberg [ca. 1639–90]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur PHSchut Kopie AB 3.23):



The Heidelberg theologian J. F. Mieg wrote to Schelling later on 14 April 1804 from Heidelberg itself (entire letter in Fuhrmans 3:74–75):

My noble and good friend! I, too, was not a little aggrieved last summer that my vacation journey to Frankfurt made me miss a renewal of our friendship, though I was certainly glad that friend Daub was able to stand in my stead and spend several happy days with you enjoying our natural world and our loftier circles of philosophical views, and then was able to relate these things to me with such warmth.

More specific documentation puts Schelling and Caroline in Heidelberg at least on 30–31 August 1803 and perhaps before and after. Karl Philipp Kayser, a Gymnasium teacher, philologist, and librarian in Heidelberg, recounts the following on 31 August 1803 (Aus gärender Zeit: Tagebuchblätter des Heidelberger Professors Karl Philipp Kayser aus den Jahren 1793–1827. ed/ Franz Schneider, Heimatblätter “Vom Bodensee zum Main” 24 [Karlsruhe 1923], 41–42, 44):

Schelling (who is here just now as I write this [31 August 1803]) . . . I have not seen Schelling, as much as I might have wished to do so. . . . He [Dr. Johann Jakob Loos, professor of medicine in Heidelberg] spent yesterday afternoon [30 August 1803] in the company of Schelling and his wife at the home of Professor Daub. . . . At the Wolf Fountain [in Schlierbach, across the Neckar River from the older part of Heidelberg], he asked Daub, “Is that all?” Because of the sun and intense heat, the walk up to the castle was quite difficult for Schelling.

[H. Henkenius and Ella Hoffman, Guide Through Heidelberg and its Environs Neckartal and Bergstrasse, 10th ed. (Heidelberg 1913), 6:]


I [Professor Loos] recounted how delighted Tieck was with this walk, and soon thereafter Schelling’s wife remarked that they seemed everywhere to be pursued by Tieck’s tracks. . . . I also found it quite in character when Schelling eagerly grasped the granite columns in the castle and said that it was the greatest pleasure for him to grasp granite stones. He is not disinclined to accept a position at the university here.

And finally, Kayser similarly remarks in a letter on 27 May 1804 (Karl Philipp Kayser, cited in Franz Schneider, Reiseerinnerungen eines Heidelberg Professors aus dem Jahre 1804, Neues Archiv für die Geschichte der Stadt Heidelberg 13 [Heidelberg 1928], 46–53, 55–56; reprinted in Schelling im Spiegel seiner Zeitgenossen, ed. Xavier Tilliette [Torino, 1974], 153) that “Schelling said that he was quite pleased with the area around Heidelberg.”

Caroline regrettably nowhere mentions this journey, though such letters may yet be extant. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott