Letter 381f

381f. Goethe to Schelling in Würzburg: Weimar, 29 November 1803 [*]

[Weimar, 29 November 1803]

The present letter and enclosure, which I would prefer never having sent, will probably reach you in Würzburg, where I wish you happiness and prosperity. [1]

We are revamping our old academic circumstances, and, as is the nature of all living things, so also is here, too, the best help is that which, with modest stimulation, nature herself provides. [2]

You now find yourself in a new situation, one taking form in a peculiar way; [3] may they yield much that is good both through and for you.

The Jena critical journal is gaining a great many active participants. [4] Such a society will gradually come to resemble an invisible academy consisting of a collection of secret professorships from among whom personalities will express themselves as different as has ever been possible even in a visible academy.

Hence I, despite such good progress, could not really become enthusiastic about the project if an introduction had not been resolved with which you can familiarize yourself from an enclosed written copy. [5]

Therein is expressed once and for all what would have emerged from the actual implementation in any event, namely, that this project involves not a presumptuous whole, but a juxtaposition of equal, similar, unequal, and dissimilar views. [6]

Would you yourself perhaps also be interested in contributing, anonymously or not, the review of this or that significant piece to this journal? Perhaps you will find one to which you might give a favorable presentation and whose merits you might want to explicate before the eyes of the public. That of which we approve in others places us in a production predisposition, which in its own turn never fails to have a beneficent effect. [7]

Stay healthy and happy and think of me down there in beautiful Franconia. Your imagination can still reliably find me in the solitary rooms of the old castle in Jena, where my recollection of the hours I spent there with you often comes to cheer me up.

Finally let me report to you what is surely not an unpleasant event, namely, that we have awarded the entire prize of 60 Ducats this year to a Würzburg artist by the name of Martin Wagner, about whom you can inquire at the Church of St. Michael. [8]

If you can do anything on your own part to help him, considering that he seems to be of modest means, you would performing a service to both art and happiness. Strictly speaking, what he has accomplished in his circumstances is incredible, though there is still much to be done.

If you can make comprehensible to him the distinction between allegorical and symbolic treatment, you will surely be his benefactor, since so much revolves around precisely this axis. [9]

If you believe that Count von Thürheim would be kindly disposed were I to commend this young man to him, I will be glad to do so. Especially, however, engage all your influence to convince him to go to Rome first rather than to Paris, since not even the greatest talent can get over such false instradation. [10]

A hearty farewell.

Jena, 29 November 1803



[*] Sources: Plitt 2:6–8; Fuhrmans 3:30–32. Back.

[1] The “enclosure” was Schelling’s release from his position at the university in Jena from the primary trustee of the university in Jena, Karl August of Saxony-Weimar.

In reality, professors leaving the university for positions elsewhere first had to obtain releases from all four royal courts on which the administration of the university in Jena depended, viz., Weimar, Meinigen, Gotha, and Coburg. Concerning this trusteeship, see the sections in the supplementary appendix on Germany in the late-eighteenth century on upper Saxony, esp. the note on the ErnestineTrustees collectively responsible for the university in Jena.

Concerning the similar position of H. E. G. Paulus, see Reichlin-Meldegg 1:355–56, whose release from Weimar read as follows (ibid.):

By God’s grace, Karl August, duke of Saxony etc.

To the respected, highly and excellently learned persons, our dear devoted and loyal persons, prorectors, doctors, masters, and other professors of our larger university in Jena:

First of all our most gracious greetings! Respected, highly and excellently learned person, dear, devoted, and loyal persons! The full, public professor of theology at the larger university, Dr. Heinrich Eberhard Gottlob Paulus of Jena, has appealed to us for his release as a result of the appointment he has received in Würzburg as state Rath in spiritual matters and public teacher of Protestant theology.

In acknowledgement of the erudite efforts same has long and untiringly devoted to the improvement of the academy, we might well wish instead that he remain, and indeed in view of recent considerations might expect such [Paulus had been offered a financial incentive to remain].

Insofar, however, as we do not wish to question this request given the circumstances he has adduced that to a certain extent prompt him to make this change, and in order graciously to grant him the requested release, we have therefore resolved: Our gracious will is that you might inform the aforementioned Professor Dr. Paulus of this resolution and also to report to these chambers your considered proposals for filling the thereby resulting vacant position on the theological faculty in the most expedient fashion. Such would be commensurate with our will, and we remain graciously disposed to you. Issued Weimar, 5 November 1803.

Karl August m. p. [manu propria, “in (one’s) own hand”] Back.

[2] Jena had lost and was yet to lose several prominent faculty members during 1803 and 1804. See H. E. G. Paulus’s discussion concerning problems at the university in Jena and dissatisfaction among faculty members in 1803 (supplementary appendix 377c.1). Back.

[3] The territories of Bamberg and Würzburg had passed to Bavaria as a result of geopolitical developments associated with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. See Adalbert Friedrich Marcus’s letter to Schelling on 30 April 1803 (letter 377c), note 3. As a result, the originally Catholic university in Würzburg was being reorganized to accommodate Protestant (and Enlightenment) scholars. Back.

[4] The newly established Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, which under the editorship of Heinrich Karl Abraham Eichstädt was to replace the original Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, which Christian Gottfried Schütz would be publishing in Halle. Back.

[5] Presumably a statement of purpose for the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. Back.

[6] Presumably an allusion to Goethe’s desire to avoid the quarrels that ultimately burdened the original Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. Back.

[7] Both Caroline and Schelling published reviews in this journal. See the section on Caroline’s literary reviews, volume 2, and esp. Erich Frank’s introduction “Caroline, Schelling, and the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung.” The Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung was published until 1841. Back.

[8] The reference is to the annual Weimar art competition. Wagner had been awarded the prize for the 1803 competition with a piece depicting how Odysseus soothes Polyphemus, here as the frontispiece of the initial issue of the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung 1 (1804) 1 (January):


Goethe discusses the competition for 1803 in the article “Weimarische Kunstausstellung vom Jahre 1803 und Preisaufgabe für das Jahr 1804,” Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung 1 (1804) 1 (January) 1–24, and writes to Wagner on 18 November 1803 to inform him of his award:

I am pleased to relate to you, my most esteemed Herr Wagner, that you have been awarded the prize of 60 Ducats for this year’s exhibition.

Since your letter of 8 July suggested that you may in the meantime have departed on a journey, might I inquire now whether you are now perhaps in Würzburg? that I might expedite to you the sum along with the drawing after the small etching has been rendered from it.

I would also be grateful if in your next letter you could provide some information about your place of birth, your artistic training, and perhaps other events in your life.

I in my own turn would enclose a letter of reference to Herr Count von Thürheim, having already heard of this gentleman’s favorable inclinations toward scholars and artists.

If you later choose to go to Paris or Rome, I would be able to provide you with several important addresses in that regard as well.

Wishing you all the best.
Weimar, 18 November 1803


Wagner seems to have responded to Goethe’s request: Weimarer Ausgabe 48:61 (announcement of prize money for 1803), 48:71 (“Einiges von dem Lebens- und Kunstgange Herrn Martin Wagners” [January 1804] [“Miscellanea concerning the life and artistic career of Martin Wagner”]):

Herr Wagner was born in Würzburg as the son of the palace sculptor and is now twenty-six years old. His father directed his training toward the fine arts, for which he exhibited considerable inclination at a very early age. Although the original plan was to have him attend school first in order to acquire some introductory acquaintance with ancient history and poesy, he found that this path was too slow in guiding him toward his goal. Hence he left the Gymnasium and, until he was nineteen and under the guidance of his father, practiced drawing after casts and anatomical materials, initially unsure whether to become a painter or sculptor until finally choosing the former.

The grace of the coadjutor at the time and present arch-chancellor [Karl Theodor von Dalberg] commended him to Vienna, where he pursued studies after nature and antiquity for five years under the guidance of Herr Director Füger at the Academy of Fine Arts, also copying several paintings are the gallery there and ultimately even trying his hand in his own compositions. After drawing several in that genre, he painted his first original picture, one depicting the return of Mary with the women and John before the tomb.

Last year, also the last he spent in Vienna, he received the first prize (the theme: Aeneas asking Venus the way to Carthage), thereafter returning to his hometown before going to Paris at the beginning of this past September. We wish him all the energy he needs to use his stay there to his best advantage and then to make the pilgrimage to Rome, where someone this variously talented will quickly feel at home and one day pay back his fatherland’s encouragement and support a thousand fold.

The church of St. Michael in Würzburg is located at one end of the seminary complex at whose other end the Schellings themselves were scheduled to reside; Wagner was a native of Würzburg (F. Harrach and Leonhard Zertahelly, Plan Der Kreis-Hauptstadt Würzburg [Munich 1845):



[9] Although Schelling did become good friends with Wagner in 1808, he did not meet Wagner in Würzburg in 1803, since Wagner had left for Paris in September. Back.

[10] “Instradation,” a determination of the optimal route and optimal means. Goethe was, however, instrumental in helping Wagner acquire a stipend for study in Rome, where he eventually stayed during 1804–8 (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 LVIII b):



Translation © 2017 Doug Stott