Letter 382b

382b. Adalbert Friedrich Marcus to Schelling in Würzburg: Bamberg, 8 January 1804–10 March 1804 [*]

Bamberg, 8 January 1804

Kilian had already related some genuinely horrific things to me concerning you and the Würzburger shortly before I received your letter. It would not have changed things from my perspective, and I had already suspected what your letter confirmed . . . Count von Thürheim departed for Ansbach today; it is uncertain when he will return. He intends to write and tell Wagner to transfer to the Lyceum in Bamberg, hoping thereby to prompt him to go to Coburg. [1]

You yourself, my dear friend, need to remain completely calm, let absolutely nothing more upset you, and simply continue on the path you are already traversing. You are standing on firm ground, from which no one may or can displace you. The more undisturbed you continue on, the more securely will both you and we attain our goal. Do not be surprised at the impotent agitations of your adversaries, since such was to be anticipated in any case; moreover had these fellows not mobilized, it would have constituted a sign of disdain. —

Your letter to Zentner was necessary, nor will it fail to achieve its goal. [2] But enough.

Butterweck, as I have already written you, will not be coming, since they want to break off negotiations. [3] . . .

19 January 1804

Upon his return, Count von Thürheim told me that Wagner had related to him his appointment in Coburg . . . At the same time, he laid out the conditions under which he would remain . . . The count responded on the spot that his conditions would not be accepted, and that he should not hesitate [in accepting the appointment in Coburg]. . . .

23 January 1804

Does this fellow really warrant all these words we are wasting on him? Here is a copy of a letter he wrote to Count von Thürheim. . . . This letter, which I had copied for myself and which should not land in anyone else’s hands, embarrassed the Count. Although he wanted to take severe measures immediately against such hotheadedness, I advised against it. Instead, Wagner will now be receiving a letter emphasizing that there must be harmony at the university, and that the most severe measures will be taken against those who provide occasion for discord and public disputes. He, Wagner, would surely understand that if such involved him and Schelling, he would absolutely have to yield. Certain people in Munich were wishing his removal, and at the first complaint against him they would be insisting he find employment elsewhere etc. . . . You, my dear friend, need to comport yourself from now on in a completely neutral fashion toward this rake. He deserves no further attention from us. . . .

There is no longer any complaint or suspicion involving you. Even had one paid this fellow, he could not have done a better job of presenting himself as your adversary. . . .

7 February 1804

. . . I do know that the count’s most recent letter to Wagner is not of the sort that one can pass along. The count allowed me to read Wagner’s response a few days ago, who boasts of the approval he is receiving, and is assuring the count that he seeks to be only your rival rather than your adversary. He is an eccentric fellow who will listen to nothing. . . . He claims he will not leave Würzburg unless he be formally indicted. . . . I told the count that one ought to simply let the whole matter lie undisturbed until more data emerge against him.

10 March 1804

Considering everything I have heard here, and everything you said in your letter, I am inclined to believe that H–n played the role of Judas here. The count is not gullible, and it takes facts to persuade him. My suspicion is that you showed von Hoven the copy of the Wagner letter I had sent you. [4]

This may well qualify as a gravamen against me. They have used quite different means against you. It must especially involve some utterance or other that you . . . on occasion may have made concerning the steadfastness of the count’s character. The intent is purely to cast an unpleasant light on us with the count himself. . . .

But you can be as calm about all this as am I, since we have had nothing but the best intentions. It is doubly condemnable that they treated you in so vile a manner despite your good-natured and unaffected disposition. . . My moment of pride was to bring you to Würzburg. You alone were in a position to elevate the newborn university. . . .

Do not seek out such an opportunity, but if such does present itself quite naturally, then do use the occasion to explain yourself to the count. I do know that he was hurt to think you had misunderstood him. But he has enormous trust in the jocularity and unaffected simplicity of old von Hoven. I would not hold it against the count if the latter, your confidant, made an unpleasant impression on him. As soon as I understand the situation just a bit more clearly, I will write to the count myself.

I am enormously delighted that I will be enjoying the company of both you and your dear wife here for a while. Our visit together should, I flatter myself, contribute not a little to both science and art. . . .


[*] Source: Fuhrmans 3:34–39.

Schelling early found himself under attack in Würzburg from multiple quarters and on increasingly shaky ground with respect to his initially considerable influence on university affairs and among Bavarian officials who were making decisions concerning those affairs. The latter were especially interested in avoiding what they viewed as petty conflicts and quarrels among faculty members.

Although Marcus, who ultimately was not the best ally to have under these circumstances, tried to maintain Schelling’s optimism, Schelling’s personality began to aggravate an already tense situation and even to draw official reprimands. Correspondence during 1804 documents not only examples of such attacks on Schelling and his disinclination to shrink from confrontation, but also Caroline’s involvement both in the “ladies’ war in Würzburg” and to a certain extent even in university affairs. Back.

[1] Lyceum, Fr., “secondary school.” — Wagner did not leave Würzburg (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


The conflict between Johann Jakob Wagner and Schelling flared up almost as soon as Wagner arrived in Würzburg. Ironically, Wagner had received an appointment not least through Schelling’s recommendation but then soon engaged in strident polemic against him in lectures.

The result was that Count von Thürheim, who wanted nothing more than to preserve the peace at the new university and avoid internecine strife among the faculty, would like to have transferred him elsewhere (e.g., to the lyceum in Bamberg). Wagner’s disagreements with Schelling, however, emerged amid objections even among Schelling’s own followers during this period.

Concerning this conflict with Wagner, see Kuno Fischer, Schellings Leben, Werke und Lehre, 3rd ed., Geschichte der neuern Philosophie 7 (Heidelberg 1902), 117–19:

Eschenmayer had raised the objection that, given the overall constitution of Schelling’s doctrines, neither religion nor freedom could be explained, and that in order to acknowledge these two spheres philosophy would, as it were, have to move beyond itself and transition into “non-philosophy”; this objection articulated the perspective of Jacobi within the school of the philosophy of nature and prompted Schelling to write his treatise Philosophie und Religion [Tübingen 1804].

This piece in its own turn prompted one of Schelling’s previous followers to break with him polemically, namely, his fellow Württemberger and immediate colleague Johann Jakob Wagner, who on Schelling’s recommendation had been appointed professor of philosophy in Würzburg. The same age as Schelling, he had been peculiarly seized by both the task and inclinations of the philosophy of nature, had largely followed Schelling’s path in his initial publications Die Theorie der Wärme und des Lichts (Leipzig 1802), Von der Natur der Dinge (Leipzig 1803), and Über das Lebensprincip (Leipzig 1803), without denying the master and yet also without simply following in his footsteps like a schoolboy.

When, however, Schelling began to Platonize, equating the absolute with absolute knowing, Wagner found that his doctrine had lost its center of gravity and moorings and had regressed into Fichtean idealism, which it indeed completed but by no means overcame.

The objection Schelling later so often raised against Hegel Wagner now raised against Schelling himself, namely, that his doctrine was incapable of grasping the real and lacked any organ for moving from the idea into reality. The attempt to understand the world as emerging from the absolute, from divine ideas, is criticized as being fundamentally flawed, the problem itself invalid, the solution impossible, and the assertion presumptuous that the absolute is capable only of being acknowledged rather than known. Even the mere conception of such an enterprise reverts beneath Fichte’s position and is to be reckoned among post-Fichtean philosophy only to the extent that philosophy itself regresses rather than advances.

And so, according to Wagner, do things also stand with Schelling. This regressive character of his doctrine, Wagner alleged, was completely evident in his piece Philosophie und Religion, making it necessary for philosophy to turn away from Schelling if it is intent on moving forward, and to replace the false system of identity with the true one.

Wagner claims precisely this task for himself, declaring himself explicitly opposed to Schelling both in the introduction to his System der Idealphilosophie [Leipzig 1804], which was to amend what Schelling had bungled in his System des transcendentalen Idealismus, and in the [brief: sixteen pages] piece that opened his lectures, Ueber das Wesen der Philosophie; ein Programm zu Eröffnung seiner Vorlesungen für das Wintersemester 1804 [Bamberg 1804].

Both pieces appeared in 1804. From the tone in which Wagner writes, one can see that he is also provoked by Schelling personally, and various utterances Schelling makes in letters reveal that Schelling did not particularly like Wagner’s company either. He condescendingly looked down on Wagner and may well have treated him commensurately. He found Wagner personally repugnant, thought his polemic was trifling, and considered his motivation to be the most base.

“Our acquaintance, the Salzburger Wagner,” he wrote on 3 March 1804 to Hegel [letter 382b], “. . . is a real oaf, a paragon of Polyphemus, and someone I find both physically and morally not particularly pleasant.”

[Polyphemus: the Cyclops whom Odysseus defeats by plucking out his eye; Pellegrino Tibaldi, Polyphem; Polyphemus (1671); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur dBisschop AB 3.11:]


And in a letter to Windischmann on 16 September 1804 [letter 387c]: “Have you read Wagner’s Idealphilosophie? His affected adversarial position is a cry of distress seeking students and bread. I will at most say something about him in the Jahrbücher [der Medizin].” But he did not, remarking that he did not want to say anything publicly about Wagner lest by doing so he make him famous.

The Oberdeutsche allgemeine Litteraturzeitung [anonymous review of Wagner’s System der Idealphilosophie, Oberdeutsche allgemeine Litteraturzeitung (1805) 45 (13 April 1805)], 703–12) later praised Wagner for his polemic contra Schelling, but also found that this opposition manifested itself less in the book itself [System der Idealphilosophie] than in the introduction to the lectures, and that therefore his loud, public, antagonistic apostasy from Schelling was probably being driven by other, less pure motives than merely an interest in truth and philosophy [ibid., 711: “What is the point of this animosity?”]. Back.

[2] In mid-August 1803 (letter 380d). Back.

[3] H. E. G. Paulus had tried to undermine Schelling in Würzburg by having not only Schelling’s own student Eschenmayer appointed instead of Schelling, but in 1805 also Jakob Friedrich Fries from Jena.

In the meantime, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi had also managed to secure Friedrich Bouterwek an appointment, who had just been appointed full professor in Göttingen but was dissatisfied with his remuneration there. Count von Thürheim opposed the appointment for fear of introducing the seeds of controversy into Würzburg, but was overruled. Bouterweck himself, however, who received an appointment in March 1804, did not accept, having found the financial conditions unacceptable and having in the meantime received a financial supplement from Göttingen in any case.

That Caroline was somehow involved in these events regarding Bouterwek’s decision not to accept the appointment emerges from the anonymous article (presumably Jakob Salat), “Briefe über Baierns neueste Kultur und literarische Aufklärung,” Der neue Teutsche Merkur (1804) 8 (August 1804), 247–81, here 249–50:

You may perhaps wonder: Why did Bouterwek not follow [to Würzburg]? You may well imagine what held him back. And yet you will probably not be able to guess all the reasons. Could you believe that it was primarily the aversion to a certain — lady [Caroline] that held him back? It is admittedly a quite singular, indeed abominable thing when a lady participates in the battles within these [philosophical] systems, when she teases and jests, polemicizes, or indeed fabricates pasquinades.

Word has it that a lady of this sort allegedly advised her philosopher to withhold from the entire reading world of that town a particular journal that had published an article against him. Others say that the philosopher himself (!) suppressed the issue — which he had initially encountered in a reading circle — on his own initiative.

Alas, as might have been foreseen, this strategy became publicly known, and impartial readers found in it absolutely no evidence of philosophical strength, of love for the truth, modesty, and — not even of sagacity. For the goal that this particular lady, to whom one refers as Madame World Sagacity, had in mind, as is also well known, was precisely the opposite. And the entire matter merely became worse thereby.

But neo-philosophical sagacity demanded that such a literary journal, namely, one that not only does not pay homage to the new system but indeed even attacks it with derision and solid reasoning, be voted out of the reading circle; so that — now several members of this particular circle are nonetheless reading this newspaper! (Die Oberdeutsche) Back.

[4] Count von Thürheim, a friend of von Hoven’s (and Schiller’s) from their days together at the Hohe Karlsschule in Stuttgart, was a regular guest in the Hoven’s household in Würzburg (see von Hoven’s account of his initial period in Würzburg, supplementary appendix 381g.1); given Henriette von Hoven’s consistently venomous remarks concerning Caroline in her letters, it is not difficult to imagine von Thürheim being influenced negatively against the Schellings from that direction (Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):



Translation © 2017 Doug Stott