Letter 383b

383b. Schelling to Carl Joseph Windischmann in Aschaffenburg: Würzburg, 7 April 1804 [*]

Würzburg, 7 April 1804

. . . At issue is the following: I have been charged with determining whether Ackermann would like an appointment here as professor of anatomy. If he does, he will have the appointment within a few weeks, on that you have my word. You, my dear friend, should now secure an open answer from him concerning this, albeit not directed to me personally, nor is Ackermann to know, for reasons that are extremely urgent, that it was I who made this inquiry (I will relate these reasons to you in person).

Instead, please write to him — without giving him the slightest reason to guess it may have been me — that one would like a declaration from him whether he would come to Würzburg were he to receive the same or even better conditions than those under which he is going to Jena. He should write an open letter to this effect and at the same time enumerate his approximate conditions. Tell him he can count on not losing the appointment should he genuinely desire it.

Send this answer — which should be directed to you — to me as soon as possible and in general hasten these measures to whatever extent possible. — Should Ackermann, against expectation, already have left for Jena, that would not harm anything; he will be reimbursed for travel expenses. [1] . . .


[*] Sources: Plitt 2:15–16; Fuhrmans 3:73–74.

Although this letter involves a seemingly insignificant incident at the university in Würzburg, it reflects the difficulties Schelling’s personality and presumption were creating for him among key administrators such as Count von Thürheim, difficulties that led to both Schelling and Caroline becoming increasingly dissatisfied with life in Würzburg.

Moreover, word was getting out as early as 20 May 1804 (H. E. G. Paulus to Jakob Friedrich Fries, Schelling im Spiegel seiner Zeitgenossen, ed. Xavier Tilliette [Torino 1974], 147) that Schelling’s “credit” in Würzburg had

already fallen by several points and was still caught in a decrescendo. . . . Not only his teaching, but especially his pedagogical methods and lifestyle, through which his arrogance has made him spiteful, quickly accorded him a far lower status in public opinion than he had imagined. . . .

[9 August 1804] Our noble General Commissar, Count von Thürheim, is not particularly taken by Schelling’s teachings.

Friedrich Karl von Savigny writes similarly to Friedrich Creuzer on 6 July 1804 (ibid., 159) that “Schelling does not seem to be holding sway as frightfully as we believed, and his company is indeed hardly sought now.” Back.

[1] Schelling is here reacting, imprudently, to a report from Adalbert Friedrich Marcus that had alerted Schelling on 28 March 1804 (Fuhrmans 3:39) concerning attempts on the part of other Würzburg professors to influence appointments in Würzburg:

I did take note of one thing in particular [in discussion with Count von Thürheim], namely, that Hufeland and Paulus suggested that he appoint Fuchs, from Jena, as professor of anatomy. . . . From this one can see . . . that these common animals no doubt want to make the Fox [Germ. Fuchs] their king.

Jakob Fidelis Ackermann eventually became Justus Christian Loder’s successor in Jena. Attempts to secure such appointments for friends or for those more in line with one’s thinking was part of the academic landscape in Würzburg at the time, as illustrated by Marcus’s remarks above, and the maneuvers of which Marcus speaks were indeed successful. Schelling responded to Windischmann on 22 April 1804 (Plitt 2:17; Fuhrmans 3:78–79):

Please allow me, my friend, to keep the letter from Ackermann a while longer, since it can serve to show the legitimacy of my actions. Certain people in Munich have in the meantime managed to secure the appointment of a quondam famulus [Latin, “former famulus,” i.e., Fuchs] of Herr Loder here.

Unfortunately, Schelling’s efforts on Ackermann’s behalf earned him his first official reproach from Count von Thürheim; see the latter’s letter to Schelling on 22 April 1804 (letter 383c). The Bavarian authorities became increasingly discomfited with having appointed Schelling. It could not help that Caroline herself, judging from a letter from Henriette von Hoven to Charlotte Schiller on 4 April 1804 (letter 383a), was perceived at least by some to be imprudently and presumptuously meddling in university politics, including appointments. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott