Letter 383d

383d. Karl Schelling to Caroline in Würzburg: Vienna, 1 May 1804 [*]

Vienna, 1 May 1804

I can delay no longer, dearest sister-in-law, in attesting to you my sincerest gratitude for your letter and the instructions it contained. . . . I intend to put on my black coat and go to Count von Gemmingen and tell him myself just who I am and why I have come, and also make clear to him that he is not speaking with just any common person. [1] . . . —

The person on whom I have for several hours placed all my hopes, and indeed at least from afar for several weeks now, is Johannes Müller . . . I paid him a visit this afternoon and spent an hour with him. As is his custom, after inquiring casually first about you, dear brother, [2] and then our parents and the Murrhardt monastery, he then queried me about what I myself had been doing in the meantime . . . I related the entire plan I have outlined for my life . . . when I took my leave of him, he kissed me and said he hoped and wished that we might live together for a longer period and more closely sometime in the future, and when I responded that I should certainly hope so myself, Herr Hofrath, he responded, “Oui, oui, a man of such distinguished learning and enthusiasm for science certainly merits a commensurate position.” So I departed from him full of expectation . . . By all appearances he will probably not be staying here [3] . . .

When I passed along your regards to him, he told me he certainly hoped to be seeing you this summer in Würzburg. During our conversation, he remarked that you were one of the greatest minds of our age. He asked whether you were satisfied in Würzburg. I answered: not entirely, that you complained especially about the pathetic people who were being appointed etc. I noticed quite clearly that he wanted to sound me out with respect to you. . . .

I will be visiting this Herr Johannes from time to time . . . and as often as I have time also be visiting the library that I might see him and he me. It would be very good indeed were he able to take me along to St. Petersburg, where he will probably be going as a minister. [4] . . .

Let me thank you again, dear lady, for what you wrote me all about the enthusiastic efforts of my good brother. [5] It filled me with joy, and even if nothing comes of it, I am still proud; it has long been my pride and sole joy that he is so kindly disposed toward me, and for his sake alone I do indeed want to make something of myself . . .

Karl Schelling


[*] Source: Fuhrmans 3:82–83 (“Central Europe: The Austrian War 1809,” The Cambridge Modern History Atlas, ed. A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, Stanley Leathes, and E. A. Ben [London 1912] [University of Texas, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection]):



[1] Unclear allusion; at the time, Karl Friedrich von Gemmingen was representing the interests of the Knights of the Empire at the court in Vienna. Back.

[2] Here Karl Schelling transitions to addressing his brother Schelling; he returns to addressing Caroline later in the letter. See in any case Caroline’s earlier review of “Johannes Müller’s Fragments from the Letters of a Young Scholar to His Friend.” Back.

[3] Johannes Müller accepted a position in Berlin in July. Back.

[4] J. C. von Pfister writes to Johannes von Müller from Stuttgart on 23 August 1804 (Schelling im Spiegel seiner Zeitgenossen, Ergänzungsband, ed. Xavier Tilliette [Torino 1981], 53):

Schelling in Vienna, who, as you requested, told me about your journey, will now be greatly missing your company. I cannot describe how very much this sensitive young man has been captivated by your entire spirit and intellect. He will probably be leaving Vienna soon. Although his brother had given him some hope of a position in Würzburg or Bamberg, circumstances do not seem to be entirely favorable for such now.

Friedrich Nicolai criticizes the elder Schelling at about the same time during the summer of 1804 (ibid., 55) for trying to set up a “regular academic clergy [in Würzburg] whose pope he himself intended to be,” indeed, to have an “anatomist versed in the philosophy of nature appointed (preferably the grand prophet’s own brother).” Back.

[5] Schelling had been extraordinarily active trying to secure a university or hospital professorship for his brother, none of which, however, materialized. The possibility of a position in Bamberg, which had once seemed so promising and was being pursued by Adalbert Friedrich Marcus, had been thwarted in late April 1804 when a rescript from Munich denied foreigners (in this case: someone from Württemberg) from being appointed teachers in any hospital schools. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott