Letter 387a

387a. Henrik Steffens to Schelling in Würzburg: Halle, autumn 1804 [*]

Halle, autumn 1804

. . . You would like something for the Jahrbücher der Medizin — I will do everything I can to prepare an essay as soon as possible that you may find to be of some interest. [1] . . .

I am quite glad that we are once again in contact — was not our alliance the original one? — and even were the entire world to parrot you and then forget you — I will never forget that I owe my own science to you. The more the philosophy of nature comes to expression, all the loftier will the significance of your magnificent, grand discoveries be. How eager I am to read about your latest ideas in the philosophy of nature! [2]

You have remained silent too long. Reil, too, would be glad to contribute, was quite happy to read your letter as well, and will soon answer you. The only thing is that he wishes Marcus were not participating. Let me confess that I, too, am not particularly fond of the good man. He has, after all, not yet really contributed anything of scholarly significance to the field, and the his most recent affair, at least viewed from afar, does not at all put him in a favorable light. Forgive me, my dear Schelling, for expressing myself so straightforwardly. [3]

Precisely for the sake of the cause, I am glad to hear you have so many attendees in your lectures. Wagner is absolutely pathetic, and will never leave any lasting impression. [4] Are the other people not too trivial even to warrant your polemic? [5] How I wish you could find a calm and peaceful position.

I cannot conceal from you that I was loath to see the long-slumbering polemic reawaken, since it really is focused more on personal than individual issues. I do admit, however, that I am not really in a position to judge whether it is necessary. Here I am more or less unchallenged. That the Kantians hate me — you realize, of course, that their numbers are legion here [6] — is natural, and I can ignore the fact that you have been [critically] reviewed since I have been here, and that people have revised the philosophical vision (viewed from behind); no one pays any attention to it. . . .

Adieu, dearest friend,

H. Steffens

My kind regards to your wife.


[*] Sources: Otto Braun, “Aus Schellings Nachlass,” Nord und Süd 36, vol. 139 (1911), no. 441 (first issue in November 1911), 130–45, here 134–37 (not Nord und Süd 35 as in Fuhrmans); Fuhrmans 1:318–19. On the dating of this letter, see below.

Steffens was now a professor in Halle ([1] map: Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Besetztere und illuminierte Landkarte von Deutschland Elementarwerk, from the 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 xlv; [2] illustration with the Saale River: “Halle: Teilgesamtansicht,” from Über Land und Meer. Allgemeine Illustrierte Zeitung, [1865]):




[1] During the summer of 1804, Schelling went about organizing the publication of a new periodical, to be edited by himself and Adalbert Friedrich Marcus, Jahrbücher der Medicin als Wissenschaft. Verfasst von einer Gesellschaft von Gelehrten; although the first issue was planned for January 1805, it did not appear until September 1805, and the periodical only managed six issues before being canceled in 1808.

Steffens eventually published the article “Über die Vegetation,” Jahrbücher der Medicin 3 (1808) no. 2, 127–97. Back.

[2] Schelling’s publication of pieces further developing the philosophy of nature, of which Steffens had long been so enamored and with which Schelling had generated so much enthusiasm in Jena, was winding down during the years following his departure from Jena, and even after 1799 he published little that was specifically focused on the philosophy of nature. Back.

[3] Dating this letter: Although Adalbert Friedrich Marcus’s authorship of the anonymous article in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt was not officially announced until November 1804, his role in the affair probably had become generally known in September. Although Fuhrmans 1:318 probably correctly dates this letter to “autumn 1804,” the dating in Fuhrmans 3:105, “late August 1804,” seems too early, since even as late as 31 August 1804 (Fuhrmans 3:101), Marcus was writing to Schelling that were he, Marcus, “the author, I would identify myself immediately, here and now.” Back.

[4] Concerning Johann Jakob Wagner, see Schelling’s letter to Hegel on 3 March 1804 (letter 382c). Back.

[5] I.e., adversaries such as Franz Berg, Kajetan Weiller, and Jakob Salat, the latter two in Munich. Back.

[6] Steffens wrote Schelling in early 1808 (Fuhrmans 1:401:

You know how insufferable I find Halle. Nor has anything changed in the meantime, and I must try to get back. Not every professor is being rehired [after the university was closed], and, of course, most of them hate me. You can hardly imagine the pristine society here: old, half-rotten Kantians who hate the philosophy of nature like the plague.

Concerning efforts to counter Schelling, too, in Würzburg by the hiring of Kantians, see H. E. G. Paulus’s letter to Jakob Friedrich Fries on 9 August 1804 (letter 385b). Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott