Letter 387b

387b. Dorothea Veit to Karoline Paulus in Würzburg: Cologne, ca. 5–15 September 1804 [*]

Cologne, ca. 5–15 September 1804

I can understand that you cannot come to Cologne, but how am I to come to Würzburg? [1] Alone? I would not do that because of certain people. Friedrich cannot leave just now, and you can probably also understand that it would not really be appropriate for him to come for any lengthier stay in Würzburg; he has been too well received here to risk intruding there.

Hence I must simply await the opportunity for one or the other of our acquaintances to take me along when they undertake such a journey. And in any case, money is a problem now; my dear child, no monay no monay! [2] . . . Had I but money, I would long have been there with you, and if but for a single day. But let us now patiently wait and see what late autumn brings. —

But do you really believe that I could live without vexation in Würzburg, and in the same house with my grand enemy? [3] Think about that. You well know that although I can neither squabble nor take revenge, I am perfectly capable of being annoyed, in which case it is the others who always attain their goal, while I come away with nothing but aggravation. And how much would such hostility not dampen our joy at being able to live together? —

On the other hand, if you otherwise simply cannot get together with me except in Würzburg, then nothing shall prevent me, and I will try to make the journey before the end of the year. It is simply too important for me to see you again, and I yearn inexpressibly for you. —

Be not astonished that they do not want Friedrich in Würzburg; [4] we were not in the least surprised, we really did not expect anything different and simply did not want to contradict your kind intentions from the very outset. Were governments capable of realizing how much they really ought to appreciate and indeed seek Friedrich out, much in the world would be vastly improved! But they neither know nor comprehend what they would have in him, and they fear him because they simply do not understand him.

And so it is, my dear, dear friend, and thus will it likely remain for a long while yet! The philosophers, by the way, can feel safe from him not only in Würzburg, but everywhere, indeed as far as the sky is blue, for he will never lecture again publicly on philosophy; [5] that is his firm resolution. Friedrich would have gone to Würzburg solely for your sake, to be and live with you; but really, perhaps it is better that he remain at a distance, since, frankly, once he began to express himself, he would likely as little accord with the government’s intentions as those intentions with him.

For why should I not admit it to you: He hates the so-called “Enlightenment” twaddle more than all other nonsense, and is quite serious about Christianity. [6] — Moreover, as a philologist he would probably stick very close to his discipline, not getting involved in that particular dispute unless challenged publicly; unsolicited he will never lecture on either philospohy or his faith. [7] . . .

Which ladies do you socialize with? Do you ever see Madam Hufeland? Madam Kilian? From what I hear, these Jena ladies have also recently arrived in Würzburg. [8] — Poor Jena! How sad the dear place must be now. I must confess to you that I actually have a kind of preference for Jena. You, however, never liked it. — Which circle do you frequent? [8a] Tell me a bit about it. Do you still play the guitar? . . .

The newspaper just arrived: Fichte has received an appointment in Landshut, and Niethammer in Würzburg! [9]

I wish all of you luck; we are especially pleased that Fichte is out of wretched Berlin. When you see him, give him our warmest regards. Would he but write to us! [10]

Stupid me telling you to give our regards to Fichte. Friedrich just told me that Landshut is quite far from Würzburg, whereas I imagined it was quite near. [11] But let us see, my dear angel, whether Niethammer will again fall at your feet the way he once did in Jena. Write and tell me how he acts when he falls. [12] Might Fichte’s appointment not likely be quite pleasant news for the grand philosopher in Würzburg? I think not. What on earth were they thinking, appointing so horribly many philosophers and unphilosophers at the same place? Is the government trying to arrange the spectacle of a cockfight? — But all kidding aside, all this is quite favorable for Fichte, and I am truly happy that Berlin no longer owns him. [13] . . .

You are doubtless correct with respect to D’Alton’s baseness; he already had a considerable bit of that when I saw him three years ago. [14] You will recall that I was inveighing against him when I came to Bocklet, [15] but at the time no one believed me, instead accusing me of being one-sided and of excessively worshiping Friedrich and that sort of thing. Do you now see that I was right? Let me also tell you, just as Christ told doubting Thomas, that you believe now because you see; but blessed are they who do not see and yet still believe! [16] — Do you hear? Maybe next time you’ll believe what I say without “signs and wonders.” [17]

Goethe once said that one ought to crucify the rapturous enthusiasts before their 30th year; I think it would be even more useful to crucify all the adventurers over 30! [18] Hence it would probably have saved his honor and his nonconformity had one, as you suggest, strung him up. But that did not happen, nor do I really believe this story; as far as I know, he was continually in St. Goar for more than two years living with the young Miss Buch, or in Hamburg, where he is still in marriage relations with my sister; in any event, one would not so readily allow someone convicted of dishonest money exchange to continue to pursue all his baseness in the world. [19] How do you think he got out of it this time? —

I am just such a foolish dunce; once I have loved someone, I cannot help but always have a soft spot in my heart for him. I hope I never see d’Alton again; he brings back too many unpleasant memories. [20] — —

Stay well; I embrace you with all my heart and love you ardently. Please do remain fond of me.


[*] Source: Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus 18–23. Back.

[1] Dorothea had mentioned such a visit in her earlier letter to Karoline Paulus on 19 June 1804 (letter 383j), a letter in which she also responded to Karoline Paulus’s apparent mention of the possibility of a position for Friedrich Schlegel in Würzburg, which even Schelling had earlier publicly proposed.

Cologne is located on the Rhine River ca. 300 km by postal carriage from Würzburg on the Main River (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):



[2] Thus in the original. Back.

[3] I.e., Caroline. Dorothea is assuming she and Friedrich would be living in the same university complex as Caroline, Schelling, and the Paulus and von Hoven families (Universität Würzburg, Universitätsarchiv):


See the supplementary appendix on the Schellings’ residence in Würzburg. Back.

[4] Karoline Paulus seems to have informed Dorothea and Friedrich that efforts to secure Friedrich a position in Würzburg had not been successful. Back.

[5] Dorothea is mistaken; Friedrich lectured on philosophy not only in Cologne, but also later in Vienna and Dresden. Back.

[6] One of the most influential ministers in Bavaria was the Enlightenment-influenced Maximilian von Montgelas, and much of the restructuring of the Bavarian school (and university) system at his initiative was being done to bring it more in line with Enlightenment thinking. Although Schelling was given his appointment in Würzburg with the idea that he would be a representative of such thinking, as far as at least the leading Catholic Enlightenment thinkers were concerned, he turned out to be quite the opposite. See, e.g., Henrik Steffens’s letter to Schelling during the autumn of 1804 (letter 387a), in which Steffens speaks about his own, similar troubles with Kantians in Halle; concerning Schelling, see esp. note 6 there.

Otherwise, Friedrich’s interest in Christianity resulted in both his and Dorothea’s conversion to Catholicism in 1808. Back.

[7] The allusion is likely primarily to the in part personal and malicious controversies between Schelling and his followers, on the one hand, and strict Catholics on the other, followers of Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi such as Friedrich Köppen, Kajetan Weiller, and Jakob Salat, and Bavarian Enlightenment thinkers at large, especially Franz Berg in Würzburg and the Oberdeutsche allgemeine Litteraturzeitung in Munich. See esp. Kuno Fischer’s discussion of Bavarian Catholic opposition to Schelling. Back.

[8] Dorothea seems not to realize that Konrad Joseph Kilian, along with his wife and young son (born 1800), were still living in Bamberg, where he was second physician to Adalbert Friedrich Marcus at the Bamberg General Hospital. Kilian did not move to Würzburg until 1805 (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern [Vienna 1805]):



[8a] Der Freund des schönen Geschlechts: ein angenehm und nützlicher Taschenkalender für das Jahr 1808):



[9] The Niethammers had already arrived in Würzburg. See Caroline’s letter to Beate Gross, née Schelling on 2 September 1804 (letter 387). Back.

[10] Fichte ended up going to Erlangen instead; indeed, his appointment in Landshut may have been thwarted by adversaries in Bavaria (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


It may be remembered that Berlin had no university yet. In any event, Fichte himself may well have had reservations about Bavaria in general. See Robert Adamson, Fichte (Edinburgh 1908), 78–79:

The lectures at Berlin continued to gain in popularity and in influence. The most eminent citizens and statesmen were to be found in attendance on them, and it was but natural that the idea should occur to reinstate Fichte in some position as academical lecturer [Fichte was rejected for membership in the Berlin Academy of Sciences and Humanities on 28 March 1805, primarily by members influenced by Friedrich Nicolai].

In 1804 he was invited by the Russian Government to the newly organised university at Charkow; in the same year he was offered a chair at the Bavarian university of Landshut. The first invitation he declined, because he felt that the foreign surroundings would diminish his influence and activity; the second he likewise refused, rather from dread of the strong ecclesiastical feeling in Bavaria than from disinclination to the university there.

Towards the close of the same year, however, Beyme procured for him an offer, which he gladly accepted, of the Chair of Philosophy at Erlangen, under condition that he should be required to lecture during summer only, and might reside at Berlin during the winter months. In May 1805 he opened his course at Erlangen, was received with distinction by his colleagues, and here delivered to the whole body of students the lectures on the “Nature of the Scholar,” which were published in the ensuing year.

Almost simultaneously there appeared the lectures delivered at Berlin in the winter of 1804–5, “On the Characteristics of the Present Age,” and those delivered in the winter of 1805–6, “The Way towards the Blessed Life, or Doctrine of Religion.” The three sets of lectures form a completed whole: the first part, the “Characteristics,” analysing the present state of culture and thought ; the second, “The Nature of the Scholar,” indicating the spirit in which the attempt to rise to a higher stage should be made; the third, sketching in bold outlines the completed reconciliation of life and thought in religion. In them the results of Fichte’s speculation are presented in popular form, and they are certainly incomparable specimens of the union of vigorous philosophical thought and masterly skill in exposition.

Fichte spent the winter of 1805–6 in Berlin as provided in his contract, where he also continued lecturing. He then requested and received a leave of absence from Erlangen for the summer semester 1806 after being appointed full professor. He remained in Berlin but in September 1806 was granted further leave from Erlangen because of the French advances and the concomitant dangers of travel.

After Prussia’s defeat at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, news of which Fichte received on 18 October, he and the the king’s personal physician, Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, fled Berlin for Königsberg (map: Central Europe Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7, Cambridge Modern History Atlas [1912]; illustration: Godefroy Engelmann, Voiture à quatre chevaux avec un postillon; ca. 1800–1830; Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon):



Napoleon entered Berlin on 27 October 1806. Fichte was immediately appointed a full professor in Königsberg, though during 1807 he also had to flee to Copenhagen before returning to Berlin. Back.

[11] As noted also on the map above, Landshut is located ca. 75 km northeast of Munich, and ca. 265 km southeast of Würzburg, Erlangen ca. 90 km southeast of Würzburg (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):



[12] Concerning Niethammer’s awkwardness, see Dorothea to Clemens Brentano from Jena on 27 February 1801 (Dorothea Schlegel und deren Söhne 1:[18]; KFSA 25:238):

this sincere annoyance [Brentano’s reference in a letter to his annoyance at his own wisecracking personality] reminds me in a very funny way of Niethammer, whom I more than delight in watching each day when he comes out of his house, always stumbling out in a stupendous rush, breaking into a run, not even looking around; then, suddenly, all at once, he catches himself and realizes what he is doing, gets hold of himself, and then continues to walk on, this time in a quite dignified manner. I enjoy this spectacle each day, for we live just across from him [at Leutragasse 5]. Back.

[13] Fichte eventually returned to Berlin in any case in 1807, becoming, moreover, dean of the humanities section of the fledgling university established in 1810 and the first elected rector in 1811. Back.

[14] Eduard d’Alton seems to have accompanied Friedrich and Dorothea back to Jena from Leipzig during the spring of 1801 (map: Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]; illustration: Taschenbuch zum geselligen Vergnügen 1803; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[15] Dorothea, after a bout of illness, had departed for Franconia and Bocklet on 20 July 1801 with Philipp Veit and accompanied by H.E.G. Paulus; Karoline Paulus and her daughter, Sophie, were already there. Friedrich journeyed there to pick her up on 15 August, and they were back in Jena by 24 August (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[16] John 20:24–29 (NRSV) (illustration: Christoph Weigel, Historia von Iesu Christi unsers Heylandes Geburt, Lebenswandel, Wunderwercken, Gleichnußreden, Leiden, Sterben, Auferstehen und Himmelfahrt: Zur Einpflanßung von Jugend auf, und state Unterhaltung Gottseelige betrachtungen auß denen heyligen Evangelisten Mattheo, Marco, Luca, und Johanne, vorgebildet [Augsburg 1695]):

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”


Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Back.

[17] A standard turn of phrase in the Bible, esp. in Acts; see Acts 5:12: “Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles etc.” Back.

[18] “Adventurers” here in the sense of “rogues and rakes,” here: d’Alton. Back.

[19] Uncertain allusion to d’Alton’s past.

St. Goar is located on a picturesque stretch of the Rhine River between Mainz and Coblenz, and just below the castle ruins Rheinfels, shown in the illustration below (Ignaz Heymann , PostKarte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, 2nd ed. [Triest 1806; Bibliothèque nationale de France; illustration: “Rheinfels: St. Goarhausen in the Distance,” in The Rhine From Its Source to the Sea, trans. G. C. T. Bartley, rev. ed. [London 1903], 227):




[20] Concerning Eduard D’Alton and his complicated and not entirely clear history with the Mendelssohn daughters, see esp. the lengthy discourse in Dorothea’s letter to Schleiermacher on 16 April 1801 (letter 308a); also Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Caroline in late March 1799 (letter 225), and Caroline’s to Wilhelm Schlegel on 6 and 27 July 1801 (letters 324, 327) (Der Zauber des Orpheus für Freunde der Musik und Dichtkunst: Ein Almanach für 1798; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



Translation © 2017 Doug Stott