Letter 389b

389b. Andreas Röschlaub to Schelling in Würzburg: Landshut, 26 January 1805 [*]

[Landshut] 26 January 1805

. . . What was related to you from Vienna (from Schmidt? [1] Troxler?), namely, that I intend to come out against the philosophy of nature, is . . . a lie. [2] Are you not already acquainted with me as a man who would certainly reveal such an intention to you? Well! Then you do not know me at all. No, my friend, I am not one of those people who work against someone behind his back. . .

I am, to be sure, inclined to come out against the absurd outgrowths of the philosophy of nature you have presented that have been snapped up and regurgitated by what are in part the crudest and most mindless, in part also most ignorant people, but only against the philosophy as they have presented it, and not in the slightest against your system of that philosophy, moreover, to demonstrate the emptiness, mindlessness, and absurdity of most of the outgrowths of this sort. [3] But however can I possibly undertake such a task if I were intending to come out against you yourself, the teacher of all these people?

I must confess, my dear friend, that I find it regrettable that you put so much trust in so many ordinary people, and by doing so make them so arrogant that they all believe they have already comprehended the very heart of your system of the philosophy of nature. But what happens is that your system then becomes burdened with all sorts of things that are utterly alien to your own spirit.

Nor can I conceal from you, precisely because I love and respect you so deeply, that I myself find something in the way you waste your trust on such people — people who in part have been intent on casting doubt on my own literary existence even though I found in them mere mouthpieces, — that I found something I cannot quite reconcile with the tenderness of friendship. But I can swear to you by all that is sacred that I do not love you any less for it, for I assume that your own inner disposition had nothing in the least to do with it.

But do you blame me, indeed, can you blame me if I allow such people to feel that I do indeed still exist? . . .

I do, by the way, hope that you will not become uncomfortable even should I find some of your earlier assumptions to be false. I have, after all, found in some of your more recent works that you yourself contradict some of your earlier opinions. But I can guarantee that my objections will never mean that I intend to come out against you or your system.

You point out to me that I am not yet acquainted with the true results of the philosophy of nature with respect to medicine. What, my friend, is the point of your bringing such to my attention? — Would I be presumptuous were I to retort with a similar insinuation? — I can assure you that I have developed views concerning the specifics of such medical application and hygiene. . . which I as a matter of fact do not consider entirely unimportant. In matters of speculation . . .

I will always yield to you, and it will be an important and indeed momentous thing for me when I one day see the final results of that speculation with regard to medicine. [4]

No, my friend, we should not become mistrustful of each other, and you should not give credence to the flattering gossip of either an old or more recent student. . . .

That much with respect to our personal relationship. [5] . . .

What I must yet write you about is that, as I have learned, people have found the means to win over Herr Minister Bar. v. M. [6]against you. Whether this is quite correct . . . I cannot say, but I do know that certain friends will find the ways and means to discover and refute any slander to your person to which this great man has been exposed. It seems primarily that certain members of the nobility consider themselves as having been insulted by you or your excellent spouse. [7] But I know none of the details. . . .


[*] Source: Fuhrmans 3:169–71.

Another letter attesting both the personal and the professional difficulties Schelling and, at the end of the letter, also Caroline by implication were experiencing during the period in Würzburg. Back.

[1] Karl Schelling was currently studying under Johann Adam Schmidt in Vienna. Back.

[2] Fuhrmans 3:169, suggests the rumor came from Philipp Franz von Walther, who on 12 January 1805 had related to Schelling (Fuhrmans 3:164) that Röschlaub was “threatening to publish a polemical journal” in which he would “set himself up as the mouthpiece of the opposition.”

Röschlaub’s journal, Magazin zur Vervollkommnung der Medicin, had included numerous discussions of the Brunonian theory of defective or excessive excitation, but since ca. 1803 that theory had begun to fall from favor and had been subject to increasing criticism, particularly from a younger generation, who, moreover, largely also subscribed to Schelling’s philosophy of nature. That generation included especially Lorenz Oken and Ignaz Paul Vitalis Troxler, the latter of whom, in his Versuche in der organischen Physik (Jena 1804), had especially criticized the theory of excitation and Röschlaub’s attendant position, prompting Röschlaub to begin a campaign against Troxler and the younger philosophers of nature and especially what he perceived as their arrogance in his Magazin zur Vervollkommnung der Medicin 8 (1805) 2 (January 1805). Back.

[3] The Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy by Franz Berg had targeted similarly “absurd outgrowths” of Schelling’s philosophy of nature, albeit clearly without exempting Schelling himself from the satire. Back.

[4] It may be recalled that, strictly speaking, Schelling was not a university-trained physician despite having audited some courses in Leipzig before coming to Jena. Back.

[5] The relationship between Röschlaub and Schelling became increasingly tense during 1805, and although several letters were exchanged, Schelling’s letter to Röschlaub in late September 1805 (letter 397b) seems to have been the last; the friendship was not renewed (Goettinger Taschen Calender vom Jahr 1790; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):



[6] Uncertain reference. Maximilian von Montgelas? Back.

[7] Uncertain allusion, but certainly not the first time Caroline’s allegedly inappropriate social behavior has been mentioned; see Henriette von Hoven’s letter to Charlotte Schiller on 4 August 1804 (letter 385a). Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott