Letter 390b

390b. Schelling to Carl Joseph Windischmann in Aschaffenburg: Würzburg, 26 February 1805 [*]

Würzburg, 26 February 1805

I must greatly ask your pardon for having kept the books so long, of which amid the many things occupying my time I had indeed lost sight, but which you have likely received back by now.

Given the tone of voice toward me that you assumed in response to what I mentioned in my last letter, I thought it advisable that our correspondence cease. [1]

Without addressing the point concerning the indignity of your outburst, to the extent it was indeed a mere outburst, you responded with new and indeed quite ordinary platitudes against the seriousness of science. Even though I for my person can disregard such, something I can in fact do quite easily, you must nonetheless realize that I, without being immodest, certainly have the right to demand more respect from you than you seemed intent on demonstrating through that insinuation, and that I may certainly expect from a friend the external propriety as well as the internal steadfastness not to join in with the general tone of voice that is so quick to dispense with all respect and, when it is impossible to refuse it entirely, seeks to make it as easy as possible for oneself. —

You then further assured me that you have never stood in the relationship of a pupil with me, and seem to view such a relationship as something quite ignominious. Although I know not that I myself prompted you to make this declaration, I do know that you had absolutely no reason to hasten with it, since neither the world nor I myself could ever view someone as the pupil of anyone him who is intent on balancing out everything. I have, by the way, never been ashamed to learn from someone else, and have found in others that it is often better to be thoroughly a pupil at least for a time being. For in everything a person is, the important thing is, after all, solely on properly being who one is, and much less on what one is. —

Similarly the obscurity of which you accuse my methods has doubtless never been something with which anyone has reproached you, nor will it likely ever be. What I wrote you about the cause that I did not wish to have misused, you now construe anew as my cause. To the extent that I pursue it, it is indeed also my cause, one to whose discipline I did not come merely by accident and one with respect to which I am yet waiting for you genuinely to get to the heart of the matter in your own writings. —

I still have less patience for seeing it enervated by lukewarm and indefinite writing than for passing shots from the hand of a friend. . . . You, by contrast, have it seems, only occasionally expressed your good and worthy opinion of me. —

In the meantime, I do still distinguish, and in you as well, between the person and his individual remarks. If alongside the appearance of cordial understanding you were nonetheless driven to present your contribution to this age against me, perhaps this came upon you precipitately the same way some frivolous action comes upon someone else. Hence I will not cease to respect in you the person to the extent I know him to be better and more affable than his remarks, and will continue to be happy to give you demonstrations of such. —

Until the aforementioned time (when you get to the heart of the matter), let me ask that you let all literary quarreling rest, and personal quarrelling as well, whose occasion has lost all meaning for me.

Stay very well along with your dear, good wife, and take care lest your eyes bother you any further, whose malady has indeed make me quite anxious. . . .


[*] Sources: Plitt 2:51–53; Fuhrmans 3:187–89.

Response to a missive from Windischmann on 9 February 1805 (Fuhrmans 3:182) inquiring about Schelling in general and requesting back the loaned copies of the Oberdeutsche allgemeine Litteraturzeitung. Back.

[1] Windischmann’s letter of 12 December 1804 (letter 388d), a response to Schelling’s letter to Windischmann on 7 December 1804 (letter 388b); see esp. Windischmann’s letter to resolve the allusions Schelling makes here.

In this present letter, Schelling begins yet another condescending and largely empty critique of Windischmann, and it may well be that Schelling’s sense of being constantly under fire from so many quarters in Bavaria and elsewhere prompted him to assert himself yet again, however transparently and disingenuously, against his friend.

Although one can little doubt that Schelling’s inflated self-estimation here is sincere, it was at the same time being severely and effectively attacked at large and even, as Schelling had become painfully aware, by opponents in the Bavarian administration in the form of official reprimands (see Count Friedrich Karl von Thürheim’s letter to Schelling on 22 April 1804 [letter 383c], esp. the editorial note). Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott