Letter 394

• 394. Caroline to Beate Gross in Gaisburg: Würzburg, 4 August 1805 [*]

Würzb[urg], 4 August [1805]

|408| I would be very sorry indeed, dearest sister-in-law, had our long silence made you think ill of us, as if we were not thinking of our family members with the most heartfelt concern, or made you think things were not going well with us. As a matter of fact, and despite the rather unfriendly summer, both of us are feeling as healthy as can be, and so serene and harmonious that the good weather and the sunshine that in fact are not present outside just now nonetheless seem to be reposing beneath our very roof.

What has actually prevented us from writing is so much other writing, albeit not to good friends, but out into the wide world. Almost everything under the press with Cotta right now has come from my hand, which has robbed me not only of the time, but also of most of my desire to write letters. [1] How is it, however, that I have received absolutely nothing from Mother for so long now? And that August is not coming? whom I herewith seriously invite yet again.

Nothing must have been decided yet with regard to Adelberg. [2] If I have been wishing anything lately, it is that the dear parents might move there. A couple of clerics from Württemberg were here a few weeks ago, the good friend from Neustadt and one from [lacuna] who were of the opinion that your father had a fairly good chance of getting the position. [3] They both were quite well diverted here and will doubtless also praise their countrymen.

Fritz had yet another visit from a countryman, namely, Prince Paul, who pleased him quite beyond all expectation. Given what he related, the prince must indeed be quite charming and witty. What was funny is that Paulus, whom he had sought out first, had to bring him over here. Paulus himself came into my room because he found no one else, and said there he had a stranger at his house who very much |409| wanted to make Schelling’s acquaintance. So I sent the maidservant upstairs with them without really knowing who it was. [4] The prince asked Schelling — “Do you not recognize me? I passed by you in Tübingen 2 years ago and I certainly still recognize you.” And Fritz did indeed also recognize him, which, of course, greatly pleased him; he spent a good hour with him along with the sneaky apostle. [5] From what I hear, the Pauluses will be departing for Swabia during the next few days; they are both in ill health.

Word has it that Malle has become quite properly settled in Schlechtbach and is performing miracles with the professor’s uniform and the father-in-law’s gunpowder. [6]

As for Hoven, we will doubtless soon witness how completely crazy he has become from sheer arrogance, and how he is now practicing his arts publicly at Residence Square. [7] In all seriousness, not much is lacking for this genuinely to be the case; he really is telling his anecdotes to students in the street and playing his familiar jokes. [8] General opinion has it that he is so bad as a teacher that the medical students immediately start yearning to get away from here as soon as possible; residents stay because they have to, non-residents only as long as they still attend Schelling’s lectures. [9]

[End of page.]


[*] Map 1: South West Germany and North Italy: The War of the Second Coalition 1798–1801, map 88 in the Cambridge Modern History Atlas, ed. Ward et al. (London 1912); map 2: Stutgart, mit dero Gegend auf 2 Stund. 81 G. Bodenehr fecit et excudit; Recens emendavit, auxit atque divisit R. H. Stuttgardiae (1716–50):




[1] Caroline functioned essentially as Schelling’s scribe or, perhaps better: copyist preparing clean copies of his works for publication.

Here an administrative scribe in the late seventeenth, early eighteenth century (Christoff Weigel, Abbildung Der Gemein-Nützlichen Haupt-Stände Von denen Regenten Und ihren So in Friedens- als Kriegs-Zeiten zugeordneten Bedienten an biß auf alle Künstler und Handwercker Nach Jede Ambts- und Beruffs-Verrichtungen meist nach dem Leben gezeichnet und in Kupfer gebracht etc. [Regenspurg 1698], illustration following p. 164):


And a scribe with members of an eighteenth-century consistory (anonymous, Geistlicher und andere Herren bei einem Schreiber [ca. 1726–50]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. A: 50.1):



[2] Schelling’s father seems to have been considered for a position at the prelature in Adelberg, near Schorndorf, where he had earlier had a position (excerpt from “Wurtemberg,” in William Shepherd, Historical Atlas [1911], 143; image: University of Texas at Austin):


Instead in 1807 he became the prelate and general superintendent in Maulbronn (ibid.):



[3] The identities of these two visitors are uncertain. Back.

[4] Caroline and Schelling occupied the top two floors in the old university building, in the photograph below the two floors above the library (arcades) and second floor (Schelling’s auditorium); Schelling’s study was on the fourth floor, i.e., upstairs from the main living quarters and Caroline’s sitting rooms (Würzburg insbesondere seine Einrichtungen für Gesundheitspflege und Unterricht, ed. K. B. Lehmann and Julius Röder [Wiesbaden 1892], 225):


See the supplementary appendix on their residence in Würzburg. Back.

[5] It is uncertain what Prince Paul of Württemberg was doing in Tübingen when Schelling was there in September 1803 with Caroline.

Prince Paul was visiting Würzburg on his way to Hildburghausen, presumably to meet or otherwise arrange his wedding to Charlotte of Saxony-Hildburghausen, who was an Ernestine princess. Hildburghausen is located ca. 115 km northeast of Würzburg and ca. 65 km south of Gotha (both maps: Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



On 28 September 1805, not quite two months after this visit with the Schellings, the prince married Charlotte in Ludwigsburg. On 28 November 1805, however, his daughter out of wedlock with Johann Heinrich Vohs’s widow, Friederike Vohs (Caroline mentions Vohs’s performance in Stuttgart; see her letter to Luise Wiedemann on 19 June 1803 [letter 380], note 19), was born, namely, Adelheid Pauline Karoline von Rottenburg (1805–72), great-great-grandmother of the British politician Boris Johnson.

In any event, Prince Paul also visited the Würzburg Julius Hospital, headed by his countryman Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven. See Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven, Biographie Von ihm selbst geschrieben und wenige Tage vor seinem Tode noch beendiget, ed. Dr. Johann Merkel (Nürnberg, Johann Leonh. Schrag, 1840), 203–4 (illustrations: [1] Goettinger Taschen Calender für das Jahr 1791; [2] Carlo Goldoni, Opere complete, vol. 9 [Venice 1910], 413):

An even more surprising visit than that of [von Hoven’s old friends] [Consul] Mader [from Heutingsheim] and [Oberstlieutenant] Zech [from Ludwigsburg] was that with which Prince Paul von Württemberg honored me shortly thereafter, the brother of the currently reigning king, during a visit to Hildburghausen.

I knew nothing of his arrival in Würzburg and had gone to the Julius Hospital one morning, as was my custom. When I was coming out of a patient’s room, I saw a handsome young man coming toward me in the corridor whom I thought I should recognize but did not, until he came closer. “Do you not recognize me?” he called to me, “I wanted to visit you in your apartment, but they told me you would be in the hospital at this hour, hence I have sought you out here; do you recognize me?” — “Oh, indeed I do,” I replied, also showing him deference. “You are Prince Paul, and I cannot express what a pleasure it is to see you again after so long.”

I asked him whether he wanted a tour of the hospital. “Not this time,” he replied; but we spoke for quite a while together, walking up and down the corridor.


When I asked him at his departure how long he would be in Würzburg, and received the answer that we would indeed be staying until the following morning, I invited him to afternoon coffee at my home. He was happy to accept the invitation, and did indeed linger at my home until late that evening along with his companions, a general and court cavalier.


Our conversation touched on a great many subjects, and regardless of what the topic was, he always came across as the same intelligent man one could recognize in him since his early youth. What made me appreciate his visit and what delighted me even more was that he spoke a great deal about my father, who commanded his regiment. I had already heard from my father earlier that the prince was quite favorably disposed toward him, often visiting him, and never departing my father’s company without asking whether there was anything the prince might do for him.

During his visit with me, too, he expressed his beneficent disposition toward my father in the most unequivocal fashion, and whereas I had already admired the prince earlier for his understanding, I now also admired him no less for his good heart, which some people had hitherto denied him.

Concerning the epithet “sneaky apostle” as applied to H. E. G. Paulus, Caroline wittily alludes to an affair between Karoline Paulus and Adalbert Friedrich Marcus in Bocklet in a letter to Julie Gotter from Jena on 2 January 1803 (letter 374), wondering “whether the father of the little boy for whom Paulus has to care and change diapers here is an apostle [H. E. G. Paulus] or an evangelist [Adalbert Friedrich Marcus].” See also note 16 there. Back.

[6] Uncertain allusion, perhaps the small village of Schlechtbach just southeast of Murrhardt. Back.

[7] The large square in Würzburg before the residential palace, here in relation to Caroline and Schelling’s residence; the royal residence is at the right (Kreishauptstadt Würzburg: Gemessen durch Carl Handwerk im Jahre 1832; Bayerische Landesbibliothek Online; illustration from Ludwig Lange and Ernst Rauch, Original-Ansichten der vornehmsten Städte in Deutschland, ihrer wichtigsten Dome, Kirchen und sonstigen Baudenkmäler alter und neuer Zeit [Darmstadt 1832], n.p.):




[8] As attested by his autobiography, von Hoven apparently took things rather far among the students with his affable humor; Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven, Biographie Von ihm selbst geschrieben, 205–6 (illustrations: [1] Wirtin bringt Brot [ca. 1776–1825]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 779b; [2] Goettinger Taschen Calender vom Jahr 1789; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

I remained on the same good terms as earlier with my friends in Würzburg, and indeed continually made new ones, though also with my students, with whom I always managed to become increasingly cordial, albeit not to acquire even more of them, since I already had a great many in any case, but rather to be of service to them not only as a teacher, but also as a friend.

As often as possible I gathered them round me, invited first the ones then the others to my apartment, visited them in their own quarters in turn, solicited their company on my walks, the usual locale for such being the pleasantly situated Aumühle, where we would sit down at a large table, far from the rest of society, drink a glass of wine or beer, and discuss scholarly subjects.


I similarly often sat with them in the theater parterre instead of in the loge of Count von Thürheim, where I had my own seats; and so as not to discourage their friskiness, I had nothing against them occasionally harassing an inferior actor. Even in the lecture hall, I sometimes forgot being a professor and tried to be one of them by getting involved in their lives, indeed sometimes even in their affairs of the heart.

There was, for example, a Swiss gentleman from Zürich who had already attained his doctorate and who had gotten involved in a love relationship with a schoolteacher’s daughter considered to be the most beautiful girl in Würzburg. One evening when I entered the hospital to give a lecture, I saw him huddled in deep conversation with his girl.


I passed by them without greeting him. But even though I was shortly standing ready at the lectern, I did not commence lecturing until after the girl’s lover had entered. “I have waited just for you, Herr Doctor,” I said, “I saw you were about to attend the lecture, so I waited for you.” He responded by saying he begged my pardon for his having been inadvertently delayed. “I indeed saw as much myself,” I answered, “but it is not at all necessary for you to apologize, since I myself made the mistake of not also lingering with that handsome girl, a transgression all my listeners surely would have forgiven even had I arrived a full hour late.”

Although the entire assembly laughed, the doctor in question was glad to learn of the professor’s interest in his student’s love affair. Through such concern for my students’ affairs I was able to win their confidence in more important matters as well, and by trying to act commensurate with that confidence at every opportunity, I never, even while occasionally forgetting my status as professor, lost the respect they owed me as their teacher. —

I also gained the favor of my students by never pressing any of them for non-payment of the obligatory honorarium. Although I did thereby circumvent regulations, at the same time I enabled poorer students to accommodate all the more easily teachers who might have been more keen than I on having that honorarium paid out; I was also convinced that the selflessness I thereby demonstrated to them might stimulate feelings of honor in some of the more well-off non-payers, thereby also prompting them to pay. Back.

[9] Von Hoven himself relates a quite different story to Schiller from Würzburg on 3 August 1804; after enumerating various negative aspects of the university arrangement in Würzburg, he continues (Marbacher Schillerbuch I, Veröffentlichungen des Schwäbischen Schillervereins, vol. I, ed. Otto Güntter, 2nd ed. [Stuttgart, Berlin 1905], 316–17; illustration:
Mettenleiter, Arzt am Krankenbett [1788]; Munich, Kupferstichkabinett):

Third, even more damaging to our university than everything mentioned above is the dominion accorded the Schellingian philosophy of nature here. Although I greatly respect Schelling’s talents, he is a domineering personality who is after nothing less than to introduce a literary hierarchy, and his philosophy — or rather, his non-philosophy — is the most pernicious kind of philosophy that has ever exerted any influence whatsoever on the practical sciences, and especially on medicine.

The administration does admittedly seem finally to have seen the light at least to a certain extent, but the damage has already been done, and if Schelling’s authorization to teach is not completely withdrawn, it will be difficult to undo that damage. Everyone is streaming into his lectures, listening with mouths agape to his doctrine of the Absolute, about which he himself understands nothing; watching the real world — the fall of Lucifer — falling away from the Absolute; parroting the master in talking about “poles,” “dimensions,” “metamorphoses,” and all the other Schellingian galimatias.

In a word, everyone is living and breathing in the world of ideas, whence they look down in contempt on everything “empirical.” Young physicians are not to observe illnesses now, they are to construe them. Anatomists are no longer to show how the human organism is organized; that is the province of physiologists. Anatomists now occupy the low station of adducing in the world of the senses that which the former has already deduced from the idea of the organism. You can well imagine what a laborious piece of work it is to accompany such wrongheaded eccentrics to the bed of an actual sick person.


Fortunately, however, most of these wrongheaded eccentrics never go to see a sick person in any case. And what could they find to do there anyway? They are studying medicine not in order to heal the sick, but for its own sake, for the sake of the discipline itself.

The result, however, is that the number of students training to become real physicians is becoming quite small, something that is, of course, quite sad for a professor of medicine at a university like Würzburg, where the institutions for training young physicians are perhaps the best in the world, or at least could become so, and all the more sad for me insofar as I, as a clinician, would like to do everything in my power to send well-trained young physicians out into all the world, whereas as it is, a great many who now study medicine in Würzburg will not even be capable, after completing their studies, of properly conducting a legal inspection [of corpses], much less of healing a sick person.

In that respect, I cannot but praise what is happening in Göttingen and Jena. All the effort notwithstanding, Würzburg will never become what Göttingen is, and what Jena was until very recently. But even Jena will rise up again, and I fear will do so at Würzburg’s expense unless the Bavarian administration does not take steps to avoid it, something it can easily do if it but wants to.

See in this context the editorial remarks to Kajetan Weiller’s letter to the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung on 30 August 1805 (letter 393h). Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott