Letter 394a

394a. Dorothea Schlegel to Karoline Paulus in Würzburg: Cologne, 5 August 1805 [*]

Cologne, 5 August 1805

We still have no answer from the minister, [1] though a few days after mailing our last letter to you, we did receive an extremely polite, extremely obliging answer from Count Thürheim. He assured us that he intended to propose Friedrich in Munich very soon, and would immediately report the outcome. We already heard earlier from someone in Munich, privately, that Friedrich would be accepted as soon as Thürheim made the proposal. So how do things stand now? Have you heard nothing at all about it? Please do write us, my dear, and do not be so frugal with your letters that we may always remain au courant with the news. [2]

You can well imagine how impatiently we are awaiting a definitive decision that we might make arrangements for next winter. This never-ending uncertainty is both disruptive to all our work and tasks as well as ruinous for our purse. [3]

Would it not be splendid, my dear, were I to see you again so soon? Ah, could it but come true! But what will the philosophers on the mount have to say about it? Will they not spew forth fire? [4]

But let them say what they will — if heaven but grant that our own circumstances do not bring us into a collision with them, I will certainly be willing to muster sufficient elegance to preserve myself from at least the feminine intrigues. [5] But quite honestly, my dear, Friedrich and I, we are indeed a bit apprehensive about the witch’s cauldron there in Würzburg; [6] Friedrich has become so accustomed to our peaceful situation that the mere notion of being dragged into a literary feud again is an abomination for him; and you can well imagine what my own feelings are. No, indeed: were you not in Würzburg, we would likely never come upon the idea of settling there. . . .

For a while, word had it here that Schelling was definitely, absolutely leaving Würzburg. Is there anything to that? [7]Bavaria is not doing so well with regard to philologists; Wolf, too, declined an appointment in Munich. [8]

And do you also have inflation? Are you experiencing it in Würzburg as well? What a horrible economic situation in all of Germany, with the scarcity of foodstuffs and inflation; although it is indeed a bit more expensive than earlier here and in all of France, there is no real inflation. [9] That said, however, things are gearing up quite resolutely for war. [10] . . .

May heaven grant that our own fate be decided before things cut loose, lest we then end up in even worse straits. . . .


[*] Source: Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 65–66. Back.

[1] At issue is Friedrich Schlegel’s ongoing attempt to secure a faculty appointment for himself in Würzburg; see Dorothea’s letters to Karoline Paulus on 28 April 1805 (letter 393a), 3 June 1805 (letter 393e), and 13 July 1805 (letter 393i).

See esp. Dorothea’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 12 October 1805 (letter 397c), in which she relates that Friedrich had received a message from Count von Thürheim informing him that his application had been denied. The Schlegels consistently suspected that Caroline and Schelling had been behind this unsuccessful attempt, notwithstanding that, strictly speaking, Schelling’s influence among any administrators in Munich had already been severely diminished, esp. with respect to faculty appointments. Back.

[2] Fr., “up to date, informed of how things are going.” Back.

[3] Friedrich also wrote to H. E. G. Paulus from Cologne on 5 August 1805 (Briefe von Dorothea und Friedrich Schlegel an die Familie Paulus, 68–69) commenting on the ultimately ill-fated prospect of receiving an appointment in philology at Würzburg:

I received an extremely favorable response from Count Thürheim that now hardly allows me to doubt that he has already proposed my appointment. But that makes me all the more curious to receive more specific news from you. I would very much prefer to have this matter settled soon, since I do, after all, have to make a definite decision concerning my French circumstances [in Cologne] before the end of the summer. —

Until now I have not written to Thürheim again, since to a certain extent he simply referred me to his next letter; but I am thinking about doing it anyway during the next few days. Back.

[4] Schelling and Johann Jakob Wagner in Würzburg? Back.

[5] See the supplementary appendix on the “ladies’ war in Würzburg”. Back.

[6] Dorothea has previously referred specifically to Caroline as a witch, conflating her, moreover, with yet another character from Goethe’s Faust; see Dorothea’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 13 January 1805 (letter 389a), esp. with notes 10 and 11. Concerning incantations and other remedies against such witches, see also her letter to Karoline Paulus on 3 June 1805 (letter 393e).

It is uncertain what prompted Dorothea’s recent fixation on this metaphor for Caroline (J. Collin de Plancy, Dictionnaire infernal, 6th ed. [Paris 1863], 100):



[7] Because of problems at the university virtually from the outset as documented in previous letters in this edition, and because there were already intimations that the territory of Würzburg might change hands as a result of geopolitical developments, Schelling himself had for some time already been entertaining thoughts of leaving. Those same problems and quarrels doubtless prompted others to speculate on such changes as well. Back.

[8] Friedrich August Wolf had received appointments both in Würzburg and, in May 1805, in Munich, in the latter with the reorganized Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, but had declined both, remaining instead in Halle till 1807. Friedrich Schlegel had applied for a position in Bavaria specifically as a philologist; see his letter to Friedrich Karl von Thürheim on 10 July 1805 in Dorothea’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 13 July 1805 (letter 393i), note 2. Back.

[9] Inflation had increased in connection with France’s war with England since 1803 after Napoleon prohibited all trade between England and French-dependent territories, thereby cutting off all access to English goods. See Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 22 April 1803 (letter 377b), note 1, and Dorothea and Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 24 March 1805 (letter 392a), note 3. Back.

[10] On 6 November 1804, Austria and Russia had entered into a defensive alliance against Napoleon, which was followed by offensive alliances between Russia and Sweden (14 January 1805) and England (11 April 1805), and on 9 August 1805 — essentially contemporaneous with Dorothea’s letter here — also with Austria.

On 8 September 1805, shortly after her letter here, Karl von Mack entered Bavaria with an Austrian army after the Bavarian prince elector, Maximilian Joseph, had entered into an alliance with Napoleon on 24 August 1805.

Concerning the changes in faculty housing as a result of the prince elector essentially fleeing Munich for Würzburg after this incursion, see Caroline’s letter to Beate Schelling on 17–18 July 1804 [letter 384], note 27. See also Dorothea’s letter Karoline Paulus on 13 January 1805 (letter 389a), note 9. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott