Letter 396c

396c. Schelling to Goethe in Weimar: Würzburg, 27 September 1805 [*]

Würzburg, 27 September 1805 [1]

Most Esteemed Geheimer Rat, [2]

I am taking the liberty of former years by sending you the enclosed collection containing some of my most recent literary pieces. [3]

Should they perhaps appear all too unworthy of your consideration, let me ask that at least part of the culpability be ascribed to the external unrest in which all of us here more or less find ourselves.

For some weeks now, the sky has become increasingly cloudy, and it is quite conceivable that we will be subject to the most violent disruptions. [4]

Could I now but find in your proximity that particular stable and calm situation for which I yearn, and, what is more, could I hope to fulfill some role in your surroundings and with respect to the situation there, and, moreover, find that level of trust without which nothing can be accomplished, regardless of place, then I would certainly be doubly pleased to return to that situation.

Even should circumstances there (as I do believe to be the case) not be commensurate with such a notion, one I have no reservation in presenting solely to you, I do nonetheless still hope that I have not disappeared entirely from either your favor or your kindly remembrance.

May heaven preserve your precious health; this wish is accompanied by a disposition of eternal respect from . . .


28 September. As you yourself no doubt noticed, most esteemed sir, I dashed off the above notion without really believing in it myself. And yet I would very much like to know specifically, and to learn from you yourself, whether such a notion might indeed take root somewhere there. At a moment such as the present, it is quite salutary knowing one has an asylum in case the most extreme happens, a place where one would not be entirely unwelcome; and should certain circumstances arise rendering it impossible there as well, the notion would have to be immediately abandoned that one may overcome the present misfortune with all the more resolve and be mindful not to miss any other possibilities. —

Please overlook the impropriety of this epistolary form with your usual kindness or forgive it on account of the circumstances. [5]


[*] Source: Goethe und die Romantik 1:243–45; Fuhrmans 3:263–64.

A remarkable letter in which Schelling, doubtless not without considerable discussion with Caroline, raises the possibility of returning to Jena (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[1] It may be noted that, although Caroline and Schelling had no way of knowing anything more than that the French were marching toward Germany, the French had indeed crossed the Rhine the day before Schelling is here writing. Back.

[2] Goethe was a member of the “privy council” of Karl August in Weimar. Back.

[3] Presumably the first issue of Schelling and Adalbert Friedrich Marcus’s Jahrbücher der Medicin als Wissenschaft; see Caroline’s letter to Anna Maria Windischmann on 2 December 1804 (letter 388a), note 2. Back.

[4] Schelling is quite correct. See the supplementary appendix on Third Coalition and the Treaty of Pressburg, August–December 1805. Back.

[5] In a letter to Heinrich Karl Abraham Eichstädt in late January 1806 (now lost), Schelling seems to have made a similar query concerning a return to Jena. Eichstädt passed the query along to Christian Gottlob Voigt, who responded to Eichstädt on 27 February 1806 (Georg Goetz, “Aus Voigts Briefen an Eichstädt, Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Universität Jena,” Zeitschrift des Vereins für thüringische Geschichte und Alterumskunde N. F. 27 [35] [1927], 184–85; Fuhrmans 1:301n22; Schelling im Spiegel seiner Zeitgenossen, Ergänzungsband, ed. Xavier Tilliette [Torino 1981], 65–66):

Your Esteemed Sir is quite right in pointing out that the opinion Schelling once earned among young people would be of use to us, since the insaniens sapientia [Horace, Odes i.34.2, “an erring or insane philosophy”] has always been at home in Jena. Although the disinclination of higher officials will likely not be particularly generous, if the conditions were moderate, I would be disinclined myself to abandon the idea.

How would it be were you to write him a general letter inquiring whether he would not prefer to withdraw to a place where he received such accolades rather than to a region where no one understands him and no one is really capable of appreciating his value? He would no doubt make some declaration or other that could keep the discussion going. . . . You would need to write to Schelling first specie private [Latin, “privately, in a private form”], as is customary with such initiatives so as not to be compromised by either a yes or no. A horrific [geopolitical] storm is raging just now, and that may well have caused some distress at sea.

Although the ensuing correspondence has not been preserved, Schelling did write Eichstädt on 2 April 1806 less enthusiastically about the prospect (Plitt 2:83–84; Fuhrmans 3:324):

You can well understand that in choosing a place of residence and professional activity, I will consider both intellectual as well as physical and economic factors. Given an equal balance of such factors attained thus, the choice of coming to you would certainly be decided by my inclinations and original disposition, even though recently it seems more likely and has been rendered more credible by both circumstances and specific reports from Munich that Würzburg may fall back to Bavaria [ed. note: such did not happen until 1814].

Although Schelling’s hesitation may well also have derived from his prospect for a position in the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Munich, Caroline herself, not surprisingly, may have voiced reservations about returning to Jena (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):


Schelling also wrote to Karl Daub in Heidelberg on 15 October 1805 what was apparently a query similar to that to Goethe, viz., whether it might be possible for him to get a professorial appointment. Concerning Schelling’s possible earlier interest in Heidelberg, see Therese Huber’s letter to Christian Gottlob Heyne on 16 August 1803 (letter 380e), note 13. Daub responded on 9 December 1805 (Fuhrmans 1:339–40), pointing out that his and Friedrich Creuzer’s efforts to secure Schelling such an appointment had been thwarted.

Concerning a similar query concerning Augsburg, see Lorenz Oken’s letter to Schelling on 1 February 1806 (letter 400e).

Goethe apparently responded in a letter that was subsequently lost but to which Schelling responded toward the end of 1805 (Goethe und die Romantik, 1:245–46; Fuhrmans 3:285):

Most Esteemed Geheimer Rat,

The spectacle whose commencement several months ago filled those of us who live in the South with personal concern, has now taken a turn that has brought our own particular interests into unpleasant conflict with one’s general German sentiment and the sentiment of being a citizen of the world.

The seemingly imminent dangers will at least not be involving any individual German territory and, moreover, no longer any individuals.

My warmest thanks for your mild and kind reception of trust with which my own thoughts turned to you at a moment when wild vandalism was threatening all that is good in these territories. . . .

The Austrians were defeated on 2 December 1805 at the Battle of Austerlitz; as a result of the ensuing Treaty of Pressburg, Württemberg, Baden, and Bavaria became sovereign based on their alliance with Napoleon (Bavaria and Württemberg, moreover, were elevated to the status of kingdoms) (William R. Shepherd, “Germany and Italy in 1803,” Historical Atlas [New York 1923]):


Contrary to Schelling’s assertions here, “individuals” were indeed affected insofar as Würzburg now passed to the brother of Franz II, namely, Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, being thereby also severed from Bavaria; precisely this development ultimately prompted Caroline and Schelling’s departure from Würzburg. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, moreover, came to an inglorious end that forever altered the map of Germany in the late-eighteenth century. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott