Letter 400d

400d. Schelling to Georg Friedrich von Zentner in Munich: Würzburg, 19 January 1806 [*]

Würzburg, 19 January 1806

Most Respected, Most Highly Esteemed Geheimrath,

Perhaps I am one of the last to turn to Your Excellency in the present situation seeking information and guidance. [1] No doubt at least indirectly you have had concerns enough brought before you as the center of trust amidst the so wholly unanticipated events that, after the war seemed to have spared us in Würzburg, now threaten to place us on war footing after all as a result of the peace. — In a time such as this, of course, everyone must make a sacrifice, be it ever so precious, and indeed the poor scholar has no more precious possession than his peace and quiet.

That said, however, I do confess that the consequences for my own person have not been such as to prompt me to come Your Excellency immediately with yet more burdensome problems. Notwithstanding not the slightest reassurances have been issued in this regard, [2] I have not believed for even a single moment that a government like ours would amid such despairing circumstances abandon those whom solely an extraordinary degree of trust in that government and the most handsome hopes had drawn to this state in the first place. That government has always acted with royal liberality even without that particular status it now enjoys among the powers, and it will doubtless continue to bring regal justice to bear in the future as well. [3]

I myself belong not to this adventitious, indeed ungrateful land, [4] but rather to the one that transplanted me here, [5] and to which I can also easily present fruits of gratitude under a different constellation of circumstances. Hence the present seems for me to be the moment at which Your Excellency has not only permitted, but also, with forbearing kindness, even ordered me to present to you in writing the wishes and suggestions I might be entertaining with respect to a more favorable direction of my own circumstances. That which otherwise might have prompted extensive discussions, and about which I already ventured to relate to you in person earlier, might presumably now be effected with considerably more facility. [6]

I am unaware whether the government is planning to establish a new university; and, indeed, how could such decisions have been made so soon!? [7] For me, however, it is essential to come to a decision as soon as possible insofar as it will obviously be impossible for me to linger here amid the new order of things; [8] moreover, after two unpleasant years which I have loyally endured here without once leaving, my health now makes a trip necessary of the sort I earlier had envisioned both for the sake of recreation and personal education, when I instead consigned myself to you and to the tempting prospects of a new and secure institution for scholarship. [9] At that time, and after several years of considerable effort, I had saved up the means to make that choice; in the meantime, however, those means have run through my fingers as a result both of the necessary costs of setting up a household here and because I lost some of what had been acquired in order to cover the unexpectedly high expenses here.

What I would now propose to Your Excellency is indeed an appointment as professor, either at a university or with the Academy of Science and Humanities, [10] but with the perquisite of being able to travel for a time (to Rome and Paris) and with a salary enhanced according to what has been lost. [11] I would certainly use this opportunity in every way to acquire knowledge, experiences, and scholarly connections through which I might one day express my gratitude to the fatherland for the support in a more concrete way. I do not think it inconceivable that, amid its current, recently elevated splendor, and perhaps soon, the government might consider the idea of establishing a foundation at the center of the arts, viz., in Rome, for its own artists of the sort larger governments have long done.

Without associating my own lot with such a distant idea, under the present circumstances the journey of a scholar who might fulfill the office of chargé d’affaires and correspondent of the scholarly institutions abroad would certainly not be disadvantageous for such.) [12] Of course, a least some time would necessarily have to pass before everything were organized such that I might hope to be of use back at home in the state as well, and before, even given the course of events, certain circumstances might be eliminated that have thwarted not only my own best intentions, but likely often those of Your Excellency for me as well. After my return, Your Excellency can then assign me a definitive position wherever you wish and wherever I can do justice to your demands in as undisturbed a fashion as possible. [13]

I hope I am not overly flattering myself by counting on eliciting your interest in this proposal all the more insofar as you are in a position to appreciate it from your double status as both statesman and scholar, [14] indeed, I might add also as a keen judge of human nature and as the friend and patron from whom I have never concealed anything about myself. I confess that I would be extremely sorry to leave the state to which I have allied myself by choice, and no longer to be permitted to anticipate my own good fortune, which might now be so decisively promoted by your assent and in a way dispelling gloomier experiences. Only amid stability can things flourish; such is especially the preferred environment of the steady scholar. It would also solidify your own satisfaction with me.

At the first sign from Your Excellency, I am prepared to have my formal petition sent to the government with all the attendant details concerning a position abroad of the sort I have envisioned. I have not yet spoken with Count von Thürheim concerning the most recent matters; amid a complete lack of knowledge concerning everything that might potentially be effected, the opportunity in which we now find ourselves here is admittedly increasing daily, prompting me to entreat you additionally to grant a sign of some sort soon.

Kindly accept this letter, one deriving from the most intimate trust, along with the assurances of my profound respect, with which I remain

Your Excellency’s
humble servant,


[*] Source: Fuhrmans 3:296–99. Back.

[1] I.e., the cession of Würzburg to Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, a Catholic and brother of Franz II, as a result of the Treaty of Pressburg, which fundamentally affected especially the Protestant faculty members who had been appointed to university positions in 1803. Concerning some of these issues, see, e.g., Adalbert Friedrich Marcus’s letter to Schelling on 2 January 1806 (letter 400b). Back.

[2] I.e., from the Bavarian administration who appointed those Protestant faculty members. Back.

[3] The Peace of Pressburg had elevated Bavaria from a prince electorate to a kingdom, albeit at the price not only of Bavarian support for the French and Napoleon against the coalition allies, but also of the hand of Maximilian I’s daughter, Princess Augusta of Bavaria. See Caroline’s letter to Beate Gross in January 1806 (letter 400a) and supplementary appendix 400a.1. Back.

[4] Viz., Franconia. Back.

[5] Viz., Bavaria. Back.

[6] This seemingly casual statement documents that Schelling had already spoken with Zentner earlier about his own, that is, Schelling’s situation, presumably during Zentner’s stay in Würzburg as part of the entourage and administration of Maximilian from early September to late October 1805, which had fled Munich ahead of the advancing Austrian army (see supplementary appendix 396.1).

In September 1805, no one could have known that Würzburg would pass from Bavaria to Ferdinand III as a result of Napoleon’s defeat of the Austrians at the Battle of Austerlitz in early December 1805 and the resulting Treaty of Pressburg on 26 December 1805. A full three months before the Treaty of Pressburg, Schelling, aware of his increasingly precarious situation in Würzburg as documented in previous correspondence here, was already discussing with Zentner (and presumably with Caroine) ways for him and Caroline to leave Würzburg regardless of the outcome of the war. Back.

[7] See Fuhrmans 3:297n1 (map: Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):

Some thought had possibly been given a transfer [for Schelling] to Landshut, where in the autumn of 1805 a chair in philosophy had come open, when Socher, capitulating before the “Schellingians,” preferred to resign his appointment and return to his pastorate.


Zentner may have been disinclined to give Schelling an appointment in Landshut, fearing that all the Würzburg quarrels between “Enlighteners” and “mystics” would also flame up there. Schelling himself may have declined; considering that he had had a falling out with Röschlaub in September, Landshut — especially given Röschlaub’s temperament — might become unpleasant [see esp. Schelling’s and Röschlaub’s exchange of letters on 24 August 1805 (letter 395c) and in late September 1805 (letter 397b)].

Nonetheless, Zentner did resolve the problem in Landshut by appointing a “Schellingian,” namely, Ignaz Thanner [who in the autumn of 1806 lectured on general methodology as an introduction to academic study drawing on Schelling’s Vorlesungen über die Methode des akademischen Studium [sic] (Tübingen 1803); Königlich-Baierisches Regierungsblatt (1806) xxxxvi (Wednesday, 12 November 1806), 409; he also, however, lectured according to principles of both Kant and Socher, which was doubtless more to the Bavarian administration’s liking].

See also Schelling’s letter to Hegel on 11 January 1807 (letter 420a), note 2. Back.

[8] Adalbert Friedrich Marcus draws Schelling’s attention to precisely this point in his letter to Schelling on 2 January 1806 (letter 400b) mentioned above. Back.

[9] Caroline and Schelling, on their way to Italy after departing Jena in May 1803, were thwarted by war and instead accepted the position in Würzburg. Concerning the war and its influence on Caroline and Schelling’s anticipated journey to Italy, see Schelling’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 22 April 1803 (letter 377b), note 1. Caroline had written even as late as August 1805, i.e., the previous summer, to Pauline Gotter that “we also still have our eye on the trip during which we were detoured and ended up here 2 years ago” (Central Europe 1803 after the Peace of Lunéville 1801 and the Secularisations 1803 [Cambridge 1912]):



[10] In Munich. See Fuhrmans 3:297n1:

Although thought may have been given as early as the autumn of 1805 to appointing Schelling to the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Munich, whose reorganization had long been envisioned, during the course of that planned reorganization Jacobi had received an appointment in 1804, arriving in Munich in 1805 and entering the Academy. The extent to which he had already been considered as president of the newly constituted Academy must remain open, though such was no doubt already a topic of discussion if not already decided. Hence an appointment in the Academy, too, was not without its problems for Schelling, nor was there really any other compelling reason for him to seek that route. Back.

[11] Concerning Schelling and Caroline’s original travel plans, which do indeed seem to have included France, see Johann Wilhelm Ritter’s letter to Hans Christian Örsted on 22 May 1803 (letter 378b). Back.

[12] Although Schelling mentions this possibility only parenthetically, it was in some ways the point of the entire letter, and he may well already have had a model in mind for his and Caroline’s future in Rome (William Shepherd, Germany and Italy in 1803, Historical Atlas [New York 1926]):


From the spring of 1802 till October 1808, Wilhelm von Humboldt, as emissary to the Vatican, represented Prussian consular interests and citizens in Rome in much the same way as Schelling describes here, though Schelling, appropriately to his own professional status, envisions scholarly rather than consular representation. Humboldt and his wife, Caroline, moreover, had copious time for keeping a house of some standing, the Palazzo Tomati, Via Gregoriana 41, which also served as social gathering point not only for members of the curia, but also artists and political figures such as Bertel Thorvaldsen, Friedrich Tieck, and even Wilhelm Schlegel.

Caroline and Schelling were, of course, clearly aware of Humboldt’s presence and status in Rome; Schelling had written Wilhelm Schlegel on 20 May 1803 (letter 378), shortly before departing Jena forever, that “Humboldt himself has related to Weimar that conditions in Rome are indeed better, and our only concern now is that the beautiful edifice of our plans may yet go up in the smoke of war.” Back.

[13] Once more, geopolitical circumstances and perpetual conditions of war prevented Schelling and Caroline’s plans for Italy (and France) from ever materializing. Although Schelling did, in later years, make it as far as Venice, for Caroline it remained an unfulfilled dream, and one can only speculate on the correspondence that went unwritten. Back.

[14] Before his appointment as minister, Zentner had been a professor of law in Heidelberg. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott