Letter 401a

401a. Schelling to H. E. G. Paulus in Würzburg: Würzburg, 13 March 1806 [*]

[Würzburg, 13 March 1806]

I most humbly entreat Your Esteemed Sir to believe that even without your reminder, I would not have departed here without settling with you in every respect. And were I the merchant of Venice, and Your Esteemed Sir the Jew Shylock, I would rather pay the pound of flesh than remain in even the slightest debt to you. [1] Fortunately, things do not look quite so bleak with my debt, and since Your Esteemed Sir yourself have declared your willingness to accept 1 copy of Spinoza as an equivalent, such is also herewith enclosed, from which you will not only see that the reminder was quite unnecessary, but also understand that I herewith disallow any further correspondence with me. [2]



[*] Sources: Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung 8 (1954), [?]; Fuhrmans 1:347.

At issue here is a book Paulus had earlier loaned to Schelling.

Schelling had already exchanged two letters with Paulus (on 9 June 1805 and 6 January 1806; Fuhrmans 1:328, 342–43; ) with regard to a book Schelling had borrowed from him in Jena and apparently left in Murrhardt at his father’s house in the summer of 1803, namely, A. J. Cuffeler (Kuffelaer), Specimen artus ratiocinandi naturalis et artificialis. Pansophiae principium manuducens (Hamburg 1684), a piece that attempted to disseminate Spinoza’s teachings (Fuhrmans 1:342n65).

Here a sampling of the illustrations included in the volume (plates 4, 9, 10, 12):



Although Paulus had requested compensation of either a copy of Spinoza or 12 fl., Schelling hesitated, still believing his father could find the book in Murrhardt, for which he had been searching under the wrong title. In the early spring of 1806, Paulus had apparently prompted Schelling yet again. The present letter marks the end of direct contact between the two men, the result of a long-simmering, mutual aversion, but not the end of hostilities, as seen later in this correspondence with respect to Paulus’s unauthorized publication of Schelling’s lectures. Back.

[1] Shylock is the Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice; here the English actor Charles Macklin in the role (Merchant of Venice . . . from the Text of Sam. Johnson and Geo. Steevens, rev. 3d. [London 1775], plate following p. 102):


In act 1, scene 3, Shylock lends 3000 ducats to his Christian rival, Antonio, setting the bond at a pound of Antonio’s flesh (Antonio defaults but is saved (Shakespeare, Complete Works, ed. W. J. Craig [London 1966]):

Shylock. Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances.
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help.
Go to, then. You come to me, and you say,
“Shylock, we would have moneys:” you say so;
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard,
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold: moneys is your suit.
What should I say to you? Should I not say,
“Hath a dog money? Is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?” or
Shall I bend low, and in a bondman’s key,
With bated breath and whispering humbleness,
Say this: —
“Fair sir, you spet on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn’d me such a day; another time
You called me dog; and for these courtesies
I’ll lend you thus much moneys?”

[Illustration: “The Merchant of Venice: A Merry Bond,” in Mary Macleon, The Shakespeare Story-Book, [London 1902], 104–9, here 108:]


Antonio. I am as like to call thee so again,
To spet on thee again, to spurn thee, too.
If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not
As to thy friends, — for when did friendship take
A breed for barren metal of his friend? —
But lend it rather to thine enemy;
Who, if he break, thou mayst with better face
Exact the penalty.

Shylock. Why, look you how you storm!
I would be friends with you and have your love,
Forget the shames that you have stained me with,
Supply your present wants, and take no doit
Of usance for my moneys, and you’ll not hear me:
This is kind I offer.

Antonio. This were kindness!
Shylock. This kindness will I show.
Go with me to a notary, seal me there
Your single bond; and in a merry sport,
If you repay me not on such a day,
In such a place, such sum or sums as are
Express’d in the condition, let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken
In what part of your body pleaseth me.

Antonio. Content, i’ faith: I’ll seal to such a bond,
And say there is much kindness in the Jew.

Antonio defaults, and Shylock confronts him about the debt in act 3, scene 1 (Charles Lamb, Tales from Shakspeare: Designed for the Use of Young Persons, 5th ed. [Paris 1837], plate following p. 106):


Antonio. Hear me yet, good Shylock.

Shylock. I’ll have my bond; speak not against my bond:
I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond.
Thou call’dst me dog before thou hadst a cause,
But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs . . .

Antonio. I pray thee, hear me speak.

Shylock. I’ll have my bond; I will not hear thee speak:
I’ll have my bond, and therefore speak no more.
I’ll not be made a soft and dull-eyed fool,
To shake the head, relent, and sigh, and yield
To Christian intercessors. Follow not;
I’ll have no speaking; I will have my bond.

See Caroline’s letters from Würzburg to Schelling in Munich on 9 May 1806 and 9/10 May 1806 (letters 408, 409), where she alludes to the suspicion that Paulus had some Jewish blood. Schelling writes concerning Paulus to his father on 7 September 1806 (letter 417e): “I begrudge him nothing at all as long as he is no longer in my vicinity.”

Paulus immediately understood the Shylock-insult in this letter. Concerning the reaction his ensuing irate letter to Schelling’s father in Murrhardt elicited, see Karl Eberhard Schelling’s letters to Schelling on 24 March, 6 April 1806 (letter 401b). Back.

[2] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Vier herenkostuums (1778) (Rijksmuseum):



Translation © 2017 Doug Stott