Letter 406

• 406. Schelling to Caroline in Würzburg: Munich, 1 May 1806 [*]

[Munich] 1 May 1806

|441| Although I was hoping to receive a definitive answer today, the minister is so busy that not only I, but even business representatives are hardly able to speak with him. And though I can probably expect an answer tomorrow, I will not receive it before this letter is mailed, since my letters always have to get to the post office early in the morning; but in return you then receive them on the evening of the 3rd day, if I have calculated correctly. [1]

I am, however, sure of my situation (even though I cannot go into detail in a letter) to the extent that I can charge you even more resolutely than I did in my letter yesterday, indeed, if you will, that I can herewith dispatch this ordre to you to pack up and come as soon as possible. —

What I wrote you recently about Paulus, namely, that he was thrown into the same category as I, refers primarily only to the assurance of salary (N.B. he offered to accept a reduction; and you can state this in Würzburg as a definite fact). I doubt, however, that he will receive an appointment, for he has an ill reputation, and no one wishes him well. [2]

My own cause, however, was delayed because I declared that I wanted a certain sphere of activity. Just why, you will easily enough understand. [3] — So write me at the first opportunity concerning when and how you will be coming. I myself intend to write you in more detail about it tomorrow if |442| I have time; and if not, then surely the day after tomorrow. I also have to send along various other correspondence and things.

From all this you can see that I am not allowing myself to think that you might be sick and thereby unable to come so soon. That particular test would be too harsh for me, which is why I do not believe it even though at the moment I am often a bit anxious. [4]

Jacobi is indeed a charming man, at least on first acquaintance. [5] But he is different than I had imagined; less serious and withdrawing, more cheerful and forthcoming. For the rest, he is much as one knows him from his writings, surrounded by considerable correspondence and excerpts from books, reviews, etc.

We spoke primarily about the business with Gleim. [6] The collection includes a letter to Heinse containing among other things something Lessing had said about Goethe, to wit, that “if he ever acquires a bit of reason or comes to his senses, he will be a quite ordinary fellow.” Also a powerful condemnation of Wieland and his Oberon. [7]

These literary horreurs are primarily what seem to be alarming Jacobi, along with one particular consideration, namely, that quite a few of his own letters may still be floating around out there in the world. It is in this respect that he has also gotten into a considerable contestation with Therese, who viewed and intended to publish his letters to Forster as her own property. [8] He wrote her a coarse and, in reference to Forster’s fate, for which she herself allegedly shares responsibility, heart-rending letter. Therese responded in a letter that began: “My dear, odd fellow!” . . .

By contrast, Huber wrote a different, more melancholy letter in which he adduced his and Therese’s life as penance for her, and Forster’s death as penance for him [Forster]. — Jacobi related all this to me himself and also read his letter to Therese aloud to me. (If you get to Ansbach, |443| have Madam Liebeskind relate to you a sample of her present craziness.) [9]

Jacobi inquired quite cordially about you, wondering whether you would not be coming soon. It was neither the time nor the place to enter into a deeper scholarly discussion with him. [10] The elder spinsters sit there like two old cats of the sort scholars often keep and who out of sheer habit will not budge from the sofa even if one tries to dispatch them. They are particularly tedious because they personify his entire past life, whereas he himself is still very much in the present. Although they allegedly do not usually just sit there like that, it was probably a matter of curiosity for them when I was there. The eldest is particularly dreadful, sitting there and squinting in such a dreadful fashion. [11] . . .

[Conclusion torn.]

can happen, and come to your friend, who with the most ardent yearning desires to have you with him, you my most wonderful, dearest, eternal friend.


[*] The only extant letter from Schelling to Caroline. First published in Plitt 2:85–86; also in Fuhrmans 3:330–32. The conclusion (lines after “[Conclusion torn.]”) is from Fuhrmans 1:362, who had access to the original in Schelling’s literary estate with the Berlin Academy of Science and Humanities (1:362n15):

Only a single letter from Schelling to Caroline has been preserved among the many he wrote to her, namely, that from Munich on 1 May 1806. Schelling had traveled ahead to Munich to arrange things, whereas Caroline did not follow until 22 [or 20?] May. Yet even this one extant letter has been truncated at the end of its concluding paragraph, leaving only a couple of final lines. (Did Erich Schmidt not notice them? They are being published here for the first time.) Erich Schmidt said nothing about the whereabouts of Schelling’s letters to Caroline; I, too, am unable to add any new information. The Schelling family does not have them. Did Schelling destroy them? Or even Caroline herself? Back.

[1] This letter crossed Caroline’s to Schelling on the same date in the mail (letter 405). Caroline responds to the (lost) letter of 30 April 1806, which Schelling goes on to mention in the next sentence (“in my letter yesterday”), on 4–5 May 1806 (letter 407). Back.

[2] “Same category as I”: i.e., the same category as Schelling among the other Protestant faculty members who were not remaining in Würzburg but who were depending on the Bavarian administration to provide for them professionally.

Concerning the immediate future of the Paulus family, see Dorothea Veit’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 23 February 1806 (letter 400h), note 1. Back.

[3] To wit, the opportunity to spend time in Rome as a Bavarian cultural representative. See Schelling’s letter to Georg Friedrich von Zentner on 19 January 1806 (letter 400d). Back.

[4] After the loss of Auguste in 1800 and Caroline’s own frequent and chronic illnesses, Schelling seems to have become increasingly anxious concerning her health. Indeed, after Caroline’s death in 1809, and before marrying Pauline Gotter in 1812, he solicited Johann Friedrich Cotta’s “reconnaissance” in determining the soundness of Pauline’s health.

And indeed, Caroline has certainly not been stingy in her past few letters with news about her precarious health fluxuations Genealogischer Kalender auf das Jahr 1810; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:



[5] Bergisches Taschenbuch für 1798 zur Belehrung und Unterhaltung; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


Schelling’s relationship with Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi in Munich was initially lukewarm, then progressed into a horrific public falling out after Caroline’s death in 1809. Back.

[6] Concerning the Jacobi-Gleim affair, see Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 25–26 April 1806 (letter 403), note 20.

Fuhrmans 1:370n30a, remarks that because Goethe seems not to have taken any public stance concerning the Jacobi-Körte (Gleim’s nephew) affair, Heinrich Karl Abraham Eichstädt, editor of the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, approached Schelling on 16 November 1806 (Plitt 2:106), who does not, however, seem to have stepped in to defend Jacobi or otherwise comment publicly on the affair. In any event, no review or response from Schelling ever appeared. Back.

[7] Jacobi’s letter to Johann Jakob Wilhelm Heinse concerning Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, written on 20 October 1780, was published in its entirety in Aus F. H. Jacobi’s Nachlass: Ungedruckte Briefe von und an Jacobi und Andere, ed. Rudolf Zoeppritz, 2 vols. (Leipzig 1869), here 1:27. Jacobi writes to Heinse from Pempelfort, just outside Düsseldorf, on 20 October 1780:

I have so much to relate to you about my grand journey that I could write without stopping for a month and still not come close to telling you everything. No, my friend, I am certainly not exaggerating. Lessing will be coming to see me in the spring and will perhaps even stay here a while. We get along very well together. He claims to have praised nothing more in Oberon apart from a few handsome elements in its détails.

He did indeed read the poem, as he has all of Wieland’s other works, none of which in his view exhibits any real plan or organization. He was not familiar with the original French version, nor were any of the other scholars (and non-scholars) whom I queried. All these others, however, were without exception delighted with Oberon, even Klopstock, who responded to my own objections by pointing out that the comic genre could easily tolerate such errors, and he even adduced Ariosto in support.

It goes without saying that I easily parried this arch-naturalistic blow; and with my riposte I already had my sword arms-length into my adversary. Claudius and Gerstenberg had not yet read the poem. I will eventually learn what the latter thinks of it. Because of Wieland’s frivolous character and manner, Lessing really could not speak well of him; and he could least pardon him for the epistle in praise of Goethe. Concerning Goethe himself, he said that were he ever to come to his senses, he would still be not much more than a quite ordinary fellow.

Concerning Wieland’s Oberon, see Caroline’s entire letter to Luise Gotter on 15 May 1780 (letter 15) and to Lotte Michaelis on 1 March 1785 (letter 52). Back.

[8] Horreurs and contestation in French in original.

Jacobi had become acquainted with Therese and Georg Forster in Pempelfort during a trip in April 1789, and a correspondence developed between Jacobi and Forster, though the relationship cooled after Forster’s political activity in Mainz and the couple’s separation in December 1792. After Therese Huber had asked Jacobi to return Forster’s letters to him, Jacobi initially requested his own back so he could peruse them, then sent both to Ludwig Ferdinand Huber. Jacobi writes to Huber from Eutin on 10 July 1804 (Aus F. H. Jacobi’s Nachlass: Ungedruckte Briefe von und an Jacobi und Andere, 1:322–27):

This evening, my most honored friend, I will send the complete collection of Forster’s letters to me along with mine to him to your address by way of the postal coach. If you peruse the latter, you will find that in my letter of 7 October 1802 to Therese I have judged them according to the truth, and that there is virtually no foundation to any of this mess. I cannot find some of the less inferior letters. I found a copy of one or an excerpt lying in one of Forster’s letters, which he also answered, and I added this copy and another to my own letters. Both date to 1783. The first on 26 January, the other on 25 November.

I vaguely remember a letter to Forster I had copied and whose original is not in the collection; but I have not been able to find that copy. I have lost quite a few things of that sort since my emigration in 1794. You will have to consider what is to be done with this horribly tangled jumble. I am quite curious to learn of the result. If I am indeed to make an appearance in this correspondence, you must do what is necessary to ensure I need not be too ashamed. Shame hurts after one passes sixty:

Alas! handsome locks no longer adorn the head so profusely;
Hence the need for garlands, to deceive both oneself and others.

. . . I had Forster’s letters read aloud to me for the second time last winter, and I noted on a piece of paper those in which passages were to be deleted or modified. These passages involve primarily judgments of certain persons. — —

As far as I am concerned, the severe judgment on Voss can be made public as long as my own objection is juxtaposed in a seemly fashion, and it would perhaps be good were both to appear in this fashion. In general I do believe that one must consider very carefully before publicizing a chastising judgment on someone that was written in a confidential letter. One often causes enormous pain by publicizing such, and the person who is hurt does not even suffer on behalf of the truth, which rarely is found in words that are dashed off in that way, indeed, not even individual, subjective truth, since such statements usually possess such truth only in one specific moment, within one specific time frame, under quite specific circumstances, views etc. . . .

The sooner you get to work, my dear Huber, and get this whole thing with the correspondence organized, the more to my own liking will it be. [ed. note: Huber never got around to this project; he died in December of this year, and it was not until 1829 that Therese published Forster’s letters.] While reading through the Forster letters, you will quickly find that these, too, cannot be printed directly from the originals, and that a continuous manuscript copy will have to be made for the whole.

Please send such to me as soon as it is ready, and I promise I will return it as quickly as possible. I have also added to the package Forster’s letters to my sister Helene and her answers, since they are indispensable to understanding the overall context of this correspondence. Between us, of course, it goes without saying that you need not return those among Forster’s letters that involve only matters concerning his family. Back.

[9] Unlike Caroline, Meta Liebeskind had stayed in at least intermittent touch with Therese Huber.

Caroline seems indeed to have traveled to Munich by way of Ansbach (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):



[10] Schelling already had certain issues with Jacobi, since in both 1802 and 1805 Jacobi had criticized the entire “clannish” crowd of “philosophers of nature” as being quite “daft.” Jacobi writes to Karl Leonhard Reinhold from Eutin on 10 August 1802 (Aus F. H. Jacobi’s Nachlass: Ungedruckte Briefe von und an Jacobi und Andere, 1:311):

I was surprised you did not mention the new issue of Schelling’s journal [Kritisches Journal der Philosophie, ed. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (Tübingen 1802—03)] in your letter, which you must already have had at the time. If only that wretched Hegel could write better; I often really have trouble understanding him. Given the poor presentation, I am certain that he rather than Schelling held the quill here. I predicted that they would indeed be malicious if they ever cut loose against me. Abusive words were insufficient, so they engaged abusive names: Herder, Jean Paul, Schleiermacher.

“Reinhold” is the only one they did not mention this time. That omission was a gift to me, not because they were not angry with me, but because they were angry with you. What is funny is the way these people are now falling upon Fichte, as if they never had anything in common with him. I am curious to see how he will react. As dear to him as his own bliss is, he must at the very least demonstrate that Schelling has never understood him.

This entire clannish crowd is absolutely daft; one just needs to leave them to themselves to break each other’s necks and rage until they fall over. This occasion has in any event prompted me to familiarize myself with Schelling’s philosophy of nature, and what I wrote to Köppen yesterday concerning it I am sending to you now, and you can send it back to me.

Jacobi writes to Johann Heinrich Voss from Eutin on 14 April 1805 (ibid., 362–63):

I could only throw up my hands and get red in the face with annoyance concerning a missive sent by this directory [of Bavarian schools] to Bamberg, about which I read some two weeks ago in the Intelligenzblatt of either the Halle or Jenaische Literatur-Zeitung. These simpletons can think of nothing else to do to counter the crazy antics of Schelling and his frenzied herd, and to keep them from getting into the secondary schools as well, than to pass a prohibition, applicable to all schools, against teaching philosophy systematically at all.

What is to be taught instead is the history of philosophy without philosophy; instructors are to present and explicate the systems and deal with each philosopher according to the measure of his importance etc. Can anything more tasteless or thoughtless even be conceived? —

And yet even this nonsense was outdone by a decree passed by the Academic Senate in Landshut, according to which students seeking to receive the status of doctor gratis are charged with demonstrating, in the writings of the neo-Platonists, Jakob Böhme, and I know not what other scatterbrains and enthusiasts, what Schelling has presented in his most recent piece, Philosophie und Religion [Tübingen 1804].

Is the senate trying to honor Schelling or mock him? If the former, then the decree is merely innocent foolishness; if the latter, it is a genuine abomination with respect to the young people being driven into such a course of study. Back.

[11] Jacobi lived as a widower with his two half-sisters, Helene and Charlotte, whom Therese Huber describes as being horribly prudish (see below). Immediately after Schelling and Caroline had arrived in Munich, Jacobi wrote to Friedrich Nicolovius on 28 June 1806 (Aus F. H. Jacobi’s Nachlass: Ungedruckte Briefe von und an Jacobi und Andere, 2:14; illustration: Almanach und Taschenbuch für Hæusliche u. Gesellschaftl. Freuden 1797; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

But there is so much else I would like to write to you about. — For example, about Schelling, who has been here for six weeks now and will probably be staying, along with his more precious half. He is trying to secure a pension, which he will indeed probably receive; as well as a place in the Academy. He has visited me several times, and also already dined with me twice. His external appearance is quite modest.

I have heard that he is everywhere speaking about me with respect, and I do genuinely believe I have prompted a bit of positive inclination on his part and that he is sincerely seeking my friendship. He has already managed to make a quite favorable impression on Mama Lene and Aunt Lotte and to even to acquire a kind of confidence; it is just that this woman he has taken for himself quite gets in his way.


Concerning the Jacobi sisters and the reactions they elicited from other visitors, see supplementary appendix 406.1. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott