Letter 411

• 411. Carl Joseph Windischmann to Caroline in Würzburg: Aschaffenburg, May 1806

[Aschaffenburg, May 1806]

My dear and honored lady!

|460| We are both wishing and hoping that, in your current widowed status, you are, if not entirely happy and blissful, then at least healthy. [1] May our beloved Schelling be granted a successful and quick return, and may things enduringly go as well for both him and you as I do indeed, with all my heart, hope will in fact be the case. [2] For truly, few could wish you well as ardently as do I, for my love and affection increases daily, nor could I imagine any greater bliss than to live together with you in the same locale. How easily and gladly would I then be willing to renounce all other company.

I do, however, yet wish but one thing, namely, that it be granted me to see you once more before your final departure — for it may perhaps be the last opportunity for some time to come! It will be almost impossible for me to come, |461| perhaps somewhat easier for you; please do come if at all possible. We yearn for such a visit most ardently. You, my dear lady friend, can contribute best toward that end, and I am also sure that once Schelling is on a journey, the few extra hours travel would be of no great consequence to him even though he is indeed difficult to rouse from his tranquility.

There is actually quite a bit I would like to say to Schelling that I am not particularly inclined to relate in letters. In the meantime, just tell him this much when he returns, namely, that my present circumstances are becoming more intolerable by the day. I have strength enough to withstand the nastiness and meanness of our petty scholars here, and, precisely because people tend to avoid such strength, I have remained untouched. But ever since my uncle (Kolborn) was in Munich with the prince elector, [3] the clerics there (probably Weiller etc.) have inculcated in him an extremely ill opinion of philosophy, passed along to him the negative Leipzig review contra my Ideen, [4] and must have fanned the flames quite diabolically in others ways as well.

In the meantime, I have made several attempts to clarify things for him, who just last summer showed me such respect — but who now, political and timid even down to the smallest details, exhibits such an excessive concern for my earthly well-being, almost forbidding me in the fashion of the inquisition itself from entertaining such silly ideas in the future, and warning against that fateful, ill-starred “Schellingianism” —

I for my part, toward both him directly and toward one of his friends whom he asked to exert some influence on me, definitively and unequivocally explained that this cause was sacred to me and not to be exchanged simply like a piece of clothing, that I forbid anyone to present any more such insinuations to me, and that all efforts to convert me are futile, indeed that I would never have expected such things from a man who is otherwise so liberally disposed etc., all in a modest tone of voice of the sort befitting an uncle and benefactor, |462| for such he is and always was, and precisely that is what so depresses me. He too easily mistakes firm declarations for an ungrateful disposition, and under such circumstances it is difficult to feel any further need of the beneficence of a man who thinks this way.

I can already foresee that, regardless of whatever else I may say to him, his opinion will remain unchanged, which is also why my most recent declaration (a month ago) is the last word on the matter. [5] My most earnest striving now is thus to acquire a position in which, while living completely from my own earnings, I at the least need no further ongoing support and can remain in a relationship with him based on former gratitude but with greater personal distance.

Then I would be rid of the only thing that truly oppresses me now. I do not concern myself at all with the remaining clan of patrons and friends. Perhaps Schelling can put in a word on my behalf later. I commend to our eternal friendship that he is indeed willing and will do so if possible. I am hoping you will not perceive this as importunity; it is my sincere and open commendation to your cordial inclinations. [6]

In a few days, you will receive the books that I still have in my possession from a maidservant here who is going to Würzburg. My sincerest thanks for them. But what has become of the Jahrbücher, the World Soul? [7] I implore you, gracious lady, not to withhold these from me a moment longer. —

My wife sends her warmest regards, and the children, some of whom recently had rubella and some of whom still do, are delighted with the new clothes and would like to thank you personally. [8] My eyes are doing tolerably well. [9] With sincere admiration I remain always

Your Windischmann [10]


[1] “Widowed status” as a metaphor for Schelling’s absence in Munich (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[2] Windischmann was unaware that Schelling would not be returning to Würzburg in order to accompany Caroline to Munich. Back.

[3] Karl Theodor von Dalberg and his entourage, including Kolborn, had been in Munich in January 1806 to meet with Napoleon. In fact, on 13 January 1806 Dalberg had performed the civil ceremony uniting Princess Augusta of Bavaria with Eugène de Beauharnais; concerning this marriage, see Caroline’s letter to Beate Gross in January 1806 (letter 400a) and supplementary appendix 400a.1. Back.

[4] Karl Josef Hieronymus Windischmann, Ideen zur Physik, vol. 1 (Würzburg 1805).

Concerning the review of Windischmann’s book in Leipzig, see Schelling’s letter to Windischmann on 23 August 1805 (letter 395b), Windischmann to Schelling on 25 August 1805 (letter 395d), Schelling to Windischmann on 27 August 1805 (letter 395e), and Windischmann to Schelling on 29 August 1805 (letter 395f). Back.

[5] It was no accident that Windischmann’s uncle was trying to dissuade his nephew from persisting in being associated, however indirectly, in what had become a divisive public dispute concerning Schelling’s work; being identified as a Schellingian, moreover, had in some quarters become a liability, particularly in Catholic south Germany (see Kuno Fischer’s discussion of Catholic opposition to Schelling in Bavaria).

During 1805 a vitriolic verbal exchange between Schellingian and anti-Schellingian partisans was played out in the Intelligenzblatt of the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (including by Schelling himself and Karl August Böttiger; see in general nos. 50, 65, 92, 112 in 1805). One particularly divisive subject of dispute was Kajetan Weiller’s anti-Schellingian piece Der Geist der allerneuesten Philosophie der Herren Schelling, Hegel und Compagnie: Eine Übersetzung aus der Schulsprache in die Sprache der Welt, vol. 1 (Munich 1804), which was vehemently critiqued in the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1805) 41 (Monday, 18 February 1805), 321–35 (here excerpted):

Köppen and Fries have examined and challenged Schelling’s philosophy in quite readable pieces, and even if their views are not entirely convincing, they do nonetheless stimulate readers to think, provide them with instructive diversion, and attest the capacity to grasp the fundamental idea behind a philosophical system.

Herr Weiller adds himself to these thinkers who challenge Schelling’s doctrine and, according to his preface, intends to provide a clear, profound, warm, cheerful, though also cheeky and witty translation and examination of this doctrine “not just for the gentlemen associated with the school itself, but also for the broader educated public at large,” and, even more noteworthy, present not merely the results of the system, but also the principles behind these results — that is, the system’s foundation, primarily from the intellectual perspective. . . .

The mere notion of writing such a book is misdirected, for although one can certainly popularize the results of a given philosophy and its relationship to human nature, religion, ethics, justice, etc., it is considerably more difficult, and requires at the very least an element of Platonic-Socratic skill, to provide for the philosophically uninitiated an accurate, fundamental understanding of the fundamental idea of a system, and to disclose to them the intellectual side of that system. And it is utterly impossible to discuss that fundamental idea before such a public in a way that is both instructive and interesting for that audience, and yet also exhaustive.

Some vain readers, having read a book alleging to popularize what can never be popularized, may well imagine themselves capable of entering the discussion as adequately informed and competent judges in the subject. Yet precisely such promotion of superficiality and anti-philosophy through such writings is one more factor militating against them. In the meantime, the decision to write this book may or may not have been a good one; such is of little consequence if only the book itself is useful in one fashion or another, even if not with respect to its original purpose. But this book is not. For it is:

(1) superficial, extremely superficial, and spiritless. There is not the slightest trace in the entire book that the author has the capacity to penetrate into the heart of healthy reason, or to acquire more than a merely historical familiarity with philosophy. . . .

(2) This piece prompts nothing but disgust in anyone with taste and intelligence by trying to demonstrate its alleged character of a warm, cheerful, also cheeky and witty diversion by means of insipid jokes and tasteless wit. For example, in its assertion on p. 126 that “the new school has contempt for the entirety of human understanding, not just common understanding, but also healthy and even cultivated human understanding! A curse is on the entire school.” . . .

(3) This book affects its reader’s mood and disposition in an unpleasant fashion through its repugnant affectation. The author acts as if he is merely trying to stay with the subject matter without casting any “shadows on specific persons”; he generously concedes that Schelling has taught not philosophy, but speculative physics, and says that the doctrine of this man can indeed elevate to great ideas, just not in the right way.

In a word, he wants to appear as a quite impartial observer. And yet it seems his prepossession manifests itself even in the title and preface, and in his warm prejudice contra Schelling’s system. And yet he tries as much as possible to ridicule that system in the ways we have demonstrated above. And yet he even goes so far as to (p. 127) accuse it of philosophical Münchhausenianism! What is the point of this affected countenance of impartiality if one is unable to conceal that one has already resolutely become partisan?

This reviewer has adduced the reasons why this book cannot be recommended to the educated public. He would like also to point out to whom it can recommended. It can be recommended to those who want to ridicule and denounce Schelling’s system without understanding it, and to those who are collecting both good and bad examples for explicating the doctrine of taste and the theory of style.


Münchhausenianism, a comparison with the notorious Baron von Münchhausen, incorrigible teller of fantastic tales. See esp. Wunderbare Reisen zu Wasser und zu Lande, Feldzüge und lustige Abenteuer des Freyherrn von Münchhausen, trans. Gottfried August Bürger (London [=Göttingen] 1786):


Click on the image below to open a gallery of illustrations from Baron von Münchhausen’s “miraculous journeys and adventures” from Gottfried August Bürger’s edition of 1786:



[6] Windischmann remained in Aschaffenburg, advancing to the status of royal librarian and medical Rath until leaving for a position at the newly established university in Bonn in 1818, where Wilhelm Schlegel was to be his colleague. Here Bonn in 1845: (Eduard Duller, Deutschland und das deutsche Volk, 2 vols. [Leipzig 1845], 1:377):



[7] Aschaffenburg is located ca. 60 km northwest of Würzburg (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):


Concerning the difficulty in securing copies of the initial issues of Schelling and Adalbert Friedrich Marcus’s Jahrbücher der Medicin als Wissenschaft, see Schelling’s letter to Windischmann on 16 January 1806 (letter 400c). Concerning the periodical itself, see Caroline’s letter to Anna Maria Windischmann on 2 December 1804 (letter 388a), note 2. Caroline had already received her own copy of the second issue; see the beginning of her letter to Schelling on 9 May 1806 (letter 409), also with note 1 there.

This second issue included the second installment of Schelling’s aphorisms, namely “Aphorismen über die Naturphilosophie. Der Naturphilosophie erster oder allgemeiner Teil,” aphorisms i–xcv, pp. 3–36 (Sämmtliche Werke 7:198–220); Carl Eschenmayer’s, “Appendix zu den Schriften über das gelbe Fieber,” 37–57; and Adalbert Friedrich Marcus’s “Über die Anwendung des Eisens in der Medicin,” 58–124, along with two book reviews.

Schelling, Von der Weltseele. Eine Hypothese der höhern Physik zur Erklärung des allgemeinen Organismus (Hamburg 1798), reprinted 1806 and 1809. Concerning the 1806 edition for which Windischmann was waiting, see Friederike Unger’s letter to Schelling on 8 February 1806 (letter 400f), and Schelling to Windischmann on 17 April 1806 (letter 401e).



[8] Concerning the Windischmann children, see Anna Maria Windischmann’s biogram and Caroline’s letter to Windischmann on 28 September 1805 (letter 397), with cross references in note 5.

Although the disease designated by the term Rötheln, which Windischmann uses, may refer here simply to childhood measles, German measles, or rubella, at the time it was by no means consistently distinguished from other terms referring to measles-like symptoms (e.g., Masern or even Scharlach, scarlet fever), nor were the diseases so designated themselves entirely understood. For a brief overview of the understanding at the time, see the supplementary appendix on Rötheln. Back.

[9] References to Windischmann’s chronic eye ailments occur in several letters between him and the Schellings. See Caroline’s letters to him on 1 and 2 December 1804 (letters 388, 388a); Schelling’s letter to him on 7 December 1804 (letter 388b); his letter to Schelling on 12 December 1804 (letter 388d); Schelling’s letter to him on 26 February 1806 (letter 390b); and his letter to Schelling on 2 March 1805 (letter 390c). Also Schelling’s letter to him on 16 January 1806 (letter 400c), note 1 (Christoff Weigel, Abbildung Der Gemein-Nützlichen Haupt-Stände Von denen Regenten Und ihren So in Friedens- als Kriegs-Zeiten zugeordneten Bedienten an biß auf alle Künstler und Handwercker Nach Jede Ambts- und Beruffs-Verrichtungen meist nach dem Leben gezeichnet und in Kupfer gebracht etc. [Regenspurg 1698], illustration following p. 146):



[10] Caroline responds to this letter in her letter to Windischmann on 14 May 1806 (letter 412). Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott