Letter 425d

425d. Schelling to his Father in Murrhardt: Munich, 11 October 1807 [*]

Munich, 11 October 1807

You will no doubt find it almost unpardonable, my dear Father, that I have waited so long to thank you for your cordial letter, and even more so that I have neglected till now to congratulate you on your honorable and in every respect pleasing transfer to Maulbronn. [1] I truly was pleased from the bottom of my heart, especially since you will thereby be entering once more into a situation and function wholly commensurate with your intellect and sensibility. [2]

How salutary that you will once again have young people before you to whose education you will make such a wonderful contribution, and to enjoy more learned company than previously; not to speak of the advantages of the area itself and the pleasant prospect of spending at least two months a year in the capital. [3] Were you already there and settled at your new location, not even the rather advanced season would prevent me from visiting you there this very autumn.

As it is, I do hope perhaps to greet you there this coming spring. [4] I can to a certain extent excuse my delay in getting my congratulations to you insofar as since receiving your wonderful news, I have been working without pause on an urgent piece of work. To wit, tomorrow I will be delivering the annual speech before the Academy in celebration of the name day of our beloved king, and since I received the charge to do so quite late, and at the same time did not want to present merely something ordinary, the composition and attention to the publication of that speech has claimed virtually all my time during the past two weeks.

During the next few days, I will have the pleasure of sending several copies to you. [5] This speech may perhaps exert no small influence on my immediate fortune. [6] The ministers and crown prince, who returned a few weeks ago, will be in the audience. I was wondering whether I might risk sending a copy of it to His Majesty the King of Württemberg. [7]

Please excuse the brevity of this missive with the time restrictions I am currently under. I hear that our dear mother is utterly transfigured and extremely happy to have attained the goal of all her wishes. [8] We send our most affectionate regards to the Frau Prelate of Maulbronn, and kiss both your and her hands. May heaven grant you longevity, good health, and the strength to enjoy your good fortune and well-merited distinction. With eternal love,



[*] Source: Plitt 2:120–21; Fuhrmans 3:457–58. — Dating according to Fuhrmans 3:457fn1 (Plitt dates 22 October). Back.

[1] During the autumn of 1807, Schelling’s father was appointed prelate of the Protestant secondary school in the former Cistercian monastery and abbey of Maulbronn, ca. 45 km northwest of Stuttgart. Back.

[2] I.e., as an educator, as earlier in Bebenhausen outside Tübingen, when Schelling himself was still a boy (Schauplatz der Natur und der Künste, vol. 8 [Vienna 1782], plate 20):



[3] I.e., Stuttgart. On the map below, Joseph Friedrich Schelling’s earlier parishes in Schorndorf and Murrhardt are also shown, also Schelling’s birthplace, Leonberg (William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas, 2nd ed. [New York 1921], 143):



[4] Caroline and Schelling did not make it to Maulbronn until late summer 1809, Caroline’s final journey. Maulbronn is located ca. 280 km from Munich and just northwest of Stuttgart (see map above) (“Central Europe: Wars of the Third Coalition 1805–7,” Cambridge Modern History Atlas [Cambridge 1912]):



[5] The piece was Ueber das Verhältniss der bildenden Künste zu der Natur. Eine Rede zur Feier des 12ten Oktobers als des Allerhöchsten Namensfestes Seiner Königlichen Majestät von Baiern gehalten in der öffentlichen Versammlung der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München von F. W. J. Schelling (Munich und verlegt bei Philipp Krüll Universitätsbuchhändler zu Landshut 1807).

It was then included in F.W.J. Schelling’s Schriften 1 [only volume] (Landshut: Philipp Krüll, 1809), 341–96. Translated by A. Johnson as The Philosophy of Art: An Oration on the Relation Between the Plastic Arts and Nature (London 1845); also translated by J. Elliot Cabo as “On the Relation of the Plastic Arts to Nature (1807): A Speech on the Celebration of the 12th October, 1807, as the Name-Day of His Majesty the King of Bavaria; Delivered before the Public Assembly of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Munich,” in The German Classics: Masterpieces of German Literature Translated Into English, 20 vols. (New York 1913), 5:106–36.

During the summer of 1808, the Hamburg publisher Friedrich Perthes remarked in a letter to Schelling (Fuhrmans 1:408) that “your oration on the fine arts has been read with extraordinary interest here, by men of all classes; even in a broader sense, your views are indeed conquering ever new territory.”

See the Examiner’s synopsis and assessment of the piece in A. Johnson’s translation cited in “List of New Works published by Chapman, Brothers,” The Prospective Review: A Quarterly Journal of Theology and Literature (1846) 8 (November), 20:

This excellent oration is an application to art of Schelling’s general philosophic principles. Schelling takes the bold course, and declares that what is ordinarily called nature is not the summit of perfection, but is only the inadequate manifestation of a high idea, which it is the office of man to penetrate.

The true astronomer is not he who notes down laws and causes which were never revealed to sensuous organs, and which are often opposed to the prima facie influences of sensuous observers. The true artist is not he who merely imitates an isolated object in nature, but he who can penetrate into the unseen essence that lurks behind the visible crust, and afterwards reproduce it in a visible form. In the surrounding world means and ends are clashed and jarred together; in the work of art the heterogenous is excluded, and an unity is attained not to be found elsewhere.

Schelling, in his oration, chiefly, not exclusively, regards the arts of painting and sculpture; but his remarks will equally apply to others, such as poetry and music. This oration of Schelling’s deserves an extensive perusal. The translation, with the exception of a few trifling inaccurrcies [sic], is admirably done by Mr. Johnson; and we know of no works in our language better suited to give a notion of the turn which German philosophy took after it abandoned the subjectivity of Kant and Fichte. The notion will, of course, be a faint one; but it is something to know the latitude and longitude of a mental position.

Although some documentary confusion obtains concerning the actual date of the speech, Schelling’s remarks to his father in this letter and in one slightly later to Johann Friedrich Cotta leave little doubt. The name day for Maximilian (the king) is, moreover, on 12 October. The discrepancies arise as follows:

Schelling’s remarks to his father in the present letter and to Cotta in a letter on 18 October indicate that the celebration was held on Monday evening, 12 October 1807 (Schelling und Cotta Briefwechswel 1803–1849, ed. Horst Fuhrmans and Liselotte Lohrer [Stuttgart 1965], 21):

Should the correspondent for the Morgenblatt [für gebildete Stände] not yet have reported anything about the celebration, one might report historically that the lecture was delivered on the evening of the 12th of this month in front of at least 500 people (including our crown prince, an aficionado of art), and that it elicited not only satisfaction, but also genuine enthusiasm. This success with my first public appearance in Munich is not an indifferent matter to me, and will be of significance for my next assignment. Hence I would also like to see some attention drawn to the lecture abroad as well [i.e., outside Bavaria], and am hoping that the above will provide you with a source of pride in my regard.

Johann Wilhelm Ritter, on the other hand, speaks in a letter to Hans Christian Örsted from Munich on 13 December 1807 about Schelling’s “speech of 13 October” (Correspondance de H. C. Örsted avec divers savants publiée par M. C. Harding, 2 vols., ed. M. C. Harding [Copenhagen 1920], 2:211):

Do you already have Jacobi’s inaugural speech in the Academy, and Schelling’s speech of 13 October? — The latter will please you tremendously, “On the Relation of the Plastic Arts to Nature.” It pleased everyone, which, given Schelling’s relationship with the Munich residents, says a lot.

Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi himself, in a missive to Schelling on Friday, 9 October
Fuhrmans 3:456) also suggests the meeting was on Tuesday, 13 October: “The announcement for the public meeting on Tuesday should be appearing tomorrow in the papers here.” Back.

[6] See Fuhrmans 3:461fn1:

Although the king was not present at the Academy celebration, the crown prince did participate and was thus won over by Schelling. Nor did his high estimation of Schelling ever wane, such that this particular evening essentially determined virtually the entire subsequent course of Schelling’s life, including especially his appointment in May 1808 as general secretary of the Academy of Fine Arts, his appointment in 1827 — after a long interlude with no official academic activity — as a professor at the university in Munich, his perpetual appointment as president of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities between 1827 and 1841, and his appointment as philosophical tutor to the heir to the throne, Maximilian, whence derived, as is well known, a deep bond between the two.

In a word, after October 1807, Schelling became a persona grata [“a favored, acceptable person”], indeed, gratissima [“extremely favored”] in the royal house, a status that essentially sustained him thenceforth.

After the quarrels, vicissitudes, and uncertainty especially during their Würzburg years, Caroline and Schelling — surprisingly, perhaps — seemed poised finally to enjoy professional, domestic, and social stability and even to be in a position to countenance more seriously the long-delayed, extended journey to Italy (William Shepherd, Germany and Italy in 1803, Historical Atlas [New York 1926]):



[7] Schelling sent a copy on 28 October 1807 (cover letter in Fuhrmans 1:387–88), possibly hoping to curry the king’s favor. Back.

[8] Karl Schelling had written Schelling on 6 October 1807 from Stuttgart (Fuhrmans 3:455):

Mother has now attained her highest wish, for I believe that since her earliest childhood she has wanted one day to be the wife of the prelate of Maulbronn; but father, too, who is still completely in vigore [Ital., here: “active, hale and hearty”] is also quite satisfied with this change. The prelature in Maulbronn is the best and most respected in the country [i.e., Württemberg].

Here the headmaster’s residence, Schelling’s father and mother’s future home at the prelature (undated photo, repr. in Carmen Kahn-Wallerstein, Schellings Frauen Caroline und Pauline [Bern 1959], plate following p. 176):



Translation © 2018 Doug Stott