Letter 426a

426a. Karl Schelling to Schelling in Munich: Stuttgart, 26 November 1807 [*]

Stuttgart, 26 November 1807

. . . I quite concur with what you wrote me about Ritter; he is a repulsive person who will never accomplish anything completely on his own, and a person without any inner substance to whom everything must come from outside. I did not let him see my somnabulist for several reasons [1] . . . The person Reuss [2] showed him is the same about which I wrote you last winter . . . a crafty creature . . . [who] is getting the best of Reuss. . . . [Ritter] is not even close to gaining control of animal magnetism. I do not think he is strong or steadfast enough to magnetize emphatically himself [3] . . .

I am doing wonderful things with my somnambulist. If what she said yesterday evening, Wednesday the 25th, was true, then you yourself were at home at 6:00 in the evening, whereas your wife had gone to a society of ladies and gentlemen between 3:00 and 4:00 and was still there between 6:00 and 7:00. Try to remember whether such was the case, and write me immediately. . . . If her statement was true, then do relate it to the proper people there that they may be witnesses to it. . . .

19 December 1807

. . . She [the somnabulist] has an extraordinary rapport with you through me, she can pick your letters out of ten others, she told me where I saw you the last time, can describe you perfectly etc. and yet is a young girl who . . . has never been outside the town of Esslingen. . . . In general, you would be amazed if you could hear what sorts of experiments I have conducted with this person [4] . . .


[*] Source: Fuhrmans 3:465–67. Karl Schelling mentions both Esslingen (Eßlingen) and Tübingen in this letter (Trigonometrische Carte von Schwaben, zur Übersicht der Berechnungen, auf welche sich die neuen Carten gründen [Dillingen 1802]; Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart, 19Cg/107):



[1] Karl Schelling had been conducting experiments with a somnabulist for some time (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Der Magnetiseur, Taschenbuch für Aufklärer und Nichtaufklärer auf das Jahr 1791):


Johann Wilhelm Ritter had left Munich on a trip on 9 October 1807, visiting Tübingen and Stuttgart. Concerning the episode involving the alleged dowser Francesco Campetti, see the supplementary appendix on Caroline and Schelling’s interest in Francesco Campetti; also Schelling’s letter to Hegel on 11 January 1807 (letter 420a) and Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 31 January 1807 (letter 421), and the accompanying letters from this period.

Ritter in his own turn was similarly not writing in particularly flattering terms about Schelling. In a letter from Ulm on 18 November 1807 to Franz von Baader, he writes disparagingly about Schelling’s speech “On the Relation of the Plastic Arts to Nature” and about Schelling’s difficult personality (Franz von Baader’s Sämmtliche Werke, vol. 15, ed. Franz Hoffmann et al. [Leipzig 1857], 218):

Have you read Schelling’s speech? — It is perhaps beautiful and is allegedly “really something.” Some of the more modest elements are doubtless as if painted. But I was put off by not perceiving any root of the arts in it, no tree, no history. . . . Were it but worth the trouble to speak with him, i.e., were he but more inclined to speak rather than always only to write! — But one is always afraid with him, a feeling I have never had — with you. I listen to you as a teacher, and trust him as does a pupil; but in the latter instance, there is always the sense that things are heading for a squabble. Back.

[2] Uncertain identity. Back.

[3] See Ritter’s own account of this other somanbulist to Franz von Baader from Ulm on 18 November 1807 (Franz von Baader’s Sämmtliche Werke, 15:216, 219; illustration of an 18th-century seance: “A seance conducted by Franz Anton Mesmer [1734–1815] in his hotel at the Place Vendôme,” from Louis Figuier, “Le magnétisme animal: Disposition des esprits à la fin du seizième siècle, concernant les faits merveilleux et le surnatural,” Les mystères de la science aujourd’hui 1 (Paris 1887), 115–34, illustration 17 following p. 128:):

Campetti, who came along, behaved quite well. We performed many experiments, publicly as well. You will soon read about them in the Morgenblatt, though we were admittedly only rarely received. He produced results I had never before seen from him, nor hardly would have expected. On the other hand, in Stuttgart I saw something that shows that Campetti is but a minimum: namely, a somnambulist of the first rank. Then and there I repeated the main experiments with him, but the success elicited shudders.


I am now wholly initiated into animal magnetism . . . In Stuttgart the younger Schelling did provide a great deal of pleasure for me. He is an infinitely pure, innocent, and sensitive person, and certainly the best magnetizer at the moment. Back.

[4] From the nineteenth century: “Mademoisell Léonide Pigeaire, in a state of somnambulism, correctly identifies a woman who just knocked on the apartment door,” from Louis Figuier, “Le magnetisme animal: L’Académie de médecine reprend examen du magnétisme animal,” Les mystères de la science aujourd’hui 1 (Paris 1887), 397–423, illustration 52 following p. 408:


Esslingen (Eßlingen on the map above) is a village just east of Stuttgart across the Neckar River Der getreue Reiß-Gefert durch Ober- und Nieder-Teutschland. Das ist: Grundrichtige und ausführliche Abhandlung derer jenigen Residenzien, Städte, Schlösser, Vestungen, welche sowol in Ober- als Nieder-Teutschland, einem Reisenden sich hin und wieder vorstellig machen etc. [Nürnberg 1686], plate following p. 256):



Translation © 2018 Doug Stott