Letter 426b

426b. Schelling to Germaine de Staël in Munich: Munich, 15 December 1807 [*]

[Munich] 15 December [1807]

Every moment, gracious Madame, that I might pass in conversation with you are for me precious gifts of your benevolence; judge for yourself how flattered I cannot but be considering that, amid all the eagerness universally demonstrated at the notion of claiming your company, you yet find a moment to bestow upon me.

My time is quite at your disposal, Madame; I will be honored to accept your invitation for tomorrow evening and to arrange for Sunday morning the déjeuner physique [1] with Monsieur Ritter. [2]

Please accept, Madame, the assurances of my admiration and of the highest consideration with which I have the honor of being, Madame,

Your most humble and obedient servant,
Schelling [3]


[*] In French in original. Sources: Jean de Pange, née Broglie, August-Guillaume Schlegel et Madame de Staël (Paris 1938), 213; Fuhrmans 1:397; correct dating Krisenjahre 3:284 (instead of 13 December 1807, before Wilhelm Schlegel and Madame de Staël had even arrived in Munich; Jean de Pange confirms in a footnote that the date is essentially illegible).

Wilhelm Schlegel had left Coppet near Geneva on 4 December 1807 with Madam de Staël for Vienna, travelling by way of Lausanne, Bern, Zürich, Schaffhausen, Ulm, Augsburg, and Munich, at the latter of which they arrived on Tuesday, 15 December 1807, and departed on Monday, 21 December 1807 (Germany and Italy in 1806, from William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas [New York 1926]):


This letter was one of two Madame de Staël found upon her arrival in Munich (Pauline Gräfin de Pange, August Wilhelm Schlegel und Frau von Staël: Eine schicksalhafte Begegnung, trans. Willy Grabert [Hamburg 1940], 157–58). The other was from Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, a great admirer of Staël who immediately invited her to lunch with the Austrian ambassador Count Friedrich von Stadion (Friday, 18 December) and then also with Wilhelmine von Aretin, wife of Johann Christoph von Aretin (Saturday, 19 December); Jacobi seems also to have acted as her guide for these five days in Munich. Back.

[1] An intentionally playful turn of phrase, here approx. “physics breakfast,” likely a presentation of the experiments with Francesco Campetti or some variation thereof.

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 attendant correspondence during 1807. Back.

[2] The diary entries of the Bavarian general Count Clairembault (Pauline Gräfin de Pange, August Wilhelm Schlegel und Frau von Staël: Eine schicksalhafte Begegnung, 159), who refers to Wilhelm Schlegel as a “Swiss scholar,” mention that on the day her traveling party arrived (Tuesday, 15 December 1807), Staël lunched with Count von Stadion and dined with a certain Herr Augert that evening, but then, oddly, mention nothing about her activities on Wednesday, 16 December 1807, on the evening of which, according to this present letter, Schelling and presumably Caroline dined with her (Retif de la Bretonne, Les contemporaines; ou, Avantures des plus jolies femmes de l’âge présent, 42 vols. in 12 (Leipsick 1780–85), vol. 7 [1780], 170):


The diary picks up again on 17 December but does not mention Schelling or Ritter, not even on Sunday, 20 December 1807, when Schelling seems to have scheduled the déjeuner physique for her and at which Caroline, again, was presumably present. The diary mentions only that on that Sunday, Madame de Staël lunched (which could also have been during the late afternoon) with the French ambassador (Louis-Guillaume Otto) and then dined and attended a concert with the previously mentioned Herr Augert that evening, departing early the next morning for Vienna.

In any event, Jean de Pange, née Broglie, August Wilhelm Schlegel und Frau von Staël: Eine schicksalhafte Begegnung, 158–59, surmises that at least some of Madame de Staël’s impressions from this déjeuner physique may come to expression, however cursorily, in Staël’s book Germany in the chapter on the “Influence of the new Philosophy on the Sciences” (Baroness Staël Holstein, Germany, 3 vols. [London 1813], chap. 10, here 3:152–53, 158):

The learned among the Germans may be divided into two classes — those who entirely devote themselves to observation, and those who aspire to the honour of foreseeing the secrets of nature. . . . in the class of the philosophical naturalists we must reckon Schelling, Ritter, Ba[a]der, Steffens, &c. . . . Some learned Germans, pushing their physical idealism too far, contest the truth of the axiom, that there is no action at a distance [precisely what Ritter was intent on showing with Campetti], and wish, on the contrary, to reestablish spontaneous motion throughout nature. Back.

[3] See Caroline’s impressions of Madame de Staël during this visit in her letter to Luise Gotter on 15 January 1808 (letter 428). Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott