Letter 437b

437b. Schelling to Gotthilf Heinrich Schubert in Dresden: Munich, 30 December 1808 [*]

Munich, 30 December 1808

. . . I would in any case like to make you aware of a certain set of circumstances. [1] To wit, Niethammer is in a bit of a quandary regarding filling the previously mentioned position in Augsburg; he will not risk (this just between you and me) appointing your friend, whom he neither knows personally nor for whom he has any except secondary references.

Because the position in Nürnberg would be easier to fill, Niethammer on several occasions thought about appointing you to the position in Augsburg, an idea to which I vehemently objected on each and every occasion, declaring that you would not accept, and that I myself would be compromised by having made a specific offer to you concerning the position in Nürnberg rather than in Augsburg (which is a wretched place and a thankless position; might I have some hope that you would last there, I would have sought to have you appointed there from the outset, since it is so close to Munich and I might thus hope to see you soon and then often afterward as well).

Now, it may be, though given my unequivocal statements to him it seems unlikely, that Niethammer may yet approach you with this idea; if such happens, then you must absolutely insist on Nürnberg, adducing the fact that you had received the offer through me for that town and no other.

You wrote to me in your last letter about Friedrich Schlegel. [2] Let me answer you frankly sub rosa with respect to our friendship. I would not like to propose him for the position in Augsburg, simply for his own sake. He may have come upon the idea of Nürnberg because of certain (alleged) friends he has there, but then you yourself would have to withdraw.

If, however, I had the choice — at least for this position — between you and him, I, viewing the matter from every possible perspective — would not hesitate for a second. You above all must find a situation that is less exposed externally. [3] Friedrich Schlegel knows how to look after himself, and will do so in a way that you may perhaps not be able. Yet even quite apart from any such collision of interests, I still could not recommend him.

First, there would be enormous prejudices and difficulties to overcome. [4] Second, I feel obligated to my friends as well as to myself not to risk the trust that is now being shown me. If you yourself are at least a little acquainted with Friedrich Schlegel, you also know that in such a position one could not really count on him with respect to diligence and consistency. A position at a university would be another matter entirely, where a famous and intelligent man might exert influence by his mere presence, whereas the positions in Nürnberg and Augsburg require genuine, dependable engagement. —

God knows that my personal relationship with Friedrich Schlegel (which from his side at least has long been hostile) [5] did not influence my disinclination to act in this instance. In the Würzburg university senate, where a petition for a position as professor for him was to be assessed, I was the only person who vigorously spoke up on his behalf, whereas his alleged friends, those on whom he was counting, were most vocal in speaking against him; [6] and if today I could secure him a position at the university or some sort of pension, I would do so, without hesitating a moment, on the basis of my conviction and acknowledgement of his excellent intellectual gifts and merits. You may freely and audaciously pass that latter statement on to any of his friends, for should the opportunity ever present itself, I will without fail keep my word. . . .


[*] Sources: Plitt 2:141–42; Fuhrmans 3:573–74. — A testimony to Schelling’s efforts to help friends as well as to his acknowledgment, despite differences (see notes below), of Friedrich Schlegel’s work. Back.

[1] In 1806 Nürnberg had ceased to be a free imperial city and had been ceded to Bavaria. The educational system was to be reorganized, beginning with the Gymnasium. Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, working in the ministry in Munich responsible for part of this reorganization, had first approached Hegel about being rector of the humanistisches Gymnasium. Hegel, whose search for a university professorship had not yet yielded anything, accepted (see Caroline’s letter to Johanna Frommann in November 1808 [letter 437], note 17).

A Real-Gymnasium (not necessarily university preparatory) was to be newly established, but Niethammer was unsure whom to appoint its rector, so solicited Schelling’s opinions. Schelling had suggested Schubert in a letter to Niethammer on 24 October 1808 (Plitt 2:129–30; Fuhrmans 3:547–49), and also exchanged letters with Schubert on the matter (Plitt 2:130–36; 138–43; Fuhrmans 3:550–58), who was not in a stable career at the time.

When the present letter was written, Niethammer had not yet sent Schubert the definitive acceptance letter with details of salary, etc. (which Schelling discusses earlier in the letter). Another position needed to be filled in Augsburg, and Niethammer had apparently thought of Schubert. Schelling’s remarks pick up on this possibility (Schubert ended up in Nürnberg) and transitions to remarks Schubert apparently had made about Friedrich Schlegel (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[2] Friedrich Schlegel was currently living in Vienna; Schubert had made his and Wilhelm Schlegel’s acquaintance in Dresden (Thomas Kitchin, Map of Germany [ca. 1780]):



[3] Schubert, having already attained his doctorate in Jena and having studied for a time in Freiberg, had held public, well-received lectures in Dresden on “perspectives from the dark side of the natural sciences” but still did not have a permanent position. Back.

[4] Friedrich’s reputation, which had suffered not least because of Lucinde, was still not entirely respectable. Back.

[5] Although such transcends the scope of the present project, Josef Körner documents in Krisenjahre the increasing rift in what had always been an uncomfortable relationship between Friedrich and Schelling. Nor was Schelling always as kind in his assessment of Friedrich’s intellectual gifts; see esp. Schelling’s letter to Fichte on 31 October 1800 (letter 273c), in which Schelling relates how, after Friedrich had tried to lecture on transcendental philosophy in Jena, he, Schelling, had put a stop to such “poetic and philosophical dilettantism”: “the mere four hours of lectures I held sufficed to slay him, and he has already been buried.” Back.

[6] One of the “friends” was likely H. E. G. Paulus. Concerning Friedrich’s interest in a position in Würzburg, see Dorothea Schlegel’s see letter to Karoline Paulus on 5 August 1805 (letter 394a), also with cross references to earlier letters in note 1 there. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott