Hegel to Niethammer
October 13, 1806

Source: Hegel: The Letters, translated by Clark Butler and Christine Seiler with commentary by Clark Butler, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, © Purdue Research Foundation.
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden for Marxists.org, 2005.

Jena, Monday, October 13, 1806
– the day the French occupied Jena and the Emperor Napoleon penetrated its walls.

From the timing, you yourself can gather an idea of the trepidation with which I mailed my manuscript last Wednesday and Friday. Last evening toward sundown I saw the shots fired by the French patrols from both Gempenbachtal and Winzerla. The Prussians were driven from Winzerla in the night, and the fire lasted until after twelve o'clock. Today between eight and nine o'clock the French advance units forced their way [into the city], with the regular troops following an hour later. It was an hour of anguish, especially because of general unfamiliarity with the right which everyone enjoys by the will of the French Emperor himself not to comply with the demands of these light troops but just quietly to give them what is required. Through clumsy behavior and a lapse of caution quite a few have landed in difficulties. However, our sister-in-law, as well as the Döderlein household, came through with nothing worse than anguish and has remained unharmed. She asked me, as I was talking with her this evening about the departure of the mail, to write to you and Mrs. Niethammer. She is presently quartering twelve officers. I saw the Emperor – this world-soul – riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it. As for the fate of the Prussians, in truth no better prognosis could be given. Yesterday it was said that the Prussian King had his headquarters in Kapellendorf, a few hours from here. Where he is today we do not know, but surely further away than yesterday. The Duchess and her Princess had decided to remain in Weimar. Yet such advances as occurred from Thursday to Monday are only possible for this extraordinary man, whom it is impossible not to admire.

... If I get through today alright I shall perhaps still have suffered as much or more than others. From the general outer appearance, I must doubt whether my manuscript, which went off on Wednesday and Friday, has arrived. My loss would indeed be all too great. My other acquaintances here have not suffered anything. Am I to be the only one? How dearly I wish you had arranged for cash payment to be made for merely part of the sum, and that you had not made the final deadline so strict! But since the mail was leaving from here, I had to risk sending it. God knows with what a heavy heart I am now still taking the same risk, though I have no doubt that the mail is now circulating freely behind the French lines. As I already did earlier, all now wish the French army luck; and, in view of the immense difference that separates not only its leaders but even the least of its soldiers from their enemies, luck can hardly fail it. In this, our region will thus soon be free of this deluge.

Your sister-in-law Mrs. Voigt told me that she would not let the postillion. leave before early tomorrow morning. I spoke with her about asking the general staff, now lodging in her house, for safe conduct, which will not be refused. So God will, I hope, deliver my scribblings to you within the deadline. As soon as you learn how some money can be sent to me, please dispatch it most urgently. Before long I will have absolute need of it.

It is now 11:00 p.m., at the home of Head Commissioner Hellfeld, where I am now lodging and where we have a view of the French battalions in row-upon-row of campfires covering the entire marketplace. Wood for burning has been taken from butchers’ stalls, rubbish bins, and so on. Yours, Hegel, Professor in Jena.

I recently wrote you that Heiligenstädt died a week ago, but since this news is inevitably so important to you I repeat it just in case that packet did not arrive. Yet most of all I implore you to write me soon. The letters which have arrived today have not yet been sorted. I thus have no idea whether letters from Bamberg are among them.


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