HEGEL, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770-1831). Autograph manuscript journal, Stuttgart, 26 June 1785 - 7 January 1787, inscribed on upper cover in autograph 'Tagebuch', in German and Latin, 86 pages, 4to, blank leaf, ff.1-38 in two gatherings, stitched as one, the remaining three bifolia loose, lacking an unknown number of leaves between ff39-40 and ff 40-41, grey paper wrapper. Provenance. G.W.F. Hegel; and by descent.
THE MAJOR BIOGRAPHICAL SOURCE FOR HEGEL'S EARLY YEARS; THE MOST SIGNIFICANT AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT BY HEGEL KNOWN TO SURVIVE IN PRIVATE HANDS
Hegel's journal of life as a schoolboy at the Stuttgart Gymnasium begins on Sunday 26 June 1785, with an account of the improvement of his historical knowledge through a sermon that morning about the Augsburg Confession; it continues, with a number of interruptions, as far as 7 January 1787, where it ends with a straightforward account of a day spenting walking and studying trigonometry; there are 74 entries in total. All commentators have remarked on the Tagebuch's 'objectivity', and indeed the diary is notable for its paucity of personal information, narrative or subjective observation.
The character of the entries is, however, variable, and three distinct styles can be distinguished (H.S. Harris, Hegel's Development, 1972). Initially (to 25 July 1785), Hegel is concerned above all to make a note of his reading and scholarly activities, and to record his philosophical observations on the same, as well as on incidents in Stuttgart life: in this section we find reflections on the meaning of 'pragmatic history', a theory on Socrates's offering of a cock to Aesculapius, notes of conversations on walks with schoolmasters and schoolfriends, an obituary of an admired teacher, with a record of books purchased from his library, an application of some lines of Horace to the 'Charakter des weiblichen Geschlechts' (character of the female sex), and an entertaining description of a recurrence of the local supersition of the 'mutige Heer', a fairy army of dancing lights, which is discovered the next day to have been no more than the midnight return of guests from a concert (the whole inspires in Hegel a delighful outburst of schoolboy hilarity, 'Ha! Ha! Ha! O tempora! o mores! Geschehen Anno 1785. O! O!'). Hegel clearly felt the difficult of maintaining a journal of this sort - apologising for one interesting, but perhaps unduly personal, entry about his enjoyment of chess with the words 'I said so much about chess only in fugam vacui, so that the last day of this month should not stand empty'.
From 29 July 1785, Hegel begins to keep his Tagebuch in Latin, professedly 'exercendi stili et roboris acquirendi causa' (for stylistic exercise and to acquire strength in the language), and much of the content for the next month is supplied from classical history. There are no entries between 25 August and 9 December, an interruption prompted by preparations for his examinations, and prolonged by serious illness. On resuming, Hegel returns to some extent to his initial 'commonplace book' style of journalising, still in Latin, and recounting his sickness, considering the death of a Stuttgart scholar, J.J. Moser, describing a house fire, and meditating on the love of money. At length on 6 March 1786 the journal relapses into German with an essay 'Über das Excipieren', which continues over four entries (with two Latin interruptions) until 21 March. The following day has the beginning of a meditation on the universal desire for happiness, interrupted by the loss of a number of leaves from the manuscript, and followed by a fragmentary entry on enlightenment.
The next entry after this is for 1 January 1787, where Hegel resumes his journal as a simple record of daily events: he transcribes his school timetable for the week, confesses his inability to drag himself away from a popular novel, comments on the attractions of the young girls at a concert, and admits to his devotion to trigonometry. After a week the journal breaks off for good.
Hegel's Stuttgart Tagebuch was first published by his earliest biographer, Karl Rosenkranz, in 1844; an improved transcription from the original was presented in Johannes Hoffmeister, Dokumente zu Hegels Entwicklung, 1936 (though there remains dispute over a small number of readings). Critical commentary has focused on the 'objective' nature of the journal (Rosenkranz sees it as 'careful, measured and modest'), and a patience and intense scholarliness atypical of a 15 year old schoolboy. Rudolf Haym (Hegel und seine Zeit, 1962) sees this as a precocious indication of the philosopher's 'sammelnde und lernende Natur' and expressive of his 'dry personality', while Julius Klaiber (Hölderlin, Hegel und Schelling in ihren schwäbischen Jugendjahren, 1877) finds in it an early zest for realism; by contrast, Laurence Dickey (Hegel: Religion, Economics and the Politics of the Spirit, 1770-1807, 1987) interprets the journal's 'objectivity' as an instinctive compensation for Hegel's lack of imagination.
Hegel joined the Stuttgart Gymnasium Illustre, where his uncle Göriz was a teacher, in 1777, and remained there until his departure for Tübingen University in 1788. It was not until the 1790s that the curriculum of the Gymnasium was thoroughly reformed on Enlightenment principles, but some modernisation of the classical syllabus was already taking place in Hegel's day, with an emphasis on the 'pragmatic' function of education, and a more generous study of the sciences and of vernacular literature; as Rosenkranz puts it, 'Hegel's education belonged entirely to the Englightenment with respect to principle, and entirely to classical antiquity with respect to curriculum'. A letter by Hegel's sister Christiane to his widow shortly after his death describes him at this time as a model pupil, studying hard and repeatedly topping his class. Though earnest, physically clumsy and prone to illness he was a gregarious and popular schoolboy.
Hegel preserved a large quantity of his schoolboy papers until his death: in addition to the Tagebuch Hoffmeister prints a dramatic dialogue, three essays, a speech at his Abitur from the Gymnasium, and Hegel's extensive collection of excerpts from his reading (37 autograph manuscripts dating from the Stuttgart period are known). In addition to these, one letter from this period is known, to a schoolfriend. However, the Tagebuch is by far the most important primary source for this period of Hegel's life, and is one of a very small number of personal documents by the famously reclusive philosopher.