Nietzsche's Letters | 1867© The Nietzsche Channel

Nietzsche's Letters


Previous | Next

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: The content of this website, including text and images, is the property of The Nietzsche Channel. Reproduction in any form is strictly prohibited. © The Nietzsche Channel.


Hermann Mushacke.
From b/w photo.
Bonn, July 16, 1865.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Naumburg, January 4, 1867:
Letter to Hermann Mushacke.1

Dear friend,

I know quite well that there is a finished letter2 to you in one of my small chests in Leipzig: yet today I feel such a need to converse with one of my friends and to cheer myself up with writing letters that I would prefer to write another letter. And therefore this is indeed also an opportunity for the richest variety. First of all, there are the usual New Year's wishes that should be dealt with. But truly, it is more than a matter of habit when I offer you my heartfelt wishes today. For you have an important step3 ahead of you this year, to which a friend's heart can never remain indifferent. I ask that you also express my congratulations to your esteemed father,4 your dear Frau mother and grandmother.

Secondly, I am finally sending back the programs5 to you and unfortunately I have nothing else to send as [Greek: antidotes] other than the already mentioned essay written by Lachmann,6 which is certainly more valuable to a Lachmann fanatic than to you; since, to say the least, it is not worth much if you count the subjective and (at most) the cultural-historical value. I will tell you another time how it came into my hands "by various tortuous paths," how it came from within Russia and from the estate of a suicide victim.

Thirdly, I have something pleasant to tell you in case you are now studying in Leipzig. Ritschl in a most pleasant way specifically offered me 2 themes7 in order to find a few friends to work on them; unfortunately only under the conditions already stated. Of course I thought of you first, but at the same time I realized that it was futile. So I have possibly done you a small favor, "but destiny will not allow it."8 Each of these subjects is sufficient for a doctoral dissertation, and warrant publication thereon. There is no point in telling you the themes.

Fourthly, I still owe you more about a subject that interests you, about a systematic treatment of the interpolations with which the Greek tragedians are laced. It was originally my intention to give my next presentation at the [philological] society9 about it. But I changed my mind during these holidays and wrote an essay on the of Aristotelian writings,10 pt. 2 of which is a supplement to my last lecture on the biographical sources of the Suidas.11 But if you do not mind, I will briefly write down the outline of that interpolation theory here, which, by the way, will seem very commonplace and rough to you.

Introduction. Three periods and three types of interpolation:
1. the actors
2. the scholars
3. the writers (i.e. by mistake)

1. Chapter 1. 3 tendencies of theatrical interpolation.
a) anything disparaging about the poet,
  1) aesthetically } disparaging
  2 ethically
    should be removed. Or stage setting changes require a change in the play.
b) contemporary references should be introduced
c) the actor wants to strengthen his role and wants to create brilliant parts and impactful passages for himself.

2. Tendency of scholarly interpolation
a) they want to explain something vaguely
b) complete something incompletely

3. Tendency of interpolation of a scribe.
does not [interpolate], but rather excerpts errors [Greek: glosses] in the text.

Method to identify the different interpolations.

for 1. a and b) There must be evidence of [Greek: anachronisms].

for 1. c.) Everything redundant (for instance, in Euripides) must be compiled according to different generibus. The conclusion here is always rather uncertain.

for 2.) and 3) Heimsoeth12 is instructive but hyperbolic.

Resource for the recognition of interpolations
1) e.g. scholia. The value of the Athenian state example that was brought to Alexandria is explained very nicely in Korn, de publico Aeschyli Sophoclis Euripidis fabularum exemplari, Bonnae 1863,13 that I ask you to read. When reading it, many points of view come to mind, e.g. are the remarks of the scholia related to the theater based on real tradition, or do we owe them only to the ratio [reasoning] of a few grammarians? (Probably both: it will be possible to distinguish individual genera among the examples.)
2) Observation of modern actors and directors.14

Don't be angry with me for this boring outline that anyone can do better.

During these holidays I also wrote down the outline of my work on Laert.[ii] Diog.[enis],15 which still lacks doctrina [principles] and sometimes ratio [arguments]. But it is very useful to be able to clarify the shortcomings in this way, and therefore I am satisfied with it.

I also had the tiresome pleasure of making the last revisions to the proofsheets.16 It is 40 pages, so precious little. If someone were to disagree quite thoroughly and disdainfully, it would not be too welcomed by me, but it would still be tolerable. There are even worse possibilities, but also even better ones.

I no longer hear from my other friends. Gersdorff is fervently busy and is about to, or has, passed his officer's examination. Certainly he has sufficient reasons why he does not write.

Since my last letter17 in September or August, Deussen has wrapped himself up in deep silence, even in night and darkness, so that his whereabouts, his studies, even his existence have become uncertain to me. But I will write to his parents in the coming days.18

Finally, I have no reason to hide from you the fact that I am very sad today. For at about this time yesterday I was standing at the deathbed of my Aunt Rosalie,19 who, to put it briefly, was by far — besides my mother and sister — the most intimate and closest relative of mine and with whom a large part of my past, especially my childhood, has left me, indeed, one in which our entire family history, our family relationships were so alive and present that in this regard the loss is irreplaceable.

In addition to an extremely painful confinement to bed, a few hours before her death another violent hemorrhage. It was at dusk, snowflakes were swirling outside, she just sat up straight in bed, and gradually death came with all its tragic signs: to have watched something once with full consciousness is a peculiar experience that does not leave one's mind so quickly.

So if my letter today is a bit morose and sad, forgive the circumstances under which it was written.

Your friend
Friedrich Nietzsche.

1. Hermann Mushacke (1845-1906): friend and classmate at the University of Bonn. Nietzsche and Mushacke visited Naumburg together on October 26, 1865, and visited Berlin and Mushacke's family in the autumn of 1866. For their exploits in Leipzig, see Nietzsche's autobiographical "Rückblick auf meine zwei Leipziger Jahre" (Retrospect on My Two Years at Leipzig). English translation in: Nietzsche's Writings as a Student. The Nietzsche Channel, 2012, 119-43 (121-29).
2. Leipzig, December 1866: Letter to Hermann Mushacke in Berlin.
3. Mushacke was about to take the state teaching examination for philology.
4. Hermann Mushacke's father, Eduard Mushacke (1812-1873), was a gymnasium teacher in Berlin, and openly Judeophobic: "Auch unsre Unterhaltungen nährten meine verbitterte Laune; da waren es die Sarkasmen des vortrefflichen Mushacke, seine Einblicke in die höhere Schulverwaltung, sein Zorn über das jüdische Berlin, seine Erinnerungen aus der Zeit der Junghegelianer, kurz die ganze pessimistische Athmosphaere eines Mannes, der viel hinter die Coulissen geschaut hat, die meiner Stimmung neue Zufuhr gaben." (Even our conversation fostered my bitter mood; for there was the sarcasm of the admirable [Eduard] Mushacke, his insights into secondary school administration, his anger about the Jewish Berlin, his memories from the time of the Young Hegelians, in short the entire pessimistic atmosphere of a man who is much behind the scenes, to which my mood gave new supplies.) See "Rückblick auf meine zwei Leipziger Jahre" (Retrospect on My Two Years at Leipzig). English translation in: Nietzsche's Writings as a Student. The Nietzsche Channel, 2012, 119-43 (123). Mushacke was also a friend of Max Stirner (born Johann Kaspar Schmidt, 1806-1856): German philosopher and author of Der Einzige und sein Eigentum [The Ego and Its Own]. Leipzig: Wigand, 1845 edition.
5. In a 10-10-1866 letter to Hermann Mushacke, Nietzsche had asked him to send some philological pamplets on Aeschylus in preparation for a new index on Aeschylus that Nietzsche was working on for Wilhelm Dindorf. See "Rückblick auf meine zwei Leipziger Jahre" (Retrospect on My Two Years at Leipzig). English translation in: Nietzsche's Writings as a Student. The Nietzsche Channel, 2012, 119-43 (131).
6. Identified by Nietzsche in his November 1866 letter to Hermann Mushacke as: Karl Lachmann, "Euphrons Gedanken über das Institut der Philhellenen."
7. Friedrich Ritschl's recommendations for a dissertation outlined in Nietzsche's December 1866 letter to Hermann Mushacke.
8. Cf. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Sämmtliche Werke in vierzig Bänden. Bd. 17. Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Theil 2. Stuttgart und Ausburg: Cotta, 93: "Allein das Schicksal will es nicht." (Only destiny will not allow it.)
9. Identified by Nietzsche in his November 1866 letter to Hermann Mushacke as: "Theorie der Interpolationen in den Tragikern."
10. The lecture "Die Pinakes der aristotelischen Schriften" held on 02-01-1867. In: Friedrich Nietzsche, Hans Joachim Mette; Carl Koch; Karl Schlechta (hrsg.), Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe (BAW), Bd. 3. Munich: Beck, 1935, 212 ff.
11. The lecture "Ueber die litterarhistorischen Quellen des Suidas" held on 06-01-1866. In: Friedrich Nietzsche, Hans Joachim Mette; Carl Koch; Karl Schlechta (hrsg.), Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe (BAW), Bd. 3. Munich: Beck, 1935, 137 ff.
12. Friedrich Heimsoeth, Die Wiederherstellung der Dramen des Aeschylus. Bonn: Henry & Cohen, 1861. Die indirekte Ueberlieferung des aeschyleischen Textes. Nachtrag zu der Schrift über die Wiederherstellung der Dramen des Aeschylus. Bonn: Max Cohen und Sohn, 1862. Kritische Studien zu den griechischen Tragikern. Abt. 1. Eine nothwendige Ergänzung der kritischen Methode. Bonn: Max Cohen und Sohn, 1865. Commentatio critica de diversa diversorum mendorum emendatione. Bonn: Georgi, 1866.
13. Otto Korn's dissertation, De publico Aeschyli Sophoclis Euripidis fabularum exemplari Lycurgo auctore confecto. Bonn: Georgi, 1863.
14. Cf. "Zur Interpolationen in den Tragikern." In: Friedrich Nietzsche, Hans Joachim Mette; Carl Koch; Karl Schlechta (hrsg.), Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe (BAW), Bd. 3. Munich: Beck, 1935, 209 ff.
15. Eventually published as "De Laertii Diogenis fontibus, 1-2." In: Rheinisches Museum für Philologie (1868) 23: 632-653; "De Laertii Diogenis fontibus, 3-6." In: Rheinisches Museum für Philologie(1869) 24: 181-228.
16. "Zur Geschichte der Theognideischen Spruchsammlung." In: Rheinisches Museum für Philologie (1867) 22: 161-200.
17. Naumburg, September 1866: Letter to Paul Deussen in Tübingen.
18. Unknown letter.
19. Rosalie Nietzsche (1811-1867) died on 01-03-1867.


Carl von Gersdorff.
From b/w photo, 1864.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Naumburg, April 6, 1867:
Letter to Carl von Gersdorff.

My dear friend,

God alone knows the cause of my long silence. For never have I been so grateful and happy than when your letters arrive, revealing your experiences and moods. There is very often an opportunity to talk about you, and I never pass it up. Even more often my thoughts run to you just when I am amidst books and should be thinking of all sorts of learned things, which would rightly be a bit daunting to you. And yet I do not write. Sometimes I wonder about this myself. It just occurred to me what the reason might be. The hand that writes all day long, the eye that sees white paper turning black from dawn to dusk, longs for diversion or rest. But today Suidas and Laertius1 had to wait the entire afternoon because I had a visitor: that's why they will have to wait this evening too. Why are they giving up their control? If they may now be at a disadvantage, I, therefore, at least have the advantage: I can converse with my dear friend by letter and do not have to supervise the two old boys, whose follies usually keep me busy.

During these holidays in particular, I want to put my work on the sources of Laertius2 on paper and I am still sort of in the early stages. For your amusement, I want to confess what gives me the most trouble and worry: my German style (not to mention Latin: once I have come to grips with the mother tongue, foreign language[s] shall also follow suit). The scales are falling from my eyes: I have lived all too long in stylistic innocence. The categorical imperative, "Thou shalt and must write," has aroused me. I tried something that I had never tried except at school: to write well, and suddenly the pen in my hand faltered. I could not do it and got angry. In addition, the stylistic precepts of Lessing, Lichtenberg, and Schopenhauer were ringing in my ears.3 It has always been a comfort to me that these three authorities unanimously affirm that it is difficult to write well, that no man has a good style by nature, that one must work hard and persist to acquire one. I really do not want to write again so woodenly and dryly, in a logical corset, as I did, e.g., in my Theognis essay,4 at whose cradle no Graces sat (on the contrary, it rumbled from afar as if from Königsgrätz).5 It would be a very unfortunate thing not to be able to write better and yet ardently wish to do so. Above all, a few lively spirits must again be unleashed in my style; I must learn to play on them like on a keyboard, but not just pieces I have learned, but free fantasias, as free as possible, yet always logical and beautiful.

Secondly, another wish concerned me. One of my oldest friends, Wilhelm Pinder6 from Naumburg, is about to take his first law examination; we are also familiar with the well-known anxieties of such times. But what appeals to me, what even goads me to imitate it, is not in the examination, but in the preparation for it. How useful, indeed, how uplifting it must be to let all the disciplines of one's science march past one in about one semester and thus for once really get an overall view of them. Is it not just as if an officer, always accustomed only to drilling his company, suddenly in a battle comes to realize what great fruits his small efforts can produce? For we would not deny that most philologists lack that elevating general view of antiquity, because they stand too close to the picture and examine a patch of paint, instead of admiring the great and bold features of the entire painting and — what is more — enjoying it. When, I ask, will we ever have that pure enjoyment of our studies of antiquity, about which unfortunately we speak often enough.

Thirdly, our whole way of working is really horrible. The 100 books on the table in front of me are now so many tongs that burn out the nerve of independent thinking. I believe, dear friend, that you have chosen, with a bold grasp, the best lot of all.7 Namely, an effective contrast, a reversed way of looking at things, an opposite attitude to life, to people, to work, to duty. I am not really praising your current profession as such, but only insofar as it is a negation of your previous life, aspiration, thinking. With such contrasts, soul and body remain healthy and do not engender those inevitable types of illnesses which both the predominance of scholarly activity and the excessive predominance of physical activity produce, which the scholar just as much as the country bumpkin possesses. Except that these diseases manifest themselves differently in the former than in the latter. The Greeks were no scholars, but they were not mindless athletes either. Must we then so necessarily make a choice between one side or the other? Has perhaps "Christianity" here caused a split in human nature, of which the people of harmony did not know? Should not the image of Sophocles, who knew how to dance so elegantly and throw the ball about, and yet at the same time also showed some intellectual dexterity, put to shame every "scholar"?

But it is the same for us in these matters as it is for us in life as a whole: we are readily able to recognize a bad situation, but still do not lift a finger to eliminate it. And here I could really begin a fourth Lamento [Latin: complaint]: which I will refrain from doing in the presence of my military friend. For such complaints must be much more abhorrent to a warrior than to a homebody like I am now.

This reminds me of a story I recently heard, which in fact is an illustration of the scholarly forms of illness, and should be hushed up, but which will amuse you because it just seems to be the translation into real life of Schopenhauer's essay "On the Professors of Philosophy."8

There is a town9 in which a young man,10 endowed with special intellectual faculties and particularly competent in philosophical speculation, conceives the plan of earning a doctorate. To this end he puts together his system "On the Basic Patterns of Representation," which he had painstakingly thought over for several years, and is happy and proud to have done so. With such feelings he presents it to the philosophical faculty of the place in which a university happens to be located. Two philosophy professors have to submit their evaluations: one comments that the work shows intellect but advocates views that are not taught here at all, while the other states that the views do not correspond to common sense and are paradoxical. Thus, the work is rejected and the doctoral hat is not donned by the man in question. Fortunately, the man concerned is not humble enough to hear the voice of wisdom in this judgment, indeed is so cocky to maintain that a certain philosophical faculty lacks the philosophical facultas [the faculty for philosophy].

In short, dear friend, one cannot take one's course independently enough. Truth seldom dwells where temples have been built and priests ordained. We have to suffer the consequences for what we do well or foolishly, not those who give us good or foolish advice. Let us at least have the pleasure of committing a blunder of our own free will. There is no general recipe for how to help every human being. One must be one's own physician, but at the same time gather medical experience for its own sake. We really think too little about our own well-being, our egoism is not clever enough, our intellect not egotistical enough.

With that, dear friend, it is enough for today. Unfortunately I do not have anything "solid" or "real" to tell you, or whatever the slogans of the young merchants are called, but you will not be asking for that either. The fact that I rejoice with you when you discover one of our kindred spirits, and on top of that such a capable and loveable person like Krüger11 — that goes without saying. Our freemasonry multiplies and spreads, although without badges, mysteries and credal statements.

It is late at night and the wind is howling outside. You know that I will be staying in Leipzig for the next semester as well. My wishes are taking me, the philologist, to the Imperial Library in Paris,12 where I will go perhaps next year if the volcano has not erupted by then. But my thoughts carry me, the human being, often enough and thus also tonight to you, to whom I now warmly say "goodnight."

Friedrich Nietzsche.
In loyal friendship.

Naumburg April 6th:
which place I will leave on April 30. My new residence in Leipzig: Weststrasse 59, 2d floor.

1. The "Suda" refers to a Greek lexicon from the tenth century, which Nietzsche researched in connection with his work on Theognis. Laertius refers to Nietzsche's work on the sources of Diogenes Laertius, eventually published in 1868 and 1869.
2. See above.
3. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781): German writer, dramatist, and critic. See Lessing's critical works, including: his essay on aesthetics (Laokoon oder über die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie, 1766); his treatises on the fable (Abhandlungen über die Fabel, 1759); and his notes on the epigram (Zerstreute Anmerkungen über das Epigramm und einige der vornehmsten Epigrammatisten, 1771). Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799): German physicist, critic and aphorist. See his Vermischte Schriften in Nietzsche's Library. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860): German philosopher. See his Parerga und Paralipomena in Nietzsche's Library, e.g., Bd. 2, §282.
4. See 1. above.
5. The decisive battle (on July 3, 1866) of the Austro-Prussian War (June 13-August 23, 1866); Gersdorff served in the war, but his regiment did not see action.
6. Wilhelm Pinder (1844-1928).
7. Gersdorff's service in the Prussian army.
8. Cf. Arthur Schopenhauer, "Ueber die Universitäts-Philosophie." In Parerga und Paralipomena, Bd. 1: 151-212.
9. Leipzig.
10. Rudolf Kleinpaul (1845-1918).
11. Paul Krüger (1842-1914), a friend of Gersdorff's brother.
12. His planned trip to Paris never came to fruition.

Nietzsche's Letters | 1867© The Nietzsche Channel

Not to be reproduced without permission. All content © The Nietzsche Channel.