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Nietzsche's Letters


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Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, I.
David Strauss. Der Bekenner und der Schriftsteller.
Franz Overbeck's copy, inscribed by Nietzsche.1
© Schwabe-Verlag, 2009.
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, August 8, 1873:
Inscription to Franz Overbeck.

Motto of friends: "Life is short: we must try to have some fun together." Goethe.2

1. A copy inscribed by Nietzsche and presented to Franz Overbeck on August 8, 1873. "Wahlspruch der Freunde: / 'Das Leben ist kurz; man muss sich / untereinander einen Spass zu machen suchen.' / Goethe." (Motto of friends: / "Life is short: we must / try to have some fun together." / Goethe.) In: Nietzsche. Handschriften, Erstausgaben und Widmungsexemplare. Die Sammlung Rosenthal-Levy im Nietzsche-Haus in Sils Maria. Basel: Schwabe-Verlag, 2009, 242.
2. Johann Peter Eckermann, Gespräche mit Goethe in den letzten Jahren seines Lebens. Dritte Auflage. Erster Theil. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1868, 121 (Entry for December 9, 1824). "Goethe erzählte mir darauf, daß er dem Verfasser des 'Paria' durch Nees von Esenbeck den Komödienzettel nach Bonn geschickt habe, woraus der Dichter sehen möge, daß sein Stück hier gegeben worden. 'Das Leben ist kurz,' fügte er hinzu, 'man muß sich einander einen Spaß zu machen suchen.'" (Goethe then told me that through Nees of Esenbeck he had sent the playbill to the author of "Paria" in Bonn, so that the poet might see his piece had been played here. "Life is short," he added, "we must try to have some fun together.") Goethe refers to: 1. Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck (1776-1858): German botanist; 2. Casimir Delavigne (1793-1843): French poet and dramatist, and author of, Le Paria. Paris: Barba, 1821.


Mahnruf an die Deutschen.1
1873. Page 1.
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, October 25 or 26, 1873:
Letter to Richard Wagner.

Here, dear master, is my draft. Actually it was my wish to be able to read to you the same quite dramatically; but now it just seems better that you get it as soon as possible. If it generally fulfills its purpose (to incense the villains and to rally and encourage the good by means of this rage), then, to me, the rapid preparation of a French, Italian and also English translation is important, for obvious reasons. Signatures seem to me less appropriate for a patronage committee than a smaller band of men to be selected by us from various ranks and classes (nobility, officials, politicians, priests, scholars, businessmen, artists). A copy of this appeal would be sent to each selected person, asking if he would give his signature. I'm bringing along enough copies in order to make this possible. As soon as the answers are returned, then the final printing can be undertaken as quickly as possible. A brief business-practical postscript must be included with the appeal under the signature lines and names, all this to be discussed on Friday. I arrive Thursday2 afternoon.

In faithfulness and love
F. N.

1. Friedrich Nietzsche's Mahnruf an die Deutschen (Exhortation to the Germans) was written at the behest of Richard Wagner, as a fundraising appeal for the construction of his theater in Bayreuth. Although Nietzsche's text was printed (G. A. Bonfantini: Basel, 1873), it was rejected by the patrons of the Wagnerian Society. They replaced it with a text entitled "Bericht und Aufruf" (Report and Appeal), written by Adolf Stern (1835-1907), novelist, librettist, music critic and later a professor of the history of literature at the Polytechnikum of Dresden. He also served on the board of Franz Brendel's Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein along with Hans von Bülow and Franz Liszt, and edited the journal Litteraturblatt zum Musikalischen Wochenblatt. Stern's appeal failed to generate much interest — or finances. Nietzsche's "Exhortation" would not have fared any better since it is certainly the nadir of his "published" works.
2. October 30, 1873.


Friedrich Nietzsche.
Reproduction from a b/w photo by:
Friedrich Hermann Hartmann, Basel.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, November 14, 1873:
Letter1 to Gustav Krug.

My dear friend, put up with me now once more, if I am very short with you, namely as short as this photograph; you should only remember that today I cordially think of the day after tomorrow, your birthday, just like my own. I recommend to you Cupid's cap, the nine Muses, the three Graces and every little imp of antiquity and of the modern age. But above all, beloved friend, take and grow in pleasure and grace with your Dutch mistress, queen and goddess2: while we friends must be sufficiently content to live off the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table.3 But friendship may also say of itself: "it's not puffed up"4 — and so we, outdone by love yet envyless, want our friend's chorus to sing:

"That cheerfulness
Guides and leads you,
Friends in comfort, yet foes5
[From eternal jealousy!"]6

Friedrich the Untimely One7

1. Written on the back of the photograph.
2. Nietzsche is referring to Krug's August 1873 engagement to Therese Brummer (who was born in Amsterdam); they were married on Sept. 10, 1874.
3. cf. Luke 16:21: "And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table ..."
4. cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4: "Love is patient, love is kind; it's not envious, it's not puffed up [with pride]."
5. "Freunden zum Trost, Feinden jedoch": an allusion to Richard Wagner's Kaisermarsch chorus ("Feind zum Trutz, / Freund zum Schutz").
6. The last line is the conclusion of the complete poem from Nietzsche's November 13, 1871 letter to Krug.
7. Written on the front of the photograph. A moniker alluding to his Untimely Meditations.

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