Nietzsche's Letters | 1875© The Nietzsche Channel

Nietzsche's Letters

1875

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Title page of:
Geistergeschichten aus neuerer Zeit erzählt von Meta Wellmer. Nordhausen: Ferd. Förstemann's Verlag, 1875.
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.

Zürich, February 8, 1875:
Letter from Meta Wellmer.1

Dear Professor,

I kindly wish you to accept from me my enclosed little book, Ghost Stories.2

Although its content is "quite light fare" for a philosopher, perhaps you will still give your approval to the objectives which, according to the preface,3 I had in mind with these stories.

Should anything in this little book please you, it would afford me much pleasure and benefit if you wished to refer to it in your writings.

My publisher has high hopes for the little book.

Meanwhile, with this submission, I seize the opportunity, dear Professor, to inform you of a thread, possibly a plan that has occupied me for a long time, and which is in any case worth your interest.

I have been thoroughly studying Schopenhauer's works for 3-4 years and have become his grateful pupil.4

It now always seems to me a reprehensible lack of consistency, to admire a teaching, a system, without granting it any influence upon the practical, daily way of life.

Nine years ago, e.g., when I definitely recognized the vegetarian way of life as, by its very nature, the only moral and humane one, I soon became a vegetarian. In other questions of life I have made decisions based on my deepest convictions and acted accordingly.

Since reading Schopenhauer, I have also been accepted as a member of an animal welfare society, and recently the board of the Munich Animal Welfare Society sent me a medal and a letter of commendation due to my oral and verbal zealousness for this good and just cause.5

For the numerous male and female disciples of Schopenhauer, I would now like to encourage a society, possibly a society journal, but at least ask the same of everyone to model their lives according to the teachings of this great philosopher, which could only act beneficially as a good example in social and ethical terms, and would certainly be more successful upon a large audience than the interminable and often bitter polemicizing with the shallow opponents of the great man.

An especially beautiful distinctive feature of Schopenhauer's followers should be, according to my wishes, that they make the doctrine of the equality and kinship of all people true in the Schopenhauerian sense, albeit to a limited extent. Everyone should, if they do not have to earn their living by daily intellectual or manual labor, take care of anyone or an indigent family as if they were their real biological brothers and sisters. They should promote and advise them in their professions and business, support and care for them in emergencies and illnesses, and even allow them to participate in the recreation and distractions that we can procure, e.g., on short trips, in concerts, in sophisticated entertainment and company etc. and all of this with neither condescension, nor as a work of charity and compassion, but as a matter of course, which is only forbidden to several of us with our limited funds.

Although I only have a modest income I earned myself, I have nevertheless taken care of an elderly married couple in the above way.

I have communicated the above line of reasoning and plan to a well-known Schopenhauerian.6 Your — and your Schopenhauerian friends in Basel — approval and implementation of these suggestions would in the meantime be a gratifying, fruitful deed. Excuse me for this long letter!

Signed
Faithfully yours
Dear Professor,
Your devoted
Meta Wellmer.

1. Meta Wellmer (1826-1889): German writer.
2. Geistergeschichten aus neuerer Zeit. Erzählt von Meta Wellmer. Nordhausen: Coburg, 1875. CONTENTS: Ueber den Wunderglauben. Statt einer Vorrede; Aus Paris. Erzählung einer Kammerjungfer; Aus dem Jahre 1686; Die Geistergeschichte des Fräulein Bertha v. K. Eine Jugenderinnerung der Verfasserin; Zwei Freundinnen; Der Geist der Mutter; Der Traum der Gräfin Montléard; Der Fluch; Vom Tode erwacht; Geisterseher; Eigene Erfahrungen. For a review of the book, see J. J. Honegger, Blätter für literarische Unterhaltung. 11. November. 1875. S. 1-2. A defense of the book in response to Honegger's negative review is in a truly cultish journal dedicated to purported "psychic" events, Psychische Studien. Monatliche Zeitschrift, vorzüglich der Untersuchung der wenig gekannten Phänomene des Seelenlebens gewidmet. Dritter Jahrgang. Leipzig: Mutze, 1876, 88-89. Coincidentally, in the early 1870s, Nietzsche went through a phase of fascination with spiritualism.
3. "Statt einer Vorrede" (In Place of a Preface) contains Wellmer's philosophical reasoning for the explanations of the stories, drawing on the writings of Jean Paul (1763-1825), and Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860).
4. Wellmer's interest in Nietzsche was probably due to her reading of his Unzeitgemäße Betrachtungen III. Schopenhauer als Erzieher. (Untimely Meditations III. Schopenhauer as Educator), which was published in 1874.
5. Wellmer wrote a 50-page pamphlet defending vegetarianism, Die vegetarische Lebensweise und die Vegetarier. Cöthen: P. Schettler, 1877. For a review of the 1884 2d edition, see [Anon], "Neue Schriften. 2. Natur, Länder und Völker." In: Allgemeine Conservative Monatsschrift für das christliche Deutschland. [Volksblatt für Stadt und Land], Jahrgang IXL. Leipzig, Januar-Juni, 1884, 476-477. Translated on Twitter by TNC.
6. It's not known to whom she was referring.

 


Paul Rée.
From b/w photo, ca. 1876-77.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, October 22, 1875:
Letter to Paul Rée.

Dear Doctor, I had too much pleasure from your psychological observations for me to take quite seriously your Dead Man-Incognito ("posthumous writings").1 I recently found your work while rummaging through all sorts of new books, and immediately recognized some of the thoughts as your property, and the same experience was had by Gersdorff,2 who just recently quoted to me this thought from former times: "To be able to be comfortable in silence with one another may indeed be a greater sign of friendship than to be able to comfortably talk with one another, as Ree said."3 You are, therefore, living on in me and my friends, and when I had your so highly esteemed manuscript in my hands, nothing was more regretable than to be forced by a serious eye condition to swear off writing letters completely.

Far be it from me to presume praising you, nor do I wish to vex you with any "hopes" that I place in you. No! If you never publish anything other than these spirit-forming maxims, if this work is and remains your actual legacy, then all is well and good: whoever lives and walks so independently has the right to request that one spare him from praise and hopes. In the event that you intend to publish anything else, I would just like to draw your attention to the fact that you can always count with certainty on my publisher, Mr. E. Schmeitzner4 in Schloss-Chemnitz. I say this especially because the only thing about your work I am not happy with is the last page, upon which the writings of Mr. E. von Hartmann5 parade back and forth; the work of a thinker, however, should not even on its posterior part remind one of the writings of a pseudo-thinker.

With very good wishes for your well-being and the request to kindly accept my gratitude for having given your maxims at all to the public — with which you demonstrate that you have the spiritual welfare of your fellow man at heart,

I am and remain
Yours
Friedrich Nietzsche.

1. Nietzsche refers to the title of Paul Rée's anonymously published work, Psychologische Beobachtungen. Aus dem Nachlaß von * * *. [Psychological Observations. From the Postumous Writings of * * *.] Berlin: Duncker, 1875.
2. Carl von Gersdorff (1844-1904).
3. The actual Rée quote is: "Behaglich mit einander sprechen können ist ein geringeres Zeichen von Sympathie, als behaglich mit einander schweigen können." (To be able to be comfortable talking with one another is a lesser sign of sympathy than to be able to be comfortable in silence with one another.) Psychologische Beobachtungen, p. 105.
4. Ernst Schmeitzner (1851-1895).
5. Eduard Von Hartmann (1842-1906), whom Nietzsche despised.

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