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Nietzsche's Letters

1876

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Carl Ludwig Nietzsche.
Ca. 1845.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

[Basel, January 18, 1876]:
Letter to Carl von Gersdorff.

My beloved friend, thank you for your good news, I awaited it eagerly, now I can still hope with you and know that something good will be bestowed on one of us — and also on someone deserving and in need. It seems to me that everything has begun so well that we can now be composed and wait for the end. The end is surely Easter?1

It is difficult for me to write, so I will be brief. Dearest friend, I've had the worst, most painful, and most frightening Christmas I've ever had! On the first day of Christmas, after some increasingly frequent warnings, there was a real breakdown; I could no longer doubt that I was suffering from a serious brain problem and that my stomach and eyes only suffered as a result of this crucial influence. My father died at 36 of brain inflammation,2 it is possible that it will be even quicker with me. Ice packs lasting several hours are now used, poured upon my head early in the morning, on Immermann's3 advice, and after a week of total weariness and painful torment, a little better again. But it is not even convalescence, the frightening condition has not alleviated, I am reminded of him4 at every moment. They have released me from the Paedagogium until Easter, and I will teach at the university again. I am patient, but doubtful of what will happen. I live almost entirely on milk, which does me good, I also sleep well; milk and sleep are the best things which I now have. If only the horrible seizures that last for days would at least go away! Without them one can at least slog along from one day to the next.

My sister reads to me a lot because I find it difficult to read and write. Along with milk and sleep, I should have mentioned Walter Scott.5 Around March 19th I want to go to Lake Geneva if possible, until then the winter is still too inclement and walking in the cold is more harmful than beneficial for me. My mother will be arriving here shortly.

Please keep the content of the letter to yourself, we don't want to worry the Bayreuthers!6 Oh Bayreuth! Either I am not allowed to go there or I can't go there — that is what I now have in mind. But there should be a third possibility, and when I think of everything I've already gone through, then I surely have to believe that I can get over this winter.

Fare-you-well, at least, I have to seek happiness more and more in the happiness of my friends. All of my own plans are like smoke; I still see them in front of me and I want to catch them. For it is sad to live without them, indeed barely possible. — Can you travel with me around Easter, that is, to Lake Geneva? A very preliminary request. Write to Miss von Meysenbug, she sympathetically asks about you.7

Faithfully
Yours
F. N.

Soon you shall hear better things from Basel, I promise you.

1. Gersdorff's plan to get engaged to a woman named Gottliebe von Wulften failed.
2. Cf. "Aus meinem Leben." Translated as "1858 From My Life" in: Nietzsche's Writings as a Student. The Nietzsche Channel, 2012, 1-34 (5-6).
3. Hermann Immermann (1839-1899): Nietzsche's doctor and Professor of Pathology in Basel.
4. His father.
5. There are book receipts in GSA from February 1876 for two books by Scott: 1. Walter Scott's sämmtliche Werke. Dritte vermehrte Auflage. Vierundzwanzigster Band. Die Verlobten. Ein Roman von Walter Scott. Uebersetzt von August Schäfer (Stuttgart: Hoffmann, 1865). 2. Walter Scott's biographische Werke. Aus dem Englischen. Theil 18-24. Leben des Napoleon Buonaparte, Kaisers der Franzosen. Nebst einem einleitenden Ueberblick der französischen Revolution. Aus dem Englischen übersetzt von Georg Nicolaus Bärmann. Theil 15-21 (Zwickau: Schumann, 1828). [Series: Taschenbibliothek der ausländischen Klassiker in neuen Verdeutschungen, 218-224.]
6. Richard and Cosima Wagner.
7. Rome, 01-12-1876: Letter from Malwida von Meysenbug to Nietzsche in Basel: "Wo ist Gersdorff? Er ist ganz verstummt." (Where is Gersdorff? He has really fallen silent.)

 


Mathilde Trampedach.
Ca. 1870s.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Geneva, April 11, 1876:
Letter to Mathilde Trampedach.1

My dear Miss

You are writing something for me tonight,2 I want to write something for you too. —

Summon up all the courage in your heart, so as not to be afraid of the question I hereby put to you: Will you become my wife? I love you and I feel as if you already belong to me. Not a word about the suddenness of my affection! At least there is no guilt involved with it, thus there is no need to apologize. But what I would like to know is whether you feel just as I do — that we have never been strangers at all, not for a moment! Don't you also believe that by uniting each of us would become freer and better than we could be alone, and so excelsior?3 Would you dare to walk with me, as with one who is striving with all his heart for liberation and improvement? On all paths of life and of thought?

Now be frank and hold nothing back. Nobody knows about this letter and my request except our mutual friend Mr. von Senger.4 I'm returning to Basel tomorrow at 11 o'clock by express train, I have to go back; I am enclosing my address in Basel. If you can say Yes! to my question, I will write to your mother immediately, in which case I would then ask you for her address. If you can make up your mind quickly, whether Yes! or No — then a letter5 from you will reach me at the Hôtel Garni de la Poste by tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock.

Wishing you all good things and blessings forever

Friedrich Nietzsche

1. Mathilde Trampedach (1853-?).
2. For Trampedach's reminiscences of Nietzsche, see Gottfried Bohnenblust, "Nietzsches Genferliebe." In: Annalen. Eine schweizerische Monatsschrift. Januar 1928. Heft 1. 5f., translated below.
3. Trampedach had provided Nietzsche with a German translation of the poem "Excelsior" (1841), by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882).
4. The German conductor, Hugo von Senger (1835-1892), whom she eventually married.
5. Trampedach's negative reply is lost.

 

Malwida von Meysenbug.
1880.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, April 14, 1876:
Letter to Malwida von Meysenbug.

Most esteemed Fräulein

About two weeks ago there was a Sunday which I spent alone on Lake Geneva and completely close to you, from morning until the moonlit evening: with my senses restored I finished reading your book1 and kept telling myself that I had never experienced a more consecrated Sunday; the mood of purity and love did not leave me and on that day nature was nothing but the reflection of this mood. You walked before me as a higher self, as a much higher self — but still more encouraging than blameful: thus you hovered in my imagination and I measured my life against your example and asked myself about the many things I lack. I thank you for so much more than a book. I was sick and doubted my powers and goals; after Christmas I thought I would have to give up everything and feared nothing more than the tedium of life, which, with the abandonment of higher goals, only oppresses like a tremendous burden. I am now healthier and freer, and the tasks to be fulfilled stand before me again without tormenting me. How often have I wished you to be near me, in order to ask you something to which only a higher morality and essence than I am can give an answer! From your book I now get answers to very definite questions regarding myself; I think I cannot be more than satisfied with my behavior until I have your assent. For me, your book is perhaps a stricter judge than you yourself would be in person. What must a man do in order not to have to accuse himself of unmanliness in the face of this image of your life? — I often ask myself that. He must do all that you did, and absolutely nothing more! But in all probability he will not be able to do so, lacking as he does the reliable guiding instinct of love that is always ready to help. One of the highest motifs, which I only became aware of through you, is that of motherly love without the physical bond of mother and child; it is one of the most glorious revelations of caritas. Give me a bit of this love, my most esteemed friend, and look upon me as one who, as a son, needs such a mother, really needs her so much!

We will have much to say to each other in Bayreuth,2 for now I can again hope to be able to go there: whereas for a few months I had to give up even thinking about it. If only I, now that I am healthier, could do something for you! And why don't I live near you!

Farewell, I am and
remain yours in
truth
Friedrich Nietzsche.

I am very grateful for the Mazzini letter —3

1. Malwida von Meysenbug, Memoiren einer Idealistin. Stuttgart: Auerbach, 1876. Bd. 1. Bd. 2. Bd. 3.
2. The August 1876 Bayreuth Festival, with the final rehearsal of Richard Wagner's Der Ring der Nibelungen.
3. Cf. Malwida von Meysenbug, "Der erste Nietzsche." In: Neue Freie Presse. 09-28-1900. HTML. PDF.

 




Mathilde Trampedach.
Ca. 1870s.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, April 15, [1876]:
Letter to Mathilde Trampedach.1

Most honored Miss

You are generous enough to forgive me; I can feel it in the mildness of your letter,2 which I truly did not deserve. I have suffered so much in thinking about my cruel violent conduct that I cannot be thankful enough for this gentleness. I don't want to explain anything and don't know how to justify myself. The only thing I would like to express is that if you should ever read my name or meet me again, please don't think of the fright I gave you; under all circumstances I ask you to believe that I would like to make amends for what I have done badly.3

Yours respectfully
Friedrich Nietzsche

1. Mathilde Trampedach (1853-?).
2. Trampedach's negative reply is lost.
3. For Trampedach's reminiscences of Nietzsche, see Gottfried Bohnenblust, "Nietzsches Genferliebe." In: Annalen, Eine schweizerische Monatsschrift. 2. Jahr, Januar 1928, Heft 1, 5f.

"An einem weichen Frühlingsmorgen," [...] "meldete das Zimmermädchen den Besuch unsres Beschützers Hugo von Senger in Begleitung eines Unbekannten. Es war in der englischen Pension Barnet , nahe der neuen Hochschule , Rue Saint Léger 2. 'Mein Freund Friedrich Nietzsche,' klang es von den freundlichen Lippen unsres Gönners; 'seid geehrt, Ihr Kinder, dass Ihr ihn zu sehen bekommt.' Leider konnten wir den berühmten Mann nicht nach Wunsch beschauen, da er ungeachtet des gedämpften Lichtes einen grüngefütterten Sonnenschirm über sein Haupt hielt, fraglos seiner ermüdeten Augen wegen. // Die Gegenwart einer aussergewöhnlichen Persönlichkeit empfand ich sogleich. Ein Genuss sondergleichen war es, den beiden Freunden zu lauschen, wie sie die Dichterwelten durchkreuzten, von Shakespeare zu Byron, Shelley und Longfellow. Des letztern Gedicht, 'Excelsior' kannte Nietzsche nicht in deutscher Übersetzung. Ich erbot mich, ihm eine Abschrift davon zu machen, was bereitwillig angenommen wurde. Ehe es zwölf Uhr schlug, entfernten sich unsere Gäste, uns dem Nachdenken überlassend. // Einige Tage darauf erhielt unsere Pensionsdame eine Einladung von Hugo von Senger. Sie war mit uns aufgefordert, in Begleitung der beiden Freunde eine Spazierfahrt längs dem See nach der Villa Diodati zu unternehmen. Der Vorschlag wurde angenommen und durch liebliches Aprilwetter begünstigt. Meine Aufmerksamkeit war geteilt: wusste ich doch nicht, was bestrickender war, die Seelandschaft oder das Gespräch der geistreichen Freunde. // Schliesslich nahm mich die Unterhaltung ausschliesslich ein, und ich war so kühn, dies zu verraten. // Die beiden Herren vertieften sich in die Idee der Völkerfreiheit, wobei ich mich nicht enthielt zu sagen, wie erstaunlich es sei, dass die Menschen im Wunsch nach höchster Unbeschränktheit kaum merkten, wie befangen und gehemmt sie im eignen Innern bleiben, und wie die Befreiung aus der schwerfälligen Menschenschwäche doch der grössten aller Energieen bedürfe, ja dass die Wenigsten sich über ihre innere Gefangenschaft betrüben. Als ich aufschaute, begegnete ich den forschenden tiefen Augen Friedrich Nietzsches. // Im bequemen Fahrwagen endete der Ausflug wie er begonnen, und dankbar verabschiedeten wir uns von dem Freudespender Hugo von Senger. // Ein drittes und letztes Mal sollte ich Friedrich Nietzsche wiedersehen. Er kam zum Lebewohl, wurde in den Empfangssaal eingeführt, wo er uns mit einer Bewegung der Feierlichkeit begrüßte. // Sich dem Klavier zuwendend, begann er mit stürmischer Empfindung den Ausdruck heftiger Wogen zu steigern, bis solche zu feierlichen Harmonien wurden, um in weichenden Klängen zu vergehn. Bald darauf schieden wir. Lautlos war die Trennung. Eine tiefe Verbeugung wurde mir als Gruss. Eine Violin-Begleitungsstunde zwang mich, das Zimmer zu verlassen, wo meine Schwester etwas länger mit dem Gaste weilen konnte. Ohne eine Ursache zu finden, war ich ergriffen und begleitete meinen Lehrer Reymond mehr als mittelmässig, zerstreut und fehlerhaft. Ich fasste den Vorsatz, meine Gedanken mehr meiner musikalischen Arbeit zuzuwenden und mich weniger durch philosophisches Sinnen verleiten zu lassen. // Aber kaum war ein Tag verstrichen, als das Dienstmädchen mir meldete, Herr von Senger erwarte mich einer eiligen Mitteilung wegen im Vorzimmer. Und mein Freund meldete mir: ich würde am folgenden Morgen ein inhaltreiches Schreiben von Friedrich Nietzsche erhalten. Ich möge es mit Fassung lesen und nur nach reifem Nachdenken beantworten. Mein Freund entfernte sich sogleich und überliess mich einer beunruhigenden Erwartung." (On a late spring morning, [...] the maid announced the visit of our guardian Hugo von Senger, accompanied by a stranger. It was in the English Pension Barnet, Rue Saint Léger 2, near the new academy. "My friend Friedrich Nietzsche," sounded from the friendly lips of our patron, "is honored, you youngsters, to get to see you." Unfortunately we could not look at the famous man as we wished, since despite the subdued light, he was holding a green-lined parasol over his head, no doubt because of his tired eyes. // I immediately felt the presence of an extraordinary personality. It was an unparalleled pleasure to listen to the two friends as they sailed the world of poets, from Shakespeare to Byron, Shelley and Longfellow. Nietzsche did not know the German translation of the recent poem "Excelsior" [by Longfellow, 1841]. I offered to make a copy of it for him, which was willingly accepted. Before it struck twelve, our guests left, leaving us to our own thoughts. // A few days later, our landlady received an invitation from Hugo von Senger. She was invited along with us to take a ride along the lake to Villa Diodati, accompanied by the two friends. The proposal was accepted and favored by lovely April weather. My attention was divided: I did not really know what was more captivating, the seascape or the conversation of the intellectually stimulating friends. // In the end, I was captured by the exclusive conversation, and I was bold enough to reveal it. // The two gentlemen delved into the idea of ​​the freedom of people, whereby I could not contain myself from saying how astonishing it is that people, in their desire for the greatest unlimited freedom, scarcely noticed how timid and inhibited they remain within themselves, and how liberation from cumbersome human weakness requires the greatest of all energies, indeed, that very few grieve over their inner imprisonment. When I looked up, I met the deep searching eyes of Friedrich Nietzsche. // The excursion ended as it began in the comfortable carriage, and we gratefully said goodbye to our delightful benefactor, Hugo von Senger. // I was to see Friedrich Nietzsche again a third and final time. He came to say goodbye, was shown into the reception room, where he greeted us with a gesture of solemnity. // Turning to the piano, he began to intensify the expression of violent waves with stormy sensations, until these became solemn harmonies, fading away into soft sounds. Soon afterwards, we parted. The parting was without a word being uttered. For a salutation, I received a deep bow. A violin lesson forced me to leave the room, where my sister could stay a bit longer with our guest. Without knowing the reason, I was moved and accompanied my teacher Reymond [on the piano] more than mediocrely, distractedly and poorly. I resolved to turn my thoughts more toward my musical activities and myself to be less seduced by philosophical speculations. // But hardly a day had passed when the maid told me that Herr von Senger was waiting for me in the antechamber because of an urgent message. And my friend informed me: I would receive a substantial letter from Friedrich Nietzsche the following morning. I should read it calmly and answer only after careful consideration. My friend immediately departed and left me with an unsettling expectation.)

 


"Miss Zimmern (Authoress)."
Etching and drypoint, 1891.
By: Hubert von Herkomer.
British Museum, London.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

London, April 25, 1876:
Letter from Helen Zimmern.1

Dear Sir,

Your kind favor news reached me until the 21st of this month, and I should certainly have written long ago to thank you for the "Unzeitgemäße Betrachtungen"2 which I have read with extreme pleasure, as yet only once, because I wanted to write to you as soon as possible, but I now intend to give it a more careful second reading, for I have found a great deal that is most thought suggesting in your pages. The piquante title of your work had already attracted my notice in an bookseller's catalogue and I had determined to read it, but I value it doubly as a direct gift from the author3 and tender you my most sincere thanks. As regards Schopenhauer I can say of him as he said of Goethe "he has educated me anew."4

I am, dear Sir,
Yours very truly
Helen Zimmern

1. Helen Zimmern (1846-1934): English writer, and translator. They first met in Bayreuth in 1876, and became better acquainted in Sils-Maria. Nietzsche wanted Zimmern to translate Götzen-Dämmerung (Twilight of the Idols), and Ecce Homo. Although that never happened, Zimmern would go on to translate Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil) for Oscar Levy's edition of Nietzsche. See her comments in Anon., "Nietzsche Erinnerungen." In: Frankfurter Generalanzeiger. Nov. 16, 1926. Reprinted as Anon., "Memories of Nietzsche." In: The Living Age, 331 (Nov. 1926), 272.

Miss Helen Zimmern is known in England and America as the author of a book on Schopenhauer, a study of Italy, and a paraphrase of a Persian work called Epic of Kings. She is less famous as a friend of Nietzsche, whom she first met in Bayreuth in 1876, when he used to walk with her after lunch, having put in the morning at his desk. "I listened," she recently remarked, "with more or less feigned interest, for, to tell you the truth, I understood only little then of what he spoke about. But it seemed to give him such a relief to talk to a human being! The man seemed to me so lonely, so unspeakably lonely! If, here and there, I risked a little reply, he used to say, 'Quite so, but as Zarathustra has said before' — and then came a verse from his famous work, of which already three quarters were written at that time." // Asked what impression Nietzsche gave at that time, she replied: "Nietzsche was shy, and even awkward, when he found himself with people with whom he was entirely out of touch. But when the ice was once broken you could easily see that you had to do with a man who was thoroughly conscious of his merit. Once he even told me that his ideas were so important that one day university chairs would be founded in order to give lectures on and explanations of them." // In regard to his insanity, traces of which have been detected in Zarathustra by keen-nosed critics, she said: "I have heard of some of these discussions. New thought easily seems crazy to those who are thoroughly imbued with the old. I myself never noticed any trace of insanity, even of eccentricity. I deny, and most emphatically so, that there was a trace of insanity in the man I then knew. I should, on the contrary, rather say that he gave me the impression of being an extraordinarily sane man." // Miss Zimmern also makes it clear that Nietzsche's ideas about women were never put into practice, and that he was more than a real gentleman, that he possessed what the Italians call gentilezza. She told of an elderly Russian, believed to be a former lady-in-waiting of the Tsaritza, who was suffering from a nervous breakdown and had to leave the Alps in winter time for the warmer Italian climate. She refused, however, to quit her room, and though a carriage came every day for her she could not be prevailed upon to get in it. Finally Nietzsche heard of the incident, and asked if they would put her in his hands. A few days later when the carriage appeared Friedrich Nietzsche walked calmly to its door with the nervous old lady following him like a lamb. No one ever discovered how he prevailed on her to go.

2. Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, I. David Strauss. Der Bekenner und der Schriftsteller. Published in 1873.
3. According to Curt Paul Janz, Nietzsche sent Zimmern a signed copy of his book at the behest of Richard Wagner, who had heard about Zimmern's biography of Schopenhauer. See Curt Paul Janz, Friedrich Nietzsche Biographie. Bd. 2. Die zehn Jahre des freien Philosophen. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1981, 314.
4. See Helen Zimmern, Arthur Schopenhauer. His Life and His Philosophy. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1876, 59-61:

"Perceiving Schopenhauer's independent mind, he [Goethe] placed his theory [of colours] before the youth forty years his junior. Private theatricals were being enacted at Madame Schopenhauer's. Adele Schopenhauer, ten years younger than her brother, was playing a boy's part, dressed in the white brocaded coat Goethe wore when taking his degree at Strasburg. Goethe invited Arthur to spend the next evening quietly at his house. That evening Schopenhauer felt the whole height and depth of the marvellous genius, whom he never ceased to admire. // 'Goethe educated me anew,' he said, and indeed, excepting Schiller, there was no one to whom this mighty spirit became so stimulating, or on whom his influence proved so beneficial. Goethe, though attracted to Schopenhauer, thought him hard to know. The benefits of intercourse remained one-sided; the poet never inclined greatly to philosophy, and was too wedded to habits of thought to imbibe a new system. He continued to manifest a lively interest, but Schopenhauer suspected on good grounds that he never thoroughly read his later works. // Schopenhauer was naturally flattered at Goethe's proposal that he should investigate his despised and beloved theory of colours, and his interest was soon aroused. Goethe sent him his own optical apparatus and instruments, in order that the young man might test the matter for himself, and at leisure. Schopenhauer spared no pains; he entered with all the ardour of a disciple, inclined to grant the blind subservience Goethe demanded in later life. But presently he refused the elder's leading strings, venturing to differ and oppose on closer investigation. A pamphlet 'Ueber das Sehen und die Farben' was the result, received by Goethe with mixed feelings. Schopenhauer preserved a warm interest in the subject."

 


Erwin Rohde.
As a student, ca. 1860s.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, May 16, 1876:
Letter to Erwin Rohde.

How I love hearing anything from you, dear friend! But I myself can also imagine that you have no desire at all for writing letters now. It vexes me a bit not to see your "novel"1 announced yet: I hope no novel imp has gotten in your way. You will have received a few lines from myself, which I wrote to you after my return from Lake Geneva (to the address in Jena)[.] Things are going tolerably well with me, only my eyes refuse to do their duty. But head and stomach are okay, though I don't strain myself either and have paraded a pair of old pious horses for my students, which I can ride half asleep.2 — My task, for which I am gathering all my strength, is the month in Bayreuth.3 At Christmas I didn't think I would live to see it. —

A young musician, who came to Basel for a couple of years because of me and whom I appreciate very much on account of his talent and good soul, is helpful to me in all matters. Now I would really like to be helpful to him with one thing: I wonder how I can possibly bring him to Bayreuth. Due to Wagner, it is unfortunately, as I certainly know, impossible. Do you by any chance still have at your disposal one cycle of 4 evenings? I hear that you are the proud holder of two patronage certificates. Would you perhaps, on my recommendation, give this musician the right to it? His name is Köselitz and he is an instrumental composer who, as a worthy and true learner, would sit amidst the chaos of the Bayreuth festival guests.

Please just one word about this request, my faithful beloved friend.

I am your
F N.

1. Erwin Rohde, Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1876.
2. In SS1876, Nietzsche lectures included Die vorplatonischen Philosophen (The Pre-Platonic Philosophers) with 10 students, and Über Platons Leben und Lehre (On Plato's Life and Teachings) with 19 students, as well as a seminar on Hesiod, with 9 attendees.
3. The August 1876 Bayreuth Festival, with the final rehearsal of Richard Wagner's Der Ring der Nibelungen. Nietzsche, at the time, was writing the final sections of Richard Wagner in Bayreuth.

 


Portrait of Richard Wagner.
By: Franz Seraph von Lenbach.
Ca. 1870-75.
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.


Basel, May 21, 1876:
Letter to Richard Wagner.

On such a day as your birthday,1 highly esteemed man, only the most personal statement actually has a right; for everyone has experienced something through you that, deep down, concerns just them. Such experiences cannot be added together, and the congratulations on behalf of many today would be less than the most humble word of the individual.

It is almost exactly seven years since I paid my first visit2 to you in Tribschen, and I don't know what more to say to you for your birthday than the fact that, since then, I too have been celebrating my spiritual birthday every May. For since then you have been living within me and working incessantly as a completely new drop of blood that I certainly did not have in me before. This element, which has its origin in you, impels, shames, encourages, goads me and has left me no peace, so that I might almost feel like being angry with you because of this constant anxiousness, if I did not surely feel that it was this restlessness that incessantly spurs me on to really become freer and better. So I must be grateful for this, which you provoked, with the deepest feelings of thanks; and my fondest hopes, which I put in the events of this summer,3 are that many will be made restless in a similar way on account of you and your work and will thereby partake in the greatness of your being and course of life.

That this may happen, that is my only congratulations to you today (where else is there the happiness that one could wish for you?)[;] accept it kindly from the lips of

Your truly faithful
Friedrich Nietzsche.

1. May 22.
2. May 15, 1869.
3. The August 1876 Bayreuth Festival, with the final rehearsal of Richard Wagner's Der Ring der Nibelungen.

 



Title Page:
Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer.
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, May 23, 1876:
Letter to Erwin Rohde.

So let us then heartily rejoice with one another that your work1 is finished, my beloved friend; I always had my concerns because I guessed that it would become a μέγα βιβλίον and knew that it had already been up to now in some ways a μέγα κακòν.2 Now it is there, swathed moreover in a beautiful little hide and is resplendent and delights me. It immediately disappointed me in a very agreeable way, for I had been a little afraid of it, as if my meager philological wisdom in this obscure field would turn out to be utter folly. Now I see enough already to realize that I will profit greatly from your results (the general as well as the occasional ones) and that I have also thought enough about the Greeks in this connection, so that I can no longer do without this book. It will be the same for J. Burckhardt, whom I have told about it (I am with him every day now, in the most familiar interaction)[.] From what I have read so far, I would like to point out a few things which really sank into me immediately like "tree oil,"3 e.g. how novel and novella stand in mutual contrast.4 Then p. 56 f. on the characterological studies of the Peripatetics, then p. 18 (with the morale di solitari)[.] A very instructive section 4 on p. 22 ff.; then p. 67 [on] female readers[;] p. 121 on the kind of real popularity of the Alexandrian poets, then p. 142 (with footn[ote].) very fine the art of elegiac narrative. It struck me that you say so little about pederastic relationships: and yet the idealization of Eros and the purer and more wistful feeling of passionate love among the Greeks first grew upon this ground and, it seems to me, was only transferred from there onto love between the sexes, whereas earlier it virtually hindered the more gentle and higher development of it (of sexu[al] love). That the Greeks of older times based the education of men on that passion and, as long as they had this older education, thought unfavorably of the love between the sexes in general is bizarre enough, but it seems to me to be true. On pages 70 and 71, I thought you would need to mention these things. Eros, as πάθος5 of καλῶς σχολάζοντες,6 in the best period, is pederastic: the opinion about Eros, which you call "somewhat exaggerated,"7 according to which the Aphrodite aspect of Eros is not essential, but only occasional and accidental, while the main thing is φιλία,8 does not seem so un-Greek to me. — But it seems to me that you have intentionally avoided the entire area; J. Burckhardt never talks about it in his lectures9 either. — As for the rest, perhaps while reading your book I might find some hints about this too; I have not got very far yet: my eyes are so bad. You have used great care in the presentation; but I would like to hear even more of you, the real Rohde, even if by losing something, the style would not be so polished; just as I enjoy personally the Overbeckian style, in spite of every "although." Something difficult, to mention in passing, is in the combination of longer adjectives with participles that you often use, e.g. "gushingly fertile talent" "artistically communicating procedure"10 "frivolously versatile work" "painstakingly careful procedure" (p. 127)

But I should keep my mouth shut about such things.11 However, I still have to unburden my mind of a great open-mouthed astonishment: what a curious person you are! In these last years, as they have unfortunately been for you, just to work out this book — that is actually quite beyond my comprehension! (Incidentally, also beyond my talent, at any time: I could not do something like this, even if I wanted to be able to[.]) The philological demon is so embedded in your body that I sometimes really shudder at his raging (in acumen and irrepressible learning). I don't know anyone whom I would trust to do something like that: and that this arch-philologist is even an arch-man as well, and indeed my arch-friend, that is truly an αἴνιγμα δυσλυτου,12 but apart from that "a good gift of God!"

Farewell, my faithful friend.

Let's try to follow through another way with the musician Köselitz.13 Overbeck will be writing [to you] in a few days.14

1. Erwin Rohde, Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1876.
2. The Greek text, mega biblion, mega kakòn refers to: "A big book is a big evil." A saying coined by the Greek poet Callimachus (ca. 310-240 BC), rebuking his student Apollonius of Rhodes for his epic poetry. Cf. Rudolf Pfeiffer, Callimachus. Vol. 1: Fragmenta. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949, [Frag. 465]. Discussed by Rohde in Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer, 22.
3. It's uncertain what Nietzsche meant, but in Southern Germany, tree oil was used as an illuminant in lamps.
4. Cf. Rohde, Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer, 7-9.
5. "Suffering."
6. "Noble idlers."
7. Cf. Rohde, Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer, 70, note 2.
8. "Friendship."
9. Nietzsche attended Jacob Burckhardt's lectures on the "History of Greek Culture" while at Basel in SS1874 / SS1876, and had two sets of lecture notes made by his students, Louis Kelterborn and Adolf Baumgartner.
10. Cf. Rohde, Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer, 127.
11. In January 1873, Rohde had proposed several stylistic corrections for the second edition of Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, which N adopted almost without exception. Cf. Kiel, 01-12-1873: Letter from Rohde to Nietzsche in Basel (explanatory notes re the letter in KGB II 7/2, 433ff.).
12. "A difficult riddle to solve." Cf. Plutarch, according to Stobaeus, Florilegium, 64, 31; cf. Rohde, Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer, 56, note 1.
13. Nietzsche was able to get Heinrich Köselitz a ticket for the August 1876 Bayreuth Festival, through the largesse of Carl von Gersdorff.
14. The correspondence between Franz Overbeck and Rohde had stopped in the years 1874-1878.

 


Carl von Gersdorff.
1880.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, May 26, 1876:
Letter to Carl von Gersdorff.

For all your tidings, beloved friend, many thanks; they found me in good health, it really seems that the eeriness of my winter condition has passed like a ghost, I am now comfortable again.1

That word,2 with its double meaning, reminds me that I can divulge something that is by the way still a secret (and should remain so for the time being): that, following an invitation3 from my best friend in the world, Frl. v. Meysenbug, I plan to go to Italy for a year from October onwards. I do not yet have definitive permission from the authorities, but I will probably get it, especially since I have voluntarily (so as not to burden such a small community) waived my entire salary for this period of time.4 Freedom! You would not believe how deeply I breathe when I think about it! We will live in the greatest simplicity in Fano (on the Adriatic sea).5 This is my news. — All my hopes and plans for an ultimate spiritual emancipation and for tireless advancement are in bloom again; the confidence in myself, I mean in my better self, fills me with courage. Even the condition of my eyes will not change this (Schiess6 finds them even worse than back then; the fact of the matter is, I need a secretary)[.] Lectures are very well attended, in one c. 20, in the other c. 10 and likewise in the seminar.7 — I will not marry; ultimately, I hate the limitations and the intermeddling in the whole "civilized" order of things so much that hardly any woman is broad-minded enough to follow my lead.8 — The Greek philosophers come to my mind more and more as paradigms of the way one should live. I am reading Xenophon's Memorabilia9 with deepest personal interest. — Philologists find them deadly boring; you see how little I am a philologist. —

Rohde's "novel"10 is here — very readable for you too, incidentally a testimony of the greatest kind for the good and rare qualities of the author. Yesterday Wagner wrote me a long letter11 enough to make one proud and happy as far as I am concerned.

The poor poor Rau! — We should all learn to believe in the unworthiness of life at times: everyone gets his own kind of fatal wound. I am thinking about how I can give him a little pleasure, as a token of my great pity.12

I am sorry to hear that Overbeck has just asked you for the second series of the Festival.13 That hardly fit with your intentions. But in some things one is always ultimately unfree and has to console oneself with having wanted the rational. — My sister got Dr. Fuchs invited to the third series a long time ago; as it now turns out, he would not have got there at all without this assistance. —

The new Emerson14 has become a bit old, doesn't it seem like that to you? The earlier essays are much richer, now he is repeating himself, and in the end he is too much in love with life for me. —

Farewell, remember me fondly,
I am your
old faithful
F N.

along with Overbeck's and my sister's warm regards.

As far as things are concerned, don't forget the excellent musician Köselitz.

1. Nietzsche was suffering from poor health in the winter of 1875/76.
2. The word heimlich: secret; or, used in a Lower Allemannic expression: cozy and comfortable.
3. See 04-30-1876 letter to Nietzsche from Malwida von Meysenbug.
4. The compensation for Nietzsche's proxy at the pedagogium would be at Nietzsche's expense. See 06-03-1876 letter to Nietzsche from Heinrich Zehntner-Weber (1824-1899).
5. Sorrento was chosen instead of Fano.
6. Nietzsche's opthamologist and colleague at Basel, Johann Heinrich Schieß-Gemuseus (1833-1914).
7. In SS1876, Nietzsche lectures included Die vorplatonischen Philosophen (The Pre-Platonic Philosophers) with 10 students, and Über Platons Leben und Lehre (On Plato's Life and Teachings) with 19 students, as well as a seminar on Hesiod, with 9 attendees.
8. While all of his friends were getting married, Nietzsche remained a bachelor.
9. On May 16, 1876, Nietzsche borrowed the book by Xenophon from the Basel Univ. Library: [Memorabilia] Xenophontos Apomnemoneumaton biblia tessara = Commentarii dictorum factorumque Socratis ad defendendum eum scripti a Xenophonte libris IV: cum Apologia Socratis. Fide librorum editorum scriptorumque et virorum doctorum coniecturis annotationibusque post Schneiderum et Coraium recensuit et interpretatus est Fridericus Augustus Bornemann. Lipsiae: Sumtibus librariae Hahnianae, 1829.
10. Erwin Rohde, Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1876.
11. Cf. 05-23-1876 letter to Nietzsche from Richard Wagner.
12. Leopold Rau (1847-1880): Berlin artist, student of Reinhold Begas (1831-1911), and friend of Carl von Gersdorff. Rau was suffering from typhoid fever. In 1871, Rau created the xylograph (woodcut by H. Vogel, 1872) for Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (The Birth Of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music). Leipzig: Fritzsch, 1872. For a thorough analysis of the woodcut, see Reinhard Brandt, "Die Titelvignette von Nietzsches 'Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik'." In: Nietzsche-Studien 20 (1991), 314-328.
13. Franz Overbeck was able to attend the August 1876 Bayreuth Festival, thanks to tickets provided by Carl von Gersdorff.
14. In Carl von Gersdorff's 04-19-1876 letter to Nietzsche, he mentions reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, Neue Essays (Letters and Social Aims). Autorisirte Uebersetzung mit einer Einleitung von Julian Schmidt. Stuttgart: Abendheim, 1876. In 1878, Nietzsche gifted a copy to his student Adolf Baumgartner (1855-1930), with the dedication: "Herrn Adolf Baumgartner / als Gefährten für einsame / Spaziergänge / empfohlen. / / Und dabei gedenken Sie auch / meiner! — / / F. Nietzsche / Ende 1878." (Mr. Adolf Baumgartner / Recommended as a companion on lonely walks. / / And with it remember me too! — / / F. Nietzsche / Ende 1878.)

 



First page of letter, with poem, to Erwin Rohde.
July 18, 1876.
© Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv.
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.

[Basel, July 18, 1876]:
Letter to Erwin Rohde.

What you are telling me, it is for the best, dear faithful friend, truly for the best: I wish you that with all my heart. So then you will build your nest in 1876, the year of salvation,1 like our Overbeck,2 and I think through that you will not be lost to me by becoming happier. Yes, I will be able to think of you more calmly: even if I should perhaps not follow you with this step too.3 For you have so needed a completely trusting soul and have found her and hence found yourself upon a higher plane. It is different with me, heaven knows or does not know. None of this seems to me to be so necessary — except on rare occasions. —

Perhaps I have a dire void in me. My desires and my needs are different: I hardly know how to say and to explain it.

This evening it occurred to me to poetize about it; I am no poet, but you will understand me anyway.

Through the night a wanderer walks
With a purposeful gait;
Amid winding vale and great hills —
Crossing them all.
The night is beautiful —
He marches on and never rests,
Not knowing where his path will lead.

Then a bird sings through the night. —
— "Oh, bird, what are you doing?
Why do you stay my mind and foot
And pour sweet troubles of the heart
Upon me, so that I must now stand
And listen,
To divine your welcoming song?"

The good bird falls silent and says:
"No, wanderer, no! I don't welcome you
With my sounds!
I sing because the night is so beautiful:
But you should forever walk along
And nevermore understand my song!
So go on, now —
And when your steps only sound from afar,
I'll start my night song again
As best I can.
Farewell, you poor wandering man!"4
________________________________

Thus night spoke to me after the arrival of your letter.

F N.

Along with the heartfelt congratulations of my sister.

1. An allusion to the August 1876 Bayreuth Festival, with the final rehearsal of Richard Wagner's Der Ring der Nibelungen.
2. On August 8, 1876, Franz Overbeck married Ida Rothpletz in Zurich.
3. While all of his friends were getting married, Nietzsche remained a bachelor.
4. Nietzsche's untitled poem is also contained in Nachlass, Sommer 1876 17[31] (From Nietzsche's Notebooks, Summer 1876 17[31]). It was written after hearing of Rohde's engagement to Valentine Framm (1859-1901), the daughter of a lawyer from Rostock. In 1884, Nietzsche wrote another version — with the title Der Wanderer (The Wanderer) — that was completely rewritten after the line: "Und gießest süßen Herz-Verdruß" (And pour sweet troubles of the heart).

 



Elisabeth Nietzsche (1846-1935).
1875.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

[Bayreuth, August 1, 1876]:
Letter to Elisabeth Nietzsche.
 

My dear sister,

Things are not right with me, I can see that! Constant headache, though not of the worst kind, and lassitude. Yesterday I was only able to listen to Die Valkyrie1 in a dark room; looking at anything is impossible! I long to get away; it's too pointless if I stay. I dread each of these long artistic evenings; and yet I can't stay away.2

Under this adversity, I suggest that you talk with the Baumgartners!3 Offer mother and son 8 tickets for the second cycle of performances,4 all for 100 talers (I can have my tickets for the third series transferred to Baumgartner for the second.) You can stay together at the Giessel's home; as it is, as it is for us, it's the cheapest lodging in Bayreuth! You should hear about the other prices.

This time you will have to hear and watch for me too!

An agreement with the Baumgartners about the lodging (for payment of part of the costs) will be easy.

I've really had enough of it all.

I don't want to be here for the first performance5 either. But somewhere else, just not here, where it's nothing but torment for me.

Perhaps you could also write a few words to Schmeitzner6 and offer him my seat for the first performance. Or someone else, whomever you like. E.g. Frau Bachofen.7

Forgive me for all the trouble you're having with me again! I want to get away into the Fichtelgebirge or somewhere else[.]

Your Fritz.

Just telegraph Frl. v Meysenbug about your arrival.

Naturally, you will have admission to the dress rehearsal, that is arranged.

1. Richard Wagner's Die Walküre was rehearsed in Bayreuth on 07-31-1876.
2. Around 08-04-1876, Nietzsche went to Klingenbrunn in the Bavarian Forest in order to recuperate, but returned to Bayreuth on 08-12-1876.
3. Marie Baumgartner (1831-1897) translated into French Nietzsche's Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. Adolf Baumgartner (1855-1930), her son, was Nietzsche's student in Basel.
4. 08-20-23-1876.
5. The first performance of Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold on 08-13-1876.
6. Ernst Schmeitzner (1851-1895), Nietzsche's publisher at the time.
7. Louise Bachofen-Burckhardt (1845-1920).

 


Title Page:
Kant's Lehre vom Ding an sich. Ein Beitrag zur Kantphilologie.
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.

Berlin, August 13, 1876:
Letter from Rudolf Lehmann.

Dear Professor.

I have taken the liberty to send you the attached copy of my doctoral dissertation.1 Not that I consider the work to be worthy of special interest on your part. But it has long been my wish to be able to give you a token of my gratitude for many a good hour, and, as I hope, of even more constant inspiration, which I have received in the course of my university years from the reading of your writings.

Due to external circumstances, the [publication of the] dissertation has been postponed for some time, for which, dear Professor, I kindly apologize.2

Please accept, dear sir, the assurances of the utmost respect with which I have the honor to be

Your
most devoted
R. Lehmann




1. Rudolf Lehmann (1855-1927), "Kant's Lehre vom Ding an sich. Ein Beitrag zur Kantphilologie." (Kant's Doctrine of the Thing-in-Itself. A Contribution to Kantian Philology.)
2. It was subsequently published as: Kant's Lehre vom Ding an sich. Ein Beitrag zur Kantphilologie. Inaugural-Dissertation zur Erlangung der philosophischen Doctorwürde an der Georg-Augusts-Universität zu Göttingen. Berlin: Sittenfeld, 1878.

 


Louise Ott.
From tinted photograph by M. Vollenweider.1
Strasbourg, France, 1876.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, August 30, 1876:
Letter to Louise Ott.

My dear Frau Ott,

Darkness surrounded me when you left Bayreuth,2 it was as though someone had taken the light away from me. I had to find myself again, but I have done so, and you can take this letter in your hands without worry.

We want to hold tight to the purity of spirit that brought us together, we want to remain true to one another in all good things.

I think of you with such fraternal fondness that I could love your husband3 just because he is your husband; and would you believe that your little Marcel4 crosses my mind ten times a day?

Would you like to get my first three Untimely Meditations from me?5 You really ought to know what I believe in, what I live for.

Keep on being good to me and help me with my task.

Yours
in purity of spirit,
Friedrich Nietzsche.

1. Moritz Emil Vollenweider (?-1899): Swiss photographer, with studios in Bern, Strasbourg, and later Algiers. Vollenweider and his four sons were something of a dynasty in the world of 19th-century Swiss photography. He was a founding member, and the first president of the Schweizerischer Photographen-Verein (Swiss Photographers Association) from 1886-1888.
2. Ott probably left on August 23, after the end of the two cycles of "Ring" performances.
3. On August 4, 1870, she married Alfred Ott (1845-1909), a banker.
4. Louise Ott's son.
5. The "book" that Ott received (see her 09-08-1876 letter to Nietzsche), was a copy of Nietzsche's first three Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen (Untimely Meditations) personally bound by him, and then inscribed to her: "Frau Louise Ott / mit den ergebensten / Grüssen des Verfassers." (Frau Louise Ott / with the humble / Greetings of the Author.) It seems that she then bought her copy of Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, IV. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. See William Schaberg's explanation — and the inscribed book — at Athena Rare Books, PDF.

 


Louise Ott.
From tinted photograph by M. Vollenweider.1
Strasbourg, France, 1876.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Paris, September 2, 1876:
Letter from Louise Ott.

My friend,

Your words, which sound so noble, pure and honest to me, could not penetrate more deeply and firmly in my heart. I was so happy!

How good it is that now a true, healthy friendship can come about between us, so that we can then think of each other straight from the heart without our conscience forbidding it. So we can still mutually give one another the best of ouselves: heart and mind! But I cannot forget your eyes: your deep, loving gaze still rests upon me, as it did then ...

Yes, indeed! send your works2 to me — I must learn to become better acquainted with my dear friend! In this way our correspondence will also be able to develop quite simply. But do not mention your and my letters — everything that has happened so far will remain between us — it is our sanctuary, for both of us alone.

Thanks for the love that you give to Marcel — I hope he will one day be worthy of it!3

How are your poor eyes? Some other time I will write bigger and hopefully better.

Your new sister Louise

1. Moritz Emil Vollenweider (?-1899): Swiss photographer, with studios in Bern, Strasbourg, and later Algiers. Vollenweider and his four sons were something of a dynasty in the world of 19th-century Swiss photography. He was a founding member, and the first president of the Schweizerischer Photographen-Verein (Swiss Photographers Association) from 1886-1888.
2. The "book" that Ott received (see her 09-08-1876 letter to Nietzsche), was a copy of Nietzsche's first three Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen (Untimely Meditations) personally bound by him, and then inscribed to her: "Frau Louise Ott / mit den ergebensten / Grüssen des Verfassers." (Frau Louise Ott / with the humble / Greetings of the Author.) It seems that she then bought her copy of Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, IV. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. See William Schaberg's explanation — and the inscribed book — at Athena Rare Books, PDF.
3. Louise Ott's son.

 


Louise Ott.
From tinted photograph by M. Vollenweider.1
Strasbourg, France, 1876.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Paris, Sept. 8, 1876:
Letter from Louise Ott.

Cherished friend,

How will I find the words to express the joy that I felt upon recipt of your beautiful book?2 I won't even try. You have to understand me this way — speechless! I had such a warm feeling in my heart that I wasn't able to do more than cry, and yet it was nothing but happiness! My friend — my friend! I want to read your work with you and, with each part that is not clear to me, ask for an explanation. Alas, I am just so ignorant, I must be ashamed when I think of how you are so good to me in spite of it.

Do you know that I am a Christian? I find my Bible beautiful, pure and grand! You say3 that since Alexander the Great humanity has made a step backward — do you think that the influence of Christianity was — and is — something bad? From my childhood on, I have heard only good and beautiful things about my religion — everything I have heard from liberal preachers I have not liked — all of it was so cold and bleak!

Why don't you believe what Christ promised and said?

Dear Herr Nietzsche, you are too noble-minded to laugh at me — even if you find me childish — that is why I always want to be frank and candid with you.

Your writing about Wagner has already broadened my view and I think a lot about everything that I find in it, but I believe that it is only granted to great scholars and some especially gifted minds to feel happy and content without religion and merely through philosophy.

Do you believe in the eternal life of the soul?

But enough for today — my Marcel4 has been suffering a lot for eight days — probably due to his teeth — he won't let go of me and bawls — and bawls day and night! It's so sad to have to hear him without being able to help.

Tell me, dear cherished friend, how is your health!

If your poor eyes are suffering, don't write a lot to me! You shouldn't suffer because of me!

My husband5 is greeted by unfamiliar melodies, but from me to you please accept my entirely faithful friendship.

Louise

1. Moritz Emil Vollenweider (?-1899): Swiss photographer, with studios in Bern, Strasbourg, and later Algiers. Vollenweider and his four sons were something of a dynasty in the world of 19th-century Swiss photography. He was a founding member, and the first president of the Schweizerischer Photographen-Verein (Swiss Photographers Association) from 1886-1888.
2. The "book" that Ott received (see her 09-08-1876 letter to Nietzsche), was a copy of Nietzsche's first three Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen (Untimely Meditations) personally bound by him, and then inscribed to her: "Frau Louise Ott / mit den ergebensten / Grüssen des Verfassers." (Frau Louise Ott / with the humble / Greetings of the Author.) It seems that she then bought her copy of Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, IV. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. See William Schaberg's explanation — and the inscribed book — at Athena Rare Books, PDF.
3. Cf. Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, IV. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. §4.
4. Louise Ott's son.
5. On August 4, 1870, she married Alfred Ott (1845-1909), a banker.

 


Louise Ott.
From tinted photograph by M. Vollenweider.1
Strasbourg, France, 1876.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, [September 22, 1876]:
Letter to Louise Ott.

Dear good friend,

First, I could not write, then they gave me therapy for the eyes2 — and now I should not write for a long time to come! Nevertheless — I read your two letters again and again, I believe I have read them too often, but this new friendship is like new wine: quite pleasant, but perhaps a bit dangerous.

For me, at least. —

But for you as well, when I consider the sort of free spirit you have met up with! A man who wants nothing more than to lose some comforting belief on a daily basis, who seeks and finds his happiness in the daily addition to the liberation of the spirit. Perhaps I want to be even more of a free spirit than I can be!

What should we do now? — An "Elopement from the Seraglio" of belief,3 without Mozart's music?

Do you know the life story of Fräulein von Meysenbug, under the title "Memoirs of an Idealist"?4

How is poor little Marcel5 doing with his little teeth? We all have to suffer before we learn how to bite properly, physically and morally. — To bite in order to nourish ourselves, of course, not biting for the sake of biting! —

Is there not a good photograph of a certain lovely little blonde I know? —6

Sunday I travel about 8 days on to Italy, for a long stay. From there you will receive news. A letter to my address in Basel (Schützengraben 45) will reach me anyway.

With all my heart,
fraternally yours,
Dr. Friedr. Nietzsche.

1. Moritz Emil Vollenweider (?-1899): Swiss photographer, with studios in Bern, Strasbourg, and later Algiers. Vollenweider and his four sons were something of a dynasty in the world of 19th-century Swiss photography. He was a founding member, and the first president of the Schweizerischer Photographen-Verein (Swiss Photographers Association) from 1886-1888.
2. Nietzsche's opthamologist and colleague at Basel, Johann Heinrich Schieß-Gemuseus (1833-1914), prescribed an atropine cure.
3. Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) is a 1782 opera Singspiel in three acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).
4. Malwida von Meysenbug, Memoiren einer Idealistin. Stuttgart: Auerbach, 1876. Bd. 1. Bd. 2. Bd. 3.
5. Louise Ott's son.
6. Although there is no evidence that she sent Nietzsche a photograph, coincidentally she had her photograph taken in 1876.

 


Reinhart von Seydlitz.
Ca. 1875.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, September 24, 1876:
Letter to Reinhart von Seydlitz.

Dear and esteemed sir, after such a letter, such a moving testimony of your soul and your spirit, I can say nothing else than just this — let's stay close, let's see to it that we don't lose each other again after having found each other! I behold the beautiful certainty before me that I have won another true friend. And if you only knew what this means for me! I am always out for kidnapping men like any buccaneer; but not in order to sell these men into bondage, rather to ransom myself with them into freedom.

Now I wish that we could live together for a while: for my eyes (which are still being treated with an atropine cure) forbid me to communicate by letter, even if it were possible; which I, however, doubt.1

You are going to Davos on October 1st, and I, on the same day, to Italy, to regain my health in Sorrento, living together with my esteemed friend Fräulein von Meysenbug (do you know her "Memoirs of an Idealist"? Stuttgart 1875)2 and a friend and a student3 accompanying me there — we all have a house together and, moreover, all higher interests in common: it will be a kind of monastery for freer spirits. I do not want to conceal that the friend mentioned is the author of an anonymous, very remarkable book "Psychological Observations" (Berlin Carl Duncker 1875)[.]4

Why am I telling you this? O you guess my silent hope: — we will stay in Sorrento for about a year. Then I will return to Basel, unless I build my monastery somewhere, I mean "the school of educators" (where they educate themselves) in a higher style.

With all my heart your devoted Friedr. Nietzsche

1. Nietzsche's opthamologist and colleague at Basel, Johann Heinrich Schieß-Gemuseus (1833-1914), prescribed an atropine cure.
2. Malwida von Meysenbug, Memoiren einer Idealistin. Stuttgart: Auerbach, 1876. Bd. 1. Bd. 2. Bd. 3.
3. Paul Rée (1849-1901) and Albert Brenner (1856-1878).
4. Paul Rée's anonymously published work, Psychologische Beobachtungen. Aus dem Nachlaß von * * *. [Psychological Observations. From the Postumous Writings of * * *.] Berlin: Duncker, 1875. Cf. Basel, 10-22-1875: Letter to Paul Rée.

 


Portrait of Richard Wagner.
By: Franz Seraph von Lenbach.
Ca. 1878.
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, September 27, 1876:
Letter to Richard Wagner.

Highly esteemed friend!

It was a pleasure to do the small task you gave me: it reminded me of the times at Tribschen.1 I now have time to think about things past, far and near, since I sit a lot in a dark room, due to an atropine treatment for my eyes that was found to be necessary after my return home.2 The autumn, after this summer, is more autumn for me, and probably not for me alone, than any previous one. Behind the great events lies a streak of blackest melancholy,3 from which one certainly cannot escape soon enough to Italy or to work or both. When I think of you in Italy, I recall that it was there that you got the inspiration for the beginning of the Rheingold music. May it always remain the land of beginnings for you! So then you will be rid of the Germans for a while, and this seems to be necessary every so often in order to be able to really do something for them.

Perhaps you know that I am going to Italy next month too, but not, as I said, into a land of beginnings, but of the end of my sufferings. These are again at a climax; it is really high time: my authorities know what they are doing by giving me an entire year of leave, although this sacrifice is disproportionately great for such a small community; for they would lose me one way or another if they did not give me this way out; in the last few years, thanks to the forbearance of my temperament, I have swallowed pain after pain, as if I were born for that and nothing else. To the philosophy which teaches something like this, I have paid my practical tribute in abundance. This neuralgia goes to work so thoroughly, so scientifically, it literally probes the limit to what extent I can bear the pain, and each time it takes thirty hours for this examination. Every four to eight days I have to count on a recurrance of this study: you see, it is a scholar's illness; — but now I'm sick of it and I want to live healthily or not live at all. Complete quiet, mild air, walks, dark rooms — that's what I expect from Italy; I dread having to see or hear anything there. Do not think that I am morose; not illnesses, only people can upset me, and I always have the most helpful, considerate friends around me. First, after my return, the moralist Dr. Rée, now the musician Köselitz, the same person who is writing this letter; I will also name Frau Baumgartner among the good friends; perhaps you will be glad to hear that the French translation by this woman of my last work (R[ichard] W[agner] i[n] B[ayreuth]) will be printed next month.4

If the "spirit" came over me, I would write a travel blessing for you; but this stork has not built its nest on me lately: which is forgivable. So then please accept my heartfelt wishes which may follow you as good companions: you and your respected wife, my "noblest friend," to steal from the Jew Bernays one of his most impermissible Germanisms.5

Loyally as always,
your
Friedrich Nietzsche.

1. When the Wagners resided in the Landhaus Tribschen near Lucerne, Cosima Wagner often sent requests to Nietzsche to purchase things in Basel shops, which were better stocked than those in Lucerne. But, in this case, Richard Wagner sent a 09-23-1876 telegram to Nietzsche asking him to purchase "zweier Paar seiedeneren unterjacke und hosen" (two pairs of silk vests and underpants[!]), and send them to Italy, where he was traveling after the financial failure of the August 1876 Bayreuth Festival.
2. Nietzsche's opthamologist and colleague at Basel, Johann Heinrich Schieß-Gemuseus (1833-1914), prescribed an atropine cure.
3. Both Wagner and Nietzsche were escaping to Italy, and from each other.
4. Marie Baumgartner (1831-1897) translated into French Nietzsche's Richard Wagner in Bayreuth.
5. A pandering, yet ironic allusion (possibly influenced by Paul Rée) to Cosima Wagner's anti-Semitism. Michael Bernays (1834-1897) was a frequent guest at Wahnfried, the Wagner's residence in Bayreuth. His collected letters (Briefe von und an Michael Bernays. Berlin: Behr, 1907) reveal a fervent admiration for Wagner and his music. However, in typical fashion, Cosima dismissed him as, to put it bluntly, an arrogant Jew. See Eric Werner, "Jews around Richard and Cosima Wagner." In: The Musical Quarterly. Vol. 71, No. 2 (1985), 172-199 (195). "After Nietzsche's complete break with Wagner, the true reasons of which have come to light only most recently [...] he searched for a 'replacement' — and he found it in the learned Michael Bernays, the foremost Goethe scholar of his time [...]. Bernays, the younger son of the revered chief rabbi [Isaac] Bernays [1792-1849] of Hamburg, was an eloquent orator and renowned scholar. He also was completely assimilated: when a very young man he had converted to Christianity. Wagner listened respectfully to his lectures and theories. Cosima, however, was bored to death with Bernays' pomposity, and quite a few of her malicious anti-Semitic remarks were directed toward him. This was in sharp contrast to her attraction to Nietzsche whose genius she recognized — and later forgot." In addition, Michael Bernays was the brother of Jacob Bernays (1824-1881), a fellow philologist whom Nietzsche greatly admired — until he identified Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy as an exaggerated offshoot of his own work. Cosima informed Nietzsche of Jacob Bernay's comments in her 12-04-1872 letter to Nietzsche: "Dass das Buch vergriffen sei, hörte ich mit wirklicher Freude; ich weiss nur aus der Nachbarschaft dass Roggenbach und seine Freundin, die Fürstin Neuwied, es lesen, und dass [Jacob] Berneis erklärt hat: es enthielte seine Anschauungen, nur übertrieben!" (I heard with real pleasure that your book was out of stock; I only know from the neighbors that [Franz] Roggenbach and his girlfriend, Princess [Marie von] Neuwied, read it, and that [Jacob] Bernays said: it contained his views, only exaggerated!).

 


Louise Ott.
From tinted photograph by M. Vollenweider.1
Strasbourg, France, 1876.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Sorrento, Villa Rubinacci. December 16, [1876]:
Letter to Louise Ott.

You have, I hope, remained well, my dear friend, because for so long I have owed you lots of details about my whereabouts and what I'm publishing. But all my friends have felt the same way as you, I could not and should not do otherwise — my unbearable headaches, for which I have found no effective remedy, force me tacitly to renounce amicable communication. Even today I only make an exception to the rule and fear that I will have to pay for it myself. But I would really like to hear something from you, and perhaps something in detail — give me this Christmas treat. The French translation of my work on R. Wagner2 will be on its way and hopefully it will arrive at your place by Christmas — a new bit of intrusiveness like this letter in order to get a few lines — no, several lines from you.

In our small circle3 there is a lot of reflection, friendship, meditation, hope, in short a whole lot of happiness together; I feel this despite all the pain and the dire prospect for my health. Perhaps there is still a little more luck in the world, but for the time being I wish everyone from the bottom of my heart that it may happen to them like us, like me: they can then be content.

Recently it occurred to me that you, my friend, might want to write a little novel and give it to me to read: one surveys so well what one has and what one wishes of life and in doing so one certainly does not become more unhappy — that is the effect of art. At any rate, it would make one wiser as well. — Perhaps it is foolish advice: if so, tell me that you laughed at me; I would be delighted to hear that.

Hearty greetings from your
friend
F.N.

1. Moritz Emil Vollenweider (?-1899): Swiss photographer, with studios in Bern, Strasbourg, and later Algiers. Vollenweider and his four sons were something of a dynasty in the world of 19th-century Swiss photography. He was a founding member, and the first president of the Schweizerischer Photographen-Verein (Swiss Photographers Association) from 1886-1888.
2. Marie Baumgartner (1831-1897) translated into French Nietzsche's Richard Wagner in Bayreuth.
3. Nietzsche, Paul Rée (1849-1901), Albert Brenner (1856-1878), and Malwida von Meysenbug (1816-1903).

 



Cosima Wagner.
Ca. 1877.
From b/w photo by Elliott and Fry.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

[Sorrento, December 19, 1876]:
Letter to Cosima Wagner.
 

Most esteemed Frau!

Your birthday is here and I don't know a word with which I can think of to coincide with your feelings. Wishes? Congratulations? — I hardly understand these words any longer when I think of you; once one has learned to take life greatly, the difference between happiness and unhappiness falls away, and one even gets beyond "wishes." Everything that your life now depends on must have happened, as it happened, and especially the whole of post-Bayreuth1 at present cannot be represented differently than it is, for it corresponds to the whole of pre-Bayreuth; what was previously miserable and desolate is still there now, and what was great has remained, even more so now. We can only celebrate days like yours, not congratulate you for them. From year to year one grows quieter and in the end one no longer says a serious word about personal matters.

The difference from my current way of life, forced by being ill, is so great that the last 8 years almost slip my mind and the previous lifetimes with similar years of hardship, which I had not even thought of, come to the fore. Almost every night I am involved in dreams with long-forgotten people, especially with the dead. Childhood, boyhood and school years are quite present to me; by considering previous goals and what I actually achieved, it struck me that in everything I actually achieved I went far beyond the hopes and general wishes of youth; that on the other hand I was only able to achieve on average only a third of everything that I had intentionally resolved to do. It is likely to remain that way in the future. If I were completely healthy — who knows if I would not broadly set adventurous tasks for myself? In the meantime I am forced to lower the sails a little. For the next few years in Basel I have resolved to complete some philological work, and friend Köselitz2 has agreed to be helpful to me as a secretary, reading and writing things down (since my eyes are as good as gone)[.] Philologica are in order again, so something more difficult awaits me: will you be astonished if I confess to you a difference with Schopenhauer's teaching that has gradually arisen, and of which I have almost suddenly become aware? I am not on his side in almost all general propositions; already when I was writing about Sch[openhauer], I noticed that I was beyond anything dogmatic in him; for me, the human being was everything. In the meantime my "reason" has been very active3 — that's why life has become a degree more difficult again, the burden has become greater! How will one bear it until the end?

Do you know that my teacher Ritschl4 has died? I got the news almost at the same time as the news of the death of my grandmother and of Gerlach,5 my close philology colleague at Basel. I even received a letter this year from Ritschl6 confirming the touching impression that I got from his earlier dealings with me: he had remained warmly trusting and loyal to me, even if he had a temporary difficulty in our relations, indeed, a respectful separation being inevitable. I owe to him the only essential benefit of my life, my position in Basel as professor of philology: I owe it to his freedom of thought, his sharp-sightedness and helpfulness for young people. The last great philologist died with him; he left behind around 2,000 students who are named after him, including about 30 university professors.

While I have to end my letter (I am not allowed to write), it occurs to me that Frau Marie Baumgartner7 has asked me to send the French Schopenhauer translation back; her address is: Lörrach, Großherzogth. Baden.

In faithful adoration
your
Friedrich Nietzsche

Sorrento
Villa Rubinacci.

I forgot the respects of Dr. Rée.

1. Allusion to the financial failure of the August 1876 Bayreuth Festival.
2. Heinrich Köselitz (1854-1918) became Nietzsche's "editor" and proofreader in 1876, after having copied the manuscript Richard Wagner in Bayreuth as a birthday gift for Richard Wagner.
3. Allusion to Nietzsche's preliminary work for Menschliches Allzumenschliches (Human, All Too Human).
4. Friedrich Ritschl (1806-1876): Nietzsche's philology professor at the University of Bonn and the University of Leipzig.
5. Franz Dorotheus Gerlach (1793-1876), who retired from the Basel Paedagogium in 1870 after fifty years of service teaching Latin.
6. Leipzig, 01-14-1876: Letter from Friedrich Ritschl to Nietzsche in Basel.
7. Marie Baumgartner (1831-1897) translated into French Nietzsche's Richard Wagner in Bayreuth.

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