Nietzsche's Letters | 1878This page in German© The Nietzsche Channel

Nietzsche's Letters


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Paul Heinrich Widemann.
Ca. 1928.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, New Year's Day 1878:
Dedication1 to Paul Heinrich Widemann.2

This work, originally a present from Richard Wagner which I received in Tribschen in 1869, when, for the first time, I celebrated Christmas with him there, I place today in the hands of Herr Paul Widemann, both to give him a token of my warm and deep appreciation, and to know a pledge of his remembrance of me is in his possession. May this excellent friend always be aware that I will remain faithful in hope of his ability and his art, faithful in his great strength, inventiveness and perseverance. Indeed, the day will come when everything hoped for and believed will be fulfilled!

Friedrich Nietzsche

1. Dedication in a copy of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Master-Singers of Nuremberg).
2. Paul Heinrich Widemann (1851-1928): Nietzsche's former student and friend of Heinrich Köselitz. His father was the lawyer for Ernst Schmeitzner, Nietzsche's publisher at the time.


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

Basel, June 11, 1878:
Postcard to Reinhart von Seydlitz.

It is very endearing and desirable to me that one of my friends does a good and kind turn to W[agner]: for I am less and less able (since he is, after all — an old inflexible man) to please him.1 His aspirations and mine go their separate ways. This hurts me considerably — but in the service of truth one must be prepared for any sacrifice. By the way, if he knew about everything I have in my heart in opposition to his art and aims, he would consider me one of his worst enemies — which, as is well known, I am not. — My last letter, was it very obscure? In regard to via mala2 consequences, I was referring to my views3 on morality and art (which are the most rigid that my sense of truthfulness has up to now wrested from me!). — In 14 days we'll have a great dissolution of our household:4 my dear sister is now going to return forever to my mother. — My most sincere thanks for the Hamdelied: who is the translator?5

F.N and L.N.

1. Richard Wagner (1813-1883) and Nietzsche had been friends since 1868.
2. A treacherous path in Switzerland, even dating back to Roman times.
3. The ones expressed in Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human.
4. Nietzsche's sister kept house for him.
5. The "Song of Hamdir," from the Edda, translator unknown.


Carl Fuchs.
B/w photo by Ernst Ulrich.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, shortly before end of June, 1878:
Letter to Carl Fuchs.

You are one of the very first, dear and esteemed Herr Doctor, who calls my book1 practical: I am very happy about it, for it proves to me that the blessing — which I thus proved to myself — is also contractible. Now, do you not feel in retrospect a bit of mountain air —; it is a little colder around us, but how much freer and purer than in the mist of the valley! I at least feel more vigorous and more determined than ever toward all good things — also ten times more gentle towards people than in the time of my earler writings. In sum and as for the smallest details: I now dare to pursue wisdom itself and dare to be a philosopher in my own right; in the past, I idolized philosophers.2 Many exhilirating and enthusiastic things waned: but I have exchanged them for much better things. All the metaphysical contortions finally got to me, so that I felt a squeezing around my throat, as if I had to be suffocated.

A lot must have happened deep down within you, which certainly makes it plausible to me that we, especially on our new footing,3 will have to be good friends. You are now sailing into an unknown new sea; it even does me good to think that I have not spoiled your courage in the process, that you appreciate my freethinking, ,4 even to use it as a fair wind.

And isn't my face yet again Nietzschean and no longer Bülowian to you?5

The orchestra in your hands and under your intellectual guidance — is to me a very pleasant notion. Then it must enter the entire plan of your life: "at the end is sense," "at the beginning was nonsense": a saying that I find altogether magnificent.6

Remain kind to me!

Always devoted to you, even though my eyes force me to counter your rich letters with ungrateful silence. But you will also really appreciate this — once we actually appreciate ourselves.

F. N.

1. Human, All Too Human.
2. Namely, Arthur Schopenhauer. See the entry for Schopenhauer in Nietzsche's Library.
3. They had a personal dispute in the past, stemming from an encounter at the first Bayreuth Festival in the summer of 1876, at which time Nietzsche vented his frustrations about Fuchs hanging around Richard Wagner merely to get ahead professionally and purely out of self-interest. Fuchs was greatly offended and this led to a break in their correspondence.
4. "to emon pneuma": my wind or "spirit." Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:18: "For they have refreshed my spirit and yours [anepausan gar to emon pneuma kai to humōn]: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such."
5. Nietzsche's musical suggestions and criticisms reminded Fuchs of those given to him by Hans von Bülow, under whom he studied piano while a student in Berlin in the early 1860s. In his letter of the third week of May 1878, Fuchs wrote: "Manchmal ist mir gewesen als sähe ich H. von Bülow's Gesicht und hörte ihn reden." (It reminded me at times of when I saw H. von Bülow's face and heard him speak.)
6. See Fuchs' letter, and Mixed Opinions and Maxims, 22: Historia in nuce. — Die ernsthafteste Parodie, die ich je hörte, ist diese: "im Anfang war der Unsinn, und der Unsinn war, bei Gott!, und Gott (göttlich) war der Unsinn." (History in a nutshell. — The most serious parody that I have ever heard is this: "in the beginning was the nonsense, and the nonsense was, by god!, and god (divine) was the nonsense.") Cf. John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."


Mathilde Maier (1834-1910).
As a young woman.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, July 15, 1878:
Letter to Mathilde Maier.

Most respected Fräulein,

It can't be helped: I have to cause all my friends distress — just by finally expressing how I got myself out of distress. That metaphysical befogging of all things true and simple, the struggle with reason against reason, which wants to see in each and every thing a wonder and an absurdity — along with an altogether corresponding baroque art of overexcitement and glorified extravagance — I mean the art of Wagner: both these things finally made me more and more ill, and practically alienated me from my good temperament and my natural ability. I wish you could feel in what pure mountain air, with what a gentle mood toward people who still dwell in the mist of the valley, I now live, more than ever ready for all the good and sound things, a hundred paces closer to the Greeks than ever before: how I myself, down to the smallest detail, now aspire to live, whereas before I only revered and idolized the wise — in short, if you could empathize with this change and crisis, oh then you would have to wish to experience something similar!

I became fully aware of this in the summer1 at Bayreuth: I fled, after the first performances which I attended,2 away into the mountains, and there, in a small village3 in the forest, developed the first draft, about a third of my book,4 then entitled "The Plowshare." Then I returned, acting upon my sister's wishes, to Bayreuth and now had the inner composure to endure the unendurable — and silently, before everyone! — Now I have shaken off what does not pertain to me, people, friends and enemies alike, habits comforts books; I live in solitude for years to come, until once more, as a philosopher of life, ripened and ready, I may associate with people (and then probably have to do so)

Will you, in spite of everything, remain as kind to me as you were or rather, will you be able to do so? You see, I have attained such a degree of honesty that I can endure only the absolutely purest of human relationships. I avoid half-friendships and especially partisan affiliations, I want no adherents. Let everyone be his (and her) own true adherent!

Your cordially devoted
and grateful F. N.

1. 1876.
2. Rehearsals of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung and Die Walküre.
3. Klingenbrunn.
4. Human, All Too Human.

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