Nietzsche's Letters | 1879This page in German© The Nietzsche Channel

Nietzsche's Letters


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Heinrich Köselitz.
From b/w photo, Venice, 1878.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, March 1, 1879:
Letter to Heinrich Köselitz.

Now, my dear, kind, helpful friend, the only thing remaining for you is the correction1 of me — in Venice! My condition has again been awful, close to unbearable. "Whether I can travel?" For me, many times the question was: Whether I would still be alive by then?

Tentative program.

I will arrive in Venice on Tuesday March 25 at 7:45 in the evening and you will take me on board. Right? You will hire a private apartment for me (room with a nice warm bed): peaceful. If possible one with a balcony or a flat roof, at your place or mine where we can sit together, etc.

I do not wish to be a casual sightseer. — Instead, to sit in St. Mark's Square in the sunshine and listen to military music. I shall listen to Mass at St. Mark's every feast day. I shall silently stroll about the publ[ic] gardens.

Good figs to eat. Also oysters. Just like you, the man of experience. I shall take no meals at the hotel. —

Utmost silence. I shall bring a few books with me. Warm baths at Barbese (I have the address). —

You will get the first complete copy of the book.2 Read it again now from start to finish: thus you will recognize yourself as the book's reviser (and me too: in the end, I caused myself much pain to produce it)

Good heavens, it is perhaps my last production. — It strikes me as having a bold composure within it.

If you only knew how kindly and with what gratitude I always think of and speak about you! And all the hopes I have for you!

Now you may be my good shepherd and physician in Venice: but it bothers me to think that I am again going to cause you a lot of trouble. But I will take up as little of your time as possible, that I promise.

Sincerely grateful
Your friend Nietzsche

— I would very much like to be able to travel, but don't believe I can yet.

Apartment for 4 weeks (approx. 30-40 frs.). I would then like to see Venice, whether I could live there for a long time (also very cheaply —), if and when I have to resign my position in Basel.

I will take advantage of your footsteps.

Your friend N.

1. Nietzsche's joke is that due to his poor eyesight, Köselitz had to proofread all of his manuscripts; now that his latest book (Mixed Opinions and Maxims) was finished, all that remained to be "corrected" was Nietzsche himself — when he visited Köselitz in Venice. Unfortunately, Nietzsche's health would prevent him from making the journey.
2. Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche (Mixed Opinions and Maxims).


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

Basel, March 21, 1879:
Dedicatory poem to Paul Heinrich Widemann.1

Flowing from my source
Fully and purely
Deep and clear:
Thus all good spirits
Come to you
For a rendezvous.2

For his friend Herr Widemann, written by F. N. on the 21st March, 1879.

1. 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.
2. Dedication in Widemann's copy of Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche (Mixed Opinions and Maxims).


Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897).
From b/w photo by W. Spemann, Stuttgart.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, April 5, 1879:
Letter from Jacob Burckhardt.

Your short letter1 arrived at a moment when I was about to take an excursion merely for the sake of pleasant relaxation, while you, dear and esteemed friend, are obliged to suffer so! May the climate of Geneva at least grant you some relief! If a bise noire2 should come, then you should certainly take refuge in the eastern corner of the lake.

I duly received the supplement3 to "Human, All Too Human" from Schmeitzner and have read and chewed through it with new astonishment at the free plenitude of your mind. As is well known, I have never penetrated into the temple of literal thinking,4 but have all my life amused myself in the court and halls of the peribolos,5 where reigns the figurative in the broadest sense of the word. And now in your book, even for such a careless pilgrim as I am, the richest things are offered up on every page. But where I cannot keep up, I watch with a mixture of fear and pleasure how confidently you wander about the dizzying rocky cliffs, and try to form a picture of what you must see in the vastness and in the depths.

What would happen if La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyère and Vauvenargues were to read your book in Hades? and what would old Montaigne say?6 In the meantime, I know a number of maxims that would make La Rochefoucauld, e.g., really envy you.

With sincere thanks and best wishes for your well-being

J. Burckhardt.

1. The letter is lost.
2. The north-east wind that whips up the surface waters of Lake Geneva.
3. Vermischte Meinungen und Sprüche (Mixed Opinions and Maxims).
4. Tempel des eigentlichen Denkens.
5. An enclosed court surrounding a temple, providing shelter from inclement weather.
6. The French moralists, François de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680), Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696), Luc de Clapiers de Vauvenargues (1715-1747), Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592).


Marie Baumgartner (1831-1897).
From b/w photo, 1866.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Geneva, April 6, 1879:
Postcard to Marie Baumgartner.

Palm Sunday, which I spend every year with childlike emotions and a childlike desire for new delights, and which consequently becomes more an annual day of melancholy, brought me your greetings and M[érimée]'s sequel — I'm very grateful for both.1 M[érimée] is an artist of the first rank and as a person so determined to be bright and to be seen as bright: he is really good for me. And you have "painted while in pain," like that painter who signed his paintings in doloribus pinxi, you poor good woman!2 — In the afternoon, another letter arrived, one from Jacob Burckhardt, a real palm branch and embarrassing for me.3 Accept my good side, as you do my bad. Like a rejoicing friend, right?4

1. Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870): French writer, archaeologist and historian. In a March 1, 1879 letter to Baumgartner, Nietzsche asked her to translate the "gelegentl[ichen] litterarischen Urtheile Mérimées aus den lettres à une inconnue" (contemporary literary judgments of Mérimée from the Lettres à une inconnue). The works in question are: 1. Lettres à une inconnue. Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, 1874. 2. its sequel, Lettres à une autre inconnue. Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, 1875. See the entry for Mérimée in Nietzsche's Library.
2. An allusion to King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, who, during his sleepless nights, painted portraits and signed them: "Fredericus Wilhelmus in tormentis pinxit" (Painted by Friedrich Wilhelm in his torments).
3. See Burckhardt's letter above.
4. "als mitfreuende Freundin?" Cf. From Nietzsche's Notebooks, October—December 1876 19[9]: "14. Die welche sich mit uns freuen können, stehen höher und uns näher als die welche mit uns leiden. Mitfreude macht den "Freund" (den Mitfreuenden), Mitleid den Leidensgefährten. — Eine Ethik des Mitleidens braucht eine Ergänzung durch die noch höhere Ethik der Freundschaft." (14. Those who can rejoice with us, are higher and closer to us than those who suffer with us. Shared joy makes the "friend" (the rejoicers), compassion the fellow sufferers. — An ethic of compassion needs to be supplemented by an even higher ethic of friendship.)


Franz Overbeck.
By: Jacob Höflinger.
From b/w photo, Basel, ca. 1880.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Geneva, April 11, 1879:
Postcard to Franz Overbeck.

Dear friend, now we have one wish in common: that someone summarize and revive the ample philosophy of antiquity about friendship: it has to resonate like several hundred bells. — For Easter, I've considered the worthy hospitality in Zürich1 (if I live). — I've put in safekeeping the Hamburg letter: it contains the ordered lottery ticket2 for which I have made a deposit in Basel. — A letter of [Carl] Fuchs has the postmark "Danzig," another from [Paul] Rée bears the postmark "Tütz." — Ceterum censeo Basileam esse derelinquendam.3 I have all kinds of judgments on the various regions of Switzerland: it's agreed that Basel has a bad depressing air conducive to headaches. For years there I have never had an entirely [headache-]free head, like, e.g., I have had here for several days. Consequently: I can tolerate reading and writing for only up to 20 minutes. Ergo: Academia derelinquenda est.4 What do you think?

Hearty greetings
Your F. N.

I'll stay here as long as I possibly can.

1. Overbeck's mother-in-law, Louise Rothpletz, invited Nietzsche to spend Easter in Zürich at her home.
2. Nietzsche played the Hamburg lottery 35 times before giving it up in June (see 06-23-1879 letter to Franz Overbeck).
3. "Moreover, I think Basel should be forsaken." A play on Cato the Elder's "ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam." (Moreover, I think Carthage should be destroyed.)
4. "Academia is to be forsaken."


Elisabeth Nietzsche (1846-1935).
From b/w photo, 1875.
Colorized and enhanced image
©The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, April 25, 1879:
Letter to Franziska and Elisabeth Nietzsche.

Since my last [post]card things have gone from bad to worse, in Geneva as well as in Basel, where I returned last Monday. Attack upon attack, there and here. Until now, unable to deliver lectures. — Yesterday [Dr.] Schieß1 confirmed a new significant decline in my eyesight since the last examination. —

Your content-rich and light-hearted letters still reached me in Geneva. I thank you with all my heart for them.


1. Nietzsche's opthamologist and colleague at Basel, Johann Heinrich Schieß-Gemuseus (1833-1914).



Cathedral and gardens, 1907.
© The Nietzsche Channel.

Basel, May 2, 1879:
Letter to Carl Burckhardt.1

Highly esteemed Herr President!

The state of my health, for the sake of which I have already had to appeal to you several times, makes me take the final step today and request to be allowed to resign from my present position as a teacher at the university. The extreme headaches that are still increasing, from which I suffer through two- to six-day attacks, the ever greater loss of time, and the newly observed (by Herr Prof. Schiess2) significant decline in my eyesight, which allows me barely twenty minutes to read and to write without pain — all of these things force me to admit that I am no longer fit for my academic duties, indeed cannot even perform them from now on, all this after I, in recent years, had to allow myself some irregularity in the performance of these duties, each time to my great regret. It would turn out to be disadvantageous to our university and to its philological studies, if I were any longer to hold a position to which I am now no longer equal; nor do I have any prospect of being able to count on any rapid improvement in my headaches, which has become a chronic condition, since for years I have made attempt after attempt to get rid of them and have managed my life accordingly in the strictest way, with every kind of privation — in vain, as I have to confess today, when I no longer believe in being able to withstand my suffering much longer. So it only remains for me, in accordance with §20 of the university regulations, to declare with deep regret the request for my resignation, along with my thanks to the main governing board for the many signs of kind indulgence given me since the first day of my appointment up to the present.

Meanwhile, highly esteemed Herr President, begging you to be the spokesman for my petition,3 I am and remain with especial admiration

Very sincerely yours
Dr Friedrich Nietzsche
Professor o. p.


1. Carl Burckhardt (1831-1901), President of Basel University's board of trustees (1874-1890).
2. Nietzsche's opthamologist and colleague at Basel, Johann Heinrich Schieß-Gemuseus (1833-1914).
3. The petition was granted on June 14, 1879. Nietzsche received the following letters regarding his request:

Basel, June 14, 1879: Letter from R. Falkner.*

The Governing Council of the Canton of the City of Basel

in accordance with the petition of the Department of Education which since Easter 1869 has employed at the Pedagogium and as a professor of Greek language and literature, Dr. ph. Fr Nietzsche, who for health considerations has solicited this petition, grants dismissal at the end of the current month, attesting to the excellent manner in which he discharged his duties, with the sincere thanks of the authorities, and approves him for the next six years a pension of one thousand francs a year.

The President of the Governing Council
R. Falkner

L. S. [locus sigili] The Clerk of the Canton

* Rudolf Falkner (1827-1898): President of the Governing Council (1875-1894).
** Christian Friedrich Göttisheim (1837-1896): Clerk of the Canton (1875-1882).

Basel, June 16, 1879: Letter from Paul Speiser*

Highly esteemed sir,

by delivering to you the document, whereby the Governing Council grants your petition to resign, we express for our part our warmest thanks for the loyal devotion with which you have worked at our university and pedagogium, as long as and to the extent to which this was still possible. We also indulge in the hope that the affliction that, to our great regret, has put your activities for the time being in abeyance, will soon give way to the silent effect of time and repose. May your patience not be put to too severe a test!

Please accept, Herr Professor, the assurance of our genuine esteem

In the name of the Education Council
The Director of the Department of Education
Dr. Paul Speiser
The Secretary H. Zehntner **

* Paul Speiser-Sarasin (1846-1935).
** Heinrich Zehntner-Weber (1824-1899).


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

St. Moritz, End July, 1879:
Letter to Paul Rée.

My beloved friend, you know very well on the whole how everything stands with me. A few times I have escaped death's door, but terribly tormented — thus I live from day to day, each day having its own tale of illness. I now breathe the best and most terrific air in Europe, and love the place in which I reside: St. Moritz in Graubünden. Its nature is akin to mine, we have no surprises between us, but rather confide in one another. Perhaps it's a good thing — anyway, I think it's a little better here than elsewhere.

September and the first part of October are supposed to be the most beautiful here — there are wishes for my very longed-for friend,1 but I will not be presumptuous. For our get-together — if I should live to see this happiness — much is prepared by me. Also a light wooden box of books is ready for that moment, entitled Réealia, and there are good things in it, about which you will be delighted.

Could you send me an instructive book, if possible of English origin, but translated into German and with good large type?2 — I live entirely without books, since seven-eighths-blind, but I would gladly take the forbidden fruit from your hand.

Long live the conscience, because it will now have a history, and my friend has become a historian.3 Happiness and health on your journey!4

Heartily close to you
And wishing you the most
beneficial things for your health.

Tell me a word about plans for the winter.

Addr[ess]: St. Moritz
Graubünden (Switzerland
poste restante
Friedrich Nietzsche, formerly Professor
now fugitivus errans.5

1. That is, Paul Rée.
2. Nietzsche did not read English, and gained his knowledge of English philosophy from German translations and summaries.
3. Paul Rée's Die Entstehung des Gewissens (The Origin of the Conscience), was published in 1885.
4. The letter was addressed to Paul Rée in Nassau, Germany, where he was taking a hydrotherapy treatment (see his End July 1879 letter to Nietzsche).
5. A wandering fugitive. This final postscript was appended to a retouched photograph of Nietzsche that was published in Lou Salomé's Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken. Wien: Konegen, 1894. Salomé obviously snipped the postscript from the letter given to her by Paul Rée.

Nietzsche's Letters | 1879This page in German© The Nietzsche Channel

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