Basel, March 1, 1879:
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?
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.
— 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.
Basel, March 21, 1879:
Flowing from my source
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.
Basel, April 5, 1879:
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
1. The letter is lost.
Geneva, April 6, 1879:
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.
Geneva, April 11, 1879:
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 I'll stay here as long as I possibly can.
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?
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.
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).
Basel, May 2, 1879:
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
1. Carl Burckhardt (1803-1901), President of Basel University's board of trustees (1874-1890).
St. Moritz, End July, 1879:
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
1. That is, Paul Rée.