Nietzsche's Letters | 1881This page in German© The Nietzsche Channel

Nietzsche's Letters


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Paul Rée.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Sils-Maria, July 8, 1881:
Postcard to Paul Rée.

So let's just carry on!1 In the end, my dear brave friend, we're a pair of capable swimmers. All the world thinks we've already drowned, but we come to the surface again, and even bring something up from the depths, something which, in our opinion, is valuable and which for once, perhaps, other people will also find lustrous. I have just put a dangerous time behind me, and am back in the Engadine, my old haven of salvation:2 "still not bereft of the body,"3 and as for the soul, well, read the book that our publisher has sent you.4 Sometimes I feel as if I gaze upon things and people like someone long-dead — they move me, frighten and delight me, but I am quite remote from them. Eternally bereft and yet

So close to you: —
Faithfully F.N.

1. Unknown reference, probably to a letter from Rée.
2. Nietzsche's first visit to the Engadine for recuperation was from June 21 to Sept. 17, 1879, when he stayed in St. Moritz. He stayed in Sils-Maria for the first time from July 4 to October 1, 1881.
3. "des Leibes noch nicht ledig": cf. Gottfried August Bürger, "Lenore": "Geduld! Geduld! Wenn's Herz auch bricht! / Mit Gott im Himmel! hadre nicht! / Das Leibes bist du ledig; / Gott sei der Seele gnädig!" (Patience! Patience! Though your heart is breaking! / Quarrel not with God in heaven! / Bereft of your body, / God have mercy on your soul!)
4. Ernst Schmeitzner had just published Nietzsche's Morgenröthe (Dawn).


Title page of Pierre Foissac's
Meteorologie mit Rücksicht auf die Lehre vom Kosmos.
Deutsch von A. H. Emsmann. Leipzig: Wigand, 1859.

Genoa, October 28, 1881:
Postcard to Franz Overbeck.

Will you, dear friend, send me the following book in a postal wrapper (through your Leipzig bookseller, perhaps arranged so that I can contact him directly with my book orders, and that payments can be made at the same time as yours)?

Foissac, Meteorologie, Deutsch von Emsmann.
Leipzig 1859.1

(It is due to the terrible effects of atmospheric electricity on me — they will yet drive me over the earth, there must be better living conditions for my nature. E.g. on the high plateaus of Mexico, on the Pacific Ocean side (Swiss colony "New Bern"). Very, very, very tormented, day after day.

Your Fr.

1. Pierre Foissac (1801-1885), physician and natural scientist: Meteorologie mit Rücksicht auf die Lehre vom Kosmos und in ihren Beziehungen zur Medicin und allgemeinen Gesundheitslehre. Ein von dem Institute zu Paris gekröntes Werk von P. Foissac Professor der Medicin an der medicinischen Facultät zu Paris, Ritter etc. Mit Zustimmung des Verfassers deutsch bearbeitet und mit Anmerkungen versehen von Dr. A. H. Emsmann Professor in Stettin. Leipzig: O. Wigand, 1859. VIEW BOOK.


Gotthard Tunnel breakthrough.
Göschenen, March 1, 1880.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Genoa, November 14, 1881:
Letter to Franz Overbeck.

My dear friend, what is this our life? A boat that swims in the sea, and all one knows for certain about it is that one day it will capsize. Here we are, two good old boats that have been faithful neighbors, and above all your hand has done its best to keep me from "capsizing"! Let us then continue our voyage — each for the other's sake, for a long time yet, a long time! — we should miss each other so much! Tolerably calm seas and good winds and above all sun — what I wish for myself, I wish for you, too; and am sorry that my gratitude can find expression only in such a wish and has no influence at all on wind or weather!

Foissac1 arrived, fast and cheap, procured from your bookseller: this medical meteorology, although crowned by the academy, unfortunately is but a science in its infancy and for my personal affliction only a dozen questions more. Perhaps we know more now — I should have been at the electricity exhibition in Paris, partly to learn the latest findings, partly as an item of the exhibition: for as one who senses electrical changes and as a so-called weather prophet I am a match for the monkeys and am probably a "specialty." Could Hagenbach2 possibly tell us what clothing (or chains, rings, etc.) would be the best protection against these excessive effects? After all, I cannot always hang in a silken hammock! Better really hang oneself! And quite radically!

When is the Gotthard tunnel going to be finished? When can it be used? It will bring me to you and to the doctors (ophthalmologists and dentists included); I have caught sight of a long consultation. (This tunnel is built at the gates of the Genoese, they are very grateful, indeed, they are now on that account courteous towards any Swiss.)3

My eyesight is failing more and more — the extraordinary painfulness of the briefest habits keeps me absolutely removed from scholarship (not to mention my severe weak-sightedness). For how long have I been unable to read! I have not read Romundt's book4 — but after a critical glance I think it is sneakiness5 on forbidden, forbidden to us, pathways — I don't like that! —

Paesiello's masterpiece is the matrimonio segreto6: then came Cimarosa and once again he composed music for the same text, and behold! it was his masterpiece too.7 And now comes Köselitz and — this is the latest one — he composed music for it for the third time and is essentially finished. What the text deserves — that daring and boldness of thought — has given me pause. As well as I know K[öselitz], I am pleased with this character trait: presumptuousness and audacity are very foreign to him. — — "Nacht o holde" has affected you perhaps somewhat differently than me, judging by your words — and so it is natural.8 Enough, both times it was an impression, which ended in honor of the composer. —

With a request from me to present your dear wife with the most heartfelt greetings, I remain your friend

Friedr. Nietzsche.

1. Pierre Foissac, Meteorologie mit Rücksicht auf die Lehre vom Kosmos. Deutsch von A. H. Emsmann. Leipzig: Wigand, 1859. VIEW BOOK.
2. Eduard Hagenbach-Bischoff (1833-1910): Professor of Physics at Basel University.
3. The completion of the Gotthard Tunnel increased commercial traffic through the port of Genoa at the expense of Marseille. Full train service started in May 1882.
4. Heinrich Romundt (1845-1919), their friend and former housemate who left to become a Catholic priest, but soon dropped those plans and became a high-school teacher in Oldenburg. The book referred to is Antäus: neuer Aufbau der Lehre Kants über Seele, Freiheit und Gott. Leipzig: Veit, 1882.
5. "Schleicherei": hypocrisy.
6. Giovanni Paesiello (1740-1816): Italian composer of the comic opera "Il matrimonio inaspettato" (1779).
7. Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801): Italian composer of the comic opera "Il matrimonio segreto" (1792).
8. On October 7, 1881, Köselitz sent Overbeck a piano reduction of the introduction to Act IV and its duet from his opera Scherz, List und Rache. On October 14, Overbeck sent him a detailed analysis of it. See Frederick R. Love, "Appendix D: 'Nacht, o holde' Notturno and Aria from Peter Gast's Scherz, List und Rache." In: Nietzsche's Saint Peter. Genesis and Cultivation of an Illusion. Berlin; New York: de Gruyter, 1981.


The Peabody Institute.
Baltimore. 1866.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Baltimore, End 1881:
Letter from Elise Fincke.

44 W. Madison Street Baltimore
Maryland U S.

Esteemed Herr Doctor,

It may be of little concern to you that 3 people here in America (Professor Fritz Fincke (Peabody Institute)1 — Mr. Charles Fischer,2 our friend and I) often sit together and are sincerely edified by Nietzsche's writings — but I do not see why we should not even tell you. It is a credit to the profundity of your thoughts and your perfect diction that we will no longer be able to read anything else and like it.

We only have "Untimely Meditations," and I would now like to request, esteemed Herr Dr, that you specify on a card the name and title of the publisher of your other works. In a country where so little good German is spoken — your writings and thoughts and language should absolutely be obtained. Please kindly excuse the trouble and bother that I cause you and please fulfill my request.

Accept the assurance of my deepest gratitude and greatest admiration, yours

Elise Fincke,
born Fischer.3

1. Fritz Fincke (1836-1900) studied at the Leipzig Conservatory from 1851-53, and was a piano and violin virtuoso. He returned to his hometown of Wismar, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, where he was a director of a musical society, a violinist, and an organist at the St. Georg church. In 1880, Fincke was appointed a professor of vocal music at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland. There he led the Peabody Chorus, and conducted the Oratorio Society from 1882-94.
2. It's uncertain who Fischer was, and if he was a relative of Elise Fincke. However, a Charles Fischer & Co. was advertising in the nineteenth century in Baltimore, and doing business as a purveyor of German fancy goods, with a warehouse at 338 Market Street.
3. On the back of the letter, Nietzsche wrote: "Erster amerikanischer Brief. initium gloriae mundi." (First American letter. Beginning of world fame.)

Nietzsche's Letters | 1881This page in German© The Nietzsche Channel

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