Nietzsche's Letters | 1883© The Nietzsche Channel

Nietzsche's Letters


Previous | Next

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: The content of this website, including text and images, is the property of The Nietzsche Channel. Reproduction in any form is strictly prohibited. © The Nietzsche Channel.


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

Rapallo, January 20, 1883:
Letter to Franz Overbeck.

Dear friend,

It's not going well at all, and it would be best if I keep silent about it. At the beginning of February I want to move to Genoa — I will live in the same house where I lived last winter.1 I won't have a stove — I don't have one here either. I have frozen this winter like never before, and have never eaten so poorly. By the way, my health is in a bad state of decline.

I now understand what the value of misanthropy has been for all hermits. Unfortunately I am of the opposite nature. I also wish I had a rock-solid belief in myself: but I'm even less built for that. I am already far too sick for that: and every change in the weather, every cloudy sky creates great anxiety in me. The weather last summer in Germany and here this winter were the worst physical tribulations I could face. Basically, "The Joyful Science" is just an exuberant way of rejoicing that one has had a month of pure sky above oneself.2 As a sufferer, one becomes very humble and inordinately grateful — which I have been far too much in regard to other things3 in the past year.

The final result and "moral" of this [previous] nasty year is this: people forced me to swallow the selfsame poison hundreds of times and in the most diverse doses, the poison "contumely," from despicable indifference to profound contempt. That brought forth in me a condition like phosphorus poisoning: constant vomiting, headache, insomnia, etc. For years I haven't experienced anything from the outside: but in the past year, a great deal, unfortunately always the same thing. That's why it's so difficult to get rid of it. But I will not obtain the beneficium mortis4 for myself — I want something more from myself and cannot let bad weather or a bad reputation prevent me from doing so.

Germany is now a bad place for me: I am extremely averse to the kind of people I respect there; and the Germans are so boorish with their aversions that they always become tactless and impolite. As a student, I was treated more respectfully than in the previous year.

So then I don't know at all where any [clear skies are] and from where [clear skies come]. If only I knew someone who would accompany me to Spain! For the best possibilities in Europe for clear skies are there. (I am very well informed about the Mediterranean climate by a treatise in Perthes geogr[aphical] magazine.)5

Frau Rothpletz6 delighted me on New Year's with an extremely kind letter: she will make it possible for us all to find each other again in the summer — perhaps in Tyrol or southern Bavaria. But, as I said, I dread Germany.

I will have some confidence in a sort of grandiose alpine wilderness: I must be encouraged.

And I realize more and more that I no longer fit in with people — I produce nothing but follies (I am, said in confidence, 1) much too sincere and 2) good-natured to the point of excess, so that all injustice always remains with me — which in the long run gives a very bad result.

Adieu, my dear friend, I will try to be benevolent and fair to all those who are not against me.

The warmest greetings to your dear wife and best wishes to both of you.


Köselitz's experiences have some parallels with mine. But he has an advantage over me: he is perfectly healthy.

1. Nietzsche stayed in Rapallo until 02-23-1883 at a house located at Salita delle Battestine 8.
2. In the summer of 1881, Nietzsche started writing the book as a continuation of his Dawn, but decided on a new work in the winter.
3. See correspondence from 1882.
4. "Benefit of death."
5. Theobald Fischer, "Studien über das Klima der Mittelmeerländer. Mit sieben Karten auf drei Tafeln." In: Dr. A. Petermann's Mittheilungen aus Justus Perthes' geographischer Anstalt. Hrsg. von Dr. E. Behm. Ergänzungsband No. 13. Gotha: Perthes, 1879. Ergänzungsheft No. 58.
6. Louise Rothpletz, Overbeck's mother-in-law. The letter referred to is lost.


Carl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813-1849).
Nietzsche's father, ca. 1845.
Colorized and enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.
See "Aus meinem Leben. I. Die Jugendjahre. — 1844-1858." (From My Life. I. The Years of My Youth. — 1844-1858.) In: Nietzsche's Writings as a Student. The Nietzsche Channel, 2012, 1-45 (5).

Rapallo, February 10, 1883:
Letter to Franz Overbeck.

Dear friend

The money1 is in my hands: and once again I thought about the unpleasant hardship I have been causing you all these years. Perhaps it will soon come to an end.

I will not conceal it from you, I am in a bad way. Once again night surrounds me; I feel as if lightning had flashed — for a short time I was completely in my element and in my light. And now it's over. I think I will surely perish unless something happens — I have no idea what. Perhaps someone will drag me out of Europe — I, with my physical way of thinking, now see myself as the victim of a terrestrial-climatic disturbance to which Europe is exposed. How can I help it if I have an extra sense, and a new and terrible source of suffering!

Even thinking this way is quite a relief — I do not need to accuse people of being the cause of my misery. Although I could do this! And all too often I do! In my letters to you, everything that I have alluded to is just the incidentals — I have to bear such a manifold burden of painful and horrible memories! Thus, for instance, it has not left my memory for even an hour that my mother called me a disgrace to the grave of my father.2

I will remain silent about other examples — but the barrel of a pistol is now a source of relatively pleasant thoughts for me. —

My whole life has disintegrated before my eyes: this whole eerie, deliberately hidden life, which takes a step every six years and actually wants nothing more than this step, while everything else, all my human relationships, have to do with a mask of me, and I must perpetually be the victim of leading a totally hidden life. I have always been exposed to the cruelest coincidences — or rather: it is I who have turned all coincidences into cruelties.

This book3 that I wrote to you about, a work of 10 days, now seems to me like my last will and testament. It contains an image of my very being4 in the sharpest focus, as it is, once I have cast off my entire burden. It is a poetical work and not a collection of aphorisms.

I am afraid of Rome5 and cannot decide. Who knows what torture is waiting for me there! So I have set about making myself my own copyist.6

What shall I do under this sky and changing weather! Ah this mental anguish! And at the same time I know that, relatively, it "is for the best" by the sea!

With heartfelt thanks and wishing you and your dear wife all the best


1. Overbeck sent Nietzsche's pension.
2. See 09-09-1882 letter to Franz Overbeck.
3. Also sprach Zarathustra, I (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I).
4. ein Bild meines Wesens.
5. To visit Malwida von Meysenbug.
6. Nietzsche initially wanted to dictate Also sprach Zarathustra, I (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I).


Letter to Ernst Schmeitzner.
February 13, 1883.
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.

Rapallo, February 13, 1883:
Letter to Ernst Schmeitzner

Dear publisher,

Your greeting,1 coincidentally, was the first sign of interest that I received in Genoa.

Today, I have something good to report to you: I have made a decisive step — and I think, by the way, one which should be profitable for you as well. It concerns a small work (barely a hundred printed pages) whose title is

Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
      A book for all and none.

It is a "poetical work"3 or a fifth "gospel"4 or something for which there is still no name: by far the most serious and also most cheerful one of my creations and accessible to everyone. So I believe, then, that it will have an "immediate effect" — especially since now, judging from various signs, the slow and reluctant way of dealing with me has now reached a certain point[.] — Coincidentally, I found out from Vienna5 as well as Berlin that there is a lot of talk about me among "intelligent men." I draw your attention to Mr. Brandes, the cultural historian, who is now in Berlin: of the current Danes, he is the most brilliant. I found out that he has studied me in depth.6

Both of us are aware of our publication "conditions." Only this time I have to attach particular importance to two external formalities, because this book is supposed to appear as a peak of my previously published books. With exactly the same format and printing, I request that a black line border the text on each page: of which a poetical work is more worthy. And then: a stronger vellum!

Please kindly inform me promptly as to whether I should send you the work. I am working with all my "strength" (oh my eyes!) on the transcription myself, and in the event that you agree, I want Teubner7 to complete these 6 sheets with the greatest alacrity!

For me the time of "printing" is always an illness-phase. Therefore as soon as possible!

With best wishes to you
Dr. F. Nietzsche.

Santa Margherita Ligure,
             poste restante.

(Frankly, I am ashamed to speak of "immediate effect"; but I do it for your sake, who reasonably must have completely different estimations in mind than I do. Sorry!)

1. The letter is lost.
2. Also sprach Zarathustra, I (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I).
3. eine "Dichtung."
4. ein fünftes "Evangelium."
5. A report on Nietzsche's circle of admirers in Vienna was given to Heinrich Köselitz by Lodovico Zdekauer (1855-1924), a lawyer from Prague, who wound up in Italy teaching the history of Italian law at the universities of Siena and Macerata. Cf. 04-14-1888 letter to Ernst Wilhelm Fritzsch. Regarding Nietzsche's admirers in Berlin, the source was probably Paul Rée.
6. Five years later, in April-May 1888 (April 10, 17, 24, May 1, 5), Georg Brandes held five lectures on Nietzsche. The lectures were reported with notices (presumably by Brandes) in the Danish newspaper Dagbladet Politiken, which also published a biographical article on Nietzsche (again, presumably by Brandes) on April 20.
7. The printing and publishing firm B. G. Teubner. Nietzsche complained about their delays and clumsy handling of the printing of his works. See, e.g., 03-25-1883, 04-01-1883 letters to Ernst Schmeitzner.


Cosima Wagner.
Painting by Franz Seraph von Lenbach.

Rapallo, Mid-February 1883:
Draft of a Letter to Cosima Wagner.

You lived for one goal and made every sacrifice to him; beyond the man you felt the ideal of this one person, and to him, who does not die, you belong, your name belongs forever.1

and beyond the love of that man you grasped the highest thing that his love and his hope conceived: you served him, you and your name belong to him forever — that which does not die with a m[an], whether it was already born in him

That is how I look upon you today, and, albeit from a great distance, the way I always looked upon you as upon the best-esteemed woman who is in my heart.2

Few people desire something like this: and of the few: who is able to desire it like you!


In the past you did not refuse to listen to my opinion in serious situations: and now that the first announcement has reached me, the fact that you have just experienced the most serious thing, I don't know how to pour out my feelings other than by addressing them entirely to you and only to you alone

I don't know what else to do other than what I did before

for the best-esteemed woman who is in my heart.3

We were never enemies in minor matters

not what you lose, but what you now possess, stands before my soul: and there will be few p[eople] who say with such a deep feeling: it was all my duty — it was also my entire possessions — what I did was for this person, and nothing [— — —]


With all of this I think I speak of you, my esteemed woman? But with all of this I think I absolutely spoke of him. Indeed, it has now become difficult to talk about you alone. —

I absolutely do not believe at all in any hidden worlds from which some consolation would be taken. Life is only as deep and serious as we know how to make it deep [and] serious: but there are some things which, due to a hundred terrible coincidences, are out of our hands; time and again to know how to establish reason and beauty by believing in r[eason] and b[eauty] — that is now the best good will and the best good strength, that was and is ultimately in your power.

It is still a struggle; and the first bulwarks have yet to be stormed. Since the spectacle of life is harsh, horrible, — and when you see someone who, for the sake of new colors and tones, like a — — —

In the past you did not refuse [to] listen to my opinion in serious situations: and now [that] news comes to me that you have been stricken by the most serious thing, I do not know what to do differently than I did before and ask you to do the same — I have no way of enduring my feelings that this news gives me other than by addressing them entirely to you and only to you alone.

Not what you lose, but what you only now possess, should now stand before my soul: how you may now speak to yourself: ["]I have now accomplished this, thus what I did for this one person would be my duty, and everything I have done and offered and not spared myself, I was relentless, and where is the drop of blood that I kept for myself: a deep calm behind all pain: I feel it. And that's how I wanted it at that time."4

until the last drop of blood is itself released and without sparing so — — —

Beyond the love of that man I grasped the highest thing that his hope conceived: I served him, and this highest thing, that does not die, I and my name belong to forever.

That is how I look upon you today, and, albeit from a great distance, the way [I] always looked upon you — as the best-esteemed woman who is in my heart.5

Few people desire something like this from themselves as you desire it: and of these few — who can then desire it the way you can and could! A struggle is ongoing, every great life first and last, and there would be reason upon reason if the spectacle of such a struggling life were always harsh and horrible.

1. Richard Wagner died on February 13, 1883. Nietzsche's actual letter of condolence is lost.
2. als auf die bestverehrte Frau, die es meinem Herzen giebt.
3. als die bestverehrte Frau, die es meinem Herzen giebt.
4. A fictional monologue that Nietzsche writes for Cosima.
5. als auf die bestverehrte Frau, die es meinem Herzen giebt.


Malwida von Meysenbug.
Portrait by Franz Seraph von Lenbach.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Genoa, around the 3rd-4th April 1883:
Letter to Malwida von Meysenbug.

Dear friend,

In the meantime I have taken my decisive step, everything is in order.1 In order to give an idea of what it is about, I am enclosing a letter from my first "reader" — my excellent Venetian friend,2 who is once again my assistant with the printing. —

I will leave Genoa as soon as I can and go into the mountains: I don't want to speak to anyone this year.

Do you want a new name for me? The language of the church has one: I am — — — — — — — — the Antichrist.3

Let's not forget how to laugh!

In all devotion, your
F. Nietzsche.

Genoa, Salita della Battestine 8 (interno 4).
This address is in the strictest sense only for you.

1. The publication of Also sprach Zarathustra, I.
2. Cf. 04-02-1883 letter from Heinrich Köselitz: "Diesem Buch ist die Verbreitung der Bibel zu wünschen, ihr kanonisches Ansehen, ihr Commentarengefolge, auf dem dieses Ansehen zum Theil mit beruht. Aber ach — die langen Zeitstrecken! Es macht mich schon traurig, zu wissen, daß der nächste Venusdurchgang am 2. Juni 2004 Statt findet; wie traurig würde ich, wenn ich erführe, wann Ihr Buch in der Verbreitung und dem Ansehen der Bibel stehen!" (This book deserves the circulation of the Bible, its canonical authority, its sequence of commentaries, upon which its authority, to some extent, is based. But alas — the long stretches of time! It makes me sad to know that the next transit of Venus takes place on June 2, 2004; how sad I would be if I were to find out that would be when your book and the authority of the Bible would have similar distribution!)
3. Cf. 04-06-1883 letter from Malwida von Meysenbug: "Der Christ ging in die Wüste um fähig zu werden für das Elend der Welt zu sterben; der Antichrist sollte, dünkt mich, zuweilen unter den Menschen wandeln um das Werk der Erlösung, welches Jenem nicht gelang, zu vollbringen." (Christ went into the wilderness to become capable of dying for the misery of the world; the Antichrist should, I think, sometimes walk among people in order to achieve the work of salvation, in which the former failed.)

Nietzsche's Letters | 1883© The Nietzsche Channel

Not to be reproduced without permission. All content © The Nietzsche Channel.