Nietzsche's Letters | 1885© The Nietzsche Channel

Nietzsche's Letters

1885

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

Sils Maria, July 2, 1885:
Letter to Franz Overbeck.

Dear old friend Overbeck,

Not hearing from you worries me, and at the very least I hope that your health has nothing to do with this silence — although this year the heat and likewise the memory of the bad, debilitating air of Basel, which I again became familiar with this past June,1 also supplies me with worrisome thoughts accordingly. When I arrived up here, one of the first things I did was to look for your "Teichmüller"; but unfortunately it turned out to be missing — from which it follows that it is in the Nice crate of books: something that I now, with great regret, report to you.2 However, I have here, from your treasury of books, the Mainländer.3 Many thanks for sending the Dürer to my relatives: they have thanked me so much for it that I have to think I have far exceeded the definition "wedding present."4 May the future of the young couple, however, be made more comfortable and full of hope than the eerie picture suggests! Between us, I have a lot of heartfelt concerns—, admittedly also a few curious requests, just in regard to this new world in Paraguay.5 Now, in no time at all, it may be that Europe will be impossible for me; and lo and behold, perhaps I'll even find a tree branch far from home for such a stray bird like me. (As it is written: "I cling to a crooked branch today," etc.6)

Up here I again have the same company, very kind to me, as the previous year; two distinguished Englishwomen7 who live in Geneva and that old lady8 from the Russian court, of whom I wrote that she was one of Chopin's closest students; — her relation to music is no joke, in the previous month she has even composed an intensely powerful fugue. Now in my company is a German lady from Meiningen9 who has come here upon a written invitation on my part for reading and dictation and has accomodated me with great kindness: unfortunately, her time here is ending next week. As for my eyes, my condition now is slightly different from Dühring's10; this sudden, acute, rapid disappearance of eyesight from last summer until now is one of the things for which I do not know the reason. The iodine ointment, which Schiess11 prescribed, was ineffective. — I have dictated 2-3 hours almost every day, but my "philosophy," if I have the right to call what maltreats me to the roots of my being precisely that, is no longer communicable, at least not in print. Sometimes I long to have a secret meeting with you and Jacob Burckhardt,12 more to ask how you avoid this distress than to report news to you. Besides, our age is endlessly superficial; and often enough I am ashamed of myself for having already said so much publicly, which at no time, even in far worthier and profounder ages, would have been appropriate for the "public." In the midst of our century's "freedom and impudence of the press," precisely our taste and instincts have been corrupted; and I hold up before myself the images of Dante and Spinoza, who were better at enduring the lot of solitude; and in the end, for all those who somehow have had a "God" for company, there has not even existed what I know as "solitude." My life now consists in the wish that it might be otherwise with all things than I comprehend, and that someone might make my "truths" appear incredible to me. — —

From my mother I received an anxious message that Schmeitzner has not yet paid13: it would be terrible if the process goes any further; a petition should be filed regarding the subhastation etc. June was the stipulated date of payment. My uncle, who has been handling the entire matter, is on his deathbed.14

Please send me 500 frcs. up here again.15 I heartily commend your admirable wife affectionately

Your
F. N.

1. Nietzsche had visited Overbeck in Basel for a couple of weeks in June 1884.
2. Nietzsche had borrowed Overbeck's copy of a work by Gustav Teichmüller, probably Die wirkliche und die scheinbare Welt. Neue Grundlegung der Metaphysik. Breslau: Koebner, 1882.
3. Philipp Mainländer, Die Philosophie der Erlösung. Berlin: Grieben, 1876.
4. Albrecht Dürer, "Ritter, Tod und Teufel": an etching Nietzsche gave to his sister as a wedding present. She married the anti-Semite agitator Bernhard Förster. (Nietzsche bought a copy of "Knight, Death and Devil" as a Christmas present for Richard Wagner in 1870.)
5. Bernhard Förster's disasterous settlement, "Nueva Germania."
6. The first line of Nietzsche's poem "Prinz Vogelfrei."
7. Mrs. Emily Fynn and her daughter Emily.
8. Zina de Mansouroff (1830-1889).
9. Louise Röder-Wiederhold (1829-?), an acquaintance of Heinrich Köselitz. In 2011, five letters from Nietzsche to Röder-Wiederhold were discovered and donated, along with other material, to the Nietzsche-Haus in Sils-Maria. In a June 1885 letter to Resa von Schirhhofer, Nietzsche describes his relations with Röder-Wiederhold: "Einstweilen habe ich die treffliche Frau Röder-Wiederhold im Hause; sie erträgt und duldet 'engelhaft' meinen entsetzlichen 'Antidemocratismus' — denn ich diktire ihr täglich ein paar Stunden meine Gedanken über die lieben Europäer von heute und — Morgen; — aber zuletzt, fürchte ich, fährt sie mir doch noch 'aus der Haut' und fort von Sils-Maria, getauft wie sie ist, mit dem Blute von 1848." (In the meantime, I have the excellent Frau Röder-Wiederhold in the house, she endures and "angelically" tolerates my appalling "antidemocracy" — because for a few hours every day I dictate to her my thoughts on the dear Europeans of today and — tomorrow, — but recently, I fear, I have driven her yet again "up the wall" and away from Sils-Maria, baptized as she is with the blood of 1848. [An allusion to the German Revolution of 1848.]) In another letter to Heinrich Köselitz on July 23, 1885, Nietzsche relates how perturbed he was with her: "Frau Röder ist seit einem halben Monat fort, bene merita! Aber, unter uns, sie paßt mir nicht, ich wünsche keine Wiederholung. Alles, was ich ihr diktirt habe, ist ohne Werth; auch weinte sie öfter als mir lieb ist. Sie ist haltlos; die Frauen begreifen nicht, daß ein persönliches malheur kein Argument ist, am wenigsten aber die Grundlage zu einer philosophischen Gesamtbetrachtung aller Dinge abgeben kann. Das Schlimmste aber ist: sie hat keine Manieren, und schaukelt mit den Beinen. Trotzdem: sie hat mir über einen bösen Monat weggeholfen, mit der allerbesten Gesinnung." (Frau Röder has been gone for half a month, bene merita! But, between us, she does not suit me, I do not want an encore. Everything that I have dictated to her is worthless; she was also crying more often than I cared for. She is unstable; women do not understand that a personal malheur is not an argument, but least of all can it provide the basis for an overall philosophical assessment of things. But the worst thing is: she has no manners, and swings her legs. Nevertheless: she has helped me get over a bad month with the best attitude.)
10. The blind philosopher Eugen Dühring (1833-1921).
11. Nietzsche's opthamologist and colleague at Basel, Johann Heinrich Schieß-Gemuseus (1833-1914).
12. Jacob Burckhardt, Nietzsche's friend and colleague at Basel.
13. The proceeds from Nietzsche's lawsuit against his publisher Ernst Schmeitzner.
14. Bernhard Daechsel (1823-1888).
15. Overbeck sent Nietzsche his pension.

Nietzsche's Letters | 1885© The Nietzsche Channel

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