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Nietzsche's Letters


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Simplikios' Commentar zu Epiktetos Handbuch.
Aus dem Griechischen in das Deutsche übertragen von K. Enk. Wien: Beck, 1867.
Title page.

Nice, January 9, 1887:
Postcard to Franz Overbeck.

Dear friend, my card was sent shortly before the arrival of your letter: for the latter, many thanks. Hopefully your health is improving under the good care that you have; particularly with eye problems it seems to me to be least good "that man be alone." It's a hard winter here as well; instead of snow we have had rain for days on end; the nearby hills have been white for a long time (which looks like a coquetry of nature with its checkered and richly colored landscape). This "colorfulness" also includes my blue fingers;1 likewise my black thoughts. I have just been reading, with thoughts of that kind, Simplicius' commentary2 on Epictetus: with him we see clearly before us the entire philosophical scheme in which Christianity was delineated: so that this "pagan" philosopher's book makes the most Christian impression imaginable (except that the whole world of Christian emotion and pathology is missing, "love," as Paul speaks of it, "fear of God," etc.). The falsification of everything factual by morality stands there in fullest clarity: wretched psychology; the "philosopher" reduced to "country parson." — And it is all Plato's fault! He remains Europe's greatest misfortune!

Your N.

1. Nietzsche's room had no heat.
2. Simplikios' Commentar zu Epiktetos Handbuch. Aus dem Griechischen in das Deutsche übertragen von K. Enk. Wien: Beck, 1867. Nietzsche's copy.


Heinrich Köselitz (Peter Gast).
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, March 7, 1887:
Letter to Heinrich Köselitz.

Dear friend,

I have just received, thanks to your considerate assistance, the proofs of the "songs" — I am pleased to report to you that these are the final proofs.1 As for the "fifth" book, this manuscript has been in Fritzsch's2 possession for several months and I was willing to pay for its printing myself; said Leipziger seems hardly agreeable.3 Enough, let us leave it unpublished for now; perhaps its tone and content even belongs more to Beyond G[ood] and E[vil] and should be incorporated into this work with a second edition — or more correctly, as it now seems to me, into this Joyful Science: so that a "higher meaning," a reasonable patch of blue sky can finally be seen behind my publisher's reluctance. And what publisher would not be somewhat frightened after weighing down my literature with his blunders? I have not even once made things adversarial; for 15 years not a single serious, thorough, proper and professional review of my books has ever been published — in short, one has to blame this on Fritzsch. —

What a situation I would be in, assuming that the ten years in philology and Basel were missing from my life! —

A philologist with a kindred history has just come here to visit me, a Dr. Adams,4 brought up in the school of Rohde and v. Gutschmidt [sic],5 and very highly regarded by his teachers, but — passionately disgusted with and biased against philology. He fled to me, "his master" — for he wants to dedicate himself absolutely to philosophy; and now I'm persuading him bit by bit not to do anything stupid and let himself be carried away by any false role models. I think I have managed to "disappoint" him. — At the same time I learned how, even at the Tübingen seminary, my writings are greedily devoured in secret; there I am considered to be one of the "more negative spirits." — Dr. Adams is half American, half Swabian. —

It happened to me with Dostoyevsky like before with Stendhal: the most casual contact, a book that one opens in a bookstore, unfamiliarity even with the name — and suddenly instinct says that here one has met a kinsman.6

So far I still know little about his position, his reputation, his history: he died in 1881. In his youth he was in a bad way: illness, poverty, with noble lineage, sentenced to death at twenty-seven, reprieved on the scaffold, then 4 years in Siberia, in chains, among hardened criminals. This period was decisive: he discovered the power of his psychological intuition, even more, his heart sweetened and deepened in the process — his book of recollections from this period "la maison des morts" is one of the most "human" books in existence.7 What I first became familiar with had just appeared in French translation, entitled "l'esprit souterrain,"8 containing two short stories: the first a kind of strange music, the second a true stroke of psychological genius — a shocking and cruel piece of mockery of ,9 but jotted down with an easy boldness and delight of superior power, that I was altogether intoxicated with joy. Meanwhile, I have read, on Overbeck's recommendation, whom I asked about it in my last letter, Humiliés et offensés10 (the only one that O[verbeck] knew), with the greatest respect for the artist Dostoyevsky. I already noticed too how the youngest generation of Parisian novelists is completely tyrannized by the influence of D[ostoyevsky] and their jealousy of him (e.g. Paul Bourget).11

I will stay here until April 3, hopefully without making further acquaintance with the earthquake:12 in fact, that Dr. Falb13 warns about March 9, when he expects an increase in tremors in our region, and likewise the 22 and 23 of March. So far, I've kept pretty cold-blooded, and among the thousands of panicking people, have lived with a sense of irony and cold curiosity. But we should not boast too much: perhaps in a few days I'll be as irrational as anyone. The element of the unexpected, the imprévu, has its charm ...

How are you? Oh how your last letter has revitalized me! You are so brave!

Your faithful friend N.

1. For the new edition of The Joyful Science.
2. Nietzsche's publisher in Leipzig, Ernst Wilhelm Fritzsch (1840-1902). He was also Nietzsche's first publisher, from The Birth Of Tragedy to On the Use and Abuse of History for Life.
3. A portent of the many problems Nietzsche would again have with Fritzsch.
4. Heinrich Adams (1860-?) was born in Göppingen and studied under Erwin Rohde in Tübingen, where he was awarded his doctorate in philosophy in 1886.
5. Alfred von Gutschmid (1831-1887): professor of history at Tübingen.
6. See C. A. Miller, "Nietzsche's 'Discovery' of Dostoevsky." In: Nietzsche-Studien (1973), Bd. 2:202-257.
7. Souvenirs de la maison des morts. Traduit du Russe par M. Neyroud. Préface par le vte E. Melchior de Vogüé. Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1886.
8. L'esprit souterrain. Traduit et adapté par E. Halpérine et Ch. Morice. Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1886.
9. The Delphic motto, "Know thyself!"
10. Humiliés et offensés. Traduit du Russe par Ed. Humbert. Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1884.
11. Paul Bourget (1852-1935): French novelist and critic. See the entry for Bourget in Nietzsche's Library.
12. An earthquake struck the Riviera on February 23, 1887 while Nietzsche was in Nice. Three accounts are in Nature. A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Science. London; New York: Macmillan, 1887. Vol. 35 (March 3, 1887): 419-421; 442. Vol. 36 (June 16, 1887): 151-152. For a detailed article on the earthquake and Nietzsche, see Maria Cristina Fornari, Giuliano Campioni, "Le tremblement de terre de Nice. Une source inédite de Nietzsche: Guy de Maupassant." In: EuroPhilosophie 2011, Éditions d’Ariane. Article 67.
13. Rudolf Falb (1838-1903): Austrian meteorologist and natural scientist who had some pseudo-scientific theories regarding earthquakes.


Theodor Fritsch.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, March 23, 1887:
Letter to Theodor Fritsch.

Dear sir,

You do me so much honor in your just received letter1 that I cannot help but reveal to you another passage from my literature concerning the Jews: although it puts you doubly in the right to talk about my "warped judgments." Please read my "Morgenröte," p. 194.2

Jews are, objectively speaking, more interesting to me than Germans: their history yields many fundamental problems. In such serious matters, I am used to keeping sympathy and antipathy out of the question: as these pertain to the discipline and morality of the scientific spirit and — ultimately — even to its sense of taste.

At any rate, I confess that I feel myself too estranged from the current "German spirit," to be able to view its particular idiosyncrasies without much impatience. Along with these I account, in particular, anti-Semitism. I am even indebted for some entertainment to the "classic literature" of this movement praised on p. 6 of your prized sheet: oh if you knew how, last spring, I had laughed at the books of that pompous and sentimental blockhead named Paul de Lagarde! Obviously I am deficient in that "highest ethical position" discussed on that page.3

It now remains to thank you for your well-meaning assumption that I have not been "led to my warped judgments by any social considerations"; and perhaps it will serve your peace of mind if finally I tell you that among my friends, I have no Jews. But also no anti-Semites.4

Does my life somehow furnish the likelihood for it, for the fact that by some hands my "wings can be clipped"? —

With this question I commend myself to your further goodwill — and consideration ...

Yours most sincerely
Professor Dr. Nietzsche

One wish: do provide a list5 of German scholars, artists, poets, writers, actors, and virtuosos of Jewish extraction or descent!6 It would constitute a valuable contribution to the history of German culture (— and criticism of it!)7

1. Unfortunately, Fritsch's letter is lost and we can only glean its contents from the brief sarcastic quotations by Nietzsche.
2. Morgenröthe, §205 (Dawn, §205: "Of the people of Israel.") The "warped judgments" referred to by Fritsch were the philo-Semitic ones expressed in Beyond Good and Evil — a book which Fritsch, under the pseudonym Thomas Frey, would later criticize in a long book review in his publication. See "Der Antisemitismus im Spiegel eines "Zukunfts-Philosophen." In: Antisemitische Correspondenz, und Sprechsaal für innere Partei-Angelegenheiten. Nr. 19 f., Nov. / Dez. 1887: 10-15. Nietzsche reacted to the review in a 02-03-1888 letter to Franz Overbeck: "Die antisem[itischen] Blätter fallen über mich in aller Wildheit her (— was mir hundert Mal mehr gefällt als ihre bisherige Rücksicht)." (The anti-Sem[itic] sheets attack me savagely (— which I like a hundred times more than their previous consideration).)
3. Fritsch's anti-Semitic tabloid sheet, Anti-Semitic Correspondence. The January 1887 issue contains an article by Nietzsche's brother-in-law Bernhard Förster, entitled: "Unsere Arbeit, unsere Ziele!" The relevant passage reads: "Where true nature grows and flourishes, there is no place for Jews. Meanwhile I find myself in agreement with the most capable and wisest representatives who are fighting against Jewish literature. [...] for we have to be clear about our spokesman; [...] The Germans who are dealing with the dubious subject from the highest ethical position, as far as I know, are: Richard Wagner, Paul de Lagarde, Eugen Dühring and Adolf Wahrmund." Antisemitische Correspondenz und Sprechsaal für innere Partei-Angelegenheiten. Nr. 9, January 1887, 5-7 (6).
4. Nietzsche mocks Fritsch and the anti-Semite's professed defense, "Some of my best friends are Jewish."
5. That is, in Fritsch's publication — which, of course, would never happen.
6. jüdischer Abkunft oder Herkunft: Nietzsche emphasizes the prefix "her" in Herkunft, playing with the juxtaposition of ab ("away from") and her ("toward") in Abkunft and Herkunft.
7. Nietzsche's other diatribes against Fritsch and the anti-Semites during this period include the following:

Inzwischen hat ein sehr sonderbarer Herr, Namens Theodor Fritsch aus Leipzig mit mir correspondirt: ich konnte nicht umhin, da er zudringlich war, ihm ein paar freundliche Fußtritte zu versetzen. Diese jetzigen “Deutschen” machen mir immer mehr Ekel. (Meanwhile a very strange man by the name of Theodor Fritsch from Leipzig has corresponded with me: I could not resist, since he was obtrusive, giving him a few friendly kicks [Fußtritte]. These present-day "Germans" make me ever more disgusted.) — Nachlass, Sommer 1886—Herbst 1887 5[45].

Neulich hat ein Herr Theodor Fritsch aus Leipzig an mich geschrieben. Es giebt gar keine unverschämtere und stupidere Bande in Deutschland als diese Antisemiten. Ich habe ihm brieflich zum Danke einen ordentlichen Fußtritt versetzt. Dies Gesindel wagt es, den Namen Z[arathustra] in den Mund zu nehmen! Ekel! Ekel! Ekel! (Recently a Mr. Theodor Fritsch from Leipzig wrote to me. There is no more impudent and stupid mob in Germany than these anti-Semites. I gave him in thanks by letter a real beating [Fußtritt]. This blackguard dares to mouth the name Z[arathustra]! Disgust! Disgust! Disgust!) — Nachlass, Ende 1886-Frühling 1887 7[67].

[See following letters to Overbeck and Fritsch.]


Franz and Ida Overbeck.
Basel, ca. 1875.
From b/w portrait.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, March 24, 1887:
Letter to Franz Overbeck.

Dear friend,

I have just received your news — and given that I will be leaving (and must leave) at the end of next week, there is one more reason to answer you immediately. I wish that I could have written: "till we meet again," but my health for the time being forbids me Zurich1 and everything connected with it: I feel peculiarly weak all the time, tired, mentally and physically listless and good for nothing, also so impatient with noise and all the small nuisances of life that I want to take refuge in some very quiet and remote place: namely, in a wooded place fit for strolling along Lago Maggiore — called Canobbio [sic].2 In the vicinity of it is Villa Badia, a pension well recommended to me; the owners are Swiss. I have booked a room there from April 4. Venice, which has tradition in its favor in the early spring, and which I wholeheartedly love (the only place on earth that I love), has become bad for me over the years: the reason being certain meteorological factors, which I know only too well. — Is it possible for me to get the 1,000 francs3 by Wednesday or Thursday of next week? —

A Dr. Adams4 is here for about a month, an apparently gifted and able philologist from the school of Rohde and Gutschmidt [sic],5 but passionately disgusted with all of philology and quite determined to dedicate himself to philosophy: which is why he made his pilgrimage here to see his "master." Perhaps I will manage to disappoint him and extricate him from the vagueness of such intentions: I am gently leading him toward the history of philosophy (so far he has worked on "de fontibus Diodori"6) — it is even not impossible that he takes up my abandoned Laertiana!7 The whole thing is actually a strain on me, which reminds me of an earlier one (Tautenburg summer 1882);8 and, in the end, I know enough about the world to get what "the world's reward" is in such cases. — I don't like the "young people."—

Here is a comic fact of which I am becoming more and more aware. Gradually, I've had an "influence," very subterranean, as is self-evident. I enjoy a strange and almost mysterious reputation with all radical parties (socialists, nihilists, anti-Semites, orthodox Christ[ians], Wagnerians). The extreme purity of the atmosphere in which I have placed myself is seductive ... I can even abuse my outspokenness, I can inveigh, as I did in my last book9 — they anguish over it, they "adjure" me perhaps, but they cannot escape me. In the "Anti-Semitic Correspondence" (which is sent only privately, only to "reliable party members") my name appears in almost every issue. The anti-Semites are enamored with Zarathustra, "the divine man"; and there is a particular anti-Semitic interpretation of it, which made me laugh greatly.10 Incidentally, I have made "in competent quarters" the suggestion a thorough list be made of German scholars, artists, writers, actors, virtuosos of entirely or half-Jewish descent: that would make a good contribution to the history of German culture, and criticism of it.11 (In all this, between ourselves, my brother-in-law is not involved at all; my dealings with him are very polite, but aloof, and as infrequent as possible. His undertaking in Paraguay is thriving, by the way; my sister is too.)12

If it isn't any better for me in Canobbio [sic], I think I'll try a small cold-water cure in Brestenberg. Alas, everything in my life is so uncertain and shaky, and at the same time this horrible health! The need, on the other hand, is upon me with the weight of a hundred centners, to build a coherent structure of thought — and for this I need five or six prerequisites, all of which I still lack and even seem unattainable! — The fourth floor of the Pension de Genève, in which the 3rd and 4th parts of my Zarathustra came into being, is now completely demolished after being shaken down by the earthquake. This "transience" hurts me. — The ground still shakes sometimes. With kind regards and wishes, also to your dear wife,

Your faithful friend,

(Hopefully there is good news from Tenerife?)13

I have a copy of Lecky: Englishmen like him lack "the historical sense" and many other things as well. The same is true of the much-read and translated American Draper. — 14

1. They were planning to visit Zurich to attend a performance of "Mizka-Czardàs," a composition by Heinrich Köselitz that Nietzsche had promised to present to his friend Friedrich Hegar (1841-1927). Hegar, whom Nietzsche had met while visiting Richard Wagner, was the founder and director of the music conservatory in Zurich, the conductor of the Zurich Symphony, and a close friend of Johannes Brahms. Overbeck and Nietzsche eventually got together on May 1.
2. Cannobio, in northern Italy.
3. Nietzsche's pension from Basel.
4. Heinrich Adams (1860-?) was born in Göppingen and studied under Erwin Rohde in Tübingen, where he was awarded his doctorate in philosophy in 1886.
5. Alfred von Gutschmid (1831-1887): professor of history at Tübingen.
6. "On the Sources of Diodorus."
7. About one-half of Nietzsche's philological writings is in regard to the sources of Diogenes Laertius.
8. Nietzsche's failed relationship with Lou Salomé.
9. Beyond Good and Evil.
10. Cf. Otto Busse, "Leserbrief." In: Antisemitische Correspondenz und Sprechsaal für innere Partei-Angelegenheiten. Nr. 9, January 1887: 9.
11. See above.
12. Elisabeth's husband, Bernhard Förster (1843-1889), a leader of the German anti-Semitic movement in the late 1870s and founder of the failed Paraguayan colony, "Nueva Germania." Förster eventually committed suicide.
13. One of Ida Overbeck's brothers was recovering from an illness there.
14. William Edward Hartpole Lecky (1838-1903): Sittengeschichte Europas von Augustus bis auf Karl den Grossen. Bd. 1-2. Leipzig; Heidelberg: Winter, 1879. John William Draper (1811-1882): Geschichte der geistigen Entwickelung Europas [History of the Intellectual Development of Europe]. Aus dem Englischen von A. Bartels. Leipzig: Wigand, 1871. Geschichte der Conflicte zwischen Religion und Wissenschaft [History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science]. Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1875.


Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Erzählungen.
Series title page c/o Alexander Turnbull Library.
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, March 27, 1887:
Postcard to Heinrich Köselitz.

Dear friend, I am having trouble with my eyes: forgive me if I thank you merely with a postcard for your letter and the just-received Dostoyevsky-translation.1 I am glad that you, presumably, have first read the same [work] of his that I did — "The Landlady" (in French as the first part of the novel L'esprit souterrain)[.]2 I am sending you "Humiliés et offensés"3 for comparison: the French translate more delicately than the dreadful Jew Goldschmidt4 (with his synagoge rhythm) — Strange! In the meantime, I fancy that you have returned to your Nausicaa5: and I have already wished you happiness and health as well, in a dream, of course — and likewise for me: for my need for a golden-saturated, purified luminous art has become intense like a thirst. —

There are still proofsheets [to correct]: help, dear friend!6 — I am leaving on Sunday, the 3rd of April; my address from then on: Canobbio [sic]7 (Lago maggiore) Villa Badia. Italia.

Faithfully your friend N.

1. Erzählungen. F.M. Dostojewskij. Frei nach dem Russischen von Wilhelm Goldschmidt. Leipzig: Philipp Reclam, [1886]. [Series: Universal-Bibliothek, 2126. Contents: Einleitung [Translator's introduction (2 pp.)]. Die Wirtin [The Landlady]. Christbaum und Hochzeit [A Christmas Tree and a Wedding]. Helle Nächte [White Nights]. Weihnacht [The Little Boy at Christ's Christmas Tree]. Der ehrliche Dieb [An Honest Thief].]
2. L'esprit souterrain. Traduit et adapté par E. Halpérine et Ch. Morice. Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1886. See C. A. Miller, "Nietzsche's 'Discovery' of Dostoevsky." In Nietzsche Studien (Vol. 2), Berlin, New York: 1973: "A glance at the volume identified [...] as l'Esprit souterrain reveals, however, that it actually comprises two parts: an abbreviated version of both parts of the Notes from the Underground entitled 'Lisa' (Deuxième Partie), prefaced by a complete translation of the original 1846 version of the early story 'Хозяйка' (the 'Landlady' or 'Mistress of the House') [...] integrated into a single six-section narrative and retitled 'Katia' (Première Partie). These two 'parts' are presented by the anonymous narrator of the 'First Part' as separate accounts of the two romantic involvements (velléités d'amour) [...] in the life of the protagonist of the 'Landlady,' Vassili Mikhailovitch Ordinov. The two narratives are associated in a three-page expository passage (modelled on Dostoevsky's own introduction to the House of the Dead) added to the 'Second Part,' identifying 'Lisa' as the deceased Ordinov's journal (le manuscript même d'Ordinov), purchased by the narrator from his man-servant Apollon. (154-156) A comparison of the Halpérine-Morice text with Dostoevsky's Russian reveals that the French translators give a reasonably faithful version of the 'Landlady,' while 'adapting' the Notes as a sequel to 'Katia' by inserting a series of fabricated passages which refer back to the 'Katia' episode (176, 189, 298) and by deleting substantial sections of the original, particularly in the first part of the Notes, Подполье (Underground)." See the entry for Dostoevsky in Nietzsche's Library.
3. Humiliés et offensés. Traduit du Russe par Ed. Humbert. Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1884.
4. See note 1. Goldschmidt's translation was even more "dreadful" since it omitted many, if not all of Dostoyevsky's psychological insights. See the memoirs of Nietzsche's friend Resa von Schirnhofer, "Vom Menschen Nietzsche." [1937.] In: Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung. Heft 22. Meisenheim am Glan, A. Hain, 1969, [Introduction by Hans Lohberger (248-250)], 250-60; 441-58 (446). "[Nietzsche] habe die deutsche mit der französischen Übersetzung verglichen und gefunden, daß in ersterer gerade die feinsten aperçus und auch längere psychologische Analysen einfach weggelassen wären." ([Nietzsche] had compared the German with the French translation and found that in the German precisely the finest aperçus and also longer psychological analyses had simply been left out.)
5. Cf. 11-18-1881 postcard to Heinrich Köselitz; and 03-24-1884 letter to Franz Overbeck regarding Köselitz's plan to write an opera based on the tragic death of Nausicaa, who drowned herself after being rejected by Odysseus.
6. For Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, Buch 5 (The Joyful Science, Book 5).
7. Cannobio, in northern Italy.


Theodor Fritsch.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, March 29, 1887:
Letter to Theodor Fritsch.

Dear sir,

Herewith I am returning to you the three issues of your correspondence sheet,1 thanking you for your confidence which you permitted me to cast a glance at the muddle of principles that lie at the heart of this strange movement. Yet I ask in the future not to provide me with these [anti-Semitic] mailings: I fear, in the end, for my patience. Believe me: this abominable "wanting to have a say" of noisy dilettantes about the value of people and races, this subjection to "authorities" who are utterly rejected with cold contempt by every sensible mind (e.g., E. Dühring, R. Wagner, Ebrard, Wahrmund, P. de Lagarde — who among these in questions of morality and history is the most unqualified, the most unjust?),2 these constant, absurd falsifications and rationalizations of vague concepts "Germanic," "Semitic," "Aryan," "Christian," "German" — all of that could in the long run cause me to lose my temper and bring me out of the ironic benevolence with which I have hitherto observed the virtuous velleities and pharisaisms of modern Germans.

— And finally, how do you think I feel when the name Zarathustra3 is mouthed by anti-Semites? ...

Yours most sincerely
Dr. Fr. Nietzsche

1. Antisemitische Correspondenz und Sprechsaal für innere Partei-Angelegenheiten.
2. The January 1887 issue contains an article by Nietzsche's brother-in-law Bernhard Förster, entitled: "Unsere Arbeit, unsere Ziele!" The relevant passage reads: "Where true nature grows and flourishes, there is no place for Jews. Meanwhile I find myself in agreement with the most capable and wisest representatives who are fighting against Jewish literature. [...] for we have to be clear about our spokesman; [...] The Germans who are dealing with the dubious subject from the highest ethical position, as far as I know, are: Richard Wagner, Paul de Lagarde, Eugen Dühring and Adolf Wahrmund." Antisemitische Correspondenz und Sprechsaal für innere Partei-Angelegenheiten. Nr. 9, January 1887, 5-7 (6).
3. Anti-Semitic interpretations of Zarathustra appeared in the Sept. and Nov. 1886, and Jan. 1887 issues.


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

Cannobio, April 14, 1887:
Letter to Franz Overbeck.

Dear friend,

Since April 3, I've been here on Lake Maggiore;1 the money2 came into my hands in the nick of time, also it was good for me that you did not send everything: for even today I do not know where I will spend my summer. My old Sils-Maria must, I hate to admit, be put aside, likewise Nice: both places are now lacking the primary and most essential condition, solitude, profound tranquility, apartness, alienation, without which I cannot get down to my problems (for, between you and me, I am, in a literally terrifying sense, a man of the depths; and without this underground work, life is no longer bearable to me). My last winter in Nice became an ordeal, just like my last stay in Sils: because I lost that quiet seclusion, which is a condition of existence for me, also the only way to get healthy. My health has declined from year to year; and it is a reliable benchmark for me if I am on my path — or on that of another. The problems that weigh on me, the ones I no longer evade (how I have to pay for all my evasions! E.g. my philology!) from which I have no rest by day or night — they exact for each failed relationship (people, places, books) a cruel revenge. I tell this to you, for may I assume that the peculiar requirements of my creativity are understood by you? It seems to me that I am too gentle towards people, too considerate, so that wherever I live people soon make demands of me and I finally no longer know how to defend myself against them. This consideration prevents me e.g. from trying to live in Munich* for the first time, where I already have a lot of goodwill,3 but where no one lives who has respect for the first and most essential conditions of my existence — or would even be willing to create them for me. Nothing agitates people so much than realizing that one is treating them with a severity that they themselves do not feel they deserve. There is nothing more paralyzing or disheartening to me than to travel into Germany now and to take a closer look at the many sincere persons who believe that they are "well disposed" towards me. In the meantime, precisely all understanding of me is lacking; and, if my probability-reckoning does not deceive me, it will not be different before 1901. I think people would just consider me to be mad if I let it be known what I consider myself to be. It is part of my "humanity" to let the universal ambiguity about me remain: I would embitter my most respectable friends against me and that would do no one good.

Meanwhile, I am done with a good bit of work, with the revision and republishing of my earlier writings. Suppose that I were not to last much longer — and I do not always conceal a profound longing for death — then something remains of me, a cultural piece, that, in the meantime, nothing else can replace. (This winter I have browsed a great deal of our European literature, so that I can now say that my philosophical position is by far the most independent, despite how much I feel myself to be the inheritor of several millennia: contemporary Europe still has no idea of the frightful decisions about which my whole being revolves, and on which wheel of problems I am bound — and that with me a catastrophe is being prepared, whose name4 I know but will not utter.)

Assume, dear friend, that I will still be here until around the end of April. How to get to Brestenberg from here, where I would like to go for a massage treatment (month of May)? Mammern is also recommended to me.5

I  enclose a letter from my Venetian proofreader,6 we are enthusiastic about the printing of The Joy[ful] Science. You may infer from the letter my apologies if I have to return herewith my invitation to Zürich, to listen to the Mizka-Czardàs.7

By all means I want to talk with you one day this spring.

Your faithful friend,

Address: Cannobio (Lago maggiore) Villa Badia

In the list of tourists at Villa Badia from 1885 I find Mademoiselle Maria Overbeck of Dresden.8 Cordial greetings to your wife and thanks for the good news from Tenerife.9 The journey here, very wintry, interrupted (like all my journeys) by a violent outburst of my headaches. A terrible ice-cold night in Laveno with constant vomiting. — The day before yesterday and yesterday repeated bouts of the illness. Today relief.

* I need a place with a big library10 for my "interludes"; and most recently I thought of Stuttgart. They have sent me the very liberal rules for the Stuttgart library.

1. In northern Italy.
2. Overbeck sent Nietzsche his pension.
3. Reinhart and Irene von Seydlitz, and Ida Overbeck's mother, too, all lived in Munich.
4. The advent of nihilism.
5. A place where Nietzsche sought a hydrotherapeutic cure for his ailments.
6. Heinrich Köselitz.
7. A composition by Heinrich Köselitz that Nietzsche had promised to present to his friend Friedrich Hegar (1841-1927). Hegar, whom Nietzsche had met while visiting Richard Wagner, was the founder and director of the music conservatory in Zurich, the conductor of the Zurich Symphony, and a close friend of Johannes Brahms. Nietzsche finally made it to Zurich on April 28.
8. Perhaps his aunt, Anna Maria Overbeck, who once worked as a governess for a Russian family.
9. One of Ida Overbeck's brothers was recovering from an illness there.
10. The large library in Munich was completed in 1843.


Hans von Bülow.
Lübeck, 1884.
From b/w picture by Hermann Schwegerle.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Venice, October 22, 1887:
Letter to Hans von Bülow.

Esteemed sir,

There was a time when you passed the most well-deserved death sentence on a piece of music1 by me that is possible in rebus musicis et musicantibus.2 And now, despite everything, I still dare to send you something — a Hymn to Life,3 which I wish all the more to survive. It should be sung some day, either in the near or distant future, in memory of me, in memory of a philosopher who had no present and didn't actually want one. Does he deserve that? ...

On top of all this, it may be possible that over the past ten years I have learned something as a musician as well.

Devoted to you, very esteemed sir, with
old unalterable sentiments

Dr. Fr. Nietzsche.
Address: Nice (France). Pension de Gèneve

1. Nietzsche's "Manfred-Meditation."
2. In matters of music and musicians.
3. Nietzsche's Hymnus an das Leben.


Erwin Rohde.
As an older man.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, November 11, 1887:
Letter to Erwin Rohde.

Dear friend,

It seems to me that I still have something to make amends for with regard to you from this spring.1 As a sign that I do not lack the goodwill to do so, I am sending you herewith a just published work2 (— moreover, perhaps I even owe it to you, for it stands in very close connection with the last one3 I sent —). No, don't let yourself be estranged from me so easily! At my age and in my isolation I at least shall not lose anymore the few people in whom I once had confidence.

Your N.

Nota bene. Regarding M. Taine, I ask you to come to your senses. Such rude things as you say and think about him annoy me.4 I would forgive Prince Napoleon5 for such things; not my friend Rohde. It is hard to believe that anyone who misunderstands this kind of austere and magnanimous mind (— T[aine] is the educator of all the more serious learned characters in France today) can understand anything of my own task. Frankly, you've never said a word to me that might have allowed me to suppose you knew what destiny lies upon me. Have I ever reproached you for this? Not even in my heart; even if it's only because I'm not at all used to it from anyone else. Up to now, who has obliged me with even a thousandth part of passion and pain! Has anyone had even the faintest idea of the real cause of my long illness, which I have perhaps overcome yet again? I now have 43 years behind me and am just as alone as when I was a child. —

1. In a lost letter to Nietzsche, Rohde had made a disparaging remark about Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893), the French historian and critic. This drew Nietzsche's ire, as well as a remark belittling Rohde. Rohde never replied to any of Nietzsche's correspondence after the dispute.
2. On the Genealogy of Morality.
3. Beyond Good and Evil. In September 1886, Rohde criticized the book in a letter to Franz Overbeck.
4. What Rohde actually wrote is unknown since his letter is lost. All we know is what Nietzsche alludes to in his May 19, 1887 reply, and other letters to friends on the subject.
5. Prince Napoléon, Napoléon et ses détracteurs. Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1887. A sycophantic defense of Napoleon Bonaparte, with a chapter railing against Taine.


Paul and Marie Deussen.
From b/w photo.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, November 12, 1887:
Letter to Franz Overbeck.

Dear friend,

For your birthday1 I have already forwarded a few small gifts: the Hymn to Life*,2 likewise the latest (and, for a long time, the last) book.3 Today I not only add my wishes for your upcoming birthday (for your health, for your struggle with rheumatism and scholasticism!..4): above all, the expression of my respect and gratitude for the unwavering loyalty to me that you have demonstrated in the hardest and most absurd time of my life. It seems to me that a kind of epoch is coming to a close for me; a retrospective is more than ever in order. Ten years of illness, more than ten years; and not the common sort of illness for which there are doctors and medicines. Does anyone actually know what made me ill? what kept me for years close to death and yearning for death? I don't think so. If I exclude R. Wagner, then no one so far has come to me with a thousandth part of passion and pain in order for them to "understand" me; I was alone like this even as a child, I still am today, in my 44th year of life. This terrible decade that I have put behind me has given me a generous taste of what being alone means, what isolation to this degree means: the isolation and defenselessness of a sufferer who has no means to protect himself, even "to defend" himself. In the last ten years, my friend Overbeck has charged (and three people at that) almost everyone I know, with assaulting me with absurdities, be it with outrageous accusations or at a minimum in the form of a vile immodesty (recently even Rohde, that incorrigible boor5). The best thing I can say about it is that it made me more independent; but perhaps also harder and more misanthropic than I would like to have been. Fortunately, I have enough esprit gaillard6 in me to laugh at myself occasionally about these reminiscences, as I laugh at everything that touches only me; and besides, I have a task that does not allow me to think about myself much (a task, a destiny or whatever you want to call it). This task has made me ill, it will make me healthy again, and not only healthy, but also friendlier to people again and whatever that implies.—

Fortunately I received the money,7 without which it would have been difficult for me. I now think of Nice in the same way as Sils-Maria: I am trying to come to terms with it and bring to the fore its proven factors: its invigorating and exhilarating climate, its abundance of light (which permits me the use of my eyes, which is beyond all measure afforded elsewhere, namely in Germany). The Pension de Genève, awaiting with improved efficiency and a lot of future goodwill, this time has prepared for me a real study (with modifications of light and color, which are absolutely important for me); a small carbon-natron stove is on its way to me from Naumburg.8 I'm paying a little more than before (5½ frs. per day, room and 2 meals: I obtain my morning tea myself); but, between you and me, every other guest pays more (8-10 frs.). By the way: a torture for my pride!!!

— You know what I now require for myself: my locales should therefore remain Nice and Sils-Maria (Venice as an interlude: I have a wonderful memory of Köselitz, who has been able to preserve his kind and great soul despite all kinds of disappointment, and now makes music for which I have no other word than "classic" (two movements of a symphony e.g., the most beautiful "Claude Lorrain" in music I know).9 Wishing you and your dear wife a happy and good day, Your N.

Prof. Deussen sends you his greetings; he was in Athens this autumn. I got from him a laurel and fig leaf, picked from where the Academy of Plato once stood.10

The bill from C. G. Naumann for the cost of the new book is also due to arrive this week or so; I'll send it to you right away.11

* The hymn is intended to be sung one day "in my memory": let's say around a hundred years from today, if one has understood what I'm all about.

1. November 16.
2. Nietzsche's Hymnus an das Leben.
3. On the Genealogy of Morality.
4. Overbeck gave a lecture course on scholasticism at Basel in the WS1887-88.
5. See letter to Rohde.
6. Cheerful insouciance, or, as Nietzsche put it to Köselitz on March 7 in regard to the Nice earthquake: "Bisher bin ich kaltblütig genug dabei geblieben und habe mitten unter tollgewordnen Tausenden mit dem Gefühl der Ironie und der kalten Neugierde gelebt." (So far, I've kept pretty cold-blooded, and among the thousands of panicking people, have lived with a sense of irony and cold curiosity.)
7. Overbeck sent Nietzsche his pension.
8. From his mother.
9. Nietzsche's predilection for such comparisons to Claude Lorrain probably comes from Jacob Burckhardt, who was in the habit of making similar comparisons. See "Claude Lorrain" in: Ernst Bertram, Nietzsche. Versuch einer Mythologie. Berlin: Bondi, 1919: 249-59 (253). Nietzsche: Attempt at a Mythology. Translated by Robert E. Norton. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2009: 217.
10. Paul Deussen visited Nietzsche in September 1887.
11. Nietzsche was now paying for the printing costs himself.


Paul Deussen.
Ca. 1880.
From b/w photo.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice (France), November 16, 1887:
Postcard to Paul Deussen.

Dear friend,

You will now have returned happily from your odyssey1 to your professional harbor: I wish you a happy and student-rich winter and a Forward in every sense upon your path (without obstructions, (without "quarantines"2 —) The beautiful symbolism of your deed3 on October 15th touched me deeply: — perhaps this old Plato is my true great adversary? But how proud I am to have such an adversary! — Remember me fondly!4


A warm greeting to your brave little comrade!5

1. Paul Deussen visited Nietzsche in September 1887, while on vacation. His travels took him to Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Switzerland.
2. On his travels, Deussen's ship was quarantined due to an outbreak of cholera. See Paul Deussen, Erinnerungen an Friedrich Nietzsche. Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1901, 93.
3. Deussen's gift to Nietzsche was a laurel and fig leaf from the Academy in Athens. Cf. 11-12-1887 letter to Franz Overbeck: "Prof. Deussen sends you his greetings; he was in Athens this autumn. I got from him a laurel and fig leaf, picked from where the Academy of Plato once stood."
4."Behalte mich lieb!" (Remember me fondly! or Keep on loving me!): a favorite phrase of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) in his letters.
5. A reference to Marie Henriette Hermine Deussen (1863-1914), Paul Deussen's wife.


Georg Brandes.
Helsinki, 1887.
From b/w photo by Charles Riis.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Copenhagen, November 26, 1887:
Letter from Georg Brandes.

Dear sir!

A year ago, courtesy of your publisher, I received your work Beyond Good and Evil; recently I got your latest book in the same way. Besides these I own "Human, All Too Human." I had just sent the two volumes, which I own, to the bookbinder when the work "On the Genealogy of Morality" arrived, so I have not been able to compare it with the previous ones, as I intend to do. Bit by bit, I will read everything of yours carefully.

But this time I am prompted to express to you forthwith my solemn thanks for the items sent to me. It is an honor for me to be known by you, and similarly to have it known that you have thought of winning me as a reader.

A new and original spirit breathes from your books. I still do not fully understand what I have read; I do not always know what your point is. But a great deal agrees with my own thoughts and sympathies, the disdain for the ascetic ideal and deep dissatisfaction with democratic mediocrity, your aristocratic radicalism. Your contempt for the morality of pity is not yet clear to me. Also, in the other work, reflections about women in general are not in agreement with my own line of thought. You are organized in such a completely different way than I am that I experience difficulty in empathizing.1 Despite your universality, you are very German in your way of thinking and writing. You are among the few people with whom I wish to converse.

I know nothing about you. I see, with astonishment, that you are a professor with doctorate. In any case, I congratulate you as well that you are intellectually so little of the professor.

I do not know what you know of me. My writings merely try to solve modest problems. The majority of them only exist in Danish. I have not written in German for several years. I believe I have my best audience in Slavic countries. I have held lectures in the French language for two consecutive years in Warsaw, and this year in [St.] Petersburg and Moscow. Thus I endeavor to break out of the confines of my native land.

Though no longer young, I am still one of the most intellectually curious, inquisitive men. Therefore, you will not find me closed off from your thoughts, even when I think and feel differently. I'm often stupid, but never narrow-minded in the least.

Favor me with a few lines if you think it worthwhile.

Most indebted to you,
Georg Brandes.

1. In an April 12, 1890 letter to August Strindberg, Brandes warns: "Whatever you do, you must not immerse yourself so in Nietzsche. There is an element in him which can be used, and another which leads feeling and thought astray. As a poet you are not suspicious enough when faced with trains of thought. // Naturally the poor in spirit must not be allowed to dominate; but just as surely, the oppressed man has his rights, and N's teaching can develop into a proclamation of the brutal right to oppress." In: Walton Glyn Jones, Georg Brandes: Selected Letters. Norwich: Norvik Press, 1990: 164.


Georg Brandes.
Copenhagen, 1889.
From b/w photo by Frederik Riise.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, December 2, 1887:
Letter to Georg Brandes.

Esteemed sir,

A few readers whom one personally honors and no other readers — that is, in fact, one of my wishes. As for the latter part of this wish, I of course see more and more that it remains unfulfilled. I am all the more happy that, for me, the pauci are not lacking from the "satis sunt pauci"1 and have never been lacking. Of the living among them I would mention (to name those with whom you are familiar) my excellent friend Jacob Burckhardt, Hans von Bülow, Ms. Taine,2 the Swiss poet Keller3; of the dead, the old Hegelian Bruno Bauer4 and Richard Wagner. It is a real pleasure to me that such a good European and missionary of culture, as you are, will henceforth belong among them: I thank you with all my heart for this goodwill.

Of course this will cause you some trouble. I myself have no doubt that my writings are still in some way "very German"; you will of course feel this much more strongly, spoiled as you are by yourself, I mean by the free and graceful French manner with which you handle the language (a more sociable manner compared to mine).5 Many words have become for me encrusted with other salts and have a different taste for me than for my readers: this must be taken into account. In the scale of my experiences and circumstances is the preponderance of the rarer, remoter, thinner pitches versus the normal, middle ones. I also have (to speak like an old musician, which I actually am) an ear for quarter-tones. Finally — and what for the most part makes my books obscure — there is within me a distrust of dialectic, even of reasons. What a person already maintains as "true" or not yet true, seems to me more due to courage, to the strength of his courage ... (Only rarely do I have the courage for what I actually know).6

The expression "aristocratic radicalism," which you use,7 is very good. That is, if I may say so, the shrewdest remark that I have ever read about me. How far this way of thinking has already guided my thoughts, how far it will still guide me — I'm almost afraid to imagine. But there are paths that don't permit one to turn back; and so I go forward, because I must go forward.

So that I do not fail to do everything on my part to facilitate your access to my cave, that is to say, to my philosophy, my Leipzig publisher shall send you my earlier writings en bloc. In particular, I recommend that you read the new prefaces (almost all of them have been republished). These prefaces, read in order, may perhaps shed some light upon me, provided that I am not intrinsically obscure (obscure in and for myself), like obscurissimus obscurorum virorum8 ...

— This could indeed be possible. —

Are you a musician? A choral and orchestral work of mine is just being published, a Hymn to Life.9 The same composition is meant to survive and to be sung one day "in my memory": assuming that enough of the rest of me survives. You see with what kind of posthumous thoughts I live. But a philosophy like mine is like a grave — one no longer lives with [anyone]. "Bene vixit qui bene latuit"10 — that is what's on Descartes' tombstone. A grave inscription, no doubt!

It is also my wish to meet you one day.11


NB. I am staying in Nice this winter. My summer address is: Sils-Maria, Upper Engadine, Switzerland. — I've given up my university professorship. I'm three-quarters blind.

1. "A few are enough." Cf. seventh letter of Seneca in Epistulae Morales Ad Lucilium (Letters from a Stoic: Epistulae Morales Ad Lucilium. Translated by Robin Campbell. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969: 42-44):
".... Subducendus populo est tener animus et parum tenax recti: facile transitur ad plures. Socrati et Catoni et Laelio excutere morem suum dissimilis multitudo potuisset: adeo nemo nostrum, qui cum maxime concinnamus ingenium, ferre impetum vitiorum tam magno comitatu venientium potest. Unum exemplum luxuriae aut avaritiae multum mali facit: convictor delicatus paulatim enervat et mollit, vicinus dives cupiditatem inritat, malignus comes quamvis candido et simplici rubiginem suam adfricuit: quid tu accidere his moribus credis, in quos publice factus est impetus? Necesse est aut imiteris aut oderis. Utrumque autem devitandum est: neve similis malis fias, quia multi sunt, neve inimicus multis, quia dissimiles sunt. Recede in te ipse, quantum potes. Cum his versare, qui te meliorem facturi sunt. Illos admitte, quos tu potes facere meliores. Mutuo ista fiunt, et homines, dum docent, discunt. Non est quod te gloria publicandi ingenii producat in medium, ut recitare istis velis aut disputare, quod facere te vellem, si haberes isti populo idoneam mercem: nemo est, qui intellegere te possit. Aliquis fortasse, unus aut alter incidet, et hic ipse formandus tibi erit instituendusque ad intellectum tui. 'Cui ergo ista didici?' Non est quod timeas, ne operam perdideris: tibi didicisti. Sed ne soli mihi hodie didicerim, communicabo tecum, quae occurrerunt mihi egregie dicta circa eundem fere sensum tria; ex quibus unum haec epistula in debitum solvet, duo in antecessum accipe. Democritus ait: 'unus mihi pro populo est, et populus pro uno.' Bene et ille, quisquis fuit—ambigitur enim de auctore—, cum quaereretur ab illo, quo tanta diligentia artis spectaret ad paucissimos perventurae, 'satis sunt', inquit, 'mihi pauci, satis est unus, satis est nullus.' Egregie hoc tertium Epicurus, cum uni ex consortibus studiorum suorum scriberet: 'haec' inquit 'ego non multis, sed tibi: satis enim magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus.' Ista, mi Lucili, condenda in animum sunt, ut contemnas voluptatem ex plurium assensione venientem. Multi te laudant. Et quid habes, cur placeas tibi, si is es, quem intellegant multi? Introrsus bona tua spectent. Vale. ".... When a mind is impressionable and has none too firm a hold on what is right, it must be rescued from the crowd: it is so easy for it to go over to the majority. A Socrates, a Cato or a Laelius might have been shaken in his principles by a multitude of people different from himself: such is the measure of the inability of any of us, even as we perfect our personality's adjustment, to withstand the onset of vices when they come with such a mighty following. A single example of extravagance or greed does a lot of harm—an intimate who leads a pampered life gradually makes one soft and flabby; a wealthy neighbor provokes cravings in one; a companion with a malicious nature tends to rub off some of his rust even on someone of an innocent and open-hearted nature—what then do you imagine the effect on a person's character is when the assault comes from the world at large? You must inevitably either hate or imitate the world. But the right thing is to shun both courses: you should neither become like the bad because they are many, nor be an enemy of the many because they are unlike you. Retire into yourself as much as you can. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those whom you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach. And there is no reason why any pride in advertising your talents abroad should lure you forward into the public eye, inducing you to give readings of your works or deliver lectures. I should be glad to see you doing that if what you had to offer them was suitable for the crowd I have been talking about: but the fact is, not one of them is really capable of understanding you. You might perhaps come across one here and there, but even they would need to be trained and developed by you to a point where they could grasp your teaching. 'For whose benefit, then, did I learn it all?' If it was for your own benefit that you learned it you have no call to fear that your trouble may have been wasted. Just to make sure that I have not been learning solely for my own benefit today, let me share with you three fine quotations I have come across, each concerned with something like the same idea—one of them is by way of payment of the usual debt so far as this letter is concerned, and the other two you are to regard as an advance on account. 'To me,' says Democritus, 'a single man is a crowd, and a crowd is a single man.' Equally good is the answer given by the person, whoever it was (his identity is uncertain), who when asked what was the object of all the trouble he took over a piece of craftsmanship when it would never reach more than a very few people, replied: 'A few are enough for me; so is one; and so is none.' The third is a nice expression used by Epicurus in a letter to one of his colleagues. 'I am writing this,' he says, 'not for the eyes of the many, but for yours alone: for each of us is audience enough for the other.' Lay these up in your heart, my dear Lucilius, that you may scorn the pleasure that comes from the majority's approval. The many speak highly of you, but have you really any grounds for satisfaction with yourself if you are the kind of person the many understand? Your merits should not be outward facing. Farewell."
Cf. From Nietzsche's Notebooks: Sommer-Herbst 1884 26[467]; April—Juni 1885 34[196]; Juni-Juli 1885 37[2].
2. Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893): French historian and critic. See his entry in Nietzsche's Library.
3. Gottfried Keller (1819-1890): Swiss poet and writer. See his entry in Nietzsche's Library.
4. Bruno Bauer (1809-1882): German philosopher and historian. Nietzsche is alluding to Bauer's mention of him in Zur Orientierung über die Bismarck'sche Ära. Chemnitz: Schmeitzner, 1880:287. See Bauer's entry in Nietzsche's Library.
5. See the entry for Brandes in Nietzsche's Library.
6. Cf. From Nietzsche's Notebooks, Frühjahr 1888 14[159]: "der Tod am Kreuze beweist keine Wahrheit, nur eine Überzeugung, nur eine Idiosynkrasie (— sehr populärer Irrthum: den Muth zu seiner Überzeugung haben —? aber den Muth zum Angriff auf seine Überzeugung haben!!!" (the death on the Cross proves no truth, only a conviction, only an idiosyncrasy (— very popular error: having the courage of one's convictions —? Rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one's convictions!!!).
7. See above letter from Brandes.
8. The most obscure obscure men.
9. Nietzsche's Hymnus an das Leben.
10. Cf. Anton Ölzelt-Newin, Die Unlösbarkeit der ethischen Probleme. Wien: Braumüller, 1883, 33: "Wenn Spinoza das höchste Glück des Menschen in einer einsamen Musse, fern vom Treiben der Menschen, im Aufgehen seines Seins in Gott erkennt; (Spinoza und Descartes wollten ihre Schriften, weil ihnen jede Störung verhasst war, entweder gar nicht oder erst nach ihrem Tod veröffentlichen. Bene vixit, qui bene latuit, Descartes' Grabinschrift); wenn die christlichen Ethiker in der Andacht, in einem einzigen Gedanken eine Seligkeit fanden, die ein ganzes Leben auszufüllen gross genug war, wenn Dichter die Augenblicke göttlicher Eingebung, Denker das Anschauen der Wahrheit und ihre Erkenntniss priesen als das letzte Ziel ihres Strebens, wie viel strebten sie alle nach dem Nutzen der Menschheit?" The phrase is from Ovid, Tristia, 3:4:25: "crede mihi, bene qui latuit, bene vixit" (who has hidden himself well has lived well).
11. Cf. Brandes' letter: "Sie gehören zu den wenigen Menschen, mit denen ich sprechen möchte." (You are among the few people with whom I wish to converse.)


Carl Fuchs.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, December 14, 1887:
Letter to Carl Fuchs.

Dear and worthy friend,

It was a very good moment to write me such a letter.1 For I am — almost without willing it, but in accordance with an inexorable necessity — right in the midst of settling up with people and things near to me and putting aside my entire "heretofore." Almost everything that I now do is a drawing-a-line-under2 everything. The vehemence of my inner vibrations has been frightening throughout the past years; now when I have to proceed with a new and higher form, I will need first of all a new estrangement, an even greater depersonalization. So it is essential what and who still remains for me. —

How old am I really anyway? I do not know; nor how young I shall become. —

I look at your photograph with pleasure; there seems to me to be a lot of youth and courage in it, mixed, as is fitting, with the beginning marks of wisdom (and white hair? ...)

In Germany they complain a lot about my "eccentricities."3 But since they do not know where my center is, it will be difficult for them to come across the truth about where and when I have till now been "eccentric." That I was a philologist, for example, meant I was outside my center (which, fortunately, is certainly not to say that I was a bad philologist). Likewise: today it seems to me an eccentricity that I have been a Wagnerian. It was an exceedingly dangerous experiment; now that I know it did not ruin me, I also know what meaning it has had for me — it was the strongest test of my character. Gradually, of course, one's inmost self disciplines one back to unity; that passion for which, for a long time, one has no name, rescues us from all digressions and dispersions, that task of which one is the involuntary missionary.

Such things are very hard to understand from a distance. My last ten years have thus been exceedingly painful and violent. In case you want to hear more of this very unpleasant and problematic story, I recommend to your friendly interest the new editions of my earlier writings, especially the prefaces to them. (Incidentally: my (for good reasons) somewhat desperate publisher, the excellent E. W. Fritzsch in Leipzig, is prepared to give away these new editions, provided that one promises him a longer essay (on "Nietzsche en bloc"). The bigger literary journals, like Lindau's Nord und Süd,4 are ripe for needing to have such an essay, because a real disquietude and excitement about the meaning of my writings is making itself felt. So far no one has had enough courage and intelligence to reveal me to our dear Germans: my problems are new, my psychological horizon is frighteningly extensive, my language bold and clear, there are perhaps no German books richer in ideas and more independent than mine.)

— The Hymn5 is also part of the "drawing-a-line-under." Could you not have it sung sometime? I have already been asked from all quarters about having it performed (e.g. Mottl in Carlsruhe).6 It is of course really meant to be sung one day "in remembrance of me": it is meant to be something of mine that will survive, assuming that I myself survive.

Keep me in good memory, my dear Doctor: I thank you most warmly for the fact that you want to remain devoted to me in the second half of your century.7

Your friend

1. Fuchs' letter of November 20, 1887.
2. "Strich-drunter-ziehn."
3. See Georg Gizycki, "Briefe über die neuere philosophische Literatur." In: Deutsche Rundschau. Bd. 52. Juli-Sept. 1887:312-13. (A review of Beyond Good and Evil: "Under this title Friedrich Nietzsche presents us a collection of stylistically perfect, witty, original, yet mostly eccentric and bizarre aphorisms: thoughts among which many beautiful, fine — and piquant — things are to be found, but more unfortunately, things that (to say the very least) closely border on the sphere of the pathological and psychiatric." For a complete translation of Gizycki's review, see his entry in Nietzsche's Library.)
4. A review of Beyond Good and Evil was published in the May 1887 edition.
5. Nietzsche's Hymnus an das Leben.
6. Felix Mottl (1856-1911): Austrian conductor and composer, who was working in Karlsruhe at the time. Nietzsche wrote to Mottl on 01-06-1886 to assist Heinrich Köselitz, who was trying to get his opera, "Der Löwe von Venedig" (The Lion of Venice) produced. For more information on Köselitz, see Frederick R. Love's, Nietzsche's Saint Peter. Genesis and Cultivation of an Illusion. Berlin; New York: de Gruyter, 1981. [Series: Band 5. Monographien und Texte zur Nietzsche-Forschung.]
7. Fuchs was about to turn 50.


Carl von Gersdorff.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, December 20, 1887:
Letter to Carl von Gersdorff.

Dear friend,

Rarely in my life has a letter brought me such joy as yours of November 30. It seems to me that all that is between us has again been remedied in the most honest and thorough way.1 Such happiness could hardly have been saved for me at a more suitable point in time than the present one. In an important sense, right now my life stands as at full midday: one door is closing, another opening. What I have done in recent years was merely a settling of accounts, a closing of the books, a summing up of the past; I have practically finished with men and things, and have drawn a line under it all. Who and what should remain with me now that I must move on to the actual core of my existence (am condemned to move on ...) that is now the real question. For, between you and me, the tension in which I am living, the pressure of a great task and passion is too great for new people to be able to get close to me now. In fact, the desert around me is vast; I actually tolerate only total strangers and random acquaintances or, on the other hand, those who were close to me from olden days and from childhood. Everyone else has broken away or been repulsed (there was a lot of violence and pain in that —).

I was moved to receive as a present just now your letter and your old friendship within it. Something similar happened last summer when Deussen2 suddenly appeared in the Engadine, whom I had not seen for 15 years (— he is the first professor of philosophy who is an admitted Schopenhauerian and maintained that I am the cause of his transformation). I am likewise deeply grateful for all that I owe the Venetian maestro.3 I have visited him almost every year and can tell you without any exaggeration that in rebus musicis et musicantibus4 he is my only hope, my consolation and my pride. For he has all but grown out of me: his music-making, in its depth and kindness of soul and classic taste, is now far above all other music being produced today. That people behave in a dismissive and rude fashion toward him and that he has been through a real ordeal for an entire year due to rejections, tactlessness and German boorishness, all this is not a contradiction. But the moral of the story is this: either one perishes from the adversities of life or comes out stronger because of them.

You, too, my dear old friend! You much-tried one! will be able to subscribe to this sentence? —

It seems to me that this time I have written you a birthday letter? Just as formerly, in our "good old" times? (I have never for a moment really been disloyal to you: also tell this to your dear wife, along with my warm regards!)

In old love and
friendship Your Nietzsche

Just published, by E. W. Fritzsch: Hymn to Life. For mixed choir and orchestra composed by Friedrich Nietzsche. Score. — Please do read the new edition of The Joyful Science: — there is plenty in it to make you laugh.

1. Their friendship was severed by Gersdorff's affair with a woman, Nerina Finochietti, an Italian countess from a disreputable family. He was introduced to her by Malwida von Meysenbug, who later discovered and broadcast her true origins. Gersdorff responded by castigating Meysenbug in his correspondence with her, to which Nietzsche took great offense.
2. Paul Deussen visited Nietzsche in September 1887.
3. Heinrich Köselitz (Peter Gast).
4. In matters of music and musicians.


Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche.
Ca. 1900.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, end of December 1887:
Draft of letter to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche.

In the meantime, I've seen proof in black and white that Herr Dr. Förster still has not severed his connection with the anti-S[emitic] movement.1 A schmuck2 and Biedermeyer3 from Leipzig (Fritsch,4 if I remember correctly) undertook the task of — he has been sending me on a regular basis the Anti-S[emitic] Corresp[ondence],5 despite my emphatic protests (I have never read anything more despicable than this Correspondence [tabloid sheet]). Since then I've had difficulty asserting in your favor any of the old tenderness and forbearance I've held toward you for so long, the separation between us is virtually established in the most absurd way. Have you grasped nothing of the reason why I am in the world?

Do you want a catalog of the sentiments to which I feel antipodal? You will find them quite neatly next to each other in your husband's "Echoes of P[arsifal]";6 when I read it, the hair-raising idea came to me that you have understood nothing, nothing of my illness, even less about my painful and astonishing experience — that the man7 whom I had most revered had devolved right into a disgusting degeneracy of what I had always despised the most in the swindle of moral and Christian ideals. — Now it has gone so far that I have to defend myself tooth and nail against those who confuse me with these anti-S[emitic] canaille; after my own sister, my former sis[ter], like Widemann8 more recently, has given the impetus to this most disastrous of all confusions. After I actually read the name Z[arathustra] in the Anti-S[emitic] Correspondence, my patience came to an end — I am now in a state of self-defense against the party of your husband. These accursed antics9 of the anti-Semites shall not sully my ideal!!

That our name, through your marriage, is comingled with this movement, how I have suffered from it! You've lost all reason and all respect these last 6 years.

Heavens, how difficult this is for me!

I have,  as is fair, never asked you to [understand] something of the position that I occupy as a ph[ilosopher] in my time; you have, nevertheless, with a little instinct for love, been able to avoid it by immediately taking up residence with my antipodes. I am now thinking about sisters in roughly the same way as Sch[openhauer]10 did — they are superfluous, they cause mischief.

As a result of the past 10 years, I relish the fact that [I] have lost the indulgent illusion that anyone would know what I'm all about. For years I've been close to death: not the faintest idea from anyone as to why. And when I became well again and gradually so, almost every p[erson] whom I know literally competed to repeatedly call into question my recovery with the most offensive maltreatment:

I was gradually on guard to be involved with p[eople] today; for my memory in regard to almost all of them, to everyone I have known up to now, is that I have been shamefully maltreated by them in the hardest times of my life.

Until now [I have] of course forgotten no one who has aggrieved me in the last 10 years: [but maybe I'm also still learning that] my memory has little room for my experiences

it was, e.g., previously impossible for me to visit the Overbecks in Basel, because I had not forgiven Frau Overbeck that she [had formed] sordid and derogatory opinions about a [creature] of whom I had told her was the only kindred nature that I have come across in my life.11 The same is true of Malvida12 and basically all of my old acquaintances: until this moment, my honor in this respect has not been redressed. The visit of the excel[lent] Deussen13 reminded me of this situation. [....]14

1. Elisabeth's husband, Bernhard Förster (1843-1889), a leader of the German anti-Semitic movement in the late 1870s and founder of the failed Paraguayan colony, "Nueva Germania." Förster eventually committed suicide. The "proof" referred to by Nietzsche was Förster's article "Unsere Arbeit, unsere Ziele!" See above.
2. "Tolpatsch."
3. "Biedermeyer." Biedermeier: figuratively speaking, an uninspiring and unsubtle member of the bourgeoisie.
4. Theodor Fritsch.
5. Fritsch's anti-Semitic tabloid sheet, Antisemitische Correspondenz.
6. Bernhard Förster, Parsifal-Nachklänge. Allerhand Gedanken über deutsche Cultur, Wissenschaft, Kunst. Leipzig: Theodor Fritsch, 1883. The second edition is in Nietzsche's library, Richard Wagner in seiner nationalen Bedeutung und in seiner Wirkung auf das deutsche Culturleben. Leipzig: Fock, 1886.
7. Richard Wagner. Nietzsche objected to the moralizing Christian content in Wagner's Parsifal.
8. Nietzsche's former student, Paul Heinrich Widemann (1851-1928). His father was the lawyer for Nietzsche's former publisher, Ernst Schmeitzner. Widemann was the author of Erkennen und Sein. Karlsruhe; Leipzig: Reuther, 1885. Nietzsche was annoyed with Widemann's conflation of the ideas of Eugen Dühring with his Zarathustra. See Erkennen und Sein: 239.
9. "Fratzen."
10. Unknown source. Schopenhaur's derogatory opinion of his own sister seems to be based on ill-will towards both her and his mother. Schopenhauer objected to his mother's profligate lifestyle, as well as her greed. She had invested her inheritance with a banker for eight percent interest; the firm went bankrupt, leaving her in a precarious financial position, unlike her son who had diversified his holdings in less lucrative government bonds. His sister's actions fell under the same levelling scorn. Schopenhauer felt neither of them paid enough homage to his father, who had died either by suicide or by accident. Cf. David E. Cartwright, Schopenhauer. A Biography. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010, 351f.
11. Nietzsche probably learned of Ida Overbeck's critical remarks about Lou Salomé from his sister, since there is no other evidence available.
12. Malwida von Meysenbug expressed criticisms about Salomé in December 1882.
13. Paul Deussen visited Nietzsche in September 1887.
14. The remaining three paragraphs of this draft restate the opinions expressed above.

Nietzsche's Letters | 1887© The Nietzsche Channel

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