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Nietzsche's Letters


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Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.
Leipzig: E. W. Fritzsch, 1887.
Title page.

Turin, April 14, 1888:
Letter to Ernst Wilhelm Fritzsch.

Dear Herr Fritzsch,

In the enclosed letter, which I ask you to read, a New York-based admirer1 of my Zarathustra reports that he is willing to "provide the proper respect" due to my writings in general by writing an English essay in his country. The enclosed list of his own writings,2 its literary and cultural-historical contents, seems to give some guarantee: it even signifies that we are dealing with a major international literary personage. Decide entirely at your discretion whether to consent to his request. Basically, all my experience suggests that my effectiveness begins peripherally and only from there will flow back to the "Fatherland." I was just informed that they have made a very extensive general survey of recent German historical-literature in the Florentine Archivio Stor[ico]3 that does much honor to my point of view in the 2nd Untimely M[editation]. — Tell me briefly what should be done. In the corresponding case, I will still write a few words to New York.

Sincerely your
most humble
Prof. Dr Nietzsche

Address until June 4: Turin (Italia) ferma in posta

from then on: Sils-Maria, Upper Engadine, Switzerland.

1. Karl Knortz. See June 21, 1888 letter below. Unfortunately, Knortz's letter along with his attached list, is lost.
2. Knortz's writings up to 1887 include:
— "Geschichte, Wesen und Literatur der Stenographie." In: Deutsch-Amerikanische Monatshefte für Politik, Wissenschaft und Literatur. Herausgegeben von Caspar Butz. Jhg. 2. Bd. 1: Mai: ?; Jhg. 2. Bd. 2: Dec: 481-93. Chicago: Gross, 1865.
— "William Hickling Prescott." In: Deutsch-Amerikanische Monatshefte für Politik, Wissenschaft und Literatur. Herausgegeben von Caspar Butz. Nov.: 385-396. Chicago: Gross, 1865.
— "Die fonografische Literatur in den Vereinigten Staaten Nordamerikas." (1. Juni 1870.) In: Panstenographikon. Zeitschrift für Kunde der stenographischen Systeme aller Nationen. Bd. 1, 3-4 Lieferung: 279-303. Dresden: Dietze, 1874.
Märchen und Sagen der nordamerikanischen Indianer. Jena: Costenoble, 1871.
Evangeline. Amerikanische Idylle von Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Uebersetzt von Karl Knortz. Leipzig: Reclam, [ca. 1871].
Der sang von Hiawatha von H.W. Longfellow. Uebersetzt, eingeleitet, und erklärt von Karl Knortz. Jena: Costenoble, 1872.
Lieder und romanzen alt-Englands. Cöthen: Schettler, 1872.
— "Deutsch-Pennsylvanisch." In: Der Deutsche Pioneer. Heft V, 1873: 66-70.
Die Brautwerbung des Miles Standish. Von Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Uebersetzt von Karl Knortz. Leipzig: Reclam, Philipp jun., [1874]. [Series: Universal-Bibliothek, 540.]
Gedichte. Leipzig: P. Reclam jun., [Reclam., 1874]. [Series: Universal bibliothek, 578.]
Schottische Balladen. Deutsch von Karl Knortz. Halle: Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses, 1875.
Amerikanische Skizzen. Halle: Gesenius, 1876.
An American Shakespeare Bibliography. Boston: Schoenhof & Moeller, [1876].
Humoristische Gedichte. Baltimore: Rossmässler und Morf [1877].
Epigramme. Lyck: Wiebe, 1878.
Longfellow. Literar-historische Studie. Hamburg: Grüning, 1879.
Zwei amerikanische Idyllen. Elisabeth. Von Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Snow-Bound (Eingeschneit) von John Greenleaf Whittier. Uebersetzt von Karl Knortz. Berlin: Bohme, 1879.
Aus dem Wigwam. Uralte und neue Märchen und Sagen der nordamerikanischen Indianer. Wiedererzählt von Karl Knortz. Mit vier anfangsvignetten und sechs tonbildern. Leipzig: Spamer, 1880.
Kapital und Arbeit in Amerika. Vortrag gehalten in der Zionskirche zu Johnstown, Pa. Zürich: Schmidt, 1880.
Modern American lyrics. Edited by Karl Knortz and Otto Dickmann. Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1880.
Aus der transatlantischen gesellschaft. Nordamerikanische kulturbilder. Mit dem bildnisse James A. Garfield's. Leipzig: Schlicke, 1882.
Mythologie und Civilisation der nordamerikanischen Indianer. Zwei Abhandlungen. Leipzig: Frohberg, 1882.
Shakespeare in Amerika. Eine literarhistorische Studie. Berlin: Hofmann, 1882.
Staat und kirche in Amerika. Vortrag gehalten in der Zionskirche zu Johnstown, Pa. Gotha: Stollberg, 1882.
Amerikanische Gedichte der Neuzeit. Frei ins Deutsche übertragen von Karl Knortz. Leipzig: Wartig (Hoppe), 1883.
Amerikanische Lebensbilder. Skizzen und Tagebuchblätter von Karl Knortz. Zürich: Verlags Magazin, J. Schabelitz, 1884.
Neue Epigramme. Zürich: Verlags-Magazin (J. Schabelitz), 1884.
Neue Gedichte. Glarus: Vogel, 1884.
Eines deutschen Matrosen Nordpolfahrten. Wilhelm Nindemann's Erinnerungen an die Nordpolexpedition der "Polaris" und "Jeanette." Herausgegeben von Karl Knortz. Zürich: Verlags-Magazin (J. Schabelitz), 1885.
Goethe und die Wertherzeit. Ein Vortrag. Zürich: Verlags-Magazin (J. Schabelitz), 1885.
Representative German poems, ballad and lyrical. Original texts with English versions by various translators. Edited with notes by Karl Knortz. New York: Holt; Boston: Schoenhof, 1885.
Brook Farm und Margaret Fuller. Vortrag gehalten im Deutschen Gesellig-Wissenschaftlichen Verein von New York am 11. März 1885. New York: Bartsch, 1886.
Gustav Seyffarth. Eine biographische Skizze. New York: Steiger, 1886.
The literary life of Gustavus Seyffarth. New York: Steiger, 1886.
Irländische märchen. Wiedererzählt von Karl Knortz. Zürich: Verlags-Magazin (J. Schabelitz), 1886.
Walt Whitman. Vortrag gehalten im Deutschen Gesellig-Wissenschaftlichen Verein von New York am 24. März 1886. New York: Bartsch, 1886.
Lieder aus der Fremde. Freie uebersetzungen von Karl Knortz. ("Aus dem amerikanischen Dichterwalde"; "Fremdes und Eigenes.") Glarus: Vogel, 1887.
Nokomis. Märchen und Sagen nordamerikanischer Indianer. Wiedererzählt von Karl Knortz. Zürich: Verlags-Magazin (J. Schabelitz), 1887.
3. 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) told his erstwhile friend Heinrich Köselitz about mentioning Nietzsche in a piece for the Archivio storica italiano. See Lodovico Zdekauer, "Germania. Storia della civiltà, e specialmente del diritto." In: Archivio storica italiano. Quinta Serie. Tomo II. Anno 1888. Firenze: Vieusseux, 1888: 204-220 (220).


Bach's St. Matthew Passion.
In Le Figaro. May 23, 1888.

Turin, May 25, 1888:
Postcard to Heinrich Köselitz.

Dear friend,

Parisians are just wildly enthusiastic for — the St. Matthew Passion!!1 Le Figaro, literally Le Figaro! has devoted an entire page2 to a sheet of music: the melancholy aria "Have mercy, my God" ... Here Carignano Theater closed, of course with Carmen:3 it ran for two months. 3 other operas4 were offered to the public: they turned them down one after the other. The number of performances was astounding to me: the work was performed several times three evenings in a row. At the end, very respectable gifts for the maestro Mugnone,5 gold Remontoir watch and so forth.

Operetta composers seem to have control of the orchestras in Italy: I have two cases in mind here. Canti6 e.g., the composer of "la nuova befana"7 uses his position as maestro to put himself on stage in other ways; in entr'actes a song or a symphony "composed especially for this evening". —

Regards from the failed musician8

1. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), St. Matthew Passion (1727).
2. "La Passion selon Saint Matthieu de Jean-Sébastien Bach. Traduction française de M. Ch. Bannelier." In: Le Figaro. Nr. 144. Mai 23, 1888, p. 8.
3. Carmen, opera by the French composer Georges Bizet (1838-1875). On January 5, 1882, Nietzsche sent Köselitz a marked-up edition of Bizet's score, with 75 marginal notes in pencil. See "Nietzsche's Marginal Glosses to Georges Bizet's Carmen." In: Friedrich Nietzsche in Words and Pictures. Appendix 2. Chronology of Nietzsche's Music: 121-141.
4. Only two of them are known: Martha (1847), by Friedrich von Flotow (1812-1883); La Favorita (1840), by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848).
5. Leopoldo Mugnone (1858-1941): Italian conductor. Mugnone conducted Carmen at the Carignano Theater in Turin, with Luisi Borghi starring as Carmen. Cf. Giuseppe Depanis, I concerti popolari ed il Teatro regio di Torino. Quindici anni di vita musicale. Appunti – ricordi. Con ritratti, illustrazioni e facsimili d'autori. II. 1879-1886. Torino: Società Tipografico-Editrice Nazionale, 1915, 130. "Fra le numerose riproduzioni merita un cenno speciale quella del 1888 che al Carignano ebbe direttore d'orchestra Leopoldo Mugnone e protagonista Luisa Borghi. Indipendentemente dal valore degli interpreti lo speciale cenno è giustificato da che la rappresentazione di Carmen al Carignano fu l'estremo godimento artistico di Federico Nietzsche il quale già infermo si era rifugiato a Torino donde fu ritrasportato poi in Germania pazzo furioso. L'audizione di Carmen spinse il filosofo paradossale all'abiura del Wagnerismo." (Among the numerous productions [of Carmen] in 1888, one deserves a special mention: it was the one by conductor Leopoldo Mugnone and protagonist Luisa Borghi at Carignano. Regardless of the value of the rendition, the special mention is justified by the fact that the performance of Carmen at Carignano was the utmost artistic delight of Friedrich Nietzsche, who had already taken refuge in Turin, where he was later transported back to Germany as a madman. Listening to Carmen drove the paradoxical philosopher to renounce Wagnerism.)
6. Edoardo Canti (1829-1889): Italian composer.
7. Libretto by Ercole Ovidi (1835-1896). Ovidi also wrote under the pseudonym, Vico Redi.
8. Nietzsche's opinion of his musical talent was both true and untrue. See Friedrich Nietzsche in Words and Pictures. Appendix 2. Chronology of Nietzsche's Music.


Franziska Nietzsche.
By: Jakob Höflinger, Basel.
From b/w photo, ca. 1869.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

[Sils Maria], June 16, 1888:
Letter to Franziska Nietzsche.

My dear mother,

I am not my best. Forgive me if I write something briefly. You must accept the money from Kürbitz1 at all costs, otherwise I cannot even place my orders when I need to! Perhaps you no longer remember what I wrote from Turin. This time I want all my ham needs [sent] from Naumburg. Last summer I obtained it from Basel, from Zurich, from St. Gallen and elsewhere, with all sorts of displeasure and disappointment: so that I would not want to repeat it. As you can imagine, I always had to pay for it with my health when an order was poor or not entirely satisfactory. What actually agreed with me was only the very last Naumburg parcel from September: the fat, rolled, Lachsschinken-wurst.2 So I wrote from Turin that this time I would be sensible from the start and not make all sorts of bad experiments. Since my summer is about 4 months long, I need at least 12 pounds = 6 kilos of Lachsschinken. This is all of my evening meals for 4 months. If you had any idea about how difficult it is just to feed myself here with the hugely expensive tourist conditions, you would understand immediately that this very monotonous and boring diet is, relatively, by far the cheapest and also healthiest for me. I can absolutely no longer afford to take any risks; the more regular [I am] the better. In a big city like Turin, of course, all sorts of variety is available to me: but not here (— it immediately becomes terribly expensive, since a very simple lunch cost 2 frs. 25 ct. = 19 groschen (without tip). — If it is not a bother, my good mother, give me the right address for a shop in Gotha or in Braunschweig. What I would prefer of course is what I imagined as follows: that you would choose the ham yourself and then ship it (— the transport costs would of course also be paid by me too —)[.]

I have finished the small sausage: it was too dry due to its small size. The larger one is better, but not nearly as good as the fat round one from last autumn. I think you would do well to send really big ones. The 3 pounds sent are enough for a total of 14 days: that means I have enough to eat for just 6 days.

Don't be angry that I'm giving you such trouble: but please could you send immediately a larger shipment than the last time, and of the very best. The costs are of no consequence to me, if it turns out to be very good and wholesome, please pay a little more, provided that it is top-quality. — And please go to Kürbitz!!!!

Unfortunately, the honey did not agree with me at all: just like last summer. I started to vomit. It's waxy honey: but my stomach knows no other way of dealing with wax. —

I am enclosing the one letter from the Lama3; the other will follow the next time so that the postage isn't double. I am surprised that Lisbeth said nothing about the 8 letters I wrote to her from Nice this winter.

With love
Your old creature[.]

I did not even thank you for your warm letter.4 Coming to Naumburg, given my health conditions, is of course not possible: it is not a hobby that condemns me to the Engadine and to Nice[.] — —

Sils-Engadine, Switzerland, is actually sufficient for the address: for there are two other Sils, yet not in the Engadine.

1. Nietzsche had transferred 30 marks to his mother's account with the Naumburg banker Ernst Julius Kürbitz (1845-?).
2. Lachsschinken-wurst: a smoked, rolled fillet of ham.
3. The nickname of his sister Elisabeth.
4. The letter is lost.


Karl Knortz.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Sils-Maria, June 21, 1888:
Letter to Karl Knortz.

Esteemed sir!

The arrival of two works by your pen, for which I am much obliged to you, seems to me to vouch that my literature has now come into your possession.1 The task of giving you a picture of myself, whether as a thinker, or as a writer and poet, seems to me extremely difficult. The first major attempt of this kind was made last winter by the distinguished Dane Dr. Georg Brandes, who may be known to you as a literary historian. He held a long cycle of lectures about me at the University of Copenhagen, under the title "The German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche," the success of which, according to all that has been reported to me from there, must have been brilliant. He has produced a lively interest in the boldness of my posited problems in an audience of 300 people and has, as he himself says, made my name popular throughout the North.2 Apart from that, I have a more secretive audience and group of admirers to which some Frenchmen also belong, like Mr. Taine.3 My deepest conviction is that these problems of mine, this entire position of an "immoralist" is still too premature for the present time, much too unprepared. The thought of propaganda is completely remote from my mind; I have not yet lifted a finger in that regard.

Of my Zarathustra, I believe that it is about the most profound work that exists in the German language, also, linguistically, the most perfect. But to empathize with4 this will also require entire generations who first have to gain5 the inner experiences by virtue of which this work was able to develop. I would almost recommend to start with the latest works, which are the most far-reaching and important ("Beyond Good and Evil" and "Genealogy of Morality"). To me, the most sympathetic are my middle books, "Dawn" and "The Joyful Science" (they are the most personal).

The "Untimely Meditations," youthful writings in a certain sense, deserve the greatest attention for my development. In "Times, Nations and Men" by Karl Hillebrand6 are some very good essays about "Untimely." The work7 against Strauss caused a great storm; the work8 about Schopenhauer, whose reading I particularly recommend, shows how an energetic and instinctively affirmative mind knows how to retain the most beneficent stimuli even from a pessimist. For a few years which belong to the most valuable ones of my life, I was a close confidant of Richard Wagner and Frau Cosima Wagner and on most intimate terms with them. If I now belong to the opponents of the Wagnerian movement, there are, as is self-evident, no mesquine8 motives behind this. In the Collected Works of Wagner, Volume IX (if I recall correctly) is a letter to me, which testifies to our relationship.9

Please accept, esteemed sir, the most sincere regards of

Professor Dr. Nietzsche.

1. See above letter to E. W. Fritzsch. On May 7, 1888, Nietzsche advised C. G. Naumann to send copies of his writings to Knortz in New York. Two works by Knortz are in Nietzsche's library, ostensibly sent by Knortz: Amerikanische Gedichte der Neuzeit. Frei ins Deutsche übertragen von Karl Knortz. Leipzig: Wartig (Hoppe), 1883; Walt Whitman. Vortrag gehalten im Deutschen Gesellig-Wissenschaftlichen Verein von New York am 24. März 1886. New York: Hermann Bartsch, 1886.
2. In April-May 1888 (April 10, 17, 24, May 1, 5), 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.
3. Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893): French historian and critic. See his entry in Nietzsche's Library.
4. nachzufühlen.
5. nachholen (to catch up with).
6. Karl Hillebrand (1829-1884). See his entry in Nietzsche's Library.
7. Untimely Meditations I: David Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer. 1873.
8. Untimely Meditations III: Schopenhauer as Educator. 1874.
8. French for "petty" or "mean."
9. Richard Wagner, "An Friedrich Nietzsche." In: Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, June 23, 1872. Reprinted in Richard Wagner, Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen. Bd. 9. Leipzig: Fritzsch, 1873, 350.


Reinhart and Irene von Seydlitz.
From b/w photo, ca. 1875.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Sils-Maria, June 28, 1888:
Letter to Reinhart von Seydlitz.

Dear friend,

Nothing is more stupid than stupidity — namely mine. The notion that a letter of yours still has to seek me out southeasterly has not for a moment risen on the horizon.1 And how nice it would have been if we had all been together for a few days in Turin! For there my disposition was such as it had not been for 20 years, and I sparkled like a dragon with wit and malice. Even the heat did nothing to me: and I cannot help weighing in that Turin's coffee house culture has risen to truly dizzying heights! I felt I was a connoisseur in gelati, spumoni, pezzis duri, but now look ...

That you were in Nice, makes me downright sad.2 And in Rapallo, at the sacred spot where Zarathustra, the "book of books," was born!3

— Here I have to do something good again. Just yesterday the thought occurred to me to wander pleasantly once more "among people": given that I will always be more like a "monster," more like an "unsheltered" animal.4 Return to Munich in the second half of September??? But now you are certainly not there. —

For your dear wife, who is inclined to amusement, I include a letter from my sister, in which she describes moving into her new residence. The same is actually addressed to my mother and transcribed by her for me. It seems to me a pleasant document humain, as the Parisians say. —

This day my excellent friend and maestro of Venice Heinrich Köselitz has arrived in Munich: the creature5 who makes the only music which still finds favor in my most discriminating ear. The first modern opera (cheerful, sensitive, masterful, not dilettantish à la Wagner ...) is his work that's called "The Lion of Venice." He has just finished producing a profoundly beautiful [string] quartet — depicting a "Provençal Wedding."6 If said marvelous creature7 should present himself to you, receive him with cordialness8 — [+ + +]

I would like to express my most humble thanks to your esteemed mother for her greetings.

Friend Nietzsche.

1. Seydlitz acknowledged receiving Nietzsche's May 13 letter from Turin, when it finally "tracked him down" in Munich after an "unsuccessful and breathless chase through the continents." Seydlitz had spent the previous winter in Greece and Egypt. He wrote a travel serial about his journey, entitled "Wo die Sonne scheint, ziellose Reisebriefe eines Malers" for the art journal Die Kunst für Alle. For further information, see Nietzsche's Library: Research Material. Reinhart von Seydlitz (1850-1931).
2. Seydlitz arrived in Genoa in April and decided to visit Nietzsche in Nice. However, despite being aware of his friend's plans, Nietzsche left Nice in April for Turin just before Seydlitz's arrival.
3. Nietzsche began writing Thus Spoke Zarathustra in Rapallo around January-February 1883.
4. "among people" (unter Menschen); "monster" (Unmensch); "the unsheltered" (Unbehauster). Cf. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, lines 3348-3351: "Bin ich der Flüchtling nicht? der Unbehauste? / Der Unmensch ohne Zweck und Ruh', / Der wie ein Wassersturz von Fels zu Felsen brauste / Begierig wütend nach dem Abgrund zu?" (Am I not the fugitive? the unsheltered? / The purposeless, restless monster, / Who has roared like a waterfall from cliff to cliff / Greedily raging down to the abyss?)
5. "Menschenkind" (see 7).
6. GSA 102/138: "Provençalische Hochzeit Streichquartett" (a/k/a "Minnesängers Brautfahrt").
7. "Wunderthier." One would expect to be called a musical "Wunderkind" (prodigy), but Nietzsche takes a different tack.
8. They never met.


Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche.
Weimar, ca. 1904.
From b/w photo.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nueva Germania, September 6, 1888:
Letter from Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche.1

My dear Fritz of my heart,

Surely a letter has been lost by you or me because a huge gap in our correspondence has arisen. I think I must have last written to you in June, but I do not know exactly, nevertheless it seems to me ages ago, and, in any case, it has been even longer since we have heard from you.2 Through mom, I now hear many things about your increasing fame,3 and as much as it pleases me, I have since given up any hope that you will ever come over to [see] us,4 for fame is a sweet potion! Of course, good mama must also remain there, even if I have to accept that she would be more comfortable and carefree there than here. But notions about comfortable living are so different; to me, e.g., being a landlady for young men would be such an abomination that I would rather do anything else to evade it; but her taste is different, and it seems to me that this keeping house for young men gives good mama some enjoyment.

Next week, a dear Danish friend is coming to [visit] us, at which time I hope he will bring me some Danish newspapers5 and translate for me what they say about you. Personally, I would have wished a different apostle for you than Mr. Brandes, he has peeked into6 too many pots and eaten off too many plates, but one cannot choose one's admirers and it's quite certain that he will make you fashionable, because that's what he understands. But I cannot suppress a well-intentioned piece of advice: better not meet with him personally, write your congenial feelings, but do not look at him closely. Two friends of ours, Mr. Johannsen and Mr. Haug, know him personally and are not exactly enthusiastic, but everyone agrees that he has an excellent sense for the most interesting phenomena of all time and makes himself interesting through them.

It does my heart unlimited good that now there can no longer be any talk of deadly silence and that through Brandes the genuine good admirers who are congenial to you may now hear from you.

My dear Fritz of my heart, now it is your dear birthday7 once again and one thinks of how many years we have already been together and, unfortunately, have now wandered through life so far from each other. How much joy and sorrow has already gone by for us: is it actually worthwhile to live? For people who are just as sensitive as we are, life has more sorrow than joy, and it has to go altogether wildly well in order for us to forget the sorrow entirely. But some things one never really overcomes, e.g., a warm, indeed at times utterly indescribable longing to see you again. May this reunion be granted to us in the not too distant future. I can no longer wish for you to come over here now, since the weather conditions here this year seem quite unfavorable to me. As much fluctuation and low barometric pressure as there has been in any of the past few years. Of course all over the world it does not seem that the weather is so special. Mom writes you were snowed-in; well, you need not fear that here.

Dear Fritz of my heart, may life's new year bring you so much joy that you have no time for painful feelings and may your health be strengthened! I always think that you will or should become healthier from year to year. As an old man you will surely still be just as lively and cheerful. Now you know we would very much like to provide for your old age and so we want to sign over to you a beautiful piece of land, which will perhaps one day be worth a pretty penny. We will send you a purchase contract with the next mailing which will tell you all the details; I will send it to our dear mama because she always knows where you are. I consider as purchase money the 1000 marks that good mama paid for my furniture back then, the 600 m[arks]. that she donated and the 300 m[arks]. that you donated, but we say that it is fully paid. There are eight lots. But you must not forget to appoint us, i. e., my husband, as your agent and trustee.8

Since I will be writing to you so soon, I will now stop today for we have so much to do with the land register and the execution of the deeds of sale.

So farewell you dear heart! Bern[hard] wholeheartedly wishes you happiness and all the best!

old Lama9

1. Nietzsche received this letter after writing to Elisabeth on September 14, 1888. For his response, see his draft of a mid-November 1888 letter to Elisabeth.
2. Ibid. During this time period, the last known letter from Elisabeth was sent on 01-14-1888, while Nietzsche's last known letter to her was sent on 03-31-1888.
3. 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.
4. The failed Paraguayan colony, "Nueva Germania," of Elisabeth's husband, Bernhard Förster (1843-1889), a leader of the German anti-Semitic movement. Förster eventually committed suicide.
5. See note 3.
6. Cf. Nietzsche's 12-25-1888 letter to Franz Overbeck. Nietzsche uses "geleckt" (licked) instead of Elisabeth's "geguckt" (peeked [into]). Her disparaging remarks about Brandes caused Nietzsche to break off relations with her once again.
7. October 15.
8. Nietzsche never purchased a plot of land at the failed colony "Nueva Germania."
9. Nietzsche's pet name for Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche.


"Miss Zimmern (Authoress)."
Etching and drypoint, 1891.
By: Hubert von Herkomer.
British Museum, London.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Turin, December 17, 1888: Letter to Helen Zimmern1.

Dear Fräulein

You would do me a great service if you wished to translate for one of the big review-journals the enclosed essay2 by Mr. Peter Gast under the title "Nietzsche contra Wagner." At present, it's absolutely imperative that I become known in England: for my next writings3 — they are completely ready to print — should appear simultaneously in English, French and German. The horned-cattle-race — forgive me for the severe term! — of the Germans is completely alien to me; they will retaliate against me with confiscations and other police measures. Therefore, for my task, which is one of the greatest that a man can undertake — I want to destroy Christianity — I need America, England and France — freedom of the press in every sense ...

I remember reading in an issue of the Journal des Débats that an English journal (Century Review or the like) has very forcefully initiated the fight against Wagner.4 If you feel like it, I will send you my work.5 It is venomous and could have been written by a Parisian.

Just now, published by me, something extremely radical, Twilight of the Idols. Or: How One Philosophizes with a Hammer.* I will send it to you — you may introduce this piece in England. It is anti-German and anti-Christian par excellence — should it not, therefore, be very appealing to the English? My arguments are quite different from those ever employed — I am not a man, I am dynamite.6

Hopefully my letter finds you in a courageous and warlike mood? —

Very sincerely

Mr. Peter Gast is one of our first-rate musicians, or, if you will believe me, by far the first-ranked — he can achieve what is rarest at all times, perfection. I'm honored to have such a "disciple."


— Mr. Taine has written an invaluable letter7 to me about the Twilight of the Idols, full of admiration for "toutes mes audaces et finesses."8 On Mr. Taine's advice, I am negotiating with Mr. Bourdeau,9 the excellent editor-in-chief of the Journal des Débats and the Revue des deux Mondes, whom he has recommended to me as one of the most intelligent and influential Frenchmen: he shall prepare the steps for the translation of the work.

* You could simplify the title: Hammer of the Idols

1. Helen Zimmern (1846-1934): English writer, and translator. They first met in Bayreuth in 1876, and became better acquainted in Sils-Maria. Nietzsche wanted Zimmern to translate Götzen-Dämmerung (Twilight of the Idols), and Ecce Homo. Although that never happened, Zimmern would go on to translate Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil) for Oscar Levy's edition of Nietzsche. See her comments in Anon., "Nietzsche Erinnerungen." In: Frankfurter Generalanzeiger. Nov. 16, 1926. Reprinted as Anon., "Memories of Nietzsche." In: The Living Age, 331 (Nov. 1926), 272.

Miss Helen Zimmern is known in England and America as the author of a book on Schopenhauer, a study of Italy, and a paraphrase of a Persian work called Epic of Kings. She is less famous as a friend of Nietzsche, whom she first met in Bayreuth in 1876, when he used to walk with her after lunch, having put in the morning at his desk. "I listened," she recently remarked, "with more or less feigned interest, for, to tell you the truth, I understood only little then of what he spoke about. But it seemed to give him such a relief to talk to a human being! The man seemed to me so lonely, so unspeakably lonely! If, here and there, I risked a little reply, he used to say, 'Quite so, but as Zarathustra has said before' — and then came a verse from his famous work, of which already three quarters were written at that time." // Asked what impression Nietzsche gave at that time, she replied: "Nietzsche was shy, and even awkward, when he found himself with people with whom he was entirely out of touch. But when the ice was once broken you could easily see that you had to do with a man who was thoroughly conscious of his merit. Once he even told me that his ideas were so important that one day university chairs would be founded in order to give lectures on and explanations of them." // In regard to his insanity, traces of which have been detected in Zarathustra by keen-nosed critics, she said: "I have heard of some of these discussions. New thought easily seems crazy to those who are thoroughly imbued with the old. I myself never noticed any trace of insanity, even of eccentricity. I deny, and most emphatically so, that there was a trace of insanity in the man I then knew. I should, on the contrary, rather say that he gave me the impression of being an extraordinarily sane man." // Miss Zimmern also makes it clear that Nietzsche's ideas about women were never put into practice, and that he was more than a real gentleman, that he possessed what the Italians call gentilezza. She told of an elderly Russian, believed to be a former lady-in-waiting of the Tsaritza, who was suffering from a nervous breakdown and had to leave the Alps in winter time for the warmer Italian climate. She refused, however, to quit her room, and though a carriage came every day for her she could not be prevailed upon to get in it. Finally Nietzsche heard of the incident, and asked if they would put her in his hands. A few days later when the carriage appeared Friedrich Nietzsche walked calmly to its door with the nervous old lady following him like a lamb. No one ever discovered how he prevailed on her to go.

2. Heinrich Köselitz's anonymous review of Der Fall Wagner (The Case of Wagner). See Anonymous, "Nietzsche-Wagner." In: Der Kunstwart. 2. Jahrg. 2. Heft. November 1888, 52-56.
3. Ecce Homo and Der Antichrist.
4. J. F. Rowbotham, "The Wagner Bubble." In: The Nineteenth Century. Vol. 24. October 1888, 501-512. Summarized in "Un antiwagnérien anglais." In: Journal des Débats. Oct. 20, 1888, 3.
5. Der Fall Wagner (The Case of Wagner).
6. Nietzsche began referring to his writings — or, in this case, himself — as "dynamite," echoing the review of Beyond Good and Evil by Joseph Viktor Widmann (1842-1911), the literary editor of Der Bund. For the review, and the correspondence between Widmann and Nietzsche, see "Research Material: Joseph Viktor Widmann." In: Nietzsche's Library.
7. 12-14-1888 letter from Hippolyte Taine.
8. "all my bold and finer points."
9. Jean Bourdeau (1848-1928): French writer. Bourdeau contributed twenty articles to the Revue des deux mondes, seven from 1881 to 1889. He was also a contributor to the Journal des Débats since 1877. Some Nietzsche scholars have noted that Nietzsche's "promotion" of Bourdeau to "editor-in-chief" was a sign of his impending madness. However, the point is vitiated by failing to mention that Hippolyte Taine himself, in his 12-14-1888 letter to Nietzsche, mistakenly identified Bourdeau as an editor of both journals: "J. Bourdeau, rédacteur du Journal des Débats et de la Revue des Deux-Mondes."


Ferdinand Avenarius.
Ca. 1880s.
From b/w photo.
Colorized and enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Turin, December 22, 1888:
Letter to Ferdinand Avenarius.1

Dear sir,

It just occurred to me that it would be in your and perhaps also in my interest if you were to publish the essay2 of Mr. Heinrich Köselitz separatim [separately], as a booklet of a few pages. There is every reason to believe that he would be tremendously read and heard. You cannot believe what signs of homage now come to me from everywhere: a few months later, with the publication of Ecce Homo, of which 2 proof sheets are printed,3 I reckon my followers [will be] in the millions. In the process, your "Kunstwart" will not be deemed to be bad if it has said the first word on this subject.

The Antichrist.4

1. Ferdinand Avenarius (1856-1923), founding editor of Der Kunstwart. Rundschau über alle Gebiete des Schönen. See the entry for Der Kunstwart in "Miscellaneous Titles: Catalogs / Periodicals / Series" in Nietzsche's Library.
2. Heinrich Köselitz's anonymous review of Der Fall Wagner (The Case of Wagner) in Der Kunstwart, 11-24-1888.
3. Ecce Homo was not published until 1908.
4. Avenarius later recounted how he took this as another sign of Nietzsche's impending lunacy. Cf. Ferdinand Avenarius, "Ein Brief Nietzsches." In: Kunstwart und Kulturwart. Januar 1921, 222-225 (224).


Heinrich Köselitz's anonymous review of Der Fall Wagner.
In: Der Kunstwart, Jg. 2, November, 1888.
Enhanced image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

[Florence], Dec. 30, [1888]: Postcard from Helen Zimmern1 to Nietzsche in Turin.

Happy New Year. Please send me the Wagner booklet:2 I want to see if I can do something with it. The essay3 by Peter Gast is not suitable in tone and concept for the English public. They would not print it for me. Kind regards. How are you?

Helen Zimmern

1. Helen Zimmern (1846-1934): English writer, and translator. They first met in Bayreuth in 1876, and became better acquainted in Sils-Maria. Nietzsche wanted Zimmern to translate Götzen-Dämmerung (Twilight of the Idols), and Ecce Homo. Although that never happened, Zimmern would go on to translate Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil) for Oscar Levy's edition of Nietzsche. See the anonymous "Nietzsche Erinnerungen." In: Frankfurter Generalanzeiger. Nov. 16, 1926; "Memories of Nietzsche." In: The Living Age, 331 (Nov. 1926), 272 (reprinted above).
2. Der Fall Wagner (The Case of Wagner).
3. Heinrich Köselitz's anonymous review of Der Fall Wagner (The Case of Wagner). See Anonymous, "Nietzsche-Wagner." In: Der Kunstwart. 2. Jahrg. 2. Heft. November 1888, 52-56.

Nietzsche's Letters | 1888© The Nietzsche Channel

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