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Nietzsche's Letters


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Nietzsche's Letters
Selected Correspondence.

Letters of Insanity 1889.

Turin, January 1, 1889: Dedication (Draft) of Dionysus-Dithyrambs to Catulle Mendès1

Two unpublished, six, eight unpublished and and unheard, dedicated presented with high respect to your my immortal friend and satyr, the poet of Isoline: may he present my gift to mankind. If, how, and when

Nietzsche Caesar Dionysus

Turin on January 1, 1889

1. This note was first published in Friedrich Nietzsche, Erich F. Podach (Hrsg.), Friedrich Nietzsches Werke des Zusammenbruchs. Heidelberg: W. Rothe, 1961, Abb. XXII, [S. 451].]

Turin, ca. January 1, 1889: Dedication (Draft) of Dionysus-Dithyrambs to Catulle Mendès

Inasmuch as I want to do mankind a boundless honor favor, I give you them my dithyrambs: I place them in the hands of the poet of Isoline, the first and greatest satyr alive today.

Nietzsche. Dionysus

Turin, ca. January 1, 1889: Dedication of Dionysus-Dithyrambs to Catulle Mendès

Inasmuch as I want to do mankind a boundless favor, I give them my dithyrambs.

I place them in the hands of the poet of Isoline, the first and greatest satyr alive today — and not only today ...


Turin, Early January, 1889: Letter to August Strindberg

Herr Strindberg

Eheu?1 ... not divorced after all? ...

The Crucified

1. Latin interjection meaning, "alas."

Turin, January 3, 1889: Letter to Meta von Salis-Marschlins

Fräulein von Salis

God is on the earth. Don't you see how all the heavens are rejoicing? I have just seized possession of my kingdom, I've thrown the Pope1 in prison, and I'm having Wilhelm,2 Bismarck,3 and Stöcker4 shot.

The Crucified.

1. Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903; r. 1878-1903).
2. Wilhelm II (1859-1941; r. 1888-1918): anti-Semitic Emperor of Germany.
3. Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898): Chancellor of Germany.
4. Adolf Stöcker (1835-1909): German anti-Semitic preacher and conservative politician whom Nietzsche despised.

Turin, January 3, 1889: Letter to Cosima Wagner

They tell me that in the past few days a certain divine buffoon has finished the Dionysus-Dithyrambs ...

Turin, January 3, 1889: Letter to Cosima Wagner

To Princess Ariadne, My Beloved.

It is a mere prejudice that I am a human being. Yet I have often enough dwelled among human beings and I know the things human beings experience, from the lowest to the highest. Among the Hindus I was Buddha, in Greece Dionysus — Alexander and Caesar were incarnations of me, as well as the poet of Shakespeare, Lord Bacon.1 Most recently I was Voltaire and Napoleon, perhaps also Richard Wagner ... However, I now come as Dionysus victorious, who will prepare a great festival on Earth ... Not as though I had much time ... The heavens rejoice to see me here ... I also hung on the cross ...

1. Francis Bacon (1561-1626): English philosopher and statesman, whom conspiracy theorists contend to be the author of Shakespeare's plays.

Turin, January 3, 1889: Letter to Cosima Wagner

From Bayreuth you must let the word go forth, breve, to all mankind, under the heading:

The Good News.1

1. Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom of God.

Turin, ca. January 3, 1889: Letter to Cosima Wagner

Ariadne, I love you!


Turin, January 4, 1889: Letter to Georg Brandes

To my dear friend Georg! After you discovered me, it was no great feat to find me. The problem now is how to lose me ...

The Crucified.

Turin, January 4, 1889: Letter to Hans von Bülow

Herrn Hanns von Bülow ..

Considering that you started out as and have been the first Hanseat,1 I, in all modesty, merely the third Veuve-Cliquot of Ariadne,2 I may not have already ruined the match for you: rather I condemn you to the "Lion of Venice"3 — who may devour you ...


1. Hans von Bülow moved to Hamburg in 1886.
2. An allusion to Madame Cliquot's attempts to ship a secret cargo of her champagne to Russia in 1814, in defiance of the Napoleonic Blockade; Ariadne referring to Cosima Wagner, who left Hans von Bülow for Richard Wagner, with Nietzsche, in his delusional state, seeing himself as next in line for her affections.
3. The title of Heinrich Köselitz's opera, which Nietzsche asked Hans von Bülow to support.

Turin, January 4, 1889: Letter to Jacob Burckhardt

My highly honored Jacob Burckhardt

That was the little joke on whose behalf I bear the tedium of having created a world. Now you are — thou art — our great greatest teacher: I, together with Ariadne, need only be the golden mean in all things, having in every respect such superiors ...


Turin, January 4, 1889: Letter to Paul Deussen

After you have irrevocably risen to the position that I have really created the world, it appears that friend Paul will also be provided for in the world plan: he shall be, together with Monsieur Catulle Mendès, one of my greatest satyrs and festival animals.


Turin, January 4, 1889: Letter to Heinrich Köselitz (Peter Gast)

To my maestro Pietro

Sing me a new song: the world is transfigured and all the heavens are joyous.

The Crucified.

Turin, ca. January 4, 1889: Letter to Umberto I, King of Italy

To my beloved son Umberto1

My peace be with you! Tuesday I shall be in Rome. I should like to see you, along with His Holiness the Pope.2

The Crucified

1. Umberto I, King of Italy (1844-1900; r. 1878-1900).
2. Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903; r. 1878-1903).

Turin, ca. January 4, 1889: Letter to Cardinal Mariani, Vatican Secretary of State

My beloved son Mariani1 ..

My peace be with you! Tuesday I shall be in Rome, in order to pay my respects to His Holiness ...

The Crucified

1. Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro (1843-1913) was an Italian Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church and Vatican State Secretary from 1887-1903 under Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903; r. 1878-1903).

Turin, Early January, 1889: Letter to the House of Baden

The House of Baden

Children, it is not good for you to get involved with the crazy Hohenzollern,1 although you, through Stéphanie,2 are of my race ... Withdraw yourselves modestly return to private life, I give Bavaria the same advice ...

The Crucified

1. The rulers of imperial Germany.
2. Stephanie de Beauharnals (1789-1860): Grand Duchess of Baden and Napoleon Bonaparte's "niece."

Turin, ca. January 4, 1889: Letter to Malwida von Meysenbug

Addendum to the "Memoirs of an Idealist."1

Although Malvida is known as Kundry,2 who laughed at a moment when the world shook, she is forgiven a lot because she loved me a lot: see the first volume of "Memoirs" ... I revere all those select souls around Malvida in Natalie her father lives and whom I was too.3

The Crucified

1. Malwida von Meysenbug (1816-1903), Memoiren einer Idealistin. Bd. 1-3. Stuttgart: Auerbach, 1876.
2. A character in Richard Wagner's Parsifal, who is condemned to roam the world to seek redemption because she laughed at Christ on the Cross.
3. Natalie Herzen (1844-1936) was the older sister of Olga Herzen (1850-1953), and was considered as a possible wife for Nietzsche. Although they were the same age, he thought she was too old.

Turin, ca. January 4, 1889: Letter to Franz and Ida Overbeck1

To friend Overbeck and wife.

Although you have so far demonstrated little faith in my ability to pay,2 I yet hope to demonstrate that I am somebody who pays his debts — for example, to you ... I am just having all anti-Semites shot ...


1. View original at Universitätsbibliothek Basel, Nachlass Franz Overbeck, NL 53 : B III 1, 226.
2. In late December 1888, Nietzsche borrowed money from Franz Overbeck in order to be able to settle the printing costs for his writings. Overbeck seems to have expressed doubts about Nietzsche's ability to repay him, but his reply is lost.

Turin, ca. January 4, 1889: Letter to the Illustrious Pole1

To the Illustrious Pole

I belong to you, I am more a Pole than I am God, I shall bestow honors on you such as only I am able to bestow ... I live among you as Matejko2 ...

The Crucified

1. This note was first published in Friedrich Nietzsche, Erich F. Podach (Hrsg.), Friedrich Nietzsches Werke des Zusammenbruchs. Heidelberg: W. Rothe, 1961, Abb. XVII, [S. 447].
2. Jan Matejko (1838-1893): Polish artist.

Turin, January 4, 1889: Letter to Erwin Rohde1

To my growly bear Erwin

At the risk of enraging you once again by my blindness as regards Monsieur Taine,2 who formerly composed the Vedas, I hereby deign to transpose you to the gods, with the most beloved of goddesses at your side ...


1. The gap in the middle was probably caused when the note was slit open. See Hedwig Däuble, "Friedrich Nietzsche und Erwin Rohde. Mit bisher ungedruckten Briefen." In: Nietzsche-Studien. Bd. 5. Berlin; New York: De Gruyter, 1976, 321-354 (352h-352i).
2. Hippolyte Taine (1818-1897): French historian and critic. See his entry in Nietzsche's Library. In a lost letter to Nietzsche, Rohde had made a disparaging remark about Hippolyte Taine. This drew Nietzsche's ire, as well as a remark belittling Rohde. Rohde never replied to any of Nietzsche's correspondence after the dispute.

Turin, January 4, 1889: Fragment of a Note to Carl Spitteler

[+ + +] belongs to my godliness: I will have the honor of taking revenge on myself for that ..


Turin, ca. January 4, 1889: Letter to Heinrich Wiener

Herrn Supreme Court Justice Dr. Wiener

Although you have done me the honor to find the "Case of Wagner" fatal for Wagner, said Wagner still dares to bring to light his décadence through a world-historical irresponsibility — in lucent aeternam [eternal light] ...


[Postmark: Turin, January 5, 1889] January 6, 1889: Letter to Jacob Burckhardt1

Dear Herr Professor,

When it comes right down to it I'd much rather have been a Basel professor than God; but I didn't dare be selfish enough to forgo the creation of the world. You see, one must make sacrifices, no matter how and where one lives. — But I did secure a small room, fit for a student, opposite the Palazzo Carignano (— in which I was born as Victor Emmanuel), from whose desk I am able to hear that splendid music coming from below me, in the Galleria Subalpina. I pay 25 frs. including service, make my own tea and do all my own shopping, suffer from torn [PAGE 2] boots, and constantly thank heaven for the old world, whose inhabitants were not simple and quiet enough. — Since I am doomed to entertain the next eternity with bad jokes, I am busy writing, which leaves nothing to be desired, is very nice and not at all taxing. The post office is five steps away, I take the letters in myself, handling the great feuilletoniste of the grande monde. Naturally I am on terms with Figaro, and so that you will have an idea of how harmless I can be, here are my first two bad jokes:

Do not take the case of Prado too seriously. I am Prado, I'm also Prado's father, and I venture to say I'm Lesseps2 [PAGE 3] too ... I wanted to give my Parisians, whom I love, a new concept — that of a decent criminal. I'm Chambige too — also a decent criminal.3

Second joke. I salute the Immortals. Monsieur Daudet belongs to the quarante.4


What is unpleasant and a strain on my modesty is that in fact I am every historical personage; and as for the children I have brought into the world, I ponder with some misgiving the possibility that not everyone who enters the "kingdom of God" also comes from God. This fall, blinded as little as possible, I twice witnessed my funeral, the first time as Count Robilant (— no, he's my son, insofar as I'm Carlo Alberto, unfaithful to my nature),5 but [PAGE 4] I was Antonelli6 myself. Dear Professor, you really ought to see this edifice; since I am quite inexperienced in the things I'm creating, you have a right to make any criticism, I will be grateful, but can't promise that I'll profit from it. We artists are incorrigible. — Today I looked at an operetta — ingeniously Moorish — and took the occasion to ascertain, with joy, that now both Moscow and Rome are grandiose affairs. You see, my talent for landscape is undeniable as well. — Think it over; we'll have a really fine chat, Turin isn't far, no serious professional obligations tie us down, a glass of Veltliner could easily be procured. Négligé of dress is de rigeur.

With heartfelt love Your

[Four marginal postscripts:]

[Marginalia PAGE 4]
I go everywhere in my student coat, now and then slap someone on the back, and say: siamo contenti? son dio, ho fatto questa caricatura ...7

Tomorrow my son Umberto8 is coming here with lovely Margherita,9 but I'll receive her as well only in shirtsleeves. The re

[Marginalia PAGE 1]
st is for Frau Cosima ... Ariadne ... From time to time we practice magic ...

You may make any use of this letter which will not lower me in the esteem of the people of Basel. —

[Marginalia PAGE 2]
I've had Caiphas10 put in chains; I too was crucified last year in a long, drawn-out way by German doctors. Wilhelm,11 Bismarck12 and all anti-Semites done away with!

1. For the original 4-page letter, see Universitätsbibliothek Basel, Nachlass Jacob Burckhardt, NL 13 : 18.
2. Ferdinand-Marie de Lesseps (1805-1894): French diplomat and promoter of the Suez Canal.
3. Prado was a criminal tried for murder in Paris. Nietzsche allegedly read about the trial and execution of Prado in the Journal des Débats, Sept. 2, Nov. 6-16, 1888. But since we know that he definitely read the Gazzetta Piemontese, he could have read about it in that paper as well (see 1888 issues, Nov. 14-15, 17; Dec. 8, 11, 14, 22-23, 28-29). The Chambige trial was also publicized in the same paper (see 1888 issues, Nov. 12-13, Dec. 5). In addition, read about the 1886 Chambige affair from Ann-Louise Shapiro's Breaking the Codes: Female Criminality in Fin-de-Siècle Paris.
4. The Forty Immortals were the members of the French Academy. In 1888, Alphonse Daudet had just published his satire of the Academy, L'Immortel. Its hero's name was Astier, which might explain Nietzsche's signature "Astu."
5. In a 11-13-1888 Letter to Franz Overbeck, Nietzsche described the state funeral of "Conte Robilant, der verehrteste Typus des Piemonteser Adels, übrigens leiblicher Sohn des König Carlo Alberto [...]" (Count Robilant, the most admirable example of Piedmontese nobility (the natural son, by the way, of King Carlo Alberto [...]).
6. Giacomo Antonelli (1806-1876): Italian cardinal, and papal Secretary of State under Pope Pius IX (1792-1878; r. 1846-1878).
7. "Is everything OK? I am God, this farce is my creation ..."
8. Umberto I, King of Italy (1844-1900; r. 1878-1900).
9. Margherita of Savoy (1851-1926): wife of Umberto I.
10. Caiphas (18 BC-36 AD): Jewish high priest who accused Jesus of blasphemy before delivering him to Pontius Pilate for execution.
11. Wilhelm II (1859-1941; r. 1888-1918): anti-Semitic Emperor of Germany.
12. Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898): Chancellor of Germany.

Arnold Genthe, As I Remember. In: Friedrich Nietzsche in Words and Pictures. Part 5. Illness: 1889-96. Preview.

Sample of Nietzsche's Handwriting from the asylum in Jena, 1889-90:
"Garde-Brigadier / uhlan."
Enhanced image The Nietzsche Channel.

"What Was the Cause of Nietzsche's Dementia?"
by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.,
Journal of Medical Biography, Royal Medical Society, London, February 2003, 11: 47-54.

Summary: Many scholars have argued that Nietzsche's dementia was caused by syphilis. A careful review of the evidence suggests that this consensus is probably incorrect. The syphilis hypothesis is not compatible with most of the evidence available. Other hypotheses—such as slowly growing right-sided retro-orbital meningioma—provide a more plausible fit to the evidence.

"The madness of Dionysus: a neurological perspective on Friedrich Nietzsche."
by Christopher M. Owen, M.D., Carlo Schaller, M.D., Devin K Binder, M.D., Ph.D.
Neurosurgery. Vol. 61 (2007): 626-32.

Summary: A close examination of Nietzsche’s symptomatic progression and neurological signs reveals a clinical course consistent with a large, slow growing, right-sided cranial base lesion, such as a medial sphenoid wing meningioma. Aspects of his presentation seem to directly contradict the diagnosis of syphilis, which has been the standard explanation of Nietzsche’s madness. The meningioma hypothesis is difficult, though not impossible, to prove; imaging studies of Nietzsche’s remains could reveal the bony sequelae of such a lesion.

"The neurological illness of Friedrich Nietzsche."
by Dimitri Hemelsoet, Koenraad Hemelsoet, and Daniel Devreesel.
ACTA neurologica belgica. Vol. 108 (2008): 9-16.

Summary: Friedrich Nietzsche's disease consisted of migraine, psychiatric disturbances, cognitive decline with dementia, and stroke. Despite the prevalent opinion that neurosyphilis caused Nietzsche’s illness, there is lack of evidence to support this diagnosis.

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