Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche
THIS volume of Friedrich Nietzsche's private correspondence consists of a selection from the five-volume edition published in Germany between the years 1900-1909. Private letters are now recognized all the world over as a most important supplementary trait to a literary man's portrait, revealing as they do the more homely and intimate side of an author's mind and character. The special and additional value of Nietzsche's private correspondence consists in this, that here we have a writer of the most forbidding aspect, a prophet of almost superhuman inspiration, a hermit inhabiting a desert of icy glaciers, coming down, so to say, to the inhabited valley, to the familiar plain, where he assumes a human form and a human speech, where he exhibits a human heart and a human sympathy. He who still doubted that behind Nietzsche's violent denunciation of his age there was an ardent love of humanity and an eagerness to promote it to a nobler Destiny; he who still looked askance at a thinker whose ideas were thrown out hotly and abruptly like stones and lava out of an active volcano—all the skeptics, in short, about Nietzsche, as well as all his enemies, will be interested to see from these letters that there was another Nietzsche, a Nietzsche who was a good friend, a devoted son, an affectionate brother, and a generous enemy, such as the literary history of the world with its quarrels and jealousies has not had the good luck to encounter for a long time. The friends of Nietzsche—and Nietzsche has many friends in all climes and amongst all races—will be delighted to see their hero in the light of their own wishes and imaginations, while the enemies of Nietzsche—and he still has many and by no means unworthy enemies—will be bound to confess what the Lutheran Pastor Colerus confessed in his Life of the Philosopher Spinoza: "He may have been a man of no strict orthodoxy and an atheist into the bargain, but in the conduct of his life he was wise and good."
There are two other legends which the publication of these letters will successfully destroy. One concerns the great and often ventilated question of Nietzsche's mental condition and responsibility. It has been frequently stated that his final breakdown, which occurred in 1888, and which lasted till his death in 1900, was foreshadowed in his writings long ago, and that his "insanity" was the actual and only excuse for the philosopher's haughty contempt for and bilious criticism of his contemporaries. But where, in the light of these letters, is the insanity? That Nietzsche's nervous system was not as perfectly balanced as that of a boxer or cricketer may be truly conceded; what great writer was exempt from failings of the flesh? What great author has not paid with his nerves for those moments of happy inspiration and intoxication which gave his best work to posterity? "La Nevrose est la rangon du genie" ("Nervousness is the penalty of genius.") But throughout these letters, which start in early youth and go to the last moment of his spiritual life, there is not the slightest trace of any lack of judgment, and only once, towards the end, a sign of the threatening doom: everything, apart from this, is perfectly healthy and lucid, and even the curious last letter to Georg Brandes still gives a perfect sense. Why the cry of insanity should ever have been raised against Nietzsche is hard to understand, all the more so as a similar reproach has never been thought sufficient to discredit the work of other famous authors or philosophers who happened to be visited by the same affliction. No one has ever doubted Swift's genius because his brain became clouded towards the end of his life, and August Comte, who actually published his principal books after a confinement in a lunatic asylum and an attempted suicide in the Seine, is still a highly esteemed philosopher.
But there is another and still more serious legend which should be destroyed by this publication. It is Nietzsche's reputed responsibility for the World War. We all remember that he—together with some minor authors—was accused of being the poisoner of the modern German mind whose former "idealism" and "romanticism" Nietzsche was said to have entirely perverted and led into unwholesome materialistic channels. Now it will be seen from these letters that there was no more outspoken critic of the German Empire and its crude and superficial "Kultur" than Friedrich Nietzsche. Throughout his whole life this lonely man fought against his Fatherland and for true enlightenment: for harmony between body and soul, between peoples and races, between authorities and subjects. It will be a revelation to many who are still under the influence of the singular misunderstanding that nowhere was pre-war Germany more fiercely denounced than in the writings of this German (who was, by the way, half a Pole), and who was, in fact, the first good European.
The anti-Prussian, anti-German, anti-nationalistic current runs throughout the whole of Nietzsche's correspondence. At the height of Germany's victory in 1870 Nietzsche wrote from Bale (Nov. 7, 1870):
"As regards the conditions of culture in the immediate future I feel the deepest misgivings. If only we are not forced to pay too dearly for this huge national success in a quarter where I at least refuse to suffer any loss. Between ourselves: I regard the Prussia of to-day as a power full of the greatest danger for culture."
Nietzsche never wavered in his deep distrust and his fierce denial of Imperial Germany; when near the end of his spiritual life we still find him writing from Nice under date of February 24, 1887:
"German politics are only another form of permanent winter and bad weather. It seems to me that Germany for the last 15 years has become a regular school of besotment. Water, rubbish and filth, far and wide that is what it looks like from a distance. I beg a thousand pardons, if I have hurt your nobler feelings by stating this, but for me present-day Germany, however much it may bristle, hedgehog-like with arms, I have no longer any respect. It represents the stupidest, most depraved and most mendacious form of the German spirit that has ever existed. I forgive no one for compromising with it in any way, even if his name be Richard Wagner," etc.
And this is the man who is said to have incited his countrymen to another war of conquest!
But truth will out, even in literature. It does come out in this correspondence, which, it may be safely predicted, will mark the end of the "moral" crusade against one of the world's purest spirits. It will further more act as a stimulant to the Nietzsche controversy in England and America, just as in France Prof. Andler's  book has revived the interest in the German philosopher. This last publication, which is meant to be a monumental achievement in six volumes, is praised in the Literary Times of August 11, 1921, as "the recognition by an eminent French professorial writer of the genius of Germany." There is, however, a slight inaccuracy in this remark. The genius of Germany has made for barbarism, the genius of Nietzsche should make for culture. It is in this hope that this publication goes forth into an unsettled world.
ROYAL SOCIETIES CLUB,
St. James's Street,
London, S. W., 1.
Notes On Nietzsche's Correspondents
Baumgarten, Frau Marie. Wife of a well-known manufacturer in Lorrach in Baden. She translated "Thoughts Out of Season" parts 3 and 4, into French, but only "Richard Wagner á Bayreuth" actually appeared. She died in 1897.
Brandes, Georg, Danish author and critic of European and American reputation. He was born in 1842 and is still living.
Billow, Hans von, 1830-94, famous conductor and composer belonging to the Wagner-Liszt circle. First husband of Cosima Liszt, who afterwards married Richard Wagner.
Burckhardt, Jacob, 1819-1897, the well-known art critic and historian, Professor at Bale University, author of "The Civilization of the Renaissance," the "Cicerone," etc.
Deussen, Paul, one of Nietzsche's school-fellows at Pforta. He was born in 1845. He was an admirer of Schopenhauer and a student of Indian philosophy. He taught at Kiel University and died during the great war.
Fuchs, Dr. Karl, a musician whose acquaintance with Nietzsche dates back to 1872. He lectured on "The Birth of Tragedy."
Gast, Peter, whose real name was Heinrich Koselitz. A composer whose acquaintance with Nietzsche dates back to the publication of the "Birth of Tragedy." He was the most, nay the only, faithful of Nietzsche's friends. He died a few years ago in Weimar. For exact details of this friendship see the preface which Peter Gast wrote to his edition of Nietzsche's letters (volume 4 of German edition, Insel Verlag, 1908).
Gersdorff, Freiherr Karl von. One of Nietzsche's school-fellows at Pforta and a member of the landed aristocracy. He became later on a Royal Chamberlain.
Knortz, Karl, Professor in Evansville (Indiana, U. S. A.), who tried to transmit to Americans the latest publications of German literature including the Nietzschean philosophy.
Krug, Gustav, one of the earliest intimates of Nietzsche, a member of a distinguished Naumburg family. He became a high government official and died in Freiburg in Breisgau in 1902.
Meysenbug, Malvida von, born 1816, sister of the Badenian statesman, Freiherr von Meysenbug. She lived since 1848 in London and was governess in the house of Alexander Herzen. She was acquainted with Garibaldi, Richard and Cosima Wagner, Nietzsche, Liszt, Princess Wittgenstein, etc. Her principal book is "Memoiren einer Idealistin." She died in Rome, 1903.
Luise 0., Madame. A young and very beautiful Alsatian woman, who was married and lived in Paris. "My brother's letters to her are couched in a warmer language than those of mere friendship," says Frau Forster Nietzsche, "but they are nevertheless full of delicacy and chivalrous tenderness."
Ritschl, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1806-1876, famous philologist, Professor at Bonn and Leipzig, whose pupil Nietzsche was at the latter university. It was Ritschl who recommended the young Nietzsche to the University of Bale, where he became a professor at the early age of 24.
Seydlitz, R. Freiherr von. His friendship with Nietzsche dates from July, 1876, when they met at Bayreuth. For further details of this friendship see Seidlitz's article in the "Neue Deutsche Rundschau," June, 1899.
Strindberg, August, born 1849, the famous Swedish author, scholar and playwright. He died in 1912.
Taine, Hippolyte, 1821-1893. French critic and historian, best known to English readers by his history of English literature and "Les Origines de la France contemporaine."
Nietzsche To His Sister - March, 1856
- Naumburg, March 30, 1856
As mother is writing to you to-day I am sending you a short note to put with hers. First of all, let me describe our journey. On the way to Weissenfels there was nothing I objected to more than the piercing wind, and in this respect my two coats served me in good stead. We reached the station almost an hour before the train came in. In the station buffet I read the Vossische Zeitung, which had a good deal to say about the Imperial baby. It is said to have three nurses and three governesses, one of the former having allowed him to fall. The nurse in question fainted immediately, but the child is supposed to have given vent to a shriek loud enough for a child a year old. He has already received two orders: the Cross of the Legion of Honour, and one other military order. Mother asked for a glass of sugared water just as the train entered the station. We quickly ate the sugar and wanted to get away to our train, but were stopped by the waiter who wanted change. We could not settle with him until at length he gave me one more sugar cake. We could scarcely find any room in the train, but at last found two seats. On reaching Naumburg we drove in with Bocher. When we reached the door of the house, little Eosa, Mine, and Ottos were standing there and were very glad to see us back; but grandmamma said she would have been ever so pleased if you had been with us. You will certainly be delighted with Pobles, for it is a very pretty place. I suppose you often play at ball and will be able to hit it better than I can when you come back. I have just heard that William is very ill; he has rheumatic fever. I wanted to take him an orange, but was not allowed to see him. So I went to Gustav, who was very much delighted with the paper for the walls of the forts. He thanks you very much indeed and greatly admires the cheapness of things in Magdeburg. My school time-table has been changed a good deal, for my lessons start at 7. I have not yet played with the soldiers, but will do so soon. I often wish I were at Pobles, too, and thank our grandparents very heartily for the nice stay I had there. Remember me most affectionately to them and also to Uncles Edmund, Theobald, Oscar, and to our aunts. Keep well and write frequent letters to your brother,
- FRIEDRICH WILHELM NIETZSCHE.
Nietzsche To His Mother - November, 1859
- Pforta,November 11, 1859.
At last I have time to answer your nice letter. I also have something to tell you to-day that will interest you, and that is how our Schiller festival went off. Wednesday, November 9, was "Lie-a'bed day" as usual, but in the afternoon at 4 o'clock there was a fine celebration, for which preparations had been going on for some time. First of all, at 3.30 p.m. all the Pforta teachers and their wives, at 3.45 the whole coetus, and at 4 p.m. all the people of Naumburg, who flocked in greater numbers than ever before, arrived in the gymnasium, which was decorated quite festively. The boys of the Sixth Form opened the performance with a reading of the Piccolomini. Professor Koberstein chose the part of Wallenstein himself and read it magnificently. Then "The Bell," composed by Romberg, was sung with piano and violin accompaniment. It was wonderfully successful, and everybody was very much moved, particularly by the fine chorus, in "Freedom and Equality it is heard to toll," etc. (I have been in the ladies choir some time now, and had the joy of rehearsing this peace with them.) The following day was also "Lie-a bed day," with lessons until 9.30 a.m.; then followed another celebration in the gymnasium, beginning with the choir, Frisch auf Kameraden. Then came the recitation of original poems written by Upper School boys about various incidents in Schiller's life. Herzog and von Gohring then sang, "Before His Lion-garden"; and "Oh, From Out This Valley's Grounds," with piano accompaniment, and then Professor Koberstein stepped on to the platform. He gave an excellent address, in which he laid particular stress upon the fact that it was a hopeful sign for Germany that the birthdays of her great men were becoming ever more and more the occasions for national festivities which, in spite of the political disunion of the country, were welding her into a single whole. Then followed a good feed with roast goose and cakes, after which we were allowed to go out for a walk until 3 o'clock. I called on Aunt Rosalie, who gave me a cup of chocolate. In the evening the Sixth Form had a dance, but the rest of us had music in the ballroom. Now, wasn't that a fine festival? I am delighted with your idea of returning to Naumburg at Christinas and am much looking forward to that lovely time.
- Your FR. W. NIETZSCHE.
Nietzsche To His Mother - February, 1862
- Pforta, February, 1862.
So you have sent dear Lizzie right away for some considerable time, and she will certainly wish to be back and will not feel very much at home in the great city of Dresden. You yourself must have spent some beautiful days there, particularly owing to your recollections of bygone times; for, as the years roll by, everything that once caused us pleasure or surprise becomes a precious memory. And it must have cost you something to say good-bye to Lizzie and to Dresden of that I am well aware. As to how she is settled there, I know nothing; write me a long and exhaustive letter. Indeed, we might both of us write more exhaustively to each other, as there is no need now for you to spend so much of your time over your house duties.
I only hope she has been sent to a thoroughly good
school. I cannot say I like Dresden very much; it is
not grand enough, and in detail, even in its language,
it is too Thuringian in character. If she had gone
to Hanover, for instance, she would have become
acquainted with customs, peculiarities, and a language
of an absolutely different order. It is always a good
thing, if one does not wish to become too one-sided,
to be educated in different places. Otherwise, as a
city of art, as the seat of a small court, and generally
for the purpose of completing E.'s education, Dresden
will be quite suitable, and to some extent I envy her.
Still, I believe that in my life I shall have opportunities
enough of enjoying experiences of the kind
she is having. Altogether I am very anxious to hear
how Elizabeth gets on in her new surroundings. There
is always a certain element of risk in such schools.
But I have thorough confidence in Elizabeth. If only
she could learn to write a little better! When she
is describing anything, too, she must try and avoid all
those "Ahs!' and "Ohs!" "You cannot imagine how
magnificent, how marvellous, how bewitching, etc., it
was," etc.—she must drop this sort of thing, and very
much more that she will, I hope, forget in refined
company and by keeping a sharp lookout on herself.
Now, dear Mamma, on Monday you will come out
here, won't you? The performance is from 4 to 7 p.m.
I have asked Dr. Heinze for a ticket. I should be
awfully glad if you would send me half a mandala
each of sugar and eggs, because for our rehearsals,
which are held twice a day and three times on the
day of the performance, some such treatment for the
voice is absolutely necessary.
Farewell, dear Mamma!
- Your FRITZ.
( Marginal note. ) As you will have plenty of time for reading now, I would recommend Auerbach's "Barfüssele." I was highly delighted with it.
Nietzsche To His Mother - November, 1862
- Pforta, November 10, 1862.
I am very sorry that I was not able to meet you at Almrich yesterday, but I was prevented from coming by being kept in. And thereby hangs a tale which I will tell you.
Every week one of the newest Sixth Form boys has to undertake the duties of schoolhouse prefect that is to say, he has to make a note of everything in the rooms, cupboards, and lecture rooms that requires repair, and to send up a list of his observations to the inspection office. Last week I had to perform this duty, and it occurred to me that its somewhat tedious nature might be slightly relieved by the exercise of a little humour, and I wrote out a list in which all my observations were couched in the form of jokes. The stern masters, who were very much surprised that anyone should introduce humour into so solemn an undertaking, summoned me to attend the Synod on Saturday and pronounced the following extraordinary sentence: Three hours detention and the loss of one or two walks. If I could accuse myself of any other fault than that of thoughtlessness, I should be angry about it; but as it is I have not troubled myself for one moment about the matter, and have only drawn this moral from it: To be more careful in future what I joke about.
To-day is Martinmas Day, and we have had the usual Martinmas goose for dinner (in twelve parts, of course). St. Nicholas Day, too, will soon be here. This period of transition from autumn to winter is a pleasant time; it is the preparation for Christmas which I enjoy so much. Let us thoroughly enjoy it together. Write to me soon. My love to dear uncle and Lizzie.
Nietzsche To His Mother - April, 1863
- Thursday Morning, Pforta, April, 1863.
If I write to you to-day it is certainly about the saddest and most unpleasant business that it has ever been my lot to relate. For I have been very wicked and do not know whether you will or can forgive me. It is with a heavy heart and most unwillingly that I take up my pen to write to you, more particularly when I think of our pleasant and absolutely unruffled time together during the Easter holidays. Well, last Sunday I got drunk and have no excuse but this, that I did not know how much I could stand and that I happened to be somewhat excited that afternoon. When I returned, Herr Kern, one of the masters, came across me in that condition. He had me called before the Synod on Tuesday, when I was degraded to third of my division and one hour of my Sunday walk was cancelled. You can imagine how depressed and miserable I feel about it, and especially at having to cause you so much sorrow over such a disgraceful affair, the like of which has never occurred in my life before. It also makes me feel very sorry on the Rev. Kletschke's account, who had only just shown me such unexpected confidence. Through this one lapse I have completely spoilt the fairly good position I succeeded in winning for myself last term. I am so much annoyed with myself that I can't even get on with my work or settle down at all. Write to me soon and write severely, for I deserve it; and no one knows better than I do how much I deserve it.
There is no need for me to give you any further assurances as to how seriously I shall pull myself together, for now a great deal depends upon it. I had once again grown too cocksure of myself, and this self confidence has now, at all events, been completely shaken, and in a very unpleasant manner.
I shall go and see the Rev. Kletschke to-day and have a talk with him. By-the-bye, do not tell anyone anything about it if it is not already known. Also, please send me my muffler as soon as possible, for I am constantly suffering from hoarseness and pains in my chest. Send me the comb too that I have spoken about. Now, good-bye and write to me very soon, and do not be too cross with me, mother dear.
Your very sorrowful
Nietzsche To His Mother - May, 1863
- Pforta, May, 1863.
As regards my future, it is precisely my practical doubts about it that trouble me. The decision as to what subject I shall specialize in will not come of its own accord. I must, therefore, consider the question and make my choice, and it is precisely this choice which causes me so many difficulties. Of course, it will be my endeavour to study thoroughly anything that I decide to take up, but it is precisely on this account that the choice is so difficult; for one feels constrained to choose that branch of study in which one can hope to do something complete. And how illusory such hopes often are; how often does one not allow oneself to be transported by a momentary prepossession, or by an old family tradition, or by one's own personal wishes, so that the choice of a calling seems like a lottery in which there are a large number of blanks and very few winning numbers. Now, I happen to be in the particularly unfortunate position of possessing a whole host of interests connected with the most different branches of learning, and, though the general gratification of these interests may make a learned man of me, they will scarcely convert me into a creature with a vocation. The fact, therefore, that I must destroy some of these interests is perfectly clear to me, as well as the fact that I must allow some new ones to find a home in my brain. But which of them will be so unfortunate as to be cast overboard? Perhaps just the children of my heart!
I cannot express myself more plainly; it is evident that the position is critical and I must have come to a decision by this time next year. It certainly won't come of its own accord, and I know too little about the various subjects.
Best wishes to you all.
Nietzsche To His Mother and Sister - Sept., 1864
- Elberfeld, Sept. 27, 1864.
DEAR MAMMA AND LIZZIE:
From the look of my handwriting you are to gather that I am writing to you from a business house. I am thinking how glad you will be to have news of me so soon, particularly as I have only good and pleasant things to tell you. Of course, what I should have liked most of all would have been to tell you everything by word of mouth, but the time seems long past when this wish might have been gratified.
There was nothing very beautiful or interesting about the journey; first of all, a number of sleepy and snoring travelling companions, then some very talkative, noisy and common ones, followed by factory hands and business men or very exacting old ladies; I could tell a funny story about each one of these varieties.
We arrived at about 11 o clock at night feeling sleepy and somewhat peevish. Believe me, one feels amazingly tired after such a long day's journey. We put up at Brünning's, at the house of two ladies who were not so very old and their brother, who was in bed with gastric fever. We refreshed ourselves with bread and wine, went to bed, slept splendidly, got up late, had our breakfast—consisting here, as every where, of fine rolls and slices of Pumpernickel bread—and then we called on the Rohrs and found Johanna and Marie at home both nice girls but not quite my style; they were a little tasteless in their dress. Of course, one must not forget that they are under the care of a very pious old lady, with whom on the following day I became involved in a long discussion about the theatre, "the work of the Devil," and held my ground very well, but only succeeded in earning her compassion for one who held such views as mine. We have been invited to coffee there to-day. Well, on Sunday I made the acquaintance of Ernest Schnabel, an exceedingly attractive young business man; as you know, he is Deussen's well-known and more favoured rival; and I also met Friedrich Deussen, who has a post in a business firm here. In the afternoon we went up together into the hills that encircle Elberfeld. Imagine a beautiful long valley, the valley of the Wupper, through which a number of ill-defined straggling towns, one of which is Elberfeld, extend like a mighty chain of factories, and you have a picture of these parts. The town is commercial in the extreme, and most of the houses are slate roofed. I notice that the women here have a particular predilection for drooping their heads in a pious way. The girls dress very smartly in little coats very tight at the waist, like that Polish girl from Kosen. The men all display a fondness for light brown, their hats, trousers, etc., all being of that colour. After we had been to several restaurants on Sunday, we spent the evening most congenially at Ernest Schnabel's, where we stayed till 11 p. m. He gave us an extremely fine Moselle to drink—"Pastor's Moselle Drink," as Ernest called it. My improvising at the piano had a great success, and my health was most solemnly drunk. As Lizzie would say, Ernest is "perfectly enchanted." Wherever I am, I have to play and everybody cries "Bravo!" It is ludicrous. Yesterday we drove to Schwelm, a neighbouring watering place; we visited the red hills, a famous site of the ancient Westphalian Vehme court, and we had a drink everywhere.
In the evening, at the inn, I played without knowing it in the presence of a famous orchestra conductor, who stood there afterwards gasping with wonder and said all sorts of nice things to me. He also begged me to join his choral society that evening—a thing I did not do. Instead I drove back and was invited to dine with the Schnabel family. They are nice, good people. Mrs. Schnabel is delightful, and her husband is a decent, pious, conservative business man. They have the most excellent food, and the drinks are even better, but their dishes are different from ours. They eat Gruyère cheese and Pumpernickel bread three times a day.
. . . Now, good-bye, good-bye! Hearty remembrances to Aunt Rosalie.
- Your FRITZ.
Nietzsche To His Mother and Sister - November, 1864
- Bonn, November 10, 1864.
DEAR MAMMA AND LIZZIE:
On Sunday we were en masse in Sieburg, where we marched through the streets cheering, danced, and returned rather late. An hour ago I was at an exceedingly distinguished concert; it was an extraordinary display of wealth. All the ladies were dressed in bright red, and English was spoken all over the hall; I don't speak English. Admittance cost three marks, but as I am one of the performers it cost me nothing. But to make up for things I went there dressed as smartly as possible, with a white waistcoat and kid gloves. I seem to write an inordinate number of letters, and yet I get none except from you. Have Gersdorff and Kuttig been to see you? Remember me to them and also to the dear Naumburg aunts. Ever with devotion and love.
- Your FRITZ.
Nietzsche To His Mother and Sister - February, 1865
- Bonn, End of February, 1865.
MY DEAR MAMMA AND LIZZIE:
The lovely time of the holidays draws ever nearer, and I must confess that my longing to see you again grows keener every day. You might shortly start making the preparations for my arrival, for I shall be with you soon after the middle of next month. The more disagreeable the weather is now, the more do I like to dwell upon the beautiful days at Easter, and naturally I have never felt so happy at the thought of the holidays as I feel now. How delightful life will seem for me in your dear company, compared with the life I lead here, so destitute of all family associations! In addition to that, I shall be near so many dear friends, and to dear old Pforta, to which we old Pforta boys are so absurdly attached.
I imagine the whole of this passage will make you feel a little wistful; but unfortunately I must dissipate this mood for you by referring to the inevitable and irksome question of money. Among other things now I am going to the most desperate efforts to make two ends meet, and, like the Treasury, on drawing up my budget for the year I arrive only at the most hopeless results. Among the financial coups I have in view is the plan of moving out of my present lodgings next term, giving up the hire of a piano in order—to put it quite plainly—to cut down expenses. One learns a tremendous lot in one term, even in the realm of material things; but it is a pity that one has to pay so dearly for these lessons. But now I will close these pathetic and bathetic details by begging you, dear Mamma, to send me the money for the next two months in a lump sum of not less than 240 marks, to include my railway fare. Altogether I am not in favour of monthly instalments; they inevitably lead one into debt. Up to the present I have only been in a position to settle the most pressing debts of the previous month by means of these monthly instalments and have scarcely ever had any cash in hand. Generally speaking, it is quite out of the question for me to hope to get on at Bonn on less than 1,200 marks, and that was the amount my guardian promised me at the beginning of my university life. If you only knew how we live here you would understand this. It is the minimum amount possible in the circumstances.
So now I have said all I had to say on this matter, although I know perfectly well that it will not please you any more than it pleases me. Why can't I settle all this direct with my guardian? These things spoil my beautiful letters! And now let me beg of you once more not to fail me and thus plunge me into difficulties from which I could and should have to extricate myself only by borrowing the money in some way.
And now let us banish all care from our brow and chat pleasantly for a while. The things I have to tell you naturally accumulate more and more every day. . . .
I pass here among the students, etc., as something of an authority on music, and as a queer customer into the bargain, like all old Pforta boys in the Franconia. I am not disliked at all, although I am apt to scoff a little and am considered as somewhat ironical. This estimate of my character, according to the opinions of other people, will not be without interest to you. For my part I must add that I do not agree to the first particular, that I am frequently unhappy and that I have too many moods and am rather inclined to be a nagging spirit (Qutilgeist) not only to myself, but also to others.
And now good-bye! For Heaven's sake send me the money in good time, and remember me to our dear relatives. With hearty thanks for your nice letters and begging you still to think kindly of me in spite of this one,
- FRIEDBICH WILHELM NIETZSCHE.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - May, 1865
- Bonn, May 25, 1865.
To begin with, I must own that I have been simply longing for your first letter from Göttingen, not only out of friendship, but also because of its psychological interest. I was hoping that it might reflect the impression just made upon you by the life led in the Students Corps, and I felt certain that you would speak out quite frankly on the subject.
Now, this is precisely what you have done, and I thank you most heartily. At present, therefore, I share your excellent brother's views on this matter; I can only admire the moral strength with which you have plunged into dirty muddy water and even exercised your limbs in it, in order to learn to swim in the stream of life. Pardon the cruelty of the metaphor, but I think it meets the case.
Besides, there is this important point to remember: if a man wishes to understand his age and his contemporaries, he must be something of a colour student. Societies and associations, together with the tendencies they represent, generally reveal with almost perfect exactitude the type of the next generation of men. Moreover, the question of the reorganization of the circumstances of student life is urgent enough to deter the individual from investigating and judging the conditions from his own particular experience. Of course, we must take care that we ourselves do not become too deeply influenced during the process of our research; for habit exercises a prodigious power. A man has already lost a good deal when he can no longer feel any moral indignation at the reprehensible actions daily perpetrated in his circle. This is true, for instance, of drink and drunkenness, and also of the disrespect and scorn with which other men and other opinions are treated.
I readily admit that, up to a point, I had very much the same experiences as yourself, that the spirit of conviviality on drinking evenings often discomfited me exceedingly, that there were fellows whose "beer materialism" made them utterly repulsive to me; whilst the appalling arrogance with which in a twinkling men and opinions were disposed of en masse used to irritate me beyond endurance. Nevertheless I was content to bear with the Association, not only because it taught me a good deal, but also because I was, on the whole, compelled to acknowledge the intellectual life which formed a part of it. On the whole, though, a more intimate relationship with one or two friends is a necessity, and, provided one can enjoy this, the rest can be reckoned as a sort of seasoning included in the fare—some as salt and pepper, others as sugar, and yet others as nothing at all.
Once again let me assure you that all you have told me about your struggles and anxieties only enhances my esteem and love for you.
This term I have to prepare our archaeological work for the college. Then I also have a bigger piece of work to do for the Science evening of our Burschenschaft [Corps] about the political poets of Germany. I hope to learn a good deal from this, but I shall also have to do a tremendous amount of reading and collect plenty of material. Above all, however, I must set about preparing a more important philological work, the subject of which I have not yet decided, in order to qualify for admittance to the college at Leipzig.
Incidentally I am now studying Beethoven's Life in the biography by Marx. I shall also perhaps do a little composing again, a thing which this year I have so far strenuously avoided. I have also stopped versifying. The Rhineland Musical Festival takes place this Whitsun at Cologne. Do come over from Göttingen for it! The principal items on the programme are: Israel in Egypt, by Handel; Faust Music, by Schumann; The Seasons, by Haydn, etc., etc. I am taking part in it. Immediately after it the Cologne International Exhibit will be opened. You will find all further details in the papers.
Well, old man, fare thee well!
I rejoice at the thought of our next meeting. I wish you plenty of good cheer and bright spirits, and, above all, a man who can be something to you. Excuse my execrable writing and my ill humour about it. You know how wild I get over it and how my thoughts then come to a standstill.
Your devoted friend,
- FR. NIETZSCHE.
Bonn, Ascension Day, 1865.
Nietzsche To His Mother - June, 1865
- Bonn, June 30, 1865.
- Friday Morning.
I am very much disgusted by the bigoted Roman Catholic population here. Often I can scarcely believe that we are in the nineteenth century. Not long ago it was Corpus Christi Day. Processions after the style of that of the Church Festival; everybody very finely got up and therefore full of vanity, and yet going into all kinds of pious contortions, croaking and groaning old women, tremendous squandering of incense, wax candles, and festoons of flowers. On the afternoon of the same day a genuine Tyrolean company gave a concert with the usual affected naturalness and the stereotyped emotions in the rendering of the Andreas Hofer song.
You will have read in the papers about the Rhineland festival. As everybody knows, the Rhineland was annexed to Prussia fifty years ago. The King, the General Staff, and several Ministers attended the ceremony. The papers speak of the enthusiasm and rejoicing of the people. As I was in Cologne at the time, I can form my own estimate of these rejoicings. I was amazed by such coldness on the part of the masses. But I really cannot see where the enthusiasm for the King and his Ministers should come from at this particular juncture. All the same, externally the ceremony was extremely imposing. The Rhine, the bridge over it, the innumerable hotels on the banks, the towers, and the mighty cathedral all ablaze with illuminations, a continuous deafening boom of guns and muskets, myriads of fireworks all let off at the same time at various points all these seen from the opposite bank produced an almost magical impression. It would be impossible to imagine a finer effect for an opera. The King in a steamer sailed up and down stream in the midst of it all; the youth of Cologne created enthusiasm by singing the Düppel march; the masses cheered at the sight of such fine things, and the monarch was well pleased. I saw some fine uniforms there, my dear Lizzie. But the old generals who wore these beautiful clothes strolled through the streets smiling good-naturedly; for they had happily survived the Düppel engagement of a copious dinner and were all very drunk with victory.
Not long ago we—that is to say, the Franconians—had a Commers with two other student associations, the Helvetia and the Marchia. Oh! what bliss! Oh! the marvellous exploits of the Students Association! Do we represent the future of Germany? Are we not the nursery of German parliaments? "It is some times difficult," says Juvenal, "to refrain from writing a satire."
I think I have already told you that we have changed the colours in our caps. We now wear fine red south-westers, with gold braid and broad black chin straps.
Remember me to dear Lizzie and all our relatives and friends.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - April, 1866
- Naumburg, April 7, 1866.
Now and again one enjoys hours of peaceful reflection when, with mingled gladness and sorrow, one seems to hover over one's life just as those lovely summer days, so exquisitely described by Emerson, seem to lie stretched out at ease above the hilltops. It is then, as he says, that Nature is perfect, and we feel the same; then we are free from the spell of the ever vigilant will; then we are nothing but a pure, contemplative and dispassionate eye. It is in a mood such as this—a mood desirable above all others—that I take up my pen to reply to your kind and thoughtful letter. The interests we share have become welded together to the smallest particle; once again we have realized that mere strokes of the pen in fact, even the most unexpected whims in the past of a few individuals determine the history of countless numbers of others; and we readily leave it to the pious to thank their God for these accidents. We may perhaps laugh at this thought when we meet again in Leipzig.
I had already made myself familiar with the thought of being a soldier. I often wished that I might be snatched from my monotonous labours; I yearned for the opposite extreme to my excitement, to the tempestuous stress of my life and to the raptures of my enthusiasm. For, despite all my efforts, it has been brought home to me more clearly every day that it is impossible to shuffle such work out of one's coat sleeve. During the holidays I have learnt, relatively speaking, a good deal, and now they are at an end. My Theognis finds itself at least one term further forward. I have, moreover, made many illuminating discoveries which will considerably enrich my quaestiones Theognideae.
For recreation I turn to three things, and a wonderful recreation they provide! my Schopenhauer, Schumann's music, and, finally, solitary walks. Yesterday a heavy storm hung in the sky, and I hastened up a neighbouring hill, called Leusch (perhaps you can explain the word to me?). On the summit I found a hut and a man killing two kids, with his son looking on. The storm broke with a mighty crash, discharging thunder and hail, and I felt inexpressibly well and full of zest, and realized with singular clearness that to understand Nature one must go to her as I had just done, as a refuge from all worries and oppressions. What did man with his restless will matter to me then? What did I care for the eternal "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not"? How different are lightning, storm and hail—free powers without ethics! How happy, how strong they are—pure will untrammeled by the muddling influence of the intellect!
For have I not seen examples enough of how muddling a man's intellect frequently is? Not long ago I had occasion to speak to a man who was on the point of going out to India as a missionary. I put a few questions to him and learned that he had not read a single Indian work, knew nothing about the Upanishads—not even their name—and had resolved to have nothing to do with the Brahmans because they had philosophical training. Holy Ganges!
To-day I listened to a profoundly clever sermon of ———s on Christianity—the Faith that has conquered the world. It was intolerably haughty in its attitude towards all nations that were not Christian, and yet it was exceedingly ingenious. For instance, every now and then he would describe as Christian something else, which always gave an appropriate sense even according to our lights. If the sentence, "Christianity has conquered the world," be changed to "the feeling of sin," or briefly "a metaphysical need has conquered the world," we can raise no reasonable objection; but then one ought to be consistent and say, "All true Hindus are Christians," and also "All true Christians are Hindus." As a matter of fact, how ever, the interchange of such words and concepts as these, which have a fixed meaning, is not altogether honest; it lands the poor in spirit in total confusion. If by Christianity is meant "Faith in an historical event, or in an historical personage," I have nothing to do with it. If, however, it is said to signify briefly a craving for salvation or redemption, then I can set a high value upon it, and do not even object to its endeavouring to discipline the philosophers. For how very few these are compared to the vast masses of men who are in need of salvation! How many of them are not actually made of the same stuff as these masses! If only all those who dabble in philosophy were followers of Schopenhauer! But only too often behind the mask of philosopher stands the exalted majesty of the "Will," which is trying to achieve its own self-glorification. If the philosophers ruled ςορμγυ φι would be lost; were the masses to prevail, as they do at present, the philosophers rari in gurgite rasto would still be able, like Aeschylus, δίχα ᾶλλων φρονέειν.
Apart from this, it is certainly extremely irksome to restrain our Schopenhauerian ideas, still so young, vigorous and half expressed; and to have weighing forever upon our hearts this unfortunate disparity between theory and practice. And for this I can think of no consolation; on the contrary, I am in need of it myself.
And now farewell, old man! Remember me to all your family. Mine wish to be remembered to you; let us leave it at that. When we meet again we shall probably smile, and rightly too!
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - January, 1867
- Leipzig, End of January, 1867.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
At the beginning of January at Naumburg I too stood at the deathbed of a near relative. Next to my mother and sister, this dear lady had the greatest claim on my love and veneration. She had always displayed the most devoted interest in my career, and with her I seem to have lost a whole piece of my past and especially of my childhood. And yet, when I received your letter, my poor dear afflicted friend, I was overcome by a much deeper grief. The difference between the two deaths seemed so enormous. There, in Naumburg, a life replete with good deeds had at last been consummated, and despite a weakly constitution had at least lasted well into old age. We all had the feeling that the strength both of her mind and her body was exhausted, and that only for our love had death come too soon. But what have we not lost by the death of your brother, before whom I too stood in such constant admiration and respect!
We have lost one of those rare noble Roman natures about whom Rome at her zenith would have boasted and of whom you, as his brother, have an even greater right to be proud. For how seldom does our wretched age produce such heroic figures! But you know what the ancients thought on the subject: "Those whom the gods love die young."
What wonders such a power might have achieved! As a pattern of self-reliant and glorious endeavour, as an example of a decided character true to himself and indifferent to the world and its opinion, what strength and comfort he might have afforded to thousands caught in life's wild vortex! I am well aware that this vir bonus in the best sense meant even more to you; that, as you often used to tell me in the past, he constituted the ideal to which you aspired, your fixed guiding star amid all the tortuous and difficult highways and byways of life. His death has probably been the severest blow that could possibly have overtaken you.
Now, dear old man, you have realized—so I gather from the tone of your letter—through your own bitter experience, why our Schopenhauer extols suffering and affliction as indispensable to a splendid destiny, as the δεύτερος πλούς;to the denial of the Will. You have also felt and experienced the chastening, inwardly becalming, and bracing power of pain. This has been a time during which you have yourself tested the truth of Schopenhauer's doctrine. If the fourth book of his principal work now makes a disagreeable, gloomy, and tedious impression upon you; if it has not the power to bear you triumphantly beyond all the terrible outward pain into that sweetly melancholy but happy mood which possesses us at the sound of lofty music, into that mood in which one sees one's earthly shell fall from one, then it is possible that even I, too, may have nothing more to do with his philosophy. Only he who is brimful of anguish can pronounce the decisive judgment on such matters. We others, standing in the middle of the stream of life and things, and longing for the Denial of the Will merely as for the island of the blest, cannot judge whether the consolations of such a philosophy are adequate for times of deep sorrow.
I conclude with a hearty farewell and a quotation from Aristotle:
τί γὰρ ἐστιν ᾶνυρωπος; ἀσνενείας ύπόδειγμα χαιρού λάφυνον, τύχης παίγνιον, μεταππώσεως είχών, φυόνου χαί συμφορᾶς πλάστιγε
Your devoted and likewise stricken friend,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - February, 1867
- Leipzig, February, 1867.
If you are not in a mood to listen to a host of weird things, just put this letter aside and reserve it for another occasion.
Pious people believe that all the suffering and mishaps that come their way have been sent to them with the most careful premeditation, in order that this or that thought, such and such a resolution or understanding might be kindled in them. We lack the very first principles on which such a faith is based. It does lie in our power, however, to suck every event, every trivial or serious mishap, dry and to turn it to account for our improvement and discipline. The predestined character of every individual's fate is no myth if we understand it in this sense. What we have to do is intentionally to turn our fate to account, for events are, in themselves, but insignificant accessories to this end. It all turns upon our personal attitude. An event has no more value than we choose to invest it with. Thoughtless and unmoral people know nothing of this purposefulness of fate. Events make no lasting impression upon them. We, however, wish to learn something from them, and the more our knowledge of moral affairs increases and the more complete it becomes, the more surely will the events of our life link themselves up into a fast-bound ring, or will at least seem to do so. You know, old man, what I mean by these remarks.
And now, with the expression of my mother's, my cousin's and my own sincere sympathy, I will take my leave of you for today.
- F. N.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - April, 1867
- Naumburg, April 6, 1867.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
Heaven alone knows the cause of my long silence, for I am never more thankful or more happy than when your letters arrive to give me news of your doings and your spirits.
During the holidays I intend to make a written record of my work on the sources of Diogenes Laertius, though I am anything but far advanced. For your amusement let me confess what it is that gives me the most pain and trouble my German style (not to mention my Latin). But I have come to an understanding with my mother tongue, so foreign languages cannot fail to follow suit. The scales have fallen from my eyes; too long had I lived in stylistic innocence. The categorical imperative, "Thou shalt and must write," has called me to my senses. Truth to tell, I made an attempt I had never made since my Gymnasium days namely, to write well and suddenly my pen seemed to become paralyzed in my hand. I could do nothing and felt very angry. Meanwhile my ears rang with Lessing's, Lichtenberg's, and Schopenhauer's precepts on style. It was a constant comfort to me to know that these authorities were unanimous in declaring that to write well was a difficult matter, that no man was born with a good style, and that in order to acquire the capacity one had to work hard and keep one's nose to the grindstone. God forbid that I should write again in such a wooden, dry style and with so much logical tightlacing as I did in my Theognis essay, for instance, on the cradle of which none of the Graces ever lighted (on the contrary, it was more like the distant booming of the cannon at Koniggratz). It would be hard indeed not to be able to write better than this when one longs so ardently to do so. The first thing to do is to let a number of bright and lively spirits loose upon one's style; I must play upon it as if it were a keyboard. But I must not play the things I have learnt, but improvise freely, as freely as possible, and yet with logic and beauty.
Secondly, I am disturbed by another wish. One of my oldest Naumburg friends, Wilhelm Finder, is just going in for his first Law examination you and I know the qualms inseparable from such a time. But what attracts me and even tempts me to follow suit is not the examination itself, but the preparation for it. How valuable and uplifting it must be to let all the disciplined elements of one's science march past one in the space of about six months, and thus obtain for once a general view of the whole! Is it not exactly as if an officer, accustomed always to the mere drilling of his company, were suddenly to behold in battle the magnificent fruit his small efforts could bear? For it cannot be denied that the uplifting general view of antiquity is altogether lacking in most philosophers because they stand too close to the picture and examine a spot of oil instead of admiring and, what is more, enjoying the broad and bold outlines of the composition as a whole. When, I ask you, shall we at last realize that pure enjoyment in our studies of antiquity about which, alas! we have so often talked?
Thirdly, the whole of our method of working is horrible. The hundred and one books lying on the table before me are only so many pincers consuming all the vitality out of the nerve of independent thought. I verily believe, old man, that with a bold hand you have selected the best possible lot—that is to say, an active contrast, a reversed standpoint, an absolutely different attitude towards life, mankind, work, and duty. By this I do not mean to praise your present calling, as such, but only in so far as it constitutes the negation of your former life, together with its object and its point of view. Amid such contrasts body and soul keep healthy, and none of those inevitable morbid symptoms appear which in the scholar are caused by a preponderance of intellectual, and, in the clodhopper, by a preponderance of bodily exercise. Of course, the morbidity manifests itself differently in each. The Greeks were no scholars, but neither were they brainless athletes. Are we, therefore, necessarily bound to exercise a choice between the one or the other way of living? Is it not possible that with Christianity a division was made in this realm of man's nature also, which the nation of harmony knew nothing about? Ought not every scholar to blush at the thought of Sophocles, who, distinguished as he was in the domain of the spirit, was yet able to dance with grace and understood the art of playing at ball? But we stand towards these things as we stand towards life in general; we readily recognize an evil condition, but we do not raise a finger to get rid of it. And here I might easily begin a fourth lamentation, but in the presence of my martial friend I will refrain. For a warrior must be much more nauseated by these jeremiads than a home-bird like myself.
Incidentally I have just called to mind a recent experience that offers a very good illustration of the scholar's morbid symptoms. As such it might perhaps be hushed up, but it will amuse you because it is nothing more than the translation of Schopenhauer's essay "On Professors of Philosophy" into real life.
In a certain town a young man endowed with quite extraordinary intellectual gifts, particularly in the direction of philosophical speculation, made up his mind to obtain a Doctor's degree. With this object in view, he gathered together the threads of his system "Concerning the Fundamental Delusion of Representation," which he had laboriously thought out for years, and was very happy and proud at the result. With these feelings surging in his breast, he submitted the work to the Philosophical Faculty of the place, which happened to be a university town. Two professors of philosophy had to give their opinion on his production, and this is how they acquitted themselves of the task: The first said that, though the work showed undoubted intellectual power, it did not advocate the doctrines taught at his institution; and the second declared that not only did the views not correspond with the common understanding of mankind, but they were also paradoxical. The work was consequently rejected, and its author did not receive his Doctor's degree. Fortunately the rejected candidate was not humble enough to recognize the voice of wisdom in this verdict nay, he was sufficiently presumptuous to maintain that this particular Philosophical Faculty was lacking in the philosophical facultas.
In short, old man, one cannot pursue one's path too independently. Truth seldom resides in the temple men have built in her honour, or where priests have been ordained to her service. The good work or the rubbish we produce we alone have to pay for, not those who have given us their good or their foolish advice. Let us at least have the pleasure of scoring our blunders off our own bat. There is no such thing as a general recipe for the assistance of all men. One must be one's own doctor and gather one's medical experience on one's own body. As a matter of fact, we give too little thought to our own welfare; our egoism is not shrewd enough, our reason not selfish enough.
With this, old man, let me now take my leave of you. Unfortunately I have nothing "solid" or "real," or whatever the current phrase among young business men is, to report; but you will certainly not regret that.
Your devoted friend,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - December, 1867
- Naumburg, December 1, 1867.
I am a bombardier in the second mounted division of the Fourth Horse Artillery.
You may well imagine how astonished I was by this revolution in my affairs, and what a violent upheaval it has made in my everyday humdrum existence. Nevertheless I have borne the change with determination and courage, and even derive a certain pleasure from this turn of fortune. Now that I have an opportunity of doing a little ᾶοχησις I am more than ever thankful to our Schopenhauer. For the first five weeks I had to be in the stables. At 5:30 in the morning I had to be among the horses, removing the manure and grooming the animals down with the currycomb and horse brush. For the present my work lasts on an average from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 11.30 a.m. to 6 p.m., the greater part of which I spend in parade drill. Four times a week we two soldiers who are to serve for a year have to attend a lecture given by a lieutenant, to prepare us for the reserve officers examination. You must know that in the horse artillery there is a tremendous amount to learn. We get most fun out of the riding lessons. My horse is a very fine animal, and I am supposed to have some talent for riding. When I and my steed gallop round the large parade ground, I feel very contented with my lot. On the whole, too, I am very well treated. Above all, we have a very nice captain.
I have now told you all about my life as a soldier. This is the reason why I have kept you waiting so long for news and for an answer to your last letter. Meanwhile, if I am not mistaken, you will probably have been freed from your military fetters; that is why I thought it would be best to address this letter to Spandau.
But my time is already up; a business letter to Volkmann and another to Ritschl have robbed me of much of it. So I must stop in order to get ready for the parade in full kit.
Well, old man, forgive my long neglect, and hold the god of War responsible for most of it.
Your devoted friend,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE,
To Rohde - February, 1868
- Naumburg, February 1-3, 1868.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
It is Saturday, and the day too is drawing to a close. For a soldier the word "Saturday" is full of magic charm and of a feeling of quiet and peace of which as a student I had no idea. To be able to sleep and dream peacefully, without one's soul being taunted by the terrifying picture of the morrow; to have overcome and done with another seven days of that excitement in uniform which is called a year's soldiering—what simple and at the same time deep joys such things awaken—joys worthy of a cynic and attained by us almost too cheaply and easily. I now understand that first and greatest Saturday afternoon mood, in which that easy and satisfied phrase πάντα λίαν καλά was pronounced; in which coffee and a pipe were invented, and the first optimist stepped into life. In any case, the Hebrews who concocted and believed this beautiful story were warriors or factory hands; they were certainly not students; for the latter would have proposed six days holiday and one workday in the week, and in practice would have converted even this into a holiday like the rest. At all events, that was my practice; and at the present moment I feel the contrast between my present life and my former scientific loafing very strongly indeed. If it were only possible to muster all the philologists of ten years together and drill them army fashion into the service of science, at the end of ten years the science of philology would no longer be necessary, because all the principal work would have been done. And, moreover, it would no longer be possible, because no man would join these colours voluntarily, colours with which the idea of the "one-year volunteer" cannot be associated at all.
As you see, a Saturday makes one talkative, because we have to be silent all the rest of the week and are accustomed to regulate the capacities of our souls according to our superior officer's word of command. That is why on Saturdays, when the eye of the master is removed, words gush forth from our lips and sentences pour out of the ink-pot—especially when the fire is crackling in the grate and outside you hear the roar of a February storm, heavy with the promise of Spring. Saturday, a storm, and a warm room—these are the best ingredients with which to brew the punch of a "letter-writing mood." . . .
My present life, my dear friend, is really very lonely and friendless. It offers me no stimulation that I do not myself provide; none of that harmonious concord of souls which many a happy hour in Leipzig used to afford; but rather, enstrangement of the soul from itself, preponderance of obsessional influences, which draw the soul up tightly with a sense of fear, and teach it to regard things with an earnestness that they do not deserve. This is the seamy side of my present existence, and you will certainly be able to enter into my feelings about it. Let us, however, turn it round the other way. This life is certainly uncomfortable, but enjoyed as an entremets, absolutely useful. It makes a constant call on a man's energy and is relished particularly as an ἀντίδοτον against paralyzing scepticism, concerning the effects of which we have observed a good deal together. Moreover, it helps one to become acquainted with one's own nature, as it reveals itself among strange and generally rough people, without any assistance from science and without that traditional goddess Fame which determines our worth for our friends and for society. Up to the present I have remarked that people are well disposed toward me, whether they happen to be captains or plain gunners; for the rest I do my duty with zeal and interest. Is it not something to be proud of, to be regarded as the best rider among thirty recruits? Verily, dear friend, that is more than a philological prize, although I am not insensible even to the kind of encomiums that the Faculty of Leipzig thought fit to bestow upon me. . . .
Ah, my dear friend, what a child of misfortune is a field artilleryman when he has literary tastes into the bargain. Our old god of War loved young women, not shrivelled old Muses. A gunner who often enough in his barrack room sits upon a dirty stool meditating upon Democritean problems, while his boots are being polished for him, is really a paradox on whom the gods must look with scorn. . . .
When I tell you that I am on duty every day from 7 in the morning to 5 in the evening, and that in addition I have to attend lectures given by a lieutenant and a vet respectively, you can imagine what a sorry plight I am in. At night the body is limp and tired and seeks its couch in good time. And so it goes on without respite or rest, day after day. What becomes of the reflection and contemplation necessary for scientific cogitation in the midst of it all? Even for things which are still more dear to me than my literary needs, for the delights of a friendly correspondence and for art, I so seldom have a free moment. Just let me be once more in full enjoyment of my time and my strength—
Si male nunc, non olim sic erit.
And next year I go to Paris.
Your devoted friend,
- FR. NIETZSCHE.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - February, 1868
- Naumburg, February 16, 1868.
As I have already told you my military duties take up much of my time, but they are on the whole tolerable. I am still particularly fond of riding, and my zeal for it is kept alive by the praise I receive on all sides. From the officers I hear that I have a good seat and thus make a good display. Believe me, old man, I never thought I should have an opportunity of growing vain about this sort of thing. Suffice it to say that my desire to perfect myself in this fine but difficult art is very strong indeed. If you should happen to come to Naumburg for the Pforta School Festival, you will be able to appreciate my achievements. I am afraid you will have a good laugh when you see me shouting my orders. But I still have a good deal to learn before I can pass the officers exam.
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - June, 1868
- Naumburg, June 22, 1868.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
Today all my comrades in arms have left me. They are on the way to Magdeburg for gun practice. So I am about the only gay-coated creature within the walls of Naumburg—an abandoned broken-winged stork that with envy in its heart has seen all its more powerful fellows fly right away. Yes, old man, the rumour that has already reached you by many a tortuous path is for the best (i.e., the worst) part true: I did not end my military career quite happily.
I had survived the winter and also the most difficult and unpleasant half of my year's service; they had made me a bombardier and were well pleased with my behaviour. When the fine weather came and I was able to ride my horse round the huge parade ground I too was beginning to breathe more freely. Towards the end I was riding the most restive and fiery animal in the battery. One day I failed in attempting a smart spring into the saddle; I gave my chest a blow on the pommel and felt a sharp rend in my left side. But I quietly went on riding, and endured the increasing pain for a day and a half. On the evening of the second day, however, I had two fainting fits, and on the third day I lay as if nailed to my bed, suffering the most terrible agony and with a high temperature. The doctors declared that I had torn two of the muscles of my chest. In consequence of this the whole system of chest muscles and ligaments was inflamed, and severe suppuration had supervened owing to the bleeding of the torn tissues. A week later, when my chest was lanced, several cupfuls of matter were removed. From that time onward, three whole months, the suppuration has never ceased, and when at last I left my bed, I was naturally so exhausted that I had to learn to walk again. My condition was lamentable; I had to be helped in standing, walking and lying down, and could not even write. Gradually my health improved, I enjoyed an invigorating diet, took plenty of exercise and recovered my strength. But the wound still remained open and the suppuration scarcely abated. At last it was discovered that the sternum itself had been grazed and this was the obstacle to recovery. One evening I got an undeniable proof of this, in the form of a little piece of bone which came out of the wound with the matter. This has happened frequently since, and the doctor says it is like to occur frequently again. Should a large piece of bone be detached a slight operation would be imperative. The trouble is by no means dangerous, but it is exceedingly slow. The doctors can do nothing but help nature in her work of elimination and fresh growth. In addition to this I make frequent injections of camomile tea and silver nitrate every day and take a warm bath. Our staff doctor will shortly pronounce me "temporarily disabled," and it is not improbable that I may always suffer from some weakness round about the wound.
As soon as I was able to wield a pen again I plunged once more into my studies, of which I send you a sample in the enclosed little Dance Song.
- Yours, F. N.
To Frau Ritschl - July, 1868
- Wittekind, Beginning of July, 1868.
DEAR FRAU RITSCHL:
. . . The day before yesterday at noon I reached the pretentious little village spa called Wittekind. It was raining hard and the flags that had been hung out for the spa festival were looking limp and dirty. My host, an unmistakable rogue with opaque blue spectacles, came forward to meet me and conducted me to the apartment I had engaged six days before. Everything about this room, including an absolutely mouldy sofa, was as desolate as a prison. I very soon realized too that this same host employed only one servant maid for two houses full of visitors which probably means from twenty to forty people. Before the first hour had elapsed I had a visit, but so disagreeable a one that I was only able to shake it off by means of the most energetic courtesy. In short the whole atmosphere of the place I had just entered was chilly, damp and disagreeable.
Yesterday I took stock a bit of the place and its in habitants. At table I had the good fortune to sit near a deaf-and-dumb man and a number of extraordinary-shaped females. The place does not seem bad, but one can go nowhere and see nothing owing to the rain and the damp. Volkmann called and prescribed the local baths for me. He also spoke of an operation in the near future.
How grateful I am to you for having given me Ehlert's book. I read it on the first evening of my stay reclining on the mouldy sofa in my wretchedly lighted room, but it gave me much pleasure and inner warmth. Unkind tongues might say the book is written in an agitated and inferior style. But the who uses his eyes in art. At bottom it is music though it happens to be written not in notes but in words. A painter must experience the most painful sensations on beholding all this confusion of images crowded together without any method. But unfortunately I have a weakness for the Paris feuilleton, for Heine's Reisebilder, etc., and prefer a stew to roast-beef. What pains it has cost me to pull a scientific face in order to write down a jejune train of thought with the requisite decency and alia breve. Your husband can even sing a song about this (not to the tune it is true of "Ach lieber Franz, noch", etc.), for he was very much surprised at the lack of "style." In the end I felt like the sailor who feels less secure on land than in a rocking ship. But perhaps I shall one day discover a philological theme that will permit of musical treatment, and then I shall splutter like a suckling and heap up images like a barbarian who has fallen asleep before an antique head of Venus, and still be in the right in spite of the "flourishing speed" of the exposition.
And Ehlert is almost always right. But to many men truth is irrecognizable in this harlequin garb. To us who hold no page of life too serious to allow of our sketching some joke in fleeting arabesque upon it, this is not so. And which of the gods can feel any surprise if we occasionally behave like satyrs and parody a life that always looks so serious and pathetic and wears buskins?
If only I could manage to conceal my weakness for dissonance from you! Answer me frankly have you not already a terrible sample of it? Here you have a second. Wagner's and Schopenhauer's club feet are difficult to conceal. But I shall improve. And if ever you should allow me to play you something again, I shall embody my memory of that beautiful Sunday in tones, and then you will hear what you only read today, to wit, what a tremendous deal that memory means to a bad musician, etc.
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - August, 1868
- Nauniburg, August 8, 1868.
At last I can give you absolutely reliable news of my health and quite the best you could wish to hear. A few days ago I returned quite recovered from the baths at Wittekind, where I went in order to place myself in the able and experienced hands of Prof. Volkmann, the distinguished Halle surgeon. My regimental doctors were good and candid enough to advise me to consult this specialist, and after three weeks of the Wittekind cure, the somewhat painful healing process developed so favourably that Volkmann congratulated me and said I should now recover very quickly. In the end an operation was not necessary, although for a long while it had threatened to be so. Just think, old man! five months illness, much tedious pain, profound bodily and spiritual depression, and desperate prospects for the future—all this has been overcome! All that remains to remind me of my dangerous condition is a single deep scar over the bone in the middle of my chest. Volkmann told me that if the suppuration had lasted much longer—as it was it lasted three months—my heart or my lungs would probably have been affected.
It is obvious that I cannot resume my military duties. I am pronounced "temporarily disabled," and I hope, as I have been prevented from becoming an officer of the Reserve, I shall contrive slowy and gradually to vanish from the list of those liable to serve.
Your devoted friend,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Rohde - October, 1868
- Naumburg, October 8, 1868.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
. . . Not long ago I was reading (and that at first hand) Jahn's Essays on Music, as well as his essays on Wagner. A certain amount of enthusiasm is required to do justice to such a man, but Jahn shows instinctive repugnance and listens with his ears half closed. Nevertheless I agree with him in many respects, particularly when he says he regards Wagner as the representative of a modern dilettantism which is sucking up and digesting all art interests. But it is precisely from this point of view that one cannot cease wondering at the magnitude of each artistic gift in this man and his inexhaustible energy coupled with such a versatility of artistic talent. For as to "culture", the more variegated and extensive it happens to be, the more lifeless is usually the eye, the weaker are the legs and the more effete are the brains that bear it.
Wagner has, moreover, a range of feeling which lies far beyond Jahn's reach. Jahn remains a "Grenzbote" hero, a healthy man, to whom the Tannhauser saga and the atmosphere of Lohengrin are a closed book. My pleasure in Wagner is much the same as my pleasure in Schopenhauer—the ethical air, the redolence of Faust, and also of the Cross—death and the tomb. . . .
Your old friend,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE,
- Prussian Gunner.
To Rohde - November, 1868
- Leipzig, November 9, 1868.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
Today I intend to relate a whole host of sprightly experiences, to look merrily into the future and to conduct myself in such idyllic and easy fashion that your sinister guest—that feline fever—will arch its back and retire spitting and swearing. And in order that all discordant notes may be avoided I shall discuss the famous res severa which is responsible for your second letter on a special sheet of paper, so that you will be able to read it when you are in the right mood and place for it.
The acts of my comedy are: (1) A Club-night or the Assistant Professor; (2) The Ejected Tailor; (3) A Rendezvous with X. Some old women take part in the performance. . . .
At home I found two letters, yours and an invitation from Curtius, whom I am glad to get to know better. When two friends like us write letters to each other, it is well known that the angels rejoice. And they rejoiced as I read your letter—aye, they even giggled. . . .
When I reached home yesterday I found a card addressed to me with this note upon it: "If you would like to meet Richard Wagner, come to the Theatre Café at a quarter to four. Windisch".
Forgive me, but this news so turned my head that I quite forgot what I was doing before it came, and was thoroughly bewildered.
I naturally ran there and found our loyal friend, who gave me a lot of fresh information. Wagner was staying in Leipzig with his relations in the strictest incognito. The press had no inkling of his visit and all Brockhaus's servants were as dumb as graves in livery. Now Wagner's sister, Frau Brockhaus, that determined and clever woman, had introduced her friend Frau Ritschl to her brother, and on this occasion was able proudly to boast of the friend to the brother and of the brother to the friend, the lucky creature! Wagner played the Meisterlied, which you must know, in Frau Ritschl's presence, and this good lady told him that she already knew the song very well, mea opera. Imagine Wagner's joy and surprise! And with the utmost readiness in the world he graciously declared his willingness to meet me incognito. I was to be invited on Friday evening. Windisch, however, pointed out that I should be prevented from coming by my official post and duties, Saturday afternoon was accordingly proposed. On that day Windisch and I ran to the Brockhaus's, found the Professor's family but no Wagner. He had just gone out with an enormous hat on his huge head. It was thus that I made the acquaintance of the excellent family and received a kind invitation for Sunday evening.
On these days I felt as though I was living in a novel, and you must allow that in view of the inaccessibility of the exceptional man, the circumstances leading up to this acquaintance were somewhat romantic.
As I was under the impression that a large company of guests had been invited, I decided to dress very ceremoniously, and was glad that my tailor had promised to deliver a new dress suit for this very evening. It was a horrid day with constant showers of rain and snow. One shuddered at the thought of leaving the house, and I was therefore very pleased when little Roscher paid me a visit in the afternoon to tell me something about the Eleatics and about God in philosophy—for, as candidandus he is working up the material collected by Ahrens in his "Development of the Idea of God up to the Time of Aristotle" while Romundt is trying for the prize essay of the University, the subject of which is "On the Will". It was getting dark, the tailor did not turn up, and Roscher left me. I accompanied him, called on the tailor myself, and found his minions busily engaged on my clothes, which they promised to send round in three-quarters of an hour.
I went on my way in a jolly mood, looked in at Kintschy's, read the Kladderadatsch, and was amused to find a paragraph saying that Wagner was in Switzerland and that a fine house was being built for him in Munich, while I knew all the time that I was going to see him that evening and that the day before he had received a letter from the little monarch addressed to "The Great German Tone-poet, Richard Wagner."
But at home there was no tailor awaiting me, so I sat down and read the treatise on the Eudokia at my ease, but was constantly disturbed by the sound of a shrill bell that seemed to be ringing some distance away. At last I felt certain that someone was stand ing at the old iron gate; it was shut, as was also the door of the house. I shouted across the garden to the man to enter the house; but it was impossible to make oneself understood through the pouring rain. The whole house was disturbed, the door was ultimately opened, and a little old man bearing a parcel came up to me. It was half-past 6, time for me to dress and get ready, as I lived a long way off. It was all right, the man had my things. I tried them on and they fitted. But what was this suspicious development? He actually presented me with a bill. I took it politely, but he declared he must be paid on delivery. I was surprised, and explained that I had nothing to do with him as the servant of my tailor, but that my dealings were with his master to whom I had given the order. The man grew more pressing, as did also the time. I snatched at the things and began to put them on. He snatched them too and did all he could to prevent me from dressing. What with violence on my part and violence on his, there was soon a scene, and all the time I was fighting in my shirt, as I wished to get the new trousers.
At last, after a display of dignity, solemn threats, the utterance of curses on my tailor and his accomplice, and vows of vengeance, the little man vanished with my clothes. End of the First Act. I sat on my sofa and meditated while I examined a black coat and wondered whether it was good enough for Richard.
Outside the rain continued to pour.
It was a quarter past 7. I had promised to meet Windisch at half-past 7 at the Theatre Café. I plunged into the dark and rainy night, also a little man in black and without evening dress, yet in a beatific mood, for chance was in my favour—even the scene with the tailor's man had something tremendously unusual about it.
At last we entered Frau Brockhaus's exceedingly comfortable drawing-room. There was nobody there except the most intimate members of the family, Richard and us two. I was introduced to Wagner and muttered a few respectful words to him. He questioned me closely as to how I had become so well acquainted with his music, complained bitterly about the way his operas were produced with the exception of the famous Munich performances, and made great fun of the conductors who tried to encourage their orchestra in friendly tones as follows: "Now, gentlemen, let's have some passion! My good people, still a little more passion if you please!" Wagner enjoys imitating the Leipzig dialect.
Now let me give you a brief account of all that happened that evening. Really the joys were of such a rare and stimulating kind that even today I am not back in the old groove, but can think of nothing better to do than come to you, my dear friend, to tell you these wonderful tidings. Wagner played to us before and after supper, and went through every one of the more important passages of the Meistersinger. He imitated all the voices and was in very high spirits. He is, by the bye, an extraordinarily energetic and fiery man. He speaks very quickly and wittily, and can keep a private company of the sort assembled on that evening very jolly. I managed to have quite a long talk with him about Schopenhauer. Oh, and you can imagine what a joy it was for me to hear him speak with such indescribable warmth of our master—what a lot we owed to him, how he was the only philosopher who had understood the essence of music! Then he inquired as to how the professors were disposed toward him; laughed a good deal about the Philosophers Congress at Prague, and spoke of them as philosophical footmen. Later on he read me a piece out of the autobiography he is now writing, a thoroughly amusing scene from his Leipzig student days which I still cannot recall without a laugh. He writes extraordinarily cleverly and intellectually. At the close of the evening, when we were both ready to go, he shook my hand very warmly and kindly asked me to come and see him so that we might have some music and philosophy together. He also entrusted me with the task of making his music known to his sister and his relations, a duty which I undertook very solemnly to fulfil. You will hear more about it when I have succeeded in looking at this evening more objectively and from a greater distance. For the time being a hearty farewell and best wishes for your health from yours,
- F. N.
To Rohde - November, 1868
- Leipzig on the Day of Penance,
- November 20, 1868.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
Now that I can once more contemplate the teeming brood of philologists of our day at close quarters; now that I am obliged daily to observe the whole of their mole-hill activity, their swollen cheek pouches, their blind eyes, their rejoicing over the captured worm and their indifference towards the true—nay, the obvious—problems of life, and remember that I notice these characteristics not only in the young brood, but also in their venerable elders, I grow ever more clearly convinced that we two, if we wish to remain true to our genius, will not be able to pursue our life task without causing much offence, and being constantly thwarted and crossed in our purpose. When the philologist and the man are not of one piece, the whole tribe above mentioned gapes in astonishment at the miracle; it grows angry and finally scratches, growls, and bites. You have just experienced an example of this. For of this I am quite certain, that the trick you have been played was not directed at your work in particular, but at your individuality. And I, too, live in hope of having very soon a foretaste of what awaits me in this infernal atmosphere. But, my good man, what have the judgments of other people concerning our personalities to do with our achievements? Let us remember Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner, and the inexhaustible energy with which they maintained their belief in themselves in the face of protests from the whole of the "cultured" world, and even if we are not allowed to refer them to deos maximos we still have the consolation of knowing that however odd one is one cannot be denied the right to existence, and that two such odd creatures as ourselves who understand each other so well and are so deeply united must be a delightful spectacle for the gods.
Finally, nothing could be more regrettable than the fact that precisely at this moment, when we have just begun to put our views of life to a practical test, and explore all things and all circumstances in turn—men, states, studies, world histories, churches, schools, etc.—with our antennae, we should be separated by miles of territory, and each should be left alone with the semi-enjoyable and semi-painful feeling of having to digest his outlook on the world in solitude. As a matter of fact nothing would have been more exhilarating than to sit down together now, as we used to do, to digest our bodily meals together at Kintschy's, and symbolically drink our afternoon coffee in company, and, from this midday of our lives, glance backwards into the past and forwards into the future.
However, it will not be too late to do this even in Paris, where the great άναγνώφισις of our comedy takes place, and upon the most beautiful scene in the world, too, between the most brilliant wings and in numerable glittering supers.
Oh, how lovely this image is!
Therefore avaunt unadorned reality, shamefully vulgar empiricism, credit and debit, and "Grenzboten" sobriety!—no, let the whole of this letter be presented to my friend, with all my soul, as a solemn and lofty greeting!
(He drinks the contents of the ink bottle.) Chorus of the Ascetics:
- Selig der Liebende,
- Der die betrübende,
- Heilsam' ünd ubende
- Prüfung bestanden.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - April, 1869
- Naumburg, April 13, 1869.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
My hour has come and this is the last evening I shall spend at home for some time. Early tomorrow morning I go out into the wide, wide world, to enter a new and untried profession, in an atmosphere heavy and oppressive with duty and work. Once more I must take leave of everything, the golden time of free and unconstrained activity, in which every instant is sovereign, in which the joys of art and the world are spread out before us as a mere spectacle in which we scarcely participate. This time is now for ever in the past for me. Now the inexorable goddess "Daily Duty" rules supreme. "Bemooster Bursche zieh? ich aus!"  [As a moss-grown student I go out into the world.] But you know that touching student song of course! "Muss selber nun Philister sein!"  [I too must be a Philistine now.] In one way or another this line always comes true. One cannot take up posts and honours with impunity the only question is, are the fetters of iron or of thread? For I have the pluck which will one day perhaps enable me to burst my bonds and venture into this precarious life from a different direction and in a different way. As yet I see no sign of the inevitable humpback of the professor. May Zeus and all the Muses preserve me from ever becoming a Philistine, an ᾶνδφωπος, a man of the herd. But I do not know how I could become one, seeing that I am not one. It is true I stand a little nearer to another kind of Philistine—the Philistine of the "specialist" species; for it is only natural that the daily task, and the unremitting concentration of the mind upon certain specified subjects and problems, should tend to abate the free receptivity of the mind and undermine the philosophic sense. But I flatter myself that I shall be able to meet this danger with more calm and assurance than the majority of philologists. Philosophical seriousness is already too deeply rooted in me; the true and essential problems of life and thought have been too clearly revealed to me by that great mystagogue, Schopenhauer, to allow of my ever being obliged to dread such a disgraceful defection from the "Idea". To infuse this new blood into my science, to communicate to my pupils that Schopenhauerian earnestness which is stamped on the brow of the sublime man—such is my desire, such is my undaunted hope. I should like to be something more than a mere trainer of efficient philologists. The present generation of teachers, the care of the coming generation—all this is in my mind. If we must live our lives out to the bitter end let us at least do so in such wise that others may bless our life as a priceless treasure, once we have been happily released from its tolls.
As for you, old man, with whom I agree on such a number of vital and fundamental questions, I wish you the luck you deserve and myself your old and tried friendship. Fare thee well!
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, DR.
To Rohde - August, 1869
- Badenweiler, August 17, 1869.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
This is the last day of the holidays. Feelings long since dead and buried seem to wake again. I feel just like a fourth-form boy who waxes sentimental and writes poems about the ephemeral character of earthly happiness when he hears the clock strike on the last day of the holidays. Oh, dear friend, what a small amount of joy is mine and what a lot of my own smoke I have to consume! Aye, I wouldn't fear even an attack of that dreadful dysentery if by means of it I could purchase a talk with you every evening. How unsatisfactory letters are! Incidentally I discovered the following beautiful passage in old Goethe yesterday:
- "How precious is the dear and certain speech
- Of the present friend! The Solitary,
- Robbed of its power benign, sinks into gloom;
- Too slowly ripens, then locked in his breast,
- Thought and each firm resolve ; but in the presence
- Of the beloved friend they leap to life!"
You see, that's the whole thing: we are in eternal need of midwives, and with the view of being confined most men go into the public house or to a "colleague," and then the little thoughts and little plans romp out like kittens. When, however, we are pregnant and there is no one at hand to assist us in our difficult delivery, then darkly and gloomily we lay our rude, unformed, newborn thought in the murky recess of some cave; the sunny rays of friendship are denied it.
But with my incessant talk about solitude, I shall soon develop into a regular Joseph, the carpenter, and then no kind Mary will wish to join her lot with mine. "The calf and the baby ass, men say, do praise the Lord most perfectly." There s the whole thing! A little cattle makes the whole world kin, the edifice is crowned. Remember it was the shepherds and the sheep who saw the stars; to people like us everything is dark. . . .
Now let me tell you something about my Jupiter, Richard Wagner, to whom I go from time to time for a breath of air, and receive more refreshment by so doing than any of my colleagues could possibly imagine. The fellow has not received a single honour yet, and has only just had the distinction of being elected honorary member of the Berlin Academy of Arts. A fruitful, rich and convulsive life, distinctly unheard of and deviating from the average standard of morals. But that is precisely why he stands there, firmly rooted in his own power, with his eyes always scanning a distance beyond everything ephemeral, and beyond his age in the finest sense. Not long ago he handed me the MS. of "State and Religion," intended as a mémoire for the young King of Bavaria. It is conceived on such a high plane, is so independent of time, and so full of nobility and Schopenhauerian earnestness that it made me feel I should like to be a king in order to receive such exhortations. By-the-bye, a little while ago I sent him one or two passages out of your letters for Frau von Bülow, who had often asked me for them. On my last visit but one a baby boy was born during the night and was called "Siegfried." The last time I was there Wagner had just completed the composition of his Siegfried, and was full of the exuberance of his power. Aren't you going to write to him? Perhaps you think he has more than enough lay admirers. But do not write as a musician; write as a man who is in sympathy with his thoughts and is as earnest as he is. He very rarely gets a sign of this sort, and every time he does happen to he is as delighted as if he had had a windfall. . . .
Farewell, my dear, true friend.
- FRIED. NIETZSCHE.
Nietzsche To His Mother - August, 1869
- Bâle, Monday Evening, August 30, 1869.
I have just returned from an exceedingly enjoyable and harmonically happy visit of two days to my friend Wagner and am reminded that I owe you an answer as well as thanks for two letters. Above all I am delighted to hear that you are sure to come in the autumn, but you have formed an exaggerated opinion of the all too modest space at my disposal in my new quarters if you think I shall be able to put you both up. I shall however do my best to make arrangements for you to live quite close to me, perhaps even in the same house. This would be quite possible if my colleague Schönberg moves, as he intends to do, at the right time. Then his rooms would be free. We are now very busy again and regularly so. As soon as the term is over and I am quite free, I think we shall make our way together to the charming Lake of Geneva and eat as many grapes as we like, but not medicinally like the Grand-duchess.
As you seem to be interested in her meeting with me, I must add that it made quite a favourable impression upon me. She seems to have received a sound and liberal education; she shows marked signs of having a good intellect and an earnest grasp of life, which is certainly not rare in royal personages and is quite comprehensible in view of the burdens of their position. She has moreover a friendly, accessible and engaging manner, and does not suffer from a desire to be constantly standing on ceremony. I received her as you suggested. I met her at the railway station with a bouquet, escorted her on foot across the Rhine bridge and then as far as her hotel in a carriage. I then had dinner with her and her suite—she has engaged 21 rooms. So I was in her company in all about two or three hours and for a good part of that time alone with her. During that time she told me a good deal about old days and recent ones as well; for instance, a lot about you, how Lizzie had grown so thin at Leipzig, and whether she drank cow's milk now, etc., etc. The ladies in waiting were also quite attentive to me and proved kind and cheerful creatures. One is at a great advantage when one's attitude towards royal personages is quite independent and one has no requests or appeals to lay before them. Why did Lizzie tremble so on the occasion of her first visit and behave in such a nervous way? I would not say that I had been embarrassed by the whole affair, but I regretted the time lost.
The Grand-duchess revealed a strong taste for music and thought over the proximity of Tribschen and Richard Wagner a good deal. She asked me to convey to him her deep regard for his work.
Never have I been happier than during the last few days. The warm, hearty and increasing intimacy with Wagner and Fran von Billow, the complete agreement between us on all the questions that chiefly interest us, Wagner absolutely in the prime of his genius and marvellous creations only just come into being, glorious Tribschen arranged on such a regal and ingenious scale—many things conspire to exhilarate me and strengthen me in my calling.
- F. N.
To Rohde - February, 1870
- Bâle, End of January to February 15, 1870.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
I suddenly began to feel anxious the other day. I am wondering how you are getting on in Rome, and thinking how remote from the world and isolated your life there must be. You may even be ill and are receiving no proper care and no friendly support. Set my fears at rest and dispel my pessimistic fancies. I always imagine Rome of the Christian Councils as a terribly poisonous place—no, I shall not write any more; for I have a feeling that the secrecy of a letter is not sufficiently secure for the discussion of ecclesiastical and Jesuitical matters. They might scent what the contents of the letter were, and pay you out for it. You are studying antiquity and leading the life of the Middle Ages.
Now let me impress this upon you most emphatically—don't forget on your return journey to come and spend some time with me. Perhaps, you know, it might be the last time for many years. I miss you terribly, so give me the comfort of your presence and try to make your stay not too short a one. For it is indeed a new experience for me to have no one on the spot to whom I can tell all the best and the worst that life brings me—not even a really sympathetic colleague. In such anchoritic conditions and with such difficult years in a young life, my friendship is actually becoming something pathological. I beg you, as an invalid begs : "Come to Bâle!"
My real refuge, which cannot be valued too highly, is still Triebschen, near Lucerne. The only thing is I can but seldom have recourse to it. I spent my Christmas holidays there, most beautiful and uplifting memory! It is absolutely necessary that you too should be initiated into this magic. When once you are my guest we shall go and visit our friend Wagner together. Can't you tell me anything about Franz Liszt? If you could possibly manage to come home via Lake Como you would have a fine opportunity of giving us all great pleasure. We, i.e., we Triebschen folk, have our eye on a villa on the lake near Fiume Latte. It is called "Valla Capuana," and consists of two houses. Could you manage to inspect this villa and give us the benefit of your opinion? . . .
I have delivered a lecture on "The Ancient Musical Drama" before a mixed audience, and on Feb. 1st. I shall deliver a second on "Socrates and Tragedy." Every day I get to like the Hellenic world more and more. There is no better way of approaching close to it than that of indefatigably cultivating one's own little self. The degree of culture I have attained consists in a most mortifying admission of my own ignorance. The life of a philologist striving in every direction of criticism and yet a thousand miles away from Greek antiquity becomes every day more impossible to me. I even doubt whether I shall ever succeed in becoming a proper philologist. If I cannot succeed incidentally, as it were, I shall never succeed. The trouble of it is that I have no example and am in the dangerous position of the fool who acts on his own responsibility. My plan for the immediate future is four years of work in cultivating myself and then a year of travel, in your company perhaps. Our life is really a very difficult one. Sweet ignorance led by teachers and traditions was so blissfully secure.
Moreover you will be well-advised not to choose a small University in which to settle down. One is isolated even in one's science. What would I not give for you and me to be able to live together! I am almost forgetting how to speak. But the most irksome feature of my life is that I must always be impersonating or representing somebody, either the teacher, the philologist, or the man, and that I have always to begin by proving my mettle to all whom I frequent. I am, however, a very bad hand at this, and get steadily worse as time goes on. I either remain dumb or intentionally only say as much as a polite man of the world is expected to say. In short, I am more dissatisfied with myself than with the world, and feel therefore all the more attached to the dearest of friends.
Nietzsche To His Mother - August, 1870
- Sulz, near Weissenburg, in the Neighbourhood of Worth, August 28, 1870.
TO BEGIN WITH, HEARTY GREETINGS:
We have already been two days on the journey from Erlangen: it takes longer than one thinks, although we lay claim to every means of conveyance to hand, and entered France, for instance, sitting on the breaks of an enormous supply train. Yesterday, on a march lasting eleven hours, we performed our errands at Gorsdorf and Langensulzbach, and on the battlefield of Worth. Under separate cover I am sending you a souvenir of the terribly devastated battlefield, strewn with countless sad remains and smelling strongly of corpses. Today we want to go to Hagenau, tomorrow to Nancy, and so on, in the direction of the Southern Army. Mosengel and I are travelling alone and shall only rejoin Ziemssen, our Erlangen colleague, at Pont-à-Mousson.
No letters from you can possibly reach me for the next few weeks, as we are constantly changing our position, and the letter post is exceedingly slow. Nothing can be gleaned here of the progress of our army, all papers having completely ceased. The enemy population here seems to be growing used to the new state of affairs. But of course it should be remembered that they are threatened with death for the smallest offence.
In all the villages through which we have passed one sees hospital after hospital.
I shall soon send you further news. Don't be in the least anxious on my account.
- YOUR FRITZ.
Nietzsche To His Mother
- Erlangen, September 11, 1870.
- Hotel Walfisch.
Just think—until now I have had no news of you, but my campaign has already come to an end without mishap. Not quite without mishap, perhaps, for I am lying here suffering from severe dysentery: but the worst symptoms are over and on Tuesday or Wednesday I shall be able to travel to Naumburg to be nursed back to health again. And now as regards this, I should like you and Lizzie, if you possibly can, to return to Naumburg. What with my longing for peace and quiet and the exhausted state I am in, there is no other place to which I should like to go. I went as far as the outskirts of Metz and conducted a transport of wounded from there to Carlsruhe. And as the result of this, the terrible state of all the wounded in my hands, the constant bandaging of their septic wounds, and sleeping in a cattle truck in which six severely wounded men lay on straw, I contracted the germ of dysentery. The doctor discovered that I was suffering from diphtheria as well, which is also the outcome of this journey. This is another of the evils we are combating with the utmost vigour.
In spite of it all I am glad at least to have been able to help a little in the midst of all the incredible misery. And I should have returned to my duties immediately if illness had not made this impossible.
With heartiest greetings and wishes,
- YOUR SON.
- F. N.
To Ritschl - September, 1870
- Naumburg, September 21, 1870.
Who can tell whether you have received my last letters! This is the secret qualm which at such times as these seizes every letter writer. That is why I will tell you once again that in the service of the voluntary ambulance corps I went from Erlangen to the seat of war as far as Ars-sur-Moselle (quite close to Metz), and that I brought a transport of wounded from there to Carlsruhe. The strain of the whole undertaking was considerable and I am still struggling against the recollection of all I saw during those weeks, as well as against an incessant wail of which I cannot rid my mind's ear. On my return I was laid up with two dangerous diseases caught from the seriously wounded men I had nursed unremittingly for all those days and nights diphtheria and dysentery alas! nobile par fratrum!
However, I have got over the worst of both these maladies. A few days ago I arrived here in Naumburg with the view of recuperating thoroughly and of recovering by means of peaceful work from the stress and fatigue I had undergone. It is a funny thing that in spite of one's best intentions for the general weal one's own paltry personality with all its wretchedness and weakness comes and trips one up. Once more, alas!
I hope shortly to be able to give you an account of my experiences in person, and I am also bringing you one or two chassepot bullets picked up on the battlefields. All my martial passions have been kindled once more and I have been unable to gratify them. Had I joined my battery I might have been an active or passive witness of the events at Rezonville, Sedan and Laon. But the neutrality of Switzerland tied my hands.
. . . But when have we been able to walk more proudly than at present? Surely when German meets German now they can laugh as well as cry together like two augurs!
And this we shall do together next week. Au revoir!
- Your devoted,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - October, 1870
- Naumburg, October 20, 1870.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
This morning I had a most pleasant surprise and release from much anxiety and uneasiness—your letter. Only the day before yesterday I received the most terrible shock on hearing your name pronounced in faltering accents at Pforta. You know what these faltering accents mean just now. I immediately begged the Rector to give me the list of old Pforta boys who had fallen in the war, and this document reached me yesterday evening. In one important respect it reassured me. Otherwise it was a sad record. In addition to the names you have already mentioned, I find at the head of the list Stockert, then Von Oertzen (though his name has a question mark against it), then Von Riedesel, etc., sixteen in all. I was deeply moved by all you told me, above all by the sincerity and gravity with which you speak of the trial by fire to which the philosophy we hold in common has been subjected. I, too, have had a similar experience, and in my case, as well, these months have been a period during which I have been able to prove how deep and firm are the roots our fundamental doctrine has struck in me. One can die with it—this is much more than saying that one can live with it. For I have not been so securely removed from the dangers of the war as you might imagine. As soon as it was declared I applied to my Governing Board for leave to discharge my duty as a German soldier. They granted me leave but stipulated that in view of Switzerland's neutrality I was on no account to bear arms. (Since 1869 I have ceased to be a Prussian citizen.) With out delay, therefore, I set out with an excellent friend with the object of offering myself as a volunteer ambulance attendant. This friend, who shared all my experiences for seven weeks, is the painter Mosengel of Hamburg, a man whom I must introduce to you as soon as peace is restored. Without his hearty assistance I should probably not have survived the events of this period. At Erlangen I attended the University lectures in order to be trained in medicine and surgery; we had 200 wounded there. In a very few days I was given charge of two Prussians and two Turcos. Two of these very soon contracted hospital gangrene, and I had to do a lot of painting. At the end of a fortnight Mosengel and I were sent out by a Red Cross Society there. We were intrusted with a host of personal messages and also with large sums of money to be handed to about eighty field chaplains already dispatched to the seat of war. Our plan was to join my colleague Ziemssen at Pont-à-Mousson, and to throw in our lot with his band of fifteen young men. As a matter of fact, however, this plan was not realized. We met with great difficulties in discharging our various commissions, for, as we had no addresses, we were obliged, at considerable pains and with only the most inadequate directions to guide us, to go from battlefield to battlefield and scour the hospitals of Weissenburg and the field hospitals of Worth, Hagenau, Luneville, and Nancy, all the way to Metz. At Ars-sur-Moselle a number of wounded soldiers were placed in our care, and as they had to be conveyed to Carlsruhe, we returned with them. I had charge of six very seriously wounded men singlehanded for three days and three nights; Mosengel had five. The weather was atrocious and the goods trucks we were in had to be almost closed up to prevent the poor invalids from getting soaked through. The air in these trucks was simply unspeakable and to make matters worse two of my patients had dysentery and two others diphtheria. In short I had an incredible amount to do and spent three hours in the morning and three at night dressing wounds alone. In addition to that, I could get no rest at night owing to my patients continual need of me. After I had delivered up my charges to a stationary hospital I fell very ill myself and quickly developed a severe attack of dysentery and diphtheria. I reached Erlangen with great difficulty and there I laid up. Mosengel was self-sacrificing enough to nurse me there—a no small under taking considering the nature of my malady. After I had been dosed with opium and injections of tannin and silver nitrate for several days, the worst danger was over. In a week I was able to travel to Naumburg, but I am not right yet. Besides, the atmosphere of my experiences had spread like a gloomy mist all about me, and for some time I never ceased to hear the plaintive cries of the wounded. It was therefore quite impossible to pursue my plan of returning to the seat of war, and now I must be content with watching and pitying from a distance.
Oh, my dear friend, what good wishes can I send you! We both know what we have to expect from life. But we must not live for ourselves alone. So live on! live on! dearest friend, and fare you well! I know your heroic nature. Oh, if only you could be spared to me!
- Your devoted friend,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE (now in Bâle for good).
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - November, 1870
- Bâle, November 7, 1870.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
Yesterday I had a treat which I should have liked you of all people to share. Jacob Burckhardt gave a free lecture on "Historical Greatness," which was quite in keeping with our thought and feeling. This exceedingly original old man, although not given to distortion, is yet inclined to hush up the truth. But on our confidential walks he calls Schopenhauer "our philosopher." Every week I attend one of his lectures on the Study of History, and I believe I am the only one of his sixty listeners who grasps the profundity of his line of thought with its curious breaks and twists at any point where the subject threatens to be come dangerous. For the first time in my life I have enjoyed a lecture, but then it was the sort of one I myself might give when I am older.
This summer I wrote an essay on the "Dionysian Weltanschauung" dealing with an aspect of Greek antiquity of which, thanks to our philosopher, we are now able to get a much closer view. But these are studies which, for the time being only, concern me. I have no greater wish than to be allowed sufficient time to mature properly and then out of my plenitude produce something.
As regards the conditions of culture in the immediate future, I feel the deepest misgivings. If only we are not forced to pay too dearly for this huge national success in a quarter where I at least refuse to suffer any loss. Between ourselves, I regard the Prussia of today as a power full of the greatest dangers for culture. One day I shall myself publicly expose our scholastic organization; as to the religious intrigues which are once more spreading from Berlin to the advantage of the Catholic Church I leave that to others! At times it is very hard, but we must be philosophical enough to keep our presence of mind in the midst of all this intoxication, so that no thief may come to rob or steal from us—what the greatest military feats or the highest national exaltation would in my opinion never replace.
Much fighting will be necessary for the coming period of culture, and for this work we must keep our selves in readiness. Dear friend, I always think of you with the deepest apprehension. May the genius of the future guide and guard you in the way we desire.
- Your devoted friend,
- FR. NIETZSCHE.
To His Mother And Sister - December, 1870
- Bâle, December 12, 1870.
DEAR MAMMA AND LIZZIE:
. . . I am gradually losing all sympathy for Germany's present war of conquest. The future of German culture seems to me now more in danger than it ever was. . . .
- With heartiest greetings,
- YOUR FRITZ.
To Rohde - December, 1870
- Bâle, December 15, 1870.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
I have not allowed a minute to elapse since reading your letter but am replying at once. I simply wanted to tell you that I felt just as you do and would regard it as a disgrace if we could not get out of this state of longing thirst by means of some energetic deed. Now listen to what I have been turning over in my soul! Let us drag on for another year or two in this University life! Let us accept it as an instructive burden of sorrow which we are obliged to bear earnestly and with surprise. Among other things it will be a period of probation for the art of teaching, by means of which I regard it as my mission to perfect myself. The only thing is I have set my goal a little higher.
In the long run I have become aware of the importance of Schopenhauer's teaching about the wisdom of the Universities. A thoroughly radically truthful existence is impossible here. But what is specially important is that nothing truly subversive can ever emerge from this quarter.
And then we can only become genuine teachers by straining every nerve to raise ourselves out of the atmosphere of these times and by being not only wiser but above all better men. Here also I feel that the very first prerequisite is to be true. And that is why, I repeat, I cannot endure this academic atmosphere too long.
So it comes to this, we shall sooner or later cast off this yoke—upon this I am firmly resolved. And then we shall form a new Greek Academy—Romundt will certainly join us in that. Thanks to your visits to Triebschen you must also know Wagner's Bayreuth plan. I have been considering quite privately whether we on our part should not simultaneously effect a breach with philology as it has been practised hitherto and its aspect of culture. I am preparing an important adhortatio to all those natures that have not been completely stifled and entangled in the present age. What a deplorable thing it is that I should have to write to you about these matters and that each individual thought should not have been discussed with you long ago! For, since you do not know the whole apparatus as it already exists, my plan will seem to you like an eccentric whim. But this it is not—it is a need.
A book of Wagner's about Beethoven that has just been published you will find full of suggestions about what I desire for the future. Read it; it is a revelation of the spirit in which we—we!—shall live in the future.
Even supposing we get but few adherents, I believe, nevertheless, that we shall be able to extricate our selves pretty well—not without some injuries, it is true—from this current, and that we shall reach some islet upon which we shall no longer require to stop up our ears with wax. We shall then be our own mutual teachers and our books will only be so much bait wherewith to lure others to our monastic and artistic association. Our lives, our work, and our enjoyment will then be for one another; possibly this is the only way in which we can work for the world as a whole. In order to prove to you how deeply in earnest I am in this matter, I have already begun to limit my requirements in order to be able to preserve a small vestige of private means. We shall also try our luck in lotteries; and, if we write books, I shall for the immediate future demand the highest possible fees. In short, we shall make use of every legitimate means in order to establish our monastery upon a secure material basis thus, even for the next few years, we have our appointed tasks.
If only this plan would strike you as being at least worthy of consideration! That it was high time to lay it before you is proved by the really stirring letter I have just received from you.
Ought we not to be able to introduce a new form of the Academy life into the world—
- "And would my powerful longings, all in vain
- Charm into life that deathless form again—"
—as Faust says of Helen?
Nobody knows anything about this project, and whether we shall now send a preliminary communication about it to Romundt will depend upon you. Our school of philosophy is surely not an historical reminiscence or a deliberate whim—does not dire necessity impel us in this direction?
Apparently the plan we made as students to travel together has returned in a new and symbolically grander form. I will not again be the culprit who, as on that occasion, left you in the lurch. I have not yet ceased to be vexed about that.
With the best of hopes,
- Your devoted
- FRATER FRIDERICUS.
To Rohde - January, 1872
- Bâle, January 28, 1872.
MY VERY DEAR FRIEND:
The other day I was approached, through Susemihl, and asked whether I would accept a professorship at Greifswald. But I refused it immediately in your favour and recommended you for the post. Has the matter developed any further? I referred it to Ribbeck. Of course, the thing got to be known here and was the means of my earning much sympathy from the good folk of Bâle. Although I protested that it was not actually the offer of an appointment, but only a provisional inquiry, all the students decided to have a torchlight procession in my honour, declaring that they wished to express how much they valued and esteemed my past work in Bâle. But I declined to accept this demonstration. I am now holding a course of lectures here on "The Future of our Educational Institutions," and am making quite a sensation and even at times provoking genuine enthusiasm. Why do we not live together, for all that now surges in my breast and that I am preparing for the future cannot even be touched upon in letters? I have concluded an alliance with Wagner. You cannot think how near we stand to each other now and how closely related our schemes are. What I have had to hear about my book is incredible, but that is the reason why I do not write anything about it. What is your opinion on the subject? Everything I hear about it makes me uncommonly serious, for it is out of voices such as these that I divine the future of my schemes. This life is going to be very hard still.
In Leipzig irritation seems to prevail again. Nobody there writes me a line about it, not even Ritschl.
My dear friend, some time or other we absolutely must live together; it is a sacred necessity. For some while I have been living in a tremendous current; nearly every day something astounding happens, while my aspirations and intentions continue to rise. Let me tell you as a great secret, and begging you to keep it to yourself, that among other things I am preparing a Promemoria about the University of Strasburg in the form of an interpellation for the Reichstag, to be delivered to Bismarck. In it I wish to show how shamefully a great opportunity was lost of making a truly German Educational Institute for the regeneration of the German spirit and for the total extermination of what has hitherto been called "culture." War to the knife! or, rather, to the cannon!
- Your friend,
- THE MOUNTED ARTILLERYMAN WITH THE HEAVIEST GUNS.
To Rohde - June, 1872
- Bâle, June 18, 1872.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
As the result of stomach and intestinal trouble I have been in bed for a few days and am still feeling rather seedy today. So do not expect anything exceptionally rational if I now answer your letter after having all sorts of conflicting thoughts and ideas about it. Ah, my dear friend, in such cases the wisest course cannot be discovered by cunning; it is only afterward that one realizes whether one has seized upon the right thing or not. For the case is exceptional, and I do not know by what analogy to decide it. For my part I lay very great stress upon the fact that the philologists will receive a wholesome surprise when you suddenly stand up for me as a philologist. What Wagner in his love for me has written I do not know. In view of the coarse rudeness of our fellow philologist, it will in any case have a different effect from what he expects. It is on occasions like these that the invisible conspiracy against the spirit becomes visible. But what they will least expect, the most terrible feature of it all, will be that a qualified philologist should come to my support. The confidence that this could never happen explains the superlatively impudent tone of this Berlin youth. I am moreover perfectly satisfied in my own mind that, to do him justice, he is only the echo of the "superiors" who inspire him. As a wholesome warning and to avoid having to deal with these disgusting Berlin Gesundbrunn people, every time we produce something new you would, according to Wagner's letter, do something eminently salutary if you described to philologists what in all its earnestness and rigour our position toward antiquity actually is, and above all if you could lay stress upon the fact that it is not open to every potty little philologist—whoever he may be—to have his say in these matters, much less, therefore, to criticise them. Dear friend, I imagine your essay starting off with general observations about our philological work; the more general and more earnest these observations are, the easier will it be to address the whole to Wagner. In your opening you might perhaps explain why you turn precisely to Wagner and why you do not address yourself to some philological body, for instance. You might point out that at present we entirely lack any supreme forum for the most ideal results of our studies of antiquity. Then you might make some mention of our experiences and hopes in Bayreuth and thus justify us in connecting our aspirations in regard to antiquity with this cry of "Awake! for the day is at hand!" And then you might proceed to deal with my book, etc. Ah, my dear friend, it is ridiculous for me, in this seedy mood, to go and write all this to you. But the principal thing seems to be that we should not forego our intention of addressing Wagner, because it is precisely this direct relationship to Wagner that most terrifies the philologists and compels them most forcibly to reflect. At the same time the slaughter of Willamowitz must be done on purely philological lines. Perhaps after a somewhat lengthy introduction dealing with generalities and addressed to Wagner, you might draw a line, and then with some apologies turn to the execution. In any case, toward the end of the essay your tone must once more become so general and earnest that the reader will forget Willamowitz and remember only that we are not to be trifled with—which will mean a good deal where philologists are concerned. For up to the present day they have always regarded me as a sort of philological joker, or, as I heard a little while ago, a writer on music.
As the essay will in any case be read by many who are not philologists, remember, dear friend, not to be too "noble" in the matter of your quotations, so that the non-philological friends of antiquity may find out where they have something to learn. Unfortunately the tone of my own essay did not allow of any instruction of this sort. If possible, try to wipe out the impression that it deals with creatures in the moon and not with the Greeks. Will your pamphlet cover as many as thirty or forty pages? And are you agreeable to its being published by Fritzsch, or should Trübner have it? Ritschl would be sure to manage that for me. (Ritschl is extraordinarily kind and well disposed to me.) Forgive this foolish letter, dear friend, and do exactly as you feel inclined in the matter. But rest assured that if you do it I shall thoroughly appreciate it. In my present isolated position I may be ignored as a visionary or an ass. But if we stand together, both united by our love for Wagner, we shall arouse a frantic, an egregious amount of attention among the army of philological duffers and rogues.
Your affectionate and devoted friend,
- F. N.
Nietzsche To His Mother - October, 1872
- Splügen, Hotel Bodenhaus.
- Beginning of October, 1872.
MY DARLING MOTHER:
This time you are going to laugh, for this long letter is all about a journey and lots of funny things. Half against my will I decided to go to Italy; though it lay heavily on my conscience that I had already written you a letter accepting. But who can resist the capricious manner in which the weather has suddenly become the reverse of what it was! Now it is beautifully and purely autumnal, just the very weather for a walking tour. Or, to be nearer the truth, I felt the most burning desire for once to be quite alone with my thoughts for a little while. You can guess from the address of the hotel printed above that I have been unexpectedly successful.
. . . I had almost reached Zurich when I discovered that my companion in the compartment was a man who was well known to me and had been even better recommended the musician Goetz (a pupil of Billow's)—and he told me how much his musical work had increased in Zurich since Kirclmer's departure. But what seemed to agitate him most of all was the prospect of seeing his opera accepted by the Hanover Theatre and produced for the first time. After leaving Zurich, in spite of the nice unobtrusive company, I gradually grew so cold and ill that I had not the courage to go as far as Chur. With great difficulty—that is to say, with a splitting headache—I reached Weesen and the Lake of Wallenstatt in the dead of night. I found the Schwert Hotel bus and got into it, and it set me down at a fine, comfortable, though completely empty, hotel. On the following morning I rose with a headache. My window looked on to the Lake of Wallenstatt, which you can imagine as being like the Lake of Lucerne, but much simpler and not so sublime. Then I went on to Chur, feeling unfortunately ever more and more ill at ease—so much so that I went through Ragaz, etc., almost without feeling the slightest interest. I was very glad to be able to leave the train at Chur, refused the post official's offer to drive with him—which after all was the plan—and, putting up at the Hotel Lukmanier, I went straight to bed. It was 10 a.m. I slept well until 2 p.m., felt better and ate a little. A smart and well informed waiter recommended me to walk as far as Pessug, a place that was imprinted on my memory by a picture I had seen of it in an illustrated paper. Sabbath peace and an afternoon mood prevailed in the town of Chur. I walked up the main road at a leisurely pace; as on the previous day, everything lay before me transfigured by the glow of autumn. The scenery behind me was magnificent, while the view constantly changed and widened. After about half an hour's walk I came to a little side path which was beautifully shaded; until then the road had been rather hot. Then I reached the gorge through which the Rabiusa pours; its beauty defies description. I pressed on over bridges and paths winding round the side of the rock for about half an hour, and at last discovered Bad Passug indicated by a flag. At first it disappointed me, for I had expected a Pension and saw only a second-rate inn, full of Sunday excursionists from Chur—a crowd of comfortably feasting and coffee-sipping families. The first thing I did was to drink three glassfuls of the saline-soda spring; then the improved state of my head soon allowed me to add a bottle of white Asti Spumante you remember it! together with the softest of goat's milk cheese. A man with Chinese eyes, who sat at my table, also had some of the Asti to drink; he thanked me, drank and was much gratified. Then the proprietess handed me a number of analyses of the water, etc. Finally, Sprecher, the proprietor of the watering place, an excitable sort of man, showed me all over his property, the incredibly fantastic position of which I was obliged to acknowledge. Again I drank copious draughts of water from three entirely different springs. The proprietor promised the opening of important new springs, and noticing my interest in the matter offered to make me his partner in the founding of a hotel, etc., etc.—irony! The valley is extremely fascinating for a geologist of unfathomable versatility—aye, and even whimsicality. There are seams of graphite and there is also quartz with ochre. The proprietor even hinted at gold. You can see the most different kinds of stone strata and varieties of stone, bending hither and thither and cracked as in the Axenstein on the Lake of Lucerne, but here they are much smaller and less rugged. Late in the evening, just as it was getting dusk, I returned delighted with my afternoon, although my mind often wandered back to the reception I ought to have been enjoying at Naumburg. A little child with flaxen hair was looking about for nuts, and was very amusing. At last an aged couple came towards me, father and daughter. They had a few words to say, and listened in turn. He was a very old, hoary cabinet maker, had been in Naumburg fifty-two years ago while on his wanderings, and remembered a very hot day there. His son has been a missionary in India since 1858, and is expected to come to Chur next year in order to see his father once more. The daughter said she had often been to Egypt, and spoke of Bàle as an unpleasant, hot, and stuffy town. I accompanied the good old hobbling couple a little further. Then I returned to dinner at my hotel, where I found one or two companions ready for the Splügen tour on the morrow. On Monday I rose at 4 a.m., the diligence being timed to leave just after 5. Before we left we had to sit in an evil-smelling waiting room, among a number of peasants from Graubtinden and Tessin. But at this early hour man is in any case a disagreeable creature. I was released by the departure of the diligence, for I had arranged with the conductor to occupy his seat high up on the top of the conveyance. There I was alone, and it was the finest diligence drive I have ever had. I cannot write about the tremendous grandeur of the Via mala; it made me feel as if I did not yet know Switzerland at all. This is my Nature, and when we got near to Splügen I was overcome by the wish to stay there. I found a good hotel and a little room that was quite touching in its simplicity. And yet it has a balcony from which one can enjoy a most beautiful view. This high Alpine valley (about 5,000 feet) is exactly to my taste—pure and bracing air, hills and rocks of every shape and size, and mighty snow mountains all around. But what I like most of all are the magnificent high roads along which I walk for hours at a time, sometimes in the direction of Bernaclino and sometimes along the heights of the Pass of Splügen, without heeding the road in the least. But as often as I look about me I am certain to see something gorgeous and unexpected. Tomorrow it is almost sure to snow, and I am heartily looking forward to it. In the afternoon, if the diligence arrives, I take my meal with the new arrivals. There is no need for me to speak to anyone; no one knows me; I am absolutely alone and could stay here for weeks, sitting and walking about. In my little room I work with renewed vigour—that is to say, I make notes and collect ideas for the theme that is chiefly occupying me at present: "The Future of Our Educational Institutions."
You do not know how pleased I am with this place. Since I have come to know it, Switzerland has acquired quite a new charm for me. Now I know of a nook where I can gain strength, work with fresh energy, and live without any company. In this place human beings seem to be like phantoms.
Now I have described everything to you. The days that follow will all be like the first. Thank God, those damnations known as "change" and "distraction" are lacking here. Here I am together with my pen, ink, and paper. All of us send our heartiest wishes.
- Your devoted son,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Rohde - November, 1872
- Bâle, November, 1872.
MY VERY DEAR FRIEND:
I think we shall be able to survive it. But something has happened here that somewhat depresses me. In our University the philologists hare kept away this winter term. A perfectly unique occurrence which you will interpret in the same way as I do. In one particular case I know for a fact that a certain student who wished to study philology here was prevented from doing so in Bonn, and that he joyfully wrote to his relations saying he thanked God he was not going to a University where I was a teacher. In short, the Vehmic Court has done its duty, but we must not take any notice of it. It is jolly hard though for me to know that the little University should have suffered on my account. We are twenty men short of what we were last term. With the utmost pains I was only able to muster two students to attend a lecture on the rhetoric of the Greeks and Romans—that is to say, one Germanic and one Law student.
Jacob Burckhardt and Ratsherr Vischer enjoyed your essay immensely. I informed each of them of the fine copies you sent me, and I also told Overbeck, Ritschl and the Florentine ladies, Olga Herzen and Fräulein von Meysenbug, of them. I even have two of them in an Edition de Luxe. I wonder whether these copies are as you pictured them in your dream. They bear the title E. Rohde on The Birth of Tragedy and include your two essays. To me these essays constitute a veritable treasure which every author of the past and future will have to envy me. My friend Immerman, here, always says that your stuff is at least as good as mine. In short, they have noticed our Orestes and Pylades relationship Χαλεποίσιν ἐνί Εείνοισι and they rejoice over it. What I only mention, because neither of us doubts it, is that many more are angry about it. . . .
. . . Have you heard of the Zollner scandal in Leipzig? Just have a look at his book on the nature of comets. There is a tremendous deal on our side in it. Since this production the honest man has been as good as excommunicated in the most shabby manner from the whole of the republic of letters. His nearest friends are renouncing him and he is proclaimed "mad" to all the world! He is seriously declared "deranged," simply because he refuses to blow into the Tantara trumpet of the clique. Such is the spirit of Leipzig's scholastic ochlocracy!
Are you aware, too, that a certain alienist has proved in the most "dignified language" that Wagner is demented? And you are probably aware of the fact that the same thing has been done for Schopenhauer by another alienist.
You see to what measures these ";healthy people" resort. True, they do not decree the scaffold for the discomfiting ingenia, but this sort of sneaking and malevolent creation of suspicion answers their purpose much better than the sudden removal of their enemies; they undermine the confidence of the rising generation. Schopenhauer forgot this dodge! It is singularly worthy of the vulgarity of the vulgarest age. . . .
- Yours affectionately,
Nietzsche To Malvida Von Meysenbug - April, 1873
- Bâle, April 6, 1873.
. . . At Bayreuth I hope to find courage and good cheer once more and to fortify myself in all that is right. I dreamt last night that I had my Gradus ad Parnassum rarely and beautifully bound; the symbolism attached to the binding of a book is comprehensible enough, even if deficient in taste. This is a truth! From time to time one ought to have oneself newly bound, so to speak, by intercourse with good and robust men; otherwise one loses isolated leaves and falls ever more and more to pieces. And that our life ought to be a Gradus ad Parnassum is also a truth which one ought often to repeat to oneself. My Parnassus of the future is—provided I take great pains and have decent luck as well as plenty of time—to become perhaps a tolerable writer, but above all to become ever more moderate in the production of literature. From time to time I feel a childish repulsion toward printed paper, which at such times seems to me simply soiled paper. And I can picture a time when men will prefer reading little and writing less, while thinking much and doing even more. For the whole world is now waiting for the man of deeds, who strips the habits of centuries from himself and others, and who sets a better example for posterity to follow. Under my own roof something very fine is in process of completion, a description of our present day theology, bearing particularly upon the spirit of Christianity. My friend and brother in thought, Professor Overbeck, to my own knowledge the freest theologist now living, and in any case one of the greatest authorities on Church history, is now at work on this description, and will, if I am not mistaken—and we are quite agreed on this point—make known a few terrible truths to the world. Bale looks well on the road to becoming the most suspected of places! . . .
- Your devoted friend,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
Nietzsche To His Mother - September, 1873
- Bâle, September 21, 1873.
MY DARLING MOTHER:
And so our dear aunt has passed away and we are becoming more and more lonely. To grow old and to grow solitary seem to be synonymous, and at last a man is all alone and makes others feel lonely by his death.
It was precisely because I knew so little of my father, and had to form a picture of him from the materials supplied by chance conversations, that his nearest relatives were more to me than aunts usually are. When I think of Aunt Rickchen and the Plauen relatives, etc., I rejoice over the fact that they all remained true to their exceptional nature until they attained to a great age, and were sufficiently self reliant to be less than usually dependent upon external influences and upon the doubtful good will of their fellow creatures. I rejoice over this fact because in it I find the racial peculiarity of those who call themselves Nietzsche, and I possess it myself.
And that is why our good aunt was always so kindly disposed towards me, because she realized how akin we were in one important particular, namely, in this important Nietzschean trait. For this reason I honour their memory by wishing with all my might that when I grow old I may not desert myself—that is to say, the spirit of my forebears.
Do not expect any more from me for the moment, dear mother you who are so very much worried because you always will be so helpful and think kindly of your son,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - October, 1873
- Bâle, October 27, 1873.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
. . . The green numbers of the Grenzboten have just published a Non plus ultra under the title of "Herr Friedrich Nietzsche and German Culture." All the powers are mobilized against me—the police, the authorities, and the colleagues. It is emphatically declared that I shall be ostracized from every German university, and that Bâle will probably do likewise. It proceeds to inform the reader that owing to a trick of Ritschls and the stupidity of the people of Bâle I was transformed from a mere student into a University professor. Bâle then came in for some abuse as an obscure little University. I am denounced as an enemy of the German Empire and the ally of the Internationalists, etc. in short, a commendable and cheerful Documentum. What a pity I cannot send it to you! Even Fritszch gets a kick or two; they think it scandalous that a German publisher should ever have accepted my work. So you see, dearest friend, our No. 1 has—as Fritzsch would say—"found favour with the public."
Nine Bâle newspapers have now referred to me in all manner of ways, but on the whole much more seriously than that truculent Grenzboten reviewer and humbug. Your ever devoted and affectionate friend,
- F. N.
To Rohde - December, 1873
- Naumburg, December 31, 1873.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
What a lot of good you have done me with your letter, particularly as I was lying in bed feeling ill after the journey and full of resentment towards life. Really, if I had not my friends, I wonder whether I should not myself begin to believe that I am demented. As it is, however, by my adherence to you I adhere to myself, and if we stand security for each other, some thing must ultimately result from our way of thinking—a possibility which until now the whole world has doubted.
And to this whole world belong even the Ritschls, to whom I paid a short visit and who in half an hour fired a rapid volley of words at me and against me, under which I remained unscathed and, moreover, felt it. Finally they came to the conclusion that I was arrogant and despised them. The general impression was hopeless. At one moment old Ritschl simply raved with indignation about Wagner as a poet, and then again about the French (by-the-bye, I am understood to be an admirer of the French); finally he argued from hearsay, but in the most atrocious manner, about Overbeck's book. I learnt that Germany was still in its 'teens, and therefore I too claimed the right of being something of a boy in his teens (for they also censured my lack of moderation and my brutality towards Strauss). On the other hand, Strauss as a classical writer of prose is completely annihilated, for old Ritschl and his wife say so, and have long since come to the conclusion that even "Voltaire" was written in abominably bad style.
I lived at Fritzsch's and was really delighted with that good man. Things are going well with him, his health included. My second "Thoughts Out of Season" (or over-seasoned thoughts) is now in the press. You will receive the first proofs in a few days, for, my dear friend, I am going to avail myself of your willing kindness and beg you to help me with your advice here and there, and moral and intellectual correction. After all, we must not lose much time, for it will be printed quickly and must be quite ready at the end of January.
Therefore, my dear good friend, send your corrected proofs every time as soon as possible to me here in Bâle, for the long distances make things a little complicated and we must try to avoid any hitch in the printing. . . .
Karl Hillebrand's anonymous book, "Twelve Letters By An Aesthetic Heretic" (Berlin, Oppenheiin, 1874), has given me the most unbounded joy. How refreshing it is! Read and wonder; he is one of us, one of the "Company of the Hopeful."
May this company flourish in the new year and may we remain good comrades! Ah, my dear fellow, we have no choice; we must either be hopeful or desperate. Once and for all, I have resolved to hope. I was very vexed at the horribly cautious academic Confratres in Kiel. Fancy such fear of "Youth"! . . .
So may we remain faithful friends in 1874 and continue so until the last day.
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Rohde - February, 1874
- Bâle, February 15, 1874.
First of all, my best Sunday greeting to you. Are you living in the gray north? We are having such fine warm days with plenty of sunshine and even deep coloured sunsets already. We have only had one day's snow the whole winter. Since the new year, too, I have been living more carefully and rationally, and am feeling fit in consequence. My eyes are the only trouble. I sorely need an amanuensis. I must tell you though that for the last six months a most sympathetic and talented pupil has come under my notice, one who already belongs to our party heart and soul. His name is Baumgartner, an Alsatian, and the son of a manufacturer of Mülhausen. He comes to me every Wednesday afternoon and stops the evening, and then I dictate to him or he reads aloud to me, or letters are written. In short, he is a godsend to me, and, I assure you, will be for all of us one day. At Easter I shall go back to Naumburg again in order to try a systematic course of rest and wholesome living, and then I shall ultimately be able to bear things a little better. I have thought out a good deal since Christmas, and have had to roam so far afield that often when my proofs arrive I wonder when I could have written the stuff, and whether it can all be my work. I am feeling very hostile just now towards all political and smug bourgeois virtues and duties, and occasionally I even soar far above "national" feeling. May God mend this and me!
In addition to all your trouble, dear faithful friend, you have also had that of proof-reading. The smallest hint is gratefully turned to account, and many a blemish has been removed by your hand. By-the-bye, a whole number of strange errors had nothing to do with me, but arose out of the copying of my illegible MS. Unfortunately I was unable to avail myself of your help for the last sheet. For many reasons I thought they had forgotten to send it to you and time was pressing. Luckily I was able to remove the worst stumbling block myself, and have made the text of the conclusion a little lighter by cutting out about a page. A certain generality of treatment was, however, necessary, as I had to take into account the elaboration of some of the special arguments in subsequent "Thoughts Out of Season." So let the monster go its way. I wonder who will find any pleasure in it! Who will even read it? I believe people will think it a piece of great foolishness on my part—and they will be right! But I am really heartily tired of all this cleverness and must become absorbed in myself. On my honour, I cannot help it. But promise me you will not immediately despise me on that account. For I really believe that you understand me in these things and have a right to it, dear friend. When I think of my fellow philologists I sometimes feel something like shame. Still, I do not believe I can be so easily driven off my appointed path—and before that I mean to say for once all I have to say; one cannot do oneself a greater kindness than that. When you get your copy (which I hope will be within a fortnight), I beg you to do me just this one favour: tell me as severely and briefly as you like all about my faults, my mannerisms, and the dangers of my method of exposition, for I am not satisfied with it and aspire to something quite different. Help me, therefore, with a few little hints, I shall be most grateful. . . .
Good-bye, dear friend.
- Yours, FRIEDRICH N.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - April, 1874
- Bâle, April 1, 1874.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
If only you had not such an exaggeratedly high opinion of me! I am afraid that one day you will be somewhat disappointed in me, and I will inaugurate this change in you at once by declaring from the bottom of my heart that I deserve not one word of the praise you have lavished upon me. If only you knew how disheartened and melancholy I really feel about myself as a productive being! All I long for is a little freedom, a taste of the real breath of life; and I kick, I revolt against the many, the unutterably many constraints to which my mind is still subject. And of real productive work there can be no thought so long as one is not freed, however slightly, from one's trammels and the pain or oppression arising from one's limited outlook. Shall I ever attain to inner freedom? It is very doubtful. The goal is too remote, and even if one gets within measurable distance of it, one has by that time consumed all one's strength in a long search and struggle. When freedom is at last attained, one is as lifeless and feeble as a day-fly by night. That is what I dread so much. It is a misfortune to be so conscious of one's struggle and so early in life! And unlike the artist or the ascetic, I cannot balance my doubts by means of great deeds. How wretched and loathsome it is to me to be continually wailing like a mire-drum. For the moment I am really very, very tired of everything—more than tired.
My health, by-the-bye, is excellent; you need have no fears about that. But I am not quite satisfied with Nature, who ought to have given me a little more intellect as well as a warmer heart. I always fall short of the best. To know this, is the greatest torture a man can have. Regular work in an official post is so good because it leads to a certain obtuseness and then one suffers less.
. . . Accept my best wishes for yourself and your dear parents. Think what life would be like without a friend! Could one bear it? Would one have borne it? Dubito.
To Rohde - October, 1874
- Bâle, October 7, 1874.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
Last night I returned from the mountains, and this morning I mean to set to and consecrate the work of the winter term by means of a birthday letter to you. I do not lack either courage or confidence; I have brought back both of these with me from the mountains and the lakes, where I discovered what it was that one lacked most, or rather what it was that one has too much of. That is to say, egoism; and this is the result of one's eternal lonely brooding and lonely suffering. In the end, one begins to feel constantly as if one were covered with a hundred scars and every movement were painful. But, joking apart, I shall very soon be thirty and things must change somewhat; they must become more virile, more even in tenour, and no longer so damned unstable. To continue one's work and to think of oneself as little as possible—that must be the first necessity. After some reflection it has struck me that I am very ungrateful and childish with my irritating despair, for I have been thinking how incomparably lucky I have been during the last seven years and how little I can gauge how rich I am in my friends. Truth to tell, I live through you; I advance by leaning upon your shoulders, for my self-esteem is wretchedly weak and you have to assure me of my own value again and again. In addition to that, you are my best examples, for both you and Overbeck bear life's lot with more dignity and less wailing, although in many respects things are more and more difficult for you than for me. But what I feel most is the way you outstrip me in loving solicitude and unselfishness. I have thought much about these facts of late, and I may surely be allowed to mention them to you in a birthday letter.
Farewell, my dear friend, and remain as affectionate to me as you have been hitherto—then we shall easily be able to endure life yet a while longer.
- Your devoted friend,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
Nietzsche To Malvida Von Meysenbug - October, 1874
- Bâle, October 25, 1874.
At last I am able once again to let you have some news of me by sending you another work of mine.From the contents of this last essay you will be able to form some idea of all that I have experienced in the interval. Also, that with the lapse of years I am, among other things, in a much more serious and precarious position than you might gather from the mere reading of the book itself. In summa, however, you will surmise that things are going well with me, and going onwards, too, and that all I lack, alas! is just a little of the sunshine of life. Otherwise I should be compelled to acknowledge that things could not be going better with me than they are. For it is indeed a piece of great good fortune for me to progress step by step towards the accomplishment of my mission. And now I have written three of the thirteen "Thoughts Out of Season," and the fourth is already taking shape in my mind. How happy I shall feel when I have at last unburdened my heart of all its negative hates and all its indignation, and yet I dare hope that in five years I shall be within sight of this glorious goal! Already at the present moment I am thankful to feel how very much more clearly and sharply I am learning to see things—spiritually (not bodily, alas!) and how very much more definitely and intelligibly I can express myself. Provided that I am not led entirely astray in my course, or that my health does not break down, something must certainly come of all this. Just imagine a series of fifty such essays as the four I have already written—all the product of a soul's experience forced into the light of day! With such matter one could not help but produce some effect; for the tongues of many would have been unloosed and enough would have been put into words that could not be so quickly forgotten, much that today is almost as good as forgotten yea, that is scarcely to hand. And what should divert me in my course? Even hostile attacks I can now turn to account and to pleasure, for they often enlighten me more quickly than friendly sympathy, and I desire nothing more than to be enlightened about the highly complex system of conflicting elements that constitutes the "modern world." Fortunately, I am quite devoid of all political and social ambition, so that I need fear no dangers in that direction—no loadstones to draw me aside, no compulsion to compromise or to consider consequences; in short, I can say all I think, and what I want to do is to test once and for all to what extent modern mankind—so proud of its freedom of thought—can endure free thought. I do not ask anything either excessive or fantastic from life; besides, in the course of the next few years we shall experience something for which all the world of the past and the future may envy us. Moreover, I am blessed beyond all deserts with the most excellent of friends; and now, quite between ourselves, the only thing I want, and that quite soon, is a good wife, and then I shall regard all my worldly wishes as fulfilled. All the rest depends upon myself. . . .
Meanwhile, my heartiest wishes for your health, and may you continue to think kindly of
- Your most devoted servant,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
Nietzsche To His Sister - January, 1875
- Bâle, January 22, 1875.
MY DEAR SISTER:
It was a good thing that you wrote me a letter close on the heels of the one mother wrote, for I was beside myself and had already written down some bitter words. I now see that I misunderstood her.
But how is it that she was able to misunderstand me so, and all this time to conceal from me this incomprehensible hostility to the two Wagners? Am I so difficult to understand and so easy to misunderstand in all my intentions, plans, and friendships? Ah, we lonely ones and free spirits—it is borne home to us that in some way or other we constantly appear different from what we think. Whereas we wish for nothing more than truth and straightforwardness, we are surrounded by a net of misunderstanding, and despite our most ardent wishes we cannot help our actions being smothered in a cloud of false opinion, attempted compromises, semi-concessions, charitable silence, and erroneous interpretations. Such things gather a weight of melancholy on our brow; for we hate more than death the thought that pretence should be necessary, and such incessant chafing against these things makes us volcanic and menacing. From time to time we avenge ourselves for all our enforced concealment and compulsory self-restraint. We emerge from our cells with terrible faces, our words and deeds are then explosions, and it is not beyond the verge of possibility that we perish through ourselves. Thus dangerously do I live! It is precisely we solitary ones that require love and companions in whose presence we may be open and simple, and the eternal struggle of silence and dissimulation can cease.
Yes, I am glad that I can be myself, openly and honestly with you, for you are such a good friend and companion, and the older you grow and the more you free yourself from the Naumburg atmosphere, the more will you certainly adapt yourself to all my views and aspirations.
With love and devotion,
- YOUR BROTHER.
(Marginal note by Nietzsche in the foregoing letter): You can read all this in print in my Schopenhauer; but they are at the same time my own experiences and feelings that always visit me—as at the present moment, for instance.
To Rohde - February, 1875
- Bâle, February 28, 1875.
. . . . Now, let me tell you something you do not yet know—something which you, as my most intimate and most sympathetic friend, have a right to know. We two, Overbeck and I, have a domestic trouble, a domestic ghost. Please don't have a fit when you hear that X— is contemplating going over to the Holy Catholic Church and wants to become a Catholic priest in Germany. This has only just come to light, but as we afterwards heard, to our dismay, he has been thinking over it for years, though his resolution has never been so mature as it is now. I cannot help feeling hurt over it, and at times it seems to me the worst possible slight that could be given me. Of course, he does not mean it in that way, for up to the present he has not for one moment thought of anyone but himself, and the confounded stress our religion lays on the "salvation of one's own soul" leaves him utterly indifferent to anything else, friend ship included. . . . At last, he confessed what his attitude was, and now every three days, almost, there is an explosion. The poor man is in a desperate condition and no longer accessible to words of counsel; that is to say, he is so entirely led by vague aspirations that he seems to us like a wandering valleity. Oh, our excellent, pure Protestant air! I have never in my life before felt my dependence upon the spirit of Luther so strongly as I do now, and this wretched man wants to turn his back on all these liberating geniuses! It is so very hard for me to understand how, after eight years of intimate association with me, this spectre should arise at my elbow, that I often wonder whether he can be in his right senses, and whether he ought not to undergo a cold-water cure. And, after all, I am the man on whom the blame of this conversion will rest. God knows I do not say that out of egoistic solicitude. But I, too, believe that I stand for something holy, and I should blush for shame if I were suspected of having had anything to do with Catholicism, for there is nothing I hate with a more deadly hatred.
Interpret this ghastly story in as friendly a manner as possible and send me a few words of comfort. I have been wounded precisely in my friendship, and hate the dishonest, sneaking nature of many friendships more than ever, and shall have to be more cautious in future. X— himself will doubtless be quite at home in some sort of conventicle, but in our company he seems to me now to be suffering incessantly.
- Your disconsolate friend,
- FRIEDRICH N.
For Overbeck also.
Please burn this letter if you think fit.
To Rohde - December, 1875
- Bâle, December 8, 1875.
Ah, dear friend, I did not know what to say to you, so I held my peace and was full of fear and anxiety on your account. I did not even like to ask how things were going, but how often, how very often my heartfelt sympathy sped your way! Everything has turned out as badly as possible, and I can think of only one way in which it could have been worse—to wit, if the matter were less appallingly plain than it actually is. The most intolerable thing of all is surely doubt, ghostlike semi-certainty—and you have at least been relieved of this, which was such a torment to you here. I am now racking my brain in trying to discover how you can possibly be helped. For a long while I thought that they were going to transfer you and that they would give you an appointment at Freiburg in Breisgau. But afterwards it struck me that such an idea had never even entered their minds. Certainly the publication of your work will prove the best remedy in your case. One cannot help deriving some pleasure from that, and at all events it will force you to think of other matters. This promises to be a steady pursuit and will perhaps help you over this terrible winter.
Let me tell you how I am faring. As far as my health is concerned, things are not so good as I really supposed they would be when I effected the complete change in my mode of life here. Every two or three weeks I have to lie in bed for about thirty-six hours in great pain with the usual trouble you know so well. Perhaps it will gradually get better, but I feel as if I had never had such a hard winter. What with new lectures, etc., the day drags so wearily that in the evening I am always more and more glad to have finished, and actually marvel at the hardness of existence. The whole exasperating business does not seem worth while; the pain you inflict on yourself and others is out of all proportion to the benefit either they or you yourself derive from your efforts. This is the opinion of a man who does not happen to be troubled by his passions, though he is certainly not made happy by them either. During the hours that I rest my eyes, my sister reads aloud to me, almost always Walter Scott, whom I would readily agree with Schopenhauer in calling "immortal." What pleases me so much in him is his artistic calm, his Andante. I should like to recommend him to you, but there are some things which, though they benefit me, can get no hold of your spirit, because you think more quickly and more sharply than I do. As to the use of novels for the treatment of one's soul, I will say nothing more particularly as you are already forced to help yourself with your own "novel." Nay, I advise you to read "Don Quixote" again—not because it is the most cheerful but because it is the most austere reading I know. I took it up during the summer holidays, and all personal troubles seemed to shrink to nothing and appear simply laughable, not even worthy of a wry face. All earnestness, all passion, and everything men take to heart is Quixotism—for some things it is good to know this; otherwise it is better not to know it. . . .
- Your friend,
- F. N.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - December, 1875
- Bâle, December 13, 1875.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
I received your letter yesterday, and this morning, just at the beginning of a week of hard work, your books arrived. A man certainly ought to feel cheerful when he has such sympathetic and affectionate friends! Believe me, I admire the fine instinct of your friendship—I trust the expression does not sound too biological—which made you light upon these Indian maxims, just as I, with a sort of waxing thirst, have been turning longing eyes to India for the last two months. From Schmeitzner's friend, Herr Widemann, I borrowed the English translation of the Sutra Nipata, a portion of the sacred books of the Buddhists, and I have already made a household word of a strong closing sentence from one of the Sutras—"and thus I wander alone like a rhinoceros." My conviction about the worthlessness of life and the delusiveness of all aims frequently oppresses me so keenly, particularly when I lie in bed feeling ill, that I long to hear more of this Indian wisdom, provided it is not permeated with Judaeo-Christian phraseology. For, some time or other, I learnt to feel such a loathing for this phraseology that I literally have to be on my guard against dealing unjustly with it.
As to how the world wags—this you can tell from the enclosed letter from that terrible sufferer Z—. Of course one ought not to cling to it, and yet what can help one to endure life, when one no longer really wills anything! I am of opinion that the will to knowledge is the last remaining vestige of the will to life; it is an intermediary region between willing and no longer willing, a piece of purgatory, in so far as we look discontentedly and contemptuously on life, and a piece of Nirvana, in so far as, through it, the soul approaches the state of pure disinterested contemplation. I am training myself to unlearn the eager hurry of the will to knowledge. This is what all scholars suffer from, and that is why they all lack the glorious serenity derived from acquired enlightenment, insight. For the present I am too heavily burdened by the various claims of my official post to help falling all too frequently though reluctantly into that eager hurry, but by degrees I shall put all this right. And then my health will be more settled—a condition I shall not attain before I thoroughly deserve it, before, that is to say, I have discovered that state of my soul which is, as it were, my destiny, that healthy state in which it has retained but one of all its instincts—the will to know. A simple home, a perfectly regular daily routine, no enervating hankering after honours or society, my sister's company (which makes everything about me Nietzschean and strangeful restful), the consciousness of having 40 excellent books of all times and climes (and many more which are not altogether bad), the constant joy of having found educators in Schopenhauer and Wagner, and the Greeks as the object of my daily work, the belief that henceforward I shall no longer lack pupils—all these things now for the time being make up my life. Unfortunately my chronic physical troubles, which at fortnightly intervals seize me for about two days at a time and sometimes longer, must be added to the reckoning. But they must end some day.
Later on, when you are securely settled down in your own home, you will be able to reckon upon me as a holiday guest who will be likely to spend some considerable time with you. It is often a solace to me to exercise my imagination anticipating these later years of your life, and I often think I may one day be of service to you in your sons. Yes, dear old devoted Gersdorff, we have now shared a goodly portion of youth, experience, education, inclination, hatred, striving, and hope in common; we know that we can thoroughly enjoy even sitting beside each other in silence. I don't think we need to give each other any pledges or promises, because we thoroughly believe in each other. I know from experience that you help me where you can, and whenever I have reason to rejoice I always think, "How pleased Gersdorff will be!" For, I must tell you, you have the magnificent gift of sympathizing with another's joy and this is a rarer and nobler capacity than pity.
And now farewell, and may you cross the threshold
of your new year of life the same man as you have
always been. I cannot wish you more. It was as
this man that you won your friends, and if there are
still a few sensible women knocking around you will
not have much longer
"To wander alone like a rhinoceros."
- Your devoted friend,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Freiherr R. v. Seydlitz - September, 1876
- Bâle, September 24, 1876.
After a letter such as yours, containing so stirring a testimony of the depth of your soul and intellect, I can say nothing but this: let us keep in close touch with each other, let us see to it that we do not lose each other again now we have found each other! I rejoice in the certainty of having won another genuine friend. And if you only knew what this means to me! For am I not as constantly engaged in the kidnapping of men as any pirate not, however, with the object of selling them into bondage, but rather in order to sell them, with myself, into freedom.
Your sincere and devoted friend,
- FRIEDR. NIETZSCHE.
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - May, 1876
- Bâle, May 26, 1876.
. . . I must tell you something, which, so far as other people are concerned, is still a secret, and must remain so for the present: following upon an invitation of the best friend in the world, Fräulein von Meysenbug, I intend in October to spend a whole year in Italy. I have not yet been granted leave by the authorities, but I think it will come, more particularly as, with the view of sparing so small a corporation the burden of my pay, I have volunteered to forfeit my salary for the whole period. Freedom! You cannot imagine how deeply I breathe when I think of it! We shall live in the simplest manner possible at Fano (on the Adriatic). This is my news. All my hopes and plans regarding my ultimate spiritual emancipation and untiring advancement are once more in full bloom. My confidence in myself, I mean in my better self, fills me with courage. Even the state of my eyes does not affect this. (Schiess thinks they are worse than they were some time ago. The long and short of it is I want a secretary). My lectures are very well attended. In one of them I have about 20 scholars, in the other about 10, and the same numbers at the school. I shall certainly not marry; on the whole, I hate the limitations and obligations of the whole civilized order of things so very much that it would be difficult to find a woman free-spirited enough to follow my lead. The Greek philosophers seem to me ever more and more to represent the paragon of what one should aim at in our mode of life. I read Xenophon s Memorabilia with the deepest personal in terest. Philologists regard them as hopelessly tedious. You see how little of a philologist I am.
- F. N.
To Madame Louise O. - September, 1876
- Bâle, September, 1876.
DEAR, KIND FRIEND:
In the first place I was unable to write, for I underwent an eye-cure, and now I ought not to write for a long long time to come! Nevertheless I read your two letters again and again; I almost believe I read them too often. But this new friendship is like new wine—very agreeable though perhaps a trifle dangerous.
At least for me.
But for you also, especially when I think of the sort of free spirit you have lighted upon!—a man who longs for nothing more than daily to be rid of some comforting belief, and who seeks and finds his happiness in this daily increase in the emancipation of his spirit. It is possible I wish to become more of a free spirit than I am capable of becoming.
So what is to be done? An "Abduction from the Harem" of Faith, without Mozart's music?
Do you know Fraulein von Meysenbug's autobiography published under the title of "Memoirs of an Idealist?
What is poor little Marcel doing with his little teeth? We all have to suffer before we really learn to bite, physically and morally—biting in order to nourish ourselves, of course, not simply for the sake of biting!
Is there no good portrait in existence of a certain blond and beautiful woman?
Sunday week I shall go to Italy for a long stay. You will hear from me when I get there. In any case a letter sent to my address in Bâle (45 Schützengraben) will reach me.
- In brotherly affection,
- DR. FRIEDR. NIETZSCHE.
To Rohde - August, 1877
- Rosenlauibad, August 28, 1877.
DEAR OLD FRIEND:
How can I express it? But every time I think of you I am overcome by a sort of deep emotion; and when, a day or two ago, someone wrote to me "Rohde's young wife is an exceedingly sweet woman whose every feature is illumined by her noble soul," I actually wept. And I can give you absolutely no plausible reason for having done so. We might ask the psychologists for an explanation. Ultimately they would declare it was envy and that I grudged you your happiness, or that it was my vexation at someone having run away with my friend and having concealed him Heaven alone knows where, on the Rhine or in Paris, and refused to give him up again. When I was humming my "Hymn to Solitude" to myself a few days ago, I suddenly had the feeling that you could not abide my music at all and that you would much have preferred a song on Dual Bliss. The same evening I played a song of this sort, as well as I was able, and it was so successful that all the angels might have listened to it with joy, particularly the human ones. But it was in a dark room and no one heard it. Thus I am forced to consume my own happiness, tears, and everything in private.
Shall I tell you all about myself—how every day I set out two hours before the sun rises on the hills and after that take my walks only among the lengthening shadows of the afternoon and evening? How many things I have thought out, and how rich I feel now that this year I have at last been allowed to strip off the old moss growth of the daily routine of teaching and thinking! As to my life here, I can only say that it is tolerable, in spite of all my ailments which have certainly followed me even up to the heights—but I have so many intervals of happy exultation both of thought and feeling.
A little while ago I had a genuinely sacred day, thanks to "Prometheus Unbound." If the poet be not a true genius then I do not know what genius means. The whole thing is wonderful, and I felt as if I had met my own transfigured and exalted self in the work. I bow low before a man who is capable of having and expressing such thoughts.
In three days I shall return to Bâle. My sister is already there and busy preparing the place for my arrival.
The faithful musician P. Gast is going to join our household, and is going to undertake the duties of a friendly amanuensis.
I am rather dreading the coming winter. Things must change. The man who only has a few moments a day for what he regards as most important, and who has to spend the rest of his time and energy performing duties which others could carry out equally well—such a man is not a harmonious whole; he must be in conflict with himself and must ultimately fall ill. If I exercise any influence over youth at all, I owe it to my writings, and for these I have to thank my leisure moments—yes, the intervals I have won for myself, in the midst of professional duties by means of illness. Well, things must change: si male nunc non olim sic erit. Meanwhile may the happiness of my friends increase and flourish. It is always a great solace to me to think of you, my dear friend (just now I have a vision of you on the bank of a lake surrounded by roses and with a beautiful white swan swimming towards you).
With brotherly affection,
To Madame Louise O. - August, 1877
- Rosenlauibad, August 29, 1877.
I shall not forsake my mountain loneliness without once more writing to tell you how fond I am of you. How superfluous it is to say this, or to write it, isn't it? But my affection for anyone sticks to them like a thorn, and at times is as troublesome as a thorn; it is not so easy to get rid of it. So be good enough to receive this small, superfluous, and troublesome letter.
I have been told that—well, that you are expecting, hoping, wishing. I deeply sympathized with you when I heard the news, and, believe me, your wishes are mine. A fresh, good, and beautiful human being on earth!—that is something, it is a great deal! As you absolutely refuse to immortalize yourself in novels, you do so in this way. And we must all feel most grateful to you (more particularly as I hear it is a much more trying affair even than the writing of novels).
A day or two ago, quite suddenly, I saw your eyes in the dark. Why does no one ever look at me with such eyes? I exclaimed irritably. Oh, it is ghastly!
Do you know that no woman's voice has ever made a deep impression on me, although I have met all kinds of famous women? But I firmly believe there is a voice for me somewhere on earth, and I am seeking it. Where on earth is it?
Fare you well. May all the good fairies be constantly about you.
- Your devoted friend,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Seydlitz - January, 1878
- Bâle, January 4, 1878.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
. . . Yesterday Wagner sent me his Parsifal. My impression after the first perusal was that it is more Liszt than Wagner; it is in the spirit of the Counter-Reformation. To me, accustomed as I am to the Greek and generally human concept of things, it is all too Christian, too limited in its duration. It is one mass of fantastic psychology, has no flesh and too much blood (especially at the Last Supper, which was far too full-blooded for my taste.) And then I cannot abide hysterical females. Much that can be tolerated by the inner eye will scarcely be endured when it is produced on the stage. Imagine our actors praying and quivering with distorted necks! Even the inside of the Gralsberg cannot be effective on the stage, and the same applies to the wounded swan. All these beautiful devices belong to the epic and are, as I have said, for the inner eye of the imagination. The German sounds as if it were a translation from a foreign tongue. But as for the situations and their succession are they not in the highest sense poetical? Do they not constitute a last challenge to music?
Please be content with this for today, and with kindest regards to your dear wife and yourself,
I am, yours affectionately,
Nietzsche To Malvida Von Meysenbug - June, 1878
- Bâle, June 11, 1878.
Who was it who thought of me on May 30? I received two very fine letters (from Gast and Rée)—and then something still finer: I was quite moved—the fate of the man about whom for the last hundred years there have existed only party prejudices loomed as a terrible symbol before my eyes. Towards the emancipators of the spirit mankind is most irreconcilable in its hate, and most unjust in its love. Albeit I shall go on my way in peace, and renounce everything that might stand in my way. This is the decisive element in life: were I not conscious of the superlative fruitfulness of my new philosophy, I should certainly feel frightfully isolated and alone. But I am at one with myself.
- Your heartily devoted friend,
- F. N.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - March, 1879
- Bâle, March 1, 1879.
DEAR, KIND, HELPFUL FRIEND:
There is now only one thing left to be done, and that is to try to get well in Venice My condition has again been simply appalling, next door to intolerable. "Am I fit to travel?" The question I kept asking myself was whether I should be alive by then.
On Tuesday evening, March 25, at about 7.45 I shall reach Venice, and there you will take me on board. Is that right? You will hire a private apartment for me (a room with a nice warm bed) which must be peaceful. If possible secure a terrace or flat roof, either at your lodgings or mine, where you and I will be able to sit out together, etc.
I do not wish to see any sights, except by accident. All I want to do is to sit on the Piazza San Marco in the sunshine and listen to the military band. I always attend Mass at San Marco on fête days. I shall silently roam about the public gardens.
I want to eat good figs and oysters, too, and follow the example of the man of experience—yourself. I shall take no meals at the hotel.
I require the utmost calm. I shall bring a few books with me. Warm baths are to be had at Barbese (I have the address).
You will receive the first complete copy of the book. Read it right through again so that in it you may recognize yourself as retoucheur (as well as myself; for, after all, I too, went to some pains in producing it).
Good Heavens!—it is perhaps my last production. To my mind it is full of intrepid repose.
If you only knew how well and with what gratitude I always speak of you! And what hopes I cherish about you!
Now, for a while, be my good shepherd and medical adviser in Venice. But it pains me to think that I am once more going to give you a lot of trouble. I promise you, though, that I shall take up as little of your time as possible.
With hearty thanks, I am your friend,
Nietzsche To His Mother And Sister - April, 1879
- Bâle, April 25, 1879.
Since my last card things have gone from bad to worse, in Geneva as in Bâle, whither I returned last Monday. I had attack after attack both there and here. Until now I have been quite unable to give lectures. Yesterday Schiess informed me that my eyesight had deteriorated considerably since he last examined it.
Your letters, full of news and encouragement, reached me while I was still in Geneva. My heartiest thanks!
Nietzsche To The President Of The Educational Council - May, 1879
- Bâle, May 2, 1879.
The state of my health, which has forced me to address so many appeals to you in the past, now urges me to take this last step and beg you to be so good as to allow me to resign the post of Professor at the University which I have held hitherto. All this time my headaches have increased so much that they are now scarcely endurable; there is also the increasing loss of time occasioned by my attacks of illness which last from two to six days, while I have once more been told by Herr Schiess that my eyesight has again deteriorated so much so that at present I am scarcely able to read or write for twenty minutes at a time without pain. All these considerations force me to recognize that I am no longer fit for my academic duties—nay, that I am no longer equal to them and this after having been obliged during the last few years to allow myself, always much to my regret, many an irregularity in the discharge of these duties. It would redound to the disadvantage of our University, and to the philological studies pursued therein, were I any longer to fill a post for which I have ceased to be suited. Nor can I say that I can any longer entertain any hope of improvement in the state of my head, which seems to have become chronically bad; as for years I have made attempt after attempt to get rid of the trouble, and have led the most severely ordered life, undergoing privations of all kinds—all in vain! This I am bound to admit today, at a time when I have ceased to believe that I shall be able to resist my suffering much longer. I have no other alternative therefore than, in accordance with paragraph 20 of the University Statutes, with deep regret to express the desire to be released from my duties, and also tender my thanks to the University authorities for the many signs of kind indulgence they have shown me from the first hour of my appointment to the present day.
Begging you, Sir, kindly to convey my desire to the Board, I am and remain,
- Your obedient servant,
- DR. FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Prof. o. p.
Nietzsche To His Publisher - May, 1879
- Bâle, Beginning of May, 1879.
I have resigned my professorship and am going into the mountains. I am on the verge of desperation and have scarcely any hope left. My sufferings have been too great, too persistent.
- A HALF-BLIND MAN.
Ruling of the Governing Body of Bale University - June, 1879
- June 14, 1879.
Professor Dr. Friedrich Nietzsche is to be given leave to resign his post on June 30, 1879, with the deep thanks of the Governing Board for his excellent services, together with the grant of a yearly pension of 1,000 francs for the period of six years.
N. B.—The Governors have decided to allow him in addition for a period of six years a yearly pension of 1,000 francs from the Hensler Fund, while the Academic Society has, in the name of a few friends, guaranteed an additional allowance of from 500 to 1,000 francs for the same period of time.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - September, 1879
- Address, St. Moriz-Dorf, Poste Restante.
- September 11, 1879.
DEAR, DEAR FRIEND:
When you read these lines my MS. will already have reached you; it may deliver its own request to you; I have not the courage to do so. But you must share a few of the moments of joy that I now feel over my completed work. I am at the end of my thirty-fifth year—"the middle of life," as people for a century and a half used to say of this age. It was at this age that Dante had his vision, and in the opening lines of his poem he mentions the fact. Now I am in the middle of life and so "encircled by death" that at any minute it can lay hold of me. From the nature of my sufferings I must reckon upon a sudden death through convulsions (although I should prefer a hundred times a slow, lucid death, before which I should be able to converse with my friends, even if it were more painful). In this way I feel like the oldest of men, even from the standpoint of having completed my life-task. I have poured out a salutary drop of oil; this I know, and I shall not be forgotten for it. At bottom I have already undergone the test of my own view of life: many more will have to undergo it after me. Up to the present my spirit has not been depressed by the unremitting suffering that my ailments have caused me; at times I even feel more cheerful and more benevolent than I ever felt in my life before; to what do I owe this invigorating and ameliorating effect? Certainly not to my fellow men; for, with but few exceptions, they have all during the last few years shown themselves "offended" by me; nor have they shrunk from letting me know it. Just read this last MS. through, my dear friend, and ask yourself whether there are any traces of suffering or depression to be found in it. I don t believe there are, and this very belief is a sign that there must be powers concealed in these views, and not the proofs of impotence and lassitude after which my enemies will seek.
Now I shall not rest until I have sent those pages, transcribed by my self-sacrificing friend and revised by me, to my printers in Chemnitz. I shall not come to you myself—however urgently the Overbecks and my sister may press me to do so; there are states in which it seems to me more fitting to return to the neighbourhood of one's mother, one's home, and the memories of one's childhood. But do not take all this as final and irrevocable. According as his hopes rise or fall, an invalid should be allowed to make or unmake his plans. My programme for the summer is complete: three weeks at a moderate altitude (in Wiesen), three months in the Engadine, and the last month in taking the real St. Moritz drink-cure, the best effect of which is not supposed to be felt before the winter. This working out of a programme was a pleasure to me, but it was not easy! Self-denial in everything (I had no friends, no company; I could read no books; all art was far removed from me; a small bedroom with a bed, the food of an ascetic—which by the bye suited me excellently, for I have had no indigestion the whole of the summer) this self-denial was complete except for one point I gave myself up to my thoughts what else could I do! Of course, this was the very worst thing for my head, but I still do not see how I could have avoided it. But enough; this winter my programme will be to recover from myself, to rest myself away from my thoughts—for years I have not had this experience. Perhaps in Naumburg I shall be able so to arrange my day as to profit by this repose. But first of all the "sequel"—The Wanderer and his Shadow!
Your last letter full of ideas pleased Overbeck and me so much that I allowed him to take it with him to Zurich to read to his womenfolk there. Forgive me for having done this. And forgive me for more important things!
- Your friend,
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - October, 1879
- Naumburg, October 5, 1879.
Yesterday morning I posted my card to you; and three hours later I received fresh proof of your indefatigable kindness towards me. If only I could fulfill your wishes! "But thoughts are too remote," as Tieck sings. You would scarcely believe how faithfully I have carried out the programme of thoughtlessness; and I have reasons for being faithful in this respect; for "behind thought stands the devil"  of a frantic attack of pain. The MS. that reached you at St. Moritz was produced at such a very heavy price that probably no one who could have helped it would ever have written it at such cost. I am now often filled with horror when reading my own MSS., especially the more lengthy portions owing to the odious memories they awaken. The whole of it, with the exception of a few lines, was thought out while walking and scribbled down in pencil in six small note books; almost every time I tried to re-write a passage, I failed. I was forced to omit about twenty somewhat lengthy lines of thought. Unfortunately they were most important; but I had not the time to decipher my most illegible pencil scrawl. The same thing happened to me last summer. I cannot after wards recall the slender connection of thought. For, in order to steal away those minutes and quarters of an hour of "cerebral energy" of which you speak, I have to rob them from a suffering brain. At present I feel as if I could never do it again. I read your transcript, and have all the difficulty in the world in understanding myself—my head is so tired.
The Sorrento MS. has gone to the deuce; my removal and final farewell to Bâle made many a radical change in my affairs and it was a good thing for me, because old MSS. such as those always frown at me like debtors.
Dear friend, as to Luther, it is a long time since I have been able with honesty to say anything to his credit; this is the outcome of a mass of material about him to which Jacob Burckhardt called my attention. I refer to Janssen's "History of the German People" (Vol. II) that appeared this year (I have it). The voice in this book is, for once, not that of a Protestant falsification of history, which is the one we have been taught to believe. At present, the fact that we prefer Luther as a man to Ignatius Loyola strikes me as being no more than our national taste in north and south! That odious, arrogant, and biliously-envious diabolical wrangling affected by Luther—who was never happy unless he was able to spit on someone in his wrath—nauseated me beyond endurance. Certainly you are right when you speak of "the promotion of European democratization" through Luther, but this raving enemy of the peasant (who ordered them to be slaughtered like mad dogs, and himself assured the princes that the kingdom of Heaven could be won by the killing and strangling of peasant cattle) was certainly one of its most unwilling promo ters. Yours is, by-the-bye, the fairer attitude towards the man. But just give me time! Many thanks to you also for the other lacunae you pointed out to me. This is most impotent gratitude, I'm afraid. Here again my "wish of wishes" occurs to me. Well, I have been thinking lately of my friend Gast, not actually as an author—there are so many ways of testifying to an inward condition of maturity and health attained. In the first place of you as an artist! After Aeschylus came Sophocles! I would rather not tell you more plainly what I hope. And now for a word of truth about you as a creature of brains and heart: what a start you have of me, making allowance for the difference of years, and that which years bring with them! Once more let me tell you a home-truth: I consider you a better and more gifted man than I am, and consequently a man with greater obligations. . . .
- With sincere affection,
- Your friend whose hopes are in you,
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - July, 1880
- Marienbad, July 18, 1880.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
I still cannot help thinking several times a day of the delightful pampering I had in Venice and of the still more delightful pamperer, and all I can say is that one cannot have such good times for long and that it is only right I should once more be an anchorite and as such go walking for ten hours a day, drink fateful doses of water and await their effect. Meanwhile I burrow eagerly inside my moral mines and at times feel quite subterranean in the process—at present I seem to feel as if I had now discovered the principal artery and outlet. But this is the sort of belief that may return a hundred times only to be rejected. Now and again an echo of Chopin's music rings in my ears, and this much you have achieved, that at such moments I always think of you and lose myself in meditating about possibilities. My trust in you has grown very great; you are built much more soundly than I suspected, and apart from the evil influence that Herr Nietzsche has exercised over you from time to time, you are in every respect well conditioned. Ceterum censeo mountains and woods are better than towns and Paris is better than Vienna.
On the way I made friends with a high dignitary of the Church, who was apparently one of the earliest promoters of old Catholic music; he was up to every question of detail. I found he was much interested in the work Wagner did in regard to Palestrina's music. He said that dramatic recitative (in the liturgy) was the core of Church music, and accordingly wished the interpretation of such music to be as dramatic as possible. In his opinion Regensburg was the only place on earth where old music could be studied and above all heard (particularly in Passion week).
Have you heard about the fire at Mommsen's house and that his notes have all been destroyed—perhaps the most extensive collection of documents ever made by a living scholar? It appears that he dashed into the flames again and again, and that at last, covered with burns as he was, they were obliged to restrain him by force. Such tasks as the one Mommsen had undertaken must be very rare; for the colossal memory and corresponding acumen in criticism and arrangement necessary for dealing with such a mass of material are seldom united in one man; they are more often in conflict. When I heard of the affair my heart was in my mouth with horror, and even now I feel genuine physical anguish when I think of it. Is that pity? But what is Mommsen to me? I am in no way favorably inclined towards him.
Here in the lonely sylvan hermitage of which I am the hermit, there has been a good deal of trouble ever since yesterday. I do not know exactly what has happened, but the shadow of a crime seems to lie on the house. Someone buried something; others discovered it; a good deal of lamentation was heard; a number of gendarmes appeared on the scene; the house was searched and during the night in the room next door to mine I heard someone sighing heavily, as if in great pain, and I could not sleep. Then in the middle of the night I heard sounds as if something were being buried in the wood, but whoever was engaged in the work was surprised, and once more there were tears and cries. An official told me that it was a "banknote" affair—I am not sufficiently inquisitive to know as much about my surroundings as all the world probably knows about me. Suffice it to say that the solitude of the woods is uncanny.
I have been reading a story by Mérimée, in which Henry Beyle's character is said to be described. It is called "The Etruscan Vase"; if this is true, Stendhal is St. Clair. The whole thing is ironical, distinguished and deeply melancholic.
In conclusion listen to an idea I have had: one ceases from loving oneself properly when one ceases from exercising oneself in love towards others, wherefore the latter (the ceasing from exercising, etc.) ought to be strongly deprecated. (This is from my own experience.)
Fare you well, my beloved and much valued friend. May things go well with you night and day.
- Your devoted,
- F. N.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - August, 1880
- Marienbad, August 20, 1880.
MY DEAR FRIEND GAST:
Your letter chimed in with my harvest-, or rather harvest-festival mood, a little dismally, it is true, but so well and powerfully that today I once more, as usual, end my meditations about you with the chorale
- "What Gast achieved is well achieved,
- For just are his intentions. Amen."
You are built of stouter material than I am and you are entitled to set yourself higher ideals. For my part I suffer terribly when I lack sympathy; nothing can compensate me, for instance, for the fact that for the last few years I have lost Wagner's friendly interest in my fate. How often do I not dream of him, and always in the spirit of our former intimate companionship! No words of anger have ever passed between us, not even in my dreams—on the contrary, only words of encouragement and good cheer, and with no one have I ever laughed so much as with him. All this is now a thing of the past—and what does it avail that in many respects I am right and he is wrong? As if our lost friendship could be forgotten on that account! And to think that I had already suffered similar experiences before, and am likely to suffer them again! They constitute the cruellest sacrifices that my path in life and thought has exacted from me—and even now the whole of my philosophy totters after one hour's sympathetic intercourse even with total strangers! It seems to me so foolish to insist on being in the right at the expense of love, and not to be able to impart one's best for fear of destroying sympathy. Hinc meae lacrimae.
I am still in Marienbad: the "Austrian weather" held me fast to the spot! Fancy, it has rained every day since July 24, and sometimes the whole day long. A rainy sky and rainy atmosphere, but fine walks in the woods. My health lost ground withal; but, in summa I was well satisfied with Venice and Marienbad. Certainly, never has so much been thought out here since the days of Goethe, and even Goethe cannot have let so many fundamental things pass through his head—I surpassed myself by a long way. Once in the wood a man stared fixedly at me as he passed me by, and at that moment I felt that my expression must have been one of radiant joy, and that I had already worn it for two hours. Like the most modest of the visitors here, I live incognito; in the visitors list I appear as "Schoolmaster Nietzsche." There are a great many Poles here, and, strange to say, they insist upon it that I must be a Pole; they actually come up to me to greet me in the Polish tongue, and will not believe me when I tell them that I am a Swiss. "Your race is Polish, but your heart has turned Heaven knows whither"—thus did one of them mournfully take leave of me.
- Your devoted,
- F. N.
To Herr Ob. Rer. R. Krug - November, 1880
- Genoa, November 16, 1880.
MY DEAR GUSTAV:
Here in Genoa I received the news of your bereavement, and I am just writing a few lines in haste and unprepared, as the circumstances of travel permit. But you must regard them more as a sign than an expression of sympathy. By-the-bye, I see from the calendar that it is also your birthday. With what wistful eyes you will look back upon your life today. We grow older and therefore lonelier; the love that leaves us is precisely that love which was lavished upon us like an unconscious necessity—not owing to our particular qualities, but often in spite of them. The curtain falls on our past when our mother dies; it is then for the first time that our childhood and youth be come nothing more than a memory. And then the same process extends; the friends of our youth, our teachers, our ideals of those days, all die, and every day we grow more lonely, and ever colder breezes blow about us. You were right to plant another garden of love around you, dear friend! I should think that to-day you are particularly grateful for your lot. Moreover you have remained true to your art, and it was with the deepest satisfaction that I heard all you had to tell me on that score. A period may be dawn ing which may be better suited to my constitution than the present one—a period in which we shall once again sit side by side and see the past rise up afresh out of your music, just as in our youth we used to dream together of our future in the music we both loved.
I may not say more. My ailments (which still continue, as in the past, to have their own daily history) have laid their tyrannical hand upon me. Whenever you think of me (as you did for instance on my birth day, which, this year, I had completely forgotten), please believe that I do not lack either courage or patience, and that, even as things are at present, I aspire to high, very high goals. You may also believe with equal certainty that I am and remain your friend,
- With sincere affection and devotion,
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
To Rohde - March, 1881
- Genoa, March 24, 1881.
Thus the sands of life run out and the best of friends hear and see nothing of each other! Aye, the trick is no easy one—to live and yet not to be discontented. How often do I not feel as if I should like to beg a loan from my robust, flourishing and brave old friend Rohde, when I am in sore need of a "transfusion" of strength, not of lamb's but of lion's blood. But there he dwells away in Tübingen, immersed in books and married life, and in every respect inaccessible to me. Ah, dear friend, to live for ever on my own fat seems to be my lot, or, as every one knows who has tried it, to drink my own blood! Life then becomes a matter of not losing one's thirst for oneself and also of not drinking oneself dry.
On the whole, however, I am, to tell the truth, astonished at the number of springs a man can set flowing in himself—even a man like myself who am not one of the richest. I believe that if I possessed all the qualities in which you excel me I should be puffed up with pride and insufferable. Even now there are moments when I wander over the heights above Genoa here with glances and hopes like those which dear old Columbus may perhaps have cast from this very spot out over the sea and the whole of the future.
Well, it is with these moments of courage and of foolishness too, perhaps, that I have to adjust the equilibrium of my life's vessel—for you have no idea how many days, and how many hours, even on endurable days, I have to overcome, to say the least.
As far as it is possible to alleviate and mitigate a bad state of health by means of wise living I think I probably do all that can be done in my case—in that respect I am neither thoughtless nor devoid of ideas. But I wish no one the lot to which I am growing accustomed, because I am beginning to understand that I am equal to it.
But you, my dear good friend, are not in such a tight corner as to be forced to grow thin in order to squeeze out of it; neither is Overbeck. You both do your good work and, without saying overmuch about it, perhaps without even being conscious of it, derive all that is good from the midday of life—with some sweat of your brow, too, I suppose. How glad I should be to have a word or two from you about your plans, your great plans—for with a head and a heart like yours, behind all the daily routine of work, petty enough perhaps, a man always carries something bulky and very big about with him—how happy you would make me if you held me not unworthy of such confidence! Friends like yourself must help me to sustain my belief in myself, and this you do when you confide in me about your highest aims and hopes. Beneath these words does there lurk the request for a letter from you? Well, yes, dearest friend, I should rejoice at receiving something really personal from you once more if only not always to have the Rohde of the past in my heart, but also the Rohde of the present and, what is more, the Rohde who is developing and willing—yes, the Rohde of the future.
- Affectionately yours,
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - April, 1881
- Genoa, 10-4-81.
When I read your letter yesterday "my heart leaped" as the hymn says—it would have been quite impossible, at the present moment, to have given me more pleasant news! (The book, for which I have gradually developed quite a decent appetite, will certainly be in my hands today.) Very well, so be it! We two shall once more come together upon this ledge of life commanding such a vast prospect, and we shall be able to look backwards and forwards together and hold each other's hand the while to show how many, many good things we have in common—many more than words can tell. You can scarcely imagine how exhilarating the prospect of this meeting is to me—for a man alone with his thoughts passes for a fool, and often enough seems a fool to himself into the bargain; when two come together, however, "wisdom" begins, as well as trust, courage, and mental health. Fare thee well! With my best thanks,
- Your friend,
- F. N.
Nietzsche To His Sister - June, 1881
- Recoaro, June 19, 1881.
Oh, my darling sister, you imagine that it is all about a book? Do you too still think that I am an author! My hour is at hand! I should like to spare you all this; for surely you cannot bear my burden (it is enough of a fatality to be so closely related to me). I should like you to be able to say with a clean conscience, to each and everyone, "I do not know my brothers latest views." (People will be only too ready to acquaint you with the fact that they are "immoral" and "shameless".) Meanwhile, courage and pluck; to each his appointed task, and the same old love!
- YOUR F.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - August, 1881
- Sils-Maria, August 14, 1881.
Well, my dear friend! The August sun is above us, the year is slipping by, the hills and the woods are growing more calm and more peaceful. Thoughts have loomed upon my horizon the like of which I have not known before—I shall not divulge anything about them, but shall remain imperturbably calm. I shall have to live a few years longer ! Ah, my friend, sometimes I have a feeling that I am leading a most dangerous life, for I belong to the kind of machine that can fly to pieces. The intensity of my feelings makes me shudder and laugh once or twice already I have been unable to leave my room for the absurd reason that my eyes were inflamed—by what? On each occasion I had wept too much on my wanderings the day before and not sentimental tears by any means, but tears of joy and exaltation. At such moments I sang and uttered nonsense, filled with a new vision which I had seen in advance of the rest of mankind.
After all—if I could not draw my strength from myself; if I had to wait for words of good cheer, of encouragement, and of comfort from outside, where should I be, what should I be! There have indeed been moments—nay, whole periods in my life (the year 1878, for instance)—when I should have regarded a strong cheering word, a sympathetic handshake, as the comfort of comforts—and it was precisely then that every one on whom I thought I could rely, and who could have done me this act of kindness, left me in the lurch. Now I no longer expect it, and all I feel is a certain gloomy astonishment when, for instance, I think of the letters that reach me nowadays—they are all so insignificant! No one seems to have gained the smallest experience through me, or to have thought about me—all that people say to me is decent and benevolent, but so far, far away. Even our dear old Jacob Burchkardt wrote me a faint hearted little letter of this sort.
On the other hand I regard it as my reward that this year has shown me two things that belong to me and that are intimately related to me—I refer to your music and the landscape before me. This is neither Switzerland nor Recoaro, but something quite different; in any case something much more southern— I should have to go to the Mexican plateau on the calm ocean, to find anything like it (Oaxaca, for instance); and then, of course, it would be covered with tropical vegetation. Well, I shall try to keep this Sils-Maria for myself. And I feel just the same about your music, but I am quite at a loss to know how to catch hold of it! I have been obliged to rule the reading of music and the playing of the piano out of my occupations once and for all. I have been thinking of buying a typewriter and am now in correspondence with the inventor, a Dane of Copenhagen.
What are you going to do next winter? I suppose you will be in Vienna. But we must try to arrange a meeting for the following winter, if only a short one—for now I am well aware that I am not fit to be your companion, and that your spirit is more free and more fruitful when I have vanished from your side. On the other hand, the ever-increasing emancipation of your feelings and your acquisition of a deep and proud understanding, in summa your joyful, most joyful industry and development, means so indescribably much to me, that I would readily adapt myself to any situation created by the needs of your nature. Never do I have any unpleasant feelings about you—of this you may be quite sure, dear friend! . . .
With hearty affection and gratitude,
- YOUR F. N.
(I have often been ill of late.)
Nietzsche To His Mother - August, 1881
MY DEAR MOTHER:
- Sils-Maria, August 24, 1881.
. . . I am very well satisfied with my food: Mid day (11.30 a.m.) every day a dish of meat with macaroni; morning (6.30 a.m.) the yolk of a raw egg, tea, and aniseed biscuit (bucolic and nourishing). Evening (6.30 p. m.), the yolks of two raw eggs, a piece of Polenta (as it is eaten by all shepherds and peasants), tea (second infusion) and aniseed biscuit. (In Genoa I live much more in conformity with the customs of the inhabitants, in fact as the work people live.) Every morning at 5, general ablutions in cold water, and 5 to 7 hours exercise every day. Between 7 and 9 in the evening I sit still in the dark (I also did this at Genoa, where, without exception, I stayed at home every evening from 6 in the evening onwards; never went to a theatre or a concert). You cannot imagine with what miserly care I have to husband my intellectual strength and my time, in order that such a suffering and imperfect creature may yet be able to bear ripe fruit. Do not think ill of me for leading this difficult sort of life; every hour of the day I have to be hard towards myself.
- With love,
- Your F.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - August, 1881
- Sils-Maria, end of August, 1881.
But this is splendid news, my dear friend! Above all that you should have finished! At the thought of this first great achievement of your life, I feel indescribably happy and solemn; I shall not fail to remember August 24, 1881! How things are progressing! But as soon as I think of your work I am overcome by a feeling of satisfaction and a sort of emotion which I never experience in connection with my own "works." There is something in these that always fills me with a sense of shame; they are counterfeits of a suffering, imperfect nature, but inadequately equipped with the most essential organs—to myself, I, as a whole, often seem little more than the scratching upon a piece of paper made by an unknown power with the object of trying a new pen? (Our friend Schmeitzner has understood very well how to make me feel this, for in every one of his letters of late he has laid stress on the fact that "my readers do not wish to read any more of my aphorisms.") As for you, my dear friend, you were not intended to be such a creature of aphorisms; your aim is a lofty one; unlike me you do not feel obliged to let people guess at the interdependence and at the need of interdependence in your work. Your mission it is once more to make known the higher laws of style in your art—those laws the setting aside of which the weakness of modern artists has elevated almost to a principle: your mission it is to reveal your art once more quite complete! This is what I feel when I think of you, and in this prospect I seem to enjoy the fullest bloom of my own nature as in a mirage. You alone have afforded me this joy up to the present, and it is only since I learnt to know your music that this has been so between us.
And now for the second piece of news: Vienna is coming to Venice and the mountain to Mohammed! What a weight this takes off my mind! Now I see quite clearly the course things will take, your first ceremonious introduction—I presume you will have the courage to make known to the world your new will in aesthetics by means of one or two eloquent essays, and thus obviate misunderstanding concerning the only admissible interpretation of your work. Do not be afraid of confessing yourself vowed to the loftiest motives! Men like yourself must cast their words ahead and must know how to overtake them by their deeds (even I have allowed myself to act on this principle until now). Avail yourself of all those liberties which are still granted to the artist alone, and do not fail to remember that our task is in all circumstances to urge people on, to urge them hence—almost irrespective of whether we ourselves get there! (To my surprise I often find the exhortatio indirecta in my last book; for instance in the 542nd Aphorism "The Philosopher and Old Age"—the direct form of exhortation and instigation, on the other hand, savours somewhat of priggishness.)
So much for today—it is not at all necessary for you to answer this, dear friend. When we meet again you will play me some of your music as an answer (during the last few months it has percolated right into my heart, and, honestly, I know nothing I would like to hear better . . . ) .
- Your friend, NIETZSCHE.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - November, 1881
- Genoa, November 28, 1881.
Hurrah! Friend! I have made the acquaintance of one more good thing, an opera by Georges Bizet (who is he?): Carmen. It sounded like a story by Mérimée; ingenious, strong, and here and there staggering. A real French talent for comic opera, absolutely uncorrupted by Wagner, on the other hand a true pupil of Hector Berlioz. I thought something of the kind might be possible. It looks as if the French were on the road to better things in dramatic music; and they are far ahead of the Germans in one important point; passion with them is not such a very far-fetched affair (as all passion is in Wagner's works).
Today I am not very well, but that is owing to bad weather and not to the music ; maybe I should be even worse than I am if I had not heard it. Good things are my medicine. Hence my love of you!
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - December, 1881
- Genoa, December 5, 1881.
DEAR GOOD FRIEND:
From time to time (how is this?) it is almost a need for me to hear something general and absolute about Wagner, and I like to hear it best of all from you! To feel alike about Chamfort too ought to be a point of honour for us both; he was a man of the stamp of Mirabeau in character, heart, and magnanimity; this was Mirabeau's own opinion of his friend.
It was a great blow to me to hear that Bizet is dead. I have heard "Carmen" for the second time—and once more I had the impression of a first-class story by Mérimée, for instance. Such a passionate and fascinating soul! In my opinion this work is worth a whole journey to Spain—a southern work in the highest degree! Do not laugh, old friend, I do not so easily make an utter mistake in "taste."
- With hearty gratitude, yours,
Meanwhile I have been very ill, but am well, thanks to Carmen.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - January, 1882
- Genoa, January 29, 1882.
Herr von Bülow has the ill-breeding of Prussian officers in his constitution; he is, however, an "honest man"—the fact that he will no longer have anything to do with German opera music is accounted for by all kinds of secret reasons. I remember his once saying to me: "I do not know Wagner's later music." Go to Bayreuth in the summer and you will find the whole theatrical world of Germany assembled there, even Prince Lichtenstein, etc., etc., Levi, too. I suppose all my friends will be there, my sister as well, after your letter of yesterday (and I am very glad of it).
If I were with you I should introduce Horace's satires and letters to you—I feel that we are both ripe and ready for them. When I glanced into them today, I thought all the expressions were charming, as charming as a warm winter's day.
My last letter struck you as being "frivolous," didn't it? Have patience! In respect of my "thoughts," it is nothing to me to have them—but to get rid of them when I should like to do so is always infernally difficult for me!
Oh, what days we are having! Oh, the wonder of this beautiful January! Let us be of good cheer, dearest friend!
To Herr. Ob. Reg. R. Krug - February, 1882
- Genoa, February, 1882.
Your songs affected me strangely. One fine afternoon I happened to think of all your music and musical talent and at last I asked myself why on earth you did not get something printed. And then my ears rang with a line from Jung Niklas. The following morning my friend Ree arrived at Genoa and handed me your first book, and when I opened it, what was the first thing I saw but Jung Niklas! This would be a good anecdote for the Spiritualists! Your music has qualities which are rare nowadays. In my opinion all modern music seems to be suffering from an ever increasing atrophy of the sense of melody. Melody, as the last and most sublime art of arts, is ruled by logical laws which our anarchists would like to decry as tyranny! But the one thing I am certain about is that they are unable to reach up to these sweetest and ripest of fruits. I recommend all composers the following most delightful ascetic regimen—for a while to regard harmony as undiscovered, and to collect a store of pure melodies from Beethoven and Chopin, for instance. Much of the excellent past reaches my ears through your music and, as you perceive, some of the future as well.
I thank you most heartily.
- F. N.
Nietzsche To His Sister - February, 1882
- Genoa, February 3, 1882.
Just a few lines, my darling sister, to thank you for your kind words about Wagner and Bayreuth. Certainly the time I spent with him in Triebschen and enjoyed through him at Bayreuth (in 1872, not in 1876) is the happiest I have had in my whole life. But the omnipotent violence of our tasks drove us asunder and now we can never more be united; we have grown too strange to each other.
The day I found Wagner I was happy beyond description. So long had I been seeking for the man who stood on a higher plane than I did, and who really comprised me. I believed I had found this man in Wagner. It was a mistake. And now it would not even be right to compare myself with him—I be long to another order of beings.
In any case I have had to pay dearly for my craze for Wagner. Has not the nerve-destroying power of his music ruined my health—was it not dangerous to life? Has it not taken me almost six years to recover from this pain? No, Bayreuth is impossible for me! What I wrote a day or two ago was only a joke. But you at all events must go to Bayreuth. Your going would be of the greatest value to me.
- YOUR DEVOTED BROTHER.
To Rohde - July, 1882
- Tantenberg, July 15, 1882.
MY DEAR OLD FRIEND:
It cannot be helped; today I must prepare you for a new book from my pen; you have at most another month's peace before it will reach you. There is this extenuating circumstance, that it will be the last for many a long year—for in the autumn I am going to the University of Vienna to begin student life afresh, after having made somewhat of a failure of the old life, thanks to a too one-sided study of philology. Now I have my own plan of study and behind it my own secret goal to which the remaining years of my life are consecrated. I find it too hard to live if I cannot do so in the grand style—this in confidence to you, my old comrade! Without a goal that I could regard as inexpressibly important I should not have been able to hold myself aloft in the light above the black floods. This is really my only excuse for the sort of literature I have been producing ever since 1875; it is my recipe, my self-concocted medicine against the disgust of life. What years they have been! What lingering agony! What inward strife, upheavals, and isolation! Who has ever endured as much as I? Certainly not Leopardi. And if today I stand above it all with the courage of a conqueror and laden with weighty new plans—and, if I know myself, with the prospect of even harder and more secret sorrows and tragedies, and with the courage to meet them—then no one has the right to blame me if I think well of my medicine. Mihi ipsi scripsi—that settles it. And so let everyone do the best he can for himself—that is my moral—the only one I have left. Even if my bodily health returns, to whom do I owe this change? In every respect I have been my own doctor, and as everything in me is one I was obliged to treat my soul, my mind, and my body all at once and with the same remedies. I admit that others would have perished from my treatment, but that is why I am so eager in warning people against myself. This last book, which bears the title of "The Joyful Wisdom," will act as a special danger signal to many, even to you perhaps, dear old friend Rohde! It contains a portrait of myself and I am convinced it is not the portrait of me which you carry in your heart.
Well, then, have patience even if only because you must realize that with me it is "aut mori aut ita vivere"
- Yours very affectionately,
To Madame Louise O. - September, 1882
- Naumburg, September, 1882.
VERY DEAR FRIEND:
Or am I not allowed to use this word after six years?
Meanwhile I have been living nearer to death than to life, and have consequently become a little too much of a "sage" or almost a "saint." . . .
Still, such things may perhaps be cured! For once again I believe in life, in men, in Paris, and even in myself; and very shortly I shall see you again. My last book is called "The Joyful Wisdom."
Are the skies bright and cheerful in Paris? Do you happen to know of any room that would suit my requirements? It would have to be an apartment silent as death and very simply furnished—and not too far away from you, my dear Madame. . . .
Or do you advise me not to come to Paris? Perhaps it is not the place for anchorites and men who wish to go silently about their life-work, caring nothing for politics and the present?
You have no idea what a charming memory you are to me.
- Cordially yours,
- PROFESSOR DR. F. NIETZSCHE.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - February, 1883
- Rapallo, February 1, 1883.
. . . But perhaps it would please you to hear what there is to be finished and printed. It is a question of a very small book—of about one hundred printed pages only. But it is my best work, and with it I have removed a heavy stone from my soul. I have never done anything more serious or more cheerful; it is my hearty desire that this colour—which does not even need to be a mixed colour—should become ever more and more my "natural" colour. The book, is to be called :
- THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
- A Book for All and None
- F. N.
- A Book for All and None
- THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
With this work I have entered a new "Ring"—henceforward I shall be regarded as a madman in Germany. It is a wonderful kind of "moral lecture." My sojourn in Germany has forced me to exactly the same point of view as yours did, dear friend—that is to say, that I no longer form part of her. And now, at least, after my Zarathustra, I also feel as you feel: this insight and the establishing of one's attitude have given me courage.
Where do we now belong? Let us rejoice that we should be allowed to ask ourselves this question at all!
Our experiences have been somewhat similar; but you have this advantage over me—a better temperament, a better, calmer, and more lonely past—and better health than I have.
Well, then, I shall remain here until the 10th. After that my address will be Roma, poste restante. Ever with you in thought and wish,
You have delighted the Overbecks and myself as well!
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - February, 1883
- Kapallo, February 19, 1883.
Every one of your last letters was a boon to me; I thank you for them from the bottom of my heart. This winter has been the worst I have ever had in my life, and I regard myself as a victim of a meteorological disturbance. The old flood for the sins of Europe is still too much for me; but perhaps some one may yet come to my rescue and help me up to the highlands of Mexico. The only thing is that I cannot undertake such journeys; my eyes and one or two other things forbid it.
The appalling burden which, thanks to the weather, is now weighing me down (even old Etna has now begun to rage!) has transformed itself into thoughts and feelings the pressure of which is frightful; and from the sudden detachment of this burden, as the result of the ten absolutely cheerful and bracing days we had in January, my Zarathustra was born, the most detached of all my productions. Trübner is already printing it, and I myself prepared the copy for press. Moreover Schmeitzner writes to say that during the last few years all my works have had a better sale, and I have received many other tokens of increasing sympathy. Even a member of the Reichstag, a follower of Bismarck (Delbrück) is said to have expressed himself in terms of the utmost vexation over the fact that I lived not in Berlin but in Santa Margherita!
Forgive this chatter; you know what else I now have in my mind and next my heart. I was very ill indeed for a day or two, and made my hosts quite anxious. I am better now and I even believe that Wagner's death was the most substantial relief that could have been given me just now. It was hard for six years to have to be the opponent of the man one had most reverenced on earth, and my constitution is not sufficiently coarse for such a position. After all it was Wagner grown senile whom I was forced to resist; as to the genuine Wagner, I shall yet attempt to become in a great measure his heir (as I have often assured Fräulein Malvida, though she would not believe it). Last summer I felt that he had alienated all those men from me who were the only ones in Germany I might have influenced to some purpose, and had inveigled them into the confused and wild hostility of his last years.
I need hardly say that I have of course written to Cosima.
As to what you say about Lou, I could not help having a good laugh. Do you really believe that in this matter my taste differs from your own? No, certainly not! But in the case in point there was damned little question of "the attraction of loveliness or the reverse," but only whether a highly gifted human being was to be brought to naught or not.
So the proofs may once more be sent to you for correction, my old and helpful friend? My heartiest thanks for it all.
- F. N.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - March, 1883
- Genoa, March 22, 1883.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
I saw "Carmen" again last night—it was perhaps the twentieth performance this year; the house was packed to overflowing as usual; it is the opera of operas here. You ought to hear the death-like silence that reigns when the Genoese listen to their favourite piece—the prelude to the fourth act, and the yells for an encore that follow. They are also very fond of the "Tarantella." Well, dear old friend, I too was very happy once again; when this music is played some very deep stratum seems to be stirred in me, and while listening to it I always feel resolved to hold out to the end and to unburden my heart of its supremest malice rather than perish beneath the weight of my own thoughts. During the performance I did little else than compose Dionysian songs, in which I made so bold as to say the most terrible things in the most terrible and laughable manner. This is the latest form my madness has taken.
Forgive me for writing so often. I have so few people to confide in now.
- Your devoted
- F. N.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - April, 1883
- Genoa, April 27, 1883.
. . . And last of all came Wagner's death. What recollections did not this news bring back to me! The whole of this relationship and broken relationship with Wagner has proved my severest trial in connection with my justice toward people in general, and of late I had at last succeeded in practising that "indolence" in this matter of which you write. And what on earth could be more melancholy than indolence, when I think of those times in which the latter part of "Siegfried" was written! Then we loved each other and hoped everything for each other —it was truly a profound love, free from all arrièrepensée. . . .
- Your friend,
To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff - June, 1883
- Sils-Maria, June 28, 1883.
MY DEAR OLD FRIEND GERSDORFF:
I have just heard of the terrible blow that has befallen you in the loss of your mother. When I learnt it, I derived genuine comfort from the thought that at least you are not alone in life, and called to mind the cordial and grateful words with which you spoke to me of your life companion in your last letter. You and I have been through some rough times in our youth—rough for many reasons—and it would be only just and proper for our manhood to be blessed with milder, more comforting and encouraging experiences.
As for myself, a long and arduous asceticism of the spirit lies behind me, which I undertook quite voluntarily, though it would not be right for every body to expect it of himself. The last six years have, in this respect, been the years of my severest efforts in self-control, and this is leaving out of all reckoning what I have had to overcome in the way of ill-health, solitude, misunderstanding, and persecution. Suffice it to say that I have overcome this stage in my life—and I shall use all that remains of life (not much, I imagine) in giving full and complete expression to the object for which I have so far endured life at all. The period of silence is over. My Zarathustra, which will be sent to you in a week or so, will perhaps show you to what lofty heights my will has soared. Do not be deceived by the legendary character of this little book. Beneath all these simple but outlandish words lie my whole philosophy and the things about which I am most in earnest. It is my first step in making myself known—nothing more! I know perfectly well that there is no one alive who could create anything like this Zarathustra.
Well, my dear old friend, I am once more in the Ober-Engadine. This is my third visit to the place and once again I feel that my proper lair and home is here and nowhere else. Oh, how much that wishes to become word and form still lies concealed within me! I cannot be too quiet, I cannot stand sufficiently high up, I cannot be too much alone, if I wish to hear the voices that are buried deepest within me.
I should like to have enough money to build myself a sort of ideal dog-kennel—I mean, a wooden hut with two rooms, on a peninsula jutting out into the Silser Lake, where a Roman castle once stood. Living in these peasants cottages, as I have done hitherto, has in the end become unendurable. The rooms are low and confined, and there is always a good deal of noise. Otherwise the people of Sils-Maria are very kindly disposed to me and I think well of them. I board at the Edelweiss Hotel, an excellent hostelry. Of course I take my meals alone there at a price which is not altogether out of keeping with my slender means. I brought a large basketful of books with me to this place, so I am once more fixed up for a spell of three months. My Muses live here; in the Wanderer and his Shadow I have already said that this region is "related to me by blood and something more." . . .
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - July, 1883
- Sils-Maria (The Engadine), July 1, 1883.
DEAR FRIEND GAST:
How is it that I have not written to you for such an age? I have just asked myself this question. But all this time I have felt so uncertain and irresolute. A breath of illness still hung about me, and so I did not wish to write (unfortunately I have written far too many letters this winter that are full of illness). Besides which a number of things have gone wrong with me, for instance, my attempt to find a summer abode for myself in Italy. I tried first in the Volscian mountains, and again in the Abruzzi (in Aquila). What I wonder at now is why, every year about spring time, I feel such a violent impulse to go ever further south; this year to Rome, last year to Messina, and two years ago I was on the very point of embarking for Tunis—when the war broke out. The explanation must be this, that throughout every winter I suffer so terribly from the cold (three winters without a fire!) that with the coming of the warmer weather a veritable craving for warmth takes possession of me. This year I felt in addition a craving for the society of my fellow men. I mean a human kind of relationship, and particularly for a more human kind of society than I enjoyed last spring. Truth to tell, now that I can look back on it all, my lot during the whole of last year and this winter has been of the most horrible and forbidding kind; and I marvel at the fact that I have escaped it all with my life—I marvel and I shudder, too. In Rome people showed me plenty of kindness and good nature, and those who have been good to me are more than ever so now.
As to Zarathustra, I have just heard that it is still "awaiting dispatch" in Leipzig; even the complimentary copies. This is owing to the "very important conferences" and constant journeyings of the chief of the Alliance Antijuive, Heir Schmeitzner. On that account "the publishing business must for once mark time for a bit," he writes. It really is too ludicrous; first the Christian obstruction, the 500,000 hymn books, and now the anti-Semitic obstruction these are truly experiences for the founder of a religion.
Malvida and my sister were astonished to find Zarathustra so bitter (so embittered); I—how sweet. De gustibus, etc.
Now I am once again in my beloved Sils-Maria in the Engadine, the spot where I hope one day to die; meanwhile it offers me the best incentive to live on. On the whole I am remarkably undecided, shaken, and full of questionings; up here it is cold, and that holds me together and braces me. . . .
I shall be here three months, but after that what? Oh the future! Nearly every day I wonder how I shall ever come to hear your music again. I miss it. I know of so few things that thoroughly refresh me. But Sils-Maria and your music are among them.
Your last letter contains a number of very fine thoughts, for which I truly thank myself. Afterward I had another look at Epicurus's bust. Will power and intellectuality are its most salient characteristics.
- Your ever heartily devoted,
- F. N.
To Peter Gast - July, 1883
- Sils-Maria, 13 July, 1883.
Since my last letter I have been better, my spirits have improved, and all of a sudden I have conceived the second part of "Thus Spake Zarathustra." The birth followed upon the conception; the whole thing was worked out with the greatest vehemence.
(While working upon it, the thought struck me that one day I should probably die from an outburst and overflow of emotion like this: the devil take me!)
The MS. will be ready for press the day after tomorrow morning, and my eyes describe limits to my industry.
If you read the last page of Zarathustra, Part I, you will find the words: "—and only when ye have all denied me will I return unto you."
"Verily, with other eyes, my brethren, shall I then seek my lost ones, with another love shall I then love you."
This is the motto to the Second Part: out of it—as it would be almost foolish to tell a musician, I evolve different harmonies and modulations from those in Part I.
It was chiefly a matter of climbing on to the second rung, in order from this position, to reach the third (the title of which is "Midday and Eternity." I have already told you this; but I beg you most earnestly not to speak about it to anyone. As for the third part, I'll allow myself some time, and for the fourth, perhaps years—)
If, now, I ask you again kindly to help me with the correction of my proofs—this request exceeds the bounds of all friendship and decency, and if you cannot contrive to justify me in my request I cannot contrive to make it!
- Your devoted friend,
To Peter Gast - August, 1883
- Sils-Maria, 3rd August, 1883.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
Epicurus is precisely the best negative argument in favour of my challenge to all rare spirits to isolate themselves from the mass of their fellows; up to the present the world has made him pay, as it did even in his own day, for the fact that he allowed himself to be confused with others, and that he treated the question of public opinion about himself with levity, with godlike levity. Already in the last days of his fame, the swine broke into his garden, and it is one of the ironies of fate, that we have to believe a Seneca in favour of Epicurean manliness and loftiness of soul—Seneca, a man to whom one should, on the whole, always lend an ear, but never give one's faith and trust. In Corsica people say: Seneca è un birbone.
- Your friend,
Nietzsche To His Mother - August, 1883
- Sils-Maria, August, 1883.
MY DEAR MOTHER:
I have received everything in the way of food and the necessaries of life—unfortunately, too, your letter, which made me feel very wretched. Really, these dissertations on Christianity and on the opinions of this man and that as to what I should do and ought to think on the subject should no longer be directed to my address. My patience won't stand it! The atmosphere in which you live, among these "good Christians," with their one-sided and often presumptuous judgments, is as opposed as it possibly can be to my own feelings and most remote aims. I do not say anything about it, but I know that if people of this kind, even including my mother and sister, had an inkling of what I am aiming at, they would have no alternative but to become my natural enemies. This cannot be helped; the reasons for it lie in the nature of things. It spoils my love of life to live among such people, and I have to exercise considerable self-control in order not to react constantly against this sanctimonious atmosphere of Naumburg (in which I include many uncles and aunts who do not live in Naumburg).
Let us, my dear mother, do as we have done hither to, and avoid all these serious questions in our letters. Moreover, I doubt whether our Lizzie could have read your letter.
My spirits and health have once more been very much impaired by the fact that the ghastly affair of last year is once more abroad and adding woe to woe. As to the ultimate outcome of it all, as far as I am concerned, ever since last August I have had the most gloomy forebodings. I am now working like a man who is "putting his house in order before departing." Don't say any more about it. I shall not either, and forgive me if this letter has turned out to be such a melancholy effusion.
- Your son,
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - August, 1883
- Sils-Maria, August 16, 1883.
Where do you get all these delightful Epicurea? I mean not only your Epicurea epigrams but everything reminiscent of the air and fragrance of Epicurus's garden that has emanated from all your letters of late. Oh, I am so badly in need of such things including that divine feat "eluding the masses." For, truth to tell, I am well nigh crushed to death.
But let me change the subject.
The fate of the Island of Ischia makes me more and more miserable, for apart from those features about it that concern all men, there is something in the event that hits very near home where I am concerned and in a peculiarly terrible way. This island was so dear to me; if you have finished the second part of Zarathustra, where I speak of seeking my "Happy Isles," this will be clear to you. "Cupid dancing with the maidens" can only be grasped immediately in Ischia (the girls of Ischia speak of "Cupido".) Scarcely have I finished my poem than the island goes to bits. You remember that the very hour I passed the first part of Zarathustra for press Wagner died. On this occasion, at the corresponding hour, I received news that made me so indignant that there will in all probability be a duel with pistols this autumn. Silentium! Dear friend!
Meanwhile I have drafted out a plan of a "morality for Moralists," and readjusted and rectified my views in many ways. The unconscious and involuntary congruity of thought and coherence prevalent in the multifarious mass of my later books has astonished me; one cannot escape from oneself; that is why one should dare to let oneself go ever further in one's own personality.
I confess that what I should most like at present would be for some one else to compile a sort of digest of the results of all my thought, and thereby draw a comparison between me and all other thinkers up to my time. Out of a veritable abyss of the most undeserved and most enduring contempt in which the whole of my work and endeavour has lain since the year 1876, I long for a word of wisdom concerning myself.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - August, 1883
- Sils-Maria, August 26, 1883.
How your letter overjoyed me once again, my Venetian friend! That is what I call "Lectures on Greek Culture" to one who needs them and not to an audience of Leipzig students et hoc genus omne!
For a whole year I have been goaded on to a class of feelings which with the best will in the world I had abjured, and which at least in their more gross manifestations—I really thought I had mastered; I refer to the feelings of revenge and "resentment."
The idea of delivering lectures in Leipzig partook of the nature of despair—I wished to find distraction in the hardest daily toil without being thrown back on my ultimate tasks. But the idea has already been abandoned, and Heinze, the present Hector of the University, has made it clear to me that my attempt at Leipzig would have been a failure (just as it would be at all German Universities) owing to the fact that the Faculty would never dare to recommend me to the Board of Education in view of my attitude towards Christianity and the concept of God. Bravo! This expression of opinion restored my courage to me.
Even the first criticism of the first part of Zarathustra that I have received (written by a Christian and anti-Semite to boot, and strangely enough produced in a prison) gives me courage, seeing that in it the popular attitude, which is the only one in me that can be grasped to wit, my attitude towards Christianity—was immediately, distinctly and well understood. "Aut Christ us aut Zarathustra! Or, to put it plainly, the old long-promised Anti-Christ has come to the fore—that is what my readers feel. And so all the defenders "of our creed and of the Saviour of Mankind" are solemnly mustered ("gird up your loins with the sword of the Holy Ghost"!!) against Zarathustra, and then it goes on: "If he conquers you, he will be yours and he will be true, for in him is there nothing false; if he conquers you, you will have forfeited your faith; that is the penance you will have to pay the Victor!"
Ludicrous as it may perhaps sound to you, dear friend, at this point I heard for the first time from outside that which I have heard from within and have known for ever so long, namely, that I am the most terrible opponent of Christianity, and have discovered a mode of attack of which even Voltaire had not an inkling. But what does all this "thank God!" matter to you?
What I envy in Epicurus are the disciples in his garden, aye, in such circumstances one could certainly forget noble Greece and more certainly still ignoble Germany! And hence my rage since I have grasped in the broadest possible sense what wretched means (the depreciation of my good name, my character and my aims) suffice to take from me the trust of, and therewith the possibility of obtaining, pupils. You will believe me when I say that I have not written a single line "for the sake of fame"; but I fancied that my writings might prove a good bait. For, after all, the impulse to teach is strong in me. And to this extent I require fame, so that I may get disciples—particularly in view of the fact that, to judge from recent experiences, a University post is impossible.
- F. N.
Nietzsche To His Sister - August, 1883
- Sils-Maria, End of August, 1883.
MY DEAR SISTER:
To-day, just as it was three days ago, the weather is perfectly bright and clear and I can survey with cheerfulness and confidence that which I have and have not achieved up to the present, and that which I still expect from myself. You do not know this, and that is why I cannot take it amiss that you should wish to see me on other ground, more secure and more protected. Your letter to _______ made me think a good deal, and the chance remark you made about my condition in Bâle having certainly been the best hitherto, made me think even more. I, on the other hand, judge the matter as follows: the whole meaning of the terrible physical suffering to which I was exposed lies in the fact that, thanks to it alone, I was torn away from an estimate of my life-task which was not only false but a hundred times too low. And as by nature I belong to the modest among men, some violent means were necessary in order to recall me to myself. Even the teachers I had as a young man are probably, in relation to what I have to do, only minor and transitory forces. The fact that I stood above them and contemplated their ideals over their heads—above all these Schopenhauers and Wagners—this is what prevented them from being quite indispensable to me, and now I could not do myself a greater injustice than to judge myself according to these contemporaries whom I have in every sense overcome. Every word in my Zarathustra is simply so much triumphant scorn and more than scorn, flung at the ideals of this period, and behind almost every word there stands a personal experience, an act of self-overcoming of the highest order. It is absolutely necessary that I should be misunderstood; nay, I would go even further and say that I must succeed in being understood in the worst possible way and despised. The fact that those "nearest to me" should be the first to do this was what I understood last summer and the following autumn, and by that alone I became filled with the glorious consciousness of being on the right road. This feeling may be read everywhere in Zarathustra. The dreadful winter, together with my bad health, made me forget it, and sapped my courage, just as the things which have happened to me during the last few weeks have brought me into the greatest danger—the danger of departing from my appointed path. The moment I am now forced to say: "I cannot endure loneliness any longer," I am conscious of having fallen to untold depths in my own estimation—of having deserted the highest that is in me.
What do these Rées and Lous matter! How can I be their enemy? And even if they have harmed me, I have surely derived enough profit from them, if only from the fact that they are people of such a different order from myself; in this I find complete compensation—aye, even a reason for feeling grateful to them both. They both seemed to be original people and not copies, and that is why I suffered their company, however distasteful they were to me. As regards "friendship"—until now I have practised the most severe abstinence (Schmeitzner declares that I have no friends, that I "have been left absolutely in the lurch for ten years!") In so far as the general trend of my nature is concerned, I have no comrades; nobody has any idea when I most need comfort, encouragement, or a shake of the hand. An extreme instance of this occurred last year, after my stay at Tantenburg and Leipzig. And if ever I complain the whole world thinks it is entitled to exercise its modicum of power over me as a sufferer—they call it consolation, pity, good advice, etc.
But men like myself have always had to put up with the same sort of thing; my purely personal trouble is my declining health, which makes itself felt by a depreciation of my feeling of power and by a lack of confidence in myself. And as, under this European sky, I suffer and am low-spirited for at least eight months in the year, it is a stroke of exceptional luck that I am able to bear it any longer. What I mean by luck in this connection is no more than the absence of such strokes of ill fortune as that of last year—that is to say, that no other stones should enter the works of my watch. For I might perish from the effects of small stones, because at present the watch is most highly complicated and the responsibility for all the most exalted questions of knowledge rests on my shoulders. In summa, to draw some practical conclusions from these generalities, remember, my dear sister, never to remind me either by word of mouth or in writing, of those matters that would deprive me of my self-confidence, aye, almost of the whole point of my existence hitherto. If these things affect and have affected me so much, ascribe it to my health! Cultivate forgetfulness and anything else new and quite different from these things, in order that I may learn to laugh at the loss of such friends! And remember that his contemporaries can never be just to a man like myself, and that every compromise for the sake of "a good name" is unworthy of me.
Written under a bright clear sky, with a clear mind, a good digestion, and the time—early morning.
- Your Brother.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - September, 1883
- Sils-Maria, Monday, September 3, 1883.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
Once again my stay in the Engadine has come to an end, and I shall leave here on Wednesday—for Germany, where there is much for me to do and to settle. If you should wish to write to me, direct the letter to Naumburg; there in my most natural frame of mind I will rest awhile and recuperate, in addition to eating a good deal of fine fruit. What I shall miss there, as everywhere, is your music. I believe that just as my work makes a stronger and more discomfiting impression upon you than upon anyone else, so everything that proceeds from you has a more soothing effect upon me than upon anyone else. This is indeed a fine relationship between us! May be it is the sort of relationship that might exist between a writer of comedy and a writer of tragedy (I remember telling you that Wagner saw in me a writer of tragedy in disguise); it is certainly true that on the whole I come out of it in a more Epicurean fashion than you do; for thus is the "law of things." The writer of comedy is of the higher species, and must do more good than the other, whether he wants to or not.
This Engadine is the birthplace of my Zarathustra. Only a moment ago I found the first draft of the thoughts incorporated in it. And one of the notes reads as follows: "The beginning of August 1881 in Sils-Maria, 6,000 feet above the sea, and at a much higher altitude above all human affairs." I wonder how the pain and confusion of my spirit affected the tone of the first two parts! (for the thoughts and the aims were already fixed). How strange dear old friend! Quite seriously, I believe, that Zarathustra turned out to be more cheerful and happier than he would otherwise have been. I could prove this almost "documentarily."
On the other hand: I should not have suffered, nor should I suffer still a quarter as much as I have done, if during the last two years I had not fifty times over applied the themes of my hermit theories to practical life, and owing to the evil—yea! terrible results of this exercise—driven myself to doubts concerning my very self. To this extent did Zarathustra wax cheerful at my expense, and at his expense did I grow overcast with gloom.
By-the-bye, I must inform you, not without regret, that now with the third part, poor Zarathustra is really going to be plunged in gloom—so much so, that Schopenhauer and Leopardi will seem like children and beginners beside his "pessimism." But the plan of the work requires it. In order, however, to be able to write this part, what I shall need, in the first place, is profound Heavenly cheerfulness for I shall succeed with the pathos of the highest kind, only if I treat it as play. (In the end everything becomes bright.)
Perhaps I shall work at something theoretical meanwhile; my notes for this work bear the heading:
- the innocence of becoming
A finger-post pointing to the deliverance from Morality. . . .
Remain ever true to your friend,
Nietzsche To His Sister - November, 1883
- Genoa, November, 1883.
MY DEAR LAMA:
The thought of being reckoned among the authors! that belongs to the things that make me tremble with disgust. But, my dear sister, just study "Dawn of Day" and "Joyful Wisdom" books whose contents and whose future are the richest on earth! In your last letters there was a good deal about "egoistic" and "unegoistic," that ought no longer to be written by my sister. I draw above all a sharp line be tween strong and weak men—those who are destined to rulership, and those who are destined to service, obedience, and devotion. That which turns my stomach in this age is the untold amount of weakness, unmanliness, impersonality, changeableness, and good-nature—in short weakness in the matter of "self"-seeking, which would fain masquerade as "virtue." That which has given me pleasure up to the present has been the sight of men with a long will—who can hold their peace for years and who do not simply on that account deck themselves out with pompous moral phraseology, and parade as "heroes" or "noblemen," but who are honest enough to believe in nothing but themselves and their will, in order to stamp it upon mankind for all time.
Excuse me. That which drew me to Richard Wagner was this; Schopenhauer, too, had the same feeling all his life. . . .
I know perhaps better than anyone else how to recognize an order of rank even among strong men, according to their virtue, and on the same principle there are certainly hundreds of sorts of very decent and lovable people among the weak—in keeping with the virtues peculiar to the weak. There are some strong "selves" whose selfishness one might call divine (for instance Zarathustra's) but any kind of strength is in itself alone a refreshing and blessed spectacle. Read Shakespeare! He is full of such strong men, raw, hard, and mighty men of granite. Our age is so poor in these men and even in strong men who have enough brains for my thoughts!
Do not form too low an estimate of the disappointment and loss I have suffered this year. You cannot think how lonely and "out of it" I always feel when I am in the midst of all the kindly Tartufferie of those people whom you call "good," and how intensely I yearn at times for a man who is honest and who can talk even if he were a monster [. . . . . ] , but of course I should prefer discourse with demi-gods.
But once again, forgive me! I am writing you all this out of the heartiest depths of my heart, and know very well how very good your intentions are where I am concerned. Oh, this infernal solitude!
- F. N.
P. S.—Stein is still too young for me. I should spoil him. I almost spoilt Gast—I have to be most awfully careful of my Ps and Qs with him.
To Rohde - February, 1884
- Nice, February 22, 1884.
MY DEAR OLD FRIEND:
I know not how it was, but when I read your last letter and especially when I saw the charming photograph of your child, I felt as if you were shaking me by the hand gazing at me sadly the while—sadly, as if you meant to say: "How is it possible that we should have so little in common now, and that we should be living as if in different worlds! And there was a time when—"
The same thing, dear friend, has happened in regard to all the people I love; everything is over, it all belongs to the past, it is all merely merciful indulgence now. We see each other still, we talk in order to avoid being silent—we still write each other letters in order to avoid being silent. Truth, however glances from their eyes, and these tell me (I hear it well enough): "Friend Nietzsche, you are now quite alone!"
That's what I have lived and fought for!
Meanwhile I continue along my road; as a matter of fact it is a journey, a sea-journey—and it is not in vain that I sojourned for so many years in Columbus' town.
My Zarathustra has come to an end in its three acts. You have the first, and the two others I hope to be able to send you within a month or six weeks. There is a sort of abyss of the future, something uncanny, particularly in his supreme happiness. Everything in it is my own, independent of all example, parallel, or predecessor. He who has once lived in its atmosphere returns to this world with another face.
But of this one should not speak. From you, however, as a homo literatus I shall not withold a confession: I have the idea that with this Zarathustra I have brought the German language to its acme of perfection. After Luther and Goethe there still remained a third step to be taken—just ask yourself, dear old comrade, whether power, suppleness, and euphony have ever before been united in this way in our language. Read Goethe after having read a page of my book and you will find that that "undulating quality," which Goethe as a draughtsman possessed, was not unknown even to the word-painter. It is in my more severe and more manly line that I excel him, without, however, descending to the coarse mob with Luther. My style is a dance, a play of all kinds of symmetries, and a vaulting and mocking of these symmetries. And this even extends to the choice of vowels.
Forgive me! I shall take care not to make this confession to anyone else, but once, I believe, you alone expressed the pleasure my style had given you. Moreover I have remained a poet to the utmost limits of this concept, although I have already tyrannized over myself thoroughly with the reverse of everything that could be called poetry.
Ah, dear friend, what an absurdly silent life I lead! So much alone, so much alone! So "childless"!
Remain fond of me; I am truly fond of you.
- F. N.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - December, 1885
- [December 10, 1885]
- Nice (France) Rue St. Frangoisde Paule, II, 26.
You may perhaps receive a letter that I addressed to you in Vienna (provided that you left, or intended to leave, your Annaberg address with the poste restante of the principal post office there.) After all, I marvel at the sort of "parallelism" that has characterized our experiences and zig-zag journeys this year—so much indeed that I almost rejoice at the thought, for, as the result of it all, I feel imbued with a general feeling of peace and gentle indifference, which I hope may be your reward also. At present there is not a soul in Germany who has an inkling of what I want, or of the fact that I want anything at all, or even that I have already attained a not insignificant portion thereof. There is not a soul who at heart is either well pleased, or anxious, or distressed, or anything whatsoever, about the "things" that I hold dear. But, after all, perhaps to be aware of this alone is an invaluable piece of insight, and with it one has approached quite near to Epicurus's garden, and above all to oneself—after it, one jumps with a mighty spring back to oneself. Let us continue to do that which we enjoy doing—that which gives us a clean conscience about ourselves; for the rest, silence or gloria, "as God may please."
Something must be discovered and thought out by means of which the next few years may be made secure and no longer full of dangerous accidents. In saying this it is you I have in mind, dear friend. It is quite proper that you should first try Carlsruhe. Whether you succeed there or not, you ought immediately afterwards again to look about you for a quiet haunt. I have come to the sad though obvious conclusion that the depression that would overtake you in the event of another failure ought to drive you to Venice as the only spot on earth that suits you. Although I allowed myself to recommend Nice to you in my last letter, I was quite well aware of the principal obstacle in the way of your coming, and of your reasons for fearing that you would not be enough of a hermit here. Bear in mind, however, that the four months that I probably spend here every year, only make up a third of the year, and, secondly, that for me these four months are precisely my working period, during which I keep out of the way of "mankind," and perhaps of friends as well; above all, consider that the friend you would find here is one with whom one can conclude a strict arrangement, and who takes an almost personal interest in all the conditions, whether of your work or your life. Besides there is this to be said for Nice: it is a place in which one can live the whole year round—you will find it much more exhilarating than Venice in summer, thanks to the cool sea-breezes at night. Nice is, moreover, from an aesthetic point of view, the reverse of Venice, as southern cities go; it seems to me to be worth your while to try it, just to see what the Muses, or the mistral, or the luminous heavens would have to tell you here. Thirdly, you can live more cheaply here than at any other place on the Riviera; Nice is a large open-hearted place, with attractions for all. Prices are naturally higher during the winter; they tell me that during the summer they fall 50 per cent. Nevertheless, even in the winter, I could recommend you some respectable restaurants, where your food would be such as you are used to having in Venice, but if anything cheaper and better. It is a heavenly blessing that you have not got the luxurious tastes of the majority of artists, and that your most estimable life also reveals the virtues of simplicity and thriftiness. Later on, of course, you will be a rich man, but the thing which is all important now is that you should be spared the care of this "later on." Your art requires that you should be free from worry; is that not so, my dear friend?
Nietzsche To His Sister and Brother-in-Law - December, 1885
- Nice, After Christmas, 1885.
MY DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER:
The weather is perfect, and so your "famous animal" must also assume a pleasant countenance, although it has had many a sad day and night. Christmas, however, was a regular day of rejoicing for me. At midday I received your kind presents, and lost no time in putting the chain round my neck; while the nice little calendar found its way into my waistcoat pocket. But the money must certainly have slipped out, if there really were money in the letter (and mother says there was.) Forgive your blind animal for this! I unpacked my treasure in the street, and something may certainly have fallen out, for I fumbled very eagerly for the letter. Let us hope that some poor old woman was not far off, and that she thus found her "Christimas stocking" filled in the street. I then drove to my peninsula St. Jean, ran a long way along the coast, and at last sat down among some young soldiers who were playing skittles. Fresh roses and geraniums adorned the hedges and everything was green and warm; nothing northern! Then your famous animal drank three quite large glasses of a sweet local wine, and was just the slightest bit top-heavy; at least, not long afterwards, when the breakers drew near to me, I said to them as one says to a bevy of farmyard fowls, "Shsh! Shsh! Shsh!" Then I drove back to Nice, and regaled myself in princely fashion at dinner in my pension. A large Christmas tree was also lighted up. Just think, I have discovered a boulanger de luxe who understands what cheesecakes are. He said that the King of Würtemberg had ordered one of these cakes for his birthday. It was the word "princely" that brought this to my mind.
- Ever your loving,
Nietzsche To His Sister - February, 1886
- Nice, February, 1886.
MY DEAR OLD LAMA:
Your kind and cheerful proposition has just reached me. If by any chance it could serve the purpose of giving your husband a good opinion of the incorrigible European and anti-antisemite, your utterly heterodox brother and "Jack-in-the-Corner"—Fritz (although Dr. Forster had certainly other things to think of without troubling about me), I would willingly tread in Fraulein Alwinchen Forster's footsteps, and beseech you to convert me into a South American landowner on the same lines and conditions. I must, however, stipulate most emphatically that the plot of land be called not Frederickland or Frederickwood (for, to begin with, I do not wish to die yet and be buried there) but, in memory of the name I have given you—Lamaland.
Joking apart, I would send you everything I possess if it would help to get you back here soon. Generally speaking, everybody who knows you and loves you is of opinion that it would have been a thousand times better for you to have been spared this experiment. Even if that country were found to be ever so well suited to German colonization, no one would admit that precisely you two ought to be the colonizers. The fact that you should be seems to be the result of an absolutely arbitrary choice—excuse the expression!—it is moreover dangerous, particularly for a lama who is accustomed to a gentle culture and prospers and capers about best in such an environment. The whole of this heating up of feelings, constituting as it does the cause of the whole affair, is too tropical and, in my opinion, not even wholesome for a Lama (or to speak more accurately, for the whole of our real family type, whose art lies in the reconciliation of contrasts.) One keeps one's beauty and youth longer when one neither hates nor feels mistrustful. After all, I cannot help thinking that your nature would prove itself more useful in a truly German cause, here in Europe, than over there particularly as the wife of Dr. Forster, who, as I thought once more on reading his Essay on Education, would really find his natural mission as a Director of Education at a place like Schnepfenthal—and not (forgive your brother for saying so) as an agitator in that anti-Semitic movement which is three-quarters rotten. The things most urgently needed in Germany at present are precisely independent Educational Institutions, which would actively compete with the slave-drilling education of the State. The confidence that Dr. Forster enjoys vis-a-vis the nobility of northern Germany, would seem to be a sufficient guarantee that a sort of Schnepfenthal or Hofwyl (do you remember?—the place where Vischer was educated), would succeed under his direction. But right out there, among peasants, in close proximity to Germans, who have become impossible, and are probably embittered and poisoned at heart—enough, what a wide field this provides for worry and anxiety! The big stupid ocean between us! and whenever, here, we get news of a hurricane, your brother grows angry and agitated, and cudgels his brains to discover how on earth it ever occurred to the Lama to embark upon such an adventure. I do the best I can to bear up, but every day, and more particularly at night, I am overcome by incomparable sadness—always, simply owing to the fact that the Lama has run away and has completely broken with her brother's tradition.
I have just heard from the Court Orchestra Conductor of Carlsruhe (to whom I had written a line to please poor G.) that my recommendation ("the recommendation of a man whom I admire enthusiastically") had prepossessed him most favourably towards the work, and while I am rejoicing over this news, it occurs to me that you will say, "He is of course a Jew!" This, in my opinion, proves how the Lama has leaped aside from her brother's tradition: we no longer rejoice about the same things. Meanwhile it cannot be helped. Life is an experiment; one can do what one likes, and one has to pay too dearly for everything. Onward, my dear old Lama! And may you face what you have resolved to face, with courage!
- YOUR F.
Nietzsche To His Sister - July, 1886
- Sils-Maria, July 8, 1886.
MY DARLING LAMA:
I have ceased to be in favour of the idea of living for good in Leipzig or Munich; life in such circles demands too heavy a toll on my pride; and after all, however much I "belittle" myself, I still do not attain to that cheerful and comforting courage and self-reliance which are necessary for the continued pursuit of my path in life—attributes which at all events spring into existence more readily in Sils and in Nice than in the places above mentioned. How many humiliations and acts of foolishness did I not have to swallow down during my last stay in Germany, and without my friends ever dreaming of anything of the sort! No—they one and all "mean well" by me. I endured hours of spiritual depression that I can remember only with a shudder. The humiliating experiences of the autumn of 1882, which I had almost for gotten, came back to my mind, and I recollected with shame the type of humanity I had already treated as my equal! Wherever I turned I was confronted by opinions utterly opposed to my own—to my great astonishment, however, not about Wagner. Even Kohde has refused to have anything to do with Parsifal.
Where are those old friends with whom in years gone by I felt so closely united? Now it seems as if we belonged to different worlds, and no longer spoke the same language! Like a stranger and an outcast, I move among them not one of their words or looks reaches me any longer. I am dumb for no one understands my speech ah, but they never did understand me! or does the same fate bear the same burden on its soul? It is terrible to be condemned to silence when one has so much to say [ . . . ] Was I made for solitude or for a life in which there was no one to whom I could speak? The inability to communicate one's thoughts is in very truth the most terrible of all kinds of loneliness. Difference is a mask—which is more ironbound than any iron mask and perfect friendship is possible only inter pares! Inter pares!—an intoxicating word; it contains so much comfort, hope, savour, and blessedness for him who is necessarily always alone; for him who is "different"; who has never met anyone who precisely belonged to him, although he has sought well on all sorts of roads; who in his relationship to his fellows always had to practise a sort of considerate and cheerful dissimulation in the hope of assimilating himself to them, often with success, who from all too long experience knows how to show that bright face to adversity which is called sociability—and some times, too, to give vent to those dangerous, heart rending outbursts of all his concealed misery, of all the longings he has not yet stifled, of all his surging and tumultuous streams of love—the sudden madness of those moments when the lonely man embraces one that seems to his taste and treats him as a friend, as a Heaven-sent blessing and precious gift, only to thrust him from him with loathing an hour later, and with loathing too for himself, as if he had been contaminated and abased, as if he had grown strange even to himself, as if he had fallen from his own company. A deep man needs friends. All else failing, he has at least his god. But I have neither god nor friends! Ah, my dear sister, those you call by that name were certainly friends once but now? For instance [ . . . ].
. . . Now I ought once more to give myself a little rest, for the spiritual and intellectual tension of the last few years has been too severe, and my temper has grown sharper and more gloomy. My health is really quite normal—but my poor soul is so sensitive to injury and so full of longing for good friends, for people "who are my life." Get me a small circle of men who will listen to me and understand me—and I shall be cured!
- Your FRITZ.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - July, 1886
- Sils-Maria, Tuesday, July 20, 1886.
. . . Assuming that you prefer a solitary visit to the places in question, allow me to send a few addresses where you can find cheap quarters. In Rapallo, for instance (whence you will be able to explore Santa Margherita and Portofino) I would recommend the cheap little Albergo della Posta, right on the sea-front, in which the first part of Zarathustra was written. Oh what a joy it would be for me to be allowed to act as cicerone to you there and in Genoa—and you would have to try all my modest trattorias! And we would climb about the gloomy bastions together and drink a glass of Monteferrato on my Belvedere in Sampierdorena! Honestly, I can think of nothing that would give me so much pleasure. This bit of Genoa is a piece of my past towards which I feel respect— . . . it was terribly solitary and severe. . . .
I have not quite settled down yet here in Sils; these sudden transitions do not suit my health. The printing of my book is oppressing me to the extent of becoming irksome. I shall have complete freedom (and leave to think of something new) only when I see the first finished copy—that is to say, in three weeks per haps. I had to make fresh plans for the fourth page of the wrapper (—I trust the agreement between Schmeitzner and Fritzsch will soon be concluded, provided that Schmeitzner never hears to what extent I am informed as to Fritzsch's intentions.)
How funny! However well one tries to beware of the emancipation of women—it is of no use! I have encountered another classical specimen of the literary female, Miss Helen Zimmern (the woman who introduced Schopenhauer to the English.) I believe she has even translated "Schopenhauer as an Educator." Of course she is a Jewess; it is amazing to see the extent to which this race now has the spirituality of Europe in its hands (to-day she talked to me for a long time about her race). . . .
- Your friend,
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - October, 1886
- About 400 metres above the sea, overlooking the street leading across the arch of Portofino.
- Ruta Ligure, October 10, 1886,
Just a line from this wonderful corner of the globe, where I should prefer to see you rather than in your present quarters in Munich. Imagine an island of the Greek Archipelago, arbitrarily covered with woods and hills, which owing to some accident one day swam close up to the mainland and was unable to swim back again. There is certainly something Greek about it; while it is also somewhat piratical, unexpected, covert, and dangerous in character. Finally when at a bend in the road one comes upon a little tropical forest of palms, which makes one feel very far from Europe, it is a little reminiscent of Brazil—at least, that is what my table-companion says, and he has been round the world several times. I have never lived so long in genuine Robinson Crusoe insularity and oblivion. Frequently too I have set great fires burning in front of me. To watch the pure restless flame, with its white-grey belly, rear itself against the cloudless sky with heather growing all round, and the whole steeped in that October blissfulness which is such a master in the matter of yellows. Oh, dear friend, such early autumn happiness would be just the thing for you, as much if not more than it is for me! . . .
- Your devoted friend,
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - January, 1887
- Nice (France), January 21, 1887,
- Rue des Poncbettes 29. Au premier.
. . . Ever since the spring of last year, Levi has made the best impression upon me. What I have since heard from another quarter, in Munich, has confirmed the fact that he has neither lost nor wishes to lose a kind of relationship with me (he calls it gratitude); and this holds good of all Wagnerians (although I cannot quite explain it). Seydlitz (now President of the Wagner Society) informs me that they waited for me in Munich last autumn with "feverish tension." Incidentally, in the Engadine, my neighbour at table was the sister of the Barber of Bagdad; do you understand this abbreviated expression?
To conclude—I have just heard the Overture to Parsifal for the first time (and in Monte Carlo!). When I see you again I will tell you exactly what it conveyed to me. Moreover, apart from all irrelevant questions (as to what the use of this music can or ought to be) and on purely aesthetic grounds; has Wagner ever done anything better? This music reveals the very highest psychological consciousness and certainty with regard to what it intended to say, express, convey; it selects the shortest and most direct means to this end, every nuance of feeling being carried to the point of epigram. As descriptive music it is so lucid, that to listen to it is to be forcibly reminded of a shield wrought all over with noble devices, and finally it is full of such a sublimity and rarity of feeling, of experience and of spiritual events at the very basis of music, that it does Wagner the greatest credit; it contains a synthesis of states which to many men, even "higher men," it would seem impossible to unite, and is of a commanding severity, of a "loftiness" in the most terrifying sense of the word, and of an omniscience and penetration that seem to transpierce one's soul with knives—and withal it is full of pity for that which it sees and orders there. This sort of thing is to be found in Dante, but nowhere else. I wonder whether any painter has ever depicted such a sad look of love as Wagner has given us in the last accents of his overture?
- Your devoted friend,
To Seydlitz - February, 1887
- Nice, Thursday, February 24, 1887.
- Rue des Ponchettes 29. 1st floor.
Fortunately your letter, as far as your own case is concerned, did not by any means prove quod erat demonstrandum; otherwise, however, I admit all you say, the disastrous effects of a grey sky, the prolonged damp cold, the proximity of Bavarians and of Bavarian beer—I admire every artist who turns to face these foes—not to speak of German politics, which are only another form of permanent winter and bad weather. It seems to me that Germany for the last fifteen years has become a regular school of besotment. Water, rubbish and filth, far and wide—that is what it looks like from a distance. I beg a thousand pardons if I have hurt your more noble feelings in speaking in this way, but for present-day Germany, however much it may bristle, hedgehoglike, with arms, I no longer have any respect. It represents the stupidest, most depraved and most mendacious form of the German spirit that has ever existed and what absurdities has not this spirit dared to perpetrate! I forgive no one for compromising with it in any way, even if his name be Richard Wagner, particularly when this compromise is effected in the shamefully equivocal and cautious manner in which this shrewd, all-too-shrewd glorifier of "reine Thorheit" has effected it in the latter years of his life.
Here in our land of sunshine what different things we have in mind! Only a moment ago Nice was in the middle of her long international carnival (incidentally with a preponderance of Spanish women) and immediately after it was over, six hours after the last Girandola, there followed some more new and rarely tasted charms of existence. For we are all living in the interesting expectation of being swallowed up—thanks to a well-meaning earthquake, which caused howling far and wide not only among dogs. You can imagine what fun it is to hear the houses rattling over one's head like coffee-mills, to watch the inkstands beginning to show signs of free will, while the streets fill with horrified half-dressed figures and unhinged nervous systems. This morning, from about two to three o clock, like the gaillard I am, I made a round of inspection in the various quarters of the town, in order to ascertain where the fear was greatest. For the inhabitants camp out in the open night and day, and it looks delightfully martial. In the hotels where there is much damage, panic of course reigns supreme. I found all my friends, male and female, lying pitifully beneath the green trees, well swathed in flannels, for it was very cold, and, at the slightest sign of a vibration, thinking gloomily of the end. I should not be surprised if this brought the season to a sudden conclusion. Everyone is thinking of leaving (provided of course they can get away and the railways are not all torn up). Already yesterday evening the visitors at the hotel where I board could not be induced to partake of their table-d'hote inside the house, but ate and drank in the open, and but for an exceedingly pious old woman who is convinced that the Almighty has absolutely no right to injure her, I was "the only cheerful being among a host of masks."
I have just got hold of a newspaper containing a description of this awful night, which is far more picturesque than the one your humble friend has been able to give you. I am enclosing it in this letter. Please read it to your dear wife, and bear me in mind.
- Your devoted
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - March, 1887
- Nice, Monday, March 7, 1887.
I have just had a visit from a philologist whose previous history has not been unlike my own—a Dr. A., brought up in the school of Rohde and von Gutschmidt and very much esteemed by his teachers—but passionately disgusted with and opposed to all philology. He fled to me "his master"—for he is determined to devote himself absolutely to philosophy, and now I am urging him to go slowly, quite slowly, to make no blunders, and not to allow himself to be carried away by any false examples. I believe I am succeeding in "disappointing" him. I heard incidentally from him, how even in the University of Tubingen, where I pass for the most negative of spirits, my works are eagerly devoured in secret. Dr. A. is half American, half Swabian.
The same thing happened to me with Dostoyevsky as with Stendhal; the most haphazard encounter, a book that one opens casually on a book stall, and the very title of which is unknown to one—and then suddenly one's instinct speaks and one knows one has met a kinsman.
Up to the present I have learnt little concerning his position, his reputation and his history; he died in 1881. In his youth things were pretty bad with him; he was delicate and poor, although he came of distinguished stock. At the age of twenty-seven he was sentenced to death, but was reprieved on the very steps of the scaffold, whereupon he spent four years in chains in Siberia amid criminals of the worst type. This formed the decisive period in his life. It was then that he discovered the power of his psychological intuition; nay more, his heart was mellowed and deepened by the experience. His reminiscences of this period "La maison des Morts," is one of the most human books in existence. The first of his works that I read was a French translation entitled "L'esprit souterrain," consisting of two stories: the first a kind of unknown music, and the second a real stroke of genius in psychology—a terrible and cruel piece of mockery levelled at γνῶυι σαυτόν, but done with such a light and daring hand, and with so much of the rapture of superior strength, that I was almost intoxicated with joy. Meanwhile, on the recommendation of Overbeck, whom I asked about the matter, I have read "Humiliés et offensés" (the only one that O. knew) with the greatest respect for the artist Dostoyevsky. I have also observed how completely the youngest generation of Parisian novelists are tyrannized over by the influence of Dostoyevsky, and by their jealousy of him (Paul Bourget, for instance).
I shall stay here until April 3, without, I trust, seeing any more of the earthquake. For Dr. Falb is warning people to beware of March 9, when he expects a renewal of the phenomena in our district; he also mentions March 22 and 23. Up till now I have remained fairly cool, and have lived with a feeling of irony and cold curiosity among thousands of people grown crazy with fear. But one cannot stand security for oneself and perhaps in a few days I shall be less rational than anyone. The element of suddenness, l'imprévu, has its charm. . . .
How are you? You cannot think what a lot of good your last letter did me! You are so brave!
- Your devoted friend,
Nietzsche To His Sister - March, 1887
- Nice, Wednesday, March 23, 1887.
MY DEAR LAMA:
It is now difficult to help me. When one has been at great pains for half one's life to secure independence for one's self, as I found it necessary to do, one has to accept the disadvantages of the situation as well. One cannot have the one without the other. Among these disadvantages is the fact that no one can tell from appearances what are the things I lack. I should like to have a little more money in order, for instance, that in the interests of my declining health, alone, and with the view of avoiding innumerable mistakes in dieting that I am exposed to in restaurants and hotels, I might have my own kitchen. It is also a question of pride; I should like to lead a life that really is suitable to me, and does not look so conventional as that of "a scholar on his travels." But even the five conditions that might make life endurable, and are really not pretentious, seem to me impracticable. I require (1) Some one to superintend my digestion, (2) Somebody who can laugh with me and who has cheerful spirits, (3) Some one who is proud of my company and who constrains others to treat me with becoming respect, (4) Some one who can read aloud to me without making a book sound idiotic. There is yet a fifth condition; but I will say nothing about it.
To marry now would perhaps be simply an act of folly, which would immediately deprive me of the independence that I have won with such bloody strife. And then I should also have to choose some European State, to belong to and become a citizen of it. I should have to consider my wife, my child, my wife's family, the place I lived in, and the people we associated with, but to forbid myself the free expression of my ideas would kill me. I should prefer to be miserable, ill, and feared, and live in some out of the way corner, than to be "settled" and given my place in modern mediocrity! I lack neither courage nor good spirits. Both have remained with me because I have no acts of cowardice or false compromise on my conscience. Incidentally I may say that I have not yet found a woman who would be suited to associate with me, and whose presence would not bore me and make me nervous. (The Lama was a good housemate for whom I can find no substitute, but it wanted to vent its energy and to sacrifice itself. For whom? For a miserable foreign race of men, who will not even thank her—and not for me. And I would be such a grateful animal, and always ready for merry laughter. Are you still able to laugh at all? I am afraid that you will quite forget how to do it among these embittered people.) Moreover I know the women folk of half Europe, and wherever I have observed the influence of women on men, I have noticed a sort of gradual decline as the result; for instance in the case of poor _____. Not very encouraging is it? I shall leave Nice at the beginning of next month in order to seek peaceful retirement on Lake Maggiore, where there are woods and shaded groves, and not this blindingly white incessant sunshine of Nice in the spring! The address is: Villa Badia, Cannobio (Lago Maggiore), but before this letter reaches you who knows where I shall be?
- With love,
- Your F.
Nietzsche To His Sister - April, 1887
- Cannobio, Lago Maggiore, Villa Badia,
- April 20, 1887.
MY DEAR LAMA:
Here I am in a magnificent spot, and every morning I marvel at the glory of the colouring. The noble cloisterly nature of the situation and the arrangements also pleases me—and yet I am so out of sorts that I feel as if I could no longer be heartily glad about anything. Nothing comes to me from the outside world to give me courage or strength. My fellow-boarders are incomparably tedious! In that respect I was better off in Nice this winter. There were a few people there who interested me. Our dear mother will have written to you all about it.
And now about yourself, my dear Lama! I was very much impressed by the purchase of this huge piece of land, "larger than many a German principality." But I must confess that I am absolutely at sea about the whole affair. If I understand anything at all, it is that the real owner of that vast complex of territory is that rich Paraguayan who is so friendly with Förster. This would not prevent him from wishing to serve his own interests by means of this "German colony." He is certainly bent on turning it to his own profit. Now the principal thing to me seems to be, not that the colony should be inhabited, but that it should do some business, sell wood, etc. For without that I absolutely cannot see how such a great outlay of capital can get its proper return.
Förster promised to invest a portion of your money securely either in Germany or in Paraguay; but, if I know my sister well, this last portion will certainly find its way before long into the pockets of those numerous paupers. I confess that they are my one bugbear; remember that if anything goes wrong they constitute a most unpleasant element with which to deal. Then they always believe that one has unjustly led them into trouble; whereas success and failure often depend on accidents. To tell you the truth, my dear Lama, your letters do not comfort me in the least. If we were situated as you are we should all write such contented and hopeful letters home—particularly to relatives. I have not written to you about it yet; but I am not edified by the whole affair. In my mind's eye, I can see these paupers, dependent upon your pity, pressing themselves covetously upon you in order to exploit your all too ready liberality. No colony can prosper with such elements; do not deceive yourself on that point. If they were peasants it would be quite a different thing.
Also please allow me to question whether you are so well fitted for colonizing as my brother-in-law so often affirms. Not long ago I was talking to one of your former friends and he declared that we did not even know what colonizing meant. It was an incessant struggle with the elements . . . and you were as well fitted for it as "lily and rose-branches would be for sweeping a chimney." A fine simile! but very sad for the Lama. Forgive this sad letter, but mother's anxiety on your account has infected me also. I believe she is feeling ill as the result of bad German weather; but the Lama in the atmosphere and the sun of the South holds her head up.
- With love and solicitude,
- YOUR BROTHER.
Nietzsche To Malvida Von Meysenbug - May, 1887
- [May 12, 1887]
- Address: Chur (Schweiz) Rosenhtigel
- Until June 10
- afterwards : Celerina, Oberengadine.
How strange it is! With regard to what you so kindly said to me at the last moment, I wonder whether it might not prove both refreshing and fruitful for us both once more to join our two solitudes in closest and heartiest proximity! I have frequently thought about this of late, and asked myself searching questions about it. To spend one more winter with you and to be looked after and waited upon perhaps by Trina herself that is indeed an extremely alluring prospect for which I cannot thank you sufficiently! I should prefer above all to return to Sorrento once more (δίς καί τοίς τὸ καλόν say the Greeks: "all good things twice or thrice!") Or to Capri—where I shall play the piano to you again but better than I did before Or to Amalfl or Castellamare. Finally even to Rome (although my suspicion of the Roman climate and of large towns in general is based on good reasons and is not to be over thrown so easily). Solitude in the midst of solitary nature has hitherto been my chief refreshment, my means of recovery; such cities of modern traffic as Nice or even Zurich (which I have just left) in the end always make me feel irritable, sad, uncertain, desperate, unproductive, and ill. I have retained a sort of longing and superstition with regard to that peaceful sojourn down there, as if there I had breathed more deeply, if only for a few moments, than anywhere else in my life. For instance, on the occasion of that very first drive we took together in Naples when we went to Posilippo.
Taking everything into consideration, you are the only person on earth about whom I could cherish such a wish; besides, I feel that I am condemned to my solitude and my citadel. There is no longer any alternative. That which bids me live, my exceptional and weighty task, bids me also keep out of the way of men and no longer attach myself to anyone. Perhaps it is the pure element in which this task has placed me that explains why it is that I have gradually grown unable even to bear the smell of men and least of all "young men," with whom I am not infrequently afflicted (—oh, how obtrusively clumsy they are, just like puppies!) In the old days, in our solitude in Sorrento, B. and R. were too much for me; I fancy that at that time I was very reticent with you—even about things of which there is no one I should have spoken to more readily than yourself.
On my table there lies the new edition (in two volumes) of "Human-all-too-Human," the first part of which I worked out then—how strange! Strange that it should have been in your respected neighbourhood. In the long "address" which I found a necessary preface for the new edition of my complete works there are a number of curious things about myself which are quite uncompromising in their honesty. By this means I shall hold "the many" once and for all at arm's length; for nothing annoys men more than to show them some of the severity and hardness with which, under the discipline of one's own ideal, one deals and has dealt out to oneself. That is why I have cast my line out for "the few," and this after all I did without impatience, for it is in the nature of the indescribable strangeness and dangerousness of my thoughts that ears should not be opened for them until very late—certainly not before 1901.
You ask me to come to Versailles—oh, if only it were possible! For I esteem the circle of men that you meet there (a curious admission for a German, but in present-day Europe I feel related only to the most intellectual among the French and Russians, and in no way whatever to my countrymen who judge all things on the principle of "Germany, Germany above all"). But I must return to the cold air of the Engadine; spring attacks me unconsciously; I dare not tell you into what abysses of despair I sink under its influence. My body (and my philosophy, too, for that matter), feels the cold to be its appointed preservative element—that sounds paradoxical and negative, but it is the most thoroughly demonstrated fact of my life.
This is by no means a sign of a "cold nature": but you, of course, understand that, my most dear and faithful friend!
- Always your affectionate and grateful friend,
P.S.—Fräulein Salome has also informed me of her engagement, but I did not answer her either, however much happiness and prosperity I may honestly wish her. One must keep out of the way of the kind of creature who does not understand awe and respect.
To Rohde - May, 1887
- Chur, May 21, 1887.
No, my old friend Rohde, I allow no one to speak so disrespectfully of Monsieur Taine as you do in your letter and you least of all, because it is contrary to all decency to treat any man in the way you do, when you know I think highly of him. If you choose to do so you may, if you like, talk nonsense about me to your heart's content—that lies in the natura verum; I have never complained about it or ever expected anything else. But in regard to a scholar like Taine who is more akin to your own species, you ought to have eyes in your head. To call him "jejune" is, to return to our student's jargon, simply frantically stupid—for he happens to be the most substantial thinker in present-day France; and in this connection it would not be inopportune to remark that where a man can detect no substance it does not necessarily follow there is none, but simply that there is none for him. In the harrowing history of the modern soul, which is in many respects a tragic history, Taine takes his place as a well-constituted and venerable type possessing many of the noblest qualities of this soul—its reckless courage, its absolutely sincere intellectual conscience, its stirring and modest stoicism amid acute privations and isolation. With such qualities a thinker deserves respect; he belongs to the few who immortalize their age. I enjoy the sight of such a brave pessimist who does his duty patiently and resolutely without any need of noise or stage effect—aye, and who can honestly say of himself: satis sunt mihi pauci, satis est unus, satis est nullus. In this way, whether he wishes it or no, his life becomes a mission, his attitude to all his problems is an inevitable one (and not the optional or accidental one that your own and most philologists are to philology).
No offence, I hope. But if I knew you only by this one remark of yours about Taine I believe that, owing to the lack of instinct and tact it reveals, I should thoroughly despise you. Fortunately, however, as far as I am concerned, you have proved your self a man in other ways.
But you really ought to hear Burckhardt speak about Taine.
- Your friend,
To Rohde - May, 1887
- Chur, May 23, 1887.
It was not nice of me to have yielded suddenly as I did yesterday to a fit of anger against you, but it is at least a good thing that it has all come out, for it has brought me something valuable in the form of your letter. This has relieved me immensely and given a different direction to my feelings against you.
Your remark about Taine seemed to me extravagantly contemptuous and ironical, and the part of me that revolted against it was the anchorite. For this part in me knows from an all too rich experience with what unrelenting coldness all those who live off the beaten track are dismissed and even dispatched. In addition to this, with the exception of Burckhardt, Taine is the only man who for many a long year has sent me a word of encouragement and sympathy about my writings. For the moment I even think of him and Burckhardt as my only readers. As three fundamental nihilists we are indeed irrevocably bound one to another, although, as you may perhaps suspect, I have not yet abandoned all hope of finding a way out of the abyss by means of which we can arrive at "something."
When a man keeps digging deep down in his own mine, he becomes "subterranean" or perhaps suspicious. It spoils his character—hence my last letter. Take me as I am.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - November 3, 1887
- Nice, Thursday.
- [November 3, 1887.]
Huge rejoicing over the newly published, revised, and amplified dressing gown! Oh, but how ashamed you make me feel! For every day I felt the need of this article of clothing, especially in view of the wintry weather we have been having this autumn, which is intensified by the northerly situation of my room which looks out on to the garden and is on the ground floor. Nevertheless, I did not dare to have my dressing-gown sent here, because I remembered its dilapidated condition much more out of keeping with Nice perhaps than with your more philosophical Venice. And I am not yet modest enough to show my pride by exhibiting my rags! Ecco! . . . . And now suddenly to sit so much embellished and so eminently respectable, in one's own room—what a surprise!
Everything seems to conspire to make this winter more acceptable to me than previous winters have been. For during previous winters I have been driven off my head not only from time to time, but constantly, habitually (and into Heaven knows what—possibly into the damnable writing of books and literature). I have just been to inspect the room that I shall occupy for the next six months; it is just over the one I have had up till now, and yesterday it was freshly papered in accordance with my bad taste—a reddish brown with stripes and speckles. Opposite to it at a sufficient distance away stands a building painted dark yellow, and above that, to exhilarate me even more, half the sky (which is blue, blue, blue!) Below me lies a beautiful garden which is always green and which I can survey as I sit at my table. The floor of the room is covered with straw; upon the straw lies an old carpet, and over that a beautiful new one. There are besides, a large round table, a well-upholstered settee, a book-case, the bed, covered with a dark blue counterpane, heavy brown curtains over the door, and one or two other things covered with bright red cloth (the wash-hand-stand and the coat-rack)—in short a nice multi-coloured mixture, but on the whole warm and subdued. A stove is coming from Naumburg, of the kind I have described to you. . . .
Even my brother-in-law has been good enough to write to me; we both do our utmost to mitigate the somewhat strained relationship (—he writes about "Beyond Good and Evil", which he had had sent out to him; I did not send it to him—for very special reasons). . . .
- Your devoted and grateful friend,
To Rohde - November, 1887
- Nice, November 11, 1887.
I seem to feel as if I still had to make amends to you for something that happened last Spring. And to show you how perfectly willing I am to do all I can, I send you herewith a copy of a work I have just published (but, perhaps, I owe you this book anyhow, because it belongs inseparably to the one I sent last—). No, do not let yourself be estranged from me too easily! At my age, and lonely as I am, I do not feel any too eager to lose the few men who had my confidence in the past.
N. B.—About Monsieur Taine, let me beg you to recover your senses. The coarse things you say and think about him annoy me extremely. I would forgive such behavior on the part of Prince Napoleon but not on the part of my friend Rohde. It would be difficult for me to believe that the man who misunderstands such severe and magnanimous spirits as Taine (who is the educator of all the serious scientific character in France today) could understand anything about my own mission. Honestly, you have never breathed a word to me that might lead me to suppose that you knew anything of the destiny that hangs over me. But have I ever reproached you for this? Not once, even in my own heart, if only for the simple reason that I am not accustomed to any different treatment from anyone. Who has ever approached me with even a thousandth part of my passion and my suffering! Has anyone even an inkling of the real cause of my prolonged ill health over which I may even yet prevail? I am now forty-three and am just as much alone now as I was as a child.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - November, 1887
- Nice, November 24, 1887.
I am enjoying a great blessing this morning: for the first time a "fire-idol" stands in my room: a small stove—and I confess that I have already pranced round it once or twice like a good heathen. Until today my life has been a blue-fingered frosty affair, on the basis of which not even my philosophy stood firmly on its legs. Things are pretty insufferable when in one's own room one can feel the frigid breath of death when one withdraws to one's room not as to a fastness, so to speak, but as if one were drawn back to prison. For the last ten days it has been simply pouring: the rainfall per square metre has been reckoned at 208 litres. This October was the coldest I have ever had here, and this November the rainiest. Nice is still rather empty and yet twenty-five of us sit down to dinner every evening—all of them kindly and wellmeaning people, to whom no objection can be made. . . .
. . . The fact that Rousseau was one of the first followers of Gluck gives me cause for reflection; for, as far as I at least am concerned, everything the former prized is a little suspicious, as are also all those who prized him (there is a whole family of Rousseau—Schiller belongs to it, and so in part does Kant; in France, George Sand, and also Sainte-Beuve; in England, George Eliot, etc., etc.). All those who have been in need of "moral dignity" fautede mieux have been among the admirers of Rousseau, even down to our darling Dühring, who had the good taste to represent himself in his autobiography as the Rousseau of the 19th century. (Just observe how a man stands towards Voltaire and Rousseau: it makes all the difference in the world whether he says yea to the former or to the latter: Voltaire's enemies—as, for instance, Victor Hugo, all romanticists, even the subtler latter-day sort such as the brothers Goncourt—are all favourably disposed to that masked plebeian Rousseau. And I suspect that there is something of the resentment of the mob to be found at the bottom of all Romanticism.) Voltaire is magnificently intellectual canaille; but I agree with Galiani that
- Un monstre gai vaut mieux
- qu un sentimental ennuyeux.
Voltaire was only possible and tolerable on the soil of a noble culture that can allow itself the luxury of intellectual canaillerie.
Observe with what warm feelings, what tolerance, my stove has already begun to permeate me!
I beseech you, dear friend, to be constantly mindful of this one duty; you cannot avoid it: you must once more by word and deed elevate severer principles to a place of honour in rebus muxicis et musicantibus, and seduce the Germans to the paradox, which is a paradox only at the present day: that the severer principles and more cheerful music are inseparable.
- Your devoted and grateful friend,
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - December, 1887
- Nice. Pension de Geneve.
- December 20, 1887.
. . . On all sides the chasm has become too great, and I have to have recourse to every possible kind of chastening influence in order not to descend among the men of resentment myself. The sort of defensive attitude towards me taken up by all those people who were once my friends has something annoying about it which is much more mortifying than an attack. "Not to hear and not to see" that seems to be the motto. No one made any response to the Hymn, except Brahms, and he wrote: "J. B. begs to present his sincerest thanks to you for what you have sent him, as also for the honour which he esteems it to be, and the great stimulus he derived from it. With his most respectful compliments, etc."
Only two letters came about the book; but they at least were very fine. One was from Dr. Fuchs, and the other from Dr. George Brandes (the most intellectual Dane of the day—that is to say, a Jew). The latter seems inclined to take me up pretty thoroughly; he marvels at the "original spirit" that is exhaled by my works, and sums up their teaching in the term "aristocratic radicalism." That is well said and well conceived. Oh these Jews! A few criticisms of my "Beyond Good and Evil," sent me by Nauman, show only ill-will: the words "ripe for the psychiater and pathologist" are meant to explain and censure my work at the same time. (Between ourselves, the undertaking I have in hand is so huge and so monstrous that I cannot take it amiss if people on reading my books should at times feel some doubt as to whether I am quite "sane.") . . .
. . . I am industrious but melancholy, and I have not yet recovered from the state of vehement irritation into which the last few years have thrown me. I am not yet "sufficiently impersonalized." Nevertheless, I know what has been done, and done away with: all my previous life has been ruled off at this point—that has been the meaning of the last few years. True, my existence hitherto has thus shown itself to be what it actually is—a mere promise. The passion of my last work has something terrible about it. Yesterday I read it with the most profound astonishment as though it were something new. Write to me, dear friend, and let me hear nothing but good news.
- Your devoted,
To Karl Fuchs - December, 1887
- Nice (France), December 14, 1887.
- Pension de Geneve.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
It was a happy thought on your part to write me such a letter. For almost involuntarily and in pursuance of an inexorable necessity, I am just in the midst of calculating how I stand with men and things, and laying the whole of my past ad acta. Almost everything I am now doing amounts to an underlining of what has gone before. During the last few years the vehemence of my inner vibrations has been terrific; and now that I must ascend to a new and higher form, what I most of all need is a new estrangement, a still higher form of impersonalization. At the same time it is essential for me to know what and whom I can still regard as mine.
How old am I already? I do not know, any more than I know how young I shall yet be.
I look at your portrait with pleasure. It seems full of youth and courage, mingled, as is only becoming, with incipient wisdom (and white hair?).
In Germany they are crying out aloud against my eccentricities. But, as they do not know where my centrum is, it is not easy for them to hit the nail on the head in their efforts to determine where and when I have been "eccentric" in the past. For instance in being a philologist I was out of my centrum (fortunately this does not by any means signify that I was a bad philologist). On the same principle, it now seems to me an eccentricity that I should ever have been a Wagnerite. It was an extremely dangerous experiment, and now that I know I have not been ruined by it I also realize what it has meant for me—it was the severest test of character I could have had. It is certain that one's inmost nature gradually disciplines one's whole being into unity; that passion for which for ages one can find no name saves us from all digressions and dispersions, that mission whose involuntary custodian we are.
It is very difficult to understand such things from afar. And that is why the last ten years of my life have been extremely painful and violent. In the event of your being inclined to hear anything more about this ungodly and problematic history, let me recommend to your friendly sympathy the new editions of my earlier works, particularly their introductions. (Incidentally, let me tell you that my publisher, the excellent E. W. Fritzsch of Leipzig, who has good reason for feeling desperate, is prepared to send copies of these new editions to anyone who promises to write a long article about "Nietzsche en bloc." The more important literary journals, such as Lindau's North and South are ripe for such an article, as a genuine feeling of anxiety and excitement is beginning to prevail concerning the importance of my literature. Up to the present no one has had the courage and inintelligence to reveal me to the dear Germans. My problems are new, the range of my psychological horizon is terrific, my language is bold and German. Possibly there are no books in the German language richer in ideas or more independent than mine.)
The hymn also belongs to this "underlining process." Could you not get someone to sing it to you? I have already been promised its production in many quarters (for instance, Mottl in Karlsruhe). It is really intended to be sung "to my memory" one day. It will survive as a souvenir of me, provided, of course, that I survive.
Do not forget me, dear doctor. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for wishing to remain my friend even in the second half of your century.
Nietzsche To His Sister - January, 1888
- Nice, January 25, 1888.
MY DEAR OLD LAMA:
It was with great pleasure that I read my brother-in-law's pæan on his "incomparable wife." I am proud of having brought you up—only very few women would have overcome those extraordinary difficulties with such bravery and unassuming cheerfulness. But please let us have a little less modesty! Do not forget that the herd insists on having picturesque people—that is to say, people who draw pictures of their gifts, aspirations, and successes in such bold and obtrusive strokes that they can be grasped even by the dullest eyes. The herd honours everything in the nature of a pose, any solemn attitude,—things from which we two are averse. Only subtle spirits understand the shame of the noble mind, that conceals its highest and its best beneath a plain surface. I feel certain that among all those people over there, only a few have any idea with what little regard for yourself and with what passionate resolution you try to realize your ideals. The only question I ask myself is—are these ideals worthy of so much self-sacrifice? I very much fear you will yet have to overcome many bitter disappointments in your life. Ultimately you will be come a sceptical old woman—without having lost your bravery; and you will be well suited to your sceptical brother. How we shall laugh then over the idealism of our youth—possibly with tears.
Now let me tell you a little experience I have had. As I was taking my usual walk yesterday, I suddenly heard some one talking and laughing heartily along a side path (it sounded almost as if it might have been you); and when this some one appeared before me, it turned out to be a charming brown-eyed girl, whose soft gaze, as she surveyed me, reminded me of a roe. Then, lonely philosopher though I am, my heart grew quite warm—I thought of your marriage schemes, and for the whole of the rest of the walk I could not help thinking of the charming young girl. Certainly it would do me good to have something so graceful about me—but would it do her good? Would my views not make her unhappy, and would it not break my heart (provided that I loved her) to make such a delightful creature suffer? No, let us not speak of marrying!
But what you were thinking of was rather a good comrade [ . . . ]. Do you really think that an emancipated woman of this sort, with all her femininity vanished, could be a good comrade, or could be tolerable as a wife at all? You forget that, in spite of my bad eyesight, I have a very highly developed sense of beauty; and this, quite apart from the fact that such embittered women are repugnant to me and spoil my spirits and my whole atmosphere. Much intellect in a woman amounts to very little as far as I am concerned, for this so-called intellect, by which only the most superficial men are deceived, is nothing more than the most absurd pretentiousness. There is nothing more tiring than such an intellectual goose, who does not even know how tedious she is. Think of Frau O.! But in this respect I must admit that Fraulein X. is incomparably more pleasant—but, nevertheless! You think that love would change her; but I do not believe in any such change through "love." Besides, you have not seen her for many years it is obvious that she must have changed in the direction of ugliness and loss of womanliness. Believe me, if you were to see her now—at her very appearance the thought of love and marriage would strike you, as it does me, as absurd. You can take my word for it, that for men like me, a marriage after the type of Goethe's would be the best of all—that is to say, a marriage with a good housekeeper! But even this idea is repellent to me. A young and cheerful daughter to whom I would be an object of reverence would be much more to the point. The best of all, however, would be to have my good old Lama again. For a philosopher, a sister is an excellent philanthropic institution, particularly when she is bright, brave, and loving (no old vinegar flask like G. Keller's sister), but as a rule one only recognizes such truths when it is too late.
Well, this has been a nice chat on marriage with the Lama. With many hearty wishes and greetings to you and your Bernhard,
- Your devoted F.
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - February, 1888
- Nice, February 1, 1888.
How close you have been to me all this time! What a tremendous deal I have thought out—both trash and wisdom—with you always as the principal figure in my mind! There has been a fine opportunity: the last drawing in the Nice Lottery. For at least half an hour I allowed myself the small and foolish luxury of taking it for granted that I should win the first prize. With half a million it would be possible to reinstate a number of reasonable things on earth. At least you and I would regard the irrational character of our existence with more irony, with more detachment—for, in order to do the things you and I do, and to do them quite well and divinely, one thing is fundamentally necessary, Irony (well, then, for this is the way the world reasons—half a million is the first premise of irony. . . . ) .
To lack not only health, but also money, recognition, love, and protection—and not to become a tragic grumbler: this constitutes the paradoxical character of our present condition, its problem. As for myself, I have got into a state of chronic vulnerability, against which, when my condition is slightly improved, I take a sort of revenge which is not of the nicest description that is to say, I adopt an attitude of excessive hardness. For a proof of this, look at my last work! Still, I put up with all this with the sagacity of an old psychologist and without the smallest moral indignation. Oh, how instructive it is to live in such an extreme state as mine! Only now do I understand history; never has my vision been more profound than during the last few months.
Dear friend, your physiological computation about the influence of Venice is perfectly right. In this place, where one is constantly hearing so many visitors and invalids discuss the idiosyncrasies of the effects of particular climates, I have gradually learned to grasp the cardinal truth of this question. In regard to the optimum, the realization of our most intimate wishes (our "works"), one must hearken to this voice of Nature; certain kinds of music can flourish no better under a wet sky than can certain plants. The lady who is my neighbour at table has just told me that until two weeks ago she had been lying ill in Berlin, that she had caused the doctors there a great deal of anxiety, and that she was unable to walk from one corner of the street to the other. Now—and she cannot account for the change in her she runs,—she eats, she is cheerful and can no longer believe—that she has been ill. As the same thing has happened to her three times in her life, she now swears by a "dry climate" as a recipe for all spiritual ailments (—for she had suffered from a sort of desperate melancholia). The fact that for years you should have found the effect of the climate of Venice (as a contrast to the climate in which you were brought up) very good for you and a sort of balm oil that calmed you down, is quite correct: I have discussed this vital question with doctors in the Engadine: namely, that a climate when tried as a contrast for its stimulating effect—that is to say when it is ordered only for a given period of time—has exactly the opposite effect when it is lived in for good; and that the inhabitant of the Engadine, under the constant influence of this particular climate, becomes serious, phlegmatic, and a little anaemic, while the visitor to this part of the world leaves it feeling braced and strengthened in all his bodily functions. Moral: You ought, therefore, to be (or have been) only a visitor to Venice. I am really sorry to have to say this and even to see it in the way I do; for so much there is arranged and ordered in such a splendid and suitable way for you that you could not find the same anywhere else. You might try Corsica? I have been told that one can find board and lodging in the small hotels at Bastia for three to four francs a day. So many fugitives from all lands have lived in Corsica (particularly Italian scholars, etc.). The railway line from Bastia to Corte has just been opened (February 1, 1888). The great frugality of the Corsican mode of life and the simplicity of their customs would make people like ourselves feel quite at home there. And how far away from modernity one would feel there! Maybe the soul would grow stronger, purer, and prouder there . . . (—I can see quite clearly now that one would suffer less if one were prouder: you and I are not proud enough. . . .).
- Your affectionate and devoted friend,
To Seydlitz - February, 1888
- Nice, Pension de Geneve.
- February 12, 1888.
It has not been a "proud silence" that has sealed my lips to everyone all this time, but rather the humble silence of a sufferer who was ashamed of betraying the extent of his pain. When an animal is ill it crawls into its cave—so does la bete philosophe. So seldom does a friendly voice come my way. I am now alone, absurdly alone, and in my unrelenting subterranean war against all that mankind has hitherto honoured and loved (—my formula for this is "the Transvaluation of all Values") I myself seem unwittingly to have become something of a cave, something concealed that can no longer be found even when it is a definite object of search. But no one goes in search of it. Between us three, it is not beyond the limits of possibility that I am the leading philosopher of the age—aye, maybe a little more than that, something decisive and fateful that stands between two epochs. But a man is constantly paying for holding such an isolated position by an isolation which becomes every day more complete, more icy, and more cutting. And look at our dear Germans! . . . Although I am in my forty-fifth year and have published about fifteen books ( among them that non plus ultra "Zarathustra") no one in Germany has yet succeeded in producing even a moderately good review of a single one of my works. They are now getting out of the difficulty with such words as "eccentric," "pathological," "psychiatric." There have been evil and slanderous hints enough about me, and in the papers both scholarly and unscholarly, the prevailing attitude is one of ungoverned animosity;—but how is it that no one protests against this? How is it that no one feels insulted when I am abused? And all these years no comfort, no drop of human sympathy, not a breath of love.
In these circumstances one has to live at Nice. This season it is again full of idlers, grecs and other philosophers—it is full of my like. And, with his own peculiar cynicism, God allows his sun to shine more brightly on us than on the more respectable Europe of Herr von Bismarck (—which with feverish virtue is working at its armaments, and looks for all the world like a heroic hedgehog). The days seem to dawn here with unblushing beauty; never have we had a more beautiful winter. How I should like to send you some of the colouring of Nice! It is all besprinkled with a glittering silver grey; intellectual, highly intellectual colouring; free from every vestige of the brutal ground tone. The advantage of this small stretch of coast between Alassio and Nice is the suggestion of Africa in the colouring, the vegetation, and the dryness of the air. This is not to be found in other parts of Europe.
Oh, how gladly would I not sit with you and your dear wife beneath some Homeric Phæacien sky! But I must not go further south (—my eyes will soon drive me to more northern and more stupid landscapes). Please let me know when you will be in Munich again and forgive this gloomy letter.
- Your devoted friend,
Nietzsche To Peter Gast - February, 1888
- Nice, Pension de Geneve,
- February 26, 1888.
The weather is sultry, it is Sunday afternoon, and I am very lonely. I can think of nothing more pleasant to do than to sit down and have a chat with you. I have just noticed that my fingers are blue, so my writing will be legible only to him who can guess my thoughts. . . .
What you say in your letter about Wagner's style reminds me of an effusion of my own on the subject that I wrote somewhere, in which I say that his "dramatic style" is nothing more than a species of bad style, or rather, no style in music. But our musicians call this progress. . . . As a matter of fact, in this domain of truth, everything still remains to be said—aye! I very much suspect that everything still remains to be thought. Wagner himself, as a man, an animal, a god, and an artist rises a thousand miles above the understanding and the lack of understanding of our Germans. Whether it is the same with the French I do not know.
Today I had the pleasure of being proved in the right over a question, which, in itself, might seem extraordinarily daring: to wit—what man up to the present has been the best prepared for Wagner? Which of us was most adapted to Wagner and most Wagnerian inwardly in spite of and without Wagner? To this question I had for some considerable time replied by pointing to that odd three-quarter imbecile of a Baudelaire, the poet of Les Fleurs du Mal. I had deplored the fact that, during his lifetime, this man was so fundamentally related to Wagner in spirit; I had marked the lines in his poems that were in any way redolent of Wagner's sensibility, to which no form has been given in the poetry of any other man (Baudelaire is a libertine, mystic, and satanic to boot; but above all Wagnerian). And what do I find today? On turning over the leaves of the recently published (Œuvres Posthumes of this author so highly esteemed and even beloved in France, lo and behold, in the midst of invaluable Psychologicis of decadence (mon coeur mis a nu, after the manner of those introspective writings of Schopenhauer and Byron that were burnt) what should I find but a hitherto unpublished letter of Wagner's relating to one of Baudelaire's essays in the Revue Europeenne, April, 1861. Here is a copy of it:
"My dear Monsieur Baudelaire, I have called upon you several times without finding you in. You will readily understand how anxious I am to tell you what a tremendous pleasure you gave me by your article that does me so much honour and gives me more encouragement than anything anyone else has said as yet about my poor talent. Would it not be possible for me before long to tell you in person how elated I felt at reading those beautiful pages that described to me—after the manner of the finest poem—the impression I may boast of having made upon a mind so superior as yours? Thank you a thousand times for the kindness you have shown me, and, believe me, I am proud to be able to think of you as a friend. May we soon meet!
- Richard Wagner."
[Wagner was then forty-eight years old and Baudelaire was forty. The letter is touching, although it is in such wretchedly bad French.]
In the same book there are a few sketches by Baudelaire in which in a most passionate manner he defends Heinrich Heine against French criticism (Jules Janin). During the latter part of his life, when he was half mad and slowly declining, Wagner's music used to be played to him as a form of medicine: and even when Wagner's name was mentioned to him, "he smiled with joy".
(If I am not mistaken, Wagner only wrote one other letter expressive of such gratitude and enthusiasm, and that was after the receipt of The Birth of Tragedy.)
(Extract from one of Baudelaire's letters: "I dare not write any more about Wagner: people have made too much fun of me. This music has been one of the greatest joys of my life: for full fifteen years I have not experienced such feelings of elation, or rather ecstasy").
How are you now, dear friend? I have vowed to take nothing seriously for a while. Even you are not to believe that I have once again written "literature": this essay was for myself. Every winter now I intend to write just such an essay for myself,—the thought of getting it published is practically out of the question. . . . The Fritzsch has been settled by wire. Spitteler has written. It is not a bad letter. and in it he apologises for his "impudence" (his own word).
- Nietzsche, sa Vie et sa Pensée, Vol. I. Les Précurseurs de Nietzsche. Par Charles Andler. (Paris, Bossard, 1920.)
- The son of Napoleon III was born on March 16, 1856.
- Nietzsche had been a pupil at the famous school of Pforta since 1858. Translator.
- "Lie a'bed day" (Ausschlafetag) was the day in the week on which the boys were allowed to get up half an hour later than usual (5 a.m. in summer and 6 a.m. in winter) in order to devote themselves to private studies the whole day (E.F.N.'s note.)
- The remarks were very harmless, for instance: "In such and such a lecture room the lamps burn so dimly that the boys are tempted to let their own brilliance shine." "The forms of the Fifth Form Room have recently been painted and manifest an undesirable attachment for those who sit upon them."
- The birthday of Martin Luther. Translator.
- He had just made Nietzsche his assistant. Translator.
- The fashionable colour at the time. E.F.N.
- The words in italics are in English in the original.—Translator.
- The Franconia was the Students Corps that Nietzsche joined.—Translator.
- This refers to Andreas Hofer, who led the rising of the Tyrolese against Napoleon in 1809. He was ultimately delivered into the hands of the French by a traitor, and Napoleon ordered him to be shot.—Translator.
- It was at Duppel that the decisive battle was fought between the Germans and the Danes (April, 1864).
- -This is the name given to a bibulous meeting of a German students Association.—Translator.
- This remark reveals Schopenhauerian influence.—Translator.
- Theognis, the aristocratic poet of Megara, awoke Nietzsche's interest even when he was still at Pforta.—Translator.
- The Masses.
- Few survivors in the unmeasured seas." From the famous verse in Virgil's Aeneid, I. 118.—Translator.
- "To differ from the opinions of others." See Aeschylus, Agamemnon 757.—Translator.
- The next best way.—Translator.
- "For what is man? A token of weakness, the spoil of time, the sport of fortune, the image of change, the plaything of envy and chance." (The translator has been unable to trace this passage in Aristotle.)
- A reference to the great battle fought between the Austrians and the Prussians at this place about nine months before this letter was written.—Translator.
- Athletic training.—Translator.
- See Genesis I., 31, "And God saw everything that he had made and, behold, it was very good."—Translator.
- If things are bad today, at some future time they may be better.—Translator
- This work is Louis Ehlert's Briefe über Musik an tine Freundin.—Translator
- This refers to a song beginning "Ach lieber Franz, nock einen Tanz" that Professor Ritschl when he was in a cheerful mood liked to sing in memory of his youth.—Translator.
- An expression in Ehlert's book above mentioned.—Translator.
- Grenzbote (frontier messenger) is the title of a review published in Leipzig. Its editor and contributors acquired the nickname of Gesunden (healthy ones) owing to their attitude of indifference to the more subtle manifestations of imaginative genius.—Translator.
- "Serious thing."—Translator.
- "Through my offices."—Translator.
- Ludwig II of Bavaria.
- "The biggest of Gods."—Translator.
- Blessed be the loving friend who has passed the trying but wholesome and toilsome exam." Goethe's Faust, I, Act 5.—Translator.
- A song sung by German students on leaving the University.—Translator.
- Another line of the same song.—Translator.
- A man who takes no interest in the Muses or Arts.—Translator.
- Goethe: Iphigenia, Act. IV. Translated by Hermann Scheffauer.
- The Grand-duchess Constantine had been a pupil of our father's.—E.F.N.
- He was so ill that the parson had come to prepare him for the end; he did not wish to tell us this, however. He always maintained that he had had cholera.—E.F.N.
- "What a noble pair of brothers."—Translator.
- The famous Bâle Professor, author of The Renaissance in Italy, etc.
- Goethe's Faust, Part II, Act III. Dr. John Anster's translation. (1864).—Translator.
- Translated and published in Vol. Ill of Dr. Oscar Levy's Complete and Authorized English Translation of Nietzsche's Works (T. N. Foulis.)—Translator.
- Gesundbrunnen, a suburb of Berlin.—Translator.
- Hans Sachs words in Wagner's "Meistersinger."
- Note by E.F.N.: "The touching letter from our dear mother is still extant in which she expresses her disappointment over the fact that after she had made all kinds of preparations, a letter came instead of her son."
- Vehmic Court, a secret body exercising jurisdiction in the Middle Ages.
- Amongst the Forbidding (severe) Foreigners.—Translator.
- Another book by Strauss.—Translator.
- The third of the "Thoughts Out of Season" Schopenhauer as an Educator.—Translator.
- The attacks of his German colleagues had emptied his auditorium.—Translator.
- Die Entführung aus dem Sérail," first performed in Vienna July 10th, 1752.—Translator.
- Siegfried Lipiner, one of Nietzsche's admirers, had sent Nietzsche his own poem.—Translator.
- "If things are bad today, at some future time they will be better."—Translator
- Note by Frau F. Nietzsche: "Strange to say, a bust of Voltaire reached my brother on May 30, accompanied by this anonymous note: L'ame de Voltaire fait ses compliments a Frederic Nietzsche. At that time the identity of the sender was an insoluble mystery; but in later years it struck me that it might have been that excellent young man Gersdorff."
- This is a reference to Peter Gast's constant assurance that Venice would prove beneficial to Nietzsche's health.—Translator.
- Note by Frau F.N.: "In the early part of May I received a letter from Overbeck begging me on my brother's behalf to go to him immediately, as he wished to leave Bâle for good. I found that he had changed extraordinarily since his stay with us the previous autumn, the chief cause of this being the very poor food he ate as a cure. We went together to Schloss Bremgarten near Berne."
- Note by Frau F.N.: "My brother received this pension which in all amounted to 3,000 francs per annum from July, 1879, to January, 1889. From that date the grant of 1,000 francs per annum from the Governing Board ceased, so that he received only the 1,000 francs from the Hensler fund and 1,000 francs from the Academic Society. As on various occasions Professor Overbeck had hinted that the payment of these 2,000 francs was considered a burden at Bâle, and my brother had felt uneasy about the matter from the very beginning, directly after our mother's death at Easter, 1897, I begged my sick brother's newly constituted body of guardians to write thanking the authorities at Bâle for their past kindness, and begging them to discontinue it, as I wished to take sole responsibility for the dear invalid."
- See Matthew, xxvi, 28.
- This is a playful variation of the Spanish proverb: "Detrás de la Cruz está el diablo."—Translator.
- Note by Peter Gast—Fires seem to have marked out Roman historians as their particular victims. Niebuhr lost the second volume of his Roman History in a fire which occurred Feb. 6th, 1830.
- An old German hymn: "What God achieves, is well achieved," etc.—Translator.
- Hence my tears.—Translator.
- Goethe frequently visited Marienbad.
- At about this time the transfusion of lamb's blood had become fashionable in medicine, only to be dropped shortly after wards.—Translator.
- A national dish of Italy. It is made with maize flour.—Translator.
- This refers to the "Dawn of Day" (Vol. 9 of the English Authorized Edition).
- This refers to a note that Hans von Bülow wrote to Gast, when returning the Ms. of a piece of Gast's music entitled, "Fun, Craft and Revenge," which Gast had sent him. Bülow did not even trouble to look at the music, and wrote in a strain which implied that he took Gast to be one of the imitatores out of the servum pecus Wagneri. The letter began: "R. W. is a phenomenon, and phenomena don't create schools." Gast thanked him for the information, and returned his letter, saying that he could not show his respect for Bülow more aptly than by regarding his letter as unwritten. Nietzsche agreed with this treatment of the matter.—Translator.
- The Conductor.
- "I have written for myself."—Translator.
- "To die or to live as I do."—Translator.
- Rudolf von Delbrück. the Leader of the National Liberal Party.
- "Degustibus non est disputandum." (About tastes people differ.)—Translator.
- See Dr. Levy's English Edition. Vol. XI, p. 90.
- Seneca is a rascal.—Translator.
- The gigantic earthquake on July 28, 1883.
- The Lou Ree affair.—Translator.
- And all that class.—Translator.
- Peter Cast, commenting on this passage, says: "It is one of the great ironies of Fate, that the same University which had once freely granted Nietzsche the Doctor's degree, could no longer offer him any position when, at a time when his importance seemed established in the eyes of many, he applied to them for admission."—Translator.
- Either Christ or Zarathustra.—Translator.
- It should be remembered that the pioneers of enlightenment always attacked Christianity on the side of its myths, its cult, its priesthood, and regarded Christian morality as unassailable. Nietzsche, on the other hand, attacks the morality of Christianity, and that for biological reasons; because he considers its effects ruinous to the race. Translator.
- *Note by Frau F.N.: "When my brother came to stay with us at Naumburg in the Autumn of 1885, it occurred to us to nickname him 'our famous animal.'"
- A kind of religious school.—Translator.
- "This was a mistake." Note by Frau F.N.
- Amongst equals.—Translator.
- Hermann Levi, Conductor of the Court Chapel at Munich.
- "Pure foolishness." This is a reference to Wagner's Parsifal. See my note on the "Pure Fool," page 96, of The Will to Power, Vol. I. Translator.
- "Unter Larven die einzige Fuhlende Brust." These words are a quotation from a well-known poem of Schiller's conveying the idea of a jolly fellow being alone amongst a lot of wooden creatures.—Translator.
- Speaking of Dostoyevsky, in a letter to Gast dated 13th Feb., 1887, Nietzsche says: "Do you know Dostoyevsky? With the exception of Stendhal, no one has given me so much pleasure and astonishment: a psychologist whom I agree with." Gast's comment on this is as follows: "Nietzsche's high appreciation of D. has been greatly misunderstood, as if N. had discovered similar lines in Dostoyevsky as in himself. This, however, is not the case. What N. admired in D. was his insight into the depths of certain human souls, his art and the subtlety of his analysis, and the collection of rare psychological material. N. felt that D. instructed him and enriched him as a psychologist, otherwise D. was repellent to his instincts."—Translator.
- "Know yourself."
- Amongst the so-called colonists there were numbers of people who had lost everything.—Translator.
- The chambermaid of Frl. v. Meysenbug.—Translator.
- The nature of things.—Translator.
- "A few are sufficient for me; one is sufficient, and even none."—Seneca Epist. Morales, 7-11.—Translator.
- Joseph Charles Paul Napoleon, Prince, who in his book "Napoléon et ses detractéurs" (1887), also attacked Taine.—Translator.
- This refers apparently to the great Swiss novelist Gottfried Keller.—Translator.
- By Moore and Murray.—Translator.
- Spitteler had published a review of Nietzsche's works in the Bund of Berne for the end of January, 1888. It was on the whole well meant, thought in regard to many points it revealed misunderstandings. Nietzsche was pleased with the review as such, although he did not conceal from the editor of the Bund the objections he had to it. When Spitteler heard of this, he laid the points in question before Nietzsche himself. Originally Spitteler's essay dealt only with Nietzsche's earlier writings; when, however, Spitteler became acquainted with the other works he asked the editor of the Bund to return his review which he then extended. This occurred a third time before the essay was finally published in January, 1888. ("Beyond Good and Evil" was never known to Spitteler, that is why it is not mentioned in his review.) This kind of imperfect acquaintance with and rapid discussion of an author's works seemed to Spitteler, particularly in regard to Nietzsche, even then a performance for which he felt he must apologize.