The New York Times/A Schopenhauer Letter Discovered
INTRODUCED by an article by Dr. Max Brahn of Leipsic in which it was noted that such finds were very rare, because of the fact that the great philosopher's correspondence was almost incredibly scant, a hitherto unpublished letter of Arthur Schopenhauer, the famous philosopher, was published in the Berliner Tageblatt of April 18.
The letter was in reply to a request by Ottilie von Goethe, daughter-in-law of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, that Schopenhauer aid her in trying to prevent the publication of some letters and diaries left by his sister Adele to Sibylle Mertens, which were liable to contain some data not exactly to the honor of the Goethe family.
It was written only a few months before Schopenhauer's death and read, with the omission of some unimportant parts, as follows:
We are getting old and are drawing together. Everything has died away around us, especially in my case, as I am ten years the older. We are living more and more in the memories of the past. In you I have one of the very few who knew me when I was young, and besides you have never lost sight of me and now bear witness that I have striven from my youth up to become what I now am, and you kindly observe, "How many try to do that and how very few succeed." This is due to the fact, in my opinion, that sensible deliberation and a firm will are not enough, but in the case of such as I there is an instinctive impulse, like a demoniacal urge, that guides them and keeps them at their post, careless of everything else. Thus we may live to see something in the end, if we know how to live to be very old.
That I should demand Adele's letters and diaries seems to me to be a matter surrounded with many formalities and not even entirely justified, as they certainly belonged to Sibylle, and indeed I should not know to whom to turn, as the heirs are strangers to me. If, however, you can get them through Gustave Mertens, I shall not regard it as any infringement of my rights. On the contrary, I hand them over to you, whatever they may be, and empower you to demand the manuscripts in my name, if you think that will be of any aid.
In regard to the letters and diaries of Adele, I should think you could console yourself. Any abuse of them is hardly to be feared, as they have been offered to the book dealers long ago. The flood of time sweeps over us, covers everything, and oblivion swallows it, with the exception of scattered reminiscences.
You know that I never was very sociable, and now I live more retired than ever. A couple of friends drop in now and then to see how I am and in Summer I receive many visits, "visite de curiosite" Michael Angelo called them. In the meantime, I still take my meals at noon and evening at the "Englishen Hof," where many persons see me who are satisfied with staring, although some introduce themselves to me. It brings the house a good many guests.
As you do a great deal of traveling, I hope that your route will bring you through Frankfort again sometime. Until then, think once in a while of your old friend.
- ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER
- Frankfort, April 27, 1860
Dr. Brahn writes that the letters and diaries that Ottilie sought never have been found and published.