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 Tubingen, immersed in books and married life, and in every respect i accessible 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 is 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 futture.