Nietzsches letters


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THIS volume of Friedrich Nietzsche s private correspondence consists of a selection from the five-volume edition published in German 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 con fessed 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 con cerns 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 9 (“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 de nounced 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 cor respondence. 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. / 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 1 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



St. James s Street,London, S. W., 1.

August, 1921.



Naumburg, March 30, 1859


A 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. 1 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 Magde burg. 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 Ed mund, Theobald, Oscar, and to our aunts. Keep well and write frequent letters to your brother,


Pforta, 1 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 1 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. in. 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 per formance with a reading of the Piccolomini. Profes sor Koberstein chose the part of Wallenstein himself and read it magnificently.. Then “The Bell,” com posed 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 withthem.) 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 recita tion 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

“Lie aTbed 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.) 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 choco late. 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.



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 recol lections 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 Dres den 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 ac quainted 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 !



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 exer cise of a little humour, and I wrote out a list in which all my observations were couched in the form of jokes. 1 The stern masters, who were very much surprised that anyone should introduce humour into so solemn

The remarks were very harmless, for instance: “In such and euch 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. 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 care ful in future what I joke about.

To-day is Martinmas Day, 1 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.


SELECTED LETTERS OF Friedrich Nietzsche
Edited and Translated by CHRISTOPHER MIDDLETON


Middleton, C. (ed.) - Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche (Hackett, 1996)
ISBN 0-87220-358-1

This collection of more than two hundred of Nietzsche’s letters offers a representative body of correspondence on subjects of main concern to him–philosophy, history, morals, music and literature. Also included are letters of biographical interest which, in Middleton’s words, mark the stresses and turnings of his life. Among the addressees are Richard Wagner, Erwin Rohde, Jacob Burkhardt, Lou Salome, his mother, and his sister Elisabeth. The annihilating split in Nietzsche’s personality that has been associated with his collapse on a street in Turin in 1889 is described in a moving letter from Franz Overbeck which forms the Epilogue. Index.



Nietzsche has had an incalculably immense impact on European writing and thought since 1900. During the early 1930’s, when his thought was lending itself to Nazi distortions, Thomas Mann and Hermann Broch, among German writers, turned against him as a representative “bourgeois esthete” of the later nineteenth century. Mann connected him with the “guilt of the intellect, its unpolitical disregard of the actual world, surrender to the esthetic enjoyment of its own audacities. . . . In those secure bourgeois times, nobody realized how easily a people can be made to believe that there are no longer any iniquities which cry out to heaven.” 1 Nonetheless, Nietzsche’s nihilism was so symptomatic, his quest of the naked truth so
singleminded, his character as a writer and thinker so exhilarating, that Mann used him as a model for his fabulous artificer of the age, the composer Adrian Leverkühn , in his novel Doktor Faustus. This ambiguity is also found in Broch remarkable essay “Evil in the Value System of Art” ( 1933). Nietzsche may not be of this age, Broch wrote, since he was a creature of the bourgeois “estheticizing” nineteenth century. But his discovery and analysis of the problem of value are as crucial as Kierkegaard’s: they meant the end of an outworn metaphysics, and they anticipated “the immense tension between good and evil, the almost unbearably tense polarizations which mark this age and give it its extremist character, this pressure on people
to incorporate into their lives both the highest ethical challenge and a reality which has terrors that often surpass comprehension — so that life may be lived at all.” 2 A third writer, Gottfried Benn – whose Nietzschean fixation had made him a radio puppet of Nazi ideology at the time Mann and Broch were writing the sentences quoted — argued as late as 1950 that Nietzsche was in fact innocent of social and political crimes committed in his name: Politicians. . . are people who, when they get rhetorical, hide behind minds and behind intellectuals whom
they do not understand. . . . Yet it is a remarkable fact that, in a certain period of his work (Zerathustra) he was dominated by Darwinistic ideas, believed in the selection  of the fittest, the struggle for existence which only the hardest survive, but he took over these ideas for the
coloring of his vision, it was not granted to him to ignite his vision with the images of saints. He would certainly not have welcomed the blond beast who came out of this. As a human being he was impecunious, immaculate, pure — a great martyr and a great man. I might add: for my generation he was the earthquake of an epoch and the greatest genius of the German language since Luther…

Some of the letters:

To Erwin Rohde
Tautenburg, near Domburg, Thuringia [ July 15, 1882]

My dear old friend: It is no use — I must prepare you today for a new book of mine; you still have four weeks at the most before it disturbs your peace| 53 One comfort is that it will be the last for many years, for in the autumn I am going to the University of Vienna and starting again as a student, after the somewhat abortive earlier student years with their one-sided emphasis on classical philology. Now I have my own study plan and behind it my own secret aim, to which the rest of my life is consecrated — it is too difficult for me to live unless I do it in the grandest style. I tell you this in confidence, my old comrade. Without an aim, which I thought to be indescribably important, I would not have kept myself up in the light and above the black
torrents! This is actually my only excuse for the kind of things which I have been writing since 1876; it is my prescription and my home-brewed medicine against weariness with life. What years! What wearisome pain! What inner disturbances, revolutions, solitudes! Who has endured as much as I have? certainly not Leopardi. And if I now stand above all that, with the joyousness of a victor and fraught with difficult new plans — and, knowing myself, with the prospect of new, more difficult, and even more inwardly profound sufferings and tragedies and with the courage to face them! — then nobody should be annoyed with me for having a good opinion of my medicine. Mihi ipsi scripsi 54 — and there it stands; and thus everyone should do for himself
his best in his own way — that is my morality, the only remaining morality for me. If even my physical health reappears, whom have I to thank for that? I was in all respects my own doctor; and as a person in whom nothing stands separate, I have had to treat soul, mind, and body all at once and with the same remedies. Admittedly, others might perish by using the same remedies; that is why I exert everything in warning others against me. Especially this latest book, which is called Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, will scare many people away from me — you too perhaps, dear old friend Rohde! There is an image of myself in it, and I know for sure that it is not the image which you carry in your heart. So, have patience, even if only because you must understand that with me it is a question of aut mori aut ita vivere.
With all my heart, your Nietzsche

To Franz Overbeck
Venice, San Canciano calle nuova 5256 [received on May 2, 1884]

My dear friend Overbeck: It is at root very wonderful that we have not been estranged from one another during these last years, and not even, it seems, by Zarathustra. That I would be alone by the time I was about forty — about this, I have never had any illusions; and I know another thing too — that many bad things will be still coming my way; I shall soon discover the price one has to pay, to use the foolish and false language of the ambitiosi, for “reaching after the highest garlands”. Meanwhile I shall use and exploit the situation I have seized: I am now, very probably, the most independent man in Europe. My aims and tasks are more embracing than anyone else’s; and what I call grand politics gives at least a good standpoint and bird’s-eye view for things of the present. As regards all practical matters in life, I ask you, my loyal and proven friend, to guarantee me hereafter one thing — precisely the greatest possible independence and freedom from personal considerations. I think you know what Zarathustra’s warning, “Be hard!” means in my own case. My idea that justice should be done to every particular person, and that I should in the last analysis treat precisely what is most hostile to me with the greatest gentleness, is disproportionately developed and involves danger upon danger, not only for me but
also for my task: it is here that the hardening is necessary and, with a view to educating others, an occasional cruelty. Sorry! It does not always sound good when one talks of oneself, also it does not always smell good. With my health, it seems that I am over the hill. I shall spend the winters in Nice; for the summer I need a city which has a big library and where I can live incognito (I thought of Stuttgart — what do you think?). This year I am still thinking of going to Sils Maria, where my book basket is — on the assumption that I shall know better than last year how to defend myself against interferences from my sister. She has really become a very malicious person; a letter full of the most poisonous imputations about my character, which I received from her in January, a nice companion piece to her letter to Frau Rée, has made me see this clearly enough — she must go to Paraguay. For my part, I mean to break off relations with everyone who sides with my sister; from now on, there can be no half-measures for me.
Here I am staying in Köselitz’s house, in the peace and quiet of Venice, and am listening to music which is itself in many ways a sort of ideal Venice. But he is making progress, toward a more virile art: the new overture to the Matrimonio is bright, precise, and fiery. Your friend N.

To Peter Gast
Nice, Pension de Genève, February 26, 1888

Dear friend: Gloomy weather, Sunday afternoon, great solitude: I can devise no more pleasant occupation than talking a little to you and with you. I have just noticed that my fingers are blue: my handwriting will be decipherable only to him who deciphers my thoughts. . . What you say of Wagner’s style in your letter reminds me of a remark I found somewhere in writing: that his
“dramatic style” was no more than a species of bad style, even of non-style in music. But our musicians see progress in this. . . Actually everything remains to be said, remains even to be thought, so I suspect, in this area of truths: Wagner himself, as man, as animal, as God and artist, surpasses a thousand times the understanding and the incomprehension of our Germans. Does he surpass that of the French as well? Today I had the pleasure of finding the right answer, just when the question could seem extraordinarily hazardous: it is this — “who was most ready for Wagner? who was most naturally and inwardly Wagnerian, in spite of and without Wagner?” For a long time I had been telling myself: it was that bizarre, three-quarters lunatic Baudelaire, the poet of Les Fleurs du Mal. It had disappointed me that this kindred spirit of Wagner’s had not during his lifetime discovered him; I have underlined the passages in his poems in which there is a sort of Wagnerian sensibility which has found no form anywhere else in poetry ( Baudelaire is a libertine, mystical, “satanic,” but, above all, Wagnerian). And what did I find today! I was thumbing through a recently published collection ofœuvres posthumes by this genius -most deeply prized and even loved in France — and there, among some invaluable psychological observations relating to décadence (Mon cœur mis U+00EO nu, of the kind which in
Schopenhauer’s and Byron’s case has been burned) an unpublished letter of Wagner’s catches my eye, on an essay by Baudelaire in the Revue Européenne, April, 1861. I’ll copy it out for you: 136
My dear M. Baudelaire, I called upon you several times without finding you in. You will understand how desirous I am of telling you how much satisfaction you have given me with your article, which does me more honor and gives me more encouragement than everything that has so far been said about my poor talent. Would it not be possible for me to tell you personally in the near future how intoxicated I felt on reading these beautiful pages, which told me — as the best of poems does — what impressions I can boast of having produced on a being with an organization as superior as yours? A thousand thanks for your beneficence and permit me to say I am most proud to be able to call you my friend. Until our meeting, then? Tout U+00EO
vous, Richard Wagner. ( Wagner was at that time forty-eight years old, Baudelaire forty; the letter is touching, though written in miserable French.) In the same book I find sketches by Baudelaire for a passionate defense of HeinrichHeine against French criticism (Jules Janin). Even during the last years of his life, when he was half mad and slowly going to ruin,
Wagner‘s music was played to him as a medicine; Wagner’s name had only to be mentioned to him, and he would” give a smile of delight.” 137 (On only one other occasion, unless everything deceives me, did Wagner write a letter showing this sort of gratitude and even enthusiasm — after he had received the Birth of Tragedy.) more: people have laughed at me too much. This music has been one of the great joys of my life; for a good fifteen years I have not experienced such exaltation — or rather enlèvement“). How are you now, dear friend? I have vowed to take nothing seriously any more for a while. But you should not think that I have been busy making “literature” again 139 — this manuscript was for myself; from now on, I intend to make a manuscript for myself every winter — the idea of “making it public” is out of the question.
The Fritzsch question has been settled by a telegram. Herr Spitteler has written, not badly, apologizing for his “impertinence” (as he says). The winter is a hard one; at the moment I have everything I want except perhaps a divine and tranquil music – – your music, dear friend!
Your N.
There has not been a single reply from the newspapers and periodicals among which Fritzsch circulated last autumn an offer of my collected works for review. Overbeck’s father has died, at the age of eighty-four. Overbeck has gone to Dresden on this account — to the detriment of his health, I fear, which is giving him difficulties again this winter. Snowstorms everywhere, polar-bear humanity.

Unpublished Letters

Friedrich Nietzsche


Nietzsche, Friedrich - Unpublished Letters (Philosophical Library, 1959)
13: 978-0806530789

Discover the compelling private world of the most infamous philosopher of the nineteenth century in Nietzsche’s Unpublished Letters. With correspondence to Nietzsche’s inner circle―including several titillating letters to his sister―Nietzsche’s Unpublished Letters gives readers a never-before-seen look into the philosopher’s daily life. Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher and a founder of the Existentialist school of thought. He is famous for his controversial philosophies challenging Christianity, religion, and morality. Nietzsche was born in a small Prussian village in 1844 to a large Lutheran family, and his early childhood was largely marked by the deaths of his father and brother. Nietzsche attended the University of Bonn to study philology, where he discovered the philosophies of Arthur Schopenhauer and Immanuel Kant. He also formed a close friendship with Wilhelm Wagner, and with the help of Wagner, Nietzsche secured a position teaching philology at the University of Basel when he was only 24. This friendship abruptly ended in 1878 with Nietzsche’s book Human, All-too-Human. Shortly after, his health began deteriorating, and he struck up a nomadic, stateless existence during which he wrote his most enduring works, including The Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In 1889, Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown, and his sister Elisabeth cared for him until his death in 1900.


Because the beauty of the overman came to him as a shadow Nietzsche asked no longer for the gods. Instead he felt creatively impelled toward man. This he confesses in Ecce Homo. Creation, now, is definitely man’s concern. Whoever creates must also be harsh; he cannot show pity toward whatever feels the keen edge of the chisel. And Nietzsche did put the chisel and hammer to human flesh and spirit in his books, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, The Twilight of the Idols, Ecce Homo, and the others.
While thus in his volumes he addressed himself to man in general, in his letters he spoke to individuals, living persons known to him. And how different do these letters strike us from the books even on first reading. It is as if Zarathustra had become human, nearly all-too-human. In the letters Nietzsche is the typical university student, the devoted son, the shy and distant lover, the sensitive friend. So fragile is the delicacy of his tenderly reared friendships that he handles them like the choicest of Meissen China, never inelegantly in the manner of idol-smashers.
The Nietzsche of the letters is the man who abandoned the ruggedness of his mountain cave to seek, yes, frantically crave, the least stirrings of kindness, who may even be content with decency and plain courtesy. A great and healthy love, free of quasi Oedipus and anima complexes, had he experienced it, would have probably placed him in the seventh heaven and his heart and mouth would have uttered mellower and more pleasing prophesies. The Nietzsche of the great books which, to borrow a phrase of Thoreau’s, “do not allow themselves to be read” by everybody, had reasons to consider himself a destiny; the Nietzsche of the ever so gentle, quite perfect letters was a walking tragedy. And tragedy, despite its dark, unfathomable and mystic sides is closer to Everyman than is cold, cutting, irrational destiny. Thus, generally speaking, the letters constitute the easy introduction, the psychological guide to a personality which, nevertheless, remains vastly complex, gigantic, aleatory.
But this is only one recommendation for the letters…

Some of his letters:

To Malwida von Meysenbug
Naumburg, January 14, 1880
Although writing, for me, is forbidden fruit, you, whom I love and cherish like an older sister, shall nevertheless have a letter from me. It is probably going to be the last one! For the terrific and nearly incessant torture of my life makes me thirst for the end. There have been a few indications that the cerebral stroke which will release me is close enough on hand for me to entertain hopes. As far as agony and renunciation are concerned, I can compare my life in recent years with that of any ascetic of any period. Nevertheless, I have gathered much during these years toward the purification and burnishing of the soul, and need neither religion nor art. (You will notice that I take pride in this. Indeed, being completely forlorn has permitted me for the first time to discover my own resources.) I believe I have accomplished my life’s work, but like one to whom no time was left. Nevertheless, I know that I have poured out a drop of good oil for many and that I have given a large number of persons a hint of their own spiritual elevation, peaceableness and just sense. I am writing you this belatedly; really it should have been said when I completed my Humanity. No pain has been able and shall be able to lead me astray to become a false witness of life as I see it.
To whom could I say all this if not to you? I believe—though it is immodest to do so, don’t you think so?—that our characters have many similarities. For instance, we both are courageous, and neither adversity nor disdain can divert us from the course which we have recognized as the right one. Then, too, both of us have experienced within and without many a thing whose radiance few of our contemporaries have beheld. We are full of hope for mankind and offer ourselves as modest sacrifices,—is that not your opinion also?—
Do you have good news from the Wagners? It is now three years that I have heard from them: They, too, have left me and I knew for some time past that from the moment that Wagner would notice the rift between our endeavors, he too would no longer be on my side. Someone told me that he is writing against me. Let him continue, the truth must come to light in one way or another! I think of him with lasting gratitude, for I owe to him some of the most powerful stimuli to spiritual independence. Mrs. Wagner, you know, of course, is the most sympathetic woman I have met in my life.—But, to reverse my attitude or even renew our contacts, for that I am totally unfit. It is too late.
To you my dear, sisterly and esteemed friend, the greetings of a youthful old man who does not bear a grudge toward life even though he must long for the end.
Friedrich Nietzsche
To Lou von Salomé and Paul Rée
 (Fragment. Middle of December 1882)
My dear Lou and Rée:—Please do not be too much disturbed about the eruptions of my “megalomania” or my “injured vanity.” And even if I should, by chance, yielding to some impulse or other, take my life there would not be too much to be sad over. What concern have you with my whimsical ideas! (Even my “truths” have not concerned you till now.) Both of you please get together and ponder on this very carefully that, in the last analysis, I am touched in the head, half ready to be confined to the lunatic asylum, totally confused by my long loneliness.
I have arrived at what I call reasonable insight into how things stand after I took a tremendous dose of opium, out of despair. But instead of losing my mind, I seem to have at last come to my mind. By the way, I was sick for weeks, and if I say that for 20 days we had Orta weather here, I need say no more.
Friend Rée, please ask Lou to forgive me everything; she too is giving me an occasion to forgive her. Up to now I have not forgiven her.
It is more difficult to pardon your friends than it is to pardon your enemies.
There with Lou’s defense …
To Gottfried Keller
Ruta ligure, October 14, 1886
Highly Revered Sir:—Meanwhile I have taken the liberty, following an old liking and custom, to send you my latest book; at least my publisher Naumann was so instructed. Perhaps this book full of question marks offends your taste, possibly its form does not. Whoever has seriously and with a biased heart taken trouble with the German language must, it seems to me, mete out a little justice to me: It is quite an accomplishment to have sphinxlike and stillborn problems such as those raised by me, speak forth.—
Last spring my aged mother begged me to read her your epigrams and we both blessed you from the bottom of our heart (also from our full throat, for we laughed so much), for the taste of that honey was so pure, so fresh and gritty.
Permit me to express once again my loyalty to you and my veneration.
Prof. Dr. Friedrich Nietzsche
To Jacob Burckhardt
The 6th of January 1889
(Cancellation: Turin, January 5, 1889)
Dear Professor:—At long last I would much rather be a Professor in Basel than God. But I did not dare to carry my private egoism so far as to give up the creation of the world on its account. You see, one has to bring sacrifices, wherever and however one lives.—Nevertheless, I have rented a small student room opposite the Palazzo Carignano (in which I was born as Vittorio Emanuele) which also permits me to hear the splendid music in the Galleria Subalpina below me while sitting at my desk. I am paying 25 francs with service, am making my own tea and do all my errands myself. I am troubled by torn boots and thank heaven every moment for the old world for which mankind has not been simple and quiet enough.—Since I am condemned to entertain the next eternity with cracking bad jokes, I am occupied here with writing which leaves really nothing to be desired, is rather nice and not at all strenuous. The post office is five steps away. There I am posting my letters myself in order to play the role of the great feuilletonist of the grande monde. Of course, I am in close contact with Figaro, and to give you an idea of how harmless I can be, listen to the first of my two bad jokes:
Do not take the case Prado too hard. I am Prado, I am also father Prado, I dare say that I am also Lesseps … I wanted to give to my Parisians whom I love a new concept, that of a decent criminal. I am also Chambige—a gentleman criminal, too.
Second Joke. I send greetings to the immortals. M. Daudet belongs to the quarante.
What is inconvenient and hurts my modesty is that ultimately every name in history is I. With the children I put into the world matters likewise stand as follows. I have some misgivings as to whether or not all who get into “the Kingdom of God” also comefrom God. This fall I was present twice at my funeral, dressed as lightly as possible, first as Conte Robilant (—no, that is my son inasmuch as I am Carlo Alberto, my nature below), but Antonelli I was myself.
Dear Professor, you should see this monument. Since I am completely inexperienced in the things which I am creating you are entitled to any and all criticism. I am grateful but cannot give you the promise of putting it to good use: we artists are unteachable.
Today I went to see an operetta, genially Moorish. On that occasion I also made the pleasurable observation that now Moscow as well as Rome are grandiose. You see, even with respect to landscape you cannot deny me talent.
Just think, we will talk pleasantly pleasantly,—Turin is not far away, very serious duties in connection with our occupation are nonexistent at this time, a glass of Veltliner would have to be procured. Neglige in dress demanded by propriety.
Cordially and lovingly,
I walk everywhere in my student frock, here and there slap someone on the back and say: Siamo contenti? son dio, ho fatto questa caricatura
Tomorrow my son Umberto is coming with the lovely Margherita whom I also receive only in shirt sleeves.
The rest for Frau Cosima … Ariadne … From time to time we practice witchcraft …
I had Caiaphas put in chains. I too was crucified last year by German physicians in a protracted fashion. Wilhelm Bismarck and all anti-Semites deposed.
You can make any use of this letter which will not lower me in the esteem of the people of Basel.—

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