Nietzsche, Rée, Salomé: a relationship triangle through letters

Lou Salomé, Paul Rée, Friedrich Nietzsche –
Nietzsche orchestrated a “photo opportunity” with Jules Bonnet (a famous Swiss photographer) and coreographed the mise-en-scène: Lou kneals in a small farmer’s cart, holding a whip, while Rée and Nietzsche stand in front of the cart, linked to Lou’s hand by ropes.


«Shall we make this shared need the basis of our friendship and hope to meet often? It would be a great joy and profit to me if you say ‘Yes’. Let us see, then, how much personal openness a friendship founded on this basis can bear! I do not find it so easy to promise this… But I wish from the heart to deserve your openness…»

– Nietzsche to Rée, March 1874


Bâle, January 22, 1875.

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,


(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.


«I am trying to achieve the ideal colony, the université libre) is in the air, who knows what will happen!»

– Nietzsche, letter to Marie Baumgartner, 14 July 1875.


To Freiherr Karl Von Gersdorff – 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.


«We lived together in the same house and moreover we had all our higher interests in common: it was a kind of monastery for free spirits

– Nietzsche, letter to Reinhart von Seydlitz, 24 September 1876.


To Madame Louise O. – 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,



«Have you found the little fairy woman, who will set me free from the pillar to which I am attached

– Nietzsche, letter to Malwida von Meysenbug, 3 September 1877.


«Everyone cares partly for himself, partly for others. Anyone who cares for himself at the expense of others is called bad (schlecht) and blamed; anyone who cares for others for their own sake is called good and praised. (…)

Egoistic actions that occur at the expense of others were originally condemned on account of their harmfulness; non-egoistic actions were originally praised on account of their usefulness (Nutzen). (…)

Holding others responsible is thus based (…) on the error of supposing that the human will is free (…). When we have understood the necessity of all human actions, we will no longer hold anyone responsible. (…)

The feeling of justice thus arises out of two errors, namely, because the punishments inflicted by authorities and educators appear as acts of retribution, and because people believe in the freedom of the will.»

– Paul Rée, “Origin of Moral Sensations” (1877), p. 76-77, 111, 115.


“To the father of this essay, most gratefully from its mother.”

– Paul Rée gave Fritz (Friedrich Nietzsche) one copy of his “Origins of Moral Sensations” with this inscription. Fritz called Paul’s thinking “Réealism”.


Richard Wagner to Dr. Eiser (Nietzsche’s doctor) – 23 October 1877

«In assessing Nietzsche’s condition I have long been reminded of identical or very similar experiences with young men of great intellectual ability. Seeing them laid low by similar symptoms, I discovered all too certainly that these were the effects of onanism. Ever since I observed Nietzsche closely, guided by such experiences, all his traits of temperament and characteristic habits have transformed my fear into a conviction. I do not have to tell a friendly physician any more details… (…) One can only say that the ophthalmologist that N. consulted in Naples a while ago recommend that above all he – marry


«He is called a free spirit who thinks differently from what, on the basis of origin, environment, his class and profession, or on the basis of the dominant views of the age, would have been expected of him. He is the exception, the fettered spirits are the rule (…)»

– Nietzsche, “Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits” (1878)


«I am quite beside myself with pleasure and have thrown myself about like a hungry bird of prey. The things that interest me most are bound up with a thousand personal recollections and associations in almost every sentence—it makes this [“Human, All Too Human”] the book of books for me. It makes me feel like someone who experiences something that he has previously dreamed—everything that he has already at some time or other experienced, heard or read—just as I have already heard so much from your mouth or read in the Sorrento manuscript—but it was then half forgotten, like the memory of a dream, and now it stands as a living reality before me. And what a reality! I see my own self projected externally on a greater scale.»

– Rée, letter to Nietzsche, 10 May 1878


«‘By the way, look for only me in my book and not my friend Rée. I am proud to have discovered his fine qualities and goals, but he has had not the slightest influence on the conception of my “philosophia in nuce”: it was ready and in large part committed to paper when I made his closer acquaintance in autumn 1876.»

– Nietzsche, letter to Rohde, late June 1878.


Nietzsche To Malvida Von Meysenbug – 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 His Sister – 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!




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[70] (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.


«To the poet and sage, all things are friendly and sacred, all experiences profitable, all days holy, all men divine.»

– Nietzsche, “The Gay Science” (1882).


«I need a young person around me who is intelligent and educated enough to be able to work with me. I would even agree to two years of marriage for this purpose – in which case, of course, a few additional considerations would apply.»

– Nietzsche, letter to Overbeck, March 17, 1882.


Genoa, March 21, 1882: Letter to Paul Rée

My dear friend, how much pleasure your letters give me! They take me off in all directions, and  in the end always back to you. (…)

Give my regards to this Russian lady [Lou Salomé] if this makes any sense: I am yearning for this kind of soul, nay, I will have to resort to robbing one, soon – in light of what I want to do within the next ten years, I need such a soul. Quite another chapter is marriage – I could only agree to a two-year marriage, and this only in view of the fact what I plan on doing during the next ten years

Your faithful friend,

 – Nietzsche, reply to Paul Rée before meeting Lou, March 21st 1882 (KSB, 6, No. 215, p. 185f).


«I recall this solemnity from the outset of our very first meeting that took place in St. Peter’s Basilica where Paul Ree, in a confessional booth that was favorably located with respect to its exposure to light, was eagerly and devotedly poring over his research notes, and where Nietzsche was therefore directed to. His first words addressed to me in greeting were: ‘From what stars have we fallen to meet here?’ (…)

After we had left Italy, Nietzsche went to Basle for a brief spell to see Overbeck, joined us there, however, once again at Lucerne, since Paul Rée’s Roman intervention on his behalf did not appear satisfactory to him and since he, therefore, wanted to speak to me personally, which happened at the Lucerne Löwengarten. At the same time, Nietzsche also arranged for the three of us to the photographed, despite Paul Rée’s objections, who, heretofore, had misgivings with respect to having a picture taken of him. Nietzsche, in high spirits, not only insisted on it, but also eagerly and enthusiastically looked after the details of this undertaking – as for example, after obtaining the (too small) car and even after the tacky lilac branch that was attached to the whip, etc.»

 – Lou Salome, Lebensrückblick, p. 80-81


«I remember that, when I spoke with Nietzsche for the first time, – it was on a spring day in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome – his deliberately-formal behavior of the first moments fooled and flabbergasted me. (..)

To me the hours are unforgettable in which he first confided it [the eternal return] to me, as a secret, as something he unspeakably dreaded to see verified (…): only with a soft voice and with all signs of the deepest horror did he speak of it.»

 – Lou Salome, Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken


Naumburg, shortly after May 24, 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

Dear friend Lou,

The nightingales sing all night long outside my window.— In every respect Rée is a better friend than I am or can be; note well this distinction between the two of us!— When I’m all alone, I often, very often, say your name aloud—to my very great pleasure!

Your F. N.


Naumburg on the Saale, Pentecost, 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

My dear friend Lou, I shall explain to you when we are next able to talk about “friends” and our friend Rée especially: I know very well what I’m saying when I take him to be a better friend than I am or can be.— Oh, that naughty photographer! And yet: what a lovely silhouette perches there on that delightful little cart! [Image above: Salomé, Rée, Nietzsche; photo by Jules Bonnet.]

Heartfelt greetings,
Your F. N.


Naumburg on the Saale, Pentecost, 28th of May 1882: Letter to Ida Overbeck

Esteemed Frau Professor

[…] How could I fear fate particularly when it appears before me in the unexpected figure of Lou? Consider the fact that Rée and I share the identical feelings toward our brave and valiant friend and that he and I have enormous trust in one another also on this point. We are not among the silliest or the most puerile human beings. Fräulein Lou will arrive at your place this Tuesday. Speak about me with every liberty. You know and can guess what is necessary in order for me to attain my goal. You also know that I am not a man of deeds, and that I unfortunately remain behind my best intentions. Also, I am, because of the aforementioned goal, an evil egoist, and our friend Rée is in every respect a better friend than I (which Lou does not believe).

In Naumburg I have until now kept quiet about these new developments. Nevertheless, that will be impracticable in the long run, if only because my sister and Rée’s mother are in contact with one another. And yet I want to keep my own mother “out of the game”—she already has enough cares to bear—why yet another unnecessary one?

In gratitude and fidelity,
Your F.N.


Naumburg, May 29, 1882: Letter to Paul Rée

I often laugh about our Pythagorean friendship, with its very rare filoiV koina. It gives me a better conception of myself to be really capable of such a friendship.— Yet it is still something to laugh about, isn’t it?

Lots of love,
Your F. N.


«I just thought (I really ought to be thinking about ‘the origin of conscience in the individual,’ but, dammit, I am always thinking about Lou) that in my relationship to Nietzsche I am not altogether frank and honest, especially since a certain little girl from abroad appeared. But entirely frank, as I am with you, I never was with him, and I am with nobody in the whole world; only with one person besides you, in the past. Now it is true, to be sure, that one can have several friends . . . But with me that is after all not the case. I am wholly friends only with you, and that is how it shall remain. It does not offend my conscience when I dissemble a little and behave a little falsely, a little mendaciously and deceitfully against somebody, excepting you…»

– Rée wrote Lou, probably in late May 1882.


«I have spoken with Fräulein S[alomé], and what I had planned on saying was in accordance with directives that Nietzsche had imparted to me in letters just before her arrival. First, I established her position towards her family. She is fully independent both financially and legally, and must consider bourgeois prejudices in order to satisfy her drive toward knowledge and wisdom. A tendency toward adventure does not appear to be present in her, but rather much beautiful and generous femininity. I made her aware of the difficulty of the task she had set for herself. (…)

[Lou] has a sense of Nietzsche’s ambiguous essence, which is probably hers as well.»

– Ida Overbeck wrote in her journal on June 2, 1882.


Naumburg, ca. June 5, 1882: Letter to Franz Overbeck

My dear Friend,

By the bye, I am possessed of a fatalistic “trust in the Lord”—I call it amor fati—so much so that I’d put my head in a lion’s mouth, not to mention —

With regard to the summer, our plans are still altogether unsettled.

In Naumburg mum’s still the word. With regard to my sister, I am quite resolved to keep her out of it; she could only confuse matters (and confuse herself first of all).

F. N.


Naumberg, June 10, 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

Yes, my dear friend, remote as I am, I do not overlook the people who must of necessity be initiated into what we intend; but I think we should firmly decide to initiate only the necessary persons. I love the hiddenness of life and heartily wish that you and I should not become subjects of European gossip.

Moreover, I connect such high hopes with our plans for living together that all necessary or accidental side-effects make little impression on me now; and whatever happens, we shall endure it together and throw the whole bag of troubles overboard every evening together, shall we not?

Your words about Frl. von Meysenbug have made me decide to write her a letter soon.

Let me know how you plan to arrange your time after Bayreuth, and on what assistance of mine you will be counting. At present, I badly need mountains and forests — not only my health, but also Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, are driving me into solitude. I want to finish.

Will it suit you if I leave now for Salzburg (or Berchtesgaden), thus on the way to Vienna?

When we are together I shall write something for you in the book I am sending..

Lastly, I am inexperienced and unpracticed in all matters of action; and for years I have not had to explain or justify myself to others in anything I have done. I like to keep my plans secret; let everyone talk of the things I have done as much as they please! Yet nature gave each being various defensive weapons — and to you she gave your glorious frankness of will. Pindar says somewhere, “Become the being you are“!

Loyally and devotedly, F. N.


Naumburg, presumably June 10, 1882: Letter to Paul Rée

With regard to our project for the winter, I must plead with you to be absolutely silent to everyone about everything: we shouldn’t say a word about whatever is to come. As soon as something is uttered too soon you can be sure that there will be opponents and counterproposals: the danger is not a slight one.— I’ve noticed unfortunately that it is difficult for me to live incognito in Germany. Thüringen I’ve given up on altogether. Adieu!

Your F. N.


Naumburg, June 18, 1882: Letter to Paul Rée

In spite of everything I am full of confidence in this year and its enigmatic toss of the dice for my fate. I won’t travel to Berchtesgaden and in general am no longer in any condition to undertake anything alone. In Berlin I was like a lost penny—which I myself had dropped but thanks to my eyes couldn’t find although it lay right at my feet, so that all the passersby laughed.


Heartfelt greetings,
Your friend N.


Tautenburg, Monday June 26, 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

My dear Friend,

A half-hour from Fortress Thorn, where the elderly Goethe enjoyed his solitude in the midst of lovely forests, lies Tautenburg. Here my good sister has arranged an idyllic little nest that is to enfold me this summer. Yesterday I took possession of it. Tomorrow my sister will depart and I shall be alone. Yet we’ve agreed to something that perhaps will occasion her return. Granted, that is, that you have no better way to spend the month of August and would find it fitting and meet to live with me here in the woods; in that case my sister would conduct you hither from Bayreuth and live with you here (for example, in the house of the local pastor, where she is now staying: the community has a good selection of lovely and inexpensive lodgings). My sister, whom you may ask Rée about, would need a great deal of solitude during this period in order to brood on her little novella-egg. She is mightily pleased by the thought of being in your and my proximity.— So! And now, let us be upright “unto death”! My dear friend! I am committed to nothing here and could quite easily alter my plans in case you have other plans. And if I am not to be together with you, then simply tell me so—and you don’t even need to give any reasons! I trust you implicitly: but you know that.—

If we get along well together, then so will our states of health, and in some secret way this visit will do us both good. Prior to this, I’ve never thought that you might “read aloud and write” for me; but what I very much wish to be permitted to be is your teacher. Finally, to tell the whole truth: I am now seeking the human beings who could be my inheritors; I bear about me some things that are not to be read in my books—and for these things I am searching for the finest, most fertile soil.

You see my selfishness!—

Every time I think on the threats to your health and your very life, as I do again and again, my soul is filled with tenderness; I don’t know if anything else could bring me so quickly to your side.— And then I’m ever so happy to know that you have Rée, and not only me, as a friend. It is a genuine pleasure for me to think of walks and talks together with the two of you.—

The Grunewald was far too sunny for my eyes, anyway.

My address is: Tautenburg near Dornburg, Thüringen.

Yours faithfully,
Friend Nietzsche.


Tautenburg, June 27/28 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

Dear Friend,

In the meantime I have imparted everything that has to do with you to my sister. So now you believe that my keeping hush-hush was unnecessary? I analyzed it today and came up with the ultimate grounds: mistrust vis-à-vis myself. For the happenstance that I have won to myself a “new human being” has tossed me head over heels—as a consequence of my all-too-stringent solitude, my efforts to renounce all love and friendship. I had to be silent, because to speak of you would each time have tossed me higgledypiggledy (it happened to me when I was with the good Overbecks). Now, I’m telling you this so that you can laugh. With me things always go human-all-too-humanly, and my folly waxes with my wisdom.

Devotedly yours and Friend Rée’s
F. N.


Tautenburg, July 3, 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

My dear friend,

How bright the sky above me is now! Yesterday at noon it was like a birthday party around here: you said yes, the loveliest gift anyone could have given me at this moment; my sister sent cherries; Teubner [Nietzsche’s printer in Leipzig] sent the first three proof sheets of The Gay Science; on top of all that, I had just finished the very last part of the manuscript, thus ending six years’ work (1876-1882)—all my “free-spiritedness.” Oh what years! What tortures of every kind, what periods of loneliness, of disgust with life! And as an antidote to all that, to both death and life, as it were, I brewed my own potion, those ideas of mine with their little patches of unclouded sky above them:—oh dear friend, whenever I think of all that I feel shattered and touched, and cannot understand how it could possibly have succeeded: self-compassion and a triumphant feeling permeate me. For it is a victory, and a total one—even my physical health has returned, I have no idea how, and everyone tells me I look younger than ever. Heaven protect me from follies!— But from now on, when you advise me, I shall be well advised and need have no fear. —

As far as the coming winter is concerned, I have seriously and exclusively thought of Vienna: my sister’s winter plans are quite independent of mine, in this respect there are no ulterior thoughts. The south of Europe is now banished from my mind. I don’t want to be lonely any more and wish to rediscover how to be human. This is a lesson I will have to learn almost from scratch! —

Accept my gratitude, dear friend! Everything will go well, just as you said.

Heartiest greetings to our Rée!

Wholly yours,
F. N.


«This year, which signifies a new crisis in several chapters of my life (epoch is the right word—an intermediate state between two crises, one behind me, one ahead of me, has been made much more beautiful for me by the radiance and charm of this truly heroic soul. I wish to acquire a pupil in her and, if my life should not last much longer, an heir and one who will further develop my thoughts. Incidentally: Rée should have married her; and I for my part have certainly urged him all I could. But the effort now seems in vain. At one final point he is an unshakable pessimist; and how he has remained faithful to himself at this point, against all the objections of his heart and of my reason, has in the end won my great respect. The idea of the propagation of mankind seems intolerable to him: it goes against all his feelings to add to the number of the wretched. For my taste, he has too much pity at this point and too few hopes. All this privatissime.»

– Nietzsche, drafted letter to Malwida, 13 July 1882


Tautenburg, July 13, 1882: Letter to Heinrich Köselitz (Peter Gast)

My dear friend: There are no words from you I hear more gladly than “hope” and “holiday” — and now I impose this grueling task of proofreading on you, just at the moment when you should be feeling as if you were in paradise.

Do you know the harmless little poems I wrote in Messina?

Or have you said nothing about them out of politeness toward the author! No, nevertheless, as the woodpecker says in the last poem, my poetry writing is not going very well. But what does it matter! One should not be ashamed of one’s follies; otherwise one’s wisdom has little value.  That poem “An den Schmerz” [“To Pain”] was not by me. It is among the things which quite overpower me; I have never been able to read it without tears coming to my eyes; it sounds like a voice for which I have been waiting and waiting since childhood. This poem is by my friend Lou, of whom you will not yet have heard. Lou is the daughter of a Russian general, and she is twenty years old; she is as shrewd as an eagle and brave as a lion, and yet still a very girlish child, who perhaps will not live long. I am indebted to Frl. von Meysenbug and Rée for her. At present she is visiting Rée; after Bayreuth she is coming here to Tautenburg, and in the autumn we are going together to Vienna. She is most amazingly well prepared for my way of thinking and my ideas.

Dear friend, you will surely do us both the honor of keeping far from our relationship the idea of a love affair. We are friends and I shall keep this girl and this confidence in me sacrosanct; what is more, she has an incredibly definite character, and knows herself exactly what she wants without asking all the world or troubling about the world.

This is for you and nobody else. But if you were to come to Vienna, it would be fine!

Loyally, your friend F. N.


Tautenburg, near Dornburg (Thüringen), July 16, 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

Well, my dear friend, all is well till now, and a week from Saturday we shall see each other again. Perhaps you did not receive my last letter? I wrote it on Sunday two weeks ago. That would be a pity; in it I describe for you a very happy moment — several good things came my way all at once, and the “goodest” of these things was your letter of acceptance! [–]

I have thought of you much, and have shared with you in thought much that has been elevating, stirring, and gay, so much so that it has been like living with my dear friends.

If only you knew how novel and strange that seems to an old hermit like me! How often it has made me laugh at myself!

As for Bayreuth, I am satisfied not to have to be there, and yet, if I could be near you in a ghostly way, murmuring this and that in your ear, then I would find even the music of Parsifal endurable (otherwise it is not endurable). I would like you to read, beforehand, my little work Richard Wagner in Bayreuth; I expect friend Rée has it. I have had such experiences with this man and his work, and it was a passion which lasted a long time -passion is the only word for it. The renunciation that it required, the rediscovering of myself that eventually became necessary, was among the hardest and most melancholy things that have befallen me. The last words that Wagner wrote to me are in a fine presentation copy of Parsifal: “To my dear friend, Friedrich Nietzsche. Richard Wagner, Member of the High Consistory.”

At precisely the same time he received from me my book Menschliches, Allzumenschliches — and therewith everything was perfectly clear, but also at an end.

How often have I experienced in all possible ways just this — everything perfectly clear, but also at an end!

Your friend,

Geist? What is Geist to me? What is knowledge to me? I value nothing but impulses — and I could swear that we have this in common. Look through this phase, in which I have lived for several years — look beyond it! Do not deceive yourself about me — surely you do not think that the “freethinker” is my ideal! I am . . .

Sorry, dearest Lou!

F. N.


To Peter Gast – Tautenburg, Tuesday, July 25, 1882

My dear friend:

So I shall have my summer music too! — the good things have been pouring down this summer, as if I had a victory to celebrate.

And indeed, just think: in many ways, body and soul, I have been since 1876 more a battlefield than a man.

Lou will not be up to the piano part; but at just the right moment, as if heaven-sent, Herr Egidi turns up, a serious and reliable man and musician, who happens to be staying here in Tautenburg (a pupil of Kiel’s); by a coincidence, I met him for half an hour, and, by another coincidence, when he arrives home from this meeting, he finds a letter from a friend, beginning, “I have just discovered a splendid philosopher, Nietzsche.

. . .”  You, of course, will be the subject of the utmost discretion; introduced as an Italian friend whose name is a secret.

Your melancholy words, “always missing the mark,” have lodged in my heart. There were times when I thought precisely the same of myself; but between you and me, apart from other differences, there is the difference that I no longer let myself be “pushed around” — sich schubsen lassen, as they say in Thuringia.

On Sunday I was in Naumburg, to prepare my sister a little for Parsifal. It felt strange enough. Finally I said, “My dear sister, precisely this kind of music is what I was writing when I was a boy, at the time when I wrote my oratorio”; and then I took out the old manuscript and, after all these years, played it — the identity of mood and expression was fabulous! Yes, a few parts, for example, “The Death of the Kings,” seemed to us more moving than anything we had played from Parsifal, and yet they were wholly Parsifalesque! I confess that it gave me a real fright to realize how closely I am akin to Wagner. Later I shall not conceal this curious fact from you, and you shall be the ultimate court of appeal on the matter — it is so odd that I do not quite trust myself to decide. You will understand, dear friend, that this does not mean I am praising Parsifal!!

What sudden décadence! And what Cagliostroism!

A remark in your letter makes me realize that all the jingles of mine which you know were written before I met Lou (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft too). But perhaps you also feel that, as “thinker” and “poet” as well, I must have had a certain presentiment of Lou? Or is it “coincidence”? Yes! Kind coincidence.

The comédie we must read together; my eyes are now already too much occupied.

L. arrives on Saturday.

Send your work as soon as possible — I envy myself the distinction which you confer on me!

Cordially, your grateful friend Nietzsche


«I wanted to live alone. But then the dear bird Lou flew across my path, and I thought it was a noble creature, and I wanted to have this eagle. Please come to me, I am too hurt, to have hurt you. We can better bear it together.»

– Nietzsche, letter to Lou, August 4, 1882


Tautenberg, August 8 to 24 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

Toward the Teaching of Style

1. Of prime necessity is life: a style should live.

2. Style should be suited to the specific person with whom you wish to communicate. (The law of mutual relation.)

3. First, one must determine precisely “what-and-what do I wish to say and present“—before you may write. Writing must be mimicry.

4. Since the writer lacks many of the speaker’s means, he must in general have for his model a very expressive kind of presentation; of necessity, the written copy will appear much paler.

5. The richness of life reveals itself through a richness of gestures. One must learn to feel everything—the length and retarding of sentences, interpunctuations, the choice of words, the pausing, the sequence of arguments—like gestures.

6. Be careful with periods! Only those people who also have long duration of breath while speaking are entitled to periods. With most people, the period is a matter of affectation.

7. Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only thinks it but also feels it.

8. The more abstract a truth which one wishes to teach, the more one must first entice the senses.

9. Strategy on the part of the good writer of prose consists of choosing his means for stepping close to poetry but never stepping into it.

10. It is not good manners or clever to deprive one’s reader of the most obvious objections. It is very good manners and very clever to leave it to one’s reader alone to pronounce the ultimate quintessence of our wisdom.



«We often recall our days in Italy and (…) [when we] walked up the narrow path, he said, “Monte Sacro, – the most delightful dream of my life, I owe it to you.” – We are very cheerful in each other’s company, we laugh a lot. To Elisabeth’s outrage (who, by the way, is almost never with us), when Nietzsche enters my room, it is immediately haunted by ghostly knocking and causes us much delight. We also must have this terrible trait in common. I am glad that the sorrowful expression which hurt me so much has left his face and that his eyes have regained their old fire and their old capability of lightening up.»

 – Lou von Salomé’s diary for Paul Rée, Tautenburg, 14th of August 1882.


Tautenburg, August 25, 1882: A slip of paper [image above] to Lou von Salomé

In bed. The most terrible attack. I despise life.



Tautenburg, August 26, 1882: A slip of paper to Lou von Salomé

My dear Lou,

Sorry about yesterday. A terrible attack of my stupid headaches—today all gone. And today I see a few things with new eyes. —

F. N.


Naumburg, end of August, 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

My dear Lou:

I left Tautenburg one day after you, very proud at heart, in very good spirits — why?  I have spoken very little with my sister, but enough to send the new ghost that had arisen back into the void from which it came.

In Naumburg the daimon of music came over me again — I have composed a setting of your “Prayer to Life”; and my friend from Paris, Louise Ott, who has a wonderfully strong and expressive voice, will one day sing it to you and me.

Lastly, my dear Lou, the old, deep, heartfelt plea: become the being you are! First, one has the difficulty of emancipating oneself from one’s chains; and, ultimately, one has to emancipate oneself from this emancipation too! Each of us has to suffer, though in greatly differing ways, from the chain sickness, even after he has broken the chains.

In fond devotion to your destiny — for in you I love also my hopes.

F. N.


Naumburg, September, 1882.

VERY DEAR FRIEND [Madame Louise O.]:
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,



«Today, I am relocating to Leipzig…It appears to me that my return “to humans” is bound to develop in such a manner that I am losing the few humans that I could call my own.  Everything lies in the shadow of the past.  Heaven keep my little bit of humanity intact!»

– Nietzsche, letter to Lou on September 7, 1882


Leipzig, September 9, 1882: Letter to Elisabeth Nietzsche

I hear, with much sadness, that you are still suffering from the aftereffects of those scenes I would gladly with all my heart have spared you. Grasp this one point, however: this scene’s turmoil brought to light what otherwise perhaps would long have remained in the dark, namely, the fact that Lou had a lower opinion of me than I thought, and some distrust of me; and when I examine more carefully the circumstances under which we met, perhaps she had every right to do so. (I include the effect of a few incautious remarks by friend Rée). However, now she surely thinks better of me—and that is the main thing, isn’t it, my dear sister? In general, when I look to the future, it would be hard to have to accept that you don’t feel about Lou as I do. We are so similar in our talents and our intentions that our names are destined to be named jointly at some point. And every aspersion cast upon her will strike me first. […]

Be good once more, dear Llama!
Your Brother.


«This kind of souls as you have, my poor sister, I do not like; and I like it the least when they boast their own morality; I know your small-mindedness.–I rather prefer to be rebuked by you.»

– Nietzsche, draft of a letter to his sister, September 1882.


Leipzig, Auenstrasse 26, 2d floor, September 9, 1882: Letter to Franz Overbeck

My dear friend:

So here I am, back in Leipzig, the old book town, in order to acquaint myself with a few books before going far afield again. It seems unlikely that my winter campaign in Germany will come to anything — I need clear weather, in every sense.

Yes, it has character, this cloudy German sky, somewhat, it seems, as the Parsifal music has character — but a bad character. In front of me lies the first act of the Matrimonio Segreto — golden, glittering, good, very good music.

The Tautenburg weeks did me good, especially the last ones; and on the whole I have a right to talk of recovery, even if I am often reminded of the precarious balance of my health. But there must be a clear sky over me! Or else I lose all too much time and strength.

If you have read the “Sanctus Januarius” you will have remarked that I have crossed a tropic. Everything that lies before me is new, and it will not be long before I catch sight also of the terrifying face of my more distant life task. This long, rich summer was for me a testing time; I took my leave of it in the best of spirits and proud, for I felt that during this time at least the ugly rift between willing and accomplishment had been bridged. There were hard demands made on my humanity, and I have become equal to the hardest demands I have made on myself. This whole interim state between what was and what will be, I call “in media vita”; and the daimon of music, which after long years visited me again, compelled me to express this in tones also.

But my most useful activity this summer was talking with Lou. There is a deep affinity between us in intellect and taste — and there are in other ways so many differences that we are the most instructive objects and subjects of observation for each other. I have never met anyone who could derive so many objective insights from experience, who knows how to deduce so much from all she has learnt. Yesterday Rée wrote to me, “Lou has decidedly grown a few inches in Tautenburg” — well, perhaps I have grown too. I would like to know if there has ever existed before such philosophical candor as there is between us. L. is now buried behind books and work; her greatest service to me so far is to have influenced Rée to revise his book on the basis of one of my main ideas. Her health, I fear, will only last another six or seven years.

Tautenburg has given Lou an aim — she left me a moving poem, “Prayer to Life.”

Unfortunately, my sister has become a deadly enemy of Lou; she was morally outraged from start to finish, and now she claims to know what my philosophy is all about. She wrote to my mother: “In Tautenburg she saw my philosophy come to life and this terrified her: I love evil, but she loves good. If she were a good Catholic, she would go into a nunnery and do penance for all the harm that will come of it.” In brief, I have the Naumburg “virtuousness” against me; there is a real break between us — and even my mother at one point forgot herself so far as to say one thing which made me pack my bags and leave early the next day for Leipzig. My sister (who did not want to come to Naumburg as long as I was there, and who is still in Tautenburg) quotes ironically in this regard, “Thus began Zarathustra’s Fall.”

In fact, it is the beginning of  the start. This letter is for you and your dear wife — do not think that I am a misanthropist. Most cordially,

Your F. N.

Very best wishes to Frau Rothpletz and her family!

I have not yet thanked you for your good letter.


Leipzig, ca. September 15, 1882: Letter to Paul Rée

My dear friend,

In my opinion the two of us, the three of us, are smart enough to be good to one another, and to continue being such. In this life, where people like us readily become zombies whom everyone else fears, we ought to find joy in one another and try to give the others cause for joy. In this we should become inventive—I, for my part, have to do my homework, because I was a monster of isolation for so long.

In the meantime, my sister has diverted the enmity that comes natural to her from my mother, where it is usually propelled, to me, and with full force. She has quite literally broken with me—she says in a letter to my mother—out of revulsion against my philosophy, and because I love evil whereas she loves the good, and suchlike foolishness. Onto me she has unloaded mockery and contempt—now, the truth is that all my life I have been patient and gentle with her, as one must be toward this sex: and perhaps that has spoiled her. “Virtues too will be punished,” says the wise Sanctus Januarius of Genua.

Tomorrow I shall write our dear Lou, my sister (after I’ve lost my natural sister, a supernatural one must be granted me). Until we meet again in Leipzig at the outset of October!

Your Friend,
F. N.


« this very moment and for all future, nothing can separate us, since we are connected through a third whom we subordinate ourselves to.»

– Rée to Nietzsche, mid September 1882


Leipzig, ca. September 16, 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

My dear Lou:

Your idea of reducing philosophical systems to the status of personal records of their authors is a veritable “twin brain” idea. In Basel I was teaching the history of ancient philosophy in just this sense, and liked to tell my students: “This system has been disproved and it is dead; but you cannot disprove the person behind it — the person cannot be killed.” Plato, for example.

I am enclosing today a letter from Professor Jakob Burckhardt, whom you wanted to meet one day. He too has something in his personality which cannot be disproved; but because he is a very original historian (the foremost living historian), it is precisely this kind of being and person which is eternally incarnate in him that makes him dissatisfied; he would be only too glad to see for once through other eyes, for example, as this strange letter reveals, through mine. Incidentally, he expects to die soon, and suddenly, from a cerebral stroke, as happens in his family; perhaps he would like me to succeed him in his chair? But the course of my life is decided already.  Meanwhile Professor Riedel here, president of the German Musical Association, has been captivated by my “heroic music” (I mean your “Prayer to Life”); he wants to have it performed, and it is not impossible that he will arrange it for his splendid choir (one of the best in Germany, called the Riedel Society). That would be just one little way in which we could both together reach posterity — not discounting other ways.

As regards your “Characterization of Myself” — which is true, as you write — it reminded me of my little verses from Die fröhliche Wissenschaft with the heading “Request.” Can you guess, my dear Lou, what I am asking for? But Pilate says: “What is truth?”

Yesterday afternoon I was happy; the sky was blue, the air mild and clear, I was in the Rosenthal, lured there by the Carmen music. I sat there for three hours, drank my second glass of cognac this year, in memory of the first (ha! how horrible it tasted!), and wondered in all innocence and malice if I had any tendency to madness. In the end I said no. Then the Carmen music began, and I was submerged for half an hour in tears and heart beatings. But when you read this you will finally say yes! and write a note for the “Characterization of Myself.”

Come to Leipzig soon, very soon! Why only on October 2? Adieu, my dear Lou.

Your F. N.


«”Who has first dragged our plan of staying together into the dirtiest mud, who has first thought in terms of marriage, that was your brother! And to emphasize it once more, “Yes, it was your noble, pure-minded brother who first had the dirty idea of a concubinate!” And on it went late in the evening, already at Tautenburg: “Don’t think for a moment that I am interested in your brother or in love with him, I could sleep in the same room with him, without getting any wild ideas.” (…) “Do you consider that possible? [She meant, no doubt, to refer to that kind of talk, but the ambiguity is amusing, and her misspelling of Hälst instead of Hältst (halten means “hold” or “consider,” while halsen means “neck” or “embrace”) adds to the involuntary humor of her query.] I was also entirely besides myself and shouted at her more than once: ‘Stop talking so dirty!’ ‘Pah,’ she said; ‘with Rée I even talk much dirtier.’ She had also told me that it was Rée who had told her that Fritz was thinking of a ‘wild marriage.’ (…)

…of course, I could not tell it to him [Nietzsche] as dirty as it had been. Ah, for my delicate feelings the whole story was torture! (…)

She is the personification of my brother’s philosophy with that furious egotism that tears apart everything in its path. (…)

Do not read my brother’s books, they are too frightful for us, our hearts are made for higher things than the self-admiration of egotism. Oh, make no effort or cause yourself any pain by attempting to reconcile these books with earlier Nietzsche books, it is not possible because, my dear dear Clara, and tell no one, I have lived through a frightful experience here and I have had to recognize that Fritz has become different, he is just like his books.»

– Elizabeth Nietzsche, repeating Lou’s words, in a letter to Frau Clara Gelzer, September 24th to October 2nd, 1882 (Dokumente p. 251 ff. re. Peters p. 118).


3. Lous Aufzeichungen zum Ende des Verhältnisses (Lebensrückblick S. 84 ff.):

In einem meiner Briefe aus Tautenburg an Paul Rée, vom 18. August, steht schon: »Ganz im Anfange meiner Bekanntschaft mit Nietzsche schrieb ich Malwida von ihm, er sei eine religiöse Natur und weckte damit ihre stärksten Bedenken. Heute möchte ich diesen Ausdruck noch doppelt unterstreichen.« »Wir erleben es noch, daß er als der Verkündiger einer neuen Religion auftritt und dann wird es eine solche sein, welche Helden zu ihren Jüngern wirbt. Wie sehr gleich denken und empfinden wir darüber, und wie nehmen wir uns die Worte und Gedanken förmlich von den Lippen. Wir sprechen uns diese 3 Wochen förmlich todt, und sonderbarerweise hält er es jetzt plötzlich aus, cirka 10 Stunden täglich zu verplaudern.« »Seltsam, daß wir unwillkürlich mit unsern Gesprächen in die Abgründe geraten, an jene schwindligen Stellen, wohin man wohl einmal einsam geklettert ist um in die Tiefe zu schauen. Wir haben stets die Gemsenstiegen gewählt, und wenn uns jemand zugehört hätte, er würde geglaubt haben, zwei Teufel unterhielten sich.«

Es konnte nicht fehlen, daß in Nietzsches Wesen und Reden mich gerade etwas von dem faszinierte, was zwischen ihm und Paul Rée weniger zu Worte kam. Schwangen doch für mich dabei Erinnerungen oder halb unwissentliche Gefühle mit, die aus meiner allerkindischsten und doch persönlichsten, unvernichtbaren Kindheit herrührten. Nur: es war zugleich eben dies, was mich nie hätte zu seiner Jüngerin, seiner Nachfolgerin werden lassen: jederzeit hätte es mich mißtrauisch gemacht, in der Richtung zu schreiten, der ich mich entwinden mußte, um Klarheit zu finden. Das Faszinierende und zugleich eine innere Abkehr davon gehörten ineinander.

Nachdem ich für den Herbst nach Stibbe zurückgereist war, kamen wir noch einmal mit Nietzsche für drei Wochen (?) im Oktober in Leipzig zusammen. Niemand von uns beiden ahnte, daß es zum letzten Male sei. Dennoch war es nicht mehr ganz so wie anfangs, obwohl unsere Wünsche für unsere gemeinsame Zukunft zu Dritt noch feststanden. Wenn ich mich frage, was meine innere Einstellung zu Nietzsche am ehesten zu beeinträchtigen begann, so war das die zunehmende Häufung solcher Andeutungen von ihm, die Paul Rée, bei mir schlecht machen sollten – und auch das Erstaunen, daß er diese Methode für wirksam halten konnte. Erst nach unserm Abschied von Leipzig brachen dann Feindseligkeiten auch gegen mich aus, Vorwürfe hassender Art, von denen mir aber nur ein vorläufiger Brief bekannt wurde. Was später folgte, schien Nietzsches Wesen und Würde dermaßen widersprechend, daß es nur fremdem Einfluß zugeschrieben werden kann. So, wenn er Rée und mich gerade den Verdächtigungen preisgab, deren Haltlosigkeit er selbst am besten kannte. Aber das Häßliche aus dieser Zeit wurde mir durch Paul Rées Fürsorge – um viele Jahre älter verstand ich das erst – einfach unterschlagen; sogar scheint es, daß Briefe von Nietzsche an mich nie zu mir gelangt sind, die mir unbegreifliche Verunglimpfungen enthielten. Und nicht nur dies: Paul Rée unterschlug mir auch die Tatsache, wie stark die umlaufenden Aufhetzereien auch seine Familie gegen mich aufbrachten, bis zum Haß, wobei allerdings insbesondere die krankhaft eifersuchtsvolle Veranlagung seiner Mutter mitsprach, die diesen Sohn ganz für sich allein zu haben begehrte.

Viel später stand Nietzsche wohl selber unwillig zu den von ihm veranlaßten Gerüchten; denn wir erfuhren durch Heinrich von Stein, der uns nahestand, folgende Episode aus Sils Maria, wo er Nietzsche einmal besucht hat (nicht ohne unser Einverständnis damit erst eingeholt zu haben). Er plädierte vor Nietzsche für die Möglichkeit, die entstandenen Mißverständnisse zwischen uns Dreien zu beseitigen; doch Nietzsche antwortete kopfschüttelnd: »Was ich getan, das kann man nicht verzeihen.«

In der Folgezeit habe ich die Methode Paul Rées mir gegenüber selber befolgt: mir all das fernzuhalten, indem ich nichts mehr darüber las, auf die Feindseligkeiten des Hauses Nietzsche ebensowenig einging wie überhaupt auf die Nietzsche-Literatur nach seinem Tode. Mein Buch »Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken« schrieb ich noch voller Unbefangenheit, nur dadurch veranlaßt, daß mit seinem eigentlichen Berühmtsein gar zu viele Literatenjünglinge sich seiner mißverständlich bemächtigten; mir selbst war ja erst nach unserm persönlichen Verkehr das geistige Bild Nietzsches recht aufgegangen an seinen Werken; mir war an nichts gelegen als am Verstehen der Nietzschegestalt aus diesen sachlichen Eindrücken heraus. Und so, wie mir sein Bild – in der reinen Nachfeier des Persönlichen – aufging, sollte es vor mir stehenbleiben.”


To Franz Overbeck

[Leipzig, October, 1882]

My dear friend:

That is how things are! I did not write, because I was waiting for several things to be decided, and I am writing today only to tell you as much, for as yet nothing has been decided — not even regarding my plans for traveling and for the winter. Paris is still in the offing, but there can be no doubt that my health has become worse under the impact of this northern sky; and perhaps I have never spent more melancholy hours as this autumn in Leipzig — although things around me give reason enough for me to be happy. Enough — there have been days on which I have traveled in mind via Basel toward the sea. I am somewhat afraid of the noisiness of Paris, and want to know if it has enough clear sky. On the other hand, the renewal of my Genoese solitude might be dangerous. I confess that I would be extremely glad to tell you and your wife at length about this year’s experiences there is much to tell and little to write.

I am very grateful to you for Janssen’s book; it defines excellently all that distinguishes his view from the Protestant one (the main point of the whole matter is a defeat of German Protestantism — in any case, of Protestant “historiography”).

It has not required me to revise my views on the matter. For me, the Renaissance remains the climax of this millennium; and what has happened since then is the grand reaction of all kinds of herd instincts against the “individualism” of that epoch.

Lou and Rée left recently — first, to meet Rée’s mother in Berlin; from there they go to Paris. Lou is in a miserable state of health; I now give her less time than I did last spring. We have our share of worry — Rée is just the man for his task in this affair. For me personally, Lou is a real trouvaille; she has fulfilled all my expectations — it is not possible for two people to be more closely related than we are.

As for Köselitz (or rather Herr “Peter Gast”), he is my second marvel of this year. Whereas Lou is uniquely ready for the till now almost undisclosed part of my philosophy, Köselitz is the musical justification of my whole new praxis and rebirth — to put it altogether egoistically. Here is a new Mozart — that is the sole feeling I have about him; beauty, warmth, serenity, fullness, superabundant inventiveness, and the light touch of mastery in counterpoint — such qualities were never combined before; I already want to hear no other music than this. How poor, artificial, and histrionic all that Wagnerei now sounds to me! “Will Scherz, List und Rache” be performed here? I think so, but I don’t yet know.

This picture which I enclose might be shown on your birthday-gift table (its quality as a photograph is much admired).

Did Frau Rothpletz receive my last book? I forgot her exact address.

With warmest best wishes for your coming year,

Your friend Nietzsche


Kali phosphor., November 8, 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

Dear Lou, just a few words—my eyes hurt. […]

What melancholy!

I had no idea till this year how distrustful I am. Namely, of myself. My dealings with my fellows have ruined my dealings with myself.

You wanted to tell me something?

Your voice pleases me most when it asks for something. Yet one doesn’t hear that often enough.

I shall be industrious — —

Ah, this melancholy! I write nonsense. How shallow human beings are to me today! Where is there a sea in which one can actually still drown? I mean a human being.

My dear Lou
I am yours—
F. N.

(Heartiest greetings to Rée and his mother!)


Santa Marguerita, ca. November 23, 1882: Letter to Paul Rée

But my dear dear friend, I thought you would feel just the opposite and would secretly be happy to be rid of me for a time! This year there were a hundred occasions, from Orta onwards, where I found that your friendship with me was “costing you too much.” I took possession of far too much from your Roman find (I mean Lou)—and it always seemed to me, especially in Leipzig, that you had a right to become somewhat reticent toward me.

Dearest friend, think of me as kindly as you can, and please ask the same of Lou on my behalf. I belong to you both with the deepest feelings of my heart—I believe I have proved this more by my separation than by my proximity.

All proximity makes us restive—and in the end I am altogether a restive human being.

We shall see one another again from time to time, shall we not? Don’t forget that from this year on I shall have become suddenly poor in love, and consequently much in need of it.

Write me something quite precise about the matter that most concerns us—the matter that “stands between us,” as you always put it when you do write.

Lots of love,
Your F. N.

NB. I praised you so much in Basel that Frau Overbeck said: “But the man you’re describing is Daniel de Ronda!” Who is Daniel de Ronda?


Santa Margherita, Ligure (Italia), November 24, 1882: Letter to Lou von Salomé

My dear Lou, yesterday I wrote the enclosed letter to Rée; and just now I was on the way to the post office with it, when something occurred to me and I tore off the envelope again. This letter, which concerns you alone, might create greater difficulties for R. than for you. In brief, you read it; and it is entirely up to you whether R. should read it, too. Take this for a token of confidence, of my purest will to create mutual confidence between us.

And now, Lou, dear heart, clear the air! I want nothing else than a pure, clear sky over every aspect: otherwise I will fight my way through, you can count on that, no matter how hard it is. Yet a lonely man suffers frightfully when he suspects something about the two human beings he loves—particularly when it involves a suspicion of the suspicion they entertain concerning his very essence. Why has the cheerfulness been lacking in all our dealings with one another? Because I had to do myself too much violence: the clouds on our horizon lay on me!

Perhaps you know how unbearable I find every effort to shame people, to accuse, to have to defend myself. Unavoidably, one does a great deal of injustice.— Yet we also have the splendid counterforce, to do one another good, to sow peace and joy.

I feel every tremulous motion of the loftier soul in you, I love nothing else in you but these stirrings. I gladly renounce all intimacy and closeness, if only I can be sure of one thing: that the two of us feel as one in regions where vulgar souls will never dwell.

I speak cryptically? When I have your trust, you will learn that I have the words as well. Up to now I have always had to remain silent.

Spirit? What is spirit to me? What is knowledge to me? I esteem nothing other than propulsions—and I could swear that in this regard the two of us have something in common. Let your vision penetrate the phase I have lived through during the past several years—look behind it! Don’t you be deceived about me—you surely don’t believe that “the free spirit” is my ideal?! I am

Forgive me! Dearest Lou, be what you have to be.

F. N.


«What is the hardest for me is that I am not able to really speak about what really matters to me, neither to you, nor to Lou or anyone else.»

– N., draft of a letter to Rée


Genua, end of November, 1882: Drafts of letters to Lou von Salomé

What are you doing, my dear Lou, I asked for cheerful skies over our heads what should I say: it’s all over now. Shall we quarrel with one another? Should we make lots of noise, would that be fun? Not me. Not on your life. I wanted clear skies between us. But you? You’re a little birdie perched on a gallows! And to think I once believed you were virtue and honesty incarnate.


Genua, end of November, 1882: Draft of letter to Lou von Salomé

My dear Lou, I must write you a nasty note. For heaven’s sake, what are these little girls of twenty thinking of when all they’ve got is pleasant little love tremors with nothing else to do but get sick and hie off to bed? Should one perhaps scramble after these little girls in order to interrupt their boredom and chase away the flies? Just by-the-bye show them a real nice winter? Charming. But what have I got to do with pleasant winters? If I should have the honor of contributing to


[The chronological sequence of these quotations is uncertain:]

M[y] d[ear] L[ou] Don’t write me such letters! What is that kind of wretched stuff to me? [Was habe ich  mit diesen Armseligkeiten zu tun!] Can’t you see: I wish you would raise yourself up before me so that I need not feel contempt for you.

But L, what kind of letters are you writing? That is how vengeful little school girls write. What is that kind of paltry stuff [Erbärmlichkeiten] to me? Do understand: I wish you would raise yourself up before me, not that you make yourself still smaller. How am I to forgive you if I do not first rediscover in you the character for whose sake one can forgive you!

No, m. d. L., we are nowhere near “forgiving” yet. I cannot shake forgiveness out of my sleeves after the injury [Kränkung] has had four months’ time to burrow into me.

Adieu, m. d. L. I shall not see you again. Preserve your soul from similar actions and make good to others and especially to my friend Rée what you cannot make good to me any more.

I have not created the world and L: I wish I had—then I alone could bear the guilt that things turned out that way between us.

Adieu, d. L.

I haven’t yet finished your letter, but I have already read too much.


Genua, early December, 1882: Draft of letter to Paul Rée

Very odd! Concerning Lou I have a predetermined opinion, although I have to say that everything I experienced this past summer contradicts it. There must be a series of higher feelings in her, feelings that are quite rare and altogether exceptional among human beings, or at least there must have been such: some sort of terrible misfortune.

Actually, no one in all my life has behaved so horridly toward me as Lou has. To this very day she has not recanted that repulsive condemnation of my entire character and my intentions that she brought along with her to Jena and Tautenburg; this, even though she knows that its effects have been extremely damaging to me (namely with respect to Basel). Whoever doesn’t break off relations with a girl that says such things must be—well, I don’t know what—that’s the only conclusion. The fact that I didn’t do so was a consequence of that predetermined opinion. And incidentally, it took a good bit of self-overcoming. […]

Imagine how I would handle a man who said such things about me to my sister. No doubt about it. In this regard I am a soldier, and I always will be; I know how to handle weapons. But a girl! And Lou!

In Bayreuth she not only abandoned my cause, she also belittled me (my sister recounted 100 stories)—

When I last saw Lou she told me she had something to say to me. I was full of hope. (I said to my soul: “She had a very bad opinion of you, but she’s smart, she’ll soon have a better one”.

If only the most painful memory of this entire year would be obliterated from my soul—painful not because she insulted me but because she insulted the Lou that is inside me.


Rapallo, first half of December 1882: Draft of letter to Paul Rée

Dear friend, I call Lou my Sirocco incarnate: not for a single moment when we were together did we have clear sky overhead, the sort of sky I need whether with or without other people. She unites in herself all the human qualities I find most repulsive—disgusting and nauseating—they don’t agree with me. And ever since Tautenburg I undertook to torture myself by loving her! A love no one should be jealous of, except perhaps Our Dear Lord.



«If I banish you from me now, it is a frightful censure of your whole being (…) You have caused damage, you have caused pain, and not only in me, but in all of the people who loved me – this sword hangs above you (…). I want for you to sentence yourself, and determine what your punishment shall be.”

– Nietzsche, draft of a letter to Lou, middle of December 1882


« I myself really do not need to feel ashamed of the whole affair. I have felt the strongest and most genuine emotions for Lou and there was nothing erotic in my love. At most I could have made a god jealous.»

– Nietzsche, letter to Peter Gast, middle of December of 1882.


Rapallo, ca. December 20, 1882: Draft of letter to Paul Rée and Lou von Salomé

To speak as a free spirit, I am a member of the School of Affects, which is to say, my feelings devour me. A wretched compassion, a wretched disappointment, a wretched feeling of wounded pride—how do I hold out? Is not pity a feeling made in hell? What should I do? Every morning I doubt whether I’ll survive the day. I no longer sleep: what good is it if I go hiking for eight hours? Whence these towering affects in me? Oh, for some ice! Yet where is there ice for me? Tonight I shall take so much opium that my reason will go astray: Where is there a human being one can still revere? But I know you all through and through!

Don’t get too unnerved by these irruptions of my delusions of grandeur or my wounded vanity: and if one day I myself should, as a result of the above-mentioned affects, take my life, there would not be too much to mourn. What do my raving fantasies matter to you I mean you and Lou! The two of you should discuss with one another at some length the possibility that ultimately I am halfway gone to the nuthouse, sick in the head, and that my loneliness will take me the rest of the way.— To this from my point of view altogether comprehensible insight into my state of mind I have come after taking a huge dose of opium out of desperation. However, instead of losing my understanding on account of it, it seems my understanding has finally come to me. Incidentally, I really was ill here, for weeks; and when I tell you that I have had twenty days of Orta weather here, my condition will seem more comprehensible to you. Please ask Lou to forgive me everything—she will also give me an opportunity to forgive her. For until now I have forgiven her nothing. One forgives one’s friends with greater difficulty than one’s enemies.

Lou’s self-defense occurs to me now. Very odd! Whenever people defend themselves before me it always turns out that I am the guilty party. This I know from the outset, so it no longer interests me.

Could Lou be an unrecognized angel? Could I be an unrecognized ass?

in opio veritas: Long live wine and love!

Please please no scruples! I am accustomed to it all: this year everyone is upset with me; maybe next year everyone will be delighted with me.


Rapallo, around December 20, 1882: Fragment of a Letter to Lou von Salomé and Paul Rée [another translation]

Lou and Rée, my dears!

Do not be too upset by my fits of “megalomania” or “wounded vanity.” And even if some emotional disturbance should happen to drive me to suicide, there would not be all that much to mourn. Why should my fantasies concern you? (Even my “truths” have not concerned you up to now.) Do bear in mind, you two, that at bottom I am sick in the head and half-insane, completely confused by long isolation.

I have arrived at this reasonable (or so I believe) insight into how matters stand after having, in desperation, taken an enormous quantity of opium. But instead of making me lose my senses, it seems to have finally brought me to them. [….]

Friend Rée, ask Lou to forgive me for everything. She will surely grant me another opportunity to forgive her too—I haven’t so far.

It’s much harder to forgive one’s friends than one’s enemies.
[The remainder of this letter, after a few words that begin a new paragraph, is lost.]


Rapallo, December 25, 1882: Draft of letter to Franz Overbeck

Today while I was walking something occurred to me that made me laugh: she treated me like a twenty-year-old student—a totally permissible way to think for a girl of twenty years—a student who had fallen in love with her. However, the wise, such as I, love only ghosts—and woe if I loved a human being—I would soon perish of such a love. The human being is too unfinished a thing


Rapallo, December 25, 1882: Letter to Franz Overbeck

Dear friend:

Perhaps you never received my last letter? This last morsel of life was the hardest I have yet had to chew, and it is still possible that I shall choke on it. I have suffered from the humiliating and tormenting memories of this summer as from a bout of madness – what I indicated in Basel and in my last letter concealed the most essential thing. It involves a tension between opposing passions which I cannot cope with. This is to say, I am exerting every ounce of my self-mastery; but I have lived in solitude too long and fed too long off my “own fat,” so that I am now being broken, as no other man could be, on the wheel of my own passions. If only I could sleep! — but the strongest doses of my sedative help me as little as my six to eight hours of daily walking.

Unless I discover the alchemical trick of turning this muck into gold, I am lost. Here I have the most splendid chance to prove that for me “all experiences are useful, all days holy and all people divine“!!!

All people divine.

My lack of confidence is now immense — everything I hear makes me feel that people despise me. For example, a recent letter from Rohde. I could swear that if we had not happened to have earlier friendly relations, he would now pronounce the most contemptuous judgments on me and my aims.

Yesterday I also broke off all correspondence with my mother; I could not stand it any more, and it would have been better if I had not stood it for as long as I have. Meanwhile, how far the hostile judgments of my relatives have been spread abroad and are ruining my reputation — well, I would still rather know than suffer this uncertainty.

My relation to Lou is in the last agonizing throes — at least that is what I think today. Later — if there will be any “later” — I shall say something about that too. Pity, my dear friend, is a kind of hell — whatever the Schopenhauerians may say.

I am not asking you, “What shall I do?” Several times I thought of renting a room in Basel, of visiting you now and then, and attending lectures. Several times too I thought of the opposite: to press on in my solitude and renunciation, till I reach the point of no return, and —

Well, let that be as it may! Dear friend, you with your admirable and sensible wife, you two are practically my last foothold on firm ground. Strange!

May you flourish! Your F. N.


Rapallo, last week of December 1882: Draft of a Letter to Paul Rée

I write this under clear skies: do not confuse my sanity with the nonsense of my recent opium-induced letter.1 I am not at all crazy and also do not suffer from delusions of grandeur. But I should have friends who will warn me at the right time of such dire affairs, like those of this summer.

Who could have guessed that her2 heroic words “fighting for a principle,” her poem “To Pain,”3 her stories about the struggle for knowledge, were just fraudulent. (Her mother wrote to me this summer: L[ou] has had the greatest freedom imaginable.)4

Or is it something else? The Lou in Orta was a different creature than the one whom I rediscovered later on. A creature without ideals, without goals, without duties, without shame. And on the lowest level of p[eople], despite her good mind!

She told me herself that she had no morality — and I thought she had, like myself, a more severe morality than anybody! and she often sacrificed something of herself every day and every hour.

In the meantime, I can only see that it is out of amusement and entertainment: and when I think that this also includes questions of morality, then, to put it mildly, I am seized with pure indignation. She has quite resented the fact that I denied her the right to the phrase “heroism of knowledge” — but she should be honest and say: “I am just worlds apart from that.” While heroism is a matter of sacrifice and duty and in fact daily and hourly, and thus much more, the whole soul must be replete with one thing, and life and happiness indifferent about it. I thought I saw such a nature in L[ou].

Listen, friend, how I view the matter today! It is a complete disaster — and I am its victim.

In the spring I thought I had found a person capable of helping me: which of course requires not only a good intell[ect] but a first-rate morality. Instead of this, we have discovered a creature who wants to amuse herself and is shameless enough to believe that the most distinguished minds on earth are just good enough for this purpose.

The result of this mistake for me is that I lack more than ever the means to find such a p[erson] and that my soul, which was free, is tormented by an abundance of disgusting memories. For the entire dignity of my life’s work has been compromised by [a] superficial and immorally frivolous and soulless creature like Lou and also that my name

my reputation is tarnished

I believed you had persuaded her to come to my aid.

to P[aul] R[ée]

1. See Rapallo, around December 20, 1882: Fragment of a Letter to Lou Salomé and Paul Rée.
2. Lou Salomé.
3. Lou Salomé’s poem:

An den Schmerz

To Pain

Gewiß, so liebt ein Freund den Freund,
Wie ich Dich liebe, Rätselleben —
Ob ich in Dir gejauchzt, geweint,
Ob Du mir Glück, ob Schmerz gegeben.

Surely, a friend loves his friend the way
That I love you, enigmatic life —
Whether I rejoiced or wept in you,
Whether you gave me joy or pain.

Ich liebe Dich samt Deinem Harme;
Und wenn Du mich vernichten mußt,
Entreiße ich mich Deinem Arme,
Wie Freund reißt sich von Freundesbrust.

I love you with all your harms;
And if you must destroy me,
I tear myself from your arms,
The way a friend leaves his friend’s breast.

Mit ganzer Kraft umfaß ich Dich!
Laß Deine Flammen mich entzünden,
Laß noch in Glut des Kampfes mich
Dein Rätsel tiefer nur ergründen.

I hold you tight with all my strength!
Let all your flames ignite me,
Let me in the ardor of the struggle
Probe your enigma ever deeper.

Jahrtausende zu sein! zu denken!
Schließ mich in beide Arme ein:
Hast Du kein Glück mehr mir zu schenken —
Wohlan—noch hast Du Deine Pein.

To live and think millennia!
Enclose me now in both your arms:
If you have no more joy to give me —
Well then—there still remains your pain.

4. Unknown letter.


Rapallo, final week of December, 1882: Draft of letter to Franziska and Elisabeth Nietzsche

You will have to come up with another tone of voice if you wish to talk to me: otherwise I shall accept no further letters from Naumburg!

I virtually can no longer bring myself to open a letter from Naumburg; and the less I see one, the less I want to be reminded of what you did to me this summer and the aftereffects which continue to haunt me.


Rapallo, January 20, 1883: Letter to Franz Overbeck

Dear Friend,

The final result and “moral” of the past nasty year is this: people forcefed me the selfsame poison a hundred times in the most diverse doses, the poison of “contumely,” from crass indifference to profound contempt. This has produced in me a condition similar to that which arises from phosphorous poisoning: eternal vomiting, headache, insomnia etc. For years I have experienced nothing from the outside. In the year just passed, however, I have experienced a great deal, unfortunately always the same thing. That’s why I can’t get rid of it. I will not attain for myself the beneficium mortis—I want something more from myself, and I dare not be hindered by inclement weather or a ruined reputation.

F. N.


Nietzsche To Peter Gast – 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 :


A Book for All and None

F. N.

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!


To Franz Overbeck [Received on February 11, 1883, from Rapallo]

Dear friend: I have received the money; and once again I thought what unpleasant troubles I have been giving you all these years.

Perhaps it will not be for much longer now.

I will not conceal it from you, I am in a bad way. It is night all around me again; I feel as if the lightning had flashed — I was for a short time completely in my element and in my light. And now it has passed. I think I shall inevitably go to pieces, unless something happens — I have no idea what. Perhaps someone will drag me out of Europe — I, with my physical style of thinking, now see myself as the victim of a terrestrial and climatic disturbance, to which Europe is exposed. How can I help having an extra sense organ and a new, terrible source of suffering! Even to think thus brings relief — it saves me from accusing people of causing my misery. Though I could do this! And all too often I do do it. Everything that I have indicated to you in my letters is only by the way — I have to bear such a manifold burden of tormenting and horrible memories!

Not for a moment have I been able to forget, for instance, that my mother called me a disgrace to my dead father.

I shall say nothing of other examples — but the barrel of a revolver is for me now a source of relatively pleasant thoughts.

My whole life has crumbled under my gaze: this whole eerie, deliberately secluded secret life, which takes a step every six years, and actually wants nothing but the taking of this step, while everything else, all my human relationships, have to do with a mask of me and I must perpetually be the victim of living a completely hidden life. I have always been exposed to the cruelest coincidences — or, rather, it is I who have always turned all coincidence into cruelty.

This book, about which I wrote to you, the work of ten days, now seems to me like my last will and testament.

It contains an image of myself in the sharpest focus, as I am, once I have thrown off my whole burden. It is poetry, and not a collection of aphorisms.

I am afraid of Rome, and cannot decide. Who knows what torture is waiting for me there! So I have set about making myself my own copyist.

What can I do under this sky and with this changing weather! Ah, this fearfulness! And at the same time I know that, relatively, “it is for the best” by the sea!

With the warmest thanks, wishing you and your dear wife all the best, F. N.



Rapallo, February 19, 1883

Dear friend: Each of your last letters was like a blessing for me; I thank you for this with all my heart.

This winter was the worst in my life; and I regard myself as the victim of a disturbance in nature. The old Europe of the Great Flood will kill me yet; but perhaps somebody will come to my aid and drag me off to the plateaus of Mexico. Alone, I could not undertake such travels: my eyes and other things forbid it.

The enormous burden which lies on me as a result of the weather (even Etna is beginning to erupt!) has transformed itself into thoughts and feelings whose pressure in me was terrible; and from the sudden shedding of this burden, as a result of ten absolutely clear and fresh January days, my “Zarathustra” came into being, the most liberated of all my productions. Teubner is already printing it; I made the fair copy myself. Incidentally, Schmeitzner reports that during the past year all my writings have sold better, and I am hearing all sorts of things in the way of growing interest. Even a member of the Reichstag and Bismarck supporter (Delbrück) is said to have expressed his displeasure that I do not live in Berlin but in Santa Margherita!

Forgive this gossip — you know what other matters are now on my mind and in my heart. I was violently ill for several days, and my landlord and his wife were most concerned. Now I am all right again, and even think that Wagner’s death brought me the greatest relief I could have had.

It was hard to be for six years the opponent of a man whom one has admired above all others, and I am not built coarsely enough for that.

Eventually, it was the old Wagner against whom I had to defend myself; as for the real Wagner, I shall be in good measure his heir (as I often used to tell Malwida). Last summer I felt that he had taken away from me all the people in Germany worth influencing, and that he was beginning to draw them into the confused and desolate malignancy of his old age.

Naturally, I have written to Cosima.

As for your remarks about Lou, they gave me a good laugh. Do you think then that my taste in this differs from yours? No, absolutely not! But in this case it has damned little to do with “charming or not charming”; the question was whether a human being of real stature should perish or not.

Can I send you the proofs again, my old helpful friend? Many thanks for everything. F. N.


To Franz Overbeck [Postmarked Rapallo, February 22, 1883]

Dear friend: Things are very bad indeed. My health is back where it was three years ago. Everything is kaput, my stomach so much so that it even refuses the sedatives-in consequence of which I have sleepless, terribly tormented nights and, a further consequence, a profound nervousness. Ah, nature has outfitted me terribly well to be a self-tormentor! Of course, from outside it looks as if I am leading a most reasonable life. But my imagination et hoc genus omne of mind are stronger than my reason.

As for Rome, I wrote off to them yesterday; I do not want to speak to anybody just now. Also I have heard deviously that my sister is expected in Rome, and that she is going there via Venice.

On Saturday I am moving to Genoa; my address hereafter is (please do not give it to anyone): Genova (Italia), Salita delle Battestine 8 (interno 6).

I mean to find my health by the same means as before, in complete seclusion. My mistake last year was to give up solitude. Through ceaseless contact with intellectual images and processes I have become so sensitive that contact with present-day people makes me suffer and forgo incredibly much; eventually this makes me hard and unjust — in brief, it does not suit me.

Wagner was by far the fullest human being I have known, and in this respect I have had to forgo a great deal for six years. But something like a deadly offense [“eine tödliche Beleidigung”] came between us; and something terrible could have happened if he had lived longer.

Lou is by far the shrewdest human being I have known. But and so on and so on.

My Zarathustra will be getting printed now.

I wrote to Cosima as soon as I could — that is to say, after some of the worst days in bed that I have ever spent.

No! This life! And I am the advocate of life!

As soon as the time of year allows, I mean to go into the mountains, the southern slopes of Mont Blanc.

Nothing helps; I must help myself, or I am finished.

How is your health and your dear wife’s? Your friend F. N.


Genua, March 6, 1883: Letter to Franz Overbeck

— Dissolving the ties with my family now is proving to be a true blessing. Oh, if you only knew all the things I have had to overcome under this rubric (since my birth—)! I don’t like my mother; and to hear my sister’s voice grates on my nerves. I was always ill when I was with them. We have not “quarreled” much, not even last summer; I know how to handle them; but it doesn’t agree with me.


Another ‘liberation’ I’ll merely hint at: I have refused that Rée’s major work, ‘History of Conscience,’ should be dedicated to me—and have thus put an end to a relationship that led to many calamitous misunderstandings.

F. N.


To Franz Overbeck [Received March 24, 1883, from Genoa]

My dear friend: I feel as if you had not written to me for a long time. But perhaps I am wrong; the days are so long I do not know any more what to do with a day-I have no “interests” at all. Deep down, a motionless black melancholy. And fatigue. Mostly in bed — that is the best thing for my health. I had become very thin — people were amazed; now I have found a good trattoria, and will feed myself up again. But the worst thing is: I no longer see why I should live for another six months — everything is boring, painful, dégoûtant. I forgo and suffer too much, and have come to comprehend, beyond all comprehension, the deficiency, the mistakes, and the real disasters of my whole past intellectual life. It is too late to make things good now; I shall never do anything that is good any more. What is the point of doing anything?

This reminds me of my latest folly — I mean Zarathustra (can you read my handwriting? I am writing like a pig). Every few days I forget it; I am curious to know if it has any merit; this winter I am incapable of making a judgment, and could be most crassly wrong either way. Incidentally, I have heard and seen nothing of it: maximum speed was my stipulation for the printing. Only my general fatigue has stopped me, day by day, from telegraphing to cancel the whole printing; I have been waiting more than four weeks for the proofs — it is rude to treat me like this. But who nowadays is polite to me? So I let it pass.

Winter this year has dragged on — one month extra or two. Otherwise I would be able to think of going soon into the mountains and trying the mountain air. Genoa is not the right place for me; that is what Dr. Breiting says.

I have not been for a single walk. I sweat at night. The daily headaches are less severe, but they still come regularly.

Recently I visited the Liebermeisters in the Hotel de Gênes; they are in Santa Margherita now.

I hope that you and your dear wife are happy; your life is certainly not a failure — I think of it with pleasure.

Your friend F. N.


Genoa, end of March, 1883: To Malwida von Meysenbug

Verehrte Freundin: In the meantime I have taken my decisive step — everything is in order. To give you some idea what it is about, I enclose a letter from my first “reader” — my excellent Venetian friend, who is once again my assistant with the printing.

I am leaving Genoa as soon as possible and going into the mountains — this year I do not want to talk to anybody.

Do you want to know a new name for me? The language of the church has one — I am. . . the Antichrist.

Let us not forget how to laugh!

In all devotion, your F. Nietzsche

Genova, Salita delle Battistine 8, interno 4.


Genoa, April 6, 1883: To Peter Gast

Dear friend: As I read your letter, a shudder ran through me. If you are right, then my life would not be a mistake? And least of all precisely now, when I was thinking it most?

On the other hand, your letter gave me the feeling that I now have not long to live — and that would be right and just. You would not believe, dear friend, what an abundance of suffering life has unloaded upon me, at all times, from early childhood on. But I am a soldier — and this soldier, in the end, did become the father of Zarathustra! This paternity was his hope; I think that you will now sense the meaning of the verse addressing Sanctus Januarius: “You who with the flaming spear split the ice of my soul and make it thunder down now to the sea of its highest hope.

Also the meaning of the heading “Incipit tragœdia.”

Enough of that. Perhaps I have never in my life known greater joy than that which your letter brought.

Now give me some advice. Overbeck is worried about me (you must trust him also as regards Zarathustra), and recently he suggested that I should return to Basel, not to the university but perhaps as a teacher at the Pädagogium again (he suggests that I should be a “teacher of German”). This shows good and fine feelings on his part — it even almost tempts me; my reasons against it are reasons of weather and wind and so on.

Overbeck thinks that there would be “openings,” were I to agree; people remember me kindly, and, to tell the truth, I was not the worst of teachers. My eyes and my incapacity for long stretches of headwork should be taken into consideration, likewise the proximity of Jakob Burckhardt, in whose company I really do feel happy and well. This summer I mean to write a few prefaces to new impressions of my earlier writings: not that there is a prospect of new editions, but simply to get done in good time what has to be done. I would also very much like to clean up and clarify the style of my older writings; but that can only be done within certain limits [“Ecce Homo”].

How is the Apulian shepherd’s dance coming?

It disgusts me to think of Zarathustra going into the world as a piece of literary entertainment; who will be serious enough for it! If I had the authority of the “later Wagner,” things would be better. But now nobody can save me from being cast among the writers of belles lettres. Hell! Devotedly and gratefully, Your friend



April 21, 1883: To Heinrich Köselitz (Peter Gast)

«…what do you say to the fact that he [Wagner] wrote letters – even to my doctors – in order to convey his conviction that my changes of temperament were the result of unnatural perversions, with allusions to pederasty.»


Sils Maria [June 28, 1883]: To Carl von Gersdorff

My dear old friend Gersdorff: I have meanwhile learned that you have had a great sorrow — the loss of your mother. When I heard this, it was a real comfort to know that you were not alone in life, and I remembered the warm and grateful words in which you spoke of your wife when you last wrote to me. We have had a hard time of it in our youth, you and I — for various reasons; but it would be beautiful and right if, in the years of our manhood, some gentleness and comfort and heartening experiences came our way.

As for me, I have a long, difficult period of intellectual asceticism behind me, which I took upon myself willingly and which not everyone might have expected of himself. The past six years have been in this respect the years of my greatest self-conquest — which is leaving out of account my rising above such matters as health, solitude, incomprehension, and execration. Enough — I have risen also above this stage of my life – and what remains of life (little, I think!) must now give complete and full expression to that for which I have endured life at all.

The time for silence is past: my Zarathustra, which will be sent to you during the next few weeks, may show you how high my will has flown.

Do not be deceived by this little book’s having a legendary air: behind all the plain and strange words stand my deepest seriousness and my whole philosophy. It is the beginning of my disclosure of myself — not more! I know quite well that there is nobody alive who would do anything the way this Zarathustra is

Dear old friend, I am now in the Upper Engadin again, for the third time, and again I feel that here and nowhere else is my real home and breeding ground. Ah, how much there is still hidden in me waiting to be expressed in words and form! There is no limit to the quiet, the altitude, the solitude I need around me in order to hear my inner voices.

I would like to have enough money to build a sort of ideal dog kennel around me — I mean, a timber house with two rooms, and it would be on a peninsula which runs out into the Sils lake and on which there used to be a Roman fort. For in the long run I cannot go on living in these farmhouses, as I have done till now; the rooms are too low and cramped, and there is  always some disturbance or other. The people of Sils Maria think very kindly of me, and I like them. I eat in the Hotel Edelweiss, a very excellent inn, alone, of course, and at a price which is not entirely out of keeping with my small means. I have brought a large basket of books up with me, and the next three months are taken care of. Here my muses live: in “The Wanderer and His Shadow” I was already saying that this region was “blood kin to me and even more than that.”

Well, I have told you something of your old friend, the hermit Nietzsche — a dream I had last night prompted me to do so.

Be well disposed and loyal to me! — we are old comrades and have shared much!

Your Friedrich Nietzsche


«Suddenly Dr. Rée moves into the foreground: having to relearn about a human being with whom one has shared love and confidence for years, is dreadful.»

– Nietzsche, draft for a letter to Frau Overbeck, late June 1883.


Summer, 1883, from Sils Maria: To Franz Overbeck

Dear friend Overbeck: I would like to write you a few forthright words, just as I did recently to your dear wife.

I have an aim, which compels me to go on living and for the sake of which I must cope with even the most painful matters.

Without this aim I would take things much more lightly — that is, I would stop living. And it was not only this past winter that anyone seeing and understanding my condition from close at hand would have had the right to say: “Make it easier for yourself! Die!”; in previous times, too, in the terrible years of physical suffering, it was the same with me. Even my Genoese years are a long, long chain of self-conquests for the sake of that aim and not to the taste of any human being that I know. So, dear friend, the “tyrant in me,” the inexorable tyrant, wills that I conquer this time too (as regards physical torments, their duration, intensity, and variety, I can count myself among the most experienced and tested of people; is it my lot that I should be equally so experienced and tested in the torments of the soul?). And to be consistent with my way of thinking and my latest philosophy, I must even have an absolute victory — that is, the transformation of experience into gold and use of the highest order.

Meanwhile I am still the incarnate wrestling match, so that your dear wife’s recent requests made me feel as if someone were asking old Laocoön to set about it and vanquish his serpents.

My relatives and I — we are too different. The precaution I took against receiving any letters from them last winter cannot be maintained any more (I am not hard enough for that). But every contemptuous word that is written against Rée or Frl. Salomé makes my heart bleed; it seems I am not made to be anyone’s enemy (whereas my sister recently wrote that I should be in good spirits, that this was a “brisk and jolly war”).

I have used the strongest means I know to take my mind off it, and in particular have determined on the most intense and difficult personal productiveness. (In the meantime, I have finished the sketch of a “Morality for Moralists.”) Ah, friend, I am certainly a cunning old moralist of praxis and self-mastery; I have neglected as little in this area as, for instance, last winter when treating my own nervous fever. But I have no support from outside; on the contrary, everything seems to conspire to keep me imprisoned in my abyss — last winter’s terrible weather, the like of which the Genoese coast had never seen, and now again this cold, gloomy, rainy summer.

But the danger is extreme. My nature is all too concentrated, and whatever strikes me moves straight to my center. The misfortune of last year is only as great as it is in proportion to the aim and purpose which dominates me; I was, and have become, terribly doubtful about my right to set myself such an aim — the sense of my weakness overcame me at just the moment when everything, everything should have given me courage!

Think of some way, dear friend Overbeck, in which I can take my mind off it absolutely! I think the strongest and extremest means are required — you cannot imagine how this madness rages in me, day and night.

That I should have thought and written this year my sunniest and serenest things, many miles above myself and my misery — this is really one of the most amazing and inexplicable things I know.

As far as I can estimate, I need to survive through next year — help me to hold out for another fifteen months.

If you can see any way of realizing your idea of a meeting in Schuls, just let me know — I am extremely grateful anyway for your suggesting it.

Loyally, Your Nietzsche


Sils-Maria (The Engadine), July 1, 1883.


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.

Malwida and my sister were astonished to find Zarathustra so bitter (so embittered); I how sweet.

“Degustibus non est disputandum.” [About tastes people differ.], etc. 1

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’ bust. Will power and intellectuality are its most salient characteristics.

Your ever heartily devoted,

F. N.


«I could not associate with him [Rée] again under any circumstances, if the picture that Frl. S. drew of me really goes back to him

– Nietzsche, letter to Elizabeth, mid-July 1883.


Sils Maria, Engadin, Switzerland, August, 1883: To Malwida von Meysenbug

Meine liebe hochverehrte Freundin: Or is it impudent to call you this? One thing is certain — I have boundless confidence in you; and so it does not depend much on the words.

I have had, and am still having, a bad summer. The sorry tale of last year has started all over again; and I had to hear so much that has ruined for me this glorious solitude of nature and has practically turned it into a hell.

According to everything I have heard now — ah much too late! — these two people Rée and Lou are not worthy to lick my boots. Excuse this all too manly metaphor! It is a protracted misfortune that this R., a thorough liar and crawling slanderer, should have ever crossed my path. And for how long have I been patient and sympathetic with him! “He is a poor fellow, and one must drive him on” — how often have I told myself this whenever his impoverished and dishonest manner of thinking and living have disgusted me! I am not forgetting the annoyance I felt in 1876 when I heard that he would be coming with you to Sorrento. And this annoyance returned two years later — I was here in Sils Maria, and my sister’s announcement that he would be coming made me ill. One ought to trust one’s instincts more, even the instincts of revulsion. But Schopenhauer’s “pity” has always been the main cause of trouble in my life — and therefore I have every reason to be well disposed toward moralities which attribute a few other motives to morality and do not try to reduce our whole human effectiveness to “fellow feelings.” For this is not only a softness which any magnanimous Hellene would have laughed at — it is also a grave practical danger. One should persist in one’s own ideal of man; one should impose one’s ideal on one’s fellow beings and on oneself overpoweringly, and thus exert a creative influence! But to do this, one has to keep a nice tight rein on one’s sympathy, and treat anything that goes against our ideal (for instance, such low characters as L. and R.) as enemies. You will observe this is how I “read a moral lesson” to myself but to attain this “wisdom” has almost cost me my life.

I should have spent the summer with you and in the noble circle of your friends — but now it is too late!

With the warmest devotion and gratitude



Sils-Maria, August, 1883.

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,



«In a letter he once called her his destiny: what taste! This skinny, dirty, foul-smelling little monkey with her false breasts—a fate! Pardon me! (…)

…behind my back he [Rée] behaved toward me as a sneaky, slanderous, mendacious fellow.”»

– Nietzsche, letter to Georg Rée concerning a comment his brother Paul made about Lou.


“I never hated anyone till then, not even Wagner, whose perfidies went far beyond anything achieved by Lou. It is only now that I feel truly humiliated.”

– N. to his sister, summer 1883


Nietzsche To Peter Gast – 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’ 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 1 [the gigantic earthquake on July 28, 1883] 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 [in response to Georg Reé judicial persecution]. 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 – 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.


Sils-Maria, End of August, 1883.

Today, 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.


Sils-Maria, August 25/26, 1883: Draft of letter to Elisabeth Nietzsche

Must I still be penalized for the fact that I have agreed to a reconciliation with you? I am basically weary of your overweening moralizing claptrap. (…) And so much is fact: during the past 12 months you and you alone have put my life at risk three times! To do this to a human being like myself—to destroy his supreme activity! I have never really hated anyone, with the exception of yourself!


To Franz Overbeck [From Sils Maria, received August 28, 1883]

(This letter is for you alone.)

Dear friend: Leaving you threw me back into the deepest melancholy, and during the whole return journey I was possessed by evil, black feelings; among them there was a real hatred of my sister, who has cheated me of the success of my best acts of self-conquest for a whole year, by keeping silent at the wrong times and by speaking at the wrong times, so that I have finally become the victim of a relentless desire for vengeance, precisely when my inmost thinking has renounced all schemes of vengeance and punishment. This conflict is bringing me step by step closer to madness — I feel this in the most frightening way — and I hardly think that a journey to Naumburg would lessen this danger. Quite the opposite — this might give rise to dreadful moments; and also that long-developing hatred could break out in word and deed, and I would be the one to come off worst. Then too, letters to my sister are not advisable now — except the most harmless ones (recently I sent her one letter full of amusing verses). Perhaps my reconciliation with her was the most fatal step in the whole affair — I now see that this made her believe she was entitled to take revenge on Fräulein Salomé. Excuse me!

After we had agreed on the dubiousness of the Leipzig plan, it did me good to receive a letter from Heinze which has put an end to the whole thing — which was an act of desperation on my part.

I enclose the letter, also the first public statement on Zarathustra I; strange to relate, the letter was written in a prison. What pleases me is to see that this first reader has at once felt what it is all about: the long-promised Antichrist.

There has not been since Voltaire such an outrageous attack on Christianity — and, to tell the truth, even Voltaire had no idea that one could attack it in this way.

As for Zarathustra II, Köselitz writes: “Z. is most impressive; but it would be audacious for me to say anything about it: it knocked me over. I am still floored.”

You see!

In the meantime, during our time together my old school friend Krug tried to pay me a visit (he is “Director of the Royal Railways Administration in Cologne,” it says on his visiting card).

Köselitz’s letter contains remarks on Epicurus (an earlier one concerned Seneca) which show an incomparably profound and human grasp of this philosophy; he indicates that he has “personal philologists,”whom he herds into the library to find what there is of Epicurus in the patristic writers and other pen pushers.

What a blessing it was to have you and your warm confidence so close at hand for once! And how well we understand and understood one another! May your more stable good sense be and remain a prop to my now precariously balanced head!

Cordially, your friend



Nice, January/February 1884: Draft of letter to Franz Overbeck

By the bye, my sister is a dog in the manger: six times in the past two years she has flung a letter into the midst of my supreme and most felicitous feelings—feelings that have always been rare on this earth—a letter that has the most insidious stench of the all-too-human about it. (…)

I was shocked by that letter, over the dirty slanderous way my sister talks about Fräulein Salomé. One can make whatever criticisms one likes of this girl – and certainly others beside my sister do – but the fact remains that I have never found a more gifted and thoughtful mind. And so too with Rée and me, although we never agreed, still after every half-hour spent together we were both pleased about how much we had learned. And it is not for nothing that in this last twelve months I have achieved my highest achievement. We were sufficiently warned about one another; and although we may not have loved each other, nor was it necessary for us to give up an association which was of benefit in the highest sense to ourselves and the whole world. Something similar is true of my association with Rée; I know today as well as six years ago where his weaknesses are. – But he belongs as a thinker in my development, and his paths are in certain sense my creations. That the two have together acted against me is true – but I had forgiven them for that, just as I forgave my sister’s worse behaviour towards me.»


«My sister, incidentally, is a wretched creature; this is the sixth time in two years that she has broken in on my most sacred feelings, feelings such as have hardly existed on earth, with a letter that smells most meanly of the Human All-Too-Human. [. . .] In Rome, and in Naumburg too, I marvelled that she so seldom says anything that does not go against my grain. [. . .] After every letter I am indignant over the dirty, libellous manner in which my sister speaks of Fräulein Salomé.»

– N’s letter, or draft of a letter, probably February, 1884. [another translation]


Nice, January/February 1884: Drafts of letters to Franziska Nietzsche

But to come back a year later to things that occurred prior to my intimate meetings with Fräulein Salomé in Tautenburg and Leipzig—that was an act of incomparable brutality. And then to send me letter after letter informing me of things that were news to me, thus subsequently heaping filth on those months so full of self-sacrifice—I call that insidious. If Fräulein Salomé said of me that ”behind the mask of ideal goals” I pursued her “with filthy intentions,” ought I have been permitted to learn of it a year afterwards? I would have kicked her out with condemnations and curses, I would have rescued Rée from her.—That is only a sample of a hundred instances in which my sister’s fatal perversity toward me has shown itself. I’ve long known of course that she will have no rest till she sees me dead. Now my Zarathustra is finished! The moment I finished it and was steering into harbor, there she was, tossing handfuls of filth into my face.

Your letter hints at things that leave me speechless.

Am I not the one who last year showed the two of you a surfeit of undeserved kindness? Are you both ingrates? Or are you so utterly dishonest that you make the simplest truth stand on its head?

Who behaved wretchedly toward me, if it wasn’t the two of you? Who endangered my life, if not you? Who abandoned me totally the way you two did, so that when I needed consolation you replied by heaping scorn and filth on everything I live and strive for?

I well know the moral distance that has separated me, from childhood on, from the likes of you. I needed every ounce of gentleness, patience, and silence I could muster, in order to make that distance less palpable to you. Have you no idea of the revulsion I must try to overcome being so closely related to people like you! What is it then that causes me to throw up when I read my sister’s letters, when I have to swallow her concoctions of stupidity and insolence laced with moralizing?

For several years now I have had to defend myself against L[isbeth], to flee from her like an animal she was torturing to death; I conjured her to leave me in peace and she has not stopped tormenting me for a single moment. I was afraid to go to N[aumburg] last August, afraid of what I might do to her, and that’s why I appealed to O[verbeck] for advice. And now she strikes her little pose and acts as though she were guilty of nothing at all!

I don’t know what’s worse, Lisbeth’s boundless, insolent mindlessness, such that she proceeds to instruct me—I who know human beings down to the bone—concerning two human beings I had the time and desire to examine quite closely; or her shameless tactlessness that never tires of chucking ordure at people who at all events shared an important part of my intellectual development and who therefore are a hundred times closer to me than the empty-headed vengeful wretch she is.

My nausea—to be related to such a squalid creature.

Where did she get this nauseating brutality from? Where did she get that coy little way she has of injecting poison?

When a human being like me says “So-and-so belongs to my life’s plan,” as I did say to Lisbeth concerning Fräulein Salomé, then hers is an obtuse mindlessness, a vindictiveness, and a desire to avenge herself on a superior nature. And then to work against me in such an infamous way. In the end, of course, I achieved what I wanted.

The silly goose went so far as to accuse me of being envious of Rée! And to compare me to Gersdorff and herself to Malwida!

You cannot empathize, you have no idea what solace Dr. Rée was to me for years—faute de mieux, obviously; and what an incredible blessing it was for me to have had dealings with Fräulein Salomé.

As far as Lisbeth’s letter is concerned—her judgments of me do not perturb me. I believe I’ve heard them before. Was it from Lisbeth? Or from Fräulein Salomé? At that time they agreed at least about me. Well, then, who is double-crossing whom?

Do not believe, dear mother, that I am in a bad mood. Quite the contrary! But whoever will not be loyal to me, let them go to the devil—or, as far as I’m concerned, to Paraguay.


Nice, January/February 1884: Draft of letter to Elizabeth Nietzsche

«This is the one side: of all acquaintances that I have made, that with Mlle. Salome is the most valuable and rewarding to me. Only after my encounter with her, I was ready for my Zarathustra. I had to cut this encounter short because of you. Forgive me if I feel this harder than you can empathize with it.– Lou is the most talented, most reflecting creature one can imagine — of course, she also has questionable qualities. I, too, have such qualities. However, the beauty of questionable qualities is that they force one to think about them… as the word says, this is only suitable for thinkers… You can not imagine what comfort Dr. Rée has been to me for years — faute de mieux, of course, and what incredible blessing was to me my encounter with Mlle. Salome.»


To Erwin Rohde [Nice, February 22, 1884]

My dear old friend: I do not know why, but when I read your last letter, and particularly when I saw the charming picture of your child, it was as if you pressed my hand and looked at me sadly — sadly, as if you wanted to say: “How is it possible that we have so little in common and live as in different worlds! And yet once –“And that is how it is, friend, with all the people I love: everything is over, it is the past, forbearance; we still meet, we talk, so as not to be silent; we still exchange letters, so as not to be silent. But the look in the eyes tells the truth: and this look tells me (I hear it often enough!), “Friend Nietzsche, you are completely alone now!”

And that is really where I have arrived.

Meanwhile I go my way; actually it is a journey, a sea journey — and not for nothing have I lived for years in the city of Columbus.

My Zarathustra is finished, in its three acts: you have the first. I hope to be able to send you the other two in four or six weeks.

It is a sort of abyss of the future — something to make one shudder, especially the joy in it. Everything in it is my own, without model, kindred, precursor; a person who has lived in it will return to the world seeing things differently.

But I must not speak of this. From you, however, as a homo literatus, I will not keep back a confession — it is my theory that with this Z. I have brought the German language to a state of perfection. After Luther and Goethe, a third step had to be taken — look and see, old chum of mine, if vigor, flexibility, and euphony have ever consorted so well in our language. Read Goethe after reading a page of my book — and you will feel that that “undulatory” quality peculiar to Goethe as a draftsman was not foreign to the shaper of language also.

My line is superior to his in strength and manliness, without becoming, as Luther’s did, loutish. My style is a dance – a play of symmetries of every kind, and an overleaping and mockery of these symmetries. This enters the very vowels.

Forgive me! I shall take care not to confess this to anyone else, but you did once (I think you are alone in this) express delight in my language.

In any case I have remained a poet, in the most radical sense of the word — although I have tyrannized myself a great deal with the antithesis of poetry.

Ah, friend, what a crazy, silent life I live! So alone, alone! So childless.

Think of me with affection, as I truly do of you.

Your F. N.


Nice, April 7, 1884, Monday: To Franz Overbeck


My company this winter was provided by the people staying in the house in which I live: an old Prussian general with his daughter, in all practical things my adviser; an American parson’s elderly wife, who translated from the English for me about two hours a day; recently Albert Köchlin and his wife (from Lörrach) have been extremely kind to me. At the moment I have a visitor, for about ten days, from Zürich, a girl student [Resa von Schirnhofer]; you will find this amusing — it does me good, quietens me somewhat, after the “great surgings” inside me during the last months. She is a friend of Irma von Regner-Bleileben; she and Frl. Salomé seem to be mutual admirers; she is also very intimate with Countess Dönhoff and her mother, naturally with Malwida too, so that we have enough personal things in common. Yesterday we went to a Spanish bullfight together.

Heavens! I am starting to receive a pretty odd type of letter — this kind of adulatory style was introduced among the German youth by Richard Wagner; and what I long ago prophesied is now beginning — my becoming in some ways Wagner’s heir.

The last few months I have been reading “world history,” with great delight although with some horrifying results. Have I ever shown you the letter from Jakob Burckhardt which pushed me headfirst into “world history?”

If I get to Sils Maria in the summer, I mean to set about revising my metaphysical and epistemological views.

I must now proceed step by step through a series of disciplines, for I have decided to spend the next five years on an elaboration of my “philosophy,” the portico of which I have built in my Zarathustra.

On reading the Morgenröte and Fröhliche Wissenschaft, I happened to find that hardly a line there does not serve as introduction, preparation, and commentary to the aforesaid Zarathustra. It is a fact that I did the commentary before writing the text.

How are Emerson and your dear wife?

Your friend N.

How is it you say nothing about your health?


Nice, April 22, 1884: Postcard to Franz Overbeck

My dear friend [….] The latest news is that great misgivings arise with regard to my publisher. [….] The accursed anti-Semitism is ruining all my chances for financial independence, students, new friends, influence, it alienated R[ichard] W[agner] and me, it is the cause of a [radical] break between me and my sister etc. etc. etc. [….]


Interview of Dr. Eiser by Eugen Kretzer (a friend of Nietzsche), 1884:

«Why did Nietzsche break with Wagner?” Eiser stated: “I alone know, because it took place in my house, in my examining room, when I gave Nietzsche the letter [from Wagner, relating N.’s illness to onanism] with the best intentions. An outbreak of anger was the result, Nietzsche was beyond himself—one cannot repeat the words he applied to Wagner – at that moment the breach was sealed.»


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

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.


Venice, beginning of May 1884: Letter to Malwida von Meysenbug

By now, my highly esteemed friend, the last two parts of Zarathustra are hopefully in your hands [….] Who knows how many generations it will take to produce a few men who can fully appreciate what I have done. And I am appalled by the thought of all the unqualified and wholly unsuitable types who will some day appeal to my authority. But this is the torment of every great teacher of mankind: he knows that he has as much chance of becoming its curse as its blessing.

But this solitude, ever since my earliest childhood! This secretiveness, even in the most intimate relationships! There can be no breaking it, even by kindness. Recently when Frl. von Schimhofer visited me in Nice, I often thought of you with great gratitude, for I guessed that this was due to your kindness; and truly her visit came at the right time, and was a gay and useful one (especially since there was no conceited goose there — excuse me! I meant my sister). But by and large I do not believe there is anyone who could rid me of this deep-rooted feeling of being alone. I have never found anyone to whom I could talk as I talk to myself.

Forgive this kind of confession, meine verehrte Freundin!

I would like to know two things; first, where you are spending this summer; second, I need Liszt’s address, the one in Rome (not for myself).

I am troubled about that inhuman letter which I sent you last summer; this unspeakably nasty harrying had really made me ill. Meanwhile the situation has been changed by my radical break with my sister; for heaven’s sake, do not think that you should mediate between us and reconcile us — there can be no reconciliation between a vindictive anti-Semitic goose and me. Beyond that, I am showing as much forbearance as possible, because I know what can be said to excuse my sister and what is at the back of her (to me) so despicable and undignified behavior — love. It is essential that she should leave for Paraguay as soon as possible. Later, very much later, she will come to realize how much her ceaseless filthy suspicions about my character (it has been going on for two years!) have damaged the most decisive period in my life.

Ultimately there remains for me the very uncomfortable task of righting the wrong that my sister has done Dr. Rée and Frl. Salomé (soon Frl. Salomé’s first book will be appearing — on “religious emotion” — the very theme for which I discovered in Tautenburg her extraordinary talent and experience; it gladdens me that my efforts at that time should not have been entirely wasted). My sister reduces a rich and original creature like her to “lies and sensuality” — she sees in Dr. Rée and Frl. Salomé nothing but two “rotters”; it is of course against this that my sense of justice revolts, whatever good reasons I may have for thinking that the two of them have deeply offended me. It was very instructive for me that my sister, in the end, brought just the same blind suspicion to bear on me as on Frl. Salomé; only then did I realize that all the bad qualities which I had ascribed to Frl. S. went back to that squabble which occurred before I knew Frl. S. more closely — how much my sister must have misunderstood and added to what she heard then! She has no understanding of human beings at all — heaven forbid that one of Dr. Förster’s enemies should ever get into a discussion with her about him!

Once more asking your forgiveness for bringing up this old story again! I wanted only to prevent you from having your own feelings influenced by that horrible letter which I wrote you last summer. Extraordinary people like Frl. Salomé deserve, especially when they are as young as she, to be treated with every consideration and sympathy. And even if I myself, for various reasons, am unable to wish for any new approach toward closer relations from her side, I shall nevertheless disregard all personal considerations in the event of her position becoming difficult and desperate. I now understand only too well, through this complicated experience, how easily my own life and destiny could come into the same disrepute as hers — deservedly and undeservedly, as always seems to be the case with such natures.

With affection, devotion and gratitude



Venice, May 21, 1884: To Franz Overbeck

Dear friend: My latest letter troubled you more than I would have liked: altogether I write very foolish letters.

I must put an end to this business with my relatives — for two years I have been wearing myself out with the most goodnatured efforts to put things right and to put their minds at rest, but in vain. As far as I know, moreover, this sort of incompatibility is the normal thing for men of my rank. It is bad enough for me to realize — at last! I must say that nearly all my still existing relationships suffer from, and have been made absurd by, an irreparable fault at the root. Ultimately, though, my real distress lies elsewhere and not in my consciousness of this absurdity: a distress so great and deep that I am always asking if any man has ever suffered so. Who, indeed, feels as I do what it means to feel with every fiber of one’s being that “the weights of all things must be decided anew.” That from this situation, in the twinkling of an eye, all kinds of physical danger, prison and suchlike, could arise is the least important thing; or rather, it would comfort me if things were to go that far. I require so much from myself that I am ungrateful-vis-à-vis the best work that I have done till now; and if I do not go to such an extreme that whole millennia will make their loftiest vows in my name, then in my own eyes I shall have achieved nothing. Meanwhile, I do not have a single disciple.

Onward! Let’s talk of other things.

It was high time for me to come to Venice; for our maestro can hardly be persuaded to leave the place, and he thinks he really need do no more than write a score now and then. He hardly considers performance and performability, and in retrospect I realize how important it was that I summoned him to Leipzig in the fall eighteen months ago — even though it seemed at first to have been pointless. But it was not pointless; if he had not gone there, he would have spent another two years writing impossible music. I showed him at once that his “plan” with the Milanese firm of Lucca was just as impractical as his Venetian one, proving it with the firm’s letter, which was an unconditional no. Also that his music, meanwhile, is impossible for Italians, and would, moreover, offend their piety toward their Cimarosa. In short, there was a revolution in all sorts of ways, including the libretto — Finali’s — and many questions of form, which concern the music’s effect. To summarize the result, look at this theater advertisement: The Lion of Venice Comic Opera in Five Acts by Peter Gast. Probable first performance in Dresden toward Christmas. Wasn’t that well done?

In general, everything is going excellently with him, even amazingly well — I mean, as far as the development of his powers is concerned; and if, step by step, he can purge himself of the vestiges of petty taste, the Saxon Chinese hypertrophy of good-naturedness and suchlike, then we shall live to see the birth of a new classical music, which will be entitled to summon up the spirits of Greek heroes. Meanwhile, he has given Venice a monument with the aforenamed work; and it is possible that twenty enchanting melodies from it will one day blend with the name and idea of “Venice.” Here I have a fine opportunity for preaching my esthetic morality, and truly not to deaf ears! One must liberate R. W.’s great cause from his personal defects, defects which became converted into principles; in this sense I mean to lay hand, gladly, on his works and to prove, retrospectively, that we did not come together merely by “accident.”

I welcome with joy your speaking of the “mystical separatists”; recently I was telling Köselitz that no “German culture” exists or ever has existed — except among mystical hermits, Beethoven and Goethe very much included!

Your friend and your wife’s, Nietzsche


Zürich, October 4, 1884, Pension Neptun: To Franziska Nietzsche

My dear mother: In the meantime you will have had ample news that your children are now getting on nicely together again and are well and happy in every way.

But it cannot be said at the moment how long they will be together; the work which I plan requires solitude at all costs, and the clubfoot which I drag around with me — I mean my 104 kilos of books — will not let me fly too far away from here.

So it is impossible that we shall see each other again this year; I deeply hope that this will not upset you at all.

I welcome with gratitude the good intentions expressed in your last letter — that I should go about in the world somewhat more splendidly dressed; as a matter of fact, I am rather lacking in this regard, and, as a result of so many travels and changes, I am somewhat too scraped, like a mountain sheep.

My health gives me continuous trouble: a strange place and any food or daily routine to which I am not accustomed always maltreat me. But my appearance is good and not different from what it was last year.

With many thanks,

Your F.


Autumn of 1884-beginning of 1885: Nachlass, 29[18]

“die Ehrfurcht vor Gott ist die Ehrfurcht vor dem Zusammenhang aller Dinge und Überzeugung von höheren Wesen als der Mensch ist.”

[the reverence for God is the reverence for the connection of all things and conviction of  beings higher than man is.]


Nizza, Thursday, March 13, 1885: To Malwida von Meysenbug

Verehrte Freundin: Have you been wondering why I have stopped writing to you? I have been wondering about it too, but every time I began, I eventually put my pen down again. If I knew why, I would not wonder any more, but — I would perhaps be sad.

I have not been well the whole winter (I missed the dry air, thanks to this year’s abnormal weather), and when your kind letter came I was very ill in bed. But that is an old story, and I had really had enough of writing letters about my health. “Help” — whoever could help me! I am by far my best doctor. And the positive side of it — that I can endure it and assert my will against so much resistance — is my proof for that.

Throughout the winter there was a German around me, who “holds me in reverence” — thank heaven he has gone! He bored me, and in our talks I was obliged to keep silent about so many things.

O the moral tartufferie of these blessed Germans! If only you could promise me an Abbé Galiani in Rome! There’s a man for my taste — Stendhal too. As for music, I tested last autumn, conscientiously and curiously, how I now stand regarding R. Wagner’s music. How horrid I find this cloudy, sticky — above all, histrionic and pretentious music! As horrid as — as — as a thousand things -for example, Schopenhauer’s philosophy. It is the music of a musician and man who has gone astray — but of a great actor — I’ll swear to it. But I applaud the brave and innocent music of my pupil and friend Peter Gast, an authentic musician; he will see to it that the actors and pseudo-geniuses will not ruin people’s taste for much longer. Poor Stein! He even thinks that R. Wagner is a philosopher!

Why am I talking about this? It is only to give you some kind of example. It is the humor of my situation that I should be mistaken for the former Basel professor Dr. Friedrich Nietzsche. The devil take him! What has this fellow to do with me!

To be sure, meine verehrte Freundin, this letter is “between ourselves.”

Do give me the address of that monastery! It could be that I should attempt to visit Rome sometime in the autumn, assuming that I can live there incognito and that nothing unnatural is imputed to my hermit’s nature.

You know, surely, how devoted I am to you?

Your N.

I do not like this coast. I despise Nice, but in the winter it has the driest air in Europe.


Nice, mid-March 1885: Draft of a Letter to Elisabeth Nietzsche

When I read your letter I once again became aware of the reason why some of the finer minds in Germany take me to be insane and even spread the rumor abroad that I died in an asylum. I am much too proud as ever to believe that any person could love me, namely, this requires the precondition that a person knows who I am. Just as little do I believe that I will love anyone. That would require—wonder of wonders!—finding a human being of my stature [Ranges]. Do not forget that I despise as much as I deeply pity such beings as Richard Wagner or A. Schopenhauer, and that I find the founder of Christianity superficial in comparison with myself; I have loved them all at a time when I had not understood what a human being is.

It strikes me as one of those puzzles I have sometimes thought about—how it is possible that we are blood related? Whatever had occupied me, worried me, and elevated me has never brought me a co-knower and friend! It is a pity that there is no God, so that at least one knower would exist.— As long as I am healthy, I retain sufficient good humor in order to play my role and to hide from the world within that role, for instance as a Basel professor. Sadly enough, I have been very ill and would hate, unspeakably, the people I have come to know, myself included. —

My dear sister, let all this remain between ourselves—and you may promptly burn this letter. If I were not such a good example of a play-actor, I could not bear to live another hour.

For people like myself, marriage does not fit into the picture: it could only be in the style of our Goethe [who eventually married Christiane Vulpius, a non-literate seamstress]. I never think of being loved.

When I have shown you great rage, it is because you forced me to relinquish the last human beings [Lou Salomé and Paul Rée] with whom I could speak without tartuffery. Now—I am alone.

With them, I had been able to converse without a mask about things which interested me. What they thought of me was quite immaterial to me. — Now I am alone.

Hide this letter from our mother and— — —

[….] Do not be angry over this letter. There is more civility in it than if, as usual, I were to play a comedy. [….]


Nice, March 31, 1885, Saturday: To Franziska and Elisabeth Nietzsche

At last, my dears — that is to say, since an hour ago — I am in a position to tell you what my plans are for this spring. Zürich is no longer on the program, because of a sudden decision on the part of Herr Gast; this morning I heard from him that he absolutely cannot bear it there any longer and is on the way to Venice. But I do need to meet Herr G. now, for we have common plans; also, for the present state of my eyes, Venice is the best of places -enough; I am very pleased with this turn in events, which will spare me the journey to Zürich.

Herr Gast has the same troubles in Zürich as I once had in Basel (that means, for about ten years of my youth!): the climate in these cities goes contrary to our productive powers, and this constant torment makes us ill. In this respect Basel was a very great misfortune for me, and I am still suffering from the terrible after-effects of that time (and shall never be rid of them).

One is thoroughly punished for one’s ignorance; if I had, at the right moment, concerned myself with medical, climatic, and similar problems, instead of with Theognis and Diogenes Laertius, I would not be the halfruined person that I am.

And thus one loses one’s youth, and now one is past forty and still making the first experiments with what one does need and should have needed twenty years ago.

You will notice that I am once more in my more serene state of mind; the main reason for this is the departure of Herr Lanzky. A very estimable man and very devoted to me — but what do I care for either of these things! For me he means what I call “cloudy weather,” “German weather,” and the like. Really, there is nobody living about whom I care much; the people I like have been dead for a long long time — for example, the Abbé Galiani, or Henri Beyle, or Montaigne.

About my sister’s future, I have my own thoughts — that is to say, I do not think it would be a good thing for Dr. Förster to return to Paraguay. Europe is not so small; and if one does not want to live in Germany (and in this I am like him), one still does not need to go so very far away. But of course I do not have his enthusiasm for “things German,” and even less for keeping this “glorious” race pure. On the contrary, on the contrary

Forgive me — you can see how serene I am. Perhaps we shall meet again this year. But not in Naumburg; you know that it does not suit me, and the place does not strike any chords in my heart; I was not “born” there and have never been “at home” there.

This winter Nice has for once been less bright and dry than usual. But I shall hardly be able to leave before the end of March. With love, your F. I forgot, my dear mother, to thank you for your letter which crossed with mine. It never for a moment occurred to me to “take” anything “badly” – on the contrary!


Nice, March 31, 1885: To Franz Overbeck

Everything has arrived safely. Thank you, dear old friend, for all this trouble and care that you are taking on my account. You write nothing about your health and that of your wife. I take it as a good sign that you have borne this winter with better fortune than I have. For me there was much to overcome, many days of sickness. My eyes keep getting worse. Schiessen’s medicines have not helped. Since last summer there has been a new development, which I do not understand — spots, blur, and watering too. I really ought not to stay in Nice again: the danger of being run over in the street is too great. Someone always had to serve me at table; I do not want to eat in company as long as the state persists.

Probably I shall spare myself the journey northward; the dangers and excitements of traveling alone have now become too great for me. Dr. Förster is back from Paraguay — great jubilation in Naumburg. Perhaps my sister’s marriage will bring some benefit to me also; she will have much to do and will have somebody else whom she can trust completely and to whom she really can be useful, which two things were not always possible as far as concerns myself.

I have heard no news of the proceedings against Sch[meitzner]. Finally he had set himself a deadline for January 1, but, as before, he had passed it without so much as a murmur. Perhaps I can still manage to withdraw from him, and thus from the “public,” the first three parts of my Zarathustra, which is what I want most of all.

Naturally I have not found a publisher for the fourth Zarathustra. Well, I am satisfied with it, and even enjoy it as a new stroke of fortune. What a lot of diffidence I always have had to overcome, in all my publications!

If a man draws up the sum of a deep and hidden life, as I have been doing, then the result is meant for the eyes and consciences of only the most select people. Enough, all in good time. My desire for pupils and heirs makes me impatient now and then, and it has even, it seems, made me commit during recent years follies that were mortally dangerous. Eventually the immense gravity of my task always restores my equilibrium, and I know perfectly well what the foremost necessity is.

I have been reading, as relaxation, St. Augustine’s Confessions, much regretting that you were not with me. O this old rhetorician! What falseness, what rolling of eyes! How I laughed! (for example, concerning the “theft” of his youth, basically an undergraduate story). What psychological falsity! (for example, when he talks about the death of his best friend, with whom he shared a single soul, he “resolved to go on living, so that in this way  his friend would not wholly die.” Such things are revoltingly dishonest). Philosophical value zero! vulgarized Platonism — that is to say, a way of thinking which was invented for the highest aristocracy of soul, and which he adjusted to suit slave natures. Moreover, one sees into the guts of Christianity in this book. I make my observations with the curiosity of a radical physician and physiologist.

The sudden disappearance of our “relapsed” musician, who flummoxed me too with a postcard, made me angry. It is no use — I must go to Venice again, as last year, and see what the matter really is. After all, we must be fair; for years he has been leading an undignified dog’s life as a music copyist — it is not surprising that he should for once run wild in a way! The copying of immense scores, the making of piano scores, during the productive years of a productive man’s life, when something quite different was needed, is a misery to me. Richard Wagner never had such a bad time, and even Herr Bungert uses other musicians and copyists for such purposes. He has no money — voilà tout! And therefore this “Lion of Venice” must first publicly roar. And I want to do what I can to help.

I laughed about Frl. von Salis’s precautions. That belongs among the subtleties of the agents provocateurs; she wanted exactly what she achieved — a refusal — in order to make capital for “agitation.” [She had asked to be admitted to Jakob Burckhardt’s lectures at Basel; Burckhardt strongly supported the request at a regents’ meeting on March 19, but it was voted down. No women were admitted to university lectures at that time.]

Friendly greetings to yourself and your dear wife; as ever


F. N.

Nice, March 31, 1885


Venice, May 20, 1885: To Elisabeth Nietzsche
[Elisabeth married Bernhard Förster on May 22. Nietzsche stayed with Gast in Venice from April 10 to June 6 and didn’t go to the wedding]

My dear Lama: On the decisive day in your life (and the day on which nobody could wish you happiness and prosperity and good omens and good spirits more than I do) — on this day I must draw up a sort of account of my life.

From now on, your mind and heart will be, first and foremost, taken up with quite other things than your brother’s concerns, and that is right and good — and likewise it is natural that you will more and more come to share your husband’s way of thinking — which is not my way at all, whatever I may find in it to honor and applaud. So that you may in the future have a kind of indication as to how far your brother’s judgment will require from you much prudence and perhaps also forbearance, I am describing for you today, as a sign of great affection, the bad and difficult nature of my situation. I have found until now, from earliest childhood, nobody who had the same needs of heart and conscience as myself. This compels me still today, as at all times, to present myself, as best I can, and often with a lot of bad feeling, among one or another of the sorts of human being who are permitted and understandable nowadays. But that one can only really grow among people of like mind and like will is for me an axiom of belief (even down to diet and the body’s demands); that I have no such person is my misfortune. My university existence was a wearisome attempt to adapt to a false milieu; my approach to Wagner was the same — only in the opposite direction. Almost all my human relationships have resulted from attacks of a feeling of isolation: Overbeck, as well as Rée and Malwida — I have been ridiculously happy if ever I found, or thought I had found, in someone a little patch or corner of common concern. My mind is burdened with a thousand shaming memories of such weak moments, in which I absolutely could not endure solitude any more. Not omitting my illness, which always discourages me in the most horrifying way; I have not been so profoundly ill for nothing, and am ill on the average now still — that is, depressed — as I say, simply because I was lacking the right milieu and I always had to playact somewhat instead of refreshing myself in people. I do not for that reason consider myself in the least a secret or furtive or mistrustful person; quite the reverse! If I was that, I would not suffer so much!

But one cannot just simply communicate, however much one wants to; one has to find the person to whom communication can be made. The feeling that there is about me something very remote and alien, that my words have other colors than the same words from other people, that with me there is much multicolored foreground, which is deceptive — precisely this feeling, of which testimony has lately been reaching me from various sides, is nevertheless the subtlest degree of “understanding” that I have till now found. Everything I have written hitherto is foreground; for me the real thing begins only with the dashes. I am dealing with the most dangerous matters; that I commend the Germans between times, in a popular manner, to Schopenhauer or Wagner or think up Zarathustra — these things are for me recreation but, above all, hiding places, behind which I can sit down again for a while.

Do not therefore think me mad, my dear Lama, and especially forgive me for not coming to your wedding — such a “sick” philosopher would be a bad person to give away the bride!

With a thousand affectionate good wishes,

Your F.


Venice, end of May, 1885: To Franziska Nietzsche

My dear good mother: I have been feeling, all this time, much as you have; the whole thing went through me like a knife. And because your son has bad health, he was ill; this spring is one of the most melancholy in my life. I lack distractions and sympathetic people. On the wedding day, I had the good luck to go on an excursion to the Lido with a Basel family known to me from Nice; it was a real relief to be compelled to talk with people who were kindly disposed and halfway strange to me.

Perhaps everything has turned out just as it should be; also the two of us (I mean Dr. Förster and myself) have behaved correctly and with a very good will toward one another. But it is a dangerous situation, and we must be a bit careful; for my personal taste, such an agitator is an impossible person to have more intimate dealings with. He probably feels the same; he wrote to me in his latest letter, “I venture to doubt if a personal relationship before our departure would leave us enduring satisfaction.” You understand.

I do not understand the shaping of his future, and for my own part I am too aristocratically inclined to be legally and socially on the same footing as twenty farming families, as he states in his program. In such circumstances, the person with the strongest will and the best intelligence comes out on top; for these two qualities in particular, German men of learning are badly prepared. The vegetarian diet, which Dr. Förster requires, makes such natures even more susceptible to irritation and gloom. Just look at the “meat-eating” English — till now, that was the race which knew best how to found colonies. Phlegm and roast beef — that was till now the receipe for such “undertakings.”

I still do not know what I shall do this summer. Probably my old Sils Maria, even though I have horrible memories of all my stays there. I was always ill, had none of the food which I really needed, was immensely bored, owing to lack of eyesight and people — and was always in a sort of despair when September came.

This time I have invited an old lady who lives in Zürich; I have still not heard from her about it. The young ladies — at least all the ones who sprout around Malwida von Meysenbug — are not to my taste; and I have lost all desire to seek my entertainment there. I would even prefer the company of German professors; at least they have learned something solid and honest, and consequently one can learn something from them.

My eyes get worse every day, and, unless someone comes along and helps me, I shall probably be blind by the year’s end. So I shall decide not to read and write at all — but one cannot stick it out when one is completely alone.

Love as ever,

Your son

N.B. It always vexes me that my foolish health and your Naumburg and house do not get on with each other.

It would be no small comfort for me if you could be with me.

Venezia (Italia) (poste restante)


Leipzig [October, 1885] Auenstrasse 48/II rechts: To Franz Overbeck

Dear friend: Greetings from Leipzig! That will surprise you. But I could not resist coming to Germany again this fall (though there is nothing left here for me, body or “soul”), in order to see my mother and sister together again — who knows, perhaps for the last time. For in January or February the new “colonists” will be leaving, fortunately not alone but in company with others, all of them admirable and respectable people. I have not yet seen Dr. Förster, for he is in Westphalia, talking and riding alternately on his two horses (Paraguay and anti-Semitism), and will be doing the same in Saxony in November. People like us have no idea of the mass of work and excitement associated with such tasks. What consoles me is the unanimity in the praise of his character (for I was concerned to establish, on the sly, from friends and foes, the approximate reputation of my so unexpected “relative”). There are certainly good enough reasons for not generally trusting the anti-Semites any further than one can see them. And their case is much more popular than one supposes from afar — the whole Prussian nobility is indeed in raptures about it. The idea of colonization in Paraguay is something which I have personally studied, in case there might one day be a refuge for me there too. My conclusion is an unconditional no; my climatic needs are quite the contrary. In other respects, however, there is much good sense in the idea; it is a spendid soil for German farming people, and Westphalians and Pomeranians can take ship for the place with minds at rest though without actually fantastic expectations. Whether or not it is the right place for my sister and brother-in-law is another matter; and I confess that my mother and I are both often, and indeed terribly, worried about it. That my mother will be hereafter all alone is another worry for me. Perhaps she will end up spending at least a part of each year with me, possibly in Venice. That will be a great benefit for me, since, on account of my physical state and halfblindness, a considerate nurse (you will realize that my mother wants me to get married [–], but she wishes it in vain) is becoming increasingly necessary, to say nothing of my inner isolation, from which the best will in the world could not now extract me. I accept this isolation as my lot, and I mean also to learn to bear it not as a misfortune. As a matter of fact, what I lack now is a person who would put the right space and distance around me, a sort of master of ceremonies, who would spare me the superfluous  malheurs to which I have been exposed during recent years, as I am exposed to them now once again. It seems that a big bêtise has to be committed against me at least once a month, especially by messieurs les women, who, in our age, are losing terribly their grace of heart and their modesty. [Es scheint, daß jeden Monat wenigstens eine große bêtise gegen mich begangen werden muß, besonders von den Herrn Weibern, die in unsrer Zeit erschrecklich an Grazie des Herzens und an Bescheidenheit abnehmen.] Well, anyway, may heaven grant that people gradually forget me, and that my solitude may cease to be a pretext for shameless gossip.

My plans for Sils Maria still hold: the needs of my eyes have been most graciously met there, by the creation of shady walks and a redisposition of the furniture in my room. Nothing is settled for the winter yet. Perhaps Venice, which will be possible for me as hermit after Köselitz’s departure (for Vienna). Schmeitzner’s case is my first concern [——]. How are you, dear old friend? N. In the middle of the month I shall be in Naumburg again. I cannot, at the moment, give you details of my monetary wishes.


Leipzig, October 15, 1885: To Heinrich von Stein

Werter und sehr lieber Herr: Your letter, which I discovered at the post office yesterday, was very touching — you are right, and what help would it be to prove that, on my part at least, an injustice has been done to you? I do as sick animals do and hide myself away in my “cave” — Leipzig is even more of a cave in this sense than Naumburg could be. The journey northward was not a success — my health was continuously dull and overcast; a few business matters, which seem to be urgent, refuse to be finally settled. And so forth.

Yesterday I saw Rée’s book about conscience — how empty, how boring, how false!

One really ought to speak only of things which are the stuff of one’s experience.

I felt very differently about the seminovel by his sœur inséparable Salomé, whom I could at once jokingly picture. Every formal aspect of it is girlish, soft, and — in the pretense that an old man is supposed to be telling the story — downright comic. But the matter itself has its serious side and its loftiness; and even if it is certainly not the eternal feminine which draws the girl on, then it is perhaps the eternal masculine.

I forgot to say how much I can appreciate the plain, clear, almost classical form of Rée’s book. This is the “philosophical mantle.” — A pity that there is not more content inside such a mantle! Yet no praise can be too high when, among Germans, someone abjures, as Rée has always done, the real German devil, the genius or daimon of obscurity. The Germans think. They are profound. But what am I doing? The cave bear is beginning to growl — let us all remain valiantly at our posts, also with some concern for one another; for what suits one does not suit two at all. Above all, let us growl as little is possible!

Loyally, your N.

(In an hour, I am leaving for Naumburg; there I shall at last see Dr. Förster.)


Leipzig, Auenstrasse 48/II rechts, October 17, 1885: To Franz Overbeck

Dear friend: Everything is safely in my hands — and your birthday greeting, just arrived, safely in my heart.

It was the only greeting on paper that I received this time; I thought about this fact of a forty-one-year-old life for a long time. It too is a sort of result and perhaps not an altogether sad one, at least when one has a right to avow that the meaning of one’s life consists in knowing. To knowing belongs estrangement, distancing, perhaps a freezing too. You will have had ample chance to observe how the scale of “frost feelings,” is now almost my specialty; that comes of living for so long “high up,” “on the mountain,” or also, like fair game, “up in the air”; one becomes sensitive to the subtlest charm of warmth, and more and more sensitive — O one becomes so thankful for friendship, my dear old friend!

Two days in Naumburg, for the “celebration” of my birthday. All the time unwell — I cannot make out whether from the outside inward or from the inside. Dense hazy sky and, perhaps, Naumburg for the last time.

I found Dr. Förster not unpleasant; there is something affectionate and noble about him, and he seems really made for action. It surprised me to see how many things he was always dealing with and how easy it was for him; I am different. His values are, as is only reasonable, not exactly to my taste. Everything is finished off too quickly — I think that we (you and I) find this kind of mind precipitate. A description of Förster which I read some time ago, published in The Times, I now find to have been a fair estimate.

Meanwhile the affair with Schmeitzner has been dragging on and on — I cannot say that it has been going “forward,” not at all. Since last Monday, when a solemnly promised decision was to have been taken — the profoundest silentium. Compulsory auction is the prospect; since June his whole publishing concern has been legally impounded by me as a pledge. Assuming that the auction takes place, an attempt will be made to restore to me all my writings, so that I can transfer them to a new, worthier publisher (probably Veit and Company, i.e., Herr Credner in Leizpig). That is the plan. I cannot leave here until the matter is settled.

Yesterday I received, from the bookseller, a copy of Rée’s Entstehung des Gewissens, and after a quick look at it I thanked my lucky stars that two or three years ago I refused to accept the dedication of this work, which was intended for me. Poor, incomprehensibly “senile.” — At the same time, by a nice irony of chance, there arrived Frl. von Salomé’s book, whose effect on me was the reverse. What a contrast between the girlish and sentimental form and the strong-willed and knowledgeable content! There is loftiness in it; and even if it is not really the eternal feminine which draws this pseudomaiden ever onward, then perhaps it is — the eternal masculine. And there are a hundred echoes of our Tautenburg conversations in it.

Best greetings from me to your wife (by the way, Förster told me of a very pleasant meeting with you both — I thought that he was altogether a stranger to you?).

Loyally, your N.

Leipzig, October 17, 1885


Sils-Maria, July 8, 1886

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 forgotten, 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![89]—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!



Sils-Maria, August 6, 1886: Letter to Franz Overbeck

Dear friend: Some news and a request! Fritzsch has just telegraphed from Leipzig: “Acquisition assured at last” — words which are a joy to hear.

A fatal mistake of my Basel years (somewhat “too much trust,” as so often in my life) has thus been finally put right. What a good thing I went to Germany this spring! I have to repeat that, because it showed me at first hand my situation regarding publishers and public, also because I dealt in person with the excellent Naumann brothers. The new book, a result which could not have been settled from a distance, is now ready; a few days ago I gave instructions for a copy to be sent to you in Basel.

Now the request, old friend: read it, from cover to cover, and do not let it embitter or estrange you — “collect all your strength,”all the strength of your goodwill toward me, your patient and a hundred times proved goodwill; if the book is insufferable to you, perhaps a hundred details in it will not be! Perhaps too it will have the effect of shedding a few rays of light on my Zarathustra, which is an unintelligible book, because it is based on experiences which I share with nobody. If only I could give you an idea of my sense of solitude!

Among the living, as among the dead, I have nobody with whom I have any affinity. It gives me the shudders — indescribably; and only my practice in enduring this sense and my gradual development of it from earliest childhood enable me to understand why it has not yet been the death of me. As for the rest, I can see clearly before me the task for which I live — as a factum of indescribable sadness, but transfigured by my consciousness that there is greatness in it, if ever there was greatness in the task of a mortal man.

I am staying here till the beginning of September.

In loyalty,

Your F. N.


Nice (France), November 14, 1886: Letter to Franz Overbeck

Dear friend,

[….] The antinomy of my current situation, of the form of my existence, consists in this: everything that I need in order to be philosophus radicalis—freedom from profession, wife, child, society, fatherland, faith, etc. etc.—I equally suffer as deprivations, inasmuch as I have the good fortune to be a living creature and not merely an analyzing machine or objectivizing apparatus. I have to add that this juxtaposition of necessities and deprivations is driven to extremes by the lack of an even moderately durable health. For in my moments of health I feel the deprivations less keenly. Further, I absolutely do not know how to bring together the five conditions that would restore my delicate health to a bearable modicum. Finally, the worst possible situation would prevail if in order to attain those five conditions of health I had to deprive myself of the eight freedoms of the philosophus radicalis.— This strikes me as the most objective account of my rather complicated situation … Excuse me! Or, rather, you may have a good laugh at this! [….]


Nietzsche To His Sister – Nice, Wednesday, March 23, 1887

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.


To Malwida von Meysenbug

Address: Chur (Switzerland), Rosenhügel, until June 10; thereafter, Celerina, Oberengadin [May 12, 1887]

Hochverehrte Freundin:

Strange! The very kind idea which you have expressed, that we might both find it profitable and refreshing now to draw our two solitudes together and become close and friendly neighbors, is one that I have often had and contemplated in recent times. To spend another winter together, perhaps even with Trina looking after us both and waiting upon us — that is really a most enticing prospect and perspective, for which I cannot be too grateful to you! Preferably in Sorrento again (δ࿳ζ κα࿳ τò καλòν, the Greeks say — “all good things come twice and three times!”). Or on Capri — where I shall make music for you again, and better than the previous time! Or in Amalfi, or Castellamare. Possibly even in Rome (although my distrust of the Roman climate and of all big cities is based on good reasons and is not easily reversed). Solitude with most solitary nature has been till now my solace, my  medicine; such cities full of modern goings-on, like Nice and even Zürich (from which I have just come), make me in the long run irritable, sad, unsure, despondent, unproductive, unwell. What I have retained from that quiet stay down there is a sort of yearning and superstition, as if there, if only for a few moments, I had breathed more deeply than anywhere else in my life. For example, on that very first journey in Naples, when together we went toward the Posilippo.

All things considered, finally, you are now the only person who could make me have this wish; for the rest, I feel condemned to my solitude and fortress. There is no choice any more. The unusual and difficult task which commands me to go on living commands me to avoid people and to bind myself to no one any more. It may be due to the state of extreme candor to which that task has brought me that I can now no longer smell “human beings,” least of all the “young people,” by whom I am not infrequently pestered (oh, they are importunate and clumsy, just like young dogs!). That other time in Sorrento, Brenner and Rພ were too much for me; I imagine that I was very taciturn toward them, even on subjects about which I would have spoken to nobody but them.

On my table is the new edition (in two volumes) of Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, the first part of which was being worked out at that time — strange! strange! close to your estimable self! In the long “prefaces” which I have thought necessary for the reissue of all my writings, there are curious things, of a ruthless frankness about myself. This is to keep the “crowd” once and for all at arm’s length, for nothing annoys people so much as noticing something of the severity and hardness with which one treats, and has treated, oneself under the discipline of one’s most individual ideal. To balance this, I have cast my book for the “few,” and even then without impatience; the indescribable strangeness and dangerousness of my thoughts are such that a long time must pass before there are ears to hear them — and certainly not before 1901.

To come to Versailles — ah, if only that might somehow be possible! For I revere the circle of people whom you find there (a curious admission  from a German; but I feel myself in Europe today to be related only to the intellectual French and Russians and not at all to my cultivated compatriots, who judge all things by the principle Deutschland, Deutschland über alles.) But I must return into the cold Engadin air; the spring afflicts me incredibly – I do not like to confess what an abyss of despondency I am wandering in, under its influence. My body feels (as my philosophy does too) that it is committed to the cold as its preserving element — that sounds paradoxical and uncomfortable, but it is the most proven fact of my life.

This does not reveal in any way a frigid nature — you certainly understand that, meine hochverehrte und treue Freundin!. . .

Love and gratitude as ever

Your Nietzsche

Frl. Salomé also told me of her engagement; but I did not reply either, however much I sincerely wish her happiness and prosperity. One must avoid people like her, who have no reverence. No one knows who this Dr. Andreas is.
In Zürich I visited the excellent Frl. von Schirnhofer, just back from Paris, uncertain of her future, aim, prospect but, like me, most enthusiastic about Dostoevski.


«The first stimulus to publish something of my hypothesis concerning the origin of morality was given to me by a lucid, tidy, clever, even precocious little book in which for the first time I clearly ran into a topsy-turvy and perverse type of genealogical hypothesis—a genuinely English style. It drew me with that power of attraction which everything opposite, everything antipodal, contains. The title of this booklet was “The Origin of the Moral Feelings”. Its author was Dr Paul Rée, and it appeared in the year 1877. It’s likely I have never read anything which I would have denied, statement by statement, conclusion by conclusion, as I did with this book, but without any sense of annoyance or impatience.

In the work I mentioned above, on which I was working at the time, I made opportune and inopportune references to statements in Dr. Rée’s book, not in order to prove them wrong (what have I to do with preparing such refutations!) but, as is appropriate to a positive spirit, to put in the place of something unlikely something more likely, in the place of some error in detail some other error.

At that time, as I said, for the first time I brought into the light of day my hypotheses about genealogy, to which these essays have been dedicated—but clumsily (as I will be the last to deny), still fettered, still without my own language for these concerns of mine, and with all sorts of retreating and vacillating. For particular details, you should compare what I said in “Human, All-too Human”, on p. 51, about the double nature of the prehistory of good and evil (that is, in the spheres of the nobility and the slaves); similarly, pages 119 ff concerning the worth and origin of ascetic morality, as well as pages 78, 82, and 2.35 concerning the “Morality of Custom,” that much older and more primitive style of morality, which lies an enormous distance from the altruistic way of valuing (which Dr. Rée, like all English genealogists of morality, sees as the very essence of moral evaluation); similarly, p. 74 of the Wanderer, and p. 99 of “The Dawn” concerning the origin of justice as a compromise between approximately equal powers (equality as a precondition of all contracts and therefore of justice); likewise concerning the origin of punishment in “Wanderer”, p 25, 34, for which an intent to terrify is neither the essential thing nor the origin (as Dr. Rée claims—it is far more likely first brought in under a specific set of conditions and always as something incidental, something additional). (…)

Let’s proclaim this new demand: we need a critique of moral values, and we must first question the very value of these values. For that we need a knowledge of the conditions and circumstance out of which these values grew, under which they have developed and changed (morality as consequence, as symptom, as mask, as hypocrisy, as illness, as misunderstanding—but also morality as cause, as means of healing, as stimulant, as scruples, as poison), a knowledge of the sort which has not been there until now, something which has not even been wished for. (…)

For me it was enough that once this insight revealed itself to me, I had a reason to look around for learned, bold, and hard-working comrades (today I’m still searching). It’s a matter of travelling through the immense, distant, and so secretive land of the morality which was really there, the land of really living morality, with nothing but new questions and, as it were, new eyes. Isn’t that almost like first discovering this land?

In this matter, I thought of, among others, the above-mentioned Dr. Rée, because I happened to have no doubts at all that by the very nature of his questions he would be driven to a more correct methodology in order to arrive at any answers. Have I deceived myself in all this? At any rate, my desire was to provide a better direction for such a keen and objective eye as his, a direction leading to a true history of morality and to advise him in time against the English way of making hypotheses by staring off into the blue.

For, indeed, it’s obvious which colour must be a hundred times more important for someone seeking a genealogy of morals than this blue—namely, gray, in other words, what has been documented, what can be established as the truth, what really took place, in short, the long, difficult-to-decipher hieroglyphic writing of the past in human morality. This was unknown to Dr. Rée. But he had read Darwin, so that to some extent in his hypotheses the Darwinian beast and the most modern modest and tender moral sensibility, which “no longer bites,” politely extend their hands to each other in a way that is at least entertaining—with the latter bearing a facial expression revealing a certain good-natured and refined indolence, in which is mixed a grain of pessimism and exhaustion, as if it is really not worth taking all these things, the problems of morality, so seriously.

For me things appear reversed—there are no issues which are more worth taking seriously—among the rewards, for example, is the fact that one day perhaps people will be permitted to take them cheerfully. For cheerfulness, or, to say it in my own language, the gay science, is a reward, a reward for a lengthy, brave, hard-working, and underground seriousness, which, of course, is not something for everyone. But on that day when from full hearts we say “Forward! Our old morality also belongs in a comedy!”, we’ll have discovered a new complication and possibility for the Dionysian drama of “the fate of the soul.” And we can bet that the grand old immortal comic poet of our existence will put it to good use!…»

– Nietzsche, “The Genealogy of Morals” (1887), prologue, 4-7, commentary about Paul Rée’s “Origin of Moral Sensations”.


«The ineptitude of their moral genealogy is exposed right at the beginning, where it is a matter of  determining the origins of the concept and judgment ‘good’  (p. 80 ). ‘Originally’—so they decree—‘unegoistic actions were praised and called good from the perspective of those to whom they were rendered, hence for whom they were useful; later one forgot this origin of the praise and, simply because unegoistic actions were as a matter of habit always praised as good, one also felt them to be good—as if they were something good in themselves.’ (…)

Have these previous genealogists of morality even remotely dreamt (…) that punishment as retribution developed completely apart from any presupposition concerning freedom or lack of freedom of the will? (…) The thought, now so cheap and apparently so natural, so unavoidable, a thought that has even had to serve as an explanation of how the feeling of justice (Gerechtigkeitsgefühl) came into being at all on earth—‘the criminal has earned his punishment because he could (p. 87) have acted otherwise’ — is in fact a sophisticated form of human judging and inferring that was attained extremely late; whoever shifts it to the beginnings lays a hand on the psychology of older humanity in particularly crude manner.»

– Nietzsche, “The Genealogy of Morals” (1887), I, 2, commentary about Paul Rée’s “Origin of Moral Sensations”.


«When I look for my profoundest opposite, the incalculable pettiness of my instincts, I always find my mother and my sister – to be related to such canaille would be blasphemy against my divinity… I confess that the deepest objection to the “eternal recurrence”, my real idea from the abyss, is always my mother and my sister

– Nietzsche, “Ecce Homo” (1888).


Nice, January 25. 1888: To Elizabeth


It was with great pleasure that I read my brother-in-law’s paean 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 brother


To Seydlitz – 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 revered 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,



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