Discover the compelling private world of the most infamous philosopher of the nineteenth century in Unpublished Letters. Comprised of correspondence between Nietzsche's inner circle—including several titillating letters to his sister—Unpublished Letters gives readers a never-before-seen look into the philosopher's daily life.
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About the Author
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher. Though he began his career as a classical philologist studying Greek and Roman texts, Nietzsche went on to publish numerous influential works critiquing contemporary society. Central to his philosophy are the death of religion in the modern world and the notion of overcoming a system of morality that is based on the dichotomy between good and evil. In 1889 Nietzsche suffered a breakdown that resulted in nearly complete mental incapacitation. He died in 1900.
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By Friedrich Nietzsche
Philosophical LibraryCopyright © 1959 Philosophical Library, Inc.
All rights reserved.
(1) To Elisabeth Nietzsche
(Pforta, end of November 1861) From your brother
Dear Liese: — Since I owe you a letter for quite some time I shall write you an especially fine one now, provided my clumsy pen will not prevent me. Probably there is nothing with which I can entertain you now except writing of — Christmas. Anyhow, isn't it now our best-loved thought and hasn't it been all these years around this time! Now, then, lean back comfortably and try to recall one of my first evenings of vacation when we were sitting in the warm room with or without lamp light, and each would present the other with a Christmas list. Meanwhile Mamma and aunt Rosalie would engage next door in mysterious doings and
— we eavesdrop
when secretly words pass between them;
and a rustling, quite peculiar,
now a whisper, now a crackling,
make us curious for the wonders,
while the ghostlike stirring
and the wafting to and fro
make us tremble etc.
I hope you have not made your list so definitive that I may not at least give you the benefit of a few suggestions. I wrote down quite a number of desirable books and sheets of music and would like to tell you about some. Amongst the latter, for instance, a work by Schumann seems to me to be rather suitable for you, the same Schumann who composed the broken window pane.
I am sure it represents his most beautiful songs in general; it is Frauenliebe und Leben, poems by Chamisso, and should cost around 20 Silbergroschen. The text also is absolutely beautiful. Among books I could recommend, first of all, two works on theology which will interest both you and me very much. I myself heard them praised by Wenkel himself which, I take it, is significant as far as you are concerned. Both works are by Hase, the famous professor who lives in Jena. He is the most keen-witted champion of ideal rationalism, whose lectures I almost came to attend at one time. The Life of Jesus (1.6) is one of the works and Church History (2.6) is the other. Both are or, rather, each singly is 1 Taler and 15 Silbergroschen. Write me if you want to have the correct address. Or would you rather have an English book? If I were in your place I would most decidedly read Byron in English. The book costs 1 Taler and 25 Silbergroschen. I could jot down a number of different books for you. Presently I will give you my list.
Now, as concerns music I like to have Paradies und die Peri by Schumann in the solo arrangement for piano. That is something that delights everybody and would delight you also. Next, Shelley's poetical works translated by Seybt. Schumann costs about 2 Talers if you get it through Gustav, Shelley is 1 Taler and 10 Silbergroschen. I would be beside myself with joy were I given both, for this is all I want.
By the way, I am just reminded of something I have to tell you. Last Sunday noon I was invited to Dr. Heinze's for a meal. The food was very good but the conversation was still more delectable. Moreover, the new teacher, Dr. Volkmann, is prepared to give private lessons in English. Lots of people have applied. As for me, however, I shall join not until Easter. At the moment I am still studying Italian privately, as you know. I am taking Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in which we are reading Genesis. In German we read the Nibelungenlied in the original, in French we read Karl XII in class and Athalie in a group of three, excluding me. In Italian I am reading Dante with a group. If that is not enough for the present, then I do not know, especially since in Latin we are simultaneously reading Virgil, Livius, Cicero and Herodotus. — For now farewell and hope you are enjoying this rather long epistle.
Until we meet again on Sunday in Almrich
(2) To Franziska Nietzsche
(Pforta, probably May 2, 1863)
Dear Mamma: — Your dear letter with the caramel for the chest was very much appreciated, especially since you informed me about quite a few things in which, as you know, I am much interested. Let me report, first of all, about my being indisposed. My hoarseness is still present and, to be sure, without relief. Since yesterday I am drinking Seltzer water with milk which seems to be giving me some relief. By and by I am getting the blues in this sickroom, particularly today as the weather is fine and the sky is laughing. Even though I am at work I do not accomplish much because I am lacking one or the other book. I am making extracts from Hettner's History of Literature of the Eighteenth Century and, in general, am much occupied with the history of literature.
Concerning my future I am a little disturbed by some very practical considerations. The decision as to what I should specialize in does not come to me out of thin air. I have got to think about it myself and arrive at a choice. It is this choice which bothers me. Certainly it is my endeavor to study thoroughly whatever I am going to study; but the choice is all the more difficult inasmuch as one has to ferret out that field in which one can hope to accomplish something worth-while. And how deceptive do one's expectations turn out quite often! How easy it is to be carried away by some ephemeral preference, or some old family tradition, or by some special desires. Choosing, thus, a profession is much like playing the lottery with its great number of blanks and mighty few hits. Now, I am also in the rather inconvenient position to have really a great number of interests which are distributed over different fields and which, if I were to follow through with all of them, would make me a learned man, but hardly a professional person in the narrow sense. I am clear in my own mind that I must, therefore, slough off a few interests and, by the same token, add a few new ones. However, which are the unlucky ones I shall have to throw overboard? Perhaps they are the very ones that are my favorites!
I cannot speak more plainly. It is evident the situation is critical and I have to arrive at a decision in the coming year. It will not come automatically, and as for me I know too little about the different fields.
Enough of this. — Really I have nothing further to write about, except that I am very sorry that I did not get to see the married couple in Pforta.
Give my greetings to Lisbeth and uncle.
The best to you all
(3) To Franziska and Elisabeth Nietzsche
(Bonn, October 24 and 25, 1864)
Dear Mamma and Lisbeth: — Most courteous bows to the right and to the left: introducing myself to you as a member of the German student fraternity Franconia!
Now, I can see with my mind's eye how you people are shaking your heads in a most peculiar manner, giving forth with a cry of astonishment. There are, indeed, many wonderful things connected with this step and, therefore, I shall not blame you. For instance, almost at the same time that I joined the Franconia seven men from Pforta did so and, to be sure, all of them, except two, not only came from Pforta but met in Bonn. Among them are many who are already in their fourth semester. I shall name you some whom you may know: Deussen, Stöckert, Haushalter, Töpelmann, Stedefeld, Schleussner, Michael, and myself.
Of course, I gave mature reflection to the step before I took it and have come to the conclusion that in view of what I am it was almost necessary. For the most part we are all philologists and at the same time music lovers. In general, a very interesting spirit is prevailing in the Franconia, and I liked the older men immensely.
Before joining I became intimately acquainted also with the Marchia and elected some for more intimate intercourse. I also inspected the Germania fraternity so that I was quite qualified to make a comparison which, however, turned out in favor of Franconia.
Until now I have experienced on all hands much that is pleasant and dear. The other day I paid a visit to Brambach, the music conductor, and let him make me a member of the municipal choral society. I accompanied some of the men from Brandenburg on a trip to Rolandseck. The country is beautiful and we enjoyed beautiful days. Yesterday the Franconia brothers went to Plittersdorf where a kermess was going on. We danced a lot and drank cider at a peasant's. In the evening I went with a brother from the Franconia, my orderly, whom I like especially well, along the Rhine back to Bonn. On the hills the vintagers had lit their fires. You would not believe how beautiful everything was.
Recently I was greatly pleased to meet the dear Baron of Frankenstein by accident and visit with him for a couple of hours at Hotel Kley. He is the very same amiable person as before. He enquired interestedly about you and conditions in Naumburg. He intends to pay me a visit one of these days. Hachtmann also looked me up. I am going to call on Dr. Wachsmuth today.
Also today I shall go to the cemetery in order to pay a visit to the graves of Schumann, Schlegel and Arndt. In the afternoon I shall go with my landlord and landlady to a neighboring village for a kermess. They are very nice and pleasant people who take care of me in a way I should find satisfying all-around. My lodgings are most delightful, I eat very well, am waited upon neatly and punctually, and am happy to spend an hour in the evening with them.
Just now I returned from the marvelous cemetery where I laid a wreath on Schumann's grave. My landlady and her niece, Miss Marie (everybody on the Rhine is called Marie) accompanied me.
Now, dear Lisbeth, a special message to you: Our colors are white-red-gold, our caps are white with a red-gold border. Furthermore, I want to introduce to you some old Bonn brothers of the Franconia as old acquaintances: Max Rötger (truffle sausage) and Treitzschke who distinguished himself as speaker at the Leipzig meeting of gymnasts, Fritz Spielhagen whom you may recall quite well because of his "In the Twelfth Hour," which is playing in Bonn. In general, the Franconia has a very fine name.
The university lectures have not begun yet. The other day I received a present from Pastor Kletschke, a book entitled Jesus' Freedom from Sin, by Ullmann, together with an extremely cordial letter in which he signs off with "Cordially yours, your friend." I was very happy over this interesting book. I presume he has called on you.
The coffee maker supplies me now every morning with a very good cup of coffee and I thank the giver, ever so dear to me, from my heart. I now anticipate most anxiously receiving my box and above all letters from you from which I can gauge the effect the step I have taken has made on you. Please convey my cordial greetings to aunt Rosalie and to anyone who is interested in me.
The very best to you
Dear Lisbeth: — Should Mrs. Anna Redtel still be in Kösen, deign to convey my respects to her and tell her that whenever I sip my coffee in Hotel Kley in view of the magnificent Siebengebirge, I speed greetings to her.
Tuesday evening. I received the box and am greatly pleased over it, especially the nice linen things and the beautiful music literature. Yesterday we enjoyed a most jolly afternoon. I danced fabulously.
I am always taking my meals together with Deussen in my room. We have reason to be quite contented. I look well and vigorous and am always rather moderate. I registered for theology and philosophy. Dr. Wachsmuth has received a call as professor at Marburg. I am the owner of a pretty petroleum lamp.
(4) To Elisabeth Nietzsche
Bonn, Sunday after Whitsuntide
(June 11, 1865)
Dear Lisbeth: — After so charming a letter intertwined with girlish poetry as I received from you lately it would be injustice combined with ingratitude to let you wait still longer for an answer, especially since I now have rich material at my disposal and am "ruminating" mentally, but with great gusto, the delights I have experienced.
First of all, however, I have to touch upon a passage in your letter which you wrote alike with pastoral hues and llamalike cordiality. Don't be troubled, dear Lisbeth. If your determination is so good and firm as you write me, the dear uncles won't have too much difficulty. As far as your principle is concerned according to which truth is always on the side of what is difficult, I admit this is true. Nonetheless it is not easy to comprehend that 2 x 2 should not be 4. Is it truer on that account?
Is it really so difficult to accept simply and straightforwardly all one has been educated for, all that has gradually taken deep roots and is looked upon as truth in the circles of relatives and many good folks, and, moreover, is consoling and uplifting people? But, considering things contrariwise, is accepting all this more difficult than striking out on new paths in conflict with custom, uncertain of one's step when walking independently, shifting one's moods frequently, indeed, one's conscience, lacking often all comfort but always having the eternal goal of the True, the Beautiful and the Good in view?
Is it, then, a matter of arriving at a concept of God, world and atonement which will give us the feeling of greatest snugness? The true seeker, does he not rather treat the result of his search as something to be considered almost with indifference? When exploring are we looking for rest, peace, happiness? No, only truth, even if it were most repelling and ugly.
One final question: Supposing we had believed since our youth that the welfare of our souls stems in its entirety from another person but Jesus, flows from, let us say, Mohammed. Would we not be sure we had partaken of the same blessings? I am certain, faith alone blesses, not the object of faith. I am writing you this, dear Lisbeth, only in order thus to counter the commonest proofs the believing give us who appeal to their inner experiences and derive the infallibility of their faith from it. Every true faith is, indeed, infallible. It accomplishes what the pious person in question hopes to find in it; but it offers not the least support for a basis of objective truth.
It is here that the paths of men part. Should you long for peace of soul and happiness? Then by all means believe. Should you want to become a disciple of truth? Then search.
In between there are numerous points of view which are taken halfheartedly. The important thing is the main goal ahead.
Please forgive me for this boring discourse which is not exactly brilliant. You have probably said this many times and every time better and more beautifully.
But now I want to rear a more cheerful structure on this serious foundation. This time I can give you a report on wonderful days.
On Friday, June 2nd, I travelled to Koln this side of the river to attend the Lower Rhenish Music Festival. The international exposition was opening the same day. Köln in those days made a cosmopolitan impression. An interminable tangle of languages and costumes, an immense number of pickpockets and other swindlers, all hotels full even to their remotest rooms, the city most charmingly decorated with flags, — that was the outward picture. As a vocalist they gave me a white and red silken ribbon for my chest and thus decked out I strutted to the rehearsal. Unfortunately, you are not acquainted with the Giirzenich Hall. However, I can give you a fabulous idea by comparing it with the stock-exchange in Naumburg which I described to you during my last vacation.
Our choir was composed of 182 sopranos, 154 altos, 113 tenors, and 172 basses. In addition, there was an orchestra consisting of some 160 artists, among them 52 violins, 20 violas, 21 violoncellos, and 14 double basses. Seven of the best vocal soloists, men and women, had been engaged. Hiller directed the whole. Amongst the ladies many distinguished themselves by youth and beauty. They all came in white during the three main concerts, with blue ribbons passing under their arms and natural or artificial flowers in their hair. Each carried a pretty bouquet in her hand. We gentlemen wore tails and a white vest.
On the first evening we sat together far into the night and I went to sleep at last in the reclining chair at an old brother's of the Franconia. In the morning I was totally crimped like a pocket knife. I may add in passing that ever since my last vacation I am suffering from a sharp rheumatic pain in my left arm. The following night I passed again at Bonn. Sunday was the day of the first great concert, Händel's "Israel in Egypt." We sang with inimitable enthusiasm at a temperature of 50 degrees Réaumur. Gürzenich Hall was sold out on all three days. Single admission per concert was two to three Talers. The performance was perfect, so everybody said. Scenes took place which I shall never forget. When Staegemann and Julius Stockhausen, "the King of Basses," had finished their famous heroic duet, a storm of jubilation broke loose never heard ere this. There were shouts of eightfold bravos, trumpet flourishes, yells of da capo, and all of the 300 ladies flung their 300 bouquets into the singers' faces so that they were literally buried in a flowery cloud. The scene was repeated when the duet was sung a second time.
Excerpted from Unpublished Letters by Friedrich Nietzsche. Copyright © 1959 Philosophical Library, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Philosophical Library.
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