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I Biographical Sketch
Nietzsche liked to believe that he was of Polish descent. He had a greater admiration for the Poles than for the Germans, and went so far as to instigate an investigation by which he hoped to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was not only Polish but was descended from the Polish nobility. His efforts, his sister tells us, were not entirely successful, although some evidence was turned up which pointed to the truth of this theory. Several of the dates in the report, however, did not accurately tally, and since many of Nietzsche's papers containing the results of his genealogical research were lost in Turin after his breakdown, the hypothesis of his Polish descent consequently remains somewhat mythical. Nietzsche's theory was that his great-great-grandfather was a nobleman named Nicki who fled from Poland during the religious wars, as a fugitive under sentence of death, and took with him a young son who afterward changed his name to Nietzsche. There is a romance in this belief which appealed strongly to the philosopher. He saw a genuine grandeur in the fact that his ancestor had become a fugitive for his religious and political opinions. This belief in time became a conviction with him, and in the later years of his[Pg 20] life we find him definitely asserting the truth of this family tradition.

The matter, however, one way or the other, is of little consequence, for Nietzsche's mind embodied universal traits: it was uncommonly free from distinctly national characteristics. All the important facts of his life and of his immediate ancestry are known to us. He was born at R?cken, a little village in the Prussian province of Saxony, on October 15, 1844. The day was the anniversary of the birth of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia, and Nietzsche was christened Friedrich Wilhelm in honour of the event. The coincidence was all the more marked by the fact that Nietzsche's father, three years previous, had been tutor to the Altenburg Princesses, in which capacity he had met the sovereign and made so favourable an impression that it was by the royal favour he was living at R?cken. There were two other children in the Nietzsche household—a girl born in 1846, and a son born in 1850. The girl was named Therese Elizabeth Alexandra after the Duke of Altenburg's three daughters who had come under her father's tutorship. Afterward she became the philosopher's closest companion and guardian and his most voluminous biographer. The boy Joseph, named after the Duke of Altenburg himself, did not survive his first year.

The longevity and hardiness which marked the stock of Nietzsche's ancestors does away with the theory, often advanced, that his sickness and final mental breakdown were the outcome of hereditary causes. Out of his eight great-parents only two failed to reach the age of seventy-five, while one reached the age of eighty-six and another did not die until ninety. Both of his[Pg 21] grand-fathers attained to the age of seventy, and his maternal grandmother lived until she was past eighty-two. Furthermore, the Nietzsche families for three generations had been very large and in every instance healthy and robust. Nietzsche's grandmother Nietzsche had twelve children, and his grandmother Oehler had eleven children—both families being strong and free from sickness. Nietzsche himself, so his sister tells us in her biography, was strong and healthy from his earliest childhood until maturity. He participated in outdoor sports such as swimming, skating and ball playing, and was characterised by a ruddy complexion which in his school days often called forth remarks concerning his evident splendid health. It seems that only one physical defect marked the whole of his younger life—a myopia inherited from his father. This impediment, though slight at first, became rapidly aggravated by the constant use to which he put his eyes in his sedulous application to study.

Nietzsche, the most terrible and devastating critic of Christianity and its ideals, was the culmination of two long collateral lines of theologians. His grandfather Nietzsche was a man of many scholarly attainments, who, because of his ecclesiastical writings, had received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. His second wife, the mother of Nietzsche's father, came from a whole family of pastors by the name of Krause. Her favourite brother was a preacher in the Cathedral at Naumburg; and of the other two one was a Doctor of Divinity and one a country clergyman. The father of Nietzsche's mother was also a pastor by the name of Oehler, and had a parsonage in Pobles. Likewise Nietzsche's father, Karl-Ludwig Nietzsche, was a pastor in the Lutheran[Pg 22] church; but he possessed a greater culture than we are wont to associate with the average country clergyman, and was a man looked up to and revered by all those who knew him. In fact, his appointment to the post at R?cken was an expression of appreciation paid his talents by the Prussian King. He was thirty-one years of age and had been married only a year when his son Friedrich was born. Though in perfect health, he was not destined to live more than five years after this event, for in 1848 he fell down a flight of stone stairs, and died after a year's invalidism, as a result of concussion of the brain.

The event cast a decided influence on the Nietzsche household and altered completely its plans. After lingering eight months at the parsonage, the family left R?cken and moved to Naumburg-on-the-Saale, there establishing a new domicile in the home of the pastor's mother. The household was composed of the two children, Friedrich and Elizabeth, their mother, then only twenty-four, their grandmother Nietzsche, and two maiden sisters of the dead father. This establishment was run on strict and puritanical lines. All the women were of strong theological inclinations. One of the maiden aunts, Rosalie, devoted herself to Christian benevolent institutions. The other aunt, Augusta, was not unlike the paternal grandmother—pious and God-fearing and constantly busied with her duties to others. The widowed mother carried on the Christian tradition of the family, and never forgot that she was once the wife of a Lutheran pastor. Daily prayers and Biblical readings were fixed practices. The young Friedrich was the pet of the household, and there were secret hopes held by all that he would grow up in the footsteps of his father and[Pg 23] become an honoured and respected light in the church. To the realisation of this hope, all the efforts and influences of the four women were given. Such was the atmosphere in which the early youth of the author of "The Antichrist" was nurtured.

Soon after the family's arrival at Naumburg, Friedrich, then only six years old, was sent to a local Municipal Boys' School, in accordance with the educational theories of his grandmother, who believed in gregarious education for the very young. But she had failed to count upon the unusual character of her grandson, and the attempt to educate him at a municipal institution resulted in failure. His upbringing had made him somewhat priggish and hypersensitive. He was ridiculed by the other boys who taunted him with the epithet of "the little minister." He refused to mingle with the riff-raff which composed the larger part of the pupils, and held himself isolated and aloof. Consequently, before the year was up, he was withdrawn from the school and entered in a private educational institution which prepared the younger students for the Cathedral Grammar School. Here he was in more congenial surroundings. He had for schoolmates two youths whose families were friends of the Nietzsche household—young Wilhelm Pinder and Gustav Krug, who later were to influence his youth. Nietzsche remained at this school for three years.

As a boy Nietzsche was always thoughtful and studious. He was a taciturn child and took long walks in the country alone, preferring solitude to companionship. He was sensitive to a marked degree, polite, solicitous of all about him, and inclined to moodiness. As soon as he could write he started a diary in which he included not only the external events of his life but his thoughts and[Pg 24] ideas and opinions. The pages of this diary, partially preserved, make unique and interesting reading. At a very early age he began writing poetry. His verses, though conventional in both theme and metre, reflected a knowledge of contemporary prosody unusual in a boy of his years. He had ample opportunity in his home of hearing good music, and he manifested a great love for it in very early youth. He devoted much time to studying the piano, and not infrequently tried his hand at composing. Later in his life we still find him writing music, and also publishing it. In deportment Nietzsche was a model child. He was thoroughly imbued with the religious atmosphere of his surroundings, and was far more pious than the average youth of his own age. For a long while he gave every indication of fulfilling the ecclesiastical hopes which his family harboured for him. Consequently there was no lack of encouragement on the part of his guardians toward his first literary efforts which reflected the piety of his nature.

After a few years in the Naumburg school, where he distinguished himself as a model student and incidentally impressed the visiting inspectors by his quickness and brilliance in answering test questions, Nietzsche took the entrance examinations for the well-known Landes-Schule at Pforta, an institution then noted for its fostering and promotion of scientific studies. The vacancy at Pforta had been offered Nietzsche's mother by the Rector who had heard rumours concerning the intellectual gifts of the young "Fritz." The examinations were passed successfully, and in October, 1858, after a tearful leave-taking, he entered the Lower Fourth Form. Pforta, at that time, was an institution of considerable eminence, with a tradition attaching to it not unlike that of Eton. It was[Pg 25] a hot-bed of academic culture, and the professors were among the most learned in the country. The school had been founded as a monastery in the twelfth century by the Cistercian monks. In the sixteenth century it had fallen under the rule of the Duke Moritz of Saxony, who turned it into a secular educational academy, making way for the advance of the newer ideals.

The life at Pforta in Nietzsche's day was strict, and we learn that the young philosopher chafed somewhat under the stringent discipline. But in time he accustomed himself to the regulations, and it was not long before we find him actively and interestedly participating in the school life. However, new ideas were fomenting. If outwardly he acquiesced to the routine, inwardly he was in a state of revolt. He had already begun to indulge in original thinking, and he felt the lack of freedom in communicating his ideas to others. His only confidante during these days was his sister whom he always saw during the holidays and on brief leaves of absence. His spare moments were devoted to music and literature other than that prescribed by the school curriculum. He resented the fact that one had to think of particular themes at specified times, and no doubt caused his good tutor, Professor Buddensieg, much uneasiness, for, to judge from his diary, he did not keep to himself the resentment he felt toward the enforcement of the irksome and repressive calendar of studies.

This resentment doubtlessly had much to do with the inauguration of a society which was called the Germania Club. Wilhelm Pinder and Gustav Krug, Nietzsche's former school companions at Naumburg, were participants in its formation; and on the highest ledge of the watch tower, overlooking the Saale valley, its object was[Pg 26] discussed and its inception dedicated and solemnised with a bottle of red wine. This society, while bearing many of the ear-marks of mere youthful enthusiasm, formed an important turning point in Nietzsche's life. It acted, at a psychological moment, as a safety-valve for the heretical ideas and aspirations which, up to that time, he had confided only to his sister and his diary. The purpose of the club can best be stated in Nietzsche's own words: "We resolved to found a kind of small club which would consist of ourselves and a few friends, and the object of which would be to provide us with a stable and binding organisation, directing and adding interest to our creative impulses in art and literature; or to put it more plainly, each of us would be pledged to present an original piece of work to the club once a month, either a poem, a treatise, an architectural design, or a musical composition, upon which each of the others, in a friendly spirit, would have to pass free and unrestricted criticism. We thus hoped by means of mutual correction to be able both to stimulate and to chasten our creative impulses." It was during one of his lectures before this group of youthful individualists that Nietzsche first expressed his true views on Christianity—views, which, could they have been overheard by his devoted family, would have brought sorrow to their pious hearts. The list of Nietzsche's contributions to this synod numbered thirty-four, and included musical compositions, poems, political orations and various literary works.

Nietzsche remained at Pforta until 1864. He had been confirmed at Easter, 1861, and to all outward manifestations retained his religious principles. His final report states that "he showed an active and lively interest in the Christian doctrine." In religion he was given the[Pg 27] grade of "excellent." During his later years at Pforta he manifested an interest in the works of Emerson and Shakespeare and especially in the Greek and Latin authors. His dislike for mathematics increased steadily, and his love for Sophocles, ?schylus, Plato and the Greek lyricists "grew by leaps and bounds." His final paper—the departing thesis which was compulsory for all graduating students—was a Latin essay on Theognis of Megara, "De Theognide Megarensi" Between Nietzsche and that ancient aristocrat, with his fine contempt for democracy, there existed many temperamental affinities; and this final essay was no less than a foundation on which the young Dionysian later built his philosophy of aristocracy. On the 7th of September he left Pforta.

After resting at Naumburg until the middle of October, Nietzsche set forth for the University of Bonn. It was here that he came under the guidance of Professor Ritschl, who later was to exert a great influence over him. Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl was not only the foremost philologist of his time, but a scholar deeply versed in classical literature and rhetoric. It was he who founded the science of historical literary criticism as we know it to-day. When he first met Nietzsche his interest in the young man at once became very great, and the relationship between them rapidly developed into the warmest of friendships. To Ritschl Nietzsche owed many things. It was at the former's house that he became acquainted with many of the leading learned men of the day. And it would be unfair not to credit Ritschl with much of the future philosopher's ardent and lasting interest in ancient cultures.

At Bonn Nietzsche entered the collegiate life with unusual zest. He became a member of the Franconia[Pg 28] Student Corps, and participated freely in the drinking bouts which, from what we can learn from his letters home, constituted one of the main duties attached to his membership. But this phase of the student life was foreign to his tastes, and after brief activities in the r?le of "good fellow," he found a more spontaneous recreation in attending concerts and the better class theatres. He privately studied Schumann, and during 1864 and 1865 his life bore a marked musical stamp.

It was during Nietzsche's days at Bonn that a decided change came over his religious views. His critical studies in the literature and culture of the ancients had done much toward weaning him from the formal and almost literal theological beliefs of his family. The first open breach between his newer ideals and the established prejudices of his mother came at Easter-time about midway of his course at Bonn. He was home for the holidays, and when the good people were preparing to attend communion, he suddenly informed them of his decision not to accompany them. Arguments were unavailing. An animated discussion arose in which he firmly defended his attitude; and from that time on there was never a reconciliation between his religious standpoint and the one held by his family. Two learned ecclesiastics were called into consultation, but they were unable to meet the disquieting arguments of the young heretic, and his case was dismissed for the moment on his Aunt Rosalie's theory that even in the lives of the devoutest Christians there often come periods of doubt, and that during such periods it is best to leave the backslider to his own conscience. Nietzsche, however, never again entered the fold.

Curiously enough it was at this same period that came[Pg 29] his revulsion toward the dissipations of student life. He went so far as to attempt an imposition of his moral theories on the members of the Franconia, but this attempt at reformation resulted only in his own unpopularity. In his attitude toward duelling—a pastime somewhat over-emphasised at Bonn—Nietzsche was consistent with his other beliefs. The chivalrous side of it appealed to him, although he detested the spirit of it from the standpoint of the student body. However, he took heroic, if unconventional, means to involve himself in a duel lest his position be misconstrued as cowardice. He selected an adversary he thought worthy of him, and pleasantly demanded a combat on the field of honour, ending his request: "Let us waive all the usual preliminaries." The other agreed, and the duel was fought. But the incident merely resulted in emphasising Nietzsche's disgust for student life. Says his sister, "The circumstances which above all aroused my brother's wrath was the detestable 'beer materialism' with which he met on all sides, and owing to these early experiences in Bonn he for ever retained a very deep dislike for smoking, drinking, and the whole of so-called 'beer-conviviality.'" His decision to leave Bonn and enter the University of Leipzig was due to his fondness for Ritschl. In the dispute which arose between the two Professors, Jahn and Ritschl, Nietzsche's friendship for the latter made him a partisan, although he held Jahn in the highest respect; and when Ritschl decided to transfer himself to Leipzig, the young philosopher, along with several of the other students, followed him. This was in the autumn of 1865. Nietzsche reached Leipzig on the 17th of October, and the next day he presented himself to the Academic Board. It was the centennial anniversary of[Pg 30] the day when Goethe had entered his name on the register, and the University was celebrating the event. The coincidence delighted Nietzsche greatly, who regarded it as a good omen for his future at the new institution.

It was during his residence at Leipzig that there came into his life two events which were to have a profound and lasting influence on his future. One of these was his acquaintance with Wagner—an acquaintance which several years later developed into the strongest friendship of his life. The other event (in many ways more important than the first) was his discovery of Schopenhauer. This discovery is characteristically described in a letter to his sister: "One day I came across this book at old Rohn's curiosity shop, and taking it up very gingerly I turned over its pages. I know not what demon whispered to me: 'Take this book home with thee.' At all events, contrary to my habit not to be hasty in my purchase of books, I took it home. Once in my room I threw myself into the corner of the sofa with my booty, and began to allow that energetic and gloomy genius to work upon my mind. In this book, in which every line cried out renunciation, denial, and resignation, I saw a mirror in which I espied the whole world, life and my own mind depicted in frightful grandeur. In this volume the full celestial eye of art gazed at me; here I saw illness and recovery, banishment and refuge, heaven and hell. The need of knowing myself, yea, even of gnawing at myself, forcibly seized me." This book went far in arousing the philosophic faculties of the young philologist, and later he wrote many essays, long and short, both in praise and in refutation of the great pessimist. That he should at first have subscribed to all of Schopenhauer's teachings is natural. Nietzsche was vital and susceptible to[Pg 31] enthusiasms. It was in accord with his youthful nature, full of courage and strength, that he should have been seduced to pessimism.

At Leipzig Nietzsche accomplished an enormous amount of work: and his nature developed in proportion. The life was freer than it had been at Pforta or at Bonn. Far from being hampered in the voicings of his inner beliefs, he found his environment particularly congenial to self-expression. He made numerous friends, principal among them being Erwin Rohde, who crossed his later life at many points. He showed a great interest in political, as well as in literary and musical, events; and the war between Prussia and Austria fanned his youthful ardour to an almost extravagant degree. Twice he offered himself to the authorities, hoping to be permitted to serve as a soldier, but was rejected both times on account of his shortsightedness. His interest in his studies, however, was in no wise diminished. He read widely in English, French, Greek and Latin, and devoted much scholarly research to Theognis, Diogenes Laertius, and Democritus. His essay on the subject, "De Fontibus Diogenis Laertii" won the first university prize, and was later published, with other of his essays on philology, in the Rheinisches Museum.

At this time the Prussian army found itself in sore need of men, and although Nietzsche had been exempt from military duties and had failed to secure enlistment, he suddenly found himself, in the autumn of 1867, called upon for compulsory training. A new army regulation had just been passed requiring all young men, if otherwise physically sound, to enter military service even though their eyesight was partially impaired. As a consequence Nietzsche had to leave Leipzig and go into[Pg 32] training. He made an effort to enlist in a Berlin Guard Regiment, but was finally compelled to join the horse artillery at Naumburg. Although he had previously volunteered for service, he now found that the life of a soldier was far more irksome and far less romantic than he had imagined. He was unhappy and disconsolate, and deplored the slavery attached to the life of a mounted artilleryman. He was not destined, however, to fulfil his arduous military duties to the full term of his proscription. Barely a year had gone by when he was thrown from his horse and received what at first was thought a slight strain, but what later turned out to be a serious injury. The pommel of his saddle had compressed his chest, and the inflammation which set in necessitated his permanent withdrawal from service.

For a long time Nietzsche was under the care of the famous specialist, Volkmann, to whom the military doctors had turned him over when they had begun to despair of his recovery. During convalescence, he busied himself with preparations for his coming university year and assisted in some intricate indexing for members of the faculty. In October, 1868, he was able to return to Leipzig and resume his work. But another unexpected event—this one of an advantageous nature and destined to alter his whole future—came in the form of an inquiry from the University of Bale in Switzerland. The members of that institution's educational board, attracted by Nietzsche's essays in the Rheinisches Museum, wrote to Ritschl for information regarding the young philologist. Ritschl replied that Nietzsche was a genius and could do whatever he put his mind to. Thus it happened that, although only 24, he was offered the vacant post of Classical Philology at Bale, without even being[Pg 33] put through the formalities of an examination. However, he was straightway granted a Doctor's degree by the University of Leipzig, and on the 13th of April, 1869, he left Naumburg to assume the duties of his new appointment. His departure marked the passing of the Nietzsche household. His grandmother and both the maiden aunts were dead, and because, no doubt, of religious differences, he and his mother became estranged. Of that intimately welded family circle, only the deep friendship between Nietzsche and his sister remained.

On May 28, Nietzsche delivered his inaugural address at Bale, using the personality of Homer as his subject. The hall was crowded, and the address made a decided impression on both students and faculty. The lecture was an unusual one and well off the conventional track. It created riot a little mild excitement among the professors at Leipzig, and the cut-and-dried philologists of that institution were frankly scandalised by its boldness. The address, however, was an index to Nietzsche's character, and, in looking back on it, we can see that it unmistakably pointed the way along which the future development of his mind was to take place. At Bale, the young philologist, despite the people's kindly disposition toward him, suffered from solitude. His classes were small. Although he had made an impassioned plea for his particular science, the interest in philology was slight, and his morning lectures were attended by only eight students. Nietzsche was without a companion with whom he might exchange his ideas and personal thoughts. His only diversion came in the form of occasional trips to neighbouring parts of the country; and the letters he wrote to his sister and his former friends were tinged with melancholy.[Pg 34] But he was conscientious in his work, and a year later he was given a professorship.

Before he could accept this later appointment it had been necessary for him to become a naturalised subject of Switzerland, so that when the Franco-German War of 1870 broke out, he could not serve as a combatant—a fact which caused him keen disappointment. He was able, however, to secure service as an ambulance attendant in the Hospital Corps, and set forth upon his patriotic duties with a glad heart. Having been granted the leave he asked for at the University, he went to Erlangen, where he entered for a course of surgery and medicine at the Red Cross Society. After a brief training as a nurse, in which line of work he showed remarkable adaptability, he was sent to the seat of war at the head of an ambulance corps. He was untiring in his energies and laboured day and night in the midst of the battlefields. But the overwork proved too much for him, and he soon reached the limit of his endurance. One day, after long exposure in a cattle truck filled with severely wounded and diseased men, he began to show signs of serious illness, and when, after great difficulty, he managed to reach Erlangen, it was discovered that he was suffering from diphtheria and severe dysentery. Though he had seen but a few weeks' hospital service, it was now necessary for him to discontinue his duties entirely. His sister tells us that this illness greatly undermined his health, and was the first cause of his subsequent condition. To make matters worse, the slight medical education which he had received in preparation for his ambulance service led him to pursue a fateful course of self-doctoring—a practice which he continued to his own detriment throughout the remainder of his life.[Pg 35] Nietzsche did not even wait until he was well before resuming his duties at the University, and this new strain imposed on his already depleted system had much to do with bringing on his final breakdown.

As a result of the Philistinism which broke out all over Germany at the end of the war, Nietzsche delivered a course of lectures at Bonn, which he entitled "On the Future of Our Educational Institutions." Germany had insisted that her victory was due not only to physical bravery but also in a large measure to the superiority of Germanic culture and Teutonic ideals. Nietzsche beheld in this snobbish attitude a very grave danger for his country, and endeavoured in a small way to rectify this attitude by a series of lectures. He severely criticised the German educational institutions of the day and went so far as to deny them the great culture which they so ardently claimed. While these lectures in no wise stemmed, even locally, the tide of Philistinism at which they were aimed, the criticisms contained in them are of the greatest importance in reviewing the development of the philosopher himself. The lectures contained, perhaps unconsciously but none the less clearly, many of the elements of that philosophy which later was to have so tremendous an influence not only on Germany but on the whole civilised world.

In the same year, 1872, Nietzsche's first important book appeared. This work, dedicated to Richard Wagner, had been begun in 1869, and was first called "The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music." When the third edition appeared in 1886 the title was changed to "The Birth of Tragedy, or Hellenism and Pessimism," and a preface called "An Attempt at Self-Criticism" was added. In a large measure this book was a tribute to[Pg 36] Wagner, and was written by Nietzsche in an effort to be of immediate benefit to the musician who at that time was passing through a period of despondency. Wagner was then living at Tribschen, not far from Bale, and Nietzsche's visits to him were frequent. It was during these years that the great friendship between the two men developed. "The Birth of Tragedy," however, was not well received by the public. Musicians were pleased with it, but philologists in particular deplored its utterances. They looked upon its author as a traitor to their science for having dared to venture beyond the narrow bounds of academic formalism. One well-known philologist, Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, attacked Nietzsche in an ill-humoured pamphlet; and although Erwin Rohde answered it adequately with another pamphlet, the attack proved detrimental to Nietzsche's standing at Bale. During the following winter term the young philologist was entirely without pupils.

His mind, however, was now undergoing decided and important changes. He was becoming bolder and surer of himself. New ideals were taking the place of old ones, and in 1873 he began a series of famous pamphlets which later were put into book form under the title of "Thoughts Out of Season." His first attack was upon David Strauss; the second was directed towards the German historians of the day; the third was aimed at Schopenhauer; and the fourth was the famous panegyric, "Richard Wagner in Bayreuth." These essays, together with his work at Bale, occupied him until 1876. Nietzsche was now suffering severely from the malady he carried to his grave, catarrh of the stomach. This was accompanied by severe headaches, and during his holidays he alternated between Switzerland and Italy in an[Pg 37] endeavour to recover his health. In the former place he was with Wagner. In Italy, at Sorrento, he met Dr. Paul Rée, who, if we are to believe Max Nordau, was the father of all Nietzsche's ideas. Credence, however, cannot be given to this accusation, for the nucleus of all of his later ideas was undeniably contained in his writings previous to his meeting with Rée. That Rée influenced him to some small extent no one will deny, for it was he who turned the young philosopher's attention to the latter day scientists of both England and France; and it was shortly after this meeting that Nietzsche began his first independent philosophical work, "Human, All-Too-Human."

It was in the year 1876 that his famous friendship with Wagner began to cool. Nietzsche had gone to Bayreuth to witness the performance of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" Already he had begun to question his own high opinion of the composer, and Bayreuth solidified his doubts. It had been two years since he had seen Wagner, and after a brief conversation, Nietzsche became bitter and disgusted. When he finally went away his revulsion was complete, and one of the greatest of historic friendships was at an end. Whatever were the individual merits in the quarrel between these two great contemporaneous men, Nietzsche's attitude was at least consistent with his innermost ideals. He had admired in Wagner certain definite, revolutionary qualities, and when he was convinced, as he had every reason to be, that Wagner was compromising his art for the purpose of popularity, the ideal was broken. He could no longer remain true to himself and also to his friendship for the great composer. "Parsifal" was undoubtedly a decadent work, viewed from the standpoint of Wagner's previous performances.[Pg 38] Decadence is simply the inability to create new tissue; and when Wagner forswore modern ideas and reverted to the past, it attested to an entire change of mental attitude: and no purely ?sthetic doctrine can controvert the fact. Had Cézanne in later life essayed the painting of conventionally posed saints—no matter what his technical means might have been—his art would have contained the elements of decadence, for an artist's mental attitude cannot be dissevered from his product. This, I believe, was Nietzsche's theory in regard to Wagner. That the breaking off of this friendship was a great blow to the philosopher we know from his diary and from his letters. In fact, his affection for Wagner, the man, was so great that it was not until ten years had passed that he could bring himself to write the essay which he had long had in mind, "The Fall of Wagner."

The year after the appearance of "Human, All-Too-Human," Nietzsche's ill-health compelled him to resign his professorship at Bale. He had a small income which, together with the three thousand francs retiring allowance granted him by the University, permitted him now to travel moderately and to devote his entire time to his literary labours. He first went to Berne, where he stayed a few weeks. Later he visited Zürich and then St. Moritz. It was a brief holiday, but the change of locale, coupled with the relaxation from work, improved him both in physical health and in spirits. The winter of 1879-80 he spent with his mother at Naumburg, his old home; but the climate and the uncongenial surroundings dragged down his health once more, and it was not until toward the following spring, when he went to Venice, that he regained even a semblance of his normal condition. Here he was in company with Paul Rée and his[Pg 39] life-long friend and disciple, Heinrich K?selitz, commonly known as Peter Gast. Nietzsche stayed at Venice until October, when he went to Genoa. The following year appeared "The Dawn of Day," his first book of constructive thinking.

The remainder of Nietzsche's life up to the time of his final breakdown in January, 1889, was spent in a fruitless endeavour to regain his undermined health. For eight years, during all of which time he was busily engaged in writing, he sought a climate that would revive him. His summers were spent for the most part in the quiet solitude of Sils-Maria, a little Swiss village to which the tourist rarely ventured. In 1882 he visited Genoa and, with Paul Rée as companion, made a trip to Monaco. This journey ended disastrously for his health, and by his physician's order he made a trip to Messina. Soon after he settled at Grunewald, near Berlin; but the place depressed him, and we find him later in Tautenburg. Again Genoa claimed him for several months, and then, addicted to chloral, and despondent, he sought relief at Rome. But he could not stand the hot weather, and again he visited Sils-Maria, where, it seems, he was for the time greatly improved. In 1884, we find him again at Naumburg, and a little later at Nice and Venice. In the autumn of the same year, he spent several weeks travelling with his sister in Germany, but at the approach of winter, he proceeded to Mentone. In 1885 he again sought the company of Peter Gast at Venice, and spent the larger part of that year and the next at Venice and Nice. The lonely philosopher then paid a short visit to Leipzig to be once again with his old friend Rohde. But the years had estranged them; their views were now at opposites. Another of his few friends thus lost to him,[Pg 40] he immediately returned to Nice. The year 1886 found him at the Riviera, and in 1887 he was again at Sils-Maria. Here he laboured incessantly, travelling to both Venice and Nice in the meantime. In the spring of 1888 he changed his plans and went to Turin. Then after his usual summer visit to Sils-Maria, he returned to Turin, where he remained until the fatal winter of 1888-89. Nietzsche was rarely happy during his travels. He was constantly ill and for the most part alone, and this perturbed and restless period of his life resolved itself into a continuous struggle against melancholy and physical suffering.

During these eight years of solitary labour and futile seeking for health, Nietzsche had written "Thus Spake Zarathustra," "The Joyful Wisdom," "Beyond Good and Evil," "The Genealogy of Morals," "The Case of Wagner," "The Twilight of the Idols," "The Antichrist," "Ecce Homo" "Nietzsche contra Wagner," and an enormous number of notes which were to constitute his final and great philosophical work, "The Will to Power." The cold reception with which his books met tended to discourage him and to retard his physical recovery. His "Zarathustra" was as greatly misunderstood by the critics as had been his earlier volumes. With the exception of Burckhardt and Taine, the critics were unfavourable to "Beyond Good and Evil." "The Genealogy of Morals" met with scarcely more friendly a reception, and "The Case of Wagner," while arousing the ire of the Wagnerians, caused no comment of any kind in any other quarter. "The Twilight of the Idols" appeared about the time of his breakdown, and "The Antichrist" and "Ecce Homo" were not published until long after his death. The notes on "The Will to[Pg 41] Power" have only recently been put together and issued.

The events during this period of Nietzsche's career were few. Perhaps the most important was his meeting with Miss Lou Salomé. But even this episode had small bearing on his life, and has been unduly emphasised by biographers because of its isolation in an existence outwardly drab and uneventful. It was while Nietzsche was at Tautenburg that Paul Rée and another friend, Malvida von Mysenburg, hearing that he was in need of a secretary, sent to him Miss Salomé, a young Russian Jewess. That it would have been difficult to find a person less suited to the philosopher's needs was borne out by subsequent events. According to some accounts Nietzsche fell mildly in love with her, and was upset and irritated by her aloofness. But such a hypothesis is substantiated only by the flimsiest of evidence, and, when we take into consideration the temperamental gulf between these two people, it is highly incredible that Nietzsche had any desire to form an alliance with his amanuensis. The truth of the matter probably is that the philosopher was sadly disappointed in his secretary—if not indeed disgusted with her—and, in showing his regret, piqued her to retaliation. In fact, we have a letter from Nietzsche to the young lady which bears out this contention. In any event, we know that their companionship lasted but a short time and that Miss Salomé wrote a most inept and unreliable book on Nietzsche, "Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken" published in Vienna in 1894. The affair had other painful results. Rée defended his protegée, and he and Nietzsche became bitter enemies. Nietzsche's sister also was dragged into the episode, and quarrelled with both Rée and Miss Salomé.

[Pg 42]

Shortly after this unpleasant event, Nietzsche, urged by his sister, made a half-hearted attempt to secure a professorship at the University of Leipzig, but negotiations for the post fell through, due largely to Nietzsche's own indifference in the matter. Soon after this the philosopher became estranged from his sister because of her intention to marry Dr. F?rster. Nietzsche's opposition to the marriage—an opposition which was supported by his mother—was due to several reasons. First, it would necessitate his sister leaving him and accompanying her husband to Paraguay. Secondly, it had been rumoured that Dr. F?rster had severely criticised his books. And thirdly, Nietzsche had small respect for Dr. F?rster himself, who was an impractical idealist and an anti-Semite. However, despite all the family protestations, the marriage took place. Nietzsche was disappointed and brooded over the event, but a year later he became reconciled with his sister, and she remained, to the end of his life, his closest friend and companion.

In January, 1889, an apoplectic fit, which rendered Nietzsche unconscious for two days, marked the beginning of the end. His manner suddenly became alarming. He exhibited numerous eccentricities, so grave as to mean but one thing: his mind was seriously affected. There has long been a theory extant that his insanity was of gradual growth. Nordau holds that he was unbalanced from birth. But there is no evidence to substantiate these two theories. For seven years Nietzsche's physical condition had been improving, and his mind up to the end of 1888 was perfectly clear and gave no indication of what his end would be. During this period his books were thought out in his most clarified manner; in all his intercourse with his friends he was restrained and[Pg 43] normal; and his voluminous correspondence showed no change either in sentiment or in tone. The theory advanced in some quarters that his books, and especially his later ones, were the work of a madman, is entirely without foundation. His insanity was sudden; it came without warning; and it is puerile to point to his state of mind during the last years of his life as a criticism of his work. His books must stand or fall on internal evidence—and on nothing else. Judged from that standpoint they are scrupulously sane.

The direct cause of Nietzsche's mental breakdown is not known. As a matter of fact, there was probably no direct cause. It was due to a number of influences—his excessive use of chloral which he took for insomnia, the tremendous strain to which he put his intellect, his constant disappointments and deprivations, his mental solitude, his prolonged physical suffering. We know little of his last days before he went insane. He was living alone in Turin and working desperately. Then suddenly to Professor Burckhardt at Bale he wrote a letter which was obviously the work of a madman. "I am Ferdinand de Lesseps," he wrote. "I am Prado. I am Schambige.[1] I have been buried twice this autumn." This was the first indication of his insanity. Immediately after he wrote a similar letter to his old friend, Professor Overbeck. Other of Nietzsche's friends received disquieting and indecipherable notes. To Georg Brandes he sent a letter signed "The Crucified." To Peter Gast he wrote, "Sing me a new song. The world is clear and all the skies rejoice." To Cosima Wagner: "Ariadne, I love you."

[Pg 44]

There was now no doubt of his condition. Overbeck went immediately to Turin. He found the philosopher playing wildly on the piano, and crying blasphemies to the empty room. Nietzsche was taken back to Bale, and then placed in a private psychiatric institution at Jena. Here he stayed until the following spring when he was permitted to be taken to the home of his mother at Naumburg. It was three years later that his sister returned from Paraguay, where her husband had died, and Nietzsche was sufficiently recovered to meet her when she arrived. But though he lived for another seven years, his mind was irretrievably ruined. When his mother died in 1897, his sister removed him to a villa at Weimar. There on a great veranda, overlooking the hills and the river valley, he remained until the end, receiving a few of his friends and taking his old delight in music. His sister watched over him tenderly, and though he was never strong enough to resume work, he would often talk of his books. When shown a portrait of Wagner, he said, "Him I loved dearly." He was all tenderness toward the end. The mighty yea-sayer had become as a little child. "Elizabeth," he would say, "do not cry. Are we not happy?"

Nietzsche died on the 25th of August, 1900, and was buried at R?cken, his native village.

[1] Schambige and Prado were two assassins whose exploits were then occupying the French journals.

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