Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Dandy

Apparently, throughout his academic years, Fritz paid special attention to the way he looked, particularly where clothes were concerned. Hollingdale explains: “This appearance during the ten years he was at Basel excited comment because of his excessive attention to dress, amounting almost to dandyism. According to Bernoulli he was, apart from an old state counselor in Baden, the only man in Basel to wear a grey topper.” (page 49)

Indications are that he cared for his moustache a great deal and groomed it to be a distinctive feature of his appearance.

As a student and more so as a professor, Fritz treated himself to tailored made suits. His appearance in class was always important to him. He particularly enjoyed dressing up for more formal affairs as well, such as academic functions and important social gatherings.

Take his active participation in classical choral music, for example. In June 1865: “On the 2nd he travelled to Cologne to take part in a Lower Rhine music festival. Dressed in black tails and with a red-and-white silk ribbon string across his waistcoat, he joined the 182 sopranos, 154 altos, 112 tenors, and 172 basses in the Gurzenich Hall, where with extraordinary gusto they sang Handel’s Israel in Egypt under the skillful direction of the celebrated orchestra conductor Ferdinand von Hiller.” (Cate, page 48)

Likewise, he always wanted to look his best around the Wagner home. On one particular occasion he had a rather comical difficulty with obtaining a tailored suit for a Wagnerian affair. Fritz narrated the moment in a letter to a friend: “It was six-thirty, time to put on my things and get myself ready, for I live very far out. Right, the man has my things, I try them on, they fit. An ominous moment; he presents the bill, I take it politely; he wants to be paid on receipt of the goods. I am amazed, and explain that I will not deal with him, the employee of my tailor, but only with the tailor himself, to whom I gave the order. The man becomes more pressing, the time becomes more pressing; I seize the things and begin to put them on; the man seizes the things, and stops me from putting them on – force on my side, force on his side. Scene: I am fighting in my shirttails, for I am trying to put on the new trousers.

“Finally, a show of dignity, solemn threat, cursing my tailor and his assistant, swearing revenge; meanwhile, the little man is moving off with my things. End of second act: I brood on the sofa in my shirttails and consider a black jacket, whether it is good enough for Richard.

“Outside the rain is pouring down.” (Selected Letters, page 38)

Nietzsche had a wonderful, lively flair in writing many of his letters as well as in preparing his lectures. This was part of his emerging style.

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