Saturday, December 31, 2011

"The Color of my 'Nature'"

“Nobody at this low point in his career, and probably not even Nietzsche – who felt that from the euphoric heights of Orta and the Monte sacro in early May he had been precipitated by mid-November to the dark depths of the ‘abyss’ – could guess that within a few weeks he would rebound and reach a new zenith in an astonishing ‘eruption’. But this is what happened. It was a triumph of will power, of Selbstuberwindung (self-overcoming), as he called it, and it offered dramatic proof that, as he had written Franz Overbeck, the ‘watch-spring’ of his overly tensed, ‘machine-like’ brain had not snapped and that he still possessed enough of the magic powers of the alchemist to be able to transform the ‘dung’ of misfortune into verbal ‘gold’.

“Climatic factors again played a major role in this amazing resurgence. During the first two weeks of January 1883 Rapallo was so lashed by wintry gales and rain that never in his life had Nietzsche felt so frozen as in his small, seaside albergo. He was forced to spend much of his time in bed, racked by blinding headaches and fits of vomiting.” (Cate, page 392)

“Suffering prolonged attacks of vomiting, headaches, eye pain, and insomnia – he could only sleep with high doses of chloral hydrate – he became, once again, extremely depressed. Above all, his mother’s words about his being a ‘disgrace to his father’s grave’ went round and round in his head, making ‘the barrel of a pistol’ a tempting thought. Only his mission, his overriding commitment to his ‘main task’, prevented him from taking the beckoning exit from an ‘extraordinarily painful life’.” (Young, page 357)

“But then, suddenly, the skies cleared, he was able to sleep at night and, as he wrote to Heinrich Koselitz (who had gone back to Venice), he again became ‘master of himself’. His energies galvanized by a warm sun and blue skies, which made his morning walks past the pine trees overlooking the lovely bay so enjoyable…” (Cate, page 392)

“In spite of this pall of misery, an unexpected break in the weather – ten clear, fresh days in January, 1883 – produced, as it had in January of the previous year, a mood of gratitude: ‘we sufferers’, Nietzsche reflects, ‘are very modest (in our expectations) and given to immoderate gratitude’. It was in this mood, in the ten clear days, he produced ‘Part I’ (originally conceived as the entirety of a work which ended up with four ‘Parts’) of his most famous book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” (Young, page 358)

“On 1 February he wrote to Koselitz that he had finished a ‘quite small book: roughly one hundred printed pages. But it is my best, and with it I have rolled a heavy stone from off my soul. Nothing of mine has been more serious and nothing gayer; my heartfelt wish is that this color – which need not at all be a mixed color – should be the color of my “nature”.’” (Cate, pp. 392-393)

So, Fritz began his most famous work by writing 100 pages in 10 days out of nowhere. There are some scattered scribblings and notes on what is presented in Part One of Zarathustra, but the massive collection of note-making and various drafts of ideas only began after Part One was completed. Prior to that, he was consumed with writing letters to Lou and Paul and his mother and sister.  First, the letters of the love affair itself after his return from Sicily. Then, numerous and lengthy drafts of hateful and self-pitying letters. Then…this work in 10 bright days. Part Two was also written in about 10 days some months later during his second summer stay at Sils-Maria. The sequential short bursts of productivity might suggest a balance of spontaneous originality with traditional regimented, Prussian precision.

“Though the weather in Sils was exceptionally cold, with snow down to the village, he was delighted to be back in the Durischs’ house, where all, including little Adrienne Durisch, greeted him almost as a returning native. He enjoyed the convenience of being able to buy many of the things he needed in the grocery store on the ground floor – English biscuits, corned beef, tea, and soap…Sils felt to Nietzsche like home. ‘Here, and nowhere else’, he wrote von Gersdorff, ‘is my proper homeland and place of meditation’.

“In this idyllic mood he completed, probably the first ten days of July, the final draft of Part II of Zarathustra, describing it as ‘justifying’ and giving ‘new meaning’ to the whole year…” (Young, page 361)

In between the writing of the first and second part of Zarathustra three important threads run through Fritz’s life. He reconciled with his sister, Elizabeth. Richard Wagner died. He fought with his publisher over the publication date of Part One. Of course, there was still an occasional letter to Paul Ree or Lou Salome, but this became a small part of all the other drives at work in his life. His days fighting for his work’s publication were more the focus of his attention than his bitterness toward Lou, though that certainly remained as an undercurrent along with all the other small details of his intimate life. But, his perspective all changed in a matter of weeks in early 1883.

That it took Nietzsche so much effort to get Part One (at the time thought by him to be a complete work) published has an ironic context. “Four weeks had passed since his manuscript to his publisher, who seemed in no hurry to bring out this new, short opus. Three days later (Easter Sunday) he sent Schmeitzner a furious letter of reproach. This angry outburst elicited an apologetic reply. But it was not until early April that Nietzsche learned the truth: the Leipzig printer, Teuber, had shoved the Zarathustra manuscript aside in order to meet a rush order for 500,000 hymnals, which had to be delivered in time for Easter. The realization that his fearless Zarathustra, the ‘madman’ who had the nerve to proclaim to the somnambulists around him that ‘God is Dead!’ should have been momentarily smothered beneath the collective weight of 500,000 Christian hymnbooks struck Nietzsche as downright ‘comic’ – even though, as he wrote to Schmeitzner in a forgiving letter, it had cost him five nervous ‘weeks of fever and quinine-eating’ in the ‘damp, windy, frozen city’ of Genoa.” (Cate pp. 395-396)

It is worth noting again Fritz’s nomadic manner of living. He moved around frequently, constantly searching for a favorable balance of climate and quarters conducive to the demands of his writing. Generally, his travels were health related – either seeking the best conditions for his health or attempting to flee the shadow of recurring illness which was cast over his daily life.

In February, 1883, Richard Wagner died. News of this death reached Nietzsche within 24 hours. Old feelings emerged not dealt with in years. All the repressed and unresolved mixture of animosity and admiration for his former mentor and obvious musical genius bubbled to the surface. “From his sickbed he wrote Malwida that it had been ‘extraordinarily hard for six long years to be the opponent of someone who one has honored and loved as I loved Wagner’, adding, however, that a ‘deadly insult’ had come between them – a reference, as we have seen, to Wagner’s claim that the root of his problems was ‘masturbation…with indications of pederasty’.” (Young, page 359)

Fritz wrote to Cosima Wagner for the first time in years. He had briefly loved (or, at least, was infatuated with) her similarly to the way he had loved Lou. Cosima was an early influence on his life during the time of his young professorship. He wrote a formal letter to her, sympathetic but almost devoid of real intimacy. To Koselitz, being a close friend and a (minor) composer of music, he sent a letter that was more honest. Young summarizes Nietzsche’s admissions in these correspondences: “What these reactions to Wagner’s death make clear – a point which, because it is almost universally denied, I have been emphasizing for some time – is that though Nietzsche rejects Wagner the all-too-human man and artist, the Wagnerian ideal is something which, in 1883, he still adheres to. They also make clear that, with Wagner’s passing, he himself, as standard-bearer of that ideal, sees it as his task to lead the ‘higher men’ of his acquaintance back from Wagner the man to Wagner the ideal.” (page 360)

Wagner would haunt Nietzsche the rest of his sane life. Nietzsche would compose a late-philosophic piece primarily regarding Wagner, ending his body of work as he began it - with artistic and cultural criticism.

Zarathustra Part One was finally published near the end of April 1883. It was conceived as a complete work at the time it was published though Nietzsche would write Part Two a few months later. It was about this time that Fritz accepted an invitation to stay with Malwida von Meysenbug in Rome. He stayed there five weeks and there met his sister. Elizabeth had similarly been invited by Malwida who attempted to “godmother a reconciliation between brother and sister.” (Young, page 360)

“He arrived on 4 May and, as he wrote to his mother nine days later, the near-by mountain crests were still covered in snow, and the spring air was so crisp that not once had he so far been able to put on a pair of handsome white trousers he wore (somewhat old-fashionedly) during the warm summer months. ‘Aunt Malwida’ greeted her ‘wayward son’ with open arms, as she had done the previous May, and was tireless in introducing him to members of the German colony in Rome. One of them was Franz von Lenbach, Richard Wagner’s favorite portrait painter, who later told friends that Nietzsche’s luminous and deeply brooding eyes were the most beautiful he had ever seen on a man.” (Cate, page 397)

In Rome, Elizabeth and Fritz became friendly again (giving some measure as to how far the wounds of his relationship with Lou had healed) and they decided to take a short trip together when leaving Rome. “Finally, on June 14, Fritz and his sister said goodbye to the hospitable Malwida and travelled northward by train up the long shank of the Italian peninsula , headed for Milan. Fritz, in a merry mood, amused himself composing comic verses which Elisabeth found so funny that they could hardly stop laughing. Believing himself to be the butt of this unseemly mirth, an irate Englishman climbed down at the next stop in search of a quieter compartment. At Milan they parted. Elisabeth wanted to go see Lugano, while Fritz headed for Bellagio, at the center of Lake Como. The grey, pitted waters were barely visible through sheets of pouring rain. After weeks spent in stimulating company, Fritz confessed to his sister (who had moved on to Basel): ‘I now almost shrink from solitude: but I long ago learned to clench my teeth.’” (Cate, page 398)

Zarathustra’s initial publication sold only a couple of hundred copies. Nietzsche gave many copies away to various people, most of whom were puzzled. It is hard to believe that just 31 years later, in 1914, the complete four-part Zarathustra was issued to many thousands of German soldiers in World War One. But, that is one measure of how popular and influential the work became after Nietzsche’s death. It is not Nietzsche’s greatest work, in my own opinion, but it clearly is his most influential on society as a whole in the context of philosophic literature. Even to this day, many are those who, particularly in adolescence and young adulthood, fall under the sway of its powerful prose.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"I am lost"

“From Leipzig, where the first wintry snows were already falling, Nietzsche took the train to Basel, to ‘help’ Franz Overbeck celebrate his forty-fifth birthday on 16 November. He told his Basel hosts that his ‘idyll’ with Lou Salomé was finished, without explaining what had gone wrong. Lou’s health was so fragile – like his own – that she was as ill-suited to look after him as he was to take care of her. ‘Now I am going into complete solitude,’ he had abandoned as hopeless his short-lived endeavor to ‘return to the world of men.’

“If Nietzsche heard the nasty rumor that was already circulating in Basel’s academic circles – about the ‘mistress’ he had brought back from Italy and whom he had been ‘sharing’ with a friend of his in Leipzig – it was certainly not from the Overbecks. But what infuriated Nietzsche was to discover that his sister Elisabeth, in her righteous zeal as the self-appointed guardian and preserver of her brother’s ‘sullied reputation’, had taken it upon herself to ‘set the record straight’ not only by denying the ugly rumor – the surest way of giving it some credence – but also by exposing Lou Salomé as a scheming adventuress whose main ambitions in life were to marry a rich husband and to establish a serious reputation as a ‘brilliant intellect’ by shamelessly stealing ideas and thoughts from others.” (Cate pp. 382-383)

So began the petty soap opera that Fritz’s life became after Leipzig. It involved several weeks of accusations in the form of hasty postcards and letters contrived largely in anger between Fritz, Elizabeth, Lou, and Paul among others. Fritz journeyed from Basel back to the Italian coast where, as usual, he became violently ill and almost unable to function but for wallowing in his own self-pity and frustration over losing the love of his life. In the meantime, Lou and Paul continued together, both becoming increasingly critical of Fritz. Lou refused to take any responsibility for the turn of events and furiously blamed Fritz for the destroying her ‘trinitarian experiment.’ The whirlwind of activity spiraled steadily downward into crude and undignified (need I add human, all too human?) depths.

“‘This summer and autumn he has experienced the worst time of his life,’” Franz Overbeck wrote to Fritz’s old friend Erwin Rohde following the brief stop in Basel, “‘the result of which is that he is now condemned to a new kind of loneliness that even he can’t bear. Following the events of this summer loneliness is the worst poison for him…I was powerless to help him…What has absolutely shattered him (next to the separation from the Russian – which in the circumstances is a blessing) is the complete break with his family…his future is a very dark place.’

“Overbeck did not exaggerate. Having lost the love of his life, his closest intellectual companion, and a mother and sister who, for all their faults, he was viscerally attached, Nietzsche now indulged in an orgy of recriminations. In a series of letter sketches, sometimes to Lou and sometimes to Rée (some but not all were sent), he calls Rée a wastrel: an exceptional nature collapsing through laziness and lack of genuine intellectual commitment, a ‘noble nature in decay’. His main abuse, however, was reserved for Lou. He describes her (alleged) slandering and ridiculing of his character at Bayreuth, Jena, and Tautenburg as the ‘ugliest’ way anyone has ever acted towards him in his entire life – which confirms the success of Elizabeth’s attempts to poison his mind against her. He complains that he gave her Schopenhauer as Educator to show her his fundamental cast of mind, which he thought she would share, but discovers her to be utterly ‘superficial’, lacking in ‘respect, gratitude, piety, politeness and wonder’. ‘You really don’t think that the ‘free spirit’ is my ideal’ he adds. The force of the last remark is to contrast the intense, morally serious idealism demanded by Schopenhauer as Educator with the idea that ‘anything goes’. The accusation is, in a word, nihilism: Lou tramples roughshod over current social conventions (and people’s hearts) without having anything to put in their place: she is a free spirit of the worthless ‘second rank’, light years away from the creative ‘first rank’.” (Young, pp. 353 – 354)

It was, perhaps, with consideration to this hierarchy in Nietzsche’s thought that he began to wander back toward his deeper thinking for the first time in months. There he rediscovered that he was a free spirit of the first rank, but this did not happen in November and December of 1882. During that time he was still very much a lover dealing with the end of love.

In the margins of one pathetic, unsent letter to Lou Fritz made a series of notes about his impressions of her personality. They reveal as much about him and his state of mind as anything: “rich in the utilization of what she knows…without taste, but naïve in this lack…without any delicacy of feeling for taking and giving…without sentiment and incapable of love…in emotion always sickly and close to insanity…without gratitude, shameless towards the benefactor…incapable of politeness of the heart…without shame, always undressed in thinking, powerful in particulars against herself…not ‘stout-hearted’…crude in matters of honor…monstrously negative…character of a cat – the beast of prey that installs itself as a pet…cruelly perturbed sensuality…superannuated child-egotism as a result of sexually stunted growth and retard…without love for human beings, but love for God…need for ostentation…sly and full of self-control with regard to the sensuality of men…” (Cate, pp.386-387)

Cate goes on to frame what these brief notations have to say about Fritz himself: “As Nietzsche had already observed in one of his notebook jottings: ‘Religion as a spiritual release of erotic needs is something irreplaceable for all women in whom the satisfaction of the sexual drive has been forbidden by moral custom and shame’….the most revealing of these psychological comments was, as far as the author was concerned, the very last ‘sly and full of self-control with regard to the sensuality of men’. Since Paul Rée by his own admission was the most unsensual of men, this reproach could only refer to Nietzsche himself. It is an unmistakable admission of masculine frustration. It made mincemeat of his exalted claim to have been pursuing a sublimely pure, altruistic, self-ennobling grand design with Lou Salomé. Like Pygmalion, he had become enamored of his tempting idol and had unconsciously desired – the most powerful human instincts being unconscious – to sleep with the alluring creature he wished to reshape into a nobler, superior, more perfect human being.” (page 387)

Fritz’s neurotic behavior became much more pronounced during this time. He self-medicated with massive doses of opium and other drugs in an attempt to induce sleep during the periods when he was not already bedridden with violent headaches and nausea. The final two months of 1882 challenged him in ways he had never experienced before. The existential gaiety which he expressed immediately following his “discovery” of eternal recurrence of the same in 1881 was now transformed into the horrible possibility that he would now have to perpetually relive the suffering of massive loss. This permeated his being and it was almost more than he could bear.

In mid-December, whether from guilt or from desperation or from recognition of what Elizabeth had so destructively accomplished or from the sudden, embarrassing realization of the extent to which he debased himself in venting his rage at virtually everyone he cared about, near the end of the ordeal, when it was far too late to repair the damage, his bridges all burned, Fritz begged Lou and Paul to forgive him in a drug-induced, childish, self-absorbed fashion. “My dear ones, Lou and Rée: Do not be too upset about the outbreaks of my ‘megalomania’ or my ‘hurt vanity’ – and even if, prompted by some feeling, I should accidentally take my life some day, that, too, would not be reason for too much sorrow. What are my fantasies to you! (Even my ‘truths’ were nothing to you hitherto.) By all means, take into due consideration between the two of you that in the end I am a half-madman who suffers in the head and whom long solitude has confused completely. This, as it seems to me, reasonable insight into the situation I have reached after taking an immense dose of opium – from despair. But instead of thus losing my reason, I seem to have found it at long last.” (quoted by Kaufmann, page 58)

Friedrich Nietzsche had hit rock bottom and he was utterly alone. Yet, regardless of how he tried to arrange facts in his mind, he had no one but himself to blame. Yes, there was friction between Lou and Paul and Fritz to begin with. There was no other way the underlying currents of Fritz’s erotic nature could have reacted to the attractive girl’s beauty, brilliant mind and budding manner of being. Lou contributed with her earliest carefree flirtations and a careless kiss. Elizabeth certainly did all she could to undermine at possible relationship between her brother and that girl. In the process she got their mother involved. The essential passions of the moment ripped everything apart.

“Elizabeth, the cloistered, religiously-minded spinster, with her narrow code of morals and vindictive hatred for a woman less inhibited and freer than she was, knew no better than to pursue such a woman with all the spite outraged virtue could summon up; Nietzsche did know better, but instead of restraining he abetted her. He must have felt some shame at this, for to the end he laid responsibility on his sister. ‘I should like to put right what my sister has put wrong,’ he says, but no one can believe he was a mere tool in Elizabeth’s hands: the relationship between them was not of that kind, for he was always the dominant personality. Ultimately, if his affair with Lou Salomé ended in a welter of mud-slinging and abuse, he was to blame.” (Hollingdale, page 156)

But fault is a poor substitute for actual emotional pain. For a moment the spiritual wind had been knocked out of Fritz. “He had bared the innermost workings of his mind to (Lou) as never before to another human being, sensing an unparalleled depth of understanding between them. Salomé touched the core of his ‘talents and objectives’, and Nietzsche felt that she understood him completely: ‘Several major directions of the spiritual and moral horizon are my most powerful source of life. I am glad that our friendship has struck it foots and hopes in this very soil’ – June 12, 1882. In fact, he considered the two of them ‘all too similar, blood relatives’- August 14, 1882.” (Safranski, page 256)

The break-up was a monstrous blow to his intimate pride and his sense of personal philosophic self-worth: “No, the truly unbearable realization for Nietzsche was the fact that she understood him completely and then, with her boundless curiosity for people, simply moved on to others and did not remain under his spell. To make matters worse, she left him behind as a mere stage in her educational career. He felt exploited and abused because his disciple had made clear that she understood him, but also understood how to find other teachers for herself. Nietzsche was greatly offended. He had abandoned himself to her and then found himself abandoned by her.” (Safranski, page 257) The fact Lou was obviously bright, and could converse in a like-minded way, and still chose to move on past Nietzsche threatened (from Fritz’s perspective) the inherent importance of Nietzsche’s still-emerging philosophy.

On Christmas Day, 1882, isolated from his sister and mother, he wrote to Overbeck from Rapallo: “This last bite of life was the hardest I have chewed yet, and it is still possible I may suffocate on it. I have suffered of the ignominious and tormenting memories of this summer as of a madness…I tense every fiber of my self-overcoming – but I have lived in solitude too long, living off my ‘own fat,’ so that now, more than anyone else, I am being broken on the wheel of my own feelings. If only I could sleep! But the strongest doses of my opiates help me to no more than six-to-eight hour marches. If I do not discover the alchemists’ trick of turning even this – filth into gold, I am lost. – Thus I have the most beautiful opportunity to prove that for me ‘all experiences are useful, all days holy, and all human beings divine!!!'” (quoted by Kaufmann, page 59)

I’m not sure Nietzsche gets any deeper or more relevant to the prescribed style of amor fati than in his discovery of how to re-embrace life in the midst all his loneliness and pain. Within him, perhaps miniscule but clearly powerful, he found “the most beautiful opportunity”. Given his existential state and the fact that you and I and every human being has been there and tasted that, Nietzsche saw an opportunity for “self-overcoming” in the most weighty sense and he found beauty in it. This is deep Nietzsche.

Indeed this was true of him at this moment. Gradually, Nietzsche began to conceive of how amor fati was embraceable even in at his lowest point. Even with the loss of most everything he held dear, his ideas and concepts were proving themselves. There was a way to embrace the entirety of the wretched mess that was once so promising and wonderful. Out of the ruins and the arrogant pain and self-debasing expression of anger the final aphorism from the fourth book of The Gay Science resonated in his mind.

His most famous philosophic journey was about to begin.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Back to Leipzig

So, for a few days after Tautenburg, Fritz was alone with his mother in the family’s Naumberg home. By this time he had apparently completed putting Lou’s ‘A Prayer to Life’ to music. He probably played his composition for his mother on the family piano. Franziska probably took some interest. This was the first new music from her son since a piano duet he composed as a wedding gift for a lady friend in early 1873. Nine years had passed.  It was good to hear him being musically creative again.

For the sake of propriety, Fritz told his mother his time in Tautenburg was spent with Elizabeth and a prospective pupil. It was a complete charade. Fritz loved his mother as dearly as his sister, who he was upset with at the moment. During these days, he doubtlessly considered how to “pitch” the (in his mind) pending intellectual threesome to his mother, so Christian she had married the minister that fathered him.

Of course, Fritz’s mother, Franziska, loved her son too. She felt he was an exceptionally bright man with a respectable (if small) pension for his years of professorship. Fritz was a published man of education from his mother’s point of view. She knew of his atheism. There had been intense arguments over it between them in the past, but that was more than a decade ago now. It was forgotten in terms of their feelings for one another. She kept the hope that God might yet turn his mind back toward his father’s path, if not his profession.

“Fritz continued his embarrassed equivocations, which were finally torn to shreds by a plaintive letter addressed to their mother in which, without mentioning Lou Salomé by name, Elisabeth wrote that at Tautenburg she had seen her brother’s philosophy ‘come to life’ and had been profoundly shocked. It was a philosophy that exalted Evil rather than the Good she had been brought up to revere. She had been so profoundly shocked by what she had witnessed that, had she been a Catholic, she would have retired immediately to a convent and spend her time in prayer in order to atone for the mischief that was being committed.

“Franziska Nietzsche now demanded that her son come clean and tell her the whole truth, finally calling him a liar and a coward who had dishonored the memory of his father. In a rage Fritz went upstairs to his bedroom, packed his trunk, and told his trembling, weeping mother that he was taking the train to Leipzig and going on from there to Paris for the winter.” (Cate, page 372)

The rather loose plan was that Lou would return to Paul’s family’s house, rest a couple of weeks, then the two of them would join Fritz in Leipzig, where Fritz had spent his late-university student years. Final plans for a threesome in Paris were supposed to be made. So, Fritz arrived in Leipzig first after about a week alone with his mother. He did not care what anyone thought of his relationship with Lou.

“To Franz Overbeck in Basel he wrote…that this ‘long, rich summer’ had proved to be a ‘testing time’ in which for once he had managed to bridge ‘the hideous chasm between willing and fulfilling’. The ‘daemon of music’ had again possessed him, but nothing had been more profitable than his conversations with Lou. ‘Our intelligences and tastes are to the deepest degree related – and, on the other hand, the contradictions are so great that we are for each other the most instructive objects and subjects of observation. I have not yet known anyone who knew how to extract such a mass of objective insights from her own experiences, and knows how to draw so much from everything she has learned.’ Indeed, he went on, working himself up into a state of rapture, he wondered if such a degree of ‘philosophical frankness’ had ever existed anywhere between two human beings!” (Cate, page 372)

“The next day Nietzsche sent a postcard to his mother, giving her his new address in Leipzig. He had suffered a major migraine attack, two sleepless nights, and severe eye-aches, but despite the strains of apartment-hunting he had managed to overcome his physical woes and was now lodged with a schoolteacher named Janicaud, who lived near the suburban Rosenthal park.

“…he found time to write Lou, saying Koselitz in Venice had found the music he had composed for her poem, ‘A Prayer for Life’, not only ‘Christian, but even Christian-warlike’, as though he had written a ‘Crusaders’ March’ full of strident dissonances suggesting the clang and clash of shields.” (Cate, page 373)

Fritz roomed in a house filled with children. “For the schoolteacher-landlord had several small children whose noisy romping in the corridor often prompted the ‘Herr Professor’ to open his door and stare at them sternly through his thick-lensed glasses. At his request a tall-backed ‘grandfather’s armchair’ was installed by his desk, over which Nietzsche could gaze out through the window at the poplar-fringed meadows and the sturdy green-leafed oaks of Rosenthal park.

“Here, as he had done in Genoa and at Sils-Maria, he brewed his own tea before getting down to work in the morning. The one notable difference in his daily routine – now that he had decided to abandon his previous hermit-like solitude and try to ‘return to human beings’ – was his regular visit every afternoon to the Kintzschy Café, where he could meet old friends like Heinrich Romundt or Max Heinze, his former tutor at Pforta, later professor of philosophy at Basel, and now university rector: one of the few members of Leipzig’s academic community who still dares to be seen talking to the ‘scandalous’ author of Human, All Too Human and the heretical books that followed.” (page 373)

“Nietzsche at this point was innocently riding the crest of the wave. Despite the rift with his sister, everything seemed to be working out wonderfully well. As he wrote to his mother on 1 October, with an urgent request for a warm dressing-gown – for the weather had suddenly turned cold – for him this was continuing to be a ‘festival-year’, and to his delighted surprise he was being ‘spoiled’ by everyone, just as he had been in Messina. Max Heinze’s wife was allowing him to use her husband’s library; Heinrich Romundt had delayed his departure in order to see his friend Rée again; Carl von Gersdorff was expected to turn up at any moment with his recently wedded wife. Carl Riedel, the director of the famous Leipzig choral group, had warmly greeted Nietzsche and indicated that four of his singers might be ideally suited to perform a sung version of the music he had composed for Lou Salomé’s ‘A Prayer to Life’.” (Cate, page 374)

Socially, Nietzsche had returned to his late student days and was having fun. In the meantime, as Fritz stayed in Leipzig alone for a couple of weeks, he began to beseech Lou and Paul to join him in Leipzig. But, apparently the time Lou spent back with Paul had lessened the zest for an intellectual threesome anyway. After all, it was only a dream she had.

“In spite of all that happened, Nietzsche still retained hopes of forming a harmonious trinity, a ‘three-in-one’, with Lou and Rée. Surely, he wrote Rée, two acute ‘psychologists’ such as themselves would be ‘clever enough’ to manage any difficulties. And he added, combining an appeal for sympathy with an assurance of the platonic nature of his intentions towards Lou, that ‘having lost a natural sister I must be given a more than natural one’.

“On October 1 Lou and Rée gave in to entreaties and paid a five-week visit to Leipzig. On the evening of their arrival Nietzsche arranged for them to attend a séance (given the joking about ‘ghostly knockings’ in Tautenburg, it was probably intended as light entertainment), which they found to be obvious trickery. The many unspoken undercurrents, however, cast a strained and melancholy mood over the visit. Lou probably thought mainly of avoiding Nietzsche’s lust and forceful personality and the friendship between Nietzsche and Rée was effectively over.” (Young, page 353)


"The séance was a bad start, and the sense of intellectual companionship Nietzsche and Rée shared in previous years was not as readily restored as in past reunions. Nevertheless, things were not going altogether badly in Leipzig. Shared diversions included a performance of Lessing's Nathan the Wise, and a concert of Wagner's musical beginning with the Tannhäuser overture and ending with 'The Ride of the Valkyries'. Nietzsche's strained relations with his family were eased by the arrival of a birthday cake from his mother and sister." (Small, page 146) But, these were mere pauses in a time of increasing tension. One wonders how the threesome may have celebrated Fritz's 38th birthday together (October 15). I have no further evidence of its mention.

“Rée, whose claims to Lou’s favors were by now much more substantial – there were rumors they lived together in Leipzig, as they did a few months later in Berlin – was thoroughly annoyed by Nietzsche’s persistent refusal to face facts. He tried to tell his friend as gently as possible that his behavior embarrassed Lou because she did not share his feelings and never had. Nietzsche would not hear of it. Had Lou not told him in Tautenburg that Rée was hopelessly caught in the net of his shallow ‘reealism’? Nietzsche could not help noticing, of course, that Lou and Rée were on very intimate terms but that knowledge merely increased his ardor. Sensing Rée’s irritation, he thought he could sweep Lou off her feet by leading her deeper into the mysteries of his new philosophy. Whenever he had a chance to talk with her alone – because of Rée’s watching presence that was not often the case – he hinted darkly about the impact his ideas would have on the world. Eternal recurrence: the very words made one shudder.” (Peters, page 130)

The three blended well to begin with, enjoyed profound conversations and moments of complete, off-beat humor; they took long walks and extended casual evenings together. Fritz grew in confidence that Lou would be his - all out of context with the reality of things. For Paul and Lou there was nothing special about being together with Fritz any longer. For Lou particularly, and to Paul’s personal delight, Fritz was a fascinating thinker and conversationalist but he was no longer the object of her intense interest. Her personal quest for truth now looked beyond Fritz. The underlying tension set up some rather abrasive moments as Paul told Fritz that Lou would never love him and Lou, consequently, distanced herself from Fritz all the more as the stay in Leipzig continued. Still, Fritz was completely naïve to all this.

Fritz to Lou: “No, Rée was not the man for his (i.e. Nietzsche’s) new philosophy. He lacked courage and imagination. What good was intellect without imagination? With an air of mystery, Nietzsche invited Lou to explore with him the far reaches of the soul that lie beyond the bounds of intellect; ‘for intellect,’ he told her, ‘what do I care about intellect! What do I care about knowledge! I respect nothing but drives and I would swear it is that which we have in common. Try to see behind it. Do not let yourself be deceived about me. I hope you do not seriously believe that the ‘free-thinker’ in my ideal! I am…pardon, my dearest Lou!” (Peters, page 131) The three dots were Fritz’s fire for effect. Withholding full disclosure. Offering the depths of his mind in hopes that Lou would find that irresistible.

But, the few weeks for Lou with Paul after Tautenburg had changed everything. Lou did not love Paul any more or less than she loved Fritz, which is to say there was little sensuality in her relations to either. But, she had come to prefer being with Paul’s bright, if less productive and profound, mind. With Paul she was free to explore any possibility as Paul believed in nothing at all so he only interjected to play devil’s advocate. But with Fritz Lou was seen as his pupil.

Fritz had specific contentions about human life, the deeper realms yet to be discovered. So, while Lou was free to express anything to Fritz and it be taken seriously, any idea she had was subject to Fritz’s specific point of view, the very thing Paul was essentially lacking as Paul believed there was no possible, accurate point of view. Moreover, Paul was wonderful in a social setting but, whereas Fritz could also be entertaining and cheerful, it was obviously something that came more naturally to Paul than to Fritz. In this way Lou felt freer with Paul than with Fritz. And freedom is the thing Lou found most precious.

“Of Lou’s two ‘suitors’, which in effect they had become, it was clearly Paul Rée who represented the less danger. He was not trying to found a philosophical school, he was not looking for disciples. Her dilemma was pointedly expressed in at least three maxims penned in the ‘Stubbe Nest-Book’: ‘The sensual moment is the last words for the woman, the first for the man’; ‘The greater the intensity between two human beings, the stouter are the barriers that are needed’; and finally: ‘Spiritual proximity between two human beings seeks to express itself physically – but the physical expression devours the spiritual proximity.’ If she were ever to succumb to temptation – one reason Paul Rée was such an indispensible ‘protector’ – she was bound to become Nietzsche’s physical as well as intellectual slave: an explosive situation almost certain to provoke the very hatred that an overpowering ‘love’ was supposed to banish forever.” (Cate, page 377)

The weather was turning very cold in Leipzig in late-October. “By the end of October Nietzsche seems to have sensed he was losing Lou. He could not capture the mood of Monte Sacro, nor their Tautenburg intimacies. He blamed Rée for that, and, becoming more and more desperate, he began making remarks about Rée that really angered Lou. Rée was a coward and quite incapable of any profound thought or feeling, a petty bourgeois and a sniggering little soul.” (Peters, page 133)

The final week in Leipzig must have been the most tension-filled of all. Perhaps, at this time, the three of them went through extended moments of silence together. Each lost in private thoughts. “Nonetheless, lip service was still paid on all sides to the notion of the ‘three-in-one’, the idea being, at Lou’s and Rée’s departure on November 5, that they would soon meet up again in some agreed city, though no longer, seemingly, to setup house together. On November 7 Nietzsche wrote his old flame, Louis Ott, asking her if she would recommend Paris for the winter. But it took him less than a week to admit to himself that Lou and Rée had never been serious about the idea and that he had, in fact, been dumped. Abruptly, therefore, he canceled all thoughts of Paris, returning to his practice of wintering in the South.” (Young, page 353)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Three Weeks in Tautenburg

Elizabeth did everything she could to dissuade Fritz from associating himself with that girl. But, Fritz was still in love with Lou. In spite of two marriage proposal refusals, Fritz still harbored romantic attachments even as the two explored deep philosophical and spiritual realms together. It was Fritz’s mind and thought that drove Lou Salomé to want to be with him and share her intimate writings and poetry with him. But, for her there was nothing else.

Except, there was a wall at the point where Lou was stimulated by Fritz’s writings and perspective. The wall was in some ways erotic in nature, Lou was still a gorgeous girl in her early twenties. Lou had enjoyed a sensual, intellectual relationship once before with an older man. Lou still flirted a bit with Fritz, she couldn’t help herself. But, their interactions remained much more formal and intellectually exploratory than they were at Monte Sacro. Still, Fritz got what he planned for - three weeks alone with Lou at Tautenburg. Three weeks to be with his accepted pupil and win her heart if he could.

“Up until then, Nietzsche and Salomé had been together for only a few days or hours at a time, and he hoped to engineer a more sustained encounter alone with her. Perhaps he would then be able to win her over for himself.” (Safranski, page 252) “Since Rée was now jealously observing the relationship between the two, Salomé kept a journal of these weeks in the form of letters to Rée and provided very specific information about the idyll in Tautenburg. Just a few hours after they arrived, she reported, they were able to get past ‘small talk’ and return to their former familiarity. They were housed in separate apartments, and Nitezsche came to her front door every morning so that they could take long walks and converse for hours on end. Salomé wrote: ‘We have been talking ourselves absolutely to death….Strange how in the course of our conversations we managed inadvertently to descend into abysses and those dizzying places people go all alone to gaze down into the depths. We have always chosen the mountain goat paths. If somebody had listened in on our conversations, he would have thought that two devils were talking.’” (pp. 253-254)

“What were they talking about? The death of God and religious longing were their major topics of conversation. Salomé wrote: ‘We share a religious streak. Perhaps it has become so prominent in us precisely because we are free spirits in the extreme. In a free spirit, religious feeling cannot appeal to any divine power or heaven and culminate in frailty, fear, and avarice, which are the cornerstones of religion. In the free spirit the religious need that originates in religion can…be reflected back onto itself and become the heroic strength of one’s being, the desire to dedicate oneself to an illustrious goal.’ She claimed that Nietzsche’s character exhibited a high degree of this heroic trait.” (page 254)

“Gallantly he helped her from the train, kissed her hand, and bade her welcome to his Thuringian forest retreat. His eyes sparkled, he smiled and chatted happily, telling them the local gossip. Elizabeth noticed with dismay that his emotions were dangerously involved. She had never seen him like that. ‘Fritz is madly in love with Lou,’ she wrote her friend in Jena. There was not time to lose. She must disillusion him before any damage was done.” (Peters, page 118) She told Fritz everything about the fighting between Lou and herself because of Lou’s behavior at Bayreuth. “It was clever approach. She knew that if anything would break the enchantment her brother felt for Lou it was the charge that she ridiculed him in Bayreuth. And she was right. Nietzsche listened to her story with visible pain. He felt hurt and humiliated.

“When Lou came down she knew at once that something was wrong. Nietzsche’s cheerfulness was gone. He looked at her reproachfully and wanted to know why she had been so indiscreet. Had she forgotten what he had told her about Wagner and himself? It hurt him to think that she had made fun of him in front of his Bayreuth enemies, especially in view of the fact that she had accepted his invitation. There was a scene. Lou resented being asked to give account of herself. Nietzsche had no right to tell her with whom she could associate. His quarrel with Wagner did not concern her.” (page 118)

There was an underlying tension throughout the three week stay. “Every five days we have a small tragicomic scene,” Fritz wrote to Peter Gast (Cate, page 370). It was obvious that Lou would never consider Fritz as her lover, an intimacy he desperately desired. Nevertheless, Fritz enjoyed being around the girl. “Again Lou was amazed by the sudden change in Nietzsche’s mood. They talked freely and easily, as if they had known each other for years. (Peters, page 119)

A few days after arriving at Tautenburg, Lou had a bout with her “consumption” that was the cause of her leaving Russia to begin with. She remained in bed for several days, Fritz visiting. Lou’s first, recorded impressions of their intellectual and spiritual intimacy called Fritz: “…on the whole of an iron will, is a man of powerful moods. I knew that once we would get to know each other – which we failed to do in the beginning because of the turmoil of our feelings – we would soon discover, beyond all petty gossip, how deeply akin we are. I had already told him so in writing in reply to his first strange letter. And so it happened. After a day of being together with him, during which I tried to be cheerful and natural, our old intimacy was re-established. He came up to my room again and again, and in the evening her took my hand, kissed it twice, and started to say something he could not finish. During the following days I had to stay in bed; he sent letters to my room and spoke to me through the door. Now my fever is gone and I got up. Yesterday we spent the whole day together and today we spent a beautiful day in the dark quiet pine woods, alone with sun rays and squirrels. Elizabeth was at Dornburg with friends. At the Inn where we ate under a large, broad-branched linden tree, people think we belong together…” (page 119-120)

They became quite close during these long, relaxed days together. But, of course, Lou never reciprocated Fritz’s love. There would be no second kissing episode. She wrote: “’Nietzsche enjoys talking with me so much that he confessed to me yesterday that even during our first quarrel upon my arrival, and while he felt miserable, he could not resist experiencing a kind of joy because of my way of arguing.’” (page 120) “’Memories of our time in Italy often come to us and yesterday, as we were walking up a small path, he said softly: ‘Monte Sacro…I owe to you the most beautiful dream of my life.’

“’We are very cheerful. We laugh a lot. To Elizabeth’s horror (who, incidentally, is hardly ever with us) my room is immediately visited by ‘ghostly knocks’ when Nietzsche enters. We must have even this cursed gift in common. I am glad the mournful expression that hurt me has disappeared from his face and that his eyes are again clear and sparkling. We are spending happy hours at the edge of the forest on a bench near his farmhouse. How good it feels to laugh and to dream and to chat in the evening sunshine when the last rays fall on us through the branches of the trees…’” (page 121)

“As soon as the weather improved, Lou’s cough disappeared and she and Nietzsche began to take long walks through the dense pine forests. To Lou’s delighted surprise, Nietzsche, normally ‘reclusive’, was happy to have her by his side for hours on end. Theirs soon became a delicious solitude a deux. While Elisabeth disappeared into the woods to continue her unhappy moping, Nietzsche and Lou – he with his inseparable parasol, she with her auburn hair covered in a hunting cap – could sit beneath the linden trees adjoining the local inn and enjoy their luncheon out of doors. Sometimes, to be altogether free of Elisabeth’s importunate presence at the vicarage, Lou would remain in Nietzsche’s ground-floor bedroom talking and debating until midnight, with his red scarf casually wound around the lampshade to shield his sensitive eyes – much to the annoyance of Herr Hahnemann, the farmer, who had to escort her back to the vicarage when he would have preferred to be in bed for another brief night of sleep before rising at dawn for the harvest.” (Cate, page 369)

The first bound volumes of The Gay Science arrived during Lou’s stay with Fritz. Naturally, he gave her one. “She probably received the gift with a feeling of relief, for there is reason to suspect that she had not read Schopenhauer as Educator (which Nietzsche had lent her in Lucerne) or Morgenrote (which he had sent to her in Zurich) with any close attention. A quick reading of the final part of this new, positive, ‘ja-sagend’ (‘yes-saying’) book prompted Lou to give Nietzsche a poem she had begun months before: Gebet an das Leben – ‘A Prayer to Life’, in which she had imagined herself lustfully embracing life and trying ‘in the scorching heat of battle’ to find the ‘solution to the riddle of your being’.” (page 370)

This sat Fritz at the piano again. He played improvisation-style piano less frequently than in years past, but he still enjoyed performing on keyboard, often before small gatherings. He still possessed a clever romantic flair for music. He began to set A Prayer to Life to his own music. Perhaps if he couldn’t marry Lou he could wed his music to her intimate words. This rather obsessive, if passionate, response to Lou sharing her poetry with Fritz reveals what a significant hold Lou had on Fritz’s thoughts and feelings. He could not simply fall out of love for her by force of will.

It is doubtful that Lou would have spent all this time in Tautenburg without listening to Fritz play the piano, especially since Fritz was still somewhat trying to woo her, at least as a pupil. Fritz was “a terrific pianist” (Young, page 155). He was best in short improvisations lasting less five minutes but he could also play sections from Wagner’s operas and from Schumann, Beethoven, as well as other composers. To some extent, late nights with Lou in Tautenburg were likely spent with music in addition to sharing ideas and humorous conversation. Playful wittiness was a significant part of their daily agenda together.

“To Elizabeth’s outrage – she no doubt thought that spiritualism, along with the ‘other world’ in general, should be taken more seriously – they pretended to hear a ‘ghostly knocking’ as soon as Nietzsche entered her lodgings. And (another joke with, like the ‘whip’ photograph, not-quite-pleasant undertones) Nietzsche decorated a photograph of Rée with ivy leaves. Lou asserts (correctly in my judgment) a deep intellectual affinity between Nietzsche and herself – ‘we often take the words out of each other’s mouth’…” (Young, page 349) It is noteworthy that Lou tried her hand at philosophical aphorisms while under Fritz’s guidance at Tautenburg. In this way, she sampled what it would be like to have Fritz as a mentor.

This is a very complex intimacy and it is easy to see how Fritz, so inexperienced in such matters of the heart, could handle being with Lou in this context no better than Lou could control herself around Hendrick Gillot in her late-teens. Yet, nothing more than an occasional kiss on the hand occurred. Lou had changed toward him in a subtle, but decisive way. She was open and cheerful and conversant and mischievously humorous, even flirty in her youthful nature. But, she did not kiss Fritz again.

When she returned to Paul’s home after the three weeks at Tautenburg, her reflection upon Fritz and time spent with him was that Fritz, while possessing a singular brilliant mind, wanted to instruct her, to make her into his pupil. That suddenly didn’t sound so appealing to her as it once did. After Tautenburg, Lou came to consider the nature of their ‘holy trinity’ as perhaps not ideal after all. In this regard Fritz’s attempts at any non-rational intimacy with Lou while at Tautenburg were childish and misguided. Only Fritz was too blind to know this, his love stayed strong. Meanwhile, Paul did all he could to encourage her doubts as he wanted Lou all to himself, however platonic the intimacy had to be.

“While her emotions were stirred by his ideas, her mind rebelled against them. There was absolutely no proof for anything he said. Rée was right. Nitezsche was really not a philosopher at all. He was a mystic and a rather cloudy one. It was amusing to listen to his ocular pronouncements and almost comic to hear him comment on the world-shaking impact of his ideas. More and more often, particularly when Rée was present – who listened to Nietzsche’s prophecies with undisguised scorn – Lou found it hard to keep a straight face. What sounded so convincing in the twilight of the Tautenburg forest made less and less sense….At last Lou began to feel sorry for Nietzsche and remonstrated with Rée when she thought he went too far ridiculing their friend. Nietzsche was a tragic figure. It was unkind to make fun of him.” (Peters, pp. 131-132)

Fritz returned to his mother’s home to Naumburg. At first, Elizabeth did not accompany him. She was still too distraught over the events of Bayreuth and Tautenburg concerning her beloved brother and that girl. Fritz was irritated with the way his sister treated his would-be pupil with whom he was still in love. “Lou’s coming had been the climax of all his hopes. She was very close to him, closer than anybody had ever been, closer than even Elizabeth. It was an exciting sensation, as if their spirits had been married. Carried away by his exultation, Nietzsche wrote to Lou’s mother that he considered himself secretly engaged to her daughter.” (Peters, page 124)

Officially, the threesome was to meet up again in Leipzig to plan the next leg of their philosophic journey. In reality, however, Lou had no desire to be anyone’s pupil and the immediate thrill of exploring Fritz’s mind, however brilliant and ‘heroic’, was fading. The idea of the three-way academic relationship was something to which she was coming to pay only lip-service. Fritz, being inept with genuine human intimacy and with women in general, had no clue. Tautenburg had started roughly, retained an underlying tension, but had nevertheless been a complete, uninterrupted meeting of their minds. But, it had sobered and satiated Lou. She was ready to move on to other interests. And she came to prefer Paul’s heavy lightness of being to Fritz’s light heaviness.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Whip Pic

Lou Salomé, Paul Rée, and Friedrich Nietzsche posed for this racy (by the standards of the day) photo in May 1882.

“After a trip to Basel to visit to his friends the Overbecks, Nietzsche returned and met with Lou on May 13 at Lucerne. At the Lowengarten, they spoke (at) a stone relief of a sleeping lion. According to Lou’s memoirs he proposed to her a second time. Again she tactfully declined but continued to beseech him to be part of the intellectual commune, what she called the “trinity.” She believed working together they could inspire one another to the greatest heights; to succumb to something as ephemeral as emotion would cause it to dissolve away. And Nietzsche was game for anything involving danger and play – the world’s most dangerous plaything: live dangerously! Build your cities under Vesuvius! Send you ships into uncharted seas!” (Vickers, page 42)

While Fritz visited the Overbecks, Lou got several stern talks from her mother and Paul regarding her “loose” behavior with Fritz. “Rée was particularly outspoken in his criticism. He warned Lou that her behavior had been indiscreet and that she was to blame if Nietzsche misunderstood her. Nietzsche had requested that she meet him in front of the lion’s statue in the Lucerne park. It was a beautiful May day. Spring had come to the Swiss mountains and the air was perfumed with the scent of flowers and blossoming trees.” (Peters, page 101)

Fritz immediately noticed a change in her. “Lou was friendly but detached. Nietzsche felt there was no time to lose. Solemnly he proposed marriage. Lou listened to him, and then with equal solemnity told him that she did not want to get married. She wanted to remain free but she wanted also to remain friends.” (Peters, page 101)

“Together they walked back to her hotel, where an anxious Rée was waiting for them. It was Nietzsche who suggested that, to celebrate their trinity, they have their picture taken together. Monsieur Bonnet was a man of impeccable bourgeois taste. His photographs…were in wide demand because they mirrored the spirit of the times, solemnity and boredom. Among the props in Bonnet’s studio was a small farm cart which came in handy for rural scenes. When Nietzsche saw it his eyes lit up. He demanded that it be placed in the center of the stage and told Lou to kneel in it. A rather awkward gesture, Bonnet thought, and not at all suitable for a young lady. But his protests went unheeded. Then Nietzsche asked him for a piece of rope which, he insisted, should be tied to his and Rée’s arms and held by Lou like a rein. Thus the two men were harnessed to the cart in which Lou knelt. Over Rée’s protests, Nietzsche claimed that no other pose could more fittingly represent their relationship.” (Peters, page 102)

“After the events in the Lowengarten and in Monsieur Bonnet’s studio, the pilgrimage to Wagner’s former home at Lake Lucerne came somewhat of an anti-climax. Rée excused himself. He had had enough for one day and refused to go. Once again Nietzsche and Lou were alone. But much had happened since Monte Sacro and both were in a somber mood. Lou was uneasy in Nietzsche’s presence and Nietzsche was burdened by his mixed feelings, love and hate, for Wagner.

“In a soft and subdued voice he told Lou the story of his friendship with Wagner, recalled the happy hours he had spent in this house, this garden and by this lake. As they sat by the lakeside, Nietzsche’s voice dropped to a whisper. With his walking stick he drew figures in the moist sand and when he looked up Lou noticed that he had tears in his eyes.” (Peters, page 103)

The tears had specific motivation in addition to reflecting Fritz’s general melancholia at this time. “From Basel Nietzsche had brought along a copy of Schopenhauer as Educator, which he now gave to Lou to read as a preliminary introduction to his philosophical ideas and aspirations. The maxim she had inscribed on the cover of her knick-knack box – ‘Strive to live quietly and to produce with your own hands’ (from St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Thessalonians) – was replaced by Geothe’s stirring exhortation, which, years before, Nietzsche, Gersdorff and Rohde had adopted as their own:

From half-measures weaned
And in the Whole, the Good, the Beautiful
Resolutely let us live.
“In exchange, Lou gave him a poem entitled ‘To Pain’ (spiritual as well as physical), which so perfectly echoed his own feelings on the subject that even two months later Nietzsche could not read it without tears coming to his eyes.” (Cate, page 333) This exchange of written works would in coming weeks motivate Fritz to sit down at the piano again and compose music for the first time in years, but it equally reveals the desire Lou had for Fritz to read her private poetry, thoughts, and feelings. They remained very intimate with one another at this time in this way.

That Fritz once closely associated himself in friendship with Wagner must have impressed the bright-minded Lou. Even though Lou probably had little appreciation for Wagner’s music she could keenly appreciate his considerable social force as an artist. After Lucerne, Fritz returned to the Overbecks while Lou agreed to visit Paul’s home and meet his mother during an extended stay. The plans were for the three to rejoin vaguely at some point. Fritz wanted to be alone with Lou again, this time for a period of weeks. But, for now he did nothing.

“The Overbecks noticed a change in Nietzsche when he returned from his brief excursion to Lucerne. His exuberance was gone. He was moody and looked tired. But he made no mention of any change in his plans and spoke of Lou enthusiastically as before. He told Mrs. Overbeck that Lou had expressed the wish to meet her and he asked her to talk to the girl about him ‘with complete frankness.’ (Peters, page 105)

“On or around May 25 Nietzsche wrote Lou Salomé in Zurich, giving her the Overbecks’ exact address in Basel. In order to be more independent, he explained that he ‘remained silent’ (i.e. had said nothing to his mother and sister about their ‘trinitarian’ scheme). ‘The nightingales have been singing all night long in front of my window. Rée,’ he went on, in the same charitable mood, ‘is in all matters a better friend than I am and can be; take careful note of the difference.’ But then, yielding to an irresistible temptation, he couldn’t help concluding: ‘When I am often all alone, I often, very often pronounce your name – to my greatest pleasure.’” (Cate, page 335)

Lou probably was curious about the Overbecks from what Fritz had shared with her about them. She was likely most intrigued by Mrs. Overbeck and how she lived what seemed to be a domesticated but strong-willed and contemplative life with a university professor. At any rate she most definitely took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Overbecks. “Franz Overbeck was so intrigued by this feminine phenomenon that he sent Nietzsche an eight-page report on his and his wife’s impressions. It is more than regrettable that this invaluable letter has disappeared. Nietzsche, who received it at Naumburg in early June and who had to keep its contents secret from both his mother and sister, wrote to Franz, shortly after recovering from another nervous attack, that it was the kind of letter one receives once in a lifetime, and that it was something he would never forget. He was happy to find that his ‘plan, which must shimmer very fantastically for uninitiated eyes’, had encountered such a profoundly human as well as friendly understanding from the Overbecks.” (Cate, page 337)

As weeks went by, Fritz confided to his sister about the young “pupil” Lou and asked Elizabeth to meet Lou at the Bayreuth festival, that being also the premiere of Wagner’s newest opera Parsifal. Fritz had fallen so far from Wagner that he simply could not go there himself. Fritz: “…arranged for Lou and his sister Elizabeth to attend the debut of Wagner’s Parsifal Bayreuth in July. Once in Hamberg, she wrote Nietzsche. She approved his idea, but perhaps in the interim in Warmbrunn, where they could be together and work as a team. Flirtatiously, she added that his book The Dawn ‘entertains me in bed better than visits, shopping and travel dust.’ It could only lead Nietzsche to wondering, which parts entertained her the most? Could it be his courageous affirmation of sexuality? In The Dawn he had reinstated the powers of Eros and Aphrodite, proclaiming, ‘In themselves sexual feelings, like those of pity and adoration, are such that one human being thereby gives pleasure to another through his delight; one doesn’t often encounter such beneficent arrangements in nature. And to slander it and to corrupt it through bad conscience! To associate the procreation of man with bad conscious!’

“Lou also wrote Nietzsche that he and Rée were ‘two prophets, turned towards the past and the future.’ Rée ‘discovers the verdict of the gods.’ She admires Nietzsche and the heroic thinker: ‘you say somewhere ‘If you disregard the happy life, only the heroic life is left.’ …We are good travelers,’ she adds cheerfully, ‘and will find the path even in the undergrowth.’” (Vickers, Page 44)

“He wanted Lou to meet his sister and hoped Elizabeth would prevail upon her to join him in the Thuringian resort of Tautenburg where he proposed to spend afew summer weeks together. Nietzsche was grateful to Malwida’s support and he wrote her that a firm friendship now united him with Lou ‘as firmly as anything of this sort can be arranged on earth. I have not made a better acquisition in a long time. I am truly grateful to you and Rée for having helped me to it. This year, which in many important respects means a new crisis in my life (‘epoch’ is the right word, an interval between two crises; one behind and one in front of me) has been made very beautiful, thanks to charm and the graciousness of this young, truly heroic soul. I hope to have in her a pupil and, if my life should not last much longer, and heir and disciple.’” (Peters, page 107)

Meanwhile, Lou “was having such a good time with the Rées and had become so fond of Paul, who did everything in his power to make her feel at home, that she hardly noticed how quickly the weeks went by. She was almost sorry now that she had promised to join Nietzsche in Tautenberg. Rée, too, was sorry. He could hardly bear the idea of her leaving him.” (Peters, page 110)

“Exactly what Lou Salomé thought of the Parsifal premiere we do not know. But since she was tone-deaf, she was almost certainly less impressed that the Wagnerophilic Elisabeth, who was excited and overwhelmed by the scenic and sonic spectacle that she wrote to her brother to say that ‘even a deaf man would have been enthused by the performance’.” (Cate, page 349)

“On July 28, the date chosen for the second Parsifal performance, Fritz wrote to his sister urging her and Lou to stay on, pointing out that ‘if one doesn’t come away from Bayreuth with a couple of high moments, there was no point going to B[ayreuth].’ He also urged Elisabeth not to leave before the 30th when Franz Overbeck and his wife would be reaching Bayreuth. Elisabeth was only too happy to heed this last piece of advice. At some point during the brief meeting she stunned Ida Overbeck by the vehemence of complaints against ‘Fraulein Salomé’ – a philosophical upstart who had not bothered to read Fritz’s books and who ought to be sent back to school.

“Elisabeth’s growing irritation was not simply due to jealousy aroused by Lou Salomé’s ‘astounding dialectical virtuosity’ and a genuine talent for ‘hair-splitting sophistry’ (as Malwida’s friend, Resa von Schirnhofer, later described it); she was outraged to discover that Lou, with a tactless mixture of adolescent conceit and brazen effrontery, had been showing Malwida’s friends the ‘amusing’ Lucerne photograph of herself, seated in the little cart by her two harnessed ‘workhorses’, who were ready to go wherever it might please her to lead them.’” (Cate, page 350)

Elizabeth, the picture of the genteel middle-class respectability of the day, was shocked and angered at Lou’s behavior at Bayreuth. Elizabeth “…found herself in the uncomfortable role of envious witness to Lou Salomé’s social status in the salons and at the receptions. The conversations Elisabeth overheard about her renegade brother were unkind of him, and she thought this young Russian woman ought to have unfailingly defended her brother. Instead, Salomé turned against him and cast him aspersions with the others. This is how Elizabeth saw the situation, or at least that is how she reported it later to her brother. During the trip to Tautenburg, Elizabeth Nietzsche and Lou Salomé engaged in nasty altercations. From then on, Nietzsche’s sister became Salomé’s vindictive antagonist.” (Safranski, page 253)

Though Elizabeth would patch things up with Lou for the sake of appearances, the journey from Bayreuth to Tautenburg, where Fritz was waiting for his precise extended time alone with Lou, remained uneasy, as did every interaction between the two opposite women afterwards. Elizabeth abhorred Lou and could not understand why her reputable if reclusive brother wanted to have anything to do with the unconventional, immature upstart Lou. The tension would ultimately affect even Fritz’s view of Lou though certainly Elizabeth herself did not contribute solely to what was about to occur.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Kiss at Monte Sacro

If the late-summer of 1881 changed Nietzsche completely with his “discovery” of the eternal return of the same, then the late-spring of 1882 was equally momentous and compelling. I would argue that no single moment in his life affected Fritz more profoundly than a extended walk taken with Lou just before sunset one day in early May 1882. It would reverb through his thought and emotions for many months, if not years, afterwards. It ultimately led him down the path to composing his most famous philosophic work.

Paul and Fritz joined Lou and her mother in the small town of Orta on what was apparently a beautiful spring day. As has been mentioned, the meeting was delayed by a sudden bout of illness in Fritz. But, he rallied quickly and things went pretty much as he and Lou had planned.

“…so the party arrived on an early May day in the ancient town of Orta, situated on a peninsula that juts out into the lake from the eastern shore. Opposite it, like an emerging pearl, lies the Island of St. Giulio, and directly behind it, gently rising to a total height of some three hundred feet, a wooded hill, dedicated to the memory of St. Francis and known far and wide as Monte Sacro.

“It is a superb setting, peaceful and majestic, the ideal location for a quiet and contemplative life. The impact of such an environment on sensitive and questing temperaments is profound. It arouses their deepest feelings, confirms their fondest hopes.” (Peters, page 98)

“When the party arrived in Orta they decided, like most tourists, to start their sightseeing by spending the morning on the island. The crossing took about fifteen minutes in a rowboat; they left the charming Piazza of Orta behind and approached St. Giulio, its ancient square tower of weather-worn, yellow stone reflected in the blue water of the lake. The gently rocking motion of the boat lulled them into a sense of peace and serenity. They disembarked and with hushed voices walked about the old church and stood subdued in front of the magnificent pulpit of black Oira marble, fashioned by a master craftsman of the eleventh century.

“The spiritual magic of St. Giulio affected Madame von Salomé least of all. She had never forsaken her faith and what she experienced on the island merely reaffirmed what she had always known. With Ree it was different. He could not and did not want to believe. The force of those irrational sentiments which he, too, felt irritated him. He wanted to get away from it. Nietzsche and Lou, on the other hand, were deeply moved. They were both searching – and this is the secret of the kinship they felt for each other – for a new faith, a faith that affirmed the power and glory of life and did not insist on the mortification of the flesh.” (Peters, page 98 – 99)

Lou’s mother was tired after the tour and Paul, no doubt queasy from the experience of the place and desiring to leave as quickly as possible, offered to remain on a bench with Madame von Salomé. Lou and Fritz were inspired by events, however. They decided to go for a short walk. Expectations were for a prompt return.

“At long last, Nietzsche had found the opportunity to take a walk alone with Salomé. The path led up to Monte Sacro. Nietzsche later recalled this walk as a virtually holy event, full of promises that never materialized…” (Safranski, page 251) “Here, inspired by the saints call to authenticity, something of an intense nature occurred. Possibly Nietzsche revealed the secret of the eternal return, to which he had just given definitive form in The Gay Science. Possibly there was an embrace and possibly a kiss.” (Young, page 342)

The two engaged in what appears to have been a spirited, convivial, and open dialog, Lou allowing Fritz to take her to heights of intellectual ecstasy (as she had before with Hendrick Gillot) while Fritz himself, alone with the bright young beauty, became emotionally affected. In that singular moment, each found what they were searching for in the other.

“On the summit of the sacred mount, long revered by the Franciscans, Nietzsche subjected the eager, nervous, palpitating Lou to a rigorous cross-examination. She was an attentive listener and her intelligent replies seem to have impressed Nietzsche. Lou Salomé later reported to Malwida von Meysenbug that, to her surprise, she had found the supposedly god-scorning Nietzsche to be someone of a profoundly ‘religious nature’ (like herself).” (Cate, page 330)

“At any rate, an hour or so of intense conversation made a deep impression on Nietzsche’s feelings. He now believed that his relationship with Lou had a unique importance. She was the only person to whom he could reveal the full content of his personal philosophy: ‘the greatest gift anyone could make’. Paul Ree did not come into this category: Nietzsche saw now that Ree’s ideas were firmly established and told him little of his own new thoughts. Lou was capable of growing and learning, and was already just as extraordinary in her precocious philosophizing as Malwida had said.” (Small, page 139)

“The gentle climb, fresh alpine air and religious ruins made the event magical to them both. Exactly what transpired no one would ever know but them, but it deeply affected Nietzsche and afterwards he referred to it as ‘the most exquisite dream of my life!’ He imparted something of his philosophy that, until that moment, he had entrusted to no one. Later he would write her of the effect of the moment, ‘Back on Orta I conceived a plan of leading you step by step to the final consequence of my philosophy – you, as the first person I took fit for this.’

“From that moment on Nietzsche regarded her as a soul mate, sharing what he called a brother-sister brain. He could speak about things with her that he dared not say to anyone else. And she would receive his ideas with radiance and enthusiasm. If there was an erotic element in Nietzsche’s sermon on Monte Sacro, it merely fueled their mutual philosophical epiphany. Both had learned, years before, to repress their sexual passions by channeling them into intellectual pursuits.” (Vickers, pp. 41-42)

“A leisurely walk on Monte Sacro should not take more than an hour at most. It is unlikely that either Lou’s mother or Ree would have been offended if Lou and Nietzsche would have returned in that time. They must therefore have been away much longer than that. By way of explanation Lou says they extended their stay because they wanted to see the sunset on Santa Rose. The trouble is one cannot see Santa Rosa from the top of Monte Sacro. Something else must have detained them.” (Peters, page 99)

“Whatever happened, its impact on Nietzsche’s mind was disastrous. In the agonized letters he wrote Lou after their break, and even on unhinged drafts of letters in his notebooks, the recurring pharse is: “The Lou of Orta was a different being.” He complained that he was suffering from “Orta weather” and that the thought of it was driving him mad. The violence of Nietzsche’s emotional reaction to the walk on Monte Sacro is surely a sign that he underwent a powerful experience. It is hardly credible that he would have reacted in such a manner if he had merely spent a few pleasant hours in intellectual conversation with Lou. Nor is it likely that he would have behaved as he did when they returned from their walk. He was in a state of jubilant animation.” (Peters, page 100)

“When the two ‘mountaineers' descended to the lakeside, hours later than expected, it was almost dark. Lou’s worried mother treated her daughter to a tongue-lashing for disrespectful and unseemly behavior, while Paul Ree sulked and made no attempt to conceal his annoyance over his exclusion from this philosophical ‘initiation’.” (Cate, page 331)

“A few days after the party broke up, Lou, her mother and Ree journeyed to Lucerne, while Nietzsche went to visit his friends the Overbecks, in Basel. He stayed with them for five days, still in a jubilant mood. In fact, the Overbecks had never seen him like this. He talked incessantly, mostly about Lou. Like a man who has caught sight of the promised land, he shared with the Overbecks his high hopes for the future. They were alarmed and wondered what kind of girl Lou was. She seemed to have bewitched Nietzsche.” (Peters, page 100)

It had been many months since Fritz had last visited with his close friends, Franz and Ida Overbeck. They welcomed him, of course. But, it is plain that the event of Monte Sacro coupled with all the rest that had transpired to him since the previous summer in Sils Maria had somewhat changed the man they thought they knew.

“Availing himself of Ida Overbeck’s standing invitation, Nietzsche turned up quite unexpectedly at Franz’s house on the Eulergasse and spent five days ‘incognito’ with his dear friends. Host and hostess were amazed by his healthy looks and suntan and their guest’s newly found robustness and vitality – so different from what they had known in the past that not once during his stay did Nietzsche suffer a nervous fit. Seated at his usual place – a chair with its back to the living room’s white porcelain stove – he kept them up each evening until midnight, talking and listening, explaining his plans for the future, getting up every now and then to play the piano. He spoke of his desire to lead a less solitary life, one more ‘open to contact with things and human beings’. In young Lou Salomé he had found an alter ego. Someone who, like himself, had wrestled and suffered with an intense youthful love of God. How candid he was in speaking about her, it is impossible to say; for, as Ida Overbeck observed years later in a long essay of reminiscence, Nietzsche in his conversations preferred to be allusive rather than exhaustive. ‘He knew how to listen and take in, but he never revealed himself completely or clearly. To hold himself back in concealment was for him a necessity; it was not truly a distrust toward others, rather it was a distrust towards himself and the response he encountered.’” (Cate, page 331)

By this time Fritz had read passages from the yet-to-be proofed much less published The Gay Science not only to Lou and Paul but to the Overbecks as well. As I mentioned, Nietzsche felt this represented the completion and summation of his philosophic work to date. His plans were to turn toward a study of the physical sciences and who better to do that with than Paul? He might write again but he had no plans to write anything based upon his journals at this time. Perhaps, he felt that amor fati and the eternal return of the same were experiences best grounded in science rather than belief and desired time for study and research to uncover the grounds. At any rate, with regards to his writing Fritz chose differently, as we shall see.


For now he was content with the evolving plan of a "philosophic trinity". In Fritz's view he would tutor and mentor Lou while broadening his own understanding of science with the assistance of Paul. Lou, enraptured with Fritz's mind and ideas, was only too anxious for this to happen - learning from Fritz and enjoying the bright mind and clever personality of Paul. Meanwhile, Paul saw the "trinity" as his best hope for remaining in Lou's companionship.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rendezvous at Saint Peter's

“While they waited for Nietzsche’s arrival, Rée and Lou continued their joint exploration of the sites of Rome. They spent a good deal of time at Saint Peter’s. Rée had discovered a quiet corner in one of the side chapels where he could work undisturbed on his new book in which he wanted to prove the nonexistence of God. Lou was highly amused at his choice of a study and often accompanied him there to argue her point of view.” (Peters, page 92)

Here is an example of how Nietzsche scholars disagree on a multitude of small details depending upon the different perspectives found in their research of the primary sources, letters, diaries and such. Cate tells the exact situation slightly differently but all the main facts are the same. His details reveal some intimate things about Fritz and Paul and Lou. “The momentous excursion to St. Peter’s had been carefully staged by Paul Rée, who like an impatient alchemist had been waiting for weeks to see what kind of chemical reaction would take place when the softly smiling but inwardly incandescent Lou met the deceptively reserved iconoclast. Seated on a prayer-stool, Paul Rée pretended to be busy taking notes and recording his impressions of the huge basilica with what Lou Salomé later facetiously described as a combination of ‘fervour and piety’. In the prenumbral light of the great baroque interior the short-sighted Nietzsche had trouble making out the features of the young girl who stood waiting for him, with her auburn hair primly parted over the middle of her head, the deep-seated blue eyes at once inquisitive and fearful, and the equivocal smile that flitted around her often tight-pressed lips, in an attitude of hesitant defiance. To his sharper ear there was something a bit rasping and not particularly appealing about her voice when, finally, she opened her mouth to speak.” (Cate, page 327)

“One day when they were thus occupied, Nietzsche suddenly appeared. Malwida had told him where to find them. He went straight up to Lou, held out his hand and said with a deep bow: ‘From which stars have we been brought together here?’ Lou, although taken aback by this salutation from the medium-sized, inconspicuously dressed stranger, recovered her wits quickly and said that she had come from Zurich. They both laughed.” (Peters, page 92)

“Her first impression, she later wrote, was that of someone who, ‘arriving from the desert and the mountains, wearing a frockcoat of everyday people’, but whose studied reserve was a mask donned to conceal his inner thoughts. ‘For the superficial observer there was nothing particularly striking about him; this man of medium height, in his extremely simple but also carefully worn clothes, with a tranquil expression on his face and brown hair pushed back plainly, could have gone unperceived. The fine, extremely expressive lines around the mouth were almost hidden by a big, down-combed moustache; he had a soft laugh, a noiseless way of speaking, and a cautious, thoughtful way of walking, which caused a slight stoop in the shoulders…’ She was struck by Nietzsche’s small, ‘delicately modeled ears, of which he said that they were “true ears for hearing the unheard”. There are men who to an unavoidable degree exhibit intelligence, no matter how much they twist and turn and hold up their hands before their revealing eyes (as though the hand was no less of a betrayer).’ This was true of Nietzsche’s ‘incomparably beautiful and finely wrought hands in which he himself believed betrayed his intelligence. His eyes too betrayed him. Although half-blind, they had none of the searching, blinking quality which make so many short-sighted persons look unconsciously intrusive…His defective eyesight lent his features a very special kind of magic, for instead of reflecting changing impressions from outside, all they rendered was what was going on deep within him.’” (Cate, pp. 327 – 328)

Lou was fascinated by Fritz’s ideas and manner of self. She boldly invited him to join Paul and herself in her planned idealistic intellectual relationship. Fritz, admiring Lou as an “energetic, unbelievably clever being” (Cate, page 329), and given his state of mind as outlined in previous posts, naturally adored her obvious interest in him. He moved inexpertly and abruptly, asking Lou if she would marry him under the pretense that the marriage would make her idea of an intellectual ménage à trois respectable. It is difficult to say whether or not Fritz’s offer at this time was motivated out of love. His feelings for her might not have developed until several days later. Regardless, Fritz’s proposal came to Lou indirectly through instructions given to, of all people, Paul – who had been in love with Lou for several weeks.

Paul thought the whole thing humorously absurd but performed his duty. “As for Nietzsche’s reasons, they made Lou laugh. So he wanted to marry her on appearances? How noble of him and how bourgeois! She had heard that he prided himself on being a free spirit. Well, there nothing free about this proposal. It sounded all too human to her. Her immediate impulse was to tell Nietzsche to his face what she thought of it. But Rée counseled caution. There was no need to offend Nietzsche.” (Peters, page 93) Obviously, Paul did not perceive Fritz as a true rival for Lou, at this point. Fritz’s respectable title of “Professor” was far too valuable as an ingredient to any hope of making Lou’s intellectual fantasy work and, thus, keeping Paul and Lou together.

Lou sat Fritz down gently with a refusal based upon his inability to support a wife and upon Lou’s great desire to continue her studies among two gentlemen as friends. The proposal was set aside as quickly as it had materialized. Lou soon lost herself in daily talks on philosophy and religion with Fritz, Paul most likely listening and punctuating things with his sense of humor and great knowledge of various schools of philosophical thought. The intellectual atmosphere of the threesome was magical to Lou. Fritz and Paul enjoyed how the three got along and how Lou stood her ground to them with her God-influenced system of rationality and belief. She got dizzy in these heights of mind. It was her favored form of ecstasy, much to the fundamental frustration of Fritz and Paul.

“Nietzsche was in no mood to give Lou up that easily. Outwardly he agreed to their joint study plan, but inwardly he was considering ways and means of getting Lou away from Rée. He felt, and with good reason, that Rée’s presence prevented him from establishing a more intimate relationship with Lou. He wanted to spend a few weeks alone with her. But, steeped as he was in the middle-class traditions of his Naumberg upbringing, he knew that this was only possible with a chaperon. He thought at once of his sister.” (Peters, page 95)

Fritz introduced Lou to Elisabeth in a lengthy letter. He lied to his sister about Lou’s age. She was 21 but Fritz wanted Elisabeth to think she was 24, closer to his own age of 38. Otherwise, he praised Lou’s mind and manner of being. “(Fritz’s letter) was a masterpiece of innuendo and studied indifference. And it says as much about Nietzsche’s relationship with his sister as it does about Lou. He clearly wrote it for two reasons: to tell Elizabeth about Lou and to disarm any suspicions she might have concerning the sudden appearance of this young Russian. But if Nietzsche thought he deceived Elizabeth about Lou he was mistaken. She knew him far too well not to see through his double-talk. Right from the start Elizabeth sensed a rival in Lou….If there was to be another woman in her brother’s life she wanted to have a say in the matter….Meanwhile, far south under the blue sky of a Roman spring, Lou and her two suitors made plans for the future. They would spend the winter in Paris together, or in Vienna, attending lectures and concerts and enjoying each other’s company.” (Peters, page 95)

Lou was truly captivated by Fritz. “He seemed like a prophet who came out of the mountains, she thought, wearing the mask of civilization. Discovering what lay beneath the mask intrigued Lou.” (Vickers, page 39) “Lou was immediately captivated by Nietzsche’s divination of a heroic, manly age. She was seduced into an intellectual ecstasy by his brilliant and daring mind, just as she had swooned before Gillot as a great man of knowledge: ecce homo. Here was a man to idealize. Here was a man who would be part of her destiny.” (Vickers, page 40)

Lou wanted to explore and relate to Fritz’s commitment to vita completiva, his reserved but playful manner, his subtle and sophisticated sense of humor, his ability to challenge her own opinions and help sharpen them. Fritz was more of a debater than Paul, who had expansive knowledge as well, but was quieter, preferring the pen to the tongue for philosophy. Fritz was ready to unleash all of himself upon someone intellectually. He wanted to do it with Lou, but without interference from Paul. So, this became the behavioral pattern that lasted, irregularly, throughout the summer and autumn of 1882.

“Both Paul Rée and Lou Salomé were afraid that her impatient mother might whisk her away from Rome before the ‘Herr Professor Nietzsche’ – the title alone was a guarantee of respectability – had a chance to ‘present his respects’ to Madame Salomé. To ward off this calamity, Rée was asked by the ‘high-commanding Fraulein Lou’ to intercede with her mother and to suggest that they all meet up again near Milan. The plot to move the stage of future meetings from Rome to the Italian lakes seems to have been hatched by Lou with astonishing determination and celerity.” (Cate, page 329)

As strong as the attraction toward Lou was in mind and body, Fritz never subordinated any of that to his own profound thinking at the time. “Nietzsche could well imagine the advantages of a tightly knit work commune; since the time of his Surlej inspiration, he had been determined to substantiate his doctrine of eternal recurrence with a thorough study of the natural sciences.” (Safranski, page 251)

Fritz wrote to Lou regarding the yet-to-be-published The Gay Science: “This book marks the conclusion of that series of work which begins with Human, All Too Human: together they are meant to erect ‘a new image and ideal of a free spirit’. (Kaufmann, page 52) Fritz was turning away from writing for now and turning toward furthering his studies, chiefly of the physical sciences. He saw his life as amor fati in discovering eternal recurrence.

While Lou had an effect on Fritz’s erotic nature to some degree, what she desired from Fritz was being tested and entertained by the brilliant mind of a free spirit. Fritz was just perfect for her future intellectual ménage à trois. Likewise, Lou was a perfect fit for what Fritz. She was the “young person” he wanted to tutor, mentor and pass along his (now complete, so he thought) philosophical heritage. And she was sensually electric as well, taking youthful delight in the pushing of boundaries in all aspects of life but firmly unwilling to act in any way so as to subordinate herself in any way.

Lou was unquestionably sold on the Fritz-Paul combination within the bounds of her agenda. “She made up her mind to spend a year in the company of Rée and Nietzsche and the two philosophers were enthusiastically in favor of the plan, each for his own reasons. While Nietzsche had tried to enlist the support of his sister, Rée was not standing idly by. He wrote his mother and arranged a meeting between her and Madame von Salomé in Switzerland. Lou’s future was to be settled between two ladies. Rée hoped that his mother would become Lou’s chaperon and Madame von Salomé could return to Russia without her daughter.

“This is how matters stood when Lou and her mother left Rome. They agreed that Rée and Nietzsche should leave a day later and join them in Milan and then all four would travel to Switzerland together. They met as arranged, but upon Nietzsche’s suggestion they decided to make an excursion to Lake Orta, one of the smallest but most beautiful of the Upper Italian lakes.” (Peters, page 97)

But, this timetable was delayed by Fritz’s ever-recurring illness. While he was comparatively healthy during this period, he nevertheless still suffered brief, acute attacks. Also, while Peters claims the side trip was Fritz’s idea, Cate says it was Lou’s. Perhaps reflecting the similarity of mind they shared. “Because of the delay caused by Nietzsche’s latest nervous seizure he and Paul Rée were preceded rather than followed to Milan by Louise Salomé and her headstrong daughter. The rendezvous took place, more or less exactly as Lou had hoped and planned, at Orta, a town situated on a small lake of that name, narrowly separated by a mountain range from the southern extremity of Lake Maggiore.” (Cate, page 330)