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.