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)