1864-68

1864

Early September: FN manages to pass his final exams and receive his diploma (the so-called "Zeugnis der Reife"). Nevertheless his marks are uneven. Some remarks from the Zeugnis: "Deutsche Sprache. Seine Prüfungsarbeit war ihrem Gedankengehalt und ihrer Schreibart nach recht gelungen, und die Klassenaufsätze waren im letzten Jahre von der Art, daß seine stilistischen Fertigkeiten als vorzüglich bezeichnet werden konnten." [German language. His exam work was, in its content and style, quite successful, and the class essays over the last year were such that his stylistic proficiency can be considered excellent]

"Griechische Sprache. Wie er in der Klasse stets ein löbliches Interesse für den Gegenstand zeigte, von welchem auch eine außerordentliche Probearbeit über ein platonisches Thema zeugt, so bewährte er bei der schriftlichen und mündlichen Prüfung gute Kenntnisse." [Greek language. Consistent with his class performance that showed a praiseworthy interest in the subject, to which an extraordinary essay about a Platonic theme attests, he demonstrated close knowledge in the written and oral examination.]

"Mathematik. Da er der Mathematik nie recht gleichmäßigen Fleiß zugewandt hat, so ist er in seinen schriftlichen wie mündlichen Leistungen immer mehr zurückgegangen, so daß sich dieselben nicht mehr als befriedigend bezeichnet lassen, und seine ungenügenden Leistungen hierin nur durch die vorzüglichen Leistungen im Deutschen und Lateinischen ausgeglichen werden können." [Mathematics. Since he has never been equally industrious in mathematics, his written and oral accomplishments have become poorer, so that they can no longer be characterized as satisfactory, and his insufficiencies here can only be balanced out by his excellent accomplishments in German and Latin]. FN's interest and effort in mathematics appears to have waned as he progressed through his six years at Pforta. Initially he received good marks in the subject: after his first year, his marks in mathematics were on par with those in his other subjects. But by early 1864 his grade in mathematics had sunk to what we might call a C. By the time of his finals, as we can see here, his performance had fallen still further to the D level, almost causing him to flunk his exams [Janz I p. 74]

In October, FN and Paul Deussen move to Bonn to begin their studies at the university. FN rents rooms at Bonngasse 518 and rents a piano as well. Initially he declares his major to be theology but at the beginning of his second semester he will shift his focus to the study of philology. The philology department at Bonn enjoys a great reputation, with the distinguished professors Otto Jahn (1813-1869) and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (1806-1876).

Together with Deussen, FN joins the Burschenschaft [fraternity] "Franconia." FN is not terribly enamored with Franconia, and at the conclusion of his first year resigns from the fraternity.

The deep disagreements between Jahn and Ritschl finally surface, turning into an open feud. FN will write home in May 1865: "Der Streit Ritschl's und Jahns ist in ein neues und äußerstes Stadium getreten, und Ritschl ist beim Ministerium um sein Entlassung eingekommen." [The quarrel between Ritschl and Jahn has reached a new and very extreme stage and Ritschl is seeking his release with the ministry." KGB I-2, #465, p. 49] Ritschl receives an appointment at the university in Leipzig. FN considers Ritschl his teacher and so has no difficulty deciding to leave Bonn and continue his studies at Leipzig.

1865

By early 1865 FN has decided to switch from theology to philology. "Noch dies: meine Wendung zur Philologie ist enschieden," he writes in a letter to home [And this: I have definitely decided to switch to philology. KGB I-2, #460 p.40]

In 1901, Deussen, in writing his recollections of his friendship with FN, recounts the story of FN's encounter in a bordello. Apparently FN, being given an informal tour in Köln, asks his guide to take him to a restaurant. The guide takes him instead to a bordello and FN suddenly finds himself surrounded by prostitutes and is too startled to move. Seeing a piano in the room, he strikes a few chords, which frees him from his reverie and enables him to escape. Deussen is here recounting a story as FN told it to him; he did not directly witness it. Janz does not dismiss this story; citing Deussen's phenomenal memory, he suggests that Deussen related the story accurately as FN told it to him [Janz I p. 138]. The story is not entirely implausible; FN at this time was no ladies man.

FN's courses for the summer semester 1865, which runs from late April to August: general history of philosophy (class meetings at 7 am!); Plato's writings and philosophy; fundamentals of archeology with Jahn; Latin grammar with Ritschl; poetry of Walther von der Vogelweide. [Chronik, p. 125]

By late May, FN has made up his mind to switch to the university in Leipzig. He writes to his mother and sister: "Zuerst also bin ich über die Wahl der Universität für nächstes Jahr (v. Michaeli an) entschieden, und ich denke Euch damit eine Freude zu machen. Ich gedenke nämlich nach Leipzig zu gehn und habe alle andern Pläne aufgegeben. Ich weiß nicht, ob Ihr davon gehört habt, daß unser Ritschl nach Leipzig gehen wird; das ist der Hauptgrund. Sodann aber behagt mir Leipzig überhaupt ganz wohl, ich habe Naumburg in der Nähe, ich habe meine Freunde dort." [First, I have made up my mind about the choice of the university for next year (from fall term on) and think this will be good news. I intend to go to Leipzig and have given up all other plans. I don't know if you have heard that our Ritschl will be going to Leipzig; that's the chief reason. In addition Leipzig is very agreeable, I have Naumburg close by, I have my friends there. KGB I-2, #468, p. 58]

FN leaves Bonn on August 9. His friend Paul Deussen, who is remaining at Bonn, experiences a mixture of regret and relief: "[FN] zeigte aber eine Neigung, mich überall zu korrigieren, zu hofmeistern und gelegentlich recht sehr zu quälen..." [(FN) exhibited a tendency to correct and supervise me continually, and from time to time to torture me. Chronik, p.134]. FN spends the time until mid-October primarily at home in Naumburg. FN is less than satisfied with his accomplishments in Bonn; in his correspondence he gives clear expression to his reservations about life in his fraternity Frankonia. On Octber 20 he sends his letter of resignation from the fraternity, writing "Es ist mir schwer geworden, ein Jahr hindurch in der Frankonia auszuhalten. Ich habe es für meine Pflicht gehalten, sie kennen zu lernen" [It proved difficult for me to last an entire year in Frankonia. I felt duty bound to become acquainted with it. KGB, I-2, #482]

The first semester at Leipzig begins. Ritschl gives his inaugural lecture: Über den Wert und Nutzen der Philologie [On the value and usefulness of philology; Chronik p. 140]. In December Ritschl invites FN to tea at his house, and suggests the founding of a philological society, which FN, together with his colleagues Richard Arnold (1845-1910), Wilhelm Roscher (1845-1923) and Heinrich Wisser (1843-1935), undertakes. Its inaugural meeting is on December 12, 1865. [Chronik, p. 143]

At the Antiquariat Rohn in Leipzig (a second-hand bookstore), FN discovers a copy of Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung [The World as Will and Representation, first published in 1818]. Against his usual practice, FN buys the book after thumbing through it briefly. FN immediately begins a close, intensive reading and is enthralled by the work.

1866

The beginning of FN's friendship with Erwin Rhode. Rohde, like FN, had studied for a year at Bonn but transferred to Leipzig in order to continue his studies under Ritschl. He joins the philological society during the summer of 1866. During this initial year at Leipzig, FN is close friends with Hermann Mushacke (1845-1906).

In January, Heinrich Romundt becomes the tenth member of the philological society. In the course of the summer semster, Erwin Rohde joins. The society is active, with a member giving a presentation every Thursday.

In January, FN gives the second presentation for the philological association. His theme is the editiorial practices for the works of Theognis, a theme he had begun while still at Pforta. He gave a copy of his talk to Ritschl, who shortly thereafter (24 February) summoned FN to his office. According to FN's account, Ritschl was astonished that a student in his third semester could produce work of this high caliber. He recommends that FN develop the essay into a book.

Spends the vacation after the fall semester at home in Naumburg (March). Works on his essays on Theognis.

Summer semester commences on April 18 and lasts until August 21. Moves to new rooms at Elisenstraße 7 (today number 15) [Chronik p. 148]. FN is invited to Ritschl's inner circle: with about ten colleagues they meet at Ritschl's house to discuss, in Latin, a member's essay in Latin. [Chronik p. 150]

FN's enthusiasm for Schopenhauer reaches its zenith. Gersdorff, also very much taken with Schopenhauer, urges FN to take up the theme of 'pessimism in antiquity.' This notion will stay with FN; indeed, in Ecce Homo, FN will write of his first book Geburt der Tragödie [Birth of Tragedy]: " 'Griechenthum und Pessimismus': das wäre ein unzweideutigerer Titel gewesen: nämlich als erste Belehrung darüber, wie die Griechen fertig wurden mit dem Pessimismus, -- womit sie ihn überwanden" ['Hellenism and Pessimism' would have been a less ambiguous title, namely as the first lesson on how the Greeks got over their pessimism, -- how they overcame it. Janz I p. 193]

During the summer, FN discovers Albert Lange's book Geschichte des Materialismus [History of Materialism]. It makes a lasting impression; in 1887 FN will purchase and closely read the second edition. Lange's position is very Kantian; hence close in many respects to Schopenhauer's. What FN finds in Lange's book is the idea that rationality is limited to the world of appearances and that the essence of the world (what lies beyond the appearances) is utterly beyond our ken.

During this year FN is treated for syphilis. Janz speculates that the doctors who treated FN did not inform him of the potential seriousness of the prognosis; otherwise, he argues, how could FN not have mentioned it in all his writings over the ensuing 23 years. [Janz I p. 202] Yet one must wonder if it was not in the back of FN's mind, in light of passages such as the final sentence in Genealogie der Moral III-21. Here FN lists the great poisonings of Europe: first is the asectic ideal, the second, alcohol. Then he concludes: "Zudritt in der Reihe wäre die Syphilis zu nennen,-- magno sed proxima intervallo." [Third in the series one would name syphilis,--after a large interval, though next]

1867

During this year, FN and Rohde become close friends. In November, Rohde will write to Wilhelm Wisser: "Ein großes Gut namentlich hat er mir beschert in der Freundschaft Nietzsches. Du standest ihm wohl nie näher, aber den hohen Wert seiner Natur wirst Du sicher erkannst haben, und so kann ich mich nicht genug preisen und wundern über das Glück, in diesem tief und zart angelegten Menschen einen Freund gewonnen zu haben: und ich bin mit diesem Namen immer sehr sparsam gewesen." [You were never close to him, but you must have recognized the high quality of his nature and so I cannot rejoice enough and marvel at my fortune to have won, in this deep and kind person, a friend: and I have always been thifty in my use of that word. Janz I p. 209-10] In August, FN and Rohde undertake a month long hiking trip. At its conclusion, Rohde departs to Kiel to continue his studies while FN remains in Leipzig.

In the fall, FN begins his year of obligatory military service. He tries to enlist in a Berlin regiment, but learns that the regiment in Berlin is no longer accepting one-year volunteers (which is what FN was). FN ends up in a mounted field artillery unit that is stationed very close to Naumburg. Hence FN can live at home while performing his service.

In late 1867 and 1868, FN composes drafts of an essay on Demokrit, Although he does not finish it, some of the notes from these drafts reveal that some of FN's later methods and ideas are already in place. First there is a impatience with philology, at least as it is usually practiced: "Die meisten Philologen sind Fabrikarbeiter im Dienste der Wissenschaft. Die Neigung erstirbt, ein größeres Ganze zu umfassen oder weitere Gesichtspunkte in die Welt zu setzen." [Most philologists are factory workers in the service of science. The inclination, to cover a larger whole or to set forth broader perspectives, is becoming extinct.] Similarly against the usual practice of writing history: "Die Menschheit hat mehr zu tun als Geschichte zu treiben. Wenn sie es aber tut, so suche die bildenden Punkte... Darum weil etwas gewesen ist, darf nichts untersucht werden, sonder weil es besser als jetzt und also vorbildlich ist." [Humanity has better things to do than write history. If it does so, seek the formative points... just because something existed doesn't mean it should be investigated, but rather because it was better than what we have today and hence is an exemplar.]

Also at this time, FN is clear about what he does and does not value in Schopenhauer. He writes about Schopenhauer's philosophy: "Ein Versuch, die Welt zu erklären unter einem angenommenen Faktor. Das Ding an sich bekommt eine seiner möglichen Gestalten. Der Versuch ist mißlungen." [An attempt to explain the world using an assumption. The thing in itself receives one of its possible forms. The attempt is a failure]. Further, Schopenhauer posited "anstelle des Kantischen X (das Ding an sich) den Willen, nur mit Hilfe einer poetischen Intuition erzeugt... Schopenhauer wollte das X einer Gleichung finden: und ergibt sich aus seiner Rechnung, daß es gleich X ist, d.h. daß er es nicht gefunden hat." [in the place of the Kantian X the will, conceived only with the assistance of a poetic intuition... Schopenhauer wanted to determine the value of X in the equation, and the result of his calculation is that it equals X, that is he didn't find it] And yet he adds: "die Irrtümer großer Männer sind verehrungswürdig, weil sie fruchtbarer sind als die Wahrheiten der kleinen [the errors of great men are worthy, because they are more fruitful than the truths of the average ones. Janz I p. 244] This unorthodox view separates him from almost all of his companions, including Wagner and Rohde.

1868

Throughout 1868, FN draws nearer to the music of Wagner, primarily because of Die Meistersinger. As FN plays excerpts from Meistersinger through the summer of this year, he becomes more taken with it. By late October he can wax enthusiastic in a letter to Rohde: "Ich bringe es nicht übers Herz, mich dieser Musik gegenüber kritisch kühl zu verhalten; jede Faser, jeder Nerv zuckt an mir, ich habe lange nicht ein solches andauerndes Gefühl der Entrückheit gehabt..." [Love, p. 55]

In early March FN suffers a mishap while on horseback: after a jump he slams he chest against his saddle horn. The result is a serious chest wound that festers and refuses to heal. Eventually bits of bone emerge from the wound. In late June he consults the surgeon Volkmann. The wound eventually begins to get better and by late July Volkmann declares FN healed. The injury brings to an end his year of military service.

In April he suggests to Rohde that they spend a year in Paris to continue their studies. In May, he mentions an idea he has for his dissertation: Der Begriff des Organischen seit Kant [The concept of the organic since Kant].

FN returns to Leipzig on October 15. Through his friend Ernst Windisch (1844-1918) he is introduced to East Asian scholar Professor Hermann Brockhaus, whose wife Ottilie is Wagner's sister. FN goes to a concert of Wagner's music on October 27 and is quite enthused.

Ottilie Brockhaus is struck by FN's new enthusiam for her brother's music. So when Wagner makes a secret visit to Leipzig in November, she sets things in motion. Windisch leaves FN a note, inviting him to meet the famous composer. This happens on November 8. Later FN reports in a letter to Rhode: "Er ist nämlich ein fabelhaft lebhafter und feuriger Mann, der sehr schnell spricht, sehr witzig ist und eine Gesellschaft dieser privatesten Art ganz heiter macht. Inszwischen hatte ich ein längeres Gespräch mit ihm über Schopenhauer: ach, und Du begreifst es, welcher Genuss es für mich war, ihn mit ganz unbeschreiblicher Wärme von ihm reden zu hören, was er ihm verdanke, wie er der einzige Philosoph war, der das Wesen der Musik erkannt habe! Dann erkundigte er sich, wie sich jetzt die Professoren zu ihm verhalten, lachte über den Philosophenkongreß in Prag und sprach von den 'philosophischen Dienstmännern'." [He is then an incredibly lively and fiery man, who speaks very quickly, is very witty, and makes an intimate gathering of this sort very cheerful. Meanwhile I had a longer conversation with him about Schopenhauer: oh, you know what kind of pleasure it was for me, to hear him speak with indescribable warmth of what he owes him, how he is the only philosopher who has recognized the essence of music! Then he inquired about how the philosophers currently treat him, laughed about the philosopher's congress in Prague and spoke of the 'philosophical butlers'. KGB I-2, #599]

FN's initial publications: a prize-winning essay on Diogenes Laertius, appearing in installments in the journal "Rheinisches Museum" commencing in 1869. Additional publications include a study of Theognis and an essay on Simonides' "Ode an Danae." Notes on the works of Democritus, Kant, and Schopenhauer; also philological work on Hesiod, Homer, and Democritus.

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