January through early March: Basel
On January 2, FN submits a request to be relieved of his teaching responsibilites at the Pädagogium for semester due to health reasons. It is granted with retention of salary. For the same health reasons, FN has difficulty conducting his university courses due to headaches, and must interrupt them in February. He writes to Rohde: "Mein Kopf ist immer noch schlimm daran, ich kann nicht lesen und schreiben, und habe jetzt alle Vorlesungen aufgegeben, seit voriger Woche. Eine hübsiche Thierquälerei!" [It still goes badly with my head, I can't read or write, and have now since last week given up all lecturing. A pretty piece of animal torture! (KGB II-5, #501)] His mother (from 18 February to 30 March) and Gersdorff (6 to 29 March) travel to Basel to assist him. FN also remarks about his situation: "...es geht mir eher schlechter als besser; wie einer, der sich unter der doppelten Tyrannei des Schmerzes und der Langeweile befindet, es erwarten muss." [I am worse rather than better; as one, who finds himself under the double tyranny of pain and boredom, must expect. (KGB II-5, #505)]
Overbeck announces his engagement to Ida Rothpletz on January 27th. They are married on August 8, 1876.
Acquaintance with Hugo von Senger, music director in Geneva. FN's mother comes to Basel for an extended visit, from mid-February to the end of March.
Early March through mid-April: Veytaux bei Chillon, Geneva
Readings: Manzoni, Die Verlobten; the memoirs of Malwida von Meysenbug.
FN decides to travel to Geneva with Gersdorff in order to escape the commotion associated with the Basel carnival. They depart on March 6 for a small town near Geneva. Heinrich Köselitz, in a letter to Paul Widemann, described the Basel version of carnival: "Seit heute Morgen wüthet hier der Carneval - weniger in lustiger Weise... als vielmehr in barbarischer und brutaler Weise, deren Ausdruck das unaufhörliche Trommeln ist. Du machst Dir keinen Begriff von diesem Heidenspectakel: Seit früh um 7 Uhr trommelt die halbe baseler Jugend mit einer Ausdauer... als gälte es, die Mauern von Jericho einzuschmeißen." [Since this morning the carnival rages here - less in a merry way...much more in a barbaric and brutal fashion, whose expression is an unceasing drum beating. You have no concept of this pagan spectatcle: since seven in the morning half the youth of Basel goes around beating on drums with great stamina, as if it was a matter of bringing down the walls of Jericho. (letter from March 6, 1876)]. Gersdorff departs on March 27.
Travels to Geneva on April 6 as guest of Hugo von Senger and visits Voltaire's house. On April 8, Senger has the Geneva orchestra perform Berlioz' Cellini Overture. FN is well received by Geneva society, making a number of visits.
On April 11 he proposes marriage to Mathilde Trampedach, having met her only hours before. Mathilde declines. FN was unaware of Mathlide's strong attachment to Hugo von Senger, her piano teacher. Later she will become Senger's third wife.
To his friend Romundt he writes: "Ich verehre... nur Eins stündlich und täglich, die moralische Befreiung und Insubordination und hasse alles Matt- und Skeptischwerden. Durch die tägliche Noth sich und andre höher heben, mit der Idee der Reinheit vor den Augen, immer als ein excelsior -- so wünsche ich mein und meiner Freunde Leben." [I honor... only one thing hourly and daily, moral liberation and insubordination and hate it when things turn feeble and sceptical. Through daily cares to raise oneself and others, with the idea of cleanliness in view, always as an excelsior -- so do I wish my life and that of my friends. (KGB II-5 #521)]
Franz Overbeck is appointed rector of the university of Basel, a postion he will retain until the end of the year.
Mid-April through July: Basel
Malwida suggests that she, FN and Albert Brenner spend a year in the small town of Fano on the Adriatic coast.
Courses for the summer semester of 1876: lecture: the presocratic philosophers (9 students, 1 auditor); lecture: Plato's life and teachings (18 students, 1 auditor); seminar: Hesiod (9 participants); Pädagogium: sources on the personality of Socrates.
FN's health is a bit more stable during this time; "nur wollen die Augen ihren Dienst nicht thun." [just the eyes want to be derelict (KGB II-5, #525)]. He is informed on June 2 that his request for a year's leave is granted, with full salary.
FN attends Burckhardt's lectures on Greek cultural history. During this time works on his last reworking of his manuscript Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks. Readings include Rodhe's book Der griechische Roman und seine Vorläufer [The Greek Novel and its Precursors]; Montaigne, Larochefoucauld, Vauvenargues, Labruyere, Stendhal. To Gersdorff he writes: "Immer mehr kommen mir die griechischen Philosophen, als Vorbilder der zu erreichenden Lebensweise, vor die Augen. Ich lese die Memorabilien des Xenophon mit tiefstem persönlichen Interesse. - Die Philologen finden sie tödtlich langweilig, Du siehst, wie wenig ich Philologe bin." [More and more the Greek philosophers appear to me as examples of the way one should live. I am reading the memoirs of Xenophon with deepest personal interest. - Philologists find them deathly dull, you see, how little I am a philologist. (KGB II-5 #528)]
As a present for his friend Overbeck, FN asks his publisher Schmeitzner to purchase Liszt's piano transcriptions of Beethoven's symphonies, as published by Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig.
Nietzsche's close relationship with Wagner had all but ended by the time the fourth Meditation appeared in the summer of 1876.
At Köselitz' urging, FN completes work on his book on Wagner. The first part of the manuscript arrives at the printer's in May. Page proof correction is done in June. Early July publication of: Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen. Viertes Stück: Richard Wagner in Bayreuth [Untimely Meditations. Fourth Part: Richard Wagner in Bayreuth]. Printed again by C. G. Naumann in Leipzig, with a print run of 700 copies. Apparently there is a second run of 800 copies, which carry the mistaken notation "second edition." Schmeitzner was clearly hoping to capitalize on the interest generated by the performances in Bayreuth. Marie Baumgartner translates the work into French in October. In 1886, there are 768 copies remaining, which are purchased by Fritzsch. The actual second edition is printed in October 1892. In 1999, a copy of the first edition is sold at auction for $2900. (Chronik, p. 368)
The concluding sentence of this book is striking. What, FN asks rhetorically, will Wagner's significance be? His answer: "Etwas, das er uns allen nicht sein kann, nämlich nicht der Seher einer Zukunft, wie er uns vielleicht erscheinen möchte, sondern der Deuter und Verklärer einer Vergangenheit." [Something, that he cannot be for all of us, namely not the prophet of the future, as he would perhaps like to appear to us, but rather the interpreter and illuminator of the past] It is inconceivable that FN, in 1872, would have written such a sentence. Given Nietzsche's emphasis on the future throughout his writings, this sentence reduces Wagner to the status of a historian or antiquarian. Nietzsche has moved on.
Understandably a warm reception of the book by Wagner. FN's letter which accompanied the book to Bayreuth is lost, probably destroyed later by Cosima. An indicative remark of FN's about the book in a letter to Rohde: "Zur Schrift selber kein Wort, höchstens ein Aufathmen." [On the book itself not a word, at most a sigh of relief]
Initial sketches on a book to be called Der Freigeist [The Free Spirit].
Mid-July through late August: Bayreuth
On July 17th, Rohde becomes engaged to Valentine Framm. Their marriage takes place on August 8th, 1877.
On 22 July, a week before the official end of the semester, FN travels to Bayreuth. His visit to Wagner's "Haus Wahnfried" is noted by Cosima in her dairy, one of the last times she mentions him. He attends the rehearsals of the first act of Götterdämmerung and the complete Walküre. On 5 August FN "flees" to Klingenbrunn for a week of recuperation.
On 12 August FN returns to Bayreuth to attend the first performance of the Ring cycle. Although King Ludiwg of Bavaria had departed after the conclusion of the general rehearsals on 8 July, this first performance is attended by Kaiser Wilhelm, the Grand Duke of Weimar (received personally at the train station by Franz Liszt), the emperor of Brazil, and many other political and cultural figures. The dress rehersals end on August 9; there follow three performance cycles: the first August 13-17, the second August 20-23, and the third, August 27-30.
Meets Reinhart von Seydlitz, president of the Wagnerverein in Munich, initiating a long and useful correspondence. FN meets Louise Ott (life dates unknown) and is very much taken with her.
Rée accompanies FN back to Basel on 27 August.
FN receives detailed reports from Elisabeth on the conclusion of the Bayreuth festival.
Marie Baumgartner completes the French translation of Wagner in Bayreuth, which eventually is published by Schmeitzner in January 1877.
October through December: Sorrent
On 1 October, in the company of Paul Rée, FN leaves Basel. They stay two weeks in the Hotel Crochet in the bath resort of Bex. After some travel (including a short trip via boat to Neapel), arrival in Sorrent on October 27. The small community of "free spirits" consists of FN, Rée, Albert Brenner, and Malwida von Meysenbug. They live in the Villa Rubinacci.
FN's stay in Sorrent overlaps that of Richard and Cosima Wagner, who had arrived on 5 October and leave on 7 November for Rome. Since the Wagners are only five minutes away in the hotel Victoria, the "free spirits" visit the Wagners at least half a dozen times. Nevertheless, an underlying tension is present. Uncharacteristically (though quite indicative), both Cosima and FN are nearly silent in their writings about these visits. FN claims that during this visit Wagner warned him about Rée (who is Jewish) and discussed his initial ideas about Parsifal, both unwelcome to FN's way of thinking. Regarding Rée, Cosima notes: "...bei näherer Betrachtung finden wir heraus, das er [Rée] Israelit sein muß" [upon closer observation we see that he must be Jewish]. FN's last meeting with the Wagners is on November 5.
During this time, FN learns of the death of his grandmother Johanna Whilhelmine Oehler (1794-1876) and of Ritschl. FN's own health is mixed. In the beginning of November, he is still plagued by the usual headaches (possibly caused by the strain of seeing the Wagners?); in the middle of the month, things take a favorable turn; yet in early December FN writes to Overbeck: "Lieber getreuer Freund, es ist mir, nach einem Aufblitzen eines besseren Zustandes, wieder so schlecht, so anhaltend schlecht ergangen, dass ich noch gar nicht zu hoffen wage." [Dear faithful friend, after the sudden onset of a better condition, I am again so sick, so continually sick, that I hardly dare to hope. (KGB II-5, #573)]
On December 1st, Overbeck declines to contribute to Wagner's publication Bayreuther Blätter. Postive review of Wagner in Bayreuth appears in the Musikalisches Wochenblatt volume 7, numbers 48-49, 10 and 17 November, pp. 639-640 and 655-657.
The small community has its daily routine. Brenner reports to his family: "Die Lebensweise ist noch immer dieselbe: Morgens 7 Frühstück; 9-10 diktirt Nietzsche... 10-11 Spaziergang, 11-12 Pandekten. Bis 3 Uhr Mittagessen mit Siesta. Bis 5 Uhr spazieren, oder wenn es regnet, arbeiten." [The routine of daily life is always the same. Mornings 7 breakfast; 9-10 Nietzsche dictates... 10-11 a walk, 11-12 Pandects. Until 3 pm lunch and siesta. Walk until 5, or if it is raining, work (Bernoulli vol 1, p. 201)] Brenner is writing novellas, one of which appears in the publication Deutsche Rundschau (July 10, 1877), under the title "The flaming heart" and supposedly a translation from Spanish.
Authors and readings: J. Burckhardt on Greek cultural history; Plato and Thucidides; Montaigne, La Rochefoucauld, Vauvenargues, La Bruyère, and Stendhal; A. Spir, Denken und Wirklichkeit [Thought and Reality]; Ranke Geschichte der Päpste [History of the Popes]; New Testament.