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Youth and student years

Years in Basel

Years of wandering

Years of insanity

1889

1890s


1890: Jena, Naumburg

Early in the year, FN's condition stabilizes and improves. Heinrich Köselitz (Peter Gast) visits for a month, beginning on 20 January, and is joined on 16 February by FN's mother Franziska. FN spends from 9 am to 6 pm with his mother in her rented room. Overbeck comes to visit from 23 to 25 February, and can spend hours with FN in the streets of Jena. Of this he writes: "In diesem Verkehr hätte uns ein ganz fremder Dritter, abgesehen von einigen Narreteien in Nietzsches Gebähren... kaum zu irgend welchen befremdenden Beobachtungen Anlaß finden mögen. Für ihn konnten wir zwei alte Freunde sein, und nur ich wußte, daß unser Verkehr nur noch ausschließlich von einer Vergangenheit lebte." [a stranger, aside from some foolishness in Nietzsche's gestures... could have had hardly any cause to observe anything odd. For him we could have been two old friends, and only I knew that our social interactions lived completely in the past...]

During this late February visit, Overbeck manages to end Langbehn's escapades with FN. Overbeck also has a conference with Dr. Binswanger. Binswinger tells Overbeck in confidence that he is convinced that FN's madness is due to syphillis. Overbeck mentioned Binswanger's assertion in a letter to Köselitz in May, 1905. [Hoffmann, p. 7]

Franziska rents a new set of rooms so that she can move FN out of the Jena institution entirely. On March 24, Franziska and FN move into these rooms; FN is never again in institutionalized care. All goes well until May, when one day FN wanders out of the house alone. After searching for several hours, Franziska finally finds him accompanied by a policeman. This incident causes Franziska to move FN back to her home in Naumburg on May 13.

March 8: Rohde visits Overbeck in Basel. Georg Brandes, in an article in April issue of the periodical "Deutsche Rundschau" mentions the existence of a fourth part of Zarathustra. This kindles interest and forces Overbeck and Köselitz to discuss its publication.

May 13: FN and Franziska move to Naumburg. September 22: Paul Deussen and his wife visit Naumburg. November 14: the typesetting of Zarathustra IV is completed. November 26: FN's mother Franziska and her brother Edmund Oehler officially assume the legal guardianship of FN.

December 1890: Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche returns to Naumburg on December 16, intent on finding new support for New Germany. Within six months she is able to publish a book on the New Germany colony, claiming the enterprise is a great success (Die Bernhard Förstersche Kolonie 'Neu-Germania' in Paraguay [Bernhard Förster's Colony 'New Germany' in Paraguay]).

1891: Naumburg

Early in the year, FN's condition deteriorates; the "gains" made in early 1890 now begin gradually to fade. In early February Köselitz visits FN in Naumburg. To Carl Fuchs he writes "Ich glaube... daß er jetzt, wenn auch langsam, immer mehr in Apathie versinkt. Anstatt einer Antwort, erhält man ein Lachen oder bloßes Kopfnicken, sehr eigentümlich" [I think... that he (FN) is sinking, even if only gradually, ever deeper into apathy. Instead of an answer you get a laugh or a nodding of the head, very peculiar] and to Overbeck: "Im vorigen Jahr hörte ich ihn am Klavier spielen und erstaunte noch über die Logik und Steigerung in seinen Improvisationen: in diesem Jahr war das alles dahin. Er hat gar kein rhythmisches Gefühl mehr, alles is verworren und falsch." [Last year I heard him play the piano and was astonished by the logic and development of his improvisations: this year that's all gone. He no longer has any kind of feeling of rhythm, everything is confused and false]

During a trip to Berlin at this time, Elisabeth meets Fritz Koegel (probably through Cosima Wagner), who a few years later will assume the editorship of FN's works.

By the end of March, the publisher Naumann has Zarathustra IV printed, bound, and ready to send to bookstores. Paul Lauterbach, during a visit to Naumburg, raises the prospect of legal action against the book. On March 31, FN's mother and sister refuse to grant permission for publication, taking exception particularly with the "Eselsfest" section. Köselitz notes in a letter to Overbeck: "Eigentlich ist es zum Kranklachen, zwei gottesfürchtige Weiber und einen Landpfarrer [Edmund Oehler] über die Veröffentlichbarkeit von Schriften eines ausgemachten Antichristen und Atheisten zu Gericht sitzen zu sehen." [Actually it is quite hilarious, watching two god-fearing women and a rural minister sit in judgment on the writings of a pronounced atheist and opponent of Christianity. Letter to Overbeck, April 4, 1891; Hoffmann, p.8]

Early April: Overbeck visits Rohde in Heidelberg.

In autumn, however, Naumann surprises everyone by announcing the completion of the second edition of some of FN's works, which he did without consulting the Nietzsche family, Overbeck, or Köselitz. He also presents a bill for 3000 marks for the printing costs of these new editions and for storage costs for the earlier editions. The size of this bill astonishes everyone. Elisabeth counterattacks, engaging a lawyer and collecting statements from other publishers, including FN's earlier publishers Fritzsch and Schmeitzner. By late December, when the dust settles, not only has Naumann retracted his bill, but pays out 3500 marks for the second edition he prepared.

Edmund Oehler dies on September 5. His place as co-guardian is taken by Adalbert Oehler, nephew of Edmund and FN's mother.

1892: Naumburg

February: Naumann and the Nietzsches conclude their contract negotiations. In mid-April, Zarathustra IV is finally delivered to bookstores.

June 1892: Elisabeth returns to Paraguay. As conditions continue to worsen and dissatisfaction grows, Elisabeth eventually sells her land and the "Försterhof." She leaves New Germany for the last time in August 1893.

October 1892: Overbeck sends to Köselitz FN's personal copies of his published works. Köselitz intends to utilize FN's corrections and reworkings.

Köselitz, working in Annaberg, issues new editions of Nietzsche's works, complete with lengthy introductions of his own. These include a complete edition of Zarathustra (called the second edition of this work), all four Unzeitgemäße Betrachtungen [Untimely Observations], Allzumenschliches [both parts of All Too Human], Jenseits von Gut und Böse [Beyond Good and Evil], and Zur Genealogie der Moral [Genealogy of Morals]. Elisabeth in South America is especially excited by the Zarathustra edition and Köselitz' introduction. She writes to him: "Ein besseres Bild von unseren teuren welterobernden Helden zu geben, ist unmöglich. Immer lese ich die Einleitung und bin in einem Zustand seligen Entrücktseins!" [It would be impossible to given a better depiction of our dear, world conquering hero. I read the introduction again and again and am in a state of blessed reverie.] Note the religious, mythologizing tone in Elisabeth's letter: this will become standard fare at the Nietzsche Archive as along as Elisabeth is in charge.

1893: Naumburg

Early in the year, Rohde visits Overbeck in Basel.

FN's deterioration continues. Franziska reluctantly discontinues the two daily walks, up to this point an important part of their routine. A stiffness in the back and an aimless rubbing of his side marks the advance of FN's paralysis. Early in the year Franziska renovates her house to accommodate the new methods of care now needed by her patient. He is also given to repeating certain phrases, such as "mehr Licht" [more light] and "summarisch tot" [summarily dead] and will now sometimes ask his mother "Heißt du Franziska vielleicht?" [are you by chance named Franziska?].

In September, Elisabeth returns from South America. Apparently her initial enthusiasm for Köselitz' editorial work has given way to annoyance. Upon her return she asks Köselitz: "Wer hat Sie denn eigentlich zum Herausgeber gemacht?" [So who appointed you editor?] Köselitz later reported in a letter that Elisabeth was disturbed by Köselitz' treatment of the Wagner/Nietzsche relationship in his introduction to Menschliches, as she did not want to further alienate Cosima Wagner [Hoffmann, p. 13]. By October 1893 Köselitz has ceased to work on the Nietzsche editions. He will be invited back in 1899, being one of the only people who can decipher FN's handwriting. His return comes at a price, registering no complaints about Elisabeth's misleading and falsifying editorial practices.

October 23: Köselitz surrenders FN's materials to Elisabeth. November 18: Elisabeth begins the Nietzsche Archive using one of the room in the house in Naumburg.

The Köselitz editions are recalled and new editions are prepared under the direction of Dr. Fritz Kögel. Kögel, born in August 1860, had held a successful position in the German iron industry. Kögel published a volume of poetry in 1898 and a children's book, Noah's Ark, in 1902. He died in 1904 from the consequences of a bicycle accident [Janz III 160].

In the periodical "Magazin für Litteratur" Koegel and Elisabeth publish articles, detailing their plans for future Nietzsche editions and Elisabeth's biography. This initiates an exchange of letters between Elisabeth and Overbeck, who is horrified by these articles. He characterizes Koegel's article as "eines der gewissenlosesten und unschicklichsten Attentate, denen Ihr armer Bruder durch die Indiskretion von Litteraten ausgesetzt ist." [one of the most unprincipled and indecent assassinations that your brother has been exposed to through the indiscretions of dilettantish men of letters. Hoffmann, p. 14] Elisabeth seeks to reassure Overbeck by telling him that his name will appear only rarely in her biography (which proved to be the case) and that this was appropriate since, after all, Overbeck was a professor of theology. "Darin," she wrote him, "bin ich bessert unterrichtet als Sie selbst." [In this I am better instructed than you yourself.] She also mentioned that she was attempting to use her contacts to get Overbeck a professorship in Germany. Overbeck is of course outraged, and he requests that she cease to meddle in his affairs. Apparently Elisabeth burned Overbeck's reply without reading it (she learned of its contents via her mother). By early 1894, this exchange ends in an alienation between the Nietzsche Archive and the Basel "camp." The foundation for Bernoulli's later legal battles with Elisabeth and the Archive are laid by this exchange [Hoffmann, pp. 14-15].

1894: Naumburg

January 16: Publication of the Gast version of the complete works (Gesammtausgabe Gast or GAG) is discontinued. Dr. Fritz Koegel officially succeeds Gast as editor of FN's works.

Elisabeth claims that FN's letters to her were stolen while she was in Paraguay and that they are now being held for ransom by a man from Chemnitz.

February 4: Official founding of the Nietzsche Archive in Naumburg. End of March: Rohde visits Elisabeth in Naumburg; he advises Elisabeth against publishing FN's philological writings.

In April, Overbeck discontinues his correspondence with Elisabeth after she claims to have burned one of his letters before opening it. Elisabeth concludes a new contract with the publisher C. G. Naumann.

During this year, Elisabeth is greatly impressed by Koegel's productivity and raves about it in various letters. In September, Koegel takes a leave to pursue his avocation of mountain climbing. He completes a tour of 21 peaks, of which eleven had not yet been climbed. [Hoffmann, p. 160] Later, during his quarrels with Elisabeth, she will cite this trip as evidence of Koegel's laziness and lack of dedication.

The assistant Max Zerbst is dismissed, allegedly for incompetence. Elisabeth scouts for a new editor and finds Dr. Eduard von der Hellen, who was working at the Goethe Archive in nearby Weimar. One of von der Hellen's colleagues at the Goethe Archive is Rudolf Steiner, who is editing Goethe's scientific writings for the Weimar edition. In October von der Hellen is installed as a second editor. At the end of December the eight volume complete works, edited by Koegel (Gesammtausgabe ed. F. Koegel or GAK) and dated 1895, appears.

1895: Naumburg

April: the first volume of Elisabeth's biography of FN is published, entitled Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsche's. Elisabeth hardly mentions her mother or Overbeck, emphasizing instead the closeness of her own relationship to her brother. About this time, Overbeck and Rohde meet at the train station in Heidelberg.

Elisabeth takes it upon herself to attack Dr. Oscar Gutjahr, the physician watching over the health of FN and Franziska. Elisabeth accuses Gutjahr of succumbing to the influence of her mother and of taking positions against her. Gutjahr, who has remained in constant contact with Binswanger in Jena, decides not to file a lawsuit against Elisabeth (cf. Janz III 177).

In June, Franziska writes a long letter to Adalbert Oehler, in which she voices criticism of the initial volume of Elisabeth's biography of FN. One specific instance concerns the story that, according to Elisabeth, FN did not learn to speak until he was two and a half. After recounting several other such instances of embellishment and exaggeration, Franziska concludes: "Kurz die Biographie ist 'Wahrheit und Dichtung'." [In short: the biography is 'truth and poetry'. She is obviously aluding to Goethe's autobiography (Chronik p. 19)]

The firm of C. G. Naumann and Richard Oehler reach an agreement with the new English firm Henry & Co. to publish English translations of FN's main works. A team of translators is assembled, lead by Thomas Common and including W. A. Haussmann and Helen Zimmern. Alexander Tille, who interprets Nietzsche as a German proponent of Darwinism, is appointed overall editor.

September. On September 19, Franz Overbeck meets with Elisabeth; Elisabeth is unable to convince Overbeck to undertake editorial supervision of the publication of FN's letters. On September 24, Overbeck visits FN for the last time. FN's condition has deteriorated to the point that he recognizes only his mother, the servant Alwine, and his sister Elisabeth. Of this final visit Overbeck wrote: "Er verließ die ganze Zeit nicht seinen Krankenstuhl, sprach mit mir kein Wort... und machte mir überhaupt den Eindruck eines todeswunden, edlen Tiers, das sich in den Winkel zurückgezogen, in dem es nur noch zu verenden denkt." [He never left his chair the entire time, spoke not a word to me... and left me with the general impression of a mortally wounded, noble animal that has withdrawn into a corner with the sole intent of ending its life.]

Mid-December: Meeting with Overbeck, Rohde is critical of the new edition of FN's work.

In the latter half of December, Elisabeth offers her mother and Stadtrat Edmund Oehler (who together are FN's legal guardians) 30 thousand marks for the publication rights to FN's works. Since she does not have the money in hand, Elisabeth first concludes the agreement, and then secures a loan against the publishing rights (cf. Janz III p. 202).

1896: Naumburg, Weimar

In January Rudolf Steiner undertakes his first official task at the Nietzsche Archive: the organization of Nietzsche's library. Steiner organizes some 1,077 books and pamphlets into 19 categories, producing a catalog of 227 pages. Steiner was enthused by this work; in his memoirs he recalled: "Es war eine schöne Aufgabe, die die Bücher vor meine Augen stellte, in denen Nietzsche gelesen hatte...Bücher mit leidenschaftlich kritisierenden Bemerkungen von seiner Hand. Eine große Anzahl von Randbemerkungen, aus denen man die Keime seiner Ideen aufschiessen sieht... ich sah, welch ein Gegensatz zwischen Nietzsches Geistesart und der seiner Zeitgenossen war." [It was a wonderful task, which placed before my eyes the books in which Nietzsche had read... books with passionate critical comments by his hand. A great number of marginal comments, in which one sees the seeds of his ideas sprouting... I saw what an antithesis there was between Nietzsche's thought that that of his contemporaries. Hoffmann, pp. 183-184]

However rewarding this task may have been, Steiner noted the tense atmosphere in the Archive and how difficult it was to work under Elisabeth: "Wie muß man die Worte abwägen, wenn man z.B. etwas antworten soll auf eine Klage, die aus einer Stimmung kommt, die am nächsten Tage nicht nur ganz verflogen ist, sondern sich sogar in das Gegenteil verwandelt hat. Man fühlt sich da in einer Unsicherheit, die einem jedes Wort sauer macht. [How one has to weigh one's words, whenever for example one needs to make some reply to a complaint that is the product of a mood that the next day has not only flown away, but has even transformed itself into its opposite. One feels very uncertain in a way that sours every word. Steiner to Anne Eunike, about January 20, 1896; Hoffmann, p. 184]

As a reward for his devotion, Steiner is admitted to the Nietzsche presence on January 22nd. In his notebook entry for that date, Steiner wrote: "Habe eben Nietzsche gesehen. Er lag auf dem Sofa, wie ein Denker, der müde ist und ein lang gehegtes Problem liegend weiterdenkt...Sein Aussehen ist das eines völlig gesunden. Keine Blässe. Kein weißes Haar. Der mächtige Schnurrbart wie auf dem Zarathustrabilde. O, diese mächtige Sirn, Denker und Künstler zugleich verratend... Friede des Weisen um sich verbreitend. Man glaubt hinter dieser Stirne die ganze gewaltige Gedankenwelt schlummernd." [Have just seen Nietzsche. He lay on the sofa, like a thinker who is tired and continues to think through a problem, long wrestled with, lying down. His appearance is that of a healthy person. No paleness. No white hair. The powerful mustache as in the Zarathustra picture. O, this powerful forehead, simultaneously betraying thinker and artist. Radiating the peace of the sage. One has the impression of a powerful world of thought lying hibernating behind this forehead. Hoffmann, p. 185. The "Zarathustra picture" is that of Nietzsche from 1882; it was printed in the first complete Zarathustra edition of 1892.]

On August 1, Elisabeth moves the archive from Naumburg to Weimar. Apparently she announces this to the staff at the Archive without any prior consultation. It is her obvious intent to have the Nietzsche Archive profit from its new proximity to the Goethe-Schiller Archive, and, indeed, to compete with it. None of the Archive staff share Elisabeth's enthusiasm. Koegel describes the manuver as "unfaire Überrumpelung" and wrote: "Alle in Weimar, Gabriele Reuter, Dr. Steiner, Dr. Heitmüller, Fresenius, die Goethe-Leute, die noch dort sind, raten ab und weissagen Unheil." [Everyone in Weimar, Gabriele Reuter, Dr. Steiner, Dr. Heitmüller, Fresenius, the Goethe people who are still there, advise against it and predict misfortune. Hoffmann, p. 194]

Shortly after this move, a rumor appears in several newspapers that Steiner had been appointed co-editor of the Nietzsche edition. Because of Koegel's touchiness on this, Steiner is obliged to print denials in several publications. Hoffmann suggests that Elisabeth was the source of these rumors. If so, he writes, it makes her out to be either terribly naive or to be a first-class intriguer [Hoffmann, p. 196]

Rudolf Steiner is appointed to a "Lehrstelle" [teaching position] to instruct Elisabeth in her brother's philosophy. On December 5, Elisabeth offers an editorial position to Steiner, which he refuses. Elisabeth nevertheless circulates the report that Steiner had joined the staff, which leads of difficulties with Koegel, the current editor.

Henry & Co. issues Thus Spake Zarathustra (translated by Tille) and The Case of Wagner (translated by Common, and which also included Nietzsche contra Wagner, The Twilight of the Idols, and The Antichrist). Tille translates FN's term "Übermensch" as "Beyond-Man."

On August 8, FN is moved to Weimar; on the same day, in Basel, Jacob Burckhardt dies.

November: The premiere of Richard Strauss' tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra.

1897: Naumburg/Weimar

Early in the year, the second volume of Elisabeth's biography appears.

March 31: Overbeck is awarded emeritus status.

After a two month illness, Franziska Nietzsche dies on 20 April.

April. Publication of the Koegel edition (GAK) is abruptly terminated. Work is begun on a new (and third) complete edition (GOA).

In June, Kögel is officially dismissed as editor. At the same time, Steiner resigns his position, maintaining that it is impossible to teach Elisabeth anything about philosophy.

August 5: Jakob Burckhardt dies in Basel.

1898: Weimar

"Papa weißt Du? Droben ist ein wahnsinniger Philosoph eingezogen!" [Daddy, know what? A crazy philosopher has moved in over there!]

January 11: After suffering from declining health for a number of years, Erwin Rohde dies in Heidelberg.

On August 8, Elisabeth and FN somewhat ceremoniously move to the house "Silberblick" in Weimar. The son of Ludwig von Scheffler, an acquaintance from the Basel days, rushes home from school to report "Papa weißt Du? Droben ist ein wahnsinniger Philosoph eingezogen!" [Daddy, know what? A crazy philosopher has moved in over there!]

October 1: Dr. Arthur Seidl joins the staff as Kögel's replacement to work on the Nietzsche editions. He corrects the eight volumes of the Koegel edition (GAK vols 1-8)

1899: Weimar

August 31: Seidl, having nothing better to do than to correct the supposed mistakes of Kögel, resigns, and is replaced by Dr. Ernst Horneffer, who is later joined by his brother August Horneffer. Köselitz agrees to rejoin the archive editorial staff in October 1899 to work on the correspondence volumes.

On the Genealogy of Morals is published in England.

During the decade of FN's incapacity, there were no fewer than three attempts to publish the complete works. The first, undertaken by Köselitz, was the "Gesamtausgabe Gast" [complete edition Gast, identified by the initials GAG]. This edition commenced in 1892 and ran through 1894. The GAG consisted of 5 volumes (the Betrachtungen, Menschliches I & II, Zarathustra I-IV, Jenseits, and Genealogie der Moral. More than the other editors, Köselitz applied "corrections," divided Menschliches into a new schema, and supplied titles to numerous aphorisms in Jenseits. Next was Koegel's edition ("GAK"), which ran from 1895 to 1897. The GAK consisted of two "Abteilungen" [divisions]. Divsion I had 8 volumes that spanned Nietzsche's published books; division II had four volumes that published a subset of the Nachlaß [unpublished notes]. Koegel undertook many "reconstructions," utilizing not only the printing manuscripts but also reaching back to Nietzsche's earlier drafts. The third edition, the so-called "Großoktavausgabe" [GOA], commenced in 1899. It was largely done by 1913; only a index volume as added in 1926. The distribution of works in the GOA's first division followed the GAG and GAK. The GOA's second division was a greatly expanded (though still incomplete) compilation of the unpublished notes. It was here that the myth of the Will to Power "work" was initiated.

From 1898 through 1899, Elisabeth sends Köselitz a series of letters, trying to win him back. She baits her hook in October 1899 by offering Köselitz the editorship of FN's musical works. Janz suggests that she was able to pull Köselitz in by offering to suppress passages in FN's notes and letters in which he referred to Köselitz in less than complimentary terms.

1900: Weimar

April. Köselitz officially returns to the Nietzsche Archive as the editor of Nietzsche's correspondence. With the death of his mother, he is able to move from Annaberg to Weimar (address Lisztsraße 22, moving to Luisenstraße 13/II in August). From this time on, he uses the pseudonym for himself that FN coined: "Peter Gast."

Friedrich Nietzsche dies on 25 August 1900.

There has been much debate about what caused FN's madness and eventual death. Most agree that it was syphilis. In the February 14, 1999, issue of The New York Times Book Review, Dr. Archinto P. Anzil, Professor Emeritus of Neuropathology at the State University of New York-Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. offered this opinion: "Friedrich Nietzsche suffered from a tertiary form of neurosyphilis, namely, from general paresis of the insane or dementia paralytica. This is an inflammation of the brain tissue, i.e., an encephalitis caused by or at least etiologically related to the microbial agent of syphilis. A typical and early manifestation of dementia paralytica is the development of paranoid ideas, usually notions of grandeur: patients think of themselves as being one of the paramount historical figures of their time or of times past. Characteristically, Nietzsche, imbued as he was in classic pre-Christian antiquity, thought he was the god Dionysus. As for Carl Nietzsche, the philosopher's father, he died of a stroke, a very common condition that as a rule has nothing to do with syphilis."

September 3: Köselitz marries Elise Wagner of Leipzig.

September 13: Overbeck visits Köselitz briefly in Weimar. In December he receives the first volume of FN's correspondence as edited by Köselitz. He gives up the idea of Köselitz being the inheritor of his Nietzsche materials, deciding instead to bequeath it to the University of Basel.
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Original text © Malcolm Brown, Dartmouth College