Early January: Turin, Basel

"Mit Nietzsche ist es aus!"
January 3-6: FN sends the so-called "Wahnbriefe" [lit., madness letters]. 6 Jan: Jacob Burckhardt visits Overbeck, showing him a letter and expressing concern. Overbeck writes to FN in Turin, asking FN to come to Basel at once. 7 Jan: Overbeck receives another Wahnbrief and consults Dr. Ludwig Wille, director of the Psychiatric Clinic in Basel. They agree that FN must be brought back to Basel at once; Overbeck undertakes a trip to Turin. Overbeck arrives to find FN in the full grip of his insanity, sitting on a sofa and reading the proofs for Nietzsche contra Wagner.

Overbeck arranges to have a Dr. Bettmann, a dentist, help him bring FN to Basel. 10 Jan: FN is brought to Basel and delivered to Wille's clinic. 13 Jan: Franziska Nietzsche arrives in Basel and stays at the Overbecks' residence. Within a week's time (on January 17), FN is transferred to Binswanger's clinic in Jena. FN will remain in the Jena clinic until 24 March 1890. Overbeck is clear about the finality of FN's insanity, writing in a letter "Mit Nietzsche ist es aus!" [Nietzsche is finished!]

Mid-January through December: Jena


An Ecce Homo controversy

Overbeck and Köselitz debate the question of what to do with FN's late writings. On 19 January they agree that Götzendämmerung, already printed and bound, should released (which takes place on January 22). They decide not to publish Nietzsche contra Wagner, fearing, among other things, prosecution due to Majestätsbeleidigung (lese-majesté). Puzzled by the shrill tone of some of the passages, they also agree to delay the publication of Ecce homo and Der Antichrist.


About the Gesetz wider das Christenthum

February: Nietzsche contra Wagner is issued as a private edition, although the publisher (C. G. Naumann) secretly prints 100 copies instead of 50.

Over the next months, FN's condition improves slightly, although the doctors remain pessimistic about recovery. On 23 September Binswanger reports to Overbeck: "...als er zusammenhängender spricht und Erregung mit Schreien etc. seltener sind. Wechselnde Wahnideen treten noch immer auf, auch Gehörshalluzinationen bestehen noch... Seine Umgebung erkennt er nur zum Teil, s. z. B. bezeichnet er den Oberwärter als Fürst Bismarck etc. Er weiß nicht genau, wo er ist... Die Aussichten auf Genesung sind allerdings gering, aber noch nicht völlig zu verneinen." [that he (FN) speaks more coherently and that the episodes with screaming are more seldom. Different delirious notions appear continually, and auditory hallucinations still occur... he recognizes his environment only partially, e.g., he calls the chief orderly Prince Bismarck etc. He does not know exactly where he is... The prospects for recovery are certainly minimal, but cannot yet be fully ruled out.]

April: Rohde visits Overbeck in Basel. He will visit again in late August.

May: Helen Watterson publishes translations of 12 of FN's aphorisms in the New York Century Magazine under the heading "Paragraphs from the German of Friedrich Netzsche [sic]." (Thatcher, p. 22 [N])

June 3: Bernhard Förster kills himself in the Hotel del Lago, taking a poison consisting of strychnine and morphine. Elisabeth contrives to have a local doctor write a false death certificate, which cites heart attack, brought on by nervous exhaustion, as the cause of death. [Janz, III, p. 127-128]


The Langbehn episode

In November the eccentric Julius Langbehn arrives on the scene. In the following year, Langbehn will anonymously publish his book Rembrandt als Erzieher ["Rembrandt as Educator," a title deliberately chosen after FN's work on Schopenhauer], a book that in a single year's time goes through 25 editions and sells over 66,000 copies. Claiming that FN is not really sick but is just neglected by the doctors, he offers to cure FN, offering Franziska hope when all other doctors could only be pessimistic. He begins by taking FN out for walks and FN seems to respond favorably. Langbehn demands, however, complete authority over FN. He begins to discredit himself through his own eccentric behavior. While visiting in late February 1890, Overbeck finally convinces Franziska that Langbehn cannot cure her son, and Langbehn returns to Dresden.

In late 1889, Julius Klingbeil, a disgruntled colonist, writes a book called Enthüllungen über die Dr. Bernhard Förstersche Ansiedelung Neu-Germanien in Paraguay [Revelations Concerning Bernhard Föster's Colony New Germany in Paraguay], a damning expose of the true conditions of the colony in Paraguay. Klingbeil writes: "Einen widerwärtigen Eindruck machte es, Zeug zu sein, wie er [Förster] die Domination seiner herrsüchtigen Frau erträgt... Überdies hört man vom Dr. [Förster] jedesmal, wenn man etwas mit diesem überlegen will: 'Sprechen Sie mit meiner Frau.'" [It made an bad impression to have to witness how much he [Förster] suffers the domination of his power-addicted wife... on top of that one heard from the Dr. everytime, when one wanted to consider or debate something with him: 'speak to my wife.']

Jump to top