University of Bonn
Deussen joined us at our house in Naumburg with my mother
and sister, spending the weeks after the examinations lounging with free time
eager to start our first year of post-secondary education at the University of
Bonn. Elizabeth now, at seventeen years of age, was blooming like a flower and
was adept socially to entertain us high school graduates until we left for
Bonn. As charming as she was, Elizabeth showed none of the depth of personality
that she would later have in her life when she and her husband Bernard Förster
established the German colony of Germania on the river in Paraguay. Instead she
played hostess with my mother Fräu Pastor Nietzsche in our elegant upper-middle
class social class, introducing the young Deussen to privy counselors and other
noted men in positions of power. Being two young scholars, we were joined by my
friend Erwin Rohde. We were setting out on a new chapter in our lives, and
reveled in the discussions of career and academia and professors of note,
fostering in me single-mindedness to my studies and in my loyalty to Professor
Ritschl, the head of philology at the University in Bonn.
Letting Fräu Pastor Nietzsche and Elizabeth outfit me down
to the cufflink and pant-leg cuff, I was given clothes befitting a serious
scholar, well-prepared and of sound mental character to undertake my philosophy
and arguments into the big leagues, exchanging ideas in earnest with
professional thinkers. The blonde hair was cut and the budding moustache
trimmed but still given perch on the upper lip.
Deussen and I set out westwards on a journey, beginning with
a night in Elberfeld where relations of Deussen put us up for the night and
where we met with his cousin Ernst Schnabel.
A lively and exceedingly reckless young man, Ernst Schnabel in his exuberance
and newfound love in his life let his spirits fly in cheery carousing and
laughter so that the three of us traveled to Königswinter in a fervor of
youth, landing in the town and hiring horses to get to our next destination:
"You want to hire horses to the Drachenfels?" asked
Deussen, senses stirred at possible danger from the reckless Schnabel.
"It'll be more fun," said Schnabel. "Besides it will enable
us to romance the women when we get there." To this Deussen had no rebuttal,
the honor and virtue of such a noble quest beyond reproach by any reliable
"Ever been on a horse Fritz?" I stared at the horse in front
of me, my myopic eyes slightly out of focus as if looking just in front of the
beast. But in fact I was more interested in the size of the horse's ears.
"You know," I said, my hand outstretched to the horse's ear.
"These ears might be long enough to be donkey ears."
Schnabel paid the man and mounted his horse first.
"The only donkey around here is you Fritz. Bet you can't
ride that thing." Unphased by the challenge, being twenty-years old, I rode a
horse for the first time, riding with my companions in a symbolic journey into
the unknown. After years of oppressive discipline and strict code of ethics at
an all-boys school, we as young men with the world at our fingertips enjoyed
bottles of wine on our way to town where we wooed women from the balconies
along the main street. I sang ‘Fein's
Liebchen, fein's Liebchen," and Schnabel crooned an old tale of a Rhine boy
begging for shelter. Deussen, awkward and shy in the presence of the opposite
sex was silent, terror-stricken perhaps. The wine loosened our lips and our
laughter carried our high spirits through the open windows of the street's
buildings, until a man ran out of a door chasing us away with cursing and
invective. The next day, as if to do penance for the previous night's
escapades, we ordered a bottle of wine in the lounge of the Berliner Hof
and I composed some piano pieces, a modest offering to the people who had
endured our high jinks the night before.
Continuing our journey west we reached Deussen's hometown in
Oberdreis where we stayed for weeks in the company of Deussen's family
and friends. Immersed in friendship and warm days of leisure, Schnabel, Deussen
and I spent the rest of the summer living in the protected mountainous region
of the Westerwald, and the pure mountain air. We celebrated my birthday
on October 15th, the same day as Deussen's mother. Right after my
birthday we descended the Westerwald highlands for the Rhine Valley and Neuwied
where we took a boat down the Rhine to Bonn.
Initially Deussen and I had planned to share an apartment to
cut costs but when we checked out Bonn accommodations we found it was cheaper
to take single rooms. Both strapped by slim finances, we were forced to live of
about 25 thalers a month, or barely enough to pay for a room and food. I was
using my inheritance from my father's estate so it was very important for me to
execute my studies with poise and hard work. Taking an apartment on Bonngasse,
my window opened to a nearby church bell tower, where I would often say I would
one day take a room in the bell tower to be farther away from the noise. I
always hated the racket. For me the noise of the street was always interruptive
to my music in my thinking.
Deussen was some blocks away in his new apartment but we
both took our noon meal together at the Oldag's House, which was where I
stayed. There a young Rhineland woman who showed the exuberance and
rosy-cheeked health of the local populace, served us. Soon she often joined us
for a meal. This was the base we operated from in the next days when we began
our university careers. Having both enrolled in theology, I only lasted one
semester. I then switched from the theology faculty to faculty of philosophy.
It took Deussen four semesters to reach the same conclusion as me, but from the
first our focus was the study of classical philology. And in classical
philology there were two stars in this area at the university: Jahn and Ritchl.
Deussen and I were able to have letters of introduction to both professors,
which we duly presented to each. Upon meeting Professor Jahn, he flicked his
"Just contact me, if I can help you in any way" he said to
me. But upon presenting the letter to Professor Ritchl, we were welcomed with
"Welcome to the university my young friends!" he said. "And
how are those old cods at Schulpforta? Ah, my old friend Niese! What's he doing
these days? Is he all right? So Deussen is your name? Well, visit me very soon
I was overlooked so I spoke up:
"There are, my dear professor, two names in the
"Ah yes! That's true," cried Ritschl. "There are two names,
Deussen and Nietzsche. Good, good. Well, gentlemen, visit me again very
Somewhat disheartened by the lukewarm response, I proceeded
to leave the final letter under the door of philosophy professor Schaarschmidt,
who subsequently invited us to his home for dinner. Jovial and full of moxie,
Schaarschmidt was downright mercurial on his opinions and overwhelmed us as
young scholars, making an indelible impression on us of what a philosopher was.
It was Professor Schaarschmidt who was the one who helped me the most. He
invited us into his family, enrolled us in his history of philosophy course,
gave us a tutorial on Plato and who lent a willing ear to our concerns. He made
sure we attended Ritschl's lectures on miles gloriosus, and Jahn's
lectures on Plato's Symposium, and some classes on theology, which we
eventually stopped attending due to the extreme boredom of the classes.
I focused on the Greek lyricists, choosing to explore many
rather than one or two. This gave me much fodder to discuss, armed with many
insightful points of Greek philology, including Socrates, Homer, Simonides'
Danaë Song, and Diogenes Laertius among others. I expanded my Theognis essay
into a seminar paper, coming fully armed for discussion and footnotes. On this
academic side of my new university life, I pursued with vigor but another side
to my university life came to the fore.
Deussen and I had discussed fraternities at the university
but had both shown considerable resistance to the idea because it would
interfere in our studies, but when a fellow classmate Stöckert, a former Pforta
student and member of the Franconian fraternity, invited us to accompany him to
that fraternity's tavern, we went. Also invited that evening were five other
Schulpforta alumni. The atmosphere, being very lively, gave rise to frenetic
jubilation so that Haushalter declared he was joining the fraternity, followed
by a second and third, until all seven including me and Deussen had pledged to
become brothers of Franconia. When we went to bed that night we had little idea
of what door we had opened and how it would play out in our lives.
Known for its free and wild behavior and traditions based in
ancient ritual, Deussen and I could not throw our selves too far into the melé,
choosing to be observers a bit removed from the more passionate devotees. We
went along with what our pledge master told us to do but all the time grumbling
under our breath at the ridiculous nature of the tasks, with its mandatory
drinking that degenerated into many forms of immature behavior and mischief. I
became aware of my noticeably cosmopolitan perspective in relation to the jocks
and fencers at Franconia. It was when we were forced to skip a Sunday lecture
every week to attend meetings at the fraternity that our hearts fell out of the
esprit de corps with the Franconians, but not without first me becoming
carried away with fervent zeal. The Franconians had been dueling with the
Alemanians for centuries in the old traditions within the university. Many
fraternity members bore scars from dueling on their face that they received in
the far-away barn outside the city. Here I first learned about dueling with my
fellow Franconians on the weather-beaten floor. Showing the same type of
dedication and extremism that had marked my young life, I spent hours
practicing my fencing skills until I was challenged to a duel. The day after I
had been challenged, he told Deussen:
"Yesterday, after the tavern evening, I went to the market
for a walk. An Alemanian joined me; we had a very lively discussion on all
kinds of topics in art and literature, and upon parting I asked him most
politely to ‘hang one' on me. He agreed, and as soon as possible we'll
have a go at each other." It was not immediately clear to Deussen whether I was
aware of what I had done. Deussen was aware that it was not my zeal that was in
question; it was my corpulence and myopia that would work against me in such an
Deussen duly joined me to the duel in the barn where the
fight lasted barely three minutes. The more coordinated and agile Alemanian
out-footed and out-struck me, ending the battle when his saber slashed a
diagonal gash along the lower bridge of my nose. Blood dripped off the tip of
my nose as I shook hands with the fellow and shared a cup for our honorable
battle. All was sufficient to atone for all past injury.
I was a trooper, bearing my wounds with poise, bandaged and
in pain upon my return to my apartment, where Deussen kept away visitors. He
kept me resting until three days had past and the scar had taken on its own
hue. I noted with objectivity that the diagonal scar was pink enough to see and
suited him as a dueling scar and marking of a fraternity member, a
swashbuckling reminder I had for the rest of my life. Even later in life when I
was a professor at the University of Basel, it was a mark of respect given to
me by my young students. Indeed, Professor Nietzsche was one of us!
My fellow Franconians gave me the nickname of Gluck
when I was rushing with the fraternity. Verses written in my honor have
survived. In these handed-down records it is written:
Gluck has composed and set to music
The tragedies and romances he delights
When he comes home evenings, a red
mouth kisses him;
From sheer tea and pastry he'll go to
And with a hurrah-sassah the
Franconians are there!
The Franconians are jolly, they shout
For Deussen, they named him Master:
Rubbing his nose Master sits at
Studying seventy-seven languages, puffing seventeen pipes;
Whenever he has been drinking and
someone addresses him,
He answers in Greek, the very learned
And with a hurrah-sassah the
Franconians are there!
The Franconians are jolly, they shout
Deussen could still remember these lines years later,
thinking that he was astute when he smoked his pipe while I ate pastries. We
teased each other whenever we saw each other throughout our lives.
It was at this time in February of 1865, during my
association with the Franconians, that I went into Cologne where I asked the
taxi driver to take me to a restaurant, but I was dropped off at a brothel. The
following day I told Deussen of my misadventure:
"I found myself surrounded by half a dozen creatures in
tinsel and gauze, looking at me expectantly. I stood speechless for a while," I
said. "Then I instinctively went to a piano as if to the only soul-endowed
being in the place and struck a few chords. That dispersed my shock and I
escaped into the streets." Perhaps still too young to take the bull by the
horns, or maybe an example of my shyness trumping any initiative, one can
wonder whether I got up from the piano bench or if I was taken by the hand and
ushered upstairs for a lesson in ancient gymnastics?
Some after this both Deussen and I left the raucousness of
fraternity life. Deussen was first to leave due to the pressuring from his
parents, leaving the fraternity with the designation "associated drinking
partner." I left Bonn in August 1865 without informing the fraternity of my
departure or returning my insignias. The Franconians soon dissolved my
membership, much to my indifference.
After surviving the disturbances of fraternity life, we
settled into the our studies, with me getting deeper with philology and the
readings while Deussen crept further away from the grammar and footnoting of
philology and more towards theology and fine arts. We visited Gürzenich where
we attended the Lower Rhine Music Festival near Cologne. These days were light
and full of optimism, minds and hearts full of wonderment and enjoying the
limitless possibilities we saw before us. Neither of us knew as our first year
of university came to an end that we would soon be apart. The rivalry between
Ritschl and Jahn had grown to a boiling point so that Ritschl announced he was
moving to the University of Leipzig, where he was offered the Chair of
Philology. When this was announced many students followed Ritschl to Leipzig,
including me. Deussen for his part, not as interested in Philology as me,
pledged he would join me in Leipzig after his summer break in the Westerwald
with his family. Unbeknownst to Deussen, and much at the bidding of his
persuasive brother, Deussen would not join me and Ritschl in Leipzig, choosing
to study theology with his brother in Tübingen.
I made it clear I thought Deussen was making a mistake but
it took another year for him to see that I was right. Everywhere Deussen went
in Tübingen he encountered close-mindedness and dogma. He quickly missed the
stimulating open-mindedness within Philology and around me.
 The Maria
Sturmer story as backstory for Deussen and his marriage later in life.