WHY I AM SO WISE
WHY I AM SO CLEVER
WHY I WRITE SUCH EXCELLENT BOOKS
THE BIRTH Of TRAGEDY
THOUGHTS OUT OF SEASON
THE DAWN OF DAY
JOYFUL WISDOM: LA GAYA SCIENZA
THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
THE GENEALOGY OF MORALS
THE TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS
THE CASE OF WAGNER
WHY I AM A FATALITY
EDITORIAL NOTE TO POETRY
SONGS, EPIGRAMS, ETC.
FRAGMENTS OF DIONYSUS-DITHYRAMBS
HYMN TO LIFE, COMPOSED BY F. NIETZSCHE
Ecce Homo is the last prose work that Nietzsche wrote. It is true that the pamphlet Nietzsche contra Wagner was prepared a month later than the Autobiography; but we cannot consider this pamphlet as anything more than a compilation, seeing that it consists entirely of aphorisms drawn from such previous works as Joyful Wisdom, Beyond Good and Evil, The Genealogy of Morals, etc. Coming at the end of a year in which he had produced the Case of Wagner, The Twilight of the Idols, and The Antichrist, Ecce Homo is not only a coping-stone worthy of the wonderful creations of that year, but also a fitting conclusion to his whole life, in the form of a grand summing up of his character as a man, his purpose as a reformer, and his achievement as a thinker. As if half conscious of his approaching spiritual end, Nietzsche here bids his friends farewell, just in the manner in which, in the Twilight of the Idols (Aph. 36, Part ix.), he declares that every one should be able to take leave of his circle of relatives and intimates when his time seems to have come—that is to say, while he is still himself while he still knows what he is about, and is able to measure his own life and life in general, and speak of both in a manner which is not vouchsafed to the groaning invalid, to the man lying on his back, decrepit and[Pg viii] exhausted, or to the moribund victim of some wasting disease. Nietzsche's spiritual death, like his whole life, was in singular harmony with his doctrine: he died suddenly and proudly,—sword in hand. War, which he—and he alone among all the philosophers of Christendom—had praised so whole-heartedly, at last struck him down in the full vigour of his manhood, and left him a victim on the battlefield—the terrible battlefield of thought, on which there is no quarter, and for which no Geneva Convention has yet been established or even thought of.
To those who know Nietzsche's life-work, no apology will be needed for the form and content of this wonderful work. They will know, at least, that a man either is, or is not, aware of his significance and of the significance of what he has accomplished, and that if he is aware of it, then self-realisation, even of the kind which we find in these pages, is neither morbid nor suspicious, but necessary and inevitable. Such chapter headings as "Why I am so Wise," "Why I am a Fatality," "Why I write such Excellent Books,"—however much they may have disturbed the equanimity, and "objectivity" in particular, of certain Nietzsche biographers, can be regarded as pathological only in a democratic age in which people have lost all sense of graduation and rank and in which the virtues of modesty and humility have to be preached far and wide as a corrective against the vulgar pretensions of thousands of wretched nobodies. For little people can be endured only as modest citizens; or humble Christians. If, however, they demand a like modesty on the part of the truly great; if they raise their voices against Nietzsche's lack of the very[Pg ix] virtue they so abundantly possess or pretend to possess, it is time to remind them of Goethe's famous remark: "Nur Lumpe sind bescheiden" (Only nobodies are ever modest).
It took Nietzsche barely three weeks to write this story of his life. Begun on the 15 th of October 1888, his four-and-fourtieth birthday, it was finished on the 4th of November of the same year, and, but for a few trifling modifications and additions, is just as Nietzsche left it. It was not published in Germany until the year 1908, eight years after Nietzsche's death. In a letter dated the 27th of December 1888, addressed to the musical composer Fuchs, the author declares the object of the work to be to dispose of all discussion, doubt, and inquiry concerning his own personality, in order to leave the public mind free to consider merely "the things for the sake of which he existed" ("die Dinge, derentwegen ich da bin"). And, true to his intention, Nietzsche's honesty in these pages is certainly one of the most remarkable features about them. From the first chapter, in which he frankly acknowledges the decadent elements within him, to the last page, whereon he characterises his mission, his life-task, and his achievement, by means of the one symbol, Dionysus versus Christ,—everything comes straight from the shoulder, without hesitation, without fear of consequences, and, above all, without concealment. Only in one place does he appear to conceal something, and then he actually leads one to understand that he is doing so. It is in regard to Wagner, the greatest friend of his life. "Who doubts," he says, "that I, old artillery-man that I am, would be able if I liked to point my heavy guns at Wagner?[Pg x]"—But he adds: "Everything decisive in this question I kept to myself—I have loved Wagner" (p. 122).
To point, as many have done, to the proximity of all Nietzsche's autumn work of the year 1888 to his breakdown at the beginning of 1889, and to argue that in all its main features it foretells the catastrophe that is imminent, seems a little too plausible, a little too obvious and simple to require refutation. That Nietzsche really was in a state which in medicine is known as euphoria—that is to say, that state of highest well-being and capacity which often precedes a complete breakdown, cannot, I suppose, be questioned; for his style, his penetrating vision, and his vigour, reach their zenith in the works written in this autumn of 1888; but the contention that the matter, the substance, of these works reveals any signs whatsoever of waning mental health, or, as a certain French biographer has it, of an inability to "hold himself and his judgments in check," is best contradicted by the internal evidence itself. To take just a few examples at random, examine the cold and calculating tone of self-analysis in Chapter I. of the present work; consider the reserve and the restraint with which the idea in Aphorism 7 of that chapter is worked out,—not to speak of the restraint and self-mastery in the idea itself, namely:—