From a letter to Otto Wessendonck. Having already staged The Flying Dutchman and Tannhäuser, court authorities refused to produce Lohengrin, owing to Wagner’s advocacy for a national theater. The composer to whom Nietzsche dedicated his first book fled Germany for his involvement in the Dresden uprising of 1849; missed Lohengrin’s debut at Weimar, conducted by his friend Franz Liszt.
My dearest friend,
Can we not do business together? The possibility of being paid a fee for the scores of my Nibelungs is now of such pressing importance, and my inclination to complete the whole work now depends so much upon my receiving the encouragement to do so in the form of some outside interest in this work that, in my present mood of cheerful confidence, the thought has occurred to me to address to you today the offer of the publishing rights to my scores.
The favorable outcome of your agreeing to this proposal would be most heartening for me. I should then find myself in a position that would encourage me in my future work. I could set aside all forthcoming theater receipts for some time to come and thus know that my future was progressively assured in advance. But the most cheering aspect of this whole affair would be to know that this pleasure would derive directly from a work to which I could now devote myself uninterruptedly and undistractedly. No other course could offer me this same benefit, especially now that I am firmly resolved to accept no further resources other than those that result from my own labors.
Let me know what you think of this proposal, which I refuse to regard on this occasion as a request or a favor.
When I consider the sacrifices you have already made in order to encourage me and my works, I believe I am right in thinking that it is not expecting too much either of your means or of your kindness toward me. The only thing that makes me hesitate is the fact that, as a result of your earlier sacrifices, you have already acquired a right to my works—and this I really cannot deny, but would have to throw myself on your mercy.
I look forward to your early reply and assure you, whatever happens, of my most sincere and appreciative thanks.
© 1987 by Stewart Spencer and Barry Millington. Used with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.