Monday 25th August, 1919: LW arrives back in Vienna. ‘There he was reunited with his brother Paul, who had lost his right arm on the Eastern Front’ (Gilbert 1994, p.520).
LW opens a letter from Vienna to his friend Paul Engelmann ‘As you see I am here!’. He tells Engelmann that there is no end of things he wants to talk to him about. But he also reports that he is not very well as far as his state of mind goes. (McGuinness (p.277) counts LW’s return as a crisis in his life). He asks Engelmann to come to him soon, and to give his ‘sincere and humble regards to your revered mother’ (Engelmann, p.17).
Late August or early September, 1919: Probably during a short stay at Neuwaldegg, LW gives his entire inheritance to his sisters Helen and Hermine, and his brother Paul (McGuinness, p.278; Monk, p.171; Kanterian, p.90; Waugh, pp.140-1). (McGuinness explains that ‘He had gone into the army to suffer with the people: he could not now return to privilege’ (p.277). ‘At first he simply came to the bank and announced, to general consternation, that he did not want his money. Long discussions with the family lawyers were necessary before they could be brought to realize, as one put it, that he wanted to commit financial suicide’ (p.278)).
Late August or early September, 1919: LW briefly contemplates becoming a priest (McGuinness, p.279; Kanterian, p.90)
Monday 1st September, 1919: LW’s sister Hermine writes a letter to him from their family house at Neuwaldegg, beginning by saying she was shocked not to find him there when she arrived. She says she would not have gone to the Hochreith with her sons had she known that these were going to be her last few days with LW.
Hermine then expresses regret that she was not around when LW spoke to their siblings about giving away his inheritance, and says she does not understand why he passed over their sister Gretl (Margaret). She deeems this ‘an enormous slight – not because of the money, but because it’s wounding to be “disinherited”’. She asks LW to consider the matter from this perspective, unless he is pursuing some purpose in this. She explains that all he had to do was to write Gretl a few lines ‘saying you’re not trying to slight her here and that you’re doing it because we shall lose a large part of our money, which won’t happen with her’. Hermine closes by noting that she will see LW this evening ‘at Max’s’, but that she didn’t want to say any of this to him in front of the men (WFL, p.67).
Tuesday 2nd September, 1919: LW writes to Paul Engelmann, thanking him for his latest letter (which is now lost), but explaining that he cannot come to Olmütz in the near future. He says that tomorrow he will be going to the Hochreith for 8-10 days, ‘to find something of myself again if I can. And after that I shall embark on a career. What career? You have time to guess till you come and visit me’. LW then says that a few days ago he looked up their mutual acquaintance, the architect Adolf Loos, but that he was horrified and nauseated, since Loos ‘has become infected with the most virulent and bogus intellectualism!’ Loos had given LW a pamphlet (Der Staat und die Kunst) about a proposed ‘fine arts office’, in which he spoke about ‘a sin against the Holy Ghost’ (McGuinness explains that Loos had said that it would be a sin against the Holy Ghost for the State, as opposed to an individual, to fail to recognise a true artist). LW exclaims that he had been a bit depressed when he went to see Loos, but that this was the limit, the last straw. He then tells Engelmann that there is very much that he wants to talk to him about. A few days ago he had given a copy of his Abhandlung to the Vienna publisher Braumüller (the publisher of Otto Weininger’s book Sex and Character (1903)), but Braumüller has not yet made up his mind whether to accept it.
LW closes by asking Engelmann to give his sincere thanks to his mother for some kind lines she had written to LW, and says he is looking forward to seeing Engelmann again. (Engelmann, p.17-19, McGuinness, pp.277, 291).
Early to mid-September 1919:LW enrols in the Lehrerbildungsanstalt (a teacher-training college for elementary school teachers) in Vienna’s third district, ‘just across the street from where he and Engelmann would one day build a house for Mrs. Stonborough’ (McGuinness, pp.280-282; Monk, p.171).
Mid-September 1919: LW moves out of his family’s lavish homes, and begins to live in lodgings near the teacher-training college at 9, Untere Viaduktgasse, Vienna (McGuinness, p.278; Monk, p.171; Luckhardt, p.94). (But he stays there only for just over one month (ibid., p.283)).
Tuesday 16th September, 1919: LW begins his teacher-training (WFL, p.66 note 19).
He also writes to Gottlob Frege, acknowledging receipt of an offprint of ‘Der Gedanke’, which Frege had published in the journal Beiträgen zur Philosophie des Deutschen Idealismus, and asks Frege whether he might help getting the Abhandlung published in that journal (Monk, pp.174-5; Künne 2009, pp.31-2).
Frege writes his fourth known letter to LW, querying his description of the purpose of the Abhandlung (Janik 1989, pp.21-22, Künne 2009, p.31).
Thursday 25th September, 1919: LW writes to Paul Engelmann, noting that a few days ago Max Zweig, a friend of theirs from the Olmütz circle, had written to say that he was expectingLW in Olmütz, and therefore that Zweig had gathered from LW’s latest letter to Engelmann exactly the opposite of what it had said. He wonders whether Engelmann had done the same, but explains that he really cannot come, because he has taken up a career. Not wanting to keep Engelmann guessing any more, LW reveals that he is attending a teachers’ training college in order to become a schoolmaster. ‘So once again I sit in a schoolroom, and this sounds funnier than it is. In fact I find it terribly hard; I can no longer behave like a grammar-school boy, and – funny as it sounds – the humiliation is so great for me that often I think I can hardly bear it!’ Although a trip to Olmütz now is out of the question, LW says he very much wants to see Engelmann, and asks him ‘if at all possible’ to come to Vienna. He also entreats Engelmann to write to him at once, and sends his new address (Flat III, 9, Untere Viaduktgasse, c/o Frau Wonicek). Finally, he parenthetically remarks that his circumstances have changed in general, ‘except that I am no wiser than I was’. (Engelmann, p.19; McGuinness, p.282).
Tuesday 30th September, 1919: Gottlob Frege responds to LW in his fifth known letter to him, with editorial advice about where to publish the Abdhandlung (Janik 1989, pp.23-24, Künne 2009, p.32, Dreben & Floyd, pp.60-3). Frege suggests that he might contact a Professor Bauch, in Jena, in order to facilitate its publication in the Beiträgen zur Philosophie des Deutschen Idealismus. (This was the German neo-Kantian philosopher Bruno Bauch: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruno_Bauch ). He says: ‘I could write to him that I have come to know you as a thinker to be taken rather seriously. About the treatise itself I can render no judgment, not because I am not in agreement with the content, but because the content is not sufficiently clear to me. If we were only able to reach agreement about the use of words perhaps we would find that we do not differ with one another substantially’. Frege does worry, too, that the manuscript would take up an entire issue of the journal, and he suggests that it should therefore be split into parts. ‘You write in your Preface that that the truth of the thoughts communicated seems to you unassailable and definitive. Could not then one of these thoughts, in which the solution of a philosophical problem is contained, be taken as the object of a treatise, so that the whole would be divided into so many parts, just as philosophical problems are treated?’. He also worries that in theAbhandlung’s first propositions instead of finding a question or a problem, one is confronted with what appear to be assertions, ‘in urgent need of justification, but given with none’. He closes by asking LW not to take offence at his remarks, which are made with good intentions.
LW writes, from Vienna, to Ludwig von Ficker, explaining that about a year ago he finished writing a philosophical work, detailing some of his attempts to get it published, and asking von Ficker whether Der Brenner might publish it (Luckhardt, pp.92-4; Kanterian, p.85; Monk, p.176). He reports to von Ficker that the editor of Beiträgen zur Philosophie des Deutschen Idealismus had proposed publishing the Abhandlung but only in a form that LW regarded as mutilated ‘from beginning to end’ (Luckhardt, p.93; Künne 2009, p.32). LW also mentions that he is going to the Teacher’s College in Vienna (Luckhardt, p.94).
Wednesday 1st October, 1919: P.E.B.Jourdain, whom LW had consulted in Cambridge between 1909 and 1914, dies. Jourdain had suffered from and had been disabled by Friedreich’s ataxia.
Monday 6th October, 1919: LW writes to Bertrand Russell, frustrated that Frege apparently hadn’t understood a word of his work (Künne 2009, p.32). He starts by thanking Russell for his letter of mid-September, and notes that his publisher received Russell’s testimonial long ago but ‘still has not written to me to say whether and under what conditions he will take my book (the swine!)’. LW says he thinks he will be able to come to The Hague to meet Russell at Christmas time. He tells Russell he has made up his mind to become a teacher and so must return to school ‘at a so-called Teachers’ Training College’. ‘The benches are full of boys of 17 or 18 and I’ve reached 30. ‘That leads to some very funny situations – and many very unpleasant ones too. I often feel miserable!’. LW ends by noting that he is in corresponence with Frege, who ‘doesn’t understand a single word of my work’, and that he is thoroughly exhausted from giving what are purely and simply explanations. Finally he asks after Alfred North Whitehead and W.E.Johnson (Wittgenstein in Cambrdige, p.103).
November, 1919: LW leaves his lodgings near the treacher-training college to move in with some family-friends, the Sjögren family (Mima Sjögren and her two sons Talla and Arvid) in St. Veitgasse, Hietzing, Vienna (Monk, p.180). There he befriends Arvid Sjögren (Monk, p.181).
Early November, 1919: LW again writes, from the Sjögrens, to Ludwig von Ficker, for the first time in four years, sending him a copy of the manuscript of the Abhandlung. ‘Why didn’t I immediately think of you?’, he wonders, then recalling that he did think of von Ficker, but that that had been at a time when his book wasn’t yet finished, and the war was still on. He remarks that he is now pinning his hopes on von Ficker for its publication.
LW then feels it will be helpful if he says a few words about his book, since he expects that von Ficker will not get much out of reading it, since he won’t understand it, the content being strange to him. ‘In reality it isn’t strange to you, for the point of the book is ethical. I once wanted to give a few words in the foreword which now actually are not in it, which, however, I’ll write to you now because they might be a key for you: I wanted to write that my work consists of two parts: of the one which is here, and of everything which I have notwritten. And precisely this second part is the important one. For the Ethical is delimited from within, as it were, by my book; and I’m convinced that, strictly speaking, it can ONLY be delimited in this way. In brief, I think: All of that which many are babbling today, I have defined in my book by remaining silent about it. Therefore the book will, unless I’m quite wrong, have much to say which you want to say yourself, but perhaps you won’t notice that it is said in it. For the time being, I’d recommendd that you read the foreword and the conclusion since these express the point most directly’.
LW then explains that the manuscript he is sending is not the corrected version, only a hastily corrected copy, but that the properly corrected version is in England with Russell, who will be sending it back shortly.
In a postscript to this letter, he gives his address as ‘XIII, St. Veitgasse 17, c/o Mrs. Sjögren (Luckhardt, pp.94-5).
Tuesday 11th November, 1919: Bertrand Russell posts the properly-corrected copy of the manuscript of LW’s Abhandlung back to him.
Thursday 13th November, 1919: Bertrand Russell writes to LW, from Battersea, noting first that he was only able to post the manuscript of the Abhandlung back to LW two days ago, since there had been difficulties at the post office. He says he is looking forward to seeing LW more than he can say, but warns that it is possible that he may be refused a passport (because of his wartime incarceration).
Russell then records that he has written to the Cambridge furniture dealers LW had in mind, B. Jolley & Son, saying he has LW’s authority to have his things sold. But Russell is concerned that they may refuse to accept his authority, so he asks LW to write to them to the same effect, too. If the sale of LW’s goods is not completed when Russell comes to Holland, he undertakes to give LW in advance whatever sum the books and furniture are judged to be worth, and he notes that their sale ought easily to pay LW’s expenses (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.107).
Sunday 16th November, 1919:LW writes a letter to Paul Engelmann, in which he starts by saying that a few days ago he received a letter Engelmann had sent him (a letter which has not survived), and thanking him for that. He empathises with Engelmann, saying that his own state of mind has been similar since his return from the prisoner-of-war camp. ‘What happens, I believe, is this: we do not advance towards our goal by the direct road – for this we (or at any rate I) have not got the strength. Instead we walk up all sorts of tracks and byways, and so long as we are making some headway we are in reasonably good shape. But whenever such a track comes to an end we are up against it; only then do we realise that we are not at all where we ought to be. – This, at least, is how the matter looks to me’.
LW then says he has a great urge to see and speak with Engelmann. He warns Englemann, though, that he will see just how far LW has gone downhill from the fact that he has ‘on several occasions’ thought about taking his own life. ‘Not from my despair about my own badness but for purely purely external reasons. Whether a talk with you would help me to some extent is doubtful, but not impossible’. So he asks Englemann to come to see him soon (Engelmann, p.21; McGuinness, p.281).
Friday 21st November, 1919: LW writes to Bertrand Russell, thanking him for returning the manuscript of the Abhandlung, which he received today. He notes that he has as yet only leafed through it and found two remarks in Russell’s handwriting, and he expresses his intention of talking about everything when they meet in The Hague. LW says he has his passport ready, that he also hopes to get an entrance-permit to Holland, and that he cannot wait to see Russell. He asks Russell whether he received his last letter (of November 1st), in which he asked Russell to sell his things in Cambridge, ‘if they still exist’, and to bring the proceeds to Holland, since he has some difficulties with money.
He closes by asking Russell to write soon, giving him (again) his new address in the Veitgasse, and signs off ‘Warmest regards from your devoted friend’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.108).
Saturday 22nd November, 1919: LW, having received a letter from Ludwig von Ficker which must have been pessimistic about the prospects for publishing the Abhandlung, replies (von Ficker’s letter has not survived). He begins by saying that von Ficker’s letter wasn’t pleasant for him, although he wasn’t really surprised by its answer. LW says that he, too, doesn’t know where he can get his work accepted and remarks ‘If I myself were only somewhere else than in this lousy world!’.
LW tells von Ficker that although he can if he wishes show the manuscript to a philosophy professor, that would be to cast pearls before swine, and ‘he won’t understand a word of it’.
Finally, LW asks von Ficker ‘only one more request: Make it short and sweet with me. Tell me “no” quickly, rather than too slowly’, explaining that his nerves are not strong enough at the moment to bear such Austrian sensitivity (Luckhardt, p.95).
Monday 24th November, 1919: Russell writes to LW, from Battersea, saying he now has his passport but is having great difficulties getting a Dutch visa. He contemplates the possibility that they may not both be able to get visas, and says that in that case their meeting will have to wait until Easter, when they might meet in Switzerland. Russell says he will be very sorry if that happens, but he has found out that it is much easier to get to Switzerland than to Holland.
Russell then tells LW that Jolley & Son, the Cambridge furniture dealers, are offering £80 for his furniture, not including his books. He says that if he goes back to Cambridge, which he may, he would be glad to take LW’s furniture, or part of it. So he asks LW if it would suit him if he was to pay him £100 for the furniture and the books (not including any special books he might want returned). Russell says he doesn’t know whether it is legally possible to pay LW yet, but that he will find out. He advises LW that he would have to write to Jolley & Sons to say that he had sold the furniture and books to Russell.
Russell closes his letter by asking LW to let him know as son as possible whether he can get his visa, and says that it would be a great disappointment if they do have to put off their meeting until the spring (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.109).
Thursday 27th November, 1919: LW writes to Paul Engelmann, who is planning to visit Vienna to see him (as LW entreated him to do in his letter of 16th November). LW explains first that because he goes to a school in town every morning, and it will be best for Engelmann to eat lunch time and evening meals at the Wittgenstein family home in the Alleegasse, he is not going to book a room for Engelmann in Hietzing (where LW is living), but one in the IVth District (in which the Alleegasse is located). Because he doesn’t yet know where this will be, he asks Engelmann to come straight from the rail station to the Alleegasse house, where he will be given further details. LW says he is looking forward ‘with joy’ to Engelmann’s arrival, and that he has troubles with his book which give him no joy at all (Engelmann, pp.21, 23).
LW writes to Bertrand Russell, thanking him for his letter (the one from 13th November, not the more recent one from the 24th), and wishing ‘If only you are able to come to The Hague!’. He asks Russell to wire him immediately he knows, since he has his own passport ready and has stated his intention of being in The Hague from December 13th to 20th. A new change of date would give rise to great difficulties, he declares, so he asks Russell not to keep him waiting for news.
LW agrees with Russell that the Cambridge furniture dealer he meant is Jolley, but thinks they will be satisfied with Russell’s authority (!).
He then notes that the difficulties with his book have started up again, nobody wanting to publish it. He recalls times when Russell was always pressing him to publish something, ‘And now when I should like to, it can’t be managed. The devil take it!’.
He asks Russell to leave his address at the Austrian Legation when he does arrive in The Hague, so that he can find it there. Again he closes ‘Warmest regards from your devoted friend’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.110).
On this same day, Russell writes to LW, saying he now has his passport and visa, and that he informed the authorities that his business was to see LW. He suggests that LW should arrive on December 11th, since he is not sure what day he will be able to get away.
Russell tells LW that he will buy his furniture from him, to pay his expenses. He doesn’t yet know where he will stay in The Hague, but will leave a letter at Poste Restante addressed to him, to say where he is staying if LW arrives after him. If LW arrives before him, though, Russell asks him to do likewise. Russell says he can’t tell LW how much he is looking forward to seeing him; ‘you have been in my thoughts so much through this long time’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.111).
Late November or (more probably) early December 1919: LW’s friend Paul Engelmann visits him, in Vienna, for a short meeting.
Thursday 4th December, 1919: LW writes to Ludwig von Ficker, who had that same day answered LW’s ‘threatening letter’ (of 22nd November) with a friendly telegram. He expresses the hope that von Ficker would publish the book because he considers it to be worthwhile, rather than just in order to do LW a favour. How can he recommend his work to von Ficker, LW asks? ‘I think in all such cases it is so: A book, even when it is written completely honestly, is always worthless from one standpoint: for no-one would really need to write a book because there are quite other things to do in this world. On the other hand, I think I can say that if you print Dallago(https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Dallago ), Haecker (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Haecker ), et al., then you can also print my book. And that is also everything that I can say as a justification of my wish, because if one measures my book with an absolute measure, then God only knows where it will come to be’ (Luckhardt, p.96).
Friday 5th December, 1919: LW writes again to von Ficker, having received his letter of November 28th, in which von Ficker must have agreed to publish the Abhandlung and to bear the costs if its publication was a failure. LW declines this offer. ‘The sacrifice which you want to chance for me, if everything goes wrong, I can, of course, not accept. I couldn’t accept the responsibility of a person’s (whoever’s) livelihood being placed in jeopardy by publishing my book’ (Luckhardt, p.96). LW says he doesn’t quite understand the situation, since others have written and published books which didn’t agree with the common jargon, and the publishers hadn’t been ruined by them. He assures von Ficker that he is not deceiving LW’s trust, for his hope had merely been directed to von Ficker’s perspicacity that the treatise is not junk.
LW then says he would be very grateful to von Ficker if he could try to secure publication through Rainer Maria Rilke (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainer_Maria_Rilke ), but that if that isn’t possible, they should just forget about it. He notes parenthetically that the decimal numbers should be printed along with the sentences of the work, since ‘they alone give the book lucidity and clarity and it would be an incomprehensible jumble without this numeration’. He closes his letter by assuring von Ficker that everything will turn out all right (Luckhardt, p.97).
(LW didn’t post his letter on this day though since, as we will see tomorrow, he adds a postscript on the following day).
Saturday 6th December, 1919: In a postscript to his letter, written the following day, LW wonders to von Ficker whether there is a Krampus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus ) who deals with evil publishers (Luckhardt, p.97).
von Ficker duly approaches Rilke about finding a publisher (Monk, p.179), and Rilke approaches his own publisher, Insel Verlag, but discovers that they do not handle philosophical texts (Janik in Luckhardt, p.187).
Mid-December 1919: Bertrand Russell arrives in The Hague. He is accompanied by Dora Black, with whom he has been having a relationship since the Summer (and who is later to become his second wife: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dora_Russell ). Dora came from Paris to discuss their future together.
Having arrived, Russell writes to LW from the Hotel de Twee Steden (Hotel des deux Villes) (https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Path%C3%A9_Buitenhof ), where he is staying, to give him his address (this being the letter that would be deposited at the Poste Restante). He asks LW to come to that hotel as quickly as he can after his arrival in The Hague, since he is impatient to see him. He also undertakes to find some way to get LW’s book published in England if necessary (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.112).
Thursday 11th December, 1919: LW arrives in The Hague bringing with him his young friend Arvid Sjögren (one of the sons of his current landlady) (McGuinness, p.290).
Friday 12th December, 1919: In The Hague, LW meets up with Russell, going to Russell’s hotel at the very first opportunity (McGuinness, p.290).
Russell writes to his friend and lover Lady Constance Malleson, saying ‘Wittgenstein has arrived – just the same as ever – it is a great joy to see him – he is so full of logic that I can hardly get him to talk about anything personal. He is very affectionate and if anything a little more sane than before the war. He came before I was up and hammered at my door ‘till I woke. Since then he has talked about logic without ceasing for 4 hours…’ (McGuinness, ibid.).
Between this day and Saturday 20th December LW and Russell discuss their respective books (McGuinness, pp.279, 289-290, Monk, p.181, Potter 2013, p.33). McGuinness describes the visit as ‘a high point in this year’ for LW (p.289). He comments: ‘Russell had discussed the book sent him with [Jean] Nicod, a brilliant young French philosopher of mathematics, and with Dorothy Wrinch, a pupil and protégée, later an eminent crystallographer. Now he needed a discussion with Wittgenstein himself’ (pp.289-90).
Monday 15th December, 1919: LW writes, from the "Vegetarian Hotel-Restaurant ‘Pomona’", in The Hague (now Park Hotel, The Hague), to his friend Paul Engelmann. He opens by saying ‘As you see I am here at a place for the promotion of virtue’, and that he is getting on very well. He tells Engelmann that Russell wants to print his Abhandlung, possibly in both German and English, and that Russell will translate it himself, and write an introduction (‘which suits me’). He says that he meant to write to Engelmann only in order to tell him that he was extremely glad to have talked to him. But he regrets that their meeting (in Vienna) was so short, since he had a lot more to discuss, ‘Or rather, just the one matter but that still more thoroughly, because I still do not understand it at all’. He closes by asking Engelmann to give his regards to his revered Mama.
LW’s young friend Arvid Sjögren, who was accompanying him on this trip to The Hague, adds his kind regards to Engelmann at the end of LW’s letter (Engelmann, p.23).
(It has to be said that, despite having given away his entire inheritance, LW was not slumming it. The hotel in question describes itself as having been ‘a destination for luxurious stays, business meetings and grand events’ since the early 20th century).
Tuesday 16th December, 1919: Russell writes again to his friend Lady Constance Malleson, saying he is finding LW ‘glorious and wonderful, with a passionate purity I have never seen equalled’ (McGuinness, p.290).
Saturday 20th December, 1919: Bertrand Russell leaves The Hague to return home to London. He writes to Ottoline Morrell with an account of his meeting with LW, as follows:
‘I have much to tell you that is of interest. I leave here today, after a fortnight’s stay, during a week of which Wittgenstein was here, and we discussed his book every day. I came to think even better of it than I had done. I feel sure it is a really great book, though I do not feel sure it is right. I told him I could not refute it, and that I was sure it was either all right or all wrong, which I considered the mark of a good book; but it would take me years to decide this. This of course didn’t satisfy him, but I couldn’t say more.
I had felt in his book a flavour of mysticism, but was astonished when I found that he has become a complete mystic. He reads people like Kierkegaard and Angelus Silesius, and he seriously contemplates becoming a monk. It all started from William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience, and grew (not unnaturally) during the winter he spent alone in Norway before the war, when he was nearly mad. Then during the war a curious thing happened. He went on duty to the town of Tarnov in Galicia, and happened to come upon a bookshop which however seemed to contain nothing but picture postcards. However, he went inside and found that it contained one book: Tolstoy on The Gospels. He bought it merely because there was no other. He read it and re-read it, and thenceforth had it always with him, under fire and at all times. But on the whole he likes Tolstoy less than Dostoewski (especially Karamazov). He has penetrated deep into mystical ways of thought and feeling, but I think (although he wouldn’t agree) that what he likes best in mysticism is its power to make him stop thinking. I don’t much think he will really become a monk – it’s an idea, not an intention. His intention is to be a teacher. He gave all his money to his brothers and sisters, because he found earthly possessions a burden. I wish you had seen him’ (quoted from Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.112).
Mid-to-Late December, 1919: Some time in the third week of December 1919, LW writes to Gottlob Frege, announcing his intention to visit him on the way home from The Hague to Austria (but the visit had to be cancelled, and LW never met Frege again) (Künne 2009, p.32, McGuinness, p.191).
Friday 26th December, 1919: LW returns from Holland to his lodgings in Vienna (Luckhardt, p.97).
Monday 29th December, 1919: LW writes to Ludwig von Ficker, reporting first that he arrived back from his meeting with Russell in Holland on the 26th. He explains that if he can’t get the Abhandlung published in Austria or Germany, then Russell will get it published in England. Russell wants to write an introduction to the book, he notes, an introduction ‘supposed to be half the size of the treatise’ and which would explain its most difficult points. LW assures von Ficker that with such an introduction, his book will be a much smaller risk for a publisher, ‘or perhaps none at all, since Russell’s name is very well known and ensures a quite special group of readers for the book’ (Luckhardt, p.97, Monk, p.183, Kanterian, p.91).
LW closes by asking von Ficker to write to him as soon as possible, so as to let him know what he thinks of the idea, since he has to let Russell know (Luckhardt, pp.97-8).
LW also writes, from Vienna, to Gottlob Frege, telling him about his meeting with Russell in The Hague, and expressing the hope that Russell ‘might see to it that the Abhandlung would be printed in England as a book’ (Künne 2009, p.32).
Thursday 8th January, 1920: LW writes, from his lodgings in Vienna, to Bertrand Russell, thanking him for two books Russell had recently sent him. [McGuinness notes that these might well have been Russell’s Our Knowledge of the External World (1914) and Mysticism and Logic(1917)]. He notes that a few days ago, after arriving back in Vienna, he had fallen ill, but that he is now ‘more or less all right again’. He tells Russell that he has had no response, from the various prospective publishers he has contacted, to the information that Russell is willing to come to the aid of his book by writing an Introduction to it. He tells Russell he will write to him as soon as he hears anything.
LW asks Russell how he is, and whether he is in Cambridge [McGuinness notes that Russell was living in London at the time]. He tells Russell that he had enjoyed their time together (in The Hague) very much and that he had had the feeling that they did a great deal of real work that week. (Parenthetically he asks whether Russell hadn’t that feeling, too).
LW signs off with best regards ‘from your devoted friend’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.113).
Friday 9th January, 1920: LW writes, from his lodgings in St. Veitgasse, Vienna, to his friend Paul Engelmann. He first reports that yesterday he received a letter from a Mr. Viktor Lautsch, asking for LW’s financial support and giving Engelmann, Heinrich Groag and a Mr. Lachs as references. LW explains that as he himself has no money these days, and does not know Mr. Lautsch, he is for the moment sending him only a very little money and some underwear that he can spare. LW asks Engelmann urgently to let him have more information about this Mr. Lautsch, and offers the suggestion that perhaps his sister Hermine (‘Mining’) could help him out.
LW then remembers that he has not yet answered Engelmann’s last letter [a letter that has not survived]. He explains that he was ill in bed with ‘flu when it arrived, and undertakes to deal on another occasion with the remarks on religion Engelmann had made in it, remarking only that ‘they are still not clear enough, it seems to me’. He then says that he, too, is seeing the matter more clearly than a month ago’ [when they met in Vienna], and that ‘it must be possible… to say all these things much more adequately. (Or not at all, which is even more likely)’.
LW closes his letter by asking Engelmann to give his respects and kind regards to his revered mother (Engelmann, pp.25, 27).
Monday 19th January, 1920: LW writes to Ludwig von Ficker, asking him to be so kind as to return the manuscript of the Abhandlung to him immediately, since he wants to send it to the German publishing-house Reclam, of Leipzig, ‘who in all probability will be inclined to publish my book’. He remarks that he is curious to see how many years it will still take until it appears, and then says ‘I hope it’s before I die’ (Luckhardt, p.98; Monk, p.183).
LW also writes to Bertrand Russell, saying that he has heard today that Reclam ‘is prepared, in all probability, to take my book’, so he will have his manuscript sent from Innsbruck and will forward it to Reclam. He asks Russell when his Introduction to the book will arrive, since the printing cannot begin without it. ‘So if you’re prepared to write it, please do so as soon as possible and let me know whether and when I can expect your MS’. LW remarks that he is vegetating here and not enjoying life very much. He asks Russell to write soon. (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.114).
Monday 26th January, 1920: LW writes his last (surviving) letter to Ludwig von Ficker, sympathising with von Ficker, who is having trouble getting Der Brenner to agree to publication of the Abhandlung, and reiterating his plea (of 19th January) for von Ficker to return his manuscript since he has to send it to Reclam.
LW asks von Ficker what kind of profession he will be taking up, expressing the hope that that would somehow bring them together again. In a final postscript he complains that he, too, is ‘struggling against great adversities now’ (Luckhardt, p.98).
LW also writes to his
friend Paul Engelmann, first saying that Engelmann’s kind letter has done him good [this letter has not survived]. ‘It is strange, I really was in the last few days in a state that was terrifying to
myself, and the matter is not yet over. I don’t want to tell you what it is that causes me so much torment. But simply to feel that someone who understands
life man is thinking of me is soothing’. LW then remarks that he has not yet read the story of the Starets (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starets ) Zosima [a figure in Dostoyevsky’s novel The
Brothers Karamazov (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Brothers_Karamazov
)], and somehow does not yet think it will appeal to him at the moment. ‘Well, we shall see what will become of me’, he remarks.
LW then notes that after receiving Engelmann’s last letter but one [again, another letter that has not survived], he wrote immediately to Ludwig von Ficker asking for the manuscript of his book and to Russell asking him for his Introduction to it. [These are LW’s letters of 19th January] So far, though, nothing has reached him.
LW asks Engelmann whether he should write to the publishers Reclam in advance of his being able to send them his manuscript, or only when he can send it.
He then expresses the hope that ‘things go passably well [halbwegs gut], with you!’, and signs off.
In a postscript to this letter, LW records that he has just received a letter from von Ficker, but not his manuscript yet. In this letter von Ficker writes that he must now stop publishing Der Brenner if he does not want to lose everything he has. ‘Can anything be done for him?’, LW asks Engelmann (Engelmann, pp.27, 29).
Monday 2nd February, 1920: Bertrand Russell writes, from his home in Battersea, London, to LW. He first explains that he has broken his collarbone, and thus is obliged to dictate this letter.
Russell says he is very glad to hear that Reclam will probably take LW’s book, and that he has waited to begin writing the Introduction to it until he knew that LW had secured a publisher, ‘since the introduction would have had to be quite different if it had been written for publication in England’. He undertakes to get his introduction written as soon as he possibly can, but says he thinks that he cannot finish it for another six weeks. He tells LW, though, that he can absolutely count on it, and can tell his publishers so.
Russell next says he is sorry to hear that LW has been ill. He notes that he will not be going back to Cambridge until October.
Russell then remarks that Keynes has written a book ‘of the very greatest importance on the economic consequences of the peace’, which is having a great effect upon opinion in Great Britain and is likely to do much good.
Russell ends his letter by saying ‘I loved our time together at The Hague, and was very happy, both in seeing you and in our discussions’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.115).
February & March, 1920: During the time in which he is lecturing in London on the analysis of mind, Russell writes his Introduction to LW’s Abhandlung (Potter 2013, p.33). Because he was recovering from having injured his collarbone, and could not use his right hand to write, the rough original version of this introduction was partly typewritten (at the beginning and the end), and its middle part was handwritten by someone other than Russell. The editors of Russell’s Collected Papers surmise that this was Doroth Wrinch, ‘who was a pupil-cum-secretary of Russell’s at this time’ (Editorial note on the reprinting of the Introduction in Russell’s Collected Papers, volume 9, p.97).
Thursday 19th February, 1920: LW writes to his friend Paul Engelmann, saying first that he once again has the urge to write to him. He records that he learnt only a few days ago that it will be several weeks before he can expect to receive Russell’s Introduction to his Abhandlung, and that he has informed Reclam accordingly. He expresses the hope that Russell will not lose interest in the meantime. LW then remarks that the external conditions of his own life are ‘very pitiable’ [sehr traurig], and that this is wearing down his morale. ‘And I have nothing to hold on to. The one good thing in my life just now is that I sometimes read fairy-tales to the children at school. It pleases them and relieves the strain on me. But otherwise things are in a mess for yours truly’. The letter ends there. (Engelmann, p.29).
Friday 19th March, 1920: LW writes his last letter to Gottlob Frege, returning to his criticisms of Frege’s article ‘Der Gedanke’, and ‘hoping that Frege would not take offence at his frankness’ (Künne, ‘Wittgenstein and Frege’s Logical Investigations’ (2009), p.32). [This letter has not survived. But, as we shall see, Frege replies to it at the beginning of April]
LW also writes to Bertrand Russell, remarking first that it is a long time since Russell has heard from him, and asking how the Introduction to his Abhandlung is going. He then asks Russell how his collarbone is, and how he managed to break it. He says how much he would like to see Russell again, that he is no longer in any condition to acquire new friends, and that he is losing his old ones, which is sad. He tells Russell that he remembers ‘poor David Pinsent’ nearly every day, ‘Because, however odd it sounds, I’m too stupid for nearly everybody’.
LW ends his letter by asking Russell to write to him soon, and to send his Introduction. He signs off ‘yours sadly’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.116).
Russell writes, from his London home, to LW, sending him the Introduction which he had originally promised three months ago [in mid-December, when they were in The Hague]. He says he is sorry to have taken so long about it, ‘but breaking my collarbone made me stupid’. Russell says he assumes that LW will translate it into German, and tells LW how he proposes to flag the way in which LW’s own German words (i.e., some of the numbered remarks of the Abhandlung) should be inserted into that translation. He then says ‘If there is anything unsatisfactory to you in my remarks, let me know, and I will try to amend it’.
Russell closes his letter by asking LW how he is, saying he would like news of him, and signs off ‘yours affectionately’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.117).
Late March 1920: Once LW receives Russell’s Introduction to his Abhandlung (https://users.drew.edu/~jlenz/br-on-witt/br-intro-to-witt.html), he sets out having it translated into German for Reclam (McGuinness, p.291).
Saturday 27th March, 1920:LW’s brother Paul writes to him from the Wittgenstein family house in the Alleegasse, noting that the photographer Moritz Nähr (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moritz_N%C3%A4hr ) had recently been there but had said that his landlady would not allow LW to move in tomorrow, since ‘she cannot answer for it to the housing police on hygienic grounds’. However, Paul says, the landlord himself is coming next week, so maybe something can be arranged with him. Paul asks LW whether he could tell them his decision tomorrow, and also whether it isn’t possible for LW to stay where he is for at least another couple of days. He signs off ‘In haste, but with affection, your Paul’ (WFL, pp.70-1).
April, 1920: LW moves out of the Sjögren’s house (where he has been living since late October 1919) into lodgings (Monk, p.184).
Saturday 3rd April, 1920: Gottlob Frege writes his sixth (and last known) letter to LW, from Bad Kleinen, Mecklenburg.
He begins by thanking LW for his letter of 19th March, saying ‘of course I do not take offense at your frankness. But I would like to know which deeper grounds of idealism you think I have not grasped. I believe that I understood that you yourself do not hold epistemological idealism to be true. Therefore you acknowledge, I think, that there are no deeper grounds for this idealism at all. The grounds for it can then only be apparent, not logical’. Frege agrees that one can sometimes be led astray by language, because language isn’t always up to the demands of logic, and because a great deal that is psychological was at work on the formation of language, other than the logical capacities of humankind. Logical mistakes, he explains, do not stem from logic, but from impurities or disturbances in human logical activity. Relating this to his own essay (‘Der Gedanke’) he then avers that it was not his intention to trace all such disturbances, and he asks LW to please go through that essay until he finds the first sentence with which he disagrees, and to write to him stating the reasons why he disagrees with it. In this way he hopes to find out what LW has in mind. He raises the possibility that he does not mean to fight against idealism in the sense in which LW means it. ‘I probably did not even use the expression “idealism” at all [which is true (JP)]. Take my sentences just as they stand, without attributing to me any intention that might have been foreign to me’.
Frege then explains that as for LW’s own writing, the Abdhandlung, he had already taken offense at its very first sentence. ‘Not that I took it to be false, but the sense is unclear to me. “The world is everything that is the case”. The “is” is used either as a mere copula, or as the sign of equality in the fuller sense of “is the same as”. While the “is” of the subordinate clause is obviously a mere copula, I can only understand the “is” of the main clause in the sense of an equality sign. Up to here I believe no doubt is possible. But is the equation to be understood as a definition? That is not so clear. Do you want to say, “I understand by ‘world’ everything that is the case”? Then “the world” is the explained expression, “everything that is the case” the explaining expression. In this case nothing is thereby asserted of the world or of that which is the case, but if anything is to be asserted, then it is something about the author’s use of language. Whether and how far this use might concur with the language of everyday life is a separate matter, which is, however, of little concern to the philosopher once he has established his use of language’.
(Harking back to a now-famous idea from the beginning of his 1892 essay ‘Über Sinn und Bedeutung’ (‘On Sense and Meaning’)), Frege then notes that a thought which extends our knowledge essentially can be expressed in an equality, if it is acknowledged as true. Every recognition, he says, is a piece of knowledge of this kind. For example, a planet can be recognized as one that has been previously observed. For the time being it might have two names, the one it had been given earlier, and the name which it has been given just now, even if only in the form ‘the planet observed by me just now’. The astronomer may then, put, in the form of a question, the equation: ‘Is Eros the planet observed by me just now?’. This question has a sense for that astronomer, he knows that it must either be affirmed or denied. Each of the names ‘Eros’ and ‘the planet observed by me just now’, had its sense already, before this equation was framed. Neither of them obtains its sense just now in virtue of that equation, as in the case of a definition. Also, that each of these names should be meaningful was settled for the astronomer before he framed the question. Now let us suppose the astronomer answers the question affirmatively. He thereby establishes nothing about his use of language, as in the case of a definition, but rather he wins through it a new piece of knowledge, much more valuable than a mere consequence of the law of identity a = a. If, through a definitional equation ‘2 = 1 + 1’ one had given the sign ‘2’ the meaning of ‘1 + 1’, which I consider as known, then obviously 2 = 1 + 1 holds; but through acknowledging this equation no new knowledge is really gained. Instead we have in it only a special case of the law of identity.
Returning to LW’s words, Frege then says ‘If, however, you do not mean the sentence “the world is everything that is the case” as a definitional equation, but want to set forth a valuable piece of knowledge, each of the two names “the world” and “everything that is the case” must already have a sense before the framing of the sentence, a sense which is therefore not only then given to it in virtue of this equation. Before I can write something further about this matter, I must have reached clarity about this. Definitional equation or recognition judgment? Or is there a third?’
Frege then mentions that the current ‘wretched economic conditions’ will make it nearly impossible to publish a difficult work if the author does not bear a considerable part of the cost.
He then remarks that he has just noticed, from previous letters, that LW acknowledges a deep and true core in idealism, ‘an important feeling that is wrongly gratified, hence a legitimate need’, and he asks LW what sort of need this is.
Finally, Frege says he would be glad if LW would assist him in understanding the results of his thinking by answering his questions. He signs off ‘With kind regards in abiding friendship, G.Frege’(de Pellegrin, pp.64-67, Janik 1989, pp.24-26; Monk, p.189; Künne 2009, pp.32-3).
We do not know whether LW ever answered Frege’s questions, and thus Wolfgang Künne concludes: ‘after nine years the exchange between the two men ended with mutual disappointment: Frege was disappointed with Wittgenstein as author, and Wittgenstein was disappointed with Frege as reader’ (Künne 2009, p.33).
(This letter is the last-known contact between LW and Frege, who died in Bad Kleinen in July 1925, aged 76).
Friday 9th April, 1920:LW writes his first letter to Bertrand Russell since he received Russell’s proposed Introduction to his Abhandlung (in late March). He says: ‘Thank you very much for your manuscript. There’s so much of it that I’m not quite in agreement with – both where you’re critical of me and also where you’re simply trying to elucidate my point of view. But that doesn’t matter. The future will simply pass judgment on us – or perhaps it won’t, and if it is silent that will be a judgment too’.
He tells Russell that his Introduction is currently being translated and will go to the publisher with his Abhandlung. ‘I hope he will accept them!’, he remarks, before saying ‘There’s nothing much new here. I am as stupid as usual’. He then gives Russell his new address: Vienna III., Rasumofskygasse 24 (c/o Herr Zimmermann), and signs off ‘warmest regards from your devoted friend’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.118).
Saturday 24th April, 1920: LW writes to his friend Paul Engelmann, complaining that he has not heard from Engelmann for an unconscionable time, and asking him to write to him again, since he has had a very miserable time recently, and is still afraid that the devil will one day come and take him - ‘I am not joking!’.
LW notes that Russell’s Introduction to his Abhandlung has arrived and is being translated into German. ‘He has brewed up a mixture with which I don’t agree, but as I have not written it I don’t mind much’, he says (uncharacteristically).
He then gives Engelmann his new address: III, Rasumofskygasse 24 (c/o Herr Zimmermann), and explains that this change of address ‘was accompanied by operations which I can never remember without a sinking feeling’.
Finally, he asks Engelmann to write soon, signs off ‘Ever Yours’, and once again asks Engelmann to give his respects and kindest regards to his revered dear mother, whom he often remembers with gratitude (Engelmann, pp.29-30).
Tuesday 27th April 1920: Bertrand Russell leaves for Russia for just over two months, as an unofficial member of a Labour Party delegation (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.120n). They leave from London, travelling first to Newcastle, then to Bergen, and then on to ‘Reval’ (the name by which Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, was then mostly known) (White 1994, p.627).
Thursday 6th May, 1920: LW writes to Bertrand Russell, first thanking him for his kind letter (perhaps a letter that has been lost, since LW has already replied to Russell’s last extant letter (of March 19th)). He then says ‘But now you’ll be angry with me when I tell you something: Your Introductuion is not going to be printed and as a consequence my book probably won’t be either. – You see, when I actually saw the German translation of the Introduction, I couldn’t bring myself to let it be printed with my work. All the refinement of your English style was, obviously, lost in the translation and what remained was superficiality and misunderstanding’. LW then explains that he sent the Abhandlung, with Russell’s Introduction, to Reclam but that he wrote saying that he didn’t want the latter printed, and that it might serve solely for their own orientation in regard to his work. As a result it is now highly probable, he says, that Reclam won’t accept his work (although he has had no answer from him yet). [‘Him’ is presumably Philipp Ernst Reclam (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philipp_Ernst_Reclam), the grandson of the company’s founder]
LW then explains that he has already comforted himself about this by means of the following argument: ‘Either my piece is a work of the highest rank, or it is not a work of the highest rank. In the latter (and more probable) case I myself am in favour of its not being printed. And in the former case it’s a matter of indifference whether it’s printed twenty or a hundred years sooner or later. After all, who asks whether the Critique of Pure Reason, for example, was written in 17x or y. So really in the former case too my treatise wouldn’t need to be printed. – And now, don’t be angry! Perhaps it was ungrateful of me but I couldn’t do anything else’.
LW then signs off ‘warmest regards from your devoted friend’, and says it would be wonderful if Russell could come to Vienna in the summer (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.119, McGuinness, p,291).
Since Russell is already away, currently on his journey to Russia, he will not receive this letter until his return to England, on the last day of June.
Saturday 8th May, 1920: LW writes to Paul Engelmann, thanking him for his kind invitation, explaining that he cannot come at Whitsun, but will certainly do so after his exam. He notes that he has ‘seen Zweig’ [Fritz Zweig (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Zweig ), presumably, although it might have been his cousin Max Zweig] and discussed a number of things with him, as Zweig will presumably tell him.
He then remarks that his book will probably not be published, ‘as I could not bring myself to have it published with Russell’s Introduction, which looks even more impossible in translation than it does in the original’. He notes that apart from that he is in pretty poor shape and urgently needs to talk with Engelmann, but that this will have to wait a little longer.
As always, LW asks Engelmann to give his regards and best wishes to his revered mother. He also sends his regards to Engelmann himself (Engelmann, p.31).
Late May 1920:The Leipzig publishing-house Reclam do finally reject the idea of publishing LW’s Abhandlung (Monk, p.184).
Sunday 30th May, 1920: LW writes to his friend Paul Engelmann, asking first why he doesn’t hear from Engelmann any more. ‘(Presumably because you don’t write to me’) he quips. He then says he feels like completely empyting himself again, having had the most miserable time recently, but ‘only as a result of my own baseness and rottenness’. He reports that he has continually thought about taking his own life, and that the idea still sometimes haunts him. ‘I have sunk to the lowest point’, he muses, wishing Engelmann that he should never be in that position. He asks himself whether he will ever be able to raise himself up again, then saying ‘we’ll see’. Finally he reveals the news that Reclam will not publish his book, noting ‘I don’t care any more, and that is a good thing’. He asks Engelmann to write soon (Engelmann, p.33).
Both Monk and McGuinness comment on LW’s depressed and suicidal mental state at this point (McGuinness, pp.292-3, Monk, p.186), but McGuinness also remarks that the Abhandlung’s having been refused by publishers doesn’t seem to be the main determinant of LW’s mood (p.292).
He also says: ‘If it were not impossible to reconstruct the exact motives for Wittgenstein’s despair in the first half of 1910, it would be intrusive. But it is a striking fact that his mind turned to thoughts of death and suicide just when he was committing to the press his book that ends in silence’ (ibid.).
Monday 21st June, 1920: LW writes to Paul Engelmann, thanking him for his kind letter, ‘which has given me so much pleasure and thereby perhaps helped me a little, although as far as the merits of my case are concerned I am beyond any outside help. – In fact I am in a state of mind that is terrible to me’. LW explains that the state in question, which he has been in several times before, is ‘not being able to get over a particular fact’, but he does not say what the fact is. He tells Englemann that there is only one remedy for this pitiable state, to come to terms with the fact. ‘But this is just like what happens when a man who can’t swim has fallen into the water and flails about with his hands and feet and feels that he cannot keep his head above water. That is the position I am in now’.
He then mentions the possibility of a radical solution: ‘I know that to kill oneself is always a dirty thing to do. Surely one cannotwill one’s own destruction, and anybody who has visualised what is in practice involved in the act of suicide knows that suicide is always a rushing of one’s own defences. But nothing is worse than to be forced to take oneself by surprise.
Of course it all boils down to the fact that I have no faith! Well, we shall see!’ (Engelmann, pp.33-5).
LW closes by asking Engelmann to thank his revered mother for her kind letter. He says that he will come to Olmütz to see Engelmann, and that although he does not know when he can do so, he hopes he can make it soon.
McGuinness comments: ‘So he wrote to Engelmann after a month’s silence on Engelmann’s side, a silence occasioned by despair at Wittgenstein’s rejection of Russell’s introduction and with it (apparently) all possibility of publishing. There is no need for us to exercise ourselves in speculation about the ‘particular fact’: it is evidently, as usual, am amalgam of all his difficulties – with his family, in his studies, with his landlady, above all with his many failures. It is a state of mind intelligible only in one who, of course, wants to be perfect, as Wittgenstein later protested to a friend’ (p.293).
Wednesday 30th June, 1920: The Labour Party delegation arrives back in London. Russell, Monk says ‘arrived back in London on 30 June to be met at Euston station by Colette (that is: Lady Constance Malleson). Together, they went to his flat in Battersea and opened the large collection of mail waiting for him’, among which was the letter from Wittgenstein dated 6 May, explaining that Russell’s introduction to the Abhandlung was not going to be published (Monk, p.584).
Thursday 1st July, 1920:Bertrand Russell writes to LW, from Battersea, explaining that he only returned home from Russia (where there was no post) yesterday and found LW’s letter (of 6th May) waiting for him. He says ‘I do not care twopence about the introduction but I shall be sorry if you’re book isn’t printed’. So he asks LW whether he (Russell) might try to have it printed in England or America.
Russell then explains that he has two months’ letters to answer, so cannot write more at the moment. He signs off ‘Best love, now and always’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.120).
Wednesday 7th July, 1920: LW’s teacher training course ends, and he receives his teaching certificate (McGuinness, p.292, Monk, p.188).
LW writes to Russell, thanking him for his kind letter (of July 1st). Reclam have not accepted his book, he notes, so he will not be taking any further steps to have it published. However, if Russell feels like having it printed, it would be entirely at his disposal and ‘you can do what you like with it. (Only, if you change anything in the text, indicate that the change was made by you)’.
He tells Russell that he got his teaching certificate today, and can now become a teacher. But he then says ‘How things will go for me – how I’ll endure life – God only knows. The best for me, perhaps, would be if a could lie down one evening and not wake up again. (But perhaps there is something better left for me). We shall see’.
He signs off ‘warmest regards from your devoted friend’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.121).
Summer, 1920:For the duration of this Summer, and while his applications for a teaching post in Lower Austria were being considered, LW works as an assistant gardener at Klosterneuburg Monastery, north of Vienna, where he lives in the potting-shed (Monk, p.191; Waugh, p.150). McGuinness comments: ‘[T]here… he did in a quiet way flourish in the benign atmosphere of that wealthy foundation, like some great Cambridge college but with too few fellows, which dominates its little town and its wide vineyards, just far enough north of Vienna not to be easily visitable’ (McGuinness, p.294).
Monday 19th July, 1920: LW writes to Paul Engelmann, confessing that he has broken his word (to Engelmann in his previous letter, of June 21st) in not being able to come to Olmütz to visit him, at least for the time being. He explains that his plan for the summer was to go first to Olmütz and then to the Hochreit (the Wittgenstein family’s country estate and hunting lodge in the mountains not far from Vienna, where they lived each Summer). ‘But the closer the time came, the more I felt aghast at this way of passing time’. In his present state of mind, he notes, even talking to Engelmann, much as he enjoys it, would only be a pastime. He had been longing for some regular work, that being the most nearly bearable thing he can do in his present condition. And, he reports, he seems to have found such a job, having been taken on as an assistant gardener at the Klosterneuburg Monastery for the duration of the summer holiday. (‘How life is going to treat me there, we shall see’). He tells Engelmann that his address is unchanged, says he will write again, and asks Englemann to give his apologies to his revered mother (Engelmann, p.35).
Friday 6th August, 1920: LW writes to Bertrand Russell, first remarking that he has recently been sent an invitation to dinner at Trinity College on September 30th. The invitation gave him a great deal of pleasure, he says, even though it was surely not thought possible that he could attend. Since he doesn’t know the correct form for such a thing, he asks Russell to write to the Junior Bursar on his behalf, declining the invitation.
LW reports that at the moment he is spending his holidays as a gardener’s assistant in the nurseries of the monastery of Klosterneuburg near Vienna, and that he has to work solidly the whole day through, which is good. He also says his inner life is ‘nothing to write home about’. But he wonders when he and Russell will see one another again, if ever. He notes that he thinks of David Pinsent, who ‘took half of my life away with him’, every day. ‘The devil will take the other half’. He signs off ‘as always, your devoted friend, Ludwig Wittgenstein’ (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.122).
Friday 20th August, 1920: LW writes to Paul Engelmann, saying he has been very long without news from him, and asking Engelmann to drop him a line saying how he is, etc. He notes that his stay at Klosterneuburg is coming to an end, and that he will return to Vienna in three days’ time, to wait for a (teaching) job. He says he is sure that the gardening work was the most sensible thing he could have done in his holidays, and he relates that in the evenings, when his work is done, he is tired, and so does not feel unhappy. He has rather grim forebodings, though, about his future life, for ‘unless all the devils in hell pull the other way, my life is bound to become very sad if not impossible’. LW then says he doesn’t know what mood Engelmann is in, but they can always do with something to cheer them up, so he has enclosed a newspaper clipping (a promotional essay on ‘A School of Wisdom’, by Count Hermann Keyserling, from the Vienna Neue Freie Presse of 6th August 1920). LW describes it as ‘quite unbelievable, beats almost anything else I have ever read’. He asks Engelmann to either keep it or return it, but not to tear it up. He then asks Engelmann whether he might be coming to Vienna again, remarking that ‘that would be very fine’. As usual, he asks Engelmann to pass on his respects and very sincere greetings to his revered mother, and to write soon. In a postscript he mentions that his sister Mining is worried (albeit not cross) because she has had no reply to a letter she wrote Engelmann. (Engelmann, p.37).
Late August, 1920: Having finished working as a gardener at Klosterneuburg, LW returns to Vienna.
Early September, 1920: LW applies, under a false name, for a teaching post at Reichenau, and gets the job, but then declines it as soon as his identity is discovered (Waugh, p.150).
Early September, 1920: LW is sent to start his probationary teaching year at Semmering, a well-to-do town south of Vienna, but he insists instead on spending that year teaching at a school in a poor village, Trattenbach, in the mountains of Lower Austria (Monk, pp.192-3; Kanterian, p.92; Waugh, p.151). He stays there for two years (Waugh, p.151).
During this period, friends such as Ludwig Hänsel, Michael Drobil and Arvid Sjögren visit him at weekends (Kanterian, p.94).
However, relations between LW and the villagers soon deteriorate (Monk, p.197).
September 1920: In the aftermath of his visit to Russia earlier in this year, Bertrand Russell’s book The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism is published.
September 1920: LW’s brother Paul writes to him from the family home at Neuwaldegg, explaining first that he arrived in Vienna a day too late to see LW before he left for Trattenbach. ‘There is now the well-founded fear that you’ll be overfed’, he quips, ‘Our country is choking on its riches & most of all its elementary school teachers!! They are swimming in luxury, wallowing in abundance & “as well fed as an elementary school teacher in a mountain village” has become a proverb’. He continues in this vein for some time.
He then says that although all that is true, he hopes LW won’t be too very reluctant to accept the small package of forage he is sending at the same time as this letter.
Paul then tells his brother that he is organising a Labor evening at the beginning of the coming winter, if he can only find people who will go to it ‘and if, in their turn, at least no more than half of them fall asleep! We will miss you there, for a convinced claque is what’ll be needed’. He signs off ‘Warmest greetings, your brother, Paul’ (WFL, pp.71-2).
Monday 20th September, 1920: LW writes to Bertrand Russell, who has been in Peking since the early Autumn. He thanks him for his kind letter (a letter presumably now lost), and tells Russell he has now got a position as an elementary school-teacher in a tiny village called Trattenbach, which is in the mountains, about four hours’ journey south of Vienna. He remarks that it must be the first time that the school-master at Trattenbach has ever corresponded with a professor in Peking. He asks Russell how he is, and what he is lecturing on. If that’s philosophy, he says, he wishes he could attend and could argue with Russell afterwards. ‘A short while ago I was terribly depressed and tired of living, but now I am slightly more hopeful, and one of the things I hope is that we’ll meet again’. He closes by saying ‘God be with you! Warmest regards from your devoted friend’, and giving Russell his new address: L.W., Schoolmaster, Trattenbach bei Kirchberg am Wechsel, Nieder-Österreich (Wittgenstein in Cambridge, p.123).
Friday 24th September, 1920: LW replies to his brother Paul’s recent letter, thanking him for that letter and saying he has not yet received the package of food that was supposed to accompany the letter, ‘but will gladly devour it all, even though I do get enough to eat here’.
He tells his brother that if his Labor evening was to fall on a Saturday, he might be able to come to Vienna to attend, but that he’ll be able to afford such an excursion only after he has learned the ropes a bit. He asks Paul whether he will be playing Labor’s new ‘Phantasie’. [I surmise that this is the ‘Fantasia in F-sharp minor for piano left hand’, which Labor wrote for Paul Wittgenstein] LW says he has heard only the beginning ‘and it is of course genuine Labor, but it seems a bit thin to me – which, however, means nothing because one ought to hear it several times – I think the bassoon solo from the brass quartet is very beautiful, and the beginning and the end in particular are wonderful’. He signs off sending Paul his warmest thanks (WFL, p.72).
Friday 8th October, 1920: LW’s brother Paul writes to him, with news that his planned Labor evening will take place on Saturday 27th November, in the small hall of the Vienna Musikverein. So he asks LW to come, if it’s even halfway possible.
Paul relates that when he recently saw Hugo Heller, a book dealer who often organised readings and concerts, in order to discuss preparations for the Labor concert with him, he asked Heller where he had spent the summer, and Heller had replied ‘In Bavaria with Johannes Müller’. When Paul asked Heller who that was, Heller said ‘He’s a true Christian, a utopian and a do-gooder. He lives in a kind of sanatorium, hot and cold water in every room, a concert hall has just been built, Hermann Bahr [a leading Viennese writer, critic, and director] discovered him. However you do get meat only twice a week and are allowed to help with the haymaking’. Paul comments that Müller’s true Christianity really seems to consist of the latter two penitential practices, that he should have retorted that he’s probably more of a true Jew, and asked how much his true Christianity nets him per year.
The programme for the Labor evening, Paul says, will most probably include the two clarinet trios, the new Phantasie, and a few Canons for Female Voices performed by the Mandyczendsky women’s choir.
Paul relates that he agrees with every word of LW’s assessment regarding the introduction to the Phantasie: ‘“Genuine Labor, but a bit thin”. Of course Labor’s music needs the charm of diversity in timbres and diversity of voices, which is possible only with several instruments’. He signs off ‘So, God willing, till November!’ (WFL, pp.73-4).
Monday 11th October, 1920: LW writes to his friend Paul Engelmann, explaining first that the odd format of his letter (the top half of the first page of the writing paper being torn off) is due to the fact that he first wanted to write to someone else, but then tore off that beginning. He tells Engelmann that he will never fathom why he drew his own lines on the page rather than writing on its printed lines. He then apologises for having just used up the half page on this introductory explanation.
LW reports that he has at last become a primary-school teacher, working in a beautiful and tiny place called Trattenbach, near Kirchberg-am-Wechsel, Lower Austria. He is happy in his work at the school, and needs it badly, ‘or else all the devils in hell break loose inside me’. He remarks on how much he would like to see and talk to Engelmann, and reports that a great deal has happened, having ‘carried out several operations which were very painful but went off well’. He may miss a limb from time to time, LW says, but it’s better to have a few limbs less but with the remaining ones being sound.
Yesterday, he notes, he looked at a passage in Lessing’s play Nathan der Weise, and found it superb. But he seems to recall that Engelmann didn’t like that play.
LW wonders whether Engelmann might come to Vienna for Christmas, and asks him to think it over. He also asks him to write soon and let LW know how he is. He closes by asking Engelmann to give his respects and all good wishes to his revered mother, ‘whom I remember so often with deep gratitude’. (Engelmann, pp.37-39).
LW’s sister Hemine writes to him from the Hochreit. She explains that it will be a long time until she is able to visit him, since ‘everything is going so damned slowly with me’, and thus that he will probably come to Vienna first. She tells LW she was greatly disappointed not to be able to visit him, since she had been looking forward so much to having him all to herself and ‘hearing everything about you and being able to see you’, which she now has to forego. She asks her brother to allow her the joy of sending him something useful, and to this end she says she is sending this letter to someone who will get started on that right away. [A food parcel is probably what she had in mind]
Hermine next thanks LW for his kind letter, hoping that he received the letter in which she cancelled her visit to see him (neither of these letters has survived). She then mentions the sculptor Michael Drobil, saying that he is ‘out of harm’s way for the moment, since I’m away’, but that if someone is going to sculpt a bust which she is meant to own, ‘then he has to put up with my speaking with him about entirely trivial matters as well, even in the company of Mima. (Or is that just using him as a means to an end?)’. (‘Mima’ is Mima Sjögren, with whose family LW used to lodge in Hietzing, Vienna).
In any event, she says, she will not be inviting Drobil.’You needn’t think that I don’t understand what you are saying at least to a certain extent; I’m just saying that the domesticating influence wouldn’t be all that great anyway’. But as I said, I’m certainly not going to be inviting him. I would certainly not want to humiliate anyone, believe you me!’
She ends her letter by expressing the hope that LW keeps well, and that he thinks kindly of his devoted sister, Mining (WFL, pp.74-5).
Sunday 31st October, 1920: LW writes to Paul Engelmann, asking him to do him a favour by sending the two volumes of Frege’s Grundgesetze der Arithmetik, by registered and express mail, to this address: Miss Anna Knaur, c/o Faber, Heinrichsthal, near Lettowitz, Moravia. He explains that the lady in question will not herself be studying logic, but will bring him the book. But since she will leave on November 10th, the matter is very pressing. He promises Engelmann that he will get the book back when he comes for Christmas. He thanks Engelmann, and says he is greatly looking forward to talking with him, since he feels an urgent need for it (Engelmann, pp.39-41).
November 1920: LW writes to his brother Paul, thanking him for the tickets to his Labor evening. But, he asks, aren’t they the wrong ones? They are dated for a Wednesday instead of (the day Paul told LW, which was) Saturday 27th November. So he is returning them with this letter. If they are really valid for that Saturday, LW says, ‘please send them to Dr. Hänsel, Kriehubergasse 25, where I will be going before the concert’. (This was LW’s friend and correspondent Ludwig Hänsel).
LW expresses the hope that he is not bothering Paul unnecessarily, but thinks a mistake could have been made. He adds a postscript saying that he is very much looking forward to the concert (WFL, p.74).
Friday 5th November 1920: Hermine writes quite a long letter to her brother LW, explaining first that it was not a matter of indifference to her that she is stuck where she is rather than being able to be with him: ‘I cursed, and continue to curse, because the prospects of my being able to visit you in the foreseeable future are not good. I have to take it so pitiably easy in a way hitherto unimaginable to me, and whenever I start to think “oh, the doctor’s an ass; I’m going to do it differently this time” I learn right away that I’m the one who’s the ass, and not the doctor’. She wonders how long it will take for her to recover.
She then relates that Mima (Sjögren) wrote her an extremely kind letter yesterday and described Trattenbach, which she can now picture perfectly. She says she was sorry, though, that Mima was at Drobil’s place and spoke to him the way she did, ‘but everything she writes is precisely what I myself thought’. Hermine says that from the heads in the Secession building, she at once saw that ‘Drobil’s aim and ability consist in looking for and illustrating the multitude of minor forms in nature, i.e., in a certain sense, in exaggerating’. She explains this at some length, concluding that trying to get Drobil to make a bust (of LW) that is ‘characteristic’, which is what’s necessary if it’s meant as a portrait, would be like trying to tell an apple tree to grow pears. She says she is writing to LW about this because he is incapable of imagining that Drobil can be so far off the mark despite all his good qualities.
Hermine then relates that she is currently carrying out an experiment that puts her to shame: she is trying to learn 1st and 2nd grade mathemaics from a book. She recounts that maths was always difficult for her as a child, although she later thought that her teachers were mostly to blame for that. So, she says, she often now sits for hours at a time with rules and exercises that a ten-year old is expected to understand. She then takes issues with part of Tractatus 6.2331 (‘Calculation is not an experiment’), saying that when she does calculations, they are always experiments, and she is very anxious to find out what the result will be. ‘I now understand that I was unable to understand it as a child; but I still don’t understand how any child can understand it!’. She closes by hoping that her brother keeps well, and sending her warmest regards (WFL, pp.76-7).
Mid-November 1920: LW spends some holiday time at home in Vienna, but is not well at the time. In addition, he falls out with his sister Margarete (Inferred from Hermine’s letter of 17th November).
Wednesday 17th November 1920: Paul Wittgenstein writes a letter to his brother, Ludwig, from the family home in the Alleegasse. He begins by noting that ‘The inevitable has occurred, because it was inevitable’: LW has been recognised as a Wittgenstein (in Trattenbach) just as he was when he applied for a teaching post in Reichenau earlier in the autumn. He goes on ‘Given the unbelievable degree to which our name is known and the fact that we’re the sole bearers of it in Austria’, given the enormous numbers of acquaintances that their father, uncle and aunt have, ‘the properties we own spread across the whole of Austria, the various charitable causes we’re involved in, it is impossible, truly perfectly impossible, that any person bearing our name, and whose distinguished and refined upbringing anyone can see from a thousand feet off, will not be recognised as a member of our family’.
He advises LW that even changing his name would not be of any use, and that he had better learn this, and get used to it, hard as that may be.
Paul then remarks that he is just happy that he is in no way to blame, since he saw Mrs. Mautner (a relative of the engineer who was usually involved in Wittgenstein family projects) just once this year, there was never any talk of LW, and she probably doesn’t even know that Paul has a brother.
Even if he had been the one who told her, Paul then says, he can assure LW that it would have been like the case of two children where one catches the measles: ‘you intentionally put the other one near the one with the measles so that he’ll get them sooner rather than later, for he is going to get them one way or the other’. The truth is, he goes on, that a person is more likely to die without ever having had the measles than to belong to their family and not be recognised as such. “Tis medicine, not poison, that I give you”.
Paul tells LW that this letter encloses two tickets for his Labor evening. ‘Perhaps you can make it, if only for Mama’s and Mining’s sake. As, I believe, you already know, there will be performances of: the two clarinet trios, the Canons for Female Voices, and the new Phantasie, a four-course vegetarian dinner. Bon appetit!’ (WFL, pp.78-80).
LW’s sister Hermine writes a long letter to him, in which she begins by apologising for not being in Vienna during his holiday there, since she has heard that he was not very well. She wonders whether she could have done something for him, in respect of accommodation, topics of conversation, or something else. She hopes not to have such bad luck next time.
Hermine reports that she has been released today (from hospital) with a clean bill of health, but that she is still supposed to be careful, so she can’t tell LW when she would like to come to see him (in Trattenbach). She wants to be as fit as a fiddle for that, with no limitation whatsoever, and she hopes that will be the case soon. Hermine remarks that she is sorry to hear, from Paul, that LW was unable to get on with Gretl (their sister Margarete) al all. Hermine notes that she likes Gretl quite a lot, and is awfully impressed by her too. She tells LW she is longing to see him, and wonders very much what her own life in the near future will be, whether she will ever find a path to a fulfilling life. ‘I just live day to day until I hit a dead-end and am obliged, very drudgingly, to live my way out of the day. Yet I have so much that makes me happy’ and, since she has already written to LW about her shameful experience with the maths book she feels obliged to tell him that she has been occupied with the mathematical prowess of Pauli (Paul Mudigler, the son of an employee at the Hochreit) during the last few days of her stay at the Hochreit, and not without success, either. ‘The tricks I’ve found for myself seem to be helping him a lot and to have earned his respect. But what a crying shame it is that I learned next to nothing in my youth: I feel the lack of it at every turn!’. Unfortunately, she continues, LW cannot take pleasure in anything, because small gratifications of vanity are foreign to him and there’s nothing on the outside that will really make him happy – ‘you live only in your breast’. If someone could make it a bit more friendly in there, she muses, she would gladly plant a few flowers there, and all his friends, of whom he has a lot, would gladly contribute something as well. Mima (Mima Sjögren) likes him a lot, Hermine assures him, but no one can live on that. What can we live on, she asks herslef, saying she is not clear about that in the least.
In a continuation of her letter, Hermine says that Paul has just told her that he, LW, is quite upset that people in Trattenbach know who he is. She cannot say how sorry she is to hear of that, she notes, since she can clearly imagine how it all is. Although she knows that the discovery was inevitable, that doesn’t make it any easier for him. She can only think that what was new and unprecedented for the people there will soon turn into something familiar, and that he will be less of a phenomenon for them once they have all the facts and stop suspecting everything under the sun; ‘the reason is they must have found out soon enough, for goodness sake, that you belong to a different race, and you were surely a mystery to them because of that’. That would not, she assures him, be something that she would be embarrassed about; she has often been a mystery to people but has been able to talk about it without giving offence, because there was no secret about it. She then notes that ‘As soon as I wrote that, I saw how untrue it is, because of course I try to keep my wealth a secret when and wherever I can. But that is just a half measure and cowardice!’. He, though, he assures him, has nothing to hide, except for good things, and need not preach any morality he does not practice to the best of his ability. That people will not understand him is of course not a fact that can be changed, but at least they have to respect him. She hopes that means something to him. Hermine then says it would mean very much to her if LW was able to come (to the Labor evening) on the 27th, so that they could talk a bit, since it is such a long time since she last saw him. She signs off by sending her warmest regards and best wishes (WFL, pp.80-82).
(Before receiving the letter above, obviously) LW writes to Hermine, but his letter has not survived (inferred from her reply of 23rd November).
November 1920: LW’s sister Margarete writes to him, noting that two things she said during their last conversation (when he was in Vienna) are weighing on her because they are not true, but only seemed true to her while she was angry. The first thing she had said was that he is not better than her – but he is. And the second was that she would not like to be him – but she would rather be him than her. She signs off simply, ‘your sister, Gretl’ (WFL, pp.82-3).
Saturday 20th November 1920: Paul Wittgenstein writes to his brother LW, as a follow up to his recent letter. Paul begins by reminding LW that he has already written to him to explain how it was inevitable that people would discover his parentage and family background, and that it was astounding that it didn’t happen much sooner than it did. If it was not revealed by Mautner, then it would have been some forester’s boy who used to work for the family at the Hochreit who recognised him, or a some teacher who was once employed at the Alleegasse, or a waiter in some guesthouse who used to be a waiter at the works hotel in Kladno, or in the municipal restaurant in Wiesenbach, or a factory worker, or a peasant girl. ‘I need not tell you’, Paul says, ‘that no-one is capable of simulating or dissimulating anything – and that includes a refined upbringing’. For that reason alone, Paul advises LW that he would have been better off if he had just said from the start who and what he is, since that would have taken the bite out of all the exaggerated rumours from the very outset.
Paul notes that he should have given LW this advice himself, even though it probably wouldn’t have done any good. Now, though, Paul advises, the abscess that LW didn’t want lanced has burst of its own accord, and when the initial pain from the operation is over, LW will feel better than he did before, because the initial talk (among the villagers of Trattenbach) will soon come to an end or at least will begin to come to an end: cela séchera comme la rosée au soleil [it will evaporate like dew in the sunshine]. Then there will be less gossip about LW than before, ‘for you were once a mystery to people which they attempted to solve the best way they know how; but now they have the key to the cipher, know what they are dealing with, and the gossip will soon stop when the mystery ends. The more I think about it, the more I believe in the likelihood that this prophecy will come to pass’. Paul adds parenthetically that their mother doesn’t know a thing about the entire ordeal.
As for Paul’s Labor evening, he notes that the traditional adverse star is presiding over it: in Vienna on that same evening there will be a concert featuring the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, and another featuring the German violinist Adolf Busch. ‘Two great musicians who are quite in vogue at the moment, and are the big “draw”. As if, in the end, these works of our could cause too much of a sensation!’. He signs off ‘Warmest, your brother, Paul’ (WFL, pp.83-4).
Tuesday 23rd November, 1920: Having just received his letter to her from November 17th, Hermine writes to her brother LW, since that letter upset her ‘indescribably’: ‘I just don’t understand how the whole thing can be so tortuous to you? You aren’t a millionaire anymore! I, half-nun that I am, am bound to be embarrassed whenever anyone finds me out. But you? You have made a choice and can stand your ground and say: “what was is past, and my situation is different now”. How long will this wonder last?’. She advises LW that people will have long taken notice of him, ‘for our facial features alone betray a good family, not to mention how we talk and think, etc. It’s no wonder people made inquiries about you!’. She asks him whether he cannot speak openly about it with them, or at least say: like it or lump it. She reminds him that at the front and in captivity he was certainly less inhibited and was, in every situation if life, one man amongst others. So she wonders whether that it not possible in Trattenbach. She assures him that she will not come to the village until he wants her to, but she hopes that he will come to Vienna, so they can finally have a word with each other. She expresses the wish that she could have a thicker skin made for him, saying she would gladly do so at any cost.
‘You’re not made for this world!’ she exclaims, and signs off ‘With the most heartfelt of hugs, my darling Lukas, your devoted sister, Mining’ (WFL, p.85).
Saturday 27th November 1920: Paul Wittgenstein’s ‘Labor evening’, featuring works by the 78-year old composer, with him in attendance, does go ahead, but LW doesn’t manage to be there.
Sunday 28th November 1920: Hermine writes to LW, saying that it was a great disappointment to her that he couldn’t come to yesterday’s Labor evening. She hopes that it was not because he was afraid to talk, ‘for of course you need say nothing more than that you don’t want to talk about this or that, and the topic just won’t be broached’. She suspects she will not now be seeing him before Christmas, and is sorry about that, ‘because as much or as little heart as I have belongs to you, and being without contact in such a case is dreadful: I keep saying to myself: with any luck, it can’t go so far as to become real estrangement?’.
The Labor concert was, she reports, truly sad, since it was only Labor, and ‘he needs something bad to be set off against (like last year) or something good for variety. Even with the best of intentions and the best of help, it was anything but a pleasure: still I believe Labor enjoyed it immensely, and that is of course what counts’.
She relates that there is, thank God, nothing going on with the family, although that means there’s nothing to report either.
So she wishes her brother ‘from the bottom of my heart,… all the best and a more tranquil inner life’ (WFL, p.86).
Early December 1920 (probably around the 8th): LW visits his family in Vienna (inferred from Hermine’s letter of December 15th).
Wednesday 15th December, 1920: Hermine writes to LW, saying that although he has been gone for about a week, it seems longer to her. She reports that she, for her part, is ‘living in quite a strange state of excitement and duteous egoism’, that is, ‘thinking of oneself a lot whenever a duty looms ahead that one believes is beyond one’s powers’. Even the smallest of tasks, she explains, is capable of exceeding one’s strength, and difficulties are just as subjective as pain, ‘whenever I feel them, they exist, even if someone else can prove that I’m just imagining it all’.
The family were really and truly sorry not to have been able to see LW on Saturday, she relates, and she is even more sorry that he didn’t have the naïve feeling of joy at seeing each other again that she herself feels so intensely. But that, she surmises, is related to the family’s not understanding him, for nothing is as beautiful as being understood by another person, and affection alone can be dreadful. She says she cannot imagine anything more frustrating than the relationship she has with her Swiss patient, who is always inviting her to this and that, is glad to see her, hugs her constantly, when Hermine herself just stands there all the while ‘like a stick, assuring her that I don’t have a heart and that I’m entirely indifferent to everyone, including her’. Hermine reports that it reminds her of how she and LW deal with each other, and she hopes that that similarity does not become greater still. While her understanding of him may wane, she says, if he moves further away from the family, her love for him will not. Still, she expresses gratitude for just being able to write to him with whatever comes into her head and to pour out her heart to him. And she believes,she says, that in the final analysis she has not been entirely uncomprehending: ‘I can imagine a miniature model of some things even if I am incapable of imagining the grand design and even though I’ve formed the stupid habit of wanting to talk things out of existence, which is so tiresome for me in other people when I myself am morally down and out. Oh, what a complicated and disturbing world we live in!’.
She closes by wishing her brother nothing but the best (WFL, pp.87-8).
Sunday 2nd January, 1921: LW writes to his friend Paul Engelmann, thanking him for a letter, and saying that he was sorry not to have seen Engelmann at Christmas. It struck him as rather funny, LW muses, that Engelmann should want to hide from him, since ‘I have been morally dead for more than a year!’. From that, he says, Engelmann can judge for himself whether he is fine or not. LW describes himself as ‘one of those cases which perhaps are not all that rare today: I had a task, did not do it, and now the failure is wrecking my life. I ought to have done something positive with my life, to have become a star in the sky. Instead of which I remained stuck on earth, and now I am gradually fading out. My life has really become meaningless and so it consists only of futile episodes. The people around me do not notice this and do not understand; but I know that I have a fundamental deficiency. Be glad of it, if you don’t understand what I am writing here. - - - ’ (p.41).
Saturday 8th January, 1921: Hermine writes to her brother LW declaring first that she had immediately sent his letter (presumably a recent one, which has not survived) to Helene Lecher (a friend of hers, who directs a daycare refuge for malnourished and ailing children). She says she is sorry to hear from LW that it wasn’t especially agreeable in Laxenburg (LW had evidently visited their Aunt Clara there). Aunt Clara, she says, can be so charming, and the whole atmosphere has something magical about it. Hermine conjectures that Clara didn’t understand a suggestive record which she had played in front of young people there, and finds in this incident an analogy with Tristram Shandy.
Hermine then reports that LW’s friend Paul Engelmann was with her yesterday, and argued with her until noon about his social notions ‘without coming one step closer to a consensus’. But she notes that she likes his sketches and draughts very much, ‘a unique personality is immanent in them’. As regards actually building something, though, she says, they still can’t decide: ‘it’s certain that neither Paul nor I will have something built by anyone but him. If only we had known him beforehand!’. Their family grave, she notes, pains her whenever she sees it, and unfortunately it’s a hopeless case, it can’t even be repaired like things in the work of Frauenfeld (a leading interior architect who had modernised the Wittgenstein’s family villa at Neuwaldegg).
Hermine tells LW that his being there had passed like a breath, and that she had seen very little of him, but that he had given her so much. In French, she explains, the expression ‘le peu’ (the little) affects the subsequent verb in different ways depending on whether it underscores the absence or the presence of something. Hence, after he leaves, what remains is the underscored part – the little she did have of him. ‘May you keep well!’, she wishes him, and signs off ‘warmest regards, your sister, Mining’ (WFL, pp.88-9).