Lou Andreas-Salome

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Lou Andreas-Salomé

Russian-born German writer Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937) has been known mostly as the lover of and inspiration to several of the most prominent male German authors of her time, including philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and psychoanalytic pioneer Sigmund Freud.

Andreas-Salomé was also a prolific writer on her own, however, and in matters of female independence and sexual liberation she was a trailblazer. Her novels, plays, stories, and essays, mostly forgotten today, are often thinly veiled treatments of her romantic and intellectual adventures with the men in her life. Yet as such, her writings are unique: she combined a strong female perspective, eroticism, and a spirit of independence, and in some ways she may be regarded as the forerunner of twentieth-century female intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir.


A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Andreas-Salomé was born Louise Salomé on February 12, 1861. Her father, Gustav Ludwig von Salomé, was a distinguished Russian general who doted on his youngest child and only daughter, sometimes to an extent that disturbed Andreas-Salomé's mother, Louise Wilm von Salomé. Both French and German were widely spoken among the Russian aristocracy at the time, and Andreas-Salomé was raised speaking those languages. She spoke some Russian as well, but when she rebelled at the idea of studying that language in school, her father gave her the green light to study whatever she liked.

Fortunately, Andreas-Salomé proved to be a curious child who had little difficulty in educating herself. Lonely and given to fantasy, she finally found an effective teacher in a married Dutch-born minister named Hendrik Gillot. He instructed her in philosophy, languages, and religion, carried out her confirmation ceremony in the German Lutheran church, gave her the nickname of Lou (which would stick for the rest of her life), and inculcated in her a spirit of independence and self-regard. When the student-teacher relationship broke down, probably under the stress of Gillot's attraction to his young pupil (described as beautiful for most of her life), Andreas-Salomé fell ill. She and her mother headed for Zurich, Switzerland, where Lou would recuperate and continue her education at the University of Zurich.

In Zurich Andreas-Salomé immersed herself in studies of theology and art history. Professors at the university did not know quite what to make of the young Russian woman but were unanimous in praising her brilliance. Andreas-Salomé, however, continued to suffer from the effects of a worsening lung disease that doctors had warned could cost her her life. She began coughing up blood. Her mother, alarmed, decided that a warmer climate might help, and the pair moved on to Rome, Italy, in 1882. The new location was helpful both physically and intellectually, for Rome was full of writers and thinkers from all over Europe.

Through a family friend, Andreas-Salomé met two young philosophers, Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche. Rée was the first to fall under her spell, but both were soon in love with her. Andreas-Salomé, for her part, was pleased to be traveling Europe, healthy, and receiving romantic attention from some of the top thinkers of the day. Nietzsche set Andreas-Salomé's poem “Hymnus an das Leben” (Hymn to Life) to music in 1882. The love triangle evolved, and at one point the three planned to share a house, intended as a kind of intellectual commune they called the Trinity. The plan never bore fruit, but the tensions inherent in the situation were immortalized in a photograph by Jules Bonnet, of Andreas-Salomé atop a small cart, holding a whip that she wields over the “horses,” Nietzsche and Rée.

Rejected Marriage Proposal

Nietzsche saw Andreas-Salomé as something of an ideal woman whom he could mold into a disciple and partner. He proposed marriage but was rejected, and the relationship eventually deteriorated under the pressure of hostility from Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth. Each partner influenced the other as a writer, however; Andreas-Saloméis mentioned in Nietzsche's Ecce homo (Behold the Man), and Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), written soon after the breakup, was directly credited to Andreas-Salomé's influence. “My disciple became my teacher—the god of irony achieved a perfect triumph!” Nietzsche wrote, according to the Dictionary of Literary Biography. “She inspired me with the thought of Zarathustra: my greatest poem celebrates our union, and our tragic separation.”

As for Andreas-Salomé, her own writing career began to take off in the middle 1880s. While cohabiting with Rée in Berlin, she wrote the autobiographical novel Im Kampf um Gott (1885), using the male pseudonym Henri Lou (for later books she reverted to her own name). The novel features a character, clearly modeled on the blaspheming, life-affirming Nietzsche, who has destructive effects on three women, each of whom reflects an aspect of Andreas-Salomé's own personality. The novel won positive reviews and established Andreas-Salomé as a literary force independent of her famous boyfriends; her relationship with Rée ended in 1885.

In 1887 Andreas-Salomé married the linguistics scholar Friedrich Carl Andreas, after which she hyphenated her last name but put her own surname in the final position. Andreas was one of a number of men who took irrational steps—in his case stabbing himself in the chest with a penknife—during his courtship of Andreas-Salomé. According to many accounts, the marriage was never consummated, and by 1898 the two had separated, although they remained married until Andreas's death in 1930. Andreas-Salomé began to write about the growing Berlin theater scene, and in 1892 she wrote a book, Henrik Ibsens Frauengetstalten (Henrik Ibsen's Female Characters), about the pioneering feminist themes in the work of the Norwegian dramatist. Her 1894 study of Nietzsche, Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken (Friedrich Nietzsche in His Works), was well received and consulted for many years. She also published a second novel, Ruth, in 1895.

That year, Andreas-Salomé embarked on an affair with a doctor from Vienna, Friedrich Pineles. Once again her love life provided material for her fiction, which took a decidedly erotic turn in such stories as “Eine Nacht” (One Night). A group of her stories appeared in book form in 1898 under the title Fenitschka. Another cycle, Menschenkinder, translated into English as The Human Family, appeared a year later. She had other sexual adventures and misadventures as well, including one with German playwright Frank Wedekind, in the wake of which the two engaged in mutual literary recriminations in the form of negative characters modeled on each other.

Became Muse to Rilke

The relationship with Pineles was interrupted (although it later resumed) when Andreas-Salomé met poet Rainer Maria Rilke in May of 1898. Although she was 36 and he was 22 years old at the time, the relationship soon turned serious. The two became lovers and traveled together twice to Andreas-Salomé's homeland of Russia, and Andreas-Salomé also exerted influence on Rilke's career just as his mature style was taking shape. She made suggestions that helped give his poetry its characteristic intensity, and she convinced him to take the German name of Rainer; formerly he had had been called René. In 1901 the relationship flamed out as quickly as it had begun, possibly because Andreas-Salomé felt uncomfortable with the degree of worship she was receiving from the younger man. She continued to be productive as a writer and published a novel, Ma: Ein Portrait, in 1901.

Andreas-Salomé wrote several other books in the first decade of the twentieth century, including Im Zwischenland: Fünf Geschichten aus dem Seelenleben halbwüchsiger Mädchen (In-Between Land: Five Stories from the Inner Life of a Half-Grown Girl, 1902) and the nonfiction Die Erotik (The Erotic, 1910), part of a major philosophy and sociology series edited by philosopher Martin Buber. Gradually, however, she began to feel the desire for a second career. The opportunity presented itself in 1911 when, at the Weimar (Germany) Congress of the International Psychoanalytic Association, she met psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud. At first he was amused by her desire to study psychoanalysis, but she quickly mastered Freud's ideas. According to the Books and Writers Web site, Freud observed that “all the tracks around her go into the Lion's den but none come out.” Nevertheless, he remained the only one of Andreas-Salomé's three major intellectual mentors with whom she did not become romantically involved. The 50-year-old Andreas-Salomé began to attend the meetings of Freud's inner circle, to write essays on psychoanalytic theory and as of 1913, to practice psychoanalysis herself. Her friendship with Freud endured, and by the early 1920s she was widely recognized as an analyst, and, partly as a result of her continuing association with the depressive Rilke, she penned several forwardlooking essays on the relationship between psychology and creativity.

Returning to writing in the 1920s, Andreas-Salomé penned a play, Der Teufel und seine Großmutter (The Devil and His Grandmother, 1922). Most of her later books, however, were nonfiction studies of the authors she had known well: Rainer Maria Rilke (translated as You Alone Are Real to Me) appeared in 1928, and Mein Dank an Freud (My Thanks to Freud) in 1931. In her last years, she wrote a Grundriß einiger Lebenserinnerungen (Outline of Some Life Reminscences, 1933) and a more extensive Lebensrückblick (Life Retrospective), not published until 1951. Andreas-Salomé underwent cancer surgery in 1935 but died of uremia on February 5, 1937, in Göttingen, Germany.

Andreas-Salomé's writings were well known during that time, but then were mostly forgotten. Even with the tremendous revival of interest in writings by women toward the end of the twentieth century, studies of Andreas-Salomé as a creative figure in her own right remain rare. As of the early 2000s, however, there were signs that scholars were beginning to reexamine Andreas-Salomés work. In 2005 University of Alberta professor Ralph G. Whitinger told the Chronicle of Higher Education that “the rediscovery of her fiction has given us an array of her documents that describe the nature of the 1890s second wave of the women's liberation movement—some of the complexities of it, of course, but also the general thrust of it.”


Binion, Rudolph, Frau Lou: Nietzsche's Wayward Disciple, Princeton University Press, 1968.

Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature, Prentice Hall, 1992.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 66: German Fiction Writers, 1885-1913, Gale, 1988.

Peters, H. F., My Sister, My Spouse: A Biography of Lou Andreas-Salome, Norton, 1974.

Rilke, Rainer Maria, and Lou Andreas-Salomé, The Correspondence, tr. Edward Snow and Michael Winkler, Norton, 2006.


Chronicle of Higher Education, October 21, 2005.

Irish Times, September 7, 2002.

Library Journal, April 1, 2003.


“Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937),” Books and Writers, http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/salome.htm (January 24, 2007).

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ANDREAS-SALOMÉ, LOU (1861–1937), German writer.

Perhaps the most brilliant woman of her generation in Europe was born Louise Salomé on 12 February 1861 in St. Petersburg, Russia. She was the fourth and last child, and only daughter, of an aging general turned high state official. Her family background and household language were mostly German.


By her later account of her introverted childhood, Salomé told tall tales night and day to a grand-fatherly personal god who would swallow them one and all, thereby certifying them as true. Exposed once by a cousin as the fantasist she was, she reacted by teaching herself to register facts with painstaking exactitude by way of earning the right to play free and loose with them. Her childhood ended when at length she pressed her god to appear in person; he vanished instead, leaving her to sustain her imaginings alone. All the while she resisted learning from a French governess, an English private school, and finally a German lyceum, where she was demoted to mere auditor for plagiarism on top of poor grades.

Her father's death when she turned seventeen brought on a nervous crisis during which she was smitten with a charismatic pulpit philosopher named Hendrik Gillot, who took the lonely underperformer in hand and exacted disciplined study from her in return for hearing out her fantasies. The blissful, fruitful spell broke when she discerned Gillot's intent to divorce his wife and marry her—or so she related late in her life, on her poetic license to re-edit her past. More prosaically she worked herself sick for Gillot, so that her mother took her to western Europe for treatment early in 1880. That autumn she began studying comparative religion as an auditor at the University of Zurich.

A year later, well schooled now, Salomé was chaperoned farther south for her worsening health. January 1882 found her in Rome under the wing of a patroness of high-minded youngsters, Malwida von Meysenbug (1816–1903). A young utilitarian moral philosopher and lovable yet self-hating Jew, Paul Rée (1849–1901), joined the party in March. Infatuated with Salomé, Rée summoned his senior partner in philosophical mischief, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), down from Genoa to meet this most promising prospective disciple who was all eagerness to set up a chaste ménage with the two of them. The itinerant reclusive genius sailed instead to Messina until, a full month later, the sirocco drove him to Rome to meet his fate at last in the person of a frail and bewitching twenty-one-year-old pious freethinker flushed with fervent fever for life and electrically responsive to his deepest thoughts and pithiest aphorisms. She craved an intellectual mentor, and he an intellectual heiress, each with a passion that neither recognized as erotic deep down.

Returning north with her party, Salomé met with Nietzsche and Rée along the way to map out

their future course. To reassure Nietzsche, she insisted vociferously that marriage would not be necessary, appearances be damned. He arranged for a trial stay together in Tautenburg near Jena that August with his sister, Elisabeth, as duenna. But first Salomé went to the Rées' country manor in Tütz upon her mother's return to Russia, and then attended the premiere of Parsifal in Bayreuth, rooming with Elisabeth.

Rée, jealous, cautioned Salomé against Nietzsche's possible designs on her, and Elisabeth, jealous, warned Nietzsche against the Russian adventuress on the make. Thus the trial stay got off to a stormy start. The two nonetheless thrilled to each other's kindred thinking for a fortnight, above all on religious psychology. Nietzsche even wept over a poem by Salomé that he later set to music. No matter: reports from Bayreuth of her boasting about having the two philosophers in harness, as in a comic photograph she had engineered on the way from Rome, were too much for the thin-skinned moral revolutionary Nietzsche. He opted out of the tense triangle after five weeks of it in Leipzig that autumn, then bombarded Salomé with wildly rancorous letters. So Salomé set up in Berlin chastely with Rée alone. While ostensibly shrugging Nietzsche off, she made several futile tries at reconciling, once even spending some weeks with Rée in Celerina, Switzerland, just below Nietzsche's summer retreat in Sils-Maria, and dispatching the sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies (1855–1936), then desperately wooing her, on that fool's errand. She novelized the whole triangular misadventure of 1882 in Im Kampf um Gott (Struggling for God) three years later. Nietzsche found it both lofty and girlish—rightly.

He reciprocated with the Christian "reversal of values" in The Genealogy of Morals (1887), whereby the Jews, notably Paul, incited the slaves against their masters, these being infected with slavish rancor in the process. After madness struck Nietzsche in 1889, Salomé published a sketch of his late philosophy interspersed with fond tributes to his person and prose in a series of ten articles that became Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken (1894; Friedrich Nietzsche in his works). She drew on, besides their Tautenburg repartee, his letters to her with slyly suggestive elisions, and his old letters to Rée without due distinction, so as to come off as a long-standing intimate confidante turned wayward heiress. Nietzsche's sister called her bluff, and Salomé countered with a whispered refusal over the years to rebut her openly out of pretended discretion about a marriage proposal by Nietzsche. Against all the evidence, Nietzsche as Salomé's spurned suitor has held his own in the popular literature. This triumphant trickery notwithstanding, Salomé never settled her Nietzsche account: the shock she suffered from his raging rebuff, then from the collapse of his kindred mind, haunted her later life and works.


Rée exited his relationship with Salomé in 1886. He learned medicine, practiced charitably for some years in Tütz, but then returned to Alpine Celerina and fell to his death there in 1901. Rée gone, Salomé's collection of frustrated proposals culminated in a white marriage in 1887 to a prodigious exotic philologist surnamed Andreas: he took the forename Friedrich for the occasion. Married, Lou Andreas-Salomé (as she was now known) tormented her men and herself only the more. In 1894 the socialist radical Georg Ledebour (1850–1947) told her off for it and the avant-garde playwright Frank Wedekind (1864–1918) embarrassed her over it. One last sentimental casualty was the writer Richard Beer-Hofmann (1866–1945), and at the turn of 1896 Andreas-Salomé launched an "almost rhythmic turnover" (her own words) of junior lovers with an internist named Friedrich Pineles (1868–1936). She would blend her erotic escapades into frenetic rounds of socializing that alternated with long spells of writing at home in Berlin or, as of 1903, in Göttingen. Her calendars and correspondence richly chronicle German, and at one point also Russian, letters and theater of her time.

In 1897 Andreas-Salomé began reliving her failed romance with her master and taskmaster of 1882 as mistress and taskmistress to a budding poet of twenty-one, Rainer (or at first René) Maria Rilke (1875–1926). In early 1901, soon after a trip across Russia beside him through which she exultantly discovered her dormant Russian identity, she dispatched the "homunculus" (as she called him to Gerhart Hauptmann [1862–1946]) with a parting warning against his potential for madness. Relenting gradually as his fame grew, she let him resume writing her in 1903, then also seeing her ever so reticently beginning two years later, only to wind up memorializing their unbroken closeness after his death. Their amour was the time of her own greatest fame as a fictionist in a storybook vein far removed from the unique intellectual and lyrical intensity of the essays she wrote alongside. Of these, "Der Mensch als Weib" (1899; The human being as woman), "Gedanken über das Liebesproblem" (1900; Thoughts on the problem of love), and "Alter und Ewigkeit" (1901; Old age and eternity) stand with many an exquisite miniature in her journals among the finest specimens in any language.

Her golden age of letters well behind her, Andreas-Salomé struck out on an exhilarating new course after a psychiatrist lover took her to a psychoanalytic congress in September 1911. She lapped up the new science in the making first at home for a year, then in Vienna at Sigmund Freud's (1856–1939) elbow in 1912–1913, attending his university lectures, meeting with his weekly working circle, and twice chatting lengthily about her childhood with him. The rest of her life she practiced psychoanalysis expertly and enthusiastically, charging very little as Freud would allow. Her clientele included referrals from Freud—among them his daughter, whom, however, she refused to pry loose from him as he urged. She contributed several classic theoretical studies—on femaleness, on anality, on narcissism—all marked by her impassioned penchant for primal, selfless, indiscriminate affectivity. Her devotion to Freud and his work was total from first to last; when once he poured scorn on a former lover of hers from his Vienna circle, Viktor Tausk, in reporting Tausk's suicide to her, she reworked the event into a short story, "Geschwister" (Siblings), which above all showed the new "father-face over my life" as replicating that of his great predecessor of 1882 in her emotional underworld.

Freud relished Andreas-Salomé's devotion, finding her the soul of authenticity. He called a grand open letter of 1931 by her to him for his seventy-fifth birthday "an unintentional proof of your superiority over us all as suits the heights from which you came down to us." In 1935 Freud excitedly sent her the first sketch of his Moses book just as in 1922 Rilke had ecstatically sent her the first tidings of his Duino Elegies delivered all at once full-blown after a decade's gestation and followed by his unexpected Sonnets to Orpheus a few days later. What surer demonstration could there be of the power of her personality at all ages? Alone after Andreas's death in 1930, Andreas-Salomé increasingly refashioned her past in pseudo-memoirs, purging and pruning her papers accordingly while grooming a literary heir with the aim to "remain preserved, laid out in state," after her death. She died on 5 February 1937, believing death to be a "homecoming."

See alsoFreud, Sigmund; Nietzsche, Friedrich.


Primary Sources

Andreas-Salomé, Lou. Im Kampf um Gott. Leipzig, 1885.

——. Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken. Vienna, 1894.

——. Rainer Maria Rilke. Leipzig, 1928.

——. Mein Dank an Freud. Vienna, 1931.

Secondary Sources

Binion, Rudolph. Frau Lou: Nietzsche's Wayward Disciple. Princeton, N.J., 1968.

Rudolph Binion

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A Russian writer and essayist, Louise Andreas-Salomé was one of the first practicing psychoanalysts. She was born on February 12, 1861, in St. Petersburg, Russia and died February 5, 1937, in Göttingen, Germany. Louise's father, Gustav von Salomé (57 years old at the time of her birth), of German-French origin, was a general in the service of the tsar. Her mother, Luise Wilm (38 years old at the time of Louise's birth), was from a family of Protestant merchants from Hamburg. Louise, the youngest of four children (she had three older brothers) was raised under feudal family conditions and turned out to be a very willful child. She took refuge in an imaginary world peopled with its own god and threw off the constraints imposed by her family. She refused confirmation and, at the time of her father's death in 1879, turned her back on religion. She shared her existential concerns with her first spiritual teacher, Hendrik Gillot (1836-1916), a fascinating preacher in the Dutch community. It was Gillot who gave Louise the diminutive "Lou." Together they read authors like Baruch Spinoza, whose philosophy helped structure her research in psychoanalysis. However, Gillot's proposal of marriage destroyed their relationship. Her break with Gillot was unequivocal. Lou von Salomé left for Zurich in 1880, where she studied philosophy, history, art, and theology. She outlined her approach to God in her Essays.

When she was 21 she met the philosophers Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche in Rome, at the salon of Malwida von Meysenbug. They wanted to formalize their reciprocal fascination in a working and living community. She replied to Gillot's exhortations, "I am certainly going to shape my own life the way I see it, come what may. . . ." This belief led her to take up psychoanalysis at the age of fifty, after an extremely turbulent life.

Lou Andreas-Salomé's first foray into psychoanalysis was the Neue Quellen ; she found new answers to old questions in her own life, which she had approached especially through literature, for there are a number of autobiographical traces in her writings. Shortly after participating in the 1911 International Psychoanalytic Congress in Weimar, she went to Vienna to become a student of Freud's. In her journal, In der Schule bei Freud (1912-1913), keen observations of social life and critical opinions and personal hypotheses on psychoanalysis appeared side by side. Aside from Freud she was very impressed by Sándor Ferenczi and Viktor Tausk. It was through Tausk that she was able to make her first practical observations at the clinic for nervous disorders in Vienna.

After Vienna, Lou Andreas-Salomé continued to write to Freud on a regular basis and appears to have accepted only Freud as the supervisor of her own cures. After her visit with Freud's family in 1912, she became close with Anna Freud, the focal points of their relationship being Freud the psychoanalyst and Freud the man. They worked together on a subject of common interest, the Tagtraum-Traumdichtung (daydream-dream poem). Anna Freud's presentation to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society for her admission to membership at the society, entitled "Schlagenphantasie und Tagtraum" ("Beating Fantasies and Daydreams"; 1922), was the result of their efforts together and also contributed to Andreas-Salomé's admission to the society. She died on February 5, 1937, in her home in Göttingen, Loufried, where she had lived since 1903 with the Oriental scholar Friedrich Carl Andreas.

Psychoanalysis marked a turning point in the life of Andreas-Salomé, who was immersed in contemporary philosophy, the philosophy of Spinoza, and deeply affected by the theory of the psychoanalytic unconscious and the libido theory. She devoted herself to the insoluble conflict of body and soul, the soma and the psyche, sexuality and the ego, masculine and femininesubjects that appeared in all her psychoanalytic writing between 1911 and 1931. Her style, as exemplified in Narzissmus als Doppelrichtung (1921), was individualisticcapricious, expressive, and poetic. With her representation of a narcissism that was "happy to develop" as a "companion of life that renews being," she completed her work on primary narcissism as a developmental phase and narcissism as a pathological form of self-love. She emphasized the concept of "double direction" that was present in Freud's concept of the libido but which he had not developed further. The libido is in the service of the ego instinct and the "beyond-ego" (the death instinct). In this sense she was ahead of her time. Zum Typus Weib (On the Feminine Type; 1914) regroups her most important ideas on femininity and psychoanalysis. She introduced the feminine point of view into psychoanalytic discourse and focused her interest on the difference between the sexes, a difference that must be considered beyond individual differences. She emphasized the complementarity of relationships. For Andreas-Salomé an androgynous image signified a loss rather than a gain for both sexes. In her essay on femininity she introduced a utopia of feminine culture.

Inge Weber

See also: Bjerre, Poul; Germany; Narcissism; Tausk, Viktor.


Andreas-Salome, Louise. (1964). The Freud journal of Lou Andreas-Salome (Stanley Leavy, Trans.). New York: Basic Books. (Original work published 1958)

. (1990), Das "zweideutige" Lächeln der Erotik. Texte zur Psychoanalyse. Freiburg, Germany: Kore.

. (1983). Open letter to Freud. Paris: Lieu Commun.

. (1991). Looking back: memoirs (Ernst Pfeffer, Ed.; Breon Mitchell, Trans.). Memoirs, New York: Paragon House. (Original work published 1951)

Freud, Sigmund, and Andreas-Salomé, Lou. (1972). Sigmund Freud and Lou Andreas-Salomé: letters (Ernst Pfeffer, Ed.; William and Elaine Robson-Scott, Trans.). London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. (Original work published 1966)

Welsch, Ursula, and Wiesner, Michaela. (1988). Lou Andreas-Salomé. Vom Lebensurgrund zur Psychoanalyse. München-Wien-Leipzig: Internationaler psychoanalytischer Verlag.