“If you have no more happiness to give: Give me your pain.”
Lou Andreas-Salomé was born 12 February 1861, in St. Petersburg, Russia, to an Army General and his wife, the only daughter of six children. As a teenager, Salomé persuaded Dutch preacher 25 years her senior, Hendrik Gillot, to teach her theology, philosophy, world religions, and French and German literature.
Men as acclaimed as Freud found inspiration, challenge, and immense progress in their works as a direct result of Lou’s brilliance, and valued her role in their professional and personal lives. Despite this, Lou’s story has remained confined to the textbooks of gender studies and the depths of philosophy classrooms. One of the first feminists, the first female psychoanalyst, and an intellectual of international acclaim, it has taken near 100 years for society to come close to catching up with Lou Andreas-Salomé.
In 1880, Salomé began studies in religion and philosophy at the University of Zurich, which was the only University for women at the time. Two years later in Rome, Salomé met lawyer and philosopher Paul Rée, with whom she began a long-lasting friendship despite a marriage proposal that Salomé turned down. Salomé held a belief at the time that giving in to desires of love and lust would hamper her pursuit of intellectual freedom and academic achievement.
It was through her friendship with Reé that Salomé came to meet philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Like Reé, Nietzsche was so taken by Salomé that he too asked for her hand in marriage. While Salomé turned town this second proposal, she offered an alternative to Reé and Nietzsche - to live in a platonic academic commune of co-residency.
As the trio travelled through Italy and Germany, Salomé and Reé had a falling out with Nietzsche, due to Salomé’s belief that Nietzsche remained deeply in love with her. While the friendship later repaired, this momentary break up meant the idea of co-residency never came to fruition.
In 1886, Salomé met orientalist, Friedrich Carl Andreas, 15 years her senior, and accepted his marriage proposal the following year on the condition that their marriage not be consummated. It was only following this, that Salomé’s opposition to sexual intimacy would soon fade. In 1897, Salomé met young poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, to whom she became a mentor, friend, and lover of sorts.
In 1900, Rilke joins Salomé in Berlin, and despite the growing jealously of her husband, the pair continue their adventures together in Russia.
Salomé comes to meet Sigmund Freud in Vienna in 1911, and discovers through Freud, the science of psychoanalysis. Through their efforts together, Salomé provokes immense growth in Freud’s work and theories, particularly his idea of a positive variation of narcissism, and she herself becomes the first female psychoanalyst.
As Hitler’s Nazi party begins to ravage Germany through the 1930s, Salomé lived alone with her housekeeper, Mariechen. Ernst Pfieffer comes knocking on her door, and ultimately pens a biography of Salomé’s life based on the stories she shares with him. From love affairs and correspondence with Freud and politician Georg Ledebour, to the adventures of being a woman who shunned tradition and worked as a psychoanalyst until the age of 74, Salomé lived a life so contrary to her time. She paved a way for future generations of women to take the road less travelled, despite societal pressures.
Throughout her hospital stays in later life, her husband Friedrich Carl Andreas was present on many occasions, while he battled his own ailing health. Even though the pair shared long periods of mutual non-contact, they grew closer together with age.
On January 5, 1937, Lou Andreas-Salomé died of uremia in her sleep at Göttingen.