Rilke, Rainer Maria (1875 – 1926)

Struggling with ill-health in 1923, Rilke curtails a poetic letter to a countess…

A fine three-page autograph letter signed, ‘Rilke’, 4th January 1923, to the Countess Gallarati-Scotti.

Writing in French from a sanitorium in Territet, Switzerland, Rilke opens, ‘My dear Countess, this time your wishes and thoughts for the new year preceded mine: which was only made possible due to my ill-health… be that as it may, it was sweet to receive your wishes amongst the first, and to dwell on my memories of you! May this year, already started,  be favourable and kind to you; I think of you as I say this, Countess, and of all you hold close and dear; — the number of these beings has tenderly increased and, during the same year, also diminished in a most painful way; impossible to establish a balance sheet between loss and other joys: so large is our life that these extremes cannot connect to each other. But you are enriched by having assisted so closely in a death so lucid and serene, and the distinguished farewell — if I read you correctly — was all the more so because its long-ripened blessing was handed over to the little creature that has risen up to continue life, the unspeakable life, whose mortality is neither removed nor the opposite.’

Rilke goes on to note that he is waiting for his “garrison” to accompany him to Milan, but doesn’t know when exactly that will be: ‘The doctors here are fumbling around — and I’ve delivered myself to them after a long period of health, which I became more and more convinced by, but have now decided I’m best not to judge my own state so that I don’t interfere with the scholarly intentions of my “garrisons”!’ He closes, ‘I’m being told not to write any more today; I will write at greater length another day. In the mean time, every thought you cast to these mountains will help me, I’m sure, to find the patience I’ll likely be in need of. The last word of your letter is: “hope”. I’m relying on that, and please believe in my most definitely devoted affection. Rilke.’

In very fine condition. Together with the original hand-addressed envelope, signed by Rilke to the reverse, ‘R. M. Rilke’, adding his return address.