David Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer

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David Strauss: the Confessor and the Writer
by Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by Anthony M. Ludovici

I.[edit]

Public opinion in Germany seems strictly to forbid any allusion to the evil and dangerous consequences of a war, more particularly when the war in question has been a victorious one. Those writers, therefore, command a more ready attention who, regarding this public opinion as final, proceed to vie with each other in their jubilant praise of the war, and of the powerful influences it has brought to bear upon morality, culture, and art. Yet it must be confessed that a great victory is a great danger. Human nature bears a triumph less easily than a defeat; indeed, it might even be urged that it is simpler to gain a victory of this sort than to turn it to such account that it may not ultimately prove a serous rout.

But of all evil results due to the last contest with France, the most deplorable, perhaps, is that widespread and even universal error of public opinion and of all who think publicly, that German culture was also victorious in the struggle, and that it should now, therefore, be decked with garlands, as a fit recognition of such extraordinary events and successes. This error is in the highest degree pernicious: not because it is an error,—for there are illusions which are both salutary and blessed,—but because it threatens to convert our victory into a signal defeat. A defeat? —I should say rather, into the uprooting of the "German Mind" for the benefit of the "German Empire."

Even supposing that the fight had been between the two cultures, the standard for the value of the victor would still be a very relative one, and, in any case, would certainly not justify such exaggerated triumph or self-glorification. For, in the first place, it would be necessary to ascertain the worth of the conquered culture. This might be very little; in which case, even if the victory had involved the most glorious display of arms, it would still offer no warrant for inordinate rapture.

Even so, however, there can be no question, in our case, of the victory of German culture; and for the simple reason, that French culture remains as heretofore, and that we depend upon it as heretofore. It did not even help towards the success of our arms. Severe military discipline, natural bravery and sustaining power, the superior generalship, unity and obedience in the rank and file—in short, factors which have nothing to do with culture, were instrumental in making us conquer an opponent in whom the most essential of these factors were absent. The only wonder is, that precisely what is now called "culture" in Germany did not prove an obstacle to the military operations which seemed vitally necessary to a great victory. Perhaps, though, this was only owing to the fact that this "thing" which dubs itself "culture" saw its advantage, for once, in keeping in the background.

If however, it be permitted to grow and to spread, if it be spoilt by the flattering and nonsensical assurance that it has been victorious,—then, as I have said, it will have the power to extirpate German mind, and, when that is done, who knows whether there will still be anything to be made out of the surviving German body!

Provided it were possible to direct that calm and tenacious bravery which the German opposed to the pathetic and spontaneous fury of the Frenchman, against the inward enemy, against the highly suspicious and, at all events, unnative "cultivation" which, owing to a dangerous misunderstanding, is called "culture" in Germany, then all hope of a really genuine German "culture"—the reverse of that "cultivation"—would not be entirely lost. For the Germans have never known any lack of clear-sighted and heroic leaders, though these, often enough, probably, have lacked Germans. But whether it be possible to turn German bravery into a new direction seems to me to become ever more and more doubtful; for I realise how fully convinced every one is that such a struggle and such bravery are no longer requisite; on the contrary, that most things are regulated as satisfactorily as they possibly can be—or, at all events, that everything of moment has long ago been discovered and accomplished: in a word, that the seed of culture is already sown everywhere, and is now either shooting up its fresh green blades, or, here and there, even bursting forth into luxuriant blossom. In this sphere, not only happiness but ecstasy reigns supreme. I am conscious of this ecstasy and happiness, in the ineffable, truculent assurance of German journalists and manufacturers of novels, tragedies, poems, and histories (for it must be clear that these people belong to one category), who seem to have conspired to improve the leisure and ruminative hours—that is to say, "the intellectual lapses"—of the modern man, by bewildering him with their printed paper. Since the war, all is gladness, dignity, and self-consciousness in this merry throng. After the startling successes of German culture, it regards itself, not only as approved and sanctioned, but almost as sanctified. It therefore speaks with gravity, affects to apostrophise the German People, and issues complete works, after the manner of the classics; nor does it shrink from proclaiming in those journals which are open to it some few of its adherents as new German classical writers and model authors. It might be supposed that the dangers of such an abuse of success would be recognised by the more thoughtful and enlightened among cultivated Germans; or, at least, that these would feel how painful is the comedy that is being enacted around them: for what in truth could more readily inspire pity than the sight of a cripple strutting like a cock before a mirror, and exchanging complacent glances with his reflection! But the "scholar" caste willingly allow things to remain as they are, and are too much concerned with their own affairs to busy themselves with the care of the German mind. Moreover, the units of this caste are too thoroughly convinced that their own scholarship is the ripest and most perfect fruit of the age—in fact, of all ages—to see any necessity for a care of German culture in general; since, in so far as they and the legion of their brethren are concerned, preoccupations of this order have everywhere been, so to speak, surpassed. The more conscientious observer, more particularly if he be a foreigner, cannot help noticing withal that no great disparity exists between that which the German scholar regards as his culture and that other triumphant culture of the new German classics, save in respect of the quantum of knowledge. Everywhere, where knowledge and not ability, where information and not art, hold the first rank,—everywhere, therefore, where life bears testimony to the kind of culture extant, there is now only one specific German culture—and this is the culture that is supposed to have conquered France?

The contention appears to be altogether too preposterous. It was solely to the more extensive knowledge of German officers, to the superior training of their soldiers, and to their more scientific military strategy, that all impartial Judges, and even the French nation, in the end, ascribed the victory. Hence, if it be intended to regard German erudition as a thing apart, in what sense can German culture be said to have conquered? In none whatsoever; for the moral qualities of severe discipline, of more placid obedience, have nothing in common with culture: these were characteristic of the Macedonian army, for instance, despite the fact that the Greek soldiers were infinitely more cultivated. To speak of German scholarship and culture as having conquered, therefore, can only be the outcome of a misapprehension, probably resulting from the circumstance that every precise notion of culture has now vanished from Germany.

Culture is, before all things, the unity of artistic style, in every expression of the life of a people. Abundant knowledge and learning, however, are not essential to it, nor are they a sign of its existence; and, at a pinch, they might coexist much more harmoniously with the very opposite of culture—with barbarity: that is to say, with a complete lack of style, or with a riotous jumble of all styles. But it is precisely amid this riotous jumble that the German of to-day subsists; and the serious problem to be solved is: how, with all his learning, he can possibly avoid noticing it; how, into the bargain, he can rejoice with all his heart in his present "culture"? For everything conduces to open his eyes for him—every glance he casts at his clothes, his room, his house; every walk he takes through the streets of his town; every visit he pays to his art-dealers and to his trader in the articles of fashion. In his social intercourse he ought to realise the origin of his manners and movements; in the heart of our art-institutions, the pleasures of our concerts, theatres, and museums, he ought to become apprised of the super- and juxtaposition of all imaginable styles. The German heaps up around him the forms, colours, products, and curiosities of all ages and zones, and thereby succeeds in producing that garish newness, as of a country fair, which his scholars then proceed to contemplate and to define as "Modernism per se"; and there he remains, squatting peacefully, in the midst of this conflict of styles. But with this kind of culture, which is, at bottom, nothing more nor less than a phlegmatic insensibility to real culture, men cannot vanquish an enemy, least of all an enemy like the French, who, whatever their worth may be, do actually possess a genuine and productive culture, and whom, up to the present, we have systematically copied, though in the majority of cases without skill.

Even supposing we had really ceased copying them, it would still not mean that we had overcome them, but merely that we had lifted their yoke from our necks. Not before we have succeeded in forcing an original German culture upon them can there be any question of the triumph of German culture. Meanwhile, let us not forget that in all matters of form we are, and must be, just as dependent upon Paris now as we were before the war; for up to the present there has been no such thing as an original German culture.

We all ought to have become aware of this, of our own accord. Besides, one of the few who had the right to speak to Germans in terms of reproach publicly drew attention to the fact. "We Germans are of yesterday," Goethe once said to Eckermann. "True, for the last hundred years we have diligently cultivated ourselves, but a few centuries may yet have to run their course before our fellow countrymen become permeated with sufficient intellectuality and higher culture to have it said of them, it is a long time since they were barbarians."

II.[edit]

If, however, our public and private life is so manifestly devoid of all signs of a productive and characteristic culture; if, moreover, our great artists, with that earnest vehemence and honesty which is peculiar to greatness admit, and have admitted, this monstrous fact—so very humiliating to a gifted nation; how can it still be possible for contentment to reign to such an astonishing extent among German scholars? And since the last war this complacent spirit has seemed ever more and more ready to break forth into exultant cries and demonstrations of triumph. At all events, the belief seems to be rife that we are in possession of a genuine culture, and the enormous incongruity of this triumphant satisfaction in the face of the inferiority which should be patent to all, seems only to be noticed by the few and the select. For all those who think with the public mind have blindfolded their eyes and closed their ears. The incongruity is not even acknowledged to exist. How is this possible? What power is sufficiently influential to deny this existence? What species of men must have attained to supremacy in Germany that feelings which are so strong and simple should he denied or prevented from obtaining expression? This power, this species of men, I will name—they are the Philistines of Culture.

As every one knows, the word "Philistine" is borrowed from the vernacular of student-life, and, in its widest and most popular sense, it signifies the reverse of a son of the Muses, of an artist, and of the genuine man of culture. The Philistine of culture, however, the study of whose type and the hearing of whose confessions (when he makes them) have now become tiresome duties, distinguishes himself from the general notion of the order "Philistine" by means of a superstition: he fancies that he is himself a son of the Muses and a man of culture. This incomprehensible error clearly shows that he does not even know the difference between a Philistine and his opposite. We must not be surprised, therefore, if we find him, for the most part, solemnly protesting that he is no Philistine. Owing to this lack of self-knowledge, he is convinced that his "culture" is the consummate manifestation of real German culture; and, since he everywhere meets with scholars of his own type, since all public institutions, whether schools, universities, or academies, are so organised as to be in complete harmony with his education and needs, wherever he goes he bears with him the triumphant feeling that he is the worthy champion of prevailing German culture, and he frames his pretensions and claims accordingly.

If, however, real culture takes unity of style for granted (and even an inferior and degenerate culture cannot be imagined in which a certain coalescence of the profusion of forms has not taken place), it is just possible that the confusion underlying the Culture-Philistine's error may arise from the fact that, since he comes into contact everywhere with creatures cast in the same mould as himself, he concludes that this uniformity among all "scholars" must point to a certain uniformity in German education—hence to culture. All round him, he sees only needs and views similar to his own; wherever he goes, he finds himself embraced by a ring of tacit conventions concerning almost everything, but more especially matters of religion and art. This imposing sameness, this tutti unisono which, though it responds to no word of command, is yet ever ready to burst forth, cozens him into the belief that here a culture must be established and flourishing. But Philistinism, despite its systematic organisation and power, does not constitute a culture by virtue of its system alone; it does not even constitute an inferior culture, but invariably the reverse—namely, firmly established barbarity. For the uniformity of character which is so apparent in the German scholars of to-day is only the result of a conscious or unconscious exclusion and negation of all the artistically productive forms and requirements of a genuine style. The mind of the cultured Philistine must have become sadly unhinged; for precisely what culture repudiates he regards as culture itself; and, since he proceeds logically, he succeeds in creating a connected group of these repudiations—a system of non-culture, to which one might at a pinch grant a certain "unity of style," provided of course it were not nonsense to attribute style to barbarity. If he has to choose between a stylish act and its opposite, he will invariably adopt the latter, and, since this rule holds good throughout, every one of his acts bears the same negative stamp. Now, it is by means of this stamp that he is able to identify the character of the "German culture," which is his own patent; and all things that do not bear it are so many enemies and obstacles drawn up against him. In the presence of these arrayed forces the Culture-Philistine either does no more than ward off the blows, or else he denies, holds his tongue, stops his ears, and refuses to face facts. He is a negative creature—even in his hatred and animosity. Nobody, however, is more disliked by him than the man who regards him as a Philistine, and tells him what he is—namely, the barrier in the way of all powerful men and creators, the labyrinth for all who doubt and go astray, the swamp for all the weak and the weary, the fetters of those who would run towards lofty goals, the poisonous mist that chokes all germinating hopes, the scorching sand to all those German thinkers who seek for, and thirst after, a new life. For the mind of Germany is seeking; and ye hate it because it is seeking, and because it will not accept your word, when ye declare that ye have found what it is seeking. How could it have been possible for a type like that of the Culture-Philistine to develop? and even granting its development, how was it able to rise to the powerful position of supreme judge concerning all questions of German culture? How could this have been possible, seeing that a whole procession of grand and heroic figures has already filed past us, whose every movement, the expression of whose every feature, whose questioning voice and burning eye betrayed the one fact, that they were seekers, and that they sought that which the Culture-Philistine had long fancied he had found—to wit, a genuine original German culture? Is there a soil—thus they seemed to ask—a soil that is pure enough, unhandselled enough, of sufficient virgin sanctity, to allow the mind of Germany to build its house upon it? Questioning thus, they wandered through the wilderness, and the woods of wretched ages and narrow conditions, and as seekers they disappeared from our vision; one of them, at an advanced age, was even able to say, in the name of all: "For half a century my life has been hard and bitter enough; I have allowed myself no rest, but have ever striven, sought and done, to the best and to the utmost of my ability."

What does our Culture-Philistinism say of these seekers? It regards them simply as discoverers, and seems to forget that they themselves only claimed to be seekers. We have our culture, say her sons; for have we not our "classics"? Not only is the foundation there, but the building already stands upon it—we ourselves constitute that building. And, so saying, the Philistine raises his hand to his brow.

But, in order to be able thus to misjudge, and thus to grant left-handed veneration to our classics, people must have ceased to know them. This, generally speaking, is precisely what has happened. For, otherwise, one ought to know that there is only one way of honouring them, and that is to continue seeking with the same spirit and with the same courage, and not to weary of the search. But to foist the doubtful title of "classics" upon them, and to "edify" oneself from time to time by reading their works, means to yield to those feeble and selfish emotions which all the paying public may purchase at concert-halls and theatres. Even the raising of monuments to their memory, and the christening of feasts and societies with their names—all these things are but so many ringing cash payments by means of which the Culture-Philistine discharges his indebtedness to them, so that in all other respects he may be rid of them, and, above all, not bound to follow in their wake and prosecute his search further. For henceforth inquiry is to cease: that is the Philistine watchword.

This watchword once had some meaning. In Germany, during the first decade of the nineteenth century, for instance, when the heyday and confusion of seeking, experimenting, destroying, promising, surmising, and hoping was sweeping in currents and cross-currents over the land, the thinking middle-classes were right in their concern for their own security. It was then quite right of them to dismiss from their minds with a shrug of their shoulders the omnium gatherum of fantastic and language-maiming philosophies, and of rabid special-pleading historical studies, the carnival of all gods and myths, and the poetical affectations and fooleries which a drunken spirit may be responsible for. In this respect they were quite right; for the Philistine has not even the privilege of license. With the cunning proper to base natures, however, he availed himself of the opportunity, in order to throw suspicion even upon the seeking spirit, and to invite people to join in the more comfortable pastime of finding. His eye opened to the joy of Philistinism; he saved himself from wild experimenting by clinging to the idyllic, and opposed the restless creative spirit that animates the artist, by means of a certain smug ease—the ease of self-conscious narrowness, tranquillity, and self-sufficiency. His tapering finger pointed, without any affectation of modesty, to all the hidden and intimate incidents of his life, to the many touching and ingenuous joys which sprang into existence in the wretched depths of his uncultivated existence, and which modestly blossomed forth on the bog-land of Philistinism.

There were, naturally, a few gifted narrators who, with a nice touch, drew vivid pictures of the happiness, the prosaic simplicity, the bucolic robustness, and all the well-being which floods the quarters of children, scholars, and peasants. With picture-books of this class in their hands, these smug ones now once and for all sought to escape from the yoke of these dubious classics and the command which they contained—to seek further and to find. They only started the notion of an epigone-age in order to secure peace for themselves, and to be able to reject all the efforts of disturbing innovators summarily as the work of epigones. With the view of ensuring their own tranquillity, these smug ones even appropriated history, and sought to transform all sciences that threatened to disturb their wretched ease into branches of history—more particularly philosophy and classical philology. Through historical consciousness, they saved themselves from enthusiasm; for, in opposition to Goethe, it was maintained that history would no longer kindle enthusiasm. No, in their desire to acquire an historical grasp of everything, stultification became the sole aim of these philosophical admirers of "nil admirari." While professing to hate every form of fanaticism and intolerance, what they really hated, at bottom, was the dominating genius and the tyranny of the real claims of culture. They therefore concentrated and utilised all their forces in those quarters where a fresh and vigorous movement was to be expected, and then paralysed, stupefied, and tore it to shreds. In this way, a philosophy which veiled the Philistine confessions of its founder beneath neat twists and flourishes of language proceeded further to discover a formula for the canonisation of the commonplace. It expatiated upon the rationalism of all reality, and thus ingratiated itself with the Culture-Philistine, who also loves neat twists and flourishes, and who, above all, considers himself real, and regards his reality as the standard of reason for the world. From this time forward he began to allow every one, and even himself, to reflect, to investigate, to astheticise, and, more particularly, to make poetry, music, and even pictures—not to mention systems philosophy; provided, of course, that everything were done according to the old pattern, and that no assault were made upon the "reasonable" and the "real"—that is to say, upon the Philistine. The latter really does not at all mind giving himself up, from time to time, to the delightful and daring transgressions of art or of sceptical historical studies, and he does not underestimate the charm of such recreations and entertainments; but he strictly separates "the earnestness of life" (under which term he understands his calling, his business, and his wife and child) from such trivialities, and among the latter he includes all things which have any relation to culture. Therefore, woe to the art that takes itself seriously, that has a notion of what it may exact, and that dares to endanger his income, his business, and his habits! Upon such an art he turns his back, as though it were something dissolute; and, affecting the attitude of a. guardian of chastity, he cautions every unprotected virtue on no account to look.

Being such an adept at cautioning people, he is always grateful to any artist who heeds him and listens to caution. He then assures his protege that things are to be made more easy for him; that, as a kindred spirit, he will no longer be expected to make sublime masterpieces, but that his work must be one of two kinds—either the imitation of reality to the point of simian mimicry, in idylls or gentle and humorous satires, or the free copying of the best-known and most famous classical works, albeit with shamefast concessions to the taste of the age. For, although he may only be able to appreciate slavish copying or accurate portraiture of the present, still he knows that the latter will but glorify him, and increase the well-being of "reality"; while the former, far from doing him any harm, rather helps to establish his reputation as a classical judge of taste, and is not otherwise troublesome; for he has, once and for all, come to terms with the classics. Finally, he discovers the general and effective formula "Health" for his habits, methods of observation, judgments, and the objects of his patronage; while he dismisses the importunate disturber of the peace with the epithets "hysterical" and "morbid." It is thus that David Strauss—a genuine example of the satisfait in regard to our scholastic institutions, and a typical Philistine—it is thus that he speaks of "the philosophy of Schopenhauer" as being "thoroughly intellectual, yet often unhealthy and unprofitable." It is indeed a deplorable fact that intellect should show such a decided preference for the "unhealthy" and the "unprofitable"; and even the Philistine, if he be true to himself, will admit that, in regard to the philosophies which men of his stamp produce, he is conscious of a frequent lack of intellectuality, although of course they are always thoroughly healthy and profitable.

Now and again, the Philistines, provided they are by themselves, indulge in a bottle of wine, and then they grow reminiscent, and speak of the great deeds of the war, honestly and ingenuously. On such occasions it often happens that a great deal comes to light which would otherwise have been most steadfastly concealed, and one of them may even be heard to blurt out the most precious secrets of the whole brotherhood. Indeed, a lapse of this sort occurred but a short while ago, to a well-known aesthete of the Hegelian school of reasoning. It must, however, be admitted that the provocation thereto was of an unusual character. A company of Philistines were feasting together, in celebration of the memory of a genuine anti-Philistine—one who, moreover, had been, in the strictest sense of the words, wrecked by Philistinism. This man was Holderlin, and the afore-mentioned aesthete was therefore justified, under the circumstances, in speaking of the tragic souls who had foundered on "reality"—reality being understood, here, to mean Philistine reason. But the "reality" is now different, and it might well be asked whether Holderlin would be able to find his way at all in the present great age. "I doubt," says Dr. Vischer, "whether his delicate soul could have borne all the roughness which is inseparable from war, and whether it had survived the amount of perversity which, since the war, we now see flourishing in every quarter. Perhaps he would have succumbed to despair. His was one of the unarmed souls; he was the Werther of Greece, a hopeless lover; his life was full of softness and yearning, but there was strength and substance in his will, and in his style, greatness, riches and life; here and there it is even reminiscent of Aeschylus. His spirit, however, lacked hardness. He lacked the weapon humour; he could not grant that one may be a Philistine and still be no barbarian." Not the sugary condolence of the post-prandial speaker, but this last sentence concerns us. Yes, it is admitted that one is a Philistine; but, a barbarian?—No, not at any price! Unfortunately, poor Holderlin could not make such fine distinctions. If one reads the reverse of civilisation, or perhaps sea-pirating, or cannibalism, into the word "barbarian," then the distinction is justifiable enough. But what the aesthete obviously wishes to prove to us is, that we may be Philistines and at the same time men of culture. Therein lies the humour which poor Holderlin lacked and the need of which ultimately wrecked him.[1]

On this occasion a second admission was made by the speaker: "It is not always strength of will, but weakness, which makes us superior to those tragic souls which are so passionately responsive to the attractions of beauty," or words to this effect. And this was said in the name of the assembled "We"; that is to say, the "superiors," the "superiors through weakness." Let us content ourselves with these admissions. We are now in possession of information concerning two matters from one of the initiated: first, that these "We" stand beyond the passion for beauty; secondly, that their position was reached by means of weakness. In less confidential moments, however, it was just this weakness which masqueraded in the guise of a much more beautiful name: it was the famous "healthiness" of the Culture-Philistine. In view of this very recent restatement of the case, however, it would be as well not to speak of them any longer as the "healthy ones," but as the "weakly," or, still better, as the "feeble." Oh, if only these feeble ones were not in power! How is it that they concern themselves at all about what we call them! They are the rulers, and he is a poor ruler who cannot endure to be called by a nickname. Yes, if one only has power, one soon learns to poke fun—even at oneself. It cannot matter so very much, therefore, even if one does give oneself away; for what could not the purple mantle of triumph conceal? The strength of the Culture-Philistine steps into the broad light of day when he acknowledges his weakness; and the more he acknowledges it—the more cynically he acknowledges it—the more completely he betrays his consciousness of his own importance and superiority. We are living in a period of cynical Philistine confessions. Just as Friedrich Vischer gave us his in a word, so has David Strauss handed us his in a book; and both that word and that book are cynical.

III.[edit]

Concerning Culture-Philistinism, David Strauss makes a double confession, by word and by deed; that is to say, by the word of the confessor, and the act of the writer. His book entitled The Old Faith and the New is, first in regard to its contents, and secondly in regard to its being a book and a literary production, an uninterrupted confession; while, in the very fact that he allows himself to write confessions at all about his faith, there already lies a confession. Presumably, every one seems to have the right to compile an autobiography after his fortieth year; for the humblest amongst us may have experienced things, and may have seen them at such close quarters, that the recording of them may prove of use and value to the thinker. But to write a confession of one's faith cannot but be regarded as a thousand times more pretentious, since it takes for granted that the writer attaches worth, not only to the experiences and investigations of his life, but also to his beliefs. Now, what the nice thinker will require to know, above all else, is the kind of faith which happens to be compatible with natures of the Straussian order, and what it is they have "half dreamily conjured up" (p. 10) concerning matters of which those alone have the right to speak who are acquainted with them at first hand. Whoever would have desired to possess the confessions, say, of a Ranke or a Mommsen? And these men were scholars and historians of a very different stamp from David Strauss. If, however, they had ever ventured to interest us in their faith instead of in their scientific investigations, we should have felt that they were overstepping their limits in a most irritating fashion. Yet Strauss does this when he discusses his faith. Nobody wants to know anything about it, save, perhaps, a few bigoted opponents of the Straussian doctrines, who, suspecting, as they do, a substratum of satanic principles beneath these doctrines, hope that he may compromise his learned utterances by revealing the nature of those principles. These clumsy creatures may, perhaps, have found what they sought in the last book; but we, who had no occasion to suspect a satanic substratum, discovered nothing of the sort, and would have felt rather pleased than not had we been able to discern even a dash of the diabolical in any part of the volume. But surely no evil spirit could speak as Strauss speaks of his new faith. In fact, spirit in general seems to be altogether foreign to the book— more particularly the spirit of genius. Only those whom Strauss designates as his "We," speak as he does, and then, when they expatiate upon their faith to us, they bore us even more than when they relate their dreams; be they "scholars, artists, military men, civil employees, merchants, or landed proprietors; come they in their thousands, and not the worst people in the land either!" If they do not wish to remain the peaceful ones in town or county, but threaten to wax noisy, then let not the din of their unisono deceive us concerning the poverty and vulgarity of the melody they sing. How can it dispose us more favourably towards a profession of faith to hear that it is approved by a crowd, when it is of such an order that if any individual of that crowd attempted to make it known to us, we should not only fail to hear him out, but should interrupt him with a yawn? If thou sharest such a belief, we should say unto him, in Heaven's name, keep it to thyself! Maybe, in the past, some few harmless types looked for the thinker in David Strauss; now they have discovered the "believer" in him, and are disappointed. Had he kept silent, he would have remained, for these, at least, the philosopher; whereas, now, no one regards him as such. He no longer craved the honours of the thinker, however; all he wanted to be was a new believer, and he is proud of his new belief. In making a written declaration of it, he fancied he was writing the catechism of "modern thought," and building the "broad highway of the world's future." Indeed, our Philistines have ceased to be faint-hearted and bashful, and have acquired almost cynical assurance. There was a time, long, long ago, when the Philistine was only tolerated as something that did not speak, and about which no one spoke; then a period ensued during which his roughness was smoothed, during which he was found amusing, and people talked about him. Under this treatment he gradually became a prig, rejoiced with all his heart over his rough places and his wrongheaded and candid singularities, and began to talk, on his own account, after the style of Riehl's music for the home.

"But what do I see? Is it a shadow? Is it reality? How long and broad my poodle grows!"

For now he is already rolling like a hippopotamus along "the broad highway of the world's future," and his growling and barking have become transformed into the proud incantations of a religious founder. And is it your own sweet wish, Great Master, to found the religion of the future? "The times seem to us not yet ripe (p. 7). It does not occur to us to wish to destroy a church." But why not, Great Master? One but needs the ability. Besides, to speak quite openly of the latter, you yourself are convinced that you possess this ability. Look at the last page of your book. There you actually state, forsooth, that your new way "alone is the future highway of the world, which now only requires partial completion, and especially general use, in order also to become easy and pleasant."

Make no further denials, then. The religious founder is unmasked, the convenient and agreeable highway leading to the Straussian Paradise is built. It is only the coach in which you wish to convey us that does not altogether satisfy you, unpretentious man that you are! You tell us in your concluding remarks: "Nor will I pretend that the coach to which my esteemed readers have been obliged to trust themselves with me fulfils every requirement,... all through one is much jolted" (p. 438). Ah! you are casting about for a compliment, you gallant old religious founder! But let us be straightforward with you. If your reader so regulates the perusal of the 368 pages of your religious catechism as to read only one page a day—that is to say, if he take it in the smallest possible doses-then, perhaps, we should be able to believe that he might suffer some evil effect from the book—if only as the outcome of his vexation when the results he expected fail to make themselves felt. Gulped down more heartily, however, and as much as possible being taken at each draught, according to the prescription to be recommended in the case of all modern books, the drink can work no mischief; and, after taking it, the reader will not necessarily be either out of sorts or out of temper, but rather merry and well-disposed, as though nothing had happened; as though no religion had been assailed, no world's highway been built, and no profession of faith been made. And I do indeed call this a result! The doctor, the drug, and the disease—everything forgotten! And the joyous laughter! The continual provocation to hilarity! You are to be envied, Sir; for you have founded the most attractive of all religions —one whose followers do honour to its founder by laughing at him.

IV.[edit]

The Philistine as founder of the religion of the future—that is the new belief in its most emphatic form of expression. The Philistine becomes a dreamer—that is the unheard-of occurrence which distinguishes the German nation of to-day. But for the present, in any case, let us maintain an attitude of caution towards this fantastic exaltation. For does not David Strauss himself advise us to exercise such caution, in the following profound passage, the general tone of which leads us to think of the Founder of Christianity rather than of our particular author? (p. 92): "We know there have been noble enthusiasts—enthusiasts of genius; the influence of an enthusiast can rouse, exalt, and produce prolonged historic effects; but we do not wish to choose him as the guide of our life. He will be sure to mislead us, if we do not subject his influence to the control of reason." But we know something more: we know that there are enthusiasts who are not intellectual, who do not rouse or exalt, and who, nevertheless, not only expect to be the guides of our lives, but, as such, to exercise a very lasting historical influence into the bargain, and to rule the future;—all the more reason why we should place their influence under the control of reason. Lichtenberg even said: "There are enthusiasts quite devoid of ability, and these are really dangerous people." In the first place, as regards the above-mentioned control of reason, we should like to have candid answers to the three following questions: First, how does the new believer picture his heaven? Secondly, how far does the courage lent him by the new faith extend? And, thirdly, how does he write his books? Strauss the Confessor must answer the first and second questions; Strauss the Writer must answer the third.

The heaven of the new believer must, perforce, be a heaven upon earth; for the Christian "prospect of an immortal life in heaven," together with the other consolations, "must irretrievably vanish" for him who has but "one foot" on the Straussian platform. The way in which a religion represents its heaven is significant, and if it be true that Christianity knows no other heavenly occupations than singing and making music, the prospect of the Philistine, à la Strauss, is truly not a very comforting one. In the book of confessions, however, there is a page which treats of Paradise (p. 342). Happiest of Philistines, unroll this parchment scroll before anything else, and the whole of heaven will seem to clamber down to thee! "We would but indicate how we act, how we have acted these many years. Besides our profession—for we are members of the most various professions, and by no means exclusively consist of scholars or artists, but of military men and civil employees, of merchants and landed proprietors;... and again, as I have said already, there are not a few of us, but many thousands, and not the worst people in the country;—besides our profession, then, I say, we are eagerly accessible to all the higher interests of humanity; we have taken a vivid interest, during late years, and each after his manner has participated in the great national war, and the reconstruction of the German State; and we have been profoundly exalted by the turn events have taken, as unexpected as glorious, for our much tried nation. To the end of forming just conclusions in these things, we study history, which has now been made easy, even to the unlearned, by a series of attractively and popularly written works; at the same time, we endeavour to enlarge our knowledge of the natural sciences, where also there is no lack of sources of information; and lastly, in the writings of our great poets, in the performances of our great musicians, we find a stimulus for the intellect and heart, for wit and imagination, which leaves nothing to be desired. Thus we live, and hold on our way in joy."

"Here is our man!" cries the Philistine exultingly, who reads this: "for this is exactly how we live; it is indeed our daily life."[2] And how perfectly he understands the euphemism! When, for example, he refers to the historical studies by means of which we help ourselves in forming just conclusions regarding the political situation, what can he be thinking of, if it be not our newspaper-reading? When he speaks of the active part we take in the reconstruction of the German State, he surely has only our daily visits to the beer-garden in his mind; and is not a walk in the Zoological Gardens implied by 'the sources of information through which we endeavour to enlarge our knowledge of the natural sciences'? Finally, the theatres and concert-halls are referred to as places from which we take home 'a stimulus for wit and imagination which leaves nothing to be desired.'—With what dignity and wit he describes even the most suspicious of our doings! Here indeed is our man; for his heaven is our heaven!"

Thus cries the Philistine; and if we are not quite so satisfied as he, it is merely owing to the fact that we wanted to know more. Scaliger used to say: "What does it matter to us whether Montaigne drank red or white wine?" But, in this more important case, how greatly ought we to value definite particulars of this sort! If we could but learn how many pipes the Philistine smokes daily, according to the prescriptions of the new faith, and whether it is the Spener or the National Gazette that appeals to him over his coffee! But our curiosity is not satisfied. With regard to one point only do we receive more exhaustive information, and fortunately this point relates to the heaven in heaven—the private little art-rooms which will be consecrated to the use of great poets and musicians, and to which the Philistine will go to edify himself; in which, moreover, according to his own showing, he will even get "all his stains removed and wiped away" (p. 433); so that we are led to regard these private little art-rooms as a kind of bath-rooms. "But this is only effected for some fleeting moments; it happens and counts only in the realms of phantasy; as soon as we return to rude reality, and the cramping confines of actual life, we are again on all sides assailed by the old cares,"—thus our Master sighs. Let us, however, avail ourselves of the fleeting moments during which we remain in those little rooms; there is just sufficient time to get a glimpse of the apotheosis of the Philistine— that is to say, the Philistine whose stains have been removed and wiped away, and who is now an absolutely pure sample of his type. In truth, the opportunity we have here may prove instructive: let no one who happens to have fallen a victim to the confession-book lay it aside before having read the two appendices, "Of our Great Poets" and "Of our Great Musicians." Here the rainbow of the new brotherhood is set, and he who can find no pleasure in it "for such an one there is no help," as Strauss says on another occasion; and, as he might well say here, "he is not yet ripe for our point of view." For are we not in the heaven of heavens? The enthusiastic explorer undertakes to lead us about, and begs us to excuse him if, in the excess of his joy at all the beauties to be seen, he should by any chance be tempted to talk too much. "If I should, perhaps, become more garrulous than may seem warranted in this place, let the reader be indulgent to me; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Let him only be assured that what he is now about to read does not consist of older materials, which I take the opportunity of inserting here, but that these remarks have been written for their present place and purpose" (pp. 345-46). This confession surprises us somewhat for the moment. What can it matter to us whether or not the little chapters were freshly written? As if it were a matter of writing! Between ourselves, I should have been glad if they had been written a quarter of a century earlier; then, at least, I should have understood why the thoughts seem to be so bleached, and why they are so redolent of resuscitated antiquities. But that a thing should have been written in 1872 and already smell of decay in 1872 strikes me as suspicious. Let us imagine some one's falling asleep while reading these chapters—what would he most probably dream about? A friend answered this question for me, because he happened to have had the experience himself. He dreamt of a wax-work show. The classical writers stood there, elegantly represented in wax and beads. Their arms and eyes moved, and a screw inside them creaked an accompaniment to their movements. He saw something gruesome among them—a misshapen figure, decked with tapes and jaundiced paper, out of whose mouth a ticket hung, on which "Lessing" was written. My friend went close up to it and learned the worst: it was the Homeric Chimera; in front it was Strauss, behind it was Gervinus, and in the middle Chimera. The tout-ensemble was Lessing. This discovery caused him to shriek with terror: he waked, and read no more. In sooth, Great Master, why have you written such fusty little chapters?

We do, indeed, learn something new from them; for instance, that Gervinus made it known to the world how and why Goethe was no dramatic genius; that, in the second part of Faust, he had only produced a world of phantoms and of symbols; that Wallenstein is a Macbeth as well as a Hamlet; that the Straussian reader extracts the short stories out of the Wanderjahre "much as naughty children pick the raisins and almonds out of a tough plum-cake"; that no complete effect can be produced on the stage without the forcible element, and that Schiller emerged from Kant as from a cold-water cure. All this is certainly new and striking; but, even so, it does not strike us with wonder, and so sure as it is new, it will never grow old, for it never was young; it was senile at birth. What extraordinary ideas seem to occur to these Blessed Ones, after the New Style, in their aesthetic heaven! And why can they not manage to forget a few of them, more particularly when they are of that unaesthetic, earthly, and ephemeral order to which the scholarly thoughts of Gervinus belong, and when they so obviously bear the stamp of puerility? But it almost seems as though the modest greatness of a Strauss and the vain insignificance of a Gervinus were only too well able to harmonise: then long live all those Blessed Ones! may we, the rejected, also live long, if this unchallenged judge of art continues any longer to teach his borrowed enthusiasm, and the gallop of that hired steed of which the honest Grillparzer speaks with such delightful clearness, until the whole of heaven rings beneath the hoof of that galumphing enthusiasm. Then, at least, things will be livelier and noisier than they are at the present moment, in which the carpet-slippered rapture of our heavenly leader and the lukewarm eloquence of his lips only succeed in the end in making us sick and tired. I should like to know how a Hallelujah sung by Strauss would sound: I believe one would have to listen very carefully, lest it should seem no more than a courteous apology or a lisped compliment. Apropos of this, I might adduce an instructive and somewhat forbidding example. Strauss strongly resented the action of one of his opponents who happened to refer to his reverence for Lessing. The unfortunate man had misunderstood;—true, Strauss did declare that one must be of a very obtuse mind not to recognise that the simple words of paragraph 86 come from the writer's heart. Now, I do not question this warmth in the very least; on the contrary, the fact that Strauss fosters these feelings towards Lessing has always excited my suspicion; I find the same warmth for Lessing raised almost to heat in Gervinus—yea, on the whole, no great German writer is so popular among little German writers as Lessing is; but for all that, they deserve no thanks for their predilection; for what is it, in sooth, that they praise in Lessing? At one moment it is his catholicity— the fact that he was critic and poet, archaeologist and philosopher, dramatist and theologian. Anon, "it is the unity in him of the writer and the man, of the head and the heart." The last quality, as a rule, is just as characteristic of the great writer as of the little one; as a rule, a narrow head agrees only too fatally with a narrow heart. And as to the catholicity; this is no distinction, more especially when, as in Lessing's case, it was a dire necessity. What astonishes one in regard to Lessing-enthusiasts is rather that they have no conception of the devouring necessity which drove him on through life and to this catholicity; no feeling for the fact that such a man is too prone to consume himself rapidly, like a flame; nor any indignation at the thought that the vulgar narrowness and pusillanimity of his whole environment, especially of his learned contemporaries, so saddened, tormented, and stifled the tender and ardent creature that he was, that the very universality for which he is praised should give rise to feelings of the deepest compassion. "Have pity on the exceptional man!" Goethe cries to us; "for it was his lot to live in such a wretched age that his life was one long polemical effort." How can ye, my worthy Philistines, think of Lessing without shame? He who was ruined precisely on account of your stupidity, while struggling with your ludicrous fetiches and idols, with the defects of your theatres, scholars, and theologists, without once daring to attempt that eternal flight for which he had been born. And what are your feelings when ye think of Winckelman, who, in order to turn his eyes from your grotesque puerilities, went begging to the Jesuits for help, and whose ignominious conversion dishonours not him, but you? Dare ye mention Schiller's name without blushing? Look at his portrait. See the flashing eyes that glance contemptuously over your heads, the deadly red cheek—do these things mean nothing to you? In him ye had such a magnificent and divine toy that ye shattered it. Suppose, for a moment, it had been possible to deprive this harassed and hunted life of Goethe's friendship, ye would then have been reponsible for its still earlier end. Ye have had no finger in any one of the life-works of your great geniuses, and yet ye would make a dogma to the effect that no one is to be helped in the future. But for every one of them, ye were "the resistance of the obtuse world," which Goethe calls by its name in his epilogue to the Bell; for all of them ye were the grumbling imbeciles, or the envious bigots, or the malicious egoists: in spite of you each of them created his works, against you each directed his attacks, and thanks to you each prematurely sank, while his work was still unfinished, broken and bewildered by the stress of the battle. And now ye presume that ye are going to be permitted, tamquam re bene gesta, to praise such men! and with words which leave no one in any doubt as to whom ye have in your minds when ye utter your encomiums, which therefore "spring forth with such hearty warmth" that one must be blind not to see to whom ye are really bowing. Even Goethe in his day had to cry: "Upon my honour, we are in need of a Lessing, and woe unto all vain masters and to the whole aesthetic kingdom of heaven, when the young tiger, whose restless strength will be visible in his every distended muscle and his every glance, shall sally forth to seek his prey!"

V.[edit]

How clever it was of my friend to read no further, once he had been enlightened (thanks to that chimerical vision) concerning the Straussian Lessing and Strauss himself. We, however, read on further, and even craved admission of the Doorkeeper of the New Faith to the sanctum of music. The Master threw the door open for us, accompanied us, and began quoting certain names, until, at last, overcome with mistrust, we stood still and looked at him. Was it possible that we were the victims of the same hallucination as that to which our friend had been subjected in his dream? The musicians to whom Strauss referred seemed to us to be wrongly designated as long as he spoke about them, and we began to think that the talk must certainly be about somebody else, even admitting that it did not relate to incongruous phantoms. When, for instance, he mentioned Haydn with that same warmth which made us so suspicious when he praised Lessing, and when he posed as the epopt and priest of a mysterious Haydn cult; when, in a discussion upon quartette-music, if you please, he even likened Haydn to a "good unpretending soup" and Beethoven to "sweetmeats" (p. 432); then, to our minds, one thing, and one thing alone, became certain—namely, that his Sweetmeat-Beethoven is not our Beethoven, and his Soup-Haydn is not our Haydn. The Master was moreover of the opinion that our orchestra is too good to perform Haydn, and that only the most unpretentious amateurs can do justice to that music—a further proof that he was referring to some other artist and some other work, possibly to Riehl's music for the home.

But whoever can this Sweetmeat-Beethoven of Strauss's be? He is said to have composed nine symphonies, of which the Pastoral is "the least remarkable"; we are told that "each time in composing the third, he seemed impelled to exceed his bounds, and depart on an adventurous quest," from which we might infer that we are here concerned with a sort of double monster, half horse and half cavalier. With regard to a certain Eroica, this Centaur is very hard pressed, because he did not succeed in making it clear "whether it is a question of a conflict on the open field or in the deep heart of man." In the Pastoral there is said to be "a furiously raging storm," for which it is "almost too insignificant" to interrupt a dance of country-folk, and which, owing to "its arbitrary connection with a trivial motive," as Strauss so adroitly and correctly puts it, renders this symphony "the least remarkable." A more drastic expression appears to have occurred to the Master; but he prefers to speak here, as he says, "with becoming modesty." But no, for once our Master is wrong; in this case he is really a little too modest. Who, indeed, will enlighten us concerning this Sweetmeat-Beethoven, if not Strauss himself—the only person who seems to know anything about him? But, immediately below, a strong judgment is uttered with becoming non-modesty, and precisely in regard to the Ninth Symphony. It is said, for instance, that this symphony "is naturally the favourite of a prevalent taste, which in art, and music especially, mistakes the grotesque for the genial, and the formless for the sublime" (p. 428). It is true that a critic as severe as Gervinus was gave this work a hearty welcome, because it happened to confirm one of his doctrines; but Strauss is "far from going to these problematic productions" in search of the merits of his Beethoven. "It is a pity," cries our Master, with a convulsive sigh, "that one is compelled, by such reservations, to mar one's enjoyment of Beethoven, as well as the admiration gladly accorded to him." For our Master is a favourite of the Graces, and these have informed him that they only accompanied Beethoven part of the way, and that he then lost sight of them. "This is a defect," he cries, "but can you believe that it may also appear as an advantage?" "He who is painfully and breathlessly rolling the musical idea along will seem to be moving the weightier one, and thus appear to be the stronger" (pp. 423-24). This is a confession, and not necessarily one concerning Beethoven alone, but concerning "the classical prose-writer" himself. He, the celebrated author, is not abandoned by the Graces. From the play of airy jests—that is to say, Straussian jests— to the heights of solemn earnestness—that is to say, Straussian earnestness—they remain stolidly at his elbow. He, the classical prose-writer, slides his burden along playfully and with a light heart, whereas Beethoven rolls his painfully and breathlessly. He seems merely to dandle his load; this is indeed an advantage. But would anybody believe that it might equally be a sign of something wanting? In any case, only those could believe this who mistake the grotesque for the genial, and the formless for the sublime—is not that so, you dandling favourite of the Graces? We envy no one the edifying moments he may have, either in the stillness of his little private room or in a new heaven specially fitted out for him; but of all possible pleasures of this order, that of Strauss's is surely one of the most wonderful, for he is even edified by a little holocaust. He calmly throws the sublimest works of the German nation into the flames, in order to cense his idols with their smoke. Suppose, for a moment, that by some accident, the Eroica, the Pastoral, and the Ninth Symphony had fallen into the hands of our priest of the Graces, and that it had been in his power to suppress such problematic productions, in order to keep the image of the Master pure, who doubts but what he would have burned them? And it is precisely in this way that the Strausses of our time demean themselves: they only wish to know so much of an artist as is compatible with the service of their rooms; they know only the extremes—censing or burning. To all this they are heartily welcome; the one surprising feature of the whole case is that public opinion, in matters artistic, should be so feeble, vacillating, and corruptible as contentedly to allow these exhibitions of indigent Philistinism to go by without raising an objection; yea, that it does not even possess sufficient sense of humour to feel tickled at the sight of an unaesthetic little master's sitting in judgment upon Beethoven. As to Mozart, what Aristotle says of Plato ought really to be applied here: "Insignificant people ought not to be permitted even to praise him." In this respect, however, all shame has vanished—from the public as well as from the Master's mind: he is allowed, not merely to cross himself before the greatest and purest creations of German genius, as though he had perceived something godless and immoral in them, but people actually rejoice over his candid confessions and admission of sins—more particularly as he makes no mention of his own, but only of those which great men are said to have committed. Oh, if only our Master be in the right! his readers sometimes think, when attacked by a paroxysm of doubt; he himself, however, stands there, smiling and convinced, perorating, condemning, blessing, raising his hat to himself, and is at any minute capable of saying what the Duchesse Delaforte said to Madame de Staël, to wit: "My dear, I must confess that I find no one but myself invariably right."

VI.[edit]

A corpse is a pleasant thought for a worm, and a worm is a dreadful thought for every living creature. Worms fancy their kingdom of heaven in a fat body; professors of philosophy seek theirs in rummaging among Schopenhauer's entrails, and as long as rodents exist, there will exist a heaven for rodents. In this, we have the answer to our first question: How does the believer in the new faith picture his heaven? The Straussian Philistine harbours in the works of our great poets and musicians like a parasitic worm whose life is destruction, whose admiration is devouring, and whose worship is digesting.

Now, however, our second question must be answered: How far does the courage lent to its adherents by this new faith extend? Even this question would already have been answered, if courage and pretentiousness had been one; for then Strauss would not be lacking even in the just and veritable courage of a Mameluke. At all events, the "becoming modesty" of which Strauss speaks in the above-mentioned passage, where he is referring to Beethoven, can only be a stylistic and not a moral manner of speech. Strauss has his full share of the temerity to which every successful hero assumes the right: all flowers grow only for him—the conqueror; and he praises the sun because it shines in at his window just at the right time. He does not even spare the venerable old universe in his eulogies—as though it were only now and henceforward sufficiently sanctified by praise to revolve around the central monad David Strauss. The universe, he is happy to inform us, is, it is true, a machine with jagged iron wheels, stamping and hammering ponderously, but: "We do not only find the revolution of pitiless wheels in our world-machine, but also the shedding of soothing oil" (p. 435). The universe, provided it submit to Strauss's encomiums, is not likely to overflow with gratitude towards this master of weird metaphors, who was unable to discover better similes in its praise. But what is the oil called which trickles down upon the hammers and stampers? And how would it console a workman who chanced to get one of his limbs caught in the mechanism to know that this oil was trickling over him? Passing over this simile as bad, let us turn our attention to another of Strauss's artifices, whereby he tries to ascertain how he feels disposed towards the universe; this question of Marguerite's, "He loves me—loves me not—loves me?" hanging on his lips the while. Now, although Strauss is not telling flower-petals or the buttons on his waistcoat, still what he does is not less harmless, despite the fact that it needs perhaps a little more courage. Strauss wishes to make certain whether his feeling for the "All" is either paralysed or withered, and he pricks himself; for he knows that one can prick a limb that is either paralysed or withered without causing any pain. As a matter of fact, he does not really prick himself, but selects another more violent method, which he describes thus: "We open Schopenhauer, who takes every occasion of slapping our idea in the face" (p. 167). Now, as an idea—even that of Strauss's concerning the universe—has no face, if there be any face in the question at all it must be that of the idealist, and the procedure may be subdivided into the following separate actions:—Strauss, in any case, throws Schopenhauer open, whereupon the latter slaps Strauss in the face. Strauss then reacts religiously; that is to say, he again begins to belabour Schopenhauer, to abuse him, to speak of absurdities, blasphemies, dissipations, and even to allege that Schopenhauer could not have been in his right senses. Result of the dispute: "We demand the same piety for our Cosmos that the devout of old demanded for his God"; or, briefly, "He loves me." Our favourite of the Graces makes his life a hard one, but he is as brave as a Mameluke, and fears neither the Devil nor Schopenhauer. How much "soothing oil" must he use if such incidents are of frequent occurrence!

On the other hand, we readily understand Strauss's gratitude to this tickling, pricking, and slapping Schopenhauer; hence we are not so very much surprised when we find him expressing himself in the following kind way about him: "We need only turn over the leaves of Arthur Schopenhauer's works (although we shall on many other accounts do well not only to glance over but to study them), etc." (p. 166). Now, to whom does this captain of Philistines address these words? To him who has clearly never even studied Schopenhauer, the latter might well have retorted, "This is an author who does not even deserve to be scanned, much less to be studied." Obviously, he gulped Schopenhauer down "the wrong way," and this hoarse coughing is merely his attempt to clear his throat. But, in order to fill the measure of his ingenuous encomiums, Strauss even arrogates to himself the right of commending old Kant: he speaks of the latter's General History of the Heavens of the Year 1755 as of "a work which has always appeared to me not less important than his later Critique of Pure Reason. If in the latter we admire the depth of insight, the breadth of observation strikes us in the former. If in the latter we can trace the old man's anxiety to secure even a limited possession of knowledge—so it be but on a firm basis—in the former we encounter the mature man, full of the daring of the discoverer and conqueror in the realm of thought." This judgment of Strauss's concerning Kant did not strike me as being more modest than the one concerning Schopenhauer. In the one case, we have the little captain, who is above all anxious to express even the most insignificant opinion with certainty, and in the other we have the famous prose-writer, who, with all the courage of ignorance, exudes his eulogistic secretions over Kant. It is almost incredible that Strauss availed himself of nothing in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason while compiling his Testament of modern ideas, and that he knew only how to appeal to the coarsest realistic taste must also be numbered among the more striking characteristics of this new gospel, the which professes to be but the result of the laborious and continuous study of history and science, and therefore tacitly repudiates all connection with philosophy. For the Philistine captain and his "We," Kantian philosophy does not exist. He does not dream of the fundamental antinomy of idealism and of the highly relative sense of all science and reason. And it is precisely reason that ought to tell him how little it is possible to know of things in themselves. It is true, however, that people of a certain age cannot possibly understand Kant, especially when, in their youth, they understood or fancied they understood that "gigantic mind," Hegel, as Strauss did; and had moreover concerned themselves with Schleiermacher, who, according to Strauss, "was gifted with perhaps too much acumen." It will sound odd to our author when I tell him that, even now, he stands absolutely dependent upon Hegel and Schleiermacher, and that his teaching of the Cosmos, his way of regarding things sub specie biennii, his salaams to the state of affairs now existing in Germany, and, above all, his shameless Philistine optimism, can only be explained by an appeal to certain impressions of youth, early habits, and disorders; for he who has once sickened on Hegel and Schleiermacher never completely recovers.

There is one passage in the confession-book where the incurable optimism referred to above bursts forth with the full joyousness of holiday spirits (pp. 166-67). "If the universe is a thing which had better not have existed," says Strauss, "then surely the speculation of the philosopher, as forming part of this universe, is a speculation which had better not have speculated. The pessimist philosopher fails to perceive that he, above all, declares his own thought, which declares the world to be bad, as bad also; but if the thought which declares the world to be bad is a bad thought, then it follows naturally that the world is good. As a rule, optimism may take things too easily. Schopenhauer's references to the colossal part which sorrow and evil play in the world are quite in their right place as a counterpoise; but every true philosophy is necessarily optimistic, as otherwise she hews down the branch on which she herself is sitting." If this refutation of Schopenhauer is not the same as that to which Strauss refers somewhere else as "the refutation loudly and jubilantly acclaimed in higher spheres," then I quite fail to understand the dramatic phraseology used by him elsewhere to strike an opponent. Here optimism has for once intentionally simplified her task. But the master-stroke lay in thus pretending that the refutation of Schopenhauer was not such a very difficult task after all, and in playfully wielding the burden in such a manner that the three Graces attendant on the dandling optimist might constantly be delighted by his methods. The whole purpose of the deed was to demonstrate this one truth, that it is quite unnecessary to take a pessimist seriously; the most vapid sophisms become justified, provided they show that, in regard to a philosophy as "unhealthy and unprofitable" as Schopenhauer's, not proofs but quips and sallies alone are suitable. While perusing such passages, the reader will grasp the full meaning of Schopenhauer's solemn utterance to the effect that, where optimism is not merely the idle prattle of those beneath whose flat brows words and only words are stored, it seemed to him not merely an absurd but a vicious attitude of mind, and one full of scornful irony towards the indescribable sufferings of humanity. When a philosopher like Strauss is able to frame it into a system, it becomes more than a vicious attitude of mind—it is then an imbecile gospel of comfort for the "I" or for the "We," and can only provoke indignation.

Who could read the following psychological avowal, for instance, without indignation, seeing that it is obviously but an offshoot from this vicious gospel of comfort?—"Beethoven remarked that he could never have composed a text like Figaro or Don Juan. Life had not been so profuse of its snubs to him that he could treat it so gaily, or deal so lightly with the foibles of men" (p. 430). In order, however, to adduce the most striking instance of this dissolute vulgarity of sentiment, let it suffice, here, to observe that Strauss knows no other means of accounting for the terribly serious negative instinct and the movement of ascetic sanctification which characterised the first century of the Christian era, than by supposing the existence of a previous period of surfeit in the matter of all kinds of sexual indulgence, which of itself brought about a state of revulsion and disgust.

"The Persians call it bidamag buden, The Germans say Katzenjammer."[3]

Strauss quotes this himself, and is not ashamed. As for us, we turn aside for a moment, that we may overcome our loathing.

VII.[edit]

As a matter of fact, our Philistine captain is brave, even audacious, in words; particularly when he hopes by such bravery to delight his noble colleagues—the "We," as he calls them. So the asceticism and self-denial of the ancient anchorite and saint was merely a form of Katzenjammer? Jesus may be described as an enthusiast who nowadays would scarcely have escaped the madhouse, and the story of the Resurrection may be termed a "world-wide deception." For once we will allow these views to pass without raising any objection, seeing that they may help us to gauge the amount of courage which our "classical Philistine" Strauss is capable of. Let us first hear his confession: "It is certainly an unpleasant and a thankless task to tell the world those truths which it is least desirous of hearing. It prefers, in fact, to manage its affairs on a profuse scale, receiving and spending after the magnificent fashion of the great, as long as there is anything left; should any person, however, add up the various items of its liabilities, and anxiously call its attention to the sum-total, he is certain to be regarded as an importunate meddler. And yet this has always been the bent of my moral and intellectual nature." A moral and intellectual nature of this sort might possibly be regarded as courageous; but what still remains to be proved is, whether this courage is natural and inborn, or whether it is not rather acquired and artificial. Perhaps Strauss only accustomed himself by degrees to the role of an importunate meddler, until he gradually acquired the courage of his calling. Innate cowardice, which is the Philistine's birthright, would not be incompatible with this mode of development, and it is precisely this cowardice which is perceptible in the want of logic of those sentences of Strauss's which it needed courage to pronounce. They sound like thunder, but they do not clear the air. No aggressive action is performed: aggressive words alone are used, and these he selects from among the most insulting he can find. He moreover exhausts all his accumulated strength and energy in coarse and noisy expression, and when once his utterances have died away he is more of a coward even than he who has always held his tongue. The very shadow of his deeds—his morality—shows us that he is a word-hero, and that he avoids everything which might induce him to transfer his energies from mere verbosity to really serious things. With admirable frankness, he announces that he is no longer a Christian, but disclaims all idea of wishing to disturb the contentment of any one: he seems to recognise a contradiction in the notion of abolishing one society by instituting another—whereas there is nothing contradictory in it at all. With a certain rude self-satisfaction, he swathes himself in the hirsute garment of our Simian genealogists, and extols Darwin as one of mankind's greatest benefactors; but our perplexity is great when we find him constructing his ethics quite independently of the question, "What is our conception of the universe?" In this department he had an opportunity of exhibiting native pluck; for he ought to have turned his back on his "We," and have established a moral code for life out of bellum omnium contra omnes[4] and the privileges of the strong. But it is to be feared that such a code could only have emanated from a bold spirit like that of Hobbes', and must have taken its root in a love of truth quite different from that which was only able to vent itself in explosive outbursts against parsons, miracles, and the "world-wide humbug" of the Resurrection. For, whereas the Philistine remained on Strauss's side in regard to these explosive outbursts, he would have been against him had he been confronted with a genuine and seriously constructed ethical system, based upon Darwin's teaching.

Says Strauss: "I should say that all moral action arises from the individual's acting in consonance with the idea of kind" (p. 274). Put quite clearly and comprehensively, this means: "Live as a man, and not as an ape or a seal." Unfortunately, this imperative is both useless and feeble; for in the class Man what a multitude of different types are included—to mention only the Patagonian and the Master, Strauss; and no one would ever dare to say with any right, "Live like a Patagonian," and "Live like the Master Strauss"! Should any one, however, make it his rule to live like a genius—that is to say, like the ideal type of the genus Man—and should he perchance at the same time be either a Patagonian or Strauss himself, what should we then not have to suffer from the importunities of genius-mad eccentrics (concerning whose mushroom growth in Germany even Lichtenberg had already spoken), who with savage cries would compel us to listen to the confession of their most recent belief! Strauss has not yet learned that no "idea" can ever make man better or more moral, and that the preaching of a morality is as easy as the establishment of it is difficult. His business ought rather to have been, to take the phenomena of human goodness, such—for instance—as pity, love, and self-abnegation, which are already to hand, and seriously to explain them and show their relation to his Darwinian first principle. But no; he preferred to soar into the imperative, and thus escape the task of explaining. But even in his flight he was irresponsible enough to soar beyond the very first principles of which we speak.

"Ever remember," says Strauss, "that thou art human, not merely a natural production; ever remember that all others are human also, and, with all individual differences, the same as thou, having the same needs and claims as thyself: this is the sum and the substance of morality" (p. 277). But where does this imperative hail from? How can it be intuitive in man, seeing that, according to Darwin, man is indeed a creature of nature, and that his ascent to his present stage of development has been conditioned by quite different laws—by the very fact that be was continually forgetting that others were constituted like him and shared the same rights with him; by the very fact that he regarded himself as the stronger, and thus brought about the gradual suppression of weaker types. Though Strauss is bound to admit that no two creatures have ever been quite alike, and that the ascent of man from the lowest species of animals to the exalted height of the Culture—Philistine depended upon the law of individual distinctness, he still sees no difficulty in declaring exactly the reverse in his law: "Behave thyself as though there were no such things as individual distinctions." Where is the Strauss-Darwin morality here? Whither, above all, has the courage gone?

In the very next paragraph we find further evidence tending to show us the point at which this courage veers round to its opposite; for Strauss continues: "Ever remember that thou, and all that thou beholdest within and around thee, all that befalls thee and others, is no disjointed fragment, no wild chaos of atoms or casualties, but that, following eternal law, it springs from the one primal source of all life, all reason, and all good: this is the essence of religion" (pp. 277-78). Out of that "one primal source," however, all ruin and irrationality, all evil flows as well, and its name, according to Strauss, is Cosmos.

Now, how can this Cosmos, with all the contradictions and the self-annihilating characteristics which Strauss gives it, be worthy of religious veneration and be addressed by the name "God," as Strauss addresses it?—"Our God does not, indeed, take us into His arms from the outside (here one expects, as an antithesis, a somewhat miraculous process of being "taken into His arms from the inside"), but He unseals the well-springs of consolation within our own bosoms. He shows us that although Chance would be an unreasonable ruler, yet necessity, or the enchainment of causes in the world, is Reason itself." (A misapprehension of which only the "We" can fail to perceive the folly; because they were brought up in the Hegelian worship of Reality as the Reasonable—that is to say, in the canonisation of success.) "He teaches us to perceive that to demand an exception in the accomplishment of a single natural law would be to demand the destruction of the universe" (pp. 435-36). On the contrary, Great Master: an honest natural scientist believes in the unconditional rule of natural laws in the world, without, however, taking up any position in regard to the ethical or intellectual value of these laws. Wherever neutrality is abandoned in this respect, it is owing to an anthropomorphic attitude of mind which allows reason to exceed its proper bounds. But it is just at the point where the natural scientist resigns that Strauss, to put it in his own words, "reacts religiously," and leaves the scientific and scholarly standpoint in order to proceed along less honest lines of his own. Without any further warrant, he assumes that all that has happened possesses the highest intellectual value; that it was therefore absolutely reasonably and intentionally so arranged, and that it even contained a revelation of eternal goodness. He therefore has to appeal to a complete cosmodicy, and finds himself at a disadvantage in regard to him who is contented with a theodicy, and who, for instance, regards the whole of man's existence as a punishment for sin or a process of purification. At this stage, and in this embarrassing position, Strauss even suggests a metaphysical hypothesis—the driest and most palsied ever conceived—and, in reality, but an unconscious parody of one of Lessing's sayings. We read on page 255: "And that other saying of Lessing's— 'If God, holding truth in His right hand, and in His left only the ever-living desire for it, although on condition of perpetual error, left him the choice of the two, he would, considering that truth belongs to God alone, humbly seize His left hand, and beg its contents for Himself'— this saying of Lessing's has always been accounted one of the most magnificent which he has left us. It has been found to contain the general expression of his restless love of inquiry and activity. The saying has always made a special impression upon me; because, behind its subjective meaning, I still seemed to hear the faint ring of an objective one of infinite import. For does it not contain the best possible answer to the rude speech of Schopenhauer, respecting the ill-advised God who had nothing better to do than to transform Himself into this miserable world? if, for example, the Creator Himself had shared Lessing's conviction of the superiority of struggle to tranquil possession?" What!—a God who would choose perpetual error, together with a striving after truth, and who would, perhaps, fall humbly at Strauss's feet and cry to him,"Take thou all Truth, it is thine!"? If ever a God and a man were ill-advised, they are this Straussian God, whose hobby is to err and to fail, and this Straussian man, who must atone for this erring and failing. Here, indeed, one hears "a faint ring of infinite import"; here flows Strauss's cosmic soothing oil; here one has a notion of the rationale of all becoming and all natural laws. Really? Is not our universe rather the work of an inferior being, as Lichtenberg suggests?—of an inferior being who did not quite understand his business; therefore an experiment, an attempt, upon which work is still proceeding? Strauss himself, then, would be compelled to admit that our universe is by no means the theatre of reason, but of error, and that no conformity to law can contain anything consoling, since all laws have been promulgated by an erratic God who even finds pleasure in blundering. It really is a most amusing spectacle to watch Strauss as a metaphysical architect, building castles in the air. But for whose benefit is this entertainment given? For the smug and noble "We," that they may not lose conceit with themselves: they may possibly have taken sudden fright, in the midst of the inflexible and pitiless wheel-works of the world-machine, and are tremulously imploring their leader to come to their aid. That is why Strauss pours forth the "soothing oil," that is why he leads forth on a leash a God whose passion it is to err; it is for the same reason, too, that he assumes for once the utterly unsuitable rôle of a metaphysical architect. He does all this, because the noble souls already referred to are frightened, and because he is too. And it is here that we reach the limit of his courage, even in the presence of his "We." He does not dare to be honest, and to tell them, for instance: "I have liberated you from a helping and pitiful God: the Cosmos is no more than an inflexible machine; beware of its wheels, that they do not crush you." He dare not do this. Consequently, he must enlist the help of a witch, and he turns to metaphysics. To the Philistine, however, even Strauss's metaphysics is preferable to Christianity's, and the notion of an erratic God more congenial than that of one who works miracles. For the Philistine himself errs, but has never yet performed a miracle. Hence his hatred of the genius; for the latter is justly famous for the working of miracles. It is therefore highly instructive to ascertain why Strauss, in one passage alone, suddenly takes up the cudgels for genius and the aristocracy of intellect in general. Whatever does he do it for? He does it out of fear—fear of the social democrat. He refers to Bismarck and Moltke, "whose greatness is the less open to controversy as it manifests itself in the domain of tangible external facts. No help for it, therefore; even the most stiff-necked and obdurate of these fellows must condescend to look up a little, if only to get a sight, be it no farther than the knees, of those august figures" (p.327). Do you, Master Metaphysician, perhaps intend to instruct the social democrats in the art of getting kicks? The willingness to bestow them may be met with everywhere, and you are perfectly justified in promising to those who happen to be kicked a sight of those sublime beings as far as the knee. "Also in the domain of art and science," Strauss continues, "there will never be a dearth of kings whose architectural undertakings will find employment for a multitude of carters." Granted; but what if the carters should begin building? It does happen at times, Great Master, as you know, and then the kings must grin and bear it.

As a matter of fact, this union of impudence and weakness, of daring words and cowardly concessions, this cautious deliberation as to which sentences will or will not impress the Philistine or smooth him down the right way, this lack of character and power masquerading as character and power, this meagre wisdom in the guise of omniscience,—these are the features in this book which I detest. If I could conceive of young men having patience to read it and to value it, I should sorrowfully renounce all hope for their future. And is this confession of wretched, hopeless, and really despicable Philistinism supposed to be the expression of the thousands constituting the "We" of whom Strauss speaks, and who are to be the fathers of the coming generation? Unto him who would fain help this coming generation to acquire what the present one does not yet possess, namely, a genuine German culture, the prospect is a horrible one. To such a man, the ground seems strewn with ashes, and all stars are obscured; while every withered tree and field laid waste seems to cry to him: Barren! Forsaken! Springtime is no longer possible here! He must feel as young Goethe felt when he first peered into the melancholy atheistic twilight of the Système de la Nature; to him this book seemed so grey, so Cimmerian and deadly, that he could only endure its presence with difficulty, and shuddered at it as one shudders at a spectre.

VIII.[edit]

We ought now to be sufficiently informed concerning the heaven and the courage of our new believer to be able to turn to the last question: How does he write his books? and of what order are his religious documents?

He who can answer this question uprightly and without prejudice will be confronted by yet another serious problem, and that is: How this Straussian pocket-oracle of the German Philistine was able to pass through six editions? And he will grow more than ever suspicious when he hears that it was actually welcomed as a pocket-oracle, not only in scholastic circles, but even in German universities as well. Students are said to have greeted it as a canon for strong intellects, and, from all accounts, the professors raised no objections to this view; while here and there people have declared it to be a religions book for scholars. Strauss himself gave out that he did not intend his profession of faith to be merely a reference-book for learned and cultured people; but here let us abide by the fact that it was first and foremost a work appealing to his colleagues, and was ostensibly a mirror in which they were to see their own way of living faithfully reflected. For therein lay the feat. The Master feigned to have presented us with a new ideal conception of the universe, and now adulation is being paid him out of every mouth; because each is in a position to suppose that he too regards the universe and life in the same way. Thus Strauss has seen fulfilled in each of his readers what he only demanded of the future. In this way, the extraordinary success of his book is partly explained: "Thus we live and hold on our way in joy," the scholar cries in his book, and delights to see others rejoicing over the announcement. If the reader happen to think differently from the Master in regard to Darwin or to capital punishment, it is of very little consequence; for he is too conscious throughout of breathing an atmosphere that is familiar to him, and of hearing but the echoes of his own voice and wants. However painfully this unanimity may strike the true friend of German culture, it is his duty to be unrelenting in his explanation of it as a phenomenon, and not to shrink from making this explanation public.

We all know the peculiar methods adopted in our own time of cultivating the sciences: we all know them, because they form a part of our lives. And, for this very reason, scarcely anybody seems to ask himself what the result of such a cultivation of the sciences will mean to culture in general, even supposing that everywhere the highest abilities and the most earnest will be available for the promotion of culture. In the heart of the average scientific type (quite irrespective of the examples thereof with which we meet to-day) there lies a pure paradox: he behaves like the veriest idler of independent means, to whom life is not a dreadful and serious business, but a sound piece of property, settled upon him for all eternity; and it seems to him justifiable to spend his whole life in answering questions which, after all is said and done, can only be of interest to that person who believes in eternal life as an absolute certainty. The heir of but a few hours, he sees himself encompassed by yawning abysses, terrible to behold; and every step he takes should recall the questions, Wherefore? Whither? and Whence? to his mind. But his soul rather warms to his work, and, be this the counting of a floweret's petals or the breaking of stones by the roadside, he spends his whole fund of interest, pleasure, strength, and aspirations upon it. This paradox—the scientific man—has lately dashed ahead at such a frantic speed in Germany, that one would almost think the scientific world were a factory, in which every minute wasted meant a fine. To-day the man of science works as arduously as the fourth or slave caste: his study has ceased to be an occupation, it is a necessity; he looks neither to the right nor to the left, but rushes through all things—even through the serious matters which life bears in its train—with that semi-listlessness and repulsive need of rest so characteristic of the exhausted labourer. This is also his attitude towards culture. He behaves as if life to him were not only otium but sine dignitate: even in his sleep he does not throw off the yoke, but like an emancipated slave still dreams of his misery, his forced haste and his floggings. Our scholars can scarcely be distinguished—and, even then, not to their advantage—from agricultural labourers, who in order to increase a small patrimony, assiduously strive, day and night, to cultivate their fields, drive their ploughs, and urge on their oxen. Now, Pascal suggests that men only endeavour to work hard at their business and sciences with the view of escaping those questions of greatest import which every moment of loneliness or leisure presses upon them—the questions relating to the wherefore, the whence, and the whither of life. Curiously enough, our scholars never think of the most vital question of all—the wherefore of their work, their haste, and their painful ecstasies. Surely their object is not the earning of bread or the acquiring of posts of honour? No, certainly not. But ye take as much pains as the famishing and breadless; and, with that eagerness and lack of discernment which characterises the starving, ye even snatch the dishes from the sideboard of science. If, however, as scientific men, ye proceed with science as the labourers with the tasks which the exigencies of life impose upon them, what will become of a culture which must await the hour of its birth and its salvation in the very midst of all this agitated and breathless running to and fro—this sprawling scientifically?

For it no one has time—and yet for what shall science have time if not for culture? Answer us here, then, at least: whence, whither, wherefore all science, if it do not lead to culture? Belike to barbarity? And in this direction we already see the scholar caste ominously advanced, if we are to believe that such superficial books as this one of Strauss's meet the demand of their present degree of culture. For precisely in him do we find that repulsive need of rest and that incidental semi-listless attention to, and coming to terms with, philosophy, culture, and every serious thing on earth. It will be remembered that, at the meetings held by scholars, as soon as each individual has had his say in his own particular department of knowledge, signs of fatigue, of a desire for distraction at any price, of waning memory, and of incoherent experiences of life, begin to be noticeable. While listening to Strauss discussing any worldly question, be it marriage, the war, or capital punishment, we are startled by his complete lack of anything like first-hand experience, or of any original thought on human nature. All his judgments are so redolent of books, yea even of newspapers. Literary reminiscences do duty for genuine ideas and views, and the assumption of a moderate and grandfatherly tone take the place of wisdom and mature thought. How perfectly in keeping all this is with the fulsome spirit animating the holders of the highest places in German science in large cities! How thoroughly this spirit must appeal to that other! for it is precisely in those quarters that culture is in the saddest plight; it is precisely there that its fresh growth is made impossible—so boisterous are the preparations made by science, so sheepishly are favourite subjects of knowledge allowed to oust questions of much greater import. What kind of lantern would be needed here, in order to find men capable of a complete surrender to genius, and of an intimate knowledge of its depths—men possessed of sufficient courage and strength to exorcise the demons that have forsaken our age? Viewed from the outside, such quarters certainly do appear to possess the whole pomp of culture; with their imposing apparatus they resemble great arsenals fitted with huge guns and other machinery of war; we see preparations in progress and the most strenuous activity, as though the heavens themselves were to be stormed, and truth were to be drawn out of the deepest of all wells; and yet, in war, the largest machines are the most unwieldy. Genuine culture therefore leaves such places as these religiously alone, for its best instincts warn it that in their midst it has nothing to hope for, and very much to fear. For the only kind of culture with which the inflamed eye and obtuse brain of the scholar working-classes concern themselves is of that Philistine order of which Strauss has announced the gospel. If we consider for a moment the fundamental causes underlying the sympathy which binds the learned working-classes to Culture-Philistinism, we shall discover the road leading to Strauss the Writer, who has been acknowledged classical, and thence to our last and principal theme.

To begin with, that culture has contentment written in its every feature, and will allow of no important changes being introduced into the present state of German education. It is above all convinced of the originality of all German educational institutions, more particularly the public schools and universities; it does not cease recommending these to foreigners, and never doubts that if the Germans have become the most cultivated and discriminating people on earth, it is owing to such institutions. Culture-Philistinism believes in itself, consequently it also believes in the methods and means at its disposal. Secondly, however, it leaves the highest judgment concerning all questions of taste and culture to the scholar, and even regards itself as the ever-increasing compendium of scholarly opinions regarding art, literature, and philosophy. Its first care is to urge the scholar to express his opinions; these it proceeds to mix, dilute, and systematise, and then it administers them to the German people in the form of a bottle of medicine. What conies to life outside this circle is either not heard or attended at all, or if heard, is heeded half-heartedly; until, at last, a voice (it does not matter whose, provided it belong to some one who is strictly typical of the scholar tribe) is heard to issue from the temple in which traditional infallibility of taste is said to reside; and from that time forward public opinion has one conviction more, which it echoes and re-echoes hundreds and hundreds of times. As a matter of fact, though, the aesthetic infallibility of any utterance emanating from the temple is the more doubtful, seeing that the lack of taste, thought, and artistic feeling in any scholar can be taken for granted, unless it has previously been proved that, in his particular case, the reverse is true. And only a few can prove this. For how many who have had a share in the breathless and unending scurry of modern science have preserved that quiet and courageous gaze of the struggling man of culture—if they ever possessed it—that gaze which condemns even the scurry we speak of as a barbarous state of affairs? That is why these few are forced to live in an almost perpetual contradiction. What could they do against the uniform belief of the thousands who have enlisted public opinion in their cause, and who mutually defend each other in this belief? What purpose can it serve when one individual openly declares war against Strauss, seeing that a crowd have decided in his favour, and that the masses led by this crowd have learned to ask six consecutive times for the Master's Philistine sleeping-mixture?

If, without further ado, we here assumed that the Straussian confession-book had triumphed over public opinion and had been acclaimed and welcomed as conqueror, its author might call our attention to the fact that the multitudinous criticisms of his work in the various public organs are not of an altogether unanimous or even favourable character, and that he therefore felt it incumbent upon him to defend himself against some of the more malicious, impudent, and provoking of these newspaper pugilists by means of a postscript. How can there be a public opinion concerning my book, he cries to us, if every journalist is to regard me as an outlaw, and to mishandle me as much as he likes? This contradiction is easily explained, as soon as one considers the two aspects of the Straussian book—the theological and the literary, and it is only the latter that has anything to do with German culture. Thanks to its theological colouring, it stands beyond the pale of our German culture, and provokes the animosity of the various theological groups—yea, even of every individual German, in so far as he is a theological sectarian from birth, and only invents his own peculiar private belief in order to be able to dissent from every other form of belief. But when the question arises of talking about Strauss THE WRITER, pray listen to what the theological sectarians have to say about him. As soon as his literary side comes under notice, all theological objections immediately subside, and the dictum comes plain and clear, as if from the lips of one congregation: In spite of it all, he is still a classical writer!

Everybody—even the most bigoted, orthodox Churchman—pays the writer the most gratifying compliments, while there is always a word or two thrown in as a tribute to his almost Lessingesque language, his delicacy of touch, or the beauty and accuracy of his aesthetic views. As a book, therefore, the Straussian performance appears to meet all the demands of an ideal example of its kind. The theological opponents, despite the fact that their voices were the loudest of all, nevertheless constitute but an infinitesimal portion of the great public; and even with regard to them, Strauss still maintains that he is right when he says: "Compared with my thousands of readers, a few dozen public cavillers form but an insignificant minority, and they can hardly prove that they are their faithful interpreters. It was obviously in the nature of things that opposition should be clamorous and assent tacit." Thus, apart from the angry bitterness which Strauss's profession of faith may have provoked here and there, even the most fanatical of his opponents, to whom his voice seems to rise out of an abyss, like the voice of a beast, are agreed as to his merits as a writer; and that is why the treatment which Strauss has received at the hands of the literary lackeys of the theological groups proves nothing against our contention that Culture-Philistinism celebrated its triumph in this book. It must be admitted that the average educated Philistine is a degree less honest than Strauss, or is at least more reserved in his public utterances. But this fact only tends to increase his admiration for honesty in another. At home, or in the company of his equals, he may applaud with wild enthusiasm, but takes care not to put on paper how entirely Strauss's words are in harmony with his own innermost feelings. For, as we have already maintained, our Culture-Philistine is somewhat of a coward, even in his strongest sympathies; hence Strauss, who can boast of a trifle more courage than he, becomes his leader, notwithstanding the fact that even Straussian pluck has its very definite limits. If he overstepped these limits, as Schopenhauer does in almost every sentence, he would then forfeit his position at the head of the Philistines, and everybody would flee from him as precipitately as they are now following in his wake. He who would regard this artful if not sagacious moderation and this mediocre valour as an Aristotelian virtue, would certainly be wrong; for the valour in question is not the golden mean between two faults, but between a virtue and a fault—and in this mean, between virtue and fault, all Philistine qualities are to be found.

IX.[edit]

"In spite of it all, he is still a classical writer." Well, let us see! Perhaps we may now be allowed to discuss Strauss the stylist and master of language; but in the first place let us inquire whether, as a literary man, he is equal to the task of building his house, and whether he really understands the architecture of a book. From this inquiry we shall be able to conclude whether he is a respectable, thoughtful, and experienced author; and even should we be forced to answer "No" to these questions, he may still, as a last shift, take refuge in his fame as a classical prose-writer. This last-mentioned talent alone, it is true, would not suffice to class him with the classical authors, but at most with the classical improvisers and virtuosos of style, who, however, in regard to power of expression and the whole planning and framing of the work, reveal the awkward hand and the embarrassed eye of the bungler. We therefore put the question, whether Strauss really possesses the artistic strength necessary for the purpose of presenting us with a thing that is a whole, totum ponere?

As a rule, it ought to be possible to tell from the first rough sketch of a work whether the author conceived the thing as a whole, and whether, in view of this original conception, he has discovered the correct way of proceeding with his task and of fixing its proportions. Should this most important Part of the problem be solved, and should the framework of the building have been given its most favourable proportions, even then there remains enough to be done: how many smaller faults have to be corrected, how many gaps require filling in! Here and there a temporary partition or floor was found to answer the requirements; everywhere dust and fragments litter the ground, and no matter where we look, we see the signs of work done and work still to be done. The house, as a whole, is still uninhabitable and gloomy, its walls are bare, and the wind blows in through the open windows. Now, whether this remaining, necessary, and very irksome work has been satisfactorily accomplished by Strauss does not concern us at present; our question is, whether the building itself has been conceived as a whole, and whether its proportions are good? The reverse of this, of course, would be a compilation of fragments—a method generally adopted by scholars. They rely upon it that these fragments are related among themselves, and thus confound the logical and the artistic relation between them. Now, the relation between the four questions which provide the chapter-headings of Strauss's book cannot be called a logical one. Are we still Christians? Have we still a religion? What is our conception of the universe? What is our rule of life? And it is by no means contended that the relation is illogical simply because the third question has nothing to do with the second, nor the fourth with the third, nor all three with the first. The natural scientist who puts the third question, for instance, shows his unsullied love of truth by the simple fact that he tacitly passes over the second. And with regard to the subject of the fourth chapter—marriage, republicanism, and capital punishment—Strauss himself seems to have been aware that they could only have been muddled and obscured by being associated with the Darwinian theory expounded in the third chapter; for he carefully avoids all reference to this theory when discussing them. But the question, "Are we still Christians?" destroys the freedom of the philosophical standpoint at one stroke, by lending it an unpleasant theological colouring. Moreover, in this matter, he quite forgot that the majority of men to-day are not Christians at all, but Buddhists. Why should one, without further ceremony, immediately think of Christianity at the sound of the words "old faith"? Is this a sign that Strauss has never ceased to be a Christian theologian, and that he has therefore never learned to be a philosopher? For we find still greater cause for surprise in the fact that he quite fails to distinguish between belief and knowledge, and continually mentions his "new belief" and the still newer science in one breath. Or is "new belief" merely an ironical concession to ordinary parlance? This almost seems to be the case; for here and there he actually allows "new belief" and "newer science" to be interchangeable terms, as for instance on page II, where he asks on which side, whether on that of the ancient orthodoxy or of modern science, "exist more of the obscurities and insufficiencies unavoidable in human speculation."

Moreover, according to the scheme laid down in the Introduction, his desire is to disclose those proofs upon which the modern view of life is based; but he derives all these proofs from science, and in this respect assumes far more the attitude of a scientist than of a believer.

At bottom, therefore, the religion is not a new belief, but, being of a piece with modern science, it has nothing to do with religion at all. If Strauss, however, persists in his claims to be religious, the grounds for these claims must be beyond the pale of recent science. Only the smallest portion of the Straussian book—that is to say, but a few isolated pages—refer to what Strauss in all justice might call a belief, namely, that feeling for the "All" for which he demands the piety that the old believer demanded for his God. On the pages in question, however, he cannot claim to be altogether scientific; but if only he could lay claim to being a little stronger, more natural, more outspoken, more pious, we should be content. Indeed, what perhaps strikes us most forcibly about him is the multitude of artificial procedures of which he avails himself before he ultimately gets the feeling that he still possesses a belief and a religion; he reaches it by means of stings and blows, as we have already seen. How indigently and feebly this emergency-belief presents itself to us! We shiver at the sight of it.

Although Strauss, in the plan laid down in his Introduction, promises to compare the two faiths, the old and the new, and to show that the latter will answer the same purpose as the former, even he begins to feel, in the end, that he has promised too much. For the question whether the new belief answers the same purpose as the old, or is better or worse, is disposed of incidentally, so to speak, and with uncomfortable haste, in two or three pages (p. 436 et seq.-), and is actually bolstered up by the following subterfuge: "He who cannot help himself in this matter is beyond help, is not yet ripe for our standpoint" (p. 436). How differently, and with what intensity of conviction, did the ancient Stoic believe in the All and the rationality of the All! And, viewed in this light, how does Strauss's claim to originality appear? But, as we have already observed, it would be a matter of indifference to us whether it were new, old, original, or imitated, so that it were only more powerful, more healthy, and more natural. Even Strauss himself leaves this double-distilled emergency-belief to take care of itself as often as he can do so, in order to protect himself and us from danger, and to present his recently acquired biological knowledge to his "We" with a clear conscience. The more embarrassed he may happen to be when he speaks of faith, the rounder and fuller his mouth becomes when he quotes the greatest benefactor to modern men-Darwin. Then he not only exacts belief for the new Messiah, but also for himself—the new apostle. For instance, while discussing one of the most intricate questions in natural history, he declares with true ancient pride: "I shall be told that I am here speaking of things about which I understand nothing. Very well; but others will come who will understand them, and who will also have understood me" (p. 241).

According to this, it would almost seem as though the famous "We" were not only in duty bound to believe in the "All," but also in the naturalist Strauss; in this case we can only hope that in order to acquire the feeling for this last belief, other processes are requisite than the painful and cruel ones demanded by the first belief. Or is it perhaps sufficient in this case that the subject of belief himself be tormented and stabbed with the view of bringing the believers to that "religious reaction" which is the distinguishing sign of the "new faith." What merit should we then discover in the piety of those whom Strauss calls "We"?

Otherwise, it is almost to be feared that modern men will pass on in pursuit of their business without troubling themselves overmuch concerning the new furniture of faith offered them by the apostle: just as they have done heretofore, without the doctrine of the rationality of the All. The whole of modern biological and historical research has nothing to do with the Straussian belief in the All, and the fact that the modern Philistine does not require the belief is proved by the description of his life given by Strauss in the chapter,"What is our Rule of Life?" He is therefore quite right in doubting whether the coach to which his esteemed readers have been obliged to trust themselves "with him, fulfils every requirement." It certainly does not; for the modern man makes more rapid progress when he does not take his place in the Straussian coach, or rather, he got ahead much more quickly long before the Straussian coach ever existed. Now, if it be true that the famous "minority" which is "not to be overlooked," and of which, and in whose name, Strauss speaks, "attaches great importance to consistency," it must be just as dissatisfied with Strauss the Coachbuilder as we are with Strauss the Logician.

Let us, however, drop the question of the logician. Perhaps, from the artistic point of view, the book really is an example of a. well-conceived plan, and does, after all, answer to the requirements of the laws of beauty, despite the fact that it fails to meet with the demands of a well-conducted argument. And now, having shown that he is neither a scientist nor a strictly correct and systematic scholar, for the first time we approach the question: Is Strauss a capable writer? Perhaps the task he set himself was not so much to scare people away from the old faith as to captivate them by a picturesque and graceful description of what life would be with the new. If he regarded scholars and educated men as his most probable audience, experience ought certainly to have told him that whereas one can shoot such men down with the heavy guns of scientific proof, but cannot make them surrender, they may be got to capitulate all the more quickly before "lightly equipped" measures of seduction. "Lightly equipped," and "intentionally so," thus Strauss himself speaks of his own book. Nor do his public eulogisers refrain from using the same expression in reference to the work, as the following passage, quoted from one of the least remarkable among them, and in which the same expression is merely paraphrased, will go to prove:—

"The discourse flows on with delightful harmony: wherever it directs its criticism against old ideas it wields the art of demonstration, almost playfully; and it is with some spirit that it prepares the new ideas it brings so enticingly, and presents them to the simple as well as to the fastidious taste. The arrangement of such diverse and conflicting material is well thought out for every portion of it required to be touched upon, without being made too prominent; at times the transitions leading from one subject to another are artistically managed, and one hardly knows what to admire most—the skill with which unpleasant questions are shelved, or the discretion with which they are hushed up."

The spirit of such eulogies, as the above clearly shows, is not quite so subtle in regard to judging of what an author is able to do as in regard to what he wishes. What Strauss wishes, however, is best revealed by his own emphatic and not quite harmless commendation of Voltaire's charms, in whose service he might have learned precisely those "lightly equipped" arts of which his admirer speaks—granting, of course, that virtue may be acquired and a pedagogue can ever be a dancer.

Who could help having a suspicion or two, when reading the following passage, for instance, in which Strauss says of Voltaire, "As a philosopher [he] is certainly not original, but in the main a mere exponent of English investigations: in this respect, however, he shows himself to be completely master of his subject, which he presents with incomparable skill, in all possible lights and from all possible sides, and is able withal to meet the demands of thoroughness, without, however, being over-severe in his method"? Now, all the negative traits mentioned in this passage might be applied to Strauss. No one would contend, I suppose, that Strauss is original, or that he is over-severe in his method; but the question is whether we can regard him as "master of his subject," and grant him "incomparable skill"? The confession to the effect that the treatise was intentionally "lightly equipped" leads us to think that it at least aimed at incomparable skill.

It was not the dream of our architect to build a temple, nor yet a house, but a sort of summer-pavilion, surrounded by everything that the art of gardening can provide. Yea, it even seems as if that mysterious feeling for the All were only calculated to produce an aesthetic effect, to be, so to speak, a view of an irrational element, such as the sea, looked at from the most charming and rational of terraces. The walk through the first chapters— that is to say, through the theological catacombs with all their gloominess and their involved and baroque embellishments—was also no more than an aesthetic expedient in order to throw into greater relief the purity, clearness, and common sense of the chapter "What is our Conception of the Universe?" For, immediately after that walk in the gloaming and that peep into the wilderness of Irrationalism, we step into a hall with a skylight to it. Soberly and limpidly it welcomes us: its mural decorations consist of astronomical charts and mathematical figures; it is filled with scientific apparatus, and its cupboards contain skeletons, stuffed apes, and anatomical specimens. But now, really rejoicing for the first time, we direct our steps into the innermost chamber of bliss belonging to our pavilion-dwellers; there we find them with their wives, children, and newspapers, occupied in the commonplace discussion of politics; we listen for a moment to their conversation on marriage, universal suffrage, capital punishment, and workmen's strikes, and we can scarcely believe it to be possible that the rosary of public opinions can be told off so quickly. At length an attempt is made to convince us of the classical taste of the inmates. A moment's halt in the library, and the music-room suffices to show us what we had expected all along, namely, that the best books lay on the shelves, and that the most famous musical compositions were in the music-cabinets. Some one actually played something to us, and even if it were Haydn's music, Haydn could not be blamed because it sounded like Riehl's music for the home. Meanwhile the host had found occasion to announce to us his complete agreement with Lessing and Goethe, although with the latter only up to the second part of Faust. At last our pavilion-owner began to praise himself, and assured us that he who could not be happy under his roof was beyond help and could not be ripe for his standpoint, whereupon he offered us his coach, but with the polite reservation that he could not assert that it would fulfil every requirement, and that, owing to the stones on his road having been newly laid down, we were not to mind if we were very much jolted. Our Epicurean garden-god then took leave of us with the incomparable skill which he praised in Voltaire.

Who could now persist in doubting the existence of this incomparable skill? The complete master of his subject is revealed; the lightly equipped artist-gardener is exposed, and still we hear the voice of the classical author saying, "As a writer I shall for once cease to be a Philistine: I will not be one; I refuse to be one! But a Voltaire—the German Voltaire—or at least the French Lessing."

With this we have betrayed a secret. Our Master does not always know which he prefers to be—Voltaire or Lessing; but on no account will he be a Philistine. At a pinch he would not object to being both Lessing and Voltaire—that the word might be fulfilled that is written, "He had no character, but when he wished to appear as if he had, he assumed one."

X.[edit]

If we have understood Strauss the Confessor correctly, he must be a genuine Philistine, with a narrow, parched soul and scholarly and common-place needs; albeit no one would be more indignant at the title than David Strauss the Writer. He would be quite happy to be regarded as mischievous, bold, malicious, daring; but his ideal of bliss would consist in finding himself compared with either Lessing or Voltaire—because these men were undoubtedly anything but Philistines. In striving after this state of bliss, he often seems to waver between two alternatives—either to mimic the brave and dialectical petulance of Lessing, or to affect the manner of the faun-like and free-spirited man of antiquity that Voltaire was. When taking up his pen to write, he seems to be continually posing for his portrait; and whereas at times his features are drawn to look like Lessing's, anon they are made to assume the Voltairean mould. While reading his praise of Voltaire's manner, we almost seem to see him abjuring the consciences of his contemporaries for not having learned long ago what the modern Voltaire had to offer them. "Even his excellences are wonderfully uniform," he says: "simple naturalness, transparent clearness, vivacious mobility, seductive charm. Warmth and emphasis are also not wanting where they are needed, and Voltaire's innermost nature always revolted against stiltedness and affectation; while, on the other hand, if at times wantonness or passion descend to an unpleasantly low level, the fault does not rest so much with the stylist as with the man." According to this, Strauss seems only too well aware of the importance of simplicity in style; it is ever the sign of genius, which alone has the privilege to express itself naturally and guilelessly. When, therefore, an author selects a simple mode of expression, this is no sign whatever of vulgar ambition; for although many are aware of what such an author would fain be taken for, they are yet kind enough to take him precisely for that. The genial writer, however, not only reveals his true nature in the plain and unmistakable form of his utterance, but his super-abundant strength actually dallies with the material he treats, even when it is dangerous and difficult. Nobody treads stiffly along unknown paths, especially when these are broken throughout their course by thousands of crevices and furrows; but the genius speeds nimbly over them, and, leaping with grace and daring, scorns the wistful and timorous step of caution.

Even Strauss knows that the problems he prances over are dreadfully serious, and have ever been regarded as such by the philosophers who have grappled with them; yet he calls his book lightly equipped! But of this dreadfulness and of the usual dark nature of our meditations when considering such questions as the worth of existence and the duties of man, we entirely cease to be conscious when the genial Master plays his antics before us, "lightly equipped, and intentionally so." Yes, even more lightly equipped than his Rousseau, of whom he tells us it was said that he stripped himself below and adorned himself on top, whereas Goethe did precisely the reverse. Perfectly guileless geniuses do not, it appears, adorn themselves at all; possibly the words "lightly equipped" may simply be a euphemism for "naked." The few who happen to have seen the Goddess of Truth declare that she is naked, and perhaps, in the minds of those who have never seen her, but who implicitly believe those few, nakedness or light equipment is actually a proof, or at least a feature, of truth. Even this vulgar superstition turns to the advantage of the author's ambition. Some one sees something naked, and he exclaims: "What if this were the truth!" Whereupon he grows more solemn than is his wont. By this means, however, the author scores a tremendous advantage; for he compels his reader to approach him with greater solemnity than another and perhaps more heavily equipped writer. This is unquestionably the best way to become a classical author; hence Strauss himself is able to tell us: "I even enjoy the unsought honour of being, in the opinion of many, a classical writer of prose. "He has therefore achieved his aim. Strauss the Genius goes gadding about the streets in the garb of lightly equipped goddesses as a classic, while Strauss the Philistine, to use an original expression of this genius's, must, at all costs, be "declared to be on the decline," or "irrevocably dismissed."

But, alas! in spite of all declarations of decline and dismissal, the Philistine still returns, and all too frequently. Those features, contorted to resemble Lessing and Voltaire, must relax from time to time to resume their old and original shape. The mask of genius falls from them too often, and the Master's expression is never more sour and his movements never stiffer than when he has just attempted to take the leap, or to glance with the fiery eye, of a genius. Precisely owing to the fact that he is too lightly equipped for our zone, he runs the risk of catching cold more often and more severely than another. It may seem a terrible hardship to him that every one should notice this; but if he wishes to be cured, the following diagnosis of his case ought to be publicly presented to him:— Once upon a time there lived a Strauss, a brave, severe, and stoutly equipped scholar, with whom we sympathised as wholly as with all those in Germany who seek to serve truth with earnestness and energy, and to rule within the limits of their powers. He, however, who is now publicly famous as David Strauss, is another person. The theologians may be to blame for this metamorphosis; but, at any rate, his present toying with the mask of genius inspires us with as much hatred and scorn as his former earnestness commanded respect and sympathy. When, for instance, he tells us, "it would also argue ingratitude towards my genius if I were not to rejoice that to the faculty of an incisive, analytical criticism was added the innocent pleasure in artistic production," it may astonish him to hear that, in spite of this self-praise, there are still men who maintain exactly the reverse, and who say, not only that he has never possessed the gift of artistic production, but that the "innocent" pleasure he mentions is of all things the least innocent, seeing that it succeeded in gradually undermining and ultimately destroying a nature as strongly and deeply scholarly and critical as Strauss's—in fact, the real Straussian Genius. In a moment of unlimited frankness, Strauss himself indeed adds: "Merck was always in my thoughts, calling out, 'Don't produce such child's play again; others can do that too!'" That was the voice of the real Straussian genius, which also asked him what the worth of his newest, innocent, and lightly equipped modern Philistine's testament was. Others can do that too! And many could do it better. And even they who could have done it best, i.e. those thinkers who are more widely endowed than Strauss, could still only have made nonsense of it.

I take it that you are now beginning to understand the value I set on Strauss the Writer. You are beginning to realise that I regard him as a mummer who would parade as an artless genius and classical writer. When Lichtenberg said, "A simple manner of writing is to be recommended, if only in view of the fact that no honest man trims and twists his expressions," he was very far from wishing to imply that a simple style is a proof of literary integrity. I, for my part, only wish that Strauss the Writer had been more upright, for then he would have written more becomingly and have been less famous. Or, if he would be a mummer at all costs, how much more would he not have pleased me if he had been a better mummer—one more able to ape the guileless genius and classical author! For it yet remains to be said that Strauss was not only an inferior actor but a very worthless stylist as well.

XI.[edit]

Of course, the blame attaching to Strauss for being a bad writer is greatly mitigated by the fact that it is extremely difficult in Germany to become even a passable or moderately good writer, and that it is more the exception than not, to be a really good one. In this respect the natural soil is wanting, as are also artistic values and the proper method of treating and cultivating oratory. This latter accomplishment, as the various branches of it, i.e. drawing-room, ecclesiastical and Parliamentary parlance, show, has not yet reached the level of a national style; indeed, it has not yet shown even a tendency to attain to a style at all, and all forms of language in Germany do not yet seem to have passed a certain experimental stage. In view of these facts, the writer of to-day, to some extent, lacks an authoritative standard, and he is in some measure excused if, in the matter of language, he attempts to go ahead of his own accord. As to the probable result which the present dilapidated condition of the German language will bring about, Schopenhauer, perhaps, has spoken most forcibly. "If the existing state of affairs continues," he says, "in the year 1900 German classics will cease to be understood, for the simple reason that no other language will be known, save the trumpery jargon of the noble present, the chief characteristic of which is impotence." And, in truth, if one turn to the latest periodicals, one will find German philologists and grammarians already giving expression to the view that our classics can no longer serve us as examples of style, owing to the fact that they constantly use words, modes of speech, and syntactic arrangements which are fast dropping out of currency. Hence the need of collecting specimens of the finest prose that has been produced by our best modern writers, and of offering them as examples to be followed, after the style of Sander's pocket dictionary of bad language. In this book, that repulsive monster of style Gutzkow appears as a classic, and, according to its injunctions, we seem to be called upon to accustom ourselves to quite a new and wondrous crowd of classical authors, among which the first, or one of the first, is David Strauss: he whom we cannot describe more aptly than we have already—that is to say, as a worthless stylist. Now, the notion which the Culture-Philistine has of a classic and standard author speaks eloquently for his pseudo-culture—he who only shows his strength by opposing a really artistic and severe style, and who, thanks to the persistence of his opposition, finally arrives at a certain uniformity of expression, which again almost appears to possess unity of genuine style. In view, therefore, of the right which is granted to every one to experiment with the language, how is it possible at all for individual authors to discover a generally agreeable tone? What is so generally interesting in them? In the first place, a negative quality—the total lack of offensiveness: but every really productive thing is offensive. The greater part of a German's daily reading matter is undoubtedly sought either in the pages of newspapers, periodicals, or reviews. The language of these journals gradually stamps itself on his brain, by means of its steady drip, drip, drip of similar phrases and similar words. And, since he generally devotes to reading those hours of the day during which his exhausted brain is in any case not inclined to offer resistance, his ear for his native tongue so slowly but surely accustoms itself to this everyday German that it ultimately cannot endure its absence without pain. But the manufacturers of these newspapers are, by virtue of their trade, most thoroughly inured to the effluvia of this journalistic jargon; they have literally lost all taste, and their palate is rather gratified than not by the most corrupt and arbitrary innovations. Hence the tutti unisono with which, despite the general lethargy and sickliness, every fresh solecism is greeted; it is with such impudent corruptions of the language that her hirelings are avenged against her for the incredible boredom she imposes ever more and more upon them. I remember having read "an appeal to the German nation," by Berthold Auerbach, in which every sentence was un-German, distorted and false, and which, as a whole, resembled a soulless mosaic of words cemented together with international syntax. As to the disgracefully slipshod German with which Edward Devrient solemnised the death of Mendelssohn, I do not even wish to do more than refer to it. A grammatical error—and this is the most extraordinary feature of the case—does not therefore seem an offence in any sense to our Philistine, but a most delightful restorative in the barren wilderness of everyday German. He still, however, considers all really productive things to be offensive. The wholly bombastic, distorted, and threadbare syntax of the modern standard author—yea, even his ludicrous neologisms—are not only tolerated, but placed to his credit as the spicy element in his works. But woe to the stylist with character, who seeks as earnestly and perseveringly to avoid the trite phrases of everyday parlance, as the "yester-night monster blooms of modern ink-flingers," as Schopenhauer says! When platitudes, hackneyed, feeble, and vulgar phrases are the rule, and the bad and the corrupt become refreshing exceptions, then all that is strong, distinguished, and beautiful perforce acquires an evil odour. From which it follows that, in Germany, the well-known experience which befell the normally built traveller in the land of hunchbacks is constantly being repeated. It will be remembered that he was so shamefully insulted there, owing to his quaint figure and lack of dorsal convexity, that a priest at last had to harangue the people on his behalf as follows: "My brethren, rather pity this poor stranger, and present thank-offerings unto the gods, that ye are blessed with such attractive gibbosities."

If any one attempted to compose a positive grammar out of the international German style of to-day, and wished to trace the unwritten and unspoken laws followed by every one, he would get the most extraordinary notions of style and rhetoric. He would meet with laws which are probably nothing more than reminiscences of bygone schooldays, vestiges of impositions for Latin prose, and results perhaps of choice readings from French novelists, over whose incredible crudeness every decently educated Frenchman would have the right to laugh. But no conscientious native of Germany seems to have given a thought to these extraordinary notions under the yoke of which almost every German lives and writes.

As an example of what I say, we may find an injunction to the effect that a metaphor or a simile must be introduced from time to time, and that it must be new; but, since to the mind of the shallow-pated writer newness and modernity are identical, he proceeds forthwith to rack his brain for metaphors in the technical vocabularies of the railway, the telegraph, the steamship, and the Stock Exchange, and is proudly convinced that such metaphors must be new because they are modern. In Strauss's confession-book we find liberal tribute paid to modern metaphor. He treats us to a simile, covering a page and a half, drawn from modern road-improvement work; a few pages farther back he likens the world to a machine, with its wheels, stampers, hammers, and "soothing oil" (p. 432); "A repast that begins with champagne" (p. 384); "Kant is a cold-water cure" (p. 309); "The Swiss constitution is to that of England as a watermill is to a steam-engine, as a waltz-tune or a song to a fugue or symphony" (p. 301); "In every appeal, the sequence of procedure must be observed. Now the mean tribunal between the individual and humanity is the nation" (p. 165); "If we would know whether there be still any life in an organism which appears dead to us, we are wont to test it by a powerful, even painful stimulus, as for example a stab" (p. 161); "The religious domain in the human soul resembles the domain of the Red Indian in America" (p. 160); "Virtuosos in piety, in convents"(p. 107); "And place the sum-total of the foregoing in round numbers under the account" (p. 205); "Darwin's theory resembles a railway track that is just marked out... where the flags are fluttering joyfully in the breeze." In this really highly modern way, Strauss has met the Philistine injunction to the effect that a new simile must be introduced from time to time.

Another rhetorical rule is also very widespread, namely, that didactic passages should be composed in long periods, and should be drawn out into lengthy abstractions, while all persuasive passages should consist of short sentences followed by striking contrasts. On page 154 in Strauss's book we find a standard example of the didactic and scholarly style—a passage blown out after the genuine Schleiermacher manner, and made to stumble along at a true tortoise pace: "The reason why, in the earlier stages of religion, there appear many instead of this single Whereon, a plurality of gods instead of the one, is explained in this deduction of religion, from the fact that the various forces of nature, or relations of life, which inspire man with the sentiment of unqualified dependence, still act upon him in the commencement with the full force of their distinctive characteristics; that he has not as yet become conscious how, in regard to his unmitigated dependence upon them, there is no distinction between them, and that therefore the Whereon of this dependence, or the Being to which it conducts in the last instance, can only be one."

On pages 7 and 8 we find an example of the other kind of style, that of the short sentences containing that affected liveliness which so excited certain readers that they cannot mention Strauss any more without coupling his name with Lessing's. "I am well aware that what I propose to delineate in the following pages is known to multitudes as well as to myself, to some even much better. A few have already spoken out on the subject. Am I therefore to keep silence? I think not. For do we not all supply each other's deficiencies? If another is better informed as regards some things, I may perhaps be so as regards others; while yet others are known and viewed by me in a different light. Out with it, then! let my colours be displayed that it may be seen whether they are genuine or not.'"

It is true that Strauss's style generally maintains a happy medium between this sort of merry quick-march and the other funereal and indolent pace; but between two vices one does not invariably find a virtue; more often rather only weakness, helpless paralysis, and impotence. As a matter of fact, I was very disappointed when I glanced through Strauss's book in search of fine and witty passages; for, not having found anything praiseworthy in the Confessor, I had actually set out with the express purpose of meeting here and there with at least some opportunities of praising Strauss the Writer. I sought and sought, but my purpose remained unfulfilled. Meanwhile, however, another duty seemed to press itself strongly on my mind—that of enumerating the solecisms, the strained metaphors, the obscure abbreviations, the instances of bad taste, and the distortions which I encountered; and these were of such a nature that I dare do no more than select a few examples of them from among a collection which is too bulky to be given in full. By means of these examples I may succeed in showing what it is that inspires, in the hearts of modern Germans, such faith in this great and seductive stylist Strauss: I refer to his eccentricities of expression, which, in the barren waste and dryness of his whole book, jump out at one, not perhaps as pleasant but as painfully stimulating, surprises. When perusing such passages, we are at least assured, to use a Straussian metaphor, that we are not quite dead, but still respond to the test of a stab. For the rest of the book is entirely lacking in offensiveness —that quality which alone, as we have seen, is productive, and which our classical author has himself reckoned among the positive virtues. When the educated masses meet with exaggerated dulness and dryness, when they are in the presence of really vapid commonplaces, they now seem to believe that such things are the signs of health; and in this respect the words of the author of the dialogus de oratoribus are very much to the point: "illam ipsam quam jactant sanitatem non firmitate sed jejunio consequuntur." That is why they so unanimously hate every firmitas, because it bears testimony to a kind of health quite different from theirs; hence their one wish to throw suspicion upon all austerity and terseness, upon all fiery and energetic movement, and upon every full and delicate play of muscles. They have conspired to twist nature and the names of things completely round, and for the future to speak of health only there where we see weakness, and to speak of illness and excitability where for our part we see genuine vigour. From which it follows that David Strauss is to them a classical author.

If only this dulness were of a severely logical order! but simplicity and austerity in thought are precisely what these weaklings have lost, and in their hands even our language has become illogically tangled. As a proof of this, let any one try to translate Strauss's style into Latin: in the case of Kant, be it remembered, this is possible, while with Schopenhauer it even becomes an agreeable exercise. The reason why this test fails with Strauss's German is not owing to the fact that it is more Teutonic than theirs, but because his is distorted and illogical, whereas theirs is lofty and simple. Moreover, he who knows how the ancients exerted themselves in order to learn to write and speak correctly, and how the moderns omit to do so, must feel, as Schopenhauer says, a positive relief when he can turn from a German book like the one under our notice, to dive into those other works, those ancient works which seem to him still to be written in a new language. "For in these books," says Schopenhauer, "I find a regular and fixed language which, throughout, faithfully follows the laws of grammar and orthography, so that I can give up my thoughts completely to their matter; whereas in German I am constantly being disturbed by the author's impudence and his continual attempts to establish his own orthographical freaks and absurd ideas— the swaggering foolery of which disgusts me. It is really a painful sight to see a fine old language, possessed of classical literature, being botched by asses and ignoramuses!"

Thus Schopenhauer's holy anger cries out to us, and you cannot say that you have not been warned. He who turns a deaf ear to such warnings, and who absolutely refuses to relinquish his faith in Strauss the classical author, can only be given this last word of advice—to imitate his hero. In any case, try it at your own risk; but you will repent it, not only in your style but in your head, that it may be fulfilled which was spoken by the Indian prophet, saying, "He who gnaweth a cow's horn gnaweth in vain and shorteneth his life; for he grindeth away his teeth, yet his belly is empty."

XII.[edit]

By way of concluding, we shall proceed to give our classical prose-writer the promised examples of his style which we have collected. Schopenhauer would probably have classed the whole lot as "new documents serving to swell the trumpery jargon of the present day"; for David Strauss may be comforted to hear (if what follows can be regarded as a comfort at all) that everybody now writes as he does; some, of course, worse, and that among the blind the one-eyed is king. Indeed, we allow him too much when we grant him one eye; but we do this willingly, because Strauss does not write so badly as the most infamous of all corrupters of German—the Hegelians and their crippled offspring. Strauss at least wishes to extricate himself from the mire, and he is already partly out of it; still, he is very far from being on dry land, and he still shows signs of having stammered Hegel's prose in youth. In those days, possibly, something was sprained in him, some muscle must have been overstrained. His ear, perhaps, like that of a boy brought up amid the beating of drums, grew dull, and became incapable of detecting those artistically subtle and yet mighty laws of sound, under the guidance of which every writer is content to remain who has been strictly trained in the study of good models. But in this way, as a stylist, he has lost his most valuable possessions, and stands condemned to remain reclining, his life long, on the dangerous and barren shifting sand of newspaper style—that is, if he do not wish to fall back into the Hegelian mire. Nevertheless, he has succeeded in making himself famous for a couple of hours in our time, and perhaps in another couple of hours people will remember that he was once famous; then, however, night will come, and with her oblivion; and already at this moment, while we are entering his sins against style in the black book, the sable mantle of twilight is falling upon his fame. For he who has sinned against the German language has desecrated the mystery of all our Germanity. Throughout all the confusion and the changes of races and of customs, the German language alone, as though possessed of some supernatural charm, has saved herself; and with her own salvation she has wrought that of the spirit of Germany. She alone holds the warrant for this spirit in future ages, provided she be not destroyed at the sacrilegious hands of the modern world. "But Di meliora! Avaunt, ye pachyderms, avaunt! This is the German language, by means of which men express themselves, and in which great poets have sung and great thinkers have written. Hands off!"[5]

To put it in plain words, what we have seen have been feet of clay, and what appeared to be of the colour of healthy flesh was only applied paint. Of course, Culture-Philistinism in Germany will be very angry when it hears its one living God referred to as a series of painted idols. He, however, who dares to overthrow its idols will not shrink, despite all indignation, from telling it to its face that it has forgotten how to distinguish between the quick and the dead, the genuine and the counterfeit, the original and the imitation, between a God and a host of idols; that it has completely lost the healthy and manly instinct for what is real and right. It alone deserves to be destroyed; and already the manifestations of its power are sinking; already are its purple honours falling from it; but when the purple falls, its royal wearer soon follows.

Here I come to the end of my confession of faith. This is the confession of an individual; and what can such an one do against a whole world, even supposing his voice were heard everywhere! In order for the last time to use a precious Straussism, his judgment only possesses "that amount of subjective truth which is compatible with a complete lack of objective demonstration"—is not that so, my dear friends? Meanwhile, be of good cheer. For the time being let the matter rest at this "amount which is compatible with a complete lack"! For the time being! That is to say, for as long as that is held to be out of season which in reality is always in season, and is now more than ever pressing; I refer to...speaking the truth.[6]

Notes[edit]

  1. Nietzsche's allusion to Holderlin here is full of tragic significance; for, like Holderlin, he too was ultimately wrecked and driven insane by the Philistinism of his age. —Translator's note.
  2. This alludes to a German student-song.
  3. Remorse for the previous night's excesses.—Translator's note.
  4. "The war of all against all."
  5. Translator's note.—Nietzsche here proceeds to quote those passages he has culled from The Old and the New Faith with which he undertakes to substantiate all he has said relative to Strauss's style; as, however, these passages, with his comments upon them, lose most of their point when rendered into English, it was thought best to omit them altogether.
  6. Translator's note.—All quotations from The Old Faith and the New which appear in the above translation have either been taken bodily out of Mathilde Blind's translation (Asher and Co., 1873), or are adaptations from that translation.
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Translation:
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).