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- Thoughts out of Season (Part One) - 2/29 -


trumpet, which after all I know how to blow pretty well, unable to shatter the walls of English prejudice against a teacher whose school cannot possibly be avoided by any European with a higher purpose in his breast?... There is plenty of time for thought nowadays for a man who does not allow himself to be drawn into that aimless bustle of pleasure business or politics, which is called modern life because outside that life there is--just as outside those noisy Oriental cities-a desert, a calmness, a true and almost majestic leisure, a leisure unprecedented in any age, a leisure in which one may arrive at several conclusions concerning English indifference towards the new thought.

First of all, of course, there stands in the way the terrible abuse which Nietzsche has poured upon the heads of the innocent Britishers. While France and the Latin countries, while the Orient and India, are within the range of his sympathies, this most outspoken of all philosophers, this prophet and poet-philosopher, cannot find words enough to express his disgust at the illogical, plebeian, shallow, utilitarian Englishman. It must certainly be disagreeable to be treated like this, especially when one has a fairly good opinion of one's self; but why do you take it so very, very seriously? Did Nietzsche, perchance, spare the Germans? And aren't you accustomed to criticism on the part of German philosophers? Is it not the ancient and time-honoured privilege of the whole range of them from Leibnitz to Hegel -- even of German poets, like Goethe and Heine -- to call you bad names and to use unkind language towards you? Has there not always been among the few thinking heads in Germany a silent consent and an open contempt for you and your ways; the sort of contempt you yourselves have for the even more Anglo-Saxon culture of the Americans? I candidly confess that in my more German moments I have felt and still feel as the German philosophers do; but I have also my European turns and moods, and then I try to understand you and even excuse you, and take your part against earnest and thinking Germany. Then I feel like telling the German philosophers that if you, poor fellows, had practised everything they preached, they would have had to renounce the pleasure of abusing you long ago, for there would now be no more Englishmen left to abuse! As it is, you have suffered enough on account of the wild German ideals you luckily only partly believed in: for what the German thinker wrote on patient paper in his study, you always had to write the whole world over on tender human skins, black and yellow skins, enveloping ungrateful beings who sometimes had no very high esteem for the depth and beauty of German philosophy. And you have never taken revenge upon the inspired masters of the European thinking-shop, you have never reabused them, you have never complained of their want of worldly wisdom: you have invariably suffered in silence and agony, just as brave and staunch Sancho Panza used to do. For this is what you are, dear Englishmen, and however well you brave, practical, materialistic John Bulls and Sancho Panzas may know this world, however much better you may be able to perceive, to count, to judge, and to weigh things than your ideal German Knight: there is an eternal law in this world that the Sancho Panzas have to follow the Don Quixotes; for matter has to follow the spirit, even the poor spirit of a German philosopher! So it has been in the past, so it is at present, and so it will be in the future; and you had better prepare yourselves in time for the eventuality. For if Nietzsche were nothing else but this customary type of German philosopher, you would again have to pay the bill largely; and it would be very wise on your part to study him: Sancho Panza may escape a good many sad experiences by knowing his master's weaknesses. But as Nietzsche no longer belongs to the Quixotic class, as Germany seems to emerge with him from her youthful and cranky nebulosity, you will not even have the pleasure of being thrashed in the company of your Master: no, you will be thrashed all alone, which is an abominable thing for any right-minded human being. "Solamen miseris socios habuisse malorum."[6]*

[Footnote * : It is a comfort to the afflicted to have companions in their distress.]

The second reason for the neglect of Nietzsche in this country is that you do not need him yet. And you do not need him yet because you have always possessed the British virtue of not carrying things to extremes, which, according to the German version, is an euphemism for the British want of logic and critical capacity. You have, for instance, never let your religion have any great influence upon your politics, which is something quite abhorrent to the moral German, and makes him so angry about you. For the German sees you acting as a moral and law-abiding Christian at home, and as an unscrupulous and Machiavellian conqueror abroad; and if he refrains from the reproach of hypocrisy, with which the more stupid continentals invariably charge you, he will certainly call you a "British muddlehead." Well, I myself do not take things so seriously as that, for I know that men of action have seldom time to think. It is probably for this reason also that liberty of thought and speech has been granted to you, the law-giver knowing very well all the time that you would be much too busy to use and abuse such extraordinary freedom. Anyhow, it might now be time to abuse it just a little bit, and to consider what an extraordinary amalgamation is a Christian Power with imperialistic ideas. True, there has once before been another Christian conquering and colonising empire like yours, that of Venice--but these Venetians were thinkers compared with you, and smuggled their gospel into the paw of their lion.... Why don't you follow their example, in order not to be unnecessarily embarrassed by it in your enterprises abroad? In this manner you could also reconcile the proper Germans, who invariably act up to their theories, their Christianity, their democratic principles, although, on the other hand, in so doing you would, I quite agree, be most unfaithful to your own traditions, which are of a more democratic character than those of any other European nation.

For Democracy, as every schoolboy knows, was born in an English cradle: individual liberty, parliamentary institutions, the sovereign rights of the people, are ideas of British origin, and have been propagated from this island over the whole of Europe. But as the prophet and his words are very often not honoured in his own country, those ideas have been embraced with much more fervour by other nations than by that in which they originated. The Continent of Europe has taken the desire for liberty and equality much more seriously than their levelling but also level-headed inventors, and the fervent imagination of France has tried to put into practice all that was quite hidden to the more sober English eye. Every one nowadays knows the good and the evil consequences of the French Revolution, which swept over the whole of Europe, throwing it into a state of unrest, shattering thrones and empires, and everywhere undermining authority and traditional institutions. While this was going on in Europe, the originator of the merry game was quietly sitting upon his island smiling broadly at the excitable foreigners across the Channel, fishing as much as he could out of the water he himself had so cleverly disturbed, and thus in every way reaping the benefit from the mighty fight for the apple of Eros which he himself had thrown amongst them. As I have endeavoured above to draw a parallel between the Germans and the Jews, I may now be allowed to follow this up with one between the Jews and the English. It is a striking parallel, which will specially appeal to those religious souls amongst you who consider themselves the lost tribes of our race (and who are perhaps even more lost than they think),--and it is this: Just as the Jews have brought Christianity into the world, but never accepted it themselves, just as they, in spite of their democratic offspring, have always remained the most conservative, exclusive, aristocratic, and religious people, so have the English never allowed themselves to be intoxicated by the strong drink of the natural equality of men, which they once kindly offered to all Europe to quaff; but have, on the contrary, remained the most sober, the most exclusive, the most feudal, the most conservative people of our continent.

But because the ravages of Democracy have been less felt here than abroad, because there is a good deal of the mediaeval building left standing over here, because things have never been carried to that excess which invariably brings a reaction with it--this reaction has not set in in this country, and no strong desire for the necessity of it, no craving for the counterbalancing influence of a Nietzsche, has arisen yet in the British mind. I cannot help pointing out the grave consequences of this backwardness of England, which has arisen from the fact that you have never taken any ideas or theories, not even your own, seriously. Democracy, dear Englishmen, is like a stream, which all the peoples of Europe will have to cross: they will come out of it cleaner, healthier, and stronger, but while the others are already in the water, plunging, puffing, paddling, losing their ground, trying to swim, and even half-drowned, you are still standing on the other side of it, roaring unmercifully about the poor swimmers, screamers, and fighters below,--but one day you will have to cross this same river too, and when you enter it the others will just be out of it, and will laugh at the poor English straggler in their turn!

The third and last reason for the icy silence which has greeted Nietzsche in this country is due to the fact that he has--as far as I know--no literary ancestor over here whose teachings could have prepared you for him. Germany has had her Goethe to do this; France her Stendhal; in Russia we find that fearless curiosity for all problems, which is the sign of a youthful, perhaps too youthful nation; while in Spain, on the other hand, we have an old and experienced people, with a long training away from Christianity under the dominion of the Semitic Arabs, who undoubtedly left some of their blood behind,--but I find great difficulty in pointing out any man over here who could serve as a useful guide to the heights of the Nietzschean thought, except one, who was not a Britisher. I am alluding to a man whose politics you used to consider and whose writings you even now consider as fantastic, but who, like another fantast of his race, may possess the wonderful gift of resurrection, and come again to life amongst you--to Benjamin Disraeli.

The Disraelian Novels are in my opinion the best and only preparation for those amongst you who wish gradually to become acquainted with the Nietzschean spirit. There, and nowhere else, will you find the true heroes of coming times, men of moral courage, men whose failures and successes are alike admirable, men whose noble passions have altogether superseded the ordinary vulgarities and moralities of lower beings, men endowed with an extraordinary imagination, which, however, is balanced by an equal power of reason, men already anointed with a drop of that sacred and noble oil, without which the High Priest-Philosopher of Modern Germany would not have crowned his Royal Race of the Future.

Both Disraeli and Nietzsche you perceive starting from the same pessimistic diagnosis of the wild anarchy, the growing melancholy, the threatening Nihilism of Modern Europe, for both recognised the danger of the age behind its loud and forced "shipwreck gaiety," behind its big-mouthed talk about progress and evolution, behind that veil of business-bustle, which hides its fear and utter despair--but for all that black outlook they are not weaklings enough to mourn and let things go, nor do they belong to that cheap class of society doctors who mistake the present wretchedness of Humanity for sinfulness, and wish to make their patient less sinful and still more wretched. Both Nietzsche and Disraeli have clearly recognised that this patient of theirs is suffering from weakness and not from sinfulness, for which latter some kind of strength may still be required; both are therefore entirely opposed to a further dieting him down to complete moral emaciation, but are, on the contrary, prescribing a tonic, a roborating, a natural regime for him --advice for which both doctors have been reproached with Immorality by their contemporaries as well as by posterity. But the younger doctor has turned the tables upon


Thoughts out of Season (Part One) - 2/29

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