David Strauss, The Confessor and the Writer, by Nietzsche

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: David Strauss, The Confessor and the Writer, by Nietzsc

Postby admin » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:20 pm

X.

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.
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Re: David Strauss, The Confessor and the Writer, by Nietzsc

Postby admin » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:21 pm

XI.

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."
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Re: David Strauss, The Confessor and the Writer, by Nietzsc

Postby admin » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:21 pm

XII.

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!" *

[Footnote * : 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.]

* * * * * *

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.*

[Footnote * : 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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