Anthony M. Ludovici
In Thoughts out of Season, Part 1:
David Strauss, The Confessor and the Writer;
Richard Wagner in Bayreuth
(The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Volume 4)
by Friedrich Nietzsche
translated by Anthony M. Ludovici
T. N. Foulis
- p. xxix -
To the uninitiated reader, however, some words of explanation are due, not only in regard to the two papers before us, but in regard to Nietzsche himself. So much in our time is learnt from hearsay concerning prominent figures in science, art,
The Franco-German War had only just come to an end, and the keynote of this polemical pamphlet is, "Beware of the intoxication of success." When the whole of Germany was delirious with joy over her victory, at a time when the unques-
Nietzsche's attack on Hegelian optimism alone (pp. 46, 5354), in the first paper, fully reveals the fundamental idea underlying this essay; and if the personal attack on Strauss seems sometimes to throw the main theme into the background, we must remember the author's own attitude towards this aspect of the case. Nietzsche, as a matter of fact, had neither the spite nor the meanness requisite for the purely personal attack. In his Ecce Homo, he tells us most emphatically: "I have no desire to attack particular persons I do but use a personality as a magnifying glass; I place it over the subject to which I wish to call attention, merely that the appeal may be stronger." David Strauss, in a letter to a friend, soon after the publication of the first Thought out of Season, expresses his utter astonishment that a total stranger should have made such a dead set at him. The same problem may possibly face the reader on every page of this essay: if, however, we realise Nietzsche's purpose, if we understand his struggle to be one against
When we read that at the time of Strauss's death (February 7th, 1874) Nietzsche was greatly tormented by the fear that the old scholar might have been hastened to his end by the use that had been made of his personality in the first Unzeitgemässe Betrachtung; when we remember that in the of this torment he ejaculated, "I was indeed not made to hate and have enemies!" we are then in a better position to judge of the motives which, throughout his life, led him to engage such formidable opponents and to undertake such relentless attacks. It was merely his ruling principle all is true and good that tends to elevate man; everything is bad and false that keeps man stationary or sends him backwards.
Those who may think that his attacks were often unwarrantable and ill-judged will do well, therefore, to bear this in mind, that whatever his value or merits may have been as an iconoclast, at least the aim he had was sufficiently lofty and honour-
In the Wagner paper (18751876) we are faced by a somewhat different problem. Most readers who will have heard of Nietzsche's subsequent denunciation of Wagner's music will probably stand aghast before this panegyric of him; those who, like Professor Saintsbury, will fail to discover the internal evidence in this essay which points so infallibly to Nietzsche's real but still subconscious opinion of his hero, may even be content to regard his later attitude as the result of a complete volte-face, and at any rate a flat contradiction of the one revealed in this paper. Let us, however, examine the internal evidence we speak of, and let us also discuss the purpose and spirit of the essay.
We have said that Nietzsche was a man with a very fixed and powerful ideal, and we have heard what this ideal was. Can we picture him, then, a young and enthusiastic scholar with a cultured love of music, and particularly of Wagner's music, eagerly scanning all his circle, the whole city and country in which he lived yea, even the whole continent on which he lived for something or some one that would set his doubts at rest concerning the feasibility of his ideal? Can we now picture this young man coming face to face with probably one of the greatest geniuses of his age with a man whose very presence must have been electric, whose every word or movement must have imparted some power to his surroundings with Richard Wagner?
If we can conceive of what the mere attention,
The friendship which grew between them was of that rare order in which neither can tell who influences the other more. Wagner would often declare that the beautiful music in the third act of Siegfried was to be ascribed to Nietzsche's influence over him; he also adopted the young man's terminology in art matters, and the concepts implied by the words "Dionysian" and "Apollonian" were borrowed by him from his friend's discourses. How much Nietzsche owed to Wagner may perhaps never be definitely known; to those who are sufficiently interested to undertake the investigation of this matter, we would recommend Hans Bélart's book, Nietzsche's Ethik; in it references will be found which give some clue as to the probable sources from which the necessary information may be derived. In any case, however, the reciprocal effects of their conversations will never be exactly known; and although it would be ridiculous to
For some years their friendship continued firm, and grew ever more and more intimate. The Birth of Tragedy was one of the first public declarations of it, and after its publication many were led to, consider that Wagner's art was a sort of resurrection of the Dionysian Grecian art. Enemies of Nietzsche began to whisper that he was merely "Wagner's "literary lackey"; many friends frowned upon the promising young philologist, and questioned the exaggerated importance he was beginning to ascribe to the art of music and to art in general, in their influence upon the world; and all the while Nietzsche's one thought and one aim was to help the cause and further the prospects of the man who he earnestly believed was destined to be the salvation of European culture.
Every great ideal coined in his own brain he imagined to be the ideal of his hero; all his sublimest hopes for society were presented gratis, in his writings, to Wagner, as though products of the latter's own mind; and just as the prophet of old never possessed the requisite assurance to suppose that his noblest ideas were his own, but. attributed them to some higher and supernatural power, whom he thereby learnt to worship for its fancied nobility of sentiment, so Nietzsche, still doubting his own powers, created a fetich out of his most distinguished friend, and was ultimately wounded and well-nigh wrecked with disappointment when he found that the Wagner of the
While writing Ecce Homo, he was so well aware of the extent to which he had gone in idealising his friend, that he even felt able to say: "Wagner in Bayreuth is a vision of my own future. . . . Now that I can look back upon this work, I would not like to deny that, at bottom, it speaks only of myself" (p. 74). And on another page of the same book we read: ". . . What I heard, as a young man, in Wagnerian music, had absolutely nothing to do with Wagner: when I described Dionysian music, I only described what I had heard, and I thus translated and transfigured all that I bore in my own soul into the spirit of the new art. The strongest proof of this is my essay, Wagner in Bayreuth: in all decidedly psychological passages of this book the reader may simply read my name, or the name 'Zarathustra,' wherever the text contains the name 'Wagner'" (p. 68).
As we have already hinted, there are evidences of his having subconsciously discerned the real Wagner, even in the heyday of their friendship, behind the ideal he had formed of him; for his eyes were too intelligent to be deceived, even though his understanding refused at first to heed the messages they sent it: both the Birth of Tragedy and Wagner in Bayreuth are with us to prove this, and not merely when we read these works between the lines, but when we take such passages as those found on pp. 115, 149, 150, 151, 156, 158, 159 of this book quite literally.
Nietzsche's infatuation we have explained; the
It were well for us to bear in mind that we are not altogether free to dispose of Nietzsche's attitude to Wagner, at any given period in their relationship, with a single sentence of praise or of blame. After all, we are faced by a problem which no objectivity or dispassionate detachment on our parts can solve. Nietzsche endowed both Schopenhauer and Wagner with qualities and aspirations so utterly foreign to them both, that neither of them would have recognised himself in the images he painted of them. His love for them was unusual; perhaps it can only be fully understood emotionally by us: like all men who are capable of very great love, Nietzsche lent the objects of his affection anything they might happen to lack in the way of greatness, and when at last his eyes were opened, genuine pain, not malice, was the motive of even the most bitter of his diatribes.
Nietzsche is writing about Wagner's music, and he says: "The world must indeed be empty for him who has never been unhealthy enough for this 'infernal voluptuousness'; it is allowable and yet almost forbidden to use a mystical expression in this behalf. I suppose I know better than any one the prodigies Wagner was capable of, the fifty worlds of strange raptures to which no one save him could soar; and as I stand to day strong enough to convert even the most suspicious and dangerous phenomenon to my own use and be the stronger for it I declare Wagner to be the great benefactor of my life. Something will always keep our names associated in the minds of men, and that is, that we are two who have suffered more excruciatingly even at each other's hands than most men are able to suffer nowadays. And just as Wagner is merely a misunderstanding among Germans, so am I and ever will be. You lack two centuries of psychological and artistic discipline, my dear countrymen! . . . But it will be impossible for you ever to recover the time now lost" (p. 43).