Chapter V “Critical Criticism” As a Mystery-Monger, Or “Critical Criticism” As Herr Szeliga
- Chapter I “Critical Criticism in the Form of a Master-Bookbinder”, Or Critical Criticism As Herr Reichardt
- Chapter II “Critical Criticism” As a ‘Mill-Owner’, Or Critical Criticism As Herr Jules Faucher
- Chapter III “The Thoroughness of Critical Criticism”, Or Critical Criticism As Herr J. (Jungnitz?)
- Chapter IV “Critical Criticism” As the Tranquillity of Knowledge, Or “Critical Criticism” As Herr Edgar
- Chapter V “Critical Criticism” As a Mystery-Monger, Or “Critical Criticism” As Herr Szeliga
- Chapter VI Absolute Critical Criticism, Or Critical Criticism As Herr Bruno
- Chapter VII Critical Criticism’s Correspondence
- Chapter VIII The Earthly Course and Transfiguration Of “Critical Criticism”, Or “Critical Criticism” As Rudolph, Prince of Geroldstein
- Chapter IX The Critical Last Judgment and Historical Epilogue
Written by Marx
“Critical Criticism" in its Szeliga-Vishnu incarnation provides an apotheosis of the Mystéres de Paris. Eugéne Sue is proclaimed a "Critical Critic". Hearing this, he may exclaim like Moliére's Bourgeois gentilhomme:
"Par ma foi, il y a plus de quarante ans que je dis de la prose, sans que j'en susse rien: et je vous suis le plus obligé du monde de m'avoir appris cela."
Herr Szeliga prefaces his criticism with an aesthetic prologue. "The aesthetic prologue" gives the following explanation of the general meaning of the "Critical" epic and in particular of the Mystéres de Paris:
"The epic gives rise to the thought that the present in itself is nothing, and not only" (nothing and not only!) "the eternal boundary between past and future, but" (nothing, and not only, but) "but the gap that separates immortality from transience and must continually be filled.... Such is the general meaning of the Mystéres de Paris."
The "aesthetic prologue" further asserts that "if the Critic wished he could also be a poet".
The whole of Herr Szeliga's criticism will prove that assertion. It is "poetic fiction” in every respect.
It is also a product of "free art" according to the definition of the latter given in the "aesthetic prologue" — it "invents something quite new, something that absolutely never existed before”.
Finally, it is even a Critical epic, for it is "the gap that separates immortality" — Herr Szeliga's Critical Criticism — from "transience" — Eugéne Sue's novel — and "must continually be filled".
1) "The Mystery of Degeneracy in Civilisation" and "The Mystery of Rightlessness in the State"[edit source]
Feuerbach, we know, conceived the Christian ideas of the Incarnation, the Trinity, Immortality, etc., as the mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of Immortality. Herr Szeliga conceives all present world conditions as mysteries. But whereas Feuerbach disclosed real mysteries, Herr Szeliga makes mysteries out of real trivialities. His art is not that of disclosing what is hidden, but of hiding what is disclosed.
Thus he proclaims as mysteries degeneracy (criminals) within civilisation and rightlessness and inequality in the state. This means that socialist literature, which has revealed these mysteries, is still a mystery to Herr Szeliga, or that he wants to convert the best-known findings of that literature into a private mystery of "Critical Criticism."
We therefore need not go more deeply into Herr Szeliga's discourse on these mysteries; we shall merely draw attention to a few of the most brilliant points.
"Before the law and the judge everything is equal, the high and the low, the rich and the poor. This proposition stands at the head of the credo of the state."
Of the state? The credo of most states starts, on the contrary, by making the high and the low, the rich and the poor unequal before the law.
"The gem-cutter Morel in his naive probity most clearly expresses the mystery" (the mystery of the antithesis of poor and rich) "when he says: If only the rich knew! If only the rich knew! The misfortune is that they do not know what poverty is."
Herr Szeliga does not know that Eugéne Sue commits an anachronism out of courtesy to the French bourgeoisie when he puts the motto of the burghers of Louis XIV's time "Ah! si le roi le savait!" in a modified form: "Ah! si le riche le savait!" into the mouth of the working man Morel who lived at the time of the Charte vérité" In England and France, at least, this naive relation between rich and poor has ceased to exist. There the scientific representatives of wealth, the economists, have spread a very detailed understanding of the physical and moral misery of poverty. They have made up for that by proving that misery must remain because the present state of things must remain. In their solicitude they have even calculated the proportions in which the poor must be reduced in number by deaths for the good of the rich and for their own welfare. If Eugene Sue depicts the taverns, hide-outs and language of criminals, Herr Szeliga discloses the "mystery” that what the "author" wanted was not to depict that language or those hide-outs, but
"to teach us the mystery of the mainsprings of evil, etc." "It is precisely in the most crowded places ... that criminals feel at home."
What would a natural scientist say if one were to prove to him that the bee's cell does not interest him as a bee's cell, that it has no mystery for one who has not studied it, because the bee "feels at home precisely" in the open air and on the flower? The hide-outs of the criminals and their language reflect the character of the criminal, they are part of his existence, their description is part of his description just as the description of the petite maison is part of the description of the femme galante.
For Parisians in general and even for the Paris police the hide-outs of criminals are such a "mystery" that at this very moment broad light streets are being laid out in the Cité' to give the police access to them.
Finally, Eugéne Sue himself states that in the descriptions mentioned above he was counting "sur la curiosité, craintive" of his readers. M. Eugéne Sue has counted on the timid curiosity of his readers in all his novels. It is sufficient to recall Atar Gull, Salamandre, Plick and Plock, etc.
2) The Mystery of Speculative Construction[edit source]
The mystery of the Critical presentation of the Mystéres de Paris is the mystery of speculative, of Hegelian construction. Once Herr Szeliga has proclaimed that "degeneracy within civilisation" and rightlessness in the state are "mysteries", i.e., has dissolved them in the category "mystery", he lets "mystery" begin its speculative career. A few words will suffice to characterise speculative construction in general. Herr Szeliga's treatment of the Mystéres de Paris will give the application in detail.
If from real apples, pears, strawberries and almonds I form the general idea "Fruit”, if I go further and imagine that my abstract idea "Fruit”, derived from real fruit, is an entity existing outside me, is indeed the true essence of the pear, the apple, etc., then in the language of speculative philosophy — I am declaring that "Fruit” is the "Substance” of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. I am saying, therefore, that to be a pear is not essential to the pear, that to be an apple is not essential to the apple; that what is essential to these things is not their real existence, perceptible to the senses, but the essence that I have abstracted from them and then foisted on them, the essence of my idea — "Fruit”. I therefore declare apples, pears, almonds, etc., to be mere forms of existence, modi, of "Fruit” My finite understanding supported by my senses does of course distinguish an apple from a pear and a pear from an almond, but my speculative reason declares these sensuous differences inessential and irrelevant. It sees in the apple the same as in the pear, and in the pear the same as in the almond, namely "Fruit”. Particular real fruits are no more than semblances whose true essence is "the substance" — "Fruit”.
By this method one attains no particular wealth of definition. The mineralogist whose whole science was limited to the statement that all minerals are really "the Mineral" would be a mineralogist only in his imagination. For every mineral the speculative mineralogist Says "the Mineral", and his science is reduced to repeating this word as many times as there are real minerals.
Having reduced the different real fruits to the one "fruit" of abstraction — "the Fruit", speculation must, in order to attain some semblance of real content, try somehow to find its way back from "the Fruit", from the Substance to the diverse, ordinary real fruits, the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. It is as hard to produce real fruits from the abstract idea "the Fruit" as it is easy to produce this abstract idea from real fruits. Indeed, it is impossible to arrive at the opposite of an abstraction without relinquishing the abstraction.
The speculative philosopher therefore relinquishes the abstraction "the Fruit", but in a speculative, mystical fashion — with the appearance of not relinquishing it. Thus it is really only in appearance that he rises above his abstraction. He argues somewhat as follows:
If apples, pears, almonds and strawberries are really nothing but "the Substance", "the Fruit", the question arises: Why does "the Fruit" manifest itself to me sometimes as an apple, sometimes as a pear, sometimes as an almond? Why this semblance of diversity which so obviously contradicts my speculative conception of Unity, "the Substance", "the Fruit"?
This, answers the speculative philosopher, is because "the Fruit" is not dead, undifferentiated, motionless, but a living, self-differentiating, moving essence. The diversity of the ordinary fruits is significant not only for my sensuous understanding, but also for "the Fruit" itself and for speculative reason. The different ordinary fruits are different manifestations of the life of the "one Fruit"; they are crystallisations of "the Fruit" itself. Thus in the apple "the Fruit" gives itself an apple-like existence, in the pear a pear-like existence. We must therefore no longer say, as one might from the standpoint of the Substance: a pear is "the Fruit", an apple is "the Fruit", an almond is "the Fruit", but rather "the Fruit" presents itself as a pear, "the Fruit" presents itself as an apple, "the Fruit" presents itself as an almond; and the differences which distinguish apples, pears and almonds from one another are the self-differentiations of "the Fruit" and,.make the particular fiuits different members of the life-process of "the Fruit". Thus "the Fruit" is no longer an empty undifferentiated unity; it is oneness as allness, as "totality” of fruits, which constitute an "organically linked series of members”. In every member of that series "the Fruit" gives itself a more developed, more explicit existence, until finally, as the "summary” of all fruits, it is at the same time the living unity which contains all those fruits dissolved in itself just as it produces them from within itself, just as, for instance, all the limbs of the body are constantly dissolved in and constantly produced out of the blood.
We see that if the Christian religion knows only one Incarnation of God, speculative philosophy has as many incarnations as there are things, just as it has here in every fruit an incarnation of the Substance, of the Absolute Fruit. The main interest for the speculative philosopher is therefore to produce the existence of the real ordinary fruits and to say in some mysterious way that there are apples, pears, almonds and raisins. But the apples, pears, almonds and raisins that we rediscover in the speculative world are nothing but semblances of apples, semblances of pears, semblances of almonds and semblances of raisins, for they are moments in the life of "the Fruit", this abstract creation of the mind, and therefore themselves abstract creations of the mind. Hence what is delightful in this speculation is to rediscover all the real fruits there, but as fruits which have a higher mystical significance, which have grown out of the ether of your brain and not out of the material earth, which are incarnations of "the Fruit", of the Absolute Subject. When you return from the abstraction, the supernatural creation of the mind, "the Fruit", to real natural fruits, you give on the contrary the natural fruits a supernatural significance and transform them into sheer abstractions. Your main interest is then to point out the unity of "the Fruit" in all the manifestations of its life — the apple, the pear, the almond — that is, to show the mystical interconnection between these fruits, how in each one of them "the Fruit" realises itself by degrees and necessarily progresses, for instance, from its existence as a raisin to its existence as an almond. Hence the value of the ordinary fruits no longer consists in their natural qualities, but in their speculative quality, which gives each of them a definite place in the life-process of "the Absolute Fruit"
The ordinary man does not think he is saying anything extraordinary when he states that there are apples and pears. But when the philosopher expresses their existence in the speculative way he says something extraordinary. He performs a miracle by producing the real natural objects, the apple, the pear, etc., out of the unreal creation of the mind "the Fruit", i.e., by creating those fruits out of his own abstract reason, which he considers as an Absolute Subject outside himself, represented here as "the Fruit". And in regard to every object the existence of which he expresses, he accomplishes an act of creation.
It goes without saying that the speculative philosopher accomplishes this continuous creation only by presenting universally known qualities of the apple, the pear, etc., which exist in reality, as determining features invented by him, by giving the names of the real things to what abstract reason alone can create, to abstract formulas of reason, finally, by declaring his own activity, by which he passes from the idea of an apple to the idea of a pear, to be the self-activity of the Absolute Subject, "the Fruit"
In the speculative way of speaking, this operation is called comprehending Substance as Subject, as an inner process, as an Absolute Person, and this comprehension constitutes the essential character of Hegel's method.
These preliminary remarks were necessary to make Herr Szeliga intelligible. Only now, after dissolving real relations, e.g., law and civilisation, in the category of mystery and thereby making "Mystery”(das Geheimnis) into Substance, does he rise to the true speculative, Hegelian height and transforms "Mystery” into a self-existing Subject incarnating itself in real situations and persons so that the manifestations of its life are countesses, marquises, grisettes, porters, notaries, charlatans, and love intrigues, balls, wooden doors, etc. Having produced the category "Mystery” out of the real world, he produces the real world out of this category.
The mysteries of speculative construction in Herr Szeliga's presentation will be all the more visibly disclosed as he has an indisputable double advantage over Hegel. On the one hand, Hegel with masterly sophistry is able to present as a process of the imagined creation of the mind itself, of the Absolute Subject, the process by which the philosopher through sensory perception and imagination passes from one subject to another. On the other hand, however, Hegel very often gives a real presentation, embracing the thing itself, within the speculative presentation. This real development within the speculative development misleads the reader into considering the speculative development as real and the real as speculative.
With Herr Szeliga both these difficulties vanish. His dialectics have no hypocrisy or dissimulation. He performs his tricks with the most laudable honesty and the most ingenuous straightforwardness. But then he nowhere develops any real content, so that his speculative construction is free from all disturbing accessories, from all ambiguous disguises, and appeals to the eye in its naked beauty. In Herr Szeliga we also see a brilliant illustration of how speculation on the one hand apparently freely creates its object a priori out of itself and, on the other hand, precisely because it wishes to get rid by sophistry of the rational and natural dependence on the object, falls into the most irrational and unnatural bondage to the object, whose most accidental and most individual attributes it is obliged to construe as absolutely necessary and general.
3) "The Mystery of Educated Society"[edit source]
After leading us through the lowest strata of society, for example through the criminals' taverns, Eugene Sue transports us to "haute volee”,' to a ball in the Quartier Saint-Germain.
This transition Herr Szeliga construes as follows:
"Mystery tries to evade examination by a ... twist: so far it appeared as the absolutely enigmatic, elusive and negative, in contrast to the true, real and positive; now it withdraws into the latter as its invisible content. But by doing so it gives up the unconditional possibility of becoming known."
"Mystery" which has so far appeared in contrast to the "true", the "real", the "positive", that is, to law and education, "now withdraws into the latter", that is, into the realm of education. It is certainly a mystere for Paris, if not of Paris, that "haute volee" is the exclusive realm of education. Herr Szeliga does not pass from the mysteries of the criminal world to those of aristocratic society; instead, "Mystery” becomes the "invisible content" of educated society, its real essence. It is "not a new twist" of Herr Szeliga's designed to enable him to proceed to further examination; "Mystery” itself takes this "new twist" in order to escape examination. Before really following Eugene Sue where his heart leads him - to an aristocratic ball, Herr Szeliga resorts to the hypocritical twists of speculation which makes a priori constructions.
"One can naturally foresee what a solid shell 'Mystery' will choose to hide in; it seems, in fact, that it is of insuperable impenetrability ... that ... hence it may be expected that in general ... nevertheless a new attempt to pick out the kernel is here indispensable."
Enough. Herr Szeliga has gone so far that the
"metaphysical subject, Mystery, now steps forward, light, self-confident and jaunty".
In order now to change aristocratic society into a "mystery", Herr Szeliga gives us a few considerations on "education". He presumes aristocratic society to have all sorts of qualities that no man would look for in it, in order later to find the "mystery" that it does not possess those qualities. Then he presents this discovery as the "mystery" of educated society. Herr Szeliga wonders, for example, whether "general reason" (does he mean speculative logic?) constitutes the content of its "drawing-room talk", whether "the rhythm and measure of love alone makes" it a "harmonious whole", whether "what we call general education is the form of the general, the eternal, the ideal", i.e., whether what we call education is a metaphysical illusion. It is not difficult for Herr Szeliga to prophesy a priori in answer to his questions:
"It is to be expected, however ... that the answer will be in the negative."
In Eugene Sue's novel, the transition from the low world to the aristocratic world is a normal transition for a novel. The disguises of Rudolph, Prince of Geroldstein, give him entry into the lower strata of society as his title gives him access to the highest circles. On his way to the aristocratic ball he is by no means engrossed in the contrasts of contemporary life; it is the contrasts of his own disguises that he finds piquant. He informs his obedient companions how extraordinarily interesting he finds himself in the various situations.
"Je trouve," he says, "assez de piquant dans ces contrastes: un jour peintre en éventails, m'établant dans un bouge de la rue aux Fèves; ce matin commis marchand offrant un verre de cassis à Madame Pipelet, et ce soir ... un des privilégiés par la grâce de dieu, qui règnent sur ce monde."
When Critical Criticism is ushered into the ball-room, it sings:
Sense and reason forsake me near, In the midst of the potentates here!
It pours forth in dithyrambs as follows:
"Here magic brings the brilliance of the sun at night, the verdure of spring and the splendour of summer in winter. We immediately feel in a mood to believe in the miracle of the divine presence in the breast of man, especially when beauty and grace uphold the conviction that we are in the immediate proximity of ideals." (!!!)
Inexperienced, credulous Critical country parson! Only your Critical ingenuousness can be raised by an elegant Parisian ball-room "to a mood" in which you believe in "the miracle of the divine presence in the breast of man", and see in Parisian lionesses "immediate ideals" and angels corporeal! In his unctuous naivety the Critical parson listens to the two "most beautiful among the beautiful", Clemence d'Harville and Countess Sarah MacGregor. One can guess what he wishes to "hear" from them:
"In what way we can be the blessing of beloved children and the 'fullness of happiness of a husband"!... "We hark ... we wonder ... we do not trust our ears."
We secretly feel a malicious pleasure when the listening parson is disappointed. The ladies converse neither about "blessing", nor "fullness", nor "general reason", but about "an infidelity of Madame d'Harville to her husband". We get the following naive revelation about one of the ladies, Countess MacGregor:
She was "enterprising enough to become mother to a child as the result of a secret marriage".
Unpleasantly affected by the of the Countess, Herr Szeliga has sharp words for her:
"We find that all the strivings of the Countess are for her personal, selfish advantage."
Indeed, he expects nothing good from the attainment of her purpose - marriage to the Prince of Geroldstein:
"concerning which we can by no means expect that she will avail herself of it for the happiness of the Prince of Geroldstein's subjects."
The puritan ends his admonitory sermon with "profound earnestness":
"Sarah" (the enterprising lady), "incidentally, is hardly an exception in this brilliant circle, although she is one of its summits."
Incidentally, hardly! Although! And is not the "summit" of a circle an exception? Here is what we learn about the character of two other ideals, the Marquise d'Harville and the Duchess of Lucenay:
They "'lack satisfaction of the heart'. They have not found in marriage the object of love, so they seek it outside marriage. In marriage, love has remained a mystery for them, and the imperative urge of the heart drives them to unravel this mystery. So they give themselves up to secret love. These 'victims' of 'loveless marriage' are 'driven against their will to debase love to something external, to a so-called affair, and take the romantic, the secrecy, for the internal, the vivifying, the essential element of love'".
The merit of this dialectical reasoning is to be assessed all the higher as it is of more general application. He, for example, who is not allowed to drink at home and yet feels the need to drink looks for the "object" of drinking "outside" the house, and "so" takes to secret drinking. Indeed, he will be driven to consider secrecy an essential ingredient of drinking, although he will not debase drink to a mere "external" indifferent thing, any more than those ladies did with love. For, according to Herr Szeliga himself, it is not love, but marriage without love, that they debase to what it really is, to something external, to a so-called affair.
Herr Szeliga goes on to ask: "What is the 'mystery' of love?"
We have just had the speculative construction that "mystery" is the "essence" of this kind of love. How is it that we now come to be looking for the mystery of the mystery, the essence of the essence?
"Not the shady paths in the thickets," declaims the parson, "not the natural semi-obscurity of moonlight night nor the artificial semi-obscurity of costly curtains and draperies; not the soft and enrapturing notes of the harps and the organs, not the attraction of what is forbidden...."
Curtains and draperies! Soft and enrapturing notes! Even the organ! Let the reverend parson stop thinking of church! Who would bring an organ to a love tryst?
"All this" (curtains, draperies and organs) "is only the mysterious."
And is not the mysterious the "mystery" of mysterious love? By no means:
"The mysterious in it is what excites, what intoxicates, what enraptures, the power of sensuality."
In the "soft and enrapturing" notes, the parson already had what enraptures. Had he brought turtle soup and champagne to his love tryst instead of curtains and organs, the "exciting and intoxicating" would have been present too.
"It is true we do not like to admit," the reverend gentleman argues, "the power of sensuality; but it has such tremendou's power over us only because we cast it out of us and will not recognise it as our own nature, which we should then be in a position to dominate if it tried to assert itself at the expense of reason, of true love and of will-power."
The parson advises us, after the fashion of speculative theology, to recognise sensuality as our own nature, in order afterwards to be able to dominate it, i.e., to retract recognition of it. True, he wishes to dominate it only when it tries to assert itself at the expense of Reason - will-power and love as opposed to sensuality are only the will-power and love of Reason. The unspeculative Christian also recognises sensuality as long as it does not assert itself at the expense of true reason, i.e., of faith, of true love, i.e., of love of God, of true will-power, i.e., of will in Christ. The parson immediately betrays his real meaning when he continues:
"If then love ceases to be the essential element of marriage and of morality in general, sensuality becomes the mystery of love, of morality, of educated society - sensuality both in its narrow meaning, in which it is a trembling in the nerves and a burning stream in the veins, and in the broader meaning, in which it is elevated to a semblance of spiritual power, to lust for power, ambition, craving for glory.... Countess MacGregor represents" the latter meaning "of sensuality as the mystery of educated society."
The parson hits the nail on the head. To overcome sensuality he must first of all overcome the nerve currents and the quick circulation of the blood.- Herr Szeliga believes in the "narrow" meaning that greater warmth in the body comes from the heat of the blood in the veins; he does not know that warm-blooded animals are so called because the temperature of their blood, apart from slight modifications, always remams at a constant level.- As soon as there is no more nerve current and the blood in the veins is no longer hot, the sinful body, this seat of sensual lust, becomes a corpse and the souls can converse unhindered about "general reason", "true love", and "pure morals". The parson debases sensuality to such an extent that he abolishes the very elements of sensual love which inspire it - the rapid circulation of the blood, which proves that man does not love by insensitive phlegm; the nerve currents which connect the organ that is the main seat of sensuality with the brain. He reduces true sensual love to the mechanical secretio seminis and lisps with a notorious German theologian:
"Not for the sake of sensual love, not for the lust of the flesh, but because the Lord said: Increase and multiply."
Let us now compare the speculative construction with Eugene Sue's novel. It is not sensuality which is presented as the secret of love, but mysteries, adventures, obstacles, fears, dangers, and especially the attraction of what is forbidden.
"Pourquoi," says Eugene Sue, "beaucoup de femmes prennent-elles pourtant des hommes qui ne valent pas leurs maris? Parce que le plus grand chenne de l'amour est l'attrait affriandant du fruit défendu ... avancez que, en retranchant de cet amour les craintes, les angoisses, les difficultés, les mystères, les dangers, il ne reste rien ou peu de chose, c'est-à-dire, l'amant ... dans sa simplicité première ... en un mot, ce serait toujours plus ou moins l'aventure de cet homme à qui l'on disait: 'Pourquoi n'épousez-vous donc pas cette veuve, votre maîtresse?' - 'Hélas, j'y ai bien pensé' - répondit-il' - 'mais alors je ne saurais plus où aller passer mes soirées.'"
Whereas Herr Szeliga says explicitly that the mystery of love is not in the attraction of what is forbidden, Eugene Sue says just as explicitly that it is the "greatest charm of love" and the reason for all love adventures extra muros.
"Prohibition and smuggling are as inseparable in love as in trade." 
Eugene Sue similarly maintains, contrary to his speculative commentator, that
"the propensity to pretence and craft, the liking for mysteries and intrigues, is an essential quality, a natural propensity and an imperative instinct of woman's nature".
The only thing which embarrasses Eugene Sue is that this propensity and this liking are directed against marriage. He would like to give the instincts of woman's nature a more harmless, more useful application. Herr Szeliga makes Countess MacGregor a representative of the kind of sensuality which "is elevated to a semblance of spiritual power", but in Eugene Sue she is a person of abstract reason. Her "ambition" and her "pride", far from being forms of sensuality, are born of an abstract reason which is completely independent of sensuality. That is why Eugene Sue explicitly notes that
"the fiery impulses of love could never make her icy breast heave; no surprise of the heart or the senses could upset the pitiless calculations of this crafty, selfish, ambitious woman".
This woman's essential character lies in the egoism of abstract reason that never suffers from the sympathetic senses and on which the blood has no influence. Her soul is therefore described as "dry and hard", her mind as "artfully wicked", her character as "treacherous" and - what is very typical of a person of abstract reason - as "absolute", her dissimulation as "profound".- It is to be noted incidentally that Eugene Sue motivates the career of the Countess just as stupidly as that of most of his characters. An old nurse gives her the idea that she must become a "crowned head". Convinced of this, she undertakes journeys to capture a crown through marriage. Finally she commits the inconsistency of considering a petty German "Serenissimus” as a "crowned head". After his outpourings against sensuality, our Critical saint deems it necessary to show why Eugene Sue introduces us to haute volee at a ball, a method which is used by nearly all French novelists, whereas the English do so more often at the chase or in a country mansion.
"For this" (i.e., Herr Szeliga's) "conception it cannot be indifferent there" (in Herr Szeliga's construction) "and merely accidental that Eugene Sue introduces us to high society at a ball."
Now the horse has been given a free rein and it trots briskly towards the necessary end through a series of conclusions reminding one of the late Wolff.
"Dancing is the most common manifestation of sensuality as a mystery. The immediate contact, the embracing of the two sexes" (?) "necessary to form a couple are allowed in dancing because, in spite of appearances, and the really" (really, Mr. Parson?) "perceptible pleasant sensation, it is not considered as sensual contact and embracing" (but probably as connected with universal reason?).
And then comes a closing sentence which at best staggers rather than dances:
"For if it were in actual fact considered as such it would be impossible to understand tuhy society is so lenient only as regards dancing while it, on the contrary, so severely condemns that which, if exhibited with similar freedom elsewhere, incurs branding and merciless casting out as a most unpardonable offence against morals and modesty."
The reverend parson speaks here neither of the cancan nor of the polka, but of dancing in general, of the category Dancing, which is not performed anywhere except in his Critical cranium. Let him see a dance at the Chaumiere in Paris, and his Christian-German soul would be outraged by the boldness, the frankness, the graceful petulance and the music of that most sensual movement. His own "really perceptible pleasant sensation" would make it "perceptible" to him that "in actual fact it would be impossible to understand why the dancers themselves, while on the contrary they" give the spectator the uplifting impression of frank human sensuality - "which, if exhibited in the same way elsewhere" - namely in Germany - "would be severely condemned as an unpardonable offence", etc., etc.- why those dancers, at least so to speak in their own eyes, not only should not and may not, but of necessity canot and must not be frankly sensual hurnan beings!!
The Critic introduces us to the ball for the sake of the essence of dancing. He encounters a great difficulty. True, there is dancing at this ball, but only in imagination. The fact is that Eugene Sue does not say a word describing the dancing. He does not mix among the throng of dancers. He makes use of the ball only as an opportunity for bringing together his characters from the upper aristocracy. In despair, "Criticism" comes to help out and supplement the author, and its own "fancy" easily provides a description of ball incidents, etc. If, as prescribed by Criticism, Eugene Sue was not directly interested in the criminals' hide-outs and language when he described them, the dance, on the other hand, which not he but his "fanciful" Critic describes, necessarily interests him infinitely.
Let us continue.
"Actually, the secret of sociable tone and tact - the secret of that extremely unnatural thing - is the longing to return to nature. That is why the appearance of a person like Cecily in educated society has such an electrifying effect and is crowned with such extraordinary success. She grew up a slave among slaves, without any education, and the only source of life she has to rely upon is her -nature. Suddenly transported to a court and subjected to its constraint and customs, she soon learns to see through the secret of the latter.... In this sphere, which she can undoubtedly hold in sway because her power, the power of her nature, has an enigmatic magic, Cecily must necessarily stray into losing all sense of measure, whereas formerly, when she was still a slave, the same nature taught her to resist any unworthy demand of the powerful master and to remain true to her love. Cecily is the mystery of educated society disclosed. The scorned senses finally break down the barriers and surge forth completely uncurbed", etc.
Those of Herr Szeliga's readers who have not read Sue's novel will certainly think that Cecily is the lioness of the ball that is described. In the novel she is in a German gaol while the dancing goes on in Paris.
Cecily, as a slave, remains true to the Negro doctor David because she loves him "passionately" and because her owner, Mr. Willis, is "brutal" in courting her. The reason for her change to a dissolute life is a very simple one. Transported into the "European world", she "blushes" at being "married to a Negro". On arriving in Germany she is "at once” seduced by a wicked man and her "Indian blood" comes into its own. This the hypocritical M. Sue, for the sake of douce morale and doux commerce, is bound to describe as "perversité naturelle"."
The secret of Cecily is that she is a half-breed. The secret of her sensuality is the heat of the tropics. Parny sang praises of the half-breed in his beautiful lines to Eleonore. Over a hundred sea-faring tales tell us how dangerous she is to sailors.
"Cecily était le type incarné de la sensualité brûlante, qui ne s'allume qu'au feu des tropiques.... Tout le monde a entendu parler de ces filles de couleur, pour ainsi dire mortelles aux Européens, de ces vampyrs enchanteurs, qui, enivrant leurs victimes de séductions terribles ... ne lui laissent, selon l'énergique expression du pays, que ses larmes à boire, que son coeur à ronger."
Cecily was far from producing such a magical effect precisely on people aristocratically educated, blasé...
"les femmes de l'espèce de Cecily exercent une action soudaine, une omnipotence magique sur les hommes de sensualité brutale tels que Jacques Ferrand".
Since when have men like Jacques Ferrand been representative of fine society? But Critical Criticism must speculatively make Cecily a factor in the life-process of Absolute Mystery.
4) "The Mystery of Probity and Piety"[edit source]
"Mystery, as that of educated society, withdraws, it is true, from the antithesis into the inner sphere. Nevertheless, high society once again has exclusively its own circles in which it preserves the holy. It is, as it were, the chapel for this holy of holies. But for people in the forecourt, the chapel itself is the mystery. Education, therefore, in its exclusive position is the same thing for the people ... as vulgarity is for the educated."
It is true, nevertheless, once again, as it arere, but, therefore - those are the magic hooks which hold together the links of the chain of speculative reasoning. Herr Szeliga has made Mystery withdraw from the world of criminals into high society. Now he has to construct the mystery that high society has its exclusive circles and that the mysteries of those circles are mysteries for the people. Besides the magic hooks already mentioned, this construction requires the transformation of a circle into a chapel and the transformation of non-aristocratic society into a forecourt of that chapel. Again it is a mystery for Paris that all the spheres of bourgeois society are only a forecourt of the chapel of high society. Herr Szeliga pursues two aims. Firstly, Mystery which has become incarnate in the exclusive circle of high society must be declared "common property of the world”. Secondly, the notary Jacques Ferrand must be construed as a link in the life of Mystery. Here is the way Herr Szeliga reasons:
"Education as yet is unable and unwilling to bring all estates and distinctions into its circle. Only Christianity and morality are able to found universal kingdoms on earth."
Herr Szeliga identifies education, civilisation, with aristocratic education. That is why he cannot see that industry and trade found universal kingdoms quite different from Christianity and morality, domestic happiness and civic welfare. But how do we come to the notary Jacques Ferrand? Quite simply!
Herr Szeliga transforms Christianity into an individual quality, "piety”, and morality into another individual quality, "probity". He combines these two qualities in one individual whom he christens Jacques Ferrand, because Jacques Ferrand does not possess these two qualities but only pretends to. Thus Jacques Ferrand becomes the "mystery of probity and piety". His "testament", on the other hand, is "the mystery of seeming piety and probity", and therefore no longer of piety and probity themselves. If Critical Criticism had wanted speculatively to construe this testament as a mystery, it should have declared the seeming probity and piety to be the mystery of this testament, and not the other way round, this testament as the mystery of the seeming probity.
Whereas the Paris college of notaries considered Jacques Ferrand as a malicious libel against itself and through the theatrical censorship had this character removed from the stage performance of the Mysteres de Paris, Critical Criticism, at the very time when it "polemises against the airy kingdom of conceptions”, sees in a Paris notary not a Paris notary but religion and morality, probity and piety. The trial of the notary Lehon ought to have taught it better. The position held by the notary in Eugene Sue's novel is closely connected with his official position.
"Les notaires sont au temporel ce qu'au spirituel sont les curés; ils sont les dépositaires de nos secrets" (Monteil, Hist[oire] des frangais des div[ers] états," etc. t. ix, p. 37).
The notary is the secular confessor. He is a puritan by profession, and "honesty", Shakespeare says, is "no Puritan".' He is at the same time the go-between for all possible purposes, the manager of all civil intrigues and plots. With the notary Ferrand, whose whole mystery consists in his hypocrisy and his profession, we do not seem to have made a single step forward yet. But listen:
"If for the notary hypocrisy is a matter of the most complete consciousness, and for Madame Roland it is, as it were, instinct, then between them there is the great mass of those who cannot get to the bottom of the mystery and yet involuntarily feel a desire to do so. It is therefore not superstition that leads the high and the low to the sombre dwelling of the charlatan Bradamanti (Abbe Polidori); no, it is the search for Mystery, to justify themselves to the world."
"The high and the low" flock to Polidori not to find out a definite mystery which is justified to the whole world, but to look for Mystery in general, Mystery as the Absolute Subject, in order to justify themselves to the world; as if to chop wood one looked, not for an axe, but for the Instrument in abstracto.
All the mysteries that Polidori possesses are limited to a means for abortion and a poison for murder.- In a speculative frenzy Herr Szeliga makes the "murderer" resort to Polidori's poison "because he wants to be not a murderer, but respected, loved and honoured". As if in an act of murder it was a question of respect, love or honour and not of one's neck! But the Critical murderer does not bother about his neck, but only about "Mystery".- As not everyone commits murder or becomes pregnant illegitimately, how is Polidori to put everyone in the desired possession of Mystery? Herr Szeliga probably confuses the charlatan Polidori with the scholar Polydore Virgil who lived in the sixteenth century and who, although he did not discover any mysteries, tried to make the history of those who did, the inventors, the "common property of ~he world" (see Polidori Virgilii liber de rerum inventoribus, Lugduni MDCCVI).
Mystery, Absolute Mystery, as it has finally established itself as the "common property of the world", consists therefore in the mystery of abortion and poisoning. Mystery could not make itself "the common property of the world" more skilfully than by turning itself into mysteries which are mysteries to no one.
5) "Mystery, a Mockery"[edit source]
"Mystery has now become common property, the mystery of the whole world and of every individual. Either it is my art or my instinct, or I can buy it as a purchasable commodity."
What mystery has now become the common property of the world? Is it the mystery of rightlessness in the state, or the mystery of educated society, or the mystery of adulterating wares, or the mystery of making eau-de-cologne, or the mystery of "Critical Criticism"? None of all these, but Mystery in abstracto, the category Mystery!
Herr Szeliga intends to depict the servants and the porter Pipelet and his wife as the incarnation of Absolute Mystery. He wants speculatively to construct the servant and the porter of "Mystery”. How does he manage to make the headlong descent from pure category down to the "servant" who "spies at a locked door”, from Mystery as the Absolute Subject, which is enthroned above the roof in the cloudy heavens of abstraction, down to the ground floor where the porter's lodge is situated?
First he subjects the category Mystery to a speculative process. When by the aid of means for abortion and poisoning Mystery has become the common property of the world, it is
"therefore by no means any longer concealment and inaccessibility itself, but it conceals itself, or better still" (always better!) "I conceal it, I make it inaccessible”.
With this transformation of Absolute Mystery from essence into concept, from the objective stage, in which it is concealment itself, into the subjective stage, in which it conceals itself, or better still, in which I conceal it, we have not made a single step forward. On the contrary, the difficulty seems to grow, for a mystery in man's head or breast is more inaccessible and concealed than at the bottom of the sea. That is why Herr Szeliga comes to the aid of his speculative progress directly by means of an empirical progress.
"It is behind locked doors" - hark! hark! - "that henceforth” - henceforth! - "Mystery, is hatched, brewed and perpetrated."
Herr Szeliga has "henceforth" changed the speculative ego of Mystery into a very empirical, very wooden reality - a door.
"But with that” - i.e., with the locked door, not with the transition from the closed essence to the concept - "there exists also the possibility of my overhearing, eavesdropping, and spying on it."
It is not Herr Szeliga who discovered the "mystery" that one can eavesdrop at locked doors. The mass-type proverb even says that walls have ears. On the other hand it is a quite Critical speculative mystery that only "henceforth”, after the descent into the hell of the criminals' hide-outs and the ascent into the heaven of educated society, and after Polidori's miracles, mysteries can be brewed behind locked doors and overheard through closed doors. It is just as great a Critical mystery that locked doors are a categorical necessity for hatching, brewing and perpetrating mysteries - how many mysteries are hatched, brewed, and perpetrated behind bushes! - as well as for spying them out. After this brilliant dialectical feat of arms, Herr Szeliga naturally goes on from spying itself to the reasons for spying. Here he reveais the mystery that malicious gloating is the reason for it. From malicious gloating he goes on to the reason for malicious gloating.
"Everyone wishes to be better than the others," he says, "because he keeps secret the mainsprings not only of his good actions, but of his bad ones too, which he tries to hide in impenetrable darkness."
The sentence should be the other way round: Everyone not only keeps the mainsprings of his good actions secret, but tries to conceal his bad ones in impenetrable darkness because he wishes to be better than the others. Thus it seems we have gone from Mystery that conceals itself to the ego that conceals it, from the ego to the locked door, from the locked door to spying, from spying to the reason for spying, malicious gloating; from malicious gloating to the reason for malicious gloating, the desire to be better than the others. We shall soon have the pleasure of seeing the servant standing at the locked door. For the general desire to be better than the others leads us directly to this: that "everyone is inclined to find out the mysteries of another", and this is followed easily by the witty remark:
"In this respect servants have the best opportunity."
Had Herr Szeliga read the records from the Paris police archives, Vidocq's memoirs, the Livre noir and the like, he would know that in this respect the police has still greater opportunity than the "best opportunity" that servants have; that it uses servants only for crude jobs, that it does not stop at the door or where the masters are in neglige, but creeps under their sheets next to their naked body in the shape of a femme galante or even of a legitimate wife. In Sue's novel the police spy "Bras rouge" plays a leading part in the story. What "henceforth" annoys Herr Szeliga in servants is that they are not "disinterested" enough. This Critical misgiving leads him to the porter Pipelet and his wife.
"The porter's position, on the other hand, gives him relative independence so that he can pour out free, disinterested, although vulgar and injurious, mockery on the mysteries of the house."
At first this speculative construction of the porter is put into a great difficulty because in many Paris houses the servant and the porter are one and the same person for some of the tenants.
The following facts will enable the reader to form an opinion of the Critical fantasy concerning the relatively independent, disinterested position of the porter. The porter in Paris is the representative and spy of the landlord. He is generally paid not by the landlord but by the tenants. Because of that precarious position he often combines the functions of commission agent with his official duties. During the Terror, the Empire and the Restoration, the porter was one of the main agents of the secret police. General Foy, for instance, was watched by his porter, who took all the letters addressed to the general to be read by a police agent not far away (see Froment, La police dèvoilèe). As a result "portier" and "èpicier" are considered insulting names and the porter prefers to be called "concierge”.
Far from being depicted as "disinterested" and harmless, Eugene Sue's Madame Pipelet immediately cheats Rudolph when giving him his change; she recommends to him the dishonest money-lender living in the house and describes Rigolette to him as an acquaintance who may be pleasant to him. She teases the major because he pays her badly and haggles with her - in her vexation she calls him a "commandant de deux liards" - "ca t'apprendra à ne donner que douze francs par mois pour ton mènage." - and because he has the "petitesse” as to keep a check on his firewood, etc. She herself gives the reason for her "independent" behaviour: the major only pays her twelve francs a month.
According to Herr Szeliga, "Anastasia Pipelet has, to some extent, to declare a small war on Mystery".
According to Eugene Sue, Anastasia Pipelet is a typical Paris Portière. He wants "to dramatise the Portière, whom Henri Monier portrayed with such mastery". But Herr Szeliga feels bound to transform one of Madame Pipelet's qualities - "médisance" - into a separate being and then to make her a representative of that being.
"The husband," Herr Szeliga continues, "the porter Alfred Pipelet, helps her, but with less luck."
To console him for this bad luck, Herr Szeliga makes him also into an allegory. He represents the "objective" side of Mystery, "Mystery as Mockery".
"The mystery which defeats him is a mockery, a joke, that is played on him."
Indeed, in its infinite pity divine dialectic makes the "unhappy, old, childish man" a "strong man" in the metaphysical sense, by making him represent a very worthy, very happy and very decisive factor in the life-process of Absolute Mystery. The victory over Pipelet is
"Mystery's most decisive defeat." "A cleverer, courageous man would not let himself be duped by a joke."
6) Turtle-Dove (Rigolette)[edit source]
"There is still one step left. Through its own consistent development, Mystery, as we saw in Pipelet and Cabrion, is driven to debase itself to mere clowning. The one thing necessary now is that the individual should no longer agree to play that silly comedy. Turtle-dove takes that step in the most nonchalant way in the world."
Anyone in two minutes can see through the mystery of this speculative clowning and learn to practise it himself. We will give brief directions in this respect.
Problem. You must give me the speculative construction showing how man becomes master over animals.
Speculative solution. Given are half a dozen animals, such as the lion, the shark, the snake, the bull, the horse and the pug. From these six animals abstract the category: the "Animal". Imagine the "Animal" to be an independent being. Regard the lion, the shark, the snake, etc., as disguises, incarnations, of the "Animal". Just as you made your imagination, the "Animal" of your abstraction, into a real being, now make the real animals into beings of abstraction, of your imagination. You see that the "Animal", which in the lion tears man to pieces, in the shark swallows him up, in the snake stings him with venom, in the bull tosses him with its horns and in the horse kicks him, only barks at him when it presents itself as a pug, and converts the fight against man into the mere semblance of a fight. Through its own consistent development, the "Animal" is driven, as we have seen in the pug, to debase itself to a mere clown. When a child or a childish man runs away from a pug, the only thing is for the individual no longer to agree to play the silly comedy. The individual X takes this step in the most nonchalant way in the world by using his bamboo cane on the pug. You see how "Man", through the agency of the individual X and the pug, has become master over the "Animal", and consequently over animals, and in the Animal as a pug has defeated the lion as an animal.
Similarly Herr Szeliga's "turtle-dove" defeats the mysteries of the present state of the world through the intermediary of Pipelet and Cabrion. More than that! She is herself a manifestation of the category "Mystery".
"She herself is not yet conscious of her high moral value, therefore she is still a mystery to herself."
The mystery of non-speculative Rigolette is revealed in Eugene Sue's book by Murph. She is "une fort jolie grisette". Eugene Sue described in her the lovely human character of the Paris grisette. Only owing to his devotion to the bourgeoisie and his own tendency to high-flown exaggeration, he had to idealise the grisette morally. He had to gloss over the essential point of her situation in life and her character, to be precise, her disregard for the form of marriage, her naive attachment to the Etudiant or the Ouvrier. It is precisely in that attachment that she constitutes a really human contrast to the hypocritical, narrow-hearted, self-seeking wife of the bourgeois, to the whole circle of the bourgeoisie, that is, to the official circle.
7) The World System of the Mysteries of Paris[edit source]
"This world of mysteries is now the general world system, in which the individual action of the Mysteries of Paris is set."
Before, "however", Herr Szeliga "passes on to the philosophical reproduction of the epic event", he must "assemble in a general picture the sketches previously jotted down separately".
It must be considered as a real confession, a revelation of Herr Szeliga's Critical Mystery, when he says that he wishes to pass ou to the "philosophical reproduction" of the epic event. He has so far been "philosophically reproducing" the world system.
Herr Szeliga continues his confession:
"From our presentation it appears that the individual mysteries dealt with have not their value in themselves, each separate from the others, and are in no way magnificent novelties for gossip, but that their value consists in their constituting an organically linked sequence, the totality of which is "Mystery".
In his mood of sincerity, Herr Szeliga goes still further. He admits that the "speculative sequence" is not the real sequence of the Mysteres de Paris.
"Granted, the mysteries do not appear in our epic in the relationship of this self-knowing sequence" (to cost prices?). "But we are not dealing with the logical, obvious, free organism of criticism, but with a mysterious vegetable existence."
We shall pass over Herr Szeliga's summary and go on immediately to the point that constitutes the "transition". In Pipelet we saw the "self-mockery of Mystery".
"In self-mockery, Mystery passes judgment on itself. Thereby the mysteries, annihilating themselves in their final consequence, challenge every strong character to independent examination."
Rudolph, Prince of Geroldstein, the man of "pure Criticism”, is destined to carry out this examination and the "disclosure of the mysteries."
If we deal with Rudolph and his deeds only later, after diverting our attention from Herr Szeliga for some time, it can already be foreseen, and to a certain degree the reader can sense, indeed even surmise without presumption, that instead of treating him as a "mysterious vegetable existence”, which he is in the Critical Literatur-Zeitung, we shall make him a "logical, obvious, free link" in the "organism of Critical Criticism."
- The reference is to the Charte conslitutionnelle adopted in France after the 1830 Revolution as the basic law of the July monarchy. The expression “Charter of Truth” is an ironic allusion to the conclusive words of Louis-Philippe’s proclamation on July 31, 1830: “henceforth the Charter will be the truth.”
- Marx here paraphrases a couplet from Goethe’s Faust, Part 1, Scene 6 (The Witches’ Kitchen).
- Quoted from Ch. Fourier’s Theorie de l'unite universelle, Vol. III, Part 11, Chap. 3.