Chapter VIII The Earthly Course and Transfiguration Of “Critical Criticism”, Or “Critical Criticism” As Rudolph, Prince of Geroldstein
- 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
[In this chapter Marx continues his criticism of Szeliga’s article “Eugène Sue: Die Geheimnisse von Paris"]
Rudolph, Prince of Geroldstein, does penance in his earthly course for a double crime: his personal crime and that of Critical Criticism. In a furious dialogue he drew his sword against his father; Critical Criticism, also in a furious dialogue, let itself be carried away by sinful feelings against the Mass. Critical Criticism did not reveal a single mystery. Rudolph does penance for that and reveals all mysteries.
Rudolph, Herr Szeliga informs us, is the first servant of the state of humanity (the Humanitätsstaat of the Swabian Egidius. See Konstitutionelle Jahrbücher by Dr. Karl Weil, 1844, Bd. 266).
For the world not to be destroyed, Herr Szeliga asserts, it is necessary that
“Men of ruthless criticism appear.... Rudolph is such a man.... Rudolph grasps the thought of pure criticism. And that thought is more fruitful for him and mankind than all the experiences of the latter in its history, than all the knowledge that Rudolph, guided even by the most reliable teacher, was able to derive from that history.... The impartial judgment by which Rudolph perpetuates his earthly course is, in fact, nothing but
the revelation of the mysteries of society." He is: “the revealed mystery of all mysteries.”
Rudolph has far more external means at his disposal than the other men of Critical Criticism. But the latter consoles itself:
“Unattainable for those less favoured by destiny are Rudolph’s results” (!), “not unattainable is the splendid goal
That is why Criticism leaves the realisation of its own thoughts to Rudolph, who is so favoured by destiny. It sings to him:
Hahnemann, go on ahead. You've waders on, you won’t get wet!
Let us accompany Rudolph in his Critical earthly course, which “is more fruitful for mankind than all the experiences of the latter in its history, than all the knowledge” etc., and which twice saves the world from destruction.
1) Critical Transformation of a Butcher into a Dog, Or Chourineur[edit source]
Chourineur [French thieves’ slang for a murderous ruffian] was a butcher by trade. Owing to a concourse of circumstances, this mighty son of nature becomes a murderer. Rudolph comes across him accidentally just when he is molesting Fleur de Marie. Rudolph gives the dexterous brawler a few impressive, masterly punches on the head, and thus wins his respect. Later, in the tavern frequented by criminals, Chourineur’s kind-hearted disposition is revealed. “You still have heart and honour,” Rudolph says to him. By these words he instils in Chourineur respect for himself. Chourineur is reformed or, as Herr Szeliga says, is transformed into a “moral being”. Rudolph takes him under his protection. Let us follow the course of Chourineur’s education under the guidance of Rudolph.
Ist Stage. The first lesson Chourineur receives is a lesson in hypocrisy, faithlessness, craft and dissimulation. Rudolph uses the reformed Chourineur in exactly the same way as Vidocq used the criminals he had reformed, i.e., he makes him a mouchard [police spy] and agent provocateur. He advises him to “pretend” to the “maître d'école” [nickname given by his fellow criminals] that he has altered his “principle of not stealing” and to suggest a robbery so as to lure him into a trap set by Rudolph. Chourineur feels that he is being made a fool of. He protests against the suggestion of playing the role of mouchard and agent provocateur. Rudolph easily convinces the son of nature by the “pure” casuistry of Critical Criticism that a foul trick is not foul when it is done for “good, moral” reasons. Chourineur, as an agent provocateur and under the pretence of friendship and confidence, lures his former companion to destruction. For the first time in his life he commits an act of infamy.
2nd Stage. We next find Chourineur acting as garde-malade [sick attendant] to Rudolph, whom he has saved from mortal danger.
Chourineur has become such a respectable moral being that he rejects the Negro doctor David’s suggestion to sit on the floor, for fear of dirtying the carpet. He is indeed too shy to sit on a chair. He first lays the chair on its back and then sits on the front legs. He never fails to apologise when he addresses Rudolph, whom he saved from a mortal danger, as “friend” or “Monsieur” instead of “Monseigneur”.
What a wonderful training of the ruthless son of nature! Chourineur expresses the innermost secret of his Critical transformation when he admits to Rudolph that he has the same attachment for him as a bulldog for its master: “Je me sens pour vous, comme qui dirait l'attachement d'un bouledogue pour son maître.” The former butcher is transformed into a dog. Henceforth all his virtues will be reduced to the virtue of a dog, pure “dévouement’ to its master. His independence, his individuality will disappear completely. But just as bad painters have to label their pictures to say what they are supposed to represent, Eugène Sue has to put a label on “bulldog” Chourineur, who constantly affirms: “The two words, ‘You still have heart and honour’, made a man out of me.” Until his very last breath, Chourineur will find the motive for his actions, not in his human individuality, but in that label. As proof of his moral reformation he will often reflect on his own excellence and the wickedness of other individuals. And every time he throws out moral sentences, Rudolph will say to him: “I like to hear you speak like that.” Chourineur has not become an ordinary bulldog but a moral one.
3rd Stage. We have already admired the petty-bourgeois respectability which has taken the place of Chourineur’s coarse but daring unceremoniousness. We now learn that, as befits a “moral being”, he has also adopted the gait and demeanour of the petty bourgeois.
“A le voir marcher — on l'eût pris pour le bourgeois le plus inoffensif du monde." [To see him walk you would have taken him for the most harmless bourgeois in the world]
Still sadder than this form is the content that Rudolph gives his Critically reformed life. He sends him to Africa “to serve as a living and salutary example of repentance to the world of unbelievers”. In future, he will have to represent, not his own human nature, but a Christian dogma. 4th Stage. The Critically moral transformation has made Chourineur a quiet, cautious man who behaves according to the rules of fear and worldly wisdom.
“Le Chourineur”, reports Murph, who in his indiscreet simplicity continually tells tales out of school “n'a pas dit un mot de l'éxecution du maître d'école, de peur de se trouver compromise" [Chourineur said nothing of the punishment meted out to the maître d'école for fear of compromising himself]
So Chourineur knows that the punishment of the maítre d'école was an illegal act. But he does not talk about it for fear of compromising himself. Wise Chourineur! 5th Stage. Chourineur has carried his moral education to such perfection that he gives his dog-like attitude to Rudolph a civilised form-he becomes conscious of it. After saving Germain from a mortal danger he says to him:
“I have a protector who is to me what God is to priests — he is such as to make one kneel before him.”
And in imagination he kneels before his God.
“Monsieur Rudolph,” he says to Germain, “protects you. I say ‘Monsieur’ though I should say ‘Monseigneur’. But I am used to calling him ‘Monsieur Rudolph’, and he allows me to.”
“Magnificent awakening and flowering!” exclaims Szeliga in Critical delight. 6th Stage. Chourineur worthily ends his career of pure dévouement, or moral bulldogishness, by finally letting himself be stabbed to death for his gracious lord. At the moment when Squelette threatens the prince with his knife, Chourineur stays the murderer’s arm. Squelette stabs him. But, dying, Chourineur says to Rudolph:
“I was right when I said that a lump of earth” (a bulldog) “like me can sometimes be useful to a great and gracious master like you.”
To this dog-like utterance, which sums up the whole of Chourineur’s Critical life like an epigram, the label put in his mouth adds:
“We are quits, Monsieur Rudolph. You told me that I had heart and honour.”
Herr Szeliga cries as loud as he can:
“What a merit it was for ‘Rudolph to have restored the Schuriman [Germanised form of Chourineur] (?) “to mankind (?)!”
2) Revelation of The Mystery of Critical Religion, Or Fleur De Marie[edit source]
["Fleur de Marie” is translated by the authors into German as “Marien-Blume” which means Marguerite]
a) The Speculative “Marguerite"'[edit source]
A word more about Herr Szeliga’s speculative “Marguerite” before we go on to Eugène Sue’s Fleur de Marie.
The speculative “Marguerite” is above all a correction. The fact is that the reader could conclude from Herr Szeliga’s construction that Eugène Sue had
“separated the presentation of the objective basis” (of the “world system”) “from the development of the acting individual forces which can he understood only against that background”.
Besides the task of correcting this erroneous conjecture that the reader may have made from Herr Szeliga’s presentation, Marguerite has also a metaphysical mission in our, or rather Herr Szeliga’s, “epic”.
“The world system and an epic event would still not be artistically united in a really single whole if they were only interspersed in a motley mixture — now here a bit of world system and then there some stage play. If real unity is to result, both things. the mysteries of this prejudiced world and the clarity, frankness and confidence with which Rudolph penetrates and reveals them, must clash in a single individual ... This is the task of Marguerite.”
Herr Szeliga speculatively constructs Marguerite by analogy with Bauer’s construction of the Mother of God.
On one side is the “divine element” (Rudolph) to, which “all power and freedom” are attributed, the only active principle. On the other side is the passive “world system” and the human beings belonging to it. The world system is the “ground of reality”. If this ground is not to be “entirely abandoned” or “the last remnant of the natural condition is not to be abolished”; if the world itself is to have some share in the “principle of development” that Rudolph, in contrast to the world, concentrates in himself; if “the human element is not to be represented simply as unfree and inactive”, Herr Szeliga is bound to fall into the “contradiction of religious consciousness”. Although he tears apart the world system and its activity as the dualism of a dead Mass and Criticism (Rudolph), he is nevertheless obliged to concede some attributes of divinity to the world system and the mass and to give in Marguerite a speculative construction of the unity of the two, Rudolph and the world (see Kritik der Synoptiker, Band 1, p. 39).
Besides the real relations of the house-owner, the acting “individual force”, to his house (the “objective basis”), mystical speculation, and speculative aesthetics too, need a third concrete, speculative unity, a Subject-Object which is the house and the house-owner in one. As speculation does not like natural mediations in their extensive circumstantiality, it does not realise that the same “bit of world system”, the house, for example, which for one, the house-owner, for example, is an “objective basis”, is for the other, the builder of the house, an “epic event”. In order to get a “really single whole” and “real unity"’ Critical Criticism, which reproaches “romantic art” with the “dogma of unity”, replaces the natural and human connection between the world system and world events by a fantastic connection, a mystical Subject-Object, just as Hegel replaces the real connection between man and nature by an absolute Subject-Object which is at one and the same time the whole of nature and the whole of humanity, the Absolute Spirit.
In the Critical Marguerite “the universal guilt of the time, the guilt of mystery”, becomes the “mystery of guilt”, just as the universal debt [a pun on the word “Schuld” which means “guilt” and “debt"] of mystery becomes the mystery of debts in the indebted Epicier [grocer].
According to the Mother-of-God construction, Marguerite should really have been the mother of Rudolph, the redeemer of the world. Herr Szeliga expressly says:
“According to the logical sequence, Rudolph should have been the son of Marguerite.”
Since, however, he is not her son, but her father, Herr Szeliga finds in this “the new mystery that the present often bears in its womb the long departed past instead of the future”. He even reveals another mystery, a still greater one, a mystery which directly contradicts mass-type statistics, the mystery that
“a child, if it does not, in its turn, become a father or mother, but goes to its grave pure and innocent, is ... essentially ... a daughter”.
Herr Szeliga faithfully follows Hegel’s speculation when, according to the “logical sequence”, he regards the daughter as the mother of her father. In Hegel’s philosophy of history, as in his philosophy of nature, the son engenders the mother, the spirit nature, the Christian religion paganism, the result the beginning. After proving that according to the “logical sequence” Marguerite ought to have been Rudolph’s mother, Herr Szeliga proves the opposite:
“in order to conform fully to the idea she embodies in our epic, she must never become a mother”.
This shows at least that the idea of our epic and Herr Szeliga’s logical sequence are mutually contradictory. The speculative Marguerite is nothing but the “embodiment of an idea”. But what idea?
“She has the task of representing, as it were, the last tear of grief that the past sheds prior to its final passing away.”
She is the representation of an allegorical tear, and even this little that she is, is only “as it were”.
We shall not follow Herr Szeliga in his further description of Marguerite. We shall leave her the satisfaction, according to Herr Szeliga’s prescription, of “constituting the most decisive antithesis to everyone”, a mysterious antithesis, as mysterious as the attributes of God.
Neither shall we delve into the “true mystery” that is “deposited by God in the breast of man” and at which the speculative Marguerite “as it were” hints. We shall pass from Herr Szeliga’s Marguerite to Eugène Sue’s Fleur de Marie and to the Critical miraculous cures Rudolph accomplishes on her.
b) Fleur de Marie[edit source]
We meet Marie surrounded by criminals, as a prostitute in bondage to the proprietress of the criminals’ tavern. In this debasement she preserves a human nobleness of soul, a human unaffectedness and a human beauty that impress those around her, raise her to the level of a poetical flower of the criminal world and win for her the name of Fleur de Marie.
We must observe Fleur de Marie attentively from her first appearance in order to be able to compare her original form with her Critical transformation.
In spite of her frailty, Fleur de Marie at once gives proof of vitality, energy, cheerfulness, resilience of character — qualities which alone explain her human development in her inhuman situation.
When Chourineur ill-treats her, she defends herself with her scissors. That is the situation in which we first find her. She does not appear as a defenceless lamb who surrenders without any resistance to overwhelming brutality; she is a girl who can vindicate her rights and put up a fight.
In the criminals’ tavern in the Rue aux Fèves she tells Chourineur and Rudolph the story of her life. As she does so she laughs at Chourineur’s wit. She blames herself because on being released from prison she spent the 300 francs she had earned there on amusements instead of looking for work. “But,” she said, “I had no one to advise me.” The memory of the catastrophe of her life — her selling herself to the proprietress of the criminals’ tavern — puts her in a melancholy mood. It is the first time since her childhood that she has recalled these events.
“Le fait est, que ça me chagrine de regarder ainsi derrière moi ... a doit être bien bon d'être honnête." [The fact is that it grieves me when I look back in this way ... it must he lovely to be honest]
When Chourineur makes fun of her and tells her she must become honest, she exclaims:
“Honnête, mon dieu! et avec quoi donc veux-tu que je sois honnête?" [Honest! My God! What do you want me to be honest with?]
She insists that she is not one “to have fits of tears": “Je ne suis pas pleurnicheuse” [I am no cry-baby]; but her position in life is sad — “Ça nest pas gai.” [It isn’t a happy one] Finally, contrary to Christian repentance, she pronounces on the past the human sentence, at once Stoic and Epicurean, of a free and strong nature:
Enfin ce qui est fait, est fait." [Well, what is done is done]
Let us accompany Fleur de Marie on her first outing with Rudolph. “The consciousness of your terrible situation has probably often distressed you,” Rudolph says, itching to moralise.
“Yes,” she replies, “more than once I looked over the embankment of the Seine; but then I would gaze at the flowers and the sun and say to myself: the river will always he there and I am not yet seventeen years old. Who can say? “On such occasions it seemed to me that I had not deserved my fate, that I had something good in me. People have tormented me enough, I used to say to myself, but at least I have never done any harm to anyone.”
Fleur de Marie considers her situation not as one she has freely created, not as the expression of her own personality, but as a fate she has not deserved. Her bad fortune can change. She is still young.
Good and evil, as Marie conceives them, are not the moral abstractions of good and evil. She is good because she has never caused suffering to anyone, she has always been human towards her inhuman surroundings. She is good because the sun and the flowers reveal to her her own sunny and blossoming nature. She is good because she is still young, full of hope and vitality. Her situation is not good, because it puts an unnatural constraint on her, because it is not the expression of her human impulses, not the fulfilment of her human desires; because it is full of torment and without joy. She measures her situation in life by ‘ her own individuality, her essential nature, not by the ideal of what is good.
In natural surroundings, where the chains of bourgeois life fall away and she can freely manifest her own nature, Fleur de Marie bubbles over with love of life, with a wealth of feeling, with human joy at the beauty of nature; these show that her social position has only grazed the surface of her and is a mere misfortune, that she herself is neither good nor bad, but human.
“Monsieur Rudolph, what happiness! ... grass, fields! If you would allow me to get out, the weather is so fine ... I should love so much to run about in these meadows.”
Alighting from the carriage, she plucks flowers for Rudolph, can hardly speak for joy”, etc., etc. Rudolph tells her that he is going to take her to Madame George’s farm. There she can see dove-cotes, cow-stalls and so forth; there they have milk, butter, fruit, etc. Those are real blessings for this child. She will be merry, that is her main thought. “You can’t believe how I am longing for some fun!” She explains to Rudolph in the most unaffected way her own share of responsibility for her misfortune. “My whole fate is due to the fact that I did not save up my money.” She therefore advises him to be thrifty and to put money in the savings-bank. Her fancy runs wild in the castles in the air that Rudolph builds for her. She becomes sad only because she
“has forgotten the present” and “the contrast of that present with the dream of a joyous and laughing existence reminds her of the cruelty of her situation”.
So far we have seen Fleur de Marie in her original un-Critical form. Eugène Sue has risen above the horizon of his narrow world outlook. He has slapped bourgeois prejudice in the face. He will hand over Fleur de Marie to the hero Rudolph to atone for his temerity and to reap applause from all old men and women, from the whole of the Paris police, from the current religion and from “Critical Criticism”.
Madame George, to whom Rudolph entrusts Fleur de Marie, is an unhappy, hypochondriacal religious woman. She immediately welcomes the child with the unctuous words: “God blesses those who love and fear him, who have been unhappy and who repent.” Rudolph, the man of “pure Criticism”, has the wretched priest Laporte, whose hair has greyed in superstition, called in. He has the mission of accomplishing Fleur de Marie’s Critical reform.
Joyfully and unaffectedly Marie approaches the old priest. In his Christian brutality, Eugène Sue makes a “marvellous instinct” at once whisper in her ear that “shame ends where repentance and penance begin”, that is, in the church, which alone saves. He forgets the unconstrained merriness of the outing, a merriness which nature’s grace and Rudolph’s friendly sympathy had produced, and which was troubled only by the thought of having to go back to the criminals’ landlady.
The priest Laporte immediately adopts a supermundane attitude. His first words are:
“God’s mercy is infinite, my dear child! He has proved it to you by not abandoning you in your severe trials.... The magnanimous man who saved you fulfilled the word of the Scriptures” (note — the word of the Scriptures, not a human purpose!): “Verily the Lord is nigh to those who invoke him; he will fulfil their desires ... he will hear their voice and will save them ... the Lord will accomplish his work.”
Marie cannot yet understand the evil meaning of the priest’s exhortations. She answers:
“I shall pray for those who pitied me and brought me back to God.”
Her first thought is not for God, it is for her human saviour and she wants to pray for him, not for her own absolution. She attributes to her prayer some influence on the salvation of others. Indeed, she is still so naive that she supposes she has already been brought back to God. The priest feels it is his duty to destroy this unorthodox illusion.
“Soon,” he says, interrupting her, “soon you will deserve absolution, absolution from your great errors ... for, to quote the prophet once more, the Lord holdeth up those who are on the brink of falling.”
One should not fail to see the inhuman expressions the priest uses. Soon you will deserve absolution. Your sins are not yet forgiven.
As Laporte, when he receives the girl, bestows on her the consciousness of her sins, so Rudolph, when he leaves her, presents her with a gold cross, the symbol of the Christian crucifixion awaiting her.
Marie has already been living for some time on Madame George’s farm. Let us first listen to a dialogue between the old priest Laporte and Madame George.
He considers “marriage” out of the question for Marie “because no man, in spite of the priest’s guarantee, will have the courage to face the past that has soiled her youth”. He adds: “she has great errors to atone for, her moral sense ought to have kept her upright.”
He proves, as the commonest of bourgeois would, that she could have remained good: “There are many virtuous people in Paris today.” The hypocritical priest knows quite well that at any hour of the day, in the busiest streets, those virtuous people of Paris pass indifferently by little girls of seven or eight years who sell allumettes [matches], and the like until about midnight as Marie herself used to do and who, almost without exception, will have the same fate as Marie. The priest has made up his mind concerning Marie’s penance; in his own mind he has already condemned her.. Let us follow Marie when she is accompanying Laporte home in the evening.
“See, my child,” he begins with unctuous eloquence, “the boundless horizon the limits of which are no longer visible” (for it is evening), “it seems to me that the calm and the vastness almost give us an idea of eternity.... I am telling you this, Marie, because you are sensitive to the beauties of creation.... I have often been moved by the religious admiration which they inspire in you-you who for so long were deprived of religious feeling.”
The priest has already succeeded in changing Marie’s immediate naive pleasure in the beauties of nature into a religious admiration. For her, nature has already become devout, Christianised nature, debased to creation. The transparent sea of space is desecrated and turned into the dark symbol of stagnant eternity. She has already learnt that all human manifestations of her being were “profane”, devoid of religion, of real consecration, that they were impious and godless. The priest must soil her in her own eyes, he must trample underfoot her natural, spiritual resources and means of grace, in order to make her receptive to the supernatural means of grace he promises her, baptism. When Marie wants to make a confession to him and asks him to be lenient he answers:
“The Lord has shown you that he is merciful.”
In the clemency which she is shown Marie must not see a natural, self-evident attitude of a related human being to her, another human being. She must see in it an extravagant, supernatural, superhuman mercy and condescension; in human leniency she must see divine mercy. She must transcendentalise all human and natural relationships by making them relationships to God. The way Fleur de Marie in her answer accepts the priest’s chatter about divine mercy shows how far she has already been spoilt by religious doctrine. As soon as she entered upon her improved situation, she said, she had felt only her new happiness.
“Every instant I thought of Monsieur Rudolph. I often raised my eyes to heaven, to look there, not for God, but for Monsieur Rudolph, and to thank him. Yes, I confess, Father, I thought more of him than of God; for he did for me what God alone could have done.... I was happy, as happy as someone who has escaped a great danger for ever.”
Fleur de Marie already finds it wrong that she took a new happy situation in life simply for what it really was, that she felt it as a new happiness, that her attitude to it was a natural, not a supernatural one. She accuses herself of seeing in the man who rescued her what he really was, her rescuer, instead of supposing some imaginary saviour, God, in his place. She is already caught in religious hypocrisy, which takes away from another man what he has deserved in respect of me in order to give it to God, and which in general regards everything human in man as alien to him and everything inhuman in him as really belonging to him. Marie tells us that the religious transformation of her thoughts, her sentiments, her attitude to life was effected by Madame George and Laporte.
“When Rudolph took me away from the Cité, I already had a vague consciousness of my degradation. But the education, the advice and examples I got from you and Madame George made me understand ... that I had been more guilty than unfortunate.... You and Madame George made me realise the infinite depth of my damnation.”
That is to say she owes to the priest Laporte and Madame George the replacement of the human and therefore bearable consciousness of her degradation by the Christian and hence unbearable consciousness of eternal damnation. The priest and the bigot have taught her to judge herself from the Christian point of view. Marie feels the depth of the spiritual misfortune into which she has been cast. She says:
“Since the consciousness of good and evil had to be so frightful for me, why was I not left to my wretched lot?... Had I not been snatched away from infamy, misery and blows would soon have killed me. At least I should have died in ignorance of a purity that I shall always wish for in vain.”
The heartless priest replies:
“Even the most noble nature, were it to be plunged only for a day in the filth from which you have been saved, would be indelibly branded. That is the immutability of divine justice!”
Deeply wounded by this priestly curse uttered in such honeyed tones, Fleur de Marie exclaims:
“You see therefore, I must despair!”
The grey-headed slave of religion answers:
“You must renounce hope of effacing this desolate page from your life, but you must trust in the infinite mercy of God. Here below, my poor child, you will have tears, remorse and penance, but one day up above, forgiveness and eternal bliss!”
Marie is not yet stupid enough to be satisfied with eternal bliss and forgiveness up above.
“Pity, pity, my God!” she cries. “I am so young.... Malheur à moi! [Woe unto me!]”
Then the hypocritical sophistry of the priest reaches its peak:
“On the contrary, happiness for you, Marie; happiness for you to whom the Lord sends this bitter but saving remorse! It shows the religious susceptibility of your soul.... Each of your sufferings is counted up above. Believe me, God left you awhile on the path of evil only to reserve for you the glory of repentance and the eternal reward due to atonement.”
From this moment Marie is enslaved by the consciousness of sin. In her former most unhappy situation in life she was able to develop a lovable, human individuality; in her outward debasement she was conscious that her human essence was her true essence. Now the filth of modern society, which has touched her externally, becomes her innermost being, and continual hypochondriacal self-torture because of that filth becomes her duty, the task of her life appointed by God himself, the self-purpose of her existence. Formerly she said of herself “Je ne suis pas pleurnicheuse” and knew that “ce qui est fait, est fait”. Now self-torment will be her good and remorse will be her glory. It turns out later that Fleur de Marie is Rudolph’s daughter. We come across her again as Princess of Geroldstein. We overhear a conversation she has with her father:
“In vain I pray to God to deliver me from these obsessions, to fill my heart solely with his pious love and his holy hopes; in a word, to take me entirely, because I wish to give myself entirely to him ... he does not grant my wishes, doubtless because my earthly preoccupations make me unworthy of communion with him.”
When man has realised that his transgressions are infinite crimes against God he can be sure of salvation and mercy only if he gives himself wholly to God and becomes wholly dead to the world and worldly concerns. When Fleur de Marie realises that her delivery from her inhuman situation in life was a miracle of God she herself has to become a saint in order to be worthy of such a miracle. Her human love must be transformed into religious love, the striving for happiness into striving for eternal bliss, worldly satisfaction into holy hope, communion with people into communion with God. God must take her entirely. She herself reveals to us why he does not take her entirely. She has not yet given herself entirely to him, her heart is still preoccupied and engaged with earthly affairs. This is the last flickering of her strong nature. She gives herself entirely up to God by becoming wholly dead to the world and entering a convent.
A monastery is no place for him
Who has no stock of sins laid in,
So numerous and great
That be it early, be it late
He may not miss the sweet delight
Of penance for a heart contrite.
[Goethe, Zahme Xenim IX]
In the convent Fleur de Marie is promoted to abbess through the intrigues of Rudolph. At first she refuses to accept this appointment because she feels unworthy. The old abbess persuades her:
“I shall say more, my dear daughter: if before entering the fold your life had been as full of error as, on the contrary, it was pure and praiseworthy ... the evangelical virtues of which you have given an example since you have been here would have atoned for and redeemed your past in the eyes of the Lord, no matter how sinful it was.”
From what the abbess says, we see that Fleur de Marie’s earthly virtues have changed into evangelical virtues, or rather that her real virtues can no longer appear otherwise than as evangelical caricatures. Marie answers the abbess:
“Holy Mother, I now believe that I can accept.”
Convent life does not suit Marie’s individuality — she dies. Christianity consoles her only in imagination, or rather her Christian consolation is precisely the annihilation of her real life and essence — her death.
So Rudolph first changed Fleur de Marie into a repentant sinner, then the repentant sinner into a nun and finally the nun into a corpse. At her funeral not only the Catholic priest, but also the Critical priest Szeliga preaches a sermon over her grave.
Her “innocent” existence he calls her “transient” existence, opposing it to “eternal and unforgettable guilt”. He praises the fact that her “last breath” was a “prayer for forgiveness and pardon”. But just as the Protestant Minister, after expounding the necessity of the Lord’s mercy, the participation of the deceased in universal original sin and the intensity of his consciousness of sin, must praise the virtues of the departed in earthly terms, so, too, Herr Szeliga uses the expression:
“And yet personally, she has nothing to ask forgiveness for.”
Finally he throws on Marie’s grave the most faded flower of pulpit eloquence:
“Inwardly pure as human beings seldom are, she has closed her eyes to this world.”
3) Revelation of the Mysteries of Law[edit source]
a) The maître d'école, or the New Penal Theory. The Mystery of Solitary Confinement Revealed. Medical Mysteries[edit source]
The maître d'école is a criminal of Herculean strength and great intellectual vigour. He was brought up an educated and well-schooled man. This passionate athlete comes into conflict with the laws and customs of bourgeois society, whose universal yardstick is mediocrity, delicate morals and quiet trade. He becomes a murderer and abandons himself to all the excesses of a violent temperament that can nowhere find a fitting human occupation.
Rudolph captures this criminal. He wants to reform him critically and set him up as an example for the world of law. He quarrels with the world of law not over “punishment” itself, but over kinds and methods of punishment. He invents, as the Negro doctor David aptly expresses it, a penal theory which would be worthy of the “greatest German criminal expert”, and which has since had the good fortune to be defended by a German criminal expert with German earnestness and German thoroughness. Rudolph has not the slightest idea that one can rise above criminal experts: his ambition is to be “the greatest criminal expert”, primus inter pares [first among equals]. He has the maître d'école blinded by the Negro doctor David.
At first Rudolph repeats all the trivial objections to capital punishment: that it has no effect on the criminal and no effect on the people, for whom it seems to be an entertaining spectacle.
Further Rudolph establishes a difference between the maître d'école and the soul of the maître d'école. It is not the man, not the real maître d'école whom he wishes to save; he wants the spiritual salvation of his soul.
“The salvation of a soul,” he teaches, “is something holy.... Every crime can be atoned for and redeemed, the Saviour said, but only if the criminal earnestly desires to repent and atone. The transition from the court to the scaffold is too short.... You” (the maître d'école) “have criminally misused your strength. I shall paralyse your strength ... you will tremble before the weakest, your punishment will be equal to your crime ... but this terrible punishment will at least leave you the boundless horizon of atonement.... I shall cut you off only from the outer world in order to plunge you into impenetrable night and leave you alone with the memory of your ignominious deeds.... You will be forced to look into yourself ... your intelligence, which you have degraded, will be roused and will lead you to atonement.”
Since Rudolph regards the soul as holy and man’s body as profane, since he thus considers only the soul to be the true essence, because — according to Herr Szeliga’s Critical description of humanity — it belongs to heaven, the body and the strength of the maître d'école do not belong to humanity, the manifestation of their essence cannot be given human form or claimed for humanity and cannot be treated as essentially human. The maître d'école has misused his strength; Rudolph paralyses, lames, destroys that strength. There is no more Critical means of getting rid of the perverse manifestations of a human essential strength than the destruction of this essential strength. This is the Christian means — plucking out the eye if it offends or cutting off the hand if it offends, in a word, killing the body if the body gives offence; for the eye, the hand, the body are really only superfluous sinful appendages of man. Human nature must be killed in order to heal its ailments. Mass-type jurisprudence, too, in agreement here with the Critical, sees in the laming and paralysing of human strength the antidote to the objectionable manifestations of that strength.
What Rudolph, the man of pure Criticism, objects to in profane criminal justice is the too swift transition from the court to the scaffold. He, on the other hand, wants to link vengeance on the criminal with penance and consciousness of sin in the criminal, corporal punishment with spiritual punishment, sensuous torture with the non-sensuous torture of remorse. Profane punishment must at the same time be a means of Christian moral education,
This penal theory, which links jurisprudence with theology, this “revealed mystery of the mystery”, is no other than the penal theory of the Catholic Church, as already expounded at length by Bentham in his work Punishments and Rewards [Théorie des peines et des récompenses] In that book Bentham also proved the moral futility of the punishments of today. He calls legal penalties “legal parodies”.
The punishment that Rudolph imposed on the maître d'école is the same as that which Origen imposed on himself. He emasculates him, robs him of a productive organ, the eye. “The eye is the light of the body.” [New Testament, Matthew, 6:22] It does great credit to Rudolph’s religious instinct that he should hit, of all things, upon the idea of blinding. This punishment was current in the thoroughly Christian empire of Byzantium and came to full flower in the vigorous youthful period of the Christian-Germanic states of England and France. Cutting man off from the perceptible outer world, throwing him back into his abstract inner nature in order to correct him — blinding — is a necessary consequence of the Christian doctrine according to which the consummation of this cutting off, the pure isolation of man in his spiritualistic “ego”, is good itself. If Rudolph does not shut the maître d'école up in a real monastery, as was the case in Byzantium and in Franconia, he at least shuts him up in an ideal monastery, in the cloister of an impenetrable night which the light of the outer world cannot pierce, the cloister of an idle conscience and consciousness of sin filled with nothing but the phantoms of memory.
A certain speculative bashfulness prevents Herr Szeliga from discussing openly the penal theory of his hero Rudolph that worldly punishment must be linked with Christian repentance and atonement. Instead he imputes to him — naturally as a mystery which is only just being revealed to the world — the theory that punishment must make the criminal the “judge” of his “own” crime.
The mystery of this revealed mystery is Hegel’s penal theory. According to Hegel, the criminal in his punishment passes sentence on himself. Gans developed this theory at greater length. In Hegel this is the speculative disguise of the old jus talionis [the right of retaliation-an eye for an eye], which Kant expounded as the only juridical penal theory. For Hegel, self-judgment of the criminal remains a mere “Idea”, a mere speculative interpretation of the current empirical punishments for criminals. He thus leaves the mode of application to the respective stage of development of the state, i.e., he leaves punishment as it is. Precisely in that he shows himself more critical than his Critical echo. A penal theory which at the same time sees in the criminal the man can do so only in abstraction, in imagination, precisely because punishment, coercion, is contrary to human conduct. Moreover, this would be impossible to carry out. Purely subjective arbitrariness would take the place of the abstract law because it would always depend on the official, “honourable and decent” men to adapt the penalty to the individuality of the criminal. Plato long ago realised that the law must be one-sided and take no account of the individual. On the other hand, under human conditions punishment will really be nothing but the sentence passed by the culprit on himself. No one will want to convince him that violence from without, done to him by others, is violence which he had done to himself. On the contrary, he will see in other men his natural saviours from the punishment which he has imposed on himself; in other words, the relation will be reversed.
Rudolph expresses his innermost thought — the purpose of blinding the maître d'école — when he says to him:
“Chacune de tu paroles sera une prière." [every word you say will be a prayer]
He wants to teach him to pray. He wants to convert the Herculean robber into a monk whose only work is prayer. Compared with this Christian cruelty, how humane is the ordinary penal theory that just chops a man’s head off when it wants to destroy him. Finally, it goes without saying that whenever real mass-type legislation was seriously concerned with improving the criminal it acted incomparably more sensibly and humanely than the German Harun al-Rashid. The four Dutch agricultural colonies and the Ostwald penal colony in Alsace are truly human attempts in comparison with the blinding of the maître d'école just as Rudolph kills Fleur de Marie by handing her over to the priest and consciousness of sin, just as he kills Chourineur by robbing him of his human independence and degrading him into a bulldog, so he kills the maître d'école by having his eyes gouged out in order that he can learn to “pray”.
This is, of course, the way in which all reality emerges “simply” out of “pure Criticism”, namely, as a distortion and senseless abstraction of reality.
Immediately after the blinding of the maître d'école Herr Szeliga causes a moral miracle to take place.
“The terrible maître d'école,” he reports, “suddenly recognises the power of honesty and decency and says to Schurimann: ‘Yes, I can trust you, you have never stolen anything.”
Unfortunately Eugène Sue recorded a statement of the maître d'école about Chourineur which contains the same recognition and cannot he the effect of his having been blinded, since it was made earlier. In talking to Rudolph alone, the maître d'école said about Chourineur:
“Besides, he is not capable of betraying a friend. No, there’s something good in him ... he has always had strange ideas.”
This would seem to do away with Herr Szeliga’s moral miracle. Now we shall see the real results of Rudolph’s Critical cure. We next meet the maître d'école as he is going with a woman called Chouette to Bouqueval farm to play a foul trick on Fleur de Marie. The thought that dominates him is, of course, the thought of revenge on Rudolph. But the only way he knows of wreaking vengeance on him is metaphysically, by thinking and hatching “evil” to spite him.
“He has taken away my sight but not the thought of evil.”
He tells Chouette why he had sent for her:
“I was bored all alone with those honest people.”
When Eugène Sue satisfies his monkish, bestial lust in the self-humiliation of man to the extent of making the maître d'école implore on his knees the old hag Chouette and the little imp Tortillard not to abandon him, the great moralist forgets that that is the height of diabolical satisfaction for Chouette. Just as Rudolph, precisely by the violent act of blinding the criminal, proved to him the power of physical force, which he wants to show him is insignificant, so Eugène Sue now teaches the maître d'école really to recognise the full power of the senses. He teaches him to understand that without it man is unmanned and becomes a helpless object of mockery for children. He convinces him that the world deserved his crimes, for he had only to lose his sight to be ill-treated by it. He robs him of his last human illusion, for so far the maître d'école believed in Chouette’s attachment to him. He had said to Rudolph: “She would let herself be thrown into the fire for me.” Eugène Sue, on the other hand, has the satisfaction of hearing the maître d'école cry out in the depths of despair:
“Mon dieu! Mon dieu! Mon dieu!”
He has learnt to “pray"! In this “appel involontaire de la commisération divine,” Eugène Sue sees “quelque chose de providentiel”. [spontaneous appeal for divine mercy ... something providential]
The first result of Rudolph’s Criticism is this spontaneous prayer. It is followed immediately by an involuntary atonement at Bouqueval farm, where the ghosts of those whom the maître d'école murdered appear to him in a dream.
We shall not give a detailed description of this dream. We next find the Critically reformed maître d'école fettered in the cellar of the “Bras rouge”, half devoured by rats, half starving and half insane as a result of being tortured by Chouette and Tortillard, and roaring like a beast. Tortillard had delivered Chouette to him. Let us watch the treatment he inflicts on her. He copies the hero Rudolph not only outwardly, by scratching out Chouette’s eyes, but morally too by repeating Rudolph’s hypocrisy and embellishing his cruel treatment with pious phrases. As soon as the maître d'école has Chouette in his power he gives vent to “une joie effrayante”, [terrifying joy] and his voice trembles with rage.
“You realise that I do not want to get it over at once.... Torture for torture.... I must have a long talk with you before killing you.... It is going to be terrible for you. First of all, you see ... since that dream at Bouqueval farm which brought all our crimes back before me, since that dream which nearly drove me mad ... and which will drive me mad ... a strange change has come over me.... I have become horrified at my past cruelty.... At first I would not let you torture the songstress [Fleur de Marie], but that was nothing.... By bringing me to this cellar and making me suffer cold and hunger.... you left me to the terror of my own thoughts.... Oh, you don’t know what it is to be alone.... isolation purified me. I should not have thought it possible ... a proof that I am perhaps less of a blackguard than before ... what an infinite joy I feel to have you in my power, you monster ... not in order to revenge myself but ... to avenge our victims.... Yes, I shall have done my duty when I have punished my accomplice with my own hand I am now horrified at my past murders, and yet ... don’t you find it strange? it is without fear and quite calmly that I am going to commit a terrible murder on you, with terrible refinements ... tell me, tell me ... do you understand that?”
In those few words the maître d'école goes through a whole gamut of moral casuistry.
His first words are a frank expression of his desire for vengeance. He wants to give torture for torture. He wants to murder Chouette and he wants to prolong her agony by a long sermon. And — delightful sophistry!-the speech with which he tortures her is a sermon on morals. He asserts that his dream at Bouqueval has improved him. At the same time he reveals the real effect of the dream by admitting that it almost drove him mad and that it will actually do so. He gives as a proof of his reform that he prevented Fleur de Marie from being tortured. Eugène Sue’s personages -earlier Chourineur and now the maître d'école — must express, as the result of their thoughts, as the conscious. motive of their actions, his own intention as a writer, which causes him to make them behave in a certain way and no other. They must continually say: I have reformed myself ‘in this, in that, etc. Since their life has no real content, their words must give vigorous tones to insignificant features like the protection of Fleur de Marie.
Having reported the salutary effect of his Bouqueval dream, the maître d'école must explain why Eugène Sue had him locked up in a cellar. He must find the novelist’s procedure reasonable. He must say to Chouette: by locking me up in a cellar, causing me to be gnawed by rats and to suffer hunger and thirst, you have completed my reform. Solitude has Purified me.
The beastly roar, the ‘wild fury, the terrible lust for vengeance with which the maître d'école welcomes Chouette are in complete contradiction to this moralising talk. They betray what kind of thoughts occupied him in his dungeon.
The maître d'école himself seems to realise this, but being a Critical moralist, he will know how to reconcile the contradictions.
He declares that the “infinite joy” of having Chouette in his power is precisely a sign of his reform, for his lust for vengeance is not a natural one but a moral one. He wants to avenge, not himself, but the common victims of Chouette and himself. If he murders her, he does not commit murder, he fulfils a duty. He does not avenge himself on her, he punishes his accomplice like an impartial judge. He shudders at his past murders and, nevertheless, marvelling at his own casuistry, he asks Chouette: “Don’t you find it strange? Without fear and quite calmly I am going to kill you.” On moral grounds that he does not reveal, he gloats at the same time over the picture of the murder that he is going to commit, as being terrible murder ... murder with terrible refinements.
It is in accord with the character of the maître d'école that he should murder Chouette, especially after the cruelty with which she treated him. But that he should commit murder on moral grounds, that he should give a moral interpretation to his savage pleasure in the terrible murder and the terrible refinements that he should show his remorse for the past murders precisely by committing a fresh one, that from a simple murderer he should become a murderer in a double sense, a moral murderer — all this is the glorious result of Rudolph’s Critical cure.
Chouette tries to get away from the maître d'école. He notices it and holds her fast.
“Keep still, Chouette, I must finish explaining to you how I gradually came to repentance.... This revelation will be hateful to you ... and it will also show you how pitiless I must be in the vengeance I want to wreak on you in the name of our victims.... I must hurry.... The joy of having you here in my hands makes the blood pound in my veins.... I shall have time to make the approach of your death terrifying to you by forcing you to listen to me.... I am blind ... and my thoughts take a shape, a body, such that they incessantly present to me visibly, almost palpably ... the features of my victims.... The ideas are reflected almost materially in my brain. When repentance is linked with an atonement of terrifying severity, an atonement that changes our life into a long sleeplessness filled with hallucinations of revenge or desperate reflections ... then, perhaps, the pardon of men follows remorse and atonement.”
The maître d'école continues with his hypocrisy which every minute betrays itself as such. Chouette must hear how he came by degrees to repentance. This revelation will be hateful to her, for it will prove that it is his duty to take a pitiless revenge on her, not in his own name, but in the name of their common victims. Suddenly the maître d'école interrupts his didactic lecture. He must, he says, “hurry” with his lecture, for the pleasure of having her in his hands makes the blood pound in his veins; that is a moral reason for cutting the lecture short! Then he calms his blood again. The long time that he takes in preaching her a moral sermon is not wasted for his revenge. It will “make the approach of death terrifying” for her. That is a different moral reason, one for protracting his sermon! And having such moral reasons he can safely resume his moral text where he left off.
The maître d'école describes correctly the condition to which isolation from the outer world reduces a man. For one to whom the sensuously perceptible world becomes a mere idea, for him mere ideas are transformed into sensuously perceptible beings. The figments of his brain assume corporeal form. A world of tangible, palpable ghosts is begotten within his mind. That is the secret of all pious visions and at the same time it is the general form of insanity. When the maître d'école repeats Rudolph’s words about the “power of repentance and atonement linked with terrible torments”, he does so in a state of semi-madness, thus proving in fact the connection between Christian consciousness of sin and insanity. Similarly, when the maître d'école considers the transformation of life into a night of dream filled with ghosts as the real result of repentance and atonement, he is expressing the true mystery of pure Criticism and of Christian reform, which consists in changing man into a ghost and his life into a life of dream.
At this point Eugène Sue realises how the salutary thoughts which he makes the blind robber prate after Rudolph will be made ridiculous by the robber’s treatment of Chouette. That is why he makes the maître d'école say:
“The salutary influence of these thoughts is such that my rage is appeased."'
So the maître d'école now admits that his moral wrath was nothing but profane rage.
“I lack courage ... strength ... will to kill you.... No, it is not for me to shed Your blood ... it would be ... murder.... Excusable murder, perhaps, but murder all the same.”
Chouette wounds the maître d'école with a dagger just in time. Eugène Sue can now let him kill her without any further moral casuistry.
“He uttered a cry of pain ... his fierce passion of vengeance, of rage and of bloodthirsty instinct, suddenly aroused and exacerbated by this attack, had a sudden and terrible outburst in which his already badly shaken reason was shattered.... Viper! I have felt your fang ... you will be sightless as I am.”
And he scratches her eyes out. When the nature of the maître d'école, which has been only hypocritically, sophistically disguised, only ascetically repressed by Rudolph’s cure, breaks out, the outburst is all the more violent and terrifying. We must be grateful to Eugène Sue for his admission that the reason of the maître d'école was badly shaken by all the events which Rudolph has prepared.
“The last spark of his reason was extinguished in that cry of terror, in that cry of a damned soul” (he sees the ghosts of his murdered victims) “... the maître d'école rages and roars like a frenzied beast.... He tortures Chouette to death...
Herr Szeliga mutters under his breath:
“With the maître d'école there cannot be such a swift” (!) “and fortunate” (!) “transformation” (!) “as with Schurimann.”
Just as Rudolph sends Fleur de Marie into a convent, he makes the maître d'école an inmate of the Bicêtre asylum. He has paralysed his spiritual as well as his physical strength. And rightly. For the maître d'école sinned with his spiritual as well as his physical strength, and according to Rudolph’s penal theory the sinning forces must be annihilated.
But Eugène Sue has not yet consummated the “repentance and atonement linked with a terrible revenge”. The maître d'école recovers his reason, but fearing to be delivered to justice he remains in Bicêtre and pretends to be mad. Monsieur Sue forgets that “every word he said was to be a prayer”, whereas finally it is much more like the inarticulate howling and raving of a madman. Or does Monsieur Sue perhaps ironically put these manifestations of life on the same level as praying?
The idea underlying the punishment that Rudolph carried out in blinding the maître d'école — the isolation of the man and his soul from the outer world, the combination of legal punishment with theological torture — finds its ultimate expression in solitary confinement. That is why Monsieur Sue glorifies this system.
“How many centuries had to pass before it was realised that there is only one means of overcoming the rapidly spreading leprosy” (i.e., the corruption of morals in prisons) “which is threatening the body of society: isolation.”
Monsieur Sue shares the opinion of the worthy people who explain the spread of crime by the organisation of prisons. To remove the criminal from bad society he is left to his own society. Eugène Sue says:
“I should consider myself lucky if my weak voice could he heard among all those which so rightly and so insistently demand the complete and absolute application of solitary confinement.”
Monsieur Sue’s wish has been only partially fulfilled. In the debates on solitary confinement in the Chamber of Deputies this year, even the official supporters of that system had to acknowledge that it leads sooner or later to insanity in the criminal. All sentences of imprisonment for more than ten years had therefore to be converted into deportation.
Had Messieurs Tocqueville and Beaumont studied Eugène Sue’s novel thoroughly they would certainly have secured complete and absolute application of solitary confinement.
If Eugène Sue deprives criminals with a sane mind of society in order to make them insane, he gives insane persons society to make them sane.
“Experience proves that isolation is as fatal for the insane as it is salutary for imprisoned criminals.”
If Monsieur Sue and his Critical hero Rudolph have not made law poorer by any mystery, whether through the Catholic penal theory or the Methodist solitary confinement, they have, on the other hand, enriched medicine with new mysteries, and after all, it is just as much of a service to discover new mysteries as to disclose old ones. In its report on the blinding of the maître d'école, Critical Criticism fully agrees with Monsieur Sue:
“When he is told he is deprived of the light of his eyes he does not even believe it.”
The maître d'école could not believe in the loss of his sight because in reality he could still see. Monsieur Sue is describing a new kind of cataract and is reporting a real mystery for mass-type, un-Critical ophthalmology.
The pupil is white after the operation, so it is a case of cataract of the crystalline lens. So far, this could, of course, he caused by injury to the envelope of the lens without causing much pain, though not entirely without pain. But as doctors achieve this result only by natural, not by Critical means, the only resort was to wait until inflammation set in after the injury and the exudation dimmed the lens.
A still greater miracle and greater mystery befall the maître d'école in the third chapter of the third book.
The man who has been blinded sees again,
“Chouette, the maître d'école and Tortillard saw the priest and Fleur de Marie.”
If we do not interpret this restoration of the maître d'école’s ability to see as an author’s miracle after the method of the Kritik der Synoptiker, the maître d'école must have had his cataract operated on again. Later he is blind again. So he used his eyes too soon and the irritation of the light caused inflammation which ended in paralysis of the retina and incurable amaurosis. It is another mystery for un-Critical ophthalmology that this process takes place here in a single second.
b) Reward and Punishment. Double Justice (with a Table)[edit source]
The hero Rudolph reveals a new theory to keep society upright by rewarding the good and punishing the wicked. Un-Critically considered, this theory is nothing but the theory of society as it is today. How little lacking it is in rewards for the good and punishments for the wicked! Compared with this revealed mystery, how un-Critical is the mass-type Communist Owen, who sees in punishment and reward the consecration of differences in social rank and the complete expression of a servile abasement.
It could be considered as a new revelation that Eugène Sue makes rewards derive from the judiciary — from a new appendix to the Penal Code — and not satisfied with one jurisdiction he invents a second. Unfortunately this revealed mystery, too, is the repetition of an old theory expounded in detail by Bentham in his work already mentioned [Théorie des peines et des récompenses]. On the other hand, we cannot deny Monsieur Eugène Sue the honour of having motivated and developed Bentham’s suggestion in an incomparably more Critical way than the latter. Whereas the mass-type Englishman keeps his feet on the ground, Sue’s deduction rises to the Critical region of the heavens. His argument is as follows:
“The supposed effects of heavenly wrath are materialised to deter the wicked. Why should not the effect of the divine reward of the good be similarly materialised and anticipated on earth?”
In the un-Critical view it is the other way round: the heavenly criminal theory has only idealised the earthly theory, just as divine reward is only an idealisation of human wage service. It is absolutely necessary that society should not reward all good people so that divine justice will have some advantage over human justice.
In depicting his Critical rewarding justice, Monsieur Sue gives an example of the feminine dogmatism that must have a formula and forms it according to the categories of what exists”, dogmatism which was censured with all the “tranquillity of knowledge” by Herr Edgar in Flora Tristan. For each point of the present penal code, which he retains, Monsieur Sue projects the addition of a counterpart in a reward code copied from it to the last detail. For easier survey we shall give his description of the complementary pairs in tabular form:
Name: Criminal Justice
Description: holds in its hand a sword to shorten the wicked by a head.
Purpose: Punishment of the wicked — imprisonment, infamy, deprivation of life. The people is notified of the terrible chastisements for the wicked.
Means of discovering the wicked: Police spying, mouchards, to keep watch over the wicked.
Method of ascertaining whether someone is wicked: Les assists du crime, criminal assizes. The public ministry points out and indicts the crimes of the accused for public vengeance.
Condition of the criminal after sentence: Under surveillance de la haute police. Is fed in prison. The state defrays expenses.
Execution: The criminal stands on the scaffold.
Critically Supplementing Justice
Name: Virtuous Justice
Description: holds in its hand a crown to raise the good by a head.
Purpose: Reward of the good, free board, honour, maintenance of life.
The people is notified of the brilliant triumphs for the good.
Means of discovering the Good: Espionnage de vertu, mouchards to keep watch over the virtuous.
Method of ascertaining whether someone is good: Assises de la vertu, virtue assizes. The public ministry points out and proclaims the noble deeds of the accused for public recognition.
Condition of the virtuous after sentence: Under surveillance de la haute charité morale. Is fed at home. The state defrays expenses.
Execution: Immediately opposite the scaffold of the criminal a pedestal is erected on which the grand homme de bien stands. — A pillory of virtue.
Moved by the sight of this picture, Monsieur Sue exclaims:
“ Alas! It is a utopia! But suppose a society were organised in this way!”
That would be the Critical organisation of society. We must defend this organisation against Eugène Sue’s reproach that up to now it has remained a utopia. Sue has again forgotten the “Virtue Prize” which is awarded every year in Paris and which he himself mentions. This prize is even organised in duplicate: the material prix Montyon for noble acts of men and women, and the prix rosière for girls of highest morality. There is even the wreath of roses demanded by Eugène Sue.
As far as spying on virtue and the supervision of supreme moral charity are concerned, they were organised long ago by the Jesuits. Moreover, the Journal des Débats, Siècle, Petites affiches de Paris, etc., point out and proclaim the virtues, noble acts and merits of all the Paris stockjobbers daily and at cost price not counting the pointing out and proclamation of political noble acts, for which each party has its own organ.
Old Voss remarked long ago that Homer is better than his gods. The “revealed mystery of all mysteries”, Rudolph, can therefore be made responsible for Eugène Sue’s ideas.
In addition, Herr Szeliga reports:
“Besides, the passages in which Eugène Sue interrupts the narration and introduces or concludes episodes are very numerous, and all are Critical.”
c) Abolition of Degeneracy Within Civilisation and of Rightlessness in the State[edit source]
The juridical preventive means for the abolition of crime and hence of degeneracy within civilisation consists in the
“protective guardianship assumed by the state over the children of executed criminals or of those condemned to a life sentence”.
Sue wants to organise the subdivision of crime in a more liberal way. No family should any longer have a hereditary privilege to crime; free competition in crime should triumph over monopoly.
Monsieur Sue abolishes “rightlessness in the state” by reforming the section of the Code pénal on confidence tricks, and especially by the institution of paid lawyers for the poor. He finds that in Piedmont, Holland, etc., where there are lawyers for the poor, rightlessness in the state has been abolished. The only failing of French legislation is that it does not provide for payment of lawyers for the poor, has no lawyers restricted to serving the poor, and makes the legal limits of poverty too narrow. As if rightlessness did not begin in the very lawsuit itself, and as if it had not already been known for a long time in France that the law gives nothing, but only sanctions what exists. The already trivial differentiation between droit and fait seems still to be a mystère de Paris for the Critical novelist.
If we add to the Critical revelation of the mysteries of law the great reforms which Eugène Sue wants to institute in respect of huissiers [bailiffs], we shall understand the Paris Journal Satan. There we see the residents of a district in the city write to the “grand réformateur à tant la ligne” [great reformer at so much a line], that there is no gaslight yet in their streets. Monsieur Sue replies that he will deal with this shortcoming in the sixth volume of his Wandering Jew. Another part of the city complains of the shortcomings of preliminary education. He promises a preliminary education reform for that district of the city in the tenth volume of the Wandering Jew.
4) The Revealed Mystery of The “Standpoint”[edit source]
“Rudolph does not remain at his lofty” (!) ..standpoint ... he does not shirk the trouble of adopting by free choice the standpoints on the right and on the left, above and below” (Szeliga).
One of the principal mysteries of Critical Criticism is the “standpoint” and judgment from the standpoint of the standpoint. For Criticism every man, like every product of the spirit, is turned into a standpoint.
Nothing is easier than to see through the mystery of the standpoint when one has seen through the general mystery of Critical Criticism, that of warming up old speculative trash.
First of all, let Criticism itself expound its theory of the “standpoint” in the words of its patriarch, Herr Bruno Bauer.
“Science ... never deals with a given single individual or a given definite standpoint ... it will not fail, of course, to do away with the limitations of a standpoint if it is worth the trouble and if these limitations have really general human significance; but it conceives them as pure category and determinations of selfconsciousness and accordingly speaks only for those who have the courage to rise to the generality of self-consciousness, i.e., who do not wish with all their strength to remain within those limitations” (Anekdota, t. II, p. 127). [B. Bauer, Leiden und Freuden des theologischen Bewusstseins]
The mystery of this courage of Bauer’s is Hegel’s Phänomenologie. Because Hegel here substitutes self-consciousness for man, the most varied manifestations of human reality appear only as definite forms, as determinateness of self-consciousness. But mere determinateness of self-consciousness is a “pure category”, a mere “thought”, which I can consequently also transcend in “pure” thought and overcome through pure thought. In Hegel’s Phänomenologie the material, sensuously perceptible, objective foundations of the various estranged forms of human self-consciousness are allowed to remain. The whole destructive work results in the most conservative philosophy because it thinks it has overcome the objective world, the sensuously perceptible real world, by transforming it into a “Thing of Thought”, a mere determinateness of self-consciousness, and can therefore also dissolve its opponent, which has become ethereal, in the “ether of pure thought’. The Phänomenologie is therefore quite consistent in that it ends by replacing human reality by “absolute knowledge” — knowledge, because this is the only mode of existence of self-consciousness, and because selfconsciousness is considered the only mode of existence of man — absolute knowledge for the very reason that selfconsciousness knows only itself and is no longer disturbed by any objective world. Hegel makes man the man of self-consciousness instead of making self-consciousness the self-consciousness of man, of real man, i.e., of man living also in a real, objective world and determined by that world. He stands the world on its head and can therefore in his head also dissolve all limitations, which nevertheless remain in existence for bad sensuousness, for real man. Moreover, everything that betrays the limitations of general self-consciousness — all sensuousness, reality, individuality of men and of their world — is necessarily held by him to be a limit. The whole of the Phänomenologie is intended to prove that self-consciousness is the only reality and all reality.
Herr Bauer has recently re-christened absolute knowledge Criticism, and given the more profane sounding name standpoint to the determinateness of self-consciousness. In the Anekdota both names are still to be found side by side, and standpoint is still explained as the determinateness of self-consciousness.
Since the “religious world as such” exists only as the world of self-consciousness, the Critical Critic — the theologian ex professo — cannot by any means entertain the thought that there is a world in which consciousness and being are distinct; a world which continues to exist when I merely abolish its existence in thought, its existence as a category or as a standpoint; i.e., when I modify my own subjective consciousness without altering the objective reality in a really objective way, that is to say, without altering my own objective reality and that of other men. Hence the speculative mystical identity of being and thinking is repeated in Criticism as the equally mystical identity of practice and theory. That is why Criticism is so vexed with practice which wants to be something distinct from theory, and with theory which wants to be something other than the dissolution of a definite category in the “boundless generality of self-consciousness”. Its own theory is confined to stating that everything determinate is an opposite of the boundless generality of self-consciousness and is, therefore, of no significance; for example, the state, private property, etc. It must be shown, on the contrary, how the state, private property, etc., turn human beings into abstractions, or are products of abstract man, instead of being the reality of individual, concrete human beings.
Finally, it goes without saying that whereas Hegel’s Phänomenologie, in spite of its speculative original sin, gives in many instances the elements of a true description of human relations, Herr Bruno and Co., on the other hand, provide only an empty caricature, a caricature which is satisfied with deriving any determinateness out of a product of the spirit or even out of real relations and movements, changing this determinateness into a determinateness of thought, into a category, and making out that this category is the standpoint of the product, of the relation and the movement, in order then to be able to look down on this determinateness triumphantly with old-man’s wisdom from the standpoint of abstraction, of the general category and of general self-consciousness.
Just as in Rudolph’s opinion all human beings maintain the standpoint of good or bad and are judged by these two immutable conceptions, so for Herr Bauer and Co. all human beings adopt the standpoint of Criticism or that of the Mass. But both turn real human beings into abstract standpoints.
5) Revelation of The Mystery of the Utilisation of Human Impulses, Or Clémence D'Harville[edit source]
So far Rudolph has been unable to do more than reward the good and punish the wicked in his own way. We shall now see an example of how he makes the passions useful and “gives the good natural disposition of Clémence d'Harville an appropriate development”.
“Rudolph,” says Herr Szeliga, “draws her attention to the entertaining aspect of charity, a thought which testifies to a knowledge of human beings that can only arise in the soul of Rudolph after it has been through trial.”
The expressions which Rudolph uses in his conversation with Clémence:
“To make attractive”, “to utilise natural taste”, “to regulate intrigue”, “to utilise the propensity to dissimulation and craft”, “to change imperious, inexorable instincts into noble qualities” etc.,
these expressions just as ‘ much as the impulses themselves, which are mostly attributed here to woman’s nature, betray the secret source of Rudolph’s wisdom — Fourier. He has come across some popular presentation of Fourier’s theory.
The application is again just as much Rudolph’s Critical own as is the exposition of Bentham’s theory given above.
It is not in charity as such that the young marquise is to find the satisfaction of her essential human nature, a human content and purpose of her activity, and hence entertainment. Charity offers rather only the external occasion, only the pretext, only the material, for a kind of entertainment that could just as well use any other material as its content. Misery is exploited consciously to procure the charitable person “the piquancy of a novel, the satisfaction of curiosity, adventure, disguise, enjoyment of his or her own excellence, violent nervous excitement”, and the like.
Rudolph has thereby unconsciously expressed the mystery which was revealed long ago, that human misery itself, the infinite abjectness which is obliged to receive alms, must serve the aristocracy of money and education as a plaything to satisfy its self-love, tickle its arrogance and amuse it.
The numerous charitable associations in Germany, the numerous charitable societies in France and the great number of charitable quixotic societies in England, the concerts, balls, plays, meals for the poor, and even the public subscriptions for victims of accidents, have no other object. It seems then that along these lines charity, too, has long been organised as entertainment.
The sudden, unmotivated transformation of the marquise at the mere word “amusant” makes us doubt the durability of her cure; or rather this transformation is sudden and unmotivated only in appearance and is caused only in appearance by the description of charité as an amusement. The marquise loves Rudolph and Rudolph wants to disguise himself along with her, to intrigue and to indulge in charitable adventures. Later, when the marquise pays a charity visit to the prison of Saint-Lazare, her jealousy of Fleur de Marie becomes apparent and out of charity towards her jealousy she conceals from Rudolph the fact of Marie’s detention. At the best, Rudolph has succeeded in teaching an unhappy woman to play a silly comedy with unhappy beings. The mystery of the philanthropy he has hatched is betrayed by the Paris fop who invites his partner to supper after the dance in the following words:
“Ah, Madame, it is not enough to have danced for the benefit of these poor Poles.... Let us he philanthropy to the end.... Let us have supper now for the benefit of the poor!”
6) Revelation of the Mystery of the Emancipation of Women, Or Louise Morel[edit source]
On the occasion of the arrest of Louise Morel, Rudolph indulges in reflections which he sums up as follows:
“The master often ruins the maid, either by fear, surprise or other use of the opportunities provided by the nature of the servants’ condition. He reduces her to misery, shame and crime. The law is not concerned with this.... The criminal who has in fact driven a girl to infanticide is not punished.”
Rudolph’s reflections do not go so far as to make the servants’ condition the object of his most gracious Criticism. Being a petty rulers he is a great patroniser of servants’ conditions. Still less does he go so far as to understand that the general position of women in modern society is inhuman. Faithful in all respects to his previous theory, he deplores only that there is no law which punishes a seducer and links repentance and atonement with terrible chastisement.
Rudolph has only to take a look at the existing legislation in other countries. English laws fulfil all his wishes. In their delicacy, which Blackstone so highly praises, they go so far as to declare it a felony to seduce even a prostitute.
Herr Szeliga exclaims with a flourish:
“So” (!) — “thinks” (!) — “Rudolph” (!) — “and now compare these thoughts with your fantasies about the emancipation of woman. The act of this emancipation can be almost physically grasped from them, but you are much too practical to start with, and that is why your attempts have failed so often.”
In any case we must thank Herr Szeliga for revealing the mystery that an act can be almost physically grasped from thoughts. As for his ridiculous comparison of Rudolph with men who taught the emancipation of woman, compare Rudolph’s thoughts with the following “fantasies” of Fourier.
“Adultery, seduction, are a credit to the seducer, are good tone.... But, poor girl! Infanticide! What a crime! If she prizes her honour she must efface all traces of dishonour. But if she sacrifices her child to the prejudices of the world her ignominy is all the greater and she is a victim of the prejudices of the law.... That is the vicious circle which every civilised mechanism describes.”
“Is not the young daughter a ware held up for sale to the first bidder who wishes to obtain exclusive ownership of her?... just as in grammar two negations are the equivalent of an affirmation, we can say that in the marriage trade two prostitutions are the equivalent of virtue.”
“The change in a historical epoch can always be determined by women’s progress towards freedom, because here, in the relation of woman to man, of the weak to the strong, the victory of human nature over brutality is most evident. The degree of emancipation of woman is the natural measure of general emancipation.”
“The humiliation of the female sex is an essential feature of civilisation as well as of barbarism. The only difference is that the civilised system raises every vice that barbarism practises in a simple form to a compound, equivocal, ambiguous, hypocritical mode of existence.... No one is punished more severely for keeping woman in slavery than man himself” (Fourier).
It is superfluous to contrast Rudolph’s thoughts with Fourier’s masterly characterisation of marriage, or with the works of the materialist section of French communism.
The most pitiful off-scourings of socialist literature, a sample of which is to be found in this novelist, reveal “mysteries” still unknown to Critical Criticism.
7) Revelation of Political Economic Mysteries[edit source]
a) Theoretical Revelation of Political Economic Mysteries[edit source]
First revelation: Wealth often leads to waste, waste to ruin.
Second revelation: The above-mentioned effects of wealth arise from a lack of instruction in rich youth.
Third revelation: Inheritance and private property are and must be inviolable and sacred.
Fourth revelation: The rich man is morally responsible to the workers for the way he uses his fortune. A large fortune is a hereditary deposit — a feudal tenement — entrusted to clever, firm, skilful and magnanimous hands, which are at the same time charged with making it fruitful and using it in such a way that everything which has the good luck to be within the range of the dazzling and wholesome radiation of that large fortune is fructified, vitalised and improved.
Fifth revelation: The state must give inexperienced rich youth the rudiments of individual economy. It must give a moral character to riches.
Sixth revelation: Finally, the state must tackle the vast question of organisation of labour. It must give the wholesome example of the association of capitals and labour, of an association which is honest, intelligent and fair, which ensures the well-being of the worker without prejudice to the fortune of the rich, which establishes links of sympathy and gratitude between these two classes and thus ensures tranquillity in the state for ever.
Since the state at present does not yet accept this theory Rudolph himself gives some practical examples. They reveal the mystery that the most generally known economic relations are still ..mysteries” for Monsieur Sue, Monsieur Rudolph and Critical Criticism.
b) “The Bank for the Poor”[edit source]
Rudolph institutes a Bank for the Poor. The statute of this Critical Bank for the Poor is as follows:
It must give support during periods of unemployment to honest workers with families. It must replace alms and pawnshops. It has at its disposal an annual income of 12,000 francs and distributes interest-free assistance loans of 20 to 40 francs. At first it extends its activity only to the seventh arrondissement of Paris, where most of the workers live. Working men and women applying for relief must have a certificate from their last employer vouching for their good behaviour and giving the cause and date of the interruption of work. These loans are to be paid off in monthly instalments of one-sixth or one-twelfth of the sum at the choice of the borrower, counting from the day on which he finds employment again. The loan is guaranteed by a the borrower’s word of honour. Moreover, the latter’s parole jurée [sworn sword] must be guaranteed by two other workers.
As the Critical purpose of the Bank for the Poor is to remedy one of the most grievous misfortunes in the life of the worker — interruption in employment — assistance would be given only to unemployed manual workers. Monsieur Germain, the manager of this institution, draws a yearly salary of 10,000 francs.
Let us now cast a mass-type glance at the practice of Critical political economy. The annual income is 12,000 francs. The amount loaned per person is from 20 to 40 francs, hence an average of 30 francs. The number of workers in the seventh arrondissement who are officially recognised as “needy” is at least 4,000. Hence, in a year only 400, or one-tenth, of the neediest workers in the seventh arrondissement can receive relief. If we estimate the average length of unemployment in Paris at 4 months, i.e., 16 weeks, we shall be considerably below the actual figure. Thirty francs divided over 16 weeks gives somewhat less than 37 sous and 3 centimes a week, not even 27 centimes a day. The daily expense on one prisoner in France is on the average a little over 47 centimes, somewhat over 30 centimes being spent on food alone. But the worker to whom Monsieur Rudolph pays relief has a family. Let us take the average family as consisting of man, wife and only two children; that means that 27 centimes must be divided among four persons. From this we must deduct rent — a minimum of 15 centimes a day — so that 12 centimes remain. The average amount of bread eaten by a single prisoner costs about 14 centimes. Therefore, even disregarding all other needs, the worker and his family will not be able to buy even a quarter of the bread they need with the help obtained from the Critical Bank for the Poor. They will certainly starve if they do not resort to the means that the bank is intended to obviate — the pawnshop, begging, thieving and prostitution.
The manager of the Bank for the Poor, on the other hand, is all the more brilliantly provided for by the man of ruthless Criticism. The income he administers is 12,000 francs, his salary is 10,000. The management therefore costs 85 per cent of the total, nearly three times as much as the mass-type administration of poor relief in Paris, which costs about 17 per cent of the total.
Let us suppose for a moment that the assistance that the Bank for the Poor provides is real, not just illusory. In that case the institution of the revealed mystery of all mysteries rests on the illusion that only a different distribution of wages is required to enable the workers to live through the year.
Speaking in the prosaic sense, the income of 7,500,000 French workers averages no more than 91 francs per head, that of another 7,500,000 is only 120 francs per head; hence for at least 15,000,000 it is less than is absolutely necessary for life.
The idea of the Critical Bank for the Poor, if it is rationally conceived, amounts to this: during the time the worker is employed as much will be deducted from his wages as he needs for his living during unemployment. It comes to the same thing whether I advance him a certain sum during his unemployment and he gives it back when he has employment, or he gives up a certain sum when he has employment and I give it back to him when he is unemployed. In either case he gives me when he is working what he gets from me when he is unemployed.
Thus, the “Pure” Bank for the Poor differs from the mass-type savings-banks only in two very original, very Critical qualities. The first is that the Bank for the Poor lends money “à fonds perdus” [not to be repaid], on the senseless assumption that the worker could pay back if he wanted to and that he would always want to pay back if he could. The second is that it pays no interest on the sum put aside by the worker. As this sum is given the form of an advance, the Bank for the Poor thinks it is doing the worker a favour by not charging him any interest.
The difference between the Critical Bank for the Poor and the mass-type savings-banks is therefore that the worker loses his interest and the Bank its capital.
c) Model Farm at Bouqueval[edit source]
Rudolph founds a model farm at Bouqueval. The choice of the place is all the more fortunate as it preserves memories of feudal times. namely of a château seigneurial [feudal manor].
Each of the six men employed on this farm is paid 150 écus, or 450 francs a year, while the women get 60 écus, or 180 francs. Moreover they get board and lodging free. The ordinary daily fare of the people at Bouqueval consists of a “formidable” plate of ham, an equally formidable plate of mutton and, finally, a no less massive piece of veal supplemented by two kinds of winter salad, two large cheeses, potatoes, cider, etc. Each of the six men does twice the work of the ordinary French agricultural labourer.
As the total annual income produced by France, if divided equally, would come to no more than 93 francs per person, and as the total number of inhabitants employed directly in agriculture is two-thirds of the population of France, it will be seen what a revolution the general imitation of the German caliph’s model farm would cause not only in the distribution, but also in the production of the national wealth.
According to what has been said, Rudolph achieved this enormous increase in production solely by making each labourer work twice as much and eat six times as much as before.
Since the French peasant is very industrious, labourers who work twice as much must be superhuman athletes, as the “formidable” meat dishes also seem to indicate. Hence we may assume that each of the six men eats at least a pound of meat a day.
If all the meat produced in France were distributed equally there would not be even a quarter of a pound per person per day. It is therefore obvious what a revolution Rudolph’s example would cause in this respect too. The agricultural population alone would consume more meat than is produced in France, so that as a result of this Critical reform France would be left without any livestock.
The fifth part of the gross product which Rudolph, according to the report of the manager of Bouqueval, Father Chatelain, allows the labourers, in addition to the high wage and sumptuous board, is nothing else than his rent. It is assumed that, on the average, after deduction of all production costs and profit on the working capital, one-fifth of the gross product remains for the French landowner, that is to say, the ratio of the rent to the gross product is one to five. Although it is beyond doubt that Rudolph decreases the profit on his working capital beyond all proportion by increasing the expenditure for the labourers beyond all proportion — according to Chaptal (De l'industrie française, t. 1, p. 2 39) the average yearly income of the French agricultural labourer is 120 francs — although Rudolph gives his whole rent away to the labourers, Father Chatelain nevertheless reports that the prince thereby increases his revenue and thus inspires un-Critical landowners to farm in the same way.
The Bouqueval model farm is nothing but a fantastic illusion; its hidden fund is not the natural land of the Bouqueval estate, it is a magic purse of Fortunatus that Rudolph has!
In this connection Critical Criticism exultantly declares:
“You can see from the whole plan at a first glance that it is not a utopia.”
Only Critical Criticism can see at a first glance at a Fortunatus’ purse that it is not a utopia. The first glance of Criticism is — the glance of “the evil eye"!
8) Rudolph, “The Revealed Mystery of All Mysteries”[edit source]
The miraculous means by which Rudolph accomplishes all his redemptions and miracle cures is not his fine words but his ready money. That is what the moralists are like, says Fourier. You must be a millionaire to he able to imitate their heroes.
Moral is “impotence in action”. Every time it fights a vice it is defeated. And Rudolph does not even rise to the standpoint of independent morality, which is based at least on the consciousness of human dignity. His morality, on the contrary, is based on the consciousness of human weakness. His is the theological morality. We have investigated in detail the heroic feats that he accomplished with his fixed, Christian ideas, by which he measures the world, with his “charité”, “dévouement”, “abnégation”, “repentir”, “bons” and “méchants”, “récompense” and “punition”, “châtiments terribles”, “isolement”, “salut de l'âme” [charity, devotion, self-denial, repentance”, the good and the wicked people, reward and punishment, terrible chastisements, isolation, salvation of the soul] etc. We have proved that they are mere Eulenspiegel tricks. All that we still have to deal with here is the personal character of Rudolph, the “revealed mystery of all mysteries” or the revealed mystery of “pure Criticism”.
The antithesis of “good” and “evil” confronts the Critical Hercules when he is still a youth in two personifications, Murph and Polidori, both of them Rudolph’s teachers. The former educates him in good and is “the Good One”. The latter educates him in evil and is “the Evil One”. So that this conception should by no means be inferior in triviality to similar conceptions in other novels, Murph, the personification of “the good”, cannot be “savant” or “particularly endowed intellectually”. But he is honest, simple, and laconic; he feels himself great when he applies to evil such monosyllabic words as “foul” or “vile”, and he has a horreur of anything which is base. To use Hegel’s expression, he honestly sets the melody of the good and the true in an equality of tones, i.e., on one note.
Polidori, on the contrary, is a prodigy of cleverness, knowledge and education, and at the same time of the “most dangerous immorality”, having, in particular, what Eugène Sue, as a member of the young pious French bourgeoisie, could not forget — “Le plus effrayant scepticisme” [the most frightful scepticism]. We can judge the spiritual energy and education of Eugène Sue and his hero by their panic fear of scepticism.
Murph,” says Herr Szeliga, “is at the same time the perpetuated guilt of January 13 [On this day, Rudolph, in a fit of anger, made an attempt on the life of his father, but repented and gave the word to do good] and the perpetual redemption of that guilt by his incomparable love and self-sacrifice for the person of Rudolph.”
Just as Rudolph is the deus ex machina and the mediator of the world, so Murph, for his part, is the personal deus ex machina and mediator of Rudolph.
“Rudolph and the salvation of mankind, Rudolph and the realisation of man’s essential perfections, are for Murph an inseparable unity, a unity to which he dedicates himself not with the stupid dog-like devotion of the slave, but knowingly and independently.”
So Murph is an enlightened, knowing and independent slave. Like every prince’s valet, he sees in his master the salvation of mankind personified. Graun flatters Murph with the words: “intrépide garde du corps” [fearless bodyguard]. Rudolph himself calls him modèle d'un valet [model servant] and truly he is a model servant. Eugène Sue tells us that Murph scrupulously addresses Rudolph as “Monseigneur” when alone with him. In the presence of others he calls him Monsieur with his lips to keep his incognito, but “Monseigneur” with his heart.
“Murph helps to raise the veil from the mysteries, but only for Rudolph’s sake. He helps in the work of destroying the power of mystery.”
The denseness of the veil which conceals the simplest conditions of the world from Murph can be seen from his conversation with the envoy Graun. From the legal right of self-defence in case of emergency he concludes that Rudolph, as judge of the secret court, was entitled to blind the maître d'école, although the latter was in chains and “defenceless”. His description of how Rudolph will tell of his “noble” actions before the assizes, will make a display of eloquent phrases, and will let his great heart pour forth, is worthy of a grammar-school boy who has just read Schiller’s Raüber. The only mystery which Murph lets the world solve is whether he blacked his face with coal-dust or black paint when he played the charbonnier [coal man].
“The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just” (Mat. 13:49). “Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil ... ; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good” (Rom. 2:9-10).
Rudolph makes himself one of those angels. He goes forth into the world to sever the wicked from among the just, to punish the wicked and reward the good. The conception of good and evil has sunk so deep into his weak brain that he really believes in a corporeal Satan and wants to catch the devil alive, as at one time Professor Sack wanted to in Bonn. On the other hand, he tries to copy on a small scale the opposite of the devil, God. He likes “de jouer un peu le rôle de la providence” [to play the role of Providence a little]. Just as in reality all differences become merged more and more in the difference between poor and rich, so all aristocratic differences become dissolved in idea in the opposition between good and evil. This distinction is the last form that the aristocrat gives to his prejudices. Rudolph regards himself as a good man and thinks that the wicked exist to afford him the self-satisfaction of his own ‘ excellence. Let us consider this personification of “the good” a little more closely. Herr Rudolph indulges in charity and extravagance like the Caliph of Baghdad in the Arabian Nights. He cannot possibly lead that kind of life without sucking the blood out of his little principality in Germany to the last drop like a vampire. As Monsieur Sue tells us, he would have been among the German princes who were victims of mediation had he not been saved from involuntary abdication by the protection of a French marquis. This gives us an idea of the size of his territory. We can form a further idea of how Critically Rudolph appraises his own situation by the fact that he, a minor German Serenissimus, thinks it necessary to live semi-incognito in Paris in order not to attract attention. He specially takes with him one of his chancellors for the Critical purpose of the latter representing for him “le côté théâtral et puéril du pouvoir souverain” [the theatrical and childish side of sovereign power], as though a minor German Serenissimus needed another representative of the theatrical and childish side of sovereign power besides himself and his mirror. Rudolph has succeeded in imposing on his suite the same Critical self-delusion. Thus his servant Murph and his envoy Graun do not notice that the Parisian homme d'affaires [household manager], Monsieur Badinot, makes fun of them when he pretends to take their private instructions as matters of state and sarcastically chatters about
“occult relations that can exist between the most varying interests and the destinies of empires” “Yes,” says Rudolph’s envoy, “he has the impudence to say to me sometimes: ‘How many complications unknown to the people there are in the government of a state! Who would think, Herr Baron, that the notes which I deliver to you doubtless have their influence on the course of European affairs?'”
The envoy and Murph do not find it impudent that influence on European affairs is ascribed to them, but that Badinot idealises his lowly occupation in such a way.
Let us first recall a scene from Rudolph’s domestic life. Rudolph tells Murph “he was having moments of pride and bliss”. Immediately afterwards he becomes furious because Murph will not answer a question of his. “Je vous ordonne de parier.” [I order you to speak] Murph will not let himself be ordered. Rudolph says: “Je n'aime pas les réticences” [I do not like reticences] He forgets himself so far as to be base enough to remind Murph that he pays him for all his services. He will not be calmed until Murph reminds him of January 13. Murph’s servile nature reasserts itself after its momentary abeyance. He tears out his “hair”, which he luckily has’ not got, and is desperate at having been somewhat rude to his exalted master who calls him “a model servant”, “his good old faithful Murph”.
After these samples of evil in him, Rudolph repeats his fixed ideas on “good” and “evil” and reports the progress he is making in regard to the good. He calls alms and compassion the chaste and pious consolers of his wounded soul. It would be horrible, impious, a sacrilege, to prostitute them to abject, unworthy beings. Of course alms and compassion are the consolers of his soul. That is why it would be a sacrilege to desecrate them. It would be “to inspire doubt in God, and he who gives must make people believe in Him”. To give alms to one abject is unthinkable!
Rudolph considers every motion of his soul as infinitely important. That is why he constantly observes and appraises them. Thus the simpleton consoles himself as far as his outburst against Murph is concerned by the fact that he was moved by Fleur de Marie. “I was moved to tears, and I am accused of being blasé, hard and inflexible!” After thus proving his own goodness, he waxes furious over “evil”, over the wickedness of Marie’s unknown mother, and says with the greatest possible solemnity to Murph:
“You know — some vengeances are very dear to me, some sufferings very precious”.
In speaking, he makes such diabolical grimaces that his faithful servant cries out in fear: “Hélas, Monseigneur!” This great lord is like the members of Young England,  who also wish to reform the world, perform noble deeds, and are subject to similar hysterical fits.
The explanation of the adventures and situations in which Rudolph finds himself involved is to be found above all in Rudolph’s adventurous disposition. He loves “the piquancy of novels, distractions, adventures, disguise”., his “curiosity” is “insatiable”, he feels a “need for vigorous, stimulating sensations”, he is “eager for violent nervous excitement”.
This disposition of Rudolph is reinforced by his craze for playing the role of Providence and arranging the world according to his fixed ideas.
His attitude to other persons is determined either by an abstract fixed idea or by quite personal, fortuitous motives.
He frees the Negro doctor David and his beloved, for example, not because of the direct human sympathy which they inspire, not to free them, but to play Providence to the slave-owner Willis and to punish him for not believing in God. In the same way the maître d'école seems to him a god-sent opportunity for applying the penal theory that he invented so long ago. Murph’s conversation with the envoy Graun enables us from another aspect to see deeply into the purely personal motives that determine Rudolph’s noble acts.
The prince’s interest in Fleur de Marie is based, as Murph says, “apart from” the pity which the poor girl inspires, on the fact that the daughter whose loss caused him such bitter grief would now be of the same age. Rudolph’s sympathy for the Marquise d'Harville has, “apart from” his philanthropic idiosyncrasies, the personal ground that without the old Marquise d'Harville and his friendship with the Emperor Alexander, Rudolph’s father would have been deleted from the line of German sovereigns.
His kindness towards Madame George and his interest in Germain, her son, have the same motive. Madame George belongs to the d'Harville family.
“It is no less to her misfortunes and her virtues than to this relationship that Poor Madame George owes the ceaseless kindness of His Highness.”
The apologist Murph tries to gloss over the ambiguity of Rudolph’s motives by such expressions as: “surtout, à part, non moins que” ["above all”, “apart from” and “no less than"].
The whole of Rudolph’s character is finally summed up in the “pure” hypocrisy by which he manages to see and make others see the outbursts of his evil passions as outbursts against the passions of the wicked, in a way similar to that in which Critical Criticism represents its own stupidities as the stupidities of the Mass, its spiteful rancour at the progress of the world outside itself as the rancour of the world outside itself at progress, and finally its egoism, which thinks it has absorbed all Spirit in itself, as the egoistic opposition of the Mass to the Spirit.
We shall prove Rudolph’s “pure” hypocrisy in his attitude to the maître d'école, to Countess Sarah MacGregor and to the notary Jacques Ferrand.
In order to lure the maître d'école into a trap and seize him, Rudolph persuades him to break into his apartment. The interest he has in this is a purely personal one, not a general human one. The fact is that the maître d'école has a portfolio belonging to Countess MacGregor, and Rudolph is greatly interested in gaining possession of it. Speaking of Rudolph’s tête-à-tête with the maître d'école, the author says explicitly:
“Rudolph was cruelly anxious; if he let slip this opportunity of seizing the maître d'école, he would probably never have another; the brigand would carry away the secrets that Rudolph was so keen to find out.”
With the maître d'école, Rudolph obtains possession of Countess MacGregor’s portfolio; he seizes the maître d'école out of purely personal interest; he has him blinded out of personal passion.
When Chourineur tells Rudolph of the struggle of the maître d'école with Murph and gives as the reason for his resistance the fact that he knew what was in store for him, Rudolph replies: “He did not know”, and he says “with a sombre mien, his features contracted by the almost ferocious expression of which we have spoken.” The thought of vengeance flashes across his mind, he anticipates the savage pleasure that the barbarous punishment of the maître d'école will afford him.
On the entrance of the Negro doctor David, whom he intends to make the instrument of his revenge, Rudolph cries out:
“'Vengeance!... Vengeance!’ s'écria Rodolphe avec une furtur froide et concentrée” ['Revenge! ... Revenge!’ Rudolph cries out with cold and concentrated fury]
A cold and concentrated fury is seething in him. Then he whispers his plan in the doctor’s ear, and when the latter recoils at it, he immediately finds a “pure” theoretical motive to substitute for personal vengeance. It is only a case, he says, of “applying an idea” that has often flashed across his noble mind, and he does not forget to add unctuously: “He will still have before him the boundless horizon of atonement.” He follows the example of the Spanish Inquisition which, when handing over to civil justice the victim condemned to be burnt at the stake, added a hypocritical request for mercy for the repentant sinner.
Of course, when the interrogation and sentencing of the maître d'école is to take place, His Highness is seated in a most comfortable study in a long, deep black dressing-gown, his features impressively pale, and in order to copy the court of justice more faithfully, he is sitting at a long table on which are the exhibits of the case. He must now discard the expression of rage and revenge with which he told Chourineur and the doctor of his plan for blinding the maître d'école. He must show himself “calm, sad and composed”, and display the extremely comic, solemn attitude of a self-styled world judge.
In order to leave no doubt as to the “pure” motive of the blinding, the silly Murph admits to the envoy Graun:
“The cruel punishment of the maître d'école was intended chiefly to give me my revenge against the assassin.”
In a tête-à-tête with Murph, Rudolph says:
“My hatred of the wicked ... has become stronger, my aversion for Sarah Bags, doubtless because of the grief caused by the death of my daughter.”
Rudolph tells us how much stronger his hatred of the wicked has become. Needless to say, his hatred is a Critical, pure, moral hatred — hatred of the wicked because they are wicked. That is why he regards this hatred as his own progress in the good.
At the same time, however, he betrays that this growth of moral hatred is nothing but a hypocritical justification to excuse the growth of his personal aversion for Sarah. The vague moral idea of his increasing hatred of the wicked is only a mask for the definite immoral fact of his increased aversion for Sarah. This aversion has a very natural and a very personal basis, his personal grief, which is also the measure of his aversion. Sans doute! [doubtless]
Still more repugnant is the hypocrisy to be seen in Rudolph’s meeting with the dying Countess MacGregor.
After the revelation of the mystery that Fleur de Marie is the daughter of Rudolph and the Countess, Rudolph goes up to her “l'air menaçant, impitoyable” [looking threatening and pitiless] She begs for mercy.
“Pas de grace,” he replies, ..malédiction sur vous ... vous ... mon mauvais génie et celui de ma race.” [No mercy. A curse on you ... you ... my evil genius and the evil genius of my race]
So it is his “race” that he wishes to avenge. He goes on to inform the Countess how, to atone for his attempted murder of his father, he has taken upon himself a world crusade for the reward of the good and the punishment of the wicked. He tortures the Countess, he abandons himself to his rage, but in his own eyes he is only carrying out the task which he took upon himself after January 13, of “poursuivre le mal”. [prosecuting evil] As he is leaving, Sarah cries out:
“'Pitié! Je meurs!’ ‘Mourez donc, maudite!’ dit Rodolphe effrayant de fureur”. ['Have pity! I am dying!’ ‘Die then, accursed one!’ replies Rudolph, terrible in his rage]
The last words “effrayant de fureur” betray the pure, Critical and moral motives of his actions. It was the same rage that made him draw his sword against his father, his blessed father, as Herr Szeliga calls him. Instead of fighting this evil in himself he fights it, like a pure Critic, in others.
In the end, Rudolph himself discards his Catholic penal theory. He wanted to abolish capital punishment, to change punishment into penance, but only as long as the murderer murdered strangers and spared members of Rudolph’s family. He adopts the death penalty as soon as one of his kin is murdered; he needs a double set of laws, one for his own person and one for ordinary persons.
He learns from Sarah that Jacques Ferrand was the cause of the death of Fleur de Marie. He says to himself:
“No, it is not enough!... What a burning desire for revenge!... What a thirst for blood!... What calm, deliberate rage!... Until I knew that one of the monster’s victims was my child I said to myself: this man’s death would be fruitless.... Life without money, life without satisfaction of his frenzied sensuality will be a long and double torture.... But it is my daughter!... I shall kill this man!”
And he rushes out to kill him, but finds him in a state which makes murder superfluous.
The “good” Rudolph! Burning with desire for revenge, thirsting for blood, with calm, deliberate rage, with a hypocrisy which excuses every evil impulse with its casuistry, he has all the evil passions for which he gouges out the eyes of others. Only accidental strokes of luck, money and rank in society save this “good” man from the penitentiary.
“The power of Criticism”, to compensate for the otherwise complete nullity of this Don Quixote, makes him “bon locataire”, ‘bon voisin”, “bon ami”, “bon père”, “bon bourgeois”, “bon citoyen”, “bon prince”, [A “good tenant”, a “good neighbour”, a “good friend”, a “good father”, a “good bourgeois”, a “good citizen”, a “good prince"] and so on, according to Herr Szeliga’s gamut of eulogy. That is more than all the results — that “mankind in its entire history” has achieved. That is enough for Rudolph to save “the world” twice from “downfall"!
- From the German comic folk-tale Seven Suabans.
- Journal des Debats, abridged title of the French bourgeois daily paper Journal des Débats politiques et littéraires, founded in Paris in 1789. During the July monarchy it was a government paper and the organ of the Orleanist bourgeoisie.
- Le Siècle (The Century) – a daily newspaper appearing in Paris from 1836 to 1939. In the forties of the 19th century it reflected the views of the part of the petty bourgeoisie which confined its demands to moderate constitutional reforms.
- Petites Affiches (Short Announcements) – an old French periodical publication founded in Paris in 1612; a sort of information sheet in which short announcements and notifications were published.
- Satan – a small bourgeois satirical paper appearing in Paris from 1840 to 1844.
- From Fourier’s Theorie des quatre mouvements et des destinies générales.
- The allusion is to the petty German princes who lost their power and whose possessions were annexed to the territories of larger German states as the result of the reshaping of the German political map (luring the Napoleonic Wars and at the Vienna Congress (1814-15).
- Young England” – a group of English politicians and writers belonging to the Tories, formed in the early 40s of the 19th century. They voiced the dissatisfaction of the landed gentry at the strengthening of the economic and political might of the bourgeoisie and resorted to demagogic methods in order to bring the working class under their influence and make use of it in their fight against the bourgeoisie. In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels described their views as “feudal socialism.”