HOME     Library     CONTENTS: Journals & Papers of Søren Kierkegaard
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1

Presumably there is scarcely anyone among the gentlemen present who has not vividly experienced that in every intuition there is something, the ultimate and the best, which is so light, so ethereal, so evanescent, that it constantly disappears between the fumbling hands and, frolicking innocently, evades the searching eye — a truly inviolable noli me tangere. But just as most of you, gentlemen, have experienced how difficult it is to keep the mind free of every profane impression, you will no doubt concede that within the true humanistic charmed circle — procul o procul este profani — I have ventured to express what every student feels and ought to feel, but which, proclaimed and trumpeted in the streets and lanes, is thereby betrayed, misunderstood, and mutilated. What better forum could I wish for, what more competent assembly, than the humanistic society: the Student Association, which, no doubt vigorous and incorruptible in its judgment, also possesses what to me is most important, that intellectual ear which with creative sympathy gives the words the inexpressible fullness they have in the speaker's breast but not upon his lips.

2

Our Journalistic Literature

A study from nature in noonday light.
Talk given to the Student Association
November 28, 1835

Gentlemen!

Before I go into my subject proper, may I make a few prefatory observations.

When I as one of the younger members, perhaps unacquainted with many of the conventions, without a practiced eye for the, may I say, theory of perspective in oration, which promptly enables one to see how that which has been worked out in the study will appear when it steps forth into a large assembly, how that which is spoken in a smaller circle must be modified when it lays claim to a wide audience — when I, I say, stand before you here, it is as much in the confidence of your humanity as it is in the conviction that the person who mounts this podium is not thereby made assembly chaplain but as an individual in the totality of the Student Association perhaps expresses what is already shared by many other members, so that, without claiming to say anything new, he hopes he will not be unwelcome if he repeats something partially familiar, much more so in this matter, which another member has recently attempted to stress from another point of view, and illuminate something which is already in part a given in the consciousness of most members — in any case I did not wish a point of view, if not the opposite of that position at least a modification of it, to lack a spokesman in this forum where the subject has already been introduced. Therefore I must request the forebearance especially of the gentlemen present who perhaps share my point of view, insofar as my presentation may be faulty; the others can at most complain about a wasted hour and about the tediousness of such an indirect proof of the correctness of their point of view.

It is certainly not without reason that artists seldom or never paint a landscape at midday but more frequently by morning light. The distinctive freshness, the wonderful quivering, the exuberant changeableness of light and shadow evoke a particularly propitious total impression which does not permit any single point to be emphasized and, even though it were merely for the moment of discernment, to be divorced from the whole. Something similar happens in other spheres as well. We like to dwell on an idea's first appearance in world history; we would like to have people from East and West come and worship it in its swaddling clothes, and I by no means deny the significance of such a poetic consideration, but just as entire races as well as particular individuals eagerly turn from the perhaps somewhat Novemberish flowering of life to the fresh bud in order with the help of the imagination to visualise the blossoms that were denied in life, so man also is inclined, when it is a matter of a new life which is supposed to break through, to give imagination free play and let a mighty tree spring forth from the factually given mustard seed. Whether their hopes will be dashed, only time will tell, but reflection can and ought to get involved in investigating only the factually given and to inspect it in the noonday light. And if the result of these reflections should become a little frosty, one also knows, since at this point I abandon the position of observation, that early frost does not harm the seed, that is if it is winter seed and not the quick-to-shoot-up and just as quick-to-be-harvested mature spring grain. In general I believe that it is beneficial, for the individual man as well as in every individual life, to stop the wheel of development, to look back over the past, and to see how far one has come, whether dirt and other things have caused detrimental frictional resistance to quicker progress. May I now heartily approve brisk action as well as the reflection which collects and in the instant secures the often dissipated energies and thereby, like the significant silence before the battle, conditions new and vigorous activity; yet may I just as heartily disapprove of a phenomenon that often assumes the shape of reflection, a certain morbid imagining that hinders action as well as true reflection, and if it does allow it to take place and then, if there has been any movement at all, reveals the past period more as an approximation of caricature than of the ideal, it promptly lets a person fall into the same old daydreaming. It is certainly good and encouraging for a man to become conscious of having achieved something, but to fancy that one has achieved more than he really has is and remains harmful and easily leads to that kind of daydreaming.

Let us consider those with whom we compare ourselves, and let the liberal newspapers remember — this has already been said here — that even if they do more and better than the conservative papers they are not thereby doing anything so great, especially for the liberals themselves, who so profoundly despised those papers. Just as I do not at present share many of our contemporary age's excessively sanguine hopes, so I also along with many hypochondriacs dissuade people from climbing Tabor in order to assure them that they will not come into the promised land: both positions because at least this evening I want to grant reflection the first voice. And even though I must disapprove of the daredevilry that boldly mounts Odin's throne and in the tranquility of the gods' eternal contemplation smiles down on men's fighting and foolishness, and I must rejoice that just as the time is long vanished which let people seek the company of wild animals instead of building and living among human beings, so is the time also past which transformed men in the middle of life's clamorous noise into hermits, whether as moralists they were solely occupied every minute of their lives with drawing bills on heaven without paying any attention to what went on close at hand — or whether as indifferentists they first felt of the wall to see if it was warm when they heard the fire alarm — but in action I must disapprove of one of the age's beautiful, to be sure, but also among us rather busy efforts (after bringing men to work jointly for one goal by setting aside the narrow-hearted bourgeois mentality and moonshiny family-sentimentality), a full-blown misapplication of effort, namely that one promptly has a party name at hand for that which somewhat approximates one or another of the current views, without remembering the countless number of gradations and shadings that have to be taken into account, just as it is true that a natural and sound life does not have its confession of faith all worked out, which is usually a sign of one of the last stages of life — in action I must disapprove of it, I say, since I stand here simply as a réflecteur.

Moving on to my real subject, I shall first of all attempt a historical recapitulation.*

*I owe it to myself to mention that part of the historical section was written before I came into possession of Ostermann's manuscript.

Mr. Ostermann begins his comments with Winther's Raketten. I completely share Mr. Ostermann's appreciation of Winther's talent, the main characteristic of which is the distinctive style that marks and gives every one of his pieces its color. But when we want to find in it one of the seeds of the later development, I must protest. Raketten with all its good and bad points was the most beautiful, most individual flower on Politvennen's stem, and it is certainly true that most of his imitators completely lacked his talent and adopted his weak points. But the position was nevertheless the same. On the whole he was contented with the existing state of things; he criticized only the supposedly illegal conduct of individual public officials: the Public Assistance administrative devil, outpost skirmishing, Hannibal Sehested. His successors follow in his tracks, and I do not remember finding in a single paper of this kind an attack upon a larger function of the body politic, on the organization itself and not its misuse by a concrete individual; the only exception perhaps is Sandhedsfaklen and it is also naive enough to believe that it walks hand in hand with Kjøbenhavnsposten. Or does Mr. Ostermann believe that Raketten is to be regarded as the seed, inasmuch as it acted the critic? Or did not Raketten coexist all this time with Kjøbenhavnsposten without influencing the latter in any way? Or did not Raketten maintain its tone after the change in the tone and character of Kjøbenhavnsposten? Or was there not some rather conspicuous reason for calling forth such a change in principle? I look upon liberal journalism as a new development which no doubt may have many connections, for example, showing, as Mr. Ostermann himself points out, the extent to which the freedom of the press ordinance permitted one to go in a certain direction polemically without necessarily designating the direction — in relation to a previous one, but what really has made it what it is no doubt is a number of new factors that have come into existence. In this respect may I just cite as proof the acknowledged fact that, if I may put it this way, people greeted each other with a "Happy New Year" or, as the favorite poet of this new life says: "Denmark's May and Denmark's morning."

And now I will attempt to show where these new factors are to be found.

The July revolution of 1830. Revolutions follow the same course as illness. When cholera was endemic in Europe, the attacks were not very violent. The July revolution was distinguished, by, among other things, its elegance and refinement; it was a successful operation by an experienced surgeon. All the violent episodes that accompanied the revolution of '89 were not present here, and thus the July revolution stands as a remarkable example of a clean, pure revolution, free of extraneous elements. Meanwhile the rest of Europe stood like spectators to see, to use an expression children use, what was what. The news about it was played in every key, but since there was nothing but the name and few scarcely saw how well-balanced it had come off by and large, naturally such a folk-recitative with choir could not fail to influence the other governments and nations. Here, too, it was not without influence, and although I cannot agree with a view expressed in an address of thanks — a view that also makes it unclear how the order to the chancellery concerning provincial consultative chambers could find the people prepared in any way — yet may I point out, since I am dealing only with journalistic literature here, that I am unaware of any Danish publications having expressed any wish or opinion on the matter prior to the official announcement of the order to the chancellery about provincial chambers. Whether a number of people prior to that time had wanted such things clarified or whether it was rather something vague and obscure, one of those vibrations by which the French revolution agitated men all over, I do not know and am not concerned about here, but I doubt that such a wish got journalistic expression prior to that order. From then on the trail is clearer, in life — the Society of May 28 — as well as in journalism and in literature proper. But just as we cannot deny here that the government was the active agent and that that order was the sunshine that called forth the flowers of literature, and just as, generally speaking, nothing in the world appears without two factors, so also the liberals, as I characterize them here, with an amused receptivity for such institutions, had their share in this; but I nevertheless believe that prior to that order the government and the liberals faced each other as two entities which, because of the July revolution, had a great deal to say to each other but did not know how to begin until the government broke the silence. To avoid misunderstanding, I repeat that I am speaking only about literature.

And now I am at the point where the new development has its beginning, and therefore, in order to avoid intrusion later in the development, I will set up a milestone with the following inscription:

"By means of a natural elasticity, the July revolution and its echoes in many places in Europe kept the people and the government apart in at least a literary, if not a total, silence, until the government gave the signal."*

*Mr. Ostermann, of course, also emphasizes the government's step, and it is to emphasize even more this point in time and the government's activity that I permit myself this exposition.

Mr. Ostermann has made the transition to the genuinely new development by discussing the well-known publication by Lornsen and the frank treatment of it in Maanedsskrift for Litteratur. As for the former, while I cannot refrain from pointing out that it does not immediately concern me since it is German and it is not journalism, I do call attention to the fact that for one thing it must be regarded as a result of the July revolution, exerting an influence mainly through the Polish ditto, and second — and this is the crux of the matter — that our journalistic literature (I have Kjøbenhavnsposten in mind) does not give it much of a recommendation* or draw any further conclusions from it. Thus you understand that this book did not get a very favourable reception in the journals, and as far as other literature is concerned, you will remember that here as well as in Holstein, which really does not concern me, it evoked some counterblasts, even sermons against it, I believe. Apropos of that, I may point out that in de slesvig-holsteenske Prælaters og Ridderskabets Adresse it states that "according to their most humble opinion (..... "while still being convinced that intrigues of individual malice by no means correspond with public opinion" .....) the needs of the times require ever more insistently a consideration of expressed wishes." May I also point out that, if anything, the whole document must be regarded as a result of the July revolution exerting an influence mainly through the Polish [revolution] (my first thought), also that it is German, and finally that — my main point — the Danish journalists quite tersely repeat the whole thing without blinking an eye. — As far as the latter (the treatment in Maanedsskriftet) is concerned, you remember what Mr. Ostermann himself correctly pointed out, that it is even more recent than that order.

For the sake of completeness I shall now do my best with respect to the Danish journals and base the foregoing more on a general consideration of the Danish development, in relation to the supporting European views pertaining to the determination of this point in time. I will show, for one thing, that prior to that order no such wish was expressed in the journals (this then becomes the negative side), and second, switch over to the positive side, that there can never be a mistake about the point in time because of the remarkable fertility in contrast to the previous sterility.

* "Chancellor Lornsen's Rebellion and Arrest" (Kjøbenhavnsposten, no. 282, November 29, 1830). "From a publication printed and published in Kiel, Ueber das l'erfassungswerk in Schleswigholstein, written by Chancellor Lornsen, and many articles referring to the same that have come out in the duchy, all of which may be had along with Lornsen's book in the bookshops of the capital city, we have learned something of the rebellious aims and the proceedings which the aforementioned Chancellor L., appointed a little over a month ago as sheriff of Sylt, disclosed not only by the publication and circulation of the above-mentioned book but also by other illegal actions." — His arrest and later his sentencing and imprisonment in Rendsborg prison are reported quite briefly and tersely, without even the exclamation and question marks the press customarily uses when it does not dare say more.

I shall now go through Kjøbenhavnsposten for 1829*, 1830, and 1831 to February 12 to substantiate my first point.

1829. It plays around with esthetics (Master Erik is not to be seen) but does not ignore patriotic themes: praises the wedding ceremonies of Prince Ferdinand and Princess Caroline and the illumination, the smallpox service, also foreign news, for example, in Riise's Archiv, even Mohammed II and Emperor Alexander, Turkish jurisprudence; Migueliana. The news section contains esthetic and cultural news, anecdotes, and other literary confection. Thus the paper is not political.

1830. Liunge continues to be the esthete and as such prepares for confirmation with Heiberg; from September on special attention is paid to the unusual volcanic eruptions all over Europe, yet always theoretically, not practically.

1831. Up to February 12 it generally maintains the same tone. To point up the contrast even more, I will compare the months of the first half of the year, for example, up to May, with a few of the following months. At the beginning of the year (the first month and a half) there is foreign news, but it is dealt with simply as history. The news is chosen from an artistic point of view. From here on the newspaper is more attentive to domestic news — for example, the many items about censorship, some taken from larger works, some from foreign papers, and from March on a man who signs himself T (in the previous month and a half, as NB, he produced only one piece, and this a translation) begins to write something almost every single day. In a series of articles under the heading Miscellany he tries to show what flattery is, etc., elaborates on what a good heart is ("put up with every thing, let oneself be spit in the eye"), what it is to be "malicious", the nature of egotism — arousing feelings by means of fables; he talks about the national economy, about the meaning of the terms "aristocrats" and "democrats" — and finally gets started on the ordinance of April 14, 1831. Here there is an extraordinary change; the pulse, which previously was calm, now begins to speed up a little. A striking productivity appears inside the journals as well: even before the end of March writings about the provincial assemblies by David and by the two Tschernings come out. From now on Maanedsskrift for Litteratur also begins to carry some political treatises which, as the editor himself observes in a note, the times seem to require now.

* I need not pay any attention to 1827 and 1828, since Mr. Ostermann has correctly observed that during that Period Kjøbenhavnsposten for the most part estheticized; I would not need 1829, either, but use it merely for the sake of completeness.

I have tried to show that with respect to the origins of the new development the government incited the journalists, not the journalists the government. Here I owe it to Mr. Ostermann to discuss in a few words his view of Raketten as one of the seeds of the new development. I look upon it as an attempt to make journalism out to be more the active factor in this whole development. I hope what I have just said helps answer the question whether this is the situation at present.

I now proceed further with my historical development of the activity of our liberal journalism — that I have only this to deal with ought to be suggested by the circumstances of the times, and the relation between Mr. Ostermann's presentation, which deals practically only with this, ought to put it beyond question. My previous remarks may seem to presume that just as the government has set the tone of journalistic literature, it will also continue to do so. What has been said does not mean, as I have already suggested above, that journalism has not been active at all, but only that the government is the primus motor. Just as when two resilient bodies, one at rest and the other in motion, collide, this collision occasions a reaction from the body previously at rest, and this reaction in turn produces a primary impact but in such a way that we always regard the reaction as conditioned by the primary impact — so also I do consider this relationship, yet with the modification that in the meanwhile it happens that the reaction was too weak at the moment to evolve a new impulse from body no. 1, so that this body, if all activity is not to cease, must put itself in motion anew. To substantiate what I have said, I shall refer to the nodal points where, so to speak, the two powers come together and show whether the energy of journalism gives rise to inaction by the government or whether the government by its action causes journalistic activity, just as much when it encourages and promotes the new development as when it repressively keeps the creek of journalism from becoming stagnant water and forces it to become a stream. That not much in the way of results can be expected until 1834 can reasonably be concluded from the fact that it was only in 1834 that a question of great significance for journalism arose, freedom of the press, and instead of practical experiments in this respect, as one would have expected, theoretical investigations were undertaken.

I go on with my historical recapitulation.

In 1831 the government's next step was the provisional ordinance of May 28; it does not create much of a stir in the journal. From now on the news section is preoccupied with cholera and the paper itself with investigations into Denmark's national defense.

In 1832 there is the first convocation of the wise men; in April, I believe, there are a few items about that institution, and later in May there is news about the May-Society, which can be linked, not altogether incorrectly, to that convocation.

In 1833 the government takes no step. The influence of the Ordinance of April of that year about censorship will be discussed later. Several items from the Hamburger Korrespondent, the Kieler Korrespondent, the Zeitung für die elegante Welt, the Eremit, etc., are found in the news early that year. Research into the Latin language. Tscherning goes traveling. The King goes traveling; his illness.

In 1834 investigations into the Ordinance of April 1833 just discussed lead to a big fight, and Ussing does a fair job of showing that on the whole we do not have censorship. Here follow the well-known articles on the management of the Society for Moral Delinquents — the Ordinance of May 15 on the assemblies. From now on the theoretically acknowledged freedom of the press begins to be used in fact. From now on there is a constant battle between Kjøbenhavnsposten and the censor, beginning with the article on political guarantees; then comes the controversy about the Norwegian Morgenpost, and finally formal legal proceedings are initiated against Kjøbenhavnsposten. In connection with this, I continually remind you that the Ordinance of May 15 precedes this action. There also appears the first journalistic seed of the liberal chaos, but in the beginning an attempt was made to provide for the seedling the supporting stake of a few familiar theorems.

From now on the government's steps, as well as journalism's — which prior to this had been somewhat "piano" — begin to be somewhat more "forte". As we approach the times in which we are living, I must call attention to the enormous difficulties bound up with such a vivisection and I must discuss the positive steps by the government: the elections and the convening of the provincial consultative chambers, and its repressive steps: the proceedings against Prof. David, the familiar recitative, "We, alone," and the ban against publicity of the provincial consultative chambers. From the popular point of view, I regard the petition as being a most emphatic step; but at the same time I must point out that, regarded as a literary document, it floats without any anchor if one forgets that it was occasioned by fear of a tightening up of the freedom of the press. But since it did not proceed from the journals I shall not discuss it further; on the contrary, it was that government's recitative which first set the journals in motion here and even in England. Now the government's negative and positive steps speedily follow each other, and as a result, the reaction in journalism as well, so a great deal of difficulty is involved in showing which side provided the primary thrust. But if one recalls the nature of the government's positive steps and the big role of elections and the convening of the provincial consultative chambers, and also the nature of negative steps, then one remembers that the David case occasioned Haagen's contribution. If I were to draw conclusions, I would say that since the government provided the first impulse, the connection between the government and journalism may be described as follows: the government was active-passive (or affected through an activity); journalism was passive-active (or acting through a passivity).

Having finished my historical recapitulation, in which I have attempted to show how our journalism performed in relation to the government, I shall now consider more closely its weaker aspects. Since I am chiefly dealing with Mr. Ostermann, I will discuss only Kjøbenhavnsposten and Fædrelandet.

Kjøbenhavnsposten. Our whole age is imbued with a formal striving. This is what led us to disregard congeniality and to emphasize symmetrical beauty, to prefer conventional rather than sincere social relations. It is this whole striving which is denoted by — to use the words of another author — Fichte's and the other philosophers' attempts to construct systems by sharpness of mind and Robespierre's attempt to do it with the help of the guillotine; it is this which meets us in the flowing butterfly verses of our poets and in Auber's music, and finally, it is this which produces the many revolutions in the political world. I agree perfectly with this whole effort to cling to form, insofar as it continues to be the medium through which we have the idea, but it should not be forgotten that it is the idea which should determine the form, not the form which determines the idea. We should keep in mind that life is not something abstract but something extremely individual. We should not forget that, for example, from a poetic genius' position of immediacy, form is nothing but the coming into existence of the idea in the world, and that the task of reflection is only to investigate whether or not the idea has gotten the properly corresponding form. Form is not the basis of life, but life is the basis of form. Imagine that a man long infatuated with the Greek mode of life had acquired the means to arrange for a building in the Greek style and a Grecian household establishment — whether or not he would be satisfied would be highly problematical, or would he soon prefer another form simply because he had not sufficiently tested himself and the system in which he lived. But just as a leap backward is wrong (something the age, on the whole, is inclined to acknowledge), so also a leap forward is wrong — both of them because a natural development does not proceed by leaps, and life's earnestness will ironize over every such experiment, even if it succeeds momentarily.

Now after these preliminary comments to my reflections on the career of Kjøbenhavnsposten, I hope, inasmuch as I diligently tried to state the reasons behind the whole striving in our time because a single illustration here is futile, that you, my listener, will agree when I characterize it as jittery busyness. But I already hear one or another of you saying: You are contradicting yourself, since you previously mentioned that the government had the active role. It merely seems so, for it is by no means my intention to deny that in Kjøbenhavnsposten, especially in the news columns, a certain petty exasperation is to be found, but I did not want to discuss that earlier, since at that point the discussion was simply about the progress of the new development through journalism and the service of journalism in that connection, and I cannot regard it as any sort of step. It is this whole striving I have tried to describe as jittery busyness, for jittery busyness is not action but a fitful fumbling. To use the words of a poet employed in another connection, jittery busyness is a "restless rambling — from castles in Spain — to mouse-traps — and home again." Authentic action goes hand in hand with calm circumspection. Most likely you have all been in the situation of having traveled along a road in a carriage and arriving half asleep at your destination, and then when you ask about the road in the unfamiliar area the farmer tells you: "First turn right and then left and then left again at the willow lane by the village pond, and then you will have about half a mile left; then turn right, and you are there" — but you have all certainly experienced that one never arrives at his destination that way. One must first drive to the nearest village and there inquire the way to the next one, and so on. And here, where the subject is a new development, here we diligently pay attention to the compass. And although development and progress in other nations can help us considerably and give us many cautionary points, one should remember that it does not do to travel in Sjælland with a map of France.

There is always something Quixotic about such striving; one sounds the alarm every minute, gives Rosinante the spurs, and charges — at windmills; at the same time there is no lack of discernment which makes one aware that some evil demon or other has changed the giants into windmills, although Sancho Panza most solemnly swears that they were, are, and will remain windmills.

That a striving like this can easily unsettle life, I dare assume to be in confesso since common experience indicates that nervousness is something very harmful.

How this jittery busyness and the disturbing activity resulting from it can be inferred from the fundamental character of the Kjøbenhavnsposten I shall now attempt to show by pointing out that Kjøbenhavnsposten lacks unity. Natural scientists maintain that a heavenly body is formed from a cloud mass through the harmony of centrifugal and centripetal forces combining with the rotation around an axis — and to me Kjøbenhavnsposten seems to be just like such a fog mass, but one whose existence as a planet has still not been realized through the uniting of centrifugal and centripetal forces combined with rotation around an axis. Therefore we are not surprised that during an earlier period there has been a certain instability in the articles, as at one time the centrifugal and at another the centripetal tendency dominated, and recently there has been an imbalance of the centrifugal tendency. That I understand a competent editor to be the axis around which the planet turns and that I have intended the centrifugal and centripetal tendencies to designate what up to now have been popularly given the party names liberals and conservatives scarcely needs to be pointed out. It is quite natural and can hardly be denied that Kjøbenhavnsposten has become somewhat more unified recently, and that the center of our political solar system, the Assembly in Roskilde, has exercised upon it some power of attraction and thereby helped it find its track and regulate its course, and that on the other hand the centrifugal force which usually had control has done its best to keep it. Meanwhile, to repeat, since the harmony of the forces has not taken place as yet nor the rotation about the axis, either, it runs the risk of being easily drawn into another solar system, since — seen from our solar system — the centrifugal direction in another must appear as centripetal.

Mr. Ostermann has also mentioned some complaints against Kjøbenhavnsposten and has tried to justify it. He divides them into two classes: (1) the charge of bitterness and crude tone and (2) untruthfulness and dishonesty. I shall venture to pinpoint them a little more explicitly. After saying that he is by no means a blind worshipper of every utterance that bears the liberal label and that, on the contrary, he frequently is compelled to concede the truth and justification of these complaints, and then after examining the source of these charges and showing that they are advanced by forthright, honorable, and truth-loving men, Mr. Ostermann proceeds to consider the charge in category no. 1. He points out that the opposition party can hardly be expected "to sprinkle sugar on wormwood"; he uses a metaphor to show how innocent abusive expressions can be. "It is a truth" — so go his words — "we must never forget that when an energetic and forceful character expresses himself, his words have a distinctive color, for the thought is distinctive, and however unimportant it may seem to many to omit a word here and there, yet one ought to consider how essential this little word, as it is called, is for the writer, how the thought contained in it is totally and completely rooted in the writer's individuality and how precisely this word is for him a most important thing" — etc. I do not believe that the Danish ear is so spoiled that it is unable to bear a frank word or two; I do not believe that the Danes are so unfeeling that they do not know how to forgive this or that bitterness spoken in indignation. But, gentlemen, I believe the discussion is not about this! When an author heatedly and emotionally writes words which he perhaps is unable to substantiate, one is perhaps far more willing to be carried away by him than inclined to judge him harshly, for what comes from the heart as a rule goes to the heart. But it should be remembered that our authors have a battery which they must beware of — I mean the existing ordinance on the freedom of the press. The result of this is that, in the belief that one has the right to speak, one cuts as closely as possible to the ordinance on the freedom of the press, and the result of that, again, is that in order to avoid the punishment of the law, authors must use extreme caution so that the expression one previously could excuse because of emotion and blood circulation now comes out cool and premeditated. I do not blame an author at all for trying to say as much as it is permitted to say; but what is more natural for him, trying to dance on the narrow line between the legally allowed and not allowed, discouraged by some of his predecessors' desperate somersaults into the Siberia of freedom of the press, what is more natural for him than to move as adroitly as possible. Yes, when he has stepped forward perhaps a bit rashly, yet for that very reason with fire and force, and let himself be carried away and exposed himself to criticism — well, then we would judge otherwise. But recollect, too, that these tightrope dancers most often are masked (pseudonymous or anonymous). And if it were in otherwise good and vigorous pieces that one allowed himself such adroit acrimonies — well, it might be better that they not be there, but then others most likely would not really be so sensitive about the matter. It should also be remembered that these acrimonies actually are concealed in notes and footnotes, in question marks and exclamation marks.

Mr. Ostermann now moves on to the heart of the matter and tries to show that a little rancor in a daily paper is not so dangerous. I do not think it is, either. But it is a mistake, all the same. I would never have discussed this whole abuse if attention had not already been drawn to it. I take exception to it first and foremost because it is not action, and next, because it is a cowardice. The fact that Kjøbenhavnsposten has more subscribers than Fædrelandet may be assumed to be due mainly to the fact that it comes out every day, partly to the variety of its interests, and also to its practice of summarizing the most important domestic newspapers.

Mr. Ostermann now takes up the second charge of untruthfulness and dishonesty. On this occasion I must state that I have never heard Kjøbenhavnsposten categorically accused of untruthfulness and dishonesty; that it has been charged now and then with having spoken falsely in a particular article is quite a different matter. Mr. Ostermann attempts to show how someone who believes he has truth on his side, yet is lacking valid legal proof, has no trouble using the press to get his opinions expressed. Since Mr. Ostermann generally recommends great caution in this regard, I will make only a few remarks. In the first place, every such accuser can very well be required to sign his name, because hardly anyone wants to appear before a secret court, and fairness also seems to demand that such an accuser must be branded a liar in public when the accused has cleared himself. In the next place, since, on the one hand, the charge must be expressive enough to be understood, and, on the other hand, not too expressive, lest he get a slander suit hung on him, the accuser will recollect how easily he could step on lots of toes and how much he would be inclined to do this if an innocent person actually replied and justified himself, even though not saying so directly but hinting that he nevertheless just possibly felt himself the object of attack since he defended himself. He will remember that and will be even more deterred from using such means.

I now go on to Fædrelandet, and here we have a happier situation. After withstanding the storm over the David trial, Fædrelandet got on its feet with rejuvenated energy and especially of late has achieved a vigorous and sound existence. Fædrelandet, seems to have found the direction in which it wants to move and in a competent editor a hand that will prevent every kind of eccentricity. It seems to have understood that myth — I am almost tempted to call it that — about the battle of freedom of the press in this country, from which one learns among other things to investigate more closely what freedom of the press there is before sounding the alarm.

My presentation is now finished.

I have discussed our liberal journalism and thereby dealt mainly with Kjøbenhavnsposten and Fædrelandet (of the other periodicals the one that perhaps most deserves mention is the Dansk Ugeskrift, which, possibly more unobtrusive and quiet than others, has produced many interesting articles); however, I shall not go into that further. I have attempted to show that on the whole it (liberal journalism), perhaps with the exception of the most recent past, has not been as active as one is perhaps inclined to believe, that Kjøbenhavnsposten in particular has often used a substitute for genuine activity. — I have not discussed the conservative papers since I did not believe that time allowed them to be included in one talk. Whether my presentation has been successful, the honored assembly can best judge — and however this judgment may turn out, it will always be a joy to me if the assemblage will acknowledge my endeavor to stand this evening simply as a rèflecteur.

1835-36

 

 

 

 


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