Our own little Regine
Such a line under a word serves to direct the typesetter to space out that particular word. To space out means to pull the words apart from one another. Therefore, when I space out the words above, I intend to pull them s o v e r y f a r a p a r t that a typesetter presumably would lose his patience and very likely would never set type again in his life.
Miss Regine Olsen
This is the Knippelsbro. I am that person with the spyglass. As you know, figures appearing in a landscape are apt to look somewhat curious. You may take comfort, therefore, in the fact that I do not look quite that ugly and that every artistic conception always retains something of the ideal, even in caricature. Several art experts have disagreed as to why the painter has not provided any background whatsoever. Some have thought this an allusion to a folk tale about a man who so completely lost himself in the enjoyment of the view from Knippelsbro that at last he saw nothing but the picture produced by his own soul and which he could just as well have been looking at in a dark room. Others have thought that it was because he lacked the perspective necessary for drawing — houses. But the spyglass itself has a unique characteristic about which tradition tells us the following: the outermost lens is of mirror glass so that when one trains it on Trekroner and stands on the left side of the bridge at an angle of 5° off Copenhagen, one sees something quite different from what is seen by all the other people about one; thus, in the midst of a friendly chat about the view of the ships, one sees or thinks that one sees, or hopes to see, or wishes to see, or despairs of seeing that which the secret genie of the spyglass reveals to him who understands how to use it correctly. Only in the proper hands and for the proper eye is it a divine telegraph; for everybody else it is a useless contrivance. Yesterday your dear brother scolded me for always speaking of mycobbler, my fruit dealer, my grocer, my coachman, etc., etc., etc. By this he seems to have accused me of a predominant use of the first-person possessive pronoun. Only you know of your faithful friend that I am not extensively but intensively much more given to the use of the second-person possessive pronoun. Indeed, how could he know that, how could any person at all — as I am only yours
In testimony whereof I permit my eternalized P. Møller to stand as witness.
Granted in our study.
Miss R. Olsen
Es endet Schmerz
So wie der Scherz
So wie die Nacht
Eh' man's gedacht.
The other day when you came to see me you told me that when you were confirmed your father had presented you with a bottle of lily of the valley (Extrait double de Muguet). Perhaps you thought that I did not hear this, or perhaps you thought that it had slipped by my ear like so much else that finds no response within. But not at all! But as that flower conceals itself so prettily within its big leaf, so I first allowed the plan of sending you the enclosed to conceal itself in the half-transparent veil of oblivion so that, freed from every external consideration, even the most illusive, rejuvenated to a new life in comparison with which its first existence was but an earthly life, it might now exude that fragrance for which longing and memory ("from the spring of my youth") are rivals. However, it was nearly impossible for me to obtain this essence in Copenhagen. Yet in this respect there is also a providence, and the blind god of love always finds a way. You happen to receive it at this very moment (just before you leave the house), because I know that you, too, know the infinity of the moment. I only hope it will not be too late. Hasten, my messenger, hasten my thought, and you, my Regine, pause for an instant, for only a moment stand still.
Miss R. Olsen
I have now read so much by Plato on love, but still there is one encomium on it that I value more highly than the summa summarum of all those by the competitors in the Symposium, or, rather, there is a love upon which I will deliver an encomium, not at any symposium but in the stillness of the night when everybody sleeps or in the midst of noisy uproar when nobody understands me. — In the stillness of midnight, for the day does begin at midnight, and at midnight I awoke and the hours grew long for me, for what is as swift as love? Love is the swiftest of all, swifter than itself.
Zwei Musikanten ziehn daher,
Vom Wald aus weiter Ferne,
Der eine ist verliebt gar sehr,
Der andre wär' es gerne.
What is here separated in two, love unites; he is in love, and yet at the same time he is constantly wishing to be so: a restiveness, a yearning, a longing make him wish at every moment to be what he already is at that very moment. It constantly outbids itself without taking notice of the fact that the only other bidder is itself, so that in a manner of speaking, it is the only bidder. In a state of blissful impatience it bids higher and higher all the time, because possession of its object is incommensurable with any worth. Like that merchant, it sells everything in order to buy the field in which the precious pearl lay buried, and it wishes always to possess more in order to pay more dearly for it. Just as the merchant sighs to himself each time he contemplates his treasure: "Why could not the whole world be mine, so that I might give it away in order to acquire the treasure I won?" — so love never possesses its object in a dead and impotent way but strives at every moment to acquire what it possesses at that very moment. It never says, "Now I am safe, now I will settle down," but runs on forever, more swiftly than anything else, for it outruns itself. But this haste, this hurry, this restiveness, this yearning, this wishing, what is it but the power of love to drive out forgetfulness, stupor — death? And what would even heavenly bliss be without wishing, without the wish to possess it, for only sober understanding thinks it foolish to wish for what one possesses. But this wish is also clamoring or whispering, depending on circumstances, but never many-tongued; for if I dared to wish, then I certainly know what I would wish for, and if I dared to wish for seven things, yet I would have only one wish, notwithstanding the fact that I would gladly wish it seven times, even though I knew that it had been fulfilled the first time. And that wish is identical with my deepest conviction: that neither Death, nor Life, nor Angels, nor Principalities, nor Powers, nor the present, nor that which is to come, nor the Exalted, nor the Profound, nor any other creature may tear me from you, or you from me.
Die stehn allhier im kalten Wind
Und singen schön und geigen:
Ob nicht ein süssvertraumtes* Kind
Am Fenster sich wollt' zeigen?
Postscript: When you have forgotten everything that lies between, I would only ask you to read the salutation and the signature, for as I myself have become aware, it has the power to calm or to excite as have but few incantations.
* I hope this adjective may be applied to you and that you have not become too anxious at the thought that I might suddenly measure one foot between the eyes.
This letter has no date nor will it get one, for its principal content is the consciousness of a feeling that probably is present in me at every moment, albeit in all the different musical keys of love, and that is precisely why it is not present at any particular moment as opposed to others (not exactly at ten o'clock, not even at eleven sharp, nor on November 11 as opposed to the tenth or the twelfth). For this feeling is constantly rejuvenating itself; it is eternally young, like those books transmitted to us from the Middle Ages, which, although several hundred years old, are always "printed this year." — Today I stood on the Knippelsbro, and this day does not have a date either, as there is no day when I do not undertake that expedition.
On St. Martin's Eve when I failed to come at eight o'clock, I was at Fredensborg, but I cannot say yesterday or the day before yesterday, for I have no today as a point of departure. People were surprised that I drove alone. Formerly, as you know, I never drove alone, for sorrow, worry, and sadness were my faithful companions. Now those in the traveling party are fewer in number. They are memory and recollection of you when I drive out, and longing for you when I drive home again. And at Fredensborg these companions of mine meet, embrace, and kiss. This is the moment I love so much, for you know that I love Fredensborg indescribably for a moment, for one moment, but only for one moment that is priceless to me.
As this letter is undated and consequently might have been written at any time, it also follows from this that it may be read at any time, and if any nocturnal doubt should assail you, you may read it even at night; for truly, if I ever doubted for a moment that I dared call you "mine" (you know how much I associate with this expression; you know this, you who wrote me yourself that your life would be concluded with me if I were to become separated from you; Oh, do then let it be included in me as long as we are united, for until then we are not truly united), I have never doubted for a moment, no — I write this out of the deepest conviction of my soul — indeed not even in the most obscure corner of the world shall I doubt that I am yours,
Am I dreaming, or "comes a dream from the spring of my youth here to my easy chair"? — This picture belongs to you, and yet it is here now. But it finds no rest, no abiding place with me any longer; it yearns impatiently to take the message to you and to remain with you. She holds a flower in her hand. Is it she who gives it to him, or has she received it from him only to return it to him in order to receive it once more? No outsider knows. The wide world lies behind him; he has turned his back upon it. Stillness prevails throughout as in eternity, to which such a moment belongs. Perhaps he has sat like this for centuries; perhaps the happy moment was only a brief one and yet sufficient for an eternity. With the picture my thought also returns to its beginning, and I tear myself away, flee from everything that would imprison me in chains of sorrow, and I cry out louder than the sorrows ..... yet, yet, yet in all of this I am happy, indescribably happy, for I know what I possess. And when it storms and roars in the workshop of my thoughts, I listen for your voice; and when I stand in a crowd amidst noise and uproar that do not concern me, then I see the open window, and you stand in your summer dress — as once at the Schlegels — and you look and look, and the surroundings become alien to you and only contribute towards directing your attention, your soul to one point, unwavering with no thought for anything else, and the distance between us vanishes and you are mine, united with me, though a whole continent were to separate us.
I am enclosing a scarf. I ask you to accept it and desire that you alone may know that you own this trifle. When you are festively dressed (you know my opinion of that) and you sit alone waiting for me, then please indicate to me that you own it and that possession of it is not unwelcome to you.
[On the back of the enclosed picture:]
Es vergeht keine Stund in der Nacht,
Da mein Herz nicht erwacht,
Und an dich gedenkt,
Dass du mir viel tausandmal
Dein Herze geschenkt.
In Regine Olsen's handwriting:]
And if my arm doth give such pleasure, Such comfort and such ease; Then, handsome merman, hasten; Come take them both — oh, please.
In order to convince you that your box is not used for tobacco but rather serves as a sort of temple archive, I send you the enclosed document.
Today I reminded you of that Wednesday when I approached you for the second time in my life. Even the weather recalled that memory to my soul, just as a winter day occasionally may evoke the thought of a summer day quite vividly by virtue of a certain similarity that has its basis in dissimilarity. I felt so unspeakably lighthearted. I drove to Lyngbye, not as I usually do, somber and dejected, carelessly flung in a corner of the carriage seat. I sat in the middle of the seat, uncommonly straight, not with my head bent low, and looked about me happily and confidently. I was immensely pleased to see everybody. I greeted them with mingled feelings, as if each person possessed at once both the sacred solemnity of old friendship and the seductive charm of new acquaintance. In the parsonage I heaped flattery on everybody; we swam in a surfeit. I enjoyed being extravagant, because I felt myself stirred by something far exalted above flatter. ..... But today this recollection affected you painfully. You misunderstood me. Allow me then to relate another tale that also took place on a Wednesday. The event occurs in historical time, and therefore I shall date it. It was on Wednesday, November 18, 1840, that you told me that you had expected a letter from me. At first I only wanted to reply in kind by saying that it was really more appropriate for me to receive than to write a letter. Your remarks about the difficulty in getting to write and having your letter posted came as pure and good seed sown in soil that had been properly weeded (for you remember that I said that the thought of those difficulties had suddenly occurred to me and that this thought instantly became my best, most faithful companion who would never leave my side), and now a rich (the Latinist says laeta, that is, joyful) abundance bloomed where formerly a cold wind had swept across naked fields. You told me that you had thoght of bringing the letter yourself. Then I saw you, and I see you just as clearly, just as vividly at this moment. You walk quietly and meekly, your eyes on the ground, and only occasionally do you lift your gaze filled with peace and bliss to heaven. You walk unperturbed and undisturbed by your worldly surroundings with your thought focused on only one object, as a devout pilgrim in the service of love. Unnoticed you make your way (I see everything in the mind's eye), nobody bows respectfully to the halo around your head, but neither does anyone compassionately pity you (perhaps you remember that you spoke about Alberg's family); only one person sees you, only one understands you, but neither will he permit you to undertake this pilgrimage, not even in the spirit. And when you sometimes bow your head sadly, then he knows that the spirit is willing, then he hastens to meet you, then he feels, my Regine, that you have conquered him, then he wishes to try you no more; and although the struggle was very brief and although he may with a slight change say like Caesar, "I came, I saw, she conquered," the joy shall be no less long-lasting.
The enclosed manuscript represents a wreath and an eye that looks at that wreath.
[Petition to the King, requesting permission to submit the dissertation, "The Concept of Irony," in Danish rather than in Latin.]
You may remember that about a year ago I sent you a bottle of this essence, adding that I had deliberately let some days go by after you had mentioned your fondness for it in order to conceal that fine flower in the veil of recollection. Now I recollect this once more. In other words, I recollect that you then mentioned that which I recollect, that I recollected that you mentioned it. Thus the recollection of it has become even more precious to me, not retrospectively but progressively. That is the blessing of time. I send you then a bottle of it enveloped in an abundance of leafy wrappings. But these leaves are not the kind one tears of hastily or throws aside with annoyance in order to get to the contents. On the contrary, they are precisely of that kind which gives pleasure, and I see with how much care and solicitude you will unfold every leaf and thereby recollect that I recollect you, my Regine, and you will yourself recollect.
Miss Regine Olsen
I have arrived in Berlin as you may already have learned from my letter to Peter, which I wrote very quickly but mailed somewhat late. It is still my unalterable opinion that travel is foolish. But I hope that my stay will not be without significance for me when I have settled down a bit. I have much to think about and am suffering from a monstrous productivity block. I have as yet no occasion to let its nisus wear off (and it has already for some time been true of my countenance what was said about that emperor, "vultus erat nitentis"). I have begun to attend lectures. I heard one by Marheineke with which I was quite pleased, for although it did not contain anything new, it was very nice to hear much of that which one is accustomed to seeing in print. Schelling has not yet begun.
How are things with you at home? — and how is that person whose name I will not mention, although I hope your letters will contain something enlightening for me? Provide me with news. But the deepest secrecy must prevail. Do not let anybody suspect that I want it. Hitherto I have firmly adhered to the principle according to which I have decided to act. In this I had the encouragement, if you please, and I think of it mostly from that point of view, of having Professor Sibbern look for me the day before I left "in order to give me a thorough dressing down," since he too had now become convinced that I was an egotistical and vain man, an ironist in the worst sense. When he did not find me, Peter became the victim; he grew angry and replied that it was none of Sibbern's business. I suppose Sibbern has spoken with the family. I could only wish that he had also spoken with her, for then I would have attained my goal. Meet her without being observed. Your window can assist you. Mondays and Thursdays from 4:00 to 5:00 P.M., her music lessons. But do not meet her in the street except Monday afternoons at 5:00 or 5:30, when you might meet her as she walks from Vestervold via Vestergade to Klædeboerne, or on the same day at 7:00 or 7:30, when she and her sister are likely to go to the Exchange by way of the arcades. But be careful. Visit the pastry shop there, but be careful. For my sake practice the art of controlling every expression, of being master of any situation, and of being able to make up a story instantaneously without apprehension and anxiety. Oh, one can fool people as much as one wants, as I know from experience, and at least with respect to this I have unlimited recklessness. But she must not suspect that I am concerned about her, for she might misunderstand and become dangerously ill. Also, sound out Peter a little. I wrote nothing at all to him, or at least I did so very guardedly. I trust nobody. He used the opportunity provided by Sibbern's visit to try to penetrate my shell but met only my ironic laughter. For I am afraid that somebody or other might take it upon himself to tell her that I am still thinking about her. That would be quite a rewarding role which might be tempting.
I can well imagine that many of my good friends will use my absence to malign me, but do not defend me — I beg of you. Still, write to me so that I may surmise whence animosity comes.
As for yourself: work — write — forget. Those stubborn thoughts must be made to obey. Acquire a wider circle of acquaintences in order to learn better how to be self-contained. I am sitting here in a hotel at a noisy dinner table where every possible language is spoken, where everybody is very busy, and for a moment I am silent in order to allow this noise to compel my thought inwards. "Cheers for me and you," say I; that day will never be forgotten. And so I live every day. I have in fact decided to eat at the hotel. It is not much more expensive. The food is good, and I do not care to eat with the Danes (this last is a secret note for you alone). In case anyone asks you where I eat, reply that the hotel keeper had offered me such reasonable rates before I had spoken with the Danes that I preferred to eat here. Incidentally, I feel inner strength within me, and so, period.
Please do me the favor of sending a little note of greeting to Henrich, Michael, Carl, Sophie, Jette, Wilhelm. You can send it to 7 St. Kjømagergade.
My address is:
eine Treppe hoch
[Address:]an dem Herrn, Cand. der Theologie
Thank you for your letter, and shame on you for letting me wait so long. After all, it has been almost a month. Furthermore, as my bootblack had mailed it for me, I was afraid that he had been responsible in some manner for its not reaching you. But when he assured me repeatedly that he had indeed taken care of it, I was left in my solitude to pour out my faithful Danish heart in Danish on the subject of Danish faithlessness; I would even have written you a sermon upon this text: "I have learned to have abundance and to do without." This sermon would presumably have contained a multitude of lies, in which all preternatural moods abound, among them the fundamental lie that I had learned to do without a letter from you. True enough, a letter is not a conversation, and the only thing I can say I miss now and then are my colloquia. How good it was to talk myself out once in a while, but, as you know, I need a rather long time for that even though I talk fast. Still, a letter always means a lot, especially when it is the only means of communication.
Should I tell you that you are fortune's child in finding news that is of interest to me, or should I admire your talent? Bærentzen, the painter, must be a good source. Once of the daughters there was also engaged; her fiancè and let it be rumored that he had died (but be very discreet with this story, for the person in question probably still knows no better than that he is dead). But inasmuch as that young girl, whose name I will not mention, declines an invitation, then perhaps I ought to see genuine tact in this, proof that she fears to walk arm in arm with companions in misfortune, and that is good. That her family hates me is good. That was my plan, just as it was also my plan that she, if possible, be able to hate me. She does not know how much she owes me on that score, and I have left nothing untried (from which you may conclude that a good deal of what the family says is true), and I intend to go on leaving nothing untried. Even here in Berlin, my unfortunately all too inventive brain has not been able to refrain from planning this or that. She must either love me or hate me; she knows no third way. Nor is there anything more corrupting for a young girl than the stages in between. If she suspected how subtly everything was planned, after I had convinced [her] that it has to be broken, well then — then she would probably be right in seeing proof in it that I loved her. I have almost sacrificed my good name and reputation for her sake. For that was why I was defiant, that was why I spent two weeks in Copenhagen outdoing myself in effrontery, that is why I shall always try to appear in such a light that she may truly succeed in having me in her power. Believe me, I know how to be consistent. — But meanwhile please continue to provide me with whatever news you can find out about her. —
You seem to be afraid that I want to consign you to the idyllic, not as a place for frolicking but for grazing and grubbing about in the pond. How could you get such an idea? Have I not said and written that you are consigned to yourself, which is precisely why you can frolic about lyrically on your own, do whatever you want with the world, forget it, remember it, hate it, love it. Be glad that no other human destiny is tied to yours. Get into your kayak (surely you know those Greenland boats), put on your swimming suit, and be off with you to the ocean of the world. But that is certainly no idyll. If you cannot forget her, cannot write poetry about her, all right then, set all sails. Become all attentiveness. Let no opportunity to meet her pass you by. Always be on the lookout for the accidental; make use of it. You must be the one who makes it meaningful or the one who reduces it to nothing. If you sense that she wants to draw nearer, then break off, brush her aside; but next time you meet, cast her a meaningful glance. Death and Pestilence! Why all this fuss for the sake of a girl? Still, I want in no way to deny that your position is awkward. In that respect we are opposites. I always seem to behave actively, you passively. You lack one thing which I possess: you have not learned to despise the world, to see how trivial everything is: you break your back lifting its copper coins.
You write that you are gathering material for a new treatise. Last time you were working on a short story. What is the meaning of this? How will it all end? Please be good enough to keep yourself in check a little. You know that I usually say of myself that I rummaged around in the folder a little too soon, but what are you doing right now? Finish your short story whatever the cost. Or, and this would be my advice, write some critical essays first, for those are jobs you can finish quickly. I am writing furiously. As of now I have written fourteen printed sheets. Thereby I have completed one part of the treatise which, volente deo, I shall show you some day. This last week I wrote nothing. I am lying fallow, gathering strength, but already I feel something stirring within me. Please show me that you are careful about your tempo, which consists of ein, zwei, drei, etc. (Of course the deepest secrecy must prevail about my writing activity. You must not say a word about it.)
Schelling is lecturing to an extraordinary audience. He claims to have discovered that there are two philosophies, one negative and one positive. Hegel is neither one nor the other; his is a refined Spinozaism. The negative philosophy is given in the philosophy of identity, and he will now present the positive and thereby assist scholarship to its true eminence. As you see, there will be promotions for all those with degrees in philosophy. In the future not only the lawyers will be the doctores juris utriusque. We, the magisters, are now the magistri philosophiae utriusque, now, but not quite, for he has not yet presented the positive philosophy.
By the way, what I write to you concerning this young girl must remain between us, and you must not with a single word in any way interfere with my tactics. What does it matter if people believe that I am a deceiver? I am just as able to study philosophy, write poetry, smoke cigars, and ignore the whole world. After all, I have always made game of people, and why should I not continue to do so to the last? — Of course I have my painful moments when I regret that I became engaged, not that I broke the engagement. For only by virtue of the fact that I did become engaged to her did she gain any power over me. Had this not been the case, then my philosophy would soon have swept this actuality aside, however beautiful and interesting it was. Now in the event she does gain sufficient strength truly to hate me, it would be an exceedingly curious relationship if I should ever meet her again in this life. If so, I shall take care not to rob her of the sole benefit, which I have done my best to provide her with, for without my assistance she would never have had the strength to hate me. From the remarks you quote in your letter I gather that she must have confided in her sisters. That was what I wanted. For they will now fan the flames, and, while every remark I make is always of such a nature that I may give it another meaning whenever I choose, now that her sisters are her tutors in reading, everything will necessarily be understood as I want it to be understood.
With this, God speed. Please write soon. My regards to your father and mother. Greetings to Henrich, Michael, Carl, Sophie, Jette, Wilhelm. N. B. Please send me The First Love in Heiberg's translation as soon as you can. It is in the theatre repertoire and is available at Schubothe's; but do not let anyone suspect it is for me.
Your sincerely devoted
[On an enclosed slip:]
I have no time to get married. But here in Berlin there is a singer from Vienna, a DemoiselleSchulze. She plays the part of Elvira and bears a striking resemblance to a certain young girl, so deceptive that I was extraordinarily affected to see her in the very part of Elvira. When my wild mood sweeps over me, I am almost tempted to approach her and that not exactly with the "most honorable intentions." Usually it does not matter much about a singer, and she does look like her. It might be a small diversion when I am tired of speculation or sick of thinking about this and that. She lives nearby. Well, probably nothing will come of this. You know so well how I talk that you know what such stuff means, and it means no more now that I am writing about it. But meanwhile I do not want you to mention to anybody that there is such a singer in Berlin, or that she is playing Elvira, or etc.
An dem Herrn Cand. Theol. E. Boesen
Today, through my nephew Henrich Lund, I received the greetings you expressed requested him to convey. I am so pleased to have those greetings that it would never occur to me to return my own greetings by the same medium. On the contrary, I consider them a poetic summons (poscimur) to reply in what may be a rather discursive manner.
Even now when I cannot personally ascertain it for myself every day, I have never doubted that you would maintain some of that interest with which you have always honored me, especially after Poul Møller's death. Therefore, when I did not receive greetings of any kind from you until now, I easily explained this to myself by saying that circumstance had not brought you into contact with anybody whom you knew to be writing to me.
So here I am in Berlin going to lectures. I am attending lectures by Marheineke, Werder, and Schelling. I have heard Steffens a few times and have also paid my fee to hear him, but oddly enough, he does not appeal to me at all. And I, who have read with such great enthusiasm much of what he has written, Karrikaturen des Heiligsten, to mention just one example, I, who had really looked forward to hearing him in order to ascertain for myself what is usually said about him, that he is matchless when it comes to monologue — I am utterly disappointed. His delivery seems so uncertain and hesitant that one begins to question what progress one is making, and when a flash of genius transfigures him, I miss that artistic awareness, that oratorical brilliance I have so often admired in his writings. He lectures on anthropology, but the material is essentially the same as that contained in his published book. So I prefer to read him. But his anthropology will always make fairly heavy reading for anybody not well versed in the natural sciences. — I am, by the way, sorry to find myself disappointed in this respect. That's why I have not called on him either. On the whole I live as isolated as possible and am withdrawing more and more into myself.
Werder is a virtuoso; that is all one can say about him. I suspect that he must be a Jew, for baptized Jews always distinguish themselves by their virtuosity and of course do participate in all fields nowadays. Like a juggler, he can play and frolic with the most abstract categories and with never so much as a slip of the tongue even though he talks as fast as a horse can run. He is a scholastic in the old sense; as they did in Thomas Aquinas, so he has found in Hegel not only the summa and the summa summae but the summa summarum. In this respect he is almost a psychological phenomenon for me. His life, his thought, the richness of the outside world almost seem meaningful to him only when they have reference to Hegel's Logic. It is, however, very advantageous for the young people studying at the University to have such a man.
Schelling lectures to a select, numerous, and yet also undique conflatum auditorium. During the first lectures it was almost a matter of risking one's life to hear him. I have never in my life experienced such uncomfortable crowding — still, what would one not do to be able to hear Schelling? His main point is always that there are two philosophies, one positive and one negative. The negative is given, but not by Hegel, for Hegel's is neither negative nor positive but a refined Spinozaism. The positive is yet to come. In other words, in the future it will not be only the lawyers who become the doctores juris utriusque, for I venture to flatter myself that without submitting another dissertation I shall become a magister philosophiae utriusque.
The longer I live here in Berlin the more I realize the truth of the advice you have given me again and again out of regard for both me and my dissertation: that it be translation into German. I will wait and see about that. If it does happen, I can honestly say that you are responsible. If any good comes of this, it will be a pleasure for me to think that in this I have once more an occasion to thank you.
Berlin is probably the only place in Germany worth visiting for scholarly reasons. Therefore I really hope to benefit from this semester. The stay here is helping me to concentrate and limit myself. Otherwise, God be praised, I am fairly well. From my native country I hear little. The Danes here do get the newspapers, but I do not read them as I do not have enough time, yet time enough and time sufficient to think about a man like you, dear Professor, who by your conduct towards me have always obliged me and entitled me to call myself
An dem HerrnProf. Dr. Sibbern
Ritter der D. O., und D. M.
My dear Jette,
You hope that I will forgive you your silence, and your hope shall not be in vain, all the more so because in the letter in which you tell me of that hope, in that very letter, you assure yourself of it and make impossible for me what would otherwise have been impossible anyway.
I am glad the little scarf pleases you. You may thank Miss Dencker for its being a "pretty little scarf," and you may thank Henrich for its coming as an agreeable surprise. From this you will see, my dear Jette, not only how much I want to do you a favor but also how willingly everyone lends me a helping hand. I know that you would do the same if I were in need of your assistance to surprise any of the others. Perhaps you would almost prefer to be the one to assist me in giving pleasure to somebody else rather than be the object yourself of the combined efforts by me and the otehrs. And that is as it should be, and it is indeed a beautiful secret when everybody may thus be made happy at the same time, even though in different ways.
A letter from Michael informs me that you have not been altogether well, but as you yourself do not mention this, I conclude that it cannot have been very serious.
My time is pretty well taken up, especially since Geheimeraad Schelling is pleased to lecture for two hours every day, giving me much to attend to. That is why you are getting a brief reply from me. If this seems to you to be a change, yet that which I consider the principle object of a correspondence will remain unchanged: my greetings. My dear Jette, please convey my greetings to H., M., C., S., W., and accept my greetings for yourself.
My dear Emil,
Your letter arrived and was welcome, as is everything that comes from you. However, there is something in it that I do not understand, something that shows you do not understand me. You say that there was conflict and discord in my letter, but in what way I do not know. My view is unchanged, inflexibly unchanged, the same as it was that day, the date of which I do not remember, and even long before then. If you can succeed in showing me any deviation in my compass or demonstrate that any faint puff of air, any squall, or any mood has rippled the surface of my soul, let alone stirred its depths, then I will pledge myself to give you not only the gold of Peru but the girl you love into the bargain. The matter remains unchanged. Just as strongly as I feel that I am an exceptional amorist, I also know very well that I am a bad husband and always will remain so. It is all the more unfortunate that the former is always or usually in inverse proportion to the latter. I am capable of tempting a girl, of making an impression on her, and that I have done altogether too often here [may be read as: formerly]. Her soul must have acquired resilience through contact with me, and I daresay that for a young girl it cannot have been a joking matter to have contended with me. Either this resilience must elevate her higher than she would ever have risen otherwise — and that will happen if she is able to hate me; everything has been directed towards that — or it will bring her down. If so, I stand prepared, even if I am a bad husband and even if my soul is preoccupied with far too many other things, for then she will be just as well off with me. In saying this I am not underestimating myself, but my spiritual life and my importance as a husband are irreconcilable entities.
But you go on to ask if her image looms before me again. Death and Pestilence! Would you make me a child once more as if I did not know what I want, one who sits and sings in the dark and sees ghosts and is afraid? Did I not tell you in my very first letter that forgetting her is still out of the question? As yet I have neither taken out the stylus of oblivion in order to efface, nor have I mixed the colors on my poet's palette in order to pain a portrait of recollection for myself. That I will not do; that would be irresponsible. I am not the issue. I realize very well what I have possessed, and my spirit is not yet extinct, my soul is not yet powerless, my thoughts still abound. I will certainly persevere, but she is the issue and how she takes it. That remains to be seen before I place the final period. And what is it you want now? Should I vacillate, should I now fear that the effect of the broken engagement could not be overcome if she were to return to me? I do not fear that sort of thing, and moreover I am not permitting her to return because of promises of gold and greenwoods. There will always be enough pain, but I am only saying that she will be better off than by standing alone. I do not ask for more than that. I have far too much sense of and reverence for what stirs in a human being not to guard it with just as much esthetic as ethical earnestness. Therefore, get thee far behind me with such notions as that of her image probably looming before me again. You are not (I think you will agree with me and not be offended by my saying it) accustomed to holding your life poetically in your hand the way I am. So far I have managed that, and I still do so. Until now there has been no deviation. Everything has been so directed that she will come to see me as a deceiver; if this succeeds, then she has been helped, then she is afloat once more. But if she cannot do so, then I always have a ship at sea with a captain who knows his duty very well. I do not regret what has happened, and if you are able by the harshest torture to wring a single groan of that kind out of my letter, then in the future you may smile at my childishness. I do not regret it, least of all for my own sake. You ought to know enough about my relationship to be able to see the consistency with which I have steered towards the point where I now am. My life divides itself into chapters, and I can provide an exact heading for each as well as state its motto. For the present it proclaims: "She must hate me." No human being has been permitted to probe too deeply, and in the unanimous condemnation of the town you also see that I have proof that I acted correctly. I shall only give you one little example to convince you that I am the same. In the company of the Danes here in Berlin I am always cheerful, merry, gay, and have "the time of my life," etc. And even though everything churns inside me so that it sometimes seems that my feelings, like water, will break the ice with which I have covered myself, and even though there is at times a groan within me, each groan is instantly transformed into something ironical, a witticism, etc., the moment anybody else is present. I do this partly because I never became used to grabbing other people by the arm, and partly because my plan demands it. Here, a groan which might, after all, possibly mean something entirely different, might reach the ear of a Dane, he might write home about it, she might possibly hear it, it might possibly damage the transitional process, the result of which I intend to ascertain for myself in the fullness of time. Do you already see the great difficulty here? I must decide when that time is, however difficult it may be here once more to steer between the esthetic and ethical in the world. I have been ill; that is to say, I have had a lot of rheumatic headaches and have often not slept at night. I could call a doctor; perhaps something might be done about it. But if I called a doctor, the Danes would know about it at once. Perhaps it might occur to one of them to write home, it might reach her ear, it might be disturbing — ergo, I do not call a doctor, and I feel better because I remain faithful to my principle, and in spite of all his skill a doctor might do me harm because I would come into conflict with my principle. Do I need to feel ashamed when I compare myself with other people? Do I need to blush when I claim to know how to act and how to act consistently? What is more, I lack diversion. Absence from home practically always makes an impression on a person, and especially so under such utterly singular circumstances. The last day before I left, you accompanied me and got some idea of the many kinds of enjoyment always at my disposal. In Berlin I have nothing of the kind. I miss my hired coachman, my servant, my comfortable landau, my light-hearted flight through the lovely regions of our Sjælland, the merry smiles of the young girls, which I knew how to turn to my advantage without doing them any harm. I am working hard. My body cannot stand it. So that you may see that I am the same, I shall tell you that I have again written a major section of a piece "Either/Or". It has not gone very quickly, but that is due to its not being an expository work but one of pure invention, which in a very special way demands that one be in the mood. I hold my life poetically in my hand, but from this follows that which I cannot get away from: that between two poetic possibilities there lies a third, that of actuality and contingency. Suppose she were taken ill. I have weighed that eventuality carefully, and obviously illness cannot be taken into account when it is a question of an entire life, but still this is a very special matter. But please note once more how faithful I am to my principle. I thought this matter over before I left home; a golden key opens all doors, and I believe you know that I understand the uses of money. For a moment it occurred to me that here again I might attempt bribery. It would have been easy for me. Moreover there was one person who I was certain could provide me with absolutely reliable information, but then I would have had to show him my hand. I dare not do that, and accordingly I remained faithful to my principle. You are the only one from whom I get an occasional bit of information, and surely you cannot complain that I am impatient in demanding it of you. And yet it is the only thing of importance to me at the moment. As to the rest, only I myself can gather the intelligence.
I hope you see that it provides an occasion for misunderstanding when you bring your own love affair into this. I know nothing of these sentimental palpitations. My relationship with her has a far different reality from that and has been appealed to a far more exalted forum, and if I had not had the courage myself to bring the case before that forum, I would consider myself a soft, esthetic semi-human person, a worm. For it would be terrible to play for such high stakes merely because of a whim. Apparently you are a novice: you have feeling, I have passion. But my understanding is enthroned above my passion; yet, at the same time my understanding is passion. Here let me draw my sword from its scabbard. Is it seemly to devote oneself in this manner to feeling? I do not understand you. Once a girl has made such a strong impression on me as she has on you, then I declare war, and then I am in my element, for the war itself is my delight. That a girl should be unconquerable, that thought has never yet been entertained in my recalcitrant, if you will, or proud head. Do you not hear martial music, is not your soul all emotion? — It is incomprehensible. And moreover, is not the world open to you? My Emil, do learn a little from my example. Or do you have the idèe fixe that this girl can only be happy with you? — eh bien! Still, you have no responsibility. Imagine what it means to have lured a girl out into the mainstream and now to be sitting and waiting to see how it will end. Should I not have sunk deep into the earth; and yet I carry my head high. And what are you doing to banish [may be read as: change] it? Are you working, writing poetry, exposing your breast to danger? You want to get away. There is no worse way. I knew that before I went abroad, and I would not have gone if it had not been out of consideration for her. I would have spent the winter in Copenhagen. In the first place I wanted to meet public opinion head on, and I believe that my presence would have meant a lot, and second, I was aware of that which we already spoke about at the time, that such a stay might well have its own difficulties. But if the whole thing was to have any meaning for her, I had to leave; ergo, I left. I keep watch over myself. No miser could brood more anxiously over his treasure. I watch every word, every facial expression, every Anspielung. Moreover, I keep up my interest in scholarship, in art, and even — with God's help — in my own productivity. That is the way things stand with me, and so they must remain until the moment arrives. As far as I am concerned, then, it cannot be a quesiton of my calming down, for I am calm; but, as there is a point outside myself, I must wait for it to be clarified. I could of course fling myself into my carriage at once and travel to Copenhagen and see for myself, but I will not do that. It makes it all the worse that Schelling's most recent lectures have not been very important. That being so, I could very well do it, but I will not do it because I do not want to, because it would only make me lose confidence in myself if I were to do it prior to the moment I determined when I left home. In this respect as well I have special signs to go by. Incidentally, I could wish I had my papers with me, for I do miss them also. What I have written here up to now is probably not bad, and I believe it will find favor in your eyes. So I also long, as Paul says, to present my charismatic gift to you. My Emil, would that I could shout these words so loudly that I might summon you from the hyperborean twilight of soul in which you live. And if you were to lose this girl now, is there then nothing else for you to do? That is the way it usually is for a young girl, but you, you can work, can bring joy to others, can fetch old and new things from your storeroom, can comfort; in short, you can become a pastor, and that is the only thing worth the trouble in this world. Note in this also my own misfortune, imagine the tempests that I have to endure, now more than ever, and now more than ever without having deserved them. For I have wanted to keep her out of this, too, not because of excessive stress, but for far more profound reasons.
Here you have my contribution in this matter. It will have to suffice; I can say no more. When that moment arrives when I say "Period," I shall tell you more, but I never communicate what does not belong to me. I know my own nature, and I have betrayed to her how one gains power over me. I did it painstakingly, and it would have been easy to prevent. But I do not want to steal away from it, for I have not wanted to provide myself with an opportunity for self-deception.
So you want to become a missionary? And you do not wish me to dismiss the matter lightly. All right then, why do you want to be one? If it is for your own peace of mind, I daresay that would be a most indefensible reason, and it does not exaclty give one an idea of what is called "the call," for then one ought rather to say, "Physician, heal thyself." Or is it for the sake of the others? To be honest, I do not believe it. You are still suffering from such an affair, you would hardly be up to that. If you want to get away, all right then, travel, but do not take upon yourself such a serious responsibility. Or is it a legitimation, as though one could do no less? Am I right? If it offends you to have me speak like this, please forget it is I, imagine an older person, think of everything that might distort the impression of my words as separate from me, and retain only my friendship and its influence. Travel, if you want to; my purse is always open to you. But above all, work, set yourself a definite goal, and stick to it. If you so desire, I shall be happy to renounce my authority to say this, but it is nonetheless true.
You are getting a fairly long letter from me. I wanted to correct your ideas about me. I am glad to learn from your letter that she is well; that she is cheerful is an ambiguous matter. The Olsen household has great ability in dissimulation, and surely association with me has not diminished that virtuosity.
And now, my dear Emil, my greetings, my friendship, my devotion to you. I sing that little song from The White Lady (the tenant farmer's lines to the officer at the very beginning): "Take my hand, take my hand; in this breast dwells honesty."
Greetings to your father and mother.
I do not need to tell you that in regard to all my letters the deepest secrecy must prevail.
[Address on a separate envelope:]
An dem Derrn Cand. Theol. E. Boesen
My dear Emil,
I did receive your letter. You seem to hint in it that there is some inconsistency between my last and next-to-last letters, inasmuch as in the earlier one I urge you to be seated in the council, and in the later one become a little vehement, almost as if I wanted to dismiss you again. You are not completely wrong about that. The fact is that when I assured you in my first letter that you held a seat in the council of my thoughts, that was true enough, but that means primarily that I often include you in my thoughts, that you really do have a seat and a vote in many aspects of my life, but especially with respect to all of my modest production. However, in this matter I feel that I must rely wholly on myself, and there it was apparent to me at once that I had said too much and all the more so when I read your letter. You miss the point, but you do so because you do not know the true situation, primarily because you do not know my motives. This became even more apparent to me in your letter and perhaps I did react a bit vehemently. It must have seemed especially so to you, although there really was not an untrue word in anything I said. I have often said that I am born to intrigues, but in another sense I can say that I am born to intrigues, entanglements, peculiar relationships in life, etc., all of which perhaps would not be so peculiar if I had not been so peculiarly constituted, primarily if I had not possessed what I might call that passionate coldness with which I rule my moods, that is, every determination of them ad extra. From the development of this argument you will see that I cannot add much to my previous letter. The affair, which by now has been dealt with often enough, has two sides: an ethical and an esthetic. Were she able to take the affair less to heart, or, if it might even become an impetus for her to rise higher than she otherwise would have, then the ethical factor is cancelled — then only the esthetic remains for me. Then I am your man, then I am in my element, equally much whether it is a question of forgetting or of conquering. She was an exceptional girl, as I have always said, and in that sense I have never cooled towards her. Nor do I believe that she would in that sense have been hurt by having been engaged to me. What is then to be done: I open the gates of oblivion, I fling myself into the stream of life, and I believe that I am too good a swimmer to go under just because I am tossed by a little rolling swell. The esthetic is above all my element. As soon as the ethical asserts itself, it easily gains too much power over me. I become a quite different person, I know no limit to what might constitute my duty etc. There you see the difficulty: if I had broken the connection for my own sake because I believed that the esthetic factor which constitutes something so essential in every character and required it in mine chiefly because I felt that my whole spiritual life was almost at stake (which would have been a most respectable reason and something quite different from the reason people usually have for breaking up, that there is somebody they like better, etc.) — then the ethical would have crushed me. I have been rather ill while I have been in Berlin, but now I am quite well again. Nobody will be told what goes on inside me, and now I am of course quite pleased with the thought that I held back about this. The cold is not so bad in Berlin, but the East wind is awful when it gets going, and often I have had the experience of not once being warm for a whole week in a stretch, not even at night. Cold, some insomnia, frayed nerves, disappointed expectations of Schelling, confusion in my philosophical ideas, no diversion, no opposition to excite me — that is what I call the acid test. One learns [to] know oneself. It was a godsend that I did not break the engagement for my own sake; then it would have overwhelmed me. All that I wanted to save by breaking the engagement was in the process of fading away like a phantom anyway, and I would have remained as one who for a phantom had thrown away her happiness as well as my own. I broke it for her sake. That became my consolation. And when I suffered the most, when I was completely bereft, then I cried aloud in my soul: "Was it not good, was it not a godsend that you managed to break the engagement? If this had continued, you would only have become a lifelong torment to her. Even if she now learns," so I continued, "that I have gone out like a candle, she will see God's just punishment of me in this, she will not grieve for me, and that is the only thing I do not want to allow her to do." These are not overwrought feelings, and that prattle about how she will always be glad to stay with me because she loves me cannot be thought about. I am too old to talk that way. I know myself, I know what I can endure; what she can endure, I do not know. These are not overwrought feelings, and I know this best because they are able to quell the upheavals of my soul. Now I am calmer, and I do not anticipate such spiritual trials. Moreover I could have been exposed to humiliations in a quite different manner. Suppose that she had had the strength to forget me, had recovered in a way that might have surprised the world (something I had my reasons for expecting), then I would have been stuck. Those who only considered the esthetic in the affair would have laughed at me; those who considered the ethical would still have called me a deceiver and a scoundrel. Is it not infuriating? I pass through this world, and I harbor healthy and powerful emotions in my breast, so many that I believe ten people might make themselves into honest citizens with them, and I — I am a scoundrel. But I laugh at mankind as I have always done; I am taking a terrible revenge on them, for the worst revenge is always to have the right on one's side. That is why I show my hand so reluctantly. I do not want to have their insipid praises. But it is a dangerous path, as I know very well, and were it not that I had so much else to humiliate me, then I would consider continuing to follow it.
You say she is sick. Does this mean that she is provided with news about me from the Lunds? Does she get it from the children or from Miss Dencker who visits the Tiedemanns, where she also visits? I hope she has not fallen into the hands of Miss Dencker. I hope she is not mired in gossip. In truth she is too good for that. And I who could not tolerate her by my side because I found it too humiliating for her, for in some way she would vanish because of my singularity, I who had worked out that plan in order really to elevate her, either so she recovered or so that she might have the triumph that I — who even though in public opinion am nothing but the most unstable and egotistical person inside the walls of Copenhagen — that I would almost become a laughing stock by returning to her! That would be sweet-smelling to my nose, for even though I would not be a fool in her eyes, it would please me to be so in those of of the world, provided that she could ascend thereby. What do I care about myself? I have myself. And now this too will disturb me, for it will after all seem as though I am returning to her out of pity. However, I refuse to be discouraged. Whenever I get to Copenhagen, I have a considerable influence on public opinion, and surely I can thumb my false nose at them once more. — For safety's sake I want you to make it generally known that as soon as Schelling has finished I am coming home. That was always my plan. My intention was to have another look at the affair then. Please say that the reason for my return is that I am extremely dissatisfied with Schelling, which by the way is only all too true. Then I shall see what is to be done. I dare not attempt anything until I am back in Copenhagen myself. There are difficulties of quite another kind that I must first straighten out. This whole affair is boundlessly complicated. But with God's help I keep up my courage. She will probably hear that I am returning in the spring. That is all I can do now; I dare do no more, although God knows that I would like to. And I do this also because I believe that I may be justified in doing it for my own sake, for I regard the relationship as broken only in a certain sense. You see how carefully I have guarded her interest. If I should return to her, then I would wish to include those few creatures whom she has learned to love through me, my four nephews and two nieces. To that end I have kept up, often at a sacrifice of time, a steady correspondence with them. Naturally, in order to divert attention, I have given this the appearance of something bizarre on my part. But like everything else, this remains between us. Therefore, you see, in returning to her I fear no danger from the same quarter that you do. Indeed, had I left her for my own sake, then everything would have been lost. But I have not done so. In my own eyes I do not return as the Prodigal Son, I am no less proud than before, her trust in me cannot be weakened by my return. But as I have said, there are other things to take into consideration.
Do you now see the difference between my relationship and yours? You have only esthetic considerations, or do you believe that on the Day of Judgment you will have to render an account because you have not become engaged to a girl to whom you would very much like to become engaged? If so, one would have to say that on the Day of Judgment you may demand an accounting for why you did not get her. There is a yawning abyss between yours and mine. Therefore I am pleased that you are thinking better of it. Anyway, when I do get to Copenhagen I shall do my humble bit to give more support.
It is absolutely imperative that I return to Copenhagen this spring. For either I shall finish Either/Or by spring, or I shall never finish it. The title is approximately that which you know. I hope you will keep this between us. Anonymity is of the utmost importance to me. Only in one case would I not have come if I had thought it necessary for her sake. For her I do everything; I am profligate with msyelf more than with money, and that is saying a lot. In this connection I long to see you. You are used to seeing my works in the making; this time it is different. When I now take out my scrolls and read to you some fourteen to twenty sheets, what do you say to that? Courage, Antonius! In a certain sense, these are difficult times, and some of the chapters I am working on do indeed need all my sense of humor, all my wit, wherever I get it from. I have completely given up on Schelling. I merely listen to him, write nothing down either there or at home.
I suppose my stock is pretty low in Copenhagen. Even my brother Peter wrote with some reservation. All that does not worry me; I am almost more worried, if it should come about that I return to her, that people will say, "He has something decent about him after all." That contemptible rabble! Of course I might have remained with her, let her suffer all that which it was then impossible to prevent, and told her that she herself had after all wanted it — and would have been extolled and honored as a good husband. That is how most husbands are. I refuse to do that. I would rather be hated and detested.
Either/Or is indeed an excellent title. It is piquant and at the same time also has a speculative meaning. But for my own sake I will not rob you prematurely of any enjoyment.
This winter in Berlin will always have great significance for me. I have done a lot of work. When you consider that I have had three or four hours of lecture every day, have had a daily language lesson, and have still gotten so much written (and that regardless of the fact that in the beginning I had to spend a lot of time writing down Schelling's lectures and making fair copies), and have read a lot, I cannot complain. And then all my suffering, all my monologues! I feel strongly that I cannot continue for long; I never expected to; but I can for a short while and all the more intensively. Greetings to your father and mother.
Take care of yourself, my dear Emil,
An dem Herrn E. Boesen
Candidat der Theologie
My dear Emil,
Schelling talks endless nonsense both in an extensive and an intensive sense. I am leaving Berlin and hastening to Copenhagen, but not, you understand, to be bound by a new tie, oh no, for I feel more strongly than ever that I need my freedom. A person with my eccentricity should have his freedom until he meets a force in life that, as such, can bind him. I am coming to Copenhagen to complete Either/Or. It is my favourite idea, and in it I exist. You will see that this idea is not to be made light of. In no way can my life yet be considered finished. I feel I still have great resources within me.
I do owe Schelling something. For I have learned that I enjoy traveling, even though not for the sake of studying. As soon as I have finished Either/Or I shall fly away again like a happy bird. I must travel. Formerly I never had the inclination for it, but first I must finish Either/Or and that I can do only in Copenhagen.
What do you think of that? Probably you have missed me at times, but have a little patience and I shall soon be with you. My brain has not yet become barren and infertile, words still flow from my lips, and this eloquence of mine, which you at least appreciate, has not yet been stilled.
Really, I cannot understand how I have tolerated this servitude here in Berlin. I have taken off only Sundays, have been on no excursions, have had little entertainment. No thank you! I am Sunday's child, and that means that I ought to have six days of the week off and work only one day.
I have much, very much, to tell you. I suppose that now and then you have not understood me very well. That will now be taken care of. Besides, I am not very good at writing letters. Usually I have written to you literally at the very moment I received yours. This makes my letters lively, but accordingly, by and large they do not say any more than a spoken conversation would. Afterwards I am often troubled by this. I may have forgotten most of it, but one thing I do remember, and now I do not think it matters. Of course you are the only person to whom I write in this manner. I am accustomed to considering you as an absolutely silent witness to the most momentous movements of my soul. Yet I manage to keep my perspective.
I hope that it will also mean something to you that I am coming. Surely it is not presumptuous to say taht there is one person to whom I mean something. Then we shall once more open our fiscus ['treasury' — KJ]. I have not been extravagant; on the contrary I have saved a lot, and on this we will have many happy days. Then, when I once more walk arm in arm with you, when the cigar is lit, or when "the Professor" sits on the coachbox proud and straight and scornful of the whole world, proud that he is driving for me, who am also scornful of the whole world, and we stop, and you have friendship enough to let yourself be truly influenced by what I have to recite to you: "Hurrah for me and you, I say, this day will never be forgotten."
I have no more to say to you in writing. I hope you are taking strict precautions against any third party's seeing my letters or reading them, and also that your facial expression betrays nothing. This caution you do understand. You know how I am, how in conversation with you I jump about stark naked, whereas I am always enormously calculating with other people.
please take care of yourself,
[Address on the envelope:]
An dem Herrn Cand. Theol. E. Boesen
My dear Jette,
Although I am well aware that the enclosed flower picture by no means can stand comparison with that marvelous fruit picture with which you surprised me on my birthday, still I do not hesitate to send you my modest work as a gift, adding that you must not, as seems so probable, scorn it. It makes no claim on you to be of artistic value; it desires only to be worthy of your affection, for I can assure you that all the time I was working on this flower picture you were constantly in my thoughts. It is all the more deplorable that I began a week late, for despite my having sat up the whole night before last, I have just now finished the picture. Although the blossom itself did not take me much time, the leaf did, even though one might believe that the whole thing had been done with a single stroke. But of course I do not need to tell all this to an artist like you.
Please accept, then, my little gift, a late flower in the month of November, which thus has arrived one day late. But fair is fair: I promised to hide your picture so that nobody would see it; in turn you must promise me not to put my picture on display anywhere, nor show it to anyone, nor mention my name in connection with it — "for that is so embarrassing."
The enclosed letter to you was written just after I arrived. My health was somewhat affected, but so be it. Now I am afloat again. In a certain sense I have already achieved what I might wish for. I did not know whether I needed one hour for it, or one minute, or half a year — an idea — a hint — sat sapienti, now I am climbing. As far as that goes, I could return home at once, but I will not do so, although I shall probably not travel any farther than Berlin.
When one does not have any particular business in life, as I do not, it is necessary to have an interruption like this now and then. Once more the machinery within me is fully at work, the feelings are sound, harmonious, etc. As soon as I feel the law of motion truly within me, I shall return, for then I am working again, and my home becomes dear to me and my library a necessity for me.
As to my internal state in other respects, I will not say much, or rather nothing, for I will not tell lies.
My address is Jägerstrasse und Charlottenstrasse an der Ecke, my old address, but the owner has married and therefore I am living like a hermit in one room, where even my bed stands.
I do not want to bother speaking the German language, and therefore I live as isolated as possible.
An den Herrn Cand. E. Boesen
Berlin 5/16 5-6
[Deleted: Dear Justitsraad]
Again a little while and you will see me. I have finished a work of some importance to me, am hard at work on another, and my library is indispensable to me, as is also a printer. In the beginning I was ill, but now I am well, that is to say, insofar as my spirit grows within me and probably will kill my body. I have never worked as hard as now. I go for a brief walk in the morning. Then I come home and sit in my room without interruption until about three o'clock. My eyes can barely see. Then with my walking-stick in hand I sneak off to the restaurant, but am so weak that I believe that if somebody were to call out my name, I would keel over and die. Then I go home and begin again. In my indolence during the past months I had pumped up a veritable shower-bath, and now I have pulled the string and the ideas are cascading down upon me: healthy, happy, merry, gay, blessed children born with ease and yet all of them with the birthmark of my personality. Otherwise I am weak, as I said, my legs shake, my knees ache, etc. This is inadequate; instead I shall choose an expression used by my favourite actor, Herr Grobecker, a proverb he used effectively with every fourth word, "Ich falle um und bin hin," or with a slightly better variation, "Ich falle hin und bin um." When I have arranged everything at home, I shall travel again. Perhaps. Gott weiss es.
Everything remains between us. You know I do not care for gossip.
If I do not die on the way, I believe you will find me happier than ever before. It is a new crisis, and it means either that I now commence living or that I must die. There would be one more way out of it: that I would lose my mind. God knows. But wheresoever I end, I shall never forget to employ the passion of irony in justified defiance of non-human pseudo-philosophers, who understand neither this nor that and whose whole skill consists in scribbling German compendia and in defiling that which has a worthier origin by talking nonsense about it.
An dem Herrn Cand. E. Boesen
Berlin 5/25 12-1
Quite some time has already gone by since I returned from Berlin, and in all that time I have heard nothing at all from you. So it is easy to explain the fact that when the miracle of your writing to me fails to take place, then the even greater miracle takes place: the prophet goes to the mountain.
How are you doing down there? How is Jette? I have practically no contact at all with the Glahn family and therefore hear nothing whatsoever. It would really make me very happy indeed if Jette were in fairly good health, for if that were so I believe you might even be able to lead a pleasant life in the country, for you like being a pastor, as far as I can judge, and besides, you have acquired some skill in dealing with life's trivialities in such a way that they do not become completely unbearable for you. This is something I understand very well; perhaps few understand it as well as I do, precisely because I am and will remain a swimmer who both nolens and volens stays out in the mainstream.
If a brief visit from me would please you in any way, I would be glad to come, even though I go for drives less frequently nowadays, at least not for such long ones, and on the whole am prepared to remain in Copenhagen and put up with the heat. My room is my Rhodus, and although I am not exactly leaping about in the heat, I will nevertheless remain there.
I really have nothing to write to you about, for you know that I am reluctant to write to anybody about my affairs; even in conversation I am rather taciturn. I have written to tell you that I am, as I have always been — even though appearances are mostly against me, as they may be in specie at this very moment when it occurs to me that Jette may not be better — happy to assure you that I am
You know that there is in town a Magister Adler, who became a pastor on Bornholm, a zealous Hegelian. He has come over here to publish some sermons in which he will probably advocate a movement in the direction of orthodoxy. He has a good head on him and has considerable experience in many casibus of life, but at the moment he is a little overwrought. Nevertheless it is always possible that this is a phenomenon worth paying attention to. — Otherwise everything is as usual, trivial, although one can get along provided one knows how to laugh — and to work. " Have you seen Martensen's book? How can people go on claiming that M. is a thinker! Let him wrestle with philosophy; that makes sense, but this kind of stuff is nothing but thoughtless self-aggrandizement.
Dr. Kierkegaard, Pastor
Will you eat with me this evening? I have already made a reservation. If so, I will come at 6:00 or 6:30. Will you be in your room at that time?
Mr. E. Boesen, C.T
When you recommend somebody and when I have at my disposal that which is desired, then my wilfulness is your guarantee that your wish is my command. Unfortunately, however, I am not in the position of looking for, nor can I use, the person you recommend. At the moment I employ an old woman with whom I am in every way as satisfied as possible. She will be with me until this fall, when I move to the family house at Nytorv, where I have arranged things differently, so that I will have no need of such a person, and in fact will have no room for her. Even if I did, I could hardly dismiss my old woman, since she suits me in every way, and although she has been with me for only a year, she has known how to make her dismissal almost a matter of conscience for me.
So much for the content of your letter, but now a little about something entirely unrelated which nevertheless has made your letter — which I cherish as I do everything from you — most particularly welcome in its own way. Yesterday was my birthday, a day which I am very averse to celebrating and as far as possible even keep secret. But that your letter should happen to come on just that day, the only letter I have ever received from you, that the familiar handwriting should so vividly recall to me one of my most beautiful memories, that the affectionate closing should assure me of that which I certainly believed and knew yet am always happy to hear repeated, that time, which changes so much, in this respect has changed nothing — how could I do anything but consider all this as the work of a friendly fate who sent me a birthday greeting so welcome that I myself could almost have elicited it! This is why I thank you for your note and for the impression it made on me, for it allowed me to forget completely that the last time I saw your name was in that official notice announcing your resignation as principal of the Borgerdyds School. Well, it was inevitable; but all the same, not everyone has the strength to take the step himself and the strength to resign himself to taking it. If anyone should have self-confidence, rashness, and boldness enough to want to offer you consolation, then truly it is not I. But with your permission I should prefer to be the one who is no good at consoling, understood in the same sense as Cicero understands it when he writes to Titius: unus ex omnibus minime sum ad te consolandum accommodatus, quod tantum ex tuis molestiis cepi doloris, ut consolatione ipse egerem.
With gratitude and affection
your completely devoted
I am sorry that your visit to me yesterday was in vain. I would have enjoyed spending an hour talking with you. But please do not give up on me for that reason, or give up thinking of me or the thought of visiting me. Do believe in repetition — but no, for I have, after all, proved that there is no repetition! But then please doubt repetition and please come again. For of course in this case repetition would mean that your visit would be in vain a second time. And there is no repetition (cf. Repetition) — so in all human probability you will find me at home next time.
Your devoted cousin,
As I have sent Mr. Philipsen, the bookseller, what remains of the edition of my Upbuilding Discourses, would you please be so good as to deliver to him upon request the copies that you have left.
May 10, 1845
Mr. Bianco Luno, printer
With all my searching, as I told you, I could only come to the flattering conclusion that the broken and lost or lost and broken cup could not be matched. Fortunately, as you now know, it had the distinction in your household also of being the only one of its kind. Why fortunately? Well, usually it is assumed quite properly that to lose the only one of its kind is the heaviest loss of all, but when it comes to coffee cups an exception is made, and one finds it a consolation that the lost cup was the only one of its kind and finds lightest what is usually the heaviest loss of all — losing what is matchless.
So let the accompanying pair of cups take the place of the one that is lost, and on the same condition: that if it is lost, it will not be of great consequence.
[written on the back of the envelope:] To Mr. Kold
Together with a package marked K
Please pardon my causing you a small inconvenience. As you are the editor, I must turn to you concerning the author of A Story of Everyday Life. May I ask you to take the trouble to send him one copy of the accompanying little book.
As you will gather from the first page, the other copy is intended for you yourself, Sir, as the immediate recipient. It is a pleasure for me to be able to send you a copy of what I write, and thus it cannot become a habit with me.
To Professor Heiberg
Professor J. L. Heiberg
Knight of Dannebrog
When I arrived home rather late Thursday evening I received your note of April 2. On Friday morning I was to leave for a visit to my brother near Sorøe; now that I have returned I immediately take the first opportunity for a brief reply.
Thank you for your welcome note. When one has written a little esthetic review and he who possesses absolute esthetic authority applies it in praise, it is of course always nice to be the one whom that distinguished person distinguishes. There is an ingenious Oriental proverb that wisely declares that only the deaf sage can resist flattery wisely, because simple-mindedness would regard either of these elements as sufficient: deafness or sagacity. And I, who am neither deaf nor sage, how would I fare in such a dilemma! Therefore it is fortunate that it is impossible for me to be led into such temptation by your note. For when he who has authority praises or approves, then this is after all not flattery, nor would it be wise to turn a deaf ear to it, but indecorous and vain conceit not to heed it gratefully. The reverse is likewise true. If he who admiringly subordinates himself expresses, in his very utteration of admiration, a tolerably clear awareness and idea of what it is he admires, then neither is this flattery. In the former case, authority (reposing in the arbiter), and in the latter case, truth (reposing in the subordinate), are the essentials of that sincerity which precludes the emptiness of flattery.
Thank you also for the possibility you mention of a comment from the author of A Story of Everyday Life. What I said in my review about those stories with reference to the reading public, I may here repeat about that friendly comment with reference to my unworthy self: "I think this is a welcome present in any season; looking forward to it is in itself a pleasure; receiving what has been looked forward to is no less a pleasure."
You are, indeed, the editor of these stories. But an editor has it within his power, whenever he wishes, to consider himself as dissociated from the book and the author. I had applied to you in your capacity as editor and begged pardon for causing you any small inconvenience. On the assumption that this unknown author might honor me with a note, you could have waited until the note was finished, and then you could have enclosed in a business envelope that which already constituted adequate attention to me. As I see it, you would have been fully justified in so doing. All the more, then, do I appreciate your note. The contents are indeed the judgment of him who has authority, and I have thanked you for that. But the note itself is a courtesy which in a welcome manner places me in your most grateful debt.
To Professor Heiberg
Knight of Dannebrog
Professor J. L. Heiberg
Knight of Dannebrog
The birthday on which you congratulate me and about which you say that it "often and uncustomarily has been in your thoughts these days," that birthday has also frequently and for a long time preceding it been in my own thoughts. For I became thirty-four years old. In a certain sense it was utterly unexpected. I was already very surprised when — yes, now I may say it without fear of upsetting you — you became thirty-four years old. Both Father and I had the idea that nobody in our family would live past his thirty-fourth year. However little I otherwise agreed with Father, in a few singular ideas we had an essential point of contact, and in such conversations Father was always almost enthusiastic about me, for I could depict an idea with lively imagination and pursue it with daring consistency. In fact, a curious thing about Father was that what he had most of, what one least expected, was imagination, albeit a melancholy imagination. The thirty-fourth year was, then , to be the limit, and Father was to outlive us all. That is not the way it has turned out — I am now in my thirty-fifth year.
About the rest of my letter to you: you do not appear to have understood it quite as I intended. I did not intend to sell at just this time, but I wanted to obtain your answer to my question about whether or not you wanted to increase your mortgage as proposed. This would, as I remarked, also be convenient for me whenever I might decide to sell.
It appeared to me to be quite desirable for you to be the holder of a first mortgage of 10,000 rdl. I shall not add any more about this, for you yourself must be able to see very well what speaks in favour of it, and better than I what might speak against it. It is only my intention that the wish should agree with what is in your best interest. If it does, you might do me the favour of granting my wish, and moreover the favour is of such a kind that I can accept it gladly because no sacrifice is involved on your part, for your property invested in such an unconditional first mortgage is just as safe as in any stock or bond, indeed, probably safer.
You yourself surely do see that a first mortgage of 7,000 rdl. on my house is a very small first mortgage; but on the other hand, since you do hold a first mortgage, I am unable to offer anybody else terms other than those of a second mortgage, which is not very easy to obtain, however. Thus you who hold a small first mortgage are the only one to whom I can apply, and even if you were someone else, it would still seem reasonable that that someone else would grant my wish, provided he were otherwise able to do so.
Please think about doing it. In a certain sense you do not know very much about my life, its goal and its purpose, but you do know that it is very strenuous, which in a certain sense you may not care for — perhaps because you are not familiar with it. There is a necessary silence with respect to my life, and it is precisely by silence that it gains its strength. Even if I wanted to speak, that which is most important to me and which most profoundly determines my life would be that about which I must be silent. From this arises a disparity in my relationship with anyone who has, or to whom I might wish to give, a claim to closer confidence. Therefore I have never wanted to make it appear as thought I maintained a confidential relationship with anybody, precisely because I knew that even if he did not discover that disparity, I myself would realise it. In my relationship with those few people with whom I have had a little closer association (for in a discursive sense I have had association with countless numbers), I have myself on one occasion pointed out to them that there was a discrepancy in our relationship, and I have added that the relationship, such as mine was to them, was clear to me but that no real confidence was possible for me.
Thus also now in relation to you. I can well understand that it must offend you or seem peculiar to you that in your relationship with another human being who probably has experienced a great deal internally, you are not more intimately informed qua brother. Leave it at that and consider if it is not a sort of honesty on my part to have stated that this is so. I can only say this much — that from the beginning, with sufferings which perhaps few can imagine because I was given strength to conceal them, I acknowledge more and more happily that Governance has granted me infinitely more than I had ever expected. Even now, after having worked incessantly in this way for several years without the least bit of outside encouragement, and on top of this even having been for a long time the object of ugly treatment by rabble vulgarity, by coarseness, and by curiosity, day in and day out — even now I feel grateful appreciation that I work more easily and am in better health than before, indeed, that this really has worked for my own good and added one more string to my instrument instead of damaging the old strings. You see, if you would join me in taking pleasure in that, I would be pleased.
Anyway, I could wish to speak with you at greater length sometime, especially now that I am thirty-four years old, and gradually move toward a possible change in the outer circumstances of my life by assuring myself of a livelihood after all. But I do not want to be precipitate about this. So much happiness has been granted me with respect to my work that I must in no way at all disturb my mind by too much haste. Therefore I will probably come down to you some time and stay for a few days. Greetings to Jette, Poul.
Dr. Kierkegaard, Pastor
I am glad that you yourself have provided the occasion for sending the book that accompanies this letter. So you yourself are responsible and will all the more carefully see to it that your reading of the book or any single part of it will not in some way conflict with my brother's idea of what is beneficial or harmful reading, for it would distress me to have that happen.
Please note, therefore, that I have arranged it so that no emphasis is in any way placed on whether or not you read it, something I never oblige anyone to do, and especially not that person whom I surely would not wish to burden with a complimentary copy.
This is my own copy, originally destined for myself: thus it has a purely personal relationship to me, not in my capacity as author as with other copies, but rather as if the author had presented it to me. However, it now occurs to me that it has not fulfilled its destiny and reaches its proper destination only in being destined for you — the only copy in the whole printing suitable for that. — The bookbinder has done a beautiful job on the book (and in judging the bookbinder's craft I am after all impartial). — It has been read through by me and is to that extent a used copy. So please notice that everything is as it ought to be. For a brief moment you may admire the bookbinder's art as you would admire any other art object; then you may — for a longer moment, if you please, take pleasure in the thought that it is a gift; and then you may put the book down ( — for it has been read — ), put it aside as one puts a gift aside, put it aside carefully — if it is a welcome gift.
But enough of this. I was sorry not to be able to take my leave of you. I hope this little letter in which I take my leave will find you as well as I found you when I arrived. Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one can not walk away from it. Even if one were to walk for one's health and it were constantly one station ahead — I would still say: Walk! Besides, it is also apparent that in walking one constantly gets as close to well-being as possible, even if one does not quite reach it — but by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Health and salvation can only be found in motion. If anyone denies that motion exists, I do as Diogenes did, I walk. If anyone denies that health resides in motion, then I walk away from all morbid objections. If one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right. And out in the country you have all the advantages; you do not risk being stopped before you are safe and happy outside your gate, nor do you run the risk of being intercepted on your way home. I remember just what happened to me a while ago and which has happened frequently since then. I had been walking for an hour and a half and had done a great deal of thinking, and with the help of motion I had really become a very agreeable person to myself. What bliss, and, as you may imagine, what care did I not take to bring my bliss home safely if possible. Thus I hurry along, with downcast eyes I steal through the streets, so to speak; confident that I am entitled to the sidewalk, I do not consider it necessary to look about at all (for thereby one is so easily intercepted, just as one is looking about — in order to avoid) and thus hasten along the sidewalk with my bliss (for the ordinance forbidding one to carry anything on the sidewalk does not extend to bliss, which makes a person lighter) — directly into a man who is always suffering from illness and who therefore with downcast eyes, defiant because of his illness, does not even think that he must look about when he is not entitled to the sidewalk. I was stopped. It was a quite exalted gentleman who now honored me with conversation. Thus all was lost. After the conversation ended, there was only one thing left for me to do: instead of going home, to go walking again.
As you see, there really is no more space in this letter, and therefore I break off this conversation — for in a sense it has been a conversation, inasmuch as I have constantly thought of you as present. Do take care of yourself!
Mrs. Henriette Kierkegaard
It is not possible for me to be more specific about Concluding Postscript because I lack the necessary information. According to Luno's letter of July 30, 1847, you received 250 copies in February 1846 and 244 copies on July 11. But according to your account, dated May 4, 1847, you had an unsold remainder of 89 copies. In other words, since you had a remainder of 89 as of May 4, 1847, and nonetheless obtained 244 copies on July 11, 1847, from Luno, a fair number must have been sold. However, from my itemized account you will see more or less how I have calculated. I have not asked for one half of the bookstore price for any remainder, and for several I have only asked considerably less than half. With respect to Concluding Postscript, my claim will be 40 percent of the bookstore price on the remainder.
Concerning my Upbuilding Discourses in Various Styles and Spirits, this particular book was published in 1847, and therefore I can have no idea how many copies have been sold. Luno's bill of March 10, 1847, was for 287 rdl., 12 mk. Of this sum I myself have paid Luno 87 rdl., because he wanted it for paper expenditures. You have very kindly allowed the transfer of 200 rdl. to your account with Luno. But you can see for yourself that before I decide anything further, I must have some idea of the sales, as well as have my 87 rdl. returned separately. But if you want to include that sum in order to settle the matter, as I myself do also, then please make an offer that conforms with my system of calculation, which you must know by now. Undoubtedly not a few have been sold. But now that I really look into this, I see that on the whole sales have not been bad, with the exception of Two Ages.
It is self-evident then that throughout we are speaking only about the remainder, and not about the ownership rights to a new printing.
The question of Either/Or may be left until some other time.
And so until Monday evening!
|Bookstore retail price||My offer|
|(1) Fear and Trembling
Remainder with you........13
|@ 1 rdl.||204 rdl.||100 rdl.|
Remainder with you........195
|@ 3 mk.||158 rdl. 3 mk.||70 rdl.|
|N.B. I have since noticed that the
retail price is 3 mk., 8 sk.,
but I am too lazy to add it up again.
Remainder with you........38
|@ 5 mk.||210 rdl. 5 mk.||100 rdl.|
|(4) Stages on Life's Way
Remainder with Luno.........172
|@ 3 rdl.||840 rdl.||400 rdl.|
|(5) Philosophical Fragments
Remainder with Luno.........200
|@ 4 mk.||246 rdl. 4 mk.||100 rdl.|
|(6) Two Ages, A Literary Review
Remainder with Luno.........170
|@ 3 mk.||197 rdl.||70 rdl.|
|(7) Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions
Remainder with Luno.........226
|@ 4 mk.||212 rdl. 4 mk.||90 rdl.|
|(8) The Concept of Anxiety
Remainder with you........85
|@ 1 rdl.||85 rdl.||40 rdl.|
[in pencil, Reitzel's figures: 970 rdl.
|(9) Climacus' Postscript
|@ 3 mk.||14|
|(10) Upbuilding Discourses
When I consider what it means for a merchant, and especially for a bookseller, to obtain a postponement of the payment of royalties for almost one and a half years (for a publisher normally pays in advance as a matter of course), when I consider the nature of the book, and when I consider that we are speaking of a printing of 1,000 copies, then it seems to me that 700 rdl., which you yourself originally mentioned, must be a very reasonable requirement on my part.
If we agree, I will expedite the matter as quickly as possible, which ought to be in your interest as well.
As you do not want what I want, then you will not publish Either / Or. So, thus the matter is settled — and as you desire it, completely "without anger" on my part, for I have already quite forgotten your "vacillation".
You know how much I like to have everything settled and decided, and you also know how much I desire the other party to be content. And whenever you are the other party, I am confident you also consider what is to my advantage. Therefore, without further ado I accept your offer for Either/Or, although the royalty is small enough — but this country is a small one as well. Certainly I prefer being pleased with my confidence in you and your concern for my interests, prefer to be pleased knowing that you are content, even though I mistrustfully urged you against your wishes to give me a little bit more. In other words: accepted. — I want the printing to consist of 750 copies. As for payment, I shall not ask for that until the June term, 1849. I hope this, as they say, is all you can ask for.
Please then have the kindness to give me written confirmation, as you did last time, containing these two points: (1) the royalties for the second printing are 550 rdl. [in margin: with 300 rdl. payable on June 11, 1849, and the balance, 250 rdl., ultimo July, 1849]; (2) the printing is to consist of 750 copies.
And so, good luck with this transaction. According to my way of thinking, you have struck an advantageous bargain, and you will find that good luck is connected with the venture. If I had not in so many ways worked against my own sales in those days when I was my own publisher, they would also have been wholly different.
As you know, I am always in a bit of a hurry with business matters. Hitherto you have indulged me in this respect; please do so now. And please reply. Such a letter is soon written.
As I have seen and talked with my brother a number of times in recent days, I have had you quite vividly in my thoughts. But I owe it to truth not to make myself out to be worse than I am, and it is really true that during the long period that has gone by since I last saw you or heard anything from you, I have not ceased thinking of you. But you know how it is: when one has not been present at the beginning of an event, it is hard to enter into it properly later on; one waits instead for something new to happen in order then to make use of the moment to begin. At least that is how it is with my relationship to the events of life, the sad as well as the joyous ones — if I do not get started at once, I prefer to skip my turn in order to begin at the beginning next time.
What I want to speak about now goes far back in time. You had already been sick for a long time when I was first informed of it. The very fact that I could not begin at the beginning made me not begin at all. Time passed, several times I decided to write you, but the following scruple always got in the way to stop me: "Now that it is too late, where shall I begin?" So time passed. — "Sunday came, and Sunday went; no new boots to Hans were sent." — Finally I was so completely out of the habit, that is to say, I became accustomed to finding it impossible to overcome the difficulty of the beginning. — Alas, perhaps you went through something similar. Now and then in the beginning you probably thought: "It is strange that I do not hear from him at all; that is shameful of him, but now that it is too late, he might as well save himself the trouble."
Then my brother came to town. For me this meant a break, a breakthrough: here is a letter for you. What you get out of it will of course depend on how you read it — yet I do not believe it is in any way necessary to be practiced in the art of reading between the lines to discern the sympathy in it.
Peter told me that you are still always confined to bed. I can quite vividly imagine the burden of this in the course of time, even though I have not experienced it myself in that way. I once spoke with you about that burden, which among other things is also this: that it is almost impossible to avoid people's misunderstanding of such suffering. — "It is not fever, nor a broken arm, nor falling and hurting oneself — what is it then?" So the doctor asks impatiently, and so does ordinary human sympathy — alas, and when one suffers in this way it is precisely a question of patience, the patience not to lose courage, the patience to endure the impatience of sympathy. But we human beings and our sympathy are like that. And when one suffers as you are suffering — even though there is a person at one's side, as there surely is at yours, who faithfully shares the yoke equally with you — then one has indeed the opportunity to realize the truth that the God of Patience verily is he who can persist completely unconditionally in caring about a human being with the same eternal unchanged compassion. As the old hymn so movingly asks, "If every hour I weep and ask," that is, whence help and comfort will come — so movingly does the poet himself reply, "But God indeed still lives." And he is every day, at every hour, early in the morning, in a sleepless hour of the night, at the time of day when one feels most weak — he is unalterably the same.
Dear Jette, when I have thus taken pen in hand I could easily go on writing page upon page. I would like to do it, and perhaps you would not be displeased to read it. But I must break off this very instant, and such a letter may always be continued a day later.
Goodbye — for it seems to me as if I have been talking with you. Goodbye! Greetings to Poul; do please tell him something about me once in a while lest he grow up in complete ignorance of having an uncle. I have asked Peter to give you my heartfelt greetings. Please greet Peter once more from
Now I have sold the house at last. I found a good buyer, which may in a way interest you also: Madame Bützov, widow of B., the broker.
Otherwise everything will remain unchanged. You retain your first mortgage in the sum of 7,000 rdl. and half of the bank lien. I spoke with you at one time about increasing your first mortgage. You were not willing to do that. Now it is unnecessary. I myself will assume a second mortgage of 5,000 rdl.
Both these are made non-cancellable for ten years on our part. That is the way Kraft, the attorney, has drawn up the papers. I have no objections, and it has not occurred to him that you would be anything but satisfied with this, as in fact I assume you are. But if everything had not been settled so quickly when at last the right buyer came along, I would of course have written to you at once to obtain your consent, so that I might in no way seem to have acted independently, even where I could safely count on your consent. God knows that these days I am so dizzy from all these financial matters that I am all too prone to pedantry.
By the way, I do not even remember how you obtained your first mortgage, but in any event the difference is purely a formal one. You will still wish to retain a mortgage on the property because it is that property and because it is an excellent first mortgage. Hence it does not matter at all that it will be non-cancellable for ten years. But on the other hand, if you wish to regard it as cash, then it is just as simple, whether it is non-cancellable or not, to sell to another owner, for it is very easy to obtain a first mortgage by public financing. A second mortgage is not so easy in that respect, for public finances are as a rule supposed to be invested in first mortgages. Although my second mortgage is non-cancellable for ten years, I still consider it just as good as cash.
And now it only remains for me to ask you to come to town as soon as possible after New Year to sign the new mortgage papers and to collect your interest.
As I have said, I would be very sad if there should be the least difficulty on your part or if you should decide that I have acted in any manner other than you yourself would have. I am no good at practical business matters and have a fantastic anxiety about lawyers and everything about them. Please do let me know by return mail, therefore, that you are satisfied.
Besides, I am glad that this matter has been settled and that I am happily and well out of it.
I hope you are well. I have learned that Jette has been ill. Please greet her from me, greet Poul, and accept my greeting for yourself.
Dr. Kierkegaard, Pastor
Thank you for your little letter which, in your own words, I must have before Christmas. I hasten to reply so that you may have my answer before New Year.
The period between Christmas and New Year is usually a particularly convenient time for me to receive letters, and a fortunate season for my correspondent, that is, if he thinks it fortunate to get a reply from me.
And now you are confined to bed again. Still, it was a sound and healthy — anything but sickly — decision to write to me right away as you did, even though you had not heard from me for so long. That, you see, is a favorable sign and makes me happy. "Last year at the same time you wrote a letter to me — but it was not sent." Then, you see, you were perhaps not bedridden, and yet your condition may have been more like that of a person who was.
Hence I am pleased on your behalf as well to have received this letter from you as a sign of health. Preserve it, and take care of it in the coming year, which God will surely make a happy one for you. There is something closely connected with physical illness — that quiet, deeply painful, and slowly consuming worry which now turns over in agony on one side and imagines itself forgotten by others "who probably never give one a thought" and now turns over on the other side and is afraid that whatever one has to say or write will not be good enough. Oh, do banish that worry, which is especially dangerous for you because you are so frequently bedridden and constantly live in monotonous quiet. The person who is actively engaged in life soon forgets such thoughts, but the person who only sees little change around him may easily find that worrying almost becomes a necessity. When one lives in small rooms — as you know very well — they need frequent airing out; in the same way, when one entertains but few thoughts and has little diversion, then it is extremely important that what one inhales, spiritually understood, be good and beneficient and gentle and soothing thoughts.
You also need diversion, but diversion is not easily made available in monotony. And yet it is perhaps easier than one thinks if only one is willing. It is generally believed that what determines the direction of one's thoughts lies in the external and is the greater or lesser probability of this or that. But that is not so. That which determines the direction of one's thoughts lies basically in one's own self. He who has a tendency to melancholy, for example, most probably always finds unhappiness. Why? Because melancholy lies within him. In this hypothetical case there would be as great a probability of the opposite, perhaps even greater, but he arbitrarily breaks off and immediately has enough to be able to conclude that something unhappy will happen to him.
But what is it then to "have faith"? To have faith is constantly to expect the joyous, the happy, the good. But is not that an extraordinary and blessed diversion! Oh, what more does one need then? What I am about to say next might almost seem like a joke, but is in fact very serious and indeed sincerely meant for you. You are in some measure always suffering — hence the task lies right here: Divert your mind, accustom yourself by faith to changing suffering into expectation of the joyous. It is really possible. What is required is this flexibility in the quiet of the mind, which, whenever things go wrong for one, in that very instant begins all over again and says, "Yes! Yes! Next time it will work." Oh, if one were never to see another human being again — and that is far from your case — then one could by faith conjure up or forth a world of diversion into the loneliest room.
In general it is probably right to warn against self-love; still, I consider it my duty to say to every sufferer with whom I come into contact: See to it that you love yourself. When one is suffering and unable to do much for others, it is easy to fall prey to the melancholy thought that one is superfluous in this world, as others perhaps sometimes give one to understand. Then one must remember that before God every person is equally important, without reservation equally important; indeed, if there were any distinction, then one who suffers the most must be the closest object of God's care. And also in this lies infinite Godly diversion. But I will stop; I can truthfully say I have no more room. Take care of yourself, dear Jette. Happy New Year! Thank you for concluding the old one so beautifully by thinking of me. Greetings to Peter and to Poul.
I am sure you will easily remember that excellent passage in Holberg in which Permille says of Gert W. that if one sewed his mouth shut, he would teach himself to speak with his nostrils. How splendid! It is so descriptive, so graphic, for when a person closes his mouth and tries to speak anyway, then his cheeks become inflated, and one cannot help but get the impression that the words must escape through his nostrils. Further more, there is infinite vis comica in this "to teach himself how to" with his nostrils. It is a superb expression for the infinity of need. It may take him ages, perhaps many years — it makes no difference, it does not matter, provided only that he succeeds — for even though it were the last day of his life, he would faithfully persist in "teaching himself". Only he who has an infinite goal dedicates himself in this way, and only he who strives infinitely is able to persist in this way. So also with G.W., but only with respect to that which for him is the sole goal: to be able to speak with his nostrils, assuming that his mouth has been sown shut. And suppose that he succeeded, succeeded beyond all expectation, and instead of speaking with only one mouth could now speak with two — since he has, after all, two nostrils. What joy! Not even the inventor of that machine with which one writes and makes copies at the same time, in other words, with which one may write in duplicate, could be as happy as G.W. would be — although it would be horrible for the neighbourhood if this infinitely garrulous person were now to have, as we speak of a double-barreled rifle, a double-barreled mouth with which to speak.
But to the point. As with G.W.'s need to talk, so also with my longing for and need to walk with you, sir. And as that is not possible, there is no other way than to teach myself to walk with you in writing.
With this my letter ends. It is brief; hence it may be taken to correspond with the manner of walking with you that occurs when I call at Kannikestræde, ring the bell, and the porter says, "The Conferentsraad is not at home." At some other time I may perhaps write you a letter that will deal with another manner of walking with you, as when the porter in reply to my question says, "Yes," and I hurry upstairs to the second floor where a young lady informs me that the Conferentsraad is not at home after all. Eventually I will finally get to walk with you. But in our present manner of walking that event will not occur, and that is the reason I now, thinking about this, beg pardon in the event that Conferentsraad R. should find himself sitting and waiting at some prearranged time and that scoundrel, Magister K., should fail to show up.
And so, for now — but no! After all, we did not go walking, and so I cannot thank you for the walk. And yet it seems as if I had been walking with you, and exactly as if I were standing and taking my leave of you and saying, "Please take care of yourself, my dear Conferentsraad; stay in good health; you have actually grown younger in the short time I have known you." And now, enjoying the real surroundings, relaxing in the company of selected poets of several nations — why should you not grow younger every day to the unspeakable joy of that circle for whom the high noon of your health is the only determination of time that is of any real interest?
And then, when you once more return to town, when my time begins with the advent of fall, then I shall probably be so fortunate as to see you, I who in my remote solitude yet remain
N.B. In testimony whereof I hereby declare (what I cannot know is how you will take [this] — alas, perhaps as a piece of good luck) that this letter may well be the last one. Once I get a pen in my hand, it says many things I must be careful to retract.
Please permit me to thank you once again for my carpenter. Once more he is what he had the honor to be for twenty-five years, a worker with heart and soul, a worker who, although he thinks while he works, does not make the mistake of wanting to make thinking his work. For this reason I hope that I in turn am not making a mistake in thinking him essentially cured. I have allowed him to go on living with me, because I felt it would distress him very much to have to move now.
Thus everything is in order. But indeed — as you yourself said when I last had the pleasure of speaking with you, which I appreciated and appreciate as added proof of your kindness to me — indeed, you will please remember, if that time ever comes and he has a relapse: then I am to inform you at once, and then he will be admitted to the hospital as quickly as possible.
In conclusion, please allow me to add special emphasis here to that "Your" with which I would sign every letter to you,
Letters, no. 192
It is obvious that we wronged your little son today, for we walked too fast, and we, or I, am to blame for his beginning to cry, which from a child's point of view he was completely justified in doing. It is for this reason that I am writing and sending the accompanying parcel.
You see, with respect to the world — by which, according to Balle's Catechism, is understood heaven and earth and all therein contained, but by which I more or less understand all the human multitudes therein contained — my advice to everybody is to let the world "be blown", each to the best of his ability. As usual, someone is setting out into the world. He walks and walks and keeps getting farther and farther away until he stops by a mill. Said in parenthesi, one may perceive in this how easy, but in another sense how difficult, nay impossible, it is to go out in search of adventure when one lives in Copenhagen, for in order to set out on an adventure one would first of all have to set out through the city gates, and yet it is of course impossible to walk through those gates without having come to a mill. In other words, the mill lies too close for it to be the occasion of any adventure. And herein lies the difference between actuality and the fairy tale, in proximity and distance. Given distance, infinite distance, then you have a fairy tale, for then any object — be it a mill, a horse, a sheep, a moo-cow, yes, be it even that which at times may cause most sadness in the real world, a human being — takes on a fairy tale aspect, as does the mill in this fairy tale. So the wanderer stops by the mill. He is surprised to discover that the mill is turning under full sail — although there is no wind at all. (Here one must agree with the wanderer, for I almost do believe that one would be surprised oneself if this happened with the mill on the city wall directly across from where one lives.) Now the wanderer proceeds. Nine miles farther on he encounters a man who is closing one nostril with his finger while blowing through the other — on that mill! Thus, not even using both nostrils, but with a finger phlegmatically closing one nostril, one should, while blowing through the other, say, "The whole world be blown!"
However, a little child — indeed, be it ever so tiny, the least offence against this little child — indeed, be it ever so tiny — when I have offended against this little one, that is a very serious matter for me, something about which I cannot say "be blown!" I am very reluctant to have the sun set before I have made up for it, but at this time of year when the days are so short, the sun could easily set before I could possibly have made amends. But since our civic lives are so wisely arranged that the night watchman does not sing out the passing of the day until it is eight o'clock, I may after all manage to do it before the sun sets. For the town council and the police, and hence also the night watchman, constitute authority, and although it is not astronomical, it is still authority, and to children something very close to astronomical authority, whereas their elders, who have hardened themselves against all authority, no longer arrange their going to bed according to the night watchman's bidding, but the children probably still do so.
Please, then, give my love to the little fellow and present him with this box of toys from the strange man who walked too fast for him today. And you, my dear Julie, you who — yes, that certainly suffices as punishment for your having walked so fast today — you who have now been forced to go all the more slowly as you have had to spell your way slowly through my illegible handwriting, receive in conclusion an assurance of the devotion with which I remain your wholly devoted
Mrs. Julie Thomsen,
Accompanying small parcel
Happy New Year! I never go calling to offer my New Year greetings and send them in writing only rarely and as an exception — but you are among the exceptions. In recent years I have often thought of you, and I intend to do likewise in this one. Among the other thoughts or considerations I often have had and intend to go on having about you is this: that reconciled to your fate, with patience and quiet devotion, you carry out as important a task as the rest of us who perform on a larger or smaller stage, engage in important business, build houses, write copious books, and God knows what. Undeniably your stage is the smallest, that of solitude and inwardness — but summa summarum, as it says in Ecclesiastes, when all is said and done, what matters most is inwardness — and when everything has been forgotten, it is inwardness that still matters.
I wrote this some days ago, was interrupted, and did not manage to conclude it. Today your father visited me, and that circumstance once more reminded me to complete or at least put an end to what I had begun. For there was something more I wanted to add. If I were to give you any advice about life, or taking into consideration your special circumstances, were to commend to you a rule for your life, then I would say: Above all do not forget your duty to love yourself; do not permit the fact that you have been set apart from life in a way, been prevented from participating actively in it, and that you are superfluous in the obtuse eyes of a busy world, above all do not permit this to deprive you of your idea of yourself, as if your life, if lived in inwardness, did not have just as much meaning and worth as that of any other human being in the loving eyes of an all-wise Governance, and considerably more than the busy, busier, busiest haste of busyness — busy with wasting life and losing itself.
Take care of yourself in the new year. If you would enjoy visiting me once in a while, please do come. You are welcome.
Perhaps you yourself will notice that many days have now gone by since your father visited me; so once more some time has passed before you finally get this letter.
Mr. Peter Kierkegaard
Your note of Friday of last week duly received. It may perhaps have escaped you that the association of ideas from omnibus to omnibus is evoked in the maxim de omnibus dubitandum. Hence when Johannes de Silentio calls the system "an omnibus", it must be understood as having a double meaning.
I am sending along a new book. Presumably you will have no difficulty in discovering why this pseudonym is called Anti-Climacus, in which respect he is quite different from Johannes Climacus, with whom he certainly does have something in common (as they do also share parts of a name), but from whom he differs very essentially in that J. Cl. humorously denies that he himself is a Christian and, in consequence, can only make indirect attacks, and, in consequence, as a humorist must take it all back — while Anti-Climacus is very far from denying that he himself is Christian, which is evident in the direct attack. There is no more space here, except for this:
There is a time to be silent, and there is a time to be silent.
That I was cruel is true; that I, thinking myself committed to a higher relationship, not simply for the sake of my virtue, had to be so because of love is a certainty; that you have suffered indescribably I realize; but that I nevertheless have suffered more, I believe and know. Enough of this.
Your marriage with Schlegel has now presumably become so firmly established that finally, God be praised, I have the courage to dare that which I do dare. In the hour of our parting, oh, how much would I not have like to do it — would indeed also have done it — had not your somewhat inconsiderate despair forced me to use cruelty. Awaiting only the moment from that time on, I have always wished for the courage to dare it, for I have always felt that I owed you a debt of gratitude and have honestly observed what you asked me when we parted, "to think of you now and then." For a long time I believed that I ought to remain silent until I died, but I have once again come to realize that perhaps it would be cruel in another way to withhold from you what might possibly give you happiness. — May God only grant that it is of use to you. Now I dare it.
Thank . . . . .
This move was occasioned by the impression made upon me by the death of Etatsraad Olsen. The letter was dated November 19, 1849.
The letter to Schlegel read as follows:
The enclosed letter is from me (S. Kierkegaard) to — your wife. You yourself must now decide whether or not to give it to her. I cannot, after all, very well defend approaching her, least of all now when she is yours and for the reason I have never availed myself of the opportunity that has presented itself or perhaps has been presented for a number of years.
It is my belief that a small item of information about her relationship with me [in S. K.'s draft: concerning my relationship with her] might now be of use to her. If you disagree, may I ask you to return the letter to me unopened [in draft: but also inform her of this].
[In draft: I have wanted to take this step, to which I felt myself religiously obligated, and in writing, because I fear that my pronounced personality, which probably had too strong an effect at one time, might once again have too strong an effect and thus in either one way or another be disturbing.
I then received a moralizing and indignant epistle from the esteemed gentleman and the letter to her unopened.
Your father's death has changed and made up my mind for me. I had thought otherwise.
Cruel I was, that is true. Why? Indeed, you do not know that.
Silent I have been, that is certain. Only God knows what I have suffered — may God grant that I do not, even now, speak too soon after all!
Marry I could not. Even if you were still free, I could not.
However, you have loved me, as I have loved you. I owe you much — and now you are married. All right, I offer you for the second time what I can and dare and ought to offer you: reconciliation [in earlier drafts, first: my love, that is to say my friendship; later: friendship, and finally: reconciliation. One draft contains the following: P.S. I had really expected you to have taken this step. When one is so absolutely in the right as was your late father, for example, with respect to me, then I know very well who ought to take the first step. It never occurred to me to doubt, and I took it once. With you the matter is somewhat different.]
I do this in writing in order not to surprise or overwhelm you. Perhaps my personality did once have too strong an effect; that must not happen again. But for the sake of God in Heaven, please give serious consideration to whether you dare become involved in this, and if so, whether you prefer to speak with me at once or would rather exchange some letters first.
If your answer is "No" — would you then please remember for the sake of a better world that I took this step as well.
and completely devoted, your
Mrs. Regine Schlegel.
I do not know the date on which I broke the engagement, but on this sheet of paper, which dates from November 1849, I have written down the facts immediately surrounding it that I do remember; I have found these dates by reading through Fædrelandet for the period in question.
They performed The White Lady at the theater on the evening of the day it took place, and I was there to find somebody I had to meet.
the guest actor. I was at the theater.
My letter from Berlin is dated October 31.
One last step concerning "Her".
NB14 p. 65 [X2 A 210]
It is my unalterable will that my writings, after my death, be dedicated to her and to my late father. She must belong to history.
I have now read your article in Kirketidende. To be honest, it has affected me painfully in more ways than one. But it would lead too far afield to go into detail here. However let me thank you for your article, inasmuch that it was well intended on your part.
If I am to be compared as an author with Martensen, I do think in any case that it would be reasonable to say that only one aspect of me was considered, that I am really an author in a different way and by criteria by which Martensen is not. This, however, is of minor importance. But if I am to be compared with Martensen qua author, it does seem to me that the essential difference ought to have been indicated, namely this, that I have sacrificed to an extraordinary extent and that he has profited to an extraordinary extent. And perhaps it ought also to be remembered that Martensen really has no primitivity about him but permits himself to appropriate outright all of German scholarship as his own.
Finally, it seems to me that both for your sake and for mine you should modify your statements about me. If what you have said is to fit reasonably well, then it must have been said about a few of my pseudonyms. For it really does not apply to me as the author of Upbuilding Discourses (my own acknowledged work, which is already sufficiently voluminous). I myself have asked in print that this distinction be observed. It is important to me, and the last thing I would have wished is that you of all people should in any way have joined in lending credence to a carelessness from which I must suffer often enough as it is.
Right Reverend Bishop:
When it comes to receiving a gift from you I hope never to grow older, but I also hope that you will not take amiss the juvenile, almost childish way in which I thank you again and again. I dare not be profuse, as gratitude loves to be, or rather, not here. For in the quiet of my mind where "recollection" completely hides all the particulars that "memory" now and then piece by piece has transmitted to it, there indeed is the proper place for the profusion of grateful recollection and faithful memory. Here, however, the greatest possible brevity, and therefore I beg you to forget it at once if I have been too profuse after all.
The Right Reverend Bishop, Dr. Mynster
Grand Cross of Dannebrog, Member of Dannebrog, a.o.
The Bishop's Residence
During the years I have conversed with you, our relationship has been approximately this: with regard to every single one of your public performances (your writings), I have most firmly told you that from my point of view I could not approve of them. Furthermore, I have explained why not, and you yourself have also spoken in such a manner that I must consider myself as having been understood. Moreover, in private you have always expressed yourself very differently from the way you have in public. But you always said that I would find that your next book would be different. Therefore I have continued to wait.
But now this will have to come to an end. I must hereby — completely without anger — break off a relationship that was indeed begun with a certain hope and that I do not give up as hopeless at this moment either.
That is to say, I am no longer able to go walking with you according to a set agreement. It is another matter if our paths meet by fate or by chance; then it would be a pleasure for me to speak with you as with so many others.
Please do not misunderstand this, as if it were my intention to prompt you to make a public statement or in any other way to influence its nature [in margin: or hereby to let you understand what my judgment would be of such a possible statement.] Not at all! As you have your unconditional freedom, so I reserve my unconditional freedom to myself. I cannot do otherwise.
But do not make the mistake, either, of interpreting this as a complaint about something, as though I were reproaching you. No, I am unalterably the same as in the beginning, but I dare not let any more time pass in this manner.
Letters, no. 257
[Letter to Henrik Lund about migratory birds.]
Can you meet me this evening at the usual time and place? If not, then please call on me tomorrow morning between 11 and 12 A.M.
Mr. H. Lund, M.B.