HOME     Library     CONTENTS: Journals & Papers of Søren Kierkegaard
I   -   II  -   III  -   IV  -   V  -   VI  -   VII  -   VIII  -   IX  -   X  -   XI    


VII1 A   -   VII1 B   -   VII1 C   -   VII2 B




Today I heard a cabdriver say of a drunken driver who drove by at a rather fast pace: "He has got hold of some of the sort of thing that leads one straight to the gutter."


Concluding Postscript

The entire manuscript, lock, stock, and barrel, was delivered to the printer medio December, or thereabouts, 1845. — "A First and Last Declaration" was dashed off on a piece of paper in the original manuscript but was laid aside to be worked out in detail and was delivered as late as possible lest it lie around and get lost in a print shop. I would not permit a note to a portion about the pseudonymous books to be printed simply because it was written during the printing. The lies and gossip and vulgarity that encompass one make a person's position difficult enough, perhaps make me too tensely anxious to have the truth on my side down to the most minute thread — what's the use?

In margin:

Because of the present situation (the unpleasantness with The Corsair and the town gossip), I was momentarily unable to make up my mind whether or not I should leave out the acknowledgement of my authorship, whether I should not indicate in the printed material by specifying the dates that the whole thing was older than all this unpleasantness. But, no! I owe it to the truth to pay no attention to all this and to do everything as had been decided, leaving the outcome up to God and accepting everything from his hand as a good and perfect gift, refusing to act shrewdly, trusting that he will give me a steady and wise spirit.


It is now my intention to qualify as a pastor. For several months I have been praying to God to keep on helping me, for it has been clear to me for some time now that I ought not be a writer any longer, something I can be only totally or not at all. This is the reason I have not started anything new along with proof-correcting except for the little review of The Two Ages, which, I repeat, is final.

February 7, 1846


How appalling for the man who, as a lad watching sheep on the Jutland heath, suffering painfully, hungry and exhausted, once stood on a hill and cursed God — and the man was unable to forget it when he was eighty-two years old.


De occultis non judicat ecclesia

See p. 268 [i.e., VI A 31].

See pp. 194, 185, and 171 [i.e., VI A 55 - 59, 47, and VI A 31 - 33] in this book.

Do I dare keep my guilt secret? And yet do I dare declare it myself.

If God wants it out in the open, then he can indeed do it; this self-denunciation can, after all, be playing providence.

Today an accusing memory came along. Suppose the accusation got out. I could travel far away from here, live in a foreign country, a new life far removed from the memory, far removed from any possibility of its being revealed. I could live in hiding — no, I have to stay where I am, doing everything unchanged, without one single rule of prudence, leaving everything to God. It is terrible how remaining where one is, educated only by possibility, can develop a person.


In margin of previous:

Here the German saying could also be used: Gott richt't, wenn niemand spricht (that is, when everybody is silent, when no one thinks of accusing, no one dreams that there is a complaint, or when the accuser is dead). See Deutsche Märchen und Sagen, v. J.W.Wolf, Leipzig, 1845, p. 213.


Up until now I have made myself useful by helping the pseudonyms become authors. What if I decided from now on to do the little writing I can excuse in the form of criticism. Then I would put down what I had to say in reviews, developing my ideas from some book or other and in such a way that they could be included in the work itself. In this way I would still avoid becoming an author.

February, 1846


Professor Nielsen said to Sager when the latter, upon seeing his apartment out in Fredriksberg, expressed the opinion that it was wonderful for the professor to be able to live out there and study at leisure: "No (sinne, sinne), Sager, I shall not be reading any more; now I am going to die." In contrast to Director Sager's no doubt courtly conception of what it means to study, old Mikkel's "reading" is delightfully impressive; the whole story is an excellent indication of Nielsen's noble simplicity — and then these words of resignation: Now I am just going to die.


The concept of literary contemptibility may be characterized as follows: even if it has talent of a sort, it does not have the justification of an idea, has no view of life, is cowardly, service, avaricious — therefore, to be anonymous comes naturally. To see the distinction properly, think in contrast of the disintegration of Greece and Aristophanes' comedies. Aristophanes has the authority of an idea; he is distinguished by genius and elevated by personal courage. Indeed, it took courage to portray the demagogue Cleon and, when no actor dared do it, to take his role in the play. But just as antiquity could not arrive at the abstraction of modern disintegration, so also — even in the period of its corruption — it had nothing really analogous to the kind of cowardly moral turpitude which anonymity encourages. Admittedly Socrates says in the Apology that his real accusers, those who already for many years had accused him, were like shadows no one can grasp, but if town talk and talking between man and man are like shadows, they are still formed in a way by actual human beings, but with anonymity one single person can conjure up a legion of shadows.


In our time everyone is able to write something or other about everything, but no one is able or willing to endure the strenuous labor of thinking through a single thought exhaustively in all its sharpest implications. As a result, the writing of trifles is particularly appreciated in our time, and one who writes a substantial book almost makes himself the object of ridicule. In the old days one read substantial books, and insofar as one reads pamphlets and newspapers, one did not care to have it known. Now everyone feels duty-bound to have read what is in the papers and in the pamphlets but is ashamed to have read a substantial book all the way through; he is afraid this will be regarded as a mark of dullness.


Even for famous authors the royalties in Danish literature these days are very small, but the tips that go to the literary swine are considerable. The more contemptible a man of letters is these days, the more he makes.


De occultis non judicat ecclesia

See pp. 256, 194, 185, 171 [i.e. VII1 6; VI A 55 - 59, 47, 31 - 32].

The tragic story of an unhappy lover could be interwoven here with a correlation in dates but without otherwise having the least thing to do with each other.

The editor came into possession of both in a very strange way.


An Arithmetic Problem

If I were a clergyman and could preach in such a manner that the individual would go home from church wanting to hear me again, extolling me and exulting over me — however, if by studying his individuality I learned the way influence should be brought to bear with him and then proceeded to thrust him away so that he finally almost became angry with me and went and shut his door and prayed to God — in which case would I benefit him the most. In the one case my very deception would have assisted him to the truth; and in the other my assistance to the truth would have become the deception; in the one case he would have ended with the truth and begun with the deception, and in the other he would have ended with the deception and begun with the truth.

But such a one does, nevertheless, need men, if not in the second sense, then in the meaning of the Stoics when they said: Sapientem nulla re indigere, et tamen multis illi rebus opus esse. — Ergo quamvis se ipso contentus sit sapiens, amicis illi opus est, non ut habeat, qui sibi aegro assideat, sed ut habeat aliquem, cui ipse assideat, pro quo mori possit.

This is quoted from a little essay by Dr. Bayer in Fichte's journal, XIII, 1844, p.86.


And so I am criticized because I am for Mynster and find pleasure in a little expression of his approval. Did I not say the same thing in Fædrelandet in 1845 when I declined the commendation of Berlingske Tidende; have I not said the same thing all along, from the first book to the last.

As for the preface to "Concluding Postscript": (1) it is by Johannes Climacus, and here again what appears at the end of the book holds true, namely, that I am not the pseudonym, who permits himself a recklessness which I neither am able nor wish to do; (2) what expressions of approval and censure are meant? The analogies to the hurrah of the mobs and pereat. As a consequence of his disdaining and rejecting mob-approval, does he therefore disdain the truly distinguished single individual? What foolishness. If a paper like the Corsair were not utterly lacking in self-knowledge, it would readily see why I do not want its approval; and if it had any self-knowledge, it would perceive why I even want to be abused by that contemptibleness which is concealed only from its own eyes.


The way I see it, to be victorious does not mean that I am victorious, but that the idea is victorious through me, even though I am sacrificed.


Out in the cemetery a widow has placed the following line over her departed one:

Man! You have fought.

But "man" used emphatically this way signifies a hero; it does not mean a married man (for only in a low style does one say: man, my man, her man), much less an undertaker. Alas, the deceased was an undertaker.


..... Der Neidige ist ein Martyrer, aber des Teufels.

See Abraham a St. Clara
Coll. Works, X, p. 392


10:39: But we are not of those who shrunk back to their own destruction.


In an old devotional book (Arndt, Sande Christendom) there is a beautiful comment on the verse: "God shall wipe away our tears."

He adds this excellent catechetical question: But how is God going to wipe them away if you have not wept at all? — What truth in this simple statement, what stirring eloquence.


Anaxagoras is supposed to have said: The senses are limited, the mind is feeble, life is short.

Indeed, it is in Cicero, in Quaestiones academicae, 1, 12



Little by little as education and refinement increase and demands become greater and greater, a philosopher will naturally find it increasingly difficult to satisfy the demands of the age. In former days the requirement was spiritual-intellectual capacities, freedom of mind, and passion of thought. But compare that with the present; at present in Copenhagen it is required that a philosopher shall also have sturdy or at least shapely legs, and his clothes must be fashionable. It becomes more and more difficult, unless one is content with just the last requirement and assumes that everyone who has sturdy or shapely legs and whose clothes are fashionable is a philosopher.


Ultimately everything is turned upside-down. Nothing is written in order that anyone should learn something from it — God forbid such rudeness — the reading public knows everything! It is not the reader who needs the author (as the sick need the physician); no, it is the author who needs the reader. In short, an author is a man who is in financial straits — so he writes, and this means to be up for an examination in which the reading public, which knows everything, judges. A person who writes but does not make money is no author; therefore those who write advertisements and insert them in papers are not called authors because they pay out money. — It is the same in art. An actor is not the person who, initiated into the secrets of the art of illusion, with a fine technique seeks to deceive the audience. Heavens, no — for the public can play comedies by itself. It is not the public which needs the actor but the actor who needs the actor. An actor is a man who is in financial straits, and when he acts, he is up for examination. —


When there is thunder in the air and one looks at the expanse of water and the one solitary tree, the whole thing is similar to the Chladni sound-figure formed when a glass sheet is played upon. There is still something vibrating in the figure.


Just as every lodger has a bootblack, so every great author has some bungling windbag or other who serves him by abusing him, who, every time the author writes anything, regularly pronounces in a paper that it is the most cantankerous rubbish etc. For example, Madvig has Baden, and P.L. Møller is also a bungling windbag like that. A bungling windbag like that resembles the odd-job men who hang around the market; when the farmers come to market, each one picks out a wagon where he thinks he may earn something, and in the same way the bungling windbag selects an author he can make a profit on, inasmuch as the author's name guarantees that the public will surely read — something bad about him.


As a polemicist, H. Hertz impresses me as being like an officer who as a volunteer in foreign service has been a spectator at a battle, comes home, and then out on the common organizes a maneuver which is supposed to be the battle: Hertz organizes a battle after it is all over.


There is really a deceptive turn by Bishop Mynster when in his sermons (the one on "Give us this day our daily bread" and the one on miracles) he says concerning the forgiveness of sin: Some day (that is, in eternity) it shall be said to him who in repentance has humbled himself and believed, "Your sins are forgiven you." "Some day," i.e., in eternity — but the nub of the forgiveness of sin is precisely to make it valid in time. It is the new creation, and the pastor does say at confession: "I declare unto you the gracious forgiveness of all your sins." Is this forgiveness only for the future? Once again this is using immanence (this some day) instead of transcendence.


The most terrible expression of the way Christ was misunderstood would not have been that he had been completely ignored — no, but that he became the object of curiosity to the unthinking crowd, so that the eternal truth walked about in life and street-urchins ran after him and house-maids poured into the streets to stare at him — but no one, not one, thought about what he was or gained some impression.


One who like me has had a polemic view of all existence since childhood and for a while recently has received first-class service in The Corsair can be regarded as having good prerequisites for the world of time. Such [prerequisites] are worth a lot of money.


Life in the country does have the gratification that there are approximately ten cows, fifteen sheep, two pigs, and a flock of sparrows to each human being — by which one sees that a human being has some significance. In the urban areas there are about one hundred human beings to one cow — by which one sees that a cow has some significance. But although the human mobs running around in circles in the city are counterfeit money, no one seems concerned about - becoming a human being, but instead most men are itching for marriage, and the respective marriages are busily engaged — so that there can come to be even more human beings.


Regrettably I must say that my life has been wasted. If I lived anywhere else than in Copenhagen, this would no doubt be interpreted to mean that I had dissipated the best years of my youth in reckless living, in disorganized studies, perhaps in debauchery. Alas, but it is just the opposite. I have amounted to something — and that is why my life is to be regarded as wasted here in Copenhagen, where one can live happily and very pleasantly   — as long as he is nobody — here in Copenhagen where little more than bad things is said about anyone who is somebody, with the obvious result that one who is nobody can say with pride: Nothing bad is said about me. Here in Copenhagen if one is a student or a graduate but no more, a supervisory clerk in a government office, a shop clerk, a student of the art academy, but no more — when the weather is very warm, he can freely and easily go for a walk with an umbrella against the sun, although it is not customary — but if I, for example, am so audacious to do this, it is pride. A Cerberus-envy watches every step made by anyone who is somebody in order to interpret it as pride and arrogance.


No doubt part of what contributed to making Either/Or a success has been that it was a first book and therefore one could take it to be the work of many years — and thus conclude that the style was good and well-developed. It was written lock, stock, and barrel in eleven months. At most there was only a page (of "Diapsalmata") prior to that time. As far as that goes, I have spent more time on all the later works. Most of Either/Or was written only twice (besides, of course, what I thought through while walking, but that is always the case); nowadays I like to write three times.


Every natural phenomenon calms, and the more so the longer one looks at it or listens to it. Every production of art provokes impatience. The rule for fireworks will finally come to be that they must be burned up within five minutes — the quicker the better. But the murmuring of the wind, the alternating song of the waves, the sighing of the grass, etc., improve with every five minutes one listens to them.


Outside of Versterport now there is a Panorama. The showman or barker says: "Here the new lucky star is displayed, here everyone finds out his full age, as well as his future bride or bridegroom." Good Lord, usually everyone knows ho old he is and does not need any secret art for that — but his future bride — well, that would be worth finding out. — Incidentally, it is splendid that the announcement contains such qualitatively varied statements about what will be learned by those entering.


When someone says: While this and that was taking place, something else happened, we usually think of the former as lasting longer and therefore usable in showing that the second takes up only a moment within the first. We say: While Cicero was Consul, this and that happened; while Pitt was prime minister, etc. This is why it was so funny to read in the paper some time ago about the festivities at Skamlingsbank: While Grundtvig was speaking the people from Fyn arrived. Of course, the fact of the Fyn islanders' arrival is unimportant. The choice and funny aspect of it is the idea conveyed of the fantastic length of pastor Grundtvig's talk — that while he was speaking (while Cicero was Consul). For example, it could be said: While Gruntvig was speaking, a French fleet put out to sea and conquered Algeria.




March, 1846
the ninth

The Concluding Postscript is out; the pseudonymity has been acknowledged; one of these days the printing of the "Literary Review" will begin. Everything is in order; all I have to do now is to keep calm, be silent, depending on The Corsair to support the whole enterprise negatively, just as I wish. From the standpoint of the idea, I am at present as correctly situated in literature as possible, and also in such a way that to be an author becomes a deed. In itself it was a most capital idea to make a break with The Corsair in order to prevent any direct advances* at the very moment I was through with the authorship and, by assuming all the pseudonyms, ran the risk of becoming an authority of sorts.

In margin: Prior to that time nothing could be done; my work for my idea demanded all my time, every minute, and undisturbed as possible. It is really superb that just when someone supposes and is spitefully pleased that I am taking a rash step (and this perhaps evokes some malicious glee) I am just then being most calculating and level-headed. But the best support for all action is — to pray, that is actually the true genius; then one never comes out on the short end.

This is why right now, when I am advancing polemically against the age, I owe it to the idea and to irony to prevent any confusion with the ironical bad brandy The Corsair serves in the dance halls of contemptibleness. Incidentally, it has happened here, as it frequently does, that despite all my deliberation, a something more eventuates which is due not to me but to Governance. It always happens this way, that to which I give the most thought I always understand far better afterwards, both as to its ideal significance and the fact that it was precisely what I should have done.

But this existence is exhausting; I am convinced that not a single person understands me. The most anyone, even an admirer, would concede is that I bear all this unpleasantness with a certain poise, but that I want it — of course no one dreams of that. But then on the other hand it would again be hasty human thoughtlessness to conclude, if it were understood why I, by virtue of the idea of double-reflection, must wish it, that ergo he is not suffering at all, is insensitive to all this vulgarity and the brazen lies. Just as if one could not voluntarily decide to take upon himself all tribulations if the idea enjoins it. The article against P. L. Møller was written in great fear and trembling; I did it during the holidays, but for the sake of forming a regulating resistance I did not neglect going to church or reading my sermon. So also with the article against The Corsair. On the other hand they were properly written, for if I had evinced passion, someone along the way would have found occasion for a direct relation to me. It was amusing and psychologically superb to see the haste with which P. L. Møller got the hint given about withdrawing into The Corsair. He came forward, bowed politely, and then withdrew to the place where he is at home.

What pains me most, however, is not the vulgarity of the rabble but the secret participation in it by the better people. I, too, would like to make myself comprehensible to one single person, to my reader. But I dare not, for then I defraud the idea. It is precisely when I am succeeding most, when brutality is at its most shameless peak, that I dare not speak. Finally, it is my responsibility to be consistently unyielding so that I will not be responsible for several people going completely astray. So be it, I must be silent.

The last two months have been very rewarding for my observations. What I said in my dissertation about irony making phenomena stand revealed is so true. First of all, my ironic leap into The Corsair goes a long way toward making it perfectly clear that The Corsair is devoid of idea. Seen from the point of view of idea, it is dead, even if it did get a few thousand subscribers. It wants to be ironical and does not even understand irony. Generally speaking, it would have been an epigram over my whole life if it might ever be said: Contemporary with him there existed a bungling ironic journal that sang his praises; no, hold on — he was abused, and he himself asked for it. — Secondly, my ironic leap into The Corsair shows up the self-contradiction of the environing world. Everyone has been going around saying: It is nothing; who cares about The Corsair etc. What happens, when one does it, is that he is charged with being rash; they say he has deserved all this (now, you see, it is "all this") because he prompted it; they hardly dare walk in the street with me — fearing they too will be in The Corsair. The self-contradiction, however, has a deeper basis; in their Christian envy they half wish that the paper may go on, each one hoping that he will not be attacked. They now say that the paper is despicable and nothing; they enjoin the persons under attack not to dare become angry or make any protest, ergo, the paper must flourish. And the public has first the stimulation of envy and then the shameless pleasure of watching the victim of the attack — whether it affects him.*

*In margin: And now has the chance to lie about him: that he is affected, that he is able to hide it but is affected just the same. The latter formula is especially convenient for scandal mongers.

And this phenomenon in such a little country as Denmark, this phenomenon as the one and only prevailing — and this is supposed to be nothing! How well cowardice and contemptibility suit each other in the bond of shabbiness! And when the whole thing bursts some day, Goldschmidt will be the one who suffers; and it is absolutely the same public — and then the world has become such a splendid world!

Furthermore, my observations abundantly strengthen my conviction that when a man consistently expresses one idea, every objection to him contains a self-contradiction of the one who makes it.+

+ In margin: Who thereby is not talking about him but about himself.

They say I am the one who cares about The Corsair. What happens? The "concluding Postscript" was delivered lock, stock, and barrel to Luno before I wrote against P. L. Mø. Now in the preface to it (which, incidentally, was written in May of 1845) there was something which could be regarded as pointing to the latter (this shows among other things how early I was aware of it). Now if I had cared about The Corsair, I would have made some changes in it simply to avoid the appearance of being so. I know how I fought down the temptation to do it, because it pained me to think of Bishop Mynster, for example, saying: And Kierkegaard refers to such a thing even in a book. But I was true to myself in not caring about The Corsair — and then what happens? Well, just as expected — allusions to The Corsair are found in everything I write. Here is the dead giveaway, for it must be "they" themselves who had The Corsair in mente, since they find it even in something written prior to that time.

Two things in particular occupy me: (1) that whatever the cost I remain intellectually true in the Greek sense to my existence-idea; (2) that in the religious sense it becomes as elevating and ennobling to me as possible. I pray God for the latter. Solitary I have always been; now I really have the opportunity to practice again. My solitary secret is not my grief but precisely that I have the upper hand, that I transform what is hostile into something that serves my idea without its having any intimation of this itself. Yes, this life is certainly satisfying, but it is also terribly strenuous. From what a tragic side one learns to know men, and how sad that what will look so good at a distance is always misunderstood by contemporaries. But again it is the religious which redeems; here there is sympathy for all, not the garrulous fellow-feeling of cliques and henchmen, but infinite sympathy for each and all — in silence.

But without a doubt it is educational to be placed as I am in so small a city as Copenhagen to work almost to despair with all one's capacities, with deep agony of soul and much inner suffering, to put money into publishing books — and then literally not to have ten men who read them through properly, while on the other hand students and other authors find it almost ridiculously easy to write a big book, and then to have a paper which everyone reads, which has the license of contemptibleness to dare say anything, the most lying distortions — and it is nothing, but everybody reads it; and then the whole pack of envious people who lend a hand by saying just the opposite in order to minimize it that way. Day after day to be the object of everybody's conversation and attention, and then the business of defending me against an attack in order to attack me still worse themselves. Every kitchen boy feels justified in almost insulting me in accordance with The Corsair's orders; young students titter and grin and are happy to see a prominent person trampled on; professors are jealous and secretly sympathize with the attacks, and spread them, too, with the appendage, of course, that it is a shame. The slightest thing I do, if it is merely to pay a visit, is twisted and distorted into lies and told everywhere; if The Corsair finds out, it is printed and read by everybody, the man I visited is embarrassed, gets almost angry with me, for which he cannot be blamed. Eventually I will have to withdraw and associate only with people I do not like, for it is, after all, almost a wrong against the others. And so it continues, and sometime when I am dead, men's eyes will be opened; then they will admire what I wanted to do and will simultaneously treat in the same way a contemporary who probably is the only one who understands me. God in heaven, who could endure this if there were not an interior place in a man where all this can be forgotten in communion with you.

But my activity as an author is finished. — God be praised. It has been granted to me to conclude it myself, to understand myself when it ought to stop, and next to publishing Either/Or I thank God for that. I know very well and find it quite in order that people will not see it this way and that it would in fact take but two words from me to prove it so. This has hurt, it seems that I still could have desired that recognition, but let it be.

If I only could make myself become a pastor. Out there in quiet activity, permitting myself a little productivity in my free time, I shall breathe more easily, however much my present life has gratified me.


But nothing must be written, not one word; I dare not. Were I to write, I would give the reader a hint and throw the whole thing out of gear. He must not find out anything secretly. I have tossed off a few things during this time which are not bad but which can be used only in a completely different situation.

I have thought of the last version as being like this:

Short and sweet

In my opinion an editor is literarily responsible when there is no author. The editor of The Corsair is Mr. Goldschmidt, university student, a bright fellow, without an idea, without scholarship, without a point of view, without self-control, but not without a certain talent and a desperate esthetic power. At a critical moment in his life he approached me. I tried indirectly to help him negatively. I praise him for his self-assurance in getting himself established. I believe he has succeeded in what he wanted to do. I had hoped that he would have chosen an honorable way to earn a name for himself; to be honest, it pains me that as the editor of The Corsair he continues to choose the way of contemptibility to earn money. It was my desire to snatch, if possible, a talented man from being an instrument of rabble barbarism, but I certainly had no wish to be shamefully rewarded by being immortalized by a paper of contemptibility which ought never exist and by which I can only wish to be abused. It is expedient for my life as an author to be abused and that is why I wished it and asked for it as soon as I was finished, for by the time Frater Taciturnus wrote, Johannes Climacus had already been delivered to the printer a few days before. I had also hoped to benefit others by this step; they do not want it — well, I will go on asking for abuse because it suits my idea and in order to get some good, after all, out of the existence of a paper like that. It is sad to see the pack of fools and the fatuous who laugh and yet, at least in this case, they do not know what they are laughing at. God alone knows whether or not I am playing for too high stakes with respect to my contemporaries. My idea requires it; its consistency satisfies me beyond measure — I cannot do otherwise, I beg forgiveness of all the better people who are undialectical or do not have the presuppositions to understand that I must do as I am doing — and then forward: Would that I might be abused. However important or unimportant my life as an author, this much is certain: because of my dialectical relation, I am the only Danish author who is so situated that it can serve the idea to have every possible lie and distortion and nonsense and gossip come out, confusing the reader and thus helping him to self-activity and preventing a direct relationship. No other Danish author can possibly benefit from the reading of lies and distortions by 1,000 readers* every time he addresses himself to 100. But he serves me every time he serves me with abuse, and that he will certainly do; he cannot get away from me, and his inability to pursue the good expresses itself in the defiance of an unhappy infatuation and a self-stifling through abusive words, all of which I regret inasmuch as I meant him well. But his abuse is irrelevant; I could just as well be absent.

*No other Dane can benefit from rabble barbarism's having a widely read organ which has him in its power, when it so pleases a literary tramp.

If Mr. Goldschmidt will reply in a decent paper and sign his name to it, I will read it; I no longer read The Corsair; I would not even commend it to my servant, for I do not believe it lies within a master's authority to be able to order his servant to go to an obscene place.

S. K.  


What really distresses me in the whole affair is to see all of the conceited ones who want to play the loftiest game of intellectuality, and then I am practically the only one who has the Greek mentality and the education of independence for it, and then I am the very one who wanted to work toward something like that, which is directly related to my whole task.


Listen here, little Corsair! Be a man for once! It is womanish to nag a man about his love affair, it is womanish to express rejected love by running after a man and abusing him; be a man and keep still. Only woman as the weaker sex can be forgiven for manifesting her weakness first in the devotion of importunate erotic love and then, rejected, in the devotion of dirty spite; a man must be able to be himself, must be able to keep silent when he perceives that it is a confession of weakness to continue to scold, just the way a prostitute runs after a man or a pestering beggar pursues one up one street and down the other.


March 16

Given the conditions in the world as it is, to be an author should be the extraordinary employment in life, an employment which escapes the dialectic of the universal (office and whatever pertains to that; a living and whatever pertains to that). Therefore not only should the author's production be a testimony to the idea, but the author's life ought to correspond to the idea. But, alas, of all categories the category of actuality is the most mediocre. To be an author is to be in a fraternity and is just as cluttered up with finiteness as anything else. Authors are supposed to be of mutual help to each other, criticize each other's writings, talk about what one is going to do, etc. Your intimate friends in particular are supposed to profit from the relationship and have little scraps of news to run around with: "that they personally saw the manuscript, heard part of it, talked with the author, etc."

By taking advantage of my pseudonymity, I have stayed completely clear of this. In the finite sense I have thereby done irreparable damage to myself, have offended people, have shirked the salutary tradition of small talk, and have given my whole enterprise the appearance of chance and caprice; and even if I were now to show how everything hangs together, what exceedingly rigorous ordering formed the basis, no one would believe it — for it would be inconceivable that anyone should have such a plan and keep quiet about it. Fools, only the person who can keep quiet is one who has such a plan.

When I had finished, I tried to do a little for others. I wrote the two articles against P.L.M. and The Corsair. After that I was happy to review Hverdags Historien. The end result will be, I am sure, that people will be led to believe that I am doing it in order to gain favor. Ah, if I wanted to have power and prestige in Danish literature — which I easily could — I would have done just the opposite. I would not have broken so emphatically with The Corsair, for its continual nonsense still exerts an influence on mass opinion, and to be commended by it would still be a titillating ingredient. Very quickly I should have put myself at the front as the awaited one, deigned to recognize one or two of the younger ones, taken a negative position toward the older ones — this is how to get ahead in Danish literature, and this is what the younger ones want, and anyone who wants to have power must always line up with the younger ones. But I did exactly the opposite instead — precisely because I do not wish and am too melancholy to want to have status and recognition in the world. I irritate the younger ones, for none of them stands so high that he can slip past me and what I do — I bow to the older writers. The minute I stop I will be happy to leave everything unchanged in Danish literature, to get Professor Heiberg esteemed as in the past, Bishop Mynster venerated as absolutely as possible — then everything will again be in order. And then I am accused of ambitious vanity. Would that he who accuses might first reflect for a moment. For example, The Corsair no doubt fancies that it has enormous power — how then can a person who breaks with it be seeking power?

How fundamentally polemic I am by nature I can best see in the fact that the only path by which the attacks of men can affect me is the sadness I feel on their behalf. As long as I am embattled, I am imperturbable, but when I have supremacy, then I become sad at seeing human folly and contemptibleness. My author-existence is truly as pure as new-fallen snow, removed from all worldly avidity, is in the service of the idea; therefore the masses, who actually do not understand me, still ought to have a gratifying impression of it. But that is not to be. Well, let them tell lies, let them slander and misrepresent. But certainly every older generation of authors, insofar as they have the innocent and admissible desire to enjoy recognition, must always wish for a successor like me, who, like a woman, desires nothing himself but desires only to elevate the elders.

Meanwhile everyone has a special license to taunt and attack me in all sorts of ways. They profit in a strange way from my supposed intelligence. They say what they like, and if it is refuted by the facts, then they say: Well, one can't figure it out, for he is so intelligent and cunning and clever. They maintain that I do this and that out of vanity; the facts contradict this, and so they say: Yes, he is so intelligent — that is, he is intelligent enough to do the opposite, but just the same he is vain. A curious argument! If I do the opposite of what vanity bids me do, either I must be stupid, or if I am intelligent, then I must not be vain. Now if I am conceded to be intelligent — ergo, I am not vain. But see, they arrive at the opposite conclusion. Ultimately it all comes down to this, that men are not able to conceive of an intelligent man not coveting status and power. They assume this (for good and stupidity are identical) and consequently draw the conclusion: Even if we cannot prove it, he must be vain because he is so intelligent — intelligent enough to do the opposite of what vanity bids him do. But their presupposition contains a veritable confession.

But how many lives are wasted in this confounded garrulousness about others.


At best, well-meaning people will no doubt find my habit of walking the streets etc. excusable as an eccentricity. The majority will regard it as vanity! Good Lord, as if I were so stupid not to know that much self-exposure etc. simply reduces one's importance, that men love the illusion involved in keeping concealed — for then one must be somebody. As if I were such a poor student of Shakespeare that I have misinterpreted and forgotten those lines by the old king to Henry V as prince, in which he reprimands him and commends another who appears in public only rarely — those lines which have always seemed to hover before me when, in the service of the idea, I decided to do the imprudent thing and disdain the appearance of being somebody, which Socrates develops so beautifully in the Republic,* saying that one ought to shun the appearance of being good. But that all this is in the service of the idea, is my highest interest, my artistic exertion in order to sustain my productivity, something I could scarcely dare confide to Spang, that my only justification is that I acted against the understanding, that without it I would have been a prolific word-gusher as authors these days are, to whom it never occurs to realize [realisere] one jot of what they write — ah, yes, who of those who think about it will not say that it is foolishness or a lie! Never mind, all the greater my art. For to do this and then secretly let people understand it — that would be bungling. My production has been maieutic, my life has supported it by being the stumbling block. — There is, however, one who knows it, and even if my thoughts almost run wild before me in the tremendous strain, he remembers it, he reminds me once again: God in heaven!

* In margin: (The passage is marked in my copy of Schleiermacher's translation, book II.)


My concern was to present the various stages of existence in one work if possible — and this is how I regard the whole pseudonymous productivity. For that purpose it was a matter of keeping oneself unchanged in equability so that, for example, the religious should not first appear when I was so old that my style had lost some of the opulence present in the esthetic. This did not mean that the religious should have this opulence but that the one writing should be able to produce it simultaneously, thus making it clear that the religious did not lack it for some fortuitous reason — namely, that the author lacked the necessary youthfulness.

Another author would be able to do the same work, but if he were not able to do it in the course of five or six years, he would be unable to do it. The whole venture stands rather isolated, not only because of what it is in itself but also because of its good fortune.

I had another reason for having to hurry, even though I used the strictest discipline to keep from neglecting the most insignificant comma — my financial situation no longer makes it possible for me to continue serving the judicial-maieutic idea on the scale I have been serving it. It has not been judicial in the direct sense, by thundering and all that — no, indirect by action and thereby providing an epigram on the age.

It is my consistency which actually has put me on this collision course. Had I been just half as consistent, I would be much better understood by now. But obedience is dearer to God than the fat of rams and consistency is dearer to the idea than worldly recognition for gossip and humbug.

It is said that I am a slipshod writer. Well, that is a matter of opinion. I am fully convinced that there is not a Danish writer who pays as much attention to the insignificant word as I do. I write everything in my own hand twice, some parts three and four times, and in addition, something no one knows anything about, there is my meditating as I walk; before I write I have said everything aloud to myself many times — and this they call being a slipshod writer! And why? Because they have no conception of it at all, because to them an author is someone who at most spends a certain number of hours a day sitting in a room and writing and otherwise has nothing to do with his ideas. Therefore, that kind of an author needs time when he comes home to get into the spirit again — whereas I come home with the whole thing thought through and memorized, even in its stylistic form — when people read a few pages of my writing they are almost always amazed at my style — but a big book — well, how is that possible — ergo: I must be a slipshod writer. No, when one wills only one thing, wills one thing with every sacrifice, every effort — then it is possible.

In a way I can become nauseated by life, for I, who love but one thought — which a person can really be if he wills it — I constitute an epigram upon men, because their judgment of me, the fact that they really cannot understand my consistency, is tragic proof of the categories, the mediocrity, in which they live.


And yet my ironic powers of observation and my soul derived such extraordinary satisfaction from gadding about on the streets and being a nobody in this way while thoughts and ideas were working within me, from being a loafer this way while I was clearly the most industrious of the younger set and appearing irresponsible this way and "lacking in earnestness" while the earnestness of the others could easily become a jest alongside my inner concerns. Now this is all upset; the rabble, the apprentices, the butcher boys, the school boys, and all such are egged on. But I will not play to such a public. I have nothing to do with it; it lacks the requisite condition for manifesting my irony or its significance for the idea. It was in the encounter with people who because of their education, I might say, were able to grasp something more profound in me or to have some conception of it — it was in the encounter with such people that my irony was gratified by posing the enigmatic problem and my wrath found satisfaction in seeing how they disparaged me. But the completely uneducated class, the school boys and the butcher boys, of course have no requisite conditions; this terrain is unsuitable, irony cannot be used here. — It is sad to see that there actually are papers written for school boys, that already at such an early age they are plunged into the confusion of ambiguity. I will give only one situation, yet it is typical. It was with Lieutenant Bardt, Adjutant of the Hussars. He came walking along with his little son. The father greeted me with his usual almost excessive attention, stepped aside to allow me the flagstones — if the lad had not known who I was, he might have gotten a notion that I was somewhat extraordinary — but the boy obviously knew me, he was a reader of The Corsair. What a combination! Must it not be harmful to children at one moment to read about a man being mistreated in this way, practically inviting the whole bunch of school boys to whistle at him on the streets — and then the next moment to see him treated in this manner by his father, or read samples of his writing in Danish school readers.—

And now that I have remodeled my external life, am more withdrawn, keep to myself more, have a more momentous look about me, in certain quarters it will be said that I have changed for the better. Alas, but my idea is not being served as it was then. But then, after all, my writing days are over.


I cannot make up my mind to write down anything about her. I distrust paper; it could fall into the hands of an outsider and upset her now when everything is more or less alright. As far as I am personally concerned, I hope that God will remember everything and remind me of it. There is not one single day since that day when I have not thought of the affair morning and night. Her last request to me was that i would think of her once in a while — she certainly did not need to ask me that. Her appalling question — whether I had any intention of ever getting married — was fortunately answered banteringly. It was dreadful; I could have given her a little comfort, and God knows how I wanted to, and God knows how much I needed to mitigate the affair for myself. But it was good that my consistency triumphed. I answered: "Well, maybe in ten years, when I have sowed my wild oats and am tired out, then I may have me a little young girl again to rejuvenate me." It was cruel; it was also cruelly hard to have to do it. And if I had not done it and everything else as well, would she now be engaged? No. If I had solemnly spoken what was in my heart: No, I will never marry anyone but you — she would have acted according to that. Then if a new engagement were proposed to her, she would only have been irresolute, and if she had consented, she would have done it with a divided soul — now, however, with her total self, because I alienated her.


The idea that I expressed existentially in order to support the pseudonymous writings was in utmost consistency with this productivity. If with such an enormous productivity I had lived withdrawn, concealed, seldom seen in public and then with a somber mug as becomes a philosopher, a professorial countenance — by Jove, every Tom, Dick, and Harry, every silly girl, college student, and the like would have found me to be profound. It would have been extremely inconsistent with what I was writing; but what do fools care about consistency — and how many wise men are found in each generation. — That it was very strenuous I do not deny; every man can have weak moments when he snatches at finite consolations closer at hand, but consistency is still the salvation. Being inconsistent wins a man honor, status, money, etc. — but at death one regrets having been inconsistent. It is different with consistency. Just as the fox lured the lice to the tip of his tail and then threw them off, so does consistency treat the stupid who instead of wanting to learn something from someone or teach someone something — having nothing to offer but money, status, and hurrahs. In the beginning it looks as if they could be included, but then consistency proceeds farther and farther out into the deep, and they get dumped off. If these were my last words, I know they are truth in me: Everyone who truly wills something will always find an admirer in me, or if necessary, assistance; — but these fools, this crowd, this whole jumble of men and women who only want to waste their own lives and help others to waste theirs: well, in me they will find their man. Look at little Goldschmidt: he plays the hypocrite to himself with the fancy that he was called by God to be a scourge for us poor wretches — then the condition is offered him to abuse what he himself had immortalized! He did it. Consequently there was no truth in him; his divine wrath was a sham, for otherwise he would have been faithful to the truth and persecuted the wicked but not what he himself admires — because it will not admire him.


Gossip and garbage instead of action is what people still want, and so they find it interesting. Goethe relates in Aus meinem Leben that Werthers Leiden made such a big sensation that from that time on he never again had the peace and absorption he once had, because now he was plunged into all sorts of connections and acquaintances. How interesting and titillating to chatter and prattle! Nothing would have been easier to prevent if Goethe really had had the courage, if he truly had loved the idea more than acquaintances. One with Goethe's powers can easily thrust people aside. But he is soft and sentimental and does not want to — but then he wants to tell it as an incident. But people like to hear it, because it excuses them from action. If someone were to hold forth something like this: Once in my youth I really did have faith in peace and guilt, but then I became busy in the world, made many acquaintances, and I got to be councillor, and since then I have not really had the time or the concentration — people would be very moved by this kind of talk and would eagerly listen to it. The secret of life if one wants a good standing is: clever rubbish about what one wants to do and how one is frustrated — and then no action.

One day Councillor Molbech was here. He congratulated me on my eccentricity, on my strange way of life, because it benefited my work. "I would like to do the same," he said, then went on to say that the same day he had to go to a dinner and "There I have to drink wine, which I cannot tolerate, but one cannot get out of it, for then begins the: Ah, just one little glass, Councillor; it will do you good." I answered: "Nothing is easier to prevent. Do not say a word about not being able to tolerate wine, for then you yourself egg on the foolish sympathy. Sit down at the table; when you are served wine, smell of it and then say or express with a look that the wine is not good. Then the host will become angry and will not press you." To which Molbech answered: "No, I cannot do that; why should I fall out with people?" I answered: "In order to get your own way. Is that not sufficient reason?" But so it goes: first of all to chatter about it to me for an hour and make a fool of me with all that wind, then go to dinner and chatter about it — and drink, then go home and feel bad from it — and chatter about it all night long with his wife: this is living and being interesting.


Unpleasant as it is to have a mentally disturbed person around every day, it is far more disgusting to be contemporary with a man who has sold out once and for all to contemptibleness, this utter unpredictability, this loathsome absence of bounds, since after all he has contempt for himself and has nothing at all to lose.


It was a Greek principle that I existentially expressed; now it is disarranged. And what has disarranged it? The fact that the press is used on such a great scale. It is the press that actually destroys all personality, that a cowardly wretch can sit in hiding and write and print for the thousands. All personal conduct and all personal power must run aground on this. It would be most interesting to talk with Socrates about the matter.


In the next to the last scene in Hamlet, when Hamlet dies, his sorrow, almost to despair, is that no one will come to know his life. And this is most certainly true, for anyone who has had one single idea, but by desperate efforts has concealed it in the form of a deception, becomes aware of this contradiction in the moment of death, for now in death he dares to speak, and now death comes so suddenly. There is also something sad, something truly tragic, in the fact that a man like that, who all his life has borne the full hundred-weight of misunderstanding, will lead the same life after his death, that some clumsy rag-picker or other, who nevertheless has become aware that he did amount to something, will probably put up his picture — alas, it no more resembles him than the clumsy rag-picker resembles the departed one.

But he who has willed to endure such a martyrdom in order to sense the idea of truth ought never be inconsistent, he must never secretly provide people with an explanation. The more consistent he is in this respect, the more true he is to his idea, which will reward him with inner happiness. Just as in life he repudiated the world's honor, so should he also do it in death and after his death continue to be the riddle he was in life, for precisely in this is the epigrammatic-judicial nerve of his life, and precisely in this his faithfulness to the idea.

But one thing may truthfully be said, that men have no conception these days of what it means to act and to think and, thinking, to act consistently to the uttermost. Even an apparently consistent beginning always ends in chatter.


The only thing that really pains me is that anyone can imagine that the cessation of my being an author can be linked to this latest unpleasantness. Obedient to the idea, to me it was a joy to keep on working this way without entering into personal relations with any man, without any earthly concerns, serving only the idea. And I was so glad that the last would be like the first, that I knew how to stop and renounce completely that kind of activity. I was entirely successful. Perhaps it would have been detrimental if people had really understood this — so let them fancy that I could be motivated by some petty consideration.


The contemporary public cashes in on every more exceptional person in this way — because he, too, is a human being and looks something like the others and perhaps lacks some of the skills other have, they seem to be completely equal; in contemporaneity a spruced-up store clerk and a genius are peers. On the whole an exceptional person gets ahead of others only enough so that it becomes titillating to the contemporary public to sniff at him, chatter about him, smear his whole intellectual-spiritual life, if possible make his name odious simply because it is in every dunce's mouth.


As long as I live I will never and can never be recognized simply because I apply half of my energies to preventing it. The moment I begin to be recognized in this life, the same moment I will tend to become an authority, and in that very same moment my mission is over — not only that, but perhaps my earlier mission will be utterly ruined. Unquestionably no one understands my resignation, some because they have not the time and opportunity or desire to think about such things, others because they could not even understand it if they wanted to.


However unjustly I am actually treated here at home, because my whole productivity does not really show up well in so small a theater, although a foolish, curious, envious, and spiteful contemporary public would like essentially to constrain me because they think that after all I am confined by the limits of language, nevertheless the smallness of the country still has the advantage that all the drama contained in my activity as an author over the 4 ½ years shows up in a totally different way. It could not be produced in Germany, for the country is too large; there no one can imagine being a maid-of-all-work. My writings show up to advantage in recollection, in poetic recollection, and the time will come when girls will color with excitement when a poet recounts the whole design of my life.


My contemporaries cannot grasp the design of my writing. Either/Or divided into four parts or six parts and published separately over six years would have been all right. But that each essay in Either/Or is part of a whole, and then the whole of Either/Or a part of a whole: that, after all, think my bourgeois contemporaries, is enough to drive one daft.


If I lived in an ordinary market town, it would be still worse. Generally speaking the majority have a secret notion that I am a competent, capable man, but they speculate something like this: If we all get together and tease him, he will have to give in. A negative conspiracy like that is possible only in a small country.

There is also a kind of envy in a small country, simply because everybody knows everybody else and almost involuntarily thinks of himself in relation to each of the others. They do not want to take everything away from me, just a little — as if anyone had the right to rob a man of even the slightest.


In spite of all my poverty before God in my personal mortification for what I personally have committed, it would still be possible that I may be for my nation "a gift from God"; God knows they have treated me poorly, indeed, mistreated me as children mistreat a valuable present.


The artistry in my whole undergirding life was not merely my not talking about what totally concerned me, or about the books into which I step by step put my whole effort, but it was especially that I was always ready to talk about everything else, crack jokes, banter, etc., just like a loafer having a thoroughly good time.


The injustice in Denmark's small proportions is the obtrusiveness and conformity which thereby develop. A little country such as Denmark naturally can have but one genuinely outstanding person in each particular area, but this person must live in continual contact and association, also in continual literary skirmishes among those of reputation, with various nonentities — who also are somewhat alike. Christian Winther is a lyrical poet, Holst also, Barfoed, too; perhaps each of the three writes a poem for a festive occasion: ergo, all three are poets. The one who loses out in this situation is Christian Winther. Denmark is such a little country that to be the greatest in a particular area in the country cannot be an essential expression for the essentially extraordinary. Christian Winther would be outstanding in Germany as well, whereas the others would disappear. To be the greatest philosopher in Denmark borders on satire — just about like being the greatest — yes, just imagine it — the greatest among all the traveling theatrical companies one has seen — in Odense, or like P. L. Møller's eulogy of what I wrote in my polemic against Heiberg: "It was the wittiest of all the things written against Heiberg" — alas, may I not request Heiberg as the standard, for to use as the standard those who have written against him certainly makes a fool of me. In somewhat the same way Den Frisindede (Rosenhaab) informed me that I ought to be just as popular as such a profound philosopher as H. C. Ørsted. Pro dii immortales — only "on the mountain" is it possible for one to say anything like that in earnest.


For anyone who is a nobody or even less, Copenhagen is the most pleasant city imaginable in which to live, because, since we are all of no consequence, but there still are a few of some magnitude, there is upward movement. When I was a young man and a nobody, I enjoyed my freedom, I dared live as I pleased, driving alone in my carriage, keeping the windows shut in public places — it never occurred to anybody to pay any attention to it. But now, now envy watches my every step in order to say: That is pride, that is arrogance, that is vanity. The laughable thing about it is that most likely no one in any country lives as unaltered a life as I have lived since the time I was a student: consequently the change does not lie in me, as if I were now putting on airs — no, I am doing everything the same, but now envy has gotten its eye on me. Why should he have the right to ride alone, says a spruced-up store clerk; it would suit me capitally to ride with him, but it is pride. Of course it never occurs to anyone to reflect on why I live as I do; no, they brazenly, shamelessly, and obtrusively want to force me, if possible, to take the store clerk along.


The Way I Have Understood Myself in All My Literary Work

I am in the profoundest sense an unhappy individuality, riveted from the beginning to one or another suffering bordering on madness, a suffering which must have its deeper basis in a misrelation between my mind and body, for (and this is the remarkable thing as well as my infinite encouragement) it has no relation to my spirit, which on the contrary, because of the tension between mind and body, has perhaps gained an uncommon resiliency.

An old man who himself was extremely melancholy (why, I will not write down) gets a son in his old age who inherits all this melancholy — but who also has a mental-spiritual elasticity enabling him to hide his melancholy. Furthermore, because he is essentially and eminently healthy of mind and spirit, his melancholy cannot dominate him, but neither is he able to throw it off; at best he manages to endure it.

In the most solemn moment a young girl (who with girlish self-assurance manifests prodigious powers which suggest to me a way of escape from something begun through a tragic mistake, a way out, to break an engagement, for at first her powers made it seem as if she would not be troubled at all) lays a murder on my conscience; a worried father solemnly repeats his conviction that it will be the death of the girl. Whether or not she was flirting does not concern me.

From that moment I dedicated my life humbly to serve an idea to the best of my ability.

Although no friend of confidants, although absolutely disinclined to speak with others about my innermost concerns, I nevertheless thought and still think that it is a man's duty not to bypass the court which is available in talking things over with another person, just so this does not become a frivolous confidence but is an earnest and official communication. I therefore asked my physician whether he believed that the structural misrelation between the physical and psychical could be dispelled so that I could realize the universal. This he doubted. I asked him whether he thought my spirit could convert or transform the misrelation by willing it. He doubted it; he would not even advise me to set in motion all the powers of my will, of which he had some conception, since I could blow up everything.

From that moment I made my choice. I have regarded that tragic misrelation, together with its sufferings (which no doubt would have driven to suicide most of those lacking sufficient spirit to comprehend the utter wretchedness of the agony) as my thorn in the flesh, my limitation, my cross; I have looked upon it as the high price at which God in heaven sold me a mental-spiritual capacity unequalled among my contemporaries. This does not inflate me, for I am crushed; my desire has become a daily bitter pain and humiliation for me.

Without daring to appeal to revelations or anything like that, I have seen it as my task in a warped and demoralized age to affirm the universal and make it lovable and accessible to all others who are capable of realizing it but are led astray by the age to pursue the exceptional, the extraordinary. I have considered my task to be like that of one who himself became unhappy in loving men but wishes to help others who are capable of happiness.

But since my task was also for me (in all humility) a devout attempt to do something good to compensate for what I had done wrong, I have been especially careful so that my efforts would not be in the service of vanity, above all that I would not serve the idea and the truth in such a way that I received earthly or temporal advantages from it. This is why I am positive that I have worked with true resignation [Resignation].

Throughout all my work I have also continually believed that I understood better and better God's will for me: that I bear the agony with which God keeps me in check and thus perform the extraordinary.[*]

[*] In margin:

My service through literature is and will always be that I have set forth the decisive qualifications of the whole existential arena with a dialectical acuteness and a primitivity not to be found in any other literature, as far as I know, and I have had no books to consult, either. Secondly, my art of communication, its form and its consistent execution. But at present no one has time to read seriously and to study; this being the case, until a later time my productivity is wasted, like delicacies served to yokels.

If I were to describe in greater detail an inward understanding of the particulars of the task, this would become a whole folio which few would have the capacity and earnestness to understand. But I do not have time for anything like that either.

I may truthfully say that I possess my capacity in weakness and frailty. It could never occur to me that a girl, for example, would not have me if only I were sure enough myself that I dared do everything to win her; it could never occur to me that I would not accomplish the most amazing things if only I were sure enough of myself that I dared attempt it. My misery is rooted in the second; my almost suprahuman feeling of power, in the first. Most men are the opposite — they fear external opposition and do not know the dreadful suffering of interior opposition. I have no fear of any external opposition, but there is an interior opposition when God lets me feel the thorn which gnaws — this is my suffering.


With respect to the crucial features of my life, the fate reserved for me seems to be that of never being able to be understood by others. No one would ever dream of that which is the determining factor in my life. In a certain sense the total misunderstanding is a torment when one lives as intensely as I do.

When I left her — what was the reason. Yes, no one would even suspect that.

Now when I stop being an author, everyone will feel he knows all about it and will explain that it is because I have become fearful and am tired of all this unpleasantness. Well, let's look at that. When I decided before all this trouble began to end with Concluding Postscript (something I had to decide for many reasons, partly financial), I wanted to have the satisfaction of being an author who could work on an enormous scale and then stop, without ever exchanging ten words with anyone as to the reasons why. When all this trouble began, I understood at once that this would be linked to my stopping. This has irritated me, it is true. If I dared to advise myself, I would unreservedly keep on writing for some time. But precisely because the situation is as it is, I dare not give up my resolution, for then I would be cowardly. But what other man besides me understands this.

How sad it is to have anything at all to do with this riffraff (who otherwise may be good-natured, inoffensive, and lovable, only not when they want to judge ideas and thinkers), who cannot think two thoughts together and are able to understand only what is shallow and paltry.


Berlin, May 5-13


Yes, it certainly is wonderful to be a child: to slumber on its mother's breast and then to wake up and see mother — to be a child and know only mother and toys. We exalt the happiness of childhood; the vision of childhood soothes with its smile — and the person who is granted happiness does not forget it through the years. Nevertheless, praise God, things are not such that this is supposed to be the highest; it can be omitted without losing the highest; it can be lacking without having lost the highest.

Of course it is splendid to be young: unable to sleep because of the turbulence of happy thoughts, and having slept to awaken early amid the singing of birds to a continuation of cheerfulness! We exalt the happiness of youth; we rejoice in its joy; we wish youth gratitude for its happiness and for the future we wish youth gratitude for the past — but, praise God, things are not such that this is supposed to be the highest. It can be omitted without losing the highest; it can be lacking without losing the highest; it can be lacking without having lost the highest.

Certainly it is blessed to be in love: to have only one desire even though everything else is fulfilled or denied, one desire — the beloved; one longing — the beloved; one possession — the beloved! We exalt the happiness of erotic love — O that the happy one might be faithful in the daily discernment of domestic life; O that he who was happy might be faithful in the enduring discernment of memory — but, God be praised, things are not such that this is supposed to be the highest, for this can be omitted without losing the highest; it can be lacking without having lost the highest.

Why is it, I wonder, that the Bible has a predilection for the halt and the lame, the blind and the crippled? Is it because the divine wants to be in association only with them? Is it because the divine thinks of itself as so inadequate that it wants to be only a part, something which is not for everyone? Is it because the divine is envious of the happy ones? O, no, for then the divine would be at variance with itself, then it would do wrong in giving them the best, the one true good instead of giving the suffering ones a compensation. No, the real reason is that the person who has the good things is very easily satisfied by these and therefore, with greater difficulty, becomes aware of the eternal. Not only while dancing or sitting at the banquet table, but even in church, men usually are very reluctant to listen to such things.

But let us consider such an unfortunate person from the time of his birth. Alas, he had no happy childhood. Maternal love is no doubt faithful and tender, but even a mother is a human being. He lay upon his mother's breast and saw that she was grieved; she did not look on him with joy but rather with sorrow. Sometimes when he awakened he saw her weeping. Among adults it is often the case that when they are all sitting around despondent and then he comes in the door, the happy one with a light heart and gay spirit, saying, "Here I am," then things begin to be cheerful and the clouds of care are lifted. A person with such endowments is uncommon, but what does even the most gifted of all accomplish compared to the child when in the agonising pains of the birth hour he opens the door and says, "Here I am," and then things begin to be cheerful. O, the good fortune of childhood, to be so welcome!

Thus did he grow in the days of youth, but he never played with the others, and if someone asked, "Why do you not want to play with the others?" he might well have replied, "You know well enough; do not sadden me by asking." — So he drew apart, yet not to die, for he was still only a youth. — Then came the season of love, but no one loved him. Of course there were a few who were friendly toward him; but it was out of compassion and sympathy. — Then he became a man, but he did not sit in the assembly — and then he died, but he was not missed. The little band of mourners all said it was a blessing that God took him away, and the pastor said the same. Thus he died — and thus he was forgotten.* There was no joy and jubilation when he was born, only fearful dismay; there was no grief or pain when he died, only a quiet melancholy joy.

* In margin: and all his useless sufferings.

So passed his life or, more accurately, so passes his life, because, my listener, this is not an old fairy tale I am telling, this is not something that happened to an individual in bygone days; the same things happen every day and for many, even though superficiality and sensuousness, worldly cleverness and godlessness, with to remain ignorant of it. He took part in life — by living, but there was one thing in life with which he was unfamiliar, something which in all the situations of life is happiness, as in the passion of erotic love — namely, like for like — this he never received and this he could not give, for he was a suffering object of sympathy and compassion. No, like for like he never received; so as a child he did not make his mother glad; if others had made his mother sad, he did not make her happy merely by smiling as he awakened. No, he never received like for like, for he loved his playmates in a different way than they loved him. No, like for like he never received, and therefore he had no spouse; for he could not respond as a husband, and therefore he stayed at home and was lonely. In death he did not receive like for like: to be missed as he missed the loved ones. He died, but no matter what the mourners and the pastor said, God be praised, it is not true that he was thereby excluded from the highest. On the contrary, his life can properly teach us what the highest is.

When a child, perhaps because of parents who are too strict, does not get permission to join in with other children, and then a friendly old man comes along and, feeling sorry for the child, says to him, "Come, my child, and we shall play together" — at first sight this seems to be a poor substitute. But look, that friendly old man knows how to engage the child, little by little, so that finally the child longs for him, for him alone, longs more intensely for him than the happy child longs for his playmaters. So it is with the religious life. The religious life is not sympathy in the sense of compassion; it is first of all equality for the fortunate, the rich and powerful, and for the halt, the blind, and the lame.

My reader, you call yourself Christian. Consequently, the one for whom you are named when you are called by your most significant name, he it was of whom a Roman governor, in order to awaken compassion and sympathy, said: Here is the man! I wonder if there is anything the sensuous man would be more reluctant to have said to him than these words when they are spoken to awaken sympathy: Here is the man, see him standing there, abandoned, he who would rebuild the temple in three days, he whose tall talk now returns to mock him. See how forsaken he is, he who calls himself a king! See how helpless he is, he who would help others! What an object of ridicule he is, when even the person who wants to save him can say nothing in his defense except the poor words of pity: See, here is the man! I shall not lead your thoughts, my listener, to what you already know of his suffering and death; but even his earlier life was the very last kind of life a secular mentality could desire. Not only in death was he nailed to the cross, but in life he bore the heavy cross of misunderstanding, the sort of misunderstanding which made his whole life seem in vain, as if he came into the world in vain, if his death were not precisely the intention. He who in sorrow over a fallen race bore the sin of the whole world — around him flocked the curious crowd. Can a more horrible misunderstanding be imagined than curiosity, street-rioting — and this is the earnestness of the eternal. And so he walked, alone and forsaken, forsaken by men even as in death he was forsaken by God. He who brings only one thing, but the one thing needful — he who will be only one thing, that which he is, the only necessary one — from him men wish to receive everything else: food and drink and wine at the wedding — men wish to turn him into everything possible!*

* In margin: into a king, into a malefactor.

He is unacquainted with friendship, for this certainly is not friendship when the one loves and loves until the end while the friend changes, drops away in the time of need, dozes in the time of spiritual trial [Anfægtelse], and denies in the time of ridicule. The mockery was surely in dead earnest. Do not let your thoughts allow you to forget too quickly that you know who he was. No, the mockery was in dead earnest — at that time when no one wanted to assert it, when even the single individual who had a perception of it did not want to be aware of it. It was earnestness when the scribe dared to visit only in secret, hidden in the night, for he knew very well that if he were to walk the forbidden way of scorn in the sight of all, he ran the risk of himself becoming an object of scorn.



Sept. 7, 1846
Report       Result


The real vulgarity in the prevailing literary contemptibleness is not so much what is written as for whom it is written. If a paper like The Corsair could give us a guarantee that it would be read only by a few hundred of the most intelligent people in the country, it would do no harm at all. But to ironize the extraordinary, it is also necessary for the one who does it to be intellectually educated enough to make an evaluation and to have pathos enough to be inspired: only then is it irony to joke about a person's accidental characteristics, an author's figure, etc. But when something like that is written for the lowest classes, for shop assistants and boys, maidservants and silly women, etc., then it is eo ipso coarseness and slave insurrection. For that class of people has not the remotest intimation of what it means to evaluate or understand; for them an author exists [existerer] qua man just as any other man, and their evaluation of a man is whether or not he is strong and can fight, etc.

Yes, even if something like that is written for the intrinsically respectable and good, but simpler and not essentially cultivated, social class, it is still coarseness; the simplicity consists precisely of not being able to think a dialectical doubleness (in a sense this is the beauty of it). Simplicity thinks that the extraordinary is the extraordinary and nothing bad is to be said about it. If a man is an extraordinary philosopher, then he is not to be insulted. When simplicity is itself incapable of judging whether a man is an outstanding philosopher, simplicity quite properly draws the conclusion that when something like this is written about him, ergo the man is no great philosopher.

But the villainy in this literary contemptibleness lies in the authors, who up to a point could be respectable authors even if they are of secondary rank but stir up the rabble in order to get revenge and hurt and confuse and defile.


It was really ironic of me to live so much on the streets and avenues while I was writing the pseudonymous works. The irony consisted of belonging to a completely different sphere qua author and spending so much time on the streets and in the markets. The irony was directed at the intellectual, affected Hegelian forces we have, or had, here at home. But as soon as there is an attempt from another corner, by literary rabble barbarism, to make it seem that I really belong on the street, then the irony quite properly disappears and I take exception to the forum. — If Goldschmidt had himself detected it and had on his own played a joke — well, then he would have amounted to something. But I had to challenge him myself — and quite properly did it only when I was ready. If P. L. Møller's article had appeared a month earlier, he would have received no reply. Then neither could I have avoided the situation nor, as long as I was actually productive, would I have dared exposed myself to the disturbances that might possibly result from the fuss.

What makes my life so intensely strenuous, but at the same time full and rich in almost its most insignificant expression, is that I must have the idea everywhere, whereas other men do not seem to have the slightest need for it. But there again I also have the advantage that in the midst of all the fuss and trouble I never become an essential part of it but because of my predisposition to observation continually maintain myself as a third person to some extent.


The whole affair this last half year has further confirmed for me the thesis: mundus vult decipi. If the supporters of this literary rabble barbarism were to be asked: But why attack Kierkegaard — they would answer as one of them answered me (in other respects he was a person of some status): "There must be no authority." Let us look at this. An author essentially educated by Socrates and the Greeks and with a grasp of irony begins an enormous literary activity; he specifically does not want to be an authority and with that in mind quite properly sees that by continually walking the streets he must inevitably minimize the impression he makes. And he was absolutely right: in all the distinguished circles frequented by authorities he was not in the remotest way regarded as an authority. What happens then — barbarism inundates him and compels him in pursuance of the idea to do what he otherwise would like to do, withdraw a little. Let him live in seclusion like this for only six months, and lo, he is an authority. His prestige is so great that he himself would be the only one who actually could reduce the impression he makes. Who was it, then who helped make him into an authority? The very ones who began their talk and their activity on the basis that "There must be no authority."


What, then, is the source of the unpleasantness, the annoyance, to me? Naturally not in what was said (for I have frequently said the same thing in jest about myself) but to whom it was said, because it has saddled me with a crowd of riffraff with whom I do not have and do not care to have any fellowship. Things I can laugh at so heartily in the company of, for example, Carl Weis, I cannot really laugh at in the company of Jewish peddlers, shop clerks, prostitutes, school boys, butcher boys, etc. For example, when I laugh with him at my thin legs, I am presuming thereby an essentially common intellectual background. Were I to laugh at them with the riffraff, that would imply that I acknowledge a common base with them. — Precisely because the situation is as it is, the curious state of affairs has come about that the only one here at home who is actually competent to handle wittily and with irony such dialectical problems as ironizing a proficiency cannot defend doing it — and that one person is myself. I certainly pledge myself to write witty articles about myself and my legs in quite another vein than Goldschmidt can, but then the riffraff will not be able to understand them.


Generally speaking, the world stays just as wise — that is, just as stupid. For example, when a man, misunderstood, ridiculed, persecuted, insulted, despised by his contemporaries, has fought for a truth, the next generation discovers that he was great — and admires him. And if there happens to be an enthusiast in the next generation who actually understands that departed one to the extent that he goes and does likewise, then this enthusiast again is persecuted, insulted, despised, etc. Consequently the distinguished one is first despised by his contemporaries and then the true admirer of the distinguished one is despised by his contemporaries, that is, the second generation, which, as they say, admires the dead and departed one. Mundus vult decipi, and the world is always made the fool, especially when it admires, for in order to admire it must take the best away — and then admires it but despises the one who truly admires the best in the departed distinguished one.


From "The Book on Adler"    

. . . . . There are examples in Adler of wild constructions no doubt familiar (esthetically and artistically) to Frater Taciturnus, since he, himself using a completely different style, has Quidam of the experiment express himself in this stylistic form. To construct rhetorically upon a conditional clause and then have the main clause amount to nothing, an abyss from which the reader as it were once again shrinks back to the antecedents; to plunge into a tentative effort as if this wealth were inexhaustible and then the very same second discontinue it, which is like the trick of pulling up short at full gallop (most riders fall off — usually one first breaks into a gallop and then into a trot); to be at the head of a cavalry of predicates, the one more gallant and dashing than the other, to charge in, and then swerve; the leap in modulation; the turning to the concept in one single word; the unexpected stop etc. Just as the voice of all passionate peoples, all southern peoples (the Jews, for example), continually changes tone, just as every passionate person talks in this manner, so is it possible to produce this effect stylistically.

But this would take me much too far afield, and how many are there, after all, who have any intimation of how prose can be used lyrically and of (what I am committed to) how prose can produce a stronger lyrical effect than verse if people would only learn how to read and to insist on thought in every word, whereas verse always has a little padding. So I cut this short; it would concern only authors anyway. In this respect all of the pseudonyms have an unqualified linguistic value in having cultivated prose lyrically. It is clear that Adler, too, has learned something from them, but what his flattering reviewer says in the Kirketidende, that he began just about the same time as the pseudonyms, is not true, for he began after them, and the style of his four last works is markedly different from that in his sermons, where he had not as yet been so strongly influenced. On the other hand, what his reviewer says about the presence of passages in Adler (four last books) thoroughly reminiscent of the pseudonyms is true, but I see nothing meritorious in that, neither in copying another nor in forgetting that by having had a revelation of his own one has entirely different things to think about than language exercises.


Human envy will eventually do away with every essential qualification and set its own power-hungry arbitrariness in their place. If someone — humble before God but with noble pride — wants to be neither more nor less than he is, but does want to be that, envy is heaped upon him. On the other hand, if someone begins with the concession: I am a contemptible subject — then, to be sure, his talent can be acknowledged, for then he can be held down. This is why it was not inconceivable that Adler suddenly was able to be successful, for he really begins with the concession: I am half-mad — then his meager talent can very well be acknowledged; he can never become a threat, for he is half-mad. That is how all that wretched deviousness is nurtured. Someone writes a comedy for students, taking the fraternal liberty to use actual persons. Indeed, anyone who objected to this would be a poor sport. But then the play is sneaked around in the provinces — where, of course, it is not put on for the students, and finally it is staged at the Royal Theater. It is this sneaking half-officiality that makes people take to it. Whatever steps forward with the claim and consciousness of being something specific arouses envy, but this half-private and half-official business flatters the public. Such a piece of trumpery by a poet becomes popular because the public thinks it absolutely charming, that this is something private between him and them, that he is not really a poet but is speaking en famille.


Yes, of course I am an aristocrat (and so was and is everyone who is truly conscious of willing the good — and there are never very many of them) — but I insist on getting out into the street, among men, where there is danger and opposition. I do not want (à la Martensen, Heiberg, and the like) to live cowardly and effeminately at a fashionable distance in select groups, guarded by illusion (that the masses seldom see them and therefore imagine them to be something). It is indeed true that the world wants to be deceived, that if it seldom sees a man it believes he is something — but I do not want to deceive and do not want an illusion. None of those noble ones who truly desired mankind's well-being ever did this, they never lived an effeminate life, snobbishly aloof in aristocratic circles.


This is how I have understood myself. As long as I was pseudonymous, both the idea of the production and the illusion of the production required that I act outwardly as I did; it was absolutely important to me to do everything to support the illusion that I was not an author. The fact that people nevertheless did regard me as author does not concern me; men are like that and have no aptitude for ideas except for playing havoc with them; but among other things my idea is that this ought not to interfere. — But from the moment I assumed the authorship, decorum required that I appear less. All this trouble is of some good in that it helps me to behave in that way.

The whole pseudonymous production and my life in relation to it was in the Greek mode.

Now I must find the characteristic Christian life-form.


Some may think that I appear in public less frequently than before because I am dependent, because I am tired of it or do not want to expose myself to insults. But what is independence. If, out of fear of being regarded as dependent because of appearing infrequently, I appear more frequently, then I am indeed dependent, then my environment does indeed control me. Many, of course, will not understand this because they are not sufficiently dialectical.


A Note for "The Book on
Adler" that was not used.

I see that Johannes Climacus was reviewed in one of the issues of Scharling and Engelstoft's Tidsskrift. It is one of the usual two-bit reviews, written in "very fine language" with periods and commas in the right places. A theological student or graduate who otherwise is thoroughly incompetent in discussion nevertheless copies the table of contents and then adds his criticism, which is something like this — that J. C. is certainly justified in the way in which he emphasises the dialectical, but (yes, now comes the wisdom) on the other hand one must not forget mediation. Historically J. C. comes after Hegelianism. J. C. without a doubt knows just as much about mediation as such a theological graduate. In order, if possible, to get out of the spell of mediation, constantly battling against it, J. C. decisively brought the problem to its logical conclusion through the vigor of a qualitative dialectic (something no theological student or graduate or second-rate reviewer can do) — and then the book is reviewed in this way — that is, with the help of a bungling laudatory review the book is ruined, annulled, cashiered. And the reviewer himself even becomes important: for the reviewer to stand loftily over the author in this way looks almost like superiority — with the help of a wretched stock phrase. The reviewer is so insignificant that he would scarcely be able to write a review if the book were taken away from him, for he copies with a suspicious anxiety, and a reviewer like that becomes so important at the end. The way an author works is to use his time and energy strenuously concentrating upon bringing the problem to its logical conclusion, and then along comes a laudatory review and assists in making the issue and the book into the same old hash. And the author is not read, but the reviewer calls attention to himself and the review is read, and the reader must involuntarily believe the review because it is laudatory, the review which by way of praise has annihilated the book. Mundus vult decipi. But this comes about because to be a genuine author means a sacrificed life and because an intermediate staff of fiddlers has been formed (two-bit reviewers), whose trade flourishes. And since we are accustomed to the coarsest, most boorish guttersnipe tone in the papers, a reviewer presumably thinks that when, as a bonus, he is so nice as to praise the book — he has a right to reduce it to rubbish. Johannes Climacus most likely would say: No, thank you, may I request to be abused instead; being abused does not essentially harm the book, but to be praised in this way is to be annihilated, insofar as this is possible for the reviewer, the nice, goodnatured, but somewhat stupid reviewer. An author who really understands himself is better served by not being read at all, or by having five genuine readers, than by having this confusion about mediation spread abroad with the help of a goodnatured reviewer, spread with the help of his own book, which was written specifically to battle against mediation. But the concept of author in our day has been distorted in an extremely immoral way.


If, with regard to performances ubi plurima nitent, it is pettiness to discover and emphasize one small mistake, then it is also basically mean and petty to pick out and laud one auspicious thought in something otherwise completely insipid. All criticism ought to idealize either by overlooking mistakes which are insignificant compared with the overall excellence or by overlooking the few fortunate passages within the imperfection of the whole.


Under the title:

The Gospel of Suffering

I would like to work out a collection of sermons. The texts would be partly from Christ's Passion Story, partly powerful words such as the apostles spoke when, after having been scourged, they went away rejoicing, thanking God that they were allowed to suffer something, or when Paul calls his chains a glorious honor, or when he says to Herod Agrippa: I wish that every one of you were as I, except for these chains. Or the several passages in the Epistle to the Corinthians, where there is one paradox after the other: Ourselves poor, we make all rich; or Rejoice and again I say rejoice. Also the passage in the Epistle of James that we should count it all joy when we are tried in various sufferings.

Alongside of this should follow three short but delightful discourses:

What We Learn from the Lilies of the Field
and from the Birds of the Air

There is a scrap of paper pertaining to this in the old case for my Bible.


As I have said so often, for the satisfaction of my own sense of freedom and self-control, it was my desire when I gave up being an author to communicate to others the impression of an author-existence that lived completely by its own laws. And truly it was so, but the misfortune was that this recent unpleasantness has immersed me in gossip. What I so rejoiced over: knowing myself when to stop, my triumph of freedom, which I did in fact attain — all that has now been distorted and smeared by the mean circumstances of life. And on the other hand, what I would have liked so much to do — as my independent resolution according to higher orders, which it is — that I am tempted not to do when not one or another wretch but this whole wretched life in a market town distorts it.


What is regarded as real earnestness is a kind of training, the trained competence in being a husband, an office-holder, etc. If a person used his time in the service of the highest idea with enormous diligence and every sacrifice, or if a person spent his days on the dance floor and in taverns and dissipated his fortune — both would be regarded in the same way by these ossified bureaucrats. To be a clerk is earnestness, and if one is not a clerk, it makes no difference, absolutely no difference, who one is.


November, 1846

Perhaps — I say no more, for I know very well how difficult it is to pass judgment on oneself in abstracto if one is going to pass judgment truthfully — if I had been successful in halting my writing and in concentrating upon taking an official appointment, if everything had gone as it should have, then it would have been clear that it was my own freedom that determined the outcome. Now this cannot be done. I face a huge obstacle in connection with becoming a pastor. If I undertook it, I would certainly run the risk of causing offense as I once did with the engagement. On the other hand, living in seclusion and quiet in the country, for example, has been made difficult, because my mood is still somewhat bitter and I need the spell of writing to forget all the petty meanness of life.

It becomes more and more clear to me that I am so constituted that I just never manage to realize my ideals, while in another sense, humanly speaking, I become more than my ideals. Most men's ideals are the great, the extraordinary, which they never achieve. I am far too melancholy to have such ideals. Other people would smile at my ideals. It was indeed my ideal to become a married man and make that my whole life. And then, despairing of achieving that, I became an author and perhaps a first-rate one at that. My next ideal was to become a village pastor, to live in a quiet rural setting, to become a genuine part of the little circle around me — and then, despairing of that, it is quite possible that I will again realize something which seems to be far greater.

When Bishop Mynster advises me to become a rural pastor, he obviously does not understand me. Of course I do wish it, but our premises do not agree at all. He assumes that in one way or another I want to take this path to get ahead, that I want to be somebody after all, and just there is the rub — I want to be as insignificant as possible, that is the very idea of my melancholy. For just this reason I have been content to be regarded as half-mad, but this was still but a negative form of being somewhat uncommon. It certainly is possible that this actually may become the shape of my life, so that I may never find the beautiful, quiet, calm life of being not much at all.

My conversation with Bishop Mynster made me aware again of the truth of what I have always privately known and why I have never spoken with anyone about what really matters to me — it amounts to nothing, for I cannot and dare not speak with anyone else about what totally and essentially and inwardly constitutes my life; therefore on my side the conversation becomes almost a deception. In relation to a man like Mynster, I am deeply grieved about it all, for I esteem him so highly.


The Romans took him out of the earth (homo), but the Greeks raised him up (ανθρωπος.)


To the Dedication
"That Single Individual"
in the following discourse the
following piece should really have been added.


Please accept this dedication. It is offered, as it were, blindly, but therefore in all honesty, untroubled by any other consideration. I do not know who you are, I do not know your name — I do not even know if you exist or if you perhaps did exist and are no more, or whether your time is still coming. Yet you are my hope, my joy, my pride, in the uncertainty of you, my honor — for if I knew you personally with worldly certainty, this would be my shame, my guilt — and my honor would be lost.

It comforts me, beloved, that you have this opportunity for which I know I have honestly worked. If it were feasible that reading what I write came to be common practice, or pretending to have read it in hopes of getting ahead in the world, this would not be the opportune time for my reader, for then the misunderstanding would have triumphed — yes, it would have beguiled me to dishonesty if with all my powers I had not prevented anything like that from happening — on the contrary, by doing everything to prevent it I have acted honestly. No, if reading what I write becomes a dubious good ( — and if with all the powers granted me I contribute to that, I am acting honestly), or still better, if it becomes foolish and ludicrous to read my writings, or even better, if it becomes a contemptible matter so that no one dares acknowledge it, that is the opportune time for my reader; then he seeks stillness, then he does not read for my sake or for the world's sake — but for his own sake, then he reads in such a way that he does not seek my acquaintance but avoids it — and then he is my reader.

I have often imagined myself in a pastor's place. If the crowds storm to hear him, if the great arch of the church cannot contain the great throngs, and people even stand outside listening to him — well, honor and praise to one so gifted that his feelings are gripped, that he can talk as one inspired, inspired by the sight of the crowds, for where the crowd is there must be truth, inspired by the thought that there has to be something for everybody, because there are a lot of people, and a lot of people with a little truth is surely truth — to me this would be impossible! But suppose it was a Sunday afternoon, the weather was gloomy and miserable, the winter storm emptied the streets, everyone who had a warm apartment let God wait in the church until better weather — if there were sitting in the church a couple of poor women who had no warm apartment and could just as well freeze in the church, indeed, I could talk both them and myself warm!

I have often imagined myself beside a grave. If all the people of honor and distinction were assembled there, if solemnity pervaded the whole great throng — well, honor and praise to one so gifted that he could add to the solemnity by being prompted to be the interpreter of the throng, to be the expression for the truth of sorrow — I could not do it! But if it was a poor hearse and it was accompanied by no one but a poor old woman, the widow of the dead man, who had never before experienced having her husband go away without taking her along — if she were to ask me, on my honor I would give a funeral oration as well as anyone.

I have often imagined myself in the crucial decision of death. If there was alarm in the camp, much running in to inquire about me — I believe I could not die, my old irascible disposition would once more awaken and I would have to go out once again and contend with people. But if I lie secluded and alone, I hope to God I may die peacefully and blessedly.

There is a view of life which thinks that truth is where the crowd is, that truth itself needs to have the crowd on its side. There is another view of life which thinks that wherever the crowd is, untruth is, so that if every individual who separately and in stillness possessed truth were to come together in a crowd (in such a way, however, that the crowd acquired whatever decisive, favorable, noisy, loud significance there was), untruth would promptly be present there. But the person who recognizes this last view as his own (which is rarely pronounced, for more frequently a man believes that the crowd lives in untruth, but if they would only accept his opinions everything would be all right) confesses that he himself is the weak and powerless one; moreover, how could one individual be able to stand against the crowd, which has the power! And he could not wish to have the crowd on his side: that would be defeating himself. But if this latter view is an admission of weakness and powerlessness and thus perhaps seems somewhat uninviting, it at least has the good point of being equable — , no one insults it, not one single person, it makes no difference, not to one single person.

To be sure the crowd is formed by individuals, but each one must retain the power to remain what he is — an individual. No one, no one, not one is excluded from being an individual except the person who excludes himself — by becoming many. On the contrary, to become part of the crowd, to gather the crowd around oneself, is what makes distinctions in life. Even the most well-intentioned person talking about this can easily insult an individual. But then once again the crowd has power, influence, status, and domination — it is the distinction in life which predominantly looks down on the individual as weak and impotent.


Most men think that earnestness means to get an office, to be attentive to openings at a higher level which they can try to get, how they will make the move and what they then will do to adapt themselves. They think it is earnestness to move in exclusive society; they prepare more for luncheon with His Excellency than for communion, and when one sees them on the way they look so serious that it is shocking. All this I can understand well enough; what I cannot understand is that if this is truly earnestness, eternity becomes mere play. For in eternity there is neither promotion nor preferment; nor is there a moving day or luncheon with His Excellency.


I really did imagine that I had a little understanding of men, but the longer I live the more I perceive that we simply do not understand each other at all. If I had wanted to do them harm, they would have honored and esteemed me and thanked me: and the only thing I wanted was to be of benefit to them. Here is a young man, wholeheartedly willing to prostrate himself before me, he wants to go out into the world as one of my followers and proclaim my honor — and the only thing I want is least of all this. I would say to him, and it is the only thing I will say: Go home, lock your door, and pray to God, and you will have infinitely more than the fragment you can get second-hand from me. Here is a young girl. Her only desire is one thing, to kneel adoringly at my feet — and the only thing I want is least of all this. I will simply say to her: Go into your room, lock your door, pray to God, and you will have infinitely much more than the paltry fragment of admiring me. — And that is why I am called an egotist.


Right now I feel once again what I have so often felt: how difficult it is for me to understand others. I fall upon a book with ravenous passion, and as I read, it seems that I find only the utterly familiar, and when I have closed the book, it seems that I must certainly have overlooked something. On the other hand I seem to find thoughts I have never had, but I am unable to grasp and hold them. But as soon as I myself think over this or that, I am sure to get to the bottom of it whether or not I have read it.

How others manage, I do not understand. Probably the need for independent thought in them is not so great; therefore they can more easily learn by rote.

Add to this that I have developed as a poet to the point where the act of writing is itself the greatest pleasure for me.

How I would like to read and read; I think it would be a shortcut. And I still believe that I will get farther with patience — along the long road of independent thought.


"Do not fear those who are able to kill the body" (Luke 12:4).

Physically it is true that a man can fall by the hand of another; spiritually it is true that a man can fall only by his own hand — no one can corrupt him but the man himself.

Evil does not corrupt the soul in the sense that sickness corrupts the body, which finally stops, dying of the sickness. But the soul continues to be. It is well known that Socrates based a proof for the immortality of the soul upon this.


January, 1847

What I take exception to in all this trouble with literary contemptibleness is, of course, not its attack and its insults (I invited it myself) nor their conduct, which, after all, patronizes this contemptibleness, no, it is their meanness, which, because they do not know how to grasp a situation, wants to be ingenious and pass judgment on me, that it was a rash step etc.

But the time will surely come when all these cowards will think it no longer necessary to lie. As soon as the danger is over, they will most likely dare say that I was right. What paltriness we live in! It is so characteristic that right now when Goldschmidt has gone abroad and P. L. Møller has apparently lost his nerve, they are beginning to appreciate my action. And there are those brave, bold journalists who, when it comes to criticizing a poor policeman for losing his temper, use frank, bold, outspoken language: Fie on the hypocrites! It is these loyal supporters of the government, these outspoken journalists, who attack the liberals for every little trifle — where no danger is involved! But where there is a bit of danger (somewhat like firemen being the only ones tried and tested in dangers during times of peace), there has not been one single hint of a word.

But this is why those who should have maintained the pathos with respect to my action are in difficulties with me. Now that the danger is over, they perhaps even want to say what they did not dare say before; but they have a bad conscience about me, they feel that I see right through them, and they are almost afraid that if the opportunity comes I will, with new recklessness and probably very good reasons, let them pay the penalty for this meanness.


It can be regarded as an epigram and as a proof that books are no longer written for eternity: the paper itself on which they are printed is so poor that it will disintegrate in the course of fifty years.


If there lived in a market town a painter, a veritable genius — and let us assume (for otherwise the analogy does not fit, since, after all, in a small country books are circumscribed by the limitations of language) that the making of paintings was forbidden. He worked industriously night and day and finished one, yes, two large historical paintings. But the inhabitants did not like them, would rather have him paint signboards. When he refused, they banded together to deride him. There were, however, a few individuals who did essentially have sufficient insight to value his talents and work, but they were envious and therefore joined the others. — This will soon be the situation in Denmark for every person of competence who refuses to join a clique.


Someday I must use this theme

1 Thessalonians 2:11

"aspire to live quietly."


January 20, 1847

The wish to be a rural pastor has always appealed to me and been at the back of my mind. It appealed to me both idyllically as a wish in contrast to a strenuous life and also religiously as a kind of penitence, to find the time and the quiet to grieve over that in which I personally may have offended. I was convinced that I was about to be successful as an author and, this being the case, I thought it right to end that way. Meanwhile it seems perfectly clear that the situation here at home is becoming more and more confused.

The question now is, insofar as there is any question about the need for an extraordinary in the literary, social, and political situation — and I dare maintain this before God's judgment seat — whether there is anyone in the kingdom suitable to be that except me. When I gave her up, I gave up every desire for a cozy, pleasant life; my personal guilt makes me capable of submitting to everything. In this way there is an ethical presupposition here. In the next place, by accepting a specific post in the state as a teacher of religion I am committing myself to being something that I am not. Because of a guilt I carry, I would have to be prepared at every moment to be attacked on that score. Then, if I am a clergyman, the confusion will take on tragic dimensions inasmuch as I would have kept back something upon entering this profession. My position as author is different. I contract no personal relationship to any person who can make claims upon my example or upon the antecedents in my life; I ride so loosely in the setting that I can be dashed down at any time it so pleases God without affecting any other person in the least. This is the second, the more important, ethical presupposition. As far as my intelligence, talents, skills, and mental constitution are concerned, there can be no doubt that I am rightly constructed in every way and I will bear a huge responsibility if I refuse a task like that. It certainly is true that it seems more humble to pull back and become a pastor, but if I do that, there can also be something vain and proud in proudly rejecting the more spectacular. On the other hand, from now on I must take being an author to be the same as being at the mercy of insult and ridicule. But to continue along this road is not something self-inflicted, for it was my calling, my whole habitus was designed for this.

There is no doubt that as an author in times like ours I could by strict moral discipline be of great benefit. But it by no means follows that I will win out. Rather it means that I am prepared to get the worst of it. Strictly speaking, I am not suited for the tasks of a rural pastor. Therefore, I have constantly intended simply to express the universal and that the ethical meaning should consist in my preferring that to the more spectacular. But now and from now on my career as an author is truly not spectacular. It is perfectly clear that I will be sacrificed. Out of cowardice and envy the aristocrats will continue to keep quiet, letting me push forward and then letting me fall as a sacrifice to rabble barbarism and then finally profit from the whole thing. In other words, humanly speaking, my work will be without pay. But I ask nothing else. The fact that I may be temporarily impatient does not prove a thing, for at any suitable moment I am still willing to sacrifice anything, and hope that God will give me the strength to bear everything.

If I am unwilling à la Mynster to idolize the establishment (and this is Mynster's heresy) and in my zeal for morality eventually confuse it with the bourgeois mentality, if I am unwilling to abolish completely the category of the extraordinary and again à la Mynster only understand that there have been such ones, understand it only afterward, then I cannot personally reject what has so clearly been laid upon me as a task.

Although Mynster has a certain good-will toward me and in his quiet moments perhaps even more than he admits, it is clear that he regards me as a suspicious and even dangerous person. For this reason he would like to have me out in the country. He thinks things are all right so far, but anything is to be feared from a man of character, especially in relation to the whole network in which he wants to keep life imprisoned. Therefore his advice is entirely consistent for him; from his point of view it is also well-meant for me, inasmuch as he is not particularly scrupulous about damage to a man's inner being just as long as he makes good, in his opinion, in the world. Mynster has never been out in 70,000 fathoms of water and learned out there; he has always clung to the established order and now has completely accommodated to it. This is what is magnificent about him. I shall never forget, I shall always honor him, always think of my father when I think about him, and no more is needed. But Mynster does not understand me; when he was thirty-six years old he would not have understood me, in fact, he would have resisted understanding me in order not to ruin his career, and now he cannot understand me.

But for God all things are possible. Humanly speaking, from now on I must be said not only to be running without a clear goal before me but going headlong toward certain ruin — trusting in God, precisely. This is the victory. This is how I understood life when I was ten years old, therefore, the prodigious polemic in my soul; this is how I understood it when I was twenty-five years old; so, too, now when I am thirty-four. This is why Poul Mø called me the most thoroughly polemical of men.


Only when I am writing do I feel just fine. Then I forget all the disagreeable things in life, all the sufferings, then I am at home with my thoughts and am happy. If I refrain from it for just a few days, I immediately get sick, overwhelmed, depressed, and my head gets stodgy and weighed down. An urge like this, so plentiful, so inexhaustible, which after continuing day after day for five or six years still surges just as copiously, must certainly be a calling from God. To squeeze back this wealth of thoughts still lying in my soul would be torture, a martyrdom, and would render me totally incompetent. And why should it be thrust back? Because I got the idea of wanting to make a martyr of myself by penitentially forcing myself into something for which I, as far as I understand myself, am not suited. No, God forbid, and God will certainly not leave himself without witness also in the external world. It is hard and depressing to pay out one's own money so as to work harder and more intensely than any man in the kingdom! And in all this work it is hard and depressing to get out of it the persecutions of the cowardly, envious aristocrats and the insults of the rabble. It is hard and depressing to have these prospects: if I work even harder and more intensely, things will get even worse! But I would gladly and patiently put up with all this if I could only succeed in attaining an inner assurance that it is not my duty to force myself into a self-chosen martyrdom by taking a position which in a certain sense I could wish for but could neither fill satisfactorily nor be happy in. But becoming an author is not self-chosen; on the contrary it is by virtue of the deepest need and urge of my whole personal being.

God, give me your blessing and assurance, and above all spiritual assurance, spiritual assurance against the doubts that arise within me, for one can always manage to struggle with the world.

The same thing will happen to me this time as earlier in my engagement. Only, God be praised, with this difference: I do not wrong anyone, I do not break any promise, but the similarity is that once again I must steer into the open sea, live in grace and out of grace, utterly in God's power. It is, after all, much more secure to have a steady job in life, an official appointment, it is not nearly so strenuous — but in God's name the other, by the grace of God, is even more secure. But at every moment it takes faith. This is the difference. The majority of people live far too securely in life and therefore get to know God so little. They have permanent positions, never strain themselves to the limit, have the comfort of wife and children — I shall never disparage this happiness, but I believe it my task to dispense with all this. Why should what we read again and again in the New Testament not be allowed. But the trouble is that men have no knowledge at all of what Christianity is, and this is why there is no sympathy for me, this is why I am not understood.


Now I must work out the idea of the forgiveness of sins, in rhetorical form.


The following passage was removed from the preface to "The Gospel of Suffering":

These are Christian discourses, for the life-expression of the discourse, as I understand it, is the essential and the essentially correlative form for Christianity, which is a matter of faith and conviction: Christianity certainly is a fact but the kind of fact that can only be believed, with the result that it can only be talked about or preached about — witness to it is not to its being true (for this is the relation of secular wisdom to its various objects), but witness to it is to the fact that one believes it is true.


"We endeavor to win men"
but before God we stand revealed.
To what extent this is allowed.


January 24, 1847

God be praised that all the assaults of rabble barbarism have come upon me. Now I have gained time to learn inwardly and to convince myself that it was indeed a gloomy thought to want to live out in a rural parish and do penance in seclusion and oblivion. Now I stand resolved and rooted to the spot in a way I have never been. If I had not been put through the mill of insults, this gloomy idea would have continued to pester me, for a certain kind of prosperity fosters gloomy ideas; if, for example, I had not had private means, I would never, with my disposition to melancholy, have reached the point I have sometimes reached.



Behind me: the organ; my place in the pew in Freslers Kirke; in the foreground a window, outside it a tree with branches stirring in the summer breeze.


Lines and a Situation

(could be used in an idyllic operetta)

A low-comedy character (a jaunty fellow in not the worst sense) sits outside an inn at a well-supplied table — a schoolmaster enters.

Schoolmaster:Why in the world did you come out here and what are you doing here? You seem to be leading the life of the rich man in the gospel.
Character:O, don't you know, you who are the school teacher out here. It's good that I came so that I can arrange something with you — I am out here on behalf of the Temperance Society.
Schoolmaster:You know that I am a member in good standing and keep your pledge.
Character:Don't you know that I am not a member of the Temperance Society, damned if I will be, but you know from our youth that I've always had the gift of gab and so the Temperance Society has hired me to travel around and get members. And may I congratulate the Society for doing it. I write everything on the expense account: four schnapps per day and two glasses of punch every day I hold an inspiring meeting and an extra swig for every member I get. I help the Society with my talent, and the Society helps my talent with countless well-brewed egg nogs. — And you should hear me talk. — Yes, I'm really enthusiastic about the Society; every time I talk I always think of the four schnapps.
Schoolmaster:But is this any help to the Society?
Character:Why not? If one is going to gather money, he doesn't smell of the money, and what does butter care about what fattens up the cabbage? Besides, the Society has still another lecturer, the traveling paragon, he follows after me wherever I have been and convinces those who have been won over by my lecture: but I will not work for the Society in that way — it is so sacrificial — but now to the matter at hand, if you would like a glass of punch, then I am the man who can treat you to it.


To me it is incomprehensible that any human being qua idyllic poet should identify himself or being human with animal life (pastorals in which ducks, geese, and cows are types of a blissful and perfect life). In a purely humorous way the observation of animals can be very enjoyable; one can stand all day watching them. The stupider they are, the funnier they are — such as ducks, geese, pigs, cows.


The Gospel about the Son of the Widow of Nain

He was raised from the dead. Christ said: Arise.

But it also says in the Gospel that the people said:
God has raised a great prophet among us.

consequently — the dead man
rose up, and thereby a prophet
was raised among the people.



If I ever write about marriage, I shall have to look into Fischart. I find something of his quoted in Flögel, Geschicte der komischen Literatur, III, p. 339, etc.


When the farmer goes to market with his neatly and carefully wrapped food products, it is disgusting to see that the first ones to come up are not the customers who would treat the products decently but rather a few boors who poke and tear at them. So it is with authors in regard to readers — the first ones to come along are some critics.


The Gospel about the Tax Coin

Theme: God's image in us
Caesar's image on the coin.

In the Epistle for the same Sunday (Philippians 3) it says: Our citizenship is in heaven.



One has a superabundance; another is like a superfluity.
One has a superabundance; another is superfluous.


Just as the gospel about the lilies contains a warning to the poor against pecuniary worries [Næringssorg], it also has a word for the corresponding kind of worry which the rich in particular usually have. "No one can add one cubit to his stature." The hypochondriacal concern that one's heart is not beating properly, that one is constipated, etc.





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