Menu Close


Page with ornament
The Database of Ornament


    NIETZSCHE was by temperament a philosopher after the
manner of the Greeks. In other words, philosophy was not
to him, as to the average modern philosopher, a matter of
books and the study, but a life to be lived. It seemed to
him to have much less concern with “truth” than with the
essentials of fine living. He loved travel and movement, he
loved scenery, he loved cities and the spectacle of men, above all, he loved
solitude. The solitude of cities drew him strongly ; he envied Heraclitus his
desert study amid the porticoes and peristyles of the immense temple of
Diana. He had, however, his own favourite place of work, to which he often
alludes, the Piazza di San Marco at Venice, amid the doves, in front of the
strange and beautiful structure which he “loved, feared, and envied” ; and
here in the spring, between ten o’clock and mid-day, he found his best
philosophic laboratory.

    It was in Italy that Nietzsche seems to have found himself most at home,
although there are no signs that he felt any special sympathy with the
Italians, that is to say in later than Renaissance days. For the most part he
possessed very decided sympathies and antipathies. His antipathy to his
own Germans lay in the nature of things. Every prophet’s message is primarily
directed to his own people. And Nietzsche was unsparing in his keen
criticism of the Germans. He tells somewhere with a certain humour how
people abroad would ask him if Germany had produced no great thinker or
artist, no really good book of late, and how with the courage of despair he
would at last reply, “Yes, Bismarck !” Nietzsche was willing enough to
recognize the kind of virtue personified in Bismarck. But with that recogni-
tion nearly all was said in favour of Germany that Nietzsche had to say.
There is little in the German spirit that answered to his demands. He
admired clearness, analytic precision, and highly organized intelligence, light,
and alert. He saw no sufficient reason why profundity should lack a fine
superficies, nor why strength should be ungainly. His instinctive comparison

                              FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE                    69

for a good thinker was always a good dancer. As a child he had been struck
by seeing a rope-dancer, and throughout life dancing seemed to him the
image of the finest culture, supple to bend, strong to retain its own
equilibrium, an exercise demanding the highest training and energy of all the
muscles of a well-knit organism. But the indubitable intellectual virtues of
the bulky and plodding German are scarcely those which can well be
symbolized by an Otero or a Caicedo. “There is too much beer in the
German intellect,” Nietzsche said. For the last ten centuries Germany has
wilfully stultified herself; “nowhere else has there been so vicious a misuse of
the two great European narcotics, alcohol and Christianity,” to which he was
inclined to add music. (“The theatre and music,” he remarked in “Die
Frohliche Wissenschaft,” “are the haschisch and betel of Europeans, and the
history of the so-called higher culture is largely the history of narcotics.”)
“Germans regard bad writing,” he said, “as a national privilege ; they do not
write prose as one works at a statue, they only improvise.” Even “German
virtue”—and this was the unkindest cut of all—had its origin in eighteenth
century France, as its early preachers, such as Kant and Schiller, fully
recognized. Thus it happens that the German has no perceptions—coupling
his Goethe with a Schiller, and his Schopenhauer with a Hartmann—and no
tact, “no finger for nuances,” his fingers are all claws. Nietzsche regarded it as
merely an accident that he was himself born in Germany, just as it was merely
an accident that Heine the Jew, and Schopenhauer the Dutchman, were born
there. Yet, as I have already hinted, we may take these utterances too
seriously. There are passages in his works—though we meet them rarely—
which show that Nietzsche realized and admired the elemental energy, the
depth and the contradictions in the German character ; he attributed them
largely to mixture of races.

    Nietzsche was not much attracted to the English. It is true that he
names Landor as one of the four masters of prose this century has produced,
while another of these is Emerson, with whom he had genuine affinity,
although his own genius was keener and more passionate, with less sunny
serenity. For Shakespeare, also, his admiration was deep. And when he
had outgrown his early enthusiasm for Schopenhauer, the fine qualities
which he still recognized in that thinker—this concreteness, lucidity, reason-
ableness—seemed to him English. He was less flattering towards English
thought. Darwinism, for instance, he thought, savoured too much of the
population question, and was invented by English men of science who were
oppressed by the problems of poverty. The struggle for existence, he said,

70                                  THE SAVOY

is only an exception in nature ; it is exuberance, an even reckless superfluity,
which rules. For English philosophic thought generally he had little but
contempt. J. S. Mill was one of his “impossibilities ;” the English and
French sociologists of to-day, he said, have only known degenerating types
of society, devoid of organizing force, and they take their own debased
instincts as the standard of social codes in general. Modern democracy,
modern utilitarianism, are largely of English manufacture, and he came at
last to hate them both. During the past century, he asserted, they have
reduced the whole spiritual currency of Europe to a dull plebeian level, and
they are the chief causes of European vulgarity. It is the English, he also
asserted—George Eliot, for instance—who, while abolishing Christian belief,
have sought to bolster up the moral system which was created by Christianity,
and which must necessarily fall with it. It is, moreover, the English, who
with this democratic and utilitarian plebeianism have seduced and perverted
the fine genius of France.

    Just as we owe to England the vulgarity which threatens to overspread
Europe, so to France we owe the conception of a habit of nobility, in every
best sense of the word. On that point Nietzsche’s opinion never wavered.
The present subjection of the French spirit to this damnable Anglo-mania, he
declared, must never lead us to forget the ardent and passionate energy, the
intellectual distinction, which belonged to the France of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. The French, as Nietzsche always held, are the one
modern European nation which may be compared with the Greeks. In
“Menschliches, Allzumenschliches” he names six French writers—Montaigne,
La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyere, Fontenelle (in the “Dialogues des Morts”),
Vauvenargues, Chamfort—who bring us nearer to Greek antiquity than any
other group of modern authors, and contain more real thought than all the
books of the German philosophers put together. The only French writer
of the present century for whom he cared much (putting aside Mérimée,
whom he valued as a master of style, and perhaps as the author of “Carmen”)
was Stendhal, who possesses some of the characters of the earlier group.
The French, he points out, are the most Christian of all nations, and have
produced the greatest saints. He enumerates Pascal (“the first among
Christians, who was able to unite fervour, intellect, and candour ;—think of
what that means !”), Fénelon, Mme. de Guyon, Bruno, the founder of the
Trappists, who have flourished nowhere but in France, the Huguenots, Port-
Royal—truly, he exclaims, the great French freethinkers encountered foemen
worthy of their steel ! The land which produced the most perfect types of

                              FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE                    71

Anti-Christianity produced also the most perfect types of Christianity. He
defends, also, that seeming superficiality which in a great Frenchman, he
says, is but the natural epidermis of a rich and deep nature, while a great
German’s profundity is too often strangely bottled up from the light in a
dark and contorted phial.

    I have briefly stated Nietzsche’s feeling as regards each of the three
chief European peoples, because we are thus led up to the central points of
his philosophy—his attitude towards modern religion and his attitude towards
modern morals. We are often apt to regard these matters as of little practical
importance ; we think it the reasonable duty of practical social politics to
attend to the immediate questions in hand, and leave these wider questions
to settle themselves. Rightly or wrongly, that was not how Nietzsche looked
at the matter. He was too much of a philosopher, he had too wide a sense
of the vital relation of things, to be content with the policy of tinkering
society, wherever it seems to need mending most badly, avoiding any reference
to the whole. That is our English method, and no doubt it is a very sane
and safe method, but, as we have seen, Nietzsche was not in sympathy with
English methods. His whole significance lies in the thorough and passionate
analysis with which he sought to dissect and to dissolve, first, “German
culture,” then Christianity, and lastly, modern morals, with all that these involve.

    It is scarcely necessary to point out, that though Nietzsche rejoiced in the
title of freethinker, he can by no means be confounded with the ordinary
secularist. He is not bent on destroying religion from any anaesthesia of the
religious sense, or even in order to set up some religion of science which is
practically no religion at all. He is thus on different ground from the great
freethinkers of France, and to some extent of England. Nietzsche was him-
self of the stuff of which great religious teachers are made, of the race of
apostles. So when he writes of the founder of Christianity and the great
Christian types, it is often with a poignant sympathy which the secularist can
never know ; and if his knife seems keen and cruel, it is not the easy
indifferent cruelty of the pachydermatous scoffer. When he analyzes the
souls of these men and the impulses which have moved them, he knows with
what he is dealing : he is analyzing his own soul.

    A mystic Nietzsche certainly was not ; he had no moods of joyous resigna-
tion. It is chiefly the religious ecstasy of active moral energy that he was at
one with. The sword of the spirit is his weapon rather than the merely
defensive breastplate of faith. St. Paul is the consummate type of such
religious forces, and whatever Nietzsche wrote of that apostle—the inventor

72                                  THE SAVOY

of Christianity, as he calls him—is peculiarly interesting. He hates him
indeed, but even his hatred thrills with a tone of intimate sympathy. It is
thus in a remarkable passage in “Morgenröthe,” where he tells briefly the
history and struggles of that importunate soul, so superstitious and yet
so shrewd, without whom there would have been no Christianity. He
describes the self-torture of the neurotic, sensual, refined “Jewish Pascal,”
who flagellated himself with the law that he came to hate with the hatred of
one who had a genius for hatred ; who in one dazzling flash of illumination
realized that Jesus by accomplishing the law had annihilated it, and so
furnished him with the instrument he desired to wreak his passionate hatred
on the law, and to revel in the freedom of his joy. Nietzsche possesses a
natural insight in probing the wounds of self-torturing souls. He excels also
in describing the effects of extreme pain in chasing away the mists from life,
in showing to a man his own naked personality, in bringing us face to face
with the cold and terrible fact. It is thus that, coupling the greatest figure in
history with the greatest figure in fiction, he compares the pathetic utterance
of Jesus on the cross—”My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?”—
with the disillusionment of the dying Don Quixote. Of Jesus himself he
speaks no harsh word, but he regarded the atmosphere of Roman decay and
languor—though very favourable for the production of fine personalities—as
ill-adapted to the development of a great religion. The Gospels lead us into
the atmosphere of a Russian novel, he remarks in one of his last writings, “Der
Antichrist,” an atmosphere in which the figure of Jesus had to be coarsened to
be understood, and became moulded in men’s minds by memories of more
familiar types—prophet, Messiah, wonder-worker, judge ; the real man they
could not even see. “It must ever be a matter for regret that no Dostoievsky
lived in the neighbourhood of this most interesting décadent, I mean some one
who could understand the enthralling charm of just this mixture of the sublime,
the morbid, and the child-like.” Jesus, he continues, never denied the world,
the state, culture, work ; he simply never knew or realized their existence ;
his own inner experience—”life,” “light,” “truth “—was all in all to him.
The only realities to him were inner realities, so living that they make one
feel “in Heaven” and “eternal ;” this it was to be “saved.” And Nietzsche
notes, as so many have noted before him, that the fact that men should bow
the knee in Christ’s name to the very opposite of all these things, and con-
secrate in the “Church” all that he threw behind him, is an insoluble
example of historical irony. “Strictly speaking, there has only been one
Christian, and he died on the cross. The Gospel died on the cross.”

                              FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE                    73

    There may seem a savour of contempt in the allusion to Jesus as an
“interesting décadent” and undoubtedly there is in “Der Antichrist” a
passionate bitterness which is not found in Nietzsche’s earlier books. But he
habitually used the word décadent in a somewhat extended and peculiar sense.
The décadent, as Nietzsche understood him, was the product of an age in which
virility was dead and weakness was sanctified ; it was so with the Buddhist as
well as with the Christian, they both owe their origin and their progress to
“some monstrous disease of will.” They sprang up among creatures who
craved for some “Thou shalt,” and who were apt only for that one form of
energy which the weak possess, fanaticism. By an instinct which may be
regarded as sound by those who do not accept his disparagement of either,
Nietzsche always coupled the Christian and the anarchist ; to him they were
both products of decadence. Both wish to revenge their own discomfort on
this present world, he asserted, the anarchist immediately, the Christian at the
last day. Instead of feeling, “I am worth nothing,” the décadent says, “Life
is worth nothing,”—a terribly contagious state of mind which has covered the
world with the vitality of a tropical jungle. It cannot be too often repeated,
Nietzsche continues, that Christianity was born of the decay of antiquity, and
on the degenerate people of that time it worked like a soothing balm ; their
eyes and ears were sealed by age and they could no longer understand
Epicurus and Epictetus. At such a time purity and beneficence, large
promises of future life, worked sweetly and wholesomely. But for fresh young
barbarians Christianity is poison. It produces a fundamental enfeeblement of
such heroic, childlike and animal natures as the ancient Germans, and to that
enfeeblement, indeed, we owe the revival of classic culture ; so that the
conclusion of the whole matter is here, as ever, Nietzsche remarks, that “it is
impossible to say whether, in the language of Christianity, God owes more
thanks to the Devil, or the Devil to God, for the way in which things have
come about.” But in the interaction of the classic spirit and the Christian
spirit, Nietzsche’s own instincts were not on the side of Christianity, and as
the years went on he expresses himself in ever more unmeasured language.
He could not take up the “Imitation of Christ”—the very word “imitation ”
being, as indeed Michelet had said before, the whole of Christianity—without
physical repugnance. And in the “Götzendämmerung” he compares the
Bible with the Laws of Manu (though at the same time asserting that it is a
sin to name the two books in the same breath) : “The sun lies on the whole
book. All those things on which Christianity vents its bottomless vulgarity—
procreation, for example, woman, marriage—are here handled earnestly and

74                                  THE SAVOY

reverently, with love and trust I know no book in which so many tender and
gracious things are said about women as in the Laws of Manu ; these gray-
beards and saints have a way of being civil towards women which is perhaps
not overdone.” Again in “Der Antichrist “—which represents, I repeat, the
unbalanced judgments of his last period—he tells how he turns from Paul
with delight to Petronius, a book of which it can be said è tutto festo,
‘immortally sound, immortally serene.” In the whole New Testament, he
adds, there is only one figure we can genuinely honour—that of Pilate.

    On the whole, Nietzsche’s attitude towards Christianity was one of
repulsion and antagonism. At first he appears indifferent, then he becomes
calmly judicial, finally he is bitterly hostile. He admits that Christianity
possesses the virtues of a cunningly concocted narcotic to soothe the leaden
griefs and depressions of men whose souls are physiologically weak. But
from first to last there is no sign of any genuine personal sympathy with the
religion of the poor in spirit. Epicureanism, the pagan doctrine of salvation,
had in it an element of Greek energy, but the Christian doctrine of salvation,
he declares, raises its sublime development of hedonism on a thoroughly
morbid foundation. Christianity hates the body ; the first act of Christian
triumph over the Moors, he recalls, was to close the public baths which they
had everywhere erected. “With its contempt for the body Christianity was
the greatest misfortune that ever befell humanity.” And at the end of “Der
Antichrist” he sums up his concentrated hatred : “I condemn Christianity ; I
raise against the Christian Church the most terrible accusation that any
accuser has ever uttered. It is to me the most profound of all thinkable

    It is scarcely necessary to add that Nietzsche’s condemnation of
Christianity extended to the Christian God. He even went so far as to assert
that it was the development of Christian morality itself—”the father-confessor
sensitiveness of the Christian conscience translated and sublimed into a
scientific conscience”—which had finally conquered the Christian God. He
held, however, that polytheism had played an important part in the evolution
of culture. Gods, heroes, supernatural beings generally, were inestimable
schoolmasters to bring us to the sovereignty of the individual. Polytheism
opened up divine horizons of freedom to humanity. “Ye shall be as Gods.”
But it has not been so with monotheism. The doctrine of a single God, in
whose presence all others were false gods, favours stagnation and unity of
type ; monotheism has thus perhaps constituted “the greatest danger which
humanity has had to meet in past ages.” Nor are we yet freed from its

                              FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE                    75

influence. “For centuries after Buddha died men showed his shadow in a
cave—a vast terrible shadow. God is dead : but thousands of years hence
there will probably be caves in which his shadow may yet be seen. And we
—we must go on fighting that shadow !” How deeply rooted Nietzsche
believed faith in a god to be is shown by the fantastic conclusion to
“Zarathustra.” A strange collection of Uebermenschen—the men of the
future—are gathered together in Zarathustra’s cave : two kings, the last of
the popes—thrown out of work by the death of God—and many miscellaneous
creatures, including a donkey. As Zarathustra returns to his cave he hears
the sound of prayer and smells the odour of incense ; on entering he finds the
Uebermcnschen all on their knees intoning an extraordinary litany to the
donkey, who has “created us all in his own image.”

    In his opposition to the Christian faith and the Christian God, Nietzsche
by no means stands alone, however independent he may have been in the
method and standpoint of his attack. But in his opposition to Christian
morality he was more radically original. There is a very general tendency
among those who reject Christian theology to shore up the superstructure of
Christian morality which rests on that theology. George Eliot, in her
writings at all events, has been an eloquent and distinguished advocate of this
process ; Mr. Myers, in an oft-quoted passage, has described with considerable
melodramatic vigour the “sibyl in the gloom” of the Trinity Fellows’ Garden
at Cambridge, who withdrew God and Immortality from his grasp, but, to
his consternation, told him to go on obeying Duty. Nietzsche would have
sympathized with Mr. Myers. What George Eliot proposed was one of those
compromises so dear to our British minds. Nietzsche would none of it.
Hence his contemptuous treatment of George Eliot, of J. S. Mill, of Herbert
Spencer, and so many more of our favourite intellectual heroes who have
striven to preserve Christian morality while denying Christian theology.
Nietzsche regarded our current moral ideals, whether formulated by bishops
or by anarchists, as alike founded on a Christian basis, and when that founda-
tion is sapped they cannot stand.

    The motive of modern morality is pity, its principle is altruistic, its motto
is “Love your neighbours as yourself,” its ideal self-abnegation, its end the
greatest good of the greatest number. All these things were abhorrent to
Nietzsche, or, so far as he accepted them, it was in forms which gave them new
values. Modern morality, he said, is founded on an extravagant dread of
pain, in ourselves primarily, secondarily in others. Sympathy is fellow-
suffering ; to love one’s neighbour as oneself is to dread his pain as we dread

76                                  THE SAVOY

our own pain. The religion of love is built upon the fear of pain. “On n’est
bon que par la pitié ;” the acceptance of that doctrine Nietzsche considers
the chief outcome of Christianity, although, he thinks, not essential to
Christianity, which rested on the egoistic basis of personal salvation : “One
thing is needful.” But it remains the most important by-product of Christi-
anity, and has ever been gaining strength. Kant stood firmly outside the
stream, but the French freethinkers, from Voltaire onwards, were not to be
outdone in this direction by Christians, while Comte with his “Vivre pour
autrui” even out-Christianized Christianity, and Schopenhauer in Germany,
J. S. Mill in England, carried on the same doctrine.

    Both the sympathetic man and the unsympathetic man, Nietzsche argues,
are egoists. But the unsympathetic man he held to be a more admirable kind
of egoist. It is best to win the strength that comes of experience and suffering,
and to allow others also to play their own cards and win the same strength,
shedding our tears in private, and abhorring soft-heartedness as the foe of all
manhood and courage. To call the unsympathetic man “wicked,” and the
sympathetic man “good,” seemed to Nietzsche a fashion in morals, a fashion
which will have its day. He believed he was the first to point out the danger
of the prevailing fashion as a sort of moral impressionism, the outcome of the
hyperæsthesia peculiar to periods of decadence. Not indeed that Christianity
is, or could be, carried out among us to its fullest extent : “That would be a
serious matter. If we were ever to become the object to others of the same
stupidities and importunities which they expend on themselves, we should
flee wildly as soon as we saw our ‘neighbour’ approach, and curse sympathy
as heartily as we now curse egoism.” Our deepest and most personal griefs,
Nietzsche remarks elsewhere, remain unrevealed and incomprehensible to
nearly all other persons, even to the “neighbour” who eats out of the same
dish with us. And even though my grief should become visible, the dear
sympathetic neighbour can know nothing of its complexity and results, of the
organic economy of my soul. That my grief may be bound up with my
happiness troubles him little. The devotee of the “religion of pity” will heal
my sorrows without a moment’s delay ; he knows not that the path to my
Heaven must lie through my own Hell, that happiness and unhappiness are
twin sisters who grow up together, or remain stunted together.

    “Morality is the mob-instinct working in the individual.” It rests,
Nietzsche asserts, on two thoughts : “the community is worth more than the
individual,” and “a permanent advantage is better than a temporary
advantage ;” whence it follows that all the advantages of the community are

                              FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE                    77

preferable to those of the individual. Morality thus becomes a string of
negative injunctions, a series of “Thou shalt nots,” with scarcely a positive
command amongst them ; witness the well-known table of Jewish command-
ments. Now Nietzsche could not endure mere negative virtues. He resented
the subtle change which has taken place in the very meaning of the word
“virtue,” and which has perverted it from an expression of positive masculine
qualities into one of merely negative feminine qualities. In his earliest essay
he referred to “active sin” as the Promethean virtue which distinguishes the
Aryans. The only moral codes that commended themselves to him were
those that contained positive commands alone : “Do this ! Do it with all
your heart, and all your strength, and all your dreams !—and all other things
shall be taken away from you !” For if we are truly devoted to the things
that are good to do we need trouble ourselves little about the things that are
good to leave undone.

    Nietzsche compared himself to a mole boring down into the ground and
undermining what philosophers have for a couple of thousand years considered
the very surest ground to build on—the trust in morals. One of his favourite
methods of attack is by the analysis of the “conscience.” He points out that
whatever we were regularly required to do in youth by those we honoured
and feared created our “good conscience.” The dictates of conscience, how-
ever urgent, thus have no true validity as regards the person who experiences
them. “But,” some one protests, “must we not trust our feelings ?” “Yes,”
replies Nietzsche, “trust your feelings, but still remember that the inspiration
which springs from feelings is the grandchild of an opinion, often a false one,
and in any case not your own. To trust one’s feelings—that means to yield
more obedience to one’s grandfather and grandmother and their grandparents
than to the gods within our own breasts : our own reason and our own ex-
perience.” Faith in authority is thus the source of conscience ; it is not the
voice of God in the human heart but the voice of man in man. The sphere of
the moral is the sphere of tradition, and a man is moral because he is
dependent on a tradition and not on himself. Originally everything was
within the sphere of morals, and it was only possible to escape from that
sphere by becoming a law-giver, medicine-man, demigod—that is to say by
making morals. To be customary is to be moral,—I still closely follow
Nietzsche’s thought and expression,—to be individual is to be wicked. Every
kind of originality involves a bad conscience. Nietzsche insists with fine
eloquence, again and again, that every good gift that has been given to man
put a bad conscience into the heart of the giver. Every good thing was once

78                                  THE SAVOY

new, unaccustomed, immoral, and gnawed at the vitals of the finder like a
worm. Every new doctrine is wicked. Science has always come into the
world with a bad conscience, with the emotions of a criminal, at least of a
smuggler. No man can be disobedient to custom and not be immoral, and
feel that he is immoral. The artist, the actor, the merchant, the freethinker,
the discoverer, were once all criminals, and were persecuted, crushed, rendered
morbid, as all persons must be when their virtues are not the virtues idealized
by the community. Primitive men lived in hordes, and must obey the horde-
voice within them. The whole phenomena of morals are animal-like, and
have their origin in the search for prey and the avoidance of pursuit.

    Progress is thus a gradual emancipation from morals. We have to
recognize the services of the men who fight in this struggle against morals,
and who are crushed into the ranks of criminals. Not that we need pity
them. “It is a new justice that is called for, a new mot d’ordre. We need
new philosophers. The moral world also is round. The moral world also has
its antipodes, and the antipodes also have their right to exist. A new world
remains to be discovered—and more than one ! Hoist sail, O philosophers !”

    “Men must become both better and wickeder!” So spake Zarathustra ;
or, as he elsewhere has it, “It is with man as with a tree, the higher he would
climb into the brightness above, the more vigorously his roots must strive
earthwards, downwards, into the darkness and the depths—into the wicked.”
Wickedness is just as indispensable as goodness. It is the ploughshare of
wickedness which turns up and fertilizes the exhausted fields of goodness.
We must no longer be afraid to be wicked ; we must no longer be afraid to be
hard. “Only the noblest things are very hard. This new command, O my
brothers, I lay upon you—become hard.”

    In renewing our moral ideals we need also to renew our whole conception
of the function and value of morals. Nietzsche advises moralists to change
their tactics : “Deny moral values, deprive them of the applause of the crowd,
create obstacles to their free circulation ; let them be the shame-faced secrets
of a few solitary souls ; forbid morality ! In so doing you may perhaps
accredit these things among the only men whom one need have on one’s side,
I mean heroic men. Let it be said of morality to-day as Meister Eckard
said : ‘I pray God that he may rid me of God !'” We have altogether over-
estimated the importance of morality. Christianity knew better when it placed

“grace” above morals, and so also did Buddhism. And if we turn to literature,
Nietzsche maintains, it is a vast mistake to suppose that, for instance, great
tragedies have, or were intended to have, any moral effect. Look at “Macbeth,”

                              FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE                    79

at “Tristan und Isolde,” at “Œdipus.” In all these cases it would have been easy
to make guilt the pivot of the drama. But the great poet is in love with
passion. “He calls to us : ‘It is the charm of charms, this exciting, changing,
dangerous, gloomy, yet often sun-filled existence ! It is an adventure to live—
take this side or that, it will always be the same !’ So he speaks to us out of
a restless and vigorous time, half drunken and dazed with excess of blood and
energy, out of a wickeder time than ours is ; and we are obliged to set to
rights the aim of a Shakespeare and make it righteous, that is to say, to
misunderstand it.”

    We have to recognize a diversity of moral ideals. Nothing is more pro-
foundly dangerous than, with Kant, to create impersonal categorical impera-
tives after the Chinese fashion, to generalize “virtue,” “duty,” and “goodness,”
and sacrifice them to the Moloch of abstraction. “Every man must find his
own virtue, his own categorical imperative ; “it must be founded on inner
necessity, on deep personal choice. Only the simpleton says : “Men ought to
be like this or like that.” The real world presents to us a dazzling wealth of
types, a prodigious play of forms and metamorphoses. Yet up comes a poor
devil of a moralist, and says to us : “No ! men ought to be something quite
different !” and straightway he paints a picture of himself on the wall, and
exclaims : “Ecce homo !” But one thing is needful, that a man should
attain the fullest self-satisfaction. Every man must be his own moralist.

    These views might be regarded as “lax,” as predisposing to easy self-
indulgence. Nietzsche would have smiled at such a notion. Not yielding,
but mastering, was the key to his personal morality. “Every day is badly
spent,” he said, “in which a man has not once denied himself; this gymnastic
is inevitable if a man will retain the joy of being his own master.” The four
cardinal virtues, as Nietzsche understood morals, are sincerity, courage,
generosity, and courtesy. “Do what you will,” said Zarathustra, “but first
be one of those who are able to will. Love your neighbour as yourself—but
first be one of those who are able to love themselves.” And again Zarathustra
spoke, “He who belongs to me must be strong of bone and light of foot,
eager for fight and for feast, no sulker, no John o’ Dreams, as ready for the
hardest task as for a feast, sound and hale. The best things belong to me
and mine, and if men give us nothing, then we take them : the best food, the
purest sky, the strongest thoughts, the fairest women !” There was no desire
here to suppress effort and pain. That Nietzsche regarded as a mark of
modern Christian morals. It is pain, more pain and deeper, that we need.
The discipline of suffering alone creates man’s pre-eminence. “Man unites

80                                  THE SAVOY

in himself the creature and the creator : there is in him the stuff of things, the
fragmentary and the superfluous, clay, mud, madness, chaos ; but there is also
in him the creator, the sculptor, the hardness of the hammer, the divine
blessedness of the spectator on the seventh day.” Do you pity, he asks,
what must be fashioned, broken, forged, refined as by fire ? But our pity
is spent on one thing alone, the most effeminate of all weaknesses—pity.
This was the source of Nietzsche’s admiration for war, and indifference to its
horror ; he regarded it as the symbol of that spiritual warfare and bloodshed
in which to him all human progress consisted. He might, had he pleased,
have said with the Jew and the Christian, that without shedding of blood
there shall be no remission of sins. But with a difference, for as he looked
at the matter, every man must be his own saviour, and it is his own blood
that must be shed ; there is no salvation by proxy. That was expressed in
his favourite motto : Virescit volnere virtus.

    Nietzsche’s ideal man is the man of Epictetus, as he describes him in “Mor-
genröthe,” the laconic, brave, self-contained man, not lusting after expression
like the modern idealist. The man whom Epictetus loved hated fanaticism,
he hated notoriety, he knew how to smile. And the best was, added
Nietzsche, that he had no fear of God before his eyes ; he believed firmly in
reason, and relied, not on divine grace, but on himself. Of all Shakespeare’s
plays, “Julius Cæsar” seemed to Nietzsche the greatest, because it glorifies
Brutus ; the finest thing that can be said in Shakespeare’s honour, Nietzsche
thought, was that—aided perhaps by some secret and intimate experience—
he believed in Brutus and the virtues that Brutus personified. In course of
time, however, while not losing his sympathy with stoicism, it was Epi-
cureanism, the heroic aspects of Epicureanism, which chiefly appealed to
Nietzsche. He regarded Epicurus as one of the world’s greatest men, the
discoverer of the heroically idyllic method of living a philosophy ; for one to
whom happiness could never be more than an unending self-discipline, and
whose ideal of life had ever been that of a spiritual nomad, the methods of
Epicurus seemed to yield the finest secrets of good living. Socrates, with his
joy in life and in himself, was also an object of Nietzsche’s admiration.
Among later thinkers, Helvetius appealed to him strongly. Goethe and
Napoleon were naturally among his favourite heroes, as were Alcibiades and
Cæsar. The latest great age of heroes was to him the Italian Renaissance.
Then came Luther, opposing the rights of the peasants, yet himself initiating
a peasants’ revolt of the intellect, and preparing the way for that shallow
plebeianism of the spirit which has marked the last two centuries.

                              FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE                    81

    Latterly, in tracing the genealogy of modern morals, Nietzsche’s opinions
hardened into a formula. He recognized three stages of moral evolution :
first, the pre-moral period of primitive times, when the beast of prey was the
model of conduct, and the worth of an action was judged by its results.
Then came the moral period, when the worth of an action was judged not
by its results, but by its origin ; this period has been the triumph of what
Nietzsche calls slave-morality, the morality of the mob ; the goodness and
badness of actions is determined by atavism, at best by survivals ; every man
is occupied in laying down laws for his neighbour instead of for himself, and
all are tamed and chastised into weakness in order that they may be able to
obey these prescriptions. Nietzsche ingeniously connected his slave-morality
with the undoubted fact that for many centuries the large, fair-haired aristo-
cratic race has been dying out in Europe, and the older down-trodden race—
short, dark, and broad-headed—has been slowly gaining predominance. But
now we stand at the threshold of the extra-moral period. Slave-morality,
Nietzsche asserted, is about to give way to master-morality; the lion will
take the place of the camel. The instincts of life, refusing to allow that any-
thing is forbidden, will again assert themselves, sweeping away the feeble
negative democratic morality of our time. The day has now come for the
man who is able to rule himself, and who will be tolerant to others not out
of his weakness, but out of his strength ; to him nothing is forbidden, for he
has passed beyond goodness and beyond wickedness.

                                                                                                HAVELOCK ELLIS.

MLA citation:

Ellis, Havelock. “Friedrich Nietzsche II.” The Savoy vol. 3, July 1896, pp. 68-81. Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.