Ecce Homo

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"To be one's enemy's equal—this is the first condition of an honourable duel. Where one despises one cannot wage war. Where one commands, where one sees something beneath one, one ought not to wage war. My war tactics can be reduced to four principles: First, I attack only things that are triumphant—if necessary I wait until they become triumphant. Secondly, I attack only those things against which I find no allies, against which I stand alone—against which I compromise nobody but[Pg xi] myself.... Thirdly, I never make personal attacks—I use a personality merely as a magnifying-glass, by means of which I render a general, but elusive and scarcely noticeable evil, more apparent.... Fourthly, I attack only those things from which all personal differences are excluded, in which any such thing as a background of disagreeable experiences is lacking."

And now notice the gentleness with which, in Chapter II., Wagner—the supposed mortal enemy, the supposed envied rival to Nietzsche—is treated. Are these the words and the thoughts of a man who Has lost, or who is losing control?

And even if we confine ourselves simply to the substance of this work and put the question—Is it a new Nietzsche or the old Nietzsche that we find in these pages? Is it the old countenance with which we are familiar, or are the features distorted, awry, disfigured? What will the answer be? Obviously there is no new or even deformed Nietzsche here, because he is still faithful to the position which he assumed in Thus spake Zarathustra, five years previously, and is perfectly conscious of this fidelity (see p. 141); neither can he be even on the verge of any marked change, because the whole of the third chapter, in which he reviews his life-work, is simply a reiteration and a confirmation of his old points of view, which are here made all the more telling by additional arguments suggested, no doubt, by maturer thought. In fact, if anything at all is new in this work, it is its cool certainty, its severe deliberateness, and its extraordinarily incisive vision, as shown, for instance, in the summing up of the genuine import of the third and fourth essays in the Thoughts out of Season (pp. 75-76, 80, 81, 82), a summing up which a most critical analysis of the essays in question can but verify.[Pg xii] Romanticism, idealism, Christianity, are still scorned and despised; another outlook, a nobler, braver, and more earthly outlook, is still upheld and revered; the great yea to life, including all that it contains that is terrible and questionable, is still pronounced in the teeth of pessimists, nihilists, anarchists, Christians, and other decadents; and Germany, "Europe's flatland," is still subjected to the most relentless criticism. If there are any signs of change, besides those of mere growth, in this work, they certainly succeed in eluding the most careful search, undertaken with a full knowledge of Nietzsche's former opinions, and it would be interesting to know precisely where they are found by those writers whom the titles of the chapters, alone, seem so radically to have perturbed.

But the most striking thing of all, the miracle, so to speak, of this autobiography, is the absence from it of that loathing, that suggestion of surfeit, with which a life such as the one Nietzsche had led, would have filled any other man even of power approximate to his own. This anchorite, who, in the last years of his life as a healthy human being, suffered the experience of seeing even his oldest friends, including Rhode, show the most complete indifference to his lot, this wrestler with Fate, for whom recognition, in the persons of Brandes, Taine, and Strindberg, had come all too late, and whom even support, sympathy, and help, arriving as it did at last, through Deussen and from Madame de Salis Marschlins, could no longer cheer or comfort,—this was the man who was able notwithstanding to inscribe the device amor fati upon his shield on the very eve of his final collapse as a victim of the unspeakable suffering he had endured.

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And this final collapse might easily have been foreseen. Nietzsche's sensorium, as his autobiography proves, was probably the most delicate instrument ever possessed by a human being; and with this fragile structure—the prerequisite, by the bye, of all genius,—his terrible will compelled him to confront the most profound and most recondite problems. We happen to know from another artist and profound thinker, Benjamin Disraeli, who himself had experienced a dangerous breakdown, what the consequences precisely are of indulging in excessive activity in the sphere of the spirit, more particularly when that spirit is highly organised. Disraeli says in Contarini Fleming (Part iv. chap. v.):—

"I have sometimes half believed, although the suspicion is mortifying, that there is only one step between his state who deeply indulges in imaginative meditation, and insanity; for I well remember that at this period of my life, when I indulged in meditation to a degree that would now be impossible, and I hope unnecessary, my senses sometimes appeared to be wandering."

And artists are the proper judges of artists,—not Oxford Dons, like Dr. Schiller, who, in his imprudent attempt at dealing with something for which his pragmatic hands are not sufficiently delicate, eagerly av-ails himself of popular help in his article on Nietzsche in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and implies the hackneyed and wholly exploded belief that Nietzsche's philosophy is madness in the making. As German philosophies, however, are said to go to Oxford only when they die, we may, perhaps, conclude from this want of appreciation in that quarter, how very much alive Nietzsche's doctrine still is.

Not that Nietzsche went mad so soon, but that he[Pg xiv] went mad so late is the wonder of wonders. Considering the extraordinary amount of work he did, the great task of the transvaluation of all values, which he actually accomplished, and the fact that he endured such long years of solitude, which to him, the sensitive artist to whom friends were everything, must have been a terrible hardship, we can only wonder at his great health, and can well believe his sister's account of the phenomenal longevity and bodily vigour of his ancestors.

No one, however, who is initiated, no one who reads this work with understanding, will be in need of this introductory note of mine; for, to all who know, these pages must speak for themselves. We are no longer in the nineteenth century. We have learned many things since then, and if caution is only one of these things, at least it will prevent us from judging a book such as this one, with all its apparent pontifical pride and surging self-reliance, with undue haste, or with that arrogant assurance with which the ignorance of "the humble" and "the modest" has always confronted everything truly great.


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As it is my intention within a very short time to confront my fellow-men with the very greatest demand that has ever yet been made upon them, it seems to me above all necessary to declare here who and what I am. As a matter of fact, this ought to be pretty well known already, for I have not "held my tongue" about myself. But the disparity which obtains between the greatness of my task and the smallness of my contemporaries, is revealed by the fact that people have neither heard me nor yet seen me. I live on my own self-made credit, and it is probably only a prejudice to suppose that I am alive at all. I do but require to speak to any one of the scholars who come to the Ober-Engadine in the summer in order to convince myself that I am not alive.... Under these circumstances, it is a duty—and one against which my customary reserve, and to a still greater degree the pride of my instincts, rebel—to say: Listen! for I am such and such a person. For Heaven's sake do not confound me with any one else!

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