Some Day We Must Really Talk Things Over
We have known thousands who as young men at the University were volcanoes of originality and poetry, and promised to remain so, and now are either servile or liberal philistines. We, on the contrary, are steadily becoming strangers to the world and its ways, and live a private life which (silently for the moment) runs clean contrary to present trends.- Jacob Burckhardt, letter to H. Schauenberg. 22 March 1847. (The Letters of Jacob Burckhardt, translated by Alexander Dru, p. 105.)
—Doesn’t it sometimes seem to you as though one fine day on a lonely path you would meet a dwarf who would open a secret door in the moss and stones of the forest and lead you into a new world? —Do drop your hostility to the Middle Ages! What weighs upon us, somewhat, are the apes of the Middle Ages, not the real, genuine age of Dante and his consorts, who were, au contraire, wonderful people. Classical antiquity, if it were imposed par ordre de Mufti, would not be much less irksome. I have in my hands the historical proofs of how wonderfully people enjoyed themselves in the Middle Ages, when life was more colorful and rich than can possibly be imagined. But that is by the way. Only don’t let yourself be imposed upon by the Liberals in historical matters; at bottom they are still only jabbering away in the wake of the Encyclopaedists. ‘But look ye, I am going to tell you something, the culture we have now, etc.’ - is not worth a fig, and the only result is that everyone is made on one last. It is a long story, Hermann, the spread of culture and the decrease of originality and individuality, of will and capacity; and the world will suffocate and decay one day in the very dung of its own philistinism. I’ve said it!