The Holy Family Chapter VIII

6) Revelation of the Mystery of the Emancipation of Women, Or Louise Morel

On the occasion of the arrest of Louise Morel, Rudolph indulges in reflections which he sums up as follows:

“The master often ruins the maid, either by fear, surprise or other use of the opportunities provided by the nature of the servants’ condition. He reduces her to misery, shame and crime. The law is not concerned with this.... The criminal who has in fact driven a girl to infanticide is not punished.”

Rudolph’s reflections do not go so far as to make the servants’ condition the object of his most gracious Criticism. Being a petty rulers he is a great patroniser of servants’ conditions. Still less does he go so far as to understand that the general position of women in modern society is inhuman. Faithful in all respects to his previous theory, he deplores only that there is no law which punishes a seducer and links repentance and atonement with terrible chastisement.

Rudolph has only to take a look at the existing legislation in other countries. English laws fulfil all his wishes. In their delicacy, which Blackstone so highly praises, they go so far as to declare it a felony to seduce even a prostitute.

Herr Szeliga exclaims with a flourish:

So” (!) — “thinks” (!) — “Rudolph” (!) — “and now compare these thoughts with your fantasies about the emancipation of woman. The act of this emancipation can be almost physically grasped from them, but you are much too practical to start with, and that is why your attempts have failed so often.”

In any case we must thank Herr Szeliga for revealing the mystery that an act can be almost physically grasped from thoughts. As for his ridiculous comparison of Rudolph with men who taught the emancipation of woman, compare Rudolph’s thoughts with the following “fantasies” of Fourier.

“Adultery, seduction, are a credit to the seducer, are good tone.... But, poor girl! Infanticide! What a crime! If she prizes her honour she must efface all traces of dishonour. But if she sacrifices her child to the prejudices of the world her ignominy is all the greater and she is a victim of the prejudices of the law.... That is the vicious circle which every civilised mechanism describes.”

“Is not the young daughter a ware held up for sale to the first bidder who wishes to obtain exclusive ownership of her?... just as in grammar two negations are the equivalent of an affirmation, we can say that in the marriage trade two prostitutions are the equivalent of virtue.”

“The change in a historical epoch can always be determined by women’s progress towards freedom, because here, in the relation of woman to man, of the weak to the strong, the victory of human nature over brutality is most evident. The degree of emancipation of woman is the natural measure of general emancipation.”

“The humiliation of the female sex is an essential feature of civilisation as well as of barbarism. The only difference is that the civilised system raises every vice that barbarism practises in a simple form to a compound, equivocal, ambiguous, hypocritical mode of existence.... No one is punished more severely for keeping woman in slavery than man himself” (Fourier). [67]

It is superfluous to contrast Rudolph’s thoughts with Fourier’s masterly characterisation of marriage, or with the works of the materialist section of French communism.[68]

The most pitiful off-scourings of socialist literature, a sample of which is to be found in this novelist, reveal “mysteries” still unknown to Critical Criticism.