The Holy Family Chapter VIII

8) Rudolph, “The Revealed Mystery of All Mysteries”

The miraculous means by which Rudolph accomplishes all his redemptions and miracle cures is not his fine words but his ready money. That is what the moralists are like, says Fourier. You must be a millionaire to he able to imitate their heroes.

Morality is “impuissance mise en action["impotence in action” Ch. Fourier, Théorie des quatre mouvement et des destinées générales, Part II, Epilogue]. Every time it fights a vice it is defeated. And Rudolph does not even rise to the standpoint of independent morality, which is based at least on the consciousness of human dignity. His morality, on the contrary, is based on the consciousness of human weakness. His is the theological morality. We have investigated in detail the heroic feats that he accomplished with his fixed, Christian ideas, by which he measures the world, with his “charité”, “dévouement”, “abnégation”, “repentir”, “bons” and “méchants”, “récompense” and “punition”, “châtiments terribles”, “isolement”, “salut de l'âme[charity, devotion, self-denial, repentance”, the good and the wicked people, reward and punishment, terrible chastisements, isolation, salvation of the soul] etc. We have proved that they are mere Eulenspiegel tricks. All that we still have to deal with here is the personal character of Rudolph, the “revealed mystery of all mysteries” or the revealed mystery of “pure Criticism”.

The antithesis of “good” and “evil” confronts the Critical Hercules when he is still a youth in two personifications, Murph and Polidori, both of them Rudolph’s teachers. The former educates him in good and is “the Good One”. The latter educates him in evil and is “the Evil One”. So that this conception should by no means be inferior in triviality to similar conceptions in other novels, Murph, the personification of “the good”, cannot be “savant” or “particularly endowed intellectually”. But he is honest, simple, and laconic; he feels himself great when he applies to evil such monosyllabic words as “foul” or “vile”, and he has a horreur of anything which is base. To use Hegel’s expression, he honestly sets the melody of the good and the true in an equality of tones, i.e., on one note.

Polidori, on the contrary, is a prodigy of cleverness, knowledge and education, and at the same time of the “most dangerous immorality”, having, in particular, what Eugène Sue, as a member of the young pious French bourgeoisie, could not forget — “Le plus effrayant scepticisme[the most frightful scepticism]. We can judge the spiritual energy and education of Eugène Sue and his hero by their panic fear of scepticism.

Murph,” says Herr Szeliga, “is at the same time the perpetuated guilt of January 13 [On this day, Rudolph, in a fit of anger, made an attempt on the life of his father, but repented and gave the word to do good] and the perpetual redemption of that guilt by his incomparable love and self-sacrifice for the person of Rudolph.”

Just as Rudolph is the deus ex machina and the mediator of the world, so Murph, for his part, is the personal deus ex machina and mediator of Rudolph.

“Rudolph and the salvation of mankind, Rudolph and the realisation of man’s essential perfections, are for Murph an inseparable unity, a unity to which he dedicates himself not with the stupid dog-like devotion of the slave, but knowingly and independently.”

So Murph is an enlightened, knowing and independent slave. Like every prince’s valet, he sees in his master the salvation of mankind personified. Graun flatters Murph with the words: “intrépide garde du corps[fearless bodyguard]. Rudolph himself calls him modèle d'un valet [model servant] and truly he is a model servant. Eugène Sue tells us that Murph scrupulously addresses Rudolph as “Monseigneur” when alone with him. In the presence of others he calls him Monsieur with his lips to keep his incognito, but “Monseigneur” with his heart.

“Murph helps to raise the veil from the mysteries, but only for Rudolph’s sake. He helps in the work of destroying the power of mystery.”

The denseness of the veil which conceals the simplest conditions of the world from Murph can be seen from his conversation with the envoy Graun. From the legal right of self-defence in case of emergency he concludes that Rudolph, as judge of the secret court, was entitled to blind the maître d'école, although the latter was in chains and “defenceless”. His description of how Rudolph will tell of his “noble” actions before the assizes, will make a display of eloquent phrases, and will let his great heart pour forth, is worthy of a grammar-school boy who has just read Schiller’s Raüber. The only mystery which Murph lets the world solve is whether he blacked his face with coal-dust or black paint when he played the charbonnier [coal man].

“The angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just” (Mat. 13:49). “Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil ... ; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good” (Rom. 2:9-10).

Rudolph makes himself one of those angels. He goes forth into the world to sever the wicked from among the just, to punish the wicked and reward the good. The conception of good and evil has sunk so deep into his weak brain that he really believes in a corporeal Satan and wants to catch the devil alive, as at one time Professor Sack wanted to in Bonn.[69] On the other hand, he tries to copy on a small scale the opposite of the devil, God. He likes “de jouer un peu le rôle de la providence[to play the role of Providence a little]. Just as in reality all differences become merged more and more in the difference between poor and rich, so all aristocratic differences become dissolved in idea in the opposition between good and evil. This distinction is the last form that the aristocrat gives to his prejudices. Rudolph regards himself as a good man and thinks that the wicked exist to afford him the self-satisfaction of his own ‘ excellence. Let us consider this personification of “the good” a little more closely.

Herr Rudolph indulges in charity and extravagance like the Caliph of Baghdad in the Arabian Nights. He cannot possibly lead that kind of life without sucking the blood out of his little principality in Germany to the last drop like a vampire. As Monsieur Sue tells us, he would have been one of the mediatised German princes. [70] had he not been saved from involuntary abdication by the protection of a French marquis. This gives us an idea of the size of his territory. We can form a further idea of how Critically Rudolph appraises his own situation by the fact that he, a minor German Serenissimus, thinks it necessary to live semi-incognito in Paris in order not to attract attention. He specially takes with him one of his chancellors for the Critical purpose of the latter representing for him “le côté théâtral et puéril du pouvoir souverain[the theatrical and childish side of sovereign power], as though a minor German Serenissimus needed another representative of the theatrical and childish side of sovereign power besides himself and his mirror. Rudolph has succeeded in imposing on his suite the same Critical self-delusion. Thus his servant Murph and his envoy Graun do not notice that the Parisian homme d'affaires [household manager], Monsieur Badinot, makes fun of them when he pretends to take their private instructions as matters of state and sarcastically chatters about

occult relations that can exist between the most varying interests and the destinies of empires” “Yes,” says Rudolph’s envoy, “he has the impudence to say to me sometimes: ‘How many complications unknown to the people there are in the government of a state! Who would think, Herr Baron, that the notes which I deliver to you doubtless have their influence on the course of European affairs?'”

The envoy and Murph do not find it impudent that influence on European affairs is ascribed to them, but that Badinot idealises his lowly occupation in such a way.

Let us first recall a scene from Rudolph’s domestic life. Rudolph tells Murph “he was having moments of pride and bliss”. Immediately afterwards he becomes furious because Murph will not answer a question of his. “Je vous ordonne de parier.” [I order you to speak] Murph will not let himself be ordered. Rudolph says: “Je n'aime pas les réticences[I do not like reticences] He forgets himself so far as to be base enough to remind Murph that he pays him for all his services. He will not be calmed until Murph reminds him of January 13. Murph’s servile nature reasserts itself after its momentary abeyance. He tears out his “hair”, which he luckily has’ not got, and is desperate at having been somewhat rude to his exalted master who calls him “a model servant”, “his good old faithful Murph”.

After these samples of evil in him, Rudolph repeats his fixed ideas on “good” and “evil” and reports the progress he is making in regard to the good. He calls alms and compassion the chaste and pious consolers of his wounded soul. It would be horrible, impious, a sacrilege, to prostitute them to abject, unworthy beings. Of course alms and compassion are the consolers of his soul. That is why it would be a sacrilege to desecrate them. It would be “to inspire doubt in God, and he who gives must make people believe in Him”. To give alms to one abject is unthinkable!

Rudolph considers every motion of his soul as infinitely important. That is why he constantly observes and appraises them. Thus the simpleton consoles himself as far as his outburst against Murph is concerned by the fact that he was moved by Fleur de Marie. “I was moved to tears, and I am accused of being blasé, hard and inflexible!” After thus proving his own goodness, he waxes furious over “evil”, over the wickedness of Marie’s unknown mother, and says with the greatest possible solemnity to Murph:

You know — some vengeances are very dear to me, some sufferings very precious”.

In speaking, he makes such diabolical grimaces that his faithful servant cries out in fear: “Hélas, Monseigneur!” This great lord is like the members of Young England, [71] who also wish to reform the world, perform noble deeds, and are subject to similar hysterical fits.

The explanation of the adventures and situations in which Rudolph finds himself involved is to be found above all in Rudolph’s adventurous disposition. He loves “the piquancy of novels, distractions, adventures, disguise”., his “curiosity” is “insatiable”, he feels a “need for vigorous, stimulating sensations”, he is “eager for violent nervous excitement”.

This disposition of Rudolph is reinforced by his craze for playing the role of Providence and arranging the world according to his fixed ideas.

His attitude to other persons is determined either by an abstract fixed idea or by quite personal, fortuitous motives.

He frees the Negro doctor David and his beloved, for example, not because of the direct human sympathy which they inspire, not to free them, but to play Providence to the slave-owner Willis and to punish him for not believing in God. In the same way the maître d'école seems to him a god-sent opportunity for applying the penal theory that he invented so long ago. Murph’s conversation with the envoy Graun enables us from another aspect to see deeply into the purely personal motives that determine Rudolph’s noble acts.

The prince’s interest in Fleur de Marie is based, as Murph says, “apart from” the pity which the poor girl inspires, on the fact that the daughter whose loss caused him such bitter grief would now be of the same age. Rudolph’s sympathy for the Marquise d'Harville has, “apart from” his philanthropic idiosyncrasies, the personal ground that without the old Marquise d'Harville and his friendship with the Emperor Alexander, Rudolph’s father would have been deleted from the line of German sovereigns.

His kindness towards Madame George and his interest in Germain, her son, have the same motive. Madame George belongs to the d'Harville family.

It is no less to her misfortunes and her virtues than to this relationship that Poor Madame George owes the ceaseless kindness of His Highness.”

The apologist Murph tries to gloss over the ambiguity of Rudolph’s motives by such expressions as: “surtout, à part, non moins que["above all”, “apart from” and “no less than"].

The whole of Rudolph’s character is finally summed up in the “purehypocrisy by which he manages to see and make others see the outbursts of his evil passions as outbursts against the passions of the wicked, in a way similar to that in which Critical Criticism represents its own stupidities as the stupidities of the Mass, its spiteful rancour at the progress of the world outside itself as the rancour of the world outside itself at progress, and finally its egoism, which thinks it has absorbed all Spirit in itself, as the egoistic opposition of the Mass to the Spirit.

We shall prove Rudolph’s “pure” hypocrisy in his attitude to the maître d'école, to Countess Sarah MacGregor and to the notary Jacques Ferrand.

In order to lure the maître d'école into a trap and seize him, Rudolph persuades him to break into his apartment. The interest he has in this is a purely personal one, not a general human one. The fact is that the maître d'école has a portfolio belonging to Countess MacGregor, and Rudolph is greatly interested in gaining possession of it. Speaking of Rudolph’s tête-à-tête with the maître d'école, the author says explicitly:

“Rudolph was cruelly anxious; if he let slip this opportunity of seizing the maître d'école, he would probably never have another; the brigand would carry away the secrets that Rudolph was so keen to find out.”

With the maître d'école, Rudolph obtains possession of Countess MacGregor’s portfolio; he seizes the maître d'école out of purely personal interest; he has him blinded out of personal passion.

When Chourineur tells Rudolph of the struggle of the maître d'école with Murph and gives as the reason for his resistance the fact that he knew what was in store for him, Rudolph replies: “He did not know”, and he says “with a sombre mien, his features contracted by the almost ferocious expression of which we have spoken.” The thought of vengeance flashes across his mind, he anticipates the savage pleasure that the barbarous punishment of the maître d'école will afford him.

On the entrance of the Negro doctor David, whom he intends to make the instrument of his revenge, Rudolph cries out:

“'Vengeance!... Vengeance!’ s'écria Rodolphe avec une furtur froide et concentrée” ['Revenge! ... Revenge!’ Rudolph cries out with cold and concentrated fury]

A cold and concentrated fury is seething in him. Then he whispers his plan in the doctor’s ear, and when the latter recoils at it, he immediately finds a “pure” theoretical motive to substitute for personal vengeance. It is only a case, he says, of “applying an idea” that has often flashed across his noble mind, and he does not forget to add unctuously: “He will still have before him the boundless horizon of atonement.” He follows the example of the Spanish Inquisition which, when handing over to civil justice the victim condemned to be burnt at the stake, added a hypocritical request for mercy for the repentant sinner.

Of course, when the interrogation and sentencing of the maître d'école is to take place, His Highness is seated in a most comfortable study in a long, deep black dressing-gown, his features impressively pale, and in order to copy the court of justice more faithfully, he is sitting at a long table on which are the exhibits of the case. He must now discard the expression of rage and revenge with which he told Chourineur and the doctor of his plan for blinding the maître d'école. He must show himself “calm, sad and composed”, and display the extremely comic, solemn attitude of a self-styled world judge.

In order to leave no doubt as to the “pure” motive of the blinding, the silly Murph admits to the envoy Graun:

“The cruel punishment of the maître d'école was intended chiefly to give me my revenge against the assassin.”

In a tête-à-tête with Murph, Rudolph says:

“My hatred of the wicked ... has become stronger, my aversion for Sarah Bags, doubtless because of the grief caused by the death of my daughter.”

Rudolph tells us how much stronger his hatred of the wicked has become. Needless to say, his hatred is a Critical, pure, moral hatred — hatred of the wicked because they are wicked. That is why he regards this hatred as his own progress in the good.

At the same time, however, he betrays that this growth of moral hatred is nothing but a hypocritical justification to excuse the growth of his personal aversion for Sarah. The vague moral idea of his increasing hatred of the wicked is only a mask for the definite immoral fact of his increased aversion for Sarah. This aversion has a very natural and a very personal basis, his personal grief, which is also the measure of his aversion. Sans doute! [doubtless]

Still more repugnant is the hypocrisy to be seen in Rudolph’s meeting with the dying Countess MacGregor.

After the revelation of the mystery that Fleur de Marie is the daughter of Rudolph and the Countess, Rudolph goes up to her “l'air menaçant, impitoyable[looking threatening and pitiless] She begs for mercy.

“Pas de grace,” he replies, ..malédiction sur vous ... vous ... mon mauvais génie et celui de ma race.” [No mercy. A curse on you ... you ... my evil genius and the evil genius of my race]

So it is his “race” that he wishes to avenge. He goes on to inform the Countess how, to atone for his attempted murder of his father, he has taken upon himself a world crusade for the reward of the good and the punishment of the wicked. He tortures the Countess, he abandons himself to his rage, but in his own eyes he is only carrying out the task which he took upon himself after January 13, of “poursuivre le mal”. [prosecuting evil]

As he is leaving, Sarah cries out:

“'Pitié! Je meurs!’ ‘Mourez donc, maudite!’ dit Rodolphe effrayant de fureur”.
['Have pity! I am dying!’ ‘Die then, accursed one!’ replies Rudolph, terrible in his rage]

The last words “effrayant de fureur” betray the pure, Critical and moral motives of his actions. It was the same rage that made him draw his sword against his father, his blessed father, as Herr Szeliga calls him. Instead of fighting this evil in himself he fights it, like a pure Critic, in others.

In the end, Rudolph himself discards his Catholic penal theory. He wanted to abolish capital punishment, to change punishment into penance, but only as long as the murderer murdered strangers and spared members of Rudolph’s family. He adopts the death penalty as soon as one of his kin is murdered; he needs a double set of laws, one for his own person and one for ordinary persons.

He learns from Sarah that Jacques Ferrand was the cause of the death of Fleur de Marie. He says to himself:

“No, it is not enough!... What a burning desire for revenge!... What a thirst for blood!... What calm, deliberate rage!... Until I knew that one of the monster’s victims was my child I said to myself: this man’s death would be fruitless.... Life without money, life without satisfaction of his frenzied sensuality will be a long and double torture.... But it is my daughter!... I shall kill this man!”

And he rushes out to kill him, but finds him in a state which makes murder superfluous.

The “good” Rudolph! Burning with desire for revenge, thirsting for blood, with calm, deliberate rage, with a hypocrisy which excuses every evil impulse with its casuistry, he has all the evil passions for which he gouges out the eyes of others. Only accidental strokes of luck, money and rank in society save this “good” man from the penitentiary.

“The power of Criticism”, to compensate for the otherwise complete nullity of this Don Quixote, makes him “bon locataire”, ‘bon voisin”, “bon ami”, “bon père”, “bon bourgeois”, “bon citoyen”, “bon prince”, [A “good tenant”, a “good neighbour”, a “good friend”, a “good father”, a “good bourgeois”, a “good citizen”, a “good prince"] and so on, according to Herr Szeliga’s gamut of eulogy. That is more than all the results — that “mankind in its entire history” has achieved. That is enough for Rudolph to save “the world” twice from “downfall"!