Stylistic Exercises of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung - Karl Marx

Stylistic Exercises of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung by Karl Marx

Karl Marx

Stylistic Exercises of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung


Source: MECW Volume 1, p. 373
Written: on March 13, 1843
First published: in the Rheinische Zeitung No. 72-73, March 14, 1843


Cologne, March 13. The Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung has replied today 146 to our article of March 9 on the deputies to the Provincial Assembly a We do not want to hold back from our readers some samples. of this masterpiece of style. Among other delicacies is the following:

“Thus in far-reaching strokes, not it is true with a halberd, but with its accustomed cudgel the Rhein. Ztg. has let fly at a spectre” (just think! An accustomed cudgel! To let fly in strokes with a cudgel!)"which it believed it perceived in an article of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung, and as is self-evident” (what a luxury, to expend words on things that are self-evident!) “all its strokes fell wide” (fell wide! wide of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung, perhaps on its editor!), “and the attacked” (the spectre was indeed only attacked!) “newspaper finds itself quite unhurt and intact”.

What generous logic, which does not leave to the sagacity of its readers even the conclusion that strokes which fell wide of the attacked newspaper did not fall on the attacked newspaper! What luxury of understanding, what a thoroughgoing narration Only it should be mentioned how interesting it must have seemed to the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung to proclaim that its back was intact. How the imagination of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung is preoccupied with its splendid idea of the “spectre” and the Rhein. Ztg. letting fly at it, and of the cudgel-blows that fell wide, can be demonstrated by the following variations, as ingenious as they are surprising, on this superlative theme. In enumerating them, we will not fail to call attention to their fine nuances and shades. Thus:

1. “ In far-reaching strokes with its accustomed cudgel, the Rhein. Ztg. of March 9 has thus let fly at a spectre which it believed it perceived in an article of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung, and as is self-evident all its strokes fell wide”.

2. “But the article which made the Rhein. Ztg. a spirit-seer (previously the spirit was a spectre, and since when could the Rhein. Ztg. have detected any spirit in the obscure ultramontane paper?) “and consequently a heroine fighting a shadow”.

So this time the shadow of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung at least is said to have been hit!

3. “The Rhein. Ztg., however, which is certainly aware also that in respect of everything substantial, true and solid” (the back of the Rhein- und Mosel Zeitung?) “its powers become a laughing-stock” (and what spiritual power would not become a laughing-stock in respect of a back?), “and which nevertheless for once wants to show that it has horns” (the “accustomed cudgel” has mysteriously turned into “horns") “and can butt” (previously, let fly in far-reaching strokes), “has thought up” (previously “seen” or “believed it has seen") “a spectre which it would like to have regarded as the real spirit of our article” (a repetition to remind the reader of the facts of the matter!), “and against which it vents its anger to its heart’s content and tests its strength” (a clever rhetorical performance), “just as in a bull-baiting the baited beast” (somewhat earlier the Rh. Ztg. was “the man with the cudgel”, so surely the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung is the “beast") “vents its anger on a straw figure thrown to it, and considers itself the victor when it has torn it to pieces”.

It is truly Homeric! just think of its epic amplitude. And how Aesopian, too, this profound insight into animal psychology! This subtle interpretation of the mental state of a bull that considers itself the victor!

It would be “very childish and ingenuous” and no less “insipid and trivial” to want to discuss the subject itself with such an “eminent publicist”. therefore we shall only add the following for a characterisation of the man.

In its article which was so unfortunately attacked, the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitungmerely” expressed “doubt” “whether the attainment of their” (i.e., of the originators of the circular on the election of Herr Camphausen and Herr Merkens) “hopes would really bring back the period of the old Hansa”, but there was in its “article no talk” of “a return to obsolete and decayed conditions”. Let him who can, understand that!

Further:

The Rhein. Ztg. tried to “put forward an obvious lie in saying: ‘Among the interests to be represented in the Provincial Assembly, the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung. mentions only a freer political system of local government and an extension of the rights of the estates’ whereas one can read in the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung the addition: ‘the disclosure of so many other undecided questions in the development of the people’s life’.”

Has then the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung formulated or even mentioned a single one of these “undecided questions"? Does it believe that such vague indecisive phrases as “disclosure of many other undecided questions” could serve as an equivalent of naming these questions for a definite demand to the deputies of the Provincial Assembly? And now let our readers take one more look at the originality of style of the Rhein- und Mosel-Zeitung:

Among “the interests to be represented in it” (i.e., in the Provincial Assembly) is “the disclosure of so many undecided questions in the development of the people’s life"!

An undecided question in the development of the people’s life! A disclosure to be represented!