D. Anthony Storm's Commentary on Kierkegaard

Third Period: The Corsair Affair (1845-46)

The Dialectical Result Of A Literary Police Action

  • The Dialectical Result of a Literary Police Action
  • Det dialektiske resultat af en literair Politi-Forretning
  • Frater Taciturnus
  • January 10, 1846
  • KW13, SKS13, SV13, Fædrelandet 9

For background material to The Corsair Affair, see The Activity of a Traveling Esthetician. In this second of two articles that he contributed, also by the same pseudonym, Kierkegaard again attacks the corrupt paper and its function as a gossip rag.

In the former article Kierkegaard focused his attention mostly on the person of P. L. Møller, but also facetiously asked to appear in The Corsair. In this shorter article he asks to be abused in its pages. He will not suffer himself to be praised by such a paper. As it turned out, The Corsair was all too happy to oblige, and sustained his request for months to such an extent that Kierkegaard refrained himself from further public response in the matter. We do, however, get a glimpse of his reaction and mood from the numerous journal entries during this time. But in his second public response, he says the following.

With a paper like The Corsair, which hitherto has been read by many and all kinds of people and essentially has enjoyed the recognition of being ignored, despised, and never answered, the only thing to be done in writing in order to express the literary, moral order of things—reflected in the inversion that this paper with meager competence and extreme effort has sought to bring about—was for someone immortalized and praised in this paper to make application to be abused by the same paper (p. 47).

What made The Corsair difficult to attack was that men were paid to take the fall should the censor's ax fall or a libelous suit be brought against the paper. These front-men would serve a short sentence and receive remuneration for their efforts, while protecting the editors.

...when the person who carries on the contemptible trade of vilification perhaps time and again offends the gods with his prayer that his business may flourish, that there may always be more and more people to vilify, more and more active assistants of irascibility and spite on the paper, when in the work of his trade he indulges and enjoys himself in the delusion of impotence and bad temper—namely, that it is dreadful to be the object of his abuse—until he insanely goes so far as even to believe that others are living in the same delusion; and because he never gets an answer and always has the last word, he believes that people are afraid of him, just as in ordinary life no one is as sure to claim the right of way on the sidewalk as a prostitute is. While he sits busy at work in his workshop, protected against legal punishment by a staff of street-corner loafers standing in for him, protected from literary polemic by the paper's contemptibleness... (p. 49).

Kierkegaard concludes with his now famous formal taunt that launched the full assault from The Corsair.

May I asked to be abused—the personal injury of being immortalized by The Corsair is just too much (p. 50).