D. Anthony Storm's Commentary on Kierkegaard

First Period: Works of Youth (1834-42)

To Mr. Orla Lehmann

  • To Mr. Orla Lehmann
  • Til Hr. Orla Lehmann
  • 1836
  • KW1, SKS13, SV13, Kjøbenhavns flyvende Post, Interimsblad, 87, April 10, 1836

This is Kierkegaard's fourth published article, and is the third installment in a larger exchange—Kierkegaard's first literary battle. See The Morning Observations for an introduction. In these exchanges between Kierkegaard, Lehmann, and Johannes Hage, accusations against each other broaden to indictments against papers of rival political persuasion. Lehmann and Hage support the liberal press, while Kierkegaard—not exactly a conservative, but more an anti-revolutionary—widens his attack to indict the entire liberal movement.

Lehmann re-enters this hot debate, and seeks to ameliorate matters first by his conciliatory tone, and second by publishing the article under his own name. "To Mr. Orla Lehmann" is Kierkegaard's response. Like Lehmann he published this article under his own name, but brushes aside any irenic verbiage. Kierkegaard is not interested in playing the peacemaker because he seems to be grappling with an issue beyond the grasp of most of his contemporaries—the inability of political reform to solve all of life's difficulties. Lehmann concedes that liberalism must be checked so that it does not indulge in excesses which he claims that the conservatives have indulged in. But this is insufficient for Kierkegaard.

On the surface Kierkegaard keeps the matter on a personal level, defending his earnestness for truth against accusations that he is a mere trumpeter against the evils of the opposing faction, or writing for amusement. But this early distaste for politics would later develop in a buttressed defense against mere political reform. Kierkegaard was always light-years distant from a Karl Marx.