Marginalia, no.87

Leibnitz, though not murdered, may be said to have died partly of the fear that he should be murdered, and partly of the vexation that he was not.

~ Thomas De Quincey, Murder Considered As One of the Fine Arts

Such a cosmic rebuke.  Leibniz might have thought his murder necessary in the best of all possible worlds.  Mere death is something even the least can aspire to with confidence; the grand endorsement of martyrdom is granted to few.


Filed under Marginalia

3 responses to “Marginalia, no.87

  1. This is good. I’ve a fine friend here who is deep into De Quincey. I’ll see him tomorrow & make mention of it.

    What follows the remarks about Leibniz are almost as good: “Kant, on the other hand–who had no ambition in that way–had a narrower escape from a murderer than any man we read of, except Des Cartes. So absurdly does fortune throw about her favors! The case is told, I think, in an anonymous life of this very great man. For health’s sake, Kant imposed upon himself, at one time, a walk of six miles every day along a highroad. This fact becoming known to a man who had his private reasons for committing murder, at the third milestone from Königsberg, he waited for his “intended,” who came up to time as duly as a mail-coach. But for an accident, Kant was a dead man. However, on considerations of “morality,” it happened that the murderer preferred a little child, whom he saw playing in the road, to the old transcendentalist: this child he murdered; and thus it happened that Kant escaped. Such is the German account of the matter; but my opinion is–that the murderer was an amateur, who felt how little would be gained to the cause of good taste by murdering an old, arid, and adust metaphysician; there was no room for display, as the man could not possibly look more like a mummy when dead, than he had done alive.”

    Thanks for turning me on to this essay, which I’ve just nicked from Project Gutengerg.

  2. Ian Wolcott

    “old, arid, and adust…” I love that.

  3. “Adust,” yes. Kant I find unreadable (in English). And I take Art Schope’s opinion of his prose in German as good currency. Schopenhauer & Nietzsche, come to think of it, are the only German philosophers whose writing (as carried over into English anyway) I can say that I read with pleasure. Nietzsche even had the good sense to single out Emerson as one of the three best prose writers in the 19th century. (In The Gay Science, I believe.)

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