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Philhellenism and
Antisemitism: Matthew
Arnold and his German
S o one says it, hut every one knolvs
that pantlleisrn is an open secret in Gevmany. We h a w , in fact, outgrown deism.
We are free and don't want any thunderitlg tyrant. Me are of age and need no
parental care. Nor are lve the botches of
any great mechanic. Deisnl is a religion
for servants. for children, for the
Genevese; fbr .ivatcllmakers. . .and every
deist is, after all, a Jew.

- Heinrich Heine'

I T H SOME NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS, such as George Eliot,

virtually everyone who put pen to paper in the nineteenth century, it seems, is vulnerable to the charge of antisemitism. It is not
easy to draw any other conclusion from Leon Poliakov's rich compendium of opinions about Je~vsand Judaism from Voltaire to Wagner.
Interest in Jews, it appears, almost invariably had an antisemitic slant.
Antisemitism has many strands, ho~vever,and the term may be too
broad to be usefully applied. As there are degrees of racism-the residual prejudice that emerges in an occasional tasteless remark or
traditional ethnic joke being of a different order from deliberately
espoused, programmatic racism-so
there are degrees of
antisemitism. This is unlikely to have been any less the case at a time
~ ~ h Jews
e n enjoyed full civil rights only in very few places and were

"Religion dnd Philosoph~in germ an^" (1834) 181,223

known to many people chiefly through folk legends about their religious practices and popular accounts of their alleged part in the Crucifixion. It may even 11e that modern ;tntisemitism-antisemitism as
an ideology-de1:eloped only c$"iPr. tlte einancipation of the Jews in
the course of the nineteenth century. Isolated, derogatory remarks
about Jews should thus probably be viewed as the common currency
of a time when Jews were in fact. barely tolerated strangers atncl there
was less incentive than now to curb inconsiderate langua,(re or to
check the expression of unreflected prejudice.
There are probably good grounds, moreover, for distinguishing
between antirJutfaisnl and antisemitism. The former, I ~vouldargue.
is a philosophical and ideological posit.ion that might well be shared
by emancipated Jews t1lemsel~:esanci that often went hand in hand
n-it11 enthrlsiasrll Sor the culture of' ancient Greece. Antisemitism, in
contrast, is directed toward li~~ing.Jews
as a social and ethnic group
and, in the nineteenth century, usually implied resistance to granting
them equal civil rights with Gentiles and recognizing them as citizens. Both the young Hegel and Nietzsche, for instame, were anti~Judaicbut arguably not antisemitic in the sense described. The
young Hegel disliked Juctaism as a religion, but supported Je~vish
ernancipation. Nietzsche's contempt for the popular and demagogic
antisemitisill of his time is well known. Nevertheless. contempt for
Judaism as a religion of' servitllde, resentment, mechanical obedience to precept. and hair-splitting, dry-as-dust rabbinical scholarship
was not always clistinct from distaste for certain alleged physical and
moral charact.eristics of J e ~ v sNor
. ~ did support for Jewish ernancipa'See Elisabrth dc Fonrctlan?; 55 (whesc the ciain-,is lnade that "antiljudaismr," in
the sense of a critique ofludaism ns a religion, may go hand in hand with 'philosirnitisme.'' in the scrlse of support for jet+-is11cn~ancipation):and I ti4 (whet-e the
distinction betwee11 ':jilifs philosophiquea" ;rnd "Juifs sociologiquc~,"between "antijudaisme" ant1 "anti-sCmitiqn~e"is hedged rorlnd with the caveat that "ccs deux perspectives. I'une pluc il~(.taphysique,l'autre plus sociologique, se recoilprnt toujoura
en m?me temps qrt'c,llcs divergent." Fontcr~ayevokes the exalrlplr ol' tlcgel, who
"parlant p6jorativrnlent du jutlaisme, es1 vicnt insidieuseme~ltB ~rleilrionnerfe
inalheul. herirk dcs Juifs actuels, lui qui d'ailleurs d6fetid lcur tlroit 5
I'emancipation." 1-11? reference is n o doubt to the passage in "The Spirit of Christianity" iwritteu 1798-99, itnpuhlished iri F-tcgei's lifetinre) where EIegel writes that
"the subsequent circumstances oI' the l c w i ~ hpeopie u p to the mcan, abject.
I\-retchectcircuinstat~cesin ~v11ic.hthe)- still :ire toctay, h a ~ eall of tlleril been sirnply
consequencer, and clabot-ationa of their original fatc" ( 0 7 2 (XI-isiinnify 199).
Fontenay's attempt to spirir :away Mars's antiselnitism by presrnting 'Jews" in Uarx
as a "metonymy oi bou~.aeoir,
society" is criticized by Francia Kaplan (61-62),who also
elrlpllasizes the easc rvith which the "philosopllical" critique ofJudaisrn as a religion
eqt le fond5

can shade off into pl;iia, ;inticemitism. M'hen hlarx asks rhetorically "QLI~I
profane drt juctaismc?" and answci-s "Le besoin pratique, I'utiliti personnelle . . .

I'abaissement effectif de la natrire, le mipt-is tie I:I theorie, de l'art. d r i'histoirr, rlt.


tion imply respect for or even tolerance of Jewisli religious beliefs

and practices. Anti-Judaism easily spilled over into antisemitism. A
fairly convincing case could even be made for the proposition that
anti-Judaism was only the respectable mask of an unavo~7ed
antisemitism. It is all tlie more striking that despite tlie vehemence of
his well-known criticism of excessive English a n d American
"Hebraising," Matthew7 Arnold turns out to be considerably more attached to the values of "Hebraism" and considerably less vulnerable
to the appeal of antisemitism than most of the German writers from
~7lionllie borro~7ednot only his celebrated antithesis of Hellenism
and Hebraism but also the twin ideals-wl-iich seem to have been always associated with the first term in that antithesis, never with the
second-of tlie fully developed harmonious individual and of the
state as the embodiment of culture.
,bnold's criticism of the "excess" of "Hebraism" in England and his
advocacy of a stronger dose of "Hellenism" in the famous fourtll
chapter of Cultut-Pand Amt-chj put us on tlie track of ~7liatappears to
be a historical coiinection between pliilliellenism and anti-Judaism."
Normally, the tern1 "philhellenism" is used to describe the upsurge of
support among liberal and educated Europeans, of whom Byron was
the most illustrious, for the Greek independence movement against
the Ottoman Enlpire in the third decade of the nineteenth century. I
use it here in a broader sense to include not only tlie revival of interest in and entl-iusiasm for ancient Greece, which began in Germany
in the second half of the eighteenth centuiy wit11 Winckelnlann and
\Irolf, and wliicli n o doubt laid the foundations of the political
pl-iill-iellenismof the nineteenth, but also tlie entire "neohumanist"
movement in German literature, education, and politics. Growing
out of the work of Winckelmann and Wolf, "neohumanism" took
deeper root in Germany than in any other European country and
resulted in tlie sweeping educational reforms enacted by the Prussian
Department of Education under Willielm Iron Hunlboldt and his assistant Johann Willielm Siivern. Goethe, Schiller, Holderlin, the
Humboldts, and Hegel were all nourislled at the neollumanist source
and contributed to it. Its effects were felt in Germany into the early
twentietli century, ~7lienthere ~7asa remarkable renewal of interest
in Winckelmann in the famous George-Krei.5,tlie circle of writers, art~


I'homme conaitli.ri. comme aon propre but,'' at least part of that reply. accorditlg to
ICaplan, can feed into the popular stereotype of the Jew as selfish. greedy, arld indifferent to others (4.5).
For a brief gerleral account of arlcietlt Greek and Rolrlan hostility to Jutlaiam ant1
Jervs, see Carloa Li.\?..

ists, scholars, and philosophers that had formed around the poet
Stefan George.
Tlle basis of German pl-iill-iellenismor neol-iumanisnl was the conviction that ancient Greece represented an ideal condition of freedom and harmony: free and l-iarmonious development of all human
capacities in each individual and free and llarnlonious development
of the polis or community. Having fallen away from that original condition, modern man must strive to recover it by eliminating everything that stood between llinl and it, including the distortions of a
misguided (predominantly Roman Catl-iolic) baroque and rococo
classicism that imitated the external forms of antiquity without penetrating to the original spirit that had animated them. This new Reformation would result, it ~7ashoped, in the overcoming of all the
destructive dualisms that cllaracterize the life of modern man-matter and spirit, the ethical and the aesthetic, substance and form, reason and passion, the sacred and the profane-and the restoration of
freedom, beauty, and l-iarmony to the individual and the conlnlunity.' Tl'inckelmann's cult of antique statuary, and in particular of the
male nude, marked his rejection of the distinction between the inner
and the outer, spirit and matter. In their plastic representations of
the free, self-sufficient male body, the Greeks had symbolized for
Winckelmann the unity and harmony of nlan and nature, the human
and the divine. The symbol itself, being both the sign and the thing
signified-in contrast to traditional neoclassical allegory, in which
sign and signified are clearly distinguished-was an expression of the
new ideal of unity as opposed to the old dualisms." Beauty was nothing other than that harmonious unity of inner and outer, spirit and
form, the divine and the human, ~71iicllthe ancients alone had
achieved. "The foundation of higher study," Hegel declared in his
rectorial address at the Niirnberg Gymnasium in 1809,
nrust be arld relnairl Greek literature in the first place. Rolnatl in the aecond. The
perfection and glory of those inaaterpieces inust be the spiritual bath. the aecular
baptiam that first and itltlelibly atturles and tincturea the soul in reapect of taste and
knorvledge. For this initiation a general, perfur~ctoryacquairltatlce with the ancients
is rlot sufficient; rve nrust take up our lodging with thein ao that rve can breathe their
air, absorb their ideas, their manners. one inight ever1 say their errora and prejudices. and beconre at hoine in this world-the fairest that ever has been. While the
first paradise rvas that of humatl nniulv. this ia the aecontl, the higher paradiae of the
human @it-it, the paradise rvhere the human spirit emerges like a bride from her
chamber, erldowed with a fairer naturalness, with freedom, depth. arld sererlity

' For a allort overview of the esserltials of neohumanism, see my article, "The 'trvo
cultures' it1 nineteenth century Baale" (99-105).
See the invaluable study of Betlgt Surensen.


The hunran spirit ~nanifestsits profundity here n o longer in c o n f ~ ~ s i ogloonr,

arrogance, but in perfect clarity. Its serenity is not like the play of children; it is
rather a veil spread over the mela~lcholywhich is Familiar rvith the cruelty of fate but
is not thereby driver1 to lose its freetlorll and noder ration . . . If rve nrake ourselves at
home in such an element, all the powera of the soul are sti~nulated,developed, and
exercised. ("On Classical Studies" 321-23)

In the reconstruction of man and the polis proposed by tlie

neoliumanists-partly, no doubt, as an alternative to the purely "material" political ideals of the French Revo1ution"tkie
study of Greek
language and culture was to play a crucial role. For the old grammatical study of the ancient languages, whicl-i concentrated on "external"
forms, the neol-iumanists wanted to substitute the study of language
as a unity of form and creative spirit. "The works of tlie ancients,"
Hegel explained, "contain the most noble food in the most noble
form: golden apples in silver bo~vls.They are incomparably richer
than all the works of any other nation and of any other time . . . These
riches, however, are intimately connected with the language, and
only tllrougll and in it, do we obtain them in all their special significance. Tlleir content can be approximately given us by translations,
but not their form, not their ethereal soul." What tlie student was to
appropriate was not tlie rules of Greek grammar or composition, but
the creative genius of the Greek people which was held to be chiefly
accessible tl-irougli their language. "Imitation" of the Greeks, in art,
in language, in ethics and politics ~vouldthus result not in tlie mechanical and slavish reproduction of tlie old, but in tlie production of
new and original work in the spirit of the Greeks, that is to say, in that
spirit of beauty and harmony that centuries of alienated culture had
all but eradicated from the human consciousness. "It is necessary," in
Hegel's view, "that we appropriate the world of antiquity not only to
possess it, but even more to digest and transform it" ("On Classical
Studies" 326-27).
How Christianity, or even Enlightenment deism, or the Kantian
pl-iilosophywl-iich strongly influenced a number of the neohumanists
could be made compatiblk with this f~indamentallyimmanentist vision of man and the ~vorldwas not always clear. To some, like Heine,
it could not. In "Concerning The History of Philosophy and Theology in Germany" he denounced not only Christianity but deism as
fundamentally hostile to beauty, joy, and man's inner harmony. But
" "M" are fighting not for the human rights of the people but for the divine rights
of mankind," Heine rvas to write in the early thirtiea; "we d o not rvant to be sansculottes, nor simple citi~ens,nor ~ e n apresidents;
r2.e rvant to found a democracy of
gods. equal in majesty, in sanctity, and in bliss" ("Religion and Philosophy in Germany" 180).


the irreconcilable enemy of Greek harmony and of the Greek sense

of beauty was Jewish spiritualism and dualism. "The Jews looked on
the body as something inferior, as a wretched cloak for the m n c h
hnlrodeslr, the holy breath, the spirit, and only to the latter clicl they
award their attention, their reverence, their ~vorship."No wonder
"the Jews, the Swiss guard of deism," had been "inexorable" in their
hounding of the pantheist in their midst, Benedict Spinoza. As for
tlle Christians, they "went much further" even than the Jews and "regarded [the body] as something objectionable, soinething bad, as
evil itself." Inevitably, in the art and literature influenced by Christianity, "there is no obvious harmony between form and idea as with
the Greeks" (177,174,177, 163).
The young Hegel of "The Spirit of Christianity" found a way of accommodating Christianity by representing it as the reconciliation of
Greek religion, the soul of which is beauty, and Kantian reason, the
core of ~vllicl-iis morality. Love, the moral principle of the Gospel, is
the beauty of the heart, a spiritual beauty combining the Greek soul
and Kant's moral reason. In this conception it was Judaism that became the "villain of tlle piece," as Richard Kroner put it ( 9 ) .
"Abraham wanted no/ to love," Hegel tells us, "wanted to be free by
not loving" ("The Spirit of Christianity" 185). MThile Hegel recognizes that for culture to exist, man must be able to work on "nature"
and "spirit" and must therefore transform them into his "object," he
distinguishes bet~veena radical and destructive alienation-that of
the Je~vs-and a milcl and productive one, that of the Greeks.
The substance of Kature and Spirit 1nust have confronted us. must hale taken the
shape of so~nethingalien to ua. before it can becollie our object. Cnhappy he ~vhose
iln~rlediate\zrorld of feelings has been alienated froin him-for this means nothing
leaa than the snapping of thoae bonda of faith. love. and trnst which unite heart and
head in a holy friendship. The alienation ~vhichis the condition of theoretical erudition does not require this moral pain, or the sufferinga of the heart, but onlv the
easier pain and atrain of the imagination which is ocrnpied with ao~nethingnot given
in immediate experience, aolnething foreign, something pertaining to recollection.
to memory and the thinking milld. ("On Clasairal Stndies" 327-28)

The patriarch of Judaism appears in Hegel's early writings as h a p

ing deliberately chosen the most extreme and inhuman form of
;\braham, born in Chaldea, had in youth already left a fatherland in hia father's
company. No\zr, in the plains of I\llesopotamia. he tore hirnself free altogether frorn
his family as xvell, in order to be a \zrholly self-subsistent. independent rnan, to be an
overlord hinuelf. He did thia without having been injnred or disowned. without the
grief which after a wrong 01- an outrage signifies love's enduring need, when love.
injured but not lost, goea in quest of a new fatherland in order to flourish and eljoy
itself there. The firat art ~vhichtnade ;\braham the progenitor of the ilatiorl is a dis-


severance which s n a p the b o ~ l d sof cotlltllu~lallife and ]ole. The entirety of relationships in which he had hitherto lived with rnen and nature, theae beautif111
relationships of hia yot1t11 (Joshua 24.2). he spurned. ("The Spirit of Christianitv"

As a result, the world was forever disenchanted. Tlie Jews never

knew the harmonious "second paradise" of the Greeks. They lived in
a world that tliey regarded as utterly alien to them, to wl-iich tliey had
no ties, and for which they had no love. Witli no sense of the immanence of the divine, they had no feeling for beauty. "An image of God
was just stone or ~voodto them; . . . tliey despise the image because it
does not manage them, and tliey have no inkling of its deification in
the enjoyment of beauty or in a lover's intuition" ("The Spirit of
Christianity" 192).Judaism so understood might well seem to be in
league with modern science or wit11 the utilitarianism of tlie despised, practical, "pl-iilistine"Englisl-1.
Hegel constantly contrasts the Greeks and the Jews, invariably to
tlie disadvantage of tlie latter. In tlieir representations of man's
struggle ~vithnature, the Greeks seek reconciliation, an end to dualism: "Deucalion and Pyrrl-la, . . . after the flood in tlieir time, invited
men once again to friendship witl-1 tlie world, to nature, made them
forget their need and their hostility in joy and pleasure, made a peace
of 1071e, were the progenitors of more beautiful peoples, and made
tlieir age the mother of a newborn natural life whicl-i maintained its
bloom of youth." Noah, in contrast, sought masten over nature at the
price of submission to an all-po~verfulforce alien to both himself and
nature. Likewise Abraham, as we saw, left liis fatherland but refused
to become attached to any new land. "Tlie groves which often gave
him coolness a n d shade lie soon left again; in them lie had
theophanies, appearances of his perfect Object on High, but lie did
not tarry in them ~viththe love wl-iich ~vouldhave made tliem ~vortliy
of the Divinity and participant in Him. He was a stranger on earth, a
stranger to the soil and to men alike . . . He entered into no ties . . .
He steadily persisted in cutting himself off from others, and he made
this conspicuous by a physical peculiarity imposed on himself and liis
posterity." Cadmms and Dana~ls,in contrast, who also forsook their
fatlierland, 'ivent in quest of a soil ~vlier-ethey would be free and tliey
sougl-it'it that they might love . . . In order to live in pure, beautiful
unions, as was no longer given to tliem in their own land, [they] carried their gods fort11 wit11 them . . . [and] by their gentle arts and
manners won over the less civilized aborigines and intermingled witli
them to form a l-iappy and gregarious people" ("The Spirit of Cliristianity" 182-86).


Since theJews insist on maintaining tl-ieir distance from nature and

others and have removed their "perfect Object on High" far out of
the world, the divine for them is never incarnate, it is never , ~ I - P S P ? Zin
the world, even in the holiest of holies. For them, according to Hegel,
the sacred and the profane are two unconnecting realms, ~vkiereasfor
the Greeks the one informs the other. "The concealment of God in
the Holy of Holies h a d a significance quite different from t h e
arcanum of the Eleusinian gods. From the pictures, feelings, inspiration, and devotion of Eleusis, from these revelations of god, n o one
was excluded; but they might not be spoken of, since words would
have desecrated them. But of their objects and actions, of the la~vsof
their service, the Israelites might ~vellchatter (Deuteronomy 30.1 l ) ,
for in these there is nothing holy. The ho<y was alrdajs outsid? them,
unseen and u~zfilt''(italics added). Even the holy days of the Jews in n o
way signified a transformation of the mundane; sacred time is another
time. The day of rest is kept "in a complete vacuum, in an inactive
unity of spirit" and "the time dedicated to God is an empty time"
("The Spirit of Christianity" 193).Finally, equality as envisaged by the
J e w is the equality h1ontesquieu attributed to the subjects of a tyrant,
not the equality of the free citizens of the ancient republics. "The
Greeks were to be equal because all were free, self-subsistent; theJews
equal because all were incapable of self-subsistence" ("The Spirit of
Christianity" 198). Hegel also subscribed, as one might expect, to
what had already been a criticism of Jewish religious practice in antiquity and was to become a commonplace of all nineteenth-century
discussion of the Jews: tl-ieir dry, mechanical legalism, wllicll contrasted unfavorably wit11 both the life-giving charity of the Christians
and the natural spontaneity and creativeness of the Greeks. "'4n essential of tlleir religion was the performance of a countless mass of
senseless and meaningless actions"; "the holiest of things, namely,
the service of God and virtue, was ordered and compressed in dead
formulas"; and lives were "spent in a monkish preoccupation with
petty, mechanical, spiritless, and trivial usages" ("On Christianity" 69,
Judaism, in short, with its deus absconditu~,its radical alienation, its
stark dualisms, and its rigid, inflexible obedience to the letter of the
law, is identified with lifeless mechanism, repression, a n d death;
youth, life, and the harmony of beauty belong, in contrast, to Christianity, but especially to the Greeks, ~vitl-itlleir feeling for the continuity of the divine, the human, and the natural and tlleir empllasis o n
freedom rather than punctual fulfillment of commands. Judaism represents the dead ~vorldof allegory in contrast to the living world of

symbol: "It is true only o f objects, o f things lifeless," Hegel notes i n a

passage o f " T h e Spirit o f Christianity" concerning t h e Trinity, "that
t h e wl-iole is other than t h e parts; i n t h e living thing, o n t h e other
h a n d , t h e part o f t h e whole is o n e and t h e same as t h e whole. I f particular objects, as substances, are linked together while each o f t h e m
yet retains its character as an individual (as numerically o n e ) , t h e n
their c o m m o n characteristic, their unity, is only a concept, n o t an
essence, n o t sometlling being. Living things, l-iowever, are essences,
even i f they are separate, and their unity is still a unity o f essence.
T~fliatis a contradiction i n t h e realm o f t h e dead is n o t o n e i n t h e
realm o f life" ( " T h e Spirit o f Christianity" 2 6 1 ) .
By t h e middle o f t h e nineteenth century, according to t h e authors
o f an illuminating study o f antisemitism i n Nietzsche, t h e antithesis
o f "Hellenes and Jews" was part o f t h e repertory o f antisemitism
among the educated classes i n Germany. "Over against plastic art, t h e
beauty o f youth, eroticism, and creativity were set t h e prohibition o f
images, original sin, t h e mortification o f t h e body; over against t h e
noble and heroic life, elevated by dyonisiac extasy and t h e sense o f
t h e tragic, was set everytl-ling that could b e disparaged as d e m o cratic, philistine, plebeian"(Hubert Cancik and Hildegard CancikLindemaier) .
Like t h e young Hegel, a n u m b e r o f writers sought to distinguish
between Judaism and Ckiristianity, so as to save t h e latter f r o m t h e
condemnation o f t h e former. S o m e , like W a g n e r and Lagarde i n
Germany or Emile B u r n o u f in France, imagined a Christianity completely cleansed o f Judaism (Uriel Tal 223-89). This m o v e m e n t culminated in t h e heresy o f t h e so-called 1)~utsclreCh7-istm i n t h e 1930s.
By t h e end o f t h e nineteenth century, t h e criticism o f monotl-ieism
and its repressive and "senile" moral code had b e c o m e so vocal and
pervasive that, t o d e f e n d Christianity f r o m it, even highly respected
liberal tl-ieologians, sucli as Adolf v o n Harnack, argued for t h e independence o f Christianity f r o m a petrified and legalistic Judaism and
advocated t h e removal o f t h e Old Testament f r o m t h e Bible.'
Another group, which included Feuerbach and Nietzsche, as well
as t h e notoriously antisemitic Eugen Diihring, lumped Christianity
with Judaism and rejected b o t h . For Dullring, t h e struggle against
Robert P. Ericksen; see alao Tal 1'31-92. 200-201, 217-18. .According to Jenkyna
(72), Kelvman in England held a aornewhat aimilar poaition at one point in his career: "Newman's per~eraelysystematic mind had not only divided Hellenism aharply
from Hebraism, but had aeparated Christianity no leas sharply from both. Christ xvaa
neither Greek norJew. . ."Jenkyns also quotes a cornrnent by George Eliot about her
contemporaries: "They hardly know that Christ was a Je\v."


Judaism was bound u p with the struggle against nlonotheistic religion and hence also against the forces suppressing the free and natural impulse in life itself. "The religious systems," lie wrote in W ~ rde.5
Lebens (1877), "are a chapter in tlle study of tlie diseases of the universal history of tlie spirit, for religion, including Christianity, is tlle
quintessence of tlie 'hatred of life' . . . and tlle eradication of tlie
natural instincts." There was n o point in combatting Judaism with
Christianity. Christian antisemitism "ignores tlie basic truth that
Christianity itself is semitic, a truth which should be tlie point of departure of all true anti-Hebraism.""'That
was also, basically,
Nietzsche's view, according to H u b e r t a n d Hildegard Cancik.
Nietzclie's antisemitism, they claim, must be understood as
antisemitism "raised to tlie second power, more subtle, less vulgar,
deepened by historical and philosophical arguments and expressed
in brilliant language." Nietzsche's position was "that Christian
antisemitism is a pure and simple stupidity, since Christianity itself is
a heightened Judaism . . . MThoever would combat Judaism and its
morality, cannot, in Nietzsche's view, be Christian" (42) .;'
Both passages, the second from a text of 1882, are quoted by Tal (264-63).In the
early decades of the twentieth century in France, the ~iervsof Charles Maurras. chief
ideologiat of the radical right-rving and antisemitic Action j'm~z(ais(: rvere aimilar,
though Maurras's ernphasis falls rnore on restraint and order (which he aswciated
with classical antiqnit)) than on energy and life: "Admirateur d e l'antiq~iitk
classique, LIaurras ne se sent i l'aise que dans le paganisrile. 11 connait LucrSce par
coenr. Le polythkiame grec lui a toujours paru un chef d'oeuare de mesure, d'ordre
et d'harrnonie puisqu'il aasigne a chaque dkair humain une divinitk preciae. ;\insi
l'orientation du dkair, diirnent canaliske n e riaqne-t-elle pas d e prendre le c h e ~ n i nde
1'Infini. Dans le paysage mi.diterranken, la lumic?re d u soleil desaine nettement lea
contours et les ombres: i l'homme d'y prendre aa place. sans r@reani chi~nsrea
insenskes. en acceptant d e ae soumettre i cet ordre pret.tabli. C'est la condition du
bonheur. L'esprit biblique. les Evangiles de 'quatre juifs obscurs,' Jkrusalem et la
synagogue aont Yenus rornpre ce be1 equilibre. Le christianis~neest aussi dangereux
que le judaisrne pour le maintien de la ci~ilisation. . . L'aire d e l'humaniti. civiliske
n e dkborde guc?re lea rivages d e la Mkditerranke (encore faut-il prkciaer
k1editerrani.e occidentale j u s q u ' i la Grece incluae, rnaia pas au-deli)" (Jacquea
Pr6rotat 250-32).
'.As the irnplicationa of late nineteenth-century anti-Judaism and antisetnitiam became unmistakably clear in the trventieth century. many Chriatians came to the defenae of Judaiam. Kicolaa Rerdyaer, for instance, emphasi7ed the Judaic roots of
Christianity, arguing that "in ita human origina, [Christianity] is a religion of rnessianic and prophetic type. the apirit of rvhich, as utterly foreign to Graeco-Roman spiritual culture as to Hindu culture, rvas introduced into rvorld religioua thought by the
Jervish prople. The 'I\ryan' spirit ia neither meaaianic nor prophetic . . ." (1-2). On
the other hand, aome Jervish thinkers hare maintained that the dnaliam rvhich the
Gertnan philhellenes so detested is Christian, not Jerviah. Roaen7rveig claimed that
the Jerv is destined by his religion to remain in the Jervish rvorld of his birth and is
expected only to perfect his Judaiam. The Christian, on the other hand, being by
nature pagan, has to rvithdrarvfrorn the rvorld to rvhich he belonga, repeal hia nature,


Increasingly, tlle attacks o n "Semitic" repression of the "natural instincts" and on tlie servile morality of Jews and Christians alike were
made in the name of "Aryan" o r "Nordic-Germanic" l-ieroism and
manliness. Diihring argued that "the Nordic idols and tlle Nordic
God contain a natural kernel and n o thousand-year-old distraction
can remove it from the world . . . Here has reigned an imaginative
spirit incomparably superior to tlle Jewish slave imagination"
(quoted in Tal 266). But tlle underlying reference was ultimately to
the ancient Greeks, witli whom, since 'r$'inckelmann and M'olf, tlie
Germails had felt a special affinity. To this affinity tlle early sociologist Will-ielm Heinricli Riel11 bears unaffected testimony in his
recollections of student life at a German Gymnasium around midcentury:
We regarded Greece as our second ho~neland;for it was the aeat of all nobility of
thought and feeling, the home of har~nonioushumanity. Yes, we even thought that
ancient Greece belonged to Gerrnany because. of all the rnodern peoples, the GerInana had deleloped the deepest underatanding of the Hellenic spirit, of Hellenic
art, and of the harmonioua Hellenic way of life. M" thought this in the exuberance of
a national pride, in virtue of which we proclaimed the Gerrnan people the leading
culture of the modern world and the Germana the modern Hellenes. M-e announced
that Hellenic art and nature had been reborn more completely in German poetry
and rnusic than in the poetry and music of any other people of the contemporary
world . . . Our enthusias~nfor Greece rvas inseparable from our enthusiasm for our
fatherland . . . IVe looked back to classical antiquity as to a lost paradise."

In Nietzsclie's A7zti-C/crist the link is between'tlle Hyperborean creed

of power, strength, and joy, on the one hand, and, o n tlie other, the
archaic, aristocratic Greece of tlie Dorians, rather than tlle popular
a n d liberal Hellenism beloved of early pliill~ellenes like
and break rvith his original paganism, in order to carry out the precepta of his faith
(see Berdyaev 23).Josue Jehonda claima that the Christians are rebellious, the Jews
traditional. The Christians created the opposition betrveen Jerusalem. the city of
God's juatice, and Athens and Rome, the political city. Thua "la vraie cause d e tout
anti-ae~nitismeeat le dualia~nechr6tien." Pagan antisernitism was in reality directed
against the Chriatiana. They were seen as subversi~es.The J e w , in contraat, were
"aimed to
recognized as a national group. Thua in our own times, N a ~ antisetnitistn
deatroy, through the Jervs, the entire Christian world" (Jehonda 108-110).

Kzilturgcsc.hic.hllic.hrChnrnklrr/ti;lfc (1891), quoted in Frit7 Rlattner 161-62.

" The

point is rnmade forcefully by Hubert Cancik, "Philhellenism and AntiSemitisrn in Gerrnany (11)" 7-10. The rehabilitation of the Dorians began torvard the
cloae of the eighteenth century with the Greek Relival in architecture, for which
IVinckehnann himself had prepared the ground. In England, the aecond ~ o l u r n eof
Stuart and Relett's Ailtiqziitics of2-llhrnr (1787) revealed a Greek architecture unlike
anything rnen had imagined, and the logue of the "Greek style" to which it gave rise
prompted eatabliahed architects like Sir Williarn Cha~nberato attack the "gouty columns" and "disproportionate architrales" of the Doric. The editor of the third


The identification of Germans and Hellenes was thus an essential

aspect of the struggle for the German soul against "Hebraism" in the
nineteenth centurv. Feuerbacll clainled that science and art originated only in polytl-ieism, since "polytl-ieism is tlie open, unresentful
feeling for everything that is good, without differentiation; tlie feeling for the ~vorld,for the universe." F\:hereas "tlie Greeks contemplated nature ~vithtlie theoretical seilses . . . heard heavenlv music in
the l-iarmonious course of the stars . . . and saw pictures emerge in tlie
shape of Venus Xnadvomene from tlie foam of tlie ocean," the -Tews
"only enjoyed nature through their palate. They only became men of
God tlirougli the enjoyment of manna. Eating is the most solemn act
. . . of the Jewisl-i religion . . . In eating man declares nature to be a
nullity in itself."':'
If Judaism and Christianity had "stupefied" the Germans and
"blunted their senses," "impaired the understanding and the spirit,"
vigor and life would be restored to them through the aristocratic and
tragic culture of ancient Greece. That was the essential message of
Nietzsche a n d of his followers. Tlle attack o n \t7ilamowitz bv
Nietzscl-ie and his sympathizers was an attack o n a classical scholar
- -

r o l u ~ n eU'illey
Releley. leaped to the defense of the style that possessed, h e claimed,
"a rnaaculine boldnesa," "an arvfi~ldignity a n d grandeur" (aee Jenkyns 1 2 ) . But it was
in Germany that the Doric antl then the Dorians enjoyed tile greatest rogue. Goethe
recorded his disorientation a n d arve before the ruina of Paeatutn in a \veil-knorvn
paasage of the Italian Joumry: "In the diatance appeared sotne huge quadrilateral
Inasaes, and rvhen we finally reached them. rve were at first uncertain ~ v h e t h e rrve
were driving through rocks o r ruina. T h e n we recognized rvhat they were, the rernains of temples. . . k l i e p quickly choose a favourable spot frotn rvhich to draw this
lery unpicturesque landscape . . . At first sight [the temples] excited nothing but
stupefaction. I found ~nyaelfin a \vorld which was cornpletelr; atrange to me. In their
evolution from austerity to charm, the centuries hare simnltaneously shaped and
even created a different m a n . O u r eyes antl, through them, o u r whole sensibility
h a r e becorne so conditioned to a more blender style of architecture that these
crolvded maasea of stumpy conical columns appear offenaire and even terrieing . . ."
(209-10). In the work of Carl Otfried hliiller (Dir Dorirr, 1824) and in that of his
student, Ernst Curtius, the author of a much translated a n d widely read Histo)? of
C;l-cccc (1857-(il), it was the inlading Korthel.11 Hellenes o r Dorians ( t h e n a m e
Ilorian is said to be d e r i ~ e dfrorn Ilorua, o n e of the sons of Hellen), ~ v l ~thrusting
south to\vard the Peloponnese, were the actire, "manly" power that fecundated the
somnolent, "fe~ninilie"Pelasgians, a n d forged the greatness of ancient Greece.
"From the Hellenes sprang entirely new currents of life," according to Curtius. "The
Pelasgian titnes lie in the background-a vast period of monotony: irnpulse a n d motion are firat c o ~ n ~ n u n i c n t eby
d Hellen and hia aona; and rvith their a r r i ~ a lhistory
commences. I\ccordingly we tnust interpret them to signify tribes which, endowed
with apecial gifta, and anirnated by special powers of action, issue forth frotn the Inasa
of a great people, a n d extend themaelres in it aa warriors" (41). Miiller's a n d
Curtiua'a view of the Dorians was taken over in Britain, where there waa a strong
ternptation to associate the Dorian "highlanders".ivith the Scots (see Jenkyns 167).


dcs (,.hnslrnlums, ch. 12, quoted in Poliakov 415

w h o , it was alleged, was incapable o f understanding t h e glorious, heroic, and tragic culture o f Greece and w h o kept importing into his
interpretation o f it alien, "philistine" notions o f virtue, sin, and repentance. "Sin is M'ilamowitz's favorite word," o n e critic declared i n a
review o f Wilarnowitz's translation o f t h e Greek tragic writers. " H e
uses it to translate a whole range o f Greek terms. It can b e said a
priori that this is a mistake i n t h e case o f the older classical tragedy.
T h e idea o f sin is so closely b o u n d u p for u s with notions o f punishm e n t and the in-junction t o repent, that it ought t o b e k e p t well away
f r o m this tragic art. A contrite and submissive heart map have b e e n
pleasing to the Jewish-Christian god. T h e tragic sense is quite differe n t . Kepentance and penance would have seemed entirely o u t o f
place to t h e tragic hero. T h e hero is n o t a bourgeois i n theatrical
costume; and t h e heroic ethos . . . has nothing t o d o with our official
morality" (I<L~-t
Hildebrand 143; m y translation).
Nineteenth-century criticism o f the repressive aspects o f Christian
and bourgeois culture sometimes claimed affinities with an earlier
tradition o f opposition t o t h e authority o f Church and State i n t h e
ancien regime. ( I n fact, that opposition was bourgeois as well as aristocratic.) Hence Nietzsche's admiration for certain writers o f t h e age
o f French classicism-La Kochefoucauld, C h a m f o r t ,and even Pascal.
Hence also t h e link that t h e George-Kreis forged between itself and
Winckelmann. T h e tone o f serenity and confidence that marks t h e
earlier writing is absent f r o m t h e later, however, while t h e philosophical nihilism and t h e emphasis o n t h e role o f exceptional individuals and leaders are new. In an important review o f DerDickter als
liiilrrer i n der deufschen Klassik by Stefan George's favorite disciple, Max
Kommerell ( 1 9 2 8 ) ,MTalterBenjamin demonstrated h o w t h e basic u n dertaking o f Komrnerell's b o o k was t o co-opt German classicisrrl b y
reinterpreting it as "the first canonical case o f a German uprising
against t h e times, o f a holy war o f Germans against t h e age, such as
George was later to call for." German classicism was thus presented as
a precursor o f George's politico-poetical program. In this way, according to Benjamin (252-59),Konlnlerell hoped t o conceal t h e Romantic roots o f George's
Philhellenism, i n s u m , seems t o have b e e n o n e o f the more ingenious and deceptive guises adopted by t h e Romantic revolt against
t h e Enlightenment, and it seems also to have b e e n o n e o f t h e m o r e
enduring: t h e intoxicating Romantic topos o f t h e special link between Hellas and Gerrnania, o f German culture as t h e fulfillment o f
Greek culture, remained vigorously alive as late as t h e post-World

War I1 writings of Heidegger." And one may legitimately consider in

what measure the "postmodern" re-jection of the transcendent nature
of truth and the conternporaly emphasis on the ludic as against the
ethical are the outcome of an authentic conling to grips with the failures of the modernist prolect-and of rationalisnl in general-and in
what measure they are yet another version of the same Romantic revolt that was once presented as the struggle of Judaism and Hellenism.
I would like now to turn back to Matthew Arnold. England had also
known a Greek revival. As in Germany, it appears to have been closely
connected with a desire to overcome the dualism of Inan and nature
and to rehabilitate the body and the senses. \t70rdsworth swore he
would rather be
.A Pagan strckled in a creed outrzorn;

So might I, atanding on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that rvould make me leas forlorn;

Hare aight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blorv hia rvreathed horn.

Byron grieved over the death of the old gods:

Oh! rvhere, Dodona! is thine aged grove,
Prophetic fotrnt and oracle divine?

The Chorus in Shelley's Hellas laments the defeat of Apollo, Pan,

and Jove by the "killing Truth" of Christianity:
The Po~versof earth and air

Fled from the folding-star of Bethlehem:

.Apollo, Pan, and L o ~ e ,

And even CllmmpianJove

Grewweak, for killing Truth had glared on them;

(hrr hills and seas and streama,

Ilispeoplcd of their dreams,

Their waters turned to blood, their dew to tears,

Tl'ailed for the golden years.

Leigh Hunt wrote to Hogg-injest, it is true-that "if you go on so,

there will be a hope that a voice will be heard along the water saying
'The great God Pan is alive again""--upon
which the villagers will
leave off starving, and singing profane hymns, and fall to dancing
again."'%~~nt'sreference to Pall is noteworthy. More than the Olympian Gods, "Pan," as Richard Jenkyns observes, "had become the god
;%ee the striking article by Nicholas Rand.
'' ,411 four passages quoted in Jenkrna 177-78. The Shelley passage is cited more
f ~ ~ lhere
l r than in Jenkyns.

of the pantheistsW(l79).
Even Kuskin, who warned against investing
the Ancients' religious view of nature with moderil sentiment, sometimes thought it could be revived. "M7ith us," he wrote, " . . . the idea
of the Divinity is apt to get separated from the life of nature; and
imagining our God . . . far above the earth, and not in the flowers or
waters, we approach those visible things with a theory that they are
dead; governed by physical laws, and so forth." Kuskin longed to
repeople with divine spirits the rivers and hills of an England already
scarred by the industrial revolution. The scientific, utilitarian, exploitative relation to nature "fails." In Jenkyns's words: "Christian beliefs in transcendence and monotheism seem inadequate" (184-8.3).
Philhellenism was thus, at least in part, a rejection of Enlightenment
rationalism and deism, Judeo-Christian monotheism, religious and
philosophical dualism, and the mixture of prosaic utilitarianism and
literalist Christian f~~ndarnentalism
that Victorian Englishmen saw as
the prevailing ideology of hard-nosed middle-class businessrrlell and
Though an implicit opposition of Hellenism and Hebraism was
thus already in the air in his own Victorian world, most scholars who
have studied the matter are in agreement that Arnold took the basic
idea of the fourth chapter of Cultu'r-eand Anarclzj from Heine. Heine
was well aware, of course, of Hegel's comments on Judaisnl and subscribed to them in large measure:
.As the prophet of the East called thern [the Jervs] the "People of the Book," so the
prophet of the TCeat, in hia Ph~lorophyof fIirtory, characterizes them as the "People of
the Spirit." Already in their earliest beginnings-as rve observe in the Pentateuchthey manifest a predilection for the abstract, and their \vhole religion ia nothing b u t
an act of dialectics, by means of which matter a n d apirit are aundered, a n d the abaolute is acknorvledged only in the unique forrn of Spirit. Tl'hat a terribly isolated role
they rvere forced to play among the nationa of antiquity, which, devoting themaelyea
to the most exuberant worship of nature, understood apirit rather as material phen o m e n a , as irnage a n d symbol! TChat a striking antithesis they represented to
multicolored Egypt, teaming with hieroglyphics; to Phoenicia, the great pleasuretemple of Astarte, o r e l e n to that beautiful sinner, lovely fragrant Babylonia-and,
finall>-,to Greece, burgeoning horne of art! ("Lud\vig Biirne: A
. ~ ~ I e m o r i a26.5)

Heine's poem "Die Gotter Griechenlands" ("The Gods of

Greece"), with which Arnold was almost certainly familiar, cornmunicates the ambivalence of the GermanJewish poet's relation to both
the Greeks and the Judeo-Christian tradition. The poet laments the
passing of the ancient gods, now "verdrangt und verstorben" ("driven
out and wasted awzay") and reflects that even the gods are subject to
the iron law of historical existence. "Auch die Gotter regieren nicht
ewig, Die jungen verdrangen die alten" ("Even the gods do not rule


forever; t h e young drive o u t t h e old"; m y translation, as are t h e other

excerpts f r o m this p o e m ) . As Zeus drove o u t t h e Titans, h e has i n
turn b e e n dethroned, his thunderbolts extinguished. T h e Virgin has
displaced o n c e haughty J u n o : "Hat d o c h e i n e andre das Zepter
gewonnen," t h e poet tells t h e ancient goddess,
Und d u bist nicht rnehr die Hirnmelskii11igi11,

Und dein grosses Aug ist erstarrt,

Und deine Lilienarrne sind kraftlos,

Und nirn~nermehrtrifft deine Rache

Die gottbefriichtete J ~ ~ n g f r a u

Und d e n rvundertatigen Gottessohn.

(Another haa rvon the aceptre,

.And >-ouare n o longer the queen of heaven,

.And your great e>-eis glazed,

And your lily-white arins rvithout strength,

.And your vengeance will never reach

T h e divinely irnpregnated virgin

.And the tniracle working son of the god.)

For centuries n o w t h e inextinguishable laughter o f t h e gods o f

Greece has b e e n extinguished.
T h e lament is suddenly interrupted by t h e startling lines: "Ich habe
e u c h niemals geliebt, ihr Giitter! D e n n widenvartig sind m i r die
Griechen . . . " ( " I have never loved you, you gods! For t h e Greeks are
repugnant to m e " ) . T h e fact is, t h e poet recalls, that t h e Greek gods
had little compassion for h u m a n suffering and always sided with t h e
victors. Man, however, can b e more generous than they and may feel
compassion for them-"Tote, nachtwandelnde Schatten"("Dead,
nocturnally wandering shadesn)-in their abandonment. Especially,
t h e poet cries, i n pet another shift i n position,
. . . rvenn ich bedenke, rvie feig und windig

Die Giitter sind, die euch beaiegten,

Die neuen, herrschenden, tristen Giitter,

Die achadenfrohen irn Schafspelz der Demut.

(. . . Tl'hen I reflect horv corvardly and insubstantial

.Are the goda who conquered you,

T h e new, ruling, joyless gods,

IVearing the sheepakin of humility and exulting in suffering.)

At such m o m e n t s o f awareness, overcome with anger, t h e poet would

gladly destroy t h e new temples, take u p arms o n behalf o f t h e ancient
gods and their "ambrosial law," and sink down i n prayer before their
altars, his arms outstretched i n supplication.
Many scholars believe that t h e imrrlediate source o f Arnold's
Hellenism-Hebraism opposition is a critical passage i n Heine's hle-


morial t o Ludwig Borne, t h e left-wing German-Jewish writer and publicist.'" " I n his c o m m e n t s o n Goethe as i n his judgments o f other writers," Heiile writes,
Biirne betraya the narrolvnesa of rnind of the Kazarene. I aay "Nazarene," in order
to use neither the term 'Jewish" nor the tertn "Christian," although the two terrns are
a>-nonymousfor me and are used by me to designate not a faith but a natural diaposition. ?e\vs'' and "Christians" are for tne closely related in opposition to "Hellenes,"
by which I likewise do not mean a particular people, but a turn of mind and an
outlook, both inborn and acquired. Frotn that point of lieu, I could say that all rnen
are either Jews or Hellenes, rnen motivated by asceticism, hostility to graven i~nagea,
and a deep desire for the spiritual, or men ~vhoaeeasential being is delight in life,
pride in the development of their capacities, and realiam. In this sense, there hale
been Hellenea arnong those Gerrnan pastors ~ v h ocorne frorn farnilies of pastors and
among Jerva born in .Athens and perhaps descended frotn Theseus. ("Ludwig Biirne:
Eine Denkachrift" 94-95; 1117 translation)

Heine speculated whether t h e "harmonious fusion o f t h e two elements" might n o t b e "the task o f all European civilization." But while
there were "rare instances" i n which a reconciliation appears t o have
occurred ("Shakespeare is at once Jew and G r e e k " ) , i n general ''we
are still very far removed f r o m this goal. Goethe t h e Greek (and t h e
whole poetic party along with h i m ) has i n recent times expressed his
antipathy to Jerusalem i n a n almost passionate manner" ("Ludwig
Borne: A Memorial" 270-71). T h o u g h Heine's position was complex,
as can b e seen f r o m " T h e Gods o f Greece," and t h o u g h i n later pears
especially, bed-ridden and racked b y pain, h e described himself as
"disillusioned with metaphysics" and "clinging fast t o t h e Bible"
(Gesfiindnisse 1 3 8 ) , h e also always considered himself a "Hellene i n
secret" ( " A Memorial" 2 6 4 ) . T h e r e was n o doubt whose side h e was
o n i n t h e account h e gave o f Borne's judgments o f Goethe, which h e
read as a new skirmish i n t h e "uwresolved a n d perfzaps never to be resolved
duel between Jewish spiritualism and Hellenic glorification o f life"
(italics a d d e d ) . Borne is presented here, with almost Nietzschean ve'j The esaay on Heine (read aa a lecture in 1863) in Tlzc Function of (,.~.iticic?nand
the poetn "Heine's Grave" (probably cotnpleted by 1863 but not published until
1867) are eloquent teatimony to .Arnold's long-standing admiration for Heine. The
exact relationship of I\rnold'a contraat of Hellenism and Hebraisrn to Heine'a writings ia, holvever, a matter of some scholarly dispute. Lionel Trilling, R.H. Super (the
editor of I\rnold'a Co?nplclc Prosc Il'orkc), and most other English-speaking scholars
(but not, apparently, David J. DeLaura in his no\\.-clasaic study) hold that .Arnold
derived the Hellenism-Hebraisrn opposition frorn Heine'a rnemorial essay on Biirne.
But it haa been questioned whether Arnold had read that essay, and aotne of
Trilling's assertions in particular have been effectively invalidated. More pertinently,
it has been argued that .Arnold altered the meaning that the opposition of Jews and
Hellenes had for Heine, while retaining Heine's idea that hiatory ia rnarked by the
struggle and alternance of forces represented by the trvo tertna Hebraism and Hellenism. See Ilse-Maria Tesdorpf, especially 43-36, 138-69.


hemence, as "the little Nazarene full of hate for the great Greek, who
was a Greek god into the.bargain!" ( Werke u n d Briefe 6 9 4 ) . And while
longing for the return of "Harmony," Heine neJer questioned that it
meant above all "making the world healthy again by curing it of the
one-sided striving for spiritualization, the crazy error that makes soul
as well as body sick!" In reawakening a feeling for Greek art in his
countrymen and creating works of great solidity and concreteness to
which they could cling, "as if to marble representations of the Gods,"
Goethe-according to Heine-had done his bit to achieve this end
( Werke u n d B ~ i e f e6:120).
In Arnold's view of him, Heine was certainly on the side of Hellenism. "No man has extolled. . . the pagan extreme more rapturously"
(Essajs i n Criticism 207). Yet one of the reasons for Arnold's enduring
admiration for Heine may well have been that he found in Heine both
the Hellenic and the Hebraic. "No account of Heine is complete
which does not notice the Jewish element in him," he wrote in the
Heine essay.
His race he treated with the same freedo~nwith which he treated eveivthing else,
but he deriled a great force frorn it, and no one kne\z~this better than he hirnself. He
has excellently pointed out how in the sixteenth century there was a double renahow both have
scence,-a Hellenic renascence and a Hebrew renascence,-and
been great powera eler since. He himaelf had in hiti1 both the spirit of Greece and
the spirit of Judaea; both these spirits reach the infinite, which is the true goal of all
poetry and all art,-the Greek apirit by beauty, the Hebrew spirit by subli~nity.By his
perfection of literal? form, by his lore of clearness, by hia lore of beauty, Heine is
Greek; by hia intensity, by hia untamableneas, by hia "longing which cannot be uttered," he is Hebrew. (fisajsin Crilzc.ic?n 179)

What Arnold seems to be pointing to in the combination of

"Greek" and "Hebrew" elements he discerned in Heine is a coming
together or reconciliation (admittedly an imperfect one, as his criticisms of Heine suggest) of classical beauty of form and Enlightenment wit with Romantic imagination. For Heine himself, however, as
the passagesjust quoted indicate unequivocally, such a reconciliation
could be expected-at very best-only in the distant future, at the far
end of a long dialectical process. The relation of the two elements
was one of "unresolved and perhaps never to be resolved" conflict. In
addition, the meanings Arnold attributed to "Greek" and "Hebrew"
or to "Hellenism" and "Hebraism" are not quite those that the terms
"Greek" and "Nazarene" had for Heine.
The parallel between the title Arnold gave to the collection of articles known as C u l t u r ~a n d Anarclzj and the title he gave to the fourth
of the articles in the collection, "Hebraism and Hellenism," inevita-


bly invites reflection on the possible relations among the four terms
in the two titles. Is "Culture" connected with "Hellenisrn," for instance, and "Hebraisrn" with "Anarchy"?
Culture and Anarclzy was Arnold's response to the ovenvhelrning
sense, which he shared with earlier poets like Byron and Shelley as
well as with contenlporaries like Kuskin, of living in a withered and
decaying world. i\'hen he took over the ideal of the harmonious, fully
developed human person from Hunlboldt a n d the German
neohumanists, it was in order to hold it u p against what he felt was
the pressing, ugly reality of mid-l'ictorian England: misshapen, parochial individuals removed from intercourse with nature and the experience of beauty, enslaved to specialized tasks-be it running a
business or senring a machine-and fanatically committed to idiosyncratic and-in his eyes-arbitrary varieties of religion. But it was no
longer simply the disenchantment of the world, the radical separation of the sacred from the profane, and the alienation of men from
nature and from their own humanity that disturbed Arnold. It was an
intense conviction that the center was already, visibly, not holding,
that the world increasingly lacked, in his own words, not only unity
but "a sound centre of authority" (Cultu'r-eand Anarclzy 119).
Unlike most of his liberal countrymen, who were traditionally far
more concerned with individual freedoms than with "culture" or "totality" or "the State," Arnold was haunted by the specter of order disintegrating into "anarchy." In fact, there is probably an elenlent of
challenge or provocation in the very title of his volume. With their
inveterate enlpiricisrrl and pragmatism, Arnold's English contemporaries-on the critic's own admission-viewed "culture" with suspicion. Frederic Harrison, the distinguished legal scholar and charnpion of trade union legislation, derided "the cant about ~ u l t u r e . " ' ~
Perhaps the mockers of "culture" saw it as a foreign concept in tune
with abstruse German philosophies and alien political regimes and
having nothing to do with familiar British concerns such as moral
a n d religious truth, the principles of political economy, or the
Englishman's right to think as he likes, say what he likes, worship as
he likes, and, above all, trade as he likes. Arnold can only have reinforced their suspicions by constantly praising Continental practices
as superior to British ones and flaunting his Continental connections: with the Gernlan neohumanists in the first instance-Goethe,
'r$'ilhelrn von Hurnboldt, Schiller, and Schleiermacher (who111he had
learned to admire in the house of his father, Thonlas Arnold, the
"' Quoted

by Arnold himself i n (,.zlltulr, a i d Ai~al-clzy39 (hereafter Crl). See also 72.


celebrated headmaster of Kugby and a strong Germanophile), but

also with French writers such as Michelet, Renan, Sainte-Beuve, and
Tocqueville. In the end, Arnold was questioning the idiosyncratic
and-according to him-increasingly provincial path of the native
tradition in politics and religion since the time of the Puritan revolution. Radical, consistent, English-style liberalism, he was arguing, can
only lead to anarchy, the dissolution of all traditional social bonds
and institutions.
Culture, in contrast, is the cement that holds society together and
founds it. Neither the rational, natural-law principles of the Enlightenment-ideas of justice or equality-nor the pragmatic principles
of the Utilitarians-ideas such as the greatest happiness of the greatest number-can provide a firm foundation for social life, according
to Arnold. On the contrary, they are likely to tear it apart, by setting
one group against another, one interpretation against another, one
interest against another. Culture, in contrast, is not debatable: it is
not based on principles that can be disputed. It is an accumulated,
historically produced, and shared tradition which, despite its being a
product of historical development, claims universal validity. In this
respect it is fundamentally at odds ~viththe narrow, one-sided concerns of particular morrlents and particular groups. Nothing could be
further from the epherrlerism and pseudo-culture of politics and the
newspaper (a particular target of Arnold's, as it was also of his conternporaq.Jacob Burckhardt, who in far-off Base1 was struggling with
the same threat, as he perceived it, to the "old culture of Europe"). In
addition, for Arnold-who in this respect is far closer to the German
neohurrlanists than to the Romantics-culture is the result of a careful process of selection, enhancement, and preservation by an elite, a
priesthood or clergy of humanity. For that reason, culture is not national. It is catholic and universal-"the best that has been thought
and written" by all human beings in all times and all languages
(though, with the single exception of the Bible, Arnold's culture is
effectively restricted to the Greek, Latin, and other Western European languages and literatures). Arnold appears to have expected
this "culture," man-made and historically produced, to substitute for
a no longer attainable Truth ( ~ v h e t l ~religious
or philosophical) as
the foundation of individual conduct and social order. From this perspective, British science, British literature, and especially British politics and British religion (which far from being unifying were conceived as an arena of debate and clashing convictions and interests)
had to appear narrow, provincial, divisive, even aberrant, and above
all destructive of that "centre of authority" which was so important to

the critic and which he believed was no longer provided by reason or

even by faith.
Arnold's view of his own countrymen was strikingly similar to that
of Michelet-notoriously no Anglophile. The English, according to
Michelet, are the "aristocratic" people of world history: the people
whose idea of liberty is anarchic, arrogant, exclusive, Byronic, and
daernonic, and whose heroic struggle to win liberty was, and continues to be, marked by violence, parricide, revolt, and exploitation
both of nature and of their weaker fellows. In Michelet's vision of
history, the English-like the Jews-represent an essential and recurrent moment in the evolution of society, but one that is destined to
be overcome by a less austere and exclusive, more harmonious and
comprehensive form of sociability, a form of sociability which
Michelet, drawing on Vico, considered "democratic." For Michelet,
as to a large extent for Arnold, that higher form of sociability was
represented by France, which, since the Kevolution, had harmonized
better than any other society the competing claims of the part and
the whole, the individual and the state. The argument of Cultu'r-eand
Annrrkj was, in short, that British individualism-"the dissidence of
dissent and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion," as Arnold
put it disdainfully (CA .56 et passim)-would have to yield to a more
comprehensive vision of society and that a greater role would have to
be conceded to both the state and a national church if Britain was not
to collapse in "anarchy."
It is essential to Arnold's understanding of culture that in modern
times it must inevitably be the product of formal education. The withered, sickly condition of society can be cured. Culture can be restored. But for a while at least, until it is so reintegrated into the life
of society that it again becorrles a second nature, culture, as sornething learned and acquired rather than organically connected with
all aspects of life in the way it once was, will be second-best-not so
much an ersatz of the real thing as a kind of forced hot-house seedling which might be expected to grow sturdier later in the open air.
In this important respect, as already noted, Arnold is far closer to the
German neohumanists than to the Romantics, for while the Rornantics looked back nostalgically to organic folk-cultures or tried to preserve them, the neohumanists aimed to resurrect ancient culture
through education by having students progressively internalize
Greek culture along with the inner forms and energies of the Greek
language. Arnold in fact refers explicitly to Goethe in one of several
fine passages where he discusses the difference between "organic"
culture and culture as he understands it in the modern world:


111 the Greece of Pindar and Sophocles, i11 the England of Shakespeare, the poet
lived in a current of ideaa i11 the highest degree animating a n d nourishing to the
creative power; society was, in the fulleat rneaaure, permeated by fresh thought, intelligent, and a l i ~ e I\ild
this atate of things is the true basis for the c r e a t i ~ epower's
exercise, in thia it finds its data, its materiala, truly ready for its hand; all the books
and reading in the \vorld are only ~ a l u a b l eas they are helpa to thia. Even when this
does n o t actually exist, books a n d reading may enable a man to construct a kind of
aernblance of it in hia own rnind . . . Thia ia by n o tneans equivalent to the artist for
the nationally diffused life and thought of the epocha of Sophoclea o r Shakespeare;
but, beaidea that it rnay b e a rneans of preparation for auch epochs, it does really
constitute, if many share in it, a quickening and sustaining atmosphere of great
~ a l u e Such
a n atmosphere the rna~ly-aidedlearning and the long and widely cornbined critical effort of Germany fortned for Goethe . . . There was n o national glow
of life and thought there as in the -Athens of Pericles o r the England of Elizabeth.
That was the poet'a weakness. But there rvas a sort of e q u i ~ a l e nfor
t it in the cornplete
culture a n d unfettered thinking of a large body of Germans. T h a t was his strength.
("The Function of Criticisrn" 240)

Arnold inlplies that the aim of education is to bring about the

eventual return of the "nationally diffused life and thought" which he
associated with the glorious days of Pindar and Shakespeare. The realization of that goal could only be expected in a remote and rather
ideal future, however. So while Arnold has "no doubt" that ages like
those "are the true life of literature . . . the prorrlised land, toward
which criticisrrl can only beckon," he is no less certain of the melancholy reality that "that pronlised land . . . will not be ours to enter,
and we shall die in the wilderness ("The Function of Criticism" 267).
On many occasions, in fact, the goal he presents is not so much the
restoration of the "true life of literature" as the achievement of a
more modest general culture, a middle-class aurea mediocritas. Over
and over again, whether he is writing about the virtue of academies
or about democracy, he argues for the superior merit of a more even
distribution of culture, in the French manner, over an unruly combination of virtually "uncultured" masses and idiosyncratic geniuses, in
the English manner. It even seems that it was such a general distribution of "culture" that he had in mind when he wrote about democracy, rather than any notions of political or economic rights or freedoms." His chief concern in the essay on "Democracy" was not how
to achieve democracy (following Tocqueville, whom he quotes approvingly as "a philosophic observer, with no love for democracy, but
rather with a terror of it," he simply saw it as inevitable) but how to
" "Democracy is a force in which the concert of a great number of Inen makes u p
for the weakness of each man taken by hirnself; democracy accepts a relative rise in
their condition, obtainable by this concert for a great number, as sotnething desirable in itself, because thoitg.!~ this is undoithtedly far belotu p a n d e u r , it is yet a good
deal above insignificance" (italics a d d e d ) , in "Drmoc~.acy"448.

"prevent the English people from becoming, with the growth of democracy, Americanised"--in other words, how to ensure that democracy would not result in the overthrow or radical transformation of
culture, as Arnold had defined it. It was necessary to find an accommodation of culture and democracy,just as it was necessaq to find an
accommodation of culture a n d religion, of "Hellenism" a n d
"Hebraism" ("Democracy" 44344,452).
As Dover Wilson makes abundantly clear in the introduction to his
edition, Chilture and Anarchy was in fact a response to a particular political situation. It was notjust the disenchantment of the world that
had prompted Arnold to take up his pen: it was the enfranchisement
of vast new sectors of the British population proposed in the Second
Reform Bill of 1567; the violent agitation, provocative flouting of authority, and rioting (at Kidderminster, Hyde Park, and elsewhere)
that accompanied the parliamentary debates; and the prospect of a
spate of f ~ ~ r t hradical
legislation following passage of the bill. This
was the time, Dover Wilson reminds us, of Carlyle's notorious essay
"Shooting Niagara" with its call for a well-armed elite of "heroes" to
defend culture against the advancing hordes. A concrete political
situation is thus the context of Arnold's work at least as much as the
more general problem of the "alienation" of the modern world. It is
not hard to identify the ignorant armies clashing by night on the darkling plain of "Dover Beach." Certainly they are the mindless forces
of historical action in a world revealed as purposeless, but they are
also the liberal and dissenting commercial class and the increasingly
aggressive proletariat of mid-Victorian England.18
It was in the face of this disturbing situation, which to many
seemed to mark a real crisis of culture and society, that Arnold proposed his solution: a re-emphasizing of "culture and totality," as he
put it,'%gainst the destructive forces of individual enterprise, the
mechanistic spirit of positivist and materialist thought, the alienating, impoverishing effects of liberal economics and industrialism,
the parochialism of dissent and protestant sectarianism, the
ephernerism of politics and the culture of the newspaper, the narrowness, ignorance, and vulgarity of democracy in the English-speaking

Dovrr Tl'ilson's Introduction to CA, xxii-xxxiv.

'V2'A 19. See also 21: "Culturr . . . and whatwe call totality. . ."
'(I See
48-49; also 17-18, 19, 22 o n North America. Amrrica, "that chosen home
of nervspapers a n d politics," is "without genrral intelligence," according to Renan,
and ~-\rnoldbelievrs "it likely from the circumstances of the casr, that this is so; and
that, in t h r things of t h r mind, and in culture and totality, America, instead of sur


Arnold's critique of liberal optimism, like Heine's, is often effective and in the post-Thatcher and post-Reagan years, still surprisingly
pertinent. He points with unerring perceptiveness to the weak spots
of both economic liberalism-it has created publice t3ge,stus,pm'vutim
opuZf;ntiu,h e declares, quoting Sallust !(2A186-87)-and political liberalism: demagoguery and populism, lil~ertal-ianism
at home and oppression abroad-in Ireland, for instance ((:A 80-81). The pathos of
some of his descriptions of the lives of the poor reinforces the effectiveness of the critique of liberalisnl as a whole." As usual with
Arnold, the argument is conducted on a high plane of generality and
spiritual significance. The class conflicts of nineteenth-century England are represented in idealized, uni\:ersalized form as conflic~sbetween different universal values or tendencies of the human psyche.
Thus the "populace" is not exactly thc proletariat; it is an eternal aspect of humankind-its cruelty and animality-which happens 1.0
dominate among proletarians (C:ii 107). The terms "Barbarians,"
"Philistitles," "Populace" transform a concrete his~oricalstruggle into
a psychoinachy, an allegory of the "eter-nal"conflict in human history
between competing force^.^"
C:ultu,-c artd Anurclzj turns essentially on the conflict between two
opposing sets of values: the whole and the part, order and absolute
individual freedom, the state and the individual. On one side: the
total, harmonious, f ~ ~ l developed
individual human being of the
German neohumanists, the ideal of C;oethe, Schiller, M'ilhelm -\,on
Humboldt ( CA 11, 126-27); the State-"organ of our collective best
Self, of our national right reasonn(07) viewed as standing above all
particular interests and classes and embracing them all, as essentially
classless (70) ; the Sacred ("the very framework and exterior order of
the state,"we are told, is sacred, 204) ; "I-Iunlanity" as a kind of universal Church or Communion (192); eternal Truth;" universal and unchanging norms; a classically trained elite of disinterested servants of
the state, concerned only for the conimon weal, such as Humboldt
had hoped to create for Prussia; finally, the idea of a hierarchy or
sacred order, which excludes nothing, hut on the contrary includes
pasing us all, falls short" (19). To A~.nolc!, onlr the first grncration of Puritanshfilton, Raxter. Wesley-had had any greatness, cllieflr; because rl~cystill enjoyed the
legacy of the catholic culture that thev rejected ("were trained ~vithinthe pale of the
Since then, they had all been r~l~diocrities
?' See, Sor instance, CA 189-98.
Xlichelet; ~\-ho111
-41-noldadmired, tended to do the sarrlr thing in his histories,
most blarancl~i n his po\verrnll\ schematic I.?i/i.oii7izlioit ii I'histoirf, 1 o z i 7 ~ ~ l ~ ~1831.
?' One thinks of Burckhal.dt's expressioil: "L'n/eitung."



everything i n its p r o p e r p l u ~ ~ . On
" ' the opposite side: against the aesindithetic neohumanist ideal of the harmonious, f ~ ~ l rounded
vidual, the moral ideal of the individual passionately dedicated to a
single overriding imperative, a single calling or task, the specialist,
the religious fanatic, the dissenter, the protestant; against the State as
the organ of our collective best Self, the idea of society as an arena of
competition, debate, and struggle between rival classes and interests,
out of which the best solution is supposed to emerge, but which
Arnold tended to see as a "darkling plain . . . where ignorant armies
clash by night"; against the view of the State as sacred, in some way
still invested with the power and authority of the divine, a mechanical
a n d profane conception of society as pure historical fact in a
postlapsarian world from which God has withdrawn; against the ideal
of "Humanity" as a Communion, a fragmented vision of individuals,
generations, and peoples isolated from each other in both space and
time; against the notion of eternal Truth, the relativism or pragmatism of adaptation to the demands of the particular time and occasion (CA 120); against eternal norms, the value of continuous research and experimentation (CA 124); against the ideal of a classical
elite, the practice of "representational democracy," in which "every
one of our governors has all possible temptation, instead of setting
u p before the governed who elect him, and on whose favor he depends, a high standard of right reason, to accommodate himself as
much as possible to their natural taste for the bathos" ( ( X 113-114);
and finally, against hierarchy or sacred order, anarchical competition and distorted overdevelopment of particular individual traits
and tendencies.
The opposition of "Hellenism" and "Hebraism" is part of this more
comprehensive set of oppositions in Arnold's text, and in his work in
general. As a result, its meaning, though not entirely unrelated to the
meaning it had for Heine, is by no means the same as it was for
Heine. "Hellenism" designates for Arnold not so much sensualism,
~vorldliness,and love of life as the contemplative, playful, free consideration of all aspects of reality. It is an ideal of aesthetic comprehensiveness, closely related to theory and intellectual speculation (CA
132). "Hebraism," in contrast, is closer to pmxis. It is the term used to
designate not so much othenvorldliness and spirituality as the primacy of moral commitment, of the existential moment of choice or
decision, which is always, by definition, exclusive and limiting or narrowing. It has to do with conduct and action. Arnold's "Hellenism" is
"Thus "culture" admits thr nrcrssitv of "fortune making and industrialism," "culture does not set itsrlf against gamrs and sports" (C;1 GI).

related to "culture and totality," his "Hebraism" to division and conflict.

M'hereas tlle two terms, as eve saw, are in an unending and
unresolvable dialectical relation to each other for Heine, Arnold's
thesis is that it is necessary, and possible, to find a golden mean that
evil1 accommodate both. His advocacy of "Hellenism" against
"Hebraism," he makes clear, is pragmatic and tactical, by no means
principled. It is entirely a matter of adjustments and degrees, ofbalancing competing and equallyjustified claims rather than resolving a
dialectical opposition by means of some Hegelian "L4ufhebung."'"
For the rlc~ysofIsi-uel a?-eznnzim~t-c~Dle;
and in its b l a ~ n eof Hebraising too, and in its
praise of Hellenising, culture Inust not f.ail to keep its flexibility, and to give to its
judgments that passing and provisional character which we have seen it impose on its
preferences and rejections of machinery. Xow, and for us, it is a time to Hellenise,
and to praise knowing; for Tve have Hebraised too much, and have over-valued doing.
But the habits and discipline received f?om Hebraism remain for our race an eternal
possession; and, as humanity is constituted, one must never assign to them the second rank to-day, \vithout being prepared to restore them to the first rank to-~norro~v.
(CA 37)

Had Arnold been writing about Prussia, rather than England, in

other cvords, he might have chosen a different e m p h a ~ i s . After
debacle of 1870, he did in fjct fault tlle French, whom he normally
held u p as models to his countqlmen, for their lack of "Hebraism."
Reviewing Renan's La Rqorme intelbctuelle et 'morale in 1872, he took
issue with Renan's view that France's defeat cvas the result of le
'manque de foi h la science. "No one feels more than eve do the harm
which tlle exaggeration of Hebraism has done in England; but
[Renan's proposal to concentrate more on schooling] is Hellenism
with a vengeance! . . . Nloral conscience, self-control, seriousness,
steadfastness, are not the \vhole of human life certainly, b u t . . . without them-and this is the very burden of the Hebrew prophets . . . nations cannot stand. France does not enough see their importance"

" Jenkyns underlines the deliberately non-dialectical nature of Arnold's thought

on the subject of Hellenism and Hebraism. "It was characteristic of the age, or of its
more enquiring feel that benveen faith In Christianity and the love of
Greece there Inust be a tension. Arnold Tvas being consc~ouslyheterodox when he
argued that Hellenis~nand Hebrais~ncould be painlessly combined" (70). The contrast between the dialectical character of Heine's opposition of Greeks and
Sazarenes and the undialectical character of Arnold's opposition of Hellenism and
Hebraism is one o f t h e chief themes of Ilse-Maria Tesdorpf.'~Dir Auseinandei-setzung
~l'lnttilrwArnolds ,nit Heinriciz Hrine. Tesdorpf argues convincingly that while
Arnold's Hellenism and Hebraism is not the same as Heine's Greeks and Xa~arenes,
his philosophy of history is borrowed from Heine. As a result there is a sign~ficant
degree of inconsistency in Arnold's ideas (see especially 168).
"'See Park Honan 331 on Arnold's reservations about Prussia

((;omplete Prose VI7o7-ks7:44-45). The implication of this argument is

that "Hebraism," if it can be curbed and brought into llarmolly with
"culture," will make Protestant England a more successfill nation and
a better model for others, in the end, than Catholic and Kevolutionary France.
Though Arnold sometimes presents Hellenism and Hebraism, in
the manner of Heine or Michelet, as the tcvin motors of histoql and
civilization-by their "alternations," he suggests, "the human spirit
proceeds; and each of' these two fbrces has its appointed hours of
culmination and seasons of rule" ((:A 139)-his most persistent tendency is to try to strike a balance between them. His deepest longing
is to reconcile everything: the \vhole and the part, community and
indiviclual fieedom, tradition and individual talent, pragmatism and
principle, harmony and truth, culture and religion, culture and democracy, the dominance of'the elite and the moral and physical \veilbeing of' the masses. It could be said that he is as "English" in this
pursuit of compromise as the dissenters he attacked fbr their stubborn individualism. In a passage like the following, which is fairly
typical, the provocative tensions of Hegel, Heine, and later Nietzschr
are relaxed in what the last \vould almost certainly have characterized
as an insipid optimism. It is only the baser forms of Hellenism and
Hebraism that are irreconcilable, we are assured. At their noblest, the
two are entirely compatible. In "beauty and charm" their opposition
is smoothed acvay:
Hebraism strikes too exclusively upon one string in us; Hellenism does not address
For our totality, for
itself with serious energy enough to morals and righteo~~sness.
our general perfection, we need to unite the two; now the two are easily at variance.
In their lower f o r ~ n sthey are irreconcilably at variance: only ~ v h e neach o f t h e m is at
its best, is their harmony possible. Hebraism at its best is beauty and charm: Hellenism at its best is also beauty and c h a r ~ nAs
. such they can unite; as anything short of
this, each of them, they are at discord, and their separation must continue. The
flo~verof Hellenis~nis a kind of amiable grace and artless winning good-nature . . . ;
the flo~verof Christianity is grace and peace by the annulment of our ordinary self
through the mildness and sTveet reasonableness of Christ. Both are eminently hiiman?, and for complete h u ~ n a nperfection both are iecluired, the second being the
perfection of that side in us which is moral and acts, the first, of that side in us ~vhich
is intelligent and perceives and knows. (Complrte A-ose IVo?-ks6: 125)

In some texts the two poles usually represented in Arnold's writing

by Hebraism and Hellenism are situated entirely within the Greek
world. In a speech to the students at Eton, for instance-where in the
speaker's ocvn cvords "the Greek and Latin classics continue to fill the
chief place in [the students'] school-\vork"-a some\vhat doubtful
contrast developed by many German scholars between "manly" Aryan

Dorians on the one hand, and "Asiatic Greeks ofIonianon tlle other,
is picked up and serves as the basis of an opposition between the
"moral ideas of conduct and righteousness" strenuously cultivated by
the "less gay and more solitary tribes in the moulltaills of Northern
Greece," a n d the "brilliancy a n d mobility," tlle "gay lightness"
cllaractersistic of tlle "Ionians of Asia." Conflict is resolved, however,
and the right balance struck by the Athenians. The latter, though
they were Ionians, ''were Ionians transplanted to Hellas, and cvho had
breathed, as a Hellenic nation, tlle air of Delphi, that bracing atlnosphere of tlle ideas of moral order and of right. In this atmosphere
the Athenians, Ionian as they cvere, imbibed influences of character
and steadiness, which fbr a long while balanced their native vivacity
and mobility, distinguished them profoundly from tlle Ionians of
Asia, and gave them men like Aristides." In this way, the Athenians\vhose relation to the severe and alien Dorians strikingly resembles
that of the English to the people of the Book-found
the right
middle ground beteveen tlle extremes ofthe Ionians on tlle one hand
and of the Dorians on the other. (The defects of the latter are described, incidentally. in the exact terms Arnold alcvays used to describe the limitations of Hebraism: "stiffness, hardness, narrowness,
prejudice, cvant of insight, want of amiability.") The Athenians thus
come to represent that synthesis of "Hellenism" and "Hebraism" that
was Arnold's ideal. "With the idea of conduct, so little grasped by the
Ionians of Asia, still deeply impressed on their soul, they freely and
joyfully called forth also that pleasure in life, that love of clear thinking and of fearless discussion, that gay social temper, that ease and
lightness, that gracious flexibility, cvhich cvere in their nature.""
It might seem, in light of the argument developed here, that Hellenism has a definite edge over Hebraism in that it is capable of containing and subsuming Hebraism in the same way that tlle culture of
tlle Athenians included the best o f t h e Dorians as \veil as the best of
tlle Ionians. Hellenism at its best, in other words, could be conceived
to be identical cvith "culture" or "totality." Arnold never gives any indication that Hebraism has the same capacity. At the same time, a
totality that is defined as a well-balanced mixture, flexible enough to
accommodate seemingly contradictory values, is not the same as tlle
concept of a totality, the essential characteristic of which is that it
cannot be understood silnply as an aggregate of parts and which is
?' "A Speech at Eton," in C'oinf)lrteI'?-ose' I b r k s Y:28-29. Arnold develops the idea of
a tension within Greek culture si~nilarto that between Hebraism and Hellenism in
other texts also; notably "God and the Bible," in Conlplete PI-OSPFlbrks 7:208-11, and
"Pagan and hledieval Religious Senti~nerrt."in I<ssc~ysi n Qiticism 21 2.

held to be superior to any and all of its parts. What Arnold proposes,
in tlle end, is a watered-do\vn-if practical and manageable-version
of both culture or totality and of religion or the moral imperative of
choice. For in tlle same way that his version of an achieved "totality"
seems more like a balance of competing elements than a resolution
of differences, so too tlle one-sided and fanatical concern cvitll righteousness, which is what "Hebraism" stands for, becomes acceptable
by losing tlle intransigent transcendentalism that is its special fbrce
and that underlies its capacity to generate the most radical and uncompromising criticism of all cvorldly institutions.
TVhere "flexibility" is the highest virtue, and undeviating obedience to divine law is seen as "stiffness, hardness, narrowness, prejudice, want of insight, want of amiability," f~lndamentalconflicts of
principle are unlikely to arise. It is not in the least surprising that
Arnold consistently rejects Judeo-Christian messianism and
eschatology-"the turbid Jecvish f'ancies about 'the great consummation,"' as he liked to say2.;'"-or that he responds impatiently to criticism of his own milder view of Christianity. "People talk scornfully of
a 'sublimated Christianity,' as if the Christianity ofJesus Christ himself had been a materialistic fairy-tale like that o f t h e Salvation Army
or of Nlessrs Moody and Sankey" (Complete Prose LVorAs 7:372).The
illtransigellce of the old Jewish and Christian rejection of this cvorld,
tlle excessiveness ofthe longing for its total transformation, are alien
to Arnold, and he does not see that there are only t~voalternatives:
absolute alienation from the divine or absolute oneness cvitll it, damnation or salvation. To the advocate of a proper balance between
"Hebraism" and "Hellenism" the world does not present itself in
those stark terms.
For the same reason, he has no sympathy with the literalism oforthodox Jews and fi~ndamentalistChristians, for cvhom Holy Scripture
has "a talismanic character," as he says disparagingly. Paul "Judaises,"
we are told, when he "uses the letter of Scripture in [an] arbitrary
and Jecvish way" to back up a point, fbr that use o f t h e sacred text is
"due to a defect in tlle critical habit of himself and his race." Arnold
cannot conceive a direct relation to the language of Scripture, only a
relation mediated and eased by historical interpretation. "To get . . .
at what Paul really thought and meant to say, it is necessaql for us
'"Tlterature and Dog~na,"in Con~plet~
Prosr T'V70tI<s6:260. See also 225, 259-60 on
"the turbid Jewish fancies . . .," 281-82, 302-305 on "the turbid phantasmagory" that
filled the thoughts of the Je~vsat the coming of Jesus Christ; and "God and the
Bible," in Comf)Iete P7-ose TVo7-ks 7:370-71, where we are told that the influence of.
Christ gradually transf.orn~ed"the turbid elements among which it was thro~vn."

modern and TVestern people to translate him" (Complete Prose Works

6:22-23). In fact, it sometimes seems as though Arnold is prepared to
carry interpretation beyond the point at which tlle religion of the
nineteenth century can be considered tlle same as that of its early
adherents. In one of his Lust Es.\qs he explains that "the partisans of
religion" in England and America "do not know . . . hocv decisively
tlle whole force of progressive and liberal opinion on the Continent
has pronounced against the Christian religion." Nor do they know
"how surely the whole force of progressive and liberal opinion in this
country tends to fbllow, so far as traditional religion is concerned, the
opinion of tlle Continent. They dream of patching u p things
unmendable." And once again, Arnold looks for a compromise.
"One cannot blame tlle rejection . . . The religion of tradition, Catholic or Protestant, is ullsound and untenable." The only question that
remains is whether "to claim for the Bible the direction, in any cvay, of
modern life, is . . . as if Plato had sought to found his ideal republic
on a text of Hesiod." Does the irrelevancy of tlle Bible to tlle conduct
of modern life fbllocv necessarily from the view that traditional religion is obsolete? It is because Arnold would save the Bible not as
Truth, but as an important element in Western culture, that he finds
it "so all-important to insist on cvhat I call the natural truth of Christianity. "?"
If Arnold's Hebraism balks at the "turbid fancies" of eschatology
and at the "Judaising" reading of Scripture by fervent Jews and Christians alike, his Hellenism is brought u p short befbre \vhat he sees as
the ullresponsiveness o f t h e Greek gods and of paganism in general
to suffering: "The ideal, cheerful, sensuous, pagan life is not sick or
sorry.""'That had been, in Heine's viecv too, the fatal flacv of the

'"Complete Prosr Wo&s 8:151-52. My collclusions coincide with those reached by

Amold and
Ed\vard Alexander several decades ago in his excellent study of 1l4c~tthe~u
John Stzral-t 1lfill52:"Arnold did his best. . . to ~naintainan ecluilibrium bet~veenthe
two adversaries [Hellenism and Hebraism] . . . Rut he could not help letting the cat
out of the bag. Hellenis~n,af.ter all, represented all of Arnold's hopes for the perfection of mankind, and Hebraism his scepticism about the capacity of men for perfection and his consciousness of their inherent weakness. TVhereas Hellenis~nis a positive ideal, investing h u ~ n a nlife 'with a kind of aerial ease, clearness, and radiancy,
[Hebrais~n]has al\vays been severely pre-occupied with an awful sense of the impossibility of being at ease in Zion.' Hebraism and Hellenism are co~nmitted,ultimately,
to opposite conceptions of human nature. For the ideal of culture as a harmonious
human perfection which Arnold espoused throughout Cultzrre and Anarchy was the
ideal of Hellenism; and just as culture, in Arnold's theory, ultimately encompasses
religion, so is Hellenis~nultimately to encompass Hebraism."
'O "Pagan and Mediaeval Religious Sentiment'' (first delivered as a lecture at Oxford, 1864) in Essays in Criticism 201. See also 205: "It is natural that man shonld take
pleasure in his senses. But it is natural, also, that he should take refuge in his heart

Greek gods and it had cost them their throne: "What a refreshing
spring for all sufferers was the blood that flowed on Golgotha! . . .
The white marble Greek gods were bespattered with this blood, and
sickened cvith horror, and could never more recover . . . The first to
die was Pan" ("Ludwig Borne: A Memorial" 269). But cvllereas Greek
sensualism and Jecvisll spiritualism were engaged, for Heine, in an
ullrelellting "war between matter and spirit, which began with the
\vorld and \vould only end with the world" (as his Parisian friend
Michelet put it in the opening paragraph of his Introduction to LTniversal History of 1 8 3 1 ) ;whereas Nietzsche embraced joyfully the reality
of tragedy, tlle acceptance of \vhich he considered tlle core of Greek
culture, and his colleague and close friend at the University of Basel,
Franz Overbeck, denounced the attempt to reconcile Christianity
and Culture as ruinous to both," 'Arnold still hoped that a sensible
compromise might be realized: a bit of Judeo-Christian religion watered down to morality and charity and a bit of Greek culture reduced to the free play of form and ideas, but no excess of either.
Arnold's relation to the social class he cvas addressing in Cultuy-P
and Anarchy is characteristic of his search for compromise and inclusiveness and his distaste for conflict. Heine and Nietzsche were radically critical of the culture of tlle ~rliddleclass; Arnold, in contrast,
hoped to correct alld improve the English middle class, to which all
his essays cvere addressed and to which he himself belonged. His goal
was to get it to reform, to save itself from its own defects, to confront
tlle consequences, for its own political power and prosperity, of dogmatic adllerellce to laissez-faire social, cultural, educational, and economic policies. His concern for the poor, his lifelong championship
of public education, and his advocacy of state power were inspired
less by visions of a democratic society than by expediency. His interest
in democracy was in fact quite weak, and his compassion for the poor
was more than equalled by his fear of an increasingly vocal and aggressive working class. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the model he often
invited his own countrymen to borrocv from-though characteristically he did not recommend that they adopt it as a whole-was the
German culture and state that Nietzsche tirelessly denounced. One
can speculate that if Nietzsche had known Arnold's cvork, he would
most likely have judged that the English critic of English
"philistinism" was as irremediably "philistine" as the dissenting freeand imagination from his misery. And when one thinks what human life is for the
vast majority of ~nankind,how little of a feast for their senses it can possihlv he, one
understands the charm f.or them of.a refuge offered in the heart and imagination."

" On Overheck, see Walter Nigg; see also Iny "Anti-Theologieund Anti-Philologie."

trading busillessmen cvho were the object of his reforming efforts or,
for that matter, as irremediabll philistine as English writers a n d
thinkers cvere, in Nietzsche's view, in general.
Arnold's very lack of intellectual rigor and decisiveness-\vhich
makes his work so much less stimulating a n d provocative than
Heine's or Nietzsclle's-has probably a great deal to d o with his tolerance on most subjects. Arnold's reasoning, his way of brillgillg competing claims to our attention, is not so much dialectical as rhetorical, and tlle solutiolls h e comes u p with are pragmatic rather than
theoretical. His views ofJudaism and Jecvs are n o exception to this
general rule. Arnold's totality, as we saw, is an empirical accommodation of competing values, not a unity resulting from their Aufiebung
or sublation. Judaism, consequently, was not fbr him something that
had to be overcome either by Christianity o r by an ideal culture more
comprellellsive than Christianity. "The days of Israel are innumerable." In practical terms, neither conversion nor assimilation of the
Jecvs was necessary. Nor, on the other hand, was Mosaic Law o r Sacred
Scripture tlle first and last word of all hit11 and morality. They were
subject to interpretation, in Arnold's view, in tlle light of other,
equally valid demands and values.
Thomas Arnold had not been cvell disposed to Jews. In 1838 he had
resigned from tlle senate of the newly founded University of London
when he failed to conr,ince his colleagues that Jews should not be
admitted (Alexander 91). Mattllecv Arnold, in contrast, defended
both Judaism and Jecvs. There are ullflatterillg references in his work
to Jews as "unattractive, nay, repellent, . . . a petty, unsuccessful,
unamiable people, without politics, without science, without art,
without charm."""Arnold's descriptiolls of the ancient Dorians and
of modern Puritans and Dissenters were strikingly similar, hocvever,
and hardly less negative). And occasionally he allows himself to be
influellced by current racial theories collcernillg the superiority of
"Aryans" to "Semites," as in a notable passage of Culture and An,nrch,j
concerning the controversy over legislation about marriage beteveen
a man and his deceased wife's sister:
IVho, that is not manacled and hood~vinkedby his Hebraism, can believe that, as to
love and marriage, our reason and the necessities of our hu~nanityhave their true,
sufficient, and divine law expressed in them by the voice of any Oriental and polygamous nation like the Hebrews? IVho, I say, will believe . . . that where the feminine
nature, the feminine ideal, and our relations to t h e ~ nare
, brought into question, the
delicate and apprehensive genius of the Indo-European race, the race which in-

" "Literature and Dog~na,"in Conlj~lrteProseI4Joiks6:lYY

vented the Muses, and chivalry, a n d the Madonna, is to find its last word . . . in the
institutions of a Se~niticpeople, ~vhose<visest king had seven hundred ~vivesa n d
three h l ~ n d r e dconcubines? (184)

In "Literature and Dogma," however, Arnold makes a spirited defence of the ancient Jews against modern claims that they were "perpetually oppressive, grasping, slanderous, sensual," worshippers of a
"tribal God," blind followers of "a positive traditionary code, . . . a
mechanical rule which held them in awe," incapable of conceiving
evil in any but an external way, as "oppression, theft, or riotous excess," and insensitive to the idea of "internal fiults." He insists on the
"deeper personal religion" that "constantly breaks in," on the importance in Judaism of following God's law out of love rather than blind
obedience, on tlle crucial discovery of tlle idea of righteousness. To
those who question the special moral illsight of tlle ancient Hebrews
by asking, "Why, if the Hebrecvs of the Bible had eminently tlle sense
for righteousness, does it not equally distinguish the Jews now?" he
responds by pointing out that a modern people that has endured
centuries of persecution and oppression cannot be expected to have
the grandeur of its ancestors. Modern Jecvs are not any fi~rtherremoved from the Jecvs of Biblical times than modern Greeks from the
Greeks of the age of Aeschylus and Sophocles.""
In practice, moreover, Arnold's support of modern Jews was solid.

" CCX 196-99. See also "Equality," in C'omf,/etrProse IVoi-ks 8:286-87: "the power of
conduct . . . was so felt and fixed by Israel that we can never xvith justice refuse to
perrnit Israel, in spite of all his shortcomings, to stand for it."CXdmiration for the Jews
as a people is found even in the English translation of Houston Stewart Chamberlain's notoriously antisernitic Foundations ofthe 'Vineteenth (;entu?y. The author of
the introduction to this translation, Lord Redesdale, finds C:hamberlain's testimony
to the "nobility" of the Sephardic Jews the more convincing as "Chamberlain is a
strong anti-Semite," but h e challenges Chamberlain o n the latter's disparagement of
the A s h k e n a ~ i mo r German Jews: "Chamberlain is unjust . . . They are born financiers and the acquisition of money has been their characteristic talent. But of the
treasure which they have laid u p they have given freely. The charities of the great
cities of Europe xvould be in a sad plight were the support of the Jews to be withdrawn; indeed many noble foundations owe their existence to them. Politically too
they have rendered great services. . ." (xxxo-xxxvi). Redesdale later notes his "appreciation of the stubborn singleness of purpose a n d dogged consistency which have
made the Jew what h e is. The ancient Jew \\-as n o t a soldier . . . H e \\-as n o sailor like
his cousins the Phoenicians . . . H e was n o artist . . . neither was h e a farmer n o r a
merchant. \!'hat was it then that gave him his wonderful self-confidence, his toughness of character, which could overcome every difficulty, a n d triumph over the hatred of the other races? It was his belief in the sacred books of the law, the Thora . . .
T h e influence of the books of the Old Testament has been far-reaching indeed, but
nowhere has it exercised more power than in the stablishing of the character of the
Jew. If it means so much to the Christian, what must it not rnean to him? It is his
religion, the history of his race, a n d his individual pedigree all in one. Nay! it is more
than all that: it is the attesting document of his convenant with God" (xxxix).


To the high-minded a n d serious Louisa Montefiore, Lady de

Rothschild, to wlloix~he became closely attached, and who was fervently interested in tlle traditions of her people, he owed not only tlle
acquaintance of Disraeli but, in all probability, a deeper and more
sympathetic u~ldersta~lding
than he might othemrise have had of tlle
Jews of his own time (Honan 316-18). As a result, he was instrumental
in getting the Jews' Free School in Bell Lane, near Liverpool Street
Station, included among the state-aided schools. Invited to propose
the toast at a banquet in aid of the school in 1884, he recalled his
early association with it: though he is n o public orator, he says, "it is
less difficult to speak among old friends-and, g e ~ l t l e m e ~the
l , Free
School and I-as by your kind cheers you have shown me that you are
aware-are old friends. I may almost adopt Grattan's famous words,
and say that I sat by the Free School's cradle." A few years earlier, in
1872, he had sent the headmaster of the School a copy of an introduction he wrote to the last 27 chapters of the Book of Isaiah, which
was intended for use in schools, "as a sort of expression of gratitude,"
as he wrote to Lady de Rothschild, "for the ideas your great Bell Lane
scllools have awakened in me" (Complete Prose Works 10:245-46 and
But it is in his almost instinctive resistance to antiTJudaictendencies in continental scholarship that Arnold's own "Hebraism" is most
visible. He is suspicious of the application of Hegelian philosophy to
the interpretation of Scripture and notably cool to German attempts
to demonstrate tlle anti-Petrine, universalist character of the Third
and Fourth Gospels. In the eagerness of some scholars to prove that
from very early on "the peaceable coexistence of a Jewish and a Gentile Christianity no longer satisfies the religious conscious~less"and
that "it will be satisfied with ~lotllingless than a Catholic Church one
and indivisible"-in other words that Christianity almost immediately
sought to "transcend" its Jewish roots-he smells a rat. These scholars, he objects, are pursuing their Hegelian agenda with such zeal
that they try to pass off as hard facts interpretations which are at best
only possible. One t l ~ e o l o g i aclaims,
for instance, "that by two crucified thieves, one converted, the other impenitent, the writer of the
Third Gospel meant to contrast Jew and Gentile, the obstinate rejection of Christ by the former, tlle glad acceptance by the latter." A
possible reading, Arnold comments: "No doubt this may be called an
'ingenious co~ljecture,'but what are we to think of the critic who confidently builds up011 it?" (Complete Prose lVorks 7:273-74). Though
Arnold's sympathy with tlle Oxford movement is well documented
and he himself repeatedly voiced his support for tlle idea of a na-


tional church-a11 idea consonant with his view of religion as part of

culture and his belief that "our only real perfection is our totality"
(Complete Prose bt'orkr 6:126)-the reference here to the peaceable coexistence of a Jewish and a Gentile Christianity is a reminder that his
vision of totality did not require assimilation or the "resolutio11" of
Perhaps the most telling sign of the authenticity of Arnold's
"Hebraism" is his unequivocal recoil from the racist antisemitism of
Emile Burnouf. In a time of increasing attacks on tlle religion of tlle
Bible, Arnold wrote in "Literature and Dogma,"
even what the most modern criticism of all sometimes does to save it and to set it u p
again, can hardly be called ven- flattering to it. For whereas the Hebrew race imagined that to them were cornrnitted the oracles of God . . . there now comes .\I.Emile
Burnouf . . . [who] will prove to us in a thick volume that the oracles of God were not
committed to a Semitic race at all, but to the Aryan; that the true God is n o t Israel's
God at all, but is "the idea of the absolute"\\-hich Israel could never properly master.
This "sacred theory of the Aryans," it seerns, passed into Palestine from Persia and
India, a n d got possession of the founder of Christianity a n d of his greatest apostles
St. Paul and St. J o h n . . . So that we C:hristians, who are Aryans, rnay have the satisfaction of thinking that "the religion of Christ has n o t come to us from the Semites,"
and that "it is in the hymns of the \'eda, and n o t in the Bible, that we are to look for
the primordial source of o u r religion." The theory of Christ is accordingly the theory
of the \'edic Agni, o r fire. The Incarnation represents the \'edic solemnity of the
production offire, symbol of force of every kind, o r all movement, life, a n d thought.
T h e Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit is the Vedic Trinity of Sun, Fire, a n d \t7ind; and
God, finally, is "a cosmic unity." (Con~fileteProseflrorks6:239).

Arnold's reaction is incredulous astonishment at the audacity of

these claims in a work that purports to offer Lu Science des Religions.
"Such speculations almost take away the breath of a mere man of letters," he comments with characteristic irony. He proceeds not to dispute Burnouf 011 scholarly grounds, but to challenge his entire understanding of religion. The un-metaphysical Englishman makes
common cause with the allegedly un-metaphysical Hebrews to defend the religion of Israel:
Admitting that Israel shows n o talent for metaphysics, we say that his religious greatness is just this, that h e does not found religion o n metaphysics, but o n moral
experience; . . . and that, ever since the apparition of Israel a n d the Bible, religion is
n o longer what, according to SI. Burnouf, to o u r An-an forefathers in the valley of
the Oxus it was,-and what perhaps it really \\-as to them,-metaphysical theory, but
is what Israel has made it. (Conz;DLeteProse CVolirs 6:241).

Compared with tlle young Hegel's o r with Nietzsche's

philhellenism, Arnold's vision of a culture that can embrace both
Homer and the Bible must inevitably appear timid, conservative,
somewhat schoolmasterish. No doubt it is closer in spirit to British


parliame~ltarismthan to the ancient pobis or to more recent attempts

to establish unified ~ l a t i o ~ lcultures.
Like Parliament, Arnold's "culture" aims at accommodati~lgmore than one party rather than at
unity, and like Parliament, its i~lclusivenessis selective. Still, it has its
modest advantages. It was, after all, to Parliament that Disraeli was
elected and through Parliament that he rose to become tlle first Jewish prime minister of a major MJestern European ~lation.'Yhereappears likewise to be an inner compatibility between Ar~lold'sinclusive, pluralistic vision of "culture" and the form taken by the emancipation of tlle Jews in Britain. Though legal disabilities and restrictions on ,Jews were less severe in Britain than in most continental
countries before emancipation, full emancipation came later than it
did in France, for instance. 011the other hand, as the most recent
historian of the emancipation in England has explained, "in Britain,
civil rights were granted to Jews and other religious minorities unconditionally. They were not asked to make concessions at the expense
of their religion, unlike tlle requirements made in France, Germany
or Italy. Even though certain religious beliefs, such as prohibition of
marriage with non-Jews, were incompatible with the expectations of
modern citize~lship,
Jews were not told to reform such tenets. Similarly, Quakers were not forced to give u p religious imperatives such as
refusal to take oaths, to pay for or fight in wars, though these prim
ciples could clash with the modern notion of citizenship. During the
process of emancipation, Britain legitimized religious pluralism by
leaving the peculiarities of each sect u~ltouched.""This pragmatic
3Vt is true, of course, that Disraeli, though he flaunted his Jewish roots, had been
baptised, and could therefore take the oath that \\-as offensive to Jews and that prevented them, even when they had been duly elected, from taking their seats in Parliarnent until the final passing of the Jews' Act Amendment Bill in 1859. This fact hardly
diminishes the extraordinan- character, in the European context of the mid-nineteenth century, of Disraeli's role in British politics and public life.

'' Abraham Gilarn ii. Gilarn points out that, in contrast to Germany and france,
'yewish communal autonorny and separateness remained untouched in Britain. The
Board of Deputies retained control over marriages, education, welfare and other
domestic concerns. In 1836 it \\-as given statutory recognition by Parliament as the
marriage registrar for the Jewish community and in 1852, the chief rabbi and head of
the Portuguese congregation wre entrusted with the responsibility of supervising
educational grants allocated from parliamentary endowments . . . British politicians
constantly refused to intervene in internal Jewish disputes even when asked to do so
by Jewish dissidents . . . England \\-as the only European country xvhere Jews continued to retain an autonornous management of their dornestic affairs during a process
of emancipation." (131) Gilarn contrasts this with the Napoleonic interrogation of
the Sanhedrin to determine whether the Jewish creed was sufficiently universalistic
and whether Jews \\-re ready to alter it \\-hen ever it seemed anti-social. (152) The
British road to Jewish emancipation \\-as in fact a compromise between liberal and
conservative interests: "English statesmen wanted to establish freedom of conscience


and in the end conservative solution, by which tlle complete secularization of public life was avoided and tlle Church of E ~ l g l a ~ mainld
tained as the established Church, has not been without its drawbacks,
especially for British J e w ~ , 'but,
~ like Arnold's "culture," it seems to
have allowed for more peaceful coexistence, in the short term anyway, than the more radical emancipation policies pursued in several
continental states.

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