The Holy Family Chapter VIII
So far Rudolph has been unable to do more than reward the good and punish the wicked in his own way. We shall now see an example of how he makes the passions useful and “gives the good natural disposition of Clémence d'Harville an appropriate development”.
“Rudolph,” says Herr Szeliga, “draws her attention to the entertaining aspect of charity, a thought which testifies to a knowledge of human beings that can only arise in the soul of Rudolph after it has been through trial.”
The expressions which Rudolph uses in his conversation with Clémence:
“To make attractive”, “to utilise natural taste”, “to regulate intrigue”, “to utilise the propensity to dissimulation and craft”, “to change imperious, inexorable instincts into noble qualities” etc.,
these expressions just as ‘ much as the impulses themselves, which are mostly attributed here to woman’s nature, betray the secret source of Rudolph’s wisdom — Fourier. He has come across some popular presentation of Fourier’s theory.
The application is again just as much Rudolph’s Critical own as is the exposition of Bentham’s theory given above.
It is not in charity as such that the young marquise is to find the satisfaction of her essential human nature, a human content and purpose of her activity, and hence entertainment. Charity offers rather only the external occasion, only the pretext, only the material, for a kind of entertainment that could just as well use any other material as its content. Misery is exploited consciously to procure the charitable person “the piquancy of a novel, the satisfaction of curiosity, adventure, disguise, enjoyment of his or her own excellence, violent nervous excitement”, and the like.
Rudolph has thereby unconsciously expressed the mystery which was revealed long ago, that human misery itself, the infinite abjectness which is obliged to receive alms, must serve the aristocracy of money and education as a plaything to satisfy its self-love, tickle its arrogance and amuse it.
The numerous charitable associations in Germany, the numerous charitable societies in France and the great number of charitable quixotic societies in England, the concerts, balls, plays, meals for the poor, and even the public subscriptions for victims of accidents, have no other object. It seems then that along these lines charity, too, has long been organised as entertainment.
The sudden, unmotivated transformation of the marquise at the mere word “amusant” makes us doubt the durability of her cure; or rather this transformation is sudden and unmotivated only in appearance and is caused only in appearance by the description of charité as an amusement. The marquise loves Rudolph and Rudolph wants to disguise himself along with her, to intrigue and to indulge in charitable adventures. Later, when the marquise pays a charity visit to the prison of Saint-Lazare, her jealousy of Fleur de Marie becomes apparent and out of charity towards her jealousy she conceals from Rudolph the fact of Marie’s detention. At the best, Rudolph has succeeded in teaching an unhappy woman to play a silly comedy with unhappy beings. The mystery of the philanthropy he has hatched is betrayed by the Paris fop who invites his partner to supper after the dance in the following words:
“Ah, Madame, it is not enough to have danced for the benefit of these poor Poles.... Let us he philanthropy to the end.... Let us have supper now for the benefit of the poor!”