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2 - Possible and actual theses of Lessing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2010

Edited and translated by
Alastair Hannay
Affiliation:
Universitetet i Oslo
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Summary

So without daring to appeal to Lessing, without positively citing him as my source, without obliging anyone on account of Lessing's fame to feel bound to want to understand, or to protest that they do understand, what only brings them into a suspect association with my own obscurity, doubtless as off-putting as Lessing's fame is attractive, I am now about to present what I'll be damned if I won't attribute to him anyway, even if uncertain that he agrees; what I might, by throwing caution to the winds, easily be tempted to foist on him teasingly as something he had actually said, even if not directly; what in another mood I could wish in starry-eyed admiration to dare thank him for; what again with proud restraint and self-respect I ascribe to him simply out of generosity; and what, once more, I fear will offend or inconvenience him through my bringing his name into connection with these things.

Yes, one seldom finds an author who is such pleasant company as Lessing. And why is that? It is, I think, because he is so sure of himself. All this trivial and easy association between the eminent and the less eminent: that the one is genius, master, the other apprentice, messenger, hired servant, etc. is obviated here. If I strove with a devil's might and main to become Lessing's disciple, I could not, for he has prevented it.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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