Varnhagen on Speaking Truth | Harper's Magazine

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Varnhagen on Speaking Truth

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May eternal justice grant me that I tell the truth as audibly and strongly as I feel it in my soul. Once I made the most enormous sacrifice that a human being is capable of making for that which he deems just. Only I can judge it, and I would have a God at my side who is capable of the same judgment: for human beings know nothing of one another. I didn’t succeed; the fates would not have it, they would not accept it; and so it was hurled back to the position to which I was still capable of summoning the power to bring it. . . It can only please the gods once that one destroys oneself out of respect for the holy; on the second occasion it can never be the call of a god! So there will be no second time.

Rahel Varnhagen von Ense (née Levin), letter to Karl Finck von Finckenstein, Sept. 4, 1799 in: Gesammelte Werke, vol. 8, p. 102 (S.H. transl.)

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