Henry Wickham Steed, The Hapsburg Monarchy (London: Constable and Company, Ltd., 1919)
VIENNA AND "VIENNA"
The " Viennese standpoint " is, simply, to avoid unpleasantness, to take life easily, sceptically, and to get out of it as much thoughtless enjoyment as possible. Abroad, Vienna has a reputation for " gaiety," dating, perhaps, from the Congress of 1815. Of this reputed gaiety, the critical stranger sees little. He sees a whole population trying to be gay, but little spontaneous merriment. Centuries of absolutist government working upon a temperament compounded of Celtic versatility, South German slackness and Slav sensuousness, have - thanks to the constant efforts of the authorities to turn attention away from public affairs and towards amusement - ended by producing a population of dilettanti, disposed to take nothing seriously save the pursuit of pleasure. The result is depressing to those not born to the Viennese manner or capable of assimilating the Viennese standpointlessness. The Viennese themselves hold their city incomparable - as indeed it is, after its fashion. Their pride in it and in themselves as its inhabitants is intense, far deeper-rooted and livelier than the pride of the Parisian in Paris. For this pride there are many valid reasons. No European capital has so Imperial an air, none finer boulevards, none a more magnificent park at its gates or more delightful surroundings. First impressions of Vienna are usually seductive. The combination of stateliness and homeliness, of colour and light, the comparative absence of architectural monstrosities and the soft Italian influence everywhere apparent, contribute, together with the grace and beauty of the women, the polite friendliness of the inhabitants and the broad, warm accent of their speech, to charm the eye and ear of every travelled visitor. Then, in a brief space, the spell is often broken. Disillusionment, of the kind that overtakes a guest during too long a tete-a-tete with a handsome hostess who is handsome but nothing more, sets in and sometimes inclines strangers to harsh and hasty judgment. The defects of the city are felt to out-
weigh its attractions, The population appears soulless, its easy-going character amorphous, its politeness hollow, its honesty dubious and its vanity insufferable. The very architecture of Viennese buildings seems to stand in no relation to Viennese life save, perhaps, the Baroque which, with its apotheosis of unreality, somehow suits the character of a people that has latterly adopted with snobbish alacrity the unintelligible canons of "modern art," This disillusionment may last until the stranger discovers in some odd corner of the city a veritable Viennese and finds that beneath the appearance of gaiety there is much quiet, hard work, beneath the superficial politeness much real courtesy, alongside of childishness, great shrewdness and knowledge of mankind, and, amid scepticism and carelessness, an amazing richness of talent. The level of talent in Vienna is remarkably high though it is often a talent without object or intelligible purpose. The "stupidity" of the Viennese and of Austrians generally, by which strangers are so often struck, proceeds not from lack of wits but from absence of opportunity for the application of intelligence. The beginning of positive intelligence is discipline of attention. The Viennese have never been schooled to concentrate their minds upon matters more important than concerts, theatres, sports and amusements. Proof that their "stupidity" is due to lack of opportunity rather than of capacity is afforded whenever Austrians in general and Viennese in particular find employment abroad. The number of Austrians who have achieved intellectual and technical distinction in Germany, the United States, the Argentine Republic and other countries is astonishing. But at home they seem to be hypnotized by the general atmosphere of unreality. In their hearts the best of them often resent the impotence to which they are condemned by the political, social and moral conditions of their life ; yet they are loth to admit that Viennese life is not, in its way, ideal. "A Viennese," writes Bahr,  "is a man very unhappy about himself, who hates
the Viennese but cannot live without them, who despises himself but is touched by his own condition, who constantly grumbles but wishes to be constantly praised, who feels miserable but finds comfort in wretchedness, who always complains, always threatens but puts up with everything except that any one should presume to help him - then he defends himself."
And again, in speaking of Viennese talent,  " Nowhere in the wide world is there so much talent as in Vienna, talent for everything, political and artistic. But it is talent of a special kind, attached to nothing, hanging in the air, a talent with nothing to express but itself, purposeless, void, a hollow nut. Here are young actors able to communicate feelings they do not feel ; here people, who are themselves empty, revel in the finest verses. Here is all political wisdom which no man knows how to use. No one has a will. Viennese talent is like an abandoned piano, containing all potentialities of sound, but silent. Men do not lack talent but talent lacks men. Every man hides his manliness. The fear, wrought into their fathers, is still too great. Hence the terror of the Viennese when a real man appears among them. They find him uncanny and would like to hide from him - unless they be in a theatre. On the stage they know it will be over in three hours. The Viennese are still able to bear reality as a representation though they are glad that the dangerous beast has been chained up with chains of art. A real man in real life, the Viennese have never tolerated; neither Beethoven nor Hebbel nor Kurnberger nor Hugo Wolf nor Mahler. Real men are kept in the cage of an immense solitude. The Viennese never let them enter their beloved light and lusty life. Hence the great silence of Vienna. Nothing moves, nothing can happen. The boldest, the greatest acts have no effect ; they remain hidden. The thinker, the doer must hide himself - ' isolated and powerless,' as Hebbel said - and take his thoughts and deeds home with him and stow them away in a secret drawer.
Outside, the attractive appearance of life in the dear, light, soft-living city goes on untroubled."
The problem of Vienna as, indeed, the problem of Austria and of the Monarchy is how to adjust appearances to reality and to bring more sincerity into life. Hitherto the "authorities" have striven to adjust reality to appearances. The argument that Vienna is not Austria and, still less, the Monarchy, holds good in the sense that life in the Austrian provinces and in parts of Hungary is more real and direct than in Vienna. Some writers, Bahr among them, maintain that Vienna no longer wields decisive influence and that the fate of the Monarchy and of Vienna will be settled by the Hapsburg peoples without much consideration for Viennese preferences. This view might be sound had the Hapsburg peoples a corporate life apart from Vienna or had they any common purpose save such as may be suggested to or imposed on them by Vienna. Though Vienna may be powerless to solve the problem of the Monarchy, it is powerful to impede solutions and to foment distrust and hatred among the Hapsburg peoples and even among peoples beyond the frontier. The Viennese atmosphere - which attains its fullest expression in the official, military and police spheres whose lack of moral sense and of ethical imagination has made the name " Vienna" a by - word throughout the Monarchy - affects, directly and indirectly, every aspect of political life in the Hapsburg Dominions. To trace the genesis of "Vienna" would be to write a psychological history of the Austrian Empire. It is mainly a product of education on Jesuit lines under a Dynasty which long believed its mission to be that of world - domination, the famous " A.E.I.O.U. policy " - Austriae Est Imperare Orbi Universo. In the spirit of domination, Dynasty and Jesuits found themselves agreed. Around them gathered a clientele of German, Magyar, Czech, Polish, French, Italian, Irish, Scottish and Spanish families - largely reinforced during recent generations by baptized Jews - a clientele united only in the determination to gain advancement and, influence. As
Mickiewicz wrote seventy years ago, the Austrian Empire has never been German, Hungarian or Slav, but has been ruled by a caste of inter-related families battening on the Dynasty and its peoples. Bahr rightly says that one of the most pressing Austrian problems is how to break the power of this -now largely bureaucratic-caste of political middlemen and to adjust the structure of the State to the needs of the Hapsburg peoples. But it is an open question whether the power of the caste can be broken before it has broken the Monarchy. From Lemberg to Mostar and from Kolozsvar to Innsbruck, men of public spirit may be heard in different tongues but identical tone denouncing the arrogance, narrowmindedness, faithlessness, and stupidity of " Vienna," and, to a lesser extent, of " Budapest," which now rivals " Vienna " in lack of moral consciousness. To visit the Hapsburg Monarchy in its length and breadth is to realize how great are its resources and how immense its possibilities, and to comprehend that the bonds uniting its peoples are, or might be, stronger than the elements of division. But everywhere the blighting breath of the Capital can be felt and, on approaching Vienna, faith and idealism vanish. It is this moral void that makes most foreigners and many Austrians feel perennially strangers in the Austrian Capital. Its " Asiatic " character, to which Metternich and Kurnberger alike bore witness, repels those who would fain feel at home within its walls, and whom mere climatic or physical drawbacks would not deter. For forty years the Viennese have been studying how to draw a stream of foreign visitors to their city and for forty years have been astounded at their failure. They enumerate the attractions of Vienna, the multiplicity of its pleasures, the beauty of its monuments and the charm of its natural surroundings ; but they forget that for a capital to act as a magnet upon strangers it must have a soul of its own with which the stranger can secretly commune. Both Vienna and " Vienna " are soulless or, at least, their " souls " are so much in abeyance that neither thrills the thoughtful stranger with that inward satisfaction which moves the heart.