Peter Gay's The Cultivation of Hatred completes his Freudian psychoanalysis of the bourgeois 19th century by bringing aggression to bear alongside the forces of sexuality which form the subject of the preceding volumes, Education of the Senses and The Tender Passion. That aggression and sexuality are intimately associated, at once intermingled and opposed, Gay has no doubt, pointing to the 'provocative oxymorons like "sweet cruelty", the "voluptuousness of revenge" and "cruel tenderness" ', in which Heine and others registered their sense of the ambiguity of the relationship. For analytical purposes, he has had to separate them in this vast undertaking. The hurt of historians is that they know that everything works together but they cannot conceive and describe everything working together: analysis wrecks the Bergsonian continuum which inspires it. Aggression and sexuality fuse here only at moments, less in the context of the treatment of gender relations than in the pages on sadism and masochism, at which Gay arrives with dreadful inevitability by way of the English public and preparatory school, or in what he calls the 'erotic democracy' of Second Empire caesarism. But libido must always be understood to be lurking, in the German cartoonist Wilhelm Busch's observation of children watching a pig being slaughtered ('Death, cruelty, voluptuousness: here they are united') or in sports and competitions, which, Gay tells us in The Tender Passion, he might have treated there as examples of the displacement of erotic feeling, but decided to save for the next volume because in them aggression had the upper hand.
LRB 9 February 1995 | PDF Download