1916 Fredericton Encaenia

Address in Praise of Founders

Delivered by: Uppvall, Axel Johan


"The Imperishable Laurel to be Won. Prof. A. J. Uppvall Delivers the Address in Praise of the Founders at Encoenial Exercises at U.N.B. ..." The Daily Gleaner (18 May 1916): 9.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

When the famous Danish critic, George Brandes, was asked by an American reporter to state what he considered August Strindberg's greatest contribution to contemporary letters, he answered that it was his unconquerable spirit of opposition and his absolute disregard of conventionality. On the other and, his greatest weakness, according to the same authority, was inconsistency.

To the intelligent, unbiased student of Strindberg, this characterization of the great author is a compliment. But to the majority who are student of Strindberg, and who may know but very little about him, the statement is not satisfactory. In all its brevity, it is apt to be misleading. For an unconquerable spirit of opposition is, without further qualifications, an attribute strongly suggestive of qualities which are neither rare nor admired and hence capable of creating prejudice against a man.

Furthermore, a man who refuses to comply with the innumerable conventionalities of modern life is a man not to be tolerated in society. For such a man will purposely forget the saying that language was invented in order that man might conceal his thoughts, or again, that an act which was not sanctioned by great-great grandfathers and other infallible human beings, must for that reason alone be improper and inadmissible. If to this we add what the great critic regards as Strindberg's cardinal fault--inconsistency, we are dealing with an individual who, in addition to a host of other weaknesses, may be suspected of too often proving untrue to principles and ideals which when once embraced, professed and sworn to, are principles and ideals from which a man may not be divorced without seriously endangering his reputation.

In the main, Dr. Brandes' opinion will not doubt be shared by most literary critics. August Strindberg's greatness was his steadfast refusal to be the cat's paw of any party, sect, school or faction. As a mere boy he dedicated his life to the service of truth and swore to be true to his convictions and fearless in his decisions. He was too great a thinker to be an optimist; too scrupulous to sell himself and to betray the masses whose cause he had espoused even before he was of age and to which he remained faithful until the end. His mind was too universal to allow him to come to false conclusions in questions of vital importance, and he seems to have firmly believed that "no axiom, though divine and inspired, will dispense us from looking straight at the facts." It was this philosophy that kept him at sword's point with the majority for more than forty long years; but this was no disgrace, it seems to me, for it has become one of the axioms of reform that God works with minorities, and Lilly in his 'Right and Wrong' contends that "not majorities but minorities are the helpers and friends of mankind on the path of ethical progress."

This Strindberg campaign which at first was a purely literary one, but which in due time exerted a tremendous influence on Swedish national life in general, was a godsend. For the innumerable battles which he fought, now at home, now in exile, were all actuated by the one supreme desire that superstition, mendacity and hypocrisy might not prevail against truth. This is the reason why Strindberg fought; the reason why he gave no quarter and asked none. These facts also explain many of his peculiarities, i.e. his inconsistency, which later in life was more apparent than real. Yet, after all, his whole life was little else than a series of adjustments necessitated by a mind that never ceased to grow and which realized gradually the more probably relations of the relative to the absolute. It was truth, rational thinking and a course of action consistent with such thinking that Strindberg ever had at heart. And as truth never has been and probably never will be popular, we can easily understand why this truly good man--for such he was in spite of all his faults--should suffer at the hands of a ruthless press, grafting, pettifogging factions of the land--social, political and religious who used every mean, legitimate and illegitimate, against this champion of justice and enlightenment. Such a course was in keeping with traditions; the friends of the humble have always been crucified and burned.

All those who are in sympathy with the idea of emancipation and who look forward to the time when man shall have outlived certain psychic weaknesses, and when liberated he shall turn his face to the stars because he loves truth, not because he fears punishment; all those who truly love humanity and rejoice in whatever force there is at work which shall even in the least further the great cause--the uplifting of humanity to a level of intelligence the base of which shall be more reason and less mysticism--all those, I say once more, must of necessity rejoice in the victorious career of the charwoman's son--August Strindberg.

I could not but think of this man in connection with my duty on this day which is to say a few words in praise of the founders of this institution. For all those whom we are wont to look upon as truly great and good belong to all times and to all races. And though all of them are not equally good or great, they are nevertheless of the same fraternity, inasmuch as they have all been actuated by noble motives. More light! So whispered the Sage of Weimer when Death laid his icy hand upon his brow. More light! This we solicit and nothing more. more light, in order that truth, honour and justice may prevail, for hither shall come unborn generations to taste of the accumulated experiences of the ages!

We praise the founders of this Pharos which for an hundred years has sent its bright beams across lands and seas. May its future be even more glorious. May it continue to send forth men whose motto shall be unselfish service in the interest of humanity; men who shall dare to be honest and to whom position renown ardently desired than the imperishable laurels of integrity and a clear conscience.

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