IT WAS THOMAS Mann who first made the surprising comparison between Nietzsche and Oscar Wilde. Both men, he said, had the same irrepressible and irresponsible desire to shock, and both cultivated the same deliberately paradoxical affirmations. Statements like, ‘It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances’ and, ‘It is only a moral judgement that truth is more important than appearance’ could have been made interchangeably by either of the principal figures of nineteenth-century decadence, and there is little doubt that Nietzsche too would have been appalled if anyone had been so vulgar as to take some of hs more notorious statements seriously. Who but a self-righteous prig would not see that ‘You are going to see a woman? Don’t forget to take your whip’ is a joke?