Thomas Carlyle.

Sartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history online

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through the Nether Empire; and new Emissaries are trained, with new
tactics, to, if possible, entrap him, and hoodwink and handcuff him.

'With such high vocation had I too, as denizen of the Universe, been
called. Unhappy it is, however, that though born to the amplest
Sovereignty, in this way, with no less than sovereign right of Peace
and War against the Time-Prince (_Zeitfürst_), or Devil, and all his
Dominions, your coronation-ceremony costs such trouble, your sceptre
is so difficult to get at, or even to get eye on!'

By which last wiredrawn similitude does Teufelsdröckh mean no more
than that young men find obstacles in what we call 'getting under
way'? 'Not what I Have,' continues he, 'but what I Do is my Kingdom.
To each is given a certain inward Talent, a certain outward
Environment of Fortune; to each, by wisest combination of these two, a
certain maximum of Capability. But the hardest problem were ever this
first: To find by study of yourself, and of the ground you stand on,
what your combined inward and outward Capability specially is. For,
alas, our young soul is all budding with Capabilities, and we see not
yet which is the main and true one. Always too the new man is in a new
time, under new conditions; his course can be the _fac-simile_ of no
prior one, but is by its nature original. And then how seldom will the
outward Capability fit the inward: though talented wonderfully enough,
we are poor, unfriended, dyspeptical, bashful; nay what is worse than
all, we are foolish. Thus, in a whole imbroglio of Capabilities, we go
stupidly groping about, to grope which is ours, and often clutch the
wrong one: in this mad work must several years of our small term be
spent, till the purblind Youth, by practice, acquire notions of
distance, and become a seeing Man. Nay, many so spend their whole
term, and in ever-new expectation, ever-new disappointment, shift from
enterprise to enterprise, and from side to side: till at length, as
exasperated striplings of threescore-and-ten, they shift into their
last enterprise, that of getting buried.

'Such, since the most of us are too ophthalmic, would be the general
fate; were it not that one thing saves us: our Hunger. For on this
ground, as the prompt nature of Hunger is well known, must a prompt
choice be made: hence have we, with wise foresight, Indentures and
Apprenticeships for our irrational young; whereby, in due season, the
vague universality of a Man shall find himself ready-moulded into a
specific Craftsman; and so thenceforth work, with much or with little
waste of Capability as it may be; yet not with the worst waste, that
of time. Nay even in matters spiritual, since the spiritual artist too
is born blind, and does not, like certain other creatures, receive
sight in nine days, but far later, sometimes never, - is it not well
that there should be what we call Professions, or Bread-studies
(_Brodzwecke_), pre-appointed us? Here, circling like the gin-horse,
for whom partial or total blindness is no evil, the Bread-artist can
travel contentedly round and round, still fancying that it is forward
and forward; and realise much: for himself victual; for the world an
additional horse's power in the grand corn-mill or hemp-mill of
Economic Society. For me too had such a leading-string been provided;
only that it proved a neck-halter, and had nigh throttled me, till I
broke it off. Then, in the words of Ancient Pistol, did the world
generally become mine oyster, which I, by strength or cunning, was to
open, as I would and could. Almost had I deceased (_fast wär ich
umgekommen_), so obstinately did it continue shut.'

We see here, significantly foreshadowed, the spirit of much that was
to befall our Autobiographer; the historical embodiment of which, as
it painfully takes shape in his Life, lies scattered, in dim
disastrous details, through this Bag _Pisces_, and those that follow.
A young man of high talent, and high though still temper, like a young
mettled colt, 'breaks-off his neck-halter,' and bounds forth, from his
peculiar manger, into the wide world; which, alas, he finds all
rigorously fenced-in. Richest clover-fields tempt his eye; but to him
they are forbidden pasture: either pining in progressive starvation,
he must stand; or, in mad exasperation, must rush to and fro, leaping
against sheer stone-walls, which he cannot leap over, which only
lacerate and lame him; till at last, after thousand attempts and
endurances, he, as if by miracle, clears his way; not indeed into
luxuriant and luxurious clover, yet into a certain bosky wilderness
where existence is still possible, and Freedom, though waited on by
Scarcity, is not without sweetness. In a word, Teufelsdröckh having
thrown-up his legal Profession, finds himself without landmark of
outward guidance; whereby his previous want of decided Belief, or
inward guidance, is frightfully aggravated. Necessity urges him on;
Time will not stop, neither can he, a Son of Time; wild passions
without solacement, wild faculties without employment, ever vex and
agitate him. He too must enact that stern Monodrama, _No Object and no
Rest_; must front its successive destinies, work through to its
catastrophe, and deduce therefrom what moral he can.

Yet let us be just to him, let us admit that his 'neck-halter' sat
nowise easy on him; that he was in some degree forced to break it off.
If we look at the young man's civic position, in this Nameless
capital, as he emerges from its Nameless University, we can discern
well that it was far from enviable. His first Law-Examination he has
come through triumphantly; and can even boast that the _Examen
Rigorosum_ need not have frightened him: but though he is hereby 'an
_Auscultator_ of respectability,' what avails it? There is next to no
employment to be had. Neither, for a youth without connexions, is the
process of Expectation very hopeful in itself; nor for one of his
disposition much cheered from without. 'My fellow Auscultators,' he
says, 'were Auscultators: they dressed, and digested, and talked
articulate words; other vitality showed they almost none. Small
speculation in those eyes, that they did glare withal! Sense neither
for the high nor for the deep, nor for aught human or divine, save
only for the faintest scent of coming Preferment.' In which words,
indicating a total estrangement on the part of Teufelsdröckh, may
there not also lurk traces of a bitterness as from wounded vanity?
Doubtless these prosaic Auscultators may have sniffed at him, with his
strange ways; and tried to hate, and what was much more impossible, to
despise him. Friendly communion, in any case, there could not be:
already has the young Teufelsdröckh left the other young geese; and
swims apart, though as yet uncertain whether he himself is cygnet or

Perhaps, too, what little employment he had was performed ill, at best
unpleasantly. 'Great practical method and expertness' he may brag of;
but is there not also great practical pride, though deep-hidden, only
the deeper-seated? So shy a man can never have been popular. We figure
to ourselves, how in those days he may have played strange freaks with
his independence, and so forth: do not his own words betoken as much?
'Like a very young person, I imagined it was with Work alone, and not
also with Folly and Sin, in myself and others, that I had been
appointed to struggle.' Be this as it may, his progress from the
passive Auscultatorship, towards any active Assessorship, is evidently
of the slowest. By degrees, those same established men, once partially
inclined to patronise him, seem to withdraw their countenance, and
give him up as 'a man of genius': against which procedure he, in these
Papers, loudly protests. 'As if,' says he, 'the higher did not
presuppose the lower; as if he who can fly into heaven, could not also
walk post if he resolved on it! But the world is an old woman, and
mistakes any gilt farthing for a gold coin; whereby being often
cheated, she will thenceforth trust nothing but the common copper.'

How our winged sky-messenger, unaccepted as a terrestrial runner,
contrived, in the mean while, to keep himself from flying skyward
without return, is not too clear from these Documents. Good old
Gretchen seems to have vanished from the scene, perhaps from the
Earth; other Horn of Plenty, or even of Parsimony, nowhere flows for
him; so that 'the prompt nature of Hunger being well known,' we are
not without our anxiety. From private Tuition, in never so many
languages and sciences, the aid derivable is small; neither, to use
his own words, 'does the young Adventurer hitherto suspect in himself
any literary gift; but at best earns bread-and-water wages, by his
wide faculty of Translation. Nevertheless,' continues he, 'that I
subsisted is clear, for you find me even now alive.' Which fact,
however, except upon the principle of our true-hearted, kind old
Proverb, that 'there is always life for a living one,' we must profess
ourselves unable to explain.

Certain Landlords' Bills, and other economic Documents, bearing the
mark of Settlement, indicate that he was not without money; but, like
an independent Hearth-holder, if not House-holder, paid his way. Here
also occur, among many others, two little mutilated Notes, which
perhaps throw light on his condition. The first has now no date, or
writer's name, but a huge Blot; and runs to this effect: 'The
(_Inkblot_), tied-down by previous promise, cannot, except by best
wishes, forward the Herr Teufelsdröckh's views on the Assessorship in
question; and sees himself under the cruel necessity of forbearing,
for the present, what were otherwise his duty and joy, to assist in
opening the career for a man of genius, on whom far higher triumphs
are yet waiting.' The other is on gilt paper; and interests us like a
sort of epistolary mummy now dead, yet which once lived and
beneficently worked. We give it in the original: '_Herr Teufelsdröckh
wird von der Frau Gräfinn, auf Donnerstag, zum_ ÆSTHETISCHEN THEE
_schönstens eingeladen._'

Thus, in answer to a cry for solid pudding, whereof there is the most
urgent need, comes, epigrammatically enough, the invitation to a wash
of quite fluid _Æsthetic Tea!_ How Teufelsdröckh, now at actual
handgrips with Destiny herself, may have comported himself among these
Musical and Literary Dilettanti of both sexes, like a hungry lion
invited to a feast of chickenweed, we can only conjecture. Perhaps in
expressive silence, and abstinence: otherwise if the lion, in such
case, is to feast at all, it cannot be on the chickenweed, but only on
the chickens. For the rest, as this Frau Gräfinn dates from the
_Zähdarm House_, she can be no other than the Countess and mistress of
the same; whose intellectual tendencies, and good-will to
Teufelsdröckh, whether on the footing of Herr Towgood, or on his own
footing, are hereby manifest. That some sort of relation, indeed,
continued, for a time, to connect our Autobiographer, though perhaps
feebly enough, with this noble House, we have elsewhere express
evidence. Doubtless, if he expected patronage, it was in vain; enough
for him if he here obtained occasional glimpses of the great world,
from which we at one time fancied him to have been always excluded.
'The Zähdarms,' says he, 'lived in the soft, sumptuous garniture of
Aristocracy; whereto Literature and Art, attracted and attached from
without, were to serve as the handsomest fringing. It was to the
_Gnädigen Frau_ (her Ladyship) that this latter improvement was due:
assiduously she gathered, dextrously she fitted-on, what fringing was
to be had; lace or cobweb, as the place yielded.' Was Teufelsdröckh
also a fringe, of lace or cobweb; or promising to be such? 'With his
_Excellenz_ (the Count),' continues he, 'I have more than once had the
honour to converse; chiefly on general affairs, and the aspect of the
world, which he, though now past middle life, viewed in no
unfavourable light; finding indeed, except the Outrooting of
Journalism (_die auszurottende Journalistik_), little to desiderate
therein. On some points, as his _Excellenz_ was not uncholeric, I
found it more pleasant to keep silence. Besides, his occupation being
that of Owning Land, there might be faculties enough, which, as
superfluous for such use, were little developed in him.'

That to Teufelsdröckh the aspect of the world was nowise so faultless,
and many things besides 'the Outrooting of Journalism' might have
seemed improvements, we can readily conjecture. With nothing but a
barren Auscultatorship from without, and so many mutinous thoughts and
wishes from within, his position was no easy one. 'The Universe,' he
says, 'was as a mighty Sphinx-riddle, which I knew so little of, yet
must rede, or be devoured. In red streaks of unspeakable grandeur, yet
also in the blackness of darkness, was Life, to my too-unfurnished
Thought, unfolding itself. A strange contradiction lay in me; and I as
yet knew not the solution of it; knew not that spiritual music can
spring only from discords set in harmony; that but for Evil there were
no Good, as victory is only possible by battle.'

'I have heard affirmed (surely in jest),' observes he elsewhere, 'by
not unphilanthropic persons, that it were a real increase of human
happiness, could all young men from the age of nineteen be covered
under barrels, or rendered otherwise invisible; and there left to
follow their lawful studies and callings, till they emerged, sadder
and wiser, at the age of twenty-five. With which suggestion, at least
as considered in the light of a practical scheme, I need scarcely say
that I nowise coincide. Nevertheless it is plausibly urged that, as
young ladies (_Mädchen_) are, to mankind, precisely the most
delightful in those years; so young gentlemen (_Bübchen_) do then
attain their maximum of detestability. Such gawks (_Gecken_) are they;
and foolish peacocks, and yet with such a vulturous hunger for
self-indulgence; so obstinate, obstreperous, vainglorious; in all
senses, so froward and so forward. No mortal's endeavour or attainment
will, in the smallest, content the as yet unendeavouring, unattaining
young gentleman; but he could make it all infinitely better, were it
worthy of him. Life everywhere is the most manageable matter, simple
as a question in the Rule-of-Three: multiply your second and third
term together, divide the product by the first, and your quotient will
be the answer, - which you are but an ass if you cannot come at. The
booby has not yet found-out, by any trial, that, do what one will,
there is ever a cursed fraction, oftenest a decimal repeater, and no
net integer quotient so much as to be thought of.'

In which passage does not there lie an implied confession that
Teufelsdröckh himself, besides his outward obstructions, had an
inward, still greater, to contend with; namely, a certain temporary,
youthful, yet still afflictive derangement of head? Alas, on the
former side alone, his case was hard enough. 'It continues ever true,'
says he, 'that Saturn, or Chronos, or what we call TIME, devours all
his Children: only by incessant Running, by incessant Working, may you
(for some threescore-and-ten years) escape him; and you too he devours
at last. Can any Sovereign, or Holy Alliance of Sovereigns, bid Time
stand still; even in thought, shake themselves free of Time? Our whole
terrestrial being is based on Time, and built of Time; it is wholly a
Movement, a Time-impulse; Time is the author of it, the material of
it. Hence also our Whole Duty, which is to move, to work, - in the
right direction. Are not our Bodies and our Souls in continual
movement, whether we will or not; in a continual Waste, requiring a
continual Repair? Utmost satisfaction of our whole outward and inward
Wants were but satisfaction for a space of Time; thus, whatso we have
done, is done, and for us annihilated, and ever must we go and do
anew. O Time-Spirit, how hast thou environed and imprisoned us, and
sunk us so deep in thy troublous dim Time-Element, that only in lucid
moments can so much as glimpses of our upper Azure Home be revealed to
us! Me, however, as a Son of Time, unhappier than some others, was
Time threatening to eat quite prematurely; for, strive as I might,
there was no good Running, so obstructed was the path, so gyved were
the feet.' That is to say, we presume, speaking in the dialect of this
lower world, that Teufelsdröckh's whole duty and necessity was, like
other men's, 'to work, - in the right direction,' and that no work was
to be had; whereby he became wretched enough. As was natural: with
haggard Scarcity threatening him in the distance; and so vehement a
soul languishing in restless inaction, and forced thereby, like Sir
Hudibras's sword by rust,

To eat into itself for lack
Of something else to hew and hack!

But on the whole, that same 'excellent Passivity,' as it has all along
done, is here again vigorously flourishing; in which circumstance may
we not trace the beginnings of much that now characterises our
Professor; and perhaps, in faint rudiments, the origin of the
Clothes-Philosophy itself? Already the attitude he has assumed towards
the World is too defensive; not, as would have been desirable, a bold
attitude of attack. 'So far hitherto,' he says, 'as I had mingled with
mankind, I was notable, if for anything, for a certain stillness of
manner, which, as my friends often rebukingly declared, did but ill
express the keen ardour of my feelings. I, in truth, regarded men with
an excess both of love and of fear. The mystery of a Person, indeed,
is ever divine to him that has a sense for the God-like. Often,
notwithstanding, was I blamed, and by half-strangers hated, for my
so-called Hardness (_Härte_), my Indifferentism towards men; and the
seemingly ironic tone I had adopted, as my favourite dialect in
conversation. Alas, the panoply of Sarcasm was but as a buckram case,
wherein I had striven to envelop myself; that so my own poor Person
might live safe there, and in all friendliness, being no longer
exasperated by wounds. Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the
language of the Devil; for which reason I have long since as good as
renounced it. But how many individuals did I, in those days, provoke
into some degree of hostility thereby! An ironic man, with his sly
stillness, and ambuscading ways, more especially an ironic young man,
from whom it is least expected, may be viewed as a pest to society.
Have we not seen persons of weight and name coming forward, with
gentlest indifference, to tread such a one out of sight, as an
insignificancy and worm, start ceiling-high (_balkenhoch_), and thence
fall shattered and supine, to be borne home on shutters, not without
indignation, when he proved electric and a torpedo!'

Alas, how can a man with this devilishness of temper make way for
himself in Life; where the first problem, as Teufelsdröckh too admits,
is 'to unite yourself with some one and with somewhat (_sich
anzuschliessen_)'? Division, not union, is written on most part of his
procedure. Let us add too that, in no great length of time, the only
important connexion he had ever succeeded in forming, his connexion
with the Zähdarm Family, seems to have been paralysed, for all
practical uses, by the death of the 'not uncholeric' old Count. This
fact stands recorded, quite incidentally, in a certain _Discourse on
Epitaphs_, huddled into the present Bag, among so much else; of which
Essay the learning and curious penetration are more to be approved of
than the spirit. His grand principle is, that lapidary inscriptions, of
what sort soever, should be Historical rather than Lyrical. 'By request
of that worthy Nobleman's survivors,' says he, 'I undertook to compose
his Epitaph; and not unmindful of my own rules, produced the following;
which however, for an alleged defect of Latinity, a defect never yet
fully visible to myself, still remains unengraven'; - wherein, we may
predict, there is more than the Latinity that will surprise an English













PRIMUM IN ORBE DEJECIT [_sub dato_]; POSTREMUM [_sub dato_].



'For long years,' writes Teufelsdröckh, 'had the poor Hebrew, in this
Egypt of an Auscultatorship, painfully toiled, baking bricks without
stubble, before ever the question once struck him with entire force:
For what? - _Beym Himmel!_ For Food and Warmth! And are Food and Warmth
nowhere else, in the whole wide Universe, discoverable? - Come of it
what might, I resolved to try.'

Thus then are we to see him in a new independent capacity, though
perhaps far from an improved one. Teufelsdröckh is now a man without
Profession. Quitting the common Fleet of herring-busses and whalers,
where indeed his leeward, laggard condition was painful enough, he
desperately steers-off, on a course of his own, by sextant and compass
of his own. Unhappy Teufelsdröckh! Though neither Fleet, nor Traffic,
nor Commodores pleased thee, still was it not _a Fleet_, sailing in
prescribed track, for fixed objects; above all, in combination,
wherein, by mutual guidance, by all manner of loans and borrowings,
each could manifoldly aid the other? How wilt thou sail in unknown
seas; and for thyself find that shorter North-west Passage to thy fair
Spice-country of a Nowhere? - A solitary rover, on such a voyage, with
such nautical tactics, will meet with adventures. Nay, as we forthwith
discover, a certain Calypso-Island detains him at the very outset; and
as it were falsifies and oversets his whole reckoning.

'If in youth,' writes he once, 'the Universe is majestically
unveiling, and everywhere Heaven revealing itself on Earth, nowhere to
the Young Man does this Heaven on Earth so immediately reveal itself
as in the Young Maiden. Strangely enough, in this strange life of
ours, it has been so appointed. On the whole, as I have often said, a
Person (_Persönlichkeit_) is ever holy to us: a certain orthodox
Anthropomorphism connects my _Me_ with all _Thees_ in bonds of Love:
but it is in this approximation of the Like and Unlike, that such
heavenly attraction, as between Negative and Positive, first burns-out
into a flame. Is the pitifullest mortal Person, think you, indifferent
to us? Is it not rather our heartfelt wish to be made one with him; to
unite him to us, by gratitude, by admiration, even by fear; or failing
all these, unite ourselves to him? But how much more, in this case of
the Like-Unlike! Here is conceded us the higher mystic possibility of
such a union, the highest in our Earth; thus, in the conducting medium
of Fantasy, flames-forth that _fire_-development of the universal
Spiritual Electricity, which, as unfolded between man and woman, we
first emphatically denominate LOVE.

'In every well-conditioned stripling, as I conjecture, there already
blooms a certain prospective Paradise, cheered by some fairest Eve;
nor, in the stately vistas, and flowerage and foliage of that Garden,
is a Tree of Knowledge, beautiful and awful in the midst thereof,
wanting. Perhaps too the whole is but the lovelier, if Cherubim and a
Flaming Sword divide it from all footsteps of men; and grant him, the
imaginative stripling, only the view, not the entrance. Happy season
of virtuous youth, when shame is still an impassable celestial
barrier; and the sacred air-cities of Hope have not shrunk into the
mean clay-hamlets of Reality; and man, by his nature, is yet infinite
and free!

'As for our young Forlorn,' continues Teufelsdröckh, evidently meaning
himself, 'in his secluded way of life, and with his glowing Fantasy,
the more fiery that it burnt under cover, as in a reverberating
furnace, his feeling towards the Queens of this Earth was, and indeed

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 10 of 43)