Thomas Carlyle.

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

. (page 16 of 43)
Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 16 of 43)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

escaping from what he calls 'Vanity's Workhouse and Ragfair,' where
doubtless some of them are toiled and whipped and hoodwinked
sufficiently, - will sheathe themselves in close-fitting cases of
Leather? The idea is ridiculous in the extreme. Will Majesty lay aside
its robes of state, and Beauty its frills and train-gowns, for a
second-skin of tanned hide? By which change Huddersfield and
Manchester, and Coventry and Paisley, and the Fancy-Bazaar, were
reduced to hungry solitudes; and only Day and Martin could profit. For
neither would Teufelsdröckh's mad daydream, here as we presume
covertly intended, of levelling Society (_levelling_ it indeed with a
vengeance, into one huge drowned marsh!), and so attaining the
political effects of Nudity without its frigorific or other
consequences, - be thereby realised. Would not the rich man purchase a
waterproof suit of Russia Leather; and the high-born Belle step-forth
in red or azure morocco, lined with shamoy: the black cowhide being
left to the Drudges and Gibeonites of the world; and so all the old
Distinctions be re-established?

Or has the Professor his own deeper intention; and laughs in his
sleeve at our strictures and glosses, which indeed are but a part



Not less questionable is his Chapter on _Church-Clothes_, which has
the farther distinction of being the shortest in the Volume. We here
translate it entire:

'By Church-Clothes, it need not be premised that I mean infinitely
more than Cassocks and Surplices; and do not at all mean the mere
haberdasher Sunday Clothes that men go to Church in. Far from it!
Church-Clothes are, in our vocabulary, the Forms, the _Vestures_,
under which men have at various periods embodied and represented for
themselves the Religious Principle; that is to say, invested The
Divine Idea of the World with a sensible and practically active Body,
so that it might dwell among them as a living and life-giving WORD.

'These are unspeakably the most important of all the vestures and
garnitures of Human Existence. They are first spun and woven, I may
say, by that wonder of wonders, SOCIETY; for it is still only when
"two or three are gathered together," that Religion, spiritually
existent, and indeed indestructible, however latent, in each, first
outwardly manifests itself (as with "cloven tongues of fire"), and
seeks to be embodied in a visible Communion and Church Militant.
Mystical, more than magical, is that Communing of Soul with Soul, both
looking heavenward: here properly Soul first speaks with Soul; for
only in looking heavenward, take it in what sense you may, not in
looking earthward, does what we can call Union, mutual Love, Society,
begin to be possible. How true is that of Novalis: "It is certain my
Belief gains quite _infinitely_ the moment I can convince another mind
thereof"! Gaze thou in the face of thy Brother, in those eyes where
plays the lambent fire of Kindness, or in those where rages the lurid
conflagration of Anger; feel how thy own so quiet Soul is straightway
involuntarily kindled with the like, and ye blaze and reverberate on
each other, till it is all one limitless confluent flame (of embracing
Love, or of deadly-grappling Hate); and then say what miraculous
virtue goes out of man into man. But if so, through all the
thick-plied hulls of our Earthly Life; how much more when it is of the
Divine Life we speak, and inmost ME is, as it were, brought into
contact with inmost ME!

'Thus was it that I said, the Church-Clothes are first spun and woven
by Society; outward Religion originates by Society, Society becomes
possible by Religion. Nay, perhaps, every conceivable Society, past
and present, may well be figured as properly and wholly a Church, in
one or other of these three predicaments: an audibly preaching and
prophesying Church, which is the best; second, a Church that struggles
to preach and prophesy, but cannot as yet, till its Pentecost come;
and third and worst, a Church gone dumb with old age, or which only
mumbles delirium prior to dissolution. Whoso fancies that by Church is
here meant Chapterhouses and Cathedrals, or by preaching and
prophesying, mere speech and chanting, let him,' says the oracular
Professor, 'read on, light of heart (_getrosten Muthes_).

'But with regard to your Church proper, and the Church-Clothes
specially recognised as Church-Clothes, I remark, fearlessly enough,
that without such Vestures and sacred Tissues Society has not existed,
and will not exist. For if Government is, so to speak, the outward SKIN
of the Body Politic, holding the whole together and protecting it; and
all your Craft-Guilds, and Associations for Industry, of hand or of
head, are the Fleshly Clothes, the muscular and osseous Tissues (lying
_under_ such SKIN), whereby Society stands and works; - then is Religion
the inmost Pericardial and Nervous Tissue, which ministers Life and
warm Circulation to the whole. Without which Pericardial Tissue the
Bones and Muscles (of Industry) were inert, or animated only by a
Galvanic vitality; the SKIN would become a shrivelled pelt, or
fast-rotting raw-hide; and Society itself a dead carcass, - deserving to
be buried. Men were no longer Social, but Gregarious; which latter
state also could not continue, but must gradually issue in universal
selfish discord, hatred, savage isolation, and dispersion; - whereby, as
we might continue to say, the very dust and dead body of Society would
have evaporated and become abolished. Such, and so all-important,
all-sustaining, are the Church-Clothes to civilised or even to rational

'Meanwhile, in our era of the World, those same Church-Clothes have
gone sorrowfully out-at-elbows; nay, far worse, many of them have
become mere hollow Shapes, or Masks, under which no living Figure or
Spirit any longer dwells; but only spiders and unclean beetles, in
horrid accumulation, drive their trade; and the mask still glares on
you with its glass-eyes, in ghastly affectation of Life, - some
generation-and-half after Religion has quite withdrawn from it, and in
unnoticed nooks is weaving for herself new Vestures, wherewith to
reappear, and bless us, or our sons or grandsons. As a Priest, or
Interpreter of the Holy, is the noblest and highest of all men, so is
a Sham-priest (_Schein-priester_) the falsest and basest; neither is
it doubtful that his Canonicals, were they Popes' Tiaras, will one day
be torn from him, to make bandages for the wounds of mankind; or even
to burn into tinder, for general scientific or culinary purposes.

'All which, as out of place here, falls to be handled in my Second
Volume, _On the Palingenesia, or Newbirth of Society_; which volume,
as treating practically of the Wear, Destruction, and Retexture of
Spiritual Tissues, or Garments, forms, properly speaking, the
Transcendental or ultimate Portion of this my work _on Clothes_, and
is already in a state of forwardness.'

And herewith, no farther exposition, note, or commentary being added,
does Teufelsdröckh, and must his Editor now, terminate the singular
chapter on Church-Clothes!



Probably it will elucidate the drift of these foregoing obscure
utterances, if we here insert somewhat of our Professor's speculations
on _Symbols_. To state his whole doctrine, indeed, were beyond our
compass: nowhere is he more mysterious, impalpable, than in this of
'Fantasy being the organ of the God-like;' and how 'Man thereby,
though based, to all seeming, on the small Visible, does nevertheless
extend down into the infinite deeps of the Invisible, of which
Invisible, indeed, his Life is properly the bodying forth.' Let us,
omitting these high transcendental aspects of the matter, study to
glean (whether from the Paper-bags or the Printed Volume) what little
seems logical and practical, and cunningly arrange it into such degree
of coherence as it will assume. By way of proem, take the following
not injudicious remarks:

'The benignant efficacies of Concealment,' cries our Professor, 'who
shall speak or sing? SILENCE and SECRECY! Altars might still be raised
to them (were this an altar-building time) for universal worship.
Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves
together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic,
into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule. Not
William the Silent only, but all the considerable men I have known,
and the most undiplomatic and unstrategic of these, forbore to babble
of what they were creating and projecting. Nay, in thy own mean
perplexities, do thou thyself but _hold thy tongue for one day_: on
the morrow, how much clearer are thy purposes and duties; what wreck
and rubbish have those mute workmen within thee swept away, when
intrusive noises were shut out! Speech is too often not, as the
Frenchman defined it, the art of concealing Thought; but of quite
stifling and suspending Thought, so that there is none to conceal.
Speech too is great, but not the greatest. As the Swiss Inscription
says: _Sprechen ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden_ (Speech is silvern,
Silence is golden); or as I might rather express it: Speech is of
Time, Silence is of Eternity.

'Bees will not work except in darkness; Thought will not work except
in Silence; neither will Virtue work except in Secrecy. Let not thy
left hand know what thy right hand doeth! Neither shalt thou prate
even to thy own heart of "those secrets known to all." Is not Shame
(_Schaam_) the soil of all Virtue, of all good manners and good
morals? Like other plants, Virtue will not grow unless its root be
hidden, buried from the eye of the sun. Let the sun shine on it, nay
do but look at it privily thyself, the root withers, and no flower
will glad thee. O my Friends, when we view the fair clustering flowers
that over-wreathe, for example, the Marriage-bower, and encircle man's
life with the fragrance and hues of Heaven, what hand will not smite
the foul plunderer that grubs them up by the roots, and with grinning,
grunting satisfaction, shows us the dung they flourish in! Men speak
much of the Printing-Press with its Newspapers: _du Himmel!_ what are
these to Clothes and the Tailor's Goose?'

'Of kin to the so incalculable influences of Concealment, and
connected with still greater things, is the wondrous agency of
_Symbols_. In a Symbol there is concealment and yet revelation: here
therefore, by Silence and by Speech acting together, comes a double
significance. And if both the Speech be itself high, and the Silence
fit and noble, how expressive will their union be! Thus in many a
painted Device, or simple Seal-emblem, the commonest Truth stands-out
to us proclaimed with quite new emphasis.

'For it is here that Fantasy with her mystic wonderland plays into the
small prose domain of Sense, and becomes incorporated therewith. In
the Symbol proper, what we can call a Symbol, there is ever, more or
less distinctly and directly, some embodiment and revelation of the
Infinite; the Infinite is made to blend itself with the Finite, to
stand visible, and as it were, attainable there. By Symbols,
accordingly, is man guided and commanded, made happy, made wretched.
He everywhere finds himself encompassed with Symbols, recognised as
such or not recognised: the Universe is but one vast Symbol of God;
nay if thou wilt have it, what is man himself but a Symbol of God; is
not all that he does symbolical; a revelation to Sense of the mystic
god-given force that is in him; a "Gospel of Freedom," which he, the
"Messias of Nature," preaches, as he can, by act and word? Not a Hut
he builds but is the visible embodiment of a Thought; but bears
visible record of invisible things; but is, in the transcendental
sense, symbolical as well as real.'

'Man,' says the Professor elsewhere, in quite antipodal contrast with
these high-soaring delineations, which we have here cut short on the
verge of the inane, 'Man is by birth somewhat of an owl. Perhaps, too,
of all the owleries that ever possessed him, the most owlish, if we
consider it, is that of your actually existing Motive-Millwrights.
Fantastic tricks enough man has played, in his time; has fancied
himself to be most things, down even to an animated heap of Glass; but
to fancy himself a dead Iron-Balance for weighing Pains and Pleasures
on, was reserved for this his latter era. There stands he, his
Universe one huge Manger, filled with hay and thistles to be weighed
against each other; and looks long-eared enough. Alas, poor devil!
spectres are appointed to haunt him: one age he is hag-ridden,
bewitched; the next, priestridden, befooled; in all ages, bedevilled.
And now the Genius of Mechanism smothers him worse than any Nightmare
did; till the Soul is nigh choked out of him, and only a kind of
Digestive, Mechanic life remains. In Earth and in Heaven he can see
nothing but Mechanism; has fear for nothing else, hope in nothing
else: the world would indeed grind him to pieces; but cannot he fathom
the Doctrine of Motives, and cunningly compute these, and mechanise
them to grind the other way?

'Were he not, as has been said, purblinded by enchantment, you had but
to bid him open his eyes and look. In which country, in which time,
was it hitherto that man's history, or the history of any man, went on
by calculated or calculable "Motives"? What make ye of your
Christianities, and Chivalries, and Reformations, and Marseillese
Hymns, and Reigns of Terror? Nay, has not perhaps the Motive-grinder
himself been _in Love_? Did he never stand so much as a contested
Election? Leave him to Time, and the medicating virtue of Nature.'

'Yes, Friends,' elsewhere observes the Professor, 'not our Logical,
Mensurative faculty, but our Imaginative one is King over us; I might
say, Priest and Prophet to lead us heavenward; our Magician and Wizard
to lead us hellward. Nay, even for the basest Sensualist, what is
Sense but the implement of Fantasy; the vessel it drinks out of? Ever
in the dullest existence there is a sheen either of Inspiration or of
Madness (thou partly hast it in thy choice, which of the two), that
gleams-in from the circumambient Eternity, and colours with its own
hues our little islet of Time. The Understanding is indeed thy window,
too clear thou canst not make it; but Fantasy is thy eye, with its
colour-giving retina, healthy or diseased. Have not I myself known
five-hundred living soldiers sabred into crows'-meat for a piece of
glazed cotton, which they called their Flag; which, had you sold it at
any market-cross, would not have brought above three groschen? Did not
the whole Hungarian Nation rise, like some tumultuous moon-stirred
Atlantic, when Kaiser Joseph pocketed their Iron Crown; an Implement,
as was sagaciously observed, in size and commercial value little
differing from a horse-shoe? It is in and through _Symbols_ that man,
consciously or unconsciously, lives, works, and has his being: those
ages, moreover, are accounted the noblest which can the best recognise
symbolical worth, and prize it the highest. For is not a Symbol ever,
to him who has eyes for it, some dimmer or clearer revelation of the

'Of Symbols, however, I remark farther, that they have both an
extrinsic and intrinsic value; oftenest the former only. What, for
instance, was in that clouted Shoe, which the Peasants bore aloft with
them as ensign in their _Bauernkrieg_ (Peasants' War)? Or in the
Wallet-and-staff round which the Netherland _Gueux_, glorying in that
nickname of Beggars, heroically rallied and prevailed, though against
King Philip himself? Intrinsic significance these had none: only
extrinsic; as the accidental Standards of multitudes more or less
sacredly uniting together; in which union itself, as above noted,
there is ever something mystical and borrowing of the Godlike. Under a
like category, too, stand, or stood, the stupidest heraldic
Coats-of-arms; military Banners everywhere; and generally all national
or other Sectarian Costumes and Customs: they have no intrinsic,
necessary divineness, or even worth; but have acquired an extrinsic
one. Nevertheless through all these there glimmers something of a
Divine Idea; as through military Banners themselves, the Divine Idea
of Duty, of heroic Daring; in some instances of Freedom, of Right.
Nay, the highest ensign that men ever met and embraced under, the
Cross itself, had no meaning save an accidental extrinsic one.

'Another matter it is, however, when your Symbol has intrinsic
meaning, and is of itself _fit_ that men should unite round it. Let
but the Godlike manifest itself to Sense; let but Eternity look, more
or less visibly, through the Time-Figure (_Zeitbild_)! Then is it fit
that men unite there; and worship together before such Symbol; and so
from day to day, and from age to age, superadd to it new divineness.

'Of this latter sort are all true works of Art: in them (if thou know
a Work of Art from a Daub of Artifice) wilt thou discern Eternity
looking through Time; the Godlike rendered visible. Here too may an
extrinsic value gradually superadd itself: thus certain _Iliads_, and
the like, have, in three-thousand years, attained quite new
significance. But nobler than all in this kind, are the Lives of
heroic god-inspired Men; for what other Work of Art is so divine? In
Death too, in the Death of the Just, as the last perfection of a Work
of Art, may we not discern symbolic meaning? In that divinely
transfigured Sleep, as of Victory, resting over the beloved face which
now knows thee no more, read (if thou canst for tears) the confluence
of Time with Eternity, and some gleam of the latter peering through.

'Highest of all Symbols are those wherein the Artist or Poet has risen
into Prophet, and all men can recognise a present God, and worship the
same: I mean religious Symbols. Various enough have been such
religious Symbols, what we call _Religions_; as men stood in this
stage of culture or the other, and could worse or better body-forth
the Godlike: some Symbols with a transient intrinsic worth; many with
only an extrinsic. If thou ask to what height man has carried it in
this manner, look on our divinest Symbol: on Jesus of Nazareth, and
his Life, and his Biography, and what followed therefrom. Higher has
the human Thought not yet reached: this is Christianity and
Christendom; a Symbol of quite perennial, infinite character: whose
significance will ever demand to be anew inquired into, and anew made

'But, on the whole, as time adds much to the sacredness of Symbols, so
likewise in his progress he at length defaces or even desecrates them;
and Symbols, like all terrestrial Garments, wax old. Homer's Epos has
not ceased to be true; yet it is no longer _our_ Epos, but shines in
the distance, if clearer and clearer, yet also smaller and smaller,
like a receding Star. It needs a scientific telescope, it needs to be
reinterpreted and artificially brought near us, before we can so much
as know that it _was_ a Sun. So likewise a day comes when the Runic
Thor, with his Eddas, must withdraw into dimness; and many an African
Mumbo-Jumbo and Indian Pawaw be utterly abolished. For all things,
even Celestial Luminaries, much more atmospheric meteors, have their
rise, their culmination, their decline.'

'Small is this which thou tellest me, that the Royal Sceptre is but a
piece of gilt-wood; that the Pyx has become a most foolish box, and
truly, as Ancient Pistol thought, "of little price." A right Conjuror
might I name thee, couldst thou conjure back into these wooden tools
the divine virtue they once held.'

'Of this thing, however, be certain: wouldst thou plant for Eternity,
then plant into the deep infinite faculties of man, his Fantasy and
Heart; wouldst thou plant for Year and Day, then plant into his
shallow superficial faculties, his Self-love and Arithmetical
Understanding, what will grow there. A Hierarch, therefore, and
Pontiff of the World will we call him, the Poet and inspired Maker;
who, Prometheus-like, can shape new Symbols, and bring new Fire from
Heaven to fix it there. Such too will not always be wanting; neither
perhaps now are. Meanwhile, as the average of matters goes, we account
him Legislator and wise who can so much as tell when a Symbol has
grown old, and gently remove it.

'When, as the last English Coronation[3] was preparing,' concludes
this wonderful Professor, 'I read in their Newspapers that the
"Champion of England," he who has to offer battle to the Universe for
his new King, had brought it so far that he could now "mount his horse
with little assistance," I said to myself: Here also we have a Symbol
well-nigh superannuated. Alas, move whithersoever you may, are not the
tatters and rags of superannuated worn-out symbols (in this Ragfair of
a World) dropping off everywhere, to hoodwink, to halter, to tether
you; nay, if you shake them not aside, threatening to accumulate, and
perhaps produce suffocation?'

[3] That of George IV. - ED.



At this point we determine on adverting shortly, or rather reverting,
to a certain Tract of Hofrath Heuschrecke's, entitled _Institute for
the Repression of Population_; which lies, dishonourable enough (with
torn leaves, and a perceptible smell of aloetic drugs), stuffed into
the Bag _Pisces_. Not indeed for the sake of the Tract itself, which
we admire little; but of the marginal Notes, evidently in
Teufelsdröckh's hand, which rather copiously fringe it. A few of these
may be in their right place here.

Into the Hofrath's _Institute_, with its extraordinary schemes, and
machinery of Corresponding Boards and the like, we shall not so much
as glance. Enough for us to understand that Heuschrecke is a disciple
of Malthus; and so zealous for the doctrine, that his zeal almost
literally eats him up. A deadly fear of Population possesses the
Hofrath; something like a fixed-idea; undoubtedly akin to the more
diluted forms of Madness. Nowhere, in that quarter of his intellectual
world, is there light; nothing but a grim shadow of Hunger; open
mouths opening wider and wider; a world to terminate by the
frightfullest consummation: by its too dense inhabitants, famished
into delirium, universally eating one another. To make air for himself
in which strangulation, choking enough to a benevolent heart, the
Hofrath founds, or proposes to found, this _Institute_ of his, as the
best he can do. It is only with our Professor's comments thereon that
we concern ourselves.

First, then, remark that Teufelsdröckh, as a speculative Radical, has
his own notions about human dignity; that the Zähdarm palaces and
courtesies have not made him forgetful of the Futteral cottages. On
the blank cover of Heuschrecke's Tract we find the following
indistinctly engrossed:

'Two men I honour, and no third. First, the toil-worn Craftsman that
with earth-made Implement laboriously conquers the Earth, and makes
her man's. Venerable to me is the hard Hand; crooked, coarse; wherein
notwithstanding lies a cunning virtue, indefeasibly royal, as of the
Sceptre of this Planet. Venerable too is the rugged face, all
weather-tanned, besoiled, with its rude intelligence; for it is the
face of a Man living manlike. O, but the more venerable for thy
rudeness, and even because we must pity as well as love thee!
Hardly-entreated Brother! For us was thy back so bent, for us were thy
straight limbs and fingers so deformed: thou wert our Conscript, on
whom the lot fell, and fighting our battles wert so marred. For in
thee too lay a god-created Form, but it was not to be unfolded;
encrusted must it stand with the thick adhesions and defacements of
Labour: and thy body, like thy soul, was not to know freedom. Yet toil
on, toil on: _thou_ art in thy duty, be out of it who may; thou
toilest for the altogether indispensable, for daily bread.

'A second man I honour, and still more highly: Him who is seen toiling
for the spiritually indispensable; not daily bread, but the bread of
Life. Is not he too in his duty; endeavouring towards inward Harmony;
revealing this, by act or by word, through all his outward endeavours,
be they high or low? Highest of all, when his outward and his inward
endeavour are one: when we can name him Artist; not earthly Craftsman
only, but inspired Thinker, who with heaven-made Implement conquers
Heaven for us! If the poor and humble toil that we have Food, must not
the high and glorious toil for him in return, that he have Light, have
Guidance, Freedom, Immortality? - These two, in all their degrees, I
honour: all else is chaff and dust, which let the wind blow whither it

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 16 of 43)