Thomas Carlyle.

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

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repay with interest their long-accumulated debt: the Anchorite that
was scoffed at will be worshipped; the Fraction will become not an
Integer only, but a Square and Cube. With astonishment the world will
recognise that the Tailor is its Hierophant and Hierarch, or even its

'As I stood in the Mosque of St. Sophia, and looked upon these
Four-and-Twenty Tailors, sewing and embroidering that rich Cloth,
which the Sultan sends yearly for the Caaba of Mecca, I thought within
myself: How many other Unholies has your covering Art made holy,
besides this Arabian Whinstone!

'Still more touching was it when, turning the corner of a lane, in the
Scottish Town of Edinburgh, I came upon a Signpost, whereon stood
written that such and such a one was "Breeches-Maker to his Majesty";
and stood painted the Effigies of a Pair of Leather Breeches, and
between the knees these memorable words, SIC ITUR AD ASTRA. Was not
this the martyr prison-speech of a Tailor sighing indeed in bonds, yet
sighing towards deliverance, and prophetically appealing to a better
day? A day of justice, when the worth of Breeches would be revealed to
man, and the Scissors become forever venerable.

'Neither, perhaps, may I now say, has his appeal been altogether in
vain. It was in this high moment, when the soul, rent, as it were, and
shed asunder, is open to inspiring influence, that I first conceived
this Work on Clothes: the greatest I can ever hope to do; which has
already, after long retardations, occupied, and will yet occupy, so
large a section of my Life; and of which the Primary and simpler
Portion may here find its conclusion.'



So have we endeavoured, from the enormous, amorphous Plum-pudding,
more like a Scottish Haggis, which Herr Teufelsdröckh had kneaded for
his fellow mortals, to pick-out the choicest Plums, and present them
separately on a cover of our own. A laborious, perhaps a thankless
enterprise; in which, however, something of hope has occasionally
cheered us, and of which we can now wash our hands not altogether
without satisfaction. If hereby, though in barbaric wise, some morsel
of spiritual nourishment have been added to the scanty ration of our
beloved British world, what nobler recompense could the Editor desire?
If it prove otherwise, why should he murmur? Was not this a Task which
Destiny, in any case, had appointed him; which having now done with,
he sees his general Day's-work so much the lighter, so much the

Of Professor Teufelsdröckh it seems impossible to take leave without a
mingled feeling of astonishment, gratitude and disapproval. Who will
not regret that talents, which might have profited in the higher walks
of Philosophy, or in Art itself, have been so much devoted to a
rummaging among lumber-rooms; nay too often to a scraping in kennels,
where lost rings and diamond-necklaces are nowise the sole conquests?
Regret is unavoidable; yet censure were loss of time. To cure him of
his mad humours British Criticism would essay in vain: enough for her
if she can, by vigilance, prevent the spreading of such among
ourselves. What a result, should this piebald, entangled,
hyper-metaphorical style of writing, not to say of thinking, become
general among our Literary men! As it might so easily do. Thus has not
the Editor himself, working over Teufelsdröckh's German, lost much of
his own English purity? Even as the smaller whirlpool is sucked into
the larger, and made to whirl along with it, so has the lesser mind,
in this instance, been forced to become portion of the greater, and
like it, see all things figuratively: which habit time and assiduous
effort will be needed to eradicate.

Nevertheless, wayward as our Professor shows himself, is there any
reader that can part with him in declared enmity? Let us confess,
there is that in the wild, much-suffering, much-inflicting man, which
almost attaches us. His attitude, we will hope and believe, is that of
a man who had said to Cant, Begone; and to Dilettantism, Here thou
canst not be; and to Truth, Be thou in place of all to me: a man who
had manfully defied the 'Time-prince,' or Devil, to his face; nay
perhaps, Hannibal-like, was mysteriously consecrated from birth to
that warfare, and now stood minded to wage the same, by all weapons,
in all places, at all times. In such a cause, any soldier, were he but
a Polack Scythe-man, shall be welcome.

Still the question returns on us: How could a man occasionally of keen
insight, not without keen sense of propriety, who had real Thoughts to
communicate, resolve to emit them in a shape bordering so closely on
the absurd? Which question he were wiser than the present Editor who
should satisfactorily answer. Our conjecture has sometimes been, that
perhaps Necessity as well as Choice was concerned in it. Seems it not
conceivable that, in a Life like our Professor's, where so much
bountifully given by Nature had in Practice failed and misgone,
Literature also would never rightly prosper: that striving with his
characteristic vehemence to paint this and the other Picture, and ever
without success, he at last desperately dashes his sponge, full of all
colours, against the canvas, to try whether it will paint Foam? With
all his stillness, there were perhaps in Teufelsdröckh desperation
enough for this.

A second conjecture we hazard with even less warranty. It is, that
Teufelsdröckh is not without some touch of the universal feeling, a
wish to proselytise. How often already have we paused, uncertain
whether the basis of this so enigmatic nature were really Stoicism and
Despair, or Love and Hope only seared into the figure of these!
Remarkable, moreover, is this saying of his: 'How were Friendship
possible? In mutual devotedness to the Good and True: otherwise
impossible; except as Armed Neutrality, or hollow Commercial League. A
man, be the Heavens ever praised, is sufficient for himself; yet were
ten men, united in Love, capable of being and of doing what ten
thousand singly would fail in. Infinite is the help man can yield to
man.' And now in conjunction therewith consider this other: 'It is the
Night of the World, and still long till it be Day: we wander amid the
glimmer of smoking ruins, and the Sun and the Stars of Heaven are as
if blotted out for a season; and two immeasurable Phantoms, HYPOCRISY
and ATHEISM, with the Gowl, SENSUALITY, stalk abroad over the Earth,
and call it theirs: well at ease are the Sleepers for whom Existence
is a shallow Dream.'

But what of the awestruck Wakeful who find it a Reality? Should not
these unite; since even an authentic Spectre is not visible to
Two? - In which case were this enormous Clothes-Volume properly an
enormous Pitchpan, which our Teufelsdröckh in his lone watch-tower had
kindled, that it might flame far and wide through the Night, and many
a disconsolately wandering spirit be guided thither to a Brother's
bosom! - We say as before, with all his malign Indifference, who knows
what mad Hopes this man may harbour?

Meanwhile there is one fact to be stated here, which harmonises ill
with such conjecture; and, indeed, were Teufelsdröckh made like other
men, might as good as altogether subvert it. Namely, that while the
Beacon-fire blazed its brightest, the Watchman had quitted it; that no
pilgrim could now ask him: Watchman, what of the Night? Professor
Teufelsdröckh, be it known is no longer visibly present at
Weissnichtwo, but again to all appearance lost in space! Some time
ago, the Hofrath Heuschrecke was pleased to favour us with another
copious Epistle; wherein much is said about the
'Population-Institute'; much repeated in praise of the Paper-bag
Documents, the hieroglyphic nature of which our Hofrath still seems
not to have surmised; and, lastly, the strangest occurrence
communicated, to us for the first time, in the following paragraph:

'_Ew. Wohlgeboren_ will have seen from the public Prints, with what
affectionate and hitherto fruitless solicitude Weissnichtwo regards
the disappearance of her Sage. Might but the united voice of Germany
prevail on him to return; nay, could we but so much as elucidate for
ourselves by what mystery he went away! But, alas, old Lieschen
experiences or affects the profoundest deafness, the profoundest
ignorance: in the Wahngasse all lies swept, silent, sealed up; the
Privy Council itself can hitherto elicit no answer.

'It had been remarked that while the agitating news of those Parisian
Three Days flew from mouth to mouth, and dinned every ear in
Weissnichtwo, Herr Teufelsdröckh was not known, at the _Gans_ or
elsewhere, to have spoken, for a whole week, any syllable except once
these three: _Es geht an_ (It is beginning). Shortly after, as _Ew.
Wohlgeboren_ knows, was the public tranquillity here, as in Berlin,
threatened by a Sedition of the Tailors. Nor did there want
Evil-wishers, or perhaps mere desperate Alarmists, who asserted that
the closing Chapter of the Clothes-Volume was to blame. In this
appalling crisis, the serenity of our Philosopher was indescribable;
nay, perhaps through one humble individual, something thereof might
pass into the _Rath_ (Council) itself, and so contribute to the
country's deliverance. The Tailors are now entirely pacificated. -

'To neither of these two incidents can I attribute our loss: yet still
comes there the shadow of a suspicion out of Paris and its Politics.
For example, when the _Saint-Simonian Society_ transmitted its
Propositions hither, and the whole _Gans_ was one vast cackle of
laughter, lamentation and astonishment, our Sage sat mute; and at the
end of the third evening said merely: "Here also are men who have
discovered, not without amazement, that Man is still Man; of which
high, long-forgotten Truth you already see them make a false
application." Since then, as has been ascertained by examination of
the Post-Director, there passed at least one Letter with its Answer
between the Messieurs Bazard-Enfantin and our Professor himself; of
what tenor can now only be conjectured. On the fifth night following,
he was seen for the last time!

'Has this invaluable man, so obnoxious to most of the hostile Sects
that convulse our Era, been spirited away by certain of their
emissaries; or did he go forth voluntarily to their head-quarters to
confer with them and confront them? Reason we have, at least of a
negative sort, to believe the Lost still living; our widowed heart
also whispers that ere long he will himself give a sign. Otherwise,
indeed, his archives must, one day, be opened by Authority; where
much, perhaps the _Palingenesie_ itself, is thought to be reposited.'

* * * * *

Thus far the Hofrath; who vanishes, as is his wont, too like an Ignis
Fatuus, leaving the dark still darker.

So that Teufelsdröckh's public History were not done, then, or reduced
to an even, unromantic tenor; nay, perhaps the better part thereof
were only beginning? We stand in a region of conjectures, where
substance has melted into shadow, and one cannot be distinguished from
the other. May Time, which solves or suppresses all problems, throw
glad light on this also! Our own private conjecture, now amounting
almost to certainty, is that, safe-moored in some stillest obscurity,
not to lie always still, Teufelsdröckh is actually in London!

Here, however, can the present Editor, with an ambrosial joy as of
over-weariness falling into sleep, lay down his pen. Well does he
know, if human testimony be worth aught, that to innumerable British
readers likewise, this is a satisfying consummation; that innumerable
British readers consider him, during these current months, but as an
uneasy interruption to their ways of thought and digestion; and
indicate so much, not without a certain irritancy and even spoken
invective. For which, as for other mercies, ought not he to thank the
Upper Powers? To one and all of you, O irritated readers, he, with
outstretched arms and open heart, will wave a kind farewell. Thou too,
miraculous Entity, who namest thyself YORKE and OLIVER, and with thy
vivacities and genialities, with thy all-too Irish mirth and madness,
and odour of palled punch, makest such strange work, farewell; long as
thou canst, fare-_well!_ Have we not, in the course of Eternity,
travelled some months of our Life-journey in partial sight of one
another; have we not existed together, though in a state of quarrel?



This questionable little Book was undoubtedly written among
the mountain solitudes, in 1831; but, owing to impediments
natural and accidental, could not, for seven years more,
appear as a Volume in England; - and had at last to clip itself
in pieces, and be content to struggle out, bit by bit, in some
courageous _Magazine_ that offered. Whereby now, to certain
idly curious readers, and even to myself till I make study,
the insignificant but at last irritating question, What its
real history and chronology are, is, if not insoluble,
considerably involved in haze.

To the first English Edition, 1838, which an American, or two
American had now opened the way for, there was slightingly
prefixed, under the title '_Testimonies of Authors_,' some
straggle of real documents, which, now that I find it again,
sets the matter into clear light and sequence; - and shall
here, for removal of idle stumbling-blocks and nugatory
guessings from the path of every reader, be reprinted as it
stood. (_Author's Note of 1868._)



_Taster to Bookseller._ - "The Author of _Teufelsdröckh_ is a person of
talent; his work displays here and there some felicity of thought and
expression, considerable fancy and knowledge: but whether or not it
would take with the public seems doubtful. For a _jeu d'esprit_ of
that kind it is too long; it would have suited better as an essay or
article than as a volume. The Author has no great tact; his wit is
frequently heavy; and reminds one of the German Baron who took to
leaping on tables, and answered that he was learning to be lively.
_Is_ the work a translation?"

_Bookseller to Editor._ - "Allow me to say that such a writer requires
only a little more tact to produce a popular as well as an able work.
Directly on receiving your permission, I sent your _MS._ to a
gentleman in the highest class of men of letters, and an accomplished
German scholar: I now inclose you his opinion, which, you may rely
upon it, is a just one; and I have too high an opinion of your good
sense to" &c. &c. - _MS._ (_penes nos_), _London, 17th September 1831_.


"_Fraser's Magazine_ exhibits the usual brilliancy, and also the" &c.
"_Sartor Resartus_ is what old Dennis used to call 'a heap of clotted
nonsense,' mixed however, here and there, with passages marked by
thought and striking poetic vigour. But what does the writer mean by
'Baphometic fire-baptism'? Why cannot he lay aside his pedantry, and
write so as to make himself generally intelligible? We quote by way of
curiosity a sentence from the _Sartor Resartus_; which may be read
either backwards or forwards, for it is equally intelligible either
way. Indeed, by beginning at the tail, and so working up to the head,
we think the reader will stand the fairest chance of getting at its
meaning: 'The fire-baptised soul, long so scathed and thunder-riven,
here feels its own freedom; which feeling is its Baphometic baptism:
the citadel of its whole kingdom it has thus gained by assault, and
will keep inexpugnable; outwards from which the remaining dominions,
not indeed without hard battering, will doubtless by degrees be
conquered and pacificated.' Here is a" - .... - _Sun Newspaper_, _1st
April 1834_.


... "After a careful survey of the whole ground, our belief is that no
such persons as Professor Teufelsdröckh or Counsellor Heuschrecke ever
existed; that the six Paper-bags, with their China-ink inscriptions
and multifarious contents, are a mere figment of the brain; that the
'present Editor' is the only person who has ever written upon the
Philosophy of Clothes; and that the _Sartor Resartus_ is the only
treatise that has yet appeared upon that subject; - in short, that the
whole account of the origin of the work before us, which the supposed
Editor relates with so much gravity, and of which we have given a
brief abstract, is, in plain English, a _hum_.

"Without troubling our readers at any great length with our reasons
for entertaining these suspicions, we may remark, that the absence of
all other information on the subject, except what is contained in the
work, is itself a fact of a most significant character. The whole
German press, as well as the particular one where the work purports to
have been printed, seems to be under the control of _Stillschweigen
and Co._, - Silence and Company. If the Clothes-Philosophy and its
author are making so great a sensation throughout Germany as is
pretended, how happens it that the only notice we have of the fact is
contained in a few numbers of a monthly Magazine published at London?
How happens it that no intelligence about the matter has come out
directly to this country? We pique ourselves here in New England upon
knowing at least as much of what is going on in the literary way in
the old Dutch Mother-land as our brethren of the fast-anchored Isle;
but thus far we have no tidings whatever of the 'extensive
close-printed close-meditated volume,' which forms the subject of this
pretended commentary. Again, we would respectfully inquire of the
'present Editor' upon what part of the map of Germany we are to look
for the city of _Weissnichtwo_, - 'Know-not-where,' - at which place the
work is supposed to have been printed, and the Author to have resided.
It has been our fortune to visit several portions of the German
territory, and to examine pretty carefully, at different times and for
various purposes, maps of the whole; but we have no recollection of
any such place. We suspect that the city of _Know-not-where_ might be
called, with at least as much propriety, _Nobody-knows-where_, and is
to be found in the kingdom of _Nowhere_. Again, the village of
_Entepfuhl_ - 'Duck-pond,' where the supposed Author of the work is
said to have passed his youth, and that of _Hinterschlag_, where he
had his education, are equally foreign to our geography. Duck-ponds
enough there undoubtedly are in almost every village in Germany, as
the traveller in that country knows too well to his cost, but any
particular village denominated Duck-pond is to us altogether _terra
incognita_. The names of the personages are not less singular than
those of the places. Who can refrain from a smile at the yoking
together of such a pair of appellatives as Diogenes Teufelsdröckh? The
supposed bearer of this strange title is represented as admitting, in his
pretended autobiography, that 'he had searched to no purpose through all
the Heralds' books in and without the German empire, and through all
manner of Subscribers'-lists, Militia-rolls, and other Name-catalogues,'
but had nowhere been able to find the 'name Teufelsdröckh, except as
appended to his own person.' We can readily believe this, and we doubt
very much whether any Christian parent would think of condemning a son to
carry through life the burden of so unpleasant a title. That of Counsellor
Heuschrecke - 'Grasshopper,' though not offensive, looks much more like a
piece of fancy work than a 'fair business transaction.' The same may be
said of _Blumine_ - 'Flower-Goddess' - the heroine of the fable; and so
of the rest.

"In short, our private opinion is, as we have remarked, that the whole
story of a correspondence with Germany, a university of
Nobody-knows-where, a Professor of Things in General, a Counsellor
Grasshopper, a Flower-Goddess Blumine, and so forth, has about as much
foundation in truth as the late entertaining account of Sir John
Herschel's discoveries in the moon. Fictions of this kind are,
however, not uncommon, and ought not, perhaps, to be condemned with
too much severity; but we are not sure that we can exercise the same
indulgence in regard to the attempt, which seems to be made to mislead
the public as to the substance of the work before us, and its
pretended German original. Both purport, as we have seen, to be upon
the subject of Clothes, or dress. _Clothes, their Origin and
Influence_, is the title of the supposed German treatise of Professor
Teufelsdröckh, and the rather odd name of _Sartor Resartus_ - the
Tailor Patched, - which the present Editor has affixed to his pretended
commentary, seems to look the same way. But though there is a good
deal of remark throughout the work in a half-serious, half-comic style
upon dress, it seems to be in reality a treatise upon the great
science of Things in General, which Teufelsdröckh is supposed to have
professed at the university of Nobody-knows-where. Now, without
intending to adopt a too rigid standard of morals, we own that we
doubt a little the propriety of offering to the public a treatise on
Things in General, under the name and in the form of an Essay on
Dress. For ourselves, advanced as we unfortunately are in the journey
of life, far beyond the period when dress is practically a matter of
interest, we have no hesitation in saying, that the real subject of
the work is to us more attractive than the ostensible one. But this is
probably not the case with the mass of readers. To the younger portion
of the community, which constitutes everywhere the very great
majority, the subject of dress is one of intense and paramount
importance. An author who treats it appeals, like the poet, to the
young men and maidens - _virginibus puerisque_, - and calls upon them,
by all the motives which habitually operate most strongly upon their
feelings, to buy his book. When, after opening their purses for this
purpose, they have carried home the work in triumph, expecting to find
in it some particular instruction in regard to the tying of their
neckcloths, or the cut of their corsets, and meet with nothing better
than a dissertation on Things in General, they will, - to use the
mildest term - not be in very good humour. If the last improvements in
legislation, which we have made in this country, should have found
their way to England, the author, we think, would stand some chance of
being _Lynched_. Whether his object in this piece of _supercherie_ be
merely pecuniary profit, or whether he takes a malicious pleasure in
quizzing the Dandies, we shall not undertake to say. In the latter
part of the work, he devotes a separate chapter to this class of
persons, from the tenour of which we should be disposed to conclude,
that he would consider any mode of divesting them of their property
very much in the nature of a spoiling of the Egyptians.

"The only thing about the work, tending to prove that it is what it
purports to be, a commentary on a real German treatise, is the style,
which is a sort of Babylonish dialect, not destitute, it is true, of
richness, vigour, and at times a sort of singular felicity of expression,
but very strongly tinged throughout with the peculiar idiom of the German
language. This quality in the style, however, may be a mere result of
a great familiarity with German literature, and we cannot, therefore,
look upon it as in itself decisive, still less as outweighing so much
evidence of an opposite character." - _North-American Review_, _No. 89_,
_October 1835_.


"The Editors have been induced, by the express desire of many persons,
to collect the following sheets out of the ephemeral pamphlets[4] in
which they first appeared, under the conviction that they contain in
themselves the assurance of a longer date.

[4] _Fraser's_ (London) _Magazine_, 1833-4.

"The Editors have no expectation that this little Work will have a
sudden and general popularity. They will not undertake, as there is no
need, to justify the gay costume in which the Author delights to dress
his thoughts, or the German idioms with which he has sportively
sprinkled his pages. It is his humour to advance the gravest
speculations upon the gravest topics in a quaint and burlesque style.
If his masquerade offend any of his audience, to that degree that they
will not hear what he has to say, it may chance to draw others to
listen to his wisdom; and what work of imagination can hope to please
all? But we will venture to remark that the distaste excited by these
peculiarities in some readers is greatest at first, and is soon

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 21 of 43)