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Thomas Carlyle.

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

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reached a height unexampled in the annals of mankind, and even English
Editors, like Chinese Shopkeepers, must write on their door-lintels
_No cheating here_, - we thought it good to premise.




CHAPTER III

REMINISCENCES


To the Author's private circle the appearance of this singular Work on
Clothes must have occasioned little less surprise than it has to the
rest of the world. For ourselves, at least, few things have been more
unexpected. Professor Teufelsdröckh, at the period of our acquaintance
with him, seemed to lead a quite still and self-contained life: a man
devoted to the higher Philosophies, indeed; yet more likely, if he
published at all, to publish a refutation of Hegel and Bardili, both
of whom, strangely enough, he included under a common ban; than to
descend, as he has here done, into the angry noisy Forum, with an
Argument that cannot but exasperate and divide. Not, that we can
remember, the Philosophy of Clothes once touched upon between us. If
through the high, silent, meditative Transcendentalism of our Friend
we detected any practical tendency whatever, it was at most Political,
and towards a certain prospective, and for the present quite
speculative, Radicalism; as indeed some correspondence, on his part,
with Herr Oken of Jena was now and then suspected; though his special
contribution to the _Isis_ could never be more than surmised at. But,
at all events, nothing Moral, still less anything Didactico-Religious,
was looked for from him.

Well do we recollect the last words he spoke in our hearing; which
indeed, with the Night they were uttered in, are to be forever
remembered. Lifting his huge tumbler of _Gukguk_,[2] and for a moment
lowering his tobacco-pipe, he stood up in full Coffee-house (it was
_Zur Grünen Gans_, the largest in Weissnichtwo, where all the
Virtuosity, and nearly all the Intellect of the place assembled of an
evening); and there, with low, soul-stirring tone, and the look truly
of an angel, though whether of a white or of a black one might be
dubious, proposed this toast: _Die Sache der Armen in Gottes und
Teufels Namen_ (The Cause of the Poor, in Heaven's name and - - 's)!
One full shout, breaking the leaden silence; then a gurgle of
innumerable emptying bumpers, again followed by universal cheering,
returned him loud acclaim. It was the finale of the night: resuming
their pipes; in the highest enthusiasm, amid volumes of tobacco-smoke;
triumphant, cloud-capt without and within, the assembly broke up, each
to his thoughtful pillow. _Bleibt doch ein echter Spass- und
Galgen-vogel_, said several; meaning thereby that, one day, he would
probably be hanged for his democratic sentiments. _Wo steckt doch der
Schalk?_ added they, looking round: but Teufelsdröckh had retired by
private alleys, and the Compiler of these pages beheld him no more.

[2] Gukguk is unhappily only an academical-beer.

In such scenes has it been our lot to live with this Philosopher, such
estimate to form of his purposes and powers. And yet, thou brave
Teufelsdröckh, who could tell what lurked in thee? Under those thick
locks of thine, so long and lank, overlapping roof-wise the gravest
face we ever in this world saw, there dwelt a most busy brain. In thy
eyes too, deep under their shaggy brows, and looking out so still and
dreamy, have we not noticed gleams of an ethereal or else a diabolic
fire, and half-fancied that their stillness was but the rest of
infinite motion, the _sleep_ of a spinning-top? Thy little figure,
there as, in loose, ill-brushed threadbare habiliments, thou sattest,
amid litter and lumber, whole days, to 'think and smoke tobacco,' held
in it a mighty heart. The secrets of man's Life were laid open to
thee; thou sawest into the mystery of the Universe, farther than
another; thou hadst _in petto_ thy remarkable Volume on Clothes. Nay,
was there not in that clear logically-founded Transcendentalism of
thine; still more, in thy meek, silent, deep-seated Sansculottism,
combined with a true princely Courtesy of inward nature, the visible
rudiments of such speculation? But great men are too often unknown, or
what is worse, misknown. Already, when we dreamed not of it, the warp
of thy remarkable Volume lay on the loom; and silently, mysterious
shuttles were putting in the woof!

* * * * *

How the Hofrath Heuschrecke is to furnish biographical data, in this
case, may be a curious question; the answer of which, however, is
happily not our concern, but his. To us it appeared, after repeated
trial, that in Weissnichtwo, from the archives or memories of the
best-informed classes, no Biography of Teufelsdröckh was to be
gathered; not so much as a false one. He was a stranger there, wafted
thither by what is called the course of circumstances; concerning
whose parentage, birthplace, prospects, or pursuits, curiosity had
indeed made inquiries, but satisfied herself with the most indistinct
replies. For himself, he was a man so still and altogether
unparticipating, that to question him even afar off on such
particulars was a thing of more than usual delicacy: besides, in his
sly way, he had ever some quaint turn, not without its satirical edge,
wherewith to divert such intrusions, and deter you from the like. Wits
spoke of him secretly as if he were a kind of Melchizedek, without
father or mother of any kind; sometimes, with reference to his great
historic and statistic knowledge, and the vivid way he had of
expressing himself like an eye-witness of distant transactions and
scenes, they called him the _Ewige Jude_, Everlasting, or as we say,
Wandering Jew.

To the most, indeed, he had become not so much a Man as a Thing; which
Thing doubtless they were accustomed to see, and with satisfaction;
but no more thought of accounting for than for the fabrication of
their daily _Allgemeine Zeitung_, or the domestic habits of the Sun.
Both were there and welcome; the world enjoyed what good was in them,
and thought no more of the matter. The man Teufelsdröckh passed and
repassed, in his little circle, as one of those originals and
nondescripts, more frequent in German Universities than elsewhere; of
whom, though you see them alive, and feel certain enough that they
must have a History, no History seems to be discoverable; or only such
as men give of mountain rocks and antediluvian ruins: That they may
have been created by unknown agencies, are in a state of gradual
decay, and for the present reflect light and resist pressure; that is,
are visible and tangible objects in this phantasm world, where so much
other mystery is.

It was to be remarked that though, by title and diploma, _Professor
der Allerley-Wissenschaft_, or as we should say in English, 'Professor
of Things in General,' he had never delivered any Course; perhaps
never been incited thereto by any public furtherance or requisition.
To all appearance, the enlightened Government of Weissnichtwo, in
founding their New University, imagined they had done enough, if 'in
times like ours,' as the half-official Program expressed it, 'when all
things are, rapidly or slowly, resolving themselves into Chaos, a
Professorship of this kind had been established; whereby, as occasion
called, the task of bodying somewhat forth again from such Chaos might
be, even slightly, facilitated.' That actual Lectures should be held,
and Public Classes for the 'Science of Things in General,' they
doubtless considered premature; on which ground too they had only
established the Professorship, nowise endowed it; so that
Teufelsdröckh, 'recommended by the highest Names,' had been promoted
thereby to a Name merely.

Great, among the more enlightened classes, was the admiration of this
new Professorship: how an enlightened Government had seen into the
Want of the Age (_Zeitbedürfniss_); how at length, instead of Denial
and Destruction, we were to have a science of Affirmation and
Reconstruction; and Germany and Weissnichtwo were where they should
be, in the vanguard of the world. Considerable also was the wonder at
the new Professor, dropt opportunely enough into the nascent
University; so able to lecture, should occasion call; so ready to hold
his peace for indefinite periods, should an enlightened Government
consider that occasion did not call. But such admiration and such
wonder, being followed by no act to keep them living, could last only
nine days; and, long before our visit to that scene, had quite died
away. The more cunning heads thought it was all an expiring clutch at
popularity, on the part of a Minister, whom domestic embarrassments,
court intrigues, old age, and dropsy soon afterwards finally drove
from the helm.

As for Teufelsdröckh, except by his nightly appearances at the _Grüne
Gans_, Weissnichtwo saw little of him, felt little of him. Here, over
his tumbler of Gukguk, he sat reading Journals; sometimes
contemplatively looking into the clouds of his tobacco-pipe, without
other visible employment: always, from his mild ways, an agreeable
phenomenon there; more especially when he opened his lips for speech;
on which occasions the whole Coffee-house would hush itself into
silence, as if sure to hear something noteworthy. Nay, perhaps to hear
a whole series and river of the most memorable utterances; such as,
when once thawed, he would for hours indulge in, with fit audience:
and the more memorable, as issuing from a head apparently not more
interested in them, not more conscious of them, than is the sculptured
stone head of some public fountain, which through its brass mouth-tube
emits water to the worthy and the unworthy; careless whether it be for
cooking victuals or quenching conflagrations; indeed, maintains the
same earnest assiduous look, whether any water be flowing or not.

To the Editor of these sheets, as to a young enthusiastic Englishman,
however unworthy, Teufelsdröckh opened himself perhaps more than to
the most. Pity only that we could not then half guess his importance,
and scrutinise him with due power of vision! We enjoyed, what not
three men in Weissnichtwo could boast of, a certain degree of access
to the Professor's private domicile. It was the attic floor of the
highest house in the Wahngasse; and might truly be called the pinnacle
of Weissnichtwo, for it rose sheer up above the contiguous roofs,
themselves rising from elevated ground. Moreover, with its windows it
looked towards all the four _Orte_, or as the Scotch say, and we ought
to say, _Airts_: the sitting-room itself commanded three; another came
to view in the _Schlafgemach_ (bedroom) at the opposite end; to say
nothing of the kitchen, which offered two, as it were, _duplicates_,
and showing nothing new. So that it was in fact the speculum or
watch-tower of Teufelsdröckh; wherefrom, sitting at ease, he might see
the whole life-circulation of that considerable City; the streets and
lanes of which, with all their doing and driving (_Thun und Treiben_),
were for the most part visible there.

"I look down into all that wasp-nest or bee-hive," have we heard him
say, "and witness their wax-laying and honey-making, and
poison-brewing, and choking by sulphur. From the Palace esplanade,
where music plays while Serene Highness is pleased to eat his
victuals, down to the low lane, where in her door-sill the aged widow,
knitting for a thin livelihood, sits to feel the afternoon sun, I see
it all; for, except the Schlosskirche weathercock, no biped stands so
high. Couriers arrive bestrapped and bebooted, bearing Joy and Sorrow
bagged-up in pouches of leather: there, top-laden, and with four swift
horses, rolls-in the country Baron and his household; here, on
timber-leg, the lamed Soldier hops painfully along, begging alms: a
thousand carriages, and wains, and cars, come tumbling-in with Food,
with young Rusticity, and other Raw Produce, inanimate or animate, and
go tumbling out again with Produce manufactured. That living flood,
pouring through these streets, of all qualities and ages, knowest thou
whence it is coming, whither it is going? _Aus der Ewigkeit, zu der
Ewigkeit hin_: From Eternity, onwards to Eternity! These are
Apparitions: what else? Are they not Souls rendered visible: in
Bodies, that took shape and will lose it, melting into air? Their
solid Pavement is a picture of the Sense; they walk on the bosom of
Nothing, blank Time is behind them and before them. Or fanciest thou,
the red and yellow Clothes-screen yonder, with spurs on its heels and
feather in its crown, is but of Today, without a Yesterday or a
Tomorrow; and had not rather its Ancestor alive when Hengst and Horsa
overran thy Island? Friend, thou seest here a living link in that
Tissue of History, which inweaves all Being: watch well, or it will be
past thee, and seen no more."

"_Ach, mein Lieber!_" said he once, at midnight, when we had returned
from the Coffee-house in rather earnest talk, "it is a true sublimity
to dwell here. These fringes of lamplight, struggling up through smoke
and thousandfold exhalation, some fathoms into the ancient reign of
Night, what thinks Boötes of them, as he leads his Hunting-Dogs over
the Zenith in their leash of sidereal fire? That stifled hum of
Midnight, when Traffic has lain down to rest; and the chariot-wheels
of Vanity, still rolling here and there through distant streets, are
bearing her to Halls roofed-in, and lighted to the due pitch for her;
and only Vice and Misery, to prowl or to moan like nightbirds, are
abroad: that hum, I say, like the stertorous, unquiet slumber of sick
Life, is heard in Heaven! Oh, under that hideous covelet of vapours,
and putrefactions, and unimaginable gases, what a Fermenting-vat lies
simmering and hid! The joyful and the sorrowful are there; men are
dying there, men are being born; men are praying, - on the other side
of a brick partition, men are cursing; and around them all is the
vast, void Night. The proud Grandee still lingers in his perfumed
saloons, or reposes within damask curtains; Wretchedness cowers into
truckle-beds, or shivers hunger-stricken into its lair of straw: in
obscure cellars, _Rouge-et-Noir_ languidly emits its voice-of-destiny
to haggard hungry Villains; while Councillors of State sit plotting,
and playing their high chess-game, whereof the pawns are Men. The
Lover whispers his mistress that the coach is ready; and she, full of
hope and fear, glides down, to fly with him over the borders: the
Thief, still more silently, sets-to his picklocks and crowbars, or
lurks in wait till the watchmen first snore in their boxes. Gay
mansions, with supper-rooms and dancing-rooms, are full of light and
music and high-swelling hearts; but, in the Condemned Cells, the pulse
of life beats tremulous and faint, and bloodshot eyes look-out through
the darkness, which is around and within, for the light of a stern
last morning. Six men are to be hanged on the morrow: comes no
hammering from the _Rabenstein_? - their gallows must even now be o'
building. Upwards of five-hundred-thousand two-legged animals without
feathers lie round us, in horizontal positions; their heads all in
nightcaps, and full of the foolishest dreams. Riot cries aloud, and
staggers and swaggers in his rank dens of shame; and the Mother, with
streaming hair, kneels over her pallid dying infant, whose cracked
lips only her tears now moisten. - All these heaped and huddled
together, with nothing but a little carpentry and masonry between
them; - crammed in, like salted fish in their barrel; - or weltering,
shall I say, like an Egyptian pitcher of tamed vipers, each struggling
to get its _head above_ the others: _such_ work goes on under that
smoke-counterpane! - But I, _mein Werther_, sit above it all; I am
alone with the Stars."

We looked in his face to see whether, in the utterance of such
extraordinary Night-thoughts, no feeling might be traced there; but
with the light we had, which indeed was only a single tallow-light,
and far enough from the window, nothing save that old calmness and
fixedness was visible.

These were the Professor's talking seasons: most commonly he spoke in
mere monosyllables, or sat altogether silent, and smoked; while the
visitor had liberty either to say what he listed, receiving for answer
an occasional grunt; or to look round for a space, and then take
himself away. It was a strange apartment; full of books and tattered
papers, and miscellaneous shreds of all conceivable substances,
'united in a common element of dust.' Books lay on tables, and below
tables; here fluttered a sheet of manuscript, there a torn
handkerchief, or nightcap hastily thrown aside; ink-bottles alternated
with bread-crusts, coffee-pots, tobacco-boxes, Periodical Literature,
and Blücher Boots. Old Lieschen (Lisekin, 'Liza), who was his
bed-maker and stove-lighter, his washer and wringer, cook,
errand-maid, and general lion's-provider, and for the rest a very
orderly creature, had no sovereign authority in this last citadel of
Teufelsdröckh; only some once in the month she half-forcibly made her
may thither, with broom and duster, and (Teufelsdröckh hastily saving
his manuscripts) effected a partial clearance, a jail-delivery of such
lumber as was not literary. These were her _Erdbeben_ (earthquakes),
which Teufelsdröckh dreaded worse than the pestilence; nevertheless,
to such length he had been forced to comply. Glad would he have been
to sit here philosophising forever, or till the litter, by
accumulation, drove him out of doors: but Lieschen was his right-arm,
and spoon, and necessary of life, and would not be flatly gainsayed.
We can still remember the ancient woman; so silent that some thought
her dumb; deaf also you would often have supposed her; for
Teufelsdröckh, and Teufelsdröckh only, would she serve or give heed
to; and with him she seemed to communicate chiefly by signs; if it
were not rather by some secret divination that she guessed all his
wants, and supplied them. Assiduous old dame! she scoured, and sorted,
and swept, in her kitchen, with the least possible violence to the
ear; yet all was tight and right there: hot and black came the coffee
ever at the due moment; and the speechless Lieschen herself looked out
on you, from under her clean white coif with its lappets, through her
clean withered face and wrinkles, with a look of helpful intelligence,
almost of benevolence.

Few strangers, as above hinted, had admittance hither: the only one we
ever saw there, ourselves excepted, was the Hofrath Heuschrecke,
already known, by name and expectation, to the readers of these pages.
To us, at that period, Herr Heuschrecke seemed one of those
purse-mouthed, crane-necked, clean-brushed, pacific individuals,
perhaps sufficiently distinguished in society by this fact, that, in
dry weather or in wet, 'they never appear without their umbrella.' Had
we not known with what 'little wisdom' the world is governed; and how,
in Germany as elsewhere, the ninety-and-nine Public Men can for most
part be but mute train-bearers to the hundredth, perhaps but
stalking-horses and willing or unwilling dupes, - it might have seemed
wonderful how Herr Heuschrecke should be named a Rath, or Councillor,
and Counsellor, even in Weissnichtwo. What counsel to any man, or to
any woman, could this particular Hofrath give; in whose loose, zigzag
figure; in whose thin visage, as it went jerking to and fro, in minute
incessant fluctuation, - you traced rather confusion worse confounded;
at most, Timidity and physical Cold? Some indeed said withal, he was
'the very Spirit of Love embodied': blue earnest eyes, full of sadness
and kindness; purse ever open, and so forth; the whole of which, we
shall now hope, for many reasons, was not quite groundless.
Nevertheless friend Teufelsdröckh's outline, who indeed handled the
burin like few in these cases, was probably the best: _Er hat Gemüth
und Geist, hat wenigstens gehabt, doch ohne Organ, ohne
Schicksals-Gunst; ist gegenwärtig aber halb-zerrüttet, halb-erstarrt_,
"He has heart and talent, at least has had such, yet without fit mode
of utterance, or favour of Fortune; and so is now half-cracked,
half-congealed." - What the Hofrath shall think of this when he sees
it, readers may wonder: we, safe in the stronghold of Historical
Fidelity, are careless.

The main point, doubtless, for us all, is his love of Teufelsdröckh,
which indeed was also by far the most decisive feature of Heuschrecke
himself. We are enabled to assert that he hung on the Professor with
the fondness of a Boswell for his Johnson. And perhaps with the like
return; for Teufelsdröckh treated his gaunt admirer with little
outward regard, as some half-rational or altogether irrational friend,
and at best loved him out of gratitude and by habit. On the other
hand, it was curious to observe with what reverent kindness, and a
sort of fatherly protection, our Hofrath, being the elder, richer, and
as he fondly imagined far more practically influential of the two,
looked and tended on his little Sage, whom he seemed to consider as a
living oracle. Let but Teufelsdröckh open his mouth, Heuschrecke's
also unpuckered itself into a free doorway, besides his being all eye
and all ear, so that nothing might be lost: and then, at every pause
in the harangue, he gurgled-out his pursy chuckle of a cough-laugh
(for the machinery of laughter took some time to get in motion, and
seemed crank and slack), or else his twanging nasal, _Bravo! Das
glaub' ich_; in either case, by way of heartiest approval. In short,
if Teufelsdröckh was Dalai-Lama, of which, except perhaps in his
self-seclusion, and god-like indifference, there was no symptom, then
might Heuschrecke pass for his chief Talapoin, to whom no dough-pill
he could knead and publish was other than medicinal and sacred.

In such environment, social, domestic, physical, did Teufelsdröckh, at
the time of our acquaintance, and most likely does he still, live and
meditate. Here, perched-up in his high Wahngasse watch-tower, and
often, in solitude, outwatching the Bear, it was that the indomitable
Inquirer fought all his battles with Dulness and Darkness; here, in
all probability, that he wrote this surprising Volume on _Clothes_.
Additional particulars: of his age, which was of that standing middle
sort you could only guess at; of his wide surtout; the colour of his
trousers, fashion of his broad-brimmed steeple-hat, and so forth, we
might report, but do not. The Wisest truly is, in these times, the
Greatest; so that an enlightened curiosity, leaving Kings and suchlike
to rest very much on their own basis, turns more and more to the
Philosophic Class: nevertheless, what reader expects that, with all
our writing and reporting, Teufelsdröckh could be brought home to him,
till once the Documents arrive? His Life, Fortunes, and Bodily
Presence, are as yet hidden from us, or matter only of faint
conjecture. But, on the other hand, does not his Soul lie enclosed in
this remarkable Volume, much more truly than Pedro Garcia's did in the
buried Bag of Doubloons? To the soul of Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, to his
opinions, namely, on the 'Origin and Influence of Clothes,' we for the
present gladly return.




CHAPTER IV

CHARACTERISTICS


It were a piece of vain flattery to pretend that this Work on Clothes
entirely contents us; that it is not, like all works of genius, like
the very Sun, which, though the highest published creation, or work of
genius, has nevertheless black spots and troubled nebulosities amid
its effulgence, - a mixture of insight, inspiration, with dulness,
double-vision, and even utter blindness.

Without committing ourselves to those enthusiastic praises and
prophesyings of the _Weissnichtwo'sche Anzeiger_, we admitted that the
Book had in a high degree excited us to self-activity, which is the
best effect of any book; that it had even operated changes in our way
of thought; nay, that it promised to prove, as it were, the opening of
a new mine-shaft, wherein the whole world of Speculation might
henceforth dig to unknown depths. More especially it may now be
declared that Professor Teufelsdröckh's acquirements, patience of
research, philosophic and even poetic vigour, are here made
indisputably manifest; and unhappily no less his prolixity and
tortuosity and manifold ineptitude; that, on the whole, as in opening
new mine-shafts is not unreasonable, there is much rubbish in his
Book, though likewise specimens of almost invaluable ore. A paramount
popularity in England we cannot promise him. Apart from the choice of
such a topic as Clothes, too often the manner of treating it betokens
in the Author a rusticity and academic seclusion, unblamable, indeed



Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 3 of 43)