Thomas Carlyle.

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

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with his 'seventhly and lastly.' You find that it may be the
admirablest thing in the world, but that it is heavy, - heavy as lead,
barren as brick-clay; that, in a word, for you there is little or
nothing now surviving there! One leaves all these Nobilities standing
in their niches of honour: the rugged out-cast Cromwell, he is the man
of them all in whom one still finds human stuff. The great savage
_Baresark_: he could write no euphemistic _Monarchy of Man_; did not
speak, did not work with glib regularity; had no straight story to
tell for himself anywhere. But he stood bare, not cased in euphemistic
coat-of-mail; he grappled like a giant, face to face, heart to heart,
with the naked truth of things! That, after all, is the sort of man
for one. I plead guilty to valuing such a man beyond all other sorts
of men. Smooth-shaven Respectabilities not a few one finds, that are
not good for much. Small thanks to a man for keeping his hands clean,
who would not touch the work but with gloves on!

Neither, on the whole, does this constitutional tolerance of the
Eighteenth century for the other happier Puritans seem to be a very
great matter. One might say, it is but a piece of Formulism and
Scepticism, like the rest. They tell us, It was a sorrowful thing to
consider that the foundation of our English Liberties should have been
laid by 'Superstition.' These Puritans came forward with Calvinistic
incredible Creeds, Anti-Laudisms, Westminster Confessions; demanding,
chiefly of all, that they should have liberty to _worship_ in their
own way. Liberty to _tax_ themselves: that was the thing they should
have demanded! It was Superstition, Fanaticism, disgraceful Ignorance
of Constitutional Philosophy to insist on the other thing! - Liberty to
_tax_ oneself? Not to pay-out money from your pocket except on reason
shown? No century, I think, but a rather barren one would have fixed
on that as the first right of man! I should say, on the contrary, A
just man will generally have better cause than _money_ in what shape
soever, before deciding to revolt against his Government. Ours is a
most confused world; in which a good man will be thankful to see any
kind of Government maintain itself in a not insupportable manner; and
here in England, to this hour, if he is not ready to pay a great many
taxes which _he_ can see very small reason in, it will not go well
with him, I think! He must try some other climate than this.
Taxgatherer? Money? He will say: "Take my money, since you _can_, and
it is so desirable to you; take it, - and take yourself away with it;
and leave me alone to my work here. _I_ am still here; can still work,
after all the money you have taken from me!" But if they come to him,
and say, "Acknowledge a Lie; pretend to say you are worshipping God,
when you are not doing it: believe not the thing that _you_ find true,
but the thing that I find, or pretend to find true!" He will answer:
"No; by God's help, no! You may take my purse; but I cannot have my
moral Self annihilated. The purse is any Highwayman's who might meet
me with a loaded pistol: but the Self is mine and God my Maker's; it
is not yours; and I will resist you to the death, and revolt against
you, and, on the whole, front all manner of extremities, accusations
and confusions, in defence of that!" -

Really, it seems to me the one reason which could justify revolting,
this of the Puritans. It has been the soul of all just revolts among
men. Not _Hunger_ alone produced even the French Revolution: no, but
the feeling of the insupportable all-pervading _Falsehood_ which had
now embodied itself in Hunger, in universal material Scarcity and
Nonentity, and thereby become _indisputably_ false in the eyes of all!
We will leave the Eighteenth century with its 'liberty to tax itself.'
We will not astonish ourselves that the meaning of such men as the
Puritans remained dim to it. To men who believe in no reality at all,
how shall a _real_ human soul, the intensest of all realities, as it
were the Voice of this world's Maker still speaking to _us_, - be
intelligible? What it cannot reduce into constitutional doctrines
relative to 'taxing,' or other the like material interest, gross,
palpable to the sense, such a century will needs reject as an
amorphous heap of rubbish. Hampdens, Pyms, and Ship-money will be the
theme of much constitutional eloquence, striving to be fervid; - which
will glitter, if not as fire does, then as _ice_ does: and the
irreducible Cromwell will remain a chaotic mass of 'madness,'
'hypocrisy,' and much else.

* * * * *

From of old, I will confess, this theory of Cromwell's falsity has
been incredible to me. Nay I cannot believe the like, of any Great Man
whatever. Multitudes of Great Men figure in History as false selfish
men; but if we will consider it, they are but _figures_ for us,
unintelligible shadows; we do not see into them as men that could have
existed at all. A superficial unbelieving generation only, with no eye
but for the surfaces and semblances of things, could form such notions
of Great Men. Can a great soul be possible without a _conscience_ in
it, the essence of all _real_ souls, great or small? - No, we cannot
figure Cromwell as a Falsity and Fatuity; the longer I study him and
his career, I believe this the less. Why should we? There is no
evidence of it. Is it not strange that, after all the mountains of
calumny this man has been subject to, after being represented as the
very prince of liars, who never, or hardly ever, spoke truth, but
always some cunning counterfeit of truth, there should not yet have
been one falsehood brought clearly home to him? A prince of liars, and
no lie spoken by him. Not one that I could yet get sight of. It is
like Pococke asking Grotius, Where is your _proof_ of Mahomet's
Pigeon? No proof! - Let us leave all these calumnious chimeras, as
chimeras ought to be left. They are not portraits of the man; they are
distracted phantasms of him, the joint product of hatred and darkness.

Looking at the man's life with our own eyes, it seems to me, a very
different hypothesis suggests itself. What little we know of his
earlier obscure years, distorted as it has come down to us, does it
not all betoken an earnest, affectionate, sincere kind of man? His
nervous melancholic temperament indicates rather a seriousness too
deep for him. Of those stories of 'Spectres;' of the white Spectre in
broad daylight, predicting that he should be King of England, we are
not bound to believe much; - probably no more than of the other black
Spectre, or Devil in person, to whom the Officer _saw_ him sell
himself before Worcester Fight! But the mournful, over-sensitive,
hypochondriac humour of Oliver, in his young years, is otherwise
indisputably known. The Huntingdon Physician told Sir Philip Warwick
himself, He had often been sent for at midnight; Mr. Cromwell was full
of hypochondria, thought himself near dying, and "had fancies about
the Town-cross." These things are significant. Such an excitable
deep-feeling nature, in that rugged stubborn strength of his, is not
the symptom of falsehood; it is the symptom and promise of quite other
than falsehood!

The young Oliver is sent to study Law; falls, or is said to have
fallen, for a little period, into some of the dissipations of youth;
but if so, speedily repents, abandons all this: not much above twenty,
he is married, settled as an altogether grave and quiet man. 'He
pays-back what money he had won at gambling,' says the story; - he does
not think any gain of that kind could be really _his_. It is very
interesting, very natural, this 'conversion,' as they well name it;
this awakening of a great true soul from the worldly slough, to see
into the awful _truth_ of things; - to see that time and its shows all
rested on Eternity, and this poor Earth of ours was the threshold
either of Heaven or of Hell! Oliver's life at St Ives or Ely, as a
sober industrious Farmer, is it not altogether as that of a true and
devout man? He has renounced the world and its ways; _its_ prizes are
not the thing that can enrich him. He tills the earth; he reads his
Bible; daily assembles his servants round him to worship God. He
comforts persecuted ministers, is fond of preachers; nay can himself
preach, - exhorts his neighbours to be wise, to redeem the time. In all
this what 'hypocrisy,' 'ambition,' 'cant,' or other falsity? The man's
hopes, I do believe, were fixed on the other Higher World; his aim to
get well _thither_, by walking well through his humble course in
_this_ world. He courts no notice: what could notice here do for him?
'Ever in his great Taskmaster's eye.'

It is striking, too, how he comes-out once into public view; he, since
no other is willing to come: in resistance to a public grievance. I
mean, in that matter of the Bedford Fens. No one else will go to law
with Authority; therefore he will. That matter once settled, he
returns back into obscurity, to his Bible and his Plough. 'Gain
influence'? His influence is the most legitimate; derived from
personal knowledge of him, as a just, religious, reasonable and
determined man. In this way he has lived till past forty; old age is
now in view of him, and the earnest portal of Death and Eternity; it
was at this point that he suddenly became 'ambitious'! I do not
interpret his Parliamentary mission in that way!

His successes in Parliament, his successes through the war, are honest
successes of a brave man; who has more resolution in the heart of him,
more light in the head of him than other men. His prayers to God; his
spoken thanks to the God of Victory, who had preserved him safe, and
carried him forward so far, through the furious clash of a world all
set in conflict, through desperate-looking envelopments at Dunbar;
through the death-hail of so many battles; mercy after mercy; to the
'crowning mercy' of Worcester Fight: all this is good and genuine for
a deep-hearted Calvinistic Cromwell. Only to vain unbelieving
Cavaliers, worshipping not God but their own 'lovelocks,' frivolities
and formalities, living quite apart from contemplations of God, living
_without_ God in the world, need it seem hypocritical.

Nor will his participation in the King's death involve him in
condemnation with us. It is a stern business killing of a King! But if
you once go to war with him, it lies _there_; this and all else lies
there. Once at war, you have made wager of battle with him: it is he
to die, or else you. Reconciliation is problematic; may be possible,
or, far more likely, is impossible. It is now pretty generally
admitted that the Parliament, having vanquished Charles First, had no
way of making any tenable arrangement with him. The large Presbyterian
party, apprehensive now of the Independents, were most anxious to do
so; anxious indeed as for their own existence; but it could not be.
The unhappy Charles, in those final Hampton-Court negotiations, shows
himself as a man fatally incapable of being dealt with. A man who,
once for all, could not and would not _understand_: - whose thought did
not in any measure represent to him the real fact of the matter; nay
worse, whose _word_ did not at all represent his thought. We may say
this of him without cruelty, with deep pity rather: but it is true and
undeniable. Forsaken there of all but the _name_ of Kingship, he
still, finding himself treated with outward respect as a King, fancied
that he might play-off party against party, and smuggle himself into
his old power by deceiving both. Alas, they both _discovered_ that he
was deceiving them. A man whose _word_ will not inform you at all what
he means or will do, is not a man you can bargain with. You must get
out of that man's way, or put him out of yours! The Presbyterians, in
their despair, were still for believing Charles, though found false,
unbelievable again and again. Not so Cromwell: "For all our fighting,"
says he, "we are to have a little bit of paper?" No! -

In fact, everywhere we have to note the decisive practical _eye_ of
this man; how he drives towards the practical and practicable; has a
genuine insight into what _is_ fact. Such an intellect, I maintain,
does not belong to a false man: the false man sees false shows,
plausibilities, expediences: the true man is needed to discern even
practical truth. Cromwell's advice about the Parliament's Army, early
in the contest, How they were to dismiss their city-tapsters, flimsy
riotous persons, and choose substantial yeomen, whose heart was in the
work, to be soldiers for them: this is advice by a man who _saw_. Fact
answers, if you see into Fact. Cromwell's _Ironsides_ were the
embodiment of this insight of his; men fearing God; and without any
other fear. No more conclusively genuine set of fighters ever trod the
soil of England, or of any other land.

Neither will we blame greatly that word of Cromwell's to them; which
was so blamed: "If the King should meet me in battle, I would kill the
King." Why not? These words were spoken to men who stood as before a
Higher than Kings. They had set more than their own lives on the cast.
The Parliament may call it, in official language, a fighting '_for_
the King;' but we, for our share, cannot understand that. To us it is
no dilettante work, no sleek officiality; it is sheer rough death and
earnest. They have brought it to the calling-forth of _War_; horrid
internecine fight, man grappling with man in fire-eyed rage, - the
_infernal_ element in man called forth, to try it by that! _Do_ that
therefore; since that is the thing to be done. - The successes of
Cromwell seem to me a very natural thing! Since he was not shot in
battle, they were an inevitable thing. That such a man, with the eye
to see, with the heart to dare, should advance, from post to post,
from victory to victory, till the Huntingdon Farmer became, by
whatever name you might call him, the acknowledged Strongest Man in
England, virtually the King of England, requires no magic to explain
it! -

Truly it is a sad thing for a people, as for a man, to fall into
Scepticism, into dilettantism, insincerity; not to know a Sincerity
when they see it. For this world, and for all worlds, what curse is so
fatal? The heart lying dead, the eye cannot see. What intellect
remains is merely the _vulpine_ intellect. That a true _King_ be sent
them is of small use; they do not know him when sent. They say
scornfully, Is this your King? The Hero wastes his heroic faculty in
bootless contradiction from the unworthy; and can accomplish little.
For himself he does accomplish a heroic life, which is much, which is
all; but for the world he accomplishes comparatively nothing. The wild
rude Sincerity, direct from Nature, is not glib in answering from the
witness-box; in your small-debt _pie-powder_ court, he is scouted as a
counterfeit. The vulpine intellect 'detects' him. For being a man
worth any thousand men, the response, your Knox, your Cromwell gets,
is an argument for two centuries, whether he was a man at all. God's
greatest gift to this Earth is sneeringly flung away. The miraculous
talisman is a paltry plated coin, not fit to pass in the shops as a
common guinea.

Lamentable this! I say, this must be remedied. Till this be remedied
in some measure, there is nothing remedied. 'Detect quacks'? Yes do,
for Heaven's sake; but know withal the men that are to be trusted!
Till we know that, what is all our knowledge; how shall we even so
much as 'detect'? For the vulpine sharpness, which considers itself to
be knowledge, and 'detects' in that fashion, is far mistaken. Dupes
indeed are many: but, of all _dupes_, there is none so fatally
situated as he who lives in undue terror of being duped. The world
does exist; the world has truth in it or it would not exist! First
recognise what is true, we shall _then_ discern what is false; and
properly never till then.

'Know the men that are to be trusted:' alas, this is yet, in these
days, very far from us. The sincere alone can recognise sincerity. Not
a Hero only is needed, but a world fit for him; a world not of
_Valets_; - the Hero comes almost in vain to it otherwise! Yes, it is
far from us: but it must come; thank God, it is visibly coming. Till
it do come, what have we? Ballot-boxes, suffrages, French
Revolutions: - if we are as Valets, and do not know the Hero when we
see him, what good are all these? A heroic Cromwell comes; and for a
hundred-and-fifty years he cannot have a vote from us. Why, the
insincere, unbelieving world is the _natural property_ of the Quack,
and of the Father of quacks and quackeries! Misery, confusion,
unveracity are alone possible there. By ballot-boxes we alter the
_figure_ of our Quack; but the substance of him continues. The
Valet-World _has_ to be governed by the Sham-Hero, by the King merely
_dressed_ in King-gear. It is his; he is its! In brief, one of two
things: We shall either learn to know a Hero, a true Governor and
Captain, somewhat better, when we see him; or else go on to be forever
governed by the Unheroic; - had we ballot-boxes clattering at every
street-corner, there were no remedy in these.

Poor Cromwell, - great Cromwell! The inarticulate Prophet; Prophet who
could not _speak_. Rude, confused, struggling to utter himself, with
his savage depth, with his wild sincerity; and he looked so strange,
among the elegant Euphemisms, dainty little Falklands, didactic
Chillingworths, diplomatic Clarendons! Consider him. An outer hull of
chaotic confusion, visions of the Devil, nervous dreams, almost
semi-madness; and yet such a clear determinate man's-energy working in
the heart of that. A kind of chaotic man. The ray as of pure starlight
and fire, working in such an element of boundless hypochondria,
_un_formed black of darkness! And yet withal this hypochondria, what
was it but the very greatness of the man? The depth and tenderness of
his wild affections: the quantity of _sympathy_ he had with
things, - the quantity of insight he would yet get into the heart of
things, the mastery he would yet get over things: this was his
hypochondria. The man's misery, as man's misery always does, came of
his greatness. Samuel Johnson too is that kind of man. Sorrow-stricken,
half-distracted; the wide element of mournful _black_ enveloping
him, - wide as the world. It is the character of a prophetic man; a man
with his whole soul _seeing_, and struggling to see.

On this ground, too, I explain to myself Cromwell's reputed confusion
of speech. To himself the internal meaning was sun-clear; but the
material with which he was to clothe it in utterance was not there. He
had _lived_ silent; a great unnamed sea of Thought round him all his
days; and in his way of life little call to attempt _naming_ or
uttering that. With his sharp power of vision, resolute power of
action, I doubt not he could have learned to write Books withal, and
speak fluently enough: - he did harder things than writing of Books.
This kind of man is precisely he who is fit for doing manfully all
things you will set him on doing. Intellect is not speaking and
logicising; it is seeing and ascertaining. Virtue, _Vir-tus_, manhood,
_hero_-hood, is not fair-spoken immaculate regularity; it is first of
all, what the Germans well name it, _Tugend_ (_Taugend_, _dow_-ing or
_Dough_-tiness), Courage and the Faculty to _do_. This basis of the
matter Cromwell had in him.

One understands moreover how, though he could not speak in Parliament,
he might _preach_, rhapsodic preaching; above all, how he might be
great in extempore prayer. These are the free outpouring utterances of
what is in the heart: method is not required in them; warmth, depth,
sincerity are all that is required. Cromwell's habit of prayer is a
notable feature of him. All his great enterprises were commenced with
prayer. In dark inextricable-looking difficulties, his Officers and he
used to assemble, and pray alternately, for hours, for days, till some
definite resolution rose among them, some 'door of hope,' as they
would name it, disclosed itself. Consider that. In tears, in fervent
prayers, and cries to the great God, to have pity on them, to make His
light shine before them. They, armed Soldiers of Christ, as they felt
themselves to be; a little band of Christian Brothers, who had drawn
the sword against a great black devouring world not Christian, but
Mammonish, Devilish, - they cried to God in their straits, in their
extreme need, not to forsake the Cause that was His. The light which
now rose upon them, - how could a human soul, by any means at all, get
better light? Was not the purpose so formed like to be precisely the
best, wisest, the one to be followed without hesitation any more? To
them it was as the shining of Heaven's own Splendour in the
waste-howling darkness; the Pillar of Fire by night, that was to guide
them on their desolate perilous way. _Was_ it not such? Can a man's
soul, to this hour, get guidance by any other method than
intrinsically by that same, - devout prostration of the earnest
struggling soul before the Highest, the Giver of all Light; be such
_prayer_ a spoken, articulate, or be it a voiceless, inarticulate one?
There is no other method. 'Hypocrisy'? One begins to be weary of all
that. They who call it so, have no right to speak on such matters.
They never formed a purpose, what one can call a purpose. They went
about balancing expediences, plausibilities; gathering votes, advices;
they never were alone with the _truth_ of a thing at all. - Cromwell's
prayers were likely to be 'eloquent,' and much more than that. His was
the heart of a man who _could_ pray.

But indeed his actual Speeches, I apprehend, were not nearly so
ineloquent, incondite, as they look. We find he was, what all speakers
aim to be, an impressive speaker, even in Parliament; one who, from
the first, had weight. With that rude passionate voice of his, he was
always understood to _mean_ something, and men wished to know what. He
disregarded eloquence, nay despised and disliked it; spoke always
without premeditation of the words he was to use. The Reporters, too,
in those days seem to have been singularly candid; and to have given
the Printer precisely what they found on their own notepaper. And
withal, what a strange proof is it of Cromwell's being the
premeditative ever-calculating hypocrite, acting a play before the
world, That to the last he took no more charge of his Speeches! How
came he not to study his words a little, before flinging them out to
the public? If the words were true words, they could be left to shift
for themselves.

But with regard to Cromwell's 'lying,' we will make one remark. This,
I suppose, or something like this, to have been the nature of it. All
parties found themselves deceived in him; each party understood him to
be meaning _this_, heard him even say so, and behold he turns-out to
have been meaning _that_! He was, cry they, the chief of liars. But
now, intrinsically, is not all this the inevitable fortune, not of a
false man in such times, but simply of a superior man? Such a man must
have _reticences_ in him. If he walk wearing his heart upon his sleeve
for daws to peck at, his journey will not extend far! There is no use
for any man's taking-up his abode in a house built of glass. A man
always is to be himself the judge how much of his mind he will show to
other men; even to those he would have work along with him. There are
impertinent inquiries made: your rule is, to leave the inquirer
_un_informed on that matter; not, if you can help it, _mis_informed;
but precisely as dark as he was! This, could one hit the right phrase
of response, is what the wise and faithful man would aim to answer in
such a case.

Cromwell, no doubt of it, spoke often in the dialect of small
subaltern parties; uttered to them a _part_ of his mind. Each little
party thought him all its own. Hence their rage, one and all, to find
him not of their party, but of his own party! Was it his blame? At all
seasons of his history he must have felt, among such people, how, if
he explained to them the deeper insight he had, they must either have
shuddered aghast at it, or believing it, their own little compact
hypothesis must have gone wholly to wreck. They could not have worked
in his province any more; nay perhaps they could not now have worked
in their own province. It is the inevitable position of a great man
among small men. Small men, most active, useful, are to be seen
everywhere, whose whole activity depends on some conviction which to
you is palpably a limited one; imperfect, what we call an _error_. But
would it be a kindness always, is it a duty always or often, to

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 40 of 43)