Thomas Carlyle.

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

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quality; men of deep piety I suppose the most of them were. They
failed, it seems, and broke down, endeavouring to reform the Court of
Chancery! They dissolved themselves, as incompetent; delivered-up
their power again into the hands of the Lord-General Cromwell, to do
with it what he liked and could.

What _will_ he do with it? The Lord-General Cromwell, 'Commander-in
Chief of all the Forces raised and to be raised;' he hereby sees
himself, at this unexampled juncture, as it were the one available
Authority left in England, nothing between England and utter Anarchy
but him alone. Such is the undeniable Fact of his position and
England's, there and then. What will he do with it? After
deliberation, he decides that he will _accept_ it; will formally, with
public solemnity, say and vow before God and men, "Yes, the Fact is
so, and I will do the best I can with it!" Protectorship, Instrument
of Government, - these are the external forms of the thing; worked-out
and sanctioned as they could in the circumstances be, by the Judges,
by the leading Official people, 'Council of Officers and Persons of
interest in the Nation:' and as for the thing itself, undeniably
enough, at the pass matters had now come to, there _was_ no
alternative but Anarchy or that. Puritan England might accept it or
not; but Puritan England was, in real truth, saved from suicide
thereby! - I believe the Puritan People did, in an inarticulate,
grumbling, yet on the whole grateful and real way, accept this
anomalous act of Oliver's; at least, he and they together made it
good, and always better to the last. But in their Parliamentary
_articulate_ way, they had their difficulties, and never knew fully
what to say to it! -

Oliver's second Parliament, properly his _first_ regular Parliament,
chosen by the rule laid-down in the Instrument of Government, did
assemble, and worked; - but got, before long, into bottomless questions
as to the Protector's _right_, as to 'usurpation,' and so forth; and
had at the earliest legal day to be dismissed. Cromwell's concluding
Speech to these men is a remarkable one. So likewise to his third
Parliament, in similar rebuke for their pedantries and obstinacies.
Most rude, chaotic, all these Speeches are; but most earnest-looking.
You would say, it was a sincere helpless man; not used to _speak_ the
great inorganic thought of him, but to act it rather! A helplessness
of utterance, in such bursting fulness of meaning. He talks much about
'births of Providence:' All these changes, so many victories and
events, were not forethoughts, and theatrical contrivances of men, of
_me_ or of men; it is blind blasphemers that will persist in calling
them so! He insists with a heavy sulphurous wrathful emphasis on this.
As he well might. As if a Cromwell in that dark huge game he had been
playing, the world wholly thrown into chaos round him, had _foreseen_
it all, and played it all off like a precontrived puppetshow by wood
and wire! These things were foreseen by no man, he says; no man could
tell what a day would bring forth: they were 'births of Providence,'
God's finger guided us on, and we came at last to clear height of
victory, God's Cause triumphant in these Nations; and you as a
Parliament could assemble together, and say in what manner all this
could be _organised_, reduced into rational feasibility among the
affairs of men. You were to help with your wise counsel in doing that.
"You have had such an opportunity as no Parliament in England ever
had." Christ's Law, the Right and True, was to be in some measure made
the Law of this land. In place of that, you have got into your idle
pedantries, constitutionalities, bottomless cavillings and
questionings about written laws for _my_ coming here; - and would send
the whole matter into Chaos again, because I have no Notary's
parchment, but only God's voice from the battle-whirlwind, for being
President among you! That opportunity is gone; and we know not when it
will return. You have had your constitutional Logic; and Mammon's Law,
not Christ's Law, rules yet in this land. "God be judge between you
and me!" These are his final words to them: Take you your
constitution-formulas in your hand; and I my _in_formal struggles,
purposes, realities and acts; and "God be judge between you and me!" -

We said above what shapeless, involved chaotic things the printed
Speeches of Cromwell are. _Wilfully_ ambiguous, unintelligible, say
the most: a hypocrite shrouding himself in confused Jesuitic jargon!
To me they do not seem so. I will say rather, they afforded the first
glimpses I could ever get into the reality of this Cromwell, nay into
the possibility of him. Try to believe that he means something, search
lovingly what that may be: you will find a real _speech_ lying
imprisoned in these broken rude tortuous utterances; a meaning in the
great heart of this inarticulate man! You will, for the first time,
begin to see that he was a man; not an enigmatic chimera,
unintelligible to you, incredible to you. The Histories and
Biographies written of this Cromwell, written in shallow sceptical
generations that could not know or conceive of a deep believing man,
are far more _obscure_ than Cromwell's Speeches. You look through them
only into the infinite vague of Black and the Inane. 'Heats and
Jealousies,' says Lord Clarendon himself: 'heats and jealousies,' mere
crabbed whims, theories and crochets; these induced slow sober quiet
Englishmen to lay down their ploughs and work; and fly into red fury
of confused war against the best-conditioned of Kings! _Try_ if you
can find that true. Scepticism writing about Belief may have great
gifts; but it is really _ultra vires_ there. It is Blindness
laying-down the Laws of Optics. -

Cromwell's third Parliament split on the same rock as his second. Ever
the constitutional Formula: How came _you_ there? Show us some Notary
parchment! Blind pedants: - "Why, surely the same power which makes you
a Parliament, that, and something more, made me a Protector!" If my
Protectorship is nothing, what in the name of wonder is your
Parliamenteership, a reflex and creation of that? -

Parliaments having failed, there remained nothing but the way of
Despotism. Military Dictators, each with his district, to _coerce_ the
Royalists and other gainsayers, to govern them, if not by act of
Parliament, then by the sword. Formula shall _not_ carry it, while the
Reality is here! I will go on, protecting oppressed Protestants
abroad, appointing just judges, wise managers, at home, cherishing
true Gospel ministers; doing the best I can to make England a
Christian England, greater than old Rome, the Queen of Protestant
Christianity; I, since you will not help me; I while God leaves me
life! - Why did he not give it up; retire into obscurity again, since
the Law would not acknowledge him? cry several. That is where they
mistake. For him there was no giving of it up! Prime Ministers have
governed countries, Pitt, Pombal, Choiseul; and their word was a law
while it held: but this Prime Minister was one that _could not get
resigned_. Let him once resign, Charles Stuart and the Cavaliers
waited to kill him; to kill the Cause _and_ him. Once embarked, there
is no retreat, no return. This Prime Minister could _retire_ nowhither
except into his tomb.

One is sorry for Cromwell in his old days. His complaint is incessant
of the heavy burden Providence has laid on him. Heavy; which he must
bear till death. Old Colonel Hutchinson, as his wife relates it,
Hutchinson, his old battle-mate, coming to see him on some
indispensable business, much against his will, - Cromwell 'follows him
to the door,' in a most fraternal, domestic, conciliatory style; begs
that he would be reconciled to him, his old brother in arms; says how
much it grieves him to be misunderstood, deserted by true
fellow-soldiers, dear to him from of old: the rigorous Hutchinson,
cased in his republican formula, sullenly goes his way. - And the man's
head now white; his strong arm growing weary with its long work! I
think always too of his poor Mother, now very old, living in that
Palace of his; a right brave woman: as indeed they lived all an honest
God-fearing Household there: if she heard a shot go off, she thought
it was her son killed. He had to come to her at least once a day, that
she might see with her own eyes that he was yet living. The poor old
Mother! - - What had this man gained; what had he gained? He had a life
of sore strife and toil, to his last day. Fame, ambition, place in
History? His dead body was hung in chains; his 'place in
History,' - place in History forsooth! - has been a place of ignominy,
accusation, blackness and disgrace; and here, this day, who knows if
it is not rash in me to be among the first that ever ventured to
pronounce him not a knave and a liar, but a genuinely honest man!
Peace to him. Did he not, in spite of all, accomplish much for us?
_We_ walk smoothly over his great rough heroic life; step-over his
body sunk in the ditch there. We need not _spurn_ it, as we step on
it! - Let the Hero rest. It was not to _men's_ judgment that he
appealed; nor have men judged him very well.

* * * * *

Precisely a century and a year after this of Puritanism had got itself
hushed-up into decent composure, and its results made smooth in 1688,
there broke-out a far deeper explosion, much more difficult to
hush-up, known to all mortals, and like to be long known, by the name
of French Revolution. It is properly the third and final act of
Protestantism; the explosive confused return of Mankind to Reality and
Fact, now that they were perishing of Semblance and Sham. We call our
English Puritanism the second act: "Well then, the Bible is true; let
us go by the Bible!" "In Church," said Luther; "In Church and State,"
said Cromwell, "let us go by what actually is God's Truth." Men have
to return to reality; they cannot live on semblance. The French
Revolution, or third act, we may well call the final one; for lower
than that savage _Sansculottism_ men cannot go. They stand there on
the nakedest haggard Fact, undeniable in all seasons and
circumstances; and may and must begin again confidently to build-up
from that. The French explosion, like the English one, got its
King, - who had no Notary parchment to show for himself. We have still
to glance for a moment at Napoleon, our second modern King.

Napoleon does by no means seem to me so great a man as Cromwell. His
enormous victories which reached over all Europe, while Cromwell abode
mainly in our little England, are but as the high _stilts_ on which
the man is seen standing; the stature of the man is not altered
thereby. I find in him no such _sincerity_ as In Cromwell; only a far
inferior sort. No silent walking, through long years, with the Awful
Unnamable of this Universe; 'walking with God,' as he called it; and
faith and strength in that alone: _latent_ thought and valour, content
to lie latent, then burst out as in blaze of Heaven's lightning!
Napoleon lived in an age when God was no longer believed; the meaning
of all Silence, Latency, was thought to be Nonentity: he had to begin
not out of the Puritan Bible, but out of poor Sceptical
_Encyclopédies_. This was the length the man carried it. Meritorious
to get so far. His compact, prompt, everyway articulate character is
in itself perhaps small, compared with our great chaotic inarticulate
Cromwell's. Instead of '_dumb_ Prophet struggling to speak,' we have a
portentous mixture of the Quack withal! Hume's notion of the
Fanatic-Hypocrite, with such truth as it has, will apply much better
to Napoleon than it did to Cromwell, to Mahomet or the like, - where
indeed taken strictly it has hardly any truth at all. An element of
blamable ambition shows itself, from the first, in this man; gets the
victory over him at last, and involves him and his work in ruin.

'False as a bulletin' became a proverb in Napoleon's time. He makes
what excuse he could for it: that it was necessary to mislead the
enemy, to keep up his own men's courage, and so forth. On the whole,
there are no excuses. A man in no case has liberty to tell lies. It
had been, in the long-run, _better_ for Napoleon too if he had not
told any. In fact, if a man have any purpose reaching beyond the hour
and day, meant to be found extant _next_ day, what good can it ever be
to promulgate lies? The lies are found-out; ruinous penalty is exacted
for them. No man will believe the liar next time even when he speaks
truth, when it is of the last importance that he be believed. The old
cry of wolf! - A Lie is _no_-thing; you cannot of nothing make
something; you make _nothing_ at last, and lose your labour into the

Yet Napoleon _had_ a sincerity; we are to distinguish between what is
superficial and what is fundamental in insincerity. Across these outer
manoeuvrings and quackeries of his, which were many and most blamable,
let us discern withal that the man had a certain instinctive
ineradicable feeling for reality; and did base himself upon fact, so
long as he had any basis. He has an instinct of Nature better than his
culture was. His _savans_, Bourrienne tells us, in that voyage to
Egypt were one evening busily occupied arguing that there could be no
God. They had proved it, to their satisfaction, by all manner of
logic. Napoleon looking up into the stars, answers, "Very ingenious,
Messieurs: but _who made_ all that?" The Atheistic logic runs-off from
him like water; the great Fact stares him in the face: "Who made all
that?" So too in Practice: he, as every man that can be great, or have
victory in this world, sees, through all entanglements, the practical
heart of the matter; drives straight towards that. When the steward of
his Tuileries Palace was exhibiting the new upholstery, with praises,
and demonstration how glorious it was, and how cheap withal, Napoleon,
making little answer, asked for a pair of scissors, clipt one of the
gold tassels from a window-curtain, put it in his pocket, and walked
on. Some days afterwards, he produced it at the right moment, to the
horror of his upholstery functionary; it was not gold but tinsel! In
Saint Helena, it is notable how he still, to his last days, insists on
the practical, the real. "Why talk and complain; above all, why
quarrel with one another? There is no _result_ in it; it comes to
nothing that one can _do_. Say nothing, if one can do nothing!" He
speaks often so, to his poor discontented followers; he is like a
piece of silent strength in the middle of their morbid querulousness

And accordingly was there not what we can call a _faith_ in him,
genuine so far as it went? That this new enormous Democracy asserting
itself here in the French Revolution is an insuppressible Fact, which
the whole world, with its old forces and institutions cannot put down;
this was a true insight of his, and took his conscience and enthusiasm
along with it, - a _faith_. And did he not interpret the dim purport of
it well? '_La carrière ouverte aux talens_, The implements to him who
can handle them:' this actually is the truth, and even the whole
truth; it includes whatever the French Revolution, or any Revolution,
could mean. Napoleon, in his first period, was a true Democrat. And
yet by the nature of him, fostered too by his military trade, he knew
that Democracy, if it were a true thing at all could not be an
anarchy: the man had a heart-hatred for anarchy. On that Twentieth of
June (1792), Bourrienne and he sat in a coffee-house, as the mob
rolled by: Napoleon expresses the deepest contempt for persons in
authority that they do not restrain this rabble. On the Tenth of
August he wonders why there is no man to command these poor Swiss;
they would conquer if there were. Such a faith in Democracy, yet
hatred of Anarchy, it is that carries Napoleon through all his great
work. Through his brilliant Italian Campaigns, onwards to the Peace of
Leoben, one would say, his inspiration is: 'Triumph to the French
Revolution; assertion of it against these Austrian Simulacra that
pretend to call it a Simulacrum!' Withal, however, he feels, and has a
right to feel, how necessary a strong Authority is; how the Revolution
cannot prosper or last without such. To bridle-in that great
devouring, self-devouring French Revolution; to _tame_ it, so that its
intrinsic purpose can be made good, that it may become _organic_, and
be able to live among other organisms and _formed_ things, not as a
wasting destruction alone: is not this still what he partly aimed at,
as the true purport of his life; nay what he actually managed to do?
Through Wagrams, Austerlitzes; triumph after triumph, - he triumphed so
far. There was an eye to see in this man, a soul to dare and do. He
rose naturally to be the King. All men saw that he _was_ such. The
common soldiers used to say on the march: "These babbling _Avocats_,
up at Paris; all talk and no work! What wonder it runs all wrong? We
shall have to go and put our _Petit Caporal_ there!" They went, and
put him there; they and France at large. Chief-consulship,
Emperorship, victory over Europe; - till the poor Lieutenant of _La
Fère_, not unnaturally, might seem to himself the greatest of all men
that had been in the world for some ages.

But at this point, I think, the fatal charlatan-element got the upper
hand. He apostatised from his old Faith in Facts: took to believing in
Semblances; strove to connect himself with Austrian Dynasties,
Popedoms, with the old false Feudalities which he once saw clearly to
be false; - considered that _he_ would found "his Dynasty" and so
forth; that the enormous French Revolution meant only that! The man
was 'given-up to strong delusion, that he should believe a lie;' a
fearful but most sure thing. He did not know true from false now when
he looked at them, - the fearfulest penalty a man pays for yielding to
untruth of heart. _Self_ and false ambition had now become his god:
_self_-deception once yielded to, _all_ other deceptions follow
naturally more and more. What a paltry patch-work of theatrical
paper-mantles, tinsel and mummery, had this man wrapt his own great
reality in, thinking to make it more real thereby! His hollow
Pope's-_Concordat_, pretending to be a re-establishment of
Catholicism, felt by himself to be the method of extirpating it, "_la
vaccine de la religion_:" his ceremonial Coronations, consecrations by
the old Italian Chimera in Notre-Dame, - "wanting nothing to complete
the pomp of it," as Augereau said, "nothing but the half-million of
men who had died to put an end to all that"! Cromwell's Inauguration
was by the Sword and Bible; what we must call a genuinely _true_ one.
Sword and Bible were borne before him, without any chimera: were not
these the _real_ emblems of Puritanism; its true decoration and
insignia? It had used them both in a very real manner, and pretended
to stand by them now! But this poor Napoleon mistook: he believed too
much in the _Dupeability_ of men; saw no fact deeper in men than
Hunger and this! He was mistaken. Like a man that should build upon
cloud; his house and he fall down in confused wreck, and depart out of
the world.

Alas, in all of us this charlatan-element exists; and _might_ be
developed, were the temptation strong enough. 'Lead us not into
temptation'! But it is fatal, I say, that it _be_ developed. The thing
into which it enters as a cognisable ingredient is doomed to be
altogether transitory; and, however huge it may _look_, is in itself
small. Napoleon's working, accordingly, what was it with all the noise
it made? A flash as of gunpowder wide-spread; a blazing-up as of dry
heath. For an hour the whole Universe seems wrapt in smoke and flame;
but only for an hour. It goes out: the Universe with its old mountains
and streams, its stars above and kind soil beneath, is still there.

The Duke of Weimar told his friends always, To be of courage; this
Napoleonism was _unjust_, a falsehood, and could not last. It is true
doctrine. The heavier this Napoleon trampled on the world, holding it
tyrannously down, the fiercer would the world's recoil against him be,
one day. Injustice pays itself with frightful compound-interest. I am
not sure but he had better have lost his best park of artillery, or
had his best regiment drowned in the sea, than shot that poor German
Bookseller, Palm! It was a palpable tyrannous murderous injustice,
which no man, let him paint an inch thick, could make-out to be other.
It burnt deep into the hearts of men, it and the like of it;
suppressed fire flashed in the eyes of men, as they thought of
it, - waiting their day! Which day _came_: Germany rose round
him. - What Napoleon _did_ will in the long-run amount to what he did
_justly_; what Nature with her laws will sanction. To what of reality
was in him; to that and nothing more. The rest was all smoke and
waste. _La carrière ouverte aux talens_: that great true Message,
which has yet to articulate and fulfil itself everywhere, he left in a
most inarticulate state. He was a great _ébauche_, a rude-draught
never completed; as indeed what great man is other? Left in _too_ rude
a state, alas!

His notions of the world, as he expresses them there at St. Helena,
are almost tragical to consider. He seems to feel the most unaffected
surprise that it has all gone so; that he is flung-out on the rock
here, and the World is still moving on its axis. France is great, and
all-great; and at bottom, he is France. England itself, he says, is by
Nature only an appendage of France; "another Isle of Oleron to
France." So it was _by Nature_, by Napoleon-Nature; and yet look how
in fact, - HERE AM I! He cannot understand it: inconceivable
that the reality has not corresponded to his program of it; that
France was not all-great, that he was not France. 'Strong delusion,'
that he should believe the thing to be which _is_ not! The compact,
clear-seeing, decisive Italian nature of him, strong, genuine, which
he once had, has enveloped itself, half-dissolved itself, in a turbid
atmosphere of French fanfaronade. The world was not disposed to be
trodden-down underfoot; to be bound into masses, and built together,
as _he_ liked, for a pedestal to France and him: the world had quite
other purposes in view! Napoleon's astonishment is extreme. But alas,
what help now? He had gone that way of his; and Nature also had gone
her way. Having once parted with Reality, he tumbles helpless in
Vacuity; no rescue for him. He had to sink there, mournfully as man
seldom did; and break his great heart, and die, - this poor Napoleon: a
great implement too soon wasted, till it was useless: our last Great

* * * * *

_Our_ last, in a double sense. For here finally these wide roamings of
ours through so many times and places, in search and study of Heroes,
are to terminate. I am sorry for it: there was pleasure for me in this
business, if also much pain. It is a great subject, and a most grave
and wide one, this which, not to be too grave about it, I have named
_Hero-worship_. It enters deeply, as I think, into the secret of
Mankind's ways and vitalest interests in this world, and is well worth
explaining at present. With six months, instead of six days, we might
have done better. I promised to break-ground on it; I know not whether
I have even managed to do that. I have had to tear it up in the rudest
manner in order to get into it at all. Often enough, with these abrupt
utterances thrown-out isolated, unexplained, has your tolerance been
put to the trial. Tolerance, patient candour, all-hoping favour and
kindness, which I will not speak of at present. The accomplished and
distinguished, the beautiful, the wise, something of what is best in
England, have listened patiently to my rude words. With many feelings,
I heartily thank you all; and say, Good be with you all!


ABDALLAH, father of Mahomet, 286

Abelard, theology of, 389

Abu Thaleb, uncle of Mahomet, 286, 387, 294

Action the true end of Man, 119, 121

Actual, the, the true Ideal, 148, 149

Adamitism, 43

Afflictions, merciful, 145

Agincourt, Shakspeare's battle of, 341

Alexis, Luther's friend, his sudden death, 359

Ali, young, Mahomet's kinsman and convert, 293

Allegory, the sportful shadow of earnest faith, 243, 267

Ambition, Fate's appendage of, 78;
foolish charge of, 447;
laudable ambition, 449

Apprenticeships, 92

Aprons, use and significance of, 31

Arabia and the Arabs, 282, 310

Art, all true Works of, symbolic, 163

BALDER, the white Sungod, 255, 271

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 42 of 43)