Thomas Carlyle.

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

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a new vent, though a slight one, for Typography; therefore as an
encouragement to modern Literature, and deserving of approval: nor is
it without satisfaction that I hear of a celebrated London Firm having
in view to introduce the same fashion, with important extensions, in
England.' - We who are on the spot hear of no such thing; and indeed
have reason to be thankful that hitherto there are other vents for our
Literature, exuberant as it is. - Teufelsdröckh continues: 'If such
supply of printed Paper should rise so far as to choke-up the highways
and public thoroughfares, new means must of necessity be had recourse
to. In a world existing by Industry, we grudge to employ fire as a
destroying element, and not as a creating one. However, Heaven is
omnipotent, and will find us an outlet. In the mean while, is it not
beautiful to see five-million quintals of Rags picked annually from
the Laystall; and annually, after being macerated, hot-pressed,
printed-on, and sold, - returned thither; filling so many hungry mouths
by the way? Thus is the Laystall, especially with its Rags or
Clothes-rubbish, the grand Electric Battery, and Fountain-of-motion,
from which and to which the Social Activities (like vitreous and
resinous Electricities) circulate, in larger or smaller circles,
through the mighty, billowy, storm-tost Chaos of Life, which they keep
alive!' - Such passages fill us, who love the man, and partly esteem
him, with a very mixed feeling.

Farther down we meet with this: 'The Journalists are now the true
Kings and Clergy: henceforth Historians, unless they are fools, must
write not of Bourbon Dynasties, and Tudors and Hapsburgs; but of
Stamped Broad-sheet Dynasties, and quite new successive Names,
according as this or the other Able Editor, or Combination of Able
Editors, gains the world's ear. Of the British Newspaper Press,
perhaps the most important of all, and wonderful enough in its secret
constitution and procedure, a valuable descriptive History already
exists, in that language, under the title of _Satan's Invisible World
Displayed_; which, however, by search in all the Weissnichtwo
Libraries, I have not yet succeeded in procuring (_vermöchte nicht

Thus does the good Homer not only nod, but snore. Thus does
Teufelsdröckh, wandering in regions where he had little business,
confound the old authentic Presbyterian Witchfinder with a new,
spurious, imaginary Historian of the _Brittische Journalistik_; and so
stumble on perhaps the most egregious blunder in Modern Literature!



Happier is our Professor, and more purely scientific and historic,
when he reaches the Middle Ages in Europe, and down to the end of the
Seventeenth Century; the true era of extravagance in Costume. It is
here that the Antiquary and Student of Modes comes upon his richest
harvest. Fantastic garbs, beggaring all fancy of a Teniers or a
Callot, succeed each other, like monster devouring monster in a Dream.
The whole too in brief authentic strokes, and touched not seldom with
that breath of genius which makes even old raiment live. Indeed, so
learned, precise, graphical, and everyway interesting have we found
these Chapters, that it may be thrown-out as a pertinent question for
parties concerned, Whether or not a good English Translation thereof
might henceforth be profitably incorporated with Mr. Merrick's
valuable Work _On Ancient Armour_? Take, by way of example, the
following sketch; as authority for which Paulinus's _Zeitkürzende
Lust_ (ii. 678) is, with seeming confidence, referred to:

'Did we behold the German fashionable dress of the Fifteenth Century,
we might smile; as perhaps those bygone Germans, were they to rise
again, and see our haberdashery, would cross themselves, and invoke
the Virgin. But happily no bygone German, or man, rises again; thus
the Present is not needlessly trammelled with the Past; and only grows
out of it, like a Tree, whose roots are not intertangled with its
branches, but lie peaceably underground. Nay it is very mournful, yet
not useless, to see and know, how the Greatest and Dearest, in a short
while, would find his place quite filled-up here, and no room for him;
the very Napoleon, the very Byron, in some seven years, has become
obsolete, and were now a foreigner to his Europe. Thus is the Law of
Progress secured; and in Clothes, as in all other external things
whatsoever, no fashion will continue.

'Of the military classes in those old times, whose buff-belts,
complicated chains and gorgets, huge churn-boots, and other riding and
fighting gear have been bepainted in modern Romance, till the whole
has acquired somewhat of a sign-post character, - I shall here say
nothing: the civil and pacific classes, less touched upon, are
wonderful enough for us.

'Rich men, I find, have _Teusinke_' (a perhaps untranslateable
article); 'also a silver girdle, whereat hang little bells; so that
when a man walks, it is with continual jingling. Some few, of musical
turn, have a whole chime of bells (_Glockenspiel_) fastened there;
which, especially in sudden whirls, and the other accidents of
walking, has a grateful effect. Observe too how fond they are of
peaks, and Gothic-arch intersections. The male world wears peaked
caps, an ell long, which hang bobbing over the side (_schief_): their
shoes are peaked in front, also to the length of an ell, and laced on
the side with tags; even the wooden shoes have their ell-long noses:
some also clap bells on the peak. Further, according to my authority,
the men have breeches without seat (_ohne Gesäss_): these they fasten
peakwise to their shirts; and the long round doublet must overlap

'Rich maidens, again, flit abroad in gowns scolloped out behind and
before, so that back and breast are almost bare. Wives of quality, on
the other hand, have train-gowns four or five ells in length; which
trains there are boys to carry. Brave Cleopatras, sailing in their
silk-cloth Galley, with a Cupid for steersman! Consider their welts, a
handbreadth thick, which waver round them by way of hem; the long
flood of silver buttons, or rather silver shells, from throat to shoe,
wherewith these same welt-gowns are buttoned. The maidens have bound
silver snoods about their hair, with gold spangles, and pendent flames
(_Flammen_), that is, sparkling hair-drops: but of their mother's
headgear who shall speak? Neither in love of grace is comfort
forgotten. In winter weather you behold the whole fair creation (that
can afford it) in long mantles, with skirts wide below, and, for hem,
not one but two sufficient hand-broad welts; all ending atop in a
thick well-starched Ruff, some twenty inches broad: these are their
Ruff-mantles (_Kragenmäntel_).

'As yet among the womankind hoop-petticoats are not; but the men have
doublets of fustian, under which lie multiple ruffs of cloth, pasted
together with batter (_mit Teig zusammengekleistert_), which create
protuberance enough. Thus do the two sexes vie with each other in the
art of Decoration; and as usual the stronger carries it.'

Our Professor, whether he hath humour himself or not, manifests a
certain feeling of the Ludicrous, a sly observance of it, which, could
emotion of any kind be confidently predicated of so still a man, we
might call a real love. None of those bell-girdles, bushel-breeches,
cornuted shoes, or other the like phenomena, of which the History of
Dress offers so many, escape him: more especially the mischances, or
striking adventures, incident to the wearers of such, are noticed with
due fidelity. Sir Walter Raleigh's fine mantle, which he spread in the
mud under Queen Elizabeth's feet, appears to provoke little enthusiasm
in him; he merely asks, Whether at that period the Maiden Queen 'was
red-painted on the nose, and white-painted on the cheeks, as her
tire-women, when from spleen and wrinkles she would no longer look in
any glass, were wont to serve her?' We can answer that Sir Walter knew
well what he was doing, and had the Maiden Queen been stuffed
parchment dyed in verdigris, would have done the same.

Thus too, treating of those enormous habiliments, that were not only
slashed and galooned, but artificially swollen-out on the broader
parts of the body, by introduction of Bran, - our Professor fails not
to comment on that luckless Courtier, who having seated himself on a
chair with some projecting nail on it, and therefrom rising, to pay
his _devoir_ on the entrance of Majesty, instantaneously emitted
several pecks of dry wheat-dust: and stood there diminished to a
spindle, his galoons and slashes dangling sorrowful and flabby round
him. Whereupon the Professor publishes this reflection:

'By what strange chances do we live in History? Erostratus by a torch;
Milo by a bullock; Henry Darnley, an unfledged booby and bustard, by
his limbs; most Kings and Queens by being born under such and such a
bed-tester; Boileau Despréaux (according to Helvetius) by the peck of
a turkey; and this ill-starred individual by a rent in his
breeches, - for no Memoirist of Kaiser Otto's Court omits him. Vain was
the prayer of Themistocles for a talent of Forgetting: my Friends,
yield cheerfully to Destiny, and read since it is written.' - Has
Teufelsdröckh to be put in mind that, nearly related to the impossible
talent of Forgetting, stands that talent of Silence, which even
travelling Englishmen manifest?

'The simplest costume,' observes our Professor, 'which I anywhere find
alluded to in History, is that used as regimental, by Bolivar's
Cavalry, in the late Columbian wars. A square Blanket, twelve feet in
diagonal, is provided (some were wont to cut-off the corners, and make
it circular): in the centre a slit is effected eighteen inches long;
through this the mother-naked Trooper introduces his head and neck:
and so rides shielded from all weather, and in battle from many
strokes (for he rolls it about his left arm); and not only dressed,
but harnessed and draperied.'

With which picture of a State of Nature, affecting by its singularity,
and Old-Roman contempt of the superfluous, we shall quit this part of
our subject.



If in the Descriptive-Historical portion of this Volume,
Teufelsdröckh, discussing merely the _Werden_ (Origin and successive
Improvement) of Clothes, has astonished many a reader, much more will
he in the Speculative-Philosophical portion, which treats of their
_Wirken_, or Influences. It is here that the present Editor first
feels the pressure of his task; for here properly the higher and new
Philosophy of Clothes commences: an untried, almost inconceivable
region, or chaos; in venturing upon which, how difficult, yet how
unspeakably important is it to know what course, of survey and
conquest, is the true one; where the footing is firm substance and
will bear us, where it is hollow, or mere cloud, and may engulf us!
Teufelsdröckh undertakes no less than to expound the moral, political,
even religious Influences of Clothes; he undertakes to make manifest,
in its thousandfold bearings, this grand Proposition, that Man's
earthly interests 'are all hooked and buttoned together, and held up,
by Clothes.' He says in so many words, 'Society is founded upon
Cloth'; and again, 'Society sails through the Infinitude on Cloth, as
on a Faust's Mantle, or rather like the Sheet of clean and unclean
beasts in the Apostle's Dream; and without such Sheet or Mantle, would
sink to endless depths, or mount to inane limboes, and in either case
be no more.'

By what chains, or indeed infinitely complected tissues, of Meditation
this grand Theorem is here unfolded, and innumerable practical
Corollaries are drawn therefrom, it were perhaps a mad ambition to
attempt exhibiting. Our Professor's method is not, in any case, that
of common school Logic, where the truths all stand in a row, each
holding by the skirts of the other; but at best that of practical
Reason, proceeding by large Intuition over whole systematic groups and
kingdoms; whereby, we might say, a noble complexity, almost like that
of Nature, reigns in his Philosophy, or spiritual Picture of Nature: a
mighty maze, yet, as faith whispers, not without a plan. Nay we
complained above, that a certain ignoble complexity, what we must call
mere confusion, was also discernible. Often, also, we have to exclaim:
Would to Heaven those same Biographical Documents were come! For it
seems as if the demonstration lay much in the Author's individuality;
as if it were not Argument that had taught him, but Experience. At
present it is only in local glimpses, and by significant fragments,
picked often at wide-enough intervals from the original Volume, and
carefully collated, that we can hope to impart some outline or
foreshadow of this Doctrine. Readers of any intelligence are once more
invited to favour us with their most concentrated attention: let
these, after intense consideration, and not till then, pronounce,
Whether on the utmost verge of our actual horizon there is not a
looming as of Land; a promise of new Fortunate Islands, perhaps whole
undiscovered Americas, for such as have canvas to sail thither? - As
exordium to the whole, stand here the following long citation:

'With men of a speculative turn,' writes Teufelsdröckh, 'there come
seasons, meditative, sweet, yet awful hours, when in wonder and fear
you ask yourself that unanswerable question: Who am _I_; the thing
that can say "I" (_das Wesen das sich_ ICH _nennt_)? The world, with
its loud trafficking, retires into the distance; and, through the
paper-hangings, and stone-walls, and thick-plied tissues of Commerce
and Polity, and all the living and lifeless integuments (of Society
and a Body), wherewith your Existence sits surrounded, - the sight
reaches forth into the void Deep, and you are alone with the Universe,
and silently commune with it, as one mysterious Presence with another.

'Who am I; what is this ME? A Voice, a Motion, an Appearance; - some
embodied, visualised Idea in the Eternal Mind? _Cogito, ergo sum._
Alas, poor Cogitator, this takes us but a little way. Sure enough, I
am; and lately was not: but Whence? How? Whereto? The answer lies
around, written in all colours and motions, uttered in all tones of
jubilee and wail, in thousand-figured, thousand-voiced, harmonious
Nature: but where is the cunning eye and ear to whom that God-written
Apocalypse will yield articulate meaning? We sit as in a boundless
Phantasmagoria and Dream-grotto; boundless, for the faintest star, the
remotest century, lies not even nearer the verge thereof: sounds and
many-coloured visions flit round our sense; but Him, the Unslumbering,
whose work both Dream and Dreamer are, we see not; except in rare
half-waking moments, suspect not. Creation, says one, lies before us,
like a glorious Rainbow; but the Sun that made it lies behind us,
hidden from us. Then, in that strange Dream, how we clutch at shadows
as if they were substances; and sleep deepest while fancying ourselves
most awake! Which of your Philosophical Systems is other than a
dream-theorem; a net quotient, confidently given out, where divisor
and dividend are both unknown? What are all your national Wars, with
their Moscow Retreats, and sanguinary hate-filled Revolutions, but the
Somnambulism of uneasy Sleepers? This Dreaming, this Somnambulism is
what we on Earth call Life; wherein the most indeed undoubtingly
wander, as if they knew right hand from left; yet they only are wise
who know that they know nothing.

'Pity that all Metaphysics had hitherto proved so inexpressibly
unproductive! The secret of Man's Being is still like the Sphinx's
secret: a riddle that he cannot rede; and for ignorance of which he
suffers death, the worst death, a spiritual. What are your Axioms, and
Categories, and Systems, and Aphorisms? Words, words. High Air-castles
are cunningly built of Words, the Words well bedded also in good
Logic-mortar, wherein, however, no Knowledge will come to lodge. _The
whole is greater than the part_: how exceedingly true! _Nature abhors
a vacuum_: how exceedingly false and calumnious! Again, _Nothing can
act but where it is_: with all my heart; only, WHERE is it? Be not the
slave of Words: is not the Distant, the Dead, while I love it, and
long for it, and mourn for it, Here, in the genuine sense, as truly as
the floor I stand on? But that same WHERE, with its brother WHEN, are
from the first the master-colours of our Dream-grotto; say rather, the
Canvas (the warp and woof thereof) whereon all our Dreams and
Life-visions are painted! Nevertheless, has not a deeper meditation
taught certain of every climate and age, that the WHERE and WHEN, so
mysteriously inseparable from all our thoughts, are but superficial
terrestrial adhesions to thought; that the Seer may discern them where
they mount up out of the celestial EVERYWHERE and FOREVER: have not
all nations conceived their God as Omnipresent and Eternal; as
existing in a universal HERE, an everlasting NOW? Think well, thou too
wilt find that Space is but a mode of our human Sense, so likewise
Time; there _is_ no Space and no Time: WE are - we know not
what; - light-sparkles floating in the æther of Deity!

'So that this so solid-seeming World, after all, were but an
air-image, our ME the only reality: and Nature, with its thousandfold
production and destruction, but the reflex of our own inward Force,
the "phantasy of our Dream"; or what the Earth-Spirit in _Faust_ names
it, _the living visible Garment of God_:

"In Being's floods, in Action's storm,
I walk and work, above, beneath,
Work and weave in endless motion!
Birth and Death,
An infinite ocean;
A seizing and giving
The fire of Living:
'Tis thus at the roaring Loom of Time I ply,
And weave for God the Garment thou seest Him by."

Of twenty millions that have read and spouted this thunder-speech of
the _Erdgeist_, are there yet twenty units of us that have learned the
meaning thereof?

'It was in some such mood, when wearied and fordone with these high
speculations, that I first came upon the question of Clothes. Strange
enough, it strikes me, is this same fact of there being Tailors and
Tailored. The Horse I ride has his own whole fell: strip him of the
girths and flaps and extraneous tags I have fastened round him, and
the noble creature is his own sempster and weaver and spinner; nay his
own bootmaker, jeweller, and man-milliner; he bounds free through the
valleys, with a perennial rain-proof court-suit on his body; wherein
warmth and easiness of fit have reached perfection; nay, the graces
also have been considered, and frills and fringes, with gay variety of
colour, featly appended, and ever in the right place, are not wanting.
While I - good Heaven! - have thatched myself over with the dead fleeces
of sheep, the bark of vegetables, the entrails of worms, the hides of
oxen or seals, the felt of furred beasts; and walk abroad a moving
Rag-screen, overheaped with shreds and tatters raked from the
Charnel-house of Nature, where they would have rotted, to rot on me
more slowly! Day after day, I must thatch myself anew; day after day,
this despicable thatch must lose some film of its thickness; some film
of it, frayed away by tear and wear, must be brushed-off into the
Ashpit, into the Laystall; till by degrees the whole has been brushed
thither, and I, the dust-making, patent Rag-grinder, get new material
to grind down. O subter-brutish! vile! most vile! For have not I too a
compact all-enclosing Skin, whiter or dingier? Am I a botched mass of
tailors' and cobblers' shreds, then; or a tightly-articulated,
homogeneous little Figure, automatic, nay alive?

'Strange enough how creatures of the human-kind shut their eyes to
plainest facts; and by the mere inertia of Oblivion and Stupidity,
live at ease in the midst of Wonders and Terrors. But indeed man is,
and was always, a blockhead and dullard; much readier to feel and
digest, than to think and consider. Prejudice, which he pretends to
hate, is his absolute lawgiver; mere use-and-wont everywhere leads him
by the nose; thus let but a Rising of the Sun, let but a Creation of
the World happen _twice_, and it ceases to be marvellous, to be
noteworthy, or noticeable. Perhaps not once in a lifetime does it
occur to your ordinary biped, of any country or generation, be he
gold-mantled Prince or russet-jerkined Peasant, that his Vestments and
his Self are not one and indivisible; that _he_ is naked, without
vestments, till he buy or steal such, and by forethought sew and
button them.

'For my own part, these considerations, of our Clothes-thatch, and
how, reaching inwards even to our heart of hearts, it tailorises and
demoralises us, fill me with a certain horror at myself and mankind;
almost as one feels at those Dutch Cows, which, during the wet season,
you see grazing deliberately with jackets and petticoats (of striped
sacking), in the meadows of Gouda. Nevertheless there is something
great in the moment when a man first strips himself of adventitious
wrappages; and sees indeed that he is naked, and, as Swift has it, "a
forked straddling animal with bandy legs"; yet also a Spirit, and
unutterable Mystery of Mysteries.'



Let no courteous reader take offence at the opinions broached in the
conclusion of the last Chapter. The Editor himself, on first glancing
over that singular passage, was inclined to exclaim: What, have we got
not only a Sansculottist, but an enemy to Clothes in the abstract? A
new Adamite, in this century, which flatters itself that it is the
Nineteenth, and destructive both to Superstition and Enthusiasm?

Consider, thou foolish Teufelsdröckh, what benefits unspeakable all
ages and sexes derive from Clothes. For example, when thou thyself, a
watery, pulpy, slobbery freshman and new-comer in this Planet, sattest
muling and puking in thy nurse's arms; sucking thy coral, and looking
forth into the world in the blankest manner, what hadst thou been
without thy blankets, and bibs, and other nameless hulls? A terror to
thyself and mankind! Or hast thou forgotten the day when thou first
receivedst breeches, and thy long clothes became short? The village
where thou livedst was all apprised of the fact; and neighbour after
neighbour kissed thy pudding-cheek, and gave thee, as handsel, silver
or copper coins, on that the first gala-day of thy existence. Again,
wert not thou, at one period of life, a Buck, or Blood, or Macaroni,
or Incroyable, or Dandy, or by whatever name, according to year and
place, such phenomenon is distinguished? In that one word lie included
mysterious volumes. Nay, now when the reign of folly is over, or
altered, and thy clothes are not for triumph but for defence, hast
thou always worn them perforce, and as a consequence of Man's Fall;
never rejoiced in them as in a warm movable House, a Body round thy
Body, wherein that strange THEE of thine sat snug, defying all
variations of Climate? Girt with thick double-milled kerseys;
half-buried under shawls and broad-brims, and overalls and mud-boots,
thy very fingers cased in doeskin and mittens, thou hast bestrode that
'Horse I ride'; and, though it were in wild winter, dashed through the
world, glorying in it as if thou wert its lord. In vain did the sleet
beat round thy temples; it lighted only on thy impenetrable, felted or
woven, case of wool. In vain did the winds howl, - forests sounding and
creaking, deep calling unto deep, - and the storms heap themselves
together into one huge Arctic whirlpool: thou flewest through the
middle thereof, striking fire from the highway; wild music hummed in
thy ears, thou too wert as a 'sailor of the air'; the wreck of matter
and the crash of worlds was thy element and propitiously wafting tide.
Without Clothes, without bit or saddle, what hadst thou been; what had
thy fleet quadruped been? - Nature is good, but she is not the best:
here truly was the victory of Art over Nature. A thunderbolt indeed
might have pierced thee; all short of this thou couldst defy.

Or, cries the courteous reader, has your Teufelsdröckh forgotten what
he said lately about 'Aboriginal Savages,' and their 'condition
miserable indeed'? Would he have all this unsaid; and us betake
ourselves again to the 'matted cloak,' and go sheeted in a 'thick
natural fell'?

Nowise, courteous reader! The Professor knows full well what he is
saying; and both thou and we, in our haste, do him wrong. If Clothes,
in these times, 'so tailorise and demoralise us,' have they no
redeeming value; can they not be altered to serve better; must they of

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 5 of 43)