Thomas Carlyle.

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

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necessity be thrown to the dogs? The truth is, Teufelsdröckh, though a
Sansculottist, is no Adamite; and much perhaps as he might wish to go
forth before this degenerate age 'as a Sign,' would nowise wish to do
it, as those old Adamites did, in a state of Nakedness. The utility of
Clothes is altogether apparent to him: nay perhaps he has an insight
into their more recondite, and almost mystic qualities, what we might
call the omnipotent virtue of Clothes, such as was never before
vouchsafed to any man. For example:

'You see two individuals,' he writes, 'one dressed in fine Red, the
other in coarse threadbare Blue: Red says to Blue, "Be hanged and
anatomised"; Blue hears with a shudder, and (O wonder of wonders!)
marches sorrowfully to the gallows; is there noosed-up, vibrates his
hour, and the surgeons dissect him, and fit his bones into a skeleton
for medical purposes. How is this; or what make ye of your _Nothing
can act but where it is_? Red has no physical hold of Blue, no
_clutch_ of him, is nowise in _contact_ with him: neither are those
ministering Sheriffs and Lord-Lieutenants and Hangmen and Tipstaves so
related to commanding Red, that he can tug them hither and thither;
but each stands distinct within his own skin. Nevertheless, as it is
spoken, so is it done: the articulated Word sets all hands in Action;
and Rope and Improved-drop perform their work.

'Thinking reader, the reason seems to me twofold: First, that _Man is
a Spirit_, and bound by invisible bonds to _All Men_; secondly, that
_he wears Clothes_, which are the visible emblems of that fact. Has
not your Red hanging-individual a horsehair wig, squirrel-skins, and a
plush-gown; whereby all mortals know that he is a JUDGE? - Society,
which the more I think of it astonishes me the more, is founded upon

'Often in my atrabiliar-moods, when I read of pompous ceremonials,
Frankfort Coronations, Royal Drawing-rooms, Levees, Couchees; and how
the ushers and macers and pursuivants are all in waiting; how Duke
this is presented by Archduke that, and Colonel A by General B, and
innumerable Bishops, Admirals, and miscellaneous Functionaries, are
advancing gallantly to the Anointed Presence; and I strive, in my
remote privacy, to form a clear picture of that solemnity, - on a
sudden, as by some enchanter's wand, the - shall I speak it? - the
Clothes fly-off the whole dramatic corps; and Dukes, Grandees,
Bishops, Generals, Anointed Presence itself, every mother's son of
them, stand straddling there, not a shirt on them; and I know not
whether to laugh or weep. This physical or psychical infirmity, in
which perhaps I am not singular, I have, after hesitation, thought
right to publish, for the solace of those afflicted with the like.'

Would to Heaven, say we, thou hadst thought right to keep it secret!
Who is there now that can read the five columns of Presentations in
his Morning Newspaper without a shudder? Hypochondriac men, and all
men are to a certain extent hypochondriac, should be more gently
treated. With what readiness our fancy, in this shattered state of the
nerves, follows out the consequences which Teufelsdröckh, with a
devilish coolness, goes on to draw:

'What would Majesty do, could such an accident befall in reality;
should the buttons all simultaneously start, and the solid wool
evaporate, in very Deed, as here in Dream? _Ach Gott!_ How each skulks
into the nearest hiding-place; their high State Tragedy (_Haupt- und
Staats-Action_) becomes a Pickleherring-Farce to weep at, which is the
worst kind of Farce; _the tables_ (according to Horace), and with
them, the whole fabric of Government, Legislation, Property, Police,
and Civilised Society, _are dissolved_, in wails and howls.'

Lives the man that can figure a naked Duke of Windlestraw addressing a
naked House of Lords? Imagination, choked as in mephitic air, recoils
on itself, and will not forward with the picture. The Woolsack, the
Ministerial, the Opposition Benches - _infandum! infandum!_ And yet why
is the thing impossible? Was not every soul, or rather every body, of
these Guardians of our Liberties, naked, or nearly so, last night; 'a
forked Radish with a head fantastically carved'? And why might he not,
did our stern fate so order it, walk out to St Stephen's, as well as
into bed, in that no-fashion; and there, with other similar Radishes,
hold a Bed of Justice? 'Solace of those afflicted with the like!'
Unhappy Teufelsdröckh, had man ever such a 'physical or psychical
infirmity' before? And now how many, perhaps, may thy unparalleled
confession (which we, even to the sounder British world, and goaded-on
by Critical and Biographical duty, grudge to re-impart) incurably
infect therewith! Art thou the malignest of Sansculottists, or only
the maddest?

'It will remain to be examined,' adds the inexorable Teufelsdröckh,
'in how far the SCARECROW, as a Clothed Person, is not also entitled
to benefit of clergy, and English trial by jury: nay perhaps,
considering his high function (for is not he too a Defender of
Property, and Sovereign armed with the _terrors_ of the Law?), to a
certain royal Immunity and Inviolability; which, however, misers and
the meaner class of persons are not always voluntarily disposed to
grant him.' * * *

* * * 'O my Friends, we are (in Yorick Sterne's words) but as "turkeys
driven with a stick and red clout, to the market": or if some drivers,
as they do in Norfolk, take a dried bladder and put peas in it, the
rattle thereof terrifies the boldest!'



It must now be apparent enough that our Professor, as above hinted, is
a speculative Radical, and of the very darkest tinge; acknowledging,
for most part, in the solemnities and paraphernalia of civilised Life,
which we make so much of, nothing but so many Cloth-rags,
turkey-poles, and 'bladders with dried peas.' To linger among such
speculations, longer than mere Science requires, a discerning public
can have no wish. For our purposes the simple fact that such a _Naked
World_ is possible, nay actually exists (under the Clothed one), will
be sufficient. Much, therefore, we omit about 'Kings wrestling naked
on the green with Carmen,' and the Kings being thrown: 'dissect them
with scalpels,' says Teufelsdröckh; 'the same viscera, tissues,
livers, lights, and other life-tackle are there: examine their
spiritual mechanism; the same great Need, great Greed, and little
Faculty; nay ten to one but the Carman, who understands
draught-cattle, the rimming of wheels, something of the laws of
unstable and stable equilibrium, with other branches of wagon-science,
and has actually put forth his hand and operated on Nature, is the
more cunningly gifted of the two. Whence, then, their so unspeakable
difference? From Clothes.' Much also we shall omit about confusion of
Ranks, and Joan and My Lady, and how it would be everywhere 'Hail
fellow well met,' and Chaos were come again: all which to any one that
has once fairly pictured-out the grand mother-idea, _Society in a
state of nakedness_, will spontaneously suggest itself. Should some
sceptical individual still entertain doubts whether in a world without
Clothes, the smallest Politeness, Polity, or even Police, could exist,
let him turn to the original Volume, and view there the boundless
Serbonian Bog of Sansculottism, stretching sour and pestilential: over
which we have lightly flown; where not only whole armies but whole
nations might sink! If indeed the following argument, in its brief
riveting emphasis, be not of itself incontrovertible and final:

'Are we Opossums; have we natural Pouches, like the Kangaroo? Or how,
without Clothes, could we possess the master-organ, soul's seat, and
true pineal gland of the Body Social: I mean, a PURSE?'

Nevertheless, it is impossible to hate Professor Teufelsdröckh; at
worst, one knows not whether to hate or to love him. For though, in
looking at the fair tapestry of human Life, with its royal and even
sacred figures, he dwells not on the obverse alone, but here chiefly
on the reverse; and indeed turns out the rough seams, tatters, and
manifold thrums of that unsightly wrong-side, with an almost diabolic
patience and indifference, which must have sunk him in the estimation
of most readers, - there is that within which unspeakably distinguishes
him from all other past and present Sansculottists. The grand
unparalleled peculiarity of Teufelsdröckh is, that with all this
Descendentalism, he combines a Transcendentalism, no less superlative;
whereby if on the one hand he degrade man below most animals, except
those jacketed Gouda Cows, he, on the other, exalts him beyond the
visible Heavens, almost to an equality with the Gods.

'To the eye of vulgar Logic,' says he, 'what is man? An omnivorous
Biped that wears Breeches. To the eye of Pure Reason what is he? A
Soul, a Spirit, and divine Apparition. Round his mysterious ME, there
lies, under all those wool-rags, a Garment of Flesh (or of Senses),
contextured in the Loom of Heaven; whereby he is revealed to his like,
and dwells with them in UNION and DIVISION; and sees and fashions for
himself a Universe, with azure Starry Spaces, and long Thousands of
Years. Deep-hidden is he under that strange Garment; amid Sounds and
Colours and Forms, as it were, swathed-in, and inextricably
over-shrouded: yet it is sky-woven, and worthy of a God. Stands he not
thereby in the centre of Immensities, in the conflux of Eternities? He
feels; power has been given him to know, to believe; nay does not the
spirit of Love, free in its celestial primeval brightness, even here,
though but for moments, look through? Well said Saint Chrysostom, with
his lips of gold, "the true SHEKINAH is Man": where else is the
GOD'S-PRESENCE manifested not to our eyes only, but to our hearts, as
in our fellow-man?'

In such passages, unhappily too rare, the high Platonic Mysticism of
our Author, which is perhaps the fundamental element of his nature,
bursts forth, as it were, in full flood: and, through all the vapour
and tarnish of what is often so perverse, so mean in his exterior and
environment, we seem to look into a whole inward Sea of Light and
Love; - though, alas, the grim coppery clouds soon roll together again,
and hide it from view.

Such tendency to Mysticism is everywhere traceable in this man; and
indeed, to attentive readers, must have been long ago apparent. Nothing
that he sees but has more than a common meaning, but has two meanings:
thus, if in the highest Imperial Sceptre and Charlemagne-Mantle, as
well as in the poorest Ox-goad and Gipsy-Blanket, he finds Prose,
Decay, Contemptibility; there is in each sort Poetry also, and a
reverend Worth. For Matter, were it never so despicable, is Spirit,
the manifestation of Spirit: were it never so honourable, can it be
more? The thing Visible, nay the thing Imagined, the thing in any way
conceived as Visible, what is it but a Garment, a Clothing of the
higher, celestial Invisible, 'unimaginable, formless, dark with excess
of bright'? Under which point of view the following passage, so
strange in purport, so strange in phrase, seems characteristic enough:

'The beginning of all Wisdom is to look fixedly on Clothes, or even
with armed eyesight, till they become _transparent_. "The
Philosopher," says the wisest of this age, "must station himself in
the middle": how true! The Philosopher is he to whom the Highest has
descended, and the Lowest has mounted up; who is the equal and kindly
brother of all.

'Shall we tremble before clothwebs and cobwebs, whether woven in
Arkwright looms, or by the silent Arachnes that weave unrestingly in
our imagination? Or, on the other hand, what is there that we cannot
love; since all was created by God?

'Happy he who can look through the Clothes of a Man (the woollen, and
fleshly, and official Bank-paper and State-paper Clothes) into the Man
himself; and discern, it may be, in this or the other Dread Potentate,
a more or less incompetent Digestive-apparatus; yet also an
inscrutable venerable Mystery, in the meanest Tinker that sees with

For the rest, as is natural to a man of this kind, he deals much in
the feeling of Wonder; insists on the necessity and high worth of
universal Wonder; which he holds to be the only reasonable temper for
the denizen of so singular a Planet as ours. 'Wonder,' says he, 'is
the basis of Worship: the reign of wonder is perennial, indestructible
in Man; only at certain stages (as the present), it is, for some short
season, a reign _in partibus infidelium_.' That progress of Science,
which is to destroy Wonder, and in its stead substitute Mensuration
and Numeration, finds small favour with Teufelsdröckh, much as he
otherwise venerates these two latter processes.

'Shall your Science,' exclaims he, 'proceed in the small
chink-lighted, or even oil-lighted, underground workshop of Logic
alone; and man's mind become an Arithmetical Mill, whereof Memory is
the Hopper, and mere Tables of Sines and Tangents, Codification, and
Treatises of what you call Political Economy, are the Meal? And what
is that Science, which the scientific head alone, were it screwed off,
and (like the Doctor's in the Arabian Tale) set in a basin to keep it
alive, could prosecute without shadow of a heart, - but one other of
the mechanical and menial handicrafts, for which the Scientific Head
(having a Soul in it) is too noble an organ? I mean that Thought
without Reverence is barren, perhaps poisonous; at best, dies like
cookery with the day that called it forth; does not live, like sowing,
in successive tilths and wider-spreading harvests, bringing food and
plenteous increase to all Time.'

In such wise does Teufelsdröckh deal hits, harder or softer, according
to ability; yet ever, as we would fain persuade ourselves, with
charitable intent. Above all, that class of 'Logic-choppers, and
treble-pipe Scoffers, and professed Enemies to Wonder; who, in these
days, so numerously patrol as night-constables about the Mechanics'
Institute of Science, and cackle, like true Old-Roman geese and
goslings round their Capitol, on any alarm, or on none; nay who often,
as illuminated Sceptics, walk abroad into peaceable society, in full
day-light, with rattle and lantern, and insist on guiding you and
guarding you therewith, though the Sun is shining, and the street
populous with mere justice-loving men': that whole class is
inexpressibly wearisome to him. Hear with what uncommon animation he

'The man who cannot wonder, who does not habitually wonder (and
worship) were he President of innumerable Royal Societies, and carried
the whole _Mécanique Céleste_ and _Hegel's Philosophy_, and the
epitome of all Laboratories and Observatories with their results, in
his single head, - is but a Pair of Spectacles behind which there is no
Eye. Let those who have Eyes look through him, then he may be useful.

'Thou wilt have no Mystery and Mysticism; wilt walk through thy world
by the sunshine of what thou callest Truth, or even by the hand-lamp
of what I call Attorney-Logic; and "explain" all, "account" for all,
or believe nothing of it? Nay, thou wilt attempt laughter; whoso
recognises the unfathomable, all-pervading domain of Mystery, which is
everywhere under our feet and among our hands; to whom the Universe is
an Oracle and Temple, as well as a Kitchen and Cattlestall, - he shall
be a delirious Mystic; to him thou, with sniffing charity, wilt
protrusively proffer thy hand-lamp, and shriek, as one injured, when
he kicks his foot through it? - _Armer Teufel!_ Doth not thy cow calve,
doth not thy bull gender? Thou thyself, wert thou not born, wilt thou
not die? "Explain" me all this, or do one of two things: Retire into
private places with thy foolish cackle; or, what were better, give it
up, and weep, not that the reign of wonder is done, and God's world
all disembellished and prosaic, but that thou hitherto art a
Dilettante and sandblind Pedant.'



The Philosophy of Clothes is now to all readers, as we predicted it
would do, unfolding itself into new boundless expansions, of a
cloudclapt, almost chimerical aspect, yet not without azure loomings
in the far distance, and streaks as of an Elysian brightness; the
highly questionable purport and promise of which it is becoming more
and more important for us to ascertain. Is that a real Elysian
brightness, cries many a timid wayfarer, or the reflex of Pandemonian
lava? Is it of a truth leading us into beatific Asphodel meadows, or
the yellow-burning marl of a Hell-on-Earth?

Our Professor, like other Mystics, whether delirious or inspired,
gives an Editor enough to do. Ever higher and dizzier are the heights
he leads us to; more piercing, all-comprehending, all-confounding are
his views and glances. For example, this of Nature being not an
Aggregate but a Whole:

'Well sang the Hebrew Psalmist: "If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the universe, God is there." Thou
thyself, O cultivated reader, who too probably art no Psalmist, but a
Prosaist, knowing GOD only by tradition, knowest thou any corner of
the world where at least FORCE is not? The drop which thou shakest
from thy wet hand, rests not where it falls, but to-morrow thou
findest it swept away; already on the wings of the Northwind, it is
nearing the Tropic of Cancer. How came it to evaporate, and not lie
motionless? Thinkest thou there is aught motionless; without Force,
and utterly dead?

'As I rode through the Schwarzwald, I said to myself: That little fire
which grows star-like across the dark-growing (_nachtende_) moor,
where the sooty smith bends over his anvil, and thou hopest to replace
thy lost horse-shoe, - is it a detached, separated speck, cut-off from
the whole Universe; or indissolubly joined to the whole? Thou fool,
that smithy-fire was (primarily) kindled at the Sun; is fed by air
that circulates from before Noah's Deluge, from beyond the Dogstar;
therein, with Iron Force, and Coal Force, and the far stranger Force
of Man, are cunning affinities and battles and victories of Force
brought about; it is a little ganglion, or nervous centre, in the
great vital system of Immensity. Call it, if thou wilt, an unconscious
Altar, kindled on the bosom of the All; whose iron sacrifice, whose
iron smoke and influence reach quite through the All; whose dingy
Priest, not by word, yet by brain and sinew, preaches forth the
mystery of Force; nay preaches forth (exoterically enough) one little
textlet from the Gospel of Freedom, the Gospel of Man's Force,
commanding, and one day to be all-commanding.

'Detached, separated! I say there is no such separation: nothing
hitherto was ever stranded, cast aside; but all, were it only a
withered leaf, works together with all; is borne forward on the
bottomless, shoreless flood of Action, and lives through perpetual
metamorphoses. The withered leaf is not dead and lost, there are
Forces in it and around it, though working in inverse order; else how
could it _rot_? Despise not the rag from which man makes Paper, or the
litter from which the earth makes Corn. Rightly viewed no meanest
object is insignificant; all objects are as windows, through which the
philosophic eye looks into Infinitude itself.'

Again, leaving that wondrous Schwarzwald Smithy-Altar, what vacant,
high-sailing air-ships are these, and whither will they sail with us?

'All visible things are emblems; what thou seest is not there on its
own account; strictly taken, is not there at all: Matter exists only
spiritually, and to represent some Idea, and _body_ it forth. Hence
Clothes, as despicable as we think them, are so unspeakably significant.
Clothes, from the King's mantle downwards, are emblematic not of want
only, but of a manifold cunning Victory over Want. On the other hand,
all Emblematic things are properly Clothes, thought-woven or
hand-woven: must not the Imagination weave Garments, visible Bodies,
wherein the else invisible creations and inspirations of our Reason
are, like Spirits, revealed, and first become all-powerful; - the
rather if, as we often see, the Hand too aid her, and (by wool Clothes
or otherwise) reveal such even to the outward eye?

'Men are properly said to be clothed with Authority, clothed with
Beauty, with Curses, and the like. Nay, if you consider it, what is
Man himself, and his whole terrestrial Life, but an Emblem; a Clothing
or visible Garment for that divine ME of his, cast hither, like a
light-particle, down from Heaven? Thus is he said also to be clothed
with a Body.

'Language is called the Garment of Thought: however, it should rather
be, Language is the Flesh-Garment, the Body, of thought. I said that
Imagination wove this Flesh-Garment; and does not she? Metaphors are
her stuff: examine Language; what, if you except some few primitive
elements (of natural sound), what is it all but Metaphors, recognised
as such, or no longer recognised; still fluid and florid, or now
solid-grown and colourless? If those same primitive elements are the
osseous fixtures in the Flesh-Garment, Language, - then are Metaphors
its muscles and tissues and living integuments. An unmetaphorical
style you shall in vain seek for: is not your very _Attention_ a
_Stretching-to_? The difference lies here: some styles are lean,
adust, wiry, the muscle itself seems osseous; some are even quite
pallid, hunger-bitten and dead-looking; while others again glow in the
flush of health and vigorous self-growth, sometimes (as in my own
case) not without an apoplectic tendency. Moreover, there are sham
Metaphors, which overhanging that same Thought's-Body (best naked),
and deceptively bedizening, or bolstering it out, may be called its
false stuffings, superfluous show-cloaks (_Putz-Mäntel_), and tawdry
woollen rags: whereof he that runs and reads may gather whole
hampers, - and burn them.'

Than which paragraph on Metaphors did the reader ever chance to see a
more surprisingly metaphorical? However, that is not our chief
grievance; the Professor continues:

'Why multiply instances? It is written, the Heavens and the Earth
shall fade away like a Vesture; which indeed they are: the
Time-vesture of the Eternal. Whatsoever sensibly exists, whatsoever
represents Spirit to Spirit, is properly a Clothing, a suit of
Raiment, put on for a season, and to be laid off. Thus in this one
pregnant subject of CLOTHES, rightly understood, is included all that
men have thought, dreamed, done, and been: the whole External Universe
and what it holds is but Clothing; and the essence of all Science lies

Towards these dim infinitely-expanded regions, close-bordering on the
impalpable Inane, it is not without apprehension, and perpetual
difficulties, that the Editor sees himself journeying and struggling.
Till lately a cheerful daystar of hope hung before him, in the
expected Aid of Hofrath Heuschrecke; which daystar, however, melts
now, not into the red of morning, but into a vague, gray half-light,
uncertain whether dawn of day or dusk of utter darkness. For the last
week, these so-called Biographical Documents are in his hand. By the
kindness of a Scottish Hamburg Merchant, whose name, known to the
whole mercantile world, he must not mention; but whose honourable
courtesy, now and often before spontaneously manifested to him, a mere
literary stranger, he cannot soon forget, - the bulky Weissnichtwo
Packet, with all its Custom-house seals, foreign hieroglyphs, and
miscellaneous tokens of Travel, arrived here in perfect safety, and
free of cost. The reader shall now fancy with what hot haste it was
broken up, with what breathless expectation glanced over; and, alas,
with what unquiet disappointment it has, since then, been often thrown
down, and again taken up.

Hofrath Heuschrecke, in a too long-winded Letter, full of compliments,
Weissnichtwo politics, dinners, dining repartees, and other ephemeral
trivialities, proceeds to remind us of what we know well already: that
however it may be with Metaphysics, and other abstract Science
originating in the Head (_Verstand_) alone, no Life-Philosophy
(_Lebensphilosophie_), such as this of Clothes pretends to be, which
originates equally in the Character (_Gemüth_), and equally speaks
thereto, can attain its significance till the Character itself is
known and seen; 'till the Author's View of the World (_Weltansicht_),
and how he actively and passively came by such view, are clear: in
short till a Biography of him has been philosophico-poetically
written, and philosophico-poetically read.' 'Nay,' adds he, 'were the

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 6 of 43)