Thomas Carlyle.

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

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Arnauld, wilt have to say in stern patience: "Rest? Rest? Shall I not
have all Eternity to rest in?" Celestial Nepenthe! though a Pyrrhus
conquer empires, and an Alexander sack the world, he finds thee not;
and thou hast once fallen gently, of thy own accord, on the eyelids,
on the heart of every mother's child. For as yet, sleep and waking are
one: the fair Life-garden rustles infinite around, and everywhere is
dewy fragrance, and the budding of Hope; which budding, if in youth,
too frostnipt, it grow to flowers, will in manhood yield no fruit, but
a prickly, bitter-rinded stone-fruit, of which the fewest can find the

In such rose-coloured light does our Professor, as Poets are wont,
look back on his childhood; the historical details of which (to say
nothing of much other vague oratorical matter) he accordingly dwells
on with an almost wearisome minuteness. We hear of Entepfuhl standing
'in trustful derangement' among the woody slopes; the paternal Orchard
flanking it as extreme out-post from below; the little Kuhbach gushing
kindly by, among beech-rows, through river after river, into the
Donau, into the Black Sea, into the Atmosphere and Universe; and how
'the brave old Linden,' stretching like a parasol of twenty ells in
radius, overtopping all other rows and clumps, towered-up from the
central _Agora_ and _Campus Martius_ of the Village, like its Sacred
Tree; and how the old men sat talking under its shadow (Gneschen often
greedily listening), and the wearied labourers reclined, and the
unwearied children sported, and the young men and maidens often danced
to flute-music. 'Glorious summer twilights,' cries Teufelsdröckh,
'when the Sun, like a proud Conqueror and Imperial Taskmaster, turned
his back, with his gold-purple emblazonry, and all his fireclad
body-guard (of Prismatic Colours); and the tired brickmakers of this
clay Earth might steal a little frolic, and those few meek Stars would
not tell of them!'

Then we have long details of the _Weinlesen_ (Vintage), the
Harvest-Home, Christmas, and so forth; with a whole cycle of the
Entepfuhl Children's-games, differing apparently by mere superficial
shades from those of other countries. Concerning all which, we shall
here, for obvious reasons, say nothing. What cares the world for our
as yet miniature Philosopher's achievements under that 'brave old
Linden'? Or even where is the use of such practical reflections as the
following? 'In all the sports of Children, were it only in their
wanton breakages and defacements, you shall discern a creative
instinct (_schaffenden Trieb_): the Mankin feels that he is a born
Man, that his vocation is to work. The choicest present you can make
him is a Tool; be it knife or pen-gun, for construction or for
destruction; either way it is for Work, for Change. In gregarious
sports of skill or strength, the Boy trains himself to Coöperation,
for war or peace, as governor or governed: the little Maid again,
provident of her domestic destiny, takes with preference to Dolls.'

Perhaps, however, we may give this anecdote, considering who it is
that relates it: 'My first short-clothes were of yellow serge; or
rather, I should say, my first short-cloth, for the vesture was one
and indivisible, reaching from neck to ankle, a mere body with four
limbs: of which fashion how little could I then divine the
architectural, how much less the moral significance!'

More graceful is the following little picture: 'On fine evenings I was
wont to carry-forth my supper (bread-crumb boiled in milk), and eat it
out-of-doors. On the coping of the Orchard-wall, which I could reach
by climbing, or still more easily if Father Andreas would set-up the
pruning-ladder, my porringer was placed: there, many a sunset, have I,
looking at the distant western Mountains, consumed, not without
relish, my evening meal. Those hues of gold and azure, that hush of
World's expectation as Day died, were still a Hebrew Speech for me;
nevertheless I was looking at the fair illuminated Letters, and had an
eye for their gilding.'

With 'the little one's friendship for cattle and poultry' we shall not
much intermeddle. It may be that hereby he acquired a 'certain deeper
sympathy with animated Nature': but when, we would ask, saw any man,
in a collection of Biographical Documents, such a piece as this:
'Impressive enough (_bedeutungsvoll_) was it to hear, in early
morning, the Swineherd's horn; and know that so many hungry happy
quadrupeds were, on all sides, starting in hot haste to join him, for
breakfast on the Heath. Or to see them at eventide, all marching-in
again, with short squeak, almost in military order; and each,
topographically correct, trotting-off in succession to the right or
left, through its own lane, to its own dwelling; till old Kunz, at the
Village-head, now left alone, blew his last blast, and retired for the
night. We are wont to love the Hog chiefly in the form of Ham; yet did
not these bristly thick-skinned beings here manifest intelligence,
perhaps humour of character; at any rate, a touching, trustful
submissiveness to Man, - who, were he but a Swineherd, in darned
gabardine, and leather breeches more resembling slate or
discoloured-tin breeches, is still the Hierarch of this lower world?'

It is maintained, by Helvetius and his set, that an infant of genius
is quite the same as any other infant, only that certain surprisingly
favourable influences accompany him through life, especially through
childhood, and expand him, while others lie closefolded and continue
dunces. Herein, say they, consists the whole difference between an
inspired Prophet and a double-barrelled Game-preserver: the inner man
of the one has been fostered into generous development; that of the
other, crushed-down perhaps by vigour of animal digestion, and the
like, has exuded and evaporated, or at best sleeps now irresuscitably
stagnant at the bottom of his stomach. 'With which opinion,' cries
Teufelsdröckh, 'I should as soon agree as with this other, that an
acorn might, by favourable or unfavourable influences of soil and
climate, be nursed into a cabbage, or the cabbage-seed into an oak.

'Nevertheless,' continues he, 'I too acknowledge the all-but
omnipotence of early culture and nurture: hereby we have either a
doddered dwarf bush, or a high-towering, wide-shadowing tree; either a
sick yellow cabbage, or an edible luxuriant green one. Of a truth, it
is the duty of all men, especially of all philosophers, to note-down
with accuracy the characteristic circumstances of their Education,
what furthered, what hindered, what in any way modified it: to which
duty, nowadays so pressing for many a German Autobiographer, I also
zealously address myself.' - Thou rogue! Is it by short-clothes of
yellow serge, and swineherd horns, that an infant of genius is
educated? And yet, as usual, it ever remains doubtful whether he is
laughing in his sleeve at these Autobiographical times of ours, or
writing from the abundance of his own fond ineptitude. For he
continues: 'If among the ever-streaming currents of Sights, Hearings,
Feelings for Pain or Pleasure, whereby, as in a Magic Hall, young
Gneschen went about environed, I might venture to select and specify,
perhaps these following were also of the number:

'Doubtless, as childish sports call forth Intellect, Activity, so the
young creature's Imagination was stirred up, and a Historical tendency
given him by the narrative habits of Father Andreas; who, with his
battle-reminiscences, and gay austere yet hearty patriarchal aspect,
could not but appear another Ulysses and "much-enduring Man." Eagerly
I hung upon his tales, when listening neighbours enlivened the hearth;
from these perils and these travels, wild and far almost as Hades
itself, a dim world of Adventure expanded itself within me.
Incalculable also was the knowledge I acquired in standing by the Old
Men under the Linden-tree: the whole of Immensity was yet new to me;
and had not these reverend seniors, talkative enough, been employed in
partial surveys thereof for nigh fourscore years? With amazement I
began to discover that Entepfuhl stood in the middle of a Country, of
a World; that there was such a thing as History, as Biography; to
which I also, one day, by hand and tongue, might contribute.

'In a like sense worked the _Postwagen_ (Stage-coach), which,
slow-rolling under its mountains of men and luggage, wended through
our Village: northwards, truly, in the dead of night; yet southwards
visibly at eventide. Not till my eighth year did I reflect that this
Postwagen could be other than some terrestrial Moon, rising and
setting by mere Law of Nature, like the heavenly one; that it came on
made highways, from far cities towards far cities; weaving them like a
monstrous shuttle into closer and closer union. It was then that,
independently of Schiller's _Wilhelm Tell_, I made this not quite
insignificant reflection (so true also in spiritual things): _Any
road, this simple Entepfuhl road, will lead you to the end of the

'Why mention our Swallows, which, out of far Africa, as I learned,
threading their way over seas and mountains, corporate cities and
belligerent nations, yearly found themselves, with the month of May,
snug-lodged in our Cottage Lobby? The hospitable Father (for
cleanliness' sake) had fixed a little bracket plumb under their nest:
there they built, and caught flies, and twittered, and bred; and all,
I chiefly, from the heart loved them. Bright, nimble creatures, who
taught _you_ the mason-craft; nay, stranger still, gave you a masonic
incorporation, almost social police? For if, by ill chance, and when
time pressed, your House fell, have I not seen five neighbourly
Helpers appear next day; and swashing to and fro, with animated, loud,
long-drawn chirpings, and activity almost super-hirundine, complete it
again before nightfall?

'But undoubtedly the grand summary of Entepfuhl child's-culture, where
as in a funnel its manifold influences were concentrated and
simultaneously poured-down on us, was the annual Cattle-fair. Here,
assembling from all the four winds, came the elements of an
unspeakable hurly-burly. Nutbrown maids and nutbrown men, all
clear-washed, loud-laughing, bedizened and beribanded; who came for
dancing, for treating, and if possible, for happiness. Topbooted
Graziers from the North; Swiss Brokers, Italian Drovers, also
topbooted, from the South; these with their subalterns in leather
jerkins, leather skull-caps, and long oxgoads; shouting in
half-articulate speech, amid the inarticulate barking and bellowing.
Apart stood Potters from far Saxony, with their crockery in fair rows;
Nürnberg Pedlars, in booths that to me seemed richer than Ormuz
bazaars; Showmen from the Lago Maggiore; detachments of the _Wiener
Schub_ (Offscourings of Vienna) vociferously superintending games of
chance. Ballad-singers brayed, Auctioneers grew hoarse; cheap New Wine
(_heuriger_) flowed like water, still worse confounding the confusion;
and high over all, vaulted, in ground-and-lofty tumbling, a
particoloured Merry-Andrew, like the genius of the place and of Life

'Thus encircled by the mystery of Existence; under the deep heavenly
Firmament; waited-on by the four golden Seasons, with their
vicissitudes of contribution, for even grim Winter brought its
skating-matches and shooting-matches, its snow-storms and
Christmas-carols, - did the Child sit and learn. These things were the
Alphabet, whereby in aftertime he was to syllable and partly read the
grand Volume of the World; what matters it whether such Alphabet be in
large gilt letters or in small ungilt ones, so you have an eye to read
it? For Gneschen, eager to learn, the very act of looking thereon was
a blessedness that gilded all: his existence was a bright, soft
element of Joy; out of which, as in Prospero's Island, wonder after
wonder bodied itself forth, to teach by charming.

'Nevertheless, I were but a vain dreamer to say, that even then my
felicity was perfect. I had, once for all, come down from Heaven into
the Earth. Among the rainbow colours that glowed on my horizon, lay
even in childhood a dark ring of Care, as yet no thicker than a
thread, and often quite overshone; yet always it reappeared, nay ever
waxing broader and broader; till in after-years it almost
over-shadowed my whole canopy, and threatened to engulf me in final
night. It was the ring of Necessity whereby we are all begirt; happy
he for whom a kind heavenly Sun brightens it into a ring of Duty, and
plays round it with beautiful prismatic diffractions; yet ever, as
basis and as bourne for our whole being, it is there.

* * * * *

'For the first few years of our terrestrial Apprenticeship, we have
not much work to do; but, boarded and lodged gratis, are set down
mostly to look about us over the workshop, and see others work, till
we have understood the tools a little, and can handle this and that.
If good Passivity alone, and not good Passivity and good Activity
together, were the thing wanted, then was my early position favourable
beyond the most. In all that respects openness of Sense, affectionate
Temper, ingenuous Curiosity, and the fostering of these, what more
could I have wished? On the other side, however, things went not so
well. My Active Power (_Thatkraft_) was unfavourably hemmed-in; of
which misfortune how many traces yet abide with me! In an orderly
house, where the litter of children's sports is hateful enough, your
training is too stoical; rather to bear and forbear than to make and
do. I was forbid much: wishes in any measure bold I had to renounce;
everywhere a strait bond of Obedience inflexibly held me down. Thus
already Freewill often came in painful collision with Necessity; so
that my tears flowed, and at seasons the Child itself might taste that
root of bitterness, wherewith the whole fruitage of our life is
mingled and tempered.

'In which habituation to Obedience, truly, it was beyond measure safer
to err by excess than by defect. Obedience is our universal duty and
destiny; wherein whoso will not bend must break: too early and too
thoroughly we cannot be trained to know that Would, in this world of
ours, is as mere zero to Should, and for most part as the smallest of
fractions even to Shall. Hereby was laid for me the basis of worldly
Discretion, nay, of Morality itself. Let me not quarrel with my
upbringing! It was rigorous, too frugal, compressively secluded,
everyway unscientific: yet in that very strictness and domestic
solitude might there not lie the root of deeper earnestness, of the
stem from which all noble fruit must grow? Above all, how unskilful
soever, it was loving, it was well-meant, honest; whereby every
deficiency was helped. My kind Mother, for as such I must ever love
the good Gretchen, did me one altogether invaluable service: she
taught me, less indeed by word than by act and daily reverent look and
habitude, her own simple version of the Christian Faith. Andreas too
attended Church; yet more like a parade-duty, for which he in the
other world expected pay with arrears, - as, I trust, he has received;
but my Mother, with a true woman's heart, and fine though uncultivated
sense, was in the strictest acceptation Religious. How indestructibly
the Good grows, and propagates itself, even among the weedy
entanglements of Evil! The highest whom I knew on Earth I here saw
bowed down, with awe unspeakable, before a Higher in Heaven: such
things, especially in infancy, reach inwards to the very core of your
being; mysteriously does a Holy of Holies build itself into visibility
in the mysterious deeps; and Reverence, the divinest in man, springs
forth undying from its mean envelopment of Fear. Wouldst thou rather
be a peasant's son that knew, were it never so rudely, there was a God
in Heaven and in Man; or a duke's son that only knew there were
two-and-thirty quarters on the family-coach?'

To which last question we must answer: Beware, O Teufelsdröckh, of
spiritual pride!



Hitherto we see young Gneschen, in his indivisible case of yellow
serge, borne forward mostly on the arms of kind Nature alone; seated,
indeed, and much to his mind, in the terrestrial workshop; but (except
his soft hazel eyes, which we doubt not already gleamed with a still
intelligence) called upon for little voluntary movement there.
Hitherto, accordingly, his aspect is rather generic, that of an
incipient Philosopher and Poet in the abstract; perhaps it would
trouble Herr Heuschrecke himself to say wherein the special Doctrine
of Clothes is as yet foreshadowed or betokened. For with Gneschen, as
with others, the Man may indeed stand pictured in the Boy (at least
all the pigments are there); yet only some half of the Man stands in
the Child, or young Boy, namely, his Passive endowment, not his
Active. The more impatient are we to discover what figure he cuts in
this latter capacity; how when, to use his own words, 'he understands
the tools a little, and can handle this or that,' he will proceed to
handle it.

Here, however, may be the place to state that, in much of our
Philosopher's history, there is something of an almost Hindoo
character: nay perhaps in that so well-fostered and everyway excellent
'Passivity' of his, which, with no free development of the antagonist
Activity, distinguished his childhood, we may detect the rudiments of
much that, in after days, and still in these present days, astonishes
the world. For the shallow-sighted, Teufelsdröckh is oftenest a man
without Activity of any kind, a No-man; for the deep-sighted, again, a
man with Activity almost superabundant, yet so spiritual,
close-hidden, enigmatic, that no mortal can foresee its explosions, or
even when it has exploded, so much as ascertain its significance. A
dangerous, difficult temper for the modern European; above all,
disadvantageous in the hero of a Biography! Now as heretofore it will
behove the Editor of these pages, were it never so unsuccessfully, to
do his endeavour.

Among the earliest tools of any complicacy which a man, especially a
man of letters, gets to handle, are his Class-books. On this portion
of his History, Teufelsdröckh looks down professedly as indifferent.
Reading he 'cannot remember ever to have learned'; so perhaps had it
by nature. He says generally: 'Of the insignificant portion of my
Education, which depended on Schools, there need almost no notice be
taken. I learned what others learn; and kept it stored-by in a corner
of my head, seeing as yet no manner of use in it. My Schoolmaster, a
downbent, brokenhearted, underfoot martyr, as others of that guild
are, did little for me, except discover that he could do little: he,
good soul, pronounced me a genius, fit for the learned professions;
and that I must be sent to the Gymnasium, and one day to the
University. Meanwhile, what printed thing soever I could meet with I
read. My very copper pocket-money I laid-out on stall-literature;
which, as it accumulated, I with my own hands sewed into volumes. By
this means was the young head furnished with a considerable miscellany
of things and shadows of things: History in authentic fragments lay
mingled with Fabulous chimeras, wherein also was reality; and the
whole not as dead stuff, but as living pabulum, tolerably nutritive
for a mind as yet so peptic.'

That the Entepfuhl Schoolmaster judged well, we now know. Indeed,
already in the youthful Gneschen, with all his outward stillness,
there may have been manifest an inward vivacity that promised much;
symptoms of a spirit singularly open, thoughtful, almost poetical.
Thus, to say nothing of his Suppers on the Orchard-wall, and other
phenomena of that earlier period, have many readers of these pages
stumbled, in their twelfth year, on such reflections as the following?
'It struck me much, as I sat by the Kuhbach, one silent noontide, and
watched it flowing, gurgling, to think how this same streamlet had
flowed and gurgled, through all changes of weather and of fortune,
from beyond the earliest date of History. Yes, probably on the morning
when Joshua forded Jordan; even as at the midday when Cæsar, doubtless
with difficulty, swam the Nile, yet kept his _Commentaries_ dry, - this
little Kuhbach, assiduous as Tiber, Eurotas or Siloa, was murmuring on
across the wilderness, as yet unnamed, unseen: here, too, as in the
Euphrates and the Ganges, is a vein or veinlet of the grand
World-circulation of Waters, which, with its atmospheric arteries, has
lasted and lasts simply with the World. Thou fool! Nature alone is
antique, and the oldest art a mushroom; that idle crag thou sittest on
is six-thousand years of age.' In which little thought, as in a little
fountain, may there not lie the beginning of those well-nigh
unutterable meditations on the grandeur and mystery of TIME, and its
relation to ETERNITY, which play such a part in this Philosophy of

Over his Gymnasic and Academic years the Professor by no means lingers
so lyrical and joyful as over his childhood. Green sunny tracts there
are still; but intersected by bitter rivulets of tears, here and there
stagnating into sour marshes of discontent. 'With my first view of the
Hinterschlag Gymnasium,' writes he, 'my evil days began. Well do I
still remember the red sunny Whitsuntide morning, when, trotting full
of hope by the side of Father Andreas, I entered the main street of
the place, and saw its steeple-clock (then striking Eight) and
_Schuldthurm_ (Jail), and the aproned or disaproned Burghers moving-in
to breakfast: a little dog, in mad terror, was rushing past; for some
human imps had tied a tin-kettle to its tail; thus did the agonised
creature, loud-jingling, career through the whole length of the
Borough, and become notable enough. Fit emblem of many a Conquering
Hero, to whom Fate (wedding Fantasy to Sense, as it often elsewhere
does) has malignantly appended a tin-kettle of Ambition, to chase him
on; which the faster he runs, urges him the faster, the more loudly
and more foolishly! Fit emblem also of much that awaited myself, in
that mischievous Den; as in the World, whereof it was a portion and

'Alas, the kind beech-rows of Entepfuhl were hidden in the distance: I
was among strangers, harshly, at best indifferently, disposed towards
me; the young heart felt, for the first time, quite orphaned and
alone.' His schoolfellows, as is usual, persecuted him: 'They were
Boys,' he says, 'mostly rude Boys, and obeyed the impulse of rude
Nature, which bids the deerherd fall upon any stricken hart, the
duck-flock put to death any broken-winged brother or sister, and on
all hands the strong tyrannise over the weak.' He admits, that though
'perhaps in an unusual degree morally courageous,' he succeeded ill in
battle, and would fain have avoided it; a result, as would appear,
owing less to his small personal stature (for in passionate seasons he
was 'incredibly nimble'), than to his 'virtuous principles': 'if it
was disgraceful to be beaten,' says he, 'it was only a shade less
disgraceful to have so much as fought; thus was I drawn two ways at
once, and in this important element of school-history, the
war-element, had little but sorrow.' On the whole, that same excellent
'Passivity,' so notable in Teufelsdröckh's childhood, is here visibly
enough again getting nourishment. 'He wept often; indeed to such a
degree that he was nicknamed _Der Weinende_ (the Tearful), which
epithet, till towards his thirteenth year, was indeed not quite
unmerited. Only at rare intervals did the young soul burst-forth into
fire-eyed rage, and, with a stormfulness (_Ungestüm_) under which the
boldest quailed, assert that he too had Rights of Man, or at least of
Mankin.' In all which, who does not discern a fine flower-tree and
cinnamon-tree (of genius) nigh choked among pumpkins, reed-grass and
ignoble shrubs; and forced if it would live, to struggle upwards only,
and not outwards; into a _height_ quite sickly, and disproportioned to
its _breadth_?

We find, moreover, that his Greek and Latin were 'mechanically'
taught; Hebrew scarce even mechanically; much else which they called
History, Cosmography, Philosophy, and so forth, no better than not at
all. So that, except inasmuch as Nature was still busy; and he himself
'went about, as was of old his wont, among the Craftsmen's workshops,
there learning many things'; and farther lighted on some small store
of curious reading, in Hans Wachtel the Cooper's house, where he
lodged, - his time, it would appear, was utterly wasted. Which facts

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; and, On heroes, hero-worship and the heroic in history → online text (page 8 of 43)