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Sartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh online

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Heavens seemed laid open, and I dared to love, been
ail-too cruelly belied? The Speculative Mystery of
Life grew ever more mysterious to me : neither in the
practical Mystery had I made the slightest progress,
but been everywhere buffeted, foiled, and contemptu-
ously cast out. A feeble unit in the middle of a
threatening Infinitude, I seemed to have nothing given
me but eyes, whereby to discern my own wretched-
ness. Invisible yet impenetrable walls, as of Enchant-
ment, divided me from all living : was there, in the
wide world, any true bosom I could press trustfully to
mine ? O Heaven, No, there was none ! I kept a
lock upon my lips : why should I speak much with
that shifting variety of so-called Friends, in whose
withered, vain and too- hungry souls Friendship was
but an incredible tradition ? In such cases, your re-
source is to talk little, and that little mostly from the
Newspapers. Now when I look back, it was a strange
isolation I then lived in. The men and women
around me, even speaking with me, were but Figures ;
I had, practically, forgotten that they were alive, that
they were not merely automatic. In the midst of their
crowded streets and assemblages, I walked solitary ;
and (except as it was my own heart, not another's,


that I kept devouring) savage also, as the tiger in his
jungle. Some comfort it would have been, could I,
like a Faust, have fancied myself tempted and tor-
mented of the Devil : for a Hell, as I imagine, without
Life, though only diabolic Life, were more frightful :
but in our age of Down-pulling and Disbelief, the very
Devil has been pulled down, you cannot so much as
believe in a Devil. To me the f niverse was all void
of Life, of Purpose, of Volition, even of Hostility : it
was one huge, dead, immeasurable Steam-engine, roll-
ing on, in its dead indifference, to grind me limb from
limb. O, the vast, gloomy, solitary Golgotha, and
Mill of Death ! Why was the Living banished thither
companionless, conscious ? Why, if there is no Devil ;
nay, unless the Devil is your God ? "

A prey incessantly to such corrosions, might not,
moreover, as the worst aggravation to them, the iron
constitution even of a Teufelsdrockh threaten to fail ?
We conjecture that he has known sickness ; and, in
spite of his locomotive habits, perhaps sickness of the
chronic sort. Hear this, for example : " How beauti-
ful to die of broken-heart, on Paper ! Quite another
thing in practice ; every window of your Feeling, even
of your Intellect, as it were, begrimed and mud-be-
spattered, so that no pure ray can enter ; a whole Drug-
shop in your inwards ; the fordone soul drowning
slowly in quagmires of Disgust ! "

Putting all which external and internal miseries to-
gether, may we not find in the following sentences,
quite in our Professor's still vein, significance enough ?
"From Suicide a certain aftershine (Nachscheiri) of
Christianity withheld me : perhaps also a certain in-
dolence of character ; for, was not that a remedy I had
at any time within reach ? Often, however, was there


a question present to me : Should some one now, at
the turning of that corner, blow thee suddenly out of
Space, into the other World, or other No-world, by
pistol-shot, how were it? On which ground, too, I
have often, in sea-storms and sieged cities and other
death-scenes, exhibited an imperturbability, which
passed, falsely enough, for courage."

"So had it lasted," concludes the Wanderer, "so had
it lasted, as in bitter protracted Death-agony, through
long years. The heart within me, un visited by any
heavenly dewdrop, was smouldering in sulphurous,
slow-consuming fire. Almost since earliest memory I
had shed no tear ; or once only when I, murmuring
half-audibly, recited Faust's Deathsong, that wild Selig
der den er im Siegesglanze findet (Happy whom he finds
in Battle's splendor), and thought that of this last Friend
even I was not forsaken, that Destiny itself could not
doom me not to die. Having no hope, neither had I
any definite fear, were it of Man or of Devil : nay, I
often felt as if it might be solacing, could the Arch-
Devil himself, though in Tartarean terrors, but rise to
me, that I might tell him a little of my mind. And yet,
strangely enough, I lived in a continual, indefinite,
pining fear ; tremulous, pusillanimous, apprehensive
of I knew not what : it seemed as if all things in the
Heavens above and the Earth beneath would hurt me ;
as if the Heavens and the Earth were but boundless
jaws of a devouring monster, wherein I, palpitating,
waited to be devoured.

"Full of such humor, and perhaps the miserablest
man in the whole French Capital or Suburbs, was I, one
sultry Dogday, after much perambulation, toiling along
the dirty little Rue Saint-Thomas de FEnfer, among
civic rubbish enough, in a close atmosphere, and over


pavements hot as Nebuchadnezzar's Furnace; whereby
doubtless my spirits were little cheered ; when, all at
once, there rose a Thought in me, and I asked myself :
'What ar/thou afraid of? Wherefore, like a coward,
dost thou forever pip and whimper, and go cowering
and trembling ? Despicable biped ! what is the sum-
total of the worst that lies before thee ? Death ? Well,
Death ; and say the pangs of Tophet too, and all that
the Devil and Man may, will or can do against thee !
Hast thou not a heart ; canst thou not suffer whatso-
ever it be ; and, as a Child of Freedom, though outcast,
trample Tophet itself under thy feet, while it consumes
thee ? Let it come, then ; I will meet it and defy it ! '
And as I so thought, there rushed like a stream of fire
over my whole soul ; and I shook base Fear away
from me forever. I was strong, of unknown strength ;
a spirit, almost a god. Ever from that time, the temper
of my misery was changed : not Fear or whining Sorrow
was it, but Indignation and grim fire-eyed Defiance.

"Thus had the EVERLASTING No (das ewige Neiri)
pealed authoritatively through all the recesses of my
Being, of my ME ; and then was it that my whole ME
stood up, in native God-created majesty, and with em-
phasis recorded its Protest. Such a Protest, the most
important transaction in Life, may that same Indigna-
tion and Defiance, in a psychological point of view, be
fitly called. The Everlasting No had said : ' Behold,
thou art fatherless, outcast, and the Universe is mine
(the Devil's) ; ' to which my whole ME now made an-
swer : '/ am not thine, but Free, and forever hate thee ! '

" It is from this hour that I incline to date my Spirit-
ual New-birth, or Baphometic Fire-baptism ; perhaps
I directly thereupon began to be a Man. "




THOUGH, after this " Baphometic Fire-baptism " of
his, our Wanderer signifies that his Unrest was but in-
creased ; as, indeed, "Indignation and Defiance,"
especially against things in general, are not the most
peaceable inmates ; yet can the Psychologist surmise
that it was no longer a quite hopeless Unrest ; that
henceforth it had at least a fixed centre to revolve
round. For the fire-baptized soul, long so scathed and
thunder-driven, here feels its own Freedom, which
feeling is its Baphometic Baptism ; the citadel of its
whole kingdom it has thus gained by assault, and will
keep inexpugnable ; outwards from which the remain-
ing dominions, not indeed without hard battling, will
doubtless by degrees be conquered and pacificated.
Under another figure, we might say, if in that great
moment, in the Rue Saint-Thomas dc l'E?ifer, the old
inward Satanic School was not yet thrown out of
doors, it received peremptory judicial notice to quit ;
whereby, for the rest, its howl-chantings, Ernulphus-
cursings, and rebellious gnashings of teeth, might, in
the meanwhile, become only the more tumultuous,
and difficult to keep secret.

Accordingly, if we scrutinize these Pilgrimings well,
there is perhaps discernible henceforth a certain in-


cipient method in their madness. Not wholly as a
Spectre does Teufelsdrockh now storm through the
world ; at worst as a spectre-fighting Man, nay who
will one day be a Spectre-queller. If piigriming rest-
lessly to so many "Saints' Wells, " and ever without
quenching of his thirst, he nevertheless finds little sec-
ular wells, whereby from time to time some alleviation
is ministered. In a word, he is now, if not ceasing,
yet intermitting to " eat his own heart ; " and clutches
round him outwardly on the NOT-ME for wholesomer
food. Does not the following glimpse exhibit him in a
much more natural state ?

"Towns also and Cities,' especially the ancient, I
failed not to look upon with interest. How beautiful
to see thereby, as through a long vista, into the remote
Time ; to have as it were, an actual section of almost
the earliest Past brought safe into the Present, and set
before your eyes ! There, in that old City, was a live
ember of Culinary Fire put down, say only two thou-
sand years ago ; and there, burning more or less
triumphantly, with such fuel as the region yielded, it
has burnt, and still burns, and thou thyself seest the
very smoke thereof ! Ah ! and the far more mysterious
live ember of Vital Fire was then also put down there ;
and still miraculously burns and spreads ; and the
smoke and ashes thereof (in these Judgment-Halls
and Churchyards), and its bellows-engines (in these
Churches), thou still seest ; and its flame, looking out
from every kind countenance, and every hateful one,
still warms thee or scorches thee.

' ' Of Man's Activity and Attainment the chief results
are aeriform, mystic, and preserved in Tradition only :
such are his Forms of Government, with the Authority
they rest on ; his Customs, or Fashions both of Cloth-


habits and of Soul-habits ; much more his collective
stock of Handicrafts, the whole Faculty he has acquired
of manipulating Nature : all these things, as indispens-
able and priceless as they are, cannot in any way be
fixed under lock and key, but must flit, spirit-like, on
impalpable vehicles, from Father to Son ; if you de-
mand sight of them, they are nowhere to be met with.
Visible Ploughmen and Hammermen there have been
ever, from Cain and Tubalcain dow T n wards : but where
does your accumulated Agricultural, Metallurgic, and
other Manufacturing SKILL lie warehoused ? It trans-
mits itself on the atmospheric air, on the sun's rays (by
Hearing and by Vision); it is a thing aeriform, impal-
pable, of quite spiritual sort. In like manner, ask me
not, Where are the LAWS ; where is the GOVERNMENT ?
In vain wilt thou go to Schonbrunn, to Downing Street,
to the Palais Bourbon : thou findest nothing there but
brick or stone houses, and some bundles of Papers tied
with tape. Where, then, is that same cunningly-de-
vised almighty GOVERNMENT of theirs to be laid hands
on ? Everywhere, yet nowhere : seen only in its
works, this too is a thing aeriform, invisible; or if you
will, mystic and miraculous. So spiritual (geistig) is
our whole daily Life : all that we do springs out of
Mystery, Spirit, invisible Force; only like a little Cloud-
image, or Armida's Palace, air-built, does the Actual
body itself forth from the great mystic Deep.

"Visible and tangible products of the Past, again, I
reckon-up to the extent of three : Cities, with their
Cabinets and Arsenals ; then tilled Fields, to either or
to both of which divisions Roads with their Bridges

may belong ; and thirdly Books. In which third

truly, the last invented, lies a worth far surpassing that
of the two others. Wondrous indeed is the virtue of a


true Book. Not like a dead city of stones, yearly
crumbling, yearly needing repair; more like a tilled
field, but then a spiritual field : like a spiritual tree, let
me rather say, it stands from year to year, and from
age to age (we have Books that already number some
hundred-and-fifty human ages) ; and yearly comes its
new produce of leaves (Commentaries, Deductions,
Philosophical, Political Systems ; or were it only Ser-
mons, Pamphlets, Journalistic Essays), every one of
which is talismanic and thaumaturgic, for it can per-
suade men. O thou who art able to write a Book,
which once in the two centuries or oftener there is a
man gifted to do, envy not him whom they name City-
builder, and inexpressibly pity him whom they name
Conqueror or City-burner ! Thou too art a Conqueror
and Victor; but of the true sort, namely over the Devil :
thou too hast built what will outlast all marble and
metal, and be a wonder-bringing City of the Mind, a
Temple and Seminary and Prophetic Mount, whereto
all kindreds of the Earth will pilgrim. Fool ! why
journeyest thou wearisomely, in thy antiquarian fervor,
to gaze on the stone pyramids of Geeza, or the clay
ones of Sacchara ? These stand there, as I can tell thee,
idle and inert, looking over the Desert, foolishly
enough, for the last three-thousand years : but canst
thou not open thy Hebrew BIBLE, then, or even Luther's
Version thereof? "

No less satisfactory is his sudden appearance not
in Battle, yet, on some Battle-field ; which, we soon
gather, must be that of Wagram ; so that here, for
once, is a certain approximation to distinctness of
date. Omitting much, let us impart what follows :

"Horrible enough! A whole Marchfeld strewed
with shell-splinters, cannon shot, ruined tumbrils, and


dead men and horses ; stragglers still remaining not
so much as buried. And those red mould heaps : ay,
there lie the Shells of Men, out of which all the Life
and Virtue has been blown ; and now are they swept
together, and crammed-down out of sight, like blown
Egg-shells ! Did Nature, when she bade the Donau
bring down his mould-cargoes from the Carinthian and
Carpathian Heights, and spread them out here into the
softest, richest level, intend thee, O Marchfeld, for a
corn-bearing Nursery, whereon her children might be
nursed ; or for a Cockpit, wherein they might the more
commodiously be throttled and tattered ? Were thy
three broad Highways, meeting here from the ends of
Europe, made for Ammunition-wagons, then ? Were
thy Wagrams and Stillfrieds but so many ready-built
Casemates, wherein the house of Hapsburg might
batter with artillery, and with artillery be battered ?
Konig Ottokar, amid yonder hillocks, dies under Rodolfs
truncheon ; here Kaiser Franz falls a-swoon under Napo-
leon's : within which five centuries, to omit the others,
how has thy breast fair Plain, been defaced and defiled !
The green-sward is torn-up and trampled-down ; man's
fond care of it, his fruit-trees, hedge-rows, and pleasant
dwellings, blown-away with gunpowder ; and the kind
seedfield lies a desolate, hideous Place of Skulls.
Nevertheless, Nature is at work ; neither shall these
Powder-Devilkins with their utmost devilry gainsay
her : but all that gore and carnage will be shrouded-in,
absorbed into manure ; and next year the Marchfeld
will be green, nay greener. Thrifty unwearied Nature,
ever out of our great waste educing some little profit
of thy own, how dost thou, from the very carcass of
the Killer, bring Life for the Living !

"What, speaking in quite unofficial language, is the


net-purport and upshot of war? To my own knowl-
edge, for example, there dwell and toil, in the British
village of Dumdrudge, usually some five-hundred souls.
From these, by certain 'Natural Enemies' of the French
there are successfully selected, during the French war,
say thirty able-bodied men : Dumdrudge, at her own
expense, has suckled and nursed them : she has, not
without difficulty and sorrow, fed them up to manhood,
and even trained them to crafts, so that one can weave,
another build, another hammer, and the weakest can
stand under thirty stone avoirdupois. Nevertheless,
amid much weeping and swearing, they are selected ;
all dressed in red ; and shipped away, at the public
charges, some two-thousand miles, or say only to the
south of Spain ; and fed there till wanted. And now
to that same spot, in the south of Spain, are thirty
similar French artisans, from a French Dumdrudge,
in like manner wending : till at length, after infinite
effort, the two parties come into actual juxtaposition ;
and Thirty stands fronting Thirty, each with a gun in
his hand. Straightway the word ' Fire ! ' is given :
and they blow the souls out of one another ; and in
place of sixty brisk useful craftsmen, the world has
sixty dead carcasses, which it must bury, and anew
shed tears for. Had these men any quarrel ? Busy
as the Devil is, not the smallest ! They lived far
enough apart ; were the entirest strangers ; nay, in so
wide a Universe, there was even, unconsciously, by
Commerce, some mutual helpfulness between them.
How then ? Simpleton ! their Governors had fallen-
out ; and, instead of shooting one another, had the
cunning to make these poor blockheads shoot. Alas,
so is it in Deutschland, and hitherto in all other lands ;
still as of old, ' what devilry soever Kings do, the Greeks


must pay the piper ! ' In that fiction of the English
Smollet, it is true, the final Cessation of War is perhaps
prophetically shadowed forth ; where the two Natural
Enemies, in person, take each a Tobacco-pipe, filled
with Brimstone ; light the same, and smoke in one an-
other's faces, till the weaker gives in : but from such
predicted Peace-Era, what blood-filled trenches, and
contentious centuries, may still divide us ! "

Thus can the Professor, at least in lucid intervals,
look away from his own sorrows, over the many-
colored world, and pertinently enough note what is
passing there. We may remark, indeed, that for the
matter of spiritual culture, if for nothing else, per-
haps few periods of his life were richer than this.
Internally, there is the most momentous instructive
Course of Practical Philosophy, with Experiments,
going on ; towards the right comprehension of which
his Peripatetic habits, favorable to Meditation, might
help him rather than hinder. Externally, again, as
he wanders to and fro, there are, if for the longing
heart little substance, yet for the seeing eye sights
enough : in these so boundless Travels of his, grant-
ing that the Satanic School was even partially kept
down, what an incredible knowledge of our Planet,
and its Inhabitants and their Works, that is to say, of
all knowable things, might not Teufelsdrockh acquire !

"I have read in most Public Libraries," says he,
"including those of Constantinople and Samarcand :
in most Colleges, except the Chinese Mandarin ones,
I have studied, or seen that there was no studying.
Unknown Languages have I oftenest gathered from
their natural repertory, the Air, by my organ of Hear-
jng ; Statistics, Geographies, Topographies came,
through the Eye, almost of their own accord. The


ways of Man, how he seeks food, and warmth, and
Protection for himself, in most regions, are ocularly
known to me. Like the great Hadrian, I meted-out
much of the terraqueous Globe with a pair of Com-
passes that belonged to myself only.

"Of great Scenes why speak ? Three summer days,
I lingered reflecting, and even composing (dichtete), by
the Pine-chasms of Vaucluse ; and in that clear Lakelet
moistened my bread. I have sat under the Palm-trees
of Tadmor ; smoked a pipe among the ruins of Babylon.
The great Wall of China I have seen ; and can testify
that it is of gray brick, coped and covered with granite,
and only shows second-rate masonry. Great events,
also, have not I witnessed ? Kings sweated-down
(ausgemergelf) into Berlin-and-Milan Customhouse-Offi-
cers ; the World well won, and the World well lost ;
oftener than once a hundred-thousand individuals shot
(by each other) in one day. All kindreds and peoples
and nations dashed together, and shifted and shovelled
into heaps that they might ferment there, and in time
unite. The birth-pangs of Democracy, wherewith
convulsed Europe was groaning in cries that reached
Heaven, could not escape me.

"For great Men I have ever had the warmest pre-
dilection ; and can perhaps boast that few such in this
era have wholly escaped me. Great Men are the in-
spired (speaking and acting) Text of that divine BOOK
OF REVELATIONS, whereof a Chapter is completed from
epoch to epoch, and by some named HISTORY ; to
which inspired Texts your numerous talented men, and
your innumerable untalented men, are the better or
worse exegetic Commentaries, and wagonload of too-
stupid, heretical or orthodox, weekly Sermons. For
my study, the inspired Texts themselves ! Thus did not


I, in very early days, having disguised me as tavern-
waiter, stand behind the field-chairs, under that shady
Tree at Treisnitz by the Jena Highway ; waiting upon
the great Schiller and greater Goethe ; and hearing what

I have not forgotten. For "

But at this point the Editor recalls his principle

of caution, some time ago laid down, and must suppress
much. Let not the sacredness of Laurelled, still more,
of Crowned Heads, be tampered with. Should we, at
a future day, find circumstances altered, and the time
come for Publication, then may these glimpses into the
privacy of the Illustrious be conceded ; which for the
present were little better than treacherous, perhaps
traitorous Eavesdroppings. Of Lord Byron, therefore,
of Pope Pius, Emperor Tarakwang, and the "White
Water-roses" (Chinese Carbonari), with their mysteries,
no notice here ! Of Napoleon himself we shall only,
glancing from afar, remark that Teufelsdrockh's rela-
tion to him seems to have been of very varied charac-
ter. At first we find our poor Professor on the point of
being shot as a spy ; then taken into private conversa-
tion, even pinched on the ear, yet presented with no
money ; at last indignantly dismissed, almost thrown
out of doors, as an " Ideologist." "He himself," says
the Professor, "was among the completest Ideologists,
at least Ideopraxists : in the Idea (in der Idee] he lived,
moved and fought. The man was a Divine Missionary,
though unconscious of it ; and preached, through the
cannon's throat, that great doctrine, La carriere ouverte
aux ialens (The Tools to him that can handle them),
which is our ultimate Political Evangel, wherein alone
can liberty lie. Madly enough he preached, it is true,
as Enthusiasts and first Missionaries are wont, with
imperfect utterance, amid much frothy rant ; yet as


articulately perhaps as the case admitted. Or call him,
if you will, an American Backwoodsman, who had to
fell unpenetrated forests, and battle with innumerable
wolves, and did not entirely forbear strong- liquor, riot-
ing, and even theft ; whom, notwithstanding, the peace-
ful Sower will follow, and, as he cuts the boundless
harvest, bless."

More legitimate and decisively authentic is Teufels-
drockh's appearance and emergence (we know not well
whence) in the solitude of the North Cape on that June
Midnight. He has a "light-blue Spanish cloak"
hanging round him, as his "most commodious prin-
cipal, indeed sole upper-garment ; " and stands there, on
the World-promontory, looking over the infinite Brine,
like a little blue Belfry (as we figure), now motionless
indeed, yet ready, if stirred, to ring quaintest changes.

"Silence as of death," writes he; " for Midnight,
even in the Arctic latitudes, has its character : nothing
but the granite cliffs ruddy-tinged, the peaceable gurgle
of that slow-heaving Polar Ocean, over which in the
utmost North the great Sun hangs low and lazy, as if he
too were slumbering. Yet is his cloud-couch wrought
of crimson and cloth-of-gold ; yet does his light stream
over the mirror of waters, like a tremulous fire-pillar,
shooting downwards to the abyss, and hide itself under
my feet. In such moments, Solitude also is invaluable ;
for who would speak, or be looked on, when behind
him lies all Europe and Africa, fast asleep, except the
watchmen ; and before him the silent Immensity, and
Palace of the Eternal, whereof our Sun is but a porch-

" Nevertheless, in this solemn moment comes a man,
or monster, scrambling from among the rock-hollows ;
and, shaggy, huge as the Hyperborean Bear, hails me



in Russian speech : most probably, therefore, a Russian
Smuggler. With courteous brevity, I signify my indiffer-
ence to contraband trade, my humane intentions, yet
strong wish to be private. In vain : the monster,
counting doubtless on his superior stature, and minded

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Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh → online text (page 12 of 22)