Thomas Carlyle.

Sartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh online

. (page 17 of 22)
Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh → online text (page 17 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


who with hoarse voice, like some Angel of Doom, sum-
mons them from the four winds ! On his head, like the
Pope, he has three Hats, a real triple tiara ; on either
hand are the similitude of wings, whereon the sum-
moned Garments come to alight ; and ever as he slowly
cleaves the air, sounds forth his deep fateful note, as
if through a trumpet he were proclaiming : ' Ghosts
of Life, come to Judgment ! ' Reck not, ye fluttering
Ghosts : he will purify you in his Purgatory, with fire
and with water ; and, one day, new-created ye shall
reappear. O, let him in whom the flame of Devotion
is ready to go out, who has never worshipped, and
knows not what to worship, pace and repace, with
austerest thought, the pavement of Monmouth Street,
and say whether his heart and his eyes still continue
dry. If Field Lane, with its long fluttering rows of
yellow handkerchiefs, be a Dionysius' Ear, where, in
stifled jarring hubbub, we hear the Indictment which
Poverty and Vice bring against lazy Wealth, that it
has left them there cast-out and trodden under foot of
Want, Darkness and the Devil, then is Monmouth
Street a Mirza's Hill, where, in motley vision, the whole
Pageant of Existence passes awfully before us ; with
its wail and jubilee, mad loves and mad hatreds, church-



240 SARTOR RESARTUS.

bells and gallows-ropes, farce-tragedy, beast-godhood,
the Bedlam of creation ! "

To most men, as it does to ourselves, all this will
seem overcharged, We too have walked through Mon-
mouth Street; but with little feeling of "Devotion:"
probably in part because the contemplative process is
so fatally broken in upon by the brood of money-
changers who nestle in that Church, and importune the
worshipper with merely secular proposals. Whereas
Teufelsdrockh might be in that happy middle state,
which leaves to the Clothes-broker no hope either of
sale or of purchase, and so be allowed to linger there
without molestation. Something we would have given
to see the little philosophical figure, with its steeple-
hat and loose flowing skirts, and eyes in a fine frenzy,
"pacing and repacing in austerest thought " that fool-
ish Street ; which to him was a true Delphic avenue, and
supernatural Whispering-gallery, where the "Ghosts of
Life " rounded strange secrets in his ear. O thou phil-
osophic Teufelsdrockh, that listenest while others only
gabble, and with thy quick tympanum hearest the grass
grow !

At the same time, is it not strange that, in Paper-bag
Documents destined for an English work, there exists
nothing like an authentic diary of this his sojourn in
London ; and of his Meditations among the Clothes-
shops only the obscurest emblematic shadows ? Neither,
in conversation (for, indeed, he was not a man to pes-
ter you with his Travels), have we heard him more
than allude to the subject.

For the rest, however, it cannot be uninteresting that
we here find how early the significance of Clothes had
dawned on the now so distinguished Clothes-Professor.



SARTOR RESARTUS. 241

Might we but fancy it to have been even in Monmouth
Street, at the bottom of our own English "ink-sea,"
that this remarkable Volume first took being, and shot
forth its salient point in his soul, as in Chaos did the
Egg of Eros, one day to be hatched into a Universe !
16



242 SAXTOK RESARTUS.



CHAPTER VII.

ORGANIC FILAMENTS.

FOR us, who happen to live while the World-Phoenix
is burning herself, and burning so slowly that, as Teu-
felsdrockh calculates, it were a handsome bargain would
she engage to have done "within two centuries, "there
seems to lie but an ashy prospect. Not altogether so,
however, does the Professor figure it. " In the living
subject, "say she, " change is wont to be gradual : thus,
while the serpent sheds its old skin, the new is already
formed beneath. Little knowest thou of the burning
of a World-Phcenix, who fanciest that she must first
burn-out, and lie as a dead cinereous heap ; and there-
from the young one start-up by miracle, and fly heaven-
ward. Far otherwise ! In that Fire- whirlwind, Creation
and Destruction proceed together ; ever as the ashes of
the Old are blown about, do organic filaments of the
New mysteriously spin themselves : and amid the
rushing and the waving of the Whirlwind-element come
tones of a melodious Deathsong, which end not but in
tones of a more melodious Birthsong. Nay, look into
the Fire- whirl wind with thy own eyes, and thou wilt
see. " Let us actually look, then : to poor individuals,
who cannot expect to live two centuries, those same
organic filaments, mysteriously spinning themselves,
will be the best part of the spectacle. First, therefore,
this of Mankind in general :

"In vajn thou deniest it, " says the Professor; thou



SARTOR RESARTUS.



243



art my Brother. Thy very Hatred, thy very Envy,
those foolish Lies thou tellest of me in thy splenetic
humor: what is all this but an inverted Sympathy?
Were I a Steam-engine, wouldst thou take the trouble
to tell lies of me ? Not thou ! I should grind all un-
heeded, whether badly or well.

"Wondrous truly are the bonds that unite us one
and all ; whether by the soft binding of Love, or the
iron chaining of Necessity, as we like to choose it
More than once have I said to myself, of some perhaps
whimsically strutting Figure, such as provokes whim-
sical thoughts : ' Wert thou, my little Brotherkin, sud-
denly covered-up within the largest imaginable Glass-
bell, what a thing it were, not for thyself only,
but for the world ! Post Letters, more or fewer, from
all the four winds, impinge against thy Glass walls,
but have to drop unread : neither from within comes
there question or response into any Postbag ; thy
Thoughts fall into no friendly ear or heart, thy Man-
ufacture into no purchasing hand : thou art no longer
a circulating venous-arterial Heart, that, taking and
giving, circulatest through all Space and all Time :
there has a Hole fallen-out in the immeasurable, univer-
sal World-tissue, which must be darned up again ! "

" Such venous-arterial circulation, of Letters, verbal
Messages, paper and other Packages, going out from
him and coming in, are a blood-circulation, visible to
the eye : but the finer nervous-circulation, by which
all things, the minutest that he does, minutely influence
all men, and the very look of his face blesses or curses
whomso it lights on, and so generates ever new bless-
ing or new cursing : all this you cannot see, but only
imagine. I say, there is not a red Indian, hunting by
Lake Winnipic, can quarrel with his squaw, but the



244 SARTOR RESARTUS.

whole world must smart for it : will not the price of
beaver rise ? It is a mathematical fact that the casting
of this pebble from my hand alters the center of gravity
of the Universe.

"If now an existing generation of men stand so
woven together, not less indissolubly does gener-
ation with generation. Hast thou ever meditated on
that word, Tradition : how we inherit not Life only, but
all the garniture and form of Life ; and work, and speak,
and even think and feel, as our Fathers, and primeval
grandfathers, from the beginning, have given it us ?
Who printed thee, for example, this unpretending Vol-
ume on the Philosophy of Clothes ? Not the Herren
Stillschweigen and Company ; but Cadmus of Thebes,
Faust of Mentz, and innumerable others whom thou
knowest not. Had there been no Moesogothic Ulfila,
there had been no English Shakspeare, or a different
one. Simpleton! it was Tubal-cain that made thy very
Tailor's needle, and sewed that court-suit of thine.

"Yes, truly, if Nature is one, and a living indivisible
whole, much more is Mankind, the Image that reflects
and creates Nature, without which Nature were not
As palpable life-streams in that wondrous Individual
Mankind, among so many life-streams that are not pal-
pable, flow on those main-currents of what we call
Opinion ; as preserved in Institutions, Polities, Churches,
above all in Books. Beautiful it is to understand and
know that a Thought did never yet die ; that as thou,
the originator thereof, hast gathered it and created it
from the whole Past, so thou wilt transmit it to the
whole Future. It is thus that the heroic heart, the see-
ing eye of the first times, still feels and sees in us of
the latest ; that the Wise Man stands ever encompassed,
and spiritually embraced, by a cloud of witnesses and



XESARTUS. 245

brothers ; and there is a living, literal Communion of
Saints, wide as the World itself, and as the History of
the World.

"Noteworthy also, and serviceable for the progress of
this same Individual, wilt thou find his subdivision into
Generations. Generations are as the Days of toilsome
Mankind ; Death and Birth are the vesper and the matin
bells that summon Mankind to sleep, and to rise re-
freshed for new advancement. What the Father has
made, the Son can make and enjoy ; but has also work
of his own appointed him. Thus all things wax, and
roll onwards ; Arts, Establishments, Opinions, nothing
is completed, but ever completing. Newton has
learned to see what Kepler saw ; but there is also a
fresh heaven-derived force in Newton ; he must mount
to still higher points of vision. So too the Hebrew
Lawgiver is, in due time, folio wed by an Apostle of the
Gentiles. In the business of Destruction, as this also
is from time to time a necessary work, thou findest a
like sequence and perseverance : for Luther it was as
yet hot enough to stand by that burning of the Pope's
Bull ; Voltaire could not warm himself at the glimmer-
ing ashes, but required quite other fuel. Thus likewise,
I note, the English Whig has, in the second generation,
become an English Radical ; who, in the third again,
it is to be hoped, will become an English Rebuilder.
Find Mankind where thou wilt, thou findest it in living
movement, in progress faster or slower : the Phoenix
soars aloft, hovers with outstretched wings, filling
Earth with her music ; or, as now, she sinks, and with
spheral swan-song immolates herself in flame, that she
may soar the higher and sing the clearer."

Let the friends of social order, in such a disastrous
period, lay this to heart, and derive from it any little



2 4 6 SARTOk RESARTUS.

comfort they can. We subjoin another passage, con-
cerning Titles :

" Remark, not without surprise," says Teufelsdrockh,
"how all high Titles of Honor come hitherto from
Fighting. Your Herzog (Duke, Dux) is Leader of
Armies ; your Earl (fart) is Strong Man ; your Marshal
cavalry Horse-shoer. A Millennium, or reign of Peace
and Wisdom, having from of old been prophesied, and
becoming now daily more and more indubitable, may
it not be apprehended that such Fighting-titles will
cease to be palatable, and new and higher need to be
devised ?

"The only Title wherein I, with confidence, trace
eternity, is that of King. Konig (King), anciently
Kdnning, means Ken-ning (Cunning), or whi^h is the
same thing, Can.-ning. Ever must the Sovereign of
Man-kind be fitly entitled King."

"Well, also," says he elsewhere, " was it written by
Theologians : a King rules by divine right. He carries
in him an authority from God, or man will never give
it him. Can I choose my own King ? I can choose
my own King Popinjay, and play what farce or tragedy
I may with him : but he who is to be my Ruler, whose
will is to be higher than my will, was chosen for me in
Heaven. Neither except in such Obedience to the
Heaven-chosen is Freedom so much as conceivable."

The Editor will here admit that, among all the won-
drous provinces of Teufelsdrockh's spiritual world,
there is none he walks in with such astonishment, hesi-
tation, and even pain, as in the Political. How, with
our English love of Ministry and Opposition, and that
generous conflict of Parties, mind warming itself against
mind in their mutual wrestle for the Public Good, by



SAX TOR



247



which wrestle, indeed, is our invaluable Constitution
kept w.arm and alive ; how shall we domesticate our-
selves in this spectral Necropolis, or rather City both
of the Dead and of the Unborn, where the Present
seems little other than an inconsiderable Film dividing
the Past and the Future ? In those dim longdrawn ex-
panses, all is so immeasurable ; much so disastrous,
ghastly ; your very radiances and straggling light-
beams have a supernatural character. And then with
such an indifference, such a prophetic peacefulness
(accounting the inevitably coming as already here, to
him all one whether it be distant by centuries or only
by days), does he sit ; and live, you would say, rather
in any other age than in his own ! It is our painful
duty to announce, or repeat, that, looking into this
man, we discern a deep, silent, slow-burning, inextin-,
guishable Radicalism, such as fills us with shuddering
admiration.

Thus, for example, he appears to make little even of
the Elective Franchise ; at least so we interpret the
following: "Satisfy yourselves," he says, "by uni-
versal, indubitable experiment, even as ye are now
doing or will do, whether FREEDOM, heaven-born and
leading heavenward, and so vitally essential for us all,
cannot peradventure be mechanically hatched and
brought to light in that same Ballot-Box of yours ; or at
worst, in some other discoverable or devisable Box,
Edifice, or Steam-mechanism. It were a mighty con-
venience ; and beyond all feats of manufacture wit-
nessed hitherto." Is Teufelsdrockh acquainted with
the British Constitution, even slightly ? He says, under
another figure : ' ' But after all, were the problem, as
indeed it now everywhere is, To rebuild your old
House from the top downwards (since you must live in



248 SARTOR RESARTUS.

it the while), what better, what other, than the Repre-
sentative Machine will serve your turn ? Meanwhile,
however, mock me not with the name of Free, ' when
you have but knit-up my chains into ornamental fes-
toons.' " Or what will any member of the Peace Soci-
ety make of such an assertion as this : "The lower
people everywhere desire War. Not so unwisely ;
there is then a demand for lower people to be shot ! "

Gladly, therefore, do we emerge from those soul-
confusing labyrinths of speculative Radicalism, into
somewhat clearer regions. Here, looking round, as
was our hest, for "organic filaments," we ask, may
not this, touching "Hero-worship," be of the number?
It seems of a cheerful character ; yet so quaint, so
mystical, one knows not what, or how little, may lie
( under it. Our readers shall look with their own eyes :

"True is it that, in these days, man can do almost
all things, only not obey. True likewise that whoso
cannot obey cannot be free, still less bear rule ; he
that is the inferior of nothing, can be the superior of
nothing, the equal of nothing. Nevertheless, believe
not that man has lost his faculty of Reverence ; that if
it slumber in him it has gone dead. Painful for man
is that same rebellious Independence, when it has
become inevitable ; only in loving companionship
with his fellows does he feel safe ; only in reverently
bowing down before the Higher does he feel himself
exalted.

"Or what if the character of our so troublous Era lay
even in this : that man had forever cast away Fear,
which is the lower ; but not yet risen into perennial
Reverence, which is the higher and highest?

"Meanwhile, observe with joy, so cunningly has
Nature ordered it, that whatsoever man ought to obey,



SARTOR RESARTUS. 249

he 'cannot but obey. Before no faintest revelation of
the Godlike did he ever stand irreverent ; least of all,
when the Godlike showed itself revealed in his fellow-
man. Thus is there a true religious Loyalty forever
rooted in his heart ; nay, in all ages, even in ours, it man-
ifests itself as a more or less orthodox Hero-worship.
In which fact, that Hero-worship exists, has existed,
and will forever exist, universally among Mankind,
mayest thou discern the corner-stone of living-rock,
whereon all Polities for the remotest time may stand
secure. "

Do our readers discern any such corner-stone, or
even so much as what Teufelsdrockh is looking at ?
He exclaims, ' ' Or hast thou forgotten Paris and Voltaire ?
How the aged, withered man, though but a Sceptic, '
Mocker, and millinery Court-poet, yet because even
he seemed the Wisest, Best, could drag mankind at his
chariot-wheels, so that princes coveted a smile from
him, and the loveliest of France would have laid their
hair beneath his feet ! All Paris was one vast Temple
of Hero-worship ; though their Divinity, moreover,
was of feature too apish.

"But if such things," continues he, "were done in
the dry tree, what will be done in the green ? If, in the
most parched season of Man's History, in the most
parched spot of Europe, when Parisian life was at best
but a scientific Hortus Stccus, bedizened with some
Italian Gumflowers, such virtue could come out of it ;
what is to be looked for when Life again waves leafy
and bloomy, and your Hero-Divinity shall have nothing
apelike, but be wholly human ? Know that there is in
man a quite indestructible Reverence for whatsoever
holds of Heaven, or even plausibly counterfeits such
holding. Show the dullest clodpole, show the haugh-



250 SARTOR RESARTUS.

tiest featherhead, that a soul higher than himself is
actually here ; were his knees stiffened into brass, he
must down and worship."

Organic filaments, of a more authentic sort, mys-
teriously spinning themselves, some will perhaps dis-
cover in the following passage :

"There is no Church, sayest thou ? The voice of
Prophecy has gone dumb ? This is even what I dis-
pute : but in any case, hast thou not still Preaching
enough ? A Preaching Friar settles himself in every
village ; and builds a pulpit, which he calls Newspaper.
Therefrom he preaches what most momentous doctrine
is in him, for man's salvation ; and dost not thou listen,
and believe ? Look well, thou sest everywhere a new
Clergy of the Mendicant Orders, some bare-footed,
some almost bare-backed, fashion itself into shape, and
teach and preach, zealously enough, for copper alms
and the love of God. These break in pieces the ancient
idols ; and, though themselves too often reprobate, as
idol-breakers are wont to be, mark out the sites of new
Churches, where the true God-ordained, that are to
follow, may find audience, and minister. Said I not,
Before the old skin was shed, the new had formed itself
beneath it ? "

Perhaps also in the following ; wherewith we now
hasten to knit-up this ravelled sleeve :

' ' But there is no Religion ? " reiterates the Profes-
sor. "Fool ! I tell thee, there is. Hast thou well
considered all that lies in this immeasurable froth-
ocean we name LITERATURE? Fragments of a genuine
Church-ffomitetic lie scattered there, which Time will
assort : nay, fractions even of a Liturgy could I point
out. And knowest thou no Prophet, even in the vest-
ure, environment, and dialect of this age ? None to



SA K TOR RES A R TUS.



251



whom the Godlike had revealed itself, through all
meanest and highest forms of the Common ; and by
him been again prophetically revealed : in whose in-
spired melody, even in these rag-gathering and rag-
burning days, Man's Life again begins, were it but
afar off, to be divine? Knowest thou nonesuch? I
know him, and name him Goethe.

" But thou as yet standest in no Temple ; joinest in
no Psalm-worship : feelest well that, where there is no
ministering Priest, the people perish ? Be of comfort !
Thou art not alone, if thou have Faith. Spake we not
of a Communion of Saints, unseen, yet not unreal,
accompanying and brother-like embracing thee, so
thou be worthy ? Their heroic Sufferings rise up me-
lodiously together to Heaven, out of all lands, and out
of all times, as a sacred Miserere ; their heroic Actions
also, as a boundless everlasting Psalm of Triumph.
Neither say that thou hast now no Symbol of the God-
like. Is not God's Universe a Symbol of the Godlike ;
is not Immensity a Temple ; is not Man's History, and
Men's History, a perpetual Evangel ? Listen, and for
organ-music thou wilt ever, as of old, hear the Morning
Stars sing together."



252



SARTOR RESARTUS.



CHAPTER VIII.

NATURAL SUPERNATURALISM.

IT is in his stupendous Section, headed Natural Super-
naturalism^ that the Professor first becomes a Seer;
and, after long effort, such as we have witnessed,
finally subdues under his feet this refractory Clothes-
Philosophy, and takes victorious possession thereof.
Phantasms enough he has had to struggle with ;
"Cloth- webs and Cob-webs," of Imperial Mantles,
Superannuated Symbols, and what not : yet still did he
courageously pierce through. Nay, worst of all, two
quite mysterious, world-embracing Phantasms, TIME
and SPACE, have ever hovered round him, perplexing
and bewildering : but with these also he now resolutely
grapples, these also he victoriously rends asunder. In
a word, he has looked fixedly on Existence, till, one
after the other, its earthly hulls and garnitures have all
melted away ; and now, to his rapt vision, the interior
celestial Holy of Holies lies disclosed.

Here, therefore, properly it is that the Philosophy of
Clothes attains to Transcendentalism ; this last leap,
can we but clear it, takes us safe into the promised
land, where Palingenesia, in all senses, may be con-
sidered as beginning. "Courage, then!" may our
Diogenes exclaim, with better right than Diogenes the
First once did. This stupendous Section we, after long
painful meditation, have found not to be unintelligible ;



SARTOR RESARTUS.



2 53



but, on the contrary, to grow clear, nay radiant, and
all-illuminating. Let the reader, turning on it what
utmost force of speculative intellect is in him, do his
part ; as we, by judicious selection and adjustment,
shall study to do ours :

" Deep has been, and is, the significance of Mira-
cles," thus quietly begins the Professor; "far deeper
perhaps than we imagine. Meanwhile, the question
of questions were : What specially is a Miracle ? To
that Dutch King of Siam, an icicle had been a miracle ;
whoso had carried with him an air-pump, and vial of
vitriolic ether, might have worked a miracle. To my
Horse, again, who unhappily is still more unscientific,
do not I work a miracle, and magical 'Open sesame!'
every time I please to pay two-pence, and open for him
an impassable Schlagbaum, or shut Turnpike ?

" ' But is not a real Miracle simply a violation of the
Laws of Nature ? ' ask several. Whom I answer by
this new question : What are the Laws of Nature ? To
me perhaps the rising of one from the dead were no
violation of these Laws, but a confirmation ; were
some far deeper Law, now first penetrated into, and by
Spiritual Force, even as the rest have all been, brought
to bear on us with its Material Force.

" Here too may some inquire, not without aston-
ishment : On what ground shall one, that can make
Iron swim, come and declare that therefore he can
teach Religion ? To us, truly, of the Nineteenth
Century, such declaration were inept enough ; which
nevertheless to our fathers, of the First Century, was
full of meaning.

' ' ' But is it not the deepest Law of Nature that she
be constant ? ' cries an illuminated class : ' Is not the
Machine of the Universe fixed to move by unalterable



254 SARTOR RESARTUS.

rules ? Probable enough, good friends : nay I, too,
must believe that the God, whom ancient inspired men
assert to be ' without variableness or shadow of turn-
ing,' does indeed never change ; that Nature, that the
Universe, which no one whom it so pleases can be
prevented from calling a Machine, does move by the
most unalterable rules. And now of you, too, I make
the old inquiry : What those same unalterable rules,
forming the complete Statute-Book of Nature, may
possibly be ?

"They stand written in our Works of Science, say
you ; in the accumulated records of Man's Experience?
Was Man with his Experience present at the Creation,
then, to see how it all went on ? Have any deepest
scientific individuals yet dived down to the foundations
of the Universe, and gauged everything there ? Did
the Maker take them into His counsel ; that they read
His groundplan of the incomprehensible All ; and can
say, This stands marked therein, and no more than
this ? Alas, not in anywise ! These scientific individ-
uals have been nowhere but where we also are ; have
seen some handbreadths deeper than we see into the
Deep that is infinite, without bottom as without shore.

"Laplace's Book on the Stars, wherein he exhibits
that certain Planets, with their Satelites, gyrate round


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh → online text (page 17 of 22)