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Sartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh online

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our worthy Sun, at a rate and in a course, which, by
greatest good fortune, he and the like of him have
succeeded in detecting, is to me as precious as to
another. But is this what thou namest ' Mechanism
of the Heavens,' and 'System of the World;' this,
wherein Sirius and the Pleiades, and all Herschel's
Fifteen-thousand Suns per minute, being left out, some
paltry handful of Moons, and inert Balls, had been
looked at, nicknamed, and marked in the Zodiacal



Way-bill ; so that we can now prate of their Where-
about ; their How, their Why, their What, being hid
from us, as in the signless Inane ?

"System of Nature ! To the wisest man, wide as
is his vision, Nature remains of quite infinite depth, of
quite infinite expansion ; and all Experience thereof
limits itself to some few computed centuries and meas-
ured square-miles. The course of Nature's phases, on
this our little fraction of a Planet, is partially known
to us : but who knows what deeper courses these de-
pend on ; what infinitely larger Cycle (of causes) our
little Epicycle revolves on ? To the Minnow every
cranny and pebble, and quality and accident, of its
little native Creek may have become familiar : but does
the Minnow understand the Ocean Tides and periodic
Currents, the Trade-winds, and Monsoons, and Moon's
Eclipses ; by all which the condition of its little Creek
is regulated, and may, from time to time (unmiracu-
lously enough), be quite overset and reversed ? Such a
minnow is Man ; his Creek this Planet Earth ; his
Ocean the immeasurable All ; his Monsoons and peri-
odic Currents the mysterious Course of Providence
through ^ons of ^ons.

"We speak of the Volume of Nature : and truly a
Volume it is, whose Author and Writer is God. To
read it ! Dost thou, does man, so much as well know
the Alphabet thereof? With its Words, Sentences, and
grand descriptive Pages, poetical and philosophical,
spread out through Solar Systems, and Thousand of
Years, we shall not try thee. It is a Volume written
in celestial hieroglyphs, in the true Sacred-writing ; of
which even Prophets are happy that they can read
here a line and there a line. As for your Institutes,
and Academies of Science, they strive bravely ; and,


from amid the thick-crowded, inextricably intertwisted
hieroglyphic writing, pick out, by dextrous combination,
some Letters in the vulgar Character, and therefrom
put together this and the other economic Recipe, of
high avail in Practice. That Nature is more than some
boundless Volume of such Recipes, or huge, well-nigh
inexhaustible Domestic-Cookery Book, of which the
whole secret will in this manner one day evolve itself,
the fewest dream.

" Custom," continues the Professor, " doth make
dotards of us all. Consider well, thou wilt find that
Custom is the greatest of Weavers ; and weaves air-
raiment for all the Spirits of the Universe ; whereby,
indeed, these dwell with us visibly, as ministering
servants, in our houses and workshops ; but their
spiritual nature becomes, to the most, forever hidden.
Philosophy complains that Custom has hoodwinked us
from the first ; that we do everything by Custom, even
Believe by it ; that our very Axioms, let us boast of
Free-thinking as we may, are oftenest simply such
Beliefs as we have never heard questioned. Nay, what
is Philosophy throughout but a continual battle against
Custom ; an ever-renewed effort to transcend the
sphere of blind Custom, and so become Transcendental ?

' ' Innumerable are the illusions and legerdemain-tricks
of Custom : but of all these, perhaps the cleverest is
her knack of persuading us that the Miraculous, by
simple repetition, ceases to be Miraculous. True, it is
by this means we live ; for man must work as well as
wonder : and herein is Custom so far a kind nurse,
guiding him to his true benefit. But she is a fond, fool-
ish nurse, or rather we are false, foolish nurslings,
when, in our resting and reflecting hours, we prolong the


same deception. Am I to view the Stupendous with
stupid indifference, because I have seen it twice, or
two-hundred, or two-million times ? There is no reason
in Nature or in Art why I should : unless, indeed, I
am a mere Work-Machine, for whom the divine gift
of Thought were no other than the terrestrial gift of
Steam is to the Steam-engine ; a power whereby cotton
might be spun, and money and money's worth

" Notable enough too, here as elsewhere, wilt thou
find the potency of Names ; which indeed are but
one kind of such custom-woven, wonder-hiding Gar-
ments. Witchcraft, and all manner of Spectre-work,
and Demonology, we have now named Madness, and
Diseases of the Nerves. Seldom reflecting that still the
new question comes upon us : What is Madness, what
are Nerves ? Ever, as before, does Madness remain a
mysterious-terrific, altogether infernal boiling-up of the
Nether Chaotic Deep, through this fair painted Vision
of Creation, which swims thereon, which we name the
Real. Was Luther's Picture of the Devil less a Real-
ity, whether it were formed within the bodily eye, or
without it ? In every the wisest Soul lies a whole world
of internal Madness, an authentic Demon-Empire ; out
of which, indeed, his world of Wisdom has been crea-
tively built together, and now rests there, as on its
dark foundations does a habitable flowery Earth-rind.

"But deepest of all illusory Appearances, for hiding
Wonder, as for many other ends, are your two grand
fundamental world-enveloping Appearances, SPACE and
TIME. These, as spun and woven for us from before
Birth itself, to clothe our Celestial ME for dwelling here,
and yet to blind it, lie all-embracing, as the universal


canvas, or warp and woof, whereby all minor Illusions,
in this Phantasm Existence, weave and paint them-
selves. In vain, while here on Earth, shall you en-
deavor to strip them off; you can, at best, but rend
them asunder for moments, and look through.

" Fortunatus had a wishing Hat, which when he put
on, and wished himself Anywhere, behold he was
There. By this means had Fortunatus triumphed over
Space, he had annihilated Space; for him there was no
Where, but all was Here. Were a Hatter to establish
himself, in the Wahngasse of Weissnichtwo, and make
felts of this sort for all mankind, what a world we
should have of it ! Still stranger, should, on the oppo-
site side of the street, another Hatter establish himself;
and, as his fellow-craftsman made Space-annihilating
Hats, make Time-annihilating ! Of both would I pur-
chase, were it with my last groschen ; but chiefly of
this latter. To clap-on your felt, and, simply by wish-
ing that you were Anywhere, straightway to be TJiere!
Next to clap-on your other felt, and, simply by wishing
that you were Anyzvhen, straightway to be Then! This
were indeed the grander : shooting at will from the
Fire-Creation of the World to its Fire-Consummation;
here historically present in the First Century, convers-
ing face to face with Paul and Seneca ; there prophetic-
ally in the Thirty-first, conversing also face to face
with other Pauls and Senecas, who as yet stand hidden
in the depth of that late Time !

" Orthinkest thou it were impossible, unimaginable?
Is the Past annihilated, then, or only past ; is the
Future nonextant, or only future? Those mystic facul-
ties of thine, Memory and Hope, already answer : al-
ready through those mystic avenues, thou the Earth-
blinded summonest both Past and Future, and com-
munest with them, though as yet darkly, and with mute


beckonings. The curtains of Yesterday drop down,
the curtains of To-morrow roll up ; but Yesterday and
To-morrow both are. Pierce through the Time-element,
glance into the Eternal. Believe what thou findest
written in the sanctuaries of Man's Soul, even as all
Thinkers, in all ages, have devoutly read it there : that
Time and Space are not God, but creations of God;
that with God as it is a universal HERE, so it is an ever-
lasting Now.

" And seest thou therein any glimpse of IMMORTALITY?
O Heaven ! Is the white Tomb of our Loved One,
who died from our arms, and had to be left behind us
there, which rises in the distance, like a pale, mourn-
fully receding Milestone, to tell how many toilsome
uncheered miles we have journeyed on alone, but a
pale spectral Illusion ! Is the lost Friend still mysteri-
ously Here, even as we are Here mysteriously, with
God ! Know of a truth that only the Time-shadows
have perished, or are perishable ; that the real Being
of whatever was, and whatever is, and whatever will
be, is even now and forever. This, should it unhappily
seem new, thou mayest ponder at thy leisure ; for the
next twenty years, or the next twenty centuries : be-
lieve it thou must ; understand it thou canst not.

''That the Thought-forms, Space and Time, where-
in, once for all, we are sent into this Earth to live,
should condition and determine our whole Practical
reasonings, conceptions, and imagings or imaginings,
seems altogether fit, just, and unavoidable. But that
they should, furthermore, usurp such sway over pure
spiritual Meditation, and blind us to the wonder every-
where lying close on us, seems nowise so. Admit
Space and Time to their due rank as Forms of Thought;
nay, even, if thou wilt, to their quite undue rank of


Realities : and consider, then, with thyself how their
thin disguises hide from us the brightest God-efful-
gences ! Thus, were it not miraculous, could I stretch
forth my hand and clutch the Sun ? Yet thou seest me
daily stretch forth my hand and therewith clutch many
a thing, and swing it hither and thither. Art thou a
grown baby, then, to fancy that the Miracle lies in
miles of distance, or in pounds avoirdupois of weight :
and not to see that the true inexplicable God-revealing
Miracle lies in this, that I can stretch forth my hand at
all ; that I have free Force to clutch aught therewith ?
Innumerable other of this sort are the deceptions, and
wonder-hiding stupefactions, which Space practises
on us.

"Still worse is it with regard to Time. Your grand
anti-magician, and universal wonder-hider, is this same
lying Time. Had we but the Time-annihilating Hat,
to put on for once only, we should see ourselves in a
World of Miracles, wherein all fabled or authentic
Thaumaturgy, and feats of Magic, were outdone. But
unhappily we have not such a Hat ; and man, poor
fool that he is, can seldom and scantily help himself
without one.

"Were it not wonderful, for instance, had Orpheus,
or Amphion, built the walls of Thebes by the mere
sound of his Lyre ? Yet tell me, Who built these walls
of Weissnichtwo; summoning out all the sandstone
rocks, to dance along from the Steinbruch (now a huge
Troglodyte Chasm, with frightful green-mantled pools);
and shape themselves into Doric and Ionic pillars,
squared ashlar houses and noble streets ? Was it not
the still higher Orpheus, or Orpheuses, who, in past
centuries, by the divine Music of Wisdom, succeeded
in civilizing Man ? Our highest Orpheus walked in


Judea, eighteen-hundred years ago : his sphere-melody,
flowing in wild native tones, took captive the ravished
souls of men ; and, being of a truth sphere-melody,
still flows and sounds, though now with thousandfold
accompaniments, and rich symphonies, through all our
hearts; and modulates, and divinely leads them. Is
that a wonder, which happens in two hours; and does
it cease to be wonderful if happening in two million?
Not only was Thebes built by the music of an Orpheus;
but without the music of some inspired Orpheus was no
city ever built, no work that man glories in ever done.

" Sweep away the illusion of Time ; glance, if thou
have eyes, from the near moving-cause to its far-dis-
tant Mover : The stroke that came transmitted through
a whole galaxy of elastic balls, was it less a stroke
than if the last ball only had been struck, and sent fly-
ing? O, could I (with the Time-annihilating Hat)
transport thee direct from the Beginnings to the End-
ings, how were thy eyesight unsealed, .and thy heart
set flaming in the Light-sea of celestial wonder ! Then
sawest thou that this fair Universe, were it in the
meanest province thereof, is in very deed the star-
domed City of God ; that through every star, through
every grass-blade, and most through every Living Soul,
the glory of a present God still beams. But Nature,
which is the Time-vesture of God, and reveals Him to
the wise, hides Him from the foolish.

"Again, could anything be more miraculous than an
actual authentic Ghost ? The English Johnson longed,
all his life, to see one ; but could not, though he went
to Cock Lane, and thence to the church-vaults, and
tapped on coffins. Foolish Doctor! Did he never,
with the mind's eye as well as with the body's, look
round him into that full tide of human Life he so loved ;


did he never so much as look into Himself? The good
Doctor was a Ghost, as actual and authentic as heart
could wish ; well-nigh a million of Ghosts were travel-
ling the streets by his side. Once more I say, sweep
away the illusion of Time ; compress the threescore
years into three minutes : what else was he, what else
are we? Are we not Spirits, that are shaped into a
body, into an Appearance ; and that fade away again
into air and Invisibility ? This is no metaphor, it is a
simple scientific_/ac/ . we start out of Nothingness, take
figure, and are Apparitions ; round us, as round the
veriest spectre, is Eternity ; and to Eternity minutes
are as years and aeons. Come there not tones of Love
and Faith, as from celestial harp-strings, like the Song
of beatified Souls ? And again, do not we squeak and
jibber (in our discordant, screech-owlish debatings and
recriminatings) ; and glide bodeful, and feeble, and
fearful ; or uproar (poltern), and revel in our mad Dance
of the Dead, till the scent of the morning air sum-
mons us to our still Home ; and dreamy Night, be-
comes awake and Day ? Where now is Alexander of
Macedon : does the steel Host, that yelled in fierce
battle-shouts at Issus and Arbela, remain behind him ;
or have they all vanished utterly, even as perturbed
Goblins must? Napoleon too, and his Moscow Re-
treats and Austerlitz Campaigns? Was it all other
than the veriest Spectre-hunt ; which has now, with its
howling tumult that made Night hideous, flitted away?
Ghosts ! There are nigh a thousand-million walking
the Earth openly at noontide ; some half-hundred have
vanished from it, some half-hundred have arisen in it,
ere thy watch ticks once.

"O Heaven, it is mysterious, it is awful to consider
that we only carry each a future Ghost within him ; but


are, in very deed, Ghosts ! These Limbs, whence had
we them ; this stormy Force ; this life-blood with its
burning Passion? They are dust and shadow; a
Shadow-system gathered round our ME ; wherein,
through some moments or years, the Divine Essence
is to be revealed in the Flesh. That warrior on his
strong war-horse, fire flashes through his eyes ; force
dwells in his arm and heart : but warrior and war-horse
are a vision ; a revealed Force, nothing more. Stately
they tread the Earth, as if it were a firm substance :
fool ! the Earth is but a film ; it cracks in twain, and
warrior and war-horse sink beyond plummet's sound-
ing. Plummet's ? Fantasy herself will not follow
them. A little while ago, they were not ; a little while,
.and they are not, their very ashes are not.

"So has it been from the beginning, so will it be to
the end. Generation after generation takes to itself
the Form of a Body ; and forth-issuing from Cimmerian
Night, on Heaven's mission APPEARS. What Force and
Fire is in each he expends : one grinding in the mill of
Industry ; one hunter-like climbing the giddy Alpine
heights of Science ; one madly dashed in pieces on the
rocks of Strife, in war with his fellow : and then the
Heaven-sent is recalled ; his earthly Vesture falls away,
and soon even to Sense becomes a vanished Shadow.
Thus, like some wild-flaming, wild-thundering train of
Heaven's Artillery, does this mysterious MANKIND thun-
der and flame, in long-drawn, quick-succeeding grand-
eur, through the unknown Deep. Thus, like a
God-created, fire-breathing Spirit-host, we emerge from
the Inane ; haste stormfully across the astonished
Earth; then plunge again into the Inane. Earth's
mountains are levelled, and her seas filled up, in our
passage : can the Earth, which is but dead and a vision,


resist Spirits which have reality and are alive ? On the
hardest adamant some footprint of us is stamped-in ;
the last Rear of the host will read traces of the earliest
Van. But whence ? O Heaven, whither ? Sense
knows not ; Faith knows not ; only that it is through
Mystery to Mystery, from God and to God.

' We are such stuff

As dreams are made of, and our little Life.
Is rounded with a sleep 1 "



HERE, then, arises the so momentous question :
Have many British Readers actually arrived with us at
the new promised country ; is the Philosophy of Clothes
now at last opening around them? Long and ad-
venturous has the journey been : from those outmost
vulgar, palpable Woollen Hulls of Man ; through his
wondrous Flesh-Garments, and his wondrous Social
Garnitures ; inwards to the Garments of his very Soul's
Soul, to Time and Space themselves ! And now does
the spiritual, eternal Essence of Man, and of Mankind,
bared of such wrappages, begin in any measure to re-
veal itself? Can many readers discern, as through a
glass darkly, in huge wavering outlines, some primeval
rudiments of Man's Being, what is changeable divided
from what is unchangeable ? Does that Earth-Spirit's
speech in Faust,

" Tis thus at the roaring Loom of Time I ply,
And weave for God the Garment thou see'st Him by;"

or that other thousand-times repeated speech of the
Magician, Shakspeare,

" And like the baseless fabric of this rision,
The cloudcapt Towers, the gorgeous Palaces,


The solemn Temples, the great Globe itself,
And all which it inherit, shall dissolve ;
And like this unsubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a wrack behind ; "

begin to have some meaning for us ? In a word, do
we at length stand safe in the far region of Poetic Crea-
tion and Palingenesia, where that Phoenix Death-Birth
of Human Society, and of all Human Things, appears
possible, is seen to be inevitable ?

Along this most insufficient, unheard-of Bridge, which
the Editor, by Heaven's blessing, has now seen him-
self enabled to conclude if not complete, it cannot be
his sober calculation, but only his fond hope, that many
have travelled without accident. No firm arch, over-
spanning the Impassable with paved highway, could
the Editor construct ; only, as was said, some zigzag
series of rafts floating tumultuously thereon. Alas,
and the leaps from raft to raft were too often of a break-
neck character ; the darkness, the nature of the element,
all was against us !

Nevertheless, may not here and there one of a thou-
sand, provided with a discursiveness of intellect rare
in our day, have cleared the passage, in spite of all ?
Happy few ! little band of Friends ! be \velcome, be
of courage. By degrees, the eye grows accustomed to
its new Whereabout ; the hand can stretch itself forth
to work there : it is in this grand and indeed highest
work of Palingenesia that ye shall labor, each accord-
ing to ability. New laborers will arrive ; new Bridges
will be built ; nay, may not our own poor rope-and-raft
Bridge, in your passings and repassings, be mended in
many a point, till it grow quite firm, passable even for
the halt ?

Meanwhile, of the innumerable multitude that


started with us, joyous and full of hope, where now is
the innumerable remainder, whom we see no longer
by our side ? The most have recoiled, and stand gaz-
ing afar off, in unsympathetic astonishment, at our
career : not a few, pressing forward with more cour-
age, have missed footing, or leaped short; and now
swim weltering in the Chaos-flood, some towards this
shore, some towards that. To these also a helping
hand should be held out ; at least some word of en-
couragement be said.

Or, to speak without metaphor, with which mode of
utterance Teufelsdrockh unhappily has somewhat in-
fected us, can it be hidden from the Editor that many
a British Reader sits reading quite bewildered in head,
and afflicted rather than instructed by the present Work ?
Yes, long ago has many a British Reader been, as
now, demanding with something like a snarl : Where-
to does all this lead; or what use is in it?

In the way of replenishing thy purse, or otherwise
aiding thy digestive faculty, O British Reader, it leads
to nothing, and there is no use in it ; but rather the
reverse, for it costs thee somewhat. Nevertheless, if
through this unpromising Horn-gate, Teufelsdrockh,
and we by means of him, have led thee into the true
Land of Dreams ; and through the Clothes-screen, as
through a magical Pierre-Pertuis, thou lookest, even
for moments, into the region of the Wonderful, and
seest and feelest that thy daily life is girt with Wonder,
and based on Wonder, and thy very blankets and
breeches are Miracles, then art thou profited beyond
money's worth : and hast a thankfulness towards our
Professor ; nay, perhaps in many a literary Tea-circle
wilt open thy kind lips, and audibly express that same.

Nay farther, art not thou too perhaps by this time made


aware that all Symbols are properly Clothes ; that all
Forms whereby Spirit manifests itself to sense, whether
outwardly or in the imagination, are Clothes ; and thus
not only the parchment Magna Charta, which a Tailor
was nigh cutting into measures, but the Pomp and Au-
thority of Law, the sacredness of Majesty, and all in-
ferior Worships (\Vorthships)' are properly a Vesture
and Raiment ; and the Thirty-nine Articles themselves
are articles of wearing-apparel (for the Religious Idea)?
In which case, must it not also be admitted tha. this
Science of Clothes is a high one, and may with infinitely
deeper study on thy part yield richer fruit : that it t kes
scientific rank beside Codification and Political Economy
and the Theory of the British Constitution ; nay rather,
from its prophetic height looks down on all these, as
on so many weaving-shops, and spinning-mills, where
the Vestures which it has to fashion, and consecrate,
and distribute, are, too often by haggard hungry oper-
atives who see no farther than their nose, mechani-
cally woven and spun ?

But omitting all this, much more all that concerns
Natural Supernaturalism, and indeed whatever has
reference to the Ulterior or Transcendental portion of
the Science, or bears never so remotely on that prom-
ised Volume of the Palingenesie der menschlichen Ges-
ellschaft (Newbirth of Society), we humbly suggest
that no province of Clothes-Philosophy, even the lowest,
is without its direct value, but that innumerable infer-
ences of a practical nature may be drawn therefrom.
To say nothing of those pregnant considerations,
ethical, political, symbolical, which crowd on the
Clothes-Philosopher from the very threshold of his
Science; nothing even of those "architectural ideas/'
which, as we have seen, lurk at the bottom of all Modes,


and will one day, better unfolding themselves, lead
to important revolutions, let us glance for a moment,
and with the faintest light of Clothes Philosophy,
on what may be called the Habilatory Class of our
fellow-men. Here too overlooking, where so much
were to be looked on, the million spinners, weavers,
fullers, dyers, washers, and wringers, that puddle and
muddle in their dark recesses, to make us Clothes, and
die that we may live, let us but turn the reader's
attention upon two small divisions of mankind, who,
like moths, may be regarded as Cloth-animals, creatures
that live, move and have their being in Cloth : we
mean, Dandies and Tailors.

In regard to both which small divisions it may be
asserted without scruple, that the public feeling, un-
enlightened by Philosophy, is at fault ; and even that
the dictates of humanity are violated. As will perhaps
abundantly appear to readers of the two following




FIRST, touching Dandies, let us consider, with some

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Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh → online text (page 18 of 22)