Thomas Carlyle.

Sartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh online

. (page 3 of 22)
Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh → online text (page 3 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

dismembered. Nevertheless, in almost his very worst
moods, there lies in him a singular attraction. A wild
tone pervades the whole utterance of the man, like its
keynote and regulator ; now screwing itself aloft as
into the Song of Spirits, or else the shrill mockery of
Fiends ; now sinking in cadenees, not without melo-


dious heartiness, though sometimes abrupt enough, in-
to the common pitch, when we hear it only as a monot-
onous hum ; of which hum the true character is ex-
tremely difficult to fix. Up to this hour we have never
fully satisfied ourselves whether it is a tone and hum of
real Humor, which we reckon among the very highest
qualities of genius, or some echo of mere Insanity and
Inanity, which doubtless ranks below the very lowest.
Under a like difficulty, in spite even of our personal
intercourse, do we still lie with regard to the Professor's
moral feeling. Gleams of an ethereal love burst forth
from him, soft wailings of infinite pity ; he could clasp
the whole Universe into his bosom, and keep it warm ;
it seems as if under that rude exterior there dwelt a
very seraph. Then again he is so sly and still, so im-
perturbably saturnine ; shows such indifference, malign
coolness towards all that men strive after ; and ever
with some half-visible wrinkle of a bitter sardonic humor,
if indeed it be not mere stolid callousness, that you
look on him almost with a shudder, as on some incar-
nate Mephistopheles, to whom this great terrestrial and
celestial Round, after all, were but some huge foolish
Whirligig, where kings and beggars, and angels and
demons, and stars and street-sweepings, were chaoti-
cally whirled, in which only children could take inter-
est. His look, as we mentioned, is probably the grav-
est ever seen : yet it is not of that cast-iron gravity
frequent enough among our own Chancery suitors ;
but rather the gravity as of some silent, high-encircled
mountain-pool, perhaps the crater of an extinct vol-
cano ; into whose black deeps you fear to gaze : those
eyes, those lights that sparkle in it, may indeed be re-
flexes of the heavenly Stars, but perhaps also glances
from the region of Nether Fire !


Certainly a most involved, self-secluded, altogether
enigmatic nature, thisofTeufelsdrockh ! Here, however,
we gladly recall to mind that once we saw him laugh ;
once only, perhaps it was the first and last time in his
life ; but then such a peal of laughter, enough to have
awakened the Seven Sleepers ! It was of Jean Paul's
doings : some single billow in that vast World-Mahl-
strom of Humor, with its heaven-kissing coruscations,
which is now, alas, all congealed in the frost of death !
The large-bodied Poet and the small, both large enough
in soul, sat talking miscellaneously together, the pres-
ent Editor being privileged to listen ; and now Paul,
in his serious way, was giving one of those inimitable
"Extra-harangues;" and, as it chanced, On the Pro-
posal for a Cast-metal King : gradually a light kindled
in our Professor's eyes and face, a beaming, mantling,
loveliest, light ; through those murky features, a radi-
ant, ever-young Apollo looked ; and he burst forth like
the neighing of all Tattersall's, tears streaming down
his cheeks, pipe held aloft, foot clutched into the air,
loud, long-continuing, uncontrollable ; a laugh not of
the face and diaphragm only, but of the whole man
from head to heel. The present Editor, who laughed
indeed, yet with measure, began to fear all was not
right : however, Teufelsdrockh composed himself, and
sank into his old stillness ; on his inscrutable counte-
nance there was, if anything, a slight look of shame ;
and Richter himself could not rouse him again. Read-
ers who have any tincture of Psychology know how
much is to be inferred from this ; and that no man who
has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether
irreclaimably bad. How much lies in laughter : the
cipher-key, wherewith we decipher the whole man !
Some men wear an everlasting barren simper ; in the


smile of others lies a cold glitter as of ice : the fewest
are able to laugh, what can be called laughing, but
only sniff and titter and snigger from the throat out-
wards ; or at best, produce some whiffling husky cach-
innation, as if they were laughing through wool : of
none such comes good. The man who cannot laugh is
not only fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils ; but
his whole life is already a treason and a stratagem.

Considered as an Author, Herr Teufelsdrockh has
one scarcely pardonable fault, doubtless his worst :
an almost total want of arrangement. In this remark-
able Volume, it is true, his adherence to the mere
course of Time produces, through the Narrative por-
tions, a certain show of outward method ; but of true
logical method and sequence there is too little. Apart
from its multifarious sections and subdivisions, the
Work naturally falls into two Parts ; a Historical-De-
scriptive, and a Philosophical-Speculative : but falls, un-
happily, by no firm line of demarcation ; in that laby-
rinthic combination, each Part overlaps, and indents,
and indeed runs quite through the other. Many sec-
tions are of a debatable rubric, or even quite nondescript
and unnamable ; whereby the Book not only loses in
accessibility, but too often distresses us like some mad
banquet, wherein all courses had been confounded,
and fish and flesh, soup and solid, oyster-sauce, lettuces,
Rhine-wine and French mustard, were hurled into one
huge tureen or trough, and the hungry Public invited
to help itself. To bring what order we can out of this
Chaos shall be part of our endeavor.




"As Montesquieu wrote a Spirit of Laws ," observes
our Professor, "so could I write a Spirit of Clothes ;
thus, with an Esprit des Lois, properly an Esprit de
Coutumes, we should have an Esprit de Costumes. For
neither in tailoring- nor in legislating does man proceed
by mere Accident, but the hand is ever guided on by
mysterious operations of the mind. In all his Modes,
and habilatory endeavors, an Architectural Idea will
be found lurking ; his Body and the Cloth are the site
and materials whereon and whereby his beautiful
edifice, of a Person, is to be built. Whether he flow
gracefully out in folded mantles, based on light sandals ;
tower-up in high headgear, from amid peaks, spangles
and bell-girdles ; swell-out in starched ruffs, buckram
stuffings, and monstrous tuberosities ; or girth himself
into separate sections, and front the world an Agglom-
eration of four limbs, will depend on the nature of
such Architectural Idea : whether Grecian, Gothic,
Later-Gothic, or altogether Modern, and Parisian or
Anglo-Dandiacal. Again, what meaning lies in Color 1
From the soberest drab to the high-flaming scarlet,
spiritual idiosyncrasies unfold themselves in choice of
Color : if the Cut betoken Intellect and Talent, so does
the Color betoken Temper and Heart. In all which,
among nations as among individuals, there is an in-


cessant, indubitable, though infinitely complex work-
ing of Cause and Effect : every snip of the Scissors has
been regulated and prescribed by ever-active Influences,
which doubtless to Intelligences of a superior order are
neither invisible nor illegible.

"For such superior Intelligences a Cause-and-Effect
Philosophy of Clothes, as of Laws, were probably a
comfortable winter-evening entertainment : neverthe-
less, for inferior Intelligences, like men, such Philoso-
phies have always seemed to me uninstructive enough.
Nay, what is your Montesquieu himself but a clever
infant spelling Letters from a hieroglyphical prophetic
Book, the lexicon of which lies in Eternity, in Heaven ?
Let any Cause-and-Effect Philosopher explain, not why
I wear such and such a Garment, obey such and such a
Law ; but even why /am here, to wear and obey any-
thing ! Much, therefore, if not the whole, of that same
Spirit of Clothes I shall suppress, as hypothetical, inef-
fectual, and even impertinent : naked Facts, and De-
ductions drawn therefrom in quite another than that
omniscient style, are my humbler and proper province."

Acting on which prudent restriction, Teufelsdrockh
has nevertheless contrived to take-in a well-nigh bound-
less extent of field ; at least, the boundaries too often
lie quite beyond our horizon. Selection being indis-
pensable, we shall here glance-over his First Part only
in the most cursory manner. This First Part is no
doubt, distinguished by omnivorous learning, and
utmost patience and fairness : at the same time, in its
results and delineations, it is much more likely to in-
terest the Compilers of some Library of General, En-
tertaining, Useful, or even Useless Knowledge than the
miscellaneous readers of these pages. Was it this
Part of the Book which Heuschrecke had in view,


when he recommended us to that joint-stock vehicle
of publication, " at present the glory of British Liter-
ature " ? If so, the Library Editors are welcome to
dig in it for their own behoof.

To the First Chapter, which turns on Paradise and
Fig-leaves, and leads us into interminable disquisitions
of a mythological, metaphorical, cabalistico-sartorial
and quite antediluvian cast, we shall content ourselves
with giving an unconcerned approval. Still less have
we to do with "Lilis, Adam's first wife, whom, accord-
ing to the Talmudists, he had before Eve, and who bore
him, in that wedlock, the whole progeny of aerial,
aquatic, and terrestrial Devils," very needlessly, we
think. On this portion of the Work, with its profound
glances into the Adam-Kadmon, or primeval Element,
here strangely brought into relation with the Nifl and
Muspel, (Darkness and Light) of the antique North, it
may be enough to say, that its correctness of deduc-
tion, and depth of Talmudic and Rabbinical lore have
filled perhaps not the worst Hebraist in Britain with
something like astonishment.

But, quitting this twilight region, Teufelsdrockh
hastens from the Tower of Babel, to follow the disper-
sion of Mankind over the whole habitable and habil-
able globe. Walking by the light of Oriental, Pelasgic,
Scandinavian, Egyptian, Otaheitean, Ancient and Mod-
ern researches of every conceivable kind, he strives to
give us in compressed shape (as the Niirnbergers give
an Orbis Pictus) an Orbis Vestitus ; or view of the cus-
toms of all mankind, in all countries in all times. It
is here that to the Antiquarian, to the Historian, we can
triumphantly say : Fall to ! Here is learning : an irreg-
ular Treasury, if you will ; but inexhaustible as the
Hoard of King Nibelung, which twelve wagons in twelve


days, at the rate of three journeys a day, could not carry
off. Sheepskin cloaks and wampum belts ; phylacteries,
stoles, albs ; chlamydes, togas, Chinese silks. Afghan
shawls, trunk-hose, leather breeches, Celtic philibegs
(though breeches, as the name Gallia Braccata indicates,
are the more ancient), Hussar cloaks, Vandyke tippets,
ruffs, fardingales, are brought vividly before us, even
the Kilmarnock nightcap is not forgotten. For most
part, too, we must admit that the Learning, hetero-
geneous as it is, and tumbled-down quite pellmell, is
true concentrated and purified Learning, the drossy
parts smelted out and thrown aside.

Philosophical reflections intervene, and sometimes
touching pictures of human life. Of this sort the fol-
lowing has surprised us. The first purpose of Clothes,
as our Professor imagines, was not warmth or decency,
but ornament. "Miserable indeed," says he, "was
the condition of the Aboriginal Savage, glaring fiercely
from under his fleece of hair, which with the beard
reached down to his loins, and hung round him like a
matted cloak ; the rest of his body sheeted in its thick
natural fell. He loitered in the sunny glades of the
forest, living on wild-fruits ; or, as the ancient Cale-
donian, squatted himself in morasses, lurking for his
bestial or human prey ; without implements, without
arms, save the ball of heavy Flint, to which, that his
sole possession and defence might not be lost, he had
attached a long cord of plaited thongs ; thereby recov-
ering as well as hurling it with deadly unerring skill.
Nevertheless, the pains of Hunger and Revenge once
satisfied, his next care was not Comfort but Decoration
(Putz). Warmth he found in the toils of the chase ; or
amid dried leaves, in his hollow tree, in his bark shed,
or natural grotto : but for Decoration he must have


Clothes. Nay, among wild people, we find tattooing
and painting even prior to Clothes. The first spirit-
ual want of a barbarous man is Decoration, as indeed
we still see among the barbarous classes in civilized

"Reader, the heaven-inspired melodious Singer;
loftiest Serene Highness ; nay thy own amber-locked,
snow-and rose-bloom Maiden, worthy to glide sylph-
like almost on air, whom- thou lovest, worshippest as
a divine Presence, which, indeed, symbolically taken,
she is, has descended, like thyself, from that same hair-
mantled, flint-hurling Aboriginal Anthropophagous !
Out of the eater cometh forth meat ; out of the strong
cometh forth sweetness. What changes are wrought,
not by Time, yet in Time ! For not Mankind only, but
all that Mankind does or beholds, is in continual growth,
regenesis and self-perfecting vitality. Cast forth thy
Act, thy Word, into the ever-living, ever-working Uni-
verse : it is a seed-grain that cannot die ; unnoticed to-
day (says one), it will be found flourishing as a Ban-
yan grove (perhaps, alas, as a Hemlock- forest !) after
a thousand years.

"He who first shortened the labor of Copyists by
device of Movable Types was disbanding hired Armies,
and cashiering most Kings and Senates, and creating
a whole new Democratic world : he had invented the
Art of Printing. The first ground handful of Nitre,
Sulphur, and Charcoal drove Monk Schwartz's pestle
through the ceiling : what will the last do ? Achieve
the final undisputed prostration of Force under Thought,
of Animal courage under Spiritual. A simple invention
it was in the old-world Grazier, sick of lugging his
slow Ox about the country till he got it bartered for
corn or oil, to take a piece of Leather, and thereon


scratch or stamp the mere Figure of an Ox (or Pecus) ;
put it in his pocket, and call \iPecunia, Money. Yet
hereby did Barter grow Sale, the Leather Money is now
Golden and Paper, and all miracles have been out-mir-
acled : for there are Rothschilds and English National
Debts ; and whoso has sixpence is sovereign (to the
length of sixpence) over all men ; commands cooks to
feed him, philosophers to teach him, kings to mount
guard over him, to the length of sixpence. Clothes
too, which began in foolishest love of Ornament, what
have they not become ! Increased security and pleas-
urable Heat soon followed : but what of these ? Shame,
divine Shame (Scham, Modesty), as yet a stranger to
the Anthropophagous bosom, arose there mysteriously
under Clothes ; a mystic grove-encircled shrine for the
Holy in man. Clothes gave us individuality, distinc-
tions, social polity ; Clothes have made Men of us ;
they are threatening to make Clothes-screens of us.

"But, on the whole," continues our eloquent Pro-
fessor, "Man is a tool-using Animal (Handthierendes
Thier). Weak in himself, and of small stature, he
stands on a basis, at most for the flattest-soled, of some
half-square foot, insecurely enough ; has to straddle
out his legs, lest the very wind supplant him. Feeblest
of bipeds ! Three quintals are a crushing load for him ;
the steer of the meadow tosses him aloft, like a waste
rag. Nevertheless he can use Tools, can devise Tools :
with these the granite mountain melts into light dust
before him ; he kneads glowing iron, as if it were soft
paste ; seas are his smooth highway, winds and fire
his unwearying steeds. Nowhere do you find him
without Tools ; without Tools he is nothing, with
Tools he is all."

Here may we not, for a moment, interrupt the stream

S A ft TO A tiESAXTUS. 43

of Oratory with a remark, that this Definition of the
Tool-using Animal appears to us, of all that Animal-sort,
considerably the precisest and best ? Man is called a
Laughing Animal : but do not the apes also laugh, or
attempt to do it ; and is the manliest man the greatest
and oftenest laugher. Teufelsdrockh himself, as we said,
laughed only once. Still less do we make of that other
French Definition of the Cooking Animal ; which, in-
deed, for rigorous scientific purposes, is as good as
useless. Can a Tartar be said to cook, when he only
readies his steak by riding on it ? Again, what Cookery
does the Greenlander use, beyond stowing-up his whale-
blubber, as a marmot, in the like case, might do ? Or
how would Monsieur Ude prosper among those Orin-
occo Indians who, according to Humboldt, lodge in
crow-nests, on the branches of trees ; and, for half the
year, have no victuals but pipe-clay, the whole country
being under water ? But, on the other hand, show us the
human being of any period or climate, without his Tools :
those very Caledonians, as we saw, had their Flint-ball
and Thong to it, such as no brute has or can have.

" Man is a Tool-using Animal," concludes Teufels-
drockh in his abrupt way ; " of which truth Clothes are
but one example : and surely if we consider the inter-
val between the first wooden Dibble fashioned by man,
and those Liverpool Steam-carriages, or the British
House of Commons, we shall note what progress he
has made. He digs up certain black stones from the
bosom of the earth, and says to them, Transport me
and this luggage at the rate of five-and-thirty miles an
hour ; and they do it : he collects, apparently by lot,
six-hundred and fifty-eight miscellaneous individuals,
and says to them, Make this nation toil for us, bleed for
us, hunger and sorrow and sin for us ; and they do it."




ONE of the most unsatisfactory Sections in the whole
Volume is that on Aprons. What though stout old
Gao, the Persian Blacksmith, " whose Apron, now
indeed hidden under jewels, because raised in revolt
which proved successful, is still the royal standard of
that country ; " what though John Knox's Daughter,
who threatened Sovereign Majesty that she would catch
her husband's head in her Apron, rather than he should
lie and be a bishop ; " what though the Landgravene
Elizabeth, with many other Apron worthies, figure
here ? An idle wire-drawing spirit, sometimes even a
tone of levity, approaching to conventional satire, is too
clearly discernible. What, for example, are we to make
of such sentences as the following ?

" Aprons are Defences ; against injury to cleanliness,
to safety, to modesty, sometimes to roguery. From the
thin slip of notched silk (as it were, the emblem and
beatified ghost of an Apron), which some highest-bred
housewife, sitting at Niirnberg Work-boxes and Toy-
boxes, has gracefully fastened on ; to the thick-tanned
hide, girt round him with thongs, wherein the Builder
builds, and at evening sticks his trowel ; or to those jing-
ling sheet-iron Aprons, wherein your otherwise half-
naked Vulcans hammer and smelt in their smelt-furnace,
is there not range enough in the fashion and uses of


this Vestment? How much has been concealed, how
much has been defended in Aprons ! Nay, rightfully
considered, what is your whole Military and Police Es-
tablishment, charged atuncalculated millions, but a huge
scarlet-colored, iron-fastened Apron, wherein Society
works (uneasily enough) ; guarding itself from some
soil and stithy-sparks, in this Devil's-smithy (Teufels-
schmiede) of a world ? But of all Aprons the most puz-
zling to me hitherto has been the Episcopal or Cassock.
Wherein consists the usefulness of this Apron ? The
Overseer (Episcopus] of Souls, I notice, has tucked-in
the corner of it, as if his day's work were done : what
does he shadow forth thereby ? " etc. , etc.

Or again, has it often been the lot of our readers to
read such stuff as we shall now quote ?

"I consider those printed Paper Aprons, worn by
the Parisian Cooks, as a new vent, though a slight one,
for Typography ; therefore as an encouragement to
modern Literature, and deserving of approval : nor is
it without satisfaction that I hear of a celebrated Lon-
don Firm having in view to introduce the same fashion,
with important extensions, in England. " We who are
on the spot hear of no such thing ; and indeed have
reason to be thankful that hitherto there are other vents
for our Literature, exuberant as it is. Teufelsdrockh
continues : "If such supply of printed Paper should
rise so far as to choke-up the highways and public
thoroughfares, new means must of necessity be had re-
course to. In a world existing by Industry, we grudge
to employ fire as a destroying element, and not 'as a
creating one. However, Heaven is omnipotent, and
will find us an outlet. In the meanwhile, is it not
beautiful to see five-million quintals of Rags picked
annually from the Laystall ; and annually, after being


macerated, hot-pressed, printed-on, and sold, returned
thither ; filling so many hungry mouths by the way ?
Thus is the Laystall, especially with its Rags or Clothes-
rubbish, the grand Electric Battery, and Fountain-of-
motion, from which and to which the Social Activities
(like vitreous and resinous Electricities) circulate, in
larger or smaller circles, through the mighty, billowy,
storm-tost Chaos of Life, which they keep alive ! "
Such passages fill us, who love the man, and partly
esteem him; with a very mixed feeling.

Farther down we meet with this: "The Journalists
are now the true Kings and Clergy : henceforth His-
torians, unless they are fools, must write not of Bour-
bon Dynasties, and Tudors and Hapsburgs ; but of
Stamped Broad-sheet Dynasties, and quite new succes-
sive Names, according as this or the other Able Editor,
or Combination of Able Editors, gains the world's ear.
Of the British Newspaper Press, perhaps the most im-
.portant of all, and wonderful enough in its secret con-
stitution and procedure, a valuable descriptive History
already exists, in that language, under the title of Satarfs
Invisible World Displayed ; which, however, by search
in all the Weissnichtwo Libraries, I have not yet suc-
ceeded in procuring (vermochle nicht aufzutreibeii)."

Thus does the good Homer not only nod, but snore.
Thus does Teufelsdrockh, wandering in regions where
he had little business, confound the old authentic Pres-
byterian Witchfinder with a new, spurious, imaginary
Historian of the Britische Journalistik ; and so stumble
on perhaps the most egregious blunder in Modern
Literature !




HAPPIER is our Professor, and more purely scientific
and historic, when he reaches the Middle Ages in
Europe, and down to the end of the Seventeenth Century ;
the true era of extravagance in Costume. It is here
that the Antiquary and Student of Modes comes upon
his richest harvest. Fantastic garbs, beggaring all
fancy of a Teniers or a Callot, succeed each other, like
monster devouring monster in a Dream. The whole
too in brief authentic strokes, and touched not seldom
with that breath of genius which makes even old rai-
ment live. Indeed, so learned, precise, graphical, and
everyway interesting have we found these Chapters,
that it may be thrown-out as a pertinent question for
parties concerned. Whether or not a good English
Translation thereof might henceforth be profitably in-
corporated with Mr. Merrick's valuable Work On An-
cient Armor ? Take, by way of example, the following
sketch ; as authority for which Paulinus's Zeitkiirzende
Lust (ii. 678) is, with seeming confidence, referred
to :

" Did we behold the German fashionable dress of
the Fifteenth Century, we might smile ; as perhaps
those bygone Germans, were they to rise again, and
see our haberdashery, would cross themselves, and


invoke the Virgin. But happily no bygone German, or
man, rises again ; thus the Present is not needlessly
trammelled with the Past ; and only grows out of it,
like a Tree, whose roots are not intertangled with its
branches, but lie peaceably underground. Nay it is
very mournful, yet not useless, to see and know, how
the Greatest and Dearest, in a short while, would find

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh → online text (page 3 of 22)