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Sartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh online

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soul is all budding with Capabilities, and we see not
yet which is the main and true one. Always too the
new man is in a new time, under new conditions ; his
course can be the fac-simile of no prior one, but is by
its nature original. And then how seldom will the
outward Capability fit the inward : though talented
wonderfully enough, we are poor, unfriended, dyspep-
tical, bashful ; nay what is worse than all, we are fool-
ish. Thus, in a whole imbroglio of Capabilities, we go
stupidly groping about, to grope which is ours, and
often clutch the wrong one : in this mad work must
several years of our small term be spent, till the pur-
blind Youth, by practice, acquire notions of distance,
and become a seeing Man. Nay, many so spend their
whole term, and in ever-new expectation, ever-new
disappointment, shift from enterprise to enterprise, and
from side to side : till at length, as exasperated strip-
lings of threescore-and-ten, they shift into their last
enterprise, that of getting buried.

"Such, since the most of us are too ophthalmic,
would be the general fate ; were it not that one thing
saves us : our Hunger. For on this ground, as the
prompt nature of Hunger is well known, must a prompt
choice be made : hence have we, with wise foresight,
Indentures and Apprenticeships for our irrational
young ; whereby, in due season, the vague univer-
sality of a Man shall find himself ready-moulded into a
specific Craftsman ; and so thenceforth work, with
much or with little waste of Capability as it may be ;
yet not with the worst waste, that of time. Nay even
in matters spiritual, since the spiritual artist too is born
blind, and does not, like certain other creatures, receive


sight in nine days, but far later, sometimes never, >
is it not well that there should be what we call Profes-
sions, or Bread-studies (Brodzwecke), preappointed us ?
Here, circling like the gin horse, for whom partial or
total blindness is no evil, the Bread-artist can travel
contentedly round and round, still fancying that it is
forward and forward; and realize much: for himself
victuals ; for the world an additional horse's power in
the grand corn-mill or hemp-mill of Economic Society.
For me too had such a leading-string been provided ;
only that it proved a neck-halter, and had nigh throttled
me, till I broke it off. Then, in the words of Ancient
Pistol, did the world generally become mine oyster,
which I, by strength or cunning, was to open, as I
would and could. Almost had I deceased (fas/ war ich
umgekommeri), so obstinately did it continue shut."

We see here, significantly foreshadowed, the spirit of
much that was to befall our Autobiographer : the his-
torical embodiment of which, as it painfully takes
shape in his Life, lies scattered, in dim disastrous
details, through this Bag Pisces, and those that follow.
A young man of high talent, and high though still
temper, like a young mettled colt, " breaks-off his neck-
halter," and bounds forth, from his peculiar manger,
into the wide world ; which, alas, he finds all rigor-
ously fenced-in. Richest clover-fields tempt his eye ;
but to him they are forbidden pasture : either pining
in progressive starvation, he must stand ; or, in mad
exasperation, must rush to and fro, leaping against
sheer stone-walls, which he cannot leap over, which
only lacerate and lame him ; till at last, after thousand
attempts and endurances, he, as if by miracle, clears
his way ; not indeed into luxuriant and luxurious clover,



yet into a certain bosky wilderness where existence is
still possible, and Freedom, though waited on by
Scarcity, is not without sweetness. In a word, Teu-
felsdrockh having thrown-up his legal Profession, finds
himself without landmark of outward guidance ; where-
by his previous want of decided Belief, or inward guid-
ance, is frightfully aggravated. Necessity urges him
on ; Time will not stop, neither can he, a Son of Time ;
wild passions without solacement, wild faculties with-
out employment, ever vex and agitate him. He too
must enact that stern Monodrama, No Object and no
Rest ; must front its successive destinies, work through
to its catastrophe, and deduce therefrom what moral
he can.

Yet let us be just to him, let us admit that his "neck-
halter " sat nowise easy on him ; that he was in some
degree forced to break it off. If we look at the young
man's civic position, in this Nameless capital, as he
emerges from its Nameless University, we can discern
well that it was far from enviable. His first Law-
Examination he has come through triumphantly ; and
can even boast that the Examen Rigorosum need not
have frightened him: but though he is hereby "an
Auscultator of respectability, " what avails it ? There is
next to no employment to be had. Neither, for a
youth without connections, is the process of Expecta-
tion very hopeful in itself ; nor for one of his disposi-
tion much cheered from without. "My fellow Aus-
cultators," he says, "were Auscultators : they dressed,
and digested, and talked articulate words ; other vitality
showed they almost none. Small speculation in those
eyes, that they did glare withal ! Sense neither for
the high nor for the deep, nor for aught human or


divine, save Only for the faintest scent of coming Pre-
ferment." In which words, indicating a total estrange-
ment on the part of Teufelsdrockh, may there not also
lurk traces of bitterness as from wounded vanity?
Doubtless these prosaic Auscultators may have sniffed
at him, with his strange ways ; and tried to hate, and
what was much more impossible, to despise him.
Friendly communion, in any case, there could not be :
already has the young Teufelsdrockh left the other
young geese ; and swims apart, though as yet uncer-
tain whether he himself is cygnet or gosling.

Perhaps, too, what little employment he had was
performed ill, at best unpleasantly. "Great practi-
cal method and expertness" he may brag of; but
is there not also great practical pride, though deep-
hidden, only the deeper seated ? So shy a man can
never have been popular. We figure to ourselves,
how in those days he may have played strange freaks
with his independence, and so forth : do not his own
words betoken as much? "Like a very young per-
son, I imagined it was with Work alone, and not also
with Folly and Sin, in myself and others, that I had
been appointed to struggle." Be this as it may, his
progress from the passive Auscultatorship, towards
any active Assessorship, is evidently of the slowest.
By degrees, those same established men, once partially
inclined to patronize him, seem to withdraw their coun-
tenance, and give him up as " a man of genius:"
against which procedure he, in these Papers, loudly
protests. "As if, "says he, "the higher did not pre-
suppose the lower ; as if he who can fly into heaven,
could not also walk post if he resolved on it ! But the
world is an old woman, and mistakes any gilt farthing


for a gold coin ; whereby being often cheated, she
will thenceforth trust nothing but the common copper."

How our winged sky-messenger, unaccepted as a
terrestrial runner, contrived, in the meanwhile, to
keep himself from flying skyward without return, is
not too clear from these Documents. Good old
Gretchen seems to have vanished from the scene,
perhaps from the Earth ; other Horn of Plenty, or even
of Parsimony, nowhere flows for him; so that "the
prompt nature of Hunger being well known," we are
not without our anxiety. From private Tuition, in
never so many languages and sciences, the aid deriva-
ble is small ; neither, to use his own words, "does the
young Adventurer hitherto suspect in himself any liter-
ary gift ; but at best earns bread-and-water wages, by
his wide faculty of Translation. Nevertheless," con-
tinues he, " that I subsisted is clear, for you find me
even now alive." Which fact, however, except upon
the principle of our true-hearted, kind old Proverb, that
"there is always life for a living one, " we must profess
ourselves unable to explain.

Certain Landlords' Bills, and other economic Docu-
ments, bearing the mark of Settlement, indicate that
he was not without money ; but, like an independent
Hearth-holder, if not House-holder, paid his way.
Here also occur, among many others, two little muti-
lated Notes, which perhaps throw light on his condi-
tion. The first has now no date, or writer's name, but
a huge Blot ; and runs to this effect : " The (Inkblof),
tied-down by previous promise, cannot, except by best
wishes, forward the Herr Teufelsdrockh's views on the
Assessorship in question ; and sees himself under the
cruel necessity of forbearing, for the present, what


were otherwise his duty and joy, to assist in opening
the career for a man of genius, on whom far higher
triumphs are yet waiting." The other is on gilt paper ;
and interests us like a sort of epistolary mummy now
dead, yet which once lived and beneficently worked.
We give it in the original : ' ' Herr Teufelsdrockh wird
von der Frau Grdfin, auf Donnerstag, zum ^ESTHETISCHEX
THEE schonstens eingeladen."

Thus, in answer to a cry for solid pudding, where-
of there is the most urgent need, comes, epigram-
matically enough, the invitation to a wash of quite fluid
Esthetic Tea! How Teufelsdrockh, now at actual
handgrips with Destiny herself, may have comported
himself among these Musical and Literary Dilettanti of
both sexes, like a hungry lion invited to a feast of
chicken-weed, we can only conjecture. Perhaps in
expressive silence, and abstinence : otherwise if the
lion, in such case, is to feast at all, it cannot be on the
chicken-weed, but only on the chickens. For the rest,
as this Frau Grafin dates from the Zdhdarm House, she
can be no other than the Countess and mistress of the
same ; whose intellectual tendencies, and good-will to
Teufelsdrockh, whether on the footing of Herr Tow-
good, or on his own footing, are hereby manifest.
That some sort of relation, indeed, continued, for a
time, to connect our Autobiographer, though perhaps
feebly enough, with this noble House, we have else-
where express evidence. Doubtless, if he expected
patronage, it was in vain ; enough for him if he here
obtained occasional glimpses of the great world, from
which we at one time fancied him to have been always
excluded. "The Zahdarms," says he, "lived in the
soft, sumptuous garniture of Aristocracy ; whereto


Literature and Art, attracted and attached from with-
out, were to serve as the handsomest fringing. It was
to the Gnddigen Frau (her Ladyship) that this latter
improvement was due : assiduously she gathered,
dextrously she fitted-on, what fringing was to be had ;
lace or cobweb, as the place yielded. " Was Teufels-
drockh also a fringe, of lace or cobweb ; or promising
to be such? " With his Excellenz (the Count)," con-
tinues he, "I have more than once had the honor to
converse ; chiefly on general affairs, and the aspect of
the world, which he, though now past middle life,
viewed in no unfavorable light ; finding indeed, except
the Outrooting of Journalism (die auszurottende Jour-
nalsitiK), little to desiderate therein. On some points,
as his Excellenz was not uncholeric, I found it more
pleasant to keep silence. Besides, his occupation being
that of Owning Land, there might be faculties enough,
which, as superfluous for such use, were little de-
veloped in him."

That to Teufelsdrockh the aspect of the world was
nowise so faultless, and many things besides "the
Outrooting of Journalism " might have seemed improve-
ments, we can readily conjecture. With nothing but
a barren Auscultatorship from without, and so many
mutinous thoughts and wishes from within, his
position was no easy one. " The Universe, " he says,
"was as a mighty Sphinx-riddle, which I knew so little
of, yet must rede, or be devoured. In red streaks of
unspeakable grandeur, yet also in the blackness of
darkness, was Life, to my too-unfurnished Thought,
unfolding itself. A strange contradiction lay in me ;
and I as yet knew not the solution of it ; knew not
that spiritual music can spring only from discords set


in harmony ; that but for Evil there were no Good, as
victory is only possible by battle."

"I have heard affirmed (surely in jest)," observes he
elsewhere, "by not unphilanthropic persons, that it
Were a real increase of human happiness, could all
young men from the age of nineteen be covered under
barrels, or rendered otherwise invisible ; and there left
to follow their lawful studies and callings, till they
emerged, sadder and wiser, at the age of twenty-five.
With which suggestion, at least as considered in the
light of a practical scheme, I need scarcely say that I no-
wise coincide. Nevertheless it is plausibly urged that,
as young ladies (Mddchen) are, to mankind, precisely
the most delightful in those years ; so young gentlemen
(Bubcheri) do then attain their maximum of detestability.
Such gawks (Gecken). are they, and foolish peacocks,
and yet with such a vulturous hunger for self-indul-
gence ; so obstinate, obstreperous, vain-glorious ; in all
senses, so froward and so forward. No mortal's
endeavor or attainment will, in the smallest, content
the as yet unendeavoring, unattaining young gentle-
man ; but he could make it all infinitely better, were it
worthy of him. Life everywhere is the most man-
ageable matter, simple as a question in the Rule-of-
Three : multiply your second and third term together,
divide the product by the first, and your quotient will
be the answer, which you are but an ass if you
cannot come at. The booby has not yet found-out, by
any trial, that, do what one will, there is ever a cursed
fraction, oftenest a decimal repeater, and no net integer
quotient so much as to be thought of. "

In which passage does not there lie an implied con-
fession that Teufelsdrockh himself, besides his outward


I2 9

obstructions, had an inward, still greater, to contend
with ; namely, a certain temporary, youthful, yet still
afflictive derangement of head ? Alas, on the former
side alone, his case was hard enough. " It continues
ever true," says he, "that Saturn, or Chronos, or what
we call TIME, devours all his children: only by incessant
Running, by incessant Working, may you (for some
three-score-and-ten years) escape him ; and you too he
devours at last. Can any Sovereign, or Holy Alliance
of Sovereigns, bid Time stand still; even in thought,
shake themselves free of Time ? Our whole terrestrial
being is based on Time, and built of Time ; it is wholly
a Movement, a Time-impulse ; Time is the author of
it, the material of it. Hence also our Whole Duty,
which is to move, to work, in the right direction.
Are not our Bodies and our Souls in continual move-
ment, whether we will or not ; in a continual Waste,
requiring a continual Repair ? Utmost satisfaction of
our whole outward and inward Wants were but satis-
faction for a space of Time ; Thus, whatso we have
done, is done, and for us annihilated, and ever must
we go and do anew. O Time-Spirit, how hast thou
environed and imprisoned us, and sunk us so deep in
thy troublous dim Time-Element, that only in lucid
moments can so much as glimpses of our upper Azure
Home be revealed to us ! Me, however, as a Son of
Time, unhappier than some others, was Time threat-
ening to eat quite prematurely ; for, strive as I might,
there was no good Running, so obstructed was the
path, so gyved were the feet." That is to say, we pre-
sume, speaking in the dialect of this lower world, that
Teufelsdrockh's whole duty and necessity was, like
other men's, "to work, in the right direction," and


that no work was to be had ; whereby he became
wretched enough. As was natural : with haggard
Scarcity threatening him in the distance; and so vehe-
ment a soul languishing in restless inaction, and forced
thereby, like Sir Hudibras's sword by rust,

To eat into itself, for lack

Of something else to hew and hack !

But on the whole, the same "excellent Passivity,"
as it has all along done, is here again vigorously flour-
ishing ; in which circumstance may we not trace the
beginnings of much that now characterizes our Pro-
fessor ; and perhaps, in faint rudiments, the origin of
the Clothes-Philosophy itself? Already the attitude he
has assumed toward the World is too defensive; not, as
would have been desirable, a bold attitude of attack.
"So far hitherto," he says, " as I had mingled with
mankind, I was notable, if for anything, for a certain
stillness of manner, which, as my friends often rebuk-
ingly declared, did but ill express the keen ardor of my
feelings. I, in truth, regarded men with an excess
both of love and of fear. The mystery of a Person,
indeed, is ever divine to him that has a sense for the
Godlike. Often, notwithstanding, was I blamed, and
by half-strangers hated, for my so-called Hardness
(Hdrte), my indifferentism towards men ; and the
seemingly ironic tone I had adopted, as my favorite
dialect in conversation. Also, the panoply of Sarcasm
was but as a buckram case, wherein I had striven to
envelope myself ; that so my own poor Person might
live safe there, and in all friendliness, being no longer
exasperated by wounds. Sarcasm I now see to be, in
general, the language of the Devil j for which reason I


have long since as good as renounced it. But how
many individuals did I, in those days, provoke into
some degree of hostility thereby ! An ironic man, with
his sly stillness, and ambuscading ways, more espe-
cially an ironic young man, from whom it is least ex-
pected, may be viewed as a pest to society. Have we
not seen persons of weight and name coming forward,
with gentlest indifference, to tread such a one out of
sight, as an insignificancy and worm, start ceiling-high
(batkenhoch),and thence fall shattered and supine, to
be borne home on shutters, not without indignation,
when he proved electric and a torpedo ! "

Alas, how can a man with this devilishness of temper
make way for himself in Life; where the first problem,
as Teufelsdrockh too admits, is "to unite yourself with
some one and with somewhat (sick anzuschliesseri) ? "
Division, not union, is written on most part of his pro-
cedure. Let us add to that, in no great length of time,
the only important connection he had ever succeeded
in forming, his connection with the Zahdarm Family,
seems to have been paralyzed, for all practical uses,
by the death of the ' ' not uncholeric " old Count. This
fact stands recorded, quite incidentally, in a certain
Discourse on Epitaphs, huddled into the present Bag,
among so much else; of which Essay the learning and
curious penetration are more to be approved of than
the spirit His grand principle is, that lapidary in-
scriptions, of what sort soever, should be Historical
rather than Lyrical. "By request of that worthy
Nobleman's survivors," says he, "I undertook to com-
pose his Epitaph; and not unmindful of my own rules,
produced the following; which however, for an alleged
defect of Latinity, a defect never yet fully visible to
myself, still remains unengraven ; " wherein we may


predict, there is more than the Latinity that will sur-
prise an English reader :

















[sub dato\.





"FoR long years," writes Teufelsdrockh, "had the
poor Hebrew, in this Egypt of an Auscultatorship, pain-
fully toiled, baking bricks without stubble, before ever
the question once struck him with entire force : For
what ? Beym Himmell For Food and Warmth ! And
are Food and Warmth nowhere else, in the whole wide
Universe, discoverable ? Come of it what might, I re-
solved to try."

Thus then are we to see him in a new independent
capacity, though perhaps far from an improved one.
Teufelsdrockh is now a man without Profession. Quit-
ting the common Fleet of herring-busses and whalers,
where indeed his leeward, laggard condition was pain-
ful enough, he desperately steers off, on a course of his
ovrn, by sextant and compass of his own. Unhappy
Teufelsdrockh ! Though neither Fleet nor Traffic, nor
Commodores pleased thee, still was it not a Fleet, sail-
ing in prescribed track, for fixed objects ; above all, in
combination, wherein, by mutual guidance, by all
manner of loans and borrowings, each could mani-
foldly aid the other? How wilt thou sail in unknown
seas ; and for thyself find that shorter Northwest Pas-
sage to thy fair Spice-country of a Nowhere ? A solitary
rover, on such a voyage, with such nautical tactics,


will meet with adventures. Nay, as we forthwith dis-
cover, a certain Calypso-Island detains him at the very
outset ; and as it were falsifies and oversets his whole

"If in youth," writes he once, "the Universe is
majestically unveiling, and everywhere Heaven re-
vealing itself on Earth, nowhere to the Young Man
does this Heaven on Earth so immediately reveal
itself as in the Young Maiden. Strangely enough,
in this strange life of ours, it has been so appointed.
On the whole, as I have often said, a Person (Person-
lichkeif) is ever holy to us ; a certain orthodox
Anthropomorphism connects my Me with all Thees in
bonds of Love : but it is in this approximation of
the Like and Unlike, that such heavenly attraction,
as between Negative and Positive, first bums-out
into a flame. Is the pitifullest mortal Person, think
you, indifferent to us ? Is it not rather our heartfelt
wish to be made one with him ; to unite him to us,
by gratitude, by admiration, even by fear ; or failing
all these, unite ourselves to him ? But how much
more, in this case of the Like-Unlike ! Here is con-
ceded us the higher mystic possibility of such a union,
the highest in our Earth ; thus, in the conducting
medium of Fantasy, flames-forth that yfre-development
of the universal Spiritual Electricity, which, as unfolded
between man and woman, we first emphatically de-
nominate LOVE.

"In every well-conditioned stripling, as I conjec-
ture, there already blooms a certain prospective Para-
dise, cheered by some fairest Eve ; nor, in the stately
vistas, and flowerage and foliage of that Garden, is a
Tree of Knowledge, beautiful and awful in the midst
thereof, wanting. Perhaps too the whole is but the


lovelier, if Cherubim and a Flaming Sword divide it
from all footsteps of men ; and grant him, the imagi-
native stripling, only the view, not the entrance.
Happy season of virtuous youth, when shame is still
an impassable celestial barrier ; and the sacred air-
cities of Hope have not shrunk into the mean clay-
hamlets of Reality ; and man, by his nature, is yet in-
finite and free.

"As for our young Forlorn," continues Teufels-
drockh, evidently meaning himself, "in his secluded
way of life, and with his glowing Fantasy, the more
fiery that it burnt under cover, as in a reverberating
furnace, his feeling towards the Queens of this Earth
was, and indeed is, altogether unspeakable. A visible
Divinity dwelt in them ; to our young Friend all women
were holy, were heavenly. As yet he but saw them
flitting past, in their many-colored angel-plumage ; or
hovering mute and inaccessible on the outskirts of
/Esthetic Tea : all of air they were, all Soul and Form ;
so lovely, like mysterious priestesses, in whose hand
was the invisible Jacob's-ladder, whereby man might
mount into very Heaven. That he, our poor Friend,
should ever win for himself one of these Gracefuls
(Holderi) Ach Gott! how could he hope it ; should he
not have died under it ? There was a certain delirious
vertigo in the thought.

"Thus was the young man, if all-sceptical of Demons
and Angels such as the vulgar had once believed in,
nevertheless not unvisited by hosts of true Sky-born,
who visibly and audibly hovered round him whereso-
ever he went ; and they had that religious worship in

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Online LibraryThomas CarlyleSartor resartus; the life and opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh → online text (page 9 of 22)