Imatges de pÓgina

of spirits upon earth. This idea of society is a complex one; two of its principal components are Religion and Polity-and of these and their different vestures or manifestations in Church and State, our English transcendentalist principally treats. This being the root idea, we have said it always presents itself to him in a particular aspect, which he has expounded in his Sartor Resartus. It appears to him that the last suit of clothes with which the world was invested, is worn out. In Church and State, and all Society, he sees only looped and windowed raggedness. All the institutions in which the moral necessities of man are embodied, are in decay and ruin-even as the world's former wardrobes of paganism, and monkery, and chivalry, exist only in museums. The world is out at elbows, and the time is out of joint; and Mr Carlyle, not without sad appreciation of the cursed spite which dwells in the circumstance, believes that he was born to set it right.

He tells us himself that the main thing to inquire about in every man, is the significance which the idea of the world bears for him. Now we see that the idea with which Mr Carlyle's earthly habitation impresses him, is a very melancholy one-everywhere dust, rags, shabbiness, mildew, and cobwebs inhabited by monstrous spiders. The most cheerful nature once fully possessed with this imagination, and habituated to look on this scene of moral desolation, must inevitably catch a sympathetically mournful, if not dreary hue: the brightest lake overhung by such a sky must be dark and dismal. Hence the picture conveyed to the reader, with more or less of a kind of forcible vagueness in all his works, is that of -This Planet in Tatters and Mr Carlyle weeping over it. doctrine, "Woe to thee, O Planet!" can, if conveyed in a prophetic tone, appear only as a Jeremiad.

Such a

But there is still, we learn, a hope for the world in its mendicancy. It may yet be extricated from Rag Fair and Holywell Street, and become presentable in the best society. Tailors capable of taking its measure and fitting it with comfortable and

convenient vestments have existed ere now, and may appear again. The great thing will be to know these master-tailors when we see them, and to distinguish them from mere pretentious snips. Therefore Mr Carlyle, after the exposition of his Clothes-(or rather old clo")-Philosophy, publishes his idea of who these people were in time past, so that in selecting our tailors hereafter we may be able to discriminate Stultz from Moses and Son.

In another book his idea lay still in the same direction. He resolved to show us a better state of things in vivid contrast with their present aspect-the difference between the world in a new suit made to order, and an old threadbare one which it has outgrown; and taking for his text an ancient chronicle then recently discovered, he preached thereon in illustration of his former doctrine.

In his French Revolution he showed us how the world, with hideous ruin and combustion, had in late times set about burning some of its rags, and in so doing had nearly set the planet on fire- a measure leading on the spot to sans-culottism and great sacrifice of decency-and to subsequent attempts to cover its nakedness with meagre classical draperies, imperial liveries, and such integuments, in fact, as came to hand. And as there still remained to apply his doctrines to the actual existing facts and conditions of life in England, so, in a series of pamphlets, called in allusion to the period of decadence they were discussing, "Latter-Day," he mourned like a prophetic Gibbon over the Decline and Fall of Britain.

There is this great disadvantage in setting up for a prophet and denouncer, that it forbids any measure, qualification, or moderation of utterance. A prophecy with a parenthesis-a denunciation hampered with a saving clause-would be anticlimaxes as absurd (odds, pistols and triggers!) as Bob Acres's pedantic swearing, and ineffectual as a fiery warrior with a wooden leg. So that if those who expect in an historian the judicial calmness, and the discrimination and balance impartial, or, at any rate, seemingly impartial, to

which model historians have accustomed them, miss these attributes in Mr Carlyle, and are not content to find instead the novel historical faculty of announcing an opinion or delineating a character finally and dogmatically, in accordance with some hidden or capricious standard, they will know how to account for their disappointment.

But we are very far from pretending (as we shall presently show) that there are not merits in Carlyle to balance these faults. And yet his very merits render his popularity to us unaccountable. He is the very man, we should have said, who, in finding fit audience, would find it also few. The success of a popular favourite is generally intelligible. The large-hearted sentimentalist who shampoos our sympathies, and the satirical detective who titillates our antipathies, both appeal to extensive sections of the community, for many love to snivel, and many to sneer. That comprehensive class of readers whose hearts are neither very good nor very bad, delights in the exercise of the cheap benevolence and the harmless censoriousness which consist in weeping over imaginary virtue in distress with the one, and contemning fictitious baseness with the other. To laugh with the genial spirit who sheds a rich light of humour over the world, gilding even its squalor-to be absorbed in the succession of splendid pictures of the past, which some great artist, whether as novelist or historian, reveals to surrender ourselves to the musical spells of a poet, are confessions of sympathy, which to most men are involuntary, and he who demurs had better for his own sake be silent. But the class of writers called of late Thinkers-those who do not take the world as they find it, and make that their subject, but who investigate its hidden moral and intellectual machinery-necessarily address a smaller audience because they appear to exclude all whose imagination does not preserve a certain rare equilibrium with their reason. Therefore, when we are told that Carlyle is a Thinker, we are unprepared to find him a popular favourite even before we know anything further about him—

when we find the style in which his thinking is done, the strangeness becomes a marvel; but when we find (as perhaps we may in the History of Frederick) that the style continues while the thinking is left out, the marvel becomes a prodigy.

We have indicated the links which, as appears to us, unite his works into a series; but it will be desirable for the elucidation of some of his doctrines and tenets, to take a more scrutinising though still rapid survey of some of the works individually. And first Sartor Resartus, which no doubt Mr Carlyle would himself indicate as containing the germ of his expansive and efflorescent (though we dare not say fruitful) philosophy.

Under the type of clothes and the various aspects they have given and give to mankind, he teaches how the institutions of society, without which man were morally naked and savage, and which are strictly speaking accidents, may, if accepted as natural and inevitable conditions of being, instead of as the mere outward investiture of those conditions, render the social man not merely a partly artificial, but a wholly unnatural existence. He teaches also that these institutions, being only the product of circumstances, and constructed for the convenience of particular needs, may, in such change of circumstances as must in the inevitable progression of human affairs occur, cease to be a shelter and defence, becoming irrelevant, cumbrous, and eventually even suffocating as a suit of chain armour at Inkermann. Under these circumstances, what is bewildered man to do?

Return to "the Divine Idea," says Mr Carlyle - place himself again in relation with "the eternal facts"-push aside the adventitious and conventional environments and stand face to face with what lies below, till he descries some means of reconciling the necessities of man in the altered time with the possibilities which the time offers. If this can be done by adapting existing institutions to present necessities, so much the better; if not, then at any cost man must not live in the perpetual falsehood of such environment, but seek deliverance and truth even in defiance and destruction.

Man, says the transcendental philosophy, is a spirit; but a spirit hampered with temporary earthly conditions, and manifesting itself even in its communion with other spirits only through earthly faculties to earthly senses. Who would guess Shakespeare to have been a transcendental philosopher? Yet when he tells us that

"The cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous pal


The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, And like an unsubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a wrack behind;"

and when, too, he goes on to say—

"We are such stuff As dreams are made of, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep,"

he expresses the spirit of that philosophy. The solemn temples (all the outward forms which the spirit of religion takes); the gorgeous palaces (dwelling-places of power in one form or another); the great globe itself, or temporary theatre, wherein the spirits of men strut out their little lives before the universe with Time for the scene-shifter, are circumstances of our dream under which the dreaming spirit seeks to accommodate itself to the conditions of dreamland. These will dissolve-out of our dream we shall each and all suddenly awake -and our awakening may be anticipated from two points of view. Either starting awe-stricken out of existence we shall be soothed like frightened children, and find that life was all a vision ending with the sleep that rounded it; or we shall find that we have been enacting as solemn a reality as the universe contains. Mr Carlyle holds the latter belief-not as mere conviction of reason, but as ever-present faith in the fact, imbuing his life and opinions hence he is an eminently earnest man, and to this earnestness may be traced at once the best and the worst qualities of his writings. For to stand in such close relation to the actualities of life as to be a practical man, and at the same time to let them sit so easily as to detect always under them the abstract idea they embody, is a task almost too hard for the very highest mind; and accordingly, whatever we may think

of Mr Carlyle in the capacity of spirit, theorist, or thinker, we shall find him but a slipshod reformer or projector. Where a truth is to be detected or an error exposed, who more acute? but when you look for remedy or reconstruction, you find either silence or fantasy.

Not choosing for some reason or other to bring these doctrines before person, he asthe world absolutely in sumes a thin and odd disguise. He makes a kind of pretence, intentionally transparent, of having received a volume from a German friend with the peculiar name of Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, whose intervention was held necessary, we imagine, partly to break the rude shock of such novel opinions against an unsuspecting and unprepared public-and partly to exemplify, under the German domino, the kind of life and experience which might lead a certain order of mind to originate such opinions, and follow them out in their, perhaps desperately subversive, consequences. Teufelsdröckh has the real and fanciful so mixed as to constitute the grotesque-the real being founded, we suppose, in part at least, on Mr Carlyle's own experiences-the fanciful apparently assumed partly for the sake of indulging an odd humour, partly from a desire to invest the whole work by means of the principal figure with a certain unreality, thus leaving adverse criticism to fight the air.

Built, then, on a basis of truth, and treated thus grotesquely, the incidents of Teufelsdröckh's life are so fashioned as to favour the growth of a mind capable of conceiving and expounding his Clothes-Philosophy, which strips things of their timewrought vestures, and looks always at the truth naked as it was born. His infancy is such as to teach him submission and meditation. Then follows an omnivorous boyhood, vigorously digesting what knowledge it devoured. So far, we have merely the substratum of a patient philosophic spirit; but now circumstances begin to decide its direction. He receives an academic education, mechanical and profitless because appealing to no higher faculty than memory. Then comes Rationalism, not merely

as opposed to mysticism, but to all Idealism, picked up, he says, along with his University studies of metaphysics, etymology, and natural science, which brings him at last to see in the Universe only a machine. While in this phase of his spiritual career he is trying to begin the world, but finds no opening for him in life, no peg on which to hang his capacity of thought and work, although the capacity is already recognised.

"By degrees, those same established men, once partially inclined to patronise him, seem to withdraw their countenance, 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 presuppose 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.'". (Sartor, p. 76.)

This time is a time of real misery, and discontent is fast turning to revolt. He has tried to form friendships and failed-this machine of the universe is to him not merely a dull and unproductive, but a hostile and inexorable machine-all within and without is barren and dreary, till a new epoch dawns and brings into play his poetic faculty.


"In every well-conditioned stripling," says Teufelsdröckh," as I conjecture, there already blooms certain prospective Paradise, 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 imaginative stripling, only the view, not the entrance."

He is in love-but here too is fresh suffering for poor Teufelsdröckh-the flaming sword interposes between him and his wish. Having given his heart with such lavish outpouring as only the poet-philosopher can, disappointment suddenly congeals it,

and that fountain of feeling is closed for ever. To escape from memory and himself, he roams over the earth, "flying with Hunger always parallel to him, and a whole infernal chase in his rear; so that the countenance of Hunger is comparatively a friend's."

Here, then, we have Teufelsdröckh in that Valley of the Shadow which Goethe entered in company with Werter and passed through, but from which Byron never emerged. The time had come when, finding nowhere any sympathy, his glance which had been so eagerly directed on the faces of his kind and on the world, seeking occupation for his capabilities of heart and mind, turned inward on himself, and saw only powers wasted, charities soured, and all existence marred. At such seasons the spirit, believing itself defrauded of its rightful enjoyments, snatches in greedy discontent at whatever unsatisfying solacements offer, and thanklessly swallows them. This is the time of revengeful opposition to a world so ungenerous, conditions of life so insoluble-the time of doubt and malignant questioning. Thus we see Teufelsdröckh landed in that barren region where the only truth discoverable for him seems to be that whatever is is wrong.

Fortunately Teufelsdröckh, we are told, "consumed his own choler, as some chimneys consume their own smoke," without troubling the world with his wrath. His unrest vented itself in nothing worse than locomotion. Nature, in her various aspects, soothed his spirit into harmony. He begins to perceive that there is a higher object than to be happy-that he can do without happiness-and, with sudden strength, he resolves to defy suffering, and conquer it, let it do its worst. From the solid footing of this resolution he comes struggling out of the depths of denial into the elevated region of calm sympathetic philosophy, and in this state pursues to different purpose the speculations which the old period of doubt and discontent had suggested. Henceforth he is sorrow-proof; "malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing can touch him further," and looks on man and the world with the mani

fold insight which he has been at different stages of his existence acquiring; the patient thoughtfulness and wonder of childhood-the indus trial energy of boyhood-the reasoning powers and questioning spirit developed in youth-the sympathy of friendship and the poetry of love, both awakened in manhood though unsatisfied-these are the windows through which he surveys life from the storm-proof mansion he has built for his soul. Who knows but that Byron's chafing spirit might also, had he lived longer, have chafed itself into such noble issue?

Here we have Teufelsdröckh at last fully equipped and accounted for. He has all this time been casting the outward semblances of the world into his crucible, and at length they evaporate in the continual heat of his imagination, till nothing is left except the indestructible root-idea of existence. Face to face with this residuum we might at last, after all this preparation, expect some profitable result. But we regret to say that Herr Teufelsdröckh, with his elaborate biography and spiritual career, has been called into existence to no great ultimate purpose. He does not seem to know what this residuum is, nor anything about it, except that it is wondrous, and what he would call "unspeakable," neither of which phrases affords particular satisfaction to the inquiring reader. "Can it be hidden from the editor," he says, with some glimpse of this, "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, "Whereto does all this lead, or what use is in it?" The answer is somewhat vague and disappointing. To be told that, "if thou 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 "-sounds as much like the facetiousness of a conjuror as the wisdom of a sage; and when further informed that, "perhaps by this time thou art 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 Authority of Law, the sacredness of Majesty, and all inferior Worships (Worth-ships) are properly a Vesture and Raiment; and the Thirty-nine Articles themselves are articles of wearing apparel (for the Religious Idea)" the reader will still think, perhaps, that for such a result it was scarcely worth while to invoke the solemn spectre of Teufelsdröckh.

Though a metaphorical style shows great richness of mind, and is in its effect on other minds highly productive, yet it has, especially for the exposition of a creed or philosophy, its disadvantages. It appears to us that in selecting clothes as his emblem, Teufelsdröckh has started with a false root-metaphor, from which his sequence cannot but diverge into wider error. To us it seems that clothes would have been a fitter emblem for the manners and customs of a nation, than for matters so essential, so life-receiving, and, in great measure, life-giving as its Institutions, which are to be no more hastily slipped off than one's skin, to whose functions, indeed, theirs are analogous. Some perception of this Teufelsdröckh shows in his chapter on Organic Filaments, where it appears the old tissues are being gradually renewed-Literature being, we are told, the direction in which we are to look for a new Gospel.

That Teufelsdröckh's imputed cheerfulness of temperament has not, in his later and happier circumstances, tinged in the least his philosophy, may be discovered from the following extracts from some of his later chapters; first, this from the chapter on Church-Clothes.

those same Church-Clothes have gone "Meanwhile, in our era of the World, sorrowfully out - at - elbows: nay, far hollow Shapes, or Masks, under which worse, many of them have become mere no living Figure or Spirit any longer dwells; but only spiders and unclean beetles, in horrid accumulation, drive

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