The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The "Relating" of Diogenes Teufelsdröckh.
A paper read by one of the students of the House of Education, at a Literary Evening, April 28th, 1902.
". . . the main question is, not how happy men and women have been in the world, but what they have made of themselves."
A great deal has been written about Thomas Carlyle, and many diverse opinions are held respecting him, but as Froude has said:--"When the Devil's advocate has said his worst against Carlyle, he leaves a figure still of unblemished integrity, purity, loftiness of purpose and inflexible resolution to do right, as of a man living consciously under his Maker's eye, and with his thoughts fixed on the account which he would have to render of his talents."
Much can be learned about Carlyle in the four long volumes which contain his life and letters, edited by J. A. Froude. These volumes give the main facts of his life, which are deeply interesting, whilst his letters (many of them teeming with affection and consideration for his family) show us the tender side of the man whose character has so often been condemned as hard and selfish.
Froude, indeed, perhaps unconsciously, by his notes added to this impression by dwelling on the sad side of Carlyle's temperament. The sad side was certainly there, due in a large measure to ill-health; but it was only one side, and the other is so grand and large that it is well to let it grow till it stands out all the more brilliant for its sombre setting.
Other volumes give us more letters of Carlyle, always interesting, always thoughtful, and ever expressing his intense desire to do the work for which he felt himself destined--"For of one thing was he always determined; that he would never sell his soul to the Devil, never speak what he did not feel to be right; and that he would keep his independence, come what might."
The letters of Mrs. Carlyle, which have also been published, show us Carlyle's life, as it were, through her spectacles, and also show us the remarkable woman who for forty years shared Carlyle's life, spurring him on, and never allowing him to be contented with anything but the very best.
Mrs. Carlyle's share in her husband's work is an all-important one. By her unceasing watchfulness and thoughtful affection, she made life possible to him, smoothing the difficulties that surrounded him, and encouraging him by her devotion and sympathy.
"The work which Carlyle has done is before the world, and the world has long acknowledged what it owes to him. It would not have been done so well, perhaps it never would have been done at all, if he had not had a woman at his side, to shield him from the petty troubles of a poor man's life by her own incessant toil. The lives of the Carlyles were not happy, but if we look at them from the beginning to the end, they were grandly beautiful. Neither of them, probably, under other conditions would have risen to as high an excellence as in fact they each achieved; and the main question is, not how happy men and women have been in the world, but what they have made of themselves."
"Happy! my brother. First of all what difference is it whether thou art happy or not? Today becomes yesterday so fast. All tomorrows become yesterdays; and then there is no question whatever of the happiness, but quite another matter."
But, interesting as it is to read all there is to read about the Carlyles, and fascinating as it may be to visit their house in Cheyne Row, and see the rooms in which Carlyle lived and the chair in which he used to sit, even some of the letters he wrote to his wife; all this fails to give us Carlyle's real self as it is revealed in his works, for here he shows himself without reserve.
Foremost among these stands Sartor Resartus, for which Carlyle's own history, inward and outward, furnished substance. He never succeeded in giving artistic harmony to this work, but if defective as a work of art, Sartor is, for that very reason, a revelation of Carlyle's individuality.
The idea first struck him when on a visit to Mrs. Carlyle, at Templand. Customs, institutions, religions, creeds--what were they but the clothes in which human creatures covered their human nakedness and enabled men to live harmoniously. Clothes, dress, changed with the times; they grew old, they were elaborate, they were simple; they varied with fashion or habit of life; they were the outward indictors of the inward and spiritual nature.
The analogy gave the freest scope for the wilfullest and wildest humour.
"Carlyle writes of it to his brother: 'What am I writing at is the strangest of all things. A very singular piece, I assure you. It glances from heaven to earth and back again in a strange satirical frenzy, whether fine or not remains to be seen.'"
Yes Mrs. Carlyle said to her husband as she finished the last page of Sartor: "It is a work of genius, dear," and her judgment was unerring; she flattered no one, and least of all her husband.
And what is this strange and mysterious work which is to teach us to know Carlyle and see life with his eyes?
It is the assumed translation of the life and opinions of one Teufelsdröckh, an unknown German professor, which Carlyle puts before us, and in so doing he begs us to direct our attention "to the Book itself, rather than to the Editor of the Book," for, as he continues--
"Who or what such Editor may be must remain conjectural, and even insignificant; it is a voice publishing tidings of the Philosophy of Clothes; undoubtedly a Spirit addressing Spirits."
Yet, knowing the relation between Teufelsdröckh and the editor, and reading that: "The soul of Teufelsdröckh lies enclosed in this remarkable volume," we are encouraged to continue, and our perseverance meets with its reward.
Among the characteristics of Teufelsdröckh we are told that
"He looks in men's faces with a strange impartiality, thinking the star of a Lord little less and little more than the broad button of Birmingham spelter in a clown's smock."
And that in Teufelsdröckh there is an
"Untutored unergy, a silent, as it were, unconscious strength, which, except in the higher walks of Literature, must be rare."
"Many a deep glance and often with unspeakable precision, has he cast into mysterious Nature, and the still more mysterious Life of Man. Wonderful it is with what cutting words, now and then, he severs asunder the confusion; shears down, were it furlongs deep, into the true centre of the matter; and there not only hits the small nail on the head, but with crushing force smites it home, and buries it. On the other hand, let us be free to admit he is the most unequal writer breathing. Often after some such feat, he will play truant for long pages, and go dawdling and dreaming, and mumbling and maundering the nearest commonplaces, as if he were asleep with eyes open, which indeed he is. . . . . In respect of style our author manifests the same genial capability, marred too often by the same rudeness, inequality, and apparent want of intercourse with the higher classes. Occasionally, as above hinted, we find consummate vigour, a true inspiration; his burning thoughts step forth in fit burning words like so many full-firmed Minervas, issuing amid flame and splendour from Jove's head a rich idiomatic diction, picturesque allusions, fiery poetic emphasis, or quaint tricksy turns; all the graces and terrors of a wild Imagination, wedded to the clearest Intellect, alternate in beautiful vicissitude. Were it not that sheer sleeping and soporific passages; circumlocutions, repetitions, touches even of pure doting jargon, so often intervene! On the whole, Professor Teufelsdröckh is not a cultivated writer. Of his sentences perhaps not more than nine-tenths stand straight on their legs; the remainder are in quite angular attitudes, buttressed-up by props (of parentheses and dashes), and ever with this or the other tagrag hanging from them; a few even sprawl-out helplessly on all sides, quite broken-backed and 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 cadences, not without melodious heartiness, though sometimes abrupt enough, into the common pitch when we hear it only as a monotonous hum; of which hum the true character is extremely difficult to fix. Up to this hour we have never fully satisfied ourselves whether it is a tone and hum of real Humour, 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."
Yet at other times
"Gleams of an ethereal love burst forth from him, soft wailings of infinite pity; he would clasp the whole universe into his bosom, and keep it warm; it seems as if under that rude exterior there dwelt a very seraph."
Of the first public entry made by Teufelsdröckh we know only this: In the village of Entepfuhl dwelt Andreas Futteral and his wife, childless, in still seclusion, and cheerful, though now verging towards old age. Andreas cultivated a little orchard, on the produce of which he lived, not without dignity, and the good Gretchen watched over him and tended the roomy cottage, embowered in fruit trees and forest trees, evergreens and honeysuckles. Hither came one evening a stranger, who, with grand salutation, stood before the astonished inmates. He was closely muffled in a wide mantle, which without further parley unfolding, he disclosed a basket, saying:
"Good Christian people, here lies for you an invaluable Loan; take all heed thereof, in all carefulness employ it; with high recompense or else with heavy penalty, will it one day be required back."
Before Andreas or his wife could answer, the stranger was gone, and the astonished couple descried in the green basket a little red-coloured infant. The venerable couple decided to foster the child, and heaven smiled on their endeavours.
That the child's early years were happy we know by such passages as these:
"Happy season of Childhood!" exclaims Teufelsdröckh: "Kind Nature, that art to all a bountiful mother; that visitest the poor man's hut with auroral radiance; and for thy Nurseling hast provided a soft swathing of Love and infinite Hope, wherein he waxes and slumbers, danced-round (umgaukelt) by sweetest Dreams! If the paternal Cottage still shuts us in, its roof stills screens us; with a Father we have as yet a prophet, priest, and king, and an Obedience that makes us free. The young spirit has awakened out of Eternity, and knows not what we mean by Time; as yet Time is no fast-hurrying stream, but a sportful sunlit ocean; years to the child are as ages: ah! the secret of Vicissitude, of that slower or quicker decay and ceaseless down-rushing of the universal World-fabric, from the granite mountain to the man or day-moth is yet unknown; and in a motionless Universe, we taste, what afterwards in this quick-whirling Universe is forever denied us, the balm of Rest. Sleep on, thou fair Child, for thy long journey is at hand! A little while, and thou too shalt sleep no more, but thy very dreams shall be mimic battles; thou too, with old Arnauld, wilt have to say in stern patience: 'Rest? Rest? Shall I not have all Eternity to rest in?' Celestial Nepenthe! Though a Pyrrhus conquer empires, and an Alexander sack the world, he finds thee not; and thou hast once fallen gentle, of thy own accord, on the eyelids, on the heart of every mother's child. For as yet, sleep and waking are one: the fair Life-garden rustles infinite around, and everywhere is dewy fragrance, and the budding of Hope; which budding, if in youth, too frostnip, it grows to flowers, will in manhood yield no fruit, but a prickly, bitter-rinded stone-fruit, of which the fewest can find the kernel." . . . . .
More graceful is the following little picture:
"On fine evenings I was wont to carry-forth my supper (bread-crumb boiled in milk), and eat it out-of-doors. On the coping of the Orchard wall, which I could reach by climbing, or still more easily if Father Andreas would set-up the pruning-ladder, my porringer was placed; there many a sunset, have I, looking at the distant western Mountains, consumed, not without relish, my evening meal. Those hues of gold and azure, that hush of World's expectation as Day died, were still a Hebrew Speech for me; nevertheless I was looking at the fair illumined Letters, and had an eye for their gilding."
He gives a somewhat detailed account of those circumstances which combined to establish his relationship with the world around him and above him.
The account is so interesting, especially for us who are eager to learn more and more of the workings of a little child's mind, that it seems advisable to read the whole passage.
"Nevertheless," continues he, "I, too, acknowledge the all-but omnipotence of early culture and nurture: hereby we have either a doddered dwarf bush, or a high-towering, wide-shadowing tree; either a sick yellow cabbage, or an edible luxuriant green one.
"If among the ever-streaming currents of Sights, Hearings, Feelings, for Pain or Pleasure, whereby, as in a Magic Hall, young Gneschen went about environed, I might venture to select and specify, perhaps these following were also of the number:--"
[Young Diogenes is sometimes called Gneschen. Entepfuhl is the town he lives in.]
"Doubtless, as childish sports call forth Intellect, Activity, so the young creature's Imagination was stirred up, and a Historical tendency given him by the narrative habits of Father Andreas; who with his battle-reminiscences, and gray austere yet hearty patriarchal aspect, could not but appear another Ulysses and 'much-enduring Man.' Eagerly I hung upon his tales, when listening neighbours enlivened the hearth; from these perils and these travels, wild and far almost as Hades itself, a dim world of Adventure expanded itself within me. Incalculable also was the knowledge I acquired in standing by the Old Men under the Linder tree: the whole of Immensity was yet new to me; and had not these reverend seniors, talkative enough, been employed in partial surveys thereof for nigh fourscore years? With amazement I began to discover that Entepfuhl stood in the middle of a country, of a world; that there was such a thing as History, as Biography; to which I also, one day, by hand and tongue, might contribute. In a like sense worked the Postwagen (Stage coach) which, slow-rolling under its mountains of men and luggage, wended through our Village: northwards, truly, in the dead of night; yet southwards visibly at eventide. Not till my eighth year did I reflect that this Postwagen could be other than some Terrestrial Moon, rising and setting by mere Law of Nature, like the heavenly one; that it came on made highways, from far cities towards far cities; weaving them like a monstrous shuttle into closer and closer union. It was then that, independently of Schiller's 'Wilhelm Tell,' I made this not quite insignificant reflection (so true also in spiritual things): Any road, this simple Entepfuhl road, will lead you to the end of the World!
"Why mention our Swallows, which, out of far Africa as I learned, threading their way over seas and mountains, corporate cities and belligerent nations, yearly found themselves, with the month of May, snug-lodged in our Cottage Lobby? The Hospitable Father (for cleanliness' sake) had fixed a little bracket plumb under their nest: there they built, and caught flies, and twittered, and bred; and all, I chiefly, from the heart loved them. Bright, nimble creatures, who taught you the mason craft; nay, stranger still, gave you a masonic incorporation, almost social police? For if, by ill chance, and when time oppressed, your House fell, have I not seen five neighbourly Helpers appear next day; and swashing to and fro, with animated, loud, long-drawn chirpings, and activity almost superhirundine, complete it again before nightfall?
"But undoubtedly the grand summary of Entepfuhl child's culture, where as in a funnel its manifold influences were concentrated and simultaneously poured-down upon us, was the annual Cattle-fair. Here, assembling from all the four winds, came the elements of an unspeakable hurly-burly. Nutbrown maids and nutbrown men, all clean-washed, loud laughing, bedizened and beribanded; who came for dancing, for treating, and, if possible, for happiness. Topbooted Graziers from the North; Swiss Brokers, Italian Drovers, also topbooted from the South; these with their subalterns in leather jerkins, leather skull caps, and long oxgoads; shouting in half articulate speech, amid the inarticulate barking and bellowing. Apart stood Potters from far Saxony, with their crockery in fair rows; Nurnberg Pedlars, in booths that to me seemed richer than Ormuz bazaars; Showmen from the Lago Maggiore; detachments of the Wiener Schub (Offscourings of Vienna) vociferously superintending games of chance. Ballad singers brayed, Auctioneers grew hoarse; cheap New Wine (heuriger) flowed like water, still worse confounding the confusion; and high over all, vaulted, in ground-and-lofty tumbling, a parti-coloured Merry Andrew, like the genius of the place and of Life itself.
"Thus encircled by the mystery of Existence, under the deep heavenly Firmament, waited on by the four golden seasons, with their vicissitudes of contribution, for even grim winter brought its skating matches and shooting matches, its snow storms and Christmas carols--did the Child sit and learn. These things were the Alphabet, whereby in after time he was to syllable and partly read the grand Volume of the World. What matters it whether such Alphabet be in large gilt letters or in small ungilt ones, so you have an eye to read it? For Gneschen, eager to learn, the very act of looking thereon was a blessedness that gilded all; his existence was a bright, soft element of Joy, out of which, as in Prospero's Island, wonder after wonder bodied itself forth, to teach by charming.
"Nevertheless, I were but a vain dreamer to say, that even then my felicity was perfect. I had, once for all, come down from Heaven into the Earth. Among the rainbow colours that glowed on my horizon, lay even in childhood a dark ring of care, as yet no thicker than a thread, and often quite overshone; yet always it reappeared, nay ever waxing broader and broader, till in after years it almost overshadowed my whole canopy, and threatened to engulf me in final night. It was the ring of Necessity whereby we are all begirt; happy he for whom a kind heavenly Sun brightens it into a ring of Duty, and plays round it with beautiful prismatic diffractions; yet ever, as basis and as bourne for our whole being it is there.
"For the first few years of our terrestrial Apprenticeship we have not much work to do, but boarded and lodged gratis, are set down mostly to look about us over the workshop, and see others work, till we have understood the tools a little, and can handle this and that. If good Passivity alone, and not good Passivity and good Activity together were the thing wanted, then was my early position favourable beyond the most. In all that respects openness of Sense, affectionate Temper, ingenuous Curiosity, and the fostering of these, what more could I have wished? On the other side, however, things went not so well. My Active Power (Thatkraft) was unfavourably hemmed in; of which misfortune how many traces yet abide with me! In an orderly house, where the litter of children's sports is hateful enough, your training is too stoical; rather to bear and forbear than to make and do. I was forbid much; wishes in any measure bold I had to renounce; everywhere a strait bond of Obedience inflexibly held me down. Thus already Freewill often came in painful collision with Necessity, so that my tears flowed, and at seasons the Child itself might taste that root of bitterness, wherewith the whole fruitage of our life is mingled and tempered.
"In which habituation to Obedience, truly, it was beyond measure safer to err by excess than by defect. Obedience is our universal duty and destiny; wherein whoso will not bend must break; too early and too thoroughly we cannot be trained to know that Would, in this world of ours, is a mere zero to Should, and for the most part as the smallest of fractions even to Shall. Hereby was laid for me the basis of worldly Discretion, nay of Morality itself. Let me not quarrel with my up-bringing. It was rigorous, too frugal, compressively secluded, every way unscientific: yet in that very strictness and domestic solitude might there not lie the root of deeper earnestness, of the stem from which all noble fruit must grow? Above all, how unskilful soever, it was loving, it was well-meant, honest; whereby every deficiency was helped. My kind Mother, for as such I must always love the good Gretchen, did me one altogether invaluable service; she taught me, less indeed by word than by act and daily reverent look and habitude, her own simple version of the Christian Faith. Andreas too attended Church; yet more like a parade-duty, for which he in the other world expected pay with arrears,--as, I trust, he has received; but my Mother, with a true woman's heart, and fine though uncultivated sense, was in the strictest acceptation Religious. How indestructibly the good grows and propagates itself, even among the weedy entanglements of Evil! The highest whom I knew on Earth here I saw bowed down, with awe unspeakable, before a Higher in Heaven: such things especially in infancy, reach inwards to the very core of your being; mysteriously does a Holy of Holies build itself into visibility in the mysterious deeps; and Reverence, the divinest in man, springs forth undying from its mean envelopment of Fear. Wouldst thou rather be a peasant's son that knew, were it never so rudely, there was a God in Heaven and in Man; or a duke's son that only knew there were two-and-thirty quarters on the family-coach?"
One cannot fail to be struck by the similarity between the childhood of the young Diogenes and that of Carlyle himself. The description reminds one of the household at Ecclefechan, in Annandale, where also the life was frugal, rigorous and secluded, with an underlying deep earnestness, and all so honest, well-meant and loving.
[Thomas Carlyle was born in Ecclefechan, a small village in Scotland.]
Gretchen, with the invaluable service she rendered, might be Carlyle's own mother, "A woman of the fairest descent, that of the pious, the just, and the wise;" while her reverent look and habitude, her own simple version of the Christian faith, calls to mind letters from Mrs. Carlyle to her son, in which such passages as the following are frequently found: "Do send me a long letter; it revives me greatly, and tell me honestly if you read your chapter e'en and morn, lad"--and one other letter which I leave entire as showing, not only Mrs. Carlyle's simple faith, but also the sweet relation which existed between mother and son:--
Mainhill, Dec. 18th, 1824.
I take this opportunity to thank you for your unvarying kindness, though I fear it will hardly read. But never mind, I know to whom I am writing. It is a long time since we had a sight of each other, nevertheless I am often with you in thought, and I hope we shall meet at a throne of grace where there is a free access to all who come in faith.
Tell me if thou readest a chapter often. If not, begin; oh do begin! How do you spend the Sabbath in that tumultuous city? Oh! remember to keep it holy; this you will never repent. I think you will be saying, 'Hold Mother! but time is short and uncertain.' Now, Tom, the best of boys though art to me! Do not think I am melancholy, tho' I so speak. Be not uneasy on my account. I have great reason to be thankful. I am quite well, and happy too when I hear from London and from Edinburgh, and pray do not let me want food: as your father says, I look as if I would eat your letters. Write everything and soon. I look for every fortnight till we meet. I grudge taking up the sheet, so I bid thee good night, and remain,
Your affectionate mother,
One feels certain that Carlyle means himself when he speak of "that peasant's son that knew."
Can we not also trace Carlyle in him about whom, even in childhood, lay a dark ring of care, which waxed over broader and broader till it threatened to engulf him in final night?
Happy for us that the cloud which was to gather and deepen into the "Everlasting No" was to be pierced by Heaven's light and that there would still be given to us the Everlasting yea.
Hitherto we have seen he child in his passive state, but now the active begins and we are impatient to discover how, when he understands the tools a little, and can handle this or that, he will proceed to handle it.
Diogenes' first experiences at school were by no means happy.
"'Well do I still remember the red sunny Whitsuntide morning, when, trotting full of hope by the side of Father Andreas, I entered the main street of the place, and saw its steeple-clock (then striking eight), and Schuldthurm (Jail), and the aproned or dis-aproned Burghers moving into breakfast: a little dog, in mad terror, was rushing past; for some human imps had tied a tin kettle to its tail; thus did the agonised creature, loud-jingling, career through the whole length of the Borough, and become notable enough. Fit emblem of many a Conquering hero, to whom Fate (wedding Fantasy to Sense, as it often elsewhere does) has malignantly appended a tin-kettle of Ambition, to chase him on; which the faster he runs, urges him the faster, the more loudly and more foolishly! Fit emblem also of much that awaited myself, in that mischievous Den; as in the World, whereof it was a portion and epitome! Alas, the kind beech-rows of Entepfuhl were hidden in the distance: I was among strangers, harshly, at best indifferently, disposed towards me; the young heart felt, for the first time, quite orphaned and alone.' His schoolfellows, as is usual, persecuted him: 'They were boys,' he says, mostly rude Boys, and obeyed the impulse of rude Nature, which bids the deer-herd fall upon any stricken hart, the duck-flock put to death any broken-winged brother or sister, and on all hands the strong tyrannise over the weak!"
This is descriptive of Carlyle's first experiences at the Annan Grammar School and is by no means an exaggerated account of the sufferings he was to endure at the hands of his schoolmates. Indeed, he says of this very passage, "This is true and not half the truth."
Now we see the youth passing on to his life at the University, living in great poverty and in an intellectual atmosphere, which was altogether unsatisfying to him.
"That in the environment, here mysteriously enough shadowed forth, Teufelsdröckh must have felt ill at ease, cannot be doubtful. 'The hungry young,' he says, 'looked up to their spiritual Nurses; and, for food, were bidden eat the east-wind. What vain jargon of controversial Metaphysic, Etymology, and mechanical Manipulation falsely named Science, was current there, I indeed learned, better perhaps than the most. Among eleven hundred Christian youths, there will not be wanting some eleven eager to learn. By collision with such, a certain warmth, a certain polish was communicated; by instinct and happy accident, I took less to rioting (renommiren) than to thinking and reading, which latter also I was free to do. Nay, from the chaos of that Library I succeeded in fishing-up more books perhaps than had been known to the very keepers thereof. The foundation of a Literary Life was hereby laid: I learned, on my own strength, to read fluently in almost all cultivated languages, on almost all subjects and sciences; farther, as man is ever the prime object to man, already it was my favourite employment to read character in speculation, and from the Writing to construe the Writer. A certain groundplan of Human Nature and Life began to fashion itself in me; wondrous enough now when I look back to it; for my whole Universe, physical and spiritual, was as yet a Machine! However, such a conscious, recognised groundplan, the truest I had, was beginning to be there, and by additional experiments might be corrected and indefinitely extended.'"
"Under such circumstances nevertheless (as he writes) was there realized somewhat; namely, I, Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, a visible Temporary Figure, occupying some cubic feet of space and containing within it forces both physical and spiritual; hopes, passions, thoughts; the whole wondrous furniture, in more or less perfection, belonging to that mystery, a Man."
Having thrown up his legal profession, Teufelsdröckh finds himself without landmark of outward guidance, whereby his previous want of decided Belief, or inward guidance, is frightfully aggravated.
"The Universe, he said, 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 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 possibly by battle."
Teufelsdröckh is now a man without profession, setting forth, as it were, on his voyage into unknown seas. At the outset he is detained by a certain Calypso island. This silent dreamy being is irresistibly attracted by a fair maiden of whom he speaks as Blumine. Blumine, who "glanced in her modesty, like a star among earthly lights," belonged to a sphere which was far from his, and yet the attraction seemed mutual. He ventured to address her and she answered with attention, seemed even to look on him with encouragement. They met frequently and to Teufelsdröckh in his happiness it seemed that "soft melodies flowed through his heart and tones of infinite gratitude." But such happiness was of short duration and the dream ended . . . . as it could only end.
And then in his sorrows, which he bears in silence, Teufelsdröckh starts on a long wandering; a nameless unrest urging him forward, his only solace found in outward motion. Among great men, great cities, and great events, he finds no healing. He says once:
"Man is, properly speaking, based upon Hope, he has no other possession but Hope; this world of his is emphatically the Place of Hope. What, then, was our Professor's possession? We see him, for the present, quite shut out from Hope; looking not into the golden orient, but vaguely all round into a dim copper firmament, pregnant with earthquake and tornado."
In those days, too, doubt had darkened into unbelief, the whole world seemed to him sold to unbelief, yet he notes that after all the nameless woe that inquiry, which for him was a genuine love of truth, had wrought, he nevertheless loved truth and would bate no jot of allegiance to her.
"Living without God in the world, of God's light I was not utterly bereft; if my as yet sealed eyes, with their unspeakable longing, could nowhere see Him, nevertheless in my heart He was present, and His heaven-written Law still stood legible and sacred there."
Thus he lived in strange isolation, walking solitary, doubting his capacity for work. As he writes:--
"But for me, so strangely unprosperous had I been, the network of my Workings amounted as yet simply to--nothing. How then could I believe in my strength, when there was as yet no mirror to see it in?"
How like Carlyle's own words to his brother John:--"It is a shame and a misery to me at this age, to be gliding about in strenuous idleness, with no hand in the game of life where I have yet so much to win."
Yet slowly, during the wanderings, a light begins to break upon the wanderer. His passionate yearnings after truth are not to remain unanswered, and he finds the problem of life is growing clearer to him. This is how he solves it:--
"But the whim we have of happiness is somewhat thus. By certain valuations, and averages, of our own striking, we come upon some sort of average terrestrial lot; this we fancy belongs to us by nature, and of indefeasible right. It is simple payment of our wages, of our deserts; requires neither thanks nor complaint; only such overplus as there may be do we account Happiness; any deficit again is Misery. Now consider that we have the valuation of our own deserts ourselves, and what a fund so often dip the wrong way, and many a Blockhead cry: See there, what a payment; was ever worthy gentleman so used! I tell thee, Blockhead, it all comes of thy vanity; of what thou fanciest those same deserts of thine to be. Fancy that thou deservest to be hanged (as is most likely), thou will feel it happiness to be only shot: fancy that thou deservest to be hanged in a hair-halter, it will be a luxury to die in hemp.
"So true is it, what I then said, that the Fraction of Life can be increased in value not so much by increasing your Numerator as by lessening your Denominator. Nay, unless my Algebra deceive me, Unity itself divided by Zero will give Infinity. Make thy claim of wages a zero then; thou hast the world under thy feet. Well did the Wisest of our time write: 'It is only with Renunciation that Life, properly speaking, can be said to begin.'
"I asked myself: What is this that, ever since earliest years, thou hast been fretting and fuming, and lamenting and self-tormenting, on account of? Say it in a word: is it not because thou art not Happy? Because the Thou (sweet gentleman) is not sufficiently honoured, nourished, soft-bedded, and lovingly cared-for? Foolish soul! What Act of Legislature was there that thou shouldst be Happy? A little while ago thou hadst no right to be at all. What if thou wert born and predestined not to be Happy, but to be Unhappy! Art thou nothing other than a vulture, then, that fliest through the Universe seeking after somewhat to eat; and shrieking dolefully because carrion enough is not given thee? Close thy Byron; open thy Goethe!
"'Es leuchtet mir ein, I see a glimpse of it!' cried he elsewhere: 'there is in man a Higher than Love of Happiness. He can do without Happiness, and instead thereof find Blessedness. Was it not to preach forth this same Higher that sages and martyrs, the Poet and the Priest, in all times, have spoken and suffered; bearing testimony, through life and through death, of the Godlike that is in Man, and how in the Godlike only has he Strength and Freedom? Which God-inspired Doctrine art thou also honoured to be taught; O Heavens! and broken with manifold merciful Afflictions, even till thou become contrite and learn it! O, thank thy destiny for these; thankfully bear what yet remain; thou hadst need of them; the Self in thee needed to be annihilated. By benignant fever-paroxysms is Life rooting out the deep-seated chronic Disease, and triumphs over Death. On the roaring billows of Time, thou art not engulfed, but borne aloft into the azure of Eternity. Love not Pleasure; love God. This is the Everlasting Yea, wherein all contradiction is solved; wherein whoso walks and works, it is well with him.'
"And again, 'Small is it that thou canst trample the Earth with its injuries under the feet, as old Greek Zeno trained thee: thou canst love the earth while it injures thee, and even because it injures thee; for this a greater than Zero was needed, and he too was sent. Knowest thou that 'Worship of Sorrow?' The Temple thereof, founded some eighteen centuries ago, now lies in ruins, overgrown with jungle, the habitation of doleful creatures. Nevertheless, venture forward; in a low crypt, arched out of falling fragments, thou findest the Altar still there, and its sacred Lamp perennially burning.'
"'To me, in this our life,' says the Professor, 'which is an internecine warfare with the Time-spirit, other warfare seems questionable. Hast thou in any way a Contention with thy brother, I advise thee, think well what the meaning thereof is. If thou gauge it to the bottom, it is simply this: 'Fellow, see! thou art taking more than thy share of Happiness in the world, something from my share: which, by the Heavens, thou shalt not; nay I will fight thee rather.' Alas, and the whole lot to be divided is such a beggarly matter, truly a 'feast of shells,' for the substance has been spilled out: not enough to quench one Appetite; and the collective human species clutching at them! Can we not, in all such cases, rather say: 'Take it, thou too-ravenous individual; take that pitiful additional fraction of a share, which I reckoned mine, but which thou wantest so; take it with a blessing: would to Heaven I had enough for thee!' If Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre be, 'to a certain extent, Applied Christianity,' surely to a still greater extent, so is this. We have here not a Whole Duty of Man, yet a Half Duty, namely the Passive half; could we but do it, as we can demonstrate it! But indeed Conviction, were it never so excellent, is worthless till it convert itself into Conduct. Nay, properly Conviction is not possible till then; inasmuch as all Speculation is by nature endless, formless, a vortex amid vortices: only by a felt indubitable certainty of Experience does it find any centre to revolve round, and so fashion itself into a system. Most true is it, as a wise man teaches us, that 'Doubt of any sort cannot be removed except by Action.' On which ground, too, let him who gropes painfully in darkness or uncertain light, and prays vehemently that the dawn may ripen into day, lay this other precept well to heart, which to me was of invaluable service: 'Do the duty which lies nearest thee,' which thou knowest to be a Duty! Thy second Duty will already have become clearer.
"May we not say, however, that the hour of Spiritual Enfranchisement is even this: When your Ideal World, wherein the whole man has been dimly struggling and inexpressibly languishing to work, becomes revealed, and thrown open; and you discover, with amazement enough, like the Lothario in Wilhelm Meister, that your 'America is here or nowhere'? The Situation that has not its Duty, its Ideal, was never yet occupied by man. Yes here, in this poor, miserable, hampered, despicable Actual wherein thou even now standest, here or nowhere is thy Ideal: work it out therefrom; and working, believe, live, be free. Fool! the Ideal is in thyself: the impediment too is in thyself: thy Condition is but the stuff thou art to shape that same Ideal out of: what matters whether such stuff be of this sort or that, so the Form thou give it be poetic, be heroic? O thou that pinest in the imprisonment of the actual, and criest bitterly to the gods for a kingdom wherein to rule and create, know this of a truth: the thing thou seekest is already with them 'here or nowhere,' couldst thou only see!
"But it is with man's Soul as it was with Nature: the beginning of Creation is--Light. Till the eye have vision, the whole members are in bonds. Divine moment, when over the tempest-lost Soul, as once over the wild-weltering Chaos, it is spoken: Let there be Light! Ever to the greatest that has felt such moment, it is not miraculous and God-announcing; even as, under simpler figures, to the simplest and least. The mad primeval Discord is hushed; the rudely-jumbled conflicting elements bind themselves into separate Firmaments; deep, silent rock-foundations are built beneath; and the skyey vault with its everlasting Luminaries above; instead of a dark wasteful Chaos, we have a blooming, fertile, heaven-encompassed World.
"I, too, could now say to myself: Be no longer a Chaos, but a World, or even a Worldkin. Produce! Produce! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal fraction of Product, produce it in God's name! 'Tis the utmost thou hast in thee; out with it then. Up, up! Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy whole might. Work while it is called Today; for the Night cometh, wherein no man can work!"
So far only can we go with Teufelsdröckh, bringing him to what his editor calls his spiritual majority. For now the editor becomes haunted with the suspicion that these auto-biographical documents are only a mystification, and he determines to leave the biography and turn to Teufelsdröckh's clothes, philosophy.
This philosophy would teach us to look--
"Into the region of the Wonderful, to see and feel that our daily life is girt with wonder and based on wonder."
Taine says:--"The speciality of Carlyle, as of every mystic, is to see a double meaning in everything. For him, texts and objects are capable of two interpretations. The one open to all, serviceable for ordinary life; the other sublime, open to a few, serviceable to a higher life."
Thus Teufelsdröckh says:--
"To the eye of vulgar Logic, what is man? An omnivorous Biped that wears Breeches. To the eye of Pure Reason what is he? A Soul, a Spirit, and divine apparation. Round his mysterious ME there lies, under all those wool rags, a Garment of Flesh (or of Senses) contextured in the Loom of Heaven, whereby he is revealed to his like, and dwells with them in Union and Division, and sees and fashions for himself a Universe, with Starry Spaces and long Thousands of Years.
"Deep-hidden is he under that strange Garment, amid Sounds and Colours and Forms, as it were, swathed-in and inextricably over-shrouded; yet it is sky-woven, and worthy of a God. For Matter, were it never so despicable, is Spirit, the manifestation of Spirit; were it never so honourable, can it be more? The thing Visible, nay, the thing Imagined, the thing in any way conceived as Visible, what is it but a Garment, a clothing of the higher, celestial Invisible, unimaginable, formless, dark with excess of weight."
Everything, language, poetry, arts, church, state, are only symbols.
"In the Symbol proper, what we can call a Symbol, there is ever, more or less distinctly and directly, some embodiment and revelation of the Infinite. The Infinite is made to blend itself with the Finite, to stand visible, and as it were, attainable there. By Symbols, accordingly, is man guided and commanded, made happy, made wretched. He everywhere finds himself encompassed with Symbols, recognized as such or not recognized. The Universe is but one vast Symbol of God; nay, if thou wilt have it, what is man himself but a Symbol of God; is not all that he does symbolical; a revelation to Sense of the mystic god-given force that is in him; a Gospel of Freedom, which he, the 'Messias of Nature,' preaches as he can, by act and word. Not a Hut he builds but is the visible embodiment of a Thought; but bears visible record of invisible things; but is, in the transcendental sense, symbolical as well as real."
Then, rising higher, he regards time and space, those two abysses which it seems nothing could fill up or destroy, and over which hover our life and our universe.
"They are but forms of our thought. There is neither Time nor Space; they are but 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 themselves."
"Know of a truth that only the Time shadows have perished, or are perishable, that the real Being of whatever was and whatever is, is even now and for ever."
"But our work--behold, that is not abolished, that has not vanished; our work, behold, it remains; and that is now the sole question with us for evermore."
"All true work is sacred; in all true work, were it but true hand labour, there is something of divineness. Labour, wide as the earth, has its summit in Heaven.
"O brother, if this is not worship, then I say more pity for worship; for this is the noblest thing yet discovered under God's sky.
"Who art thou that complainest of thy life of toil? Complain not. Look up, my wearied brother; see thy fellow Workmen there, in God's eternity; surviving there, they alone surviving; sacred Band of the Immortals, celestial Bodyguard of the Empire of Mankind. Even in the weak Human Memory they survive so long, as saints, as heroes, as gods; they alone surviving; peopling, they alone, the unmeasured solitudes of Time! To thee, Heaven, though severe, is not unkind; Heaven is kind--as a noble Mother; as that Spartan Mother, saying while she gave her son his shield, 'With it, my son, or upon it!' Thou, too, shalt return home in honour; to thy far distant Home, in honour; doubt it not--if in the battle thou keep thy shield."
Typed by happi, Apr 2020; Proofread by LNL, May 2020
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