On Heroes and Hero-Worship by Thomas
This is the last of four series of lectures which Carlyle (see
Vol. IX, p. 99) delivered in London in successive years, and is the
only series which was published. The "Lectures on Heroes"
were given in May, 1840, and were published, with emendations
and additions, from the reporter's notes in 1841. The preceding
series were on "German Literature," 1837; "The Successive
Periods of European Culture," 1838; and "The Revolutions of
Modern Europe," 1839. Carlyle's profound and impassioned belief
in the quasi-divine inspiration of great men, in the authoritative
nature of their "message," and in their historical effectiveness,
was a reaction against a way of writing history which finds
the origin of events in "movements," "currents," and "tendencies"
neglecting or minimising the power of personality.
For Carlyle, biography was the essential element in history; his
view of events was the dramatic view, as opposed to the scientific
view. It is idle to inquire which is the better or truer
view, where both are necessary. But Carlyle is here specially
tilting against a prejudice which has so utterly passed away
that it is difficult even to imagine it. This was to the effect
that eminent historical figures have been in some sense impostors.
This work suffers a good deal from its origin, but,
like others of Carlyle's writings, it has had great effect in discrediting
a barren and flippant rationalism.
I.—The Hero as Divinity
We have undertaken to discourse on great men, their
manner of appearance in our world's business, how they
shaped themselves in the world's history, what ideas
men formed of them, and what work they did. We are
to treat of hero-worship and the heroic in human affairs.
The topic is as wide as universal history itself,
for the history of what man has accomplished in this
world is, at bottom, the history of the great men who
have worked here.
It is well said that a man's religion is the chief fact
with regard to him. I do not mean the Church creed
which he professes, but the thing that he does practically
believe, the manner in which he feels himself to
be spiritually related to the unseen world. Was it
heathenism, a plurality of gods, a mere sensuous representation
of the mystery of life, and for chief recognised
element therein physical force? Was it Christianism;
faith in an Invisible as the only reality; time ever resting
on eternity; pagan empire of force displaced by the
nobler supremacy of holiness? Was it scepticism, uncertainty,
and inquiry whether there was an unseen
world at all, or perhaps unbelief and flat denial? The
answer to these questions gives us the soul of the history
of the man or nation.
Odin, the central figure of Scandinavian paganism,
shall be our emblem of the hero as divinity. And in the
first place I protest against the theory that this paganism
or any other religion has consisted of mere quackery,
priestcraft, and dupery. Quackery gives birth to
nothing; gives death to all. Man everywhere is the born
enemy of lies, and paganism, to its followers, was at one
time earnestly true. Nor can we admit that other theory,
which attributed these mythologies to allegory, or
to the play of poetic minds. Pagan religion, like every
other, is indeed a symbol of what men felt about the
universe, but a practical guiding knowledge of this mysterious
life of theirs, and not a perfect poetic symbol of
it, has been the want of men. The "Pilgrim's Progress"
is a just and beautiful allegory, but it could never
have preceded the faith which it symbolises. Men never
risked their soul's life on allegories; there was a kind of
fact at the heart of paganism.
To the primitive pagan thinker, who was simple as a
child, yet had a man's depth and strength, nature had
as yet no name. It stood naked, flashing in on him,
beautiful, awful, unspeakable; nature was preternatural.
The world, which is now divine only to the gifted, was
then divine to whosoever would turn his eye upon it.
Still more was the body of man, and the mystery of his
consciousness, an emblem to them of God, and truly
How much more, then, was the worship of a hero
reasonable—the transcendent admiration of a great man!
For great men are still admirable. At bottom there is
nothing else admirable. Admiration for one higher
than himself is to this hour the vivifying influence in
man's life, and is the germ of Christianity itself. The
greatest of all heroes is One whom we do not name
Without doubt there was a first teacher and captain
of these northern peoples, an Odin palpable to the sense,
a real hero of flesh and blood. Tradition calls him inventor
of the Runes, or Scandinavian alphabet, and
again of poetry. To the wild Norse souls this noble-hearted
man was hero, prophet, god. That the man
Odin, speaking with a hero's voice and heart, as with
an impressiveness out of Heaven, told his people the
infinite importance of valour, how man thereby became
a god; and that his people believed this message of his,
and thought it a message out of Heaven, and believed
him a divinity for telling it to them—this seems to me
the primary seed-grain of the Norse religion. For
that religion was a sternly impressive consecration of
II.—The Hero as Prophet
We turn now to Mohammedanism among the Arabs
for the second phase of hero-worship, wherein the hero
is not now regarded as a god, but as one God-inspired,
a prophet. Mohammed is not the most eminent
prophet, but is the one of whom we are freest to speak.
Nor is he the truest of prophets but I do esteem him a
true one. Let us try to understand what he meant with
the world; what the world meant and means with him
will then be more answerable.
Certainly he was no scheming impostor, no falsehood
incarnate; theories of that kind are the product of an
age of scepticism, and indicate the saddest spiritual
paralysis. A false man found a religion? Why, a false
man cannot build a brick house! No Mirabeau, Napoleon,
Burns, Cromwell, no man adequate to do anything,
but is first of all in right earnest about it. Sincerity
is the great characteristic of all men in any way
The Arabs are a notable people; their country itself is
notable. Consider that wide, waste horizon of sand,
empty, silent like a sea; you are all alone there, left
alone with the universe; by day a fierce sun blazing
down with intolerable radiance; by night the great deep
heaven, with its stars—a fit country for a swift-handed,
deep-hearted race of men. The Arab character is agile,
active, yet most meditative, enthusiastic. Hospitable,
taciturn, earnest, truthful, deeply religious, the Arabs
were a people of great qualities, waiting for the day
when they should become notable to all the world.
Here, in the year 570 of our era, the man Mohammed
was born, and grew up in the bosom of the wilderness,
alone with Nature and his own thoughts. From an early
age he had been remarked as a thoughtful man, and his
companions named him "The Faithful." He was forty
before he talked of any mission from Heaven. All this
time living a peaceful life, he was looking through the
shows of things into things themselves.
Then, having withdrawn to a cavern near Mecca for
a month of prayer and meditation, he told his wife
Kadijah that, by the unspeakable favour of Heaven, he
was in doubt and darkness no longer, but saw it all.
That all these idols and formulas were nothing; that
there was one God in and over all; that God is great
and is the reality. Allah akbar, "God is great"; and
then Islam, "we must submit to Him."
This is yet the only true morality known. A man is
right and invincible, while he joins himself to the great
deep law of the world, in spite of all superficial laws,
temporary appearances, profit-and-loss calculations.
This is the soul of Islam, and is properly also the soul
of Christianity. We are to receive whatever befalls us
as sent from God above. Islam means in its way the
denial of self, annihilation of self. This is yet the highest
wisdom that Heaven has revealed to our earth. In
Mohammed, and in his Koran, I find first of all sincerity,
the total freedom from cant. For these twelve
centuries his religion has been the guidance of a fifth
part of mankind, and, above all, it has been a religion
The Arab nation was a poor shepherd people; a hero-prophet
was sent down to them; within one century afterwards
Arabia is at Grenada on this hand, at Delhi on
III.—The Hero as Poet
The hero as divinity and as prophet are productions
of old ages, not to be repeated in the new. We are now
to see our hero in the less ambitious, but also less questionable,
character of poet. For the hero can be poet,
prophet, king, priest, or what you will, according to the
kind of world he finds himself born into. I have no notion
of a truly great man that could not be all sorts of
Indeed, the poet and prophet, participators in the open
secret of the universe, are one; though the prophet has
seized the sacred mystery rather on its moral side, and
the poet on the æsthetic side. Poetry is essentially a
song; its thoughts are musical not in word only, but in
heart and in substance.
Shakespeare and Dante are our two canonised poets;
they dwell apart, none equal, none second to them.
Dante's book was written, in banishment, with his
heart's blood. His great soul, homeless on earth, made
its home more and more in that awful other world. The
three kingdoms—Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso—are like
compartments of a great supernatural world-cathedral,
piled up there, stern, solemn, awful; Dante's world of
souls. It is the sincerest of all poems. Sincerity here,
too, we find to be the measure of worth. Intensity is
the prevailing character of his genius; his greatness lies
in fiery emphasis and depth; it is seen even in the
graphic vividness of his painting. Dante burns as a pure
star, fixed in the firmament, at which the great and high
of all ages kindle themselves.
As Dante embodies musically the inner life of the Middle
Ages, so Shakespeare embodies for us its outer life,
its chivalries, courtesies, humours, ambitions. Dante
gave us the soul of Europe; Shakespeare gave us its
body. Of this Shakespeare of ours, the best judgment
of Europe is slowly pointing to the conclusion that he
is the chief of all poets, the greatest intellect who has
left record of himself in the way of literature.
It is in portrait-painting, the delineation of men, that
the greatness of Shakespeare comes out most decisively.
His calm, creative perspicacity is unexampled. The
word that will describe the thing follows of itself from
such clear intense sight of the thing. He takes in all
kinds of men—a Falstaff, Othello, Juliet, Coriolanus;
sets them all forth to us in their rounded completeness,
loving, just, the equal brother of all.
The degree of vision that dwells in a man is a correct
measure of the man, and Shakespeare's is the greatest
of intellects. Novalis beautifully remarks of him that
those dramas of his are products of nature, too, deep as
nature herself. Shakespeare's art is not artifice; the
noblest worth of it is not there by plan or pre-contrivance.
The latest generations of men will find new meanings
in Shakespeare, new elucidations of their own human
Shakespeare, too, was a prophet, in his way, of an
insight analogous to the prophetic, though he took it
up in another strain. Nature seemed to this man also
divine, unspeakable, deep as Tophet, high as heaven.
"We are such stuff as dreams are made of." There
rises a kind of universal psalm out of Shakespeare, not
unfit to make itself heard among the still more sacred
England, before long, this island of ours, will hold
but a small fraction of the English; east and west to the
antipodes there will be a Saxondom covering great
spaces of the globe. What is it that can keep all these
together into virtually one nation, so that they do not
fall out and fight, but live at peace? Here, I say, is an
English king whom no time or chance can dethrone!
King Shakespeare shines over us all, as the noblest,
gentlest, yet strongest of rallying-signs; we can fancy
him as radiant aloft over all the nations of Englishmen,
a thousand years hence. Truly it is a great thing for
a nation that it gets an articulate voice.
IV.—The Hero as Priest
The priest, too, is a kind of prophet. In him, also,
there is required to be a light of inspiration. He presides
over the worship of the people, and is the uniter
of them with the unseen Holy. He is their spiritual
captain, as the prophet is their spiritual king with many
Luther and Knox were by express vocation priests,
yet it will suit us better here to consider them chiefly
in their historical character as reformers. The battling
reformer is from time to time a needful and inevitable
phenomenon. Obstructions are never wanting; the very
things that were once indispensable furtherances become
obstructions, and need to be shaken off and left behind
us—a business often of enormous difficulty.
We are to consider Luther as an idol-breaker, a
bringer back of men to reality, for that is the function
of great men and teachers. Thus it was that Luther
said to the Pope, "This thing of yours that you call a
pardon of sins, is a bit of rag-paper with ink. It, and
so much like it, is nothing else. God alone can pardon
sins. God's Church is not a semblance, Heaven and
Hell are not semblances. Standing on this, I, a poor
German monk, am stronger than you all."
The most interesting phase which the Reformation
anywhere assumes is that of Puritanism, which even got
itself established as a Presbyterianism and National
Church among the Scotch, and has produced in the
world very notable fruit. Knox was the chief priest and
founder of that faith which became the faith of Scotland,
of New England, of Oliver Cromwell; and that which
Knox did for his nation we may really call a resurrection
as from death. The people began to live. Scotch
literature and thought, Scotch industry, James Watt,
David Hume, Walter Scott, Robert Burns—I find Knox
and the Reformation acting in the heart's core of every
one of these persons and phenomena; I find that without
the Reformation they would not have been.
Knox could not live but by fact. He is an instance
to us how a man, by sincerity itself, becomes heroic.
We find in Knox a good, honest, intellectual talent, no
transcendent one; he was a narrow, inconsiderable man
as compared with Luther; but in heartfelt, instinctive
adherence to truth, in real sincerity, he has no superior.
His heart is of the true prophet cast. "He lies there,"
said the Earl of Morton, at his grave, "who never
feared the face of man."
V.—The Hero as Man of Letters
The hero as man of letters is a new and singular
phenomenon. Living in his squalid garret and rusty
coat; ruling from his grave after death whole nations
and generations; he must be regarded as our most important
modern person. Such as he may be, he is the
soul of all. Intrinsically it is the same function which
the old generations named a prophet, priest, or divinity
The three great prophets of the eighteenth century,
that singular age of scepticism, were Johnson, Rousseau,
and Burns; they were not, indeed, heroic bringers
of the light, but heroic seekers of it, struggling under
mountains of impediment.
As for Johnson, I have always considered him to be,
by nature, one of our great English souls. It was in
virtue of his sincerity, of his speaking still in some sort
from the heart of nature, though in the current artificial
dialect, that Johnson was a prophet. The highest gospel
he preached was a kind of moral prudence, coupled
with this other great gospel, "Clear your mind of
cant!" These two things, joined together, were, perhaps,
the greatest gospel that was possible at that time.
Of Rousseau and his heroism I cannot say so much.
He was not a strong man; but a morbid, excitable, spasmodic
man; at best, intense rather than strong. Yet, at
least he was heartily in earnest, if ever man was; his
ideas possessed him like demons.
The fault and misery of Rousseau was egoism, which
is the source and summary of all faults and miseries
whatsoever. He had not perfected himself into victory
over mere desire; a mean hunger was still his motive
principle. He was a very vain man, hungry for the
praises of men. The whole nature of the man was poisoned;
there was nothing but suspicion, self-isolation,
and fierce, moody ways.
And yet this Rousseau, with his celebrations of nature,
even of savage life in nature, did once more touch upon
reality and struggle towards reality. Strangely through
all that defacement, degradation, and almost madness,
there is in the inmost heart of poor Rousseau a spark
of real heavenly fire. Out of all that withered, mocking
philosophism, scepticism, and persiflage of his day there
has arisen in this man the ineradicable feeling and knowledge
that this life of ours is true, not a theorem, but a
The French Revolution found its evangelist in Rousseau.
His semi-delirious speculations on the miseries
of civilised life, and such like, helped to produce a delirium
in France generally. It is difficult to say what
the governors of the world could do with such a man.
What he could do with them is clear enough—guillotine
a great many of them.
The tragedy of Burns's life is known to all. The largest
soul of all the British lands appeared under every
disadvantage; uninstructed, poor, born only to hard
manual toil; and writing, when it came to that, in a
rustic special dialect, known only to a small province of
the country he lived in.
We find in Burns a noble, rough genuineness, the
true simplicity of strength, and a deep and earnest element
of sunshine and joyfulness; yet the chief quality,
both of his poetry and of his life, is sincerity—a wild
wrestling with the truth of things.
VI.—The Hero as King
The commander over men, to whose will our wills are
to be subordinated and loyally surrender themselves,
and find their welfare in doing so, may be reckoned the
most important of great men. He is called Rex, "Regulator";
our own name is still better—king, which
means "can-ning," "able-man."
In rebellious ages, when kingship itself seems dead
and abolished, Cromwell and Napoleon step forth again
as kings. The old ages are brought back to us; the
manner in which kings were made, and kingship itself
first took rise, is again exhibited in the history of these
The war of the Puritans was a section of that universal
war which alone makes up the true history of the
world—the war of Belief against Unbelief; the struggle
of men intent on the real essence of things, against men
intent on the semblances and forms of things. And
among these Puritans Cromwell stood supreme, grappling
like a giant, face to face, heart to heart, with the
naked truth of things. Yet Cromwell alone finds no
hearty apologist anywhere. Selfish ambition, dishonesty,
duplicity; a fierce, coarse, hypocritical Tartuffe;
turning all that noble struggle for constitutional liberty
into a sorry farce played for his own benefit. This, and
worse, is the character they give him.
From of old, this theory of Cromwell's falsity has been
incredible to me. All that we know of him betokens an
earnest, hearty sincerity. Everywhere we have to note
his decisive, practical eye, how he drives towards the
practicable, and has a genuine insight into what is fact.
Such an intellect does not belong to a false man; the
false man sees false shows, plausibilities, expediences;
the true man is needed to discern even practical truth.
Napoleon by no means seems to me so great a man
as Cromwell. His enormous victories which reached
over all Europe, while Cromwell abode mainly in our
little England, are but as the high stilts on which the
man is seen standing; the stature of the man is not altered
thereby. I find in him no such sincerity as in
Cromwell; only a far inferior sort.
"False as a bulletin," became a proverb in Napoleon's
time. Yet he had a sincerity, a certain instinctive, ineradicable
feeling for reality; and did base himself upon
fact, so long as he had any basis. He had an instinct
of Nature better than his culture was. His companions,
we are told, were one evening busily occupied arguing
that there could be no God; they had proved it by all
manner of logic. Napoleon, looking up into the stars,
answers, "Very ingenious, Messieurs; but who made
all that?" The atheistic logic runs off from him like
water; the great fact stares him in the face. So, too, in
practice; he, as every man that can be great, sees,
through all entanglements, the practical heart of the
matter, and drives straight towards that.
Accordingly, there was a faith in him, genuine so far
as it went. That this new, enormous democracy is an
insuppressible fact, which the whole world cannot put
down—this was a true insight of his, and took his conscience
and enthusiasm along with it. And did he not
interpret the dim purport of it well? La carrière ouverte
aux talents—"the implements to him who can handle
them"—this actually is the truth, and even the whole
truth; it includes whatever the French Revolution or
any revolution could mean. It is a great, true message
from our last great man.
"Sartor Resartus," first published in "Frazer's Magazine" in
1833–34, is Thomas Carlyle's most popular work, and is largely
I.—The Philosophy of Clothes
Considering our present advanced state of culture,
and how the torch of science has now been brandished
and borne about, with more or less effect, for five thousand
years and upwards, it is surprising that hitherto
little or nothing of a fundamental character, whether in
the way of philosophy or history, has been written on
the subject of clothes. Every other tissue has been dissected,
but the vestural tissue of woollen or other cloth,
which man's soul wears as its outmost wrappage, has
been quite overlooked. All speculation has tacitly figured
man as a clothed animal, whereas he is by nature
a naked animal, and only in certain circumstances, by
purpose and device, masks himself in clothes.
But here, as in so many other cases, learned, indefatigable,
deep-thinking Germany comes to our aid.
The editor of these sheets has lately received a new
book from Professor Teufelsdröckh, of Weissnichtwo,
treating expressly of "Clothes, their Origin and Influence"
(1831). This extensive volume, a very sea of
thought, discloses to us not only a new branch of philosophy,
but also the strange personal character of Professor
Teufelsdröckh, which is scarcely less interesting.
We were just considering how the extraordinary doctrines
of this book might best be imparted to our own
English nation, when we received a letter from Herr
Hofrath Heuschrecke, our professor's chief associate,
offering us the requisite documents for a biography of
Teufelsdröckh. This was the origin of our "Sartor Resartus,"
now presented in the vehicle of "Frazer's
Professor Teufelsdröckh, when we knew him at
Weissnichtwo, lived a still and self-contained life, devoted
to the higher philosophies and to a certain speculative
radicalism. The last words that he spoke in our
hearing were to propose a toast in the coffee-house—"The
cause of the poor, in heaven's name and the devil's."
But we looked for nothing moral from him, still
less anything didactico-religious.
Brave Teufelsdröckh, who could tell what lurked in
thee? In thine eyes, deep under thy shaggy brows, and
looking out so still and dreamy, have we not noticed
gleams of an ethereal or else a diabolic fire? Our
friend's title was that of Professor of Things in General,
but he never delivered any course. We used to
sit with him in his attic, overlooking the town; he would
contemplate that wasp-nest or bee-hive spread out below
him, and utter the strangest thoughts. "That living
flood, pouring through these streets, is coming from
eternity, going onward to eternity. These are apparitions.
What else?" Thus he lived and meditated with
Heuschrecke as Boswell for his Johnson.
"As Montesquieu wrote a 'Spirit of Laws,'" observes
our professor, "so could I write a 'Spirit of Clothes,'
for neither in tailoring nor in legislating does man proceed
by mere accident, but the hand is ever guided by
the mysterious operations of the mind." And so he
deals with Paradise and fig-leaves, and proceeds to view
the costumes of all mankind, in all countries, in all
The first purpose of clothes, he imagines, was not
warmth or decency, but ornament. "Yet what have
they not become? Increased security and pleasurable
heat soon followed; divine shame or modesty, as yet a
stranger to the anthropophagous bosom, arose there
mysteriously under clothes, a mystic shrine for the holy
in man. Clothes gave us individuality, distinctions, social
polity; clothes have made men of us; they are threatening
to make clothes-screens of us."
Teufelsdröckh dwells chiefly on the seams, tatters, and
unsightly wrong-side of clothes, but he has also a superlative
transcendentalism. To him, man is a soul, a
spirit, and divine apparition, whose flesh and senses are
but a garment. He deals much in the feeling of wonder,
insisting that wonder is the only reasonable temper
for the denizen of our planet. "Wonder," he says, "is
the basis of worship," and that progress of science,
which is to destroy wonder and substitute mensuration
and numeration, finds small favour with him. "Clothes,
despicable as we think them, are unspeakably significant."
II.—Biography of Teufelsdröckh
So far as we can gather from the disordered papers
which have been placed in our hands, the genesis of
Diogenes Teufelsdröckh is obscure. We see nothing
but an exodus out of invisibility into visibility. In the
village of Entepfuhl we find a childless couple, verging
on old age. Andreas Futteral, who has been a grenadier
sergeant under Frederick the Great, is now cultivating
a little orchard. To him and Gretchen his wife there
entered one evening a stranger of reverend aspect, who
deposited a silk-covered basket, saying, "Good people,
here is an invaluable loan; take all heed thereof; with
high recompense, or else with heavy penalty, will it one
day be required back." Therein they found, as soon as
he had departed, a little infant in the softest sleep. Our
philosopher tells us that this story, told him in his twelfth
year, produced a quite indelible impression. Who was
his unknown father, whom he was never able to meet?
We receive glimpses of his childhood, schooldays, and
university life, and then meet with him in that difficulty,
common to young men, of "getting under way." "Not
what I have," he says, "but what I do, is my kingdom;
and we should grope throughout our lives from one expectation
and disappointment to another were we not
saved by one thing—our hunger." He had thrown up
his legal profession, and found himself without landmark
of outward guidance; whereby his previous want
of decided belief, or inward guidance, is frightfully aggravated.
So he sets out over an unknown sea; but a
certain Calypso Island at the very outset falsifies his
"Nowhere," he says, "does Heaven so immediately
reveal itself to the young man as in the young maiden.
The feeling of our young forlorn 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. And if, on a soul
so circumstanced, some actual air-maiden should cast
kind eyes, saying thereby, 'Thou too mayest love and
be loved,' and so kindle him—good Heaven, what an
all-consuming fire were probably kindled!"
Such a fire of romance did actually burst forth in Herr
Diogenes. We know not who "Blumine" was, nor how
they met. She was young, hazel-eyed, beautiful, high-born,
and of high spirit, but unhappily dependent and
insolvent, living perhaps on the bounty of moneyed relatives.
"To our friend the hours seemed moments; holy
was he and happy; the words from those sweetest lips
came over him like dew on thirsty grass. At parting,
the Blumine's hand was in his; in the balmy twilight,
with the kind stars above them, he spoke something of
meeting again, which was not contradicted; he pressed
gently those soft, small fingers, and it seemed as if they
were not hastily, not angrily withdrawn."
Poor Teufelsdröckh, it is clear to demonstration thou
art smit! Flame-clad, thou art scaling the upper
Heaven, and verging towards insanity, for prize of a
high-souled brunette, as if the earth held but one and
not several of these! "One morning, he found his
morning-star all dimmed and dusky-red; doomsday had
dawned; they were to meet no more!" Their lips were
joined for the first time and the last, and Teufelsdröckh
was made immortal by a kiss. And then—"thick curtains
of night rushed over his soul, and he fell, through
the ruins as of a shivered universe, towards the abyss."
He quietly lifts his pilgrim-staff, and begins a perambulation
and circumambulation of the terraqueous globe.
We find him in Paris, in Vienna, in Tartary, in the Sahara,
flying with hunger always parallel to him, and a
whole infernal chase in his rear. He traverses mountains
and valleys with aimless speed, writing with footprints
his sorrows, that his spirit may free herself, and
he become a man. Vain truly is the hope of your swiftest
runner to escape from his own shadow! We behold
him, through these dim years, in a state of crisis, of
transition; his aimless pilgrimings are but a mad fermentation,
wherefrom, the fiercer it is, the clearer
product will one day evolve itself.
Man has no other possession but hope; this world of
his is emphatically the "Place of Hope"; yet our professor,
for the present, is quite shut out from hope. As
he wanders wearisomely through this world he has now
lost all tidings of another and higher. "Doubt," says
he, "had darkened into unbelief." It is all a grim desert,
this once fair world of his; and no pillar of cloud
by day, and no pillar of fire by night, any longer guides
the pilgrim. "Invisible yet impenetrable walls, as of
enchantment, divided me from all living; was there, in
the wide world, any true bosom I could press trustfully
to mine? O Heaven, no, there was none! To me the
universe was all void of life, of purpose, of volition, even
of hostility; it was one huge, dead, immeasurable steam-engine,
rolling on, in its dead indifference, to grind me
limb from limb. O, the vast, gloomy, solitary Golgotha,
and mill of death!
"Full of such humour, and perhaps the miserablest
man in the whole French capital or suburbs, was I, one
sultry dog-day, after much perambulation, toiling along
the dirty little Rue Saint Thomas de l'Enfer, among
civic rubbish enough, in a close atmosphere, and over
pavements hot as Nebuchadnezzar's furnace; whereby
doubtless my spirits were a little cheered; when, all at
once, there rose a thought in me, and I asked myself,
'What art thou afraid of? Wherefore, like a coward,
dost thou forever pip and whimper, and go cowering
and trembling? Despicable biped! what is the sum-total
of the worst that lies before thee? Death? Well, death;
and say the pangs of Tophet too, and all that the devil
and man may, will, or can do against thee! Hast thou
not a heart; canst thou not suffer whatever it be; and,
as a child of freedom, though outcast, trample Tophet
itself under thy feet, while it consumes thee? Let it
come, then; I will meet it and defy it!' And, as I so
thought, there rushed like a stream of fire over my whole
soul; and I shook base fear away from me for ever. Ever
from that time, the temper of my misery was changed;
not fear or whining sorrow was it, but indignation and
grim fire-eyed defiance.
"Thus had the Everlasting No pealed authoritatively
through all the recesses of my being, of my Me; and
then was it that my whole Me stood up, in native God-created
majesty, and with emphasis recorded its protest.
The Everlasting No had said, 'Behold, thou art fatherless,
outcast, and the universe is mine, the devil's'; to
which my whole Me now made answer, 'I am not thine,
but free, and for ever hate thee!'
"It is from this hour that I incline to date my spiritual
new-birth, or Baphometic Fire-baptism; perhaps
I directly thereupon began to be a man."
Our wanderer's unrest was for a time but increased.
"Indignation and defiance are not the most peaceable
inmates," yet it was no longer a quite hopeless unrest.
He looked away from his own sorrows, over the many-coloured
world, and few periods of his life were richer
in spiritual culture than this. He had reached the Centre
of Indifference wherein he had accepted his own nothingness.
"I renounced utterly, I would hope no more
and fear no more. To die or to live was to me alike
insignificant. Here, then, as I lay in that Centre of Indifference,
cast by benignant upper influence into a healing
sleep, the heavy dreams rolled gradually away, and
I awoke to a new heaven and a new earth. I saw that
man can do without happiness and instead thereof find
blessedness. 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.
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! Produce! produce! Work while it is called
III.—The Volume on Clothes
In so capricious a work as this of the professor's, our
course cannot be straightforward, but only leap by leap,
noting significant indications here and there. Thus,
"perhaps the most remarkable incident in modern history,"
he says, "is George Fox's making to himself a
suit of leather, when, desiring meditation and devout
prayer to God, he took to the woods, chose the hollow
of a tree for his lodging and wild berries for his food,
and for clothes stitched himself one perennial suit of
leather. Then was there in broad Europe one free man,
and Fox was he!"
Under the title "Church-Clothes," by which Teufelsdröckh
signifies the forms, the vestures, under which
men have at various periods embodied and represented
for themselves the religious principle, he says, "These
are unspeakably the most important of all the vestures
and garnitures of human existence. Church-clothes are
first spun and woven by society; outward religion originates
by society; society becomes possible by religion."
Of "symbols," as means of concealment and yet of
revelation, thus uniting in themselves the efficacies at
once of speech and of silence, our professor writes, "In
the symbol proper 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.
Of this sort are all true works of art; in them, if thou
know a work of art from a daub of artifice, wilt thou
discern eternity looking through time; the God-like rendered
visible. But nobler than all in this kind are the
lives of heroic God-inspired men, for what other work
of art is so divine?" And again, "Of this be certain,
wouldst thou plant for eternity, then plant into the deep
infinite faculties of man, his fantasy and heart; wouldst
thou plant for year and day, then plant into his shallow
superficial faculties, his self-love and arithmetical understanding."
As for Helotage, or that lot of the poor wherein no
ray of heavenly nor even of earthly knowledge visits him,
Teufelsdröckh says, "That there should one man die
ignorant who had capacity for knowledge, this I call a
tragedy, were it to happen more than twenty times in
In another place, our professor meditates upon the
awful procession of mankind. "Like a God-created,
fire-breathing spirit-host, we emerge from the inane;
haste stormfully across the astonished earth; then
plunge again into the inane. But whence?—O Heaven,
whither? Sense knows not; Faith knows not; only
that it is through mystery to mystery, from God and to
"We are such stuff
As dreams are made of, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep!"