Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE

ECLECTIC MAGAZINE

OF

FOREIGN LITERATURE, SCIENCE AND ART.

M A Y, 1844.

THE WORKS OF THOMAS CARLYLE. body that faith in action and keep us from

idle contemplation. We ask this especially From the British and Foreign Review,

of those men, in whom the unuttered senti1. Siz Lectures on Heroes and Hero Worship. ments and aspirations of the multitudes are By Thomas Carlyle. London : Fraser,

concentrated and harmonized with the high1841.

est intuition of individual conscience. Their 2. Sartor Resartus: in Three Books. By

mission changes with the times. There are Thomas Carlyle. London : Fraser, 1841. periods of a calm and normal activity, when 3. Past and Present. By Thomas Carlyle.

the thinker is like the pure and serene star London : Chapman and Hall, 1843.

which illumines and sanctifies with its halo

of light that which is. There are other times, We gladly take the opportunity offered by when genius must move devotedly onward bethe publication of a new work by Mr. Carlyle, fore us, like the pillar of fire in the desert, and to express our opinion of this remarkable fathom for us the depths of that which shall writer. We say, our opinion of the writer, -be. Such are our times : we cannot at the of his genius and tendencies, rather than of present day merely amuse ourselves with his books,—of the idea which inspires him, being artists, playing with sounds or forms, rather than of the form with which he chooses tickling only our senses, instead of pondering to invest it. The latter in truth is of far less some germ of thought which may serve us. importance than the former. In this period We are scarcely disposed, living in the nineof transition from doubt to aspiration, this teenth century, to act like that people mention"sick and out-of-joint” time, old ideas die ed by Herodotus, who beguiled eighteen years away, or weigh upon the heart like midnight of famine by playing with dice and tennis-balls. dreams: young ones spring up to view, The writer with whom we have now to deal, bright-colored and fresh with hope, but vague by the nature of his labors and the direction of and incomplete, like the dreams of the morn- his genius, authorizes the examination we proing We stand wavering between a past pose to make. He is melancholy and grave: he whose life is extinct, and a future whose life early felt the evil which is now preying upon has not yet begun; one while discouraged, at the world, and from the outset of his career another animated by glorious presentiments, he proclaimed it loudly and courageously. looking through the clouds for some star to guide us. One and all, like Herder, we de

“Call ye that a society,” he exclaims, in one mand of the instinct of our conscience, a great

of his first publications, where there is no long

er any social idea extant, not so much as the idea religious thought, which may rescue us from of a common home, but only of a common overdoubt, a social faith which may save us from crowded lodging-house ? where each, isolated, anarchy, a moral inspiration which may em-regardless of his neighbor, turned against his Mar, 1844.

1

[ocr errors]

In his voca

neighbor, clutches what he can get, and cries | adequate to the task, acknowledge the neces• Mine! and calls it Peace, because in the cut- sity of some solution of the sphinx-like enigma purse and cut-throat scramble, no steel knives, which the times present. It is good to see, but only a far cunninger sort can be employed by a new example, that neither ignorant levity where friendship, communion, has become an incredible tradition, and your holiest sacramental nor materialist indifference can long suppress supper is a smoking tavern dinner, with cook for the divine rights of intellect. evangelist? where your priest has no tongue but There are differences between Mr. Carfor plate-licking, and your high guides and gov- lyle's manner of viewing things and ours, ernors cannot guide; but on all hands hear it which we have to premise; but we will not passionately proclaimed, Laissez-faire! Leave do this without first avowing his incontestable us alone of your guidance-such light is darker merits,-merits which at the present day are than darkness-eat your wages, and sleep.”

as important as they are rare, which in him Mr. Carlyle, in writing these lines, was

are so elevated as to command the respect

and admiration even of those who rank under conscious that he engaged bimself to seek a remedy for the evil, nor has he shrunk from another standard, and the sympathy and gratthe task. All that he has since written bears itude of those who, like ourselves, are in the more and more evidently the stamp of a high main upon the same side, and who differ only purpose. In his 'Chartism' he attempted to respecting the choice of means and the road grapple with the social question ; in all his to pursue. writings, whatever be their subject, he has the writer.' What he writes, he not only

Above all, we would note the sincerity of touched

upon it in some one of its aspects. thinks, but feels. He may deceive himself, Art is to him but as a means. tion as a writer he fills the tribune of an when it is not the truth, is yet true, -his in

he cannot deceive us; for what he says, even apostle, and it is here that we must judge him.

There is a multitude around him; and this dividuality, his errors, his incomplete views of is the first fact to establish, for it speaks both things - realities, and not nonentities,—the in favor of the writer and of the public whom

truth limited, we might say, for error springhe has won over.

Since the day when, alone ing from sincerity a high intellect is no and uncomprehended, he penned the words

other than such. He seeks good with conwhich we have quoted, Teufelsdröck has

scientious zeal, not from a love of fame, not made proselytes. The mad hopes,” ex his motive is the love of his fellow-men, a deep

even from the gratification of the discovery; pressed, with an allowable consciousness of îhe power which stirred within him, in the

and active feeling of duty, for he believes this last

to be the mission of man upon earth. He largely realized. The philosophy of clothes writes a book, as he would do a good action. -thanks to the good and bad conduct of the he writes, but he writes nearly all that he

Yet more, not only does he feel all that two Dandiacal and Drudge sects—has made

feels. some progress. Signs have appeared; they

Whatever is in his thoughts and has multiply daily on the horizon. The diame

not yet been put on paper, we may be sure

will ter of the two “bottomless, boiling whirlpools,”+ has widened and widened, as they preach the merit of “ holding one's tongue;" approach each other in a threatening man

to those, in truth, who do not agree with him, and

are such words addressed; but the “talent many

readers who commenced with a smile of pity, or scorn of the unintelligible tend to reverence it, it is as we may say pla

of silence" is not his: if sometimes he preand tiresome jargon, the insinuations, half- tonically,—to prevent others speaking ill

. ironical, half-wild, of the dark dreamer, now But in minds constituted as his, compression look into his pages, with the perseverance of the monks of Mount Athos, to see whether of thought is impossible; it must expand, and

every prolonged effort made to restrain it, they cannot there discover the great thought,” of which they themselves begin to lent. Mr. Carlyle is no homæopathist; he

will only render the explosion the more vio-. feel the want. They now admire as much as

never administers remedies for evil in infinithey once scorned,—they admire even when

tesimal doses; he never pollutes the sacredthey cannot understand. Be it so, for this too is good : it is good to

ness of thought by outward concessions or see that the great social question, which not hurls his inkstand at the head of the devil,

compromise with error. Like Luther, he long ago was ridiculed, begins to exercise a under whatever form he shows himself, withkind of fascination upon the public mind; to find that even those whose own powers are not it with such sincerity, such naïveté and good

out looking to the consequences; but he does * Sartor Resartus, Book iii. chap. 6

will, that the devil himself could not be dis+ Ibid., Book iii. chap. 10.

pleased at it, were the moment not critical,

sooner

He may

or

later appear.

and every blow of the inkstand a serious thing, even when found in the lowest grade of mere to him. We know no English writer who machine-tenders; that the producer, not the has during the last ten years so vigorously production, should form the chief object of attacked the half-gothic, half-pagan edifice social institutions; that the human soul, not which still imprisons the free fight of the the body, should be the starting-point of all spirit,-no one who has thrown among a pub- our labors; since the body without the soul lic so much addicted to routine and formal- is but a carcase; whilst the soul, wherever it ism, so many bold negations, so many reli- is found free and holy, is sure to mould for gious and social views, novel and contrary to itself such a body as its wants and vocation all existing ones,-yet no one who excites require. In all his writings, in 'Sartor Reless of hostility and animadversion. There sartus,' in his 'Lectures, in his ' Essays' esis generally so much calmness and impartial- pecially, (some of which appear to us to be ity in his attacks, so much conviction in his among the best of Mr. Carlyle's writings,) thoughts, so entire an absence of egotism, the standard of the ideal and divine is that we are compelled to listen to what, if boldly unfurled. He seeks to abolish nothing, uttered by any other man with anger or con- but he desires this truth to be acknowledged tempt, would excite a storm of opposition. and proclaimed, that it is the invisible which There is never anger in the language of Mr. governs the visible, the spiritual life which inCarlyle; disdain he has, but without bitter- forms the exterior; he desires that the uniness, and when it gleams across his pages, it verse should appear, not as a vast workshop speedily disappears under a smile of sorrow of material production (whether its tendency and of pity, the rainbow after a storm. He be to centre, as at the present day, in the condemns, because there are things which nei- hạnds of a few, or to spread, according to the ther heaven nor earth can justify; but his utopian schemes of Owen or Fourier, among reader always feels that it is a painful duty the whole community), but as a temple, in he fulfils. When he says to a creed or to an which man, sanctified by suffering and toil, institution, "you are rotten,-begone!” he studies the infinite in the finite, and walks has always some good word upon what it has on toward his object in faith and in hope, achieved in the past, upon its utility, some- with eyes turned constantly toward heaven. times even upon its inutility. He never bu- Toward this heaven the thought of the writer ries without an epitaph,—"Valeat quantum soars continually with fervor, sometimes even valere potest.Take as an instance, above with a kind of despair. It is a reflection of all, his “ History of the French Revolution." this heaven, the image of the sun in the dew

We place in the second rank his tendencies drop, which he seeks in terrestrial objects. toward the ideal,--that which we shall call, He penetrates the symbol, to arrive at the for want of a better word, his spiritualism. idea : he seeks God through visible forms, He is the most ardent and powerful combat- the soul through the external manifestations ant of our day in that re-action, which is of its activity. We feel that wherever he slowly working against the strong material- found the first suppressed, the second extinism that for a century and a half has main- guished, nothing would be left for him but tained a progressive usurpation, one while in idolatry, falsehood, things to despise or to the writings of Locke, Bolingbroke, or Pope, destroy. For him, as for all who have loved, at another in those of Smith and Bentham, suffered, and have not lost, in the selfish purand has tended, by the doctrines of self-inter- suit of material gratifications, the divine sense est and material well-being, to the enthrone which makes us men—it is a profound truth ment of selfishness in men's hearts. All the that “we live, we walk, and we are in God.” movement of industrial civilization, which has Hence his reverence for nature,—hence the overflooded intellectual and moral civilization, universality of his sympathies, prompt to seize has not deafened him. Amidst the noise of the poetical side in all things,-hence, above machinery, wheels, and steam-engines, he has all, his notion of human life devoted to the been able to distinguish the stifled plaint of pursuit of duty, and not to that of happiness, the prisoned spirit, the sigh of millions, in —"the worship of sorrow and renunciation, whose hearts the voice of God whispers at such as he has given it in his chapter, “ The times,Be men!" and the voice of society too Everlasting Yea” of Sartor Resartus, and often cries, “ In the name of Production, be such as comes out in all his works. There brutes!" and he is come, with a small number are, no doubt, many who will term this a of chosen spirits, to be their interpreter. He truism; there are others who will call it utodeclares that all the bustle of matter and of in- pian. We would however remind the first that dustry in movement does not weigh against it is not enough to stammer out the sacred the calm, gentle, and divine whisper, that words“ sacrifice and duty,” and to inscribe speaks from the depths of a virtuous soul, the name of God upon the porch of the tem

[ocr errors]

ple, in order to render the worship real and er: for there are, thank God, enow good infruitful: the theory of individual well-being stincts at the bottom of our hearts to make us rules incontestably at the present day, we will render homage to the truth, although failing not say all our political parties (this it does in its practice, when it finds among us a puremore than enough of course), but all our so- minded and sincere interpreter. cial doctrines, and attaches us all unconscious- We place in the third rank our author's ly to materialism. We would likewise re-cosmopolitan tendencies,-humanitarian we mind the second, that although we have pre-would say, if the word were in use; for costended for the last fifty years to organize mopolitism has at the present day come to every thing with a view to the interests, that indicate rather the indifference than the uniis to say, the happiness, of society, we yet see versality of sympathies. He well knows that before us a society harassed by ills, by misery there is a holy land, in which, under whatand complaints in eighteen-twentieths of its ever latitude they may be born, men are members. Is it then just to treat the contra- brethren. He seeks among his equals in inry practice as utopian? In looking around telligence, not the Englishman, the Italian, us, we affirm that the spiritual view which the German, but man: he adores, not the Mr. Carlyle takes of human life is the only god of one sect, of ene period, or of one peogood, the only essentially religious one, -and ple, but God; and, as the reflex of God upon one of extreme importance, here especially, earth, the beautiful, the noble, the great, where the very men who battle the most bold- wherever he finds it: knowing well, that ly for social progress are led away by degrees whencesoever it beams, it is, or will be, to neglect the development of what is highest, sooner or later for all. His points of view holiest, and most imperishable in man, and to are always elevated; his horizon always exdevote themselves to the pursuit of what they tends beyond the limits of country; his call the useful. There is nothing useful but criticism is never stamped with that spirit of the good, and that which it produces; it is a nationalism (we will not say of nationality, a consequence to be foreseen, not a principle thing sacred with us all), which is only too to be invoked. The theory which gives to much at work amongst us, and which retards lise, as its basis, a right to well-being, which the progress of our intellectual life by isolatplaces the object of life in the search after ing it from the universal life, derived from happiness, can only lead vulgar minds to ego- the millions of our brethren abroad. He has ism, noble and powerful minds to deception, attached himself earnestly to the widest liteto doubt, and to despair. It may indeed de- rature endued with this assimilating power, stroy a given evil, but can never establish the and has revealed it to us.

His Essays on good ; it may dissolve, but cannot reunite. Schiller, on Goethe, on Jean Paul, on WerWhatever names it assume, in whatever Uto-ner, his excellent translations from the Gerpia it may cradle itself, it will invariably ter-man, will remain a testimony of the naturaliminate in organizing war,--war between the zation which he has given to German literagovernors and governed in politics, disguised ture amongst us; as the beautiful pages in under the name of a system of guarantees, of his Lectures on Dante, and some of those balance, or of parliamentary majorities, -war which he has devcted to French writers, tesbetween individuals in economy under the tify the universality of that tendency which name of free competition (free competition we distinguish here as forming the third charbetween those who have nothing and who acteristic of his mind. work for their livelihood, and those who have To descend to qualities purely literary, much and seek a superfluity),—war, or moral Mr. Carlyle is moreover a powerful artist. anarchy, by effacing all social faith before Since the appearance of his work on the the absolute independence of individual opin- French Revolution, no one can any longer ion. This is nearly the present state of things dispute his claim to this title. The brilliant in the world,—a state from which we must at faculties which were revealed in flashes in any cost escape.

We must come to the con- his previous writings burst out in this work, viction, in this as in all other cases, that there and one must have a very limited view of the exist no rights but those which result from actual duties of the historian to be able to the fufilment of duty ; that our concernment judge it coldly and to remark its defects. He here below is not to be happy, but to become carries his reader along, he fascinates him. better; that there is no other object in hu- Powerful in imagination, which is apt to disman life than to discover, by collective effort, cover the sympathetic side of things and to and to execute, every one for himself, the law seize its salient point,-expressing himself in of God, without regarding individual results. an original style, which, though it often apMr. Carlyle is an eloquent advocate of this pear whimsical, is yet the true expression of doctrine, and it is this which creates his pow. the man, and perfectly conveys his thought,

-Mr. Carlyle rarely fails of his effect. the few pages we can here devote to it) that Gifted with that objectivity, of which Goethe we must now glance at: upon it depends the has in recent times given us the highest mod- question of the duty imposed at the present el, he so identifies himself with the things, time on the whole world. It appears to us events, or men, which he exhibits, that in his that Mr. Carlyle's tendency, hitherto appreportraits and his descriptions he attains a ciated from only one point of view,--tory, rare lucidness of outline, force of coloring, whig, or sectarian,-well deserves that we and graphic precision : they are not imita- should seek to appreciate it from the point of tions, but reproductions. And yet he never view of the future, from which all the presloses, in the detail, the characteristic, the ent transitionary parties are excluded. unity of the object, being, or idea, which he There is but one defect in Mr. Carlyle, in wishes to exhibit. He works in the manner our opinion, but that one is vital : it influof a master, indicating by certain features, ences all he does, it determines all his views ; firm, deep, and decisive, the general physiog- for logic and system rule the intellect even nomy of the object, concentrating the effort when the latter pretends to rise the most of his labor and the richness of his light upon against them. We refer to his view of the the central point, or that which he deems collective intelligence of our times. such, and placing this so well in relief that That which rules the period, which is now we cannot forget it. Humor, or the faculty of commencing, in all its manifestations,--that setting off small things, after the manner of which makes every one in the present day Jean Paul, abounds in his writings. Beside complain, and seek good as well as bad remethe principal idea, secondary ideas meet us dies, that which every where tends to subat every step, often new and important in stitute, in politics, demecracy for governments themselves, particles of gold scattered upon founded upon privilege,-in social economy, the shore by the broad wave of the writer's association for unlimited competition,-in thought. Ilis epithets, although numerous, religion, the spirit of universal tradition for are seldom without force: they mark a pro- the solitary inspiration of the conscience,–is gression in the development of the idea or the work of an idea, which not only distances the qualities of the object. His diction may the object, but misplaces the starting-point of have faults; of these we shall not treat here, human activity; it is the collective thought but we may remark that the charge of obscu- seeking to supplant, as the point of view in rity so commonly brought against all thinkers the social organism, the individual thought; endowed with originality, is, generally speak- the spirit of humanity visibly surpassing (for ing, only a declaration of incompetence to it has been always silently and unperceived comprehend or to judge of their ideas. at work) the spirit of man. In the past, we Moreover, his style is, as we have said, the studied one by one the small leaves of the spontaneous expression of the genius of Mr. calix, the petals of the corolla; at the present Carlyle, the aptest form to symbolize his day our attention is turned to the full expanthought, the body shaped by the soul. We sion of the flower. Two thousand years, would not that it were otherwise; what we re- from the earliest times of Greece down to quire in all things is, man as he was meant to be. the latest times of Pagan Rome, worked

Thus frank, honest, and powerful, “ ohne out Individuality under one of its phases ; Hast, aber ohne Rast,” Mr. Carlyle pursues eighteen centuries have enlightened and dehis career : may he long continue it, and veloped it under the other. At the present reap the honors that he merits,-not for him- day other horizons reveal themselves, -we self so much, as for the gratification of those leave the individual for the species. The inwho esteem him, of all those who would see strument is organized; we seek for it a law the relation between intelligence and the of activity and an outward object. From public drawn more and more close ; and may the point of view of the individual we have he thus, in his pilgrimage here, attain the gained the idea of right; we have worked consciousness that the seed which he has out (were it only in thought) liberty and scattered has not been given to the wind. equality-the two great guarantees of all

We have stated sufficiently at large what personality: we proceed further-we stamis absolutely good in the writer we have un- mer out the word Duty, that is to say, somedertaken to estimate, that we might the more thing which can only be derived from the freely fulfil a second duty, that of declaring general law, associationthat is to say, what appears to us to render this noble talent something which requires a common object, incomplete, and to vitiate his work by keep a common belief. The prolonged plaint of ing it behind what the times require else- millions crushed beneath the wheels of comwhere, and will soon require here. It is a petition has warned us that freedom of labor very important question (too important for does not suffice to render industry what it

« PreviousContinue »