Изображения страниц

no eye


worlds, of which these rocks are the It seems as though a soul so violent, them his eager hands, to discover from

remains, does the historian lay upon so enthusiastic, so savage, so abandoned their nature and structure some revela to imaginative follies, so entirely with. tion of the great drowned regions, which out taste, order, and measure, would be

shall ever see again! A number, capable only of rambling, and expending itself in hallucinations, full of sor

a trifling detail about expense, a petty row and danger. In fact, many of phrase of barbarous Latin, is priceless those

who had this temperament, and in the sight of Carlyle. I should like who were his genuine forefathers—the you to read the commentary with which

he surrounds the chronicle of the monk Norse pirates, the poets of the sixteenth century, the Puritans of the Tocelin of Brakelond, * to show you seventeenth-were madmen, hurting produces on such a soul; all the at

the impression which a proved fact others and themselves, bent on devas- tention and emotion that an old bar. tating things and ideas, destroying the barous word, a bill from the kitchen, public security and their own heart.

summons up: Two entirely English barriers have restrained and directed Carlyle: the sen- Behold, therefore, this England of the timent of actuality, which is the posi- year 1200 was no chimerical vacuity or dreamtive spirit, and of the sublime, which Rymer's Foedera, and Doctrines of the Con

land, peopled with mere vaporous Fantasms, makes the religious spirit; the first stítution; but a green solid place, that grew turned hin! to real things, the other

corn and several other things. The sun shone furnished him with the interpretation on it; the vicissitude of seasons and human

fortunes. Cloth was woven and womn ; ditches of real things : instead of being sickly were dug, furrow-fields ploughed, and houses and visionary, he became a philosopher built. Day by day all men and cattle rose to and a historian.

labour, and night by night returned home weary

to their several lairs. The Dominus Rex, IV.

at departing, gave us thirteen sterlingiä,' one shilling and one penny, to say a mass for him.

for king Lackland was there, verily he. We must read his history of Crom

There, we say, is the grand peculiarity; well to understand how far this senti- the immeasurable one ; distinguishing to a ment of actuality penetrates him; with really infinite degree, the poorest historical what knowledge it endows him; how Fact from all Fiction whatsoever. Fiction, he rectifies dates and texts; how he except as the vehicle for truth, or is fact of some

Imagination,' • Imaginative poetry,' etc. etc., verifies traditions and genealogies ; sort ,. what is it?t.... And yet these how he visits places, examines the grim old walls are not a dilettantism and dubiety; trees, looks at the brooks, knows the they are an earnest fact. It was a most real

and serious purpose they were built for! Yes, agriculturc, prices, the whole domestic another world it was, when these black ruins, and rural economy, all the political and white in their new mortar and fresh chiselling, literary circumstances ; with what mi- first saw the sun as walls, long ago. . . . nuteness, precision, and vehemence he and that is' but a small item of the matter.

architecture, belfries, land carucates? Yes,reconstructs before his eyes and before Does it never give thee pause, this other strange ours the external picture of objects and item of it, that men then had a soul, -pot by affairs, the internal picture of ideas and hearsay alone, and as a figure of speech; but

as a truth that they knew and practically wert emotions. And it is not simply on his

upon!” 1 part conscience, habit, or prudence, and then he tries to .esuscitate this soul but need and passion. In this great before our eyes ; for this is his special obscure void of the past, his eyes fix feature, the special feature of every his upon the rare luminous points as on a torian who has the sentiment of actual. treasure. The black sea of oblivion ity, to understand that parchments.walls, has swallowed up the rest: the million dress, bodies themselves, are only cloaks thoughts and actions of so many million and documents; that the true fact 3 the beings have disappeared, and no power inner feeling of men who have lived, will make them rise again to the light. that the only important fact is the state These few points subsist alone, like the and structure of their soul, that the Bommits of the highest rocks of a sub

* In Past and Present, bk. Ü. merged continent. With what ardor,

1 Ibid. ch. i. ; Focelin of Brakelond. what deep feeling for the destroyed Ibid. ch, ü. ; St. Edmondsbury.


first and sole business is to reach that| imagination, his antiquarian perspica inner feeling, for that all else diverges city, his broad general views, and yet from it. We must tell ourselves this he is no dealer in guesses. The na fact over and over again ; history is but tional common sense and the energetic the history of the heart; we have to craving for profound belief retain him search out the feelings of past gener. on the limits of supposition; when he ations, and nothing else. This is what does guess, he gives it for what it is Carlyle perceives; man is before him, worth. He has no taste for hazardous risen from the dead; he penetrates with history. He rejects hearsay and lein him, sees that he feels, suffers, and gends; he accepts on y partially, and wills, in that special and individual under reserve, the Germanic etymolo manner, now absolutely lost and ex-gies and hypotheses. He wishes to tinguished, in which he did feel, suffer, draw from history a positive and active and will. And he looks upon this law for himself and us. He expels sight, not coldly, like a man who only and tears away from it all the doubtful half sees things in a gray mist, indis- and agreeable additions which scientictly and uncertain, but with all the tific curiosity and romantic imagination force of his heart and sympathy, like a accumulate. He puts aside this parconvinced spectator, for whom past asitic growth to seize the useful and things, once proved, are as present and solid wood. And when he has seized visible as the corporeal objects which it, he drags it so energetically before his hand handles and touches, at the us, in order to make us touch it, he very moment.

He feels this fact so handles it in so violent a manner, he clearly, that he bases upon it all his places it under such a glaring light, he philosophy of history. In his opinion, illuminates it by such coarse contrasts great men, kings, writers, prophets, and of extraordinary images, that we are poets, are only great in this sense: “It infected, and in spite of ourselves reach is the property of the hero, in every the intensity of his belief and vision. time, in every place, in every situation, He goes beyond, or rather is carried that he comes back to reality ; that he beyond this. The facts seized upon by stands upon things, and not shows of this vehement imagination are melted

The great man discovers in it as in a fire. Beneath this fury of some unknown or neglected fact, pro- conception, every thing wavers. Ideas, claims it; men hear him, follow him; changed into hallucinations, lose their and this is the whole of history. And solidity, realities are like dreams; the not only does he discover and proclaim world, appearing in a nightmare, seems it, but he believes and sees it. He be no more than a nightmare ; the attesta. lieves it, not as hea ay or conjecture, tion of the bodily senses loses its weight like a truth simply probable and handed before inner visions as lucid as itself. down; he sees it personally, face to Man finds no longer a difference be. face with absolute and indomitable tween his dreams and his perceptions. faith ; he deserts opinion for conviction, Mysticism enters like smoke within the tradition for intuition. Carlyle is so overheated walls of a collapsing imaginsteeped in his process, that he imputes ation. It was thus that it once peneit to all great men. And he is not trated into the ecstasies of ascetic Hinwe ong, for there is none more potent. doos, and into the philosophy of our Wherever he penetrates with this lamp, first two centuries. Throughout, the he carries a light not known before. same state of the imagination has proTIe pierces mountains of paper erudi- duced the same teaching. The Puri. tion, and enters into the hearts of men. tans, Carlyle's true ancestors, were inEverywhere he goes beyond political clined to it. Shakspeare reached it by and conventional history. He divines the prodigious tension of his poetic characters, comprehends the spirit of dreams, and Carlyle ceaselessly repeats extinguished ages, feels better than any after him that “we are such stuff as Englishman, better than Macaulay him. dreams are made of.” This real world, self, the great revolutions of the soul. these events so harshly followed up, He is almost German in his power of circumscribed, and hardled, are to him * Lectures on Heroes, 1868.

only apparitions ; the universe is di.


vine. “Thy daily life is girt with won. | ideas abound, violent, mutually jostling der, and based on wonder; thy very driven from all sides of the horizon blankets and breeches are miracles.. amidst darkness and flashes of light. The unspeakable divine signficance, ning; his thought is a tempest, and he full of splendor, and wonder, and ter. attributes to the aniverse the magnifiros, lies in the being of every man and cence, the obscurities, and the terrors of 'every thing; the presence of God of a tempest. Such a conception is who made every man and thing." the true source of religious and mora'

" Atheistic science babbles poorly of it, with sentiment. The man who is penetra scientific nomenclatures, experiments, and ted by them passes his life, like a Puri. what-not, as if it were a poor dead thing, to tan, in veneration and fear. Carlyle be bottled up in Leyden jars, and sold over passes his in expressing and imprese counters; but the natural sense of man, in all times, if he will honestly apply his sense, proing veneration and fear, and all his claims it to be a living thing, ah, an unspeak- books are preachings. able, godlike thing ; towards which the best attitude for us, after pever so much science, is

V. awe, devout prostration and humility of soul ; worship if not in words, then in silence." *

Here truly is a strange mind, and In fact, this is the ordinary position of one which makes us reflect. Nothing Carlyle. It ends in wonder. Beyond is more calculated to manifest truths and beneath objects, he perceives as it than these eccentric beings. It will not were an abyss, and is interrupted by be time misspent to discover the truc shudderings. A score of times, a hun; position of this mind, and to explain dred times in the History of the French for what reasons, and in what measure, Revolution, we have him suspending his he must fail to possess, or must attain narrative, and falling into a reverie. to, beauty and truth. The immensity of the black night in

As soon as we wish to begin to think, which the human apparitions rise for we have before us a whole and distinci an instant, the fatality of the crime object-that is, an aggregate of details which, once committed, remains at- connected amongst themselves, and tached to the chain of events as by a separated from their surroundings. link of iron, the mysterious conduct Whatever the object, tree, animal, senwhich impels these floating masses to an timent, event, it is always the same ; it unknown but inevitable end, are the always has parts, and these parts al. great and sinister images which haunt ways form a whole : this group, more him. He dreams anxiously of this fo or less vast, comprises others, and is cus of existence, of which we are only comprised in others, so that the small. the reflection. He walks fearfully est portion of the universe is, like the amongst this people of shadows, and entire universe, a group. Thus the tells himself that he too is a shadow. whole employment of human thought Ile is troubled by the thought that is to reproduce groups. According as these human phantoms have their sub- a mind is fit for this or not, it is capa. stance elsewhere, and will answer to ble or incapable. According as it can eternity for their short passage. He reproduce great or small groups, it is exclaims and trembles at the idea of this motionless world, of which ours is produce complete groups, or only some

great or small. According as it can but the mutable figure. He divines in of their parts, it is complete or partial it something august and terrible. For

What is it, then, to reproduce ; he shapes it, and he shapes our world according to his own mind; he defines group? It is first to separate there

from all the parts, then to arrange them it by the ions which draws from in ranks according to their resemblances, t, and figures it by the impressions then to form these ranks into families, which he receives from it. A moving lastly to combine the whole under chaos of splendid visions, of infinite some general and dominant rark; ir perspectives, stirs and boils within him short, to imitate the hierarchical cias: at the least event which he touches ; fications of science. But the task is

Lectures on Heroes, i. ; The Hero as Dis not ended there : this hierarchy is not pority.

an artificial and external arrangement

but a natural and internal necessity. I think only by sudden concentrations o! Things are not dead, but living ; there vehement ideas. They have a vision of is in them a force which produces and distant affects or living actions; they organizes this group, which binds to- are revealers or poets.

Michelet, gether the details and the whole, which amongst the French, is the best examrepeats the type in all its parts. It is this ple of this form of intellect, and Car. force which the mind must reproduce lyle is an English Michelet. in itself, with all its effects; it must per- He knows it, and argues plaus bly ceive it by rebound and sympathy: this that genius is an intuition, an insight: force must engender in the mind the en-Our Professor's method is not, in any tire group, and m be developed with case, that of common school Logis, in it as without it: the series of internal where the truths all stand in a row, each ideas must imitate the series of exter- holding by the skirts of the other, but nal; the emotion must follow the con- at best that of practical Reason, prin ception, vision must complete analysis; ceeding by large Intuition over whole the mind must become, like nature, systematic groups and kingdoms ; creative. Then only can we say: We whereby we might say, a noble comknow.

plexity, almost like that of Nature, All minds take one or other of these reigns in his Philosophy, or spiritual routes, and are divided by them into Picture of Nature : a mighty naze, yet, two great classes, corresponding to op- as faith whispers, not without a plan.” * posite temperaments. In the first are Doubtless, but disadvantages neverthethe plain men of science, the popular- less are not wanting; and, in the first izers, orators, writers—in general, the place, obscurity and barbarism. In classical ages and the Latin races; in order to understand him, we must study the second are the poets, prophets, com laboriously, or else have precisely the monly the inventors-in general, the same kind of mind as he. But few romantic ages and the Germanic races. men are critics by profession, or naturThe first proceed gradually from one al seers; in general, an author writes idea to the next: they are methodical to be understood, and it is annoying to and cautious; they speak for the world end in enigmas. On the other hand, at large, and prove what they say; they this visionary process is hazardous divide the field which they would tra- when we wish to leap immediately into verse into preliminary sections, in order the inner and generative idea, we run to exhaust their subject; they march the risk of falling short; the gradual on straight and level roads, so as to be progress is slower, but more sure. The sure never to fall; they proceed by methodical people, so much ridiculec transitions, enumerations, summaries ; by Carlyle, have at least the advantage they advance from general to still more over him in being able to verify all their general conclusions ; they form the steps. Moreover, these vehement diexact and complete classification of vinations and assertions are very often a group. When they go beyond sim- void of proof. Carlyle leaves the read. ple analysis, their whole talent con- er to search for them : the reader at sists in 'eloquently pleading a thesis. times does not search for them, and reAmongst the contemporaries of Car- fuses to believe the soothsayer on his lyle, Macaulay is the most complete word. Consider, again, that affecta model of this species of mind. The tion infallibly enters into this style. It others, after having violently and con- must assuredly be inevitable, since fusedly rummaged amongst the details Shakspeare is full of it. The simple of a group, rush with a sudden spring writer, prosaic and rational, can always into the mother-notion. They see it reason and stick to his prose; his inspi. then in its entirety; they perceive the ration has no gaps, and demands no powers which organize it; they repro- efforts. On the contrary, prophecy is a duce it by divination ; they depict it violent condition which does not susabridged bu the most expressive and tain itself. When it fails, it is replaced strangest woras; they are not capable by grand gesticulation. Carlyle gets of decomposing it into regular series

* Sartor Resartus, bk. i. sh. vü' ; 'The They always perceive in a lump. They | Worla sout & Cladbeno


up the stean, in order to continue glow- | wardly seeing all its effects. And ing. He struggles hard; and this verily this process, which is the imitaforced, perpetual epilepsy is a most tion of nature, is the oniy one by which shocking spe tacle. "We cannot endure we can penetrate nature; Shakspeare a man who wanders, repeats himself, had it as an nstinct, and Goethe as a returns to oddities and exaggerations method. There is none so powerful or which he had already employed ; delicate, so fitted to the complexity of makes a jargon of them, declaims, ex- things and to the structure of our mind claims, and makes it a point, like a There is none more proper to renew wretched bombastic comedian, to upset our ideas, to withdraw us from formulas, our nerves. Finally, when this species to deliver us from the prejudices with of. mind coincides in a lofty mind which education involves us, to over with the habits of a gloomy preacher, throw the barriers in which our sur . it results in objectionable manners. roundings enclose us. It is by this thai Many will find Carlyle presumptuous, Carlyle escaped from conventional coarse; they will suspect from his the- English ideas, penetrated into the ories, and also from his way of speak- philosophy and science of Germany, to ing, that he looks upon himself as a think out again in his own manner the great man, neglected, of the race of he- Germanic discoveries, and to give an roes; that, in his opinion, the human original theory of man and of the race ought to put themselves in his universe. hands, and trust him with their busiCertainly he lectu“es us, and

§ 2.-VOCATION. with contempt. He despises his epocis ; he has a sulky, sour tone ; he keeps

It is from Germany that Carlyle has purposely on stilts. He disdains 6 drawn his greatest ideas. He studied jections. In his eyes, opponents are

there, he knows perfectly its literature not up to his form. He abuses his

and language, he sets this literature in predecessors: when he speaks of Crom.

the highest rank, he translated Wilhelm well's biographers, he takes the từne of Meister, he wrote upon the German a man of genius astray amongst per he has just written a life of Frederick

writers a long series of critical articles, dants. He has the superior smile, the resigned condescension of a hero who the Great. He is the best accredited feels himself a martyr, and he only who have introduced the German mind

and most original of the interpreters quits it, to shout at the top of his voice, into England. This is no small thing like an ill-bred plebeian All this is redeemed, and more, by

to do, for it is in such a work that every rare merits. He speaks truly: minds thinking person is now laboring. like his are the most fertile. They are

I. almost the only ones which make discover.es. Pure classifiers do not in- From 1780 to 1830 Germany has pro vent; they are too dry. “To know a duced all the ideas of our historic age; thing, what we can call knowing, a man and for half a century still, perhaps for must first love the thing, sympathize a whole century, our great work will be with it.” Fantasy is the organ of the to think them out again. The thoughts Godlike, the understanding is indeed which have been born and have hy window; too clear thou canst not blossomed in a country, never fail to nake it; but fantasy is thy eye, with propagate themselves in neighboring its color-giving retina, healthy or dis- countries, and to be engrafted there for eased.” În more simple language, this a season. That which is happening to means that every object, animate or in- us has happened twenty times already animate, is gifted with powers which in the world; the growth of the mind constitute its nature and produce its has always been the same, and we may development; that, in order to know it, with some assurance, foresee for the we must recreate it in ourselves, with future what we observe in the past. At the train of its potentialities, and that certain times appears an original form we only know it entirely by inwardly of mind, which produces a philosophy, perceiving all its tendencies, and in- la literature, an art, a science, and

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »