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It seems as though a soul so violent, so enthusiastic, so savage, so abandoned to imaginative follies, so entirely without taste, order, and measure, would be capable only of rambling, and expending itself in hallucinations, full of sor
worlds, of which these rocks are the them his eager hands, to discover from remains, does the historian lay upon their nature and structure some revela tion of the great drowned regions, which no eye shall ever see again! A number, a trifling detail about expense, a petty phrase of barbarous Latin, is priceless in the sight of Carlyle. I should like he surrounds the chronicle of the monk to read the commentary with which Jocelin of Brakelond, to show you the impression which a proved fact produces on such a soul; all the atbarous word, a bill from the kitchen, tention and emotion that an old bar
row and danger. In fact, many of those who had this temperament, and who were his genuine forefathers-the Norse pirates, the poets of the sixteenth century, the Puritans of the seventeenth-were madmen, hurting others and themselves, bent on devastating things and ideas, destroying the public security and their own heart. 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 Conland, peopled with mere vaporous Fantasms, makes the religious spirit; the first stitution; 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 worn; 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, at departing, gave us 'thirteen sterlingii,' one shilling and one penny, to say a mass for him. For king Lackland was there, verily he. There, we say, is the grand peculiarity; the immeasurable one; distinguishing to a really infinite degree, the poorest historical Fact from all Fiction whatsoever. Fiction,' except as the vehicle for truth, or is fact of some 'Imagination,' ''Imaginative poetry,' etc. etc., sort... what is it? t .. And yet these grim old walls are not a dilettantism and dubiety; they are an earnest fact. It was a most real and serious purpose they were built for! Yes, another world it was, when these black ruins, white in their new mortar and fresh chiselling, first saw the sun as walls, long ago. . . . Their and that is but a small item of the matter. architecture, belfries, land-carucates? Yes,Does it never give thee pause, this other strange item of it, that men then had a soul,-not by hearsay alone, and as a figure of speech; but as a truth that they knew and practically wert upon! +
We must read his history of Cromwell to understand how far this sentiment of actuality penetrates him; with what knowledge it endows him; how he rectifies dates and texts; how he verifies traditions and genealogies; how he visits places, examines the trees, looks at the brooks, knows the agriculture, prices, the whole domestic and rural economy, all the political and literary circumstances; with what minuteness, precision, and vehemence he reconstructs before his eyes and before ours the external picture of objects and affairs, the internal picture of ideas and emotions. And it is not simply on his part conscience, habit, or prudence, but need and passion. In this great obscure void of the past, his eyes fix upon the rare luminous points as on a treasure. The black sea of oblivion has swallowed up the rest: the million thoughts and actions of so many million beings have disappeared, and no power will make them rise again to the light. These few points subsist alone, like the summits of the highest rocks of a submerged continent. With what ardor, what deep feeling for the destroyed
And then he tries to.esuscitate this soul before our eyes; for this is his special feature, the special feature of every his torian who has the sentiment of actual. ity, to understand that parchments. walls, dress, bodies themselves, are only cloaks and documents; that the true fact is the inner feeling of men who have lived, that the only important fact is the state and structure of their soul, that the
*In Past and Present, bk. ii.
↑ Ibid. ch. i.; Jocelin of Brakelond.
draw from history a positive and active
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 only partially, and wills, in that special and individual under reserve, the Germanic etymolomanner, now absolutely lost and ex-gies and hypotheses. He wishes to tinguished, in which he did feel, suffer, and will. And he looks upon this sight, not coldly, like a man who only half sees things in a gray mist, indistictly and uncertain, but with all the force of his heart and sympathy, like a convinced spectator, for whom past things, once proved, are as present and visible as the corporeal objects which his hand handles and touches, at the He feels this fact so very moment. clearly, that he bases upon it all his philosophy of history. In his opinion, great men, kings, writers, prophets, and poets, are only great in this sense: "It is the property of the hero, in every time, in every place, in every situation, that he comes back to reality; that he stands upon things, and not shows of things." The great man discovers some unknown or neglected fact, proclaims it; men hear him, follow him; and this is the whole of history. And not only does he discover and proclaim it, but he believes and sees it. He believes it, not as hearsay or conjecture, like a truth simply probable and handed down; he sees it personally, face to face with absolute and indomitable faith; he deserts opinion for conviction, tradition for intuition. Carlyle is so steeped in his process, that he imputes it to all great men. And he is not wrong, for there is none more potent. Wherever he penetrates with this lamp, he carries a light not known before. He pierces mountains of paper erudition, and enters into the hearts of men. Everywhere he goes beyond political and conventional history. He divines characters, comprehends the spirit of extinguished ages, feels better than any Englishman, better than Macaulay himself, the great_revolutions of the soul. He is almost German in his power of * Lectures on Heroes, 1868.
He goes beyond, or rather is carried beyond this. The facts seized upon by this vehement imagination are melted in it as in a fire. Beneath this fury of conception, every thing wavers. Ideas, changed into hallucinations, lose their solidity, realities are like dreams; the world, appearing in a nightmare, seems no more than a nightmare; the attesta. tion of the bodily senses loses its weight before inner visions as lucid as itself. Man finds no longer a difference be tween his dreams and his perceptions. Mysticism enters like smoke within the overheated walls of a collapsing imagination. It was thus that it once penetrated into the ecstasies of ascetic Hindoos, and into the philosophy of our first two centuries. Throughout, the same state of the imagination has produced the same teaching. The Puritans, Carlyle's true ancestors, were inclined to it. Shakspeare reached it by the prodigious tension of his poetic dreams, and Carlyle ceaselessly repeats after him that "we are such stuff as dreams are made of." This real world, these events so harshly followed up, circumscribed, and hardled, are to him only apparitions; the universe is di
der, and based on wonder; thy very blankets and breeches are miracles.... The unspeakable divine signficance, full of splendor, and wonder, and terror, lies in the being of every man and of every thing; the presence of God who made every man and thing."
"Thy daily life is girt with won- | ideas abound, violent, mutually jostling driven from all sides of the horizon amidst darkness and flashes of lightning; his thought is a tempest, and he attributes to the universe the magnificence, the obscurities, and the terrors of a tempest. Such a conception is the true source of religious and mora' sentiment. The man who is penetra ted by them passes his life, like a Puritan, in veneration and fear. Carlvle passes his in expressing and impress ing veneration and fear, and all his books are preachings.
"Atheistic science babbles poorly of it, with scientific nomenclatures, experiments, and what-not, as if it were a poor dead thing, to be bottled up in Leyden jars, and sold over counters; but the natural sense of man, in all times, if he will honestly apply his sense, proclaims it to be a living thing, ah, an unspeakable, godlike thing; towards which the best attitude for us, after never so much science, is awe, devout prostration and humility of soul; worship if not in words, then in silence." * In fact, this is the ordinary position of Carlyle. It ends in wonder. Beyond and beneath objects, he perceives as it were an abyss, and is interrupted by shudderings. A score of times, a hundred times in the History of the French Revolution, we have him suspending his narrative, and falling into a reverie. The immensity of the black night in which the human apparitions rise for an instant, the fatality of the crime which, once committed, remains attached to the chain of events as by a link of iron, the mysterious conduct which impels these floating masses to an unknown but inevitable end, are the great and sinister images which haunt him. He dreams anxiously of this focus of existence, of which we are only the reflection. He walks fearfully amongst this people of shadows, and tells himself that he too is a shadow. He is troubled by the thought that these human phantoms have their substance elsewhere, and will answer to eternity for their short passage. He exclaims and trembles at the idea of this motionless world, of which ours is but the mutable figure. He divines in it something august and terrible. For he shapes it, and he shapes our world according to his own mind; he defines it by the emotions which he draws from t, and figures it by the impressions which he receives from it. A moving chaos of splendid visions, of infinite perspectives, stirs and boils within him at the least event which he touches;
* Lectures on Heroes, i.; The Hero as Divinity.
Here truly is a strange mind, and one which makes us reflect. Nothing is more calculated to manifest truths than these eccentric beings. It will not be time misspent to discover the truc position of this mind, and to explain for what reasons, and in what measure, he must fail to possess, or must attain to, beauty and truth.
As soon as we wish to begin to think, we have before us a whole and distinct object-that is, an aggregate of details connected amongst themselves, and separated from their surroundings. Whatever the object, tree, animal, sentiment, event, it is always the same; it always has parts, and these parts always form a whole: this group, more or less vast, comprises others, and is comprised in others, so that the smallest portion of the universe is, like the entire universe, a group. Thus the whole employment of human thought is to reproduce groups. According as a mind is fit for this or not, it is capa ble or incapable. According as it can reproduce great or small groups, it is great or small. According as it can produce complete groups, or only some of their parts, it is complete or partial
What is it, then, to reproduce a group? It is first to separate there from all the parts, then to arrange them in ranks according to their resemblances, then to form these ranks into families, lastly to combine the whole under some general and dominant mark; ir short, to imitate the hierarchical cias fications of science. But the task is not ended there: this hierarchy is not an artificial and external arrangement
but a natural and internal necessity. I think only by sudden concentrations of Things are not dead, but living; there vehement ideas. They have a vision of is in them a force which produces and distant ffects 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 pie of this form of intellect, and Carforce which the mind must reproduce Îyle is an English Michelet. in itself, with all its effects; it must perceive it by rebound and sympathy: this force must engender in the mind the entire group, and must be developed with in it as without it: the series of internal ideas must imitate the series of external; the emotion must follow the conception, vision must complete analysis; the mind must become, like nature, creative. Then only can we say: We know.
All minds take one or other of these routes, and are divided by them into two great classes, corresponding to opposite temperaments. In the first are the plain men of science, the popularizers, orators, writers-in general, the classical ages and the Latin races; in the second are the poets, prophets, commonly the inventors-in general, the romantic ages and the Germanic races. The first proceed gradually from one idea to the next: they are methodical and cautious; they speak for the world at large, and prove what they say; they divide the field which they would traverse into preliminary sections, in order to exhaust their subject; they march on straight and level roads, so as to be sure never to fall; they proceed by transitions, enumerations, summaries; they advance from general to still more general conclusions; they form the exact and complete classification of a group. When they go beyond simple analysis, their whole talent consists in eloquently pleading a thesis. Amongst the contemporaries of Carlyle, Macaulay is the most complete model of this species of mind. The others, after having violently and confusedly rummaged amongst the details of a group, rush with a sudden spring into the mother-notion. They see it then in its entirety; they perceive the powers which organize it; they reproduce it by divination; they depict it abridged by the most expressive and strangest words; they are not capable of decomposing it into regular series they always perceive in a lump. They
He knows it, and argues plaus bly that genius is an intuition, an insight: "Our Professor's method is not, in any case, that of common school Logic, where the truths all stand in a row, each holding by the skirts of the other, but at best that of practical Reason, pro ceeding by large Intuition over whole systematic groups and kingdoms; whereby we might say, a noble complexity, almost like that of Nature, reigns in his Philosophy, or spiritual Picture of Nature: a mighty naze, yet, as faith whispers, not without a plan." * Doubtless, but disadvantages nevertheless are not wanting; and, in the first place, obscurity and barbarism. In order to understand him, we must study laboriously, or else have precisely the same kind of mind as he. But few men are critics by profession, or natural seers; in general, an author writes to be understood, and it is annoying to end in enigmas. On the other hand, this visionary process is hazardous when we wish to leap immediately into the inner and generative idea, we run the risk of falling short; the gradual progress is slower, but more sure. The methodical people, so much ridiculec by Carlyle, have at least the advantage over him in being able to verify all their steps. Moreover, these vehement divinations and assertions are very often void of proof. Carlyle leaves the reader to search for them: the reader at times does not search for them, and refuses to believe the soothsayer on his word. Consider, again, that affectation infallibly enters into this style. It must assuredly be inevitable, since Shakspeare is full of it. The simple writer, prosaic and rational, can always reason and stick to his prose; his inspi ration has no gaps, and demands no efforts. On the contrary, prophecy is a violent condition which does not sustain itself. When it fails, it is replaced by grand gesticulation. Carlyle gets
Sartor Resartus, bk. i. th. vii' ; 'The Weria out of Chathame
up the steam in order to continue glow-wardly seeing all its effects. And He struggles hard; and this verily this process, which is the imitation of nature, is the only one by which we can penetrate nature; Shakspeare had it as an nstinct, and Goethe as a method. There is none so powerful or delicate, so fitted to the complexity of things and to the structure of our mind There is none more proper to renew our ideas, to withdraw us from formulas, to deliver us from the prejudices with which education involves us, to over throw the barriers in which our sur roundings enclose us. It is by this tha Carlyle escaped from conventional English ideas, penetrated into the philosophy and science of Germany, to think out again in his own manner the Germanic discoveries, and to give an original theory of man and of the universe.
forced, perpetual epilepsy is a most shocking spectacle. We cannot endure a man who wanders, repeats himself, returns to oddities and exaggerations which he had already employed; makes a jargon of them, declaims, exclaims, and makes it a point, like a wretched bombastic comedian, to upset our nerves. Finally, when this species of mind coincides in a lofty mind with the habits of a gloomy preacher, it results in objectionable manners. Many will find Carlyle presumptuous, coarse; they will suspect from his theories, and also from his way of speaking, that he looks upon himself as a great man, neglected, of the race of heroes; that, in his opinion, the human race ought to put themselves in his hands, and trust him with their business. Certainly he lectures us, and with contempt. He despises his epoch; he has a sulky, sour tone; he keeps It is from Germany that Carlyle has purposely on stilts. He disdains ob- 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 tone of a man of genius astray amongst pedants. He has the superior smile, the resigned condescension of a hero who feels himself a martyr, and he only quits it, to shout at the top of his voice, like an ill-bred plebeian
All this is redeemed, and more, by rare merits. He speaks truly: minds like his are the most fertile. They are almost the only ones which make discoveries. Pure classifiers do not invent; they are too dry. "To know a thing, what we can call knowing, a man must first love the thing, sympathize with it." "Fantasy is the organ of the Godlike, the understanding is indeed hy window; too clear thou canst not make it; but fantasy is thy eye, with its color-giving retina, healthy or diseased." In more simple language, this means that every object, animate or inanimate, is gifted with powers which constitute its nature and produce its development; that, in order to know it, we must recreate it in ourselves, with the train of its potentialities, and that we only know it entirely by inwardly perceiving all its tendencies, and in
§ 2. VOCATION.
Meister, he wrote upon the German he has just written a life of Frederick writers a long series of critical articles, the Great. He is the best accredited who have introduced the German mind and most original of the interpreters into England. This is no small thing to do, for it is in such a work that every thinking person is now laboring.
From 1780 to 1830 Germany has pro duced all the ideas of our historic age; and for half a century still, perhaps for a whole century, our great work will be to think them out again. The thoughts which have been born and have blossomed in a country, never fail to propagate themselves in neighboring countries, and to be engrafted there for a season. That which is happening to us has happened twenty times already in the world; the growth of the mind has always been the same, and we may with some assurance, foresee for the future what we observe in the past. At certain times appears an original form of mind, which produces a philosophy, a literature, an art, a science, and