Sartor Resartus and On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (Macmillan)
Library of English Classics
On Heroes, Hero-Worship
and the Heroic in History
By Thomas Carlyle
Macmillan and Co., Limited
New York: The Macmillan Company
In a letter from Carlyle to his mother, written in February 1841, there occurs a pleasant reference to the two books here reprinted. 'I have bargained,' he writes, 'with Fraser for my lectures. They are now at press; that kept me so very busy. He would give me only £75—the dog—but then he undertakes a new edition of Sartor too (the former being sold), and gives me another £75 for that too. It is not so bad, £150 of ready money—at least money without risk. I did not calculate on getting anything at present for Teufelsdroeckh. Poor Teufelsdröeckh, it seems very curious money should lie even in him. They trampled him into the gutters at his first appearance, but he rises up again—finds money bid for him.'
Thus Carlyle, with obvious pleasure, in 1841, and the pleasure must have been all the keener from its contrast with the humiliation which for many years was the chief harvest his most characteristic book brought him. Begun before October 1830 as a magazine article, and at first called 'Teufelsdreck,' it was in that month found to be too long, except it were divided into two, and already sometimes looked as if it would swell into a book. As a magazine article it had been refused, and in July 1831, when it was nearing completion in book form, Carlyle already foreboded an ill reception for it. 'I am struggling forward with Dreck,' he writes to his brother, 'sick enough, but not in bad heart. I think the world will nowise be enraptured with this (medicinal) Devil's Dung; that the critical republic will cackle vituperatively or perhaps maintain total silence. A la bonne heure! It was the best I had in me; what God had given me, what the Devil shall not take away.'
By the end of July 1831 Sartor Resartus, to adopt its ultimate name, was finished, and Mrs. Carlyle, least prejudiced of domestic critics, had pronounced it 'a work of genius.' With the manuscript in his bag Carlyle started for London to find a publisher. Trouble met him at every turn. Murray, with whom the book was first left, was worried by illness in his family, his literary advisers were out of town, and he at last returned the manuscript, with the confession that he had not been able to look at it. Carlyle turned to Fraser, who met him with the really monstrous offer to print the book if the author 'would give him a sum not exceeding £150 sterling.' Then Longmans were tried. 'They are honest, rugged, punctual-looking people, and will keep their word,' Carlyle writes to his wife—the 'dearest little comforter,' whose comfort he sorely needed—'but the chance of their declining seems to me a hundred to one.' The expected happened; but meanwhile Jeffrey's influence had been brought to bear on Murray, and on 4th September Carlyle received from him an offer to print an edition of 750 copies on the half-profit system. Carlyle needed ready money. Under the impression 'Murray wished me to try everywhere' he applied to Colburn and Bentley, was received by a 'muddy man' with a polite refusal, and returned to Murray to close with his offer. On 14th September he writes to his wife of this interview: 'The Dog was standing on the floor when I entered and could not escape me! He is the slipperiest, lamest, most confused, unbusinesslike man I have seen. Nevertheless poor Dreck was in a few minutes settled, or put on the way of settlement: I got a line to his printer (miles off! it is Clowes, who used to do the Foreign Review); found him, expounded to him, and finally about two in the afternoon saw Dreck on the way to the printing office, and can hope to get the first page of him to-morrow! Perhaps a week may elapse (perhaps less, so exceedingly irregular is Murray) before we be fairly under steady way, after which a month or so will roll it all off my hands, and Dreck will lie in sheets till his hour come.' Alas! but three days later Murray was writing from Ramsgate a note as bitter as it was brief: 'Your conversation with me respecting the publication of your MS. led me to infer that you had given me the preference, and certainly not that you had already submitted it to the greatest publishers in London, who had declined to engage in it. Under these circumstances it will be necessary for me also to get it read by some literary friend before I can in justice to myself engage in the printing of it.' There had clearly been a misunderstanding, for Murray's letter is incompatible with Carlyle's belief that he wished him to offer the book elsewhere. But the publisher's suggestion, repeated in a subsequent letter, that a material fact had been unfairly concealed, must have been a stinging blow to Carlyle. 'The man behaved like a pig,' was his comment. He loftily left Murray free to consider the book afresh, and negotiations came to an end with the opinion of the 'bookseller's taster': 'the Author has no great tact; his wit is frequently heavy; and reminds one of the German Baron who took to leaping on tables, and answered that he was learning to be lively.' Carlyle was at last convinced that ' Dreck cannot be disposed of in London at this time.'
In May 1833—the Reform Bill, which had lain heavily on the book trade, having meanwhile passed—Carlyle made a new attempt, writing to Fraser that he had now determined to slit the book up 'into strips and send it forth in the Periodical way,' and offering him the refusal. With some doubts, reflected in his reduction of Carlyle's pay to twelve guineas a sheet (less than the usual rate, whereas he usually received more), Fraser accepted. The 'strips' began to appear in November 1833, and were continued till August 1834 amid constant expressions of disapproval from subscribers to the magazine, varied only by some praise from America. The publisher paid his money (£82:1s. in all) like a man, but declined to reprint the articles in book form. Carlyle, however, had stipulated that the magazine printer should make up some thirty or forty complete copies as he printed it, to be used for private distribution, and thus as a 'readable pamphlet of 107 pages, all made up without break,' did Sartor Resartus come into existence as a book, the printer liberally producing fifty-eight copies. On its title-page it bore the words 'Reprinted for Friends,' and in this ambiguous condition might it have remained had not its success in America given English publishers encouragement. Forced in 1835 to be content with three copies when they wanted 150, the Americans the following year printed an edition of 500, which appeared in April, and was sold out by September. A second American edition was printed in 1837, orders for copies of it being received from England. By September 1837 Emerson was able to tell Carlyle that in all 1166 copies had been sold in the United States. Yet Fraser still could not recover any belief in the book, and it was to Saunders and Ottley that Carlyle, in June 1838, gave the 'privilege of printing 500 copies of Teufelsdröckh' on the half-profit system. Thus at last did Sartor Resartus 'get itself published' as a saleable book in England, the edition appearing in July, and being pronounced by Carlyle 'dingy' and 'ill-managed,' 'but correct, or nearly correct, as to printing.'
As to Heroes and Hero-Worship there is no such story of disappointment to be told. It formed the last of the three series of lectures which Carlyle delivered, was received with great applause by crowded audiences, and yielded the lecturer a profit of some two hundred pounds. The six lectures, 'reported with emendations and additions,' were published by Fraser in 1841, the year after they had been given, and Carlyle, as we have seen, received £75 for the edition of 1000 copies.
In 1846 Carlyle wrote to Emerson of having corrected both Sartor and the Heroes for an edition by Putnam. The corrections appear to have been only slight, but in order to incorporate them both books are now printed according to the text published in 1858 in the collected edition of Carlyle's works. In this edition Carlyle omitted certain 'Testimonies of Authors'—Murray's reader's opinion, unfavourable reviews, and, to balance them, Emerson's preface to the American edition—which he had 'slightingly prefixed' to the edition of 1838. In 1868 he saw fit to restore them, and they are therefore here appended.
TESTIMONIES OF AUTHORS
I. Highest Class, Bookseller's Taster
Taster to Bookseller.—'The Author of Teufelsdröckh is a person of talent; his work displays here and there some felicity of thought and expression, considerable fancy and knowledge: but whether or not it would take with the public seems doubtful. For a jeu d'esprit of that kind it is too long; it would have suited better as an essay or article than as a volume. The Author has no great tact; his wit is frequently heavy; and reminds one of the German Baron who took to leaping on tables, and answered that he was learning to be lively. Is the work a translation?'
Bookseller to Editor.—'Allow me to say that such a writer requires only a little more tact to produce a popular as well as an able work. Directly on receiving your permission, I sent your MS. to a gentleman in the highest class of men of letters, and an accomplished German scholar: I now inclose you his opinion, which, you may rely upon it, is a just one; and I have too high an opinion of your good sense to,' etc., etc.—MS. (penes nos) London, 17th September 1831.
II. Critic of the Sun
'Frasers Magazine exhibits the usual brilliancy, and also the,' etc. 'Sartor Resartus is what old Dennis used to call "a heap of clotted nonsense," mixed, however, here and there, with passages marked by thought and striking poetic vigour. But what does the writer mean by "Baphometic fire-baptism"? Why cannot he lay aside his pedantry, and write so as to make himself generally intelligible? We quote by way of curiosity a sentence from the Sartor Resartus; which may be read either backwards or forwards, for it is equally intelligible either way. Indeed, by beginning at the tail, and so working up to the head, we think the reader will stand the fairest chance of getting at its meaning: "The fire-baptised soul, long so scathed and thunder-riven, here feels its own freedom; which feeling is its Baphometic baptism: the citadel of its whole kingdom it has thus gained by assault, and will keep inexpugnable; outwards from which the remaining dominions, not indeed without hard battering, will doubtless by degrees be conquered and pacificated." Here is a '—. … —Sun Newspaper, 1st April 1834.
III. North-American Reviewer
… 'After a careful survey of the whole ground, our belief is that no such persons as Professor Teufelsdröckh or Counsellor Heuschrecke ever existed; that the six Paper-bags, with their China-ink inscriptions and multifarious contents, are a mere figment of the brain; that the "present Editor" is the only person who has ever written upon the Philosophy of Clothes; and that the Sartor Resartus is the only treatise that has yet appeared upon that subject;—in short, that the whole account of the origin of the work before us, which the supposed Editor relates with so much gravity, and of which we have given a brief abstract, is, in plain English, a hum.
'Without troubling our readers at any great length with our reasons for entertaining these suspicions, we may remark, that the absence of all other information on the subject, except what is contained in the work, is itself a fact of a most significant character. The whole German press, as well as the particular one where the work purports to have been printed, seems to be under the control of Stillschweigen and Co.,—Silence and Company. If the Clothes-Philosophy and its author are making so great a sensation throughout Germany as is pretended, how happens it that the only notice we have of the fact is contained in a few numbers of a monthly Magazine published at London? How happens it that no intelligence about the matter has come out directly to this country? We pique ourselves here in New England upon knowing at least as much of what is going on in the literary way in the old Dutch Mother-land as our brethren of the fast-anchored Isle; but thus far we have no tidings whatever of the "extensive close-printed close-meditated volume," which forms the subject of this pretended commentary. Again, we would respectfully inquire of the "present Editor" upon what part of the map of Germany we are to look for the city of Weissnichtwo.—"Know-not-where,"—at which place the work is supposed to have been printed, and the Author to have resided. It has been our fortune to visit several portions of the German territory, and to examine pretty carefully, at different times and for various purposes, maps of the whole; but we have no recollection of any such place. We suspect that the city or Know-not-where might be called, with at least as much propriety, Nobody-knows-where, and is to be found in the kingdom of Nowhere. Again, the village of Entepfuhl—"Duck-pond," where the supposed Author of the work is said to have passed his youth, and that of Hinterschlag, where he had his education, are equally foreign to our geography. Duck-ponds enough there undoubtedly are in almost every village in Germany, as the traveller in that country knows too well to his cost, but any particular village denominated Duck-pond is to us altogether terra incognita. The names of the personages are not less singular than those of the places. Who can refrain from a smile at the yoking together of such a pair of appellatives as Diogenes Teufelsdröckh? The supposed bearer of this strange title is represented as admitting, in his pretended autobiography, that "he had searched to no purpose through all the Heralds' books in and without the German empire, and through all manner of Subscribers'-lists, Militia-rolls, and other Name-catalogues," but had nowhere been able to find the "name Teufelsdröckh, except as appended to his own person." We can readily believe this, and we doubt very much whether any Christian parent would think of condemning a son to carry through life the burden of so unpleasant a title. That of Counsellor Heuschrecke—"Grasshopper,"—though not offensive, looks much more like a piece of fancy work than a "fair business transaction." The same may be said of Blumine—"Flower-Goddess"—the heroine of the fable; and so of the rest.
'In short, our private opinion is, as we have remarked, that the whole story of a correspondence with Germany, a university of Nobody-knows-where, a Professor of Things in General, a Counsellor Grasshopper, a Flower-Goddess Blumine, and so forth, has about as much foundation in truth as the late entertaining account of Sir John Herschel's discoveries in the moon. Fictions of this kind are, however, not uncommon, and ought not, perhaps, to be condemned with too much severity; but we are not sure that we can exercise the same indulgence in regard to the attempt, which seems to be made to mislead the public as to the substance of the work before us, and its pretended German original. Both purport, as we have seen, to be upon the subject of Clothes, or dress. Clothes, their Origin and Influence, is the title of the supposed German treatise of Professor Teufelsdröckh, and the rather odd name of Sartor Resartus—the Tailor Patched,—which the present Editor has affixed to his pretended commentary, seems to look the same way. But though there is a good deal of remark throughout the work in a half-serious, half-comic style upon dress, it seems to be in reality a treatise upon the great science of Things in General, which Teufelsdröckh is supposed to have professed at the university of Nobody-knows-where. Now, without intending to adopt a too rigid standard of morals, we own that we doubt a little the propriety of offering to the public a treatise on Things in General, under the name and in the form of an Essay on Dress. For ourselves, advanced as we unfortunately are in the journey of life, far beyond the period when dress is practically a matter of interest, we have no hesitation in saying, that the real subject of the work is to us more attractive than the ostensible one. But this is probably not the case with the mass of readers. To the younger portion of the community, which constitutes everywhere the very great majority, the subject of dress is one of intense and paramount importance. An author who treats it appeals, like the poet, to the young men and maidens—virginibus puerisque,—and calls upon them, by all the motives which habitually operate most strongly upon their feelings, to buy his book. When, after opening their purses for this purpose, they have carried home the work in triumph, expecting to find in it some particular instruction in regard to the tying of their neckcloths, or the cut of their corsets, and meet with nothing better than a dissertation on Things in General, they will,—to use the mildest term—not be in very good humour. If the last improvements in legislation, which we have made in this country, should have found their way to England, the author, we think, would stand some chance of being Lynched. Whether his object in this piece of supercherie be merely pecuniary profit, or whether he takes a malicious pleasure in quizzing the Dandies, we shall not undertake to say. In the latter part of the work, he devotes a separate chapter to this class of persons, from the tenour of which we should be disposed to conclude, that he would consider any mode of divesting them of their property very much in the nature of a spoiling of the Egyptians.
'The only thing about the work, tending to prove that it is what it purports to be, a commentary on a real German treatise, is the style, which is a sort of Babylonish dialect, not destitute, it is true, of richness, vigour, and at times a sort of singular felicity of expression, but very strongly tinged throughout with the peculiar idiom of the German language. This quality in the style, however, may be a mere result of a great familiarity with German literature, and we cannot, therefore, look upon it as in itself decisive, still less as outweighing so much evidence of an opposite character.'—North-American Review, No. 89, October 1835.
IV. New England Editors
'The Editors have been induced, by the express desire of many persons, to collect the following sheets out of the ephemeral pamphlets in which they first appeared, under the conviction that they contain in themselves the assurance of a longer date.
'The Editors have no expectation that this little Work will have a sudden and genuine popularity. They will not undertake, as there is no need, to justify the gay costume in which the Author delights to dress his thoughts, or the German idioms with which he has sportively sprinkled his pages. It is his humour to advance the gravest speculations upon the gravest topics in a quaint and burlesque style. If his masquerade offend any of his audience, to that degree that they will not hear what he has to say, it may chance to draw others to listen to his wisdom; and what work of imagination can hope to please all? But we will venture to remark that the distaste excited by these peculiarities in some readers is greatest at first, and is soon forgotten; and that the foreign dress and aspect of the Work are quite superficial, and cover a genuine Saxon heart. We believe, no book has been published for many years, written in a more sincere style of idiomatic English, or which discovers an equal mastery over all the riches of the language. The Author makes ample amends for the occasional eccentricity of his genius, not only by frequent bursts of pure splendour, but by the wit and sense which never fail him.
'But what will chiefly commend the Book to the discerning reader is the manifest design of the work, which is, a Criticism upon the Spirit of the Age,—we had almost said, of the hour,—in which we live; exhibiting in the most just and novel light the present aspects of Religion, Politics, Literature, Arts, and Social Life. Under all his gaiety the Writer has an earnest meaning, and discovers an insight into the manifold wants and tendencies of human nature, which is very rare among our popular authors. The philanthropy and the purity of moral sentiment, which inspire the work, will find their way to the heart of every lover of virtue.'—Preface to Sartor Resartus: Boston, 1836, 1837.
Sunt, Fuerunt vel Fuere.
London, 30th June 1838.
PAGE v xi
- Editorial Difficulties
- The World in Clothes
- The World out of Clothes
- Pure Reason
- Getting under Way
- Sorrows of Teufelsdröckh
- The Everlasting No
- Centre of Indifference
- The Everlasting Yea
- Incident in Modern History
- The Phœnix
- Old Clothes
- Organic Filaments
- Natural Supernaturalism
- The Dandiacal Body
ON HEROES, HERO-WORSHIP, AND THE HEROIC IN HISTORY
- The Hero as Divinity. Odin. Paganism: Scandanavian Mythology
- The Hero as Prophet. Mahomet: Islam
- The Hero as Poet. Dante; Shakspeare
- The Hero as Priest. Luther; Reformation; Knox; Puritanism
- The Hero as a Man of Letters. Johnson, Rousseau, Burns
- The Hero as King. Cromwell, Napoleon: Modern Revolutionism
- Fraser's (London) Magazine, 1833-34.