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Authors: Thomas Carlyle,Kerry McSweeney,Peter Sabor

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But be this as it will, the somewhat exasperated and indeed exhausted Editor determines here to shut these Paper-bags, for the present. Let it suffice that we know of Teufelsdröckh, so far, if “not what he did, yet what he became:” the rather, as his character has now taken its ultimate bent, and no new revolution, of importance, is to be looked for. The imprisoned Chrysalis is now a winged Psyche; and such, wheresoever be its flight, it will continue. To trace by what complex gyrations (flights or involuntary waftings) through the mere external Life-element, Teufelsdröckh reaches his University Professorship, and the Psyche clothes herself in civic Titles, without altering her now fixed nature,—would be comparatively an unproductive task; were we even unsuspicious of its being, for us at least, a false and impossible one. His outward Biography, therefore, which, at the Blumine Lover’s-Leap, we saw churned utterly into spray-vapour, may hover in that condition, for aught that concerns us here. Enough that by survey of certain “pools and plashes,” we have ascertained its general direction: do we not already know that, by one way and other, it
has
long since rained down again into a stream; and even now, at Weissnichtwo, flows deep and still, fraught with the
Philosophy of Clothes
, and visible to whoso will cast eye thereon? Over much invaluable matter that lies scattered, like jewels among quarry-rubbish, in those Paper-catacombs, we may have occasion to glance back, and somewhat will demand insertion at the right place: meanwhile be our toilsome diggings therein suspended.

If now, before reopening the great
Clothes-Volume
, we ask what our degree of progress, during these Ten Chapters, has been, towards right understanding of the
Clothes-Philosophy
, let
not our discouragement become total. To speak in that old figure of the Hell-gate Bridge over Chaos, a few flying pontoons have perhaps been added, though as yet they drift straggling on the Flood; how far they will reach, when once the chains are straightened and fastened, can, at present, only be matter of conjecture.

So much we already calculate. Through many a little loophole, we have had glimpses into the internal world of Teufelsdröckh: his strange mystic, almost magic Diagram of the Universe, and how it was gradually drawn, is not henceforth altogether dark to us. Those mysterious ideas on T
IME
, which merit consideration, and are not wholly unintelligible with such, may by and by prove significant. Still more may his somewhat peculiar view of Nature; the decisive Oneness he ascribes to Nature. How all Nature and Life are but one
Garment
, a “Living Garment,” woven and ever a-weaving in the “Loom of Time:” is not here, indeed, the outline of a whole
Clothes-Philosophy
; at least the arena it is to work in? Remark too that the Character of the man, nowise without meaning in such a matter, becomes less enigmatic: amid so much tumultuous obscurity, almost like diluted madness, do not a certain indomitable Defiance and yet a boundless Reverence seem to loom forth, as the two mountain summits, on whose rockstrata all the rest were based and built?

Nay farther, may we not say that Teufelsdröckh’s Biography, allowing it even, as suspected, only a hieroglyphical truth, exhibits a man, as it were preappointed for Clothes-Philosophy? To look through the Shows of things into Things themselves he is led and compelled. The “Passivity” given him by birth is fostered by all turns of his fortune. Everywhere cast out, like oil out of water, from mingling in any Employment, in any public Communion, he has no portion but Solitude, and a life of Meditation. The whole energy of his existence is directed, through long years, on one task: that of enduring pain, if he cannot cure it. Thus everywhere do the Shows of things oppress him, withstand him, threaten him with fearfullest destruction: only by victoriously penetrating into Things themselves can he find peace and a stronghold. But is not this same looking through the Shows or Vestures into the Things
even the first preliminary to a
Philosophy of Clothes?
Do we not, in all this, discern some beckonings towards the true higher purport of such a Philosophy; and what shape it must assume with such a man, in such an era?

Perhaps in entering on Book Third, the courteous Reader is not utterly without guess whither he is bound: nor, let us hope, for all the fantastic Dream-Grottoes through which, as is our lot with Teufelsdröckh, he must wander, will there be wanting between whiles some twinkling of a steady Polar Star.

BOOK III
CHAPTER I
INCIDENT IN MODERN HISTORY

As a wonder-loving and wonder-seeking man, Teufelsdröckh, from an early part of this Clothes-Volume, has more and more exhibited himself. Striking it was, amid all his perverse cloudiness, with what force of vision and of heart he pierced into the mystery of the World; recognising in the highest sensible phenomena, so far as Sense went, only fresh or faded Raiment; yet ever, under this, a celestial Essence thereby rendered visible: and while, on the one hand, he trod the old rags of Matter, with their tinsels, into the mire, he on the other every where exalted Spirit above all earthly principalities and powers, and worshipped it, though under the meanest shapes, with a true Platonic Mysticism. What the man ultimately purposed by this casting his Greek-fire into the general Wardrobe of the Universe; what such more or less complete rending and burning of Garments throughout the whole compass of Civilised Life and Speculation, should lead to; the rather as he was no Adamite, in any sense, and could not, like Rousseau, recommend either bodily or intellectual Nudity, and a return to the savage state: all this our readers are now bent to discover; this is, in fact, properly the gist and purport of Professor Teufelsdröckh’s Philosophy of Clothes.

Be it remembered, however, that such purport is here not so much evolved as detected to lie ready for evolving. We are to guide our British Friends into the new Gold-country, and shew them the mines; nowise to dig out and exhaust its wealth, which indeed remains for all time inexhaustible. Once there, let each dig for his own behoof, and enrich himself.

Neither, in so capricious inexpressible a Work as this of the Professor’s, can our course now more than formerly be straightforward, step by step, but at best leap by leap. Significant Indications stand out here and there; which for the critical
eye, that looks both widely and narrowly, shape themselves into some ground-scheme of a Whole: to select these with judgement, so that a leap from one to the other be possible, and (in our old figure) by chaining them together, a passable Bridge be effected: this as heretofore continues our only method. Among such light-spots, the following, floating in much wild matter about
Perfectibility
, has seemed worth clutching at:

“Perhaps the most remarkable incident in Modern History,” says Teufelsdröckh, “is not the Diet of Worms, still less the Battle of Austerlitz, Waterloo, Peterloo,
*
or any other Battle; but an incident passed carelessly over by most Historians, and treated with some degree of ridicule by others; namely, George Fox’s making to himself a Suit of Leather. This man, the first of the Quakers, and by trade a Shoemaker, was one of those, to whom, under ruder or purer form, the Divine Idea of the Universe is pleased to manifest itself; and, across all the hulls of Ignorance and earthly Degradation, shine through, in unspeakable Awfulness, unspeakable Beauty, on their souls: who therefore are rightly accounted Prophets, God-possessed; or even Gods, as in some periods it has chanced. Sitting in his stall; working on tanned hides, amid pincers, paste-horns, rosin, swine-bristles, and a nameless flood of rubbish, this youth had nevertheless a Living Spirit belonging to him; also an antique Inspired Volume, through which, as through a window, it could look upwards, and discern its celestial Home. The task of a daily pair of shoes, coupled even with some prospect of victuals, and an honourable Mastership in Cordwainery, and perhaps the post of Thirdborough in his Hundred,
*
as the crown of long faithful sewing,—was nowise satisfaction enough to such a mind: but ever amid the boring and hammering, came tones from that far country, came Splendours and Terrors; for this poor Cordwainer, as we said, was a Man; and the Temple of Immensity, wherein as Man he had been sent to minister, was full of holy mystery to him.

“The Clergy of the neighbourhood, the ordained Watchers and Interpreters of that same holy mystery, listened with unaffected tedium to his consultations, and advised him, as the solution of such doubts, to ‘drink beer, and dance with the girls.’ Blind leaders of the blind! For what end were their tithes
levied and eaten; for what were their shovel-hats scooped out, and their surplices and cassock-aprons girt on; and such a church-repairing, and chaffering, and organing, and other racketting, held over that spot of God’s Earth,—if Man were but a Patent Digester, and the Belly with its adjuncts the grand Reality? Fox turned from them, with tears and a sacred scorn, back to his Leather-parings and his Bible. Mountains of encumbrance, higher than Ætna, had been heaped over that Spirit: but it was a Spirit, and would not lie buried there. Through long days and nights of silent agony, it struggled and wrestled, with a man’s force, to be free: how its prison-mountains heaved and swayed tumultuously, as the giant spirit shook them to this hand and that, and emerged into the light of Heaven! That Leicester shoe-shop, had men known it, was a holier place than any Vatican or Loretto-shrine.—‘So bandaged, and hampered, and hemmed in,’ groaned he, ‘with thousand requisitions, obligations, straps, tatters, and tagrags, I can neither see nor move: not my own am I, but the World’s; and Time flies fast, and Heaven is high, and Hell is deep: Man! bethink thee, if thou hast power of Thought! Why not; what binds me here? Want! Want!—Ha, of what? Will all the shoe-wages under the Moon ferry me across into that far Land of Light? Only Meditation can, and devout Prayer to God. I will to the woods: the hollow of a tree will lodge me, wild berries feed me; and for Clothes, cannot I stitch myself one perennial Suit of Leather!’

“Historical Oil-painting,” continues Teufelsdröckh, “is one of the Arts I never practised; therefore shall I not decide whether this subject were easy of execution on the canvass. Yet often has it seemed to me as if such first outflashing of man’s Freewill, to lighten, more and more into Day, the Chaotic Night that threatened to engulph him in its hindrances and its horrors, were properly the only grandeur there is in history. Let some living Angelo or Rosa, with seeing eye and understanding heart, picture George Fox on that morning, when he spreads out his cutting-board for the last time, and cuts cowhides by unwonted patterns, and stitches them together into one continuous all-including Case, the farewell service of his awl! Stitch away, thou noble Fox: every prick of that little
instrument is pricking into the heart of Slavery, and World-worship, and the Mammon-god. Thy elbows jerk, as in strong swimmer-strokes, and every stroke is bearing thee across the Prison-ditch, within which Vanity holds her Workhouse and Rag-fair, into lands of true Liberty; were the work done, there is in broad Europe one Free Man, and thou art he!

“Thus from the lowest depth there is a path to the loftiest height: and for the Poor also a Gospel has been published. Surely, if, as D’Alembert asserts, my illustrious namesake, Diogenes, was the greatest man of Antiquity, only that he wanted Decency, then by stronger reason is George Fox the greatest of the Moderns; and greater than Diogenes himself: for he too stands on the adamantine basis of his Manhood, casting aside all props and shoars; yet not, in half-savage Pride, undervaluing the Earth; valuing it rather, as a place to yield him warmth and food, he looks Heavenward from his Earth, and dwells in an element of Mercy and Worship, with a still Strength, such as the Cynic’s Tub did nowise witness. Great, truly, was that Tub; a temple from which man’s dignity and divinity was scornfully preached abroad: but greater is the Leather Hull, for the same sermon was preached there, and not in Scorn but in Love.”

George Fox’s “perennial suit,” with all that it held, has been worn quite into ashes for nigh two centuries; why, in a discussion on the
Perfectibility of Society
, reproduce it now? Not out of blind sectarian partisanship: Teufelsdröckh himself is no Quaker; with all his pacific tendencies, did we not see him, in that scene at the North Cape, with the Archangel Smuggler, exhibit fire-arms?

For us, aware of his deep Sansculottism, there is more meant in this passage than meets the ear. At the same time, who can avoid smiling at the earnestness and Boeotian simplicity (if indeed there be not an underhand satire in it), with which that “Incident” is here brought forward; and, in the Professor’s ambiguous way, as clearly perhaps as he durst in Weissnichtwo, recommended to imitation! Does Teufelsdröckh anticipate that, in this age of refinement, any considerable class of the community, by way of testifying against the “Mammon-god,”
and escaping from what he calls “Vanity’s Workhouse and Ragfair,” where doubtless some of them are toiled and whipped and hoodwinked sufficiently,—will sheathe themselves in close-fitting cases of Leather? The idea is ridiculous in the extreme. Will Majesty lay aside its robes of state, and Beauty its frills, and train-gowns, for a second-skin of tanned hide? By which change Huddersfield and Manchester, and Coventry and Paisley, and the Fancy-Bazaar, were reduced to hungry solitudes; and only Day and Martin
*
could profit. For neither would Teufelsdröckh’s mad daydream, here as we presume covertly intended, of levelling Society (
levelling
it indeed with a vengeance, into one huge drowned marsh!), and so attaining the political effects of Nudity without its frigorific or other consequences,—be thereby realized. Would not the rich man purchase a waterproof suit of Russia Leather; and the highborn Belle step forth in red or azure morocco, lined with shamoy: the black cowhide being left to the Drudges and Gibeonites of the world; and so all the old Distinctions reestablished?

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