arlyle's works represent an attempt to resolve dilemmas raised by what he and his contemporaries perceived as a revolutionary shift of authority in virtually all realms of discourse and institutions of power in western Europe. From his vantage, it appeared not only that authority had shifted but that the transcendental grounds for it had been undermined. Empiricism and individual reason had replaced the discourses of tradition and transcendental revelation, and democratic and individualistic institutions had replaced hierarchical ones. Instead of originating in an absolute and transcendental source outside of society, the meaning of discourse and the legitimacy of power now appeared to derive from the system of relations that constituted society and its discourses (Foucault, chap. 8). Since authority authors and authorizes both discourses that ground social being — in the form of belief-and social relations that establish ethical principles — in the form of the law-both the meaning of beliefs and the justice of the law were affected by this shift.
Carlyle shared the anxiety of many of his contemporaries that a self-defining system-- of signifiers, social relations, or beliefs — could not produce meaning, order, or ethical standards, that with no transcendental authority to guarantee meaning and value, the world becomes meaningless and lawless. Yet he believed that the revolutionary overturning of authority had become necessary: his writings turned again and again to the subject of revolution — the French Revolution, the English Revolution, the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, and the industrial revolution. By attempting to resolve the dialectic between revolution and authority, Carlyle sought both to establish his own authority and to recuperate authority in the social domain.
Carlyle and his contemporaries represented this shift in authority [1/2] as a crisis that arose from the dissolution of the theocratic government of the Middle Ages and its replacement by secular political economy. Like Burke and Coleridge before him, Carlyle was concerned with the rise of modern state capitalism and blamed its shortcomings on the separation of church and state as well as the destruction of religious and political authority. The remainder of this introductory chapter will review the debate on authority in the early modern period that gave rise to the critiques of Carlyle's predecessors, Burke and Coleridge — critiques that represented the history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as a revolutionary crisis and dictated a return to theocracy as its solution.
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Nineteenth-century writers frequently represented the governments of the Middle Ages as theocracies in which authority was both unitary and transcendental because it originated in the divine will. Authority, in this sense, can be seen as the ability to author definitive structures of belief and codes of behavior. Both in the papacy and in European monarchies, authority had been represented as moving down through a graduated hierarchy, from the divinity "on high" to pope or monarch, to aristocracy or episcopate, and finally to the people (Kern, 7; see Carter, 29-31; Brown, 70). Since all authority derived from divinity, the state could be considered a theocracy in which religious belief and social order had been ordained by a single transcendental source. The Reformation and the democratic revolution appeared to have destroyed the theocratic principle in favor of the separation of church and state. Once religion and polity were treated as separate institutions and discourses with their own internal principles, the necessity for their relationship disappeared and the separation of church and state ensued. At the same time, the locus of' authority was shifting within both church and state.
The debate on religious authority revolved around the problem of revelation, the discourse of belief. By arguing that individuals could discern God's will by reading the Bible on their own, Protestants shifted authority from the church hierarchy to the ordinary believer, from a corporate body to individuals. The advance of this shift can be illustrated by sects like the Quakers, who sought to eliminate all mediation of the divine word by claiming that one does not even need the Bible to discover divine revelation; one need only look into one's heart. The higher criticism — which in the eighteenth century reinterpreted the Bible as a collection of myths that could only be interpreted [2/3] through a knowledge of its history-further undermined biblical authority. By the nineteenth century, it appeared that each individual would become a sect unto himself or herself, spurring the proliferation of what Matthew Arnold was to call "hole-in-the- corner churches" (Culture and Anarchy, 28). Concommitant with these shifts in the authority of religious discourse were attacks on the hierarchical principle through which the institution of the church was governed, the Reformation substituting less hierarchical or antihierarchical schemes like episcopacy, presbyterianism, and congregationalism for the Roman hierarchy (see Bendix, 293)- In the nineteenth century, dissenters and utilitarians alike successfully challenged the union of church and state and the privileged position of the Anglican hierarchy.
What concerned Carlyle and other nineteenth-century critics was that this proliferation of private beliefs seemed less like the production of a new belief than the destruction of the old. It has become a commonplace of intellectual history that while the leaders of the Reformation did not challenge transcendental authority itself, since that would have contradicted their fundamental religious beliefs, their claim that no dogmatic revelation (of the Roman church) could be proven true and authoritative was a form of skepticism (Popkin, xix-xxi). Heterodox skeptics did not have far to go when, arguing that revelation was never consistent with reason, they denied the validity of revelation in favor of rational inquiry and empirical observation. The authority of discourse need no longer derive from the position of the speaker in the hierarchy or from tradition, but from its own internal consistency. Any belief authorized merely by tradition or by a member of the hierarchy could be considered a superstitious delusion. Carlyle's significance for the nineteenth century was, in part, that he was an heir both to the tradition of Protestant reform-the religion of his parents-and to Scottish skepticism — the intellectual milieu of the University of Edinburgh. The problem, as he saw it, was how to author a belief to replace the faith in which he could no longer believe.
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During the same era, the authority of the hierarchical state was being challenged, and political discourse, like religious discourse, had begun to represent authority as vested in the individuals that constituted the state rather than in monarchical hierarchy. Seventeenthcentury discourse on political authority was dominated by the debate between proponents of patriarchy and of social contract, the theory of patriarchy reaching its fullest articulation in response to the challenge from the theory of social contract. I distinguish the rise of an explicit, written doctrine of patriarchy from the origins of patriarchy in Western culture; on the former, see Schochet, who argues that it does not become a full-fledged doctrine of political obligation until 1603 (16, 98); on the latter, see Lerner. Patriarchal theory — an extension and justification of the theory of divine right — drew an analogy between the absolute authority of the monarch over his kingdom and the absolute authority of the father over his family. Locke's refutation of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha - the fullest articulation of patriarchal theory — provided the first complete elaboration of the opposing theory of social contract. The authority of parents over their children, [3/4] he pointed out, is not absolute, since it exists only during the period of their dependency. Parents cannot bind their children to a contract; instead, each child must, upon reaching adulthood, agree to a contract establishing the relationship between them. Similarly, each generation has consented, either implicitly or explicitly, to the contract that determines the relationship between the government and its citizens (Two Treatises, 363-64; see Schochet, 247-53). The authority of the contract derives not from divine ordination in the past, but from consent of the people in the present. Consequently, Locke argued that governors obtain their authority not through heredity-a divinely conferred ordination-but through individual merit, by choice of the "ablest" to govern (Two Treatises, 35; see Schochet, 266). In addition, contemporary historians could point to changes in the English constitution--the former existence of feudalism, for example--as proof that government changes and that, therefore, it is not passed along genetically in unchanging form (see Pocock).
The theory of contract had two significant consequences. First, it shifted authority to the people and to relationships among individuals in society. Second, it justified changes in social institutions, introducing the possibility of altering the contract each time it was renewed as opposed to assuming that a single inalterable institution had been created by the divine authorization of primal monarchy. If government did not uphold its obligations under the contract, the people might legitimately overthrow the government, an option precluded by the discourse of patriarchy (Two Treatises, 432-34).
The theory of social contract need not challenge monarchy, just as the insistence on individual conscience and reason need not challenge belief in God, but it does alter the grounds of political authority-the terms of the discourse in which it is discussed and the representation of its institutions-just as the Reformation altered the grounds of religious faith and the form of religious institutions. As long as authority was regarded as transcendental, it took on a hierarchical form, represented as emanating downward from a single central source "on high" into the social mass below. In the new discourse of the parliamentary ruling class, hierarchy tended to disappear, as government became representative of, rather than superior to, the people (Bendix, 318-19 Pitkin, Intro.). The same skeptics who dismissed revelation and orthodox belief in favor of reason and empiricism could easily extend the theory of social contract to dismiss monarchy in favor of representational democracy. When authority became a matter of the internal consistency of a discourse rather than imposition from above or outside, law and social order became a matter of establishing the principles that were to govern relationships among individuals — a social [4/5] contract-rather than a natural order (like the family) imposed by an external authority. Nineteenth-century critics of democracy were concerned that under such circumstances there was no certain way of finding an "ablest" to govern the state, and they consequently revived the patriarchal or paternalistic argument that there could be no social order that is not, to some degree, a hierarchical order of governors and governed (D. Roberts, passim).
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These changes in the political organization of the state coincided with changes in its economic organization, the rise of democracy coinciding with the emergence of modern state capitalism. Society was understood as a series of contracts among competing individuals instead of a corporate body united as a single family.
It is no coincidence that the metaphor used to articulate the new representation of polity-the contract-was borrowed from the discourse of economy. As the metaphor for government shifted from family to contract, the word economy came to designate the workings of the larger system of the polity rather than the management of a household; it was only at this time that economy emerged as a distinct discourse that could become the foundation for other discourses (Galbraith, 31 passim). Rationality itself came to be considered in terms of economy as the internal constitution and apportionment of functions within a particular realm, including the principle that discourses and institutions are self-consistent systems (MacIntyre, 25; see Brown, 71-72; Graff, 41).
As the urban middle class began to assume political power, it asserted itself through a reorganization of the socioeconomic realm. In the eighteenth century, Parliament, as representative of individual property owners, took control of governmental finance, effecting a shift from an economy regulated by royal authority to a laissez-faire economy that favored the interests of the individual (Bendix, 307). At the same time, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations codified the discourse of political economy as a self-sufficient system isolated from social ends. Smith's opening discussion of the division of labor established the principle of economic production by discrete, isolated, and interchangeable persons, depicting the nation as a collectivity of free individuals — merchants competing to sell their goods and laborers competing to sell their labor — in a self-regulating and self-enclosed system . Principles of value, justice, or fairness, it was argued, could [5/6] not be guaranteed by the intervention of a divinely authorized government because that 'government was external to the self-sufficient economic system; such principles must evolve from within the economic system of self-interest. Ethics had become a function of the system rather than a belief according to which it operated.
Proponents of Smith's doctrine were, generally speaking, advocates for increased democracy; and, conversely, critics of the industrial economy tended to be defenders of the old political order as well as supporters of established religion. What concerned the latter, in economics as in politics and religion, was the absence of any higher authority to which one could appeal on questions of justice and the fear that the old hierarchy, which they identified with chivalric ideals of justice, was being replaced by a new elite that was concerned only with pursuing its own private interests. It seemed that theocracy as a system that transmitted religious belief into social practice had been replaced by political economy in which belief was effaced by self-interest, that theocracy had given way to an anarchic battle for individual dominance.
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As the discourse of authority was changing during this era, the authority of discourse could not be unaffected, and these representations of the movement from theocracy to political economy found a parallel in representations of language. The representation of money, to which words had long been compared, altered along with changes in political economy (see Shell, 1-11). Under monarchy, only heads of state had the authority to coin money because the value of coins was guaranteed, or authorized, by them; conversely, the ability to coin money could be used by rulers to establish their authority (Galbraith, 28-29). The phrase "the king's English" implied a similar royal prerogative with respect to language (the OED comments that the expression was apparently "suggested by phrases like 'to deface the king's coin'"). In the modern era, the grounds of meaning and value, oflanguage and money, shifted from monarchical authorization to the internal organization of the monetary and linguistic systems. Like religion, polity, and economy, language and money became self-enclosed systems; meaning and value were determined by historical relationships within the linguistic and monetary systems, not by reference to an external authority. When banknotes appeared in the seventeenth century and the first paper currency in the eighteenth, their value was guaranteed by [6/7] the gold they represented and for which they could be exchanged at any time. But since the value of these bills depended as much on the authority of the inscriptions vouching for their authenticity as on the gold they represented, it became apparent that money would retain its value as long as people were willing to exchange it at a relatively fixed rate (Morgan, 19, 21-22). Accordingly, in the nineteenth century, currencies that were not convertible to precious metal were first introduced.
Such currencies correspond to semiotic representations of language as a system in which signifiers obtain their meaning through their relationships with one another-as, in the monetary system, money gains value-and not in relationship to a signified-or money backed by gold. The representation of languages as internally consistent systems by twentieth-century linguistics was already implicit in the historical linguistics of the previous century and a half. The principle that meaning can only be determined by examining words in context, the principle of historical philology, implied that language gains its meaning by reference to itself, not to some authority outside of itself. In political economy, the individual became free, not to create money, but to create value that could be translated into money. In the domain of language, the individual became free to create meaning. As in the other areas, these changes created anxieties, in this case about the validity of language and the ability to create and control meaning. Misusing the king's English, altering its meaning, was to make valueless words; individuals who coined their own words could be regarded as counterfeiters who upset the social hierarchy by violating the decorum of language as established by the aristocracy.
These anxieties about linguistic production cannot be separated from major changes in literary production. Like "political economy," which appeared in the early modern era, the domain of "literature" arose only in the nineteenth century. The patronage system-which gave considerable control over the production of writing to the upper classes who supported authors-reinforced the idea that the aristocracy controlled linguistic coinage, while the emergence of the literate middle class in the eighteenth century gave rise to the bookseller system, in which authors were supported by the profits on sales of books that were now commercial commodities (Kernan, chap. 2). As the market of literate readers widened, authors were "freed" to produce texts for any segment of it they chose. The opening decades of the century [7/8] saw the founding of the Whig Edinburgh Review, followed by the Tory Quarterly Review, the philosophic radicals' London and Westminster Review, and hundreds of other periodicals and newspapers representing every social and political faction. As opposed to the patronage system, in which writers were authorized to promulgate the views of a unitary hierarchy, the bookseller system enabled authors to represent hundreds of individual social factions, so literature became "a locus of political contention rather than a terrain of cultural consensus" (Eagleton, 39). Literary texts no longer reflected hierarchical authority but the demands of the popular market.
Yet nineteenth-century representations of literature frequently contradicted this fact of the marketplace, depicting the writer as a visionary free from its constraints. Rather than representing literature as part of the new social order dominated by political economy, the critics of political economy would represent it as an alternative to commerce. The immense explosion of print in the nineteenth century meant that an author could directly reach an enormous audience compared to those available in previous centuries. A writer like Carlyle had the potential for enormous influence, and there is little doubt that his writings did, in many ways — both positive and negative — have a tremendous impact on his contemporaries. But the fact that buyers in the marketplace decided what would be read meant that his was always only one of many contending voices. Although writers had been freed to create their own systems of meaning, this artistic freedom was at odds with the determinations of the marketplace. This study will consequently concern itself with why Carlyle's career as a man of letters was largely a career of frustration.
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Carlyle, Burke, and Coleridge belong to the tradition identified in Raymond Williams's Culture and Society as providing a critique of political economy while at the same time creating problematic alternatives-in part, it may be argued, because they accepted some of political economy's fundamental premises. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, it appeared to Carlyle's predecessors that England and Europe had abandoned theocracy in favor of political economy, and they developed the analysis of political economy that represented this historical change not merely as a shift of authority but as the destruction of it. Their representations of historical change expressed their anxiety that the absence of transcendental authority meant the [8/9] absence of any kind of authority or social order, that neither belief nor law, neither order noriustice could exist if social institutions were only self-enclosed systems. The idyll of theocracy and patriarchy, they concluded, had given way to the warfare of political economy. Carlyle, like Burke and Coleridge before him, longed to return to that prelapsarian idyll; yet, while he extended Burke's and Coleridge's critique of political economy, he did not share their belief that the religious and political institutions of the past could serve the present. Consequently, his writings manifest, in a particularly acute form, the Victorian desire both to recapture the transcendental idyll and to remain on the battlefield of history.
The ideal of theocracy underlies both Burke's and Coleridge's defenses of the union of church and state, of the church establishment and the British constitution. Burke's Reflections on the Revolution was prompted no less by his antipathy for the atheism of the revolutionaries than by his distrust of their politics (xv, xxii). He argued that since religion was the basis of civil society, the French were undermining the social order when they rejected religion and the established church (43, 102-9, 113). Political authorities, he wrote, "stand in the person of God," holding "power" only insofar as they "act in trust" for the nation and are accountable to the "Author, and Founder of Society"; without religion, power is unbounded and corruption follows (105-6). Like Burke, Coleridge, who sustained an interest in the relationship between church and state from the 1790S to the publication of On the Constitution of the Church and State in 1830, argued that the church should check the abuse of political power (xi, 51). One should note that although Coleridge's Constitution of Church and State did not appear until after Carlyle's ideas were fairly well formed, it had been in progress for a long time and many of its ideas had appeared in Coleridge's earlier works.
Both Burke and Coleridge were concerned that the rise of commerce was encouraging the dissolution of church and state. Throughout his analysis of the revolution, Burke used the worthless paper currency, the assignat, as a symbol for the moral emptiness of the revolutionary government (273-75; see also 44, 6o, 62). He also contrasted the genuine social "contract" that constitutes the "state" with commercial contracts that are "temporary and perishable," arguing that the proper contract is "but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact" (1l0). He thus reverted to an earlier form of contract theory in which the contract made by the first generation remains binding on succeeding generations, as opposed to Locke's contract, which is renewed by each [10/11] generation and can be dissolved in appropriate circumstances. The association of the revolutionary government with the valueless assignat and the temporary contract both implied that the government was not, as it should be, authorized by a higher authority. Not surprisingly, Burke feared that the false "worship" of "trade and manufacture, the gods of our economical politicians" would lead to an equally disastrous revolution in England (90). Coleridge similarly argued that the state should counterbalance the commercial spirit and that the landed gentry should not be involved in commerce, since their role 'was to hold their land "in trust" for the nation (Constitution, 51; Sermons, 223, see also 170-94, 223-29). Although Burke was aware that the age of chivalry was dead, and Coleridge that the landed aristocracy was learning to treat its land not as a trust for the nation but as a commercial commodity, both writers insisted that the commercial middle class must be held in check by an ethical discourse like chivalry or Christianity, and by the institutions of the landed aristocracy and the Anglican church (Reflections, 87; Sermons, 141-49).
Carlyle would join Burke and Coleridge in their critique of middle-class democracy and shared their longing for a return to hierarchical authority. He, too, understood that rationality had come under the dominion of economy, arguing as early as "Signs of the Times" (1829) that political economy was becoming the model for all discourses and institutions. "Signs of the Times" claimed that the requirement that institutions and discourse be rationalized by efficiency, profit, and utility coincided with the dismissal of the requirement that they possess meaningfulness or value, in other words, that Smith, De Lolme, and Bentham had substituted a mechanical system — the "physical, practical, economical condition, as regulated by public laws" — for one concerned with "the moral, religious, spiritual condition of the people" (CME, 2:67; emphasis added). Carlyle argued further that principles of freedom and individual liberty encouraged the economic individualism that atomized the nation and destroyed social responsibility, replacing the Christian gospel with a mechanistic gospel of profit and loss (CME, 2:60-61; for Carlyle's knowledge of Political Economy). Insisting that social order can exist only through transcendental authority, he concluded that the gospel of profit and loss would never produce the equivalent of the moral order implicit in the Crusades, the Reformation, or the English Revolution (CME, 2:71).
The fundamentals of this critique of political economy underlay [10/11] nearly all of Carlyle's subsequent social criticism, but he constantly reformulated it in his search for authority. While he shared Burke's and Coleridge's belief that the restoration of authority required a restoration of hierarchy, he did not share their view that this restoration could occur through returning power to the existing landed aristocracy. As a dissenter and a Scotsman from the artisan class, he regarded the Church of England and the aristocracy as corrupt and hopelessly outmoded (a single aristocrat, he calculated, ate the fruit of "6,666 men's labour" and only killed partridges in return [TNB, 159-6o]). Although he shared many assumptions of the would-be revivers of patriarchalism, he also shared the Enlightenment assumptions underlying the theory of the social contract. Whereas Burke and Coleridge sought a return from revolution to authority, Carlyle sought a return to authority through revolution.
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The key issue in nineteenth-century discourse on authority was, indeed, whether revolution destroys or restores authority. The French Revolution, which seemed to epitomize and concentrate in its short history the whole history of shifting authority that had been taking place over the past few centuries, became the type of all revolutions, the ground where one tested one's position on revolution. What distinguished Carlyle's contribution to this debate was that, while he was an heir to the conservative tradition of Burke and Coleridge that represented revolution as the destruction of authority, he combined this tradition with a more radical one that represented revolution as a search for and means of recovering authority.
Burke's opposition to the French Revolution derived in large part from his particular conception of authority and social change. His depiction of the British constitution as an evolving set of institutions and social practices underlay his argument that the state must be able to change in order to conserve itself Thus he did not oppose change, but his use of the term "conservation" made explicit his view of change as a return to the principles of the constitution (24). Authority resided neither in the divine right of the monarch nor in electoral franchise, but in the constitution regarded as the accumulation of traditional wisdom about political governance (29-30). Whereas Burkean conservatism would preserve the constitution, revolution was the "solution [i. e., dissolution] of continuity" provided by it (20). From Burke's perspective, the Jacobin constitution had no authority because it was [11/12] created ex nihilo by a small group of middle-class lawyers and was completely cut off from the existing social order. Burke implied that the authors of the English constitution were disinterested because its creation had transcended the lives and specific interests of any particular group of men, while the French constitution was limited to the vision of a special-interest group. Like Burke's British constitution, Coleridge's "statesman's manual" (the Bible) would provide a ground for religious and political institutions, and he opposed it to the abstract, theoretical speculations of political scientists, which are limited by the human understanding (Sermons, 31). Both Burke and Coleridge, like Arnold later, opposed "Jacobinism" because they believed that it substituted abstractions-by which they meant a conception of society as a self-enclosed system-for the concrete plenitude of the British constitution grounded in transcendental authority (Reflections, 46-47, 69; Sermons, 28-32, 63)
Carlyle would concur that political order and religious belief must be grounded in divine justice and truth, but he would favor revolution nonetheless, not because it aimed to create a new constitution or sacred text, but because it destroyed the old. Burke's and Carlyle's views of the English Revolution manifest the difference in their orientation. For Burke, the English Revolution was the glorious revolution of 1688. Its aim, he argued, was not to do away with the old order, but to preserve the ancient constitution that was being undermined by James II (35ff,)- Carlyle, on the other hand, sympathized with the Puritans and the revolution of 1640 which, like the French Revolution, committed regicide, the symbolic destruction of monarchy and the established order. In his view, the Puritans had acted in the name of God, attempting to reestablish society on the basis of divine law rather than the principles of the constitution. In so characterizing Carlyle, I am looking forward to his renewed interest in the civil wars in the late 1830s; but his sympathy with the Puritans and the Scottish rebels, whom he considered his own ancestors, was lifelong (see CME, 4:178).
Burke and Coleridge assumed that existing discourses and institutions still possessed authority and could be reinvigorated, whereas Carlyle thought they had become empty forms. In the case of the French Revolution, Carlyle, like Burke, complained that in destroying the old order the French had not created a new one; but, unlike Burke, he thought that the destruction of the old order was necessary. The French Revolution, he was to argue early on, was not the cause of' change, but a product of the deep need for change. "All Europe is in a state of disturbance, of Revolution" and the "whole frame of Society is rotten," he insisted; it "must go for fuel-wood" (TNB, 184; see [12/13] CME, 2:82). Whereas Burke depicted existing institutions as flexible and able to evolve, Carlyle represented them as rotten and hollow, a "thin rind of Habit" that no longer embodied authority (CL, 6:302; see CL, 6:52). In both instances, he rejected the text-Burke's British constitution and Coleridge's statesman's manual — through which his predecessors had authorized the status quo, and sought instead to discover the authority that could author a new text and new institutions.
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As we shall see, Carlyle regarded the French Revolution as necessary and was remarkably approving in his representation of it, but he also saw it merely as the means to an end, as the necessary destruction of the old order preliminary to a creation of the new. It could destroy outworn authority, but it possessed no authority of its own, nor could it establish authority. For Carlyle the revolution was still taking place; it had annihilated the old order, but the authority to create a new order had not yet been discovered. The restoration of authority that he advocated challenged emerging middle-class democracy but would also be challenged and rejected by it.
Consequently, his lifelong search for authority was endless. Part of the problem lay in the ambiguous concept of authority itself. Historically, authority has two basic denotations: (1) the power or right to enforce obedience; (2) the power or right to influence or inspire belief. Yet the adjectives that correspond to these two forms of authority, "authoritative" and "authoritarian," have opposing honorific and pejorative connotations (Carter, 7). The authoritative and authoritarian tend to be aligned with belief and the law, respectively. When a society's belief does not correspond to the law, the society experiences the law not as authoritative, but as authoritarian. Such a society will rebel in the name of an authority with which it seeks to merge so as to avoid alienation in the law external to itself. But, from another point of view, society comes to regard this new belief as equally false because it is specific to the rebelling faction, it is not authoritative. In the name of society at large, society suppresses the rebellious faction, which again is moved to rebel against the law. The cyclic alternation between rebellion and suppression constitutes, for Carlyle, the fundamental course of' history. The theocratic idyll in which law is coextensive with belief exists only in a moment of transcendence that is antithetical to the historical cycle in which belief and the law alternate. While Carlyle depicts all beliefs and laws as representations that are necessarily [13/14] historical, he longs to return to and make permanent the theoretical moment when those representations coincide with the transcendental, and so escape history. (Jacques Lacan's imaginary and symbolic realms have contributed to my understanding of the dialectic described in this paragraph; it will be further explored in chapter 2).
Carlyle's search for authority first led him to the German Romantics, who depicted the man of letters as capable of assuming the authority to recover the theocratic idyll. His attempts to imagine and represent the recuperation of authority would encounter and struggle with the problems that arise from trying to make literature and the author transcendentally authoritative. He was to anticipate later critics in discovering that the Romantic religion of art, far from recovering the transcendental and escaping individualism, merely intensified interiority. This problem led him, in the latter part of his career, to seek the recovery of authority in the hero as king. Yet even as Carlyle moved away from privileging the authority of the man of letters, he did not personally abandon literature-that is to say, he did not quit writing. By continuing to write from a perspective that assumed the transcendental authority of literature, he both enabled a profound critique of Victorian society and disabled literature as a force within that society. In the process of establishing and asserting his own authority and seeking the grounds of social authority, he enacted the dilemma of literature.
Last modified 21 June 2007