t is appropriate that "Sartor Resartus" portrays an "Editor" patching together Teufelsdröckh's biography from six paper bags of fragments sent from Germany, for Carlyle himself had patched it together from the lives of German authors (see Tennyson, Sartor, 87-88, 191, n30)Virtually every detail of the biography of Diogenes Teufelsdröckhhimself a German writer-may be found in the sketches of the lives and works of German writers Musaeus, Fouqu&, Tieck, Hoffman, Richter, Werner, Heyne, and Novalis as well as Goethe and Schillerthat Carlyle composed between 1823 and 1830. Like the narratives that preceded it, the biography of Teufelsdröckh does not seek to represent Carlyle's life so much as to give it a meaningful shape by constructing a paradigm for the establishment of the literary career.
Carlyle's satirical poem, "Peter Nimmo," and his abandoned novel, "Illudo Chartis," both represent the narrative of loss of authority and religious faith in a comic mode, mocking the world of his youth. "Peter Nimmo" is based on the life of an eccentric scholar who studied for seemingly countless years at the University of Edinburgh. The poem begins with a conversion experience in which Nimmo, "drifting" with no "'fix'd point'. . . thro' some mountain-pass," has a vision and experiences a religious calling, a scene that anticipates, in the mock-spiritual mode, Teufelsdröckh's Everlasting Yea. But the poem treats Nimmo's election with all the skepticism of an Enlightenment critique of enthusiasm. Instead of bringing his wanderings to an end, Nimmo's search for religious truth at the university turns him into an eternal student, an "old wandering Jew" who never completes his studies and never achieves rest. The narrator finally destroys the illusion of Nimmo's divine election by putting out two pints of rum and secretly watching as Nimmo drinks it up and falls down "Dead-drunk." In its treatment of Nimmo's calling, the poem hints at how the university undermined Carlyle's own religious vocation and perhaps attempts to disguise his anxiety by treating the event comically. Written at a time when he had rejected a religious vocation but was still uncertain what vocation [20/21] might replace it, the poem discovers no faith, no closure, no authority, and no alternative career.
Just as "Peter Nimmo" treats comically the religious calling that Carlyle's parents had sought for him, so "Illudo Chartis," a fragment of a novel that Carlyle began and then quickly abandoned in 1826, parodies Carlyle's family and origins. The fragment has three distinct parts, demarcated by sharp shifts in tone. It begins in a comic mode similar to that of "Peter Nimmo." Like "Nimmo" as well, it does not discover a vocation for the hero, but, unlike "Nimmo," it abandons the comic mode and concludes in the dark mood of Werter. In "Peter Nimmo," the skeptical narrator is structurally and dramatically separated from the deluded questor, while the narrator of "Illudo Chartis" treats the hero, Stephen Corry, seriously, displacing the comedy from the hero to the hero's family.
In the first chapter, describing Stephen's origins in the "village of Duckdubs in the south of Scotland," Carlyle comically inverts the characteristics of his own family (King, 164). Corry's parents are of the "lowest sort," his mother a "rampageant quean" and his father an incompetent stonemason whose cottages fall down "before [his] trowel had done pargetting them" (164-65). A mock genealogical investigation discovers that Corry's ancestors were "weak, underfoot, unprosperous ... all walked with a stoop, all splayed out their feet at a given angle, and all spoke with the same Northumbrian burr" (165-66). The comic details of the narrative-the premature collapse of Corry's cottages and the debilitated male line-manifest the pressure of time on a family that has already fallen into history at the commencement of' Stephen Corry's life and is from the beginning exiled from the domestic idyll.
But when the narrative turns to Stephen himself, it changes tone, isolating him from a family corrupted by time and surrounding him with idyllic comforts. It separates him from the family by informing us that he is not like his father and has not inherited any qualities of the debilitated male line. It then situates Duckdubs in a womblike "little circular valley" that anticipates the idyllic Entephul (German for Duckpond) of Sartor Resartus (see Cabau, 193-99). By introducing the idyllic mood only after the comic opening, Carlyle displaces it from the aboriginal moment of the narrativejust as he had excluded it from the primary narrative structure of "Goethe" and "Schiller."
The idyllic mood is sustained only briefly, however, and when, at the [21/22] beginning of the second chapter, Stephen's father decides to send him to the University of Edinburgh "in the ever memorable year of 1795," the tone changes again- "TO all literary men," the narrator comments, "such an epoch is like a second birth, the cardinal point on which most of their future life revolves" (King, 1-67). Stephen Corry's history is divided by this "second birth" just as Schiller's and Goethe's lives are divided into two epochs. As previously noted, 1795 was the year in which Carlyle was born and with which he was to end his history of the French Revolution. It is only at this moment that Stephen is exiled from the idyll and enters the temporal realm of his already fallen family. The narrative therefore doubly excludes the idyllic moment by representing 1795, literally the year of Carlyle's birth, as the moment of Stephen's birth into time and consciousness.
The narrative indicts Stephen's father for exiling his son and for allowing the idyll to fall into decay. Rather than being grateful to his father for receiving an education, Stephen leaves his family "sick at heart" and overwhelmed by "a black deep of Discouragement" (168). Attending the university exiles Stephen from home, just as rejecting the law had exiled Schiller and Goethe. But at this point, still a year and a half before he wrote "Goethe," Carlyle could not envision a way to lead Stephen from despair to affirmation and the literary career. Stephen must remain, like the Schiller of the earlier biography, an eternal wanderer.
Carlyle encountered the same problems in the far more ambitious but also unfinished Wotton Reinfred, begun in early 1827 soon after he abandoned "Illudo Chartis." It starts where "Illudo Chartis" left off, in the mood of despair, but then attempts to move its hero beyond the moment of despair in order to enable him to return to the idyllic home. By writing first in the mode of Werter, then in the mode of Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle anticipated the narrative movement from the despair of Werter to the belief of Wilhelm Meister in "Goethe." But, unlike Goethe and Schiller, who become authors, Wotton remains a passive observer whose career is still undecided when the narrative breaks off.
Wotton Reinfred, like "Illudo Chartis," excludes the childhood idyll by displacing it from the beginning of the narrative. Chapter 1 commences in the mood of despair and unbelief that follows exile from the idyll (the idyll itself does not appear until chapter 2). It associates the idyll with Reinfred's mother, whose soul is "full of loftiest religion," [22/23] while his father, a "man of an equal but stern and indignant temper" is associated with the wrathful god who exiles sinners from the maternal paradise (14-15, 13). The death of his father when Wotton is still in "early boyhood" suggests that, since the father creates and sustains the idyll, it disappears with his death, which therefore constitutes exile (13). . "Illudo Chartis" also records the father's death, which apparently occurs sometime after he sends Stephen to the university. No mention is made of the death of the mother in either narrative. The stern father motif also occurs in other narratives, especially the lives of Burns and Goethe (CME, 1: 293; WM, 1:13). On the advice of the mate authorities who replace his father (his pastor and teacher), Wotton is sent, like Stephen Corry, from home to the university, where the study of logic, mathematics, and science, as well as French philosophy, lead him to the "utter negation" and "doubt" with which the narrative begins (24, 22). The encircling walls of the home (which recall the "circular valley" of "Illudo Chartis") are replaced by the "prison" walls that close him out of the childhood paradise (36).
The remainder of the narrative represents Wotton's quest to escape this prison and recover the childhood idyll. Yet he does not try to obtain the authority of the father who created the idyll, and the narrative persistently suggests that his rediscovered idylls are illusions. He first hopes to recover the idyll through love. When he meets Jane Montagu, the "black walls of his prison" melt away, revealing a new "garden of Eden," but this "celestial vision" quickly gives way to a "grim world" of Werterian despair when Jane's relatives forbid her to see Wotton and arrange her engagement to Edmund Walter, a "man of rank"(36, 39, 38). It is at this chronological moment that the narrative of Wotton Reinfred begins, Wotton's friend Bernard suggesting that in order to resolve his troubles he undertake a journey, the curative journey of novels like Wilhelm Meister in which the experience of the journey enables the questing hero to return to the idyllic home. But, unlike Melster's, Reinfred's "travels" last for only one brief chapter, at which point he discovers a new idyll, or "Elysium," the House of the Wold (55). His sojourn at the House of the Wold, during which he joins in lengthy discussions of transcendental philosophy, occupies about a third of the text; yet at the conclusion of these discussions, Wotton has not gained the authority to create his own idyll. Because he discovers the House accidentally, not through the rigors of the quest, he does not become a member of this ideal society; that it is truly an ideal society and an Elysium is also questionable. (Although the inhabitants discuss transcendentalism, it is not certain that they live transcendentally. Carlyle's semiparodic representation of the Coleridgean figure Dalbrook will be discussed below in chapter 3.) Appropriately, Reinfred is driven from the idyll by the unexpected appearance of Edmund Walter, the rival who had deprived him of his previous idyll, Jane Montagu.
The narrative concludes with Jane Montagu's own story--Wotton has encountered her while fleeing from the House of the Wold--which [23/24] reinforces the pattern of recovery and exile from the idyll. Although Jane's narrative is based roughly on the life of Mme. de Staël's Corinne, to whom Jane compares herself, it almost exactly repeats the narrative of Wotton's life. Like Wotton, Jane has lost her father early in life and become "an orphan wanderer," exiled from an idyllic childhood (130; see 134-35). Yet in the career of Jane Montagu, Carlyle introduces what is missing in the life of Wotton Reinfred. Jane longs, like Corinne, to be a poet, hoping that through this means she can gain independence from the interdicting family and the ability to create her own domestic idyll. But her quest, too, remains incomplete, because the strictures society places on women prevent her from achieving authority. By explaining that it was not her desire to reject Wotton she is just as much the victim of Edmund Walter and the interdicting family as he-and by suggesting a complementarity between her desire to be a poet and Wotton's freedom to be one, Jane's story offers the possibility of a reconciliation that would resolve the dramatic problem with which the narrative begins (that is, their separation) and so constitute a domestic idyll. But the resolution toward which the narrative appears to be moving does not provide the means for transferring poetic authority to Wotton. The manuscript breaks off at the point where Jane concludes her narrative, and neither Jane nor Wotton is any closer to completing the quest.
The biography of Diogenes Teufelsdröckh in Sartor Resartus attempts to solve the problems of the earlier fictions by borrowing structural elements from the biographies. Its explicit narrative structure is the two -part structure of the 1827-28 essays on Goethe and Schiller, the movement from unbelief to belief that excludes an initial moment of idyllic belief and implies an imminent three-part structure of belief/ unbelief/ recovered belief. In these essays, this structural sequence is elaborated through the search for the career and the topos of the journey. The sequence of careers-the religious ministry, the law, and literature as substitute for rel igion-corres ponds to the movement from belief to unbelief to recovery of belief The journey motif translates this sequence into the sequence of exile from the domestic idyll, desert wanderings, and the return home. just as the explicit two-part structure excludes the initial moment of belief in the case of Goethe, so it excludes the primal home and the religious career.
The biography of Teufelsdröckh employs the same structure. Teufelsdröckh is banished from the "Idyll" of Entephul, descends to the [24/25] nadir of the Everlasting No, and finally achieves the celestial heights of the Everlasting Yea. The primal idyll is excluded in several ways. First, the narrator informs us, in the chapter entitled "Genesis," that Teufelsdröckh was born not in Entephul but in the transcendental realm, "so that this Genesis of his can properly be nothing but an Exodus" (81). From birth, he begins wandering in the desert. Second, unlike Schiller, Richter, Heyne, Musxus, Peter Nimmo, and Carlyle himself, but like Goethe, Teufelsdröckh does not begin life with the intention of pursuing a religious career; he pursues only the two vocations of law and authorhood. At the same time that SartorResartus excludes the religious vocation, however, it introduces the element missing from the earlier fictions, the possibility of a literary vocation. Finally, the Editor, in patching together the biography from the six bags of autobiographical fragments, inserts the idyllic moment at the beginning of the narrative; but the first fragment quoted by the Editor comes from a bag marked with the zodiacal sign of Libra that, corresponding to the beginning of autumn, hardly seems appropriate for the beginning of life and a paradisal idyll.
The chapter entitled "Idyllic" goes out of its way to emphasize that Teufelsdröckh has been excluded from the idyll from the beginning. Initially, Entephul (Duckpond), where his family occupies a "Cottage, embowered in fruit-trees and forest-trees, evergreens and honeysuckles," does seem idyllic (83). Teufelsdröckh's honest parents resemble the good parents of Richter, Goethe, Burns, Heyne, Schiller, and Novalis.In addition to Schiller and Goethe, Carlyle most frequently draws on his depiction of Richter in producing his representation of Teufelsdröckh. The title of the chapter under discussion echoes his description of Richter's childhood as "idyllic" (CME, 2: 109-10). The chapter commences by attributing the "Happy season of Childhood" to "Kind Nature, that art to all a bountiful mother," and the transcendental plenitude of this natural world is represented by the piety of his foster mother who, like Wotton's and Novalis's mothers, teaches him "her own simple version of the Christian Faith" (90,99).
But, as in the earlier narratives, the possibility of exile from the maternal idyll exists from the beginning in the figure of the father. Whereas Teufelsdröckh's mother is "in the strictest acceptation Religious," his father attends church only as a "parade-duty" (99). The explicit contrast, which suggests that Andreas is not genuinely religious, associates him with the law rather than belief. While the mother is so closely identified with the idyll-she is mother nature-that she is indistinguishable from it, the father has created the idyll and is thus separate from it as the creator is separate from the creation. At [25/26] the same time, the father lives in his own creation and, as its author and authority, possesses the power to exclude his children from it. Whereas the mother imbues the idyll with a sense of unity, the father, who shares the "rugged [ness] " of Goethe's father and the sternness of Wotton Reinfred's, lays down the law and alienates the son from it (WM, 1: 13). The "paternal Cottage" that protects the idyll also "shuts us in" and compels Teufelsdröckh to "Obedience" (SR, go). Consequently, just as Schiller encounters the constraints of the duke, so Teufelsdröckh's "Active Power" is "hemmed in" and the timeless idyll becomes a prison (98).
Fathers and father substitutes exile Schiller, Stephen Corry, Wotton Reinfred, and Diogenes Teufelsdröckh from the domestic idyll by sending them to school. In Sartor Resartus, the father's authority becomes the authoritarian discipline of the Hinterschlag (Strike-behind) Gymnasium. The father exiles the child not only by removing him from the idyllic home but also by inserting him into a temporal, urban world ofunbelief. Significantly, the first objects that Teufelsdröckh encounters as he enters town on his way to school are the town's steeple-clock and jail, signs of his entry into the prison of finitude. The rural idyll becomes urban prison; the father as creator and sustainer of the idyll becomes oppressor who exiles the child from Eden.
As in Wotton Reinfred, Carlyle represents the loss of the idyll as the loss of its creator and sustainer, a loss emphasized in Sartor Resartus by repetition. The first instance is Teufelsdröckh's separation from his "real" father in heaven (Andreas Futteral is only a stepfather) which is coterminous with his entry into life and time. Teufelsdröckh expresses a longing to know this "unknown Father's name," but discovers that he is unknowable and therefore unable to sustain Teufelsdröckh's transcendental existence (86). (The special role of the father is suggested as well by Teufelsdröckh's total lack of interest in his unknown mother.) The unknown father exiles and orphans him in the temporal world just as Andreas will exile him by sending him to school, leaving him "orphaned and alone." Teufelsdröckh's second loss is the death of Andreas, which occurs when he is only twelve, another instance in which Teufelsdröckh's life parallels Wotton Reinfred's, and the early death of the father may also be found in the biographies of Richter and Werner. Werner, like Teufelsdröckh, subsequently becomes a "Wandering Jew" (CME, 1: 13 1). ) Because Teufelsdröckh learns simultaneously that Andreas has died and that Andreas is not his real father, he now feels "doubly orphaned" (107). The symbolic import of Carlyle's use of the orphan theme here is given special emphasis by the fact that this event is distinctly nonautobiographical. Carlyle did not lose his father as a child; indeed, his father [26/27] was still alive when, at the age of thirty-five, he wrote Sartor Resartus, the last of a series of "autobiographical" narratives in which the father dies. The death of the father represents the loss of the idyll, since the father creates and sustains it, but it also represents exile from Eden as punishment of the rebellious son who desires to possess the idyll for himself. In this respect, the narrative imaginatively kills off the father in order to enable the son to replace him. Since killing off the figure of authority has the immediate consequence of destroying the authority that sustains the idyll, which must then be restored and recreated, Sartor Resartus opens up the possibility that a rebellious son can become an authority, an author.
By exiling his son from the transcendental realm and sending him to a "Rational University," the father also deprives him of religious belief. just as Adam and Eve are exiled from the garden because they desire knowledge, Teufelsdröckh is exiled from the world of his father by the education that undermines his religious faith. At the university, Teufelsdröckh, like Goethe, feels the "Harmattan-wind" or "fever-paroxysms of Doubt" and falls under the spell of "the nightmare, Unbelief " (SR, 186, 114; CME, 1: 216). Their education substitutes authoritarian law, which divides everything into right and wrong, good and evil, for unified belief. The legal career comes to represent for Teufelsdröckh, as it does for Schiller and Goethe, imprisonment by the laws of rational economy.
Believing, like Schiller, that he is destined for a "high[er] vocation," Teufelsdröckh "breaks off his neck-halter" (Richter also "broke loose" from his first vocation to become a literary man) and rejects the legal profession (SR, 119, 121; CME, 2:114). But, unlike Schiller, he does not immediately take up the literary profession because, in the process of freeing him from the imprisoning structures of the law of the father, his rebellion destroys those structures and leaves him without any form of belief. At this point, he resembles instead the Goethe of Werter, who has not yet achieved the "high calling" of literature. Teufelsdröckh's search for knowledge continues the enlightenment project against which it rebels. His wanderings begin when he walks to school, intensify when he escapes the law and begins searching for a place in society, and reach their height after he is rejected by Blumine. Not only does his rebellion divide him from the still center of the domestic idyll, it thrusts him into a life of restless, apparently endless, wandering.
Because knowledge is never certain, the search for it can never [27/28] end. Teufelsdröckh needs knowledge to obtain authority, but he can only achieve authority and rest when he stops seeking knowledge. In the prelapsarian idyll, where belief is stable, everything is known and the search for knowledge is unnecessary as well as unthinkable-the mind is unaware of itself. In the search for knowledge, the mind becomes aware of itself and the limits of its knowledge; it becomes selfconscious. Carlyle borrowed Novalis's philosophy of entsagen — the renunciation of self- consciousness — to solve Teufelsdröckh's dilemma, and Carlyle was also drawing on Wilhelm Meister's Travels, subtitled The Renunciants (CME, 2:15; SR, 191; see also 186, n. 4). Like Teufelsdröckh, Novalis discovers this philosophy after the loss of his youthful love, Sophie (CME, 2:12-17). Only after Novalis and Teufelsdröckh attain a new belief by adopting the philosophy of renunciation do they become authors. The son's self-negation gives him the authority to restore his lost father to the world; Teufelsdröckh discovers that nature is not a dead machine but "godlike and my Father's" (SR, 188). Teufelsdröckh's discovery of his vocation as author of a "new Mythus" completes the unfinished narratives of Carlyle's previous fictions — Peter Nimmo, Stephen Corry, and Wotton Reinfred do not discover any profession — and places him in the company of Goethe and Schiller (194).
Contents last modified 2001; reformatted 2006 & 2015