[Chapter 2, note 9, of the author's Carlyle and the Search for Authority, which the Ohio State University Press published in 1991. It appears in the Victorian web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright. not in print version indicates a link to material not in the original print version. GPL]

In addition to the biographical and fictional narratives Carlyle used as resources for his construction of Teufelsdröckh's career, he undoubtedly drew on Wilhelm Meister, in which the father/son relationship anticipates Sartor Resartus in a number of ways. Wilhelm comes into conflict with his father over his career, Wilhelm wishing to study art instead of going into commerce like his father. Wilhelm's father had sold off his own father's collection of art, including a painting of a king's son dying of love for the father's bride. (Similarly, Schiller's Don Carlos — a play concerned with monarchical authority involves a father who condemns his son to death and marries his son's beloved, turning his Garden of Eden into a desert of despair [LS, 64]). While on his journey, Wilhelm is introduced to the works of Shakespeare, who becomes his substitute father, and inevitably becomes obsessed with the play that revolves around the relationship of father and son, Hamlet (1: 244). Finally, the death of Wilhelm's father frees him to commit himself to art and the search for knowledge, and Wilhelm reaches an important stage when he recognizes in himself the father of Felix and adopts Mignon as his daughter.


Victorian Website Overview Thomas Carlyle Contents

Last modified 5 October 2001