hile "Sartor Resartus" represents Diogenes Teufelsdröckh as a sansculotte who becomes an authority, its first readers were more ready to perceive its author as a revolutionary than an authority. The London publishers found it so unconventional that they would not risk publishing it while the political scene remained unsettled. (Whether or not he might have found a publisher under other circumstances, Carlyle became convinced that nothing could be done while the English had their minds on the reform bill (CL, 5:376, 436, 6:14, 16, 24, 64).) This rejection led Carlyle to doubt whether the man of letters could become an authority. The reaction of the publishers anticipated the reaction of friends like John Sterling, who objected that Sartor's style was "barbarous" and "lawless," that its neologisms were "without any authority" (SR, 309-11). Carlyle responded to the charge in the terms he had used to discuss revolution in SartorResartus itself: "If one has thoughts not hitherto uttered in English Books, I see nothing for it but that you must use words not found there, must make words." Arguing that "revolution" had already undermined "the whole structure of our Johnsonian-English," he defended a style that attempted to forge a new language in its place (CL, 8:135; see TNB, 264). Although born of his desire to "prophesy," to "make men hear [his] voice," Sartor Resartus remained unheard for two years while he worked toward a new conception of literature (CL, 5 — 43, TNB, 152).
What Sterling and the other critics sought was a point of reference, a shared or standard language, from outside of the text. Carlyle, too, sought a shared language, but found it necessary to create a new one because the old shared language had become meaningless. Consequently, the Carlylean hero is self- authorizing. Teufelsdröckh casts [46/47] off the clothes, the profession and worldview, conferred on him by society, and determines to make his own clothes, to author his own myths. Whereas royal authority had been established with reference to a system of primogeniture external to itself, the hero's authority is established through his own ability.
As a result, Sartor Resartus, loaded with neologism and metaphor, is not only "hyper-metaphorical" but highly self-referential (293). Neologism and metaphor, a new word and the substitution of a new word or image for another, are both attempts to represent what cannot be represented through the existing vocabulary. Since Teufelsdröckh's language is, at least theoretically, entirely new, since it cannot obtain meaning by reference to any previous text, it must become entirely self- referential. The network of clothing metaphors in Sartor Resartus defines itself in relation to the network of organic metaphors, which in turn defines itself in relation to other networks of imagery, until they all become one vast, self-defining network. In fact, the web or network-as in the figure of weaving-is one of the principal metaphors of the book. Furthermore, any object or place that might appear to refer to some literal object outside of the symbolical pattern ultimately tends to be absorbed into the metaphorical network. For example, Teufelsdröckh's wanderings enact the Editor's statement that his birth is an exodus; his "watch-tower" home becomes the "watch-tower 11 of German philosophy (2o, 6); he sees a clock and jall on his way to his first school and then becomes a prisoner of time (127); as a child, he "sew[s]" books into a "volume" and as an adult writes a "Clothes-Volunie" (102, 79). Finally, many of the textual practices that readers have found characteristic of Sartor Resartus — the dislocation of chronology, the use of character as "motif" or "general concept," the elaboration of binary oppositions, and the 11 multi-levelled fiction" in which the principal narrator edits and comments on writings by Teufelsdröckh and Hofrath Heuschrecke-all serve to intensify Sartor's self-referentiality15.
Carlyle's early readers seemed to have been most concerned about this hermetic tendency of Sartor Resartus. A reader for one of the publishers that rejected it thought it "doubtful" that the work "would take with the public" (CL, 6:6, n1). Sterling complained that instead of employing familiar metaphors and fables, instead of using "Old" figures to present "New" ideas, Carlyle persisted in confronting the reader with tropes and figures that "the common reader must find perfectly bewildering" ((SR, 311-12). Emerson, although among the earliest admirers of Sartor, reinforced Sterling's objections when he complained that its unfathomable diction seemed to indicate that the "Prophet ... despair[ed] of finding a contemporary audience" (RWE, 98).16 Carlyle acknowledged to both Emerson and Mill (who had made similar criticisms) that he had not gauged his audience adequately, concluding, "I [47/48] never know or can even guess what or who my audience is, or whether I have any audience" (CL, 6:449; see 7:264-66). Mill complained, among other things, that Carlyle's phraseology "falls to bring home [his] meaning to the comprehension of most readers" (Earlier Letters, 12:176). When he later published Carlyle's "Mirabeau," Mill first attempted to smooth out some of its "quaint" usages and then defended its style to his friends (see 202, 307, 334).
If authors are self-authorizing and their texts self-referential, they risk enclosing themselves in a private world cut off from their audience. Furthermore, because authors can provide no external signs of their authority, an audience has no way of distinguishing between an author with transcendental authority and a fraud. In Sartor Resartus, Carlyle appropriately uses George Fox, the founder of the Quakers (one of his encyclopedia articles was about them), to represent the self-authorizing author. Fox, like Teufelsdröckh, is a rebel who casts off "[m]ountains of encumbrance," the old clothes that constrain him, and stitches together his own "perennial suit of Leather . . . into one continuous all-including Case" that recuperates the "vesture ... one and indivisible" of Teufelsdröckh's youth (210-11; 92). Fox's attempt to regain prelapsarian innocence represents Carlyle's desire to recover a transcendental language. But, although rebellion liberates Fox from his "Prison" into "lands of true Liberty," the language he speaks does not become a shared belief, a constitutive mythus; it remains private (211). Indeed, as early as "The State of German Literature," Carlyle had argued that mystics like Jacob Böhme and George Fox were "ignorant" of the state of their fellow human beings, speaking "not in the language of men, but of one man who had not learned the language of men" (CME, 1:73). An inheritor of the Enlightenment, Carlyle was well aware that the sincere mystic who claimed divine inspiration could just as easily be a deluded madman.
Carlyle saw this fate in the career of his close friend Edward Irving, a career that paralleled his own. Irving's more conventional vocation initially provided him with the authority that Carlyle longed for. His sermons so powerfully affected his listeners that in 1821, when Carlyle had not even begun his career as a writer, Irving was invited to London, where he found a large and enthusiastic audience. His ability to communicate with this audience seemed to expand when members of his congregation began speaking in tongues, the Old Testament image of the ideal shared language. But, in fact, the language was shared only by a small minority of Irving's followers, the majority deserting the congregation. No philosophe could have been more suspicious of religious "enthusiasts" — he identified Irving with the "ranters," a sect related to Fox's Quakers-than the Carlyle who concluded that speaking in tongues "was no special work of the Holy Spirit, or any Spirit [48/49] save of that black frightful unclean one that dwells in Bedlam"; Irving must be self-deceived or a deceiver (CL, 6:40. Carlyle concluded in his obituary notice of 1835 that, instead of bringing religious belief to the public, Irving had "shut himself up in a lesser world of ideas and persons, and lived isolated there" (CME, 3:322; see CL, 6:65).18
It is only a short step from the self-deluded, like Irving and Fox, to those who intentionally delude others. If the James Carlyle of "The Reminiscence of James Carlyle" represents the author who possesses transcendental authority, Cagliostro, in an essay written one year later, represents the author who dupes his contemporaries with false claims of transcendental authority. Carlyle proposed the topic of "Count Cagliostro" to the editor of the Edinburgh Review just four months after his father's death (CL, 6: 167). His interest in the topic must have been special, for it was one of the rare times in his early career that he was able to write for a review on a topic of his own choosing rather than one assigned by an editor. "Count Cagliostro" reflects on, even satirizes, Teufelsdröckh's discovery of authority in Sartor Resartus, suggesting that, while Teufelsdröckh seeks to become an "architect" who can build like the mason James Carlyle, he is in danger of becoming a charlatan "freemason" like Cagliostro.
Cagliostro's career parodies the career narrative Carlyle had constructed in his earlier writings. Cagliostro's family, against his will, arranges for him to become a monk, just as Carlyle's parents hoped he would become a minister. Like Carlyle, Cagliostro rejects this vocation, deciding instead to become an artist; but his only talent is for forgery, writing that deceives. Exiled from Palermo after the discovery of his crimes, Cagliostro becomes, like Teufelsdröckh, a wanderer in the eighteenth-century world of atheism and democracy. just as Teufelsdröckh takes his nightly cup of beer at a coffee-house named "Zur Griinen Gans," Cagliostro spends a night at a fictitious inn named the "Green Goose" ((SR, 15; CME, 3:279). Carlyle's phrasing — "At some Hotel of the Sun, Hotel of the Angel, Gold Lion, or Green Goose, or whatever hotel it is, in whatever world-famous capital City, his chariot-wheels have rested" — makes it clear that Green Goose is meant to be a typical name for the kind of inn Cagliostro stopped at, not an actual place (CME, 3:279). Driven by hunger to seek a profession, both become professors and discourse on "Things in General," though Teufelsdröckh is a "Professor of Things in General" and Cagliostro a "Professor of Swindlery" ((SR, 120, 18; CME, 3:268, 292). Both observe the world from a metaphorical "watch-tower," and just as Teufelsdröckh promises a "new mythus," the Palingensia that will bring a "Newbirth of Society," Cagliostro claims that he brings a new "Evangel" that will "Renovat[e] the Universe" ((SR, 6, 20, 217; CME, 3:262, 286). Yet Sartor, playful as it is, never questions Teufelsdröckh's [50/51] sincerity, or even his ability to author a Palingensia, while "Count Cagliostro" never permits us to believe its hero is anything but a quack.
Nonetheless, in ridiculing Cagliostro's claims to possess the authority of a James Carlyle and emphasizing his similarity to Teufelsdröckh, the essay implicitly questions Teufelsdröckh's project, suggesting that he may be as self-deluded as Irving or Fox. Insisting on his transcendental authority, Cagliostro claims to be God's "chosen . . . apostle," to possess "authority over the Angels," and to act by "the power of God" (CME, 3:293, 287). As "Renovator of the Universe," he promises to restore the world to a "primitive state of innocence, lost by original sin," a transcendental idyll (286). But, whereas James Carlyle had built his idyllic home out of stone, Cagliostro builds his "Masonic hall" of " gilt- pasteboard"; whereas Carlyle represents his father's creations as permanent and substantial, he represents Cagliostro's as theatrical illusions no more substantial than "foam" or "soap-bubble[s]" (CME, 3:291, 285; see Campbell, "Edward Irving").
Most importantly, the representation of Cagliostro's language parodies Teufelsdröckh's, revealing how distant Teufelsdröckh is from James Carlyle. just as Cagliostro's theatrical freemasonry is the opposite of James Carlyle's substantial masonry, his "froth-speeches" are the opposite of the elder Carlyle's potent words (CME, 3:285). As opposed to the unitary prelapsarian language of James Carlyle, Cagliostro's dialect, composed of "Sicilian-Italian, and Laquals-de-Place French, garnished with shreds from all European dialects," seems almost a parody of Sartor and its heavy doses of German (CME, 3:293). His speech is simply a parody of Teufelsdröckh's "sleeping and soporific passages; circumlocutions, repetitions, touches even of pure doting jargon": Cagliostro "babble[s] in long-winded diffusions, chaotic circumvolutions tending nowhither ... a Tower-of-Babel jargon.... His whole thought is confused, inextricable; what thought, what resemblance of thought he has, cannot deliver itself, except in gasps, blustering gushes, spasmodic refluences, which make bad worse" ((SR, 31; CME, 3:293; emphasis added). Both speak the fragmented language of a post-Babelian era of unbelief.
Cagliostro's inverse creation, "working the mighty chaos, into a creation-of ready-money," similarly parodies Teufelsdröckh's intention to imitate the god of Genesis who creates paradise out of the primordial chaos (CME, 3:291; SR, 197). Cagliostro is a counterfeit prophet: [50/51]
"If the ancient Father was named Chrysostom, or Mouth-of-Gold, be the modern Quack named Pinchbecko-stom, or Mouth-of-Pinchbeck" (CME, 3:296). Saint John Chrysostom, who was reputed to be the greatest orator of the early church, was persecuted for speaking plainly about the faults of governors and wrote biblical commentaries that emphasized literal meaning and practical applications. Whereas Chrysostom's words, as his name indicates, have the value of gold, Cagliostro's are pinchbeck-that is to say, counterfeit. Instead of using his mouth to act upon the world creatively, Cagliostro survives through "Eatableness, and Similitude of Doing"; he is a "raven," a "bustard," a "jackal," a predator who feeds on the victims drawn to him by his delusive words (CME, 3:318, 269, 284, 3o6; see 261, 263, 274, 300). "Count Cagliostro" represents Carlyle's anxiety that instead of leading his readers into the promised land, he was leading them to a " gilt-pasteboard" paradise.3n20.html
Contents last modified 10 October 2001; reformatted 2006 & 2015