[Chapter 3, note 54, 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]

The difference between Carlyle and Goethe can be discerned in Carlyle's essay on "Goethe's Works" (1832), written about a year after he completed Wotton Reinfred. In this essay, Carlyle adapts the three phases of religion of Wilhelm Meister and the three stages in Teufelsdröckh's conversion to describe Goethe's own career. The three phases in Wilhelm Meister are the Ethnic, the Philosophical, and the Christian (WM, 2:267). In Carlyle's narrative of Goethe's life, the first phase, the period dominated by the "pestilential fever of Scepticism" manifested in Werter, precedes the three phases of religion and corresponds to Teufelsdröckh's Everlasting No. The third phase, in which Goethe rises from the "ashes" of "Denial" into "Reverence" and the "deep all-pervading Faith" of Wilhelm Meister's Travels, corresponds to the Christian phase of religion and Teufelsdröckh's Everlasting Yea (CME, 2:431-32). To describe the intervening period, which clearly corresponds to the Centre of Indifference, Carlyle combines the first two phases of religion, the Pagan and Ethnic. Whereas the phases described in Wilhelm Meister are progressive stages of religious development, Carlyle disregards this when he combines the first two, presumably as erroneous delusions, in favor of the last. Similarly, his Teufelsdröckh does not really progress from No to Centre to Yea, but suddenly discovers the Everlasting Yea. This is how Carlyle dealt with the problem of closure raised by Wotton Reinfred. There, closure was premature, Wotton almost immediately discovering the House in the Wold, the Eden of German transcendentalism, rather than reaching it through progressive selfunderstanding. In Wotton Reinfred, all apparent moments of closure prior to the Everlasting Yea turn out to be illusions. The House in the Wold of Wotton Reinfred becomes the Waldschloss (castle in the wood) where Teufelsdröckh falls in love with Blumine and believes he has discovered, or returned to, Eden. Teufelsdröckh himself undermines this moment of closure, by describing his vision of paradise ironically as a mere "Calenture ... whereby the Youth saw green Paradise-groves in the waste Ocean-waters" (147-48).


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Last modified 26 October 2001