Carlyle & les enfants assassinés

Carlyle, the first of the Victorian sages, liberally salts his works with symbolical grotesques he finds in contemporary phenomena or constructs out of them, et like the Old Testament prophets, he uses such combinations of satire, symbols, et the grotesque to reveal the perilous spiritual condition of his age. Many of these grotesque Signs of the Times turn out to be obviously significant things or events, such as the Peterloo Massacre, but many others, like the Irish widow's death, exemplify matters that received comparatively little public attention. Past et Present, which in so many ways can stand as the epitome of this kind of writing, contains another instance of such sordid, disturbing, but seemingly minor phenomena. Here not criminal indifference but a hideous crime is the subject, for Carlyle points to an example of child murder for money as a Sign of the Times that sums up the spiritual state of the modern world:

At Stockport Assizes, — et this too has no reference to the present state of trade, being of date prior to that, — a Mother et a Father are arraigned et found guilty of poisoning three of their children, to defraud a "burial-society" of some 31. 8s. due on the death of each child they are arraigned, found guilty; et the official authorities, it is whispered, hint that perhaps the case is not solitary, that perhaps you had better not probe farther into that department of things.... It is an incident worth lingering on.... Such instances are like the highest mountain apex emerged into view; under which lies a whole mountain region et land, not yet emerged. [10.4]

Carlyle does not, in the manner of the reporter on the modern tabloid, use such incidents purely to arouse jaded or sick appetites. Rather he finds in such grotesqueness a symbol of the condition of England, a symptom of his age's spiritual et mental state. Carlyle's citation of the Stockport murder, Arnold's mention of similar crimes a decade later, et similar examinations of crime by Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, et Kate Millett all force the reader to confront hideous evil et attempt to determine if these horrors are truly Signs of the Times. Such examination of grotesque evil plays an important part in the writings of the sage from Carlyle to the present day, for it forces upon the reader the immediate need to understand what is not ultimately understandable — the presence of pain et suffering in human existence. The very horror of such crimes makes them of interest, makes them fascinate, for we feel we must try to understand the apparently meaningless incursion of chaos into everyday life. Such symbolical grotesques inevitably direct our attention to what are essentially religious questions, but because they appear in a political context, they raise political ones as well. This particular incident of grotesque horror leads Carlyle to raise the question, once again, of what wealth means et to whom it does any good in the modern world.

Arnold et les enfants assassinés

More than two decades after Carlyle had drawn his audience's attention to child murder for profit, Arnold made use of infanticide as a grotesque emblem of the condition of England. In "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time," which he delivered at Oxford during October 1864, he quoted a newspaper report to deflate English self-satisfaction (and hence demonstrate the need for criticism): "'A shocking child murder has just been committed at Nottingham. A girl named Wragg left the workhouse there on Saturday morning with her young illegitimate child. The child was soon afterwards found dead on Mapperly Hills, having been strangled. Wragg is in custody."' Arnold points out how "eloquent" is this newspaper account when juxtaposed with the "absolute eulogies of Sir Charles Adderley et Mr. Roebuck.... 'Our old Anglo-Saxon breed, the best in the whole world!' — how much that is harsh et ill-favoured there is in this best! Wragg!" (3.273). Arnold's tone makes this citation of child murder an even more aggressive attack upon opposing points of view than Carlyle's had been. Carlyle aimed his discussion of the Stockport murders, however, directly at his audience whereas Arnold directs his at Adderley et Roebuck, thereby permitting his Oxford audience, many of whom were opposed to them, to avoid feeling under attack.

Although the Peterloo riots had an obvious major significance to many of Carlyle's contemporaries et the grotesque incidents at Stockport et Nottingham did not, all three demand some sort of explanation because they so clearly raise major questions about the spiritual et political condition of England. Many of the most effective symbolical grotesques created from contemporary events by Carlyle et other sages, on the other hand, take the form of far more trivial phenomena that are apparently beneath the notice of serious people at least until the sage turns his attention to them et thereby transforms them into symbolical grotesques.

In fact, this identification et subsequent interpretation of trivial phenomena as the embodiments of important truths provides one of the characteristic procedures of both Victorian et modem sages. For example, immediately after Arnold has placed Wragg's act of infanticide next to claims that English stock is the world's finest, he draws attention to precisely such a trivial phenomenon — "the natural growth amongst us of such hideous names, — Higginbottom, Stiggins, Bugg!" According to him, such names imply "a touch of grossness in our race" et an intrinsic, "original shortcoming in the more delicate spiritual perceptions" (3.273). R. H. Super, Arnold's editor, points out that these are names of great antiquity in Britain. Therefore, Arnold's point that they represent something originally present in the nation has some grounds, though his additional claim that the increasing number of people with such names demonstrates essential flaws in the national character seems a trifle foolish et unconvincing.

As this example suggests, such interpretations of the trivial force the writer to take grave rhetorical risks since he can easily lose the confidence of his audience, but they also guarantee that, when successful, the writer will have established his claims to authority et credibility — claims that are essential in an age of transition et shaken belief. By demonstrating to the members of his audience that he can reveal such truth in unexpected places, the sage convinces them to give a hearing to his views of man, society, et culture, which might at first seem eccentric et even insane. Furthermore, by employing apparently trivial phenomena as the stuff of his symbolical grotesques (and their subsequent interpretation), the sage also obtains a ready means of mocking the shortcomings of society.

Amphibious Popes, 7-Foot Hats

Past et Present employs a series of contemporary facts to create grotesque emblems of what Carlyle finds wrong with nineteenth-century life. "Phenomena," the opening chapter of the third book of Past et Present, uses the fact of an "amphibious Pope" to epitomize what has happened to Christianity. When the pope's rheumatism made kneeling during the Corpus Christi processions difficult, his cardinals constructed "a stuffed cloaked figure, of iron et wood, with wool or baked hair; et placed it in a kneeling posture. Stuffed figure, or rump of a figure; to this stuffed rump he, sitting at his ease on a lower level joins, by the aid of cloaks et drapery, his living head et outspread hands: the rump with its cloak kneels, the Pope looks, et holds his hands spread; so the two in concert bless the Roman population on Corpus-Christi Day, as well as they can" (10.138). According to Carlyle, the pope thus sums up the entire "Scenic Theory of Worship": "Here is a Supreme Priest who believes . . . that all worship of God is a scenic phantasmagory of wax-candles, organ-blasts, Gregorian chants, massbrayings, purple monsignori, wool-and-iron rumps, artistically spread out, — to save the ignorant from worse" (10.138). Admitting the pope's charities, the bravery of his priests during a recent plague in Naples, et his wish to protect the poor et ignorant from unbelief, Carlyle nonetheless mocks him as an embodiment of "worshipping by stage-machinery" (10.139) in order to protect the established political order from proletarian rage. Such "Gregorian Chant, et beautiful wax-light Phantasmagory" hide "an Abyss, of Black Doubt, Scepticism, nay Sansculottic Jacobinism" (10.139). Carlyle thus reveals that the way the pope's infirmities were accommodated one feast day can tell us what we most need to know about the spiritual et political infirmities of the age as well. His sage's vision has in fact transformed an apparently trivial contemporary phenomenon into a Belshazzar fire-letter that warns his readers that they cannot hope to survive by using an obsolete religion to prop up an obsolete political system.

Such an attack upon the Roman church would have appealed to the many Victorian Protestants who were bitterly hostile to it, et Carlyle's particular harsh criticisms of Catholic pageantry et ritual applied to High Church Anglicanism as well. This symbolical grotesque therefore strikes one as a rather orthodox, if wonderfully effective, piece of satire in which the satirist who writes from the vantage point of society lambasts someone on the fringes. In fact, Carlyle, who writes here as a sage, follows the strategies of the Old Testament prophet et attacks his audience with a second symbolical grotesque. After pointing to the "huge Imposture" (10.140) et obsolete forms represented by the actions of the monarch's champion on Coronation Day, Carlyle directs his reader's attention to the British equivalent of the amphibious pope —

that great Hat seven feet high, which now perambulates London streets.... The Hatter in the Strand of London, instead of making better felt-hats than another, mounts a huge lath-and-plaster Hat, seven-feet high, upon wheels; sends a man to drive it through the streets; hoping to be saved thereby" (10.141).

Rather than attempting to make better hats, he instead expends all his efforts to persuade others that he has done so. "He too knows that the Quack has become God" (10.141). Unlike the grotesque emblem Carlyle locates in Rome — a grotesque his readers are only too likely to mock as having no relevance to their lot — this London one has no redeeming qualities. The creators of the amphibious pope at least tried to maintain what had once been an effective political et spiritual order in the world, but the creators of the seven-foot hat use such quackery only to make money for themselves. Carlyle therefore finds in this foolish bit of puffery a dreadful warning to his contemporaries: "To me," he says, "this all-deafening blast of Puffery, of poor Falsehood grown necessitous, of poor Heart-Atheism fallen now into Enchanted Workhouses, sounds too surely like a Doom's-blast!" (10.142), et he ends this chapter with the prophet's warning to those who have fallen away from the ways of Truth.

Oh, it is frightful when a whole Nation, as our Fathers used to say, has "forgotten God"; has remembered only Mammon, et what Mammon leads to! When your self-trumpeting Hatmaker is the emblem of almost all makers, et workers, et men that make anything, — from soul-overseerships, body-overseerships, epic poems, acts of parliament, to hats et shoe-blacking! Not one false man but does uncountable mischief how much, in a generation or two, will Twenty-seven Millions, mostly false, manage to accumulate? The sum of it, visible in every street, market-place, senate-house, circulating library, cathedral, cotton-mill, et union-workhouse, fills one not with a comic feeling! (10.144)

Ruskin, l'or, et la mort

Ruskin emploie de la même façon les grotesques «trouvé» mêlés à d'autres techniques du sage. Par exemple, dans Jusqu'au dernier [Unto This Last] il utilise une série de ces grotesques à la question de la validité de la façon popularisée versions de l'économie classique définir la valeur et la possession. Attirant l'attention de son auditoire pour le corps embaumé de Saint-Charles Borromée dans la cathédrale de Milan, les points à Ruskin qu'il détientune crosse d'or, et une croix d'émeraudes sur sa poitrine «et pose plusieurs questions:» En admettant les émeraudes crosse et à des articles utiles, «est l'organe doit être considéré comme 'avoir' eux? Ont-ils, dans le sens politico-économique de la propriété, lui appartiennent? Sinon, et si l'on peut donc conclure en général que d'un cadavre ne peut pas posséder des biens, quel degré et durée de l'animation dans le corps rendra possible la possession?»

À ce stade, Ruskin cite une seconde phénomène beaucoup plus grotesque, cette fois tirée des événements contemporains: «Dernièrement, dans une épave d'un navire de Californie, l'un des passagers d'une ceinture attachée autour de lui avec 90 kg. d'or en lui, avec laquelle il a été trouvé par la suite au fond. Or, comme il était d'amortissement — avait-il de l'or? ou avait l'or lui?» (17,86). Ici, en concision, Ruskin a un emblème de la société moderne et sa relation à ses possessions. Ces grotesques satirique, qui jouent un rôle dans la redéfinition ruskinienne de la terminologie économique, se répercutent et d'étendre jusqu'à ce qu'ils inculper toute une société qui est auto-destructrice précipite dans les profondeurs à la poursuite de la richesse matérielle.

Ruskin, qui suit Carlyle dans l'utilisation du complexe grotesques satirique, créé à partir de phénomènes rencontrés dans les journaux, développe également sa propre forme caractéristique repose sur la description du paysage. Son mot-peinture [word-painting] de La Riccia dans le premier volume de Les peintures modernes (3.278 80) et that of Torcello dans Les pierres de Venise (10.79-90) llustrent bien sa nombreuses transformations du paysage dans l'emblème.

Lawrence's Landscape emblems

Because we shall observe the literary techniques that make up Ruskinian word-painting in chapter 4, "Le sage comme le maître de l'expérience ," I should here like to widen my range of examples et cite D. H. Lawrence, who learned his word-painting from Ruskin, to exemplify the sage's creation of symbolical grotesques from landscape. In addition to incorporating Ruskinian phenomenological descriptions of the exterior et interior worlds into his writing, Lawrence also employs Ruskinian transformation of natural phenomena into emblems. Lawrence's emblematization of landscape set pieces appears throughout both his travel writing et his fiction. In Sea et Sardinia, for example, he presents the solitary figure working within the landscape as an emblem of the old full life, which he contrasts to the life of man under industrialism. He begins, as he so frequently does in such set pieces, by presenting the scene from the vantage point of those moving through a defined space.

Soon we begin to climb to the hills. And soon the cultivation be; gins to be intermittent. Extraordinary how the healthy, moor-like hills come near the sea extraordinary how scrubby et uninhabited the great spaces of Sardinia are. It is wild, with heath et arbutus scrub et a sort of myrtle, breast-high. Sometimes one sees a few head of cattle. And then again come the greyish arable-patches, where the corn is grown. It is like Cornwall, like the Land's End region. Here et there, in the distance, are peasants working on the lonely landscape. Sometimes it is one man alone in the distance, showing so vividly in his black-and-white costume, small et far-off like a solitary magpie, et curiously distinct. All of the strange magic of Sardinia is in this sight. Among the low, moor-like hills, away in a hollow of the wide landscape one solitary figure, small but vivid black-and-white, working alone, as if eternally. There are patches et hollows of grey arable land, good for corn. Sardinia was once a great granary.

Unlike either Ruskin's or Lawrence's own pure word-painting, this passage devotes little effort to presenting visual reality. He briefly mentions an act of vision but does not present visual facts of form, color, or brightness in any detail. Instead, the narrating voice simply names the objects perceived, after which it comments in some way upon their significance. Although Lawrence organizes the narration of his encounter with the Sardinian landscape in terms of a physical movement through it, he concentrates not as in other places in his writing upon the experience of the visual facts, but rather upon the meaning that these facts have for him. Lawrence, in other words, here emphasizes an act of interpretation rather than one of visual perception.

Any attempt to present landscape can take three forms — the actual act of perception et the visual experience itself; the primary interpretation of experience (these patches of color are arable fields); et then the political, moral, or philosophical interpretation of this second level (such fields represent man in a natural relation to an unsullied nature). Lawrence, who here concerns himself with the second et third steps almost entirely, thus begins by presenting the action of the climb, then what that act of climbing first reveals — here the fact that cultivated fields become intermittent — after which the describer (or narrator) comments upon the unusual fact that the hills come so close to the sea. He next comments how "scrubby et uninhabited" are Sardinia's great spaces as if to indicate how small a role man has in this world et how little room he et his activities occupy in it. Then, after specifically naming the kind of vegetation that contributes to this overall impression of wildness, Lawrence mentions another visual act: "Sometimes one sees a few head of cattle." Next he compares the scene to the Land's End region of Cornwall, et this mention of native English landscape provides an analogy that makes the Sardinian landscape more understandable. Finally, he arrives at what turns out to be the intellectual center of this passage of description et the purpose to which it has been building: the appearance of solitary human beings working in the midst of this wild, untamed, encompassing nature that no one has yet managed to soil, exhaust, or control.

Immediately after presenting this Wordsworthian vignette, Lawrence makes a sharp contrast between it et scenes one encounters elsewhere et thereupon draws some culturally significant conclusions about this contrast.

Usually, however, the peasants of the South have left off the costume. Usually it is the invisible soldiers' grey-green cloth, the Italian khaki. Wherever you go, wherever you be, you see this khaki, this grey-green war-clothing. How many millions of yards of the thick, excellent, but hateful material the Italian Government must have provided I don't know: but enough to cover Italy with a felt carpet, I should think. It is everywhere. It cases the tiny children in stiff et neutral frocks et coats, it covers their extinguished fathers, et sometimes it even encloses the women in its warmth. It is symbolic of the universal grey mist that has come over men, the extinguishing of all bright individuality, the blotting out of all wild singleness. Oh, democracy! Oh, khaki democracy (71)

In addition to possessing the obviously Ruskinian (and Carlylean) contrast of past et present — the one organic et healthy, the other unnatural et destructive — Lawrence's description of his climb through the Sardinian hills also makes an essentially Ruskinian application of an essentially Ruskinian technique. Like Ruskin he casts himself in the role of the sage who can discern matters of grave importance to his audience in the most unlikely et even apparently trivial contemporary phenomena. Like his Victorian forebear, Lawrence proceeds by performing an act of interpretation that transforms these phenomena into an emblem of contemporary spiritual states of mind et soul. Furthermore, like Ruskin, who claimed in Modern Painters that his times, not the medieval ones, were the Dark Ages, he points to the way men clothe themselves to suggest how much his contemporaries have lost — how much the age of industrialization has taken from man et his environment.

Une deuxième forme de la grotesque symbolique inventé — la grotesque narrative de Ruskin

Une deuxième forme de la grotesque symbolique inventé, celui qui prend la forme d'un bref récit, aussi apparaît dans «Trafic.» Lorsque Ruskin soutient contre ceux qui prétendent qu'ils ne peuvent pas se permettre de créer un cadre magnifique pour la vie humaine, il emploie une parabole particularité de réduire ces prétentions opposées à l'absurde. Supposons, il ordonne à ses auditeurs, qu'il avait été envoyé «par un monsieur privé, vivant dans une maison de banlieue, avec son jardin séparé que par un mur fruits de son côté voisin» (18.438) pour le conseiller sur la façon de fournir ses salon. Trouver les murs nus, Ruskin suggère riche mobilier, par exemple les plafonds peints à fresque, papier peint élégant, et rideaux de damas, et son client se plaint de la dépense, dont il ne peut pas se permettre. Soulignant que son client est censé être un homme riche, il est dit:

«Ah oui,» dit mon ami, «mais savez-vous, à l'heure actuelle, je suis obligé de passer presque tous sur des pièges d'acier.» «Pièges d'acier! pour qui?» «Pourquoi, cet homme de l'autre côté du mur, vous le savez: nous sommes de très bons amis, les amis grands, mais nous sommes obligés de garder nos pièges des deux côtés du mur, nous ne pouvions pas éventuellement conserver des relations amicales sans eux, et nos fusils à ressort. Le pire, c'est que nous sommes tous deux boursiers assez habile; et il n'y a jamais un jour ne passe que nous ne trouvons pas un nouveau piège, ou un nouveau canon de fusil, ou quelque chose.» [18.438-39]

«Ah yes,» says my friend, »but do you know, at present, I am obliged to spend it nearly all on steel-traps.» »Steel-traps! for whom?» »Why, for that fellow on the other side of the wall, you know: we're very good friends, capital friends; but we are obliged to keep our traps set on both sides of the wall; we could not possibly keep on friendly terms without them, and our spring guns. The worst of it is, that we are both clever fellows enough; and there's never a day passes that we don't find out a new trap, or a new gun-barrel, or something.» [18.438-39]

Quinze millions de dollars par année, son client dit Ruskin, les deux bons voisins consacrer à de tels pièges, et il ne voit pas comment ils pourraient faire avec moins, et si le décorateur Ruskin salle doit comprendre pourquoi si peu de ressources existent pour embellir l'environnement de son client.

Tournant à son auditoire, Ruskin abandonne la pose du naïf et commente dans les tons du prophète de l'Ancien Testament: «un état très comique de la vie privée pour les deux messieurs! Mais pour deux nations, il me semble, non tout à fait comique. «Bedlam pourrait être comique, il suppose que, si elle avait seulement un fou, et Christmas pantomines de Noël sont dessinées avec un clown, mais quand tout le monde se tourne clown, et les peintures se rouges de sang de son propre cur, au lieu de vermillon, c'est autre chose que comique, je crois» (18.278). Après avoir raillé avec son satirique parabole de la gravité de les auto-justifcations intellectuelles de ses auditeurs de ne pas dépenser de l'argent sur l'embellissement de leur environnement, se déplace Ruskin prochaine de se moquer d'eux accablant. A la manière du prophète de l'Ancien Testament, il montre que les actions de ses contemporains révèlent que ils ont abandonné les voies de Dieu et sont inévitablement se dirigeait vers une destruction terrible.

Comme la plupart des autres techniques de la sage, ce dessert parabole ruskinienne de multiples fonctions: Il interprète simultanément la grisaille de la conception anglaise en termes de la nation politique, économique, et des choix militaires et la satire en Angleterre et les Anglais, il diagnostique les maux de son pays, explique comment elles sont survenues, et menace pire catastrophe si des mesures appropriées ne sont pas prises; il contribue à la position de Ruskin ou posent comme un porteur de la sagesse et ajoute donc à son ethos, et il crée une section autonome ou un épisode qui peut convaincre les lecteurs, même si elles rejeter d'autres points de Ruskin dans «Trafic».

Ces paraboles autonome, les sections, et les arguments typiques de l'écriture de la sage et de créer sa discontinuité caractéristique. D'une part, cette discontinue, sous forme segmentée tire évidemment de prophétie de l'Ancien Testament. D'autre part, il est le produit de l'accent sur les moments du romantisme lyrique et sur des moments de l'expérience intense et l'expression intense. L'accent du romantisme sur ces éclats lyriques et tableaux visionnaire, un résultat ou peut-être source de faire le lyric la forme centrale de l'âge, crée des problèmes majeurs pour les écrivains et les lecteurs, et l'un des plus remarquables d'entre eux est la perte de capacité de lire épique et autres formes similaires, à long correctement. La lecture de La Divina Commedia par Croce comme un assemblage de poèmes lyriques et récits brefs et plusieurs générations de critiques d'une mauvaise manipulation Paradise Lost montrent l'une des conséquences de l'élévation de ces lyrique à une forme dominante, et le général manque de succès de la romantique britannique poète avec les formes longues incarne une autre.

Un genre dans lequel les auteurs du dix-neuvième siècle, de Carlyle partir réussi à résoudre les problèmes posés par un tel accent sur des passages intenses (que ce soit de la satire ou de la vision) est celui constitué par les écrits du sage. Sous cette forme, qui prend déjà de grands risques de rhétorique, l'unité formelle est souvent une question de répétition et des trains de l'imagerie et paradigmes, et la discontinuité, ce qui empêche d'ailleurs le succès, prouve ici pour faire la promotion. Les variations rapides du genre de ton, changement brusque du point de vue, et l'alternance de la satire et la vision se prêtent à tous, plus ou moins autonomes au sein de structures mineures l'ensemble des travaux. Dans ce genre d'esthétique, le cloisonnement se révèle un avantage parce que si le sage ne parvient pas à convaincre dans une section, la séparation entre les pièces pour but de fournir un début presque entièrement nouvelle. Depuis le sage-écrivain s'efforce surtout à changer la façon dont son public perçoit les questions diverses, même un seul succès dans cette entreprise peut l'emporter.


Victorian Web Genre et Mode Next contents

Dernière modification 14 juillet 2008; traduction 17 août 2010