Chapter 3, Part 3 of the author's
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n 1828, Carlyle had attempted to recover the domestic idyll by moving from Edinburgh to Craigenputtoch, a farm on the remote moors of southwest Scotland. Edinburgh represented urban exile, exclusion from the family and its religious faith, even loss of health. His chronic dyspepsia- probably a psychosomatic manifestation of his spiritual crisis-first developed while he was living there, and he came to feel that he could only recover physical as well as spiritual health by returning to the country. He had been reduced to hackwork and prevented from pursuing the higher calling of literature. From this time, Carlyle tended to identify English literature as the hack production of urban industry-he depicted the literary men of London as a "rascal rout, [a] dirty rabble" (TNB, 3:234)-while idealizing the literature of Germany. His preference for calling advertising "puffery" emphasized his conception of' it as giving a false illusion of significance to what was in reality without meaning or value. Yet he, too, was enmeshed in the network of'commerce. When lie saw his own name advertised in the windows of the Athenaeum offices, he chided himself in his notebook for contributing to the journal: "Why yield even half' a hair's-breadth to Puffing? Abhor it, utterly divorce it, and kick it to the Devil! " (TNB, 233; see CME, 3: 101) — Indeed, the treatment of [52/53] literature as a mere commodity was nowhere more evident than in the pages of the Athenaeum, where advertisements for books appeared alongside those for hair oil and patent medicines.
Yet escape from the toils of urban industry was not easy. Carlyle had already attempted to recover the childhood idyll in 1825, the year he spent on a farm at Hoddam Hill. Symbolically reunited with his family-his mother spent part of the year there-he felt as if he was in his "second boyhood," able to escape time and recover the oceanic timelessness that Teufelsdröckh would ascribe to his "Idyllic" childhood: "Time no longer hurries past me like a mountain flood, the channel of which is soon to lie dead and empty: it spreads around me like a placid sea" (TNB, 3:330, 349; SR, go; see Kaplan, 111ff.). Late the following year he married Jane Welsh, and they settled in Edinburgh, where he tried but failed to write the two novels "Illudo Chartis" and Wotton Reinfred. By 1828, Edinburgh had come to represent not only the loss of family, faith, and health, but the corruption of literature by the publishing industry.
Unable to write a work of his own and wracked with dyspepsia, both moral and physical, he began to insist that only the country could cure him (TNB, 4:198-99, 233, 359)- Craigenputtoch, like Hoddam Hill, would be an Eden, a "green oasis," where he could recapture health and become an authority. Because they could live at Craigenputtoch cheaply — Jane Carlyle had inherited the property from her father — he would "not be tempted to tell lies for money" and could "cultivate Literature" (TNB, 4:407-8). He became fond of comparing Craigenputtoch to Patmos, the island in the Aegean where Saint John wrote the book of Revelations, a place to write "mystical Reviews" and to begin "prophesying" (TNB, 4:434). In a more sportive mood, he suggested that it might even become an idyll for literary men, like the one he had imagined as the House in the Wold in Wotton Reinfred (see TNB, 5:433). Although this proposal to create an idyll populated by writers rather than shepherds was partly tongue-in-cheek, Carlyle was serious when he insisted that in his "rustic solitude ... the business of magazine-writing and the profits and disprofits of magazine conducting are utterly alien" (TNB, 4: 106). In fact, he never tired of repeating the story of society's neglect of Burns as proof that, when judged by the laws of supply and demand, poets will never be considered valuable (CME, 1: 2 5 8; see also 42-43)
But he came to associate the very conditions that made writing Sartor Resartus possible — social isolation and freedom from the marketplace — with its transcendental solipsism. Jane Carlyle hated Craigenputtoch because of its social isolation, and Carlyle came to regard it [52/53] less as a refuge than as a prison. During his visit to London in 1831-32, he had still been able to look back to Craigenputtoch as a fortress within which he could retreat to safety from the Babylonian city (TNB, 5:429-30, 6:64). When he failed to sell Sartor Resartus, he began to disparage Craigenputtoch and to contemplate a move to London. The country had not cured him of his urban dyspepsia, and by January 1833 he had decided that Craigenputtoch was no longer a "wholesome" abode (TNB, 6:291, 308, 330). By the time he and Jane decided to move to London in 1834, he saw the change as his "last chance ... to redeem [his] existence from Pain and Imprisonment," as breaking out of a "Bastille" (TNB, 7:104, 124).
Carlyle had come to regard Craigenputtoch, not as withstanding the invading world of commerce as his childhood home had done, but as imprisoning him, preventing his prophecies from reaching the world because it isolated him from the social community represented by the people he met during his stay in London. When Mill, Emerson, and Sterling complained that he did not seem to take his audience into account, he blamed the solitude of Craigenputtoch, where he had been unable to envision his audience because he had "no known public" and was "alone under the Heavens" (TNB, 7:265). He no longer depicted Craigenputtoch as a land of plenty but as a barren place incapable of producing literature: "Nothing ever was more ungenial than the soil that poor Teufelsdröckh seedcorn has been thrown on here" (TNB, 7:264). The "green oasis" he had described to Goethe in 1828 had by 1834 turned into the "Dunscore Desert ... a place doomed, even in my memory, to silence, obstruction, and the dispiritment of motionless desolation; a place I care not if I never see again!" (TNB, 4:407, 7: 280). It would seem the problem with Craigenputtoch was precisely its idyllic timelessness, an "everlasting Solitude" in which there was "no human soul with which to commune" (TNB, 7:112; 6:210).
So, instead of escaping the constraints of the literary marketplace, Carlyle had only cut himself off from the source of his income. He still needed to write reviews to survive, and, in spite of economies, found in February 1831, as he set out to revise Sartor Resartus, that he had only "some £5 to front the world with" (TNB, 183). His realization that he was writing for an urban market impelled him to take the manuscript of Sartor Resartus to London, and his experience there made even clearer to him the importance of staying in contact with the editors who controlled the publishing industry. Although Sartor was [53/54] rejected, he returned to Craigenputtoch with "plenty" of commissions from editors he had met during his stay (TNB, 6: 131). In the immensely productive year between his father's death in January 1832 and his decision to leave Craigeriputtoch injanuary 1833, he wrote eight articles, translated Goethe's "Novelle," and wrote an introduction to his translation of Goethe's "Das Märchen," these pieces appearing in Fraser's, the Edinburgh Review, the Foreign Quarterly Review, the Monthly Magazine, and the New Monthly Magazine. With "Characteristics," which was "approved seemingly by every one whose approval was wanted," he seemed finally to have discovered his audience (TNB, 6:132)
As the year drew on, however, Carlyle's distance from London told (TNB, 6:138). After the first round of articles, he received no further commissions, except from Fraser, who published six of his pieces in 1832 and would be the only editor to publish his work in 1833 — "MY whole trade is to think and speak," he complained to Mill, "but as the world goes, I have absolutely no permission to speak! Think of poor me and poor Fraser's Magazine! Yet such is my best speaking- mechanism at this moment; for aught I know, it is my only one" (TNB, 7:25). He considered Fraser's, which always took his work but paid poorly, a "Dog'smeat Cart," "a chaotic, fermenting, dung-hill heap of compost" that had "nothing to do" with "Literature" (TNB, 232, 259, 170). He longed to free himself not only from Fraser's, but from all connection with journalism, yet, with Sartor Resartus languishing in manuscript, he was forced to continue with it: "One must write 'Articles'," he lamented, "write and curse" (TNB, 6:265).
At this point, London came to represent the possibility of producing for an audience that acknowledged his authority. While he might still regard London as a "Phlegethon-Fleetditch," he now concluded that literature could not "be carried on elsewhere by an Englishman" (TNB, 7:142). During his 1831-32 visit to London, he had found "great respect, even love from some few." As he recalled these admirers in the isolation of Craigenputtoch, London began to look "more and more poetic," a more "natural" situation than the rural "wilderness" (TNB, 7:177, 280; see 6:126).
Yet, if moving to London brought him into contact with his audience and the marketplace, Carlyle still needed to discover a literary form through which to address them. Like Schiller, in addition to moving to the commercial center, lie turned to history, a form that "would ... afford him. . . the necessary competence of income" (LS, 8 5) . Whereas [54/55] he had sought publishers for Sartor Resartus and his book on German literature for years without success, it took only one month to settle with a publisher for his history of the French Revolution even though he had not yet written a word of it.
Last modified 10 October 2001