Treating Sartor Resartus as an autobiography rather than as a work with occasional autobiographical elements raises some difficult generic questions: What constitutes an autobiography? What characteristics define the genre? What conventions or topoi signal an author's intention to write within the genre? Despite a critical tradition that has used or implicitly sanctioned the modal adjective "autobiographical," Sartor Resartus is not by any conservative definition nor in its entirety an autobiography, that is, a professedly truthful record of Carlyle's life, composed as a single work and told from a consistent temporal point of view.1 Even C. F. Harrold's modern edition, which implicitly treats Sartor as a form of autobiography and includes extensive footnotes to autobiographical allusions, acknowledges the problem in a discussion of the "plan" of the work: "Sartor Resartus is a collection," Harrold states, "of philosophic fragments, biographical narrative, and editorial comment" (p.xxx). As Carlyle himself explained, in a phrase that aptly describes the generic difficulty, the work is a kind of "Satirical Extravaganza on Things in General" (304). Nothing could be further from autobiography's demand for a life in particular than a work on "Things in General."
Most critics who call Sartor Resartus an autobiography mean, in fact, not the whole work but Book Second, and this chapter observes—at least initially—a similar distinction. Yet even if we evade the generic question of the entire work, limit ourselves to the second [31/32] book, treat it as the autobiography of an imaginary German philosopher, Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, and then later equate Teufelsdröckh with Carlyle, the work still resists the label "autobiography." By definition, Teufelsdröckh, the subject of the book, must also be its author, but Teufelsdröckh does not write an autobiography. He rejects "these Autobiographical rimes of ours" (94). To his Editor's plea for autobiographical information and Hofrath Heuschrecke's promise of "an Autobiography that will clarify "the whole Philosophy and Philosopher of Clothes, Teufelsdröckh responds with what can only be called an anti-autobiography: six paper bags filled with "miscellaneous masses of Sheets, and oftener Shreds and Snips, written in [a] scarce legible cursiv-schrift; and treating of all imaginable things under the Zodiac and above it, ... and then in the most enigmatic manner" (78). In this chaotic mass the Editor discovers accounts of dreams, fragments of philosophical disquisitions, autobiographical delineations and anecdotes—all, as he notes with frustration, "without date of place or time," all "without connection, without recognisable coherence" (78). These bags testify to Teufelsdröckh's reluctance to engage in the most basic of autobiographical acts. He refuses to organize the data of his experience.
If Teufelsdröckh refuses to compose his life, his anti-autobiographical response nonetheless suggests the generic intention of Sartor Resartus. With his paper bags, "marked successively, in gilt China ink, with the symbols of the Six southern Zodiacal Signs, beginning at Libra" (77—78), he alludes to the most famous of German autobiographies: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Dichtung und Wahrheit, which begins with Goethe's horoscope on 28 August 1749, the day of his birth.3 And if Teufelsdröckh's refusal, like the work's uneasiness with the generic label, makes it problematic to call Sartor Resartus an autobiography, it paradoxically makes the work a model for the study of the genre and its conventions. For Teufelsdröckh's autobiography does get written—or, rather, constructed. Psychologically unable to accept the chaos of the paper bags, the British Editor assumes the task that Teufelsdröckh resists and produces the life we read in Book Second. As he constructs this life, moreover, the Editor assumes the role of Teufelsdröckh's alter ego, that half of the autobiographer who [32/33] gives structure to what the other half holds in memory. As he continues in the role, the Editor becomes more and more like Teufelsdröckh himself. By the end of Book Second, as many readers of Sartor have remarked, it becomes impossible to distinguish between Teufelsdröckh and his Editor, between the subject of the autobiogra phy and its narrator.
In the conscious division of Teufelsdröckh from his Editor, Carlyle embodies the formal problem of the autobiographer who is both the subject of his work and its author. In the tension between Teufelsdröckh and his Editor, the man who wants to leave his memories in chaotic formlessness and the man who feels compelled to decipher and interpret those "unimaginable Documents" of memory, Carlyle embodies the tension between what Roy Pascal has called "truth" versus "design."4 And in the distance between the imaginary Teufelsdröckh and the real Thomas Carlyle, Carlyle calls attention to the writing of autobiography as a literary act, an act that interprets experience and thus creates a self by working within (and sometimes against) the formal conventions of the genre.
These tensions allow Carlyle to emphasize not so much the facts of his own or Teufelsdröckh s life, but the act of self-interpretation, and they urge us to read Book Second not so much as an account of Teufelsdröckh's experience or Carlyle's in disguise, but as an experiment in autobiographical form, one that is essentially hermeneutic. They point to generic intention as well. For the issues that concern Carlyle in Sartor Resartus have defined the "critical axes,' as Avrom Fleishman calls them, along which autobiographical writing and generic criticism have run for the past two centuries: truth and fiction, memory and meaning, individual expression and literary convention (pp. 1-39).
In The Boundaries of Fiction George Levine has suggested that we treat Sartor Resartus as a "confession-anatomy-romance," a combination that gives priority to these same critical axes and to the work's autobiographical basis, with its "introverted and personal" mode and "theoretical and intellectual interest" in religion, philosophy, and art.6 Although I prefer the term "autobiography" to "confession," I think we might take Levine's suggestion seriously and explore its [33/34] implications by emphasizing the autobiographical precedents of Sartor, while recognizing, too, the self-consciousness about method and form that "anatomy" implies and the impression of allegory fundamental to "romance" that Carlyle's frequent use of biblical typology produces. For if Sartor Resartus does not initially fit a conservative definition of autobiography, it is nonetheless a work of and about autobiography. It self-consciously uses the conventions of the genre to recount a version of a man's life. Its self-consciousness entails a critical examination of the autobiography and its hermeneutic demands. And this self-consciousness is no more evident than in the way rhat Carlyle, through the British Editor, manipulates the conventional pattern of autobiographical narrative and thus raises a larger question of autobiographical interpretation and its relation to biblical hermeneutics.
he pattern that the British Editor imposes upon Teufelsdröckh's life has its origin in the Old Testament account of the Exodus, but its more immediate origin lies in the Bunyanesque tradition of spiritual autobiography, a tradition to which we might turn first.7 When John Bunyan wrote Grace Abounding in 1666, it was customary for new members of his Baptist sect to read or narrate accounts of their conversion before the entire congregation as an act of public witness. It was still uncommon, however, for members to publish such narratives: Anglicans considered the public exposure vulgar; Baptists and other sectarians thought it presumptuous. Bunyan chose to risk presumption in the service of evangelism. As a well-known convert and minister, he decided to present Grace Abounding in printed form to a public audience.
When Bunyan published, however, he felt obliged to attach an explanatory preface or, in his words, a "brief Account of the publishing of this Work." In it Bunyan justifies the publication of a personal history by summoning up Moses's example in the historical books of the Pentateuch:
Moses (Num. 33.1, 2) writ of the Journey ings of the children of Israel, from Egypt to the land of Canaan; and commanded also, that [34/35] they did remember their forty years travel in the wilderness. Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldst keep his commandments, or no, Deut. 8. 2, 3. Wherefore this I have endeavoured to do: and not onely so, but to publish it also; that, if God will, others may he put in remembrance of what he hath done for their Souls, by reading his work upon me.8
Bunyan's choice of scriptural texts, necessary for his own autobiographical act, had profound effect upon the tradition of spiritual autobiography that followed from Grace Abounding. It linked the form of autobiography to the Book of Exodus—both narratively, in that spiritual accounts tended to repeat the order and episodes of Israel's history, and also hermeneutically, in that interpretations of the Exodus by Old Testament prophets and New Testament epistles and later by Christian theologians tended to influence the interpretations that autobiographers made of their own lives. Autobiographers who wrote within the tradition wrote with the Exodus as a primary text.
Recent discussions of English autobiography have treated biblical accounts other than the Exodus as originating or influencing patterns, and indeed Bunyan used other biblical examples to justify his selfnarrative.9 Later in the preface, for instance, he mentions Paul's defense before Felix, the Roman governor, and David's commemorative psalms as examples of self-expression. For Bunyan, however, the essential biblical text is the record of Israel's wandering and redemption, and the essential act, that of a spiritual leader writing the history of his people and commemorating God's providence in the writing.
The logical connection between Moses's history and Grace Abounding is not stated explicitly in Bunyan's self-justification, but is implicit in the transition, "Wherefore this have I endeavoured to do." The phrase is worth considering, for it implies the terms on which autobiography, Bunyan's and its successors, were to be written. The connection depends upon at least two typological assumptions—one commonplace, the other radical in the seventeenth century. It assumes, first, that the "Journey ings" of the Israelites prefigure the experiences of Christians and, second, thai Moses' record of these [35/36] journeyings in the narratives of the Pentateuch and the lyrical Song of Moses (Deut. 32) is prefigurative also. Although I list it second, the latter assumption was for Bunyan and other spiritual autobiographers crucial: it sanctioned the publication of personal accounts and made possible the development of the autobiography as a genre. By suggesting that Moses' act of writing history anticipates his own, Bunyan in effect argues that the Old Testament, as a written and published text, approves and even necessitates the kind of autobiographical narrative that Grace Abounding represents: a history that demonstrates the presence of providential design in man's activities or, as Bunyan puts it, that "the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness/'
Given Bunyan's choice of Mosaic history, it comes as no surprise that Grace Abounding appropriates the pattern of the Exodus for its narrative design—and here the initial typological assumption shows its influence. In the preface, as in the text of the autobiography itself, Bunyan makes his unrepentant ways correspond to the Egyptian bondage; his dramatic conversion, to the flight from Pharaoh and the crossing of the Red Sea; his confusion and backsliding, to the wilderness wandering; and his eventual redemption, to the entry into the promised land of Canaan. When he speaks of conversion, for instance, he notes that "it is profitable for Christians to he calling to mind the very beginnings of Grace with then- Souls," and he quotes Exodus 12.42, the Red Sea account, as his supporting text: "It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord, for bringing them out from the land of Egypt" (2). He cites Psalm 106 and Numbers 14 to reiterate the narrative pattern and establish the importance of commemorative history, observing that when God brought Israel through the Red Sea, "they must turn opiate about thither again, to remember the drowning of their enemies there9 (2). This turning about describes meionymically the autobiographer's act, which requires a retrospective glance, a looking backward to understand the present and act wisely in the future. Without the turning about, Bunyan suggests, one is likely to falter: "for though they sang his praise before, yet they soonforgat his works, Psal. 106. 12, 13."
Even before we leave the preface, then, and begin the autobiography proper, we know that we will follow Bunyan typologically [36/37] through the wilderness and emerge at the border of the promised land. That we know the plot before we begin suggests the hermeneutic and heuristic (rather them narrative) emphases of autobiography. Our interest lies in Bunyan as reader of experiential data and in the dilemmas he confronts and resolves in his interpretations.
As the autobiographical narrative begins, Bunyan's assurance wanes as now, protagonist of the autobiography, he seems to find the role of typological interpreter bewildering. Esau as biblical type threatens with an alternative model for his life and prevents him from recognizing thai he is, spiritually speaking, an Israelite. So, too, as we saw in the last chapter, other biblical characters menace, whose lives delineate different and less felicitous patterns of experience. But for Bunyan, the retrospective autobiographer, the Exodus as divinely ordained type continues to control the shape of the narrative, even when Bunyan, the protagonist, falters. At crucial junctures, it sums up segments of his history; it propels the narrative resolutely forward. These points of summary or anticipation establish the Exodus as the dominant pattern in Grace abounding and, because of its seminal influence, in the tradition of spiritual autobiography that follows. After a long bout of anxiety over his salvation, Bunyan receives assurance of election and expresses his joy in an allusion to the forty years wandering: "Now was my heart filled full of comfort and hope,.. .wherefore I said in my Soul with much gladness, Well, I would 1 had a pen and ink here, I would write this down before I go any further, for surely I will not forget this forty years hence "(92). Although the elation soon collapses with the memory that within less than forty days" he had begun "to question all again, at this juncture the experience of the Israelites provides Bunyan the protagonist with a means of understanding an otherwise chaotic period of his life. It also provides Bunyan the autobiographer with a means of imposing order upon the narrative, and it is significant thai understanding and order, the perspective of the protagonist and thai of the narrator, converge in this passage. Such convergence suggests that the protagonist's moment of understanding leads naturally to (and may be inseparable from) the autobiographical act of recording experience. At least this is the sort of convergence we typically find in the spiritual autobiography. When we as readers see the exodus pattern, we [37/38] recognize it as a signal of the continuing control of the retrospective autobiographer (or of God through the autobiographer). We recognize it, too, as evidence of completion, as a step forward in the protagonist's self-understanding.
Such reassuring repetition is, however, only half of the reader's experience—and a half that had diminished significantly by the 1830s when Carlyle wrote Sartor Resartus. Even in Grace Abounding^ typological allusions appear at moments of misunderstanding, when Bunyan the protagonist fails to see with clarity or Bunyan the autobiographer betrays his uneasiness about the act of interpretation itself,' In the midst of confusion over his election, for instance, he expresses anxiety by linking his inward state to a troublesome episode in Exodus, saying that he fears his "heart would be unclean, the Caaanites would dwell in the Land" (78). Later, as he worries more, he compares himself to the Israelites forbidden to enter Canaan because of their timidity and grumbling: "This the Devil urged, and set forth that in Numbers, which Moses said to the children of Israel, That because they would not go up to possess the Land when God would have them, therefore for ever after he did bar them out from hence, though they prayed they might with tears" (177). Both applications of the Exodus fit within the typological framework established by the preface, but they suggest hermeneutic misgivings. In the latter passage, Bunyan already knows that he is a spiritual Israelite, yet this recognition brings no assurance of peace. Perhaps the misgivings are those of the protagonist, the man who attempts to discover an appropriate type but cannot apply it fully to his life. But do not these allusions also testify, if unwittingly, to more subtle misgivings of the autobiographer?
Clearly, Bunyan sees his responsibility as autobiographer to lie in the beneficial application of typology of his life and, by extension, to the lives of others. His preface assures us that we may read his account as heuristic: "My dear children," Bunyan comforts, "the Milk and Honey is beyond this Wilderness. God be merciful to you, and grant that you be not slothful to go in to possess the land." Contrary to authorial intention, however, these passages suggest that the story of the Exodus—like other narratives—includes demonic elements that [38/39] work against an optimistic interpretation. As Bunyan recalls in moments of doubt, the Israelites failed to purge Canaan of its pagan occupants, and some Israelites never set foot in the promised land at all. To put Bunyan's difficulty more generally, typology may have appropriated the Exodus as a prefiguration of the Christian's salvation from bondage and final attainment of heavenly bliss; nevertheless, some historical facts of the narrative speak against this unifocal appropriation.
These facts—or rather, the hermeneutic use of these facts—Bunyan consciously rejects. He labels them "devilish," in effect delimiting hermeneutic practice to a redemptive form of repetition.10 Carlyle, like other Victorian writers, will treat such possibilities as the common dilemma of the autobiographer, as evidence that biblical types are humanly conceived rather than divinely ordained. Unlike other autobiographers, however, who will submit to the demonic or destructive aspect of the interpretative process that constantly unrav els the auiobiographer's carefully wrought achievement, Carlyle will I keep his narrative pattern comic and its hermeneutic method redemptive.
Bunyan, his predecessor, could remain confident in the traditional method of biblical typology. Whatever the misgivings along the way, I at the end of Grace Abounding both Bunyans, protagonist and auto biographer alike, accept the history of the Exodus as prefigurative of " man's earthly experience. The autobiography closes with a final vision, shared by both, of "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." The vision is a classic instance of autobiographical closure. Like Moses on Mount Nebo overlooking the promised land, Bunyan sees a "wonderful glory," which brings great refreshment to his spirit and ends his years of wandering.
Unlike Moses' vision, however, the glory Bunyan sees in Grace Abounding occurs not as a literal vision but as a typological envisioning. According to the account, the Spirit of God leads Bunyan a^ain and again to specific words, those of the New Testament epistle to the Hebrews: [40/41]
The words are these, Ye are come to mount Zion, to the City of the livivg God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of Angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made per feet, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Testament, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (264)
This passage, which in the New Testament follows the one on Esau that plagued Bunyan for so long, resolves the dilemma of both protagonist and autobiographer. In its typological antitheses—between the sacrifice of Abel and the blood of Jesus, between Moses at Mount Sinai and the Christian at Mount Sion, between the law and the Gospel—it completes the pattern of wandering. It testifies to Bunyan the protagonist that he has traveled from damnation to salvation. Most important, it assures Bunyan the autobiographer that the New Testament validates his self-interpretation.
arlyle's self-consciousness about autobiographical intention and generic form in Sartor Resartus expresses itself in the terms delineated by Bunyan's Grace Abounding and, less directly, The Pilgrim's Progress. This self-consciousness begins even before the narrative of Teufelsdröckh's life in Book Second. In the "Prospective" chapter of Book First, we find Hofrath Heuschrecke suggesting that some biographical facts relevant to Teufelsdröckh's intellectual development might help clear up the Editor's confusion over the philosophy of clothes. The biographical facrs that Heuschrecke considers relevant—Had Teufelsdröckh also a father and mother? Has he fought duels? How did he comport himself when in Love?—turn out to be apparently irrelevant derails. Heuschrecke's summary of the questions the Editor might ask, however, suggests that Carlyle is about to explore the act of writing autobiography under the guise of presenting Teufelsdröckh's life: "By what singular stair steps, [Heuschrecke queries], and subterranean passages, and sloughs of Despair, and steep Pisgah hills, has he reached this wonderful prophetic Hebron (a true Old-Clothes Jewry) [40/41] where he now dwells?" (76). The summary is a plan of organization, one that assumes the Exodus to be an appropriate pattern for understanding men's lives. More exactly, we might say that the summary uses the Exodus to organize Teufelsdröckh's life, but only as a biblical type that has been mediated by a tradition of spiritual autobiography. On the way to Pisgah hills and the land of Hebron lie sloughs of Despond from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
Like many another hack thinker, Heuschrecke is ready to apply a conventional pattern, accepting it as one the genre supplies for the (auto)biographer's ease. When the Editor himself sets to work on Teufelsdröckh's life, he follows Heuschrecke's rack, and the influence of exodus typology again appears, once again mediated by a generic tradition.11 The Editor calls the first chapter "Genesis," but he counters the title with the qualification that "this Genesis of his can properly be nothing but an Exodus" (81). The opposition of Genesis and Exodus acknowledges a point of biographical fact: that Teufelsdröckh's origin is obscure, "the preliminary portion is nowhere forthcoming" ((SL) It also makes a philosophical point central to Carlyle's thinking: that physical origins are irrelevant to a man's life, his true Beginning and Father is in Heaven" (86). In terms of generic precedents, however, the title acknowledges a matter of autobiographical form. In the conventions of the English spiritual autobiography, one's origin is Egypt, not Eden, and one's typological model is the Book of Exodus, not that of Genesis. Following convention, the Editor introduces Teufelsdröckh's life with what will become the basic pattern of his autobiographical account: the wilderness wandering.12
The Editor's decision to use this conventional pattern suggests Carlyle's interest in a fundamental dilemma of self-interpretation. The Editor's decision is neither so automatic nor so easy as Heuschrecke's, and he wavers between Genesis and Exodus as appropriate models for a life. According to the Puritan theology that influenced the spiritual autobiography, man is born in sin, in Egyptian bondage, and hence the Exodus, not the story of Genesis, is the applicable model. By the 1830s, however, there were other models for autobiography that allowed more idyllic origins: works of German Romanticism [41/42] suitable to a foreign subject like Teufelsdröckh, including Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, which Carlyle knew well. What should Teufelsdröckh's autobiographical models be? The Editor resolves the immediate dilemma by using the conventional pattern and at the same time acknowledging other forms. Writing to a British audience, he chooses the dominant pattern of its autobiographical tradition as his narrative basis. But he has it both ways, for he includes within the exodus pattern an alternate beginning.
Carlyle, too, has it both ways, for with the double allusion he can both write autobiography and explore problems that the genre creates for the author. There is first the problem that Pascal describes as "design" versus "truth." On the one hand, the auiobiographer knows the conventions of the genre, conventions which encourage him and his audience to read experience in terms of familiar, predetermined patterns; on the other, he knows the truth of his experience, a truth which frequently belies the legitimacy of the patterns. Then there is the problem of memory. Even though the auiobiographer may be conscious of the power of convention to distort the truth, he may still forget that memory itself distorts, making it difficult to recover the truth of the experience he intends to record and interpret accurately. As Elizabeth Bruss points out, the autobiographical act involves a pact between audience and autobiographer that, "whether or not what is reported can be discredited," the autobiographer "purports to believe in what he asserts" (p. 11).
Both of these problems appear in "Genesis," suggesting that they are among Carlyle's specific concerns. Teufelsdröckh presents his father and mother, for example, as "the Andreas and Gretchen, or the Adam and Eve, who led [him] into Life, and for a time suckled and pap-fed [him] there" (86). He describes Gretchen in language reminiscent of Milton's Eve, a woman who created a paradise in their humble cottage, "embowered in fruit-trees and forest-trees, evergreens and honeysuckles, and flowers struggling-in through the very windows" (83). These are conventional descriptions of an edenic childhood, borrowed from German Romantic autobiography as well as from Milton. Despite this initial acquiescence to convention, however, Teufelsdröckh remembers the truth: life in Entepfuhl was no paradise. In a later chapter, ironically entitled "Idyllic," he describes his childhood again, this time in more detail: [43/44]
My Active Power (Thatkraft) was unfavourably hemmed-in;... In an orderly house, where the litter of children's sports is hateful enough, your training is too stoical; rather to bear and forbear than to make and do. I was forbid much: wishes in any measure bold I had to renounce; everywhere a strait bond of Obedience inflexibly held me down.. .so that my tears flowed, and at seasons the Child itself might taste that root of bitterness, wherewith the whole fruitage of our life is mingled and tempered. 
The description counteracts the earlier one, false to experience and memory both. In the juxtaposition of convention and memory, one interpretive possibility (childhood as Eden) is tried out and rejected because of its inadequacy to organize the past satisfactorily.
In later Victorian autobiographies, this pattern of testing and rejecting interpretive possibilities will become characteristic, and autobiographers like Edmund Gosse will refuse to settle finally on any single interpretive system. But Sartor Resartus comes early in the century, and Carlyle is still concerned with reconstituting the traditional figures of interpretation for both private and public history. Hence, even in the chapters "Genesis" and "Idyllic," the exodus pattern of traditional autobiography dominates the account. As Teufelsdröckh recalls those early years, what he remembers with pleasure and truth are the "glorious summer twilights" when the sun, like a proud "imperial Taskmaster," turned its back so that "the tired brickmakers of this clay Earth might steal a little frolic" (91-92). The pleasure he recalls is not that of man in Eden, but that of the children of Israel, released for a moment from the burdens of the Egyptian bondage. Here narrative and interpretation, personal memory and biblical pattern, merge seamlessly.
As the Editor continues to collate the fragments of Teufelsdröckh's life, the exodus pattern continues to shape both narrative and interpretation. The Israelite's bondage in Egypt becomes correlative to Teufelsdröckh's years in the gymnasium and university and his preparation for a legal career. "For long years," the Editor explains, quoting an autobiographical scrap, "had the poor Hebrew in this [43/44] Egypt of an Ausculatorship, painfully toiled, baking bricks without stubble, before ever the question once struck him with entire force: For what?—Beym Himmel! For Food and Warmth!" (131). Once the young philosopher recognizes the degradation of this bondage, the narrative modulates to a later phase of the exodus. In the middle chapters of Book Second, we see Teufelsdröckh, Pilgerstab in hand (147), setting off on a "world pilgrimage" which, like the wandering in the wilderness of Zin, seems more like a journey in a "dark labyrinth" than a journey with a destination (152). Teufelsdröckh appears not only as a contemporary Israelite on a worldwide exodus, but as several other types: as Ishmael in a desert "waste and howling with savage monsters" (114), as Cain or the Wandering Jew—"save only that he feels himself not guilty and bur suffering the pains of guilt" (156), and even as a "young mettled colt who "breaks-off his neck-halter" to try rich clover fields, only to find himself in "a certain bosky wilderness" (121).
All of these types modify or supplement the basic pattern of the exodus, and like the initial opposition of Genesis and Exodus, their inclusion focuses attention on the act of shaping an autobiography. They make visible the autobiographer's choice of narrative form, the representation of life as a wilderness wandering being a deliberate act of the Editor, one with which Teufelsdröckh's comments seem to concur.14Unlike the earlier opposition, however, these three variations on the pattern do not test it by the truth of experience. Instead, the validity of the experience is tested by the pattern. Or rather, the validity of Teufelsdröckh's interpretation of experience is tested — and, with it, the autobiographical act of self-interpretation is critically examined.
In one of these variations, the Editor repeats Teufelsdröckh's description of himself as a "young mettled colt" who "breaks-off-his neck-halter," jumps the fence hoping to find his way "into luxuriant and luxurious clover," but soon finds himself in a bosky wilderness" (121). The description parallels the exodus account in several respects: the colt is kept in bondage, miraculously breaks free, but ends up in the wilderness. Appropriately, it appears in the chapter "Getting Under Way," moving the narrative along, carrying Teufelsdrockh [45/46] from his Egyptian bondage to the next stage of his pilgrimage. Only the Editor realizes, however, that the next stage is the wilderness. To Teufelsdröckh, the young colt, it simply appears "bosky" — that is, sylvan.
That Teufelsdröckh misinterpreted the landscape at the time he saw it is confirmed by his explanation of what he felt when he broke off the neck-halter: 'Then, in the words of Ancient Pistol, did the world generally become mine oyster, which I, by strength or cunning, was to open, as I would and could" (120). Obviously, Teufelsdröckh can't see the desert for the trees. He believes that one can go straight from Egypt to the promised land. But his Editor, with the foresight that typology provides, knows that the new landscape, however bosky it may appear, can only be a wilderness. With that knowledge, he re-interprets Teufelsdröckh's original passage: "He too must enact that stern Monodrama, No Object and no Rest; must front its successive destinies, work through to its catastrophe, and deduce therefrom what moral he can" (121). The revision suggests that without reliable systems of interpretation we will misread our experience, if indeed we can read it at all.
The next variation—Ishmael in a desert "waste and howling with savage monsters"—offers another perspective on the possibility of misreading. Here the Old Testament type is the Editor's choice, and it seems a perspicacious one. Like Ishmael cast out from Abraham's legitimate heirs, Teufelsdröckh discovers that he is an alien among the "eleven-hundred Christian youths' who attend the university with him. In this predicament the Editor depicts him beset by "fever-paroxysms of Doubt" about himself and his religion; like Hagar and Ishmael, he "cast[s] himself before the All-seeing" and "crie[s] vehemently for Light, for deliverance from Death and the Grave" (114). Though seemingly appropriate, the variation runs counter to the pattern of the Exodus in one crucial sense. Both Ishmael and the children of Israel descended from Abraham, both found themselves in a desert, but the Ishmaelites were not the elect of God. If Teufelsdröckh is an Ishmaelite, then he cannot expect to find his way out of the wilderness. To impose this pattern upon his experience will prevent the hoped-for resolution. [45/46] Unlike the analogy of the colt lost in a bosky wilderness, this correlative involves no mis-seeing of external reality: the Editor knows that a desert surrounds Teufelsdröckh. But he still misreads —or fears to read fully. Like Bunyan struggling with the possibility of Esau as his legitimate type, the Editor is plagued by the possibility that a pattern other than the Exodus may represent the key to Teufelsdröckh's life. Or, more skeptical than Bunyan, he may fear that he has no means of distinguishing a key that works from one that does nor, a valid interpretation from an invalid one. The personal "fever-paroxysms of Doubt" are the product of a cultural "nightmare [of] Unbelief" (114), and the nightmare includes a loss of confidence in providential interpretation.
The third variation on the exodus pattern—the story of the Wandering Jew—is the most complex of the three and the most interesting for what it reveals about Carlyle's relationship to the conventions of the Romantic literary tradition. Carlyle's immediate source for the Wandering Jew as an autobiographical model was Goethe's Sufferings of Young Werther, but other Romantic wanderers had influenced his choice as well (Tennyson, 201-15). In Goethe's work the young hero loses his beloved and his position at court and sets off on a series of aimless travels: "True, I am but a wanderer, a rover on earth!" he writes in a letter. "Are you more than that?" (p. 98). After being rejected by Blumine and the polite society of Towgoods and Zahdarms, Teufelsdröckh similarly sets off, "wending to and fro with aimless speed," covering "the whole surface of the earth (by footprints) [to] write his Sorrows of Teufelsdröckh" (156). Carlyle's repetition of this Romantic pattern intends to answer Werther's question—Are you more than that?—with a significant variation. Teufelsdröckh repeats Werther, but his repetition signals a difference.
At first glance, this Cain/Wandering Jew/Werther motif would seem merely to supplement the exodus typlogy of Sartor, allowing Carlyle to graft a continental and Romantic pattern onto an essentially English and Puritan form. But Carlyle does not introduce the motif to supplement or modify the biblical pattern. Rather, the Editor examines it critically and then rejects it as inferior to the traditional biblical type. He objects to the motif because it fails to fit [47/48] at crucial points; he notes, for example, that Teufelsdröckh "feels himself not guilty and but suffering the pains of guilt" (156). But ultimately the Editor rejects the pattern because it offers a detrimental model: Cain remains an outcast, the Jew is condemned to wander until the Day of Judgment, and Werther commits suicide. Here the didactic-redemptive function of the spiritual autobiography dictates the narrative form. Just as Bunyan rejects Francis Spira, the Editor negates a possible autobiographical model not because it fails to fit experience, but because it may have the power to create experience. This is what the Editor means when he states that men would be happier if they wrote such matters not in books, but "on the insensible Earth, with [their] shoe-soles only. Men can "survive the writing thereof" (157), for the traces of their footprints disappear. Men could not survive words arranged in patterns and preserved in books.
By the time the Editor has reached the three central chapters of Book Second, which narrate Teufelsdröckh's conversion, the Exodus has become the authoritative pattern, and the Editor can invoke it both descriptively and prescriptively. As he explains the effects of Teufelsdröckh's "mad Pilgrimage" (158), he describes the philosopher's world as "all a grim Desert, this once-fair world of his; wherein is heard only the howling of wild-beasts, or the shrieks of despairing, hate-filled men; and no Pillar of Cloud by day, and no Pillar of Fire by night, any longer guides the Pilgrim" (161). Teufelsdröckh has lost the visible symbols of providence because he has succumbed to a rationalist (or post-rationalist) view of the universe; his world is "void of Life, of Purpose, of Volition, even of Hostility" (164). But his Editor continues to use the biblical patterns to describe his state rather than any others, because he now understands that the hermeneutics an autobiographer chooses has prefigurative power. It may determine his future state.
That Carlyle intends his readers to recognize the power of interpretive systems is clear from Teufelsdröckh's discussion of suicide. Unlike Goethe's Werther or Byron's Manfred, Teufelsdröckh does not wander unto death. He is prevented by what Carlyle calls the Nachschein of Christianity, an afterglow which prevents the young man philosophically from taking his life. The Nachschein also keeps him [48/49] literarily in the pattern he should follow. For, derived from the biblical text and transmitted through a tradition of spiritual autobiography, exodus typology has the power to save the auiobiographer from death and release him from death-in-life.
The Editor's interpretive choice in the Cain/Wandering Jew passage has its predicted effect. By the next allusion to the Exodus, Teufelsdrockh has moved through "The Everlasting No" and "The Centre of Indifference" to "The Everlasting Yea." Significantly, the young philosopher makes this allusion himself, linking the Old Testament type with its New Testament fulfillment: " 'Temptations in the Wilderness!' exclaims Teufelsdrockh: 'Have we not all to be tried with such?... Our Wilderness is the wide World in an Atheistic Century; our Forty Days are long years of suffering and fasting: nevertheless, to these there also comes an end'" (183—84). The comment is, in the Editor's phrase, an "ambitious figure" (184). It is a figure not simply in the Coleridgean sense that, as metaphor, it aspires to a metaphysical realm. It is an example of figura in the theological sense: a record of a historical event that fulfills the foreshadowing of an earlier biblical event and thus testifies to a providential view of history. In this theological sense it is "ambitious"; it attempts to reassert the primacy of the Bible in a postrationalist interpretation of history.
Like the Israelites' experience in the wilderness and Christ's temptation in the desert, Teufelsdrockh's trials cease when he relies on the biblical record—the authoritative "It is written"—and "workts] out [his] way into the higher sunlight slopes" (184). The autobiography in Book Second ends with a description of its subject stationed "on the high table-land," like Moses overlooking the promised land, contemplating "the nine Towns and Villages that lay round [his] mounCiiin seat," and watching a "blue pillar" of smoke ascend from each kitchen fire (187). As Joseph Sigman has pointed out, the passage contains an elaborate allusion to Moses' final vision of Canaan from Mount Pisgah, the nine towns corresponding to the nine cities of Judah and the blue smoke co the pillar of cloud that marks God's presence. The Pisgah vision comes as a reward for following the pattern of t lie biblical text as transmitted by the tradition of Bunyan, a tradition [49/50] that made such visions the conventional method of closure. With Teufelsdrockh on the mountaintop, the exodus pattern is complete.
f Carlyle uses exodus typology to organize the (auto)biographical narrative of Book Second and simultaneously to foreground the complexities of self-interpretation, he also uses it to present an account of Teufelsdröckh's conversion and examine critically the hermeneutic implications of its conventions. As we have seen, spiritual autobiographies like Grace Abounding and Book Second of Sartor Resartus conventionally apply key events of the Exodus to the life of the individual Christian and thus derive both structure and content from biblical typology—the state ot sinful ness corresponding to the Egyptian bondage; the dramatic conversion, to the flight from Pharaoh and the crossing of the Red Sea; the period of confusion or even back sliding, to the wilderness wandering; and the final peace, to the entry into Canaan. The details may vary or some aspect be diminished, but whatever the variation, at the center of the narrative is always the dramatic encounter.
By the nineteenth century, many conversion narratives had lost their specifically religious content, yet their writers still drew upon the traditional forms to recount secular experiences. John Stuart Mill described the crisis in his menial history, for example, as the state "in which converts to Methodism usually are, when smitten by their first 'conviction of sin'" (p. 81), although his crisis had no overt religious component. Even when autobiographers did not recognize the biblical origin of their narratives, most of them recounted experiences that followed the conventional pattern, always with a dramatic conversion, usually with a wilderness wandering. In Carlyle's case, however, the recognition of religious and literary sources is clear. The central chapters of Book Second deliberately invoke the pattern, "The Everlasting No" repeating the rebellion against Pharaoh; "The Centre of Indifference," the wilderness wandering; and "The Everlasting Yea," the entry into Canaan. At the center of Teufelsdrockh's experience is the dramatic conversion on the Rue St. Thomas de l'Enfer. [49/50] Despite such clear biblical patterns, the typological allusions in these chapters have become the focus of a small critical maelstrom in the past decade, with some critics attempting to diminish or deny the Christian elements of Teufelsdröckh's conversion. Walter L. Reed has argued, for instance, that there is "no clear Christian pattern behind Teufelsdröckh's conversion"; instead, the structure of the autobiographical narrative derives from German Romantic philosophy, particularly from Goethe's belief "that all action was the effect of the juxtaposition of positive and negative poles" (413-14). While German philosophy certainly influenced Carlyle, a fact no critic would deny, this argument represents a misunderstanding of what constitutes a Christian pattern of conversion. Certainly, it ignores the generic tradition in which Teufelsdröckh's autobiography participates and misses Carlyle's use of radical biblical hermeneutics in Book Second. For even if Carlyle divests the exodus pattern in Sartor Resartus of its orthodox Protestant meaning, he does not efface its Christian origins; indeed, he exposes them.
Such misunderstandings do not originate with Reed, who was attempting to correct what he considered a mistaken emphasis in Carlylean scholarship. From the beginning, readers of Sartor Resartus have discussed the orthodox Christian and German Romantic influences upon Carlyle, but it was C. F. Harrold in Carlyle and German Thought and then in his edition of Sartor Resartus who, more than anyone else, formulated the questions that later scholars would ask of the text. In Harrold's view Carlyle was a "Calvinist without the theology," one who sought "in German thought and elsewhere, an acceptable intellectual restatement of these beliefs"; Sartor Resartus was a specific instance of "a brilliant metaphorical adaptation of German idealism, in its terms and concepts, to the surviving intellectual design bequeathed by Calvinism when shorn of its dogmas."20 Harrold's reading initiated a critical tradition that has attempted to explain the details of the Carlylean adaptation, and subsequent critics have felt obliged either to disagree with his stance or accept it with modifications. Reed represents the former attitude; a critic like G. B. Tennyson in Sartor Called Resartus, the latter.21
Much of this critical debate has confused philosophical ideas and [50/51] narrative patterns, theological commitment and generic intention.22 Yet it may perhaps remind us here of the careful relationship between theology and narrative that Carlyle intends. There are too many biblical allusions, particularly those associated with typological hermeneutics, to ignore the influence of the English spiritual autobiography. And there are too many allusions to German literary and philosophical sources to ignore their contribution either.23 Whatever relationship we formulate between Christian and Romantic sources in Sartor Resartus, we must credit both, distinguishing between narrative patterns and philosophical/theological content, but also connecting narrative and exposition in terms of autobiography's concern with both.
In Carlyle's case, the disjunction between traditional narrative form and philosophical content suggests the place to begin. The disjunction is deliberate, I think. Carlyle adopts the traditional form of the English spiritual autobiography for the structure of Book Second and tor Teufelsdröckh's conversion in its central three chapters. As we have seen, his literary predecessor, John Bunyan, was able to derive this autobiographical structure directly from biblical typology by applying the events of the Exodus to the experiences of his spiritual life. In Bunyan the movement from biblical hermeneutics to literary form is uncomplicated: the account of the Exodus, divinely inspired and hence authoritative, needs no modification, only personal application. In Carlyle, however, this movement cannot be so simple. Mediated by a century and a half of literary tradition and by radical methods of German biblical criticism as well, the movement from biblical hermeneutics to literary creation becomes a complicated autobiographical act.
The differences between Bunyan and Carlyle and the distance that English autobiography has traveled are no more obvious than in the treatments of standard Old Testament types in Grace Abounding and Sartor Resartus. When Bunyan introduces the Exodus as the pattern for autobiographical writing, he acknowledges virtually no separation between the Old Testament narrative and his own life. He writes of Grace Abounding as "a Relation of the work of God upon my own Soul," using the language of Scripture: [51/52]
[In it] you may perceive my castings down, and raising! up; for he woundeth, and his hands make whole. It is written in the Scripture (Isai. 38.19), The father to the children shall make known the truth of God. Yea, it was for this reason I lay so long at Sinai (Deut. 4. 10,11), to see the fire, and the cloud, and the darkness that I might fear the Lord all the days of my life upon earth, and tell of his wondrous works to my children, Psal. 78.3,4,5.
At first glance, we might conclude that typographical distinctions separate the biblical language from Bunyan's own, italics indicating a direct quotation of scripture. But this is not so, for the clause "he woundeth, and his hands make whole" quotes Job 5.18 exactly, as does the unitalicized sentence from Isaiah chat follows. In Bunyan's autobiography the language of the Bible merges imperceptibly with his own so that one cannot separate its text from his, Moses from John Bunyan, the "I" of Deuteronomy from the "I" of Grace Abounding. In such matters of scriptural interpretation and literary creation, Bunyan is thoroughly Protestant. He allows nothing to intervene between himself and the biblical text nor between the text and his autobiography; he needs no other models to tell his story, no special literary language. "God did not play in convincing of me," he explains: "The Devil did not play in tempting of me; neither did I play when I sunk as into a bottomless pit, when the pangs of hell caught hold upon me: wherefore I way not play in my relating of them, but be plain and simple, and lay down the thing as it was" (3—4), For Bunyan, "the thing as it was" is the thing as it is in the biblical text. That text grounds his language and provides his reality.
In contrast, when Carlyle introduces exodus typology into Sartor Resartus, he does so with an understanding of the distance between the type and his subject Teufelsdröckh, a distance created by a tradition in generic form and a revolution in biblical hermeneutics. Hofrath Heuschrecke's question demonstrates the contrast: "By what singular stair-steps, in short, and subterranean passages, and sloughs of Despair, and steep Pisgah hills, has he reached this wonderful prophetic Hebron (a true Old-Clothes Jewry) where he now dwells?" (76). The question suggests an autobiographical form: a man's life as a [52/53] spiritual exodus. It does not, however, suggest a direct typological application. Between the biblical text and Teufelsdröckh's autobiography a literary tradition intervenes, alluded to in the "sloughs of Despair" from Bunyan. Also intervening are the autobiographer as literary artist, who adds his own "singular stair-steps" and "sub? rerranean passages" to the biblical place names, and the autobiographer as contemporary historian, who acknowledges in the allusion to a London ghetto, the true "Old-Clothes Jewry," a difference between the Old Testament milieu and his own.
What Carlyle demonstrates in Heuschrecke's question is that autobiographers "accommodate" prior literary texts as they create their own. I use the term accommodation here as it was used by rationalist and mythological biblical critics in nineteenth-century Germany and England, but the term in fact appears in the writings of both orthodox theologians and the Higher Critics, as they were called. According to orthodox theology, God has accommodated divine truth to man's limited understanding throughout history; he revealed his truth partially to the Israelites in the "shadowy types" of the Old Testament, then more fully to Christian believers in the New. According to the Higher Critics, "accommodation" refers not to the beneficent action of God but to the literary activities of the writers of Scripture, particularly the writers of the Gospels and Epistles. These writers accommodated (that is, adapted) Old Testament materials to their own narrative and doctrinal purposes. As Patrick Fairbairn explained the issue in an attack on the Higher Critics and in defense of traditional biblical typology,
The rationalistic spirit, in the progress of its antichristian tendencies... discarded the ...types of the elder divines; and the convenient principles of accommodation, which was at the same time introduced, furnished an easy solution for those passages in the New Testament Scripture which seemed to indicate a typical relationship between the past and the future. It was regarded only as an adaptation, originating in Jewish prejudice or conceit, of the facts and institutions of an earlier age to things essentially different under the gospel.24 [53/54]
Fairbairn presents the introduction of the concept of accommodation as a new critical laxity, making an almost ad hominem argument against rationalist hermeneuticians. But the disagreement between orthodox theologians and the Higher Critics was fundamentally theoretical. It centered, as Fairbairn knew all too well, on the issues of who (or Who) made the accommodation and why.
In practice, the disagreement often came down to a matter of types and prophecies. According to the Higher Critics, accommodation might take place in either of two ways: a New Testament writer might adapt the words of the Old Testament (what orthodox theologians would consider prophecy) or he might adapt a narrative pattern (what the orthodox would call a type). The apostle Matthew's account of the star of the Magi and the flight into Egypt illustrates the different approaches and suggests the literary adaptations possible in a work like Sartor Resartus, where the author understands both older and newer hermeneutic modes.
In the evangelical interpretation of Thomas Scott, the star of Bethlehem represents a divine sign and typological fulfillment, a "luminous appearance" which "looked like a star, and which was formed by God... to mark out a single house in the midst of the city; as the cloudy pillar pointed out the spot, where Israel was to encamp in the wilderness."25 In The Life of Jesus Critically Examined, David Friedrich Strauss analyzes the assumptions of such orthodox criticism, including the older notion of accommodation: "The most obvious explanation, from the orthodox point of view, is an appeal to the supernatural intervention of God; who, in this particular instance, in order to bring the distant magi unto Jesus, accommodated himself to their astrological notions, and caused the anticipated star to appear" (p. 163). To a mythological critic like Strauss, the narrative of the star represents not a revelation from God, but rather an adaptation of prior biblical, rabbinical, and secular literary texts. Synthesizing the work of a century of Higher Criticism, Strauss points to the origin of the story in Balaam's prophecy: A star shall come out of Jacob" (Numbers 24.17). He traces the prophecy through rabbinical tradition to show its gradual association with the Messiah. He then documents the belief in astrology "prevalent in the time of Jesus" and cites [54/55] extra-biblical stories in which stars, comets, and other stellar disturbances mark the appearance of great leaders (the comets appearing at the birth of Mithridates and the death of Julius Caesar, Jewish legends churning "that a remarkable star appeared at the birth of Abraham," and so on). All of these elements—the biblical prophecy, the contemporary belief in astrology, the rabbinical and secular narratives— contribute to the mythus of the star in Matthew's Gospel. According to Strauss,
The early converted Jewish Christians could confirm their faith in Jesus, and justify it in the eyes of others, only by labouring to prove that in him were realized all the attributes lent to the Messiah byJewish notions of their age... .Hence it soon ceased to be a matter ot doubt that the anticipated appearance of a star was really coincident with the birth of Jesus. This being once presupposed, it followed as a marrer of course that the observers of this appearance were eastern magi; first, because none could better interpret the sign than astrologers, and the east was supposed to be the native region of their science; and secondly, because it must have seemed fitting that the Messianic star which had been seen by the spiritual eye of the ancient magus Balaam, should, on its actual appearance be first recognized by the bodily eyes of the later magi. [p. 174]
This complicated web of sources hardly corresponds to the "convenient" hermeneutics that Fairbairn describes as typical of the Higher Critics. In Strauss's criticism the Gospel narrative becomes a complex example of literary influence and intertextuality. Having removed God as the divine author of the text, the biblical critic assumes the task of tracing the multiple human authors who contributed to it.
Carlyle could not have known Strauss's analysis of the star passage 1830 when he was writing Sartor Resartus, for the first German edition of Das Leben Jesu did not appear until 1835. But the principles mythological analysis, as E. S. Shaffer has demonstrated, had already been formulated by 1795. They were introduced to English audiences by Herbert Marsh, a student of Michaelis, in the first and [55/56] second decades of the nineteenth century, and they were present in the works of many German critics whom Carlyle read in the 1820s, including Lessing and Schleiermacher.28 In Book Second Carlyle appropriates these principles of textual influence as he (or, rather, his Editor) accommodates the narrative of the Exodus to compose the autobiography of Diogenes Teufelsdröckh. Unlike an orthodox typologist or a Puritan autobiographer, the Editor does not apply types directly to Teufelsdröckh's life. For him they are not immediate revelations from God, unmediated by human concerns or cultural assumptions. Such revelations are not possible—at least, not possible to comprehend. Even in Heuschrecke's initial allusion to the Exodus, the application of the sacred pattern includes an acknowledgment of a tradition of biblical hermeneutics as well as of traditional and contemporary literary forms.
"Communion of Saints, "cloud of witnesses," and simply "Tradition" are terms Carlyle gives to this web of multiple authorship and mtertextual influence.29 "Who printed thee, for example, this unpretending Volume on the Philosophy of Clothes?" Teufelsdröckh asks. "Not the Herren Stillschweigen and Company; but Cadmus of Thebes, Faust of Mentz, and innumerable others whom thou knowest not" (246). The answer recognizes the dependence of contemporary writers on the man who invented movable type, on the earlier man (real or imaginary) who introduced the Phoenician alphabet of sixteen letters into Greece, and on all the other contributors to written language. The dependence is not simply mechanical, not a matter of reproduction. It is literally a matter of production. The type and the letters give form to man's thought: they provide the forms through and in which man expresses himself. Like the prior biblical and secular texts which (in)form the Gospel of Matthew, the written and printed texts prior to Teufelsdröckh's inform his Die Kleider, ihr Werden und Wirkin and his autobiography. One might even say that those prior texts compose—that is, "make by putting together parts or elements," a term appropriate to both writing and printing—the works, and not Teufelsdröckh himself. "It is thus," his Editor says, 'that the heroic heart, the seeing eye of the first times, still feels and sees in us of the latest; that the Wise Man stands ever encompassed, [56/57] and spiritually embraced, by a cloud of witnesses and brothers; and there is a living, literal Communion of Saints, wide as the World itself, and as the History of the World" (247).
Such a view of autobiographical writing explains why critics have discovered so many narrative patterns in Sartor Resartus, why they are right to see them but misled to debate the priority (or final authority) of any single pattern. By invoking the exodus initially, Carlyle acknowledges the origin of his Editor's autobiographical form and places Book Second within a generic tradition. But the original form, like Balaam's prophecy of the star, is modified by other biblical and secular texts. Narratives of other wanderers and outcasts complicate the exodus pattern and, like the rabbinical and pagan stories of astrological wonders, supplement and even alter its meaning. Similarly, contemporary autobiographical forms, especially those of German literature, influence the content of Teufelsdröckh's narrative. So, too, do stories from classical mythology, which are abundant in the Sartor Resartus but rarely discussed.
All of these modifications and variations suggest that a debate over whether Sartor Resartus and especially Book Second represent an Augustinian, a Calvinistic, or a Goethean pattern of conversion is unresolvable. G. B. Tennyson is probably correct to see in Sartor an Augusrinian point of crisis, the spiritual nadir from which the soul arises to salvation," and Walter Reed is probably correct, too, that Goethe's influence adds to the crisis "a time and space of indifference." But the issue should not be one of exclusivity or doctrinal purity or philosophical allegiance. For Carlyle in Sartor Resartus, the key issues are those of intenextual relationships: of generic conventions shaping texts and of texts modifying the genre.
n using the new biblical hermeneutics as his model for literary creation, Carlyle revises our conventional definitions of autobiographical writing. The autobiographer does not, as we usually say, begin with the raw facts of his experience and then create or discover an order from within. Instead, he constructs a life from the models of [57/58] prior autobiographical texts, the facts of his life being accessible only indirectly, given in part by the practice of the autobiographers before him. Just as the Gospel narrative of the star, the Magi, and the flight into Egypt depends less upon historical events than upon Old Testament and apocryphal models, so Teufelsdröckh's autobiography (like all autobiographies) depends less on the facts than on textual models, biblical and secular, that explain and thus create man's experience. As both Strauss and Carlyle understood, the historical facts are irrecoverable anyway.
Strauss makes this point implicitly in the title of his The Christ of Faith and the Jesus of History. Carlyle makes the point explicitly at the end of Book Second when the Editor admits that "these Autobiographical Documents are partly a mystification" (202). As the Editor despairs that all his labor may be for naught, fearing "What if many a so-called Fact were little better than a Fiction," the answer comes back "on a small slip, formerly thrown aside as blank, the ink being all-but invisible": '"What are your historical Facts; still more your biographical? Wilt thou know a Man, above all a Mankind, by Stringing-together beadrolls of what thou namest Facts? The Man is the spirit he worked in; not what he did, but what he became. Facts are engraved Hierograms'" (203). Teufelsdröckh's answer can be read simply as an acknowledgment that the autobiographer ought not merely to record the historical facts of his life, but instead should discover the shape, "the spirit he worked in." This reading would confirm the traditional delineation of fact to form in autobiography argued by Roy Pascal: "the autobiographer is not relating facts, but experiences—i.e. the interaction of a man and facts or events. By experience we mean something with meaning" (p. 16).
But might not Carlyle be suggesting here a more radical notion of autobiographical writing? In Book Second, historical facts or events are never really a part of the autobiographical process. In the six paper bags, Teufelsdröckh sends fragments of his life that are not raw materials, but already responses to (interpretations of) autobiographical, theological, and philosophical texts. The Editor's question defines the issue: "What if many a so-called Fact were little better than a Fiction?" Sartor Resartus suggests an answer: the fiction is [58/59] inseparable from the fact, the symbolic history from the personal life, the generic models from the individual autobiography.
On the grounds of its fictionality and lack of real facts Sartor Resartus is usually excluded from serious accounts of the English autobiography. Carlyle admitted, as we know, that the account of Teufelsdröckh's life was "symbolical myth all," and its densely allusive texture seems to corroborate his description. Yet he qualified his admission with an exception: "the incident in the Rue St. Thomas de L'Enfer, which occurred quite literally to myself in Leith Walk [Edinburgh], during three weeks of total sleeplessness, in which my one solace was that of a daily bathe on the sands between Leith and Portobello" (quoted by Harrold, p. 166n3). Carlyle's acknowledgment of the truth of this central incident suggests an essential, personal connection with the narrative of Book Second. Might not this single, literal incident form the basis of a genuine Carlylean self-interpretation, an autobiography of reconstruction through literary convention?33
That Sartor Resartus is an autobiography of reconstruction its title affirms: sartor resartus, the tailor re-tailored. In the work, the British Editor reconstructs Teufelsdröckh's life and Philosophy of Clothes, and thus Carlyle reconstructs the worn-out philosophy of a postrationalist age and with it the lives of his British readers. But Carlyle also reconstructs himself. Around the central episode of conversion in Leith Walk, he composes an interpretation of his experience that takes form specifically through generic conventions. This, as Sartor Resartus teaches us, is what all autobiographers do. If in his reconstruction Carlyle relies more completely upon literary predecessors than most autobiographers do, that is compatible with his sense of Sartor Resartus as a literary "extravaganza" (302). It is compatible, too, with his understanding of autobiography as a fundamentally hermeneutic literary form.
Last modified 7 February 2014