[Adapted from George P. Landow, Victorian Types, Victorian Shadows: Biblical Typology in Victorian Literature, Art, and Thought (1980). Follow for full text.]

"Phenomena," the opening chapter of the third book of Past and Present, thus presents a series of contemporary facts as wonderfully grotesque emblems of what is wrong with the modern world . First, Carlyle presents us with the fact of an "amphibious Pope":

the old Pope of Rome, finding it laborious to kneel so long while they cart him through the streets to bless the people on Corpus-Christi Day, complains of rheumatism; whereupon his Cardinals consult;- construct him, after some study, a stuffed cloaked figure, of iron and wood, with wool or baked hair, and place 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 and drapery, his living head and outspread hands: the rump with its cloaks kneels, the Pope looks, and holds his hands spread; and so the two in concert bless the Roman population on Corpus-Christi Day, as well they can. . . . Here is a Supreme Priest who believes . . . that all worship of God is a scenic phantasmagory of wax-candles, organ-blasts, Gregorian chants, mass-brayings, purple monsignori, wool-and-iron rumps, artistically spread out, — to save the ignorant from worse.... There is in this poor Pope, and his practice of the Scenic Theory of Worship, a frankness which I rather honour. [10.138-39]

For Carlyle, a rather trivial fact, such as the way a Pope's infirmities were accommodated one feast day, becomes a message written in Belshazzar fire-letters warning his contemporaries that they cannot survive by using an obsolete religion to prop up obsolete political systems.

The Sage's Techniques

Last modified 1996