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All these on thy kindly breast were born;
Now steady and sure again,
There is true melody, as well as exquisite picturesqueness, this little song. Carlyle was born a poet.
II T R. CARLYLE has never pledged himself to any formal J-"-"- system of philosophy, his ineradicable conviction being that it is impossible to sum up truth in any system framed by man, and that, if you train yourself to look at nature through the colored spectacles of any one theory, however comprehensive, you will see falsely, partially, or superficiallv. One verified fact, he maintains, is worth a score of elaborately-constructed philosophies of the universe. Those men of science who sit in cross-legged complacency, and explain to you how, out of nebulous star-vapors, colliding aerolites, or otherwise, solar systems originate and worlds are formed, call forth his keenest sarcasm. "I would beg to know," he cries, glaring into them with eyes of fiery scorn, " whether an order for a world is likely to come to your shop any morning."
Nevertheless his thinking and his writing have from first to last been dominated by a few great thoughts or ideas, and these are discoverable in their purest form in the book composed by him amidst the wilds of Galloway—the world-renowned Sartor Resartus. I look upon this as one of the very few books produced in Great Britain in the present century deserving to be styled a tine, original, and important contribution to metaphysies. It connects itself in a very interesting manner with Kant's speculations on space and time, and with Sir AVilliam Hamilton's philosophy of the Infinite; but it is distinctively Carlyle's, and cannot be claimed by the disciples either of Kant or of Hamilton.
The thought in this book has an affinity with pantheism, with 'wlnch it was identified by John Sterling;; but it is not necessarily pantheistic. The thesis, or proposition, which underlies it, from beginning to end, is that all matter and material things are but vesture, clothing, or visual appearance, of spirit. Let us not be startled by the seeming mysticism of this. It is either false, or it is perfectly simple and true. As I hold to be the case with all genuine metaphysies, the proposition carries its own evidence with it, which evidence, if we will but make the effort of patient care necessary to comprehend it—and such an effort is surely worth making, in order to get at the deepest root of thought and belief in a mighty intellectual genius like Carlyle—we can estimate for ourselves, saying at once whether we agree with it or disagree. Matter, as such, he holds to be dead. That is to say, he finds in the universe, as revealed to him by his senses, or conceived by his mind, no matter which itself originates force, or which is a selforiginating force. Do you and I, reader, agree with him here \ Does a stone sink, or a cork rise, in water, by its own force I Does a magnet originate its own force i For my part, I do not know matter at all—I cannot conceive or think of matter —except as inert, dead. Do we, then, know force at all? Carlyle answers Yes. When he stretches forth his hand, he initiates force. Even Professor Tyndall explicitly allows that his will determines the movement of his arm; and Carlyle, and those who hold with Carlyle that spirit is the only force-originating agency revealed to us cither "in experience or in consciousness, can challenge all the materialists in the world to name an instance in which mere matter does what Professor Tyndall does when he moves his arm.
"The true, inexplicable, God-revealing miracle," writes Carlyle in Sartor Resartns, "lies in this, that I can stretch forth my hand at all; that I have free force to clutch aught therewith." How should this be a "God-revealing miracle?" I am not sure that Carlyle explicitly answers the question; but THE GOD-REVEALINO MIRACLE.
we need not have much difficulty in supplying the answer which he suggests. The exertion of force by me reveals to me my own spirit; I am conscious of my own existence when I think, or feel, or act; I cannot do any of these things without, at the same time, becoming aware that I, the mdefinable spirit or person who originate force, exist. I never think—I cannot rationally think—that my bones, my blood-vessels, the particles of my brain, in one word, any or all the material instruments, .which I set in motion, are the originating force within mc. In like manner, seeing the material universe, from star to wavespray, in motion, I conclude that the only cause known to me as adequate to originate motion, or to use matter as an instrument, is present in the universe, and is a Spirit—God. Strictly, therefore, it is true, as Carlyle says, that the stretching forth of my hand is to me a natural revelation of God; and Professor Tyndall, when he acknowledged to his audience that the exertion of force by his will upon his arm was a primary, indisputable fact, ought, I humbly suggest, to have followed in the steps of Carlyle, and owned that such a fact attests the existence of a Living Spirit who moves the universe. But it requires immense courage in these days to utter and stand to any simple, great, and ancient truth; it is on paradox, extravagance, glittering superficiality, that the plaudits of the crowd arc showered.
All is dead save spirit—the spirit, man, the spirit, God: that is the fundamental doctrine of Mr. Carlyle, the kernel and philosophical open sesame of all his works. "To the eye of vulgar logic "—these are his words—" what is man? An omnivorous biped that wears breeches. To the eye of pure reason what is he! A soul, a spirit, and divine apparition. Round his mysterious ME, there lies, under all those wool-rags, a garment of flesh (or of senses) contextured in the loom of heaven; whereby he is revealed to his like." That is to say, the body in which the spirit lives is the instrument by which one human spirit can make itself known to another. In this, again, the reader need not be afraid of mysticism or incomprehensibility. It is a plain fact that I know either myself or my brother only through the senses—no man ever saw a sonl. But the body, through which spirit communes with spirit, becomes, from that very fact, inexpressibly venerable to Carlyle. It is a garment "sky-woven and worthy of a God." And then he quotes with approval Saint Chrysostom's well-known words, "the true SHEKINAH is man." "And thus the other half of Carlyle's scheme of things breaks upon us. He reverences common things, attaches worth to all that is visible, because appearance reveals force, and force is fundamentally spirit. "Nothing that he sees "—I piece out my words with Carlyle's own, spoken of Teufclsdroekh—" but has more than a common meaning, but has two meanings: thus, if in the highest imperial sceptre and Charlemagne-mantle, as well as in the poorest ox-goad and gypsy-blanket, he finds prose, decay, contemptibility; there is in each sort poetry also, and a reverend worth. For matter, were it never so despicable, is spirit, the manifestation of spirit; were it never so honorable, can it be morel" Nothing, therefore, is to be looked on with mere hatred and contempt. "What is that we cannot love; since all was created by God?" He "could clasp the whole universe into his bosom and keep it warm." He takes the liberty, however, to greet with sardonic raillery those sniffing gentlemen who deny that there is anything wonderful in the universe, and who pretend to explain everything with their dissecting-knives and their victorious analysis. Wonder is his habitual mood, and aspects and circumstances of human life, which, to ordinary men, would suggest no remark at all, awaken in him the deepest reflections.