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A City By Night.
"Ach, man Liebcr!" ("Ah, my dear fellow!") said he once, at mid. night, when we had returned from the Coffee-house in rather earnest talk, "it is a true sublimity to dwell here. These fringes of lamplight, struggling up through smoke and thousand-fold exhalations, some fathoms into the ancient reign of night, what thinks Bootes of them, as he leads his Hunting-dogs over the Zenith in their leash of sidereal fire? That stifled hum of midnight, when traffic has lain down to rest; and the ehariotwhccls of Vanity, still rolling here and there through distant streets, are bearing her to halls roofed in, and lighted to the due pitch for her; and only vice and misery, to prowl or to moan like night-birds, are abroad: that hum, I say, like the stertorous, unquiet slumber of sick life, is heard in hcaTen! Oh, under that hideous coverlet of vapors and putrefactions and unimaginable gases, what a fermenting-vat lies simmering and hid I The joyful and the sorrowful arc there; men are dying there, men are being born: men are praying—on the other side of a brick partition, men are cursing; and around them all is the vast, void night. The proud grandee still lingers in bis perfumed saloons, or reposes within damask curtains; wretchedness cowers into truckle-beds, or shivers hunger-stricken into its lair of straw; in obscure cellars, liottyc-ct-Xoir languidly emits its voice-of-destiny to haggard, hungry villains; while Chancellors of State sit plotting, and playing their high chess game, whereof the pawns are men. The lover whispers his mistress that the coach is ready; and she, full of hope and fear, glides down, to fly with him over the borders; the thief, still more silently, sets to his pick-locks and crow-bars, or lurks in wait till the watchmen first snore in their boxes. Gay mansions, with supper-rooms and dancing-rooms, are full of light and music, and high-swelling hearts; but, in the condemned cells, the pulse of life beats tremulous and faint, and bloodshot eyes look out through the darkness, which is around and within, for the light of a stern last morning. Six men are to be hanged on the morrow: comes there no hammering from the Rahcnrlein I—their gallows must even now be o'building. Upwards of five hundred thousand two-legged animals, without feathers, lie around us, in horizontal position; their heads all in nightcaps, and full of the foolishcst dreams. Riot cries aloud, and staggers and swaggers in his rank dens of shame; and the mother, with streaming hair, kneels over her pallid dying infant, whose parched lips only her tears now moisten. All these heaped and huddled together, with nothing but a little carpentry and masonry between them; crammed in like salted fish in a barrel; or weltering. shall I say, like an Egyptian pitcher of tamed vipers, each struggling to get its head above the other; such work goes on under that smoke-counterpane !—But I, mcin Werther, sit above it all; I am alone with the stars."
From this and several other passages in Sartor Rcsartus a
penetrating observer might have inferred that a great describer
of men and things was about to make his mark in English litis o
erature. The warmest sympathy with the activities and the interests of mankind becomes visible here and there in the book. This gloomy picture of a city by night, though evincing a descriptive power which it would be difficult to match in the books of any period, does less, perhaps, to show the writer's heart than his more slight and brief, yet exquisitively clear and tender, sketchings of village life in the daytime. The little town, "all diminished to a toy-box," lies "embosomed among its groves and green natural bulwarks," the hum of its multifarious traffic coming mellowed by distance like music to the ear. "Its white steeple is then truly a starward-pointing finger; the cauopy of blue smoke seems like a sort of lifebreath: for always, of its own unity, the soul gives unity to whatso it looks on with love; thus does the little dwellingplace of men, in itself a congeries of houses and huts, become for us an individual, almost a person." As a piece of fine imaginative description, and as illustrating that element of humor which abounds in Sartor Resartus, I shall quote the passage in which the hero is represented as having in his wanderings reached the North Cape. The time is midnight in June.
TEUFEL8DROCKU AT TILE NORTH CAPE.
He has a " light blue Spanish cloak" hanging round him, as his " most commodious, principal, indeed sole upper garment;" and stands there on the world - promontory, looking over the infinite brine, like a little blue belfry (as we figure), now motionless indeed, yet ready, if stirred, to ring quaintest changes. "Silence as of death," writes he; "for midnight, even in the Arctic latitudes, has its character: nothing but the granite cliffs TEUFELSDROCKH AT THE NORTH CAPE. 29
niddy-tinged, the peaceable gurgle of that slow-heaving Polar Ocean, over which in the utmost Xorth the great sun hangs low and lazy, as if he too were slumbering. Yet is his cloud-couch wrought of crimson and clothof-gold; yet does his light stream over the mirror of waters, like a tremulous fire-pillar, shooting downward to the abyss, and hide itself under my feet. In such moments solitude also is invaluable; for who would speak, or be looked on, when behind him lies all Europe and Africa fast asleep, except the watchmen: and before him the silent immensity and palace of the Eternal, whereof our sun is but a porch-lamp? Nevertheless, in this solemn moment comes a man, or monster, scrambling from among the rock - hollows; and, shaggy, huge as the Hyperborean Bear, hails me in Russian speech: most probably, therefore, a Russian smuggler. With courteous brevity, I signify my indifference to contraband trade, my humane intentions, yet strong wish to be private. In vain: the monster, counting doubtless on his superior stature, and minded to make sport for himself, or perhaps profit, were it with murder, continues to advance; ever assailing me with his importunate train-oil breath; and now has advanced, till we stand both on the verge of the rock, the deep sea rippling greedily down below. What argument will avail? On the thick Hyperborean, cherubic reasoning, seraphic eloquence were lost. Prepared for such extremity, I, deftly enough, whisk aside one step; draw out, from my interior reservoirs, a sufficient Birmingham horse-pistol, and say,'Be so obliging as to retire, friend, and with promptitude!' This logic even the Hyperborean understands: fast enough, with apologetic, petitionary growl, he sidles off; and, except for suicidal as well as homicidal purposes, need not return."
The words thrown in, " except the watchmen," are marvellously characteristic of Carlyle's humor. They add just that serio-comic touch to the picture which prevents it from becoming pompous and pedantic. It is notable that our clever friend, M. Taine, for whom Sartor Resartus is a mere piece of Gothic horse-play, entirely omits, in his translation of the passage, this inimitable glimpse of the watchmen stalking about with their eyes placidly on the moon, while all Europe and Africa are slumbering round them. The French have much wit, but little humor.
What is the ethical result—the moral doctrine—of Sartor Resartus? Teufelsdrockh, whose spiritual history is described, starts with, and is never traitor to, a sovereign desire for truth. "After all the nameless woe that inquiry, which for me, what it is not always, was genuine love of truth, had wrought mc, I, nevertheless, still loved truth, and would bate no jot of my allegiance to her. Truth," I cried, " though the heavens crush me for following her; no falsehood! though a whole celestial Lubberland were the price of apostasy!" Though he had been tormented with "motive-grinders and mechanical profit-andloss philosophies," and lay under " sick ophthalmia and hallucination," he had never ceased to believe in " the infinite nature of duty." His eyes were sealed to God's light, but He was present in his heart, and "His heaven-written law still stood legible and sacred there." The sceptical and mechanical philosophy, however, pressed hard on him with its denial of the spiritual life of the universe. "To me the universe was all void of life, of purpose, of volition, even of hostility; it was one huge, dead, immeasurable steam-engine, rolling on, in its dead indifference, to grind me limb from limb. O, the vast, gloomy, solitary Golgotha, and mill of death!" He "lived in a continual, indefinite, pining fear; tremulous, pusillanimous, apprehensive" of he "knew not what; it seemed as if all things in the heavens above and the earth heneath" would hurt him. But he suddenly put all fear under his feet.
His Victory Over Fear.
Full of such humor, and perhaps the miserablest man in the whole French capital or suburbs, was I, one sultry dog-day, after much perambulation, toiling along the dirty little Rue Saint Thomas de VEnfer, among civic rubbish enough, in a close atmosphere, and over pavements hot as Nebuchadnezzar's furnace; whereby, doubtless, my spirits were but little cheered; when, all at once, there rose a thought in me, and I asked myself: "What art thou afraid of? Wherefore, like a coward, dost thou forever pip and whimper, and go cowering and trembling? Despicable biped! what is the sum-total of the worst that lies before thee? Death?
Well, death: and say the pangs of Tophet, too, and all that the devil and man will, or can, do against thee! Hast thou a heart; canst thou not suffer whatso it be; and, as a child of freedom, thou outcast, trample Tophet itself under thy feet, while it consumes thee? Let it come, then; I will meet it and defy it!" And, as I so thought, there rushed like a stream of fire over my whole soul; and I shook base fear away from me forever. I was strong, of unknown strength; a spirit, almost a god. From that time the temper of my misery was changed; not fear or whining sorrow was it, but indignation, and grim, fire-eyed defiance. ,
Things now began to improve. He still, no doubt, lived too much in negation and indifference, but he had at last quelled the spectres of fear, and, being conscious to himself of loyalty to truth and of reverence for moral law, he would not crouch and creep like a dastard, but stand erect like a man. The universe, however, was still, for him, but a machine—the sneering, shallow scepticism of the eighteenth century still held him in its toils. Gradually the deeper and more genial truth, of which we have already heard, dawned upon him. "What," he asks, "is nature? Ha! why do I not name thee God? Art thou not the ' Living Garment of God V O heavens, is it, in very deed, He then that ever speaks through thec; that lives and loves in thee, that lives and loves in me?" These are the only words in this book which countenance the opinion that Carlyle's main doctrine is pantheistic. But I am not aware that Carlyle has ever owned it to be pantheistic, and he would hardly have met John Sterling's assertion to that effect with a jest if he had seriously accepted pantheism. His doctrine is that the universe is perpetually formed and renewed by the Spirit of God—not that matter is God. In speaking of the universe as the vesture of God, in the sense in which man's body is the vesture of his spirit, he assigns, or may be logically held to assign, to the Spirit, God, that personality, that consciousness, that intelligence, which are the highest attributes of the spirit, man. We found that the body of man was in his view the highest temple. The stern and fruitless sense of