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it not been I From of old, as it is written, are His goings forth; in the great deep of things; fearful and wonderful now as in the beginning: in the whirlwind also he speaks; and the wrath of men is made to praise Him. But to gauge and measure this immeasurable thing, and what is called account for it, and reduce it to a dead logic-formula, attempt not! Much less shalt thou shriek thyself hoarse, cursing it; for that, to all needful lengths, has been already done. As an actually existing son of time, look, with unspeakable manifold interest, oftenest in silence, at what the time did bring: therewith edify, instruct, nourish thyself, or were it but amuse and gratify thyself, as it is given thee.
These words prove that Carlyle contemplated the French Revolution as a poet or artist, and that he did not profess to trace it to this or that particular cause. He would not attempt "to account for it." Quoting Homer's words, he proposes to describe the "destructive wrath" of the modern democracy, the sans-culottic Achilles of this new Iliad. But he is quite clear as to the fundamental cause of the Revolution. Homer discerned, beneath all the subordinate causes of the terrors and horrors of the Trojan war, the disposing and determining will of Zeus (Aioc 2' iriXtitro flov\>'i); Carlyle, in the whirlwind of the Revolution, hears the voice of God saying that anthority which has become hollow shall be ended; that the old order which has become intolerable shall give place to new. The life of institutions, according to the leading doctrine of Sartor Resartus, is the spirit they contain, and when the spirit is out, the body must die. Such, says Carlyle, in old Calvinistic language, is the decree of God. But that decree is executed in a way which man never surmises, never expects. That other doctrine of Sartor Resartus, that logical theorizing about society is of little avail as a practical power —that the analysis of the man of science, whether his science be social or physical, penetrates but a little way—is also illustrated for him in the French Revolution. There is nothing more characteristic of Carlyle in the book than the irony with which he refers to the fine-spoken, theorizing, analyzing gentlemen who, having, to their own extreme satisfaction, got rid of all belief in God, all recognition of the mystery of things—of the fact of the Infinite and Eternal, on which like a thin film all the time-world floats—were horror-struck by the Revolution they had evoked, and consumed in the fire they had kindled. Carlyle does not call these men philosophers, but philosophes, and their theorizing not philosophy, but philosophism. The promises of their superficial and superfine philosophism he describes in a passage remarkable both for the breadth of its historical description, and the keenness of its sarcasm.
Tub Atheistic Millennium.
How "sweet" are the manners; vice " losing all its deformity;" becoming decent (as established things, making regulations for themselves, do); becoming almost a kind of "sweet" virtue! Intelligence so abounds; irradiated by wit and the art of conversation. Philosophism sits joyful in her glittering saloons, the dinner-guest of opulence grown ingenuous, the very nobles proud to sit by her; and preaches, lifted up over all Bastiles, a coming millennium. From far Ferney, patriarch Voltaire gives sign; veterans Diderot, D'Alembert have lived to see this day; these with their younger Marmoutels, Morcllets, Chamforts, Reynals, make glad the spicy board of rich ministering dowager, of philosophic farmer-general. 0 nights and suppers of the gods! Of a truth the long-demonstrated will now be done; "the age of revolutions approaches" (as Jean Jacques wrote), but then of happy blessed ones. Man awakens from his long somnambulism; chases the phantasms that beleaguered and bewitched him. Behold the new morning glittering down the eastern steeps; fly, false phantasms, from its shafts of light; let the absurd fly utterly, abandoning this lower earth forever. It is Truth and Aslnea Jtcdux that (in the shape of Philosophism) henceforth reign. For what imaginable purpose was man made, if not to be "happy?" By victorious analysis, and progress of the species, happiness enough now awaits him. Kings can become philosophers; or else philosophers kings. Let but society be once rightly constituted by victorious analysis. The stomach that is empty shall be filled; the throat that is dry shall be wetted with wine. Labor itself shall be all one as rest; not grievous, but joyous. Wheatfields, one would think, cannot come to grow untilled; no man made clayey, or made weary thereby; unless, indeed, machinery will do it .
Gratuitous tailors and restaurateurs may start up, at fit intervals, one as yet sees not how. But if each will, according to rule of benevolence, have a care for all, then surely no one will be uncared for. Nay, who knows but, by sufficiently victorious analysis, "human life may be indefinitely lengthened," and men get rid of death, as they have already done of the devil? We shall then be happy in spite of death and the devil. So preaches magniloquent Philosophisin her Redeunl Saturnia regna.'
We are next shown, black against this soft brightness, the sqnalor, misery, and disaffection in which the working millions of France were plunged. These "we," the courtiers and the philosophes, "lump together into a kind of dim, compendious unity, monstrous but dim, far-off as the canaille; or, more humanly, as 'the masses.'" "Masses, indeed," says Carlyle; "and yet, singular to say, if, with an effort of imagination, thou follow them, over broad France, into their clay hovels, into their garrets and hutches, the masses consist all of units." Every unit has his own pains and griefs, "and if you prick him, he will bleed." This is one of those touches from Shakspearc by which the language of this book is frequently pointed or enriched. Shakspeare, Homer, and Tacitus appear to have been the masters of literary art whom Carlyle had chiefly before him as models in composition. "Every unit of these masses," he proceeds, "is a miraculous man . . . with a spark of the Divinity, what thou callest an immortal soul, in him!" The chief end of the millions in France seemed to be to keep the privileged hundreds in luxurious ease. On them fell all the taxes. The clergy, the nobility, the parlements were exempt. "Untaught, uncomforted, unfed," the people lived in the habitual and angry persuasion that the upper classes, from the Court downward, were their enemies. When the chronic misery and semi-starvation became more than usually acute, they expressed their wretchedness in tumultuary risings, " their voice only an inarticulate cry." In May, 1775, for example, there being a scarcity of bread, " these vast multitudes do here, at Versailles Chateau, in wide-spread wretchedness, in sallow faces, squalor, winged raggedness, present, as in legible hieroglyphic writing, their petition of grievances. The chateaugates must be shut; but the king will appear on the baleonv, and speak to them. They have seen the king's face; their petition of grievances has been, if not read, looked at . For answer, two of them are hanged, on a 'new gallows forty feet high;' and the rest driven back to their dens—for a time."
Thus summarily, as if it were a matter of quite subordinate importance, does the Government deal with the masses, and yet Carlyle will have it that the welfare of these is "the sole point and problem of Government," compared with which all other points and problems are "mere accidental crotchets, superficialities, and beatings of the wind." The problem was now to be taken up; and the solution turned out to be such as made the ears of every one hearing it to tingle. The "evangel" of Rousseau had been passionately embraced by the young generation, and the fundamental proposition in Rousseau's system is that governments ought to exist to promote the happiness of the people, or rather that governments have only to set the people free in order to secure their happiness. Carlyle teaches that both Rousseau and the opponents of Rousseau overlook the fact that happiness, whether of one class or of all classes, is not an easy thing to obtain. A "millennium of mere ease and plentiful supply," a "lubberland of happiness, benevolence, and vice cured of its deformity," is in his eyes an imbecile dream. "How, in this wild universe, which storms-in on him, infinite, vague-menacing, shall poor man find, say, not happiness, but existence, and footing to stand on, if it be not by girding himself together for continual endeavor and endurance?" Of all the elements and agencies that produced the French Revolution — of all the forces that, in their voleanic action, tore up the surface of French society, and threw it in fragments into the sky—none was more potent than the per
suasion which was imbedded in the mind of the nation that happiness is a natural right and heritage of man, and that it was the baleful influence of kings, priests, and nobles that alone prevented the millions of France from being happy. At intervals Mr. Carlyle recognizes the nobleness of the aspirations by which the people were moved; but it cannot be said that his sympathy with the Patriots of the French Revolution is so profound as his sympathy with the Puritans of the seventeenth century. "Great," he once exclaims, "is the moment when tidings of freedom reach us; when the long-enthralled soul, from amidst its chains and squalid stagnancy, arises, were it still only in blindness and bewilderment, and swears by Him that made it that it will be free! Free? Understand that well; it is the deep commandment, dimmer or clearer, of our whole being, to be free. Freedom is tho one purport, wisely aimed at or unwisely, of all man's struggles, toilings, and sufferings in this earth." If we admit that the freedom and happiness which the French people desired for themselves were looked upon by them as a gospel of felicity for Europe and mankind, we can scarce fail to apprehend that, however sad or appalling might be the issues of the French Revolution, its main impulses were noble.
"The French nation," says Carlyle, treating of that intensely-agitating conjuncture when the Patriots thought that their Revolution was at last to be consummated—" the French nation has believed, for several years now, in the possibility, nay, certainty and near advent, of a universal millennium, or reign of freedom, equality, fraternity, wherein man should be the brother of man, and sorrow and sin flee away." Add that the attainability of all this was a matter of implicit faith. It was "enchantment," it was a "devilish legerdemain," it was an infamous conspiracy of kings, priests, aristocrats, it was at last the coalesced despots of the North, with Prussian bayonets and force of cannon-balls, that prevented France from being free