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rather than the reverse. There will, of course, in such ages, be on each side a number of persons who are spiritually stone-dead. One section of these will affect to be religious if their so doing procures them respectability or bread; another will leap exultantly to any atheistic conclusion that leaves them unvisited by conscientious qualms in the enjoyment of their champagne and their harlots. These two sections may pair off with each other; and I believe that those who reject religion because it clogs vicious enjoyment are at present rather more than less numerous than those who, from selfish motives, pretend to believe. Some persons are naturally believers; they have never found any difficulty in believing what was taught them in their childhood, and they live a simple, innocent, and sincere life, though the storms of doubt are hurtling in the air around them. Some, on the other hand, are born doubters and sceptics, incapable of standing still, perfectly sincere in each phase of belief or unbelief through which they successively pass, but quite sure to believe nothing long. A fine form of this character was presented by John Sterling. But there are in all transition periods, particularly there are in ours, persons who, in so far as they retain the old, do so because they have tested its truth; and, in so far as they accept the new, do so because, having candidly examined it, they find it more true than the old. Tennyson tells us that there lives more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds; and I dare say he would extend the application of the remark to more than half the vehemently dogmatic rejections of creed.
All the great operations of nature are gradual. There is a time every morning at which you cannot say whether it is day or night. The trees take half the summer to dress themselves, and scarcely has the rich, deep green of their midsummer robes been attained when the process of disrobing commences, and leaf after leaf continues to change The Old and the New. 117
colour and to fall, until, in midwinter, the branches again are bare. Such is the spiritual revolution which is at present taking place in Western Europe.
It is hardly too much to say that, in the present time, doubt at one period of life or another is for all persons of superior faculties and extensive information an inevitable fate, if not a positive duty. If honour ought to be rendered to those high-minded iconoclasts who find their whole duty summed up in destruction, honour may be claimed for those also who attempt the still more difficult task of transforming the old into the new, and separating the imperishable truth from the perishable form in which men have previously apprehended it. In this point of view Coleridge, Neander, and a host of others, deserve more honourable mention than Carlyle has ever vouchsafed them. CHAPTER XIII.
JOHN STERLING AND CARLYLE ON SARTOR RESARTUS.
JOHN STERLING, we saw, decided to turn away from the Christian ministry. One of the subjects which principally occupied his mind while in a state of transition was Mr. Carlyle's Sartor Resartus. In February, 1835, he bade adieu to Mr. Hare, and to the sick folks and inquiring cobblers of Herstmonceux, and in the following May sent Carlyle a long letter on Sartor, in which he says that he has read the book " twice with care." Of this letter Mr. Carlyle prints enough to fill nearly seven pages; and there is nothing in the whole range of his writings that strikes me as more curiously or instructively suggestive than a comparison of what he prints with what he suppresses.
Sterling enters into minute verbal criticism of the book, dwells upon its resemblance to the writings of Rabelais, Montaigne, Sterne, and Swift, points out its mannerisms, and pronounces judgment upon particular words occurring in it, such as "vestural," "stertorous," "talented." All this Carlyle prints in full. But the part of his criticism to which Sterling calls particular attention—the part compared with which he rightly pronounces all discussion of the literary and artistic qualities of the book to be mere triviality—is that in which he attempts to define " the principle which Sterling on Sartor Besartus. 119
lies at the root of, and gives the true meaning to," the character and opinions of Carlyle's hero, who has always been regarded as Carlyle himself. How does Carlyle deal with this all-important passage? Let us see. He quotes from Sterling as follows :—
The Main Principle Op Sartor Resarttjs.
This principle I seem to myself to find in the state of mind which is attributed to Teufelsdrockh; in his state of mind, I say, not in his opinions, though these are, in him as in all men, most important,—being one of the best indices to his state of mind. Now what distinguishes him, not merely from the greatest and best men who have been on earth for eighteen hundred years, but from the whole body of those who have been working forwards towards the good, and have been the salt and light of the world, is this: That he does not believe in a God. Do not be indignant, I am blaming no one ;—but if I write my thoughts, I must write them honestly.
Teufelsdrockh does not belong to the herd of sensual and thoughtless men: because he does perceive in all existence a unity of power; because he does believe that this is a real power external to him, and dominant to a certain extent over him, and does not think that he is himself a shadow in a world of shadows. He has a deep feeling of the beautiful, the good, and the true; and a faith in their final victory.
At the same time, how evident is the strong inward unrest, the Titanic heaving of mountain on mountain: the storm-like rushing over land and sea in search of peace. He writhes and roars under his consciousness of the difference in himself between the possible and the actual, the hopedfor and the existent. He feels that duty is the highest law of his own being; and knowing how it bids the waves be stilled into an icy fixedness and grandeur, he trusts (but with a boundless inward misgiving) that there is a principle of order which will reduce all confusion to shape and clearness. But, wanting peace himself, his fierce dissatisfaction fixes on all that is weak, corrupt, and imperfect around him; and, instead of a calm and steady co-operation with all those who are endeavouring to apply the highest ideas as remedies for the worst evils, he holds himself aloof in savage isolation; and cherishes (though he dare not own) a stern joy at the prospect of that catastrophe which is to turn loose again the elements of man's social life, and give for a time the victory to evil;—in hopes that each new convulsion of the world must bring us nearer to the ultimate restoration of all things; fancying that each may be the last. Wanting the calm and cheerful reliance, which would be the spring of active exertion, he flatters his own distemper by persuading himself that his own age and generation are peculiarly feeble and decayed; and would even, perhaps, be willing to exchange the restless immaturity of our selfconsciousness, and the promise of its long throe-pangs, for the unawakened undoubting simplicity of the world's childhood; of the times in which there was all the evil and horror of our day, only with the difference that conscience had not arisen to try and condemn it. In these longings, if they are Teufelsdrockh's, he seems to forget that, could we go back five thousand years, we should only have the prospect of travelling them again, and arriving at last at the same point at which we stand now.
Something of this state of mind I may say that I understand; for I have myself experienced it. And the root of the matter appears to me: A want of sympathy with the great body of those who are now endeavouring to guide and help onward their fellow-men. And in what is this alienation grounded? It is, as I believe, simply in the difference on that point: viz., the clear, deep, habitual recognition of a one Living Personal God, essentially good, wise, true, and holy, the Author of all that exists; and a reunion with whom is the only end of all rational beings. This belief . . .
What means the break? Has the manuscript been torn, or mouse-bitten, or does the stream of discourse run on into drivel, meriting to be curtailed with scornful abruptness? What is perfectly clear is that Sterling has been working up to his point, and that now he believes himself to have reached it. The grand defect which he signalises in Sartor Resartus is absence of recognition of a Living Personal God, and the moment he begins to show why a Living Personal God is worthier to be accepted than a vague looming of pantheistic deity through the universe, Carlyle thrusts the gag between his teeth. "There follow now," says the biographer, " several pages on 'Personal God' and other abstruse, or, indeed, properly unspeakable matters; these, and a general postscript of qualifying purport, I will suppress."
Can we doubt that, were it possible to consult Sterling on this procedure of his biographer, he would declare that Mr. Carlyle had omitted precisely those pages which, of all he had ever written, whether in book or in letter, he should least like to be suppressed? The literary criticism on Sartor Resartus which Mr. Carlyle prints is good enough of its kind, but not better than may be looked for in a dozen