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“He was already turning his eyes toward London with a scholar's appreciation. 'London is the beart of the world,' he said, 'wonderful only for the mass of human beings. I like the huge machine. Each keeps his own round; the baker's boy brings muffins to the window at a fixed hour every day, and that is all the Londoner knows, or wishes to know, on the subject; but it turns out good men.'".
- In 1834 Carlyle, as we have seen, took up his permanent residence in London. This was not the first time that he had gone up to the metropolis. Three years before, he says, “I had gone up to this modern Babylon with a manuscript in my hand, 'Sartor Resartus' by name. I was bound thither to see if there was any chance to have it translated into print.” The manuscript was offered to bookseller after bookseller, each of whom, as the custom is, submitted it to the judgment of his confidential “Reader.” Long afterward, when he had come to be famous, Carlyle prefixed to an edition of this work the answer of one of these booksellers, who wrote: “Allow me to say that such a writer requires only a little more tact to produce a popular as well as an able work. I sent your manuscript to a gentleman in
the highest class of men of letters, and an accomplished German scholar. I now inclose you his opinion, which, you may rely upon it, is a correct one; and I have too high an opinion of your good sense to,” etc. The reader's opinion ran thus : “The author of “Teufelsdröckh’ is a person of talent. His work displays, here and there, some felicity of thought and expression, considerable fancy and knowledge; but whether it would take with the public seems doubtful. For a jeu d'esprit of that sort it is too long ; it would have suited better as an essay or article than as a volume. The author has no great tact; his wit is frequently heavy, and reminds one of the German baron who took to leaping on tables, and answered that he was learning to be lively. Is the work a translation ?"
Although Carlyle had already established his reputation by more than a score of able papers in the leading reviews, he could find no one who would venture to publish it in book form; and it was not until two years afterward that he could even get it published piecemeal, month by month, in “Fraser's Magazine.” Whatever little of remark itoccasioned in England was of the most unfavorable kind. One newspaper critic pronounced it “a mass of clotted nonsense, mixed, however, here and there, with passages marked by thought and striking poetic vigor ;” and he proceeds to quote a sentence which he says “may be read either backward or forward, for it is equally intelligible either way. Indeed, by beginning at the tail, and so working up to the head, we think the reader will stand the fairest chance of getting at its meaning.” We suspect, indeed, that the work was ended earlier than the author intended; for it certainly comes to an abrupt conclusion in a “farewell,” from the tone of which it may be inferred that not only the readers but the editor of “Fraser” had grown tired of it:
EXIT TEUFELSDRÖCKH. “Here, however,” says Carlyle, speaking in the character of the editor of the miscellaneous papers of Herr Teufelsdröckh, “can the present Editor, with an ambrosial joy as of over-weariness falling into sleep, lay down his pen. Well does he know, if human testimony be worth aught, that to innumerable British readers likewise, this is a satisfying consummation; that innumerable British readers consider bim during these current months but as an uneasy interruption to their ways of thought and digestion; and indicate so much, not without a certain irritancy and even spoken invective. For which, as for other mercies, ought he not to thank the Upper Powers? To one and all of you, O irritated readers, he, with outstretched arms and open heart, will wave a kind farewell. Thou too, miraculous Entity, who namest thyself YORKE and OLIVER, and with thy vivacities and genialities, with thy all too Irish mirth and madness, and odor of palled punch, makest such strange work, farewell; long as thou canst, fare-well! Have we not, in the course of Eternity, traveled some months of our Life-journey in partial sight of one another; have we not existed together, though in a state of quarrel ?”
The scattered papers were after some time brought together by Mr. Emerson, and published at Boston, with a preface almost apologetic in its tone. The editors did not expect for the little work any immediate popularity. “They would not undertake, as there was no need, to justify the gay costume in which the author delights to dress his thoughts, or the German idioms with which he has sportively sprinkled his pages. It is his humor to advance the gravest speculations in a quaint and burlesque style. If his masquerade offend any of his audience to that degree that they will not hear what he has to say, it may chance to draw others to listen to his wisdom. But we will venture to remark that the distaste excited by these peculiarities, in some readers, is greatest at first, and is soon forgotten. The author makes ample amends for the occasional eccentricity of his genius, not only by frequent bursts of pure splendor, but by the wit and sense which never fail him.”
Mr. Alexander H. Everett, in the “North American Review,” gravely undertook to argue the question whether “Sartor Resartus” was in fact, as it purported to be, a review and synopsis of a German book. The critic had traveled in Germany, and had consulted all manner of maps, but could not learn that there was any such place as Weissnichtwo; there was certainly no such place the seat of a university. As for the work on the “Philosophy of Clothes,” which was reported to have excited so much attention abroad, he could not find any mention of it in any critical journal of Germany. He plumes himself upon the discovery that Weissnichtwo and its University, Professor Teufelsdröckh and his Book, were all a sham. The style of “Sartor Resartus” “ was a sort of Babylonish dialect; not deficient, it is true, in richness, vigor, and at times a sort of singular felicity of expression, but very strongly tinged throughout with the peculiar idioms of the German language.”
Whatever else may be said of the work, there is nothing gay or sportive about it. It has enough of biting sarcasm and trenchant humor, but it is as serious and earnest as “The Pilgrim's Progress," “the Burdens” of Isaiah, or the “Word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah.” Indeed, as to matter and manner, we think Carlyle resembles the prophet Jeremiah more than he does any German writer.
“ Sartor Resartus” (“ The Tailor tailored over") is in form “The Life and Opinions of Godborn Devilsdung" (Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, the vulgar name for the malodorous, antispasmodic drug asafoetida, “stinking gum”), who was left