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Spirit of the Time: Turn back, I command thee ?-Wiser were it that we yielded to the Inevitable and Inexorable, and accounted even this the best.”
Nay, might not an attentive Editor, drawing his own inferences from what stands written, conjecture that Teufelsdröckh, individually, had yielded to this same “Inevitable and Inexorable” heartily enough; and now sat waiting the issue, with his natural diabolico-angelical Indifference, if not even Placidity ? Did we not hear him complain that the World was a “huge Ragfair,” and the “rags and tatters of old Symbols" were raining down everywhere, like to drift him in, and suffocate him ? What with those “unhunted Helots" of his; and the uneven sic-vos-nonvobis pressure, and hard crashing collision he is pleased to discern in existing things; what with the so hateful “ empty Masks,” full of beetles and spiders, yet glaring out on him, from their glass-eyes, “ with a ghastly affectation of life,"--we feel entitled to conclude him even willing that much should be thrown to the Devil, so it were but done gently ! Safe himself in that “ Pinnacle of Weissnichtwo,” he would consent, with a tragic solemnity, that the monster UTILITARIA, held back, indeed, and moderated by nose-rings, halters, foot-shackles, and every conceivable modification of rope, should go forth to do her work ;-to tread down old ruinous Palaces and Temples, with her broad hoof, till the whole were trodden down, that new and better might be built! Remarkable in this point of view are the following sentences.
“ Society," says he, “is not dead : that Carcass, which you called dead Society, is but her mortal coil which she has shuffled off, to assume a nobler; she herself, through perpetual metamorphoses, in fairer and fairer development, has to live till Time also merge in Eternity. Wheresoever two or three Living Men are gathered together, there is Society; or there it will be, with its cunning mechanisms; and stupendous structures, overspreading this little Globe, and reaching upwards to Heaven and downwards to Gehenna : for always, under one or the other figure, it has two authentic Revelations, of a God and of a Devil; the Pulpit, namely, and the Gallows."
Indeed, we already heard him speak of “ Religion, in unnoticed nooks, weaving for herself new Vestures;"-Teufelsdröckh himself being one of the loom-treadles? Elsewhere he quotes without censure that strange aphorism of Saint-Simon's, concerning which and whom so much were to be said: “L'age d'or qu’une aveugle tradition a placé jusqu'ici dans le passé est devant nous; The golden age which a blind tradition has hitherto placed in the Past is Before us."-But listen again :
“When the Phænix is fanning her funeral pyre, will there not be sparks flying? Alas, some millions of men, and among them such as a Napoleon, have already been licked into that high-eddying Flame, and like moths, consumed there. Still also have we to fear that incautious beards will get singed.
« For the rest, in what year of grace such Phænix-eremation will be completed, you need not ask. The law of Perseverance is among the deepest in man: by nature he hates change; seldom will he quit his old house till it has actually fallen about his ears. Thus have I seen Solemnities linger as Ceremonies, sacred Symbols as idle Pageants, to the extent of three hundred years and more after all life and sacredness had evaporated out of them. And then, finally, what time the Phænix DeathBirih itself will require, depends on unseen contingencies.-Meanwhile, would Destiny offer Mankind that after, say two centuries of convulsion and conflagration, more or less vivid, the fire-creation should be accomplished, and we find ourselves again in a Living Society, and no longer fighting but working,---were it not perhaps prudent in Mankind to strike the bargain ?"
Thus is Teufelsdröckh content that old siek Society should be deliberately burnt (alas ! with quite other fuel than spice-wood): in the faith that she is a Phenix ; and that a new heavenborn young one will rise out of her ashes ! We ourselves, restricted to the duty of Indicator, shall forbear commentary. Meanwhile, will not the judicious reader shake his head, and reproachfully, yet more in sorrow than in anger, say or think : From a Doctor Utriusque Juris, titular Professor in a University, and man to whom hitherto, for his services, Society, bad as she is, has given not only food and raiment (of a kind) but books, tobacco and gukguk, we expected more gratitude to his benefactress ; and less of a blind Trust in the future, which resembles that rather of a philosophical Fatalist and Enthusiast, than of a solid householder paying scot and lot in a Christian country.
As mentioned above, Teufelsdröckh, though a Sansculottist, is in practice probably the politest man extant: his whole heart and life are penetrated and informed with the spirit of Politeness; a noble natural Courtesy shines through him, beautifying his vagaries, like sun-light, making a rosy-fingered, rainbɔw-dyed Aurora out of inere aqueous clouds; nay, brightening London smoke itself into gold vapor, as from the crucible of an alchemist. Hear in what earnest though fantastic wise he expresses himself on this head :
“ Shall Courtesy be done only to the rich, and only by the rich ? In Good-breeding, which differs, if at all, from High-breeding, only as it gracefully remembers the rights of others, rather than gracefully insists on its own rights, I discern no special connection with wealth and birth : but rather that it lies in human nature itself, and is due from all men towards ail men. Of a truth, were your Schoolmaster at his post, and worth anything when there, this, with so much else, 'would be reformed. Nay, each man were then also his neighbor's schoolmaster; till at length a rude-visaged, unmannered Peasant could no more be met with, than a Peasant unacquainted with botanical Physiology, or who felt not that the clod he broke was created in Heaven.
“ For whether thou bear a sceptre or a sledge-hammer, art thou not ALIVE; is not this thy brother ALIVE? • There is but one Temple in the world,' says Novalis, . and that Temple is the Body of Man. Nothing is holier than this high Form. Bending before man is a reverence done to this Revelation in the Flesh. We touch Heaven, when we lay our hands on a human Body.'
« On which ground I would fain carry it farther than most do; and whereas the English Johnson only bowed to every Clergyman, or man with a shovel-hat, I would how to every Man with any sort of a hat, or with no hat whatever. Is he not a Temple, then; the visible Manifestation and Impersonation of the Divinity ? And yet, alas, such indiscriminate bowing serves not. For there is a Devil dwells in man, as well as a Divinity; and loo often the bow is but pocketed by the for
It would go to the pocket of Vanity (which is your clearest phasis of the Devil, in these times); therefore must we withhold it.
“ The gladder am I, on the other hand, to do reverence to those Shells and outer Husks of the Body, wherein no devilish passion any longer lodges, but only the pure emblem and effigies of Man: I mean, to Empty, or even to Cast Clothes. Nay, is it not to Clothes that most men do
reverence: to the fine frogged broadcloth, nowise to the straddling animal with bandy legs' which it holds, and makes a Dignitary of? Who ever saw any Lord my-lorded in tattered blanket, fastened with a wooden skewer ? Nevertheless, I say, there is in such worship a shade of hypocrisy, a practical deception : for how often does the Body appropriate what was meant for the Cloth only! Whoso would avoid Falsehood, which is the essence of all Sin, will perhaps see good to take a different course. That reverence which cannot act without obstruction and perversion when the Clothes are full, may have free course when they are empty. Even as, for Hindoo Worshippers, the Pagoda is not less sacred than the God; so do I too worship the hollow cloth Garment with equal fervor, as when it contained the Man: nay, with more, for I now fear no deception, of myself or of others.
“ Did not King Toomtabard, or, in other words, John Balliol, reign long over Scotland; the man John Balliol being quite gone, and only the "Toom Tabard' (Empty Gown) remaining ? What still dignity dwells in a suit of Cast Clothes! How meekly it bears its honors ! No haughty looks, no scornful gesture; silent and serene, it fronts the world ; neither demanding worship, nor afraid to miss it. The Hat still carries the physiognomy of its Hcad: but the vanity and the stupidity, and goose-speech which was the sign of these two, are gone. The Coatarın is stretched out, but not to strike; the Breeches, in modest simplicity, depend at ease, and now at last have a graceful flow; the Waistcoat hides no evil passion, no riotous desire ; hunger or thirst now dwells not in it. Thus ail is purged from the grossness of sense, from the carking cares and foul vices of the World ; and rides there, on its Clothes, horse ; as, on a Pegasus, might some skyey Messenger, or purified Apparition, visiting our low Earth.
“ Often, while I sojourned in that monstrous Tuberosity of Civilized Life, the Capital of England; and meditated, and questioned Destiny, under the ink-sea of vapor, black, thick, and multifarious as Spartan broth; and was one lone Soul amid those grinding millions ;-often have I turned into their Old-Clothes Market to worship. With awe-struck heart I walked through that Monmouth Street, with its empty Suits, as through a Sanhedrim of stainless Ghosts. Silent are they, but expressive in their silence : the past witnesses and instruments of Woe and Joy, of Passions, Virtues, Crimes, and all the fathomless tumult of Good and Evil in the Prison called Life.' Friends ! trust not the heart of that man for whom Old Clothes are not venerable. Watch too, with rever. ence, that bearded Jewish Highpriest, who with hoarse voice, like some Angel of Doom, summons them from the four winds! On his head, like the Pope, he has three Hals,-a real triple tiara; on either hand, are the similitude of Wings, whereon the summoned Garments come to alight; and ever, as he slowly cleaves the air, sounds forth his deep fateful note, as if through a trumpet he were proclaiming : Ghosts of Life, come to Judgment ! Reck not, ye fluttering Ghosts: he will purify you in his Purgatory, with fire and with water; and, one day, new-created ye shall reappear. Oh! let him in whom the flame of Devotion is ready to go out, who has never worshipped, and knows not what to worship, pace and repace, with austerest thought, the pavement of Monmouth Street, and say whether his heart and his eyes still continue dry. If Field Lane, with its long fluttering rows of yellow handkerchiefs, be a Dionysius' Ear, where, in stifled jarring hubbub, we hear the Indictment which Poverty and Vice bring against lazy Wealth, that it has left them there cast out and trodden under foot of Want, Darkness, and the Devil,—then is Monmouth Street a Mirza's Hill, where, in motley vision, the whole Pageant of existence passes awfully before us; with its wail and jubilee,
mad loves and mad hatreds, church-bells and gallows-ropes, farcetragedy, beast-godhood,the Bedlam of Creation 1
To most men, as it does to ourselves, all this will seem overcharged. We too have walked through Monmouth Street; but with little feeling of “ Devotion :" probably in part because the contemplative process is so fatally broken in upon by the brood of money-changers, who nestle in that Church, and importune the worshipper with merely secular proposals. Whereas Teufelsdröckh might be in that happy middle-state, which leaves to the Clothes-broker no hope either of sale or of purchase, and so be allowed to linger there without molestation.-Something we would have given to see the little philosophical Figure, with its steeple-hat and loose flowing skirts, and eyes in a fine frenzy, “pacing and repacing in austerest thought” that foolish Street; which to him was a true Delphic avenue, and supernatural Whispering-gallery, where the “Ghosts of Lise” rounded strange secrets in his ear. O thou philosophic Teufels. dröckh, that listenest while others only gabble, and with thy quick tympanumn hearest the grass grow!
At the same time, is it not strange that, in Paperbag Documents destined for an English Work, there exists nothing like an authentic diary of this his sojourn in London ; and of his Meditations among the Clothes-shops only the obscurest emblematic shadows ? Neither, in conversation (for, indeed, he was not a man to pester you with his Travels), have we heard him more than allude to the subject.
For the rest, however, it cannot be uninteresting that we here find how early the significance of Clothes had dawned on the now so distinguished Clothes-Professor. Might we but fancy it to have been even in Monmouth Street, at the bottom of our own English “ ink-sea," that this remarkable Volume first took being, and shot forth its salient point in his soul,-as in Chaos did the Egg of Eros, one day to be hatched into a Universe !
For us, who happen to live while the World-Phenix is burning him. self, and burning so slowly that, as Teufelsdröckh calculates, it were a handsome bargain would she engage to have done within two centuries,” there seems to lie but an ashy prospect. Not altogether so, however does the Professor figure it. "In the living subject,” says he, “ change is wont to be gradual: thus, while the serpent sheds its old skin, the new is already formed beneath. Little knowest thou of the burning of a World-Phønix, who fanciest that she must first burn out, and lie as a dead cinereous heap; and therefrom the young one start up by miracle, and fly heavenward. Far otherwise ! In that Fire-whirlwind, Creation and Destruction proceed together; ever as the ashes of the Old are blown about, do organic filaments of the New mysteriously spin themselves : and amid the rushing and the waving of the WhirlwindElement, come tones of a melodious Deathsong, which end not but in tones of a more melodious Birthsong. Nay, look into the Fire-whirlwind with thy own eyes, and thou wilt see.” Let us actually look, then : to poor individuals, who cannot expect to live two centuries, those same organic filaments, mysteriously spinning themselves, will be the best part of the spectacle. First, therefore, this of Mankind in general :
" In vain thou deniest it,” says the Professor ; 6 thou art my Brother.
Thy very Hatred, thy very Envy, those foolish Lies thou tellest of me in thy splenetic humor : what is all this but an inverted Sympathy? Were I a Steam-engine, wouldst thou take the trouble to tell Lies of me? Not thou! I should grind all unheeded, whether badly or well.
“ Wondrous truly are the bonds that unite us one and all; whether by the soft binding of Love, or the iron chaining of Necessity, as we like to choose it. More than once, have I said to myself, of some perhaps whimsically strutting Figure, such as provokes whimsical thoughts : • Wert thou, my little Brotherkin, suddenly covered up within the largest imaginable Glass-bell, --what a thing it were, not for thyself only, but for the world! Post Letters, more or fewer, from all the four winds, impinge against thy Glass walls, but must drop unread: neither from within comes there question or response into any Postbag; thy Thoughts fall into no friendly ear or heart, thy Manufacture into no purchasing hand; thou art no longer a circulatiug venous-arterial Heart, that, taking and giving, circulatest through all Space and all Time: there has a Hole fallen out in the immeasurable, universal World-tissue, which must be darned up again!'
6 Such venous-arterial circulation, of Letters, verbal Messages, paper and other Packages, going out from him and coming in, are a blood-circulation, visible to the eye : but the finer nervous circulation, by which all things, the minutest that he does, minutely influence all men, and the very look of his face blesses or curses whomso it lights on, and so generates ever new blessing or new cursing : all this yon cannot see, but only imagine. I say, there is not a red Indian, hunting by Lake Winnipic, can quarrel with his squaw, but the whole world must smart for it: will not the price of beaver rise? It is a mathematical fact that the casting of this pebble from my hand alters the centre of gravity of the Universe.
" If now an existing generation of men stand so woven together, not less indissolubly does generation with generation. Hast thou ever meditated on that word Tradition : how we inherit not Life only, but all the garniture and form of Life; and work, and speak, and even think and feel, as our Fathers, and primeval grandfathers, from the beginning, have given it us ?—Who printed thee, for example, this unpretending Volume on the Philosophy of Clothes ? Not the Herren Stillschweigen and Company: but Cadmus of Thebes, Faust of Mentz, and innumerable others whom thou knowest not. Had there been no Mæsogothic Ulfila, there had been no English Shakspeare, or a different one. Simpleton ! it was Tubalcain that made thy very Tailor's needle, and sewed that court suit of thine.
“ Yes, truly, if Nature is one, and a living indivisible whole, mnch more is Mankind, the Image that reflects and creates Nature, without which Nature were not. As palpable life-streams in that wondrous Individual Mankind, among so many life-streams that are not palpable, flow on those main-currents of what we call Opinion; as preserved in Institutions, Politics, Churches, above all in Books. Beautiful it is to understand and know that a Thought did never yet die; that as thou, the originator thereof, hast gathered it and created it from the whole Past, so thou wilt transmit it to the whole Future. It is thus that the heroic Heart, the seeing Eye of the first times, still feels and sees in us of the latest ; that the Wise Man stands ever encompassed, and spiritually embraced, by a cloud of witnesses and brothers; and there is a living, literal Communion of Saints, wide as the World itself, and as the History of the World.
Noteworthy also, and serviceable for the progress of this same Individual, wilt thou find his subdivision into Generations. Generations are as the days of toilsome Mankind; Death and Birth are the vesper and the matin bells, that summon Mankind to sleep, and to rise refreshed for new