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THE WORLD IN CLOTHES.
"As Montesquieu wrote a Spirit of Laws," observes our Professor, "so could I write a Spirit of Clothes ; thus with an Esprit des Loix, properly an Esprit de Coutumes, we should have an Esprit de Costumes. * For neither in tailoring nor in legislating does man proceed by mere Accident, but the hand is ever guided on by mysterious operations of the mind. In all his Modes and habilatory endeavors an Architectural Idea will be found lurking; his Body and the Cloth are the site and materials whereon and whereby his beautified edifice of a Person, is to be built. Whether he flow gracefully out in folded mantles, based on light sandals; tower up in high headgear, from amid peaks, spangles and bellgirdles; swell out in starched ruffs, buckram, stuffings and monstrous tuberosities; or girth himself into separate sections, and front the world an Agglomeration of four limbs,- will depend on the nature of such Architectural Idea : whether Grecian, Gothic, Later-Gothic, or altogether Modern, and Parisian or Anglo-Dandiacal. Again, what meaning lies in Color! From the soberest drab to the high-flaming scarlet, spiritual idiosyncrasies unfold themselves in choice of Color: if the Cut betoken Intellect and Talent, so does the Color betoken Temper and Heart. In all which, among nations as among individuals, there is an incessant, indubitable, though infinitely complex working of Cause and Effect: : every snip of the Scissors has been regulated and prescribed by ever-active Influences, which doubtless to Intelligences of a superior order are neither invisible nor illegible.
“For such superior Intelligences a Cause-and-Effect Philosophy of Clothes, as of Laws, were probably a comfortable winter-evening entertainment: nevertheless, for inferior Intelligences, like men, such Philosophies have always seemed to me uninstructive enough. Nay, what is your Montesquieu himself but a clever infant spelling Letters from a hieroglyphical prophetic Book, the lexicon of which lies in Eternity, in Heaven ?-Let'any Cause-and-Effect Philosopher explain, not why I wear such and such a Garment, obey such and such a Law; but even why I am here, to wear and obey anything !--Much, therefore, if not the whole, of that same Spirit of Clothes I shall suppress, as hypothetical, ineffectual, and even impertinent: naked Facts, and Deductions drawn therefrom in quite another than that omniscient style, are my humbler and proper province.”
Acting on which prudent restriction, Teufelsdröckh has nevertheless contrived to take in a well nigh boundless extent of field; at least, the boundaries too often lie quite beyond our horizon. Selection being indispensable, we shall here glance over his First Part only in the most cursory manner. This First Part is, no doubt, distinguished by omnivorous learning, and utrnost patience and fairness : at the same time, in its results and delineations, it is much more likely to interest the Compilers of some Library of General, Entertaining, Useful, or even Useless Knowledge than the miscellaneous readers of these pages. Was it this Part of the Book which Heuschrecke had in view, when he recommended us to that joint-stock vehicle of publication, " at present the glory of British Literature ?" If so, the Library Editors are welcome to dig in it for their own behoof.
To the First Chapter, which turns on Paradise and Fig-leaves, and leads us into interminable disquisitions of a mythological, metaphorical, cabalistico-sartorial and quite antediluvian cast, we shall content our selves with giving an unconcerned approval. Still less have we to do
with "Lilis, Adam's first wife, whom, according to the Talmudists, he had before Éve, and who bore him, in that wedlock, the whole progeny of aerial, aquatic, and terrestrial Devils,-very needlessly, we think. On this portion of the work, with its profound glances into the Adam-Kadmon, or Primeval Element, here strangely brought into relation with the Nijl and Muspel (Darkness and Light) of the antique North, it may be enough to say that its correctness of deduction and depth of Talmudic and Rabbinical lore has filled perhaps not the worst Hebraist in Britain with something like astonishment.
But quitting this twilight region, Teufelsdröckh hastens from the Tower of Babel, to follow the dispersion of Mankind over the whole habitable and habilable globe. Walking by the light of Oriental, Pelasgic, Scandinavian, Egyptian, Otaheitean, Ancient and Modern researches of every conceivable kind, he strives to give us in compressed shape (as the Nürnbergers give an Orbis Pictus) an Orbis Vestitus ; or view of the costumes of all mankind, in all countries, in all times. It is here that to the Antiquarian, to the Historian, we can triumphantly say: Fall 10! Here is Learning: an irregular Treasury, if you will; but inexhaustible as the Hoard of King Nibelung, which twelve waggons in twelve days, at the rate of three journeys a day, could not carry off
. Sheepskin cloaks and wampum belts ; phylacteries, stoles, albs; chalmides, togas, Chinese silks, Afghaun shawls, trunk hose, leather breeches, Celtic philibegs (though breeches, as the name Gallia Braccata indicates, are the more ancient), Hussar cloaks, Vandyke tippets, ruffs, fardingales, are brought vividly before us,-even the Kilmarnock nightcap is not forgotten. For most part, too, we must admit that the Learning, heterogeneous as it is, and tumbled down quite pell-mell, is true concentrated and purified Learning, the drossy parts smelted out and thrown aside.
Philosophical reflections intervene, and sometimes touching pictures of human life. Of this sort the following has surprised us.
The first purpose of Clothes, as our Professor imagines, was not warmth or decency, but ornament, “ Miserable indeed," says he, was the condition of the Aboriginal Savage, glaring fiercely from under his fleece of hair, which with the beard reached down to his loins, and hung round him like a matted cloak; the rest of his body sheeted in its thick natural fell. He loitered in the sunny glades of the forest, living on wild fruits; or, as the ancient Caledonian, squatted himself in morasses, lurking for his bestial or human prey; without implements, without arms, save the ball of heavy Flint, to which, that his sole possession and defence might not be lost, he had attached a long cord of plaited thongs; thereby recovering as well as hurling it with deadly unerring skill. Nevertheless, the pains of Hunger and Revenge once satisfied, his next care was not Comfort but Decoration (Putz). Warmth he found in the toils of the chase; or amid dried leaves, in his hollow tree, in his bark shed, or natural grotto : but for Decoration he must have Clothes. Nay, among wild people, we find tattooing and painting even prior to Clothes. The first spiritual want of a barbarous man is Decoration, as indeed we still see among the barbarous classes in civilized countries.
Reader, the heaven-inspired melodious Singer; loftiest Serene Highness; nay thy own amber-locked, snow-and-rosebloom Maiden, worthy. to glide sylphlike almost on air, whom thou lovest, worshippest as a divine Presence, which indeed, symbolically taken, she is, -has descended, like thyself, from that same hair-mantled, flint-hurling Aboriginal Anthropophagus! Out of the eater cometh forth meat; out of the strong cometh forth sweetness. What changes are wrought, not by Time, yet in Time! For not Mankind only, but all that Mankind does or beholds, is in continual growth, re-genesis and self-perfecting vitality.
Cast forth thy Act, thy Word, into the ever-living, ever-working Universe: it is a seed-grain that cannot die; unnoticed to-day (says one) it will be found flourishing as a Banyan-grove (perhaps, alas, as a Hemlock-forest !) after a thousand years.
"He who first shortened the labor of Copyists by device of Movable Types was disbanding hired Armies, and cashiering most Kings and Senates, and creating a whole new Democratic world: he had invented the Art of Printing. The first ground handful of Nitre, Sulphur, and Charcoal drove Monk Schwartz's pestle through the ceiling: what will the last do? Achieve the final undisputed prostration of Force under Thought, of Animal Courage under Spiritual. A simple invention it was in the old-world Grazier,--sick of lugging his slow Ox about the country till he got it bartered for corn or oil,—to take a piece of Leather, and thereon scratch or stamp the mere Figure of an Ox (or Pecus); put it in his pocket, and call it Pecunia, Money. Yet hereby did Barter grow. Sale, the Leather Money is now Golden and Paper, and all miracles have been out-miracled: for there are Rothschilds and English National Debts; and whoso has sixpence is Sovereign (to the length of sixpence) over all men; commands Cooks to feed him, Philosophers to teach him, Kings to mount guard over him—to the length of sixpence. -Clothes too, which began in foolishest love of Ornament, what have they not become! Increased Security, and pleasurable Heat soon followed: but what of these? Shame, divine Shame (Schaam, Modesty), as yet a stranger to the Anthropophagous bosom, arose there mysteriously under Clothes; a mystic grove-encircled shrine for the Holy in man. Clothes gave us individuality, distinctions, social polity, Clothes have made Men of us; they are threatening to make Clothes-screens of us.
“But on the whole," continues our eloquent Professor, “Man is a Toolusing Animal (Hanth ierendes Thier). Weak in himself, and of small stature, he stands on a basis, at most for the flattest-soled, of some half square-foot, insecurely enough; has to straddle out his legs, lest the very wind supplant him. Feeblest of bipeds! Three quintals are a crushing load for him; the Steer of the meadow tosses him aloft like a waste rag. Nevertheless he can use Tools, can devise Tools: with these the granite mountain melts into light dust before him; he kneads glowing iron, as if it were soft paste;
seas are his smooth highway, winds and fire his unwearying steeds. Nowhere do you find him without Tools; without Tools he is nothing, with Tools he is all."
Here may we not, for a moment, interrupt the stream of Oratory with a remark that this Definition of the Tool-using Animal appears to us, of all that Animal-sort, considerably the precisest and best? Man is called a Laughing Animal: but do not the apes also laugh, or attempt to do it; and is the manliest man the greatest and oftenest laugher ? Teufelsdröckh himself, as we said, laughed only once. Still less do we make of that other French Definition of the Cooking Animal; which, indeel, for rigorous scientific purposes, is as good as useless. Can a Tartar be said to cook, when he only readies his steak by riding on it? Again, what Cookery does the Greenlander use, beyond stowing up his whale-blubber, as a marmot, in the like case, might do? Or how would Monsieur Ude prosper among those Orinocco Indians who, according to Humboldt, lodge in crow-nests, on the branches of trees; and, for half the year, have no victuals but pipe-clay, the whole country being under water? But on the other hand, show us the human being, of any period or climate, without his Tools: those very Caledonians, as we saw, had their Flint-ball, and Thong to it, such as no brute has or can have.
“Man is a Tool-using animal,” concludes Teufelsdröckh in his abrupt way; "of which truth Clothes are but one example: and surely if we consider the interval between the first wooden Dibble fashioned by
man, and those Liverpool Steam-carriages, or the British House of Commons, we shall note what progress he has made. He digs up certain black stones from the boson of the Earth, and says to them, Transport me, and this luggage, at the rate of five-and-thirty miles an hour; and they do it: he collects, apparently by lot, six hundred and fifty-eight miscellaneous individuals, and says to them, Make this nation toil for us, bleed for us, hunger, and sorrow, and sin for us; and they do it.”
One of the most unsatisfactory Sections in the whole Volume is that on Aprons. What though stout old Gao the Persian Blacksmith," whose Apron, now indeed hidden under jewels, because raised in revolt which proved successful, is still the royal standard of that country;" what though John Knox's Daughter, "who threatened Sovereign Majesty that she would catch her Husband's head in her Apron, rather than he should lie and be a bishop;" what though the Landgravine Elizabeth, with many other Apron worthies,-figure here? An idle wire-drawing spirit, sometiines even a tone of levity, approaching to conventional satire, is too clearly discernible. What, for example, are we to make of such sentences as the following ?
Aprons are Defences; against injury to cleanliness, to safety, to modesty, sometimes to roguery. From the thin slip of notched silk (as it were, the Emblem and beatified Ghost of an Apron), which some highest-bred housewife, sitting at Nürnberg Workboxes and Toyboxes, has gracefully fastened on; to the thick-tanned hide, girt round him with thongs, wherein the Builder builds, and at evening sticks his trowel; or to those jingling sheet-iron Aprons, wherein your otherwise half-naked Vulcans hammer and smelt in their Smelt-furnace, -is there not range enough in the fashion and uses of this Vestment? How much has been concealed, how much has been defended in Aprons! Nay, rightly considered, what is your whole Military and Police Establishment, charged at uncalculated millions, but a huge scarlet-colored, iron-fastened Apron, wherein Society works (uneasily enough); guarding itself from some soil and stithy-sparks, in this Devil's-smithy (Teufelsschmiede) of a world? But of all Aprons the most puzzling to me hitherto has been the Episcopal, or Cassock. Wherein consists the usefulness of this Apron? The Overseer (Episcopus) of Souls, I notice, has tucked in the corner of it, as if his day's work were done; what does he shadow forth thereby ?" &c. &c.
Or again, has it often been the lot of our readers to read such stuff as we shall now quote ?
I consider those printed Paper Aprons, worn by the Parisian Cooks, as a new vent, though a slight one, for Typography; therefore as an encouragement to modern Literature, and deserving of approval: nor is it without satisfaction that I hear of a celebrated London Firm having in view to introduce the same fashion, with important extensions, in England."—We who are on the spot hear of no such thing; and indeed have reason to be thankful that hitherto there are other vents for our Literature, exuberant as it is.— Teufelsdröckh continues : “If such supply of printed Paper should rise so far as to choke up the highways and public thoroughfares, new means must of necessity be had recourse to. In a world existing by Industry, we grudge to employ Fire as a destroying element, and not as a creating one. However, Heaven is omnipotent, and will find us an outlet. In the mean while, is it not beautiful
to see five million quintals of Rags picked annually from the Lay-stall; and annually, after being macerated, hot-pressed, printed on, and sold,-returned thither; filling so many hungry mouths by the way? Thus is the Laystall, especially with its Rags, or Clothes-rubbish, the grand Electric Battery, and Fountain-of-Motion, from which and to which the Social Activities (like vitreous and resinous Electricities) circulate, in larger or smaller circles, through the mighty, billowy, stórm-tost Chaos of Life, which they keep alive!"-Such passages fill us, who love the man, and partly esteem him, with a very mixed feeling.
Farther down we met with this : “ The Journalists are now the true Kings and Clergy: henceforth Historians, unless they are fools, must write not of Bourbon Dynasties, and Tudors and Hapsburgs; but of Stamped Broad-sheet Dynasties, and quite new successive" Names, according as this or the other Able Editor, or Combination of Able Editors, gains the world's ear. Of the British Newspaper Press, perhaps the most important of all, and wonderful enough in its secret constitution and procedure, a valuable descriptive History already exists, in that language, under the title of Satan's Invisible World Displayed ; which, however, by search in all the Weissnichtwo Libraries, I have not yet succeeded in procuring (vermöchte nicht aufzutreiben)."
Thus does the good Homer not only nod, but snore. Thus does Teufelsdröckh, wandering in regions where he had little business, confound the old authentic Presbyterian Witchfinder with a new, spurious, imaginary Historian of the Brittische Journalistik ; an so stumble on perhaps the most egregious blunder in Modern Literature !
HAPPIER is our Professor, and more purely scientific and historic, when he reaches the Middle Ages in Europe, and down to the end of the Seventeenth Century; the true era of extravagance in Costume. It is here that the Antiquary and student of Modes comes upon his richest harvest. Fantastic garbs, beggaring all fancy of a Teniers or a Callot, succeed each other, like monster devouring monster in a Dream. The whole too in brief authentic strokes, and touched not seldom with that breath of genius which makes even old raiment alive. Indeed, so learned, precise, graphical, and every way interesting have we found these Chapters, that it may be thrown out as a pertinent question for parties concerned, Whether or not a good English Translation thereof might henceforth be profitably incorporated with Mr. Merrick's valuable Work On Ancient Armor? Take, by way of example, the following sketch; as authority for which Paulinus's Zeitkurzende Lust (11. 678) is, with seeming confidence, referred to:
“ Did we behold the German fashionable dress of the Fifteenth Century, we might smile; as perhaps those bygone Germans, were they to rise again, and see our haberdashery, would cross themselves, and invoke the Virgin. But happily no bygone German, or man, rises again; thus the Present is not needlessly trammelled with the Past; and only grows out of it, like a Tree, whose roots are not intertangled with its branches, but lie peaceably under ground. Nay, it is very mournful, yet not useless, to see and know, how the Greatest and Dearest, in a short, while would find his place quite filled up here, and no room for him; the very Napoleon, the very Byron, in some seven years, has become obsolete, and were now a foreigner to his Europe. Thus is the