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Moral AND Religious Development 




Neiv York : 



5.0 HS\. 5-3 









LoYE AMD GsATmn)]:. 

'^ Indisputably enough, what notion each forms 

of the Universe is the all-regolating fact with 

regard to him." 

Latteb-Day Pamphlets, p. 253. 

" Do you ask why misery abounds among us ? 
I bid you look into the notion we have formed for 
ourselves of the Universe, and of our duties and 
destinies there. If it is a true notion, we shaU 
strenuously reduce it to practice, — for who dare 
and can contradict his faith, whatever it may be, 
in the Eternal Fact that is around him? and 
thereby blessings and success will attend us in 
said Universe, or Eternal Fact we live amidst: 
of that surely there is no doubt." 

Ebenda, p. 252. 



Frontispiece.- Portrait of Thomas Garlyle 

Translator's Preface 11 

Author's Preface 15 

Author's Introduction 17 


Gablyle's Belief. 

The Mystery of the World and life 23 

Wonder and Astonishment 24 

Natural Supematuralism 29 

The Laws of Nature 30 

The Book of Nature 31 

Space and Time 32 

The Infinite Unfathomable 33 

The Kernel of Garlyle's Beligious Belief .... 38 


The Mechanical Age. 

Inexorable Antagonism to Mechanical Things ... 40 

Machines for Education 41 

Philosophy, Science, Art— all depend on Machinery . . 48 


Gabltle's Relation to Chbistianitt. 

L — ^His Position with Reference to the Personality of 

Christ 45 

n.-— His Perception of the Meaning of Christianity in the 

World's History 46 

nL - His View of the Nature of Christianity ... 48 



His View of the Doctrine of Predestination ... 53 

The Beligion of Suffering 55 

Goethe's Joyous Contemplation of the World ... 57 


Cabltle and ths Yabious Phases of Chbistianztt : The 
Chxtbch and Theological LEABMiNa. 

The Bible 65 

The Church 67 

The Metaphysical and Philosophical Treatment of Religious 

Questions 71 

Jesuits 73 

Religion takes refuge in the Stomach ! . . . , 74 



The "New Religion" 77 

Cablyle's Position with Refebenoe to Science, and espegial- 


The Limits of Philosophy 82 

English and French Philosophy 83 

Locke, Reid, Hume, Hartley, etc .85 

Cabanis 86 

German Philosophy .87 

Kant . , 90 

Fichte 94 

Schelling and Hegel 96 

The Disease of Metaphysics 98 



Cabltle'b Position with Befebence to Fobtbt and Abt in 



The Object of Poetry 100 

Milton's Ideal as a Poet 104 

Garlyle's Ideal as a Poet ...*.... 105 

Prophet and Poet 109 

Penetration Ill 

Music. Song 113 

Small Interest in the Plastic Arts 118 

Portraiture 120 


Casltle's Attitude towabds Histobt. 

Man, a Divine Creation ... * . . . 122 

Artist and Mechanic 126 

The True Poetry 129 

Carlyle's Heroism 130 

The Lesson's of the World's History .... 131 

Carlyle and Aristotle ....... 132 


Cabltiie's Ethics : "The Gospel of Wobk.'* 

The Unity of Mind and Morals 135 

RenunciatioD 137 

The Ideal of Higher Morality 138 

His Mission 139 

The Lessons of His Life UO 



''It is well said, in every sense, that a man's 
religion is the chief fact with regard to him." 

"By religion," Carlyle says, "I do not mean 
here the church creed which he professes, the arti- 
cles of faith which he wUl sign and, in words or 
otherwise, assert; not this wholly, in many cases 
not this at all. We see men of all kinds of pro- 
fessed creeds attain to almost all degrees of worth 
or worthlessness under each or any of them. This 
is not what I call religion, this profession and as- 
sertion, which is often only a profession and asser- 
tion from the outworks of the man, from the mere 
argumentative region of him, if even so deep as 
that. But the thing a man does practically be- 
lieve (and this is often enough without asserting it 
even to himself, much less to others) ; the thing a 
man does practically lay to heart, and know for 
certain, concerning his vital relations to this mys- 
terious Universe, and his duty and destiny there, 
that is in all cases the primary thing for him, and 
creatively determines all the rest. That is his 
religion; or, it may be, his mere sc^ticism and 

zii tbanslatob's pbeface. 

no-religion: the manner it is in which he feels 
himself to be spiritually related to the unseen 
world or no-world ; and I say, if you tell me what 
that is, you tell me to a very great extent what the 
man is, what the kind of things he will do is. Of 
a man or a nation we inquire, therefore, first of 
all, What religion they had? Was it heathen- 
ism, — ^plurality of gods, mere sensuous representa- 
tion of this Mystery of Life, and for chief recog- 
nised element therein Physical Force? Was it 
Ohristianism ; faith in an Invisible, not as real 
only, but as the only reality ; Time, through every 
meanest moment of it, resting on Eternity ; Pagan 
empire of Force displaced by a nobler supremacy, 
that of Holiness ? Was it Scepticism, uncertainty 
and inquiry whether there was an unseen world, 
any mystery of life except a mad one ; — doubt as 
to all this, or perhaps unbelief and flat denial? 
Answering of this question is giving us the soul of 
the history of the man or nation. The thoughts 
they had were the parents of the actions they did ; 
their feelings were parents of their thoughts : it 
was the unseen and spiritual in them that deter- 
mined the outward and actual ; — ^their religion, as 
I say, was the great fact about them." 

These few words of Carlyle's, taken from his 
lecture on "Heroes and Hero- Worship," crowd 
into a nutshell the substance of his belief. It was 


a belief of actions, not of words. He cared little 
or nothing for what a man professed, unless what 
he said was corroborated by what he did. The 
performing of one's dnty was the chief, the vital 
thing in this hfe. ''Too mnch thinking and not 
enough doing " was a favonrite saying of his. 

In a letter to Dr. Fliigel from Mr. Fronde, 
he says : '' Your admirable little book is the first 
sign I have seen of an independent and clear 
insight into Carlyle's hfe, work and character, 
as it will one day be uniyersally recognised by 
aU mankind. Leaidng out Goethe, Carlyle was 
indisputably the greatest man (if you measure 
greatness by the permanent effect he has and will 
produce on the mind of mankind) who has ap- 
peared in Europe for centuries. You have seen 
into this and know to appreciate it. His charac* 
ter was as remarkable as his intellect. There has 
been no man at all, not Goethe himself, who in 
thought and action was so consistentiy true to his 
noblest instincts." 

A word is needed with reference to the transla- 
tion of this book, and certain alterations and 
omissions which have been made. 

It was thought best to omit Part I, the Appen- 
dix, and most of the Notes, which deal almost 
exclusively with facts in Carlyle's life so familiar 
from an American point of view, and, moreover 

xiv tbanslatob's preface. 

so thoroughly well treated by Fronde, Norton, 
Bichard Gamett and others, that it would be like 
offering coals to Newcastle to offer them to an 
American reading pubUc. 

The translation has also been carefully examined 
by the Author, thus removing, in a measure, much 
responsibility in regard to it; but the final de- 
cision as to a choice of English expressions, rest- 
ed with the translator, who has to thank, as well 
as the Author, Mr. Albert MiUer, of Detroit, 
Michigan, for kind assistance. 

J. G. T. 

Ithaca^ N. Y,, 

Jan. 26^A, 1891. 


"From the 'edlence of the eternities,* of which he so often 
spoke, there still sound, and will long sonnd, the tones of that 
marvellons voice." — ^Dean Stanley's sermon on the occasion of 
the Death of Mr. Garlyla 

** Suffer me, then, to say a few words on the 
good seed which he has sown in our hearts " were 
the words of Dean Stanley in his impressive 
funeral sermon on Carlyle, which was delivered 
on the 6th of February, 1881, in Westminster 
Abbey — and these words express the feeling which 
has actuated the undertaking of the present work. 

In England, Carlyle's views of life have often 
been made the subject of inquiry, but they have 
either been scattered in periodical publications, 
or have been partially colored, or could hold 
no claim of having been scientifically treated, 
which means nothing more, in biography, at least, 
than a clear and conscientious arrangement of 
matter. In Germany, Carlyle's views of life have 
generally been little considered. We willingly 
praised him, and praise him now, as the friend 
of our nation, the admirer of our distinguished 
men, but with that the whole matter ended, with 
but few exceptions. 

die HHw 11 11 1 of Fronde's greail 1>og- 

dior treasozcsy il Ins b e co m e oar dukj 
to gadier togedier in past die lesaks of diese in- 
Tesligaiiians ; sad to jcco n m fiak tti» in tlie de- 
jMitmeni in iriiick CaiMe's pnndpal w€Kk is of 
impoctaiiee far Ids people sad Iftefstnre in gen- 
eral was the sedoos aidesTor of die Andfeor. 

He lias fiist to expr e ss Ids diaaks to llr. 
Fronde, iriio, throng his great life of Cailyle^ 
was the ineentiTe to die present week, also to die 
esiimaUe friend of Cai^rle, ProlesBor DaTid Mas- 
son, and htfih', and abore all, for her wiDii^neaB 
to render assistance and inf ormatioii, to the niece 
of Carfyle, who, in tmest soficitnde, made the 
last jears of the great man's life easier and more 

Before coDcla^&ng these remarks, the name of 
Bichard Gamett, idiich is familiar to all who hare 
worked in the British Mnseom, caDs to mind a 
small work on Carljle, which gires in its condad- 
ing chapter a short bat excellent picture of Car- 
lyle*s views* I should like to recommend the 
reading of this chapter, as well as of the whole 
work, where the bibUc^rapbj of Cadjle has been 
arranged in its best form. 

IlerrenhauSf Raschmtz^ near Leipzig^ 
NovemheTf 1887. 


Near the Scotch country town, Ayr, about an 
hour from the sea shore, stands a poor little hut, 
which one hundred and fifty years ago received 
its light through a single window that was not 
much larger than a quarter of a sheet of paper, 
when ''Genius" made an entrance into it, and 
Bobert Bums was bom. What the interior of 
the peasant's hut could not offer, the blossom- 
ing son of the poet found in the charming sur- 
roundings of the paternal home. 

One can indeed feel, when one stands upon the 
Auld Brig o' Doon and looks back to the old 
times, how the boy's dreamy and poetical nature 
was inspired; and if one approaches the ivy- 
covered ruins of Alloway Kirk and the old ceme- 
tery, the wanderer is filled with awe, as was once 
the good Tam o' Shanter. 

Much more ru^ed are the surroundings of 
another Scotch hamlet, situated several miles 
southward. A single country road guides the 
traveller — and hundreds make pilgrimages yearly 
to this little village — ^to a very poor-looking house. 


into whichy five years before the expiration of the 
eighteenth century, another "Genius" made en- 
trance, and Thomas Carlyle was bom. 

One is involuntarily compelled to compare the 
straightened circumstances in which both men 
were bom, and from which one of them was never 
permitted for long to raise himself, but from which 
the other became brilliantly transformed through 
unheard-of strength of will and unceasing indus- 
try — ^through a strength of will which the other, 
unfortunately, lacked. 

The career of both men was a tragedy. If we 
approach in spirit the death-bed of Bums in the 
forlorn house at Dumfries, and reflect upon what 
more this genius might have done for the world 
and himself ; what he, indeed, owed the world 
and himself ; what divine power in him still wait- 
ed for full maturity, — or, if we enter the death- 
chamber in Cheyne Bow, where the heart of a 
hero burst with a sigh — a hero who, to be sure, 
accomplished everything which in a long and 
checkered life he had been able to accomplish 
before God and man ; we stand by the bier of a 
man who, with the greatest warmth of heart, with 
the greatest strength of intellect, although his life 
was spent in the most assiduous labor, was never 
long happy. 

But, as with Bums, in the termination of Car- 

author's introduction. xix 

Ijle's powerful life, there is no discord. Earnest 
regrets fill the heart, but they bring their own 
reconciliation, as true tragedy always does. I 
hope to be able in what follows to point out the 
sublimity of Carlyle's spiritual life — a sublimity 
from which, as from a lofty mountain, the eye 
discerns far and near numberless beautiful val- 
leys — a sublimity from which the soul itself feels 
freer and larger. 

Goethe recognized clearly the characteristic of 
Carlyle's aspirations when he uttered on July 
25thj 1827, the following words : " It is especially 
admirable in Carlyle, that in his criticism of our 
German writers he recognises the spiritual and 
moral kernel as the most efficacious. He is, in- 
deed, a moral force of great significance. There 
is a great future awaiting him, and it is not at all 
possible to predict what he will be able to accom- 

And to consider Carlyle as a " moral force " is 
the object of this book. Before we turn our atten- 
tion, however, to an explanation of his moral and 
religious views, it seems to me appropriate to con- 
sider for a moment the history of his inner life, 
especially with reference to its moral and religious 

The inner life of Carlyle divides itself into three 
great epochs : first, his youth, which embraced 

XX authob's isTBODrcnos. 

the jetas spent in the paternal home and in Edin- 
Imrgh (to the year 1816; ; second, thoae years 
which might properly be called his apprentice- 
ship, when he began to fight the battles with his 
own nature in Kirkcaldy, the chief fmit of which 
is his acquaintance with the Crerman classics ; and 
third, the long and important period of his life 
which begins about the time of his departure to 
London in 1834, and ends with his death there in 

From 1834 to 1881 are the richest years of his 
life, and show to the world how Croethe*s pro- 
phetic word was to be fulfilled. 




In " Sartor Resartus," Professor Teufelsdrockh, 
of Weissnichtwo, imparts the following ideas : 

"With men of a speculative turn there come 
seasons — ^meditative, sweet, yet awful hours — 
when, in wonder and fear, you ask yourself that 
unanswerable question: Who am I; the thing 
that can say, I ? 

"The world, with its loud trafficing, retires 
into the distance, and through the paper-hang- 
ings and stone walls, and thick-plied tissue of 
Commerce and Polity, and all the living and 
lifeless integuments (of Society and a Body) 
wherewith your existence sits surrounded, — the 
sight reaches forth into the void Deep, and you 


are alone with the Unireise, and sDentlj com- 
mane with it, as one mjaieiioos Presence with 

"Who am I? "What is this Me? A Toice, a 
motion, an appearance, — some embodied, yisoal- 
ised Idea in the Eternal Mind ? Coffito, ergo sum. 
Alas, poor Cogitator, this takes ns but a little 
way. Sore enough, I am; and lately was not; 
but Whence? How? Where to? The answer 
lies around, written in all colors and motions, 
uttered in all tones of jubilee and wail, in thou- 
sand-figured, thousand-Toiced harmonious Nature : 
but where is the cunning eje and ear to whom 
that God-written Apocalypse will yield articulate 
meaning ? We sit as in a boundless phantasma- 
goria and dream-grotto ; boundless, for the paint- 
ed star^ the remotest century, lies not eyen nearer 
the Terge thereof: sounds and many-coloured 
visions flit around our sense ; but Him, the Un- 
slumbering, whose work both dream and dreamer 
are, we see not ; except in half-waking moments, 
suspect not. 

'' Creation, says one, lies before us, like a glori- 
ous rainbow ; but the sun that made it, lies be- 
hind us, hidden from us. Then in that strange 
dream, how we clutch at shadows as if they were 
Bubstance ; and sleep deepest while fancying our- 
selves most awake ! 

cablyle's belief. 29 

" Which of your philosophical systems is other 
than a dream-theorem — a net quotient, confi- 
dently given out, where divisor and dividend are 
both unknown ? " * 

" To the eye of vulgar logic, what is man ? An 
omnivorous biped that wears breeches. To the 
eye of pure reason, what is he ? A soul, a spirit, 
a divine apparition. Bound his mysterious Me 
there lies, under all those wool-rags, a Gar- 
ment of Flesh (or of Senses) coi^textured in the 
Loom of Heaven ; whereby he is revealed to 
his like, and dwells with them in Union and 
Division; and sees and fashions for himself a 
Universe, with azure Starry Spaces, and long 
Thousands of Years. Deep-hidden is he under 
that Strange Garment; amid Sounds and Col- 
ours and Forms, as it were, swathed-in, and 
inextricably over-shrouded: yet it is sky- woven 
and worthy of a God. Stands he not thereby 
in the centre of Immensities, in the conflux of 

"He feels; the power has been given him to 
know, to believe ; nay, does not the spirit of love, 
free in its primeval brightness, even here, though 
but for garments, look through ? Well said Saint 
Chrysostom, with his lips of gold : * the true She- 
kinah is man.' Where else is the God's Presence 

* Sartor Besartus, p. 35. 


manifested not to our eyes only, but to our 
hearts, as in our fellow-man ? " * 

"For the rest," continues Carlyle, "as is natural 
to a man of this kind, Professor Teufelsdrockh 
deals much in the feeling of wonder; insists on 
the necessity of high worth of universal Won- 
der; which he holds to be the only reasonable 
temper for the denizen of so singular a Planet 
as ours." t 

" Wonder," says he, " is the basis of Worship : 
the reign of Wonder is perennial, indestructible 
in Man ; only at certain stages (as the present) 
it is, for some short season, a reign in partxbua 
injideliitm. That progress of science, which is 
to destroy Wonder, and in its stead substitute 
Mensuration and Numeration finds small favour 
with Teufelsdrockh, much as he otherwise vener- 
ates these two latter processes. 

" Shall your Science," exclaims he, " proceed 
in the small chink-lighted, or even oil-lighted, 
underground workshop of Logic alone, and man's 
mind become an Arithmetical Mill, whereof Mem- 
ory is the Hopper, and mere Tables of Lines and 
Tangents, Codifications, and Treatises of what you 
call Political Economy, are the Meal ? And what 
is that Science, which the scientific head alone, 

* Sartor Besartus, p. 44. 
fOp. cit, p. 45. 


were it screwed ofif, and (like the Doctor's in the 
Arabian Tale) set in a basin to keep it alive, could 
prosecute without shadow of a heart, — but one 
other of the mechanical and menial handicrafts, 
for which the Scientific Head (having a Soul in 
' it) is too noble an organ ? 

" I mean that Thought without Reverence is 
barren, perhaps poisonous ; at best, dies like 
cookery, with the day that called it forth ; does 
not live, like sowing, in successive tilths and 
wider-spreading harvests, bringing food and plen- 
teous increase to all Time. In such wise does 
Teufelsdrockh deal hits, harder or softer, accord- 
ing to ability ; yet ever, as we would fain per- 
suade ourselves, with charitable intent. Above 
all, that class of Logic-choppers, and treble-pipe 
Scoflfers, and professed Enemies to Wonder, who, 
in these days, so numerously patrol as night 
constables about the Mechanic's Institute of 
Science, and cackle, like Old-Boman geese and 
goslings round their Capitol, on any alarm, or 
on none ; nay, who often, as illuminated Sceptics, 
walk abroad into peaceable society, in full day- 
light, with rattle and lantern, and insist on guid- 
ing you and guarding you therewith, though the 
Sun is shining, and the street populous with 
mere justice-loving men : that whole class is in- 


expressibly wearisome to him. Hear with what 
uncommon animation he perorates : 

" * The man who cannot wonder, who does 
not habitually wonder (and worship), were he 
President of innumerable Royal Societies, and 
carried the whole Mechanique Celeste and HegeVa* 
Philosophy^ and the epitome of all Laboratories 
and Observatories, with their results, in his single 
head, — is but a Pair of Spectacles behind which 
there is no Eye. Let those who have Eyes look 
through him, then he may be useful. Thou wilt 
have no Mystery or Mysticism ; wilt walk through 
thy world by the sunshine of what thou callest 
Truth, or even by the hand lamp of what I call 
Attorney-Logic; and * explain' all, * account' for 
all, or believe nothing of it? Nay, thou wilt 
attempt laughter ; whoso recognises the un- 
fathomable, all-pervading domain of Mystery, 
which is everywhere under our feet and among 
our hands ; to whom the TJniverse is an Oracle 
and Temple, as well as a Kitchen and Cattle- 
stall, — he shall be a delirious Mystic; to him 
thou, with sniffing charity, wilt protrusively proflfer 
thy hand-lamp, and shriek, as one injured, when 
he kicks his foot through it ? Armer Teufel ! 
Doth not thy cow calve ? Doth not thy bull 
gender ? Thou thyself, wert thou not bom ; 
wilt thou not die ? * Explain ' me all this, or 

cablyle's belief. 29 

do one of two things: Ketire into private places 
with thy foolish cackle ; or, what were better, 
give it up and weep, not • that the reign of 
wonder is done, and God's world all disembel- 
lished and prosaic, but that thou hitherto art a 
Dilettante and sand-blind Pedant.' " * 

Carlyle characterizes Teufelsdrockh's doctrines 
as " Natural Supematuralism " which might be 
said to lie at the foundation of his own views 
of life, which, however, we prefer to denominate 
" EeUgious . Idealism," for it is an idealism in 
which a theological and religious principle plays 
a Tery important part. 

We must cite a few more passages from this 
chapter on " Natural Supematuralism " in order 
to give, as far as is possible in his own words, 
an accurate idea of the essence of his belief. 

Teufelsdrockh deals severely with these philo- 
sophical world expounders, and discourses at 
length on the physical and incomprehensible 
" laws " of the universe, attempting to explain 
what those same unalterable laws — " forming the 
complete statute-book of nature may possibly be." 

" They stand written in our works of science, 
say you; in the accumulated record of man's 
experience! Was man with his experience pre- 
sent at the creation, then, to see how it all 

* Sartor Besartus, p. 47. 


went on ? Have any deepest scientific individuals 
yet dived down to the foundations of the "uni- 
verse, and gauged everything there? Did the 
Maker take them into His counsel; that they 
read His ground-plan of the incomprehensible 
All; and can say, This stands marked therein, 
and no more than this ? Alas, not in anywise ! 
These scientific individuals have been nowhere 
but where we also are; have seen some hand- 
breadths deeper than we see into the Deep that 
is infinite, without bottom as without shore. 

" Laplace's Book on the Stars, wherein he ex- 
hibits that certain Planets, with their Satellites, 
gyrate round our Sun, at a rate and in a course, 
by greatest good fortune, he and the like of him 
have succeeded in detecting, — is to me as precious 
as to another. But is this what thou namest 
'Mechanism of the Heavens,' and 'Systems of 
the World ; ' this, wherein Sirius and the Pleiades, 
and all Herschel's fifteen thousand Suns per min- 
ute, being left out, some paltry handfuls of Moons, 
and inert Balls, had been — ^looked at, nick-named, 
and marked in the Zodiacal Way-bill ; so that we 
can now prate of their Whereabout; their How, 
their Why, their What being hid from us, as in 
the signless Inane ? 

" System of Nature ! To the wisest man, wide 
as is his vision, Nature remains of quite infinite 

cablyle's belief. 31 

depth, of qnite infinite expansion; and aU ex- 
perience thereof limits itself to some few com- 
puted centuries and measured square miles. 
. . . . We speak of the Volume of Nature: 
and truly a Volume it is, — whose author and 
writer is God. To read it! Dost thou, does 
man, so much as well know the Alphabet thereof ? 
With its Words, Sentences, and grand descriptive 
Pages, poetical and philosophical, spread out 
through Solar Systems, and Thousands of Years, 
we shall not try thee. It is a Volume written 
in celestial hieroglyphs, in the true Sacred writ- 
ing ; of which even Prophets are happy that they 
can read here a line and there a line. As for 
your Institutes, and Academies of Science, they 
strive bravely ; and, from amid the thick-crowded, 
inextricably intertwisted hieroglyphic writing, 
pick out by dextrous combination, some Letters 
in the vulgar Character, and therefrom put to- 
gether this and the other economic Recipe, of 
high avail in Practice. That Nature is more than 
some boundless Volume of such Recipes, or huge, 
well-nigh inexhaustible Domestic Cookery Book, 
of which the whole secret will in this manner 
one day evolve itself, the fewest dream." * 

Teufelsdrockh-Carlyle then speaks of those " il- 
lusory appearances, the two grand fundamental 

* Sartor Resartus, pp. 177-180. 


world-enveloping Appearances, Space and Time. 
These, as spun and woven for us from Birth itself, 
to clothe our celestial Me for dwelling here, and 
yet to blind it, — he all-embracing, as the universal 
canvas, or warp and woof, whereby aU minor 
Illusions, in this Phantasm Existence, weave and 
paint themselves. In vain, while hure on earth, 
shaU you endeavor to strip them oflf; you can, 
at best, but rend them asunder for moments, 
and look through."* 

" Is the Past annihilated, then, or only past ; 
is the Future non-extant, or only future ? Those 
mystic faculties of thine. Memory and Hope, 
already answer: already through those mystic 
avenues, thou, the Earth-bUnded, summonest both 
Past and Future, and communest with them, 
though as yet darkly, and with mute beckonings. 
The curtains of Yesterday drop down, the cur- 
tains of To-morrow roll up; but Yesterday and 
To-morrow both are. Pierce through the Time- 
element, glance into the Eternal. Believe what 
thou findest written in the sanctuaries of Man's 
Soul, even as aU Thinkers, in all ages, have 
devoutly read it there : that Time and Space are 
not God, but creations of God; that with God, 
as it is a universal Here, so is it an everlasting 

♦ Sartor Resartus, pp. 177-180. 

cabltle's belief. 33 

"And seest thou therein any glimpse of Im- 
mortality f O Heaven! Is the white tomb of 
our loved one, who died from our arms, and had 
to be left behind us there, which rises in the 
distance, like a pale, moumfully-receeding Mile- 
stone, to tell how many toilsome uncheered miles 
we have journeyed on alone, — but a pale spectral 
Illusion! Is the lost Friend still mysteriously 
Here, even as we are Here mysteriously, with 
God ! — ^know of a truth that only the Time-shad- 
ows have perished, or are perishable; that the 
real Being of whatever was, and whatever is, and 
whatever will be, is even now and forever. This, 
should it unhappily seem new, thou mayest pon- 
der at thy leisure ; for the next twenty years, or 
the next twenty centuries: believe it thou must; 

understand it thou canst not Sweep 

away the Illusion of Time O, could 

I (with the Time-annihilating Hat) transport 
thee direct from the Beginnings to the Endings, 
how were thy eyesight unsealed, and thy heart 
set flaming in the Light-sea of celestial wonder ! 
Then sawest thou that this fair Universe, were 
it in the meanest province thereof, is in very 
deed the Star-domed City of God; that through 
every star, through every grass-blade, and 
most through every Living Soul, the glory of a 
present God still beams. But Nature, which is 


the Time-vesture of God, and reveals Him to 
the wise, hides Him from the foolish." * 

Carlyle then strolls into the spirit-world and 
returns vnih the witty and profound discovery 
that in order to see a " real ghost," Dr. Johnson 
did not need to go to the trouble of searching 
spirit-haunted Cock Lane, to clamber upon church 
vaults and tap at midnight upon coffins — aU with- 
out result, of course. "Did he never, with the 
mind's eye, as well as with the body's, look 
around him into that full tide of human life he so 
loved ; did he never so much as look into himself ? 
The good Doctor was a Ghost, as actual and au- 
thentic as heart could wish; well nigh a million 
Ghosts were travelling the streets by his side. 
Once more I say, sweep away the illusion of 
Time; compress the threescore years into three 
minutes ; what else was he, what else are we ? 
Are we not Spirits, that are shaped into a 
body, into an Appearance; and that fade away 
again into air and Invisibility ? This is no meta- 
phor, it is a simple scientific fact : we start out 
of Nothingness, take figure, and are Apparitions ; 
round us, as around the veriest spectre, is Eter- 
nity ; and to Eternity minutes are as years and 
reons." t 

* Sartor Besartns, p. 183. 
f Loc. cit. 

cabltle's belief. 35 

" O Heaven, it is mysterious, it is awful to 
consider that we not only carry each a future 
Ghost within him; but are in very deed, Ghosts! 
These limbs, whence had we them ; this stormy 
Force ; this life-blood with its burning Passion ? 
They are dust and shadow; a Shadow-system 
gathered round our Me ; wherein, through some 
moments or years, the Divine Essence is to be 
revealed in the Flesh." * 

"Thus, like a God-created, fire-breathing. Spirit- 
host, we emerge from the Inane ; haste storm- 
fully across the astonished Earth; then plunge 
again into the Inane. Earth's mountains are lev- 
elled, and her seas filled up, in our passage : can 
the Earth, which is but dead and a vision, resist 
Spirits which have reality and are alive ? On the 
hardest adamant some foot-print of us is stamped- 
in; the last Bear of the host wiU read traces of 
the earliest Van. But whence? O Heaven, 
whither? Sense knows not; Faith knows not; 
only that it is through Mystery to 'Mystery, from 
God and to God. 

** * We are snch stuff 
As dreams are made of, and our little life 
Is rounded with a sleep ! * " f 

" Man begins in darkness, ends in darkness ; 
mystery is everywhere around us and in us, under 

* Sartor Besartus, p. 184. 
t Op. cit pp. 184-185. 


our feet, among our hands. Nevertheless, so 
much has become evident to every one, that this 
wondrous Mankind is advancing somewhither; 
that at least all human things are, have been, and 
forever will be, in Movement and Change." * 

"Sad, truly, were our condition did we know 
but this : that Change is universal and inevitable. 
Launched into a dark shoreless sea of Pyrrhon- 
ism, what would remain for us but to sail aimless, 
hopeless; or make madly merry, while the de- 
vouring Death had not yet ingulfed us ? As, in- 
deed, we have seen many, and yet see many do. 
Nevertheless, so stands it not. 

" The venerator of the Past (and to what pure 
heart is the Past, in that '.moonlight of memory,' 
other than sad and holy?) sorrows not over its 
departure, as one utterly bereaved. The true 
Past departs not, nothing that was worthy in the 
Past departs ; no Truth or Goodness realised by 
man ever dies, or can die; but is all stiU here, 
and, recognised or not ; lives and works through 
endless changes. If aU things, to speak in the 
German dialect, are discerned by us, and exist 
for us, in an element of Time, and therefore of 
Mortality and Mutability ; yet Time itself reposes 
on Eternity : the truly Great and Transcendental 

* Essay on Characteristics, p, 33. 


has its basis and substance in Eternity; stands 
revealed to us as Eternity in a vesture of Time." * 
" Unhappy he who felt not, at all conjunctures, 
ineradicably in his heart the knowledge that a 
God made this Universe, and a Demon not ! And 
shall Evil always prosper, then ? Out of all Evil 
comes Good; and no Good that is possible but 
shall one day be real. Deep and sad as is our 
feeling that we stand yet in the bodeful Night; 
equally deep, indestructible is our assurance that 
the Morning also will not fail. Nay, already, as 
we look round, streaks of a day-spring are in the 
east; it is dawning; when the time shall be ful- 
filled, it will be day. The progress of men to- 
ward higher and nobler developments of whatever 
is highest and noblest in him, lies not only pro- 
phecied to Faith, but now written to the eye of 
Observation, so that he who runs may read." t 

" For the rest, let that vain struggle to read the 
mystery of the Infinite cease to harass us. It is 
a mystery which, through aU ages, we shall only 
read here a line of, there another line of. Do we 
not already know that the name of the Infinite is 
Lord, is God ? Here on Earth we are as Soldiers, 
, fighting in a foreign land ; that understand not 
the plan of the campaign, and have no need to 

* Essay on Characteristics, pp. 33-34. 
fOp. cit, p. 32. 


understand it ; seeing well what is at our hand to 
be done. Let us do it like Soldiers ; with sub- 
mission, with courage, with a heroic joy. ' What- 
soever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy 
might.' Behind us, behind each one of us, lie 
Six Thousand Tears of human effort, human con- 
quest : before us in the boundless Time, with its, 
as yet, uncreated and unconquered Continents 
and Eldorados, which we, even we, have to con- 
quer, to create ; and from the bosom of Eternity 
there shine for us celestial guiding stars. 

* My inheritance, how wide and fair ! 

Time is my fair seed-field, of Time I'm heir.' " * 

These thoughts and many more which might 
be found in Carlyle's writings, contain the kernel 
of his religious belief. 

The Universe, as we see it everywhere, is an 
infinite and divine mystery — an infinite and divine 
mystery are we ourselves, as we perceive the 
world and its phenomena confronting us. The 
only thing which we — a revelation of God — are 
able to perceive of the other revelation of God, 
the universe, is reverence, and worship of the 
Pivine Being. This " Worship " before the 
Highest — as it has manifested itself in our souls 
And everywhere in the world is religion ; religion, 

« Sssay on Gharacteristics, p. 38. 

carlyle's belief. 39 

which not alone fills our sords as a sentiment, but 
shows itself as well in our life and works, and is 
inseparably bound with the highest moral beauty 
which is to have a sequel hereafter. That is the 
foundation of Carlyle's views, his belief, with 
which the man and all his works are permeated. 
From this belief spring all his thoughts and judg- 
ments; upon this foundation rests his view of 
the world, and all questions, solved or unsolved, 
which are daily agitating men's minds who crave 
an honest and intelligent answer, and without 
which, in one way or another, they may be 
brought to great discontent 


Motto: *'The marvels of Industry did not awe him, the 
progress of humanity he did not place in the triumph of matter 
in his eyes a man was a man only on condition of being a taber- 
nacle of the Uving God."—" WyUe's Carlyle," chap. 24. 

Carlyle's Religious Idealism is now found con- 
fronted by a " mechanical age ; " an age swayed 
by a sort of spiritual and physical machine ; an 
age, which suffers from the fact that its noble 
impulses are no longer brought out with freedom, 
naturally and unconsciously, without regard to 
consequences and criticism, but rather reach for- 
ward toward an independent and imagined end ; 
not to that one end, which for Carlyle is the only 
one, the kingdom of God on Earth. 

That Carlyle, although perhaps too inexorable 
in his antagonism to mechanical things, is not 
blind to the results which the progress in tech- 
nical and other sciences has wrought for man- 
kind, cannot be denied ; nevertheless he believed 


his chief mission to be in mercilessly attacking 
the experiments of the mechanical mind in dar- 
ing to interfere with fields with which it has no 
concern ; viz., the fields of a higher, spiritual and 
moral life, and, above all, in the field of Re- 
ligion In theology, philosophy and 

pedagogy, as in aU the sciences and arts, he 
sees the pernicious increase of a mechanical 
view of life. 

" Thus we have machines for Education ; Lan- 
castrian machines ; Hamiltonian machines ; mon- 
itors, etc. Instruction, that mysterious commun- 
ing of Wisdom with Ignorance, is no longer an 
indefinable tentative process, requiring a study 
of individual aptitudes, and a perpetual variation 
of means and methods, to attain the same end; 
but a secure, universal, straight-forward business, 
to be conducted in the gross by proper mechan- 
ism, with such intellect as comes to hand. Then 
we have Beligious machines; of aU imaginable 
varieties; the Bible-Society, professing a far 
higher and heavenly structure, is found, on in- 
quiry, to be altogether an earthly contrivance; 
supported by collection of moneys, by fomenting 
of vanities, by puffing, by intrigue and chicane ; 
a machine for converting the Heathen. It is the 
same in aU other departments. Has any man, or 
any society of men a truth to speak, a piece of 


spiritual work to do, they can no wise proceed 
at once and with the mere natural organs, but 
must first call a public meeting, appoint com- 
mittees, issue prospectuses, eat a public dinner." * 

"With individuals, in like manner, natural 
strength avails little. No individual now hopes 
to accomplish the poorest enterprise single-handed 
and without mechanical aids. He must make in- 
terest with some existing corporation, and tiU his 
fields with their oxen. 

" In these days, more emphatically than ever, 
'to live, signifies to unite with a party, or to 
make one.' Philosophy, Science, Art, Literature, 
aU depend on machinery. No Newton, by silent 
meditation, now discovers the System of the World 
from the falling of an apple ; but some quite other 
than Newton stands in his Museum, his Scientific 
Institution, and behind whole batteries of retorts, 
digestors and galvanic piles imperatively * interro- 
gates Nature,' — who, however, shows no haste to 
answer. In defect of Raphaels, and Angelos, and 
Mozarts, we have Koyal Academies of Painting, 
Sculpture, Music ; whereby the languishing Spirit 
of Art may be strengthened, as by the more gen- 
erous diet of a Public Kitchen. Literature, too, 
has its Paternoster-row of mechanism, its Trade 

* Essay on Signs of the Times, p. 234. 


dinners, its Editorial conclaves, and huge sub- 
terranean, puffing bellows ; so that books are not 
only printed, but in a great measure written and 

sold by machinery Men are grown 

mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in 
hand. They have lost faith in individual endea- 
vour, and in natural force of any kind. Not for 
internal perfection, but for external combinations 
and arrangements, for institutions, constitutions, — 
for Mechanism of one sort or other, do they hope 
and struggle." * 

In what follows an attempt will be made to give 
an idea of Carlyle's position with reference to the 
several departments of spiritual life, which, under 
the infliience of Mechanism, have more or less 

Essay on Signs of the Times, pp. 235-236. 



1. — His Views on the Pebsonaltty op Ghbist. 

2. — His Appbehension of the Significance of Christianity 


3. — His Notion of the Natube of Ghbistianitt. 

" To begin with our highest Spiritual function, 
with Religion," says Cariyle, "we might ask. 
Whither has Eehgion now fled? Of churches 
and their establishments we here say nothing; 
nor of the unhappy domains of Unbelief, and how 
innumerable men, blinded in their minds, have 
grown to Uve without God in the world ; but, 
taking the fairest side of the matter, we ask. What 
is the nature of that same Keligion, which still 
lingers in the hearts of the few, who are called, 
and call themselves, specially the Rehgious ? Is 
it a healthy religion, vital, unconscious of itself ; 
that shines forth spontaneously in doing of the 
Work, or even in preaching of the Word? Un- 

cablyle's belation to chbistianity. 45 

happily, No. Instead of heroic martyr Conduct, 
and inspired and sord-inspiring Eloquence, where- 
by Religion itself were brought home to our hving 
bosoms, to live and reign there, we have ' Dis- 
cources on the Evidences,' endeavouring, with 
small results, to make it probable that such a 
thing as BeUgion exists. The most enthusiastic 
Evangelicals do not preach a Gospel, but keep 
describing how it should and might be preached. 
To awaken the sacred fire of faith, as by a sacred 
contagion, is not their endeavour, but, at most, 
to describe how Faith shows and acts, and scien- 
tifically distinguish true Faith from false. Be- 
ligion, Uke all else, is conscious of itself, listens 
to itself ; it becomes less and less creative, vital ; 
more and more mechanical. Considered as a 
whole, the Christian Religion of late years has 
been continually dissipating itself into Metaphy- 
sics; and threatens now to disappear, as some 
rivers do in deserts of barren sand." * 

The preceding words have already suggested 
from what quarter Carlyle's position with reference 
to Christianity may be expected. 

We shall next consider his position as to the 
personality of Christ and the historical signifi- 
cance of Christianity. 

* Characteristics, p. 20. 


When Goethe on the 11th of March, 1832 
(Eckerm, iii., 255) gives utterance to the following 
sentiment : " I consider the Gospels entirely gen- 
uine, for there is in them an image of a powerful 
grandeur which proceeds from the person of 
Christ and in so godlike a manner as only upon 
earth the Godlike has been revealed. If one 
asks me whether it may be in my nature to feel 
reverence and devotion to him, I answer, to be 
sure. I bow before him as before the highest 
revelation, the highest principle of morality," and 
when on the same day he says, "may spiritual 
culture advance, may the natural sciences grow 
broader and deeper, and the human spirit expand 
as it will, it will never be surpassed by the grand- 
eur and moral development of Christianity as it 
glistens and sparkles in the Gospels ; " and when 
Goethe crowns these expressions with the words, 
"We shall all of us come gradually out of a 
Christianity of words and belief to a Christianity 
of principle and action," it is in order that Car- 
lyle's own conviction of the worth and the sig- 
nificance of the future of Christianity may also 
find expression. Carlyle's religious feeling be- 
came completely imbued with the teaching and 
character of Christ. 

Carlyle never spoke a word which permitted of 
a double meaning, which did not show the com- 

cabltle's relation to CHRisTiANrry. 47 

plete conviction of his heart, and in the following 
plain language he expresses his belief in Christ : 
"Highest of all Symbols are those wherein the 
Artist or Poet has risen into Prophet, and all men 
can recognise a present God and worship the 
same. . . • Various enough have been such 
religious Symbols, what we call JReligious; as men 
stood in this stage of culture or the other, and 
could worse or better body-forth the Godlike: 
some Symbols with a transient intrinsic worth; 
many with only an extrinsic. If thou ask to what 
height man has carried it in this manner, look 
on one divinest Symbol: on Jesus of Nazareth, 
and his Life, and his Biography, and what fol- 
lowed therefrom. Higher has the human Thought 
not yet reached ; This is Christianity and Christ- 
endom, a Symbol of quite perennial, infinite 
character; whose significance will ever demand 
to be anew inquired into, and anew made mani- 
fest." * 

" Small it is that thou canst trample the Earth 
under thy feet, as old Greek Zeno trained thee : 
thou canst love the Earth while it injures thee, 
and even because it injures thee; for this a 
Greater than Zeno was needed, and he, too, was 
sent. Knowest thou that * Worship of Sorrow ? * 

Sartor Besartos, p. 155. 


The Temple thereof, founded some eighteen cen- 
turies ago, now lies in ruins, overgrown with 
jungle, the habitation of doleful creatures : never- 
theless, venture forward ; in a low crypt, arched 
out of falling fragments, thou findest the Altar 
stiU there, and its sacred Lamp perennially burn- 
ing." * 

The essence of the Christian doctrine for Car- 
lyle is raised above all doubt and every logical 
proof, it is implanted in every human heart, and 
whether "in the believing or unbelieving mind, 
must ever be regarded as the crowning glory, or 
rather the Ufe and soul, of our whole modem 
culture ! " t 

And just for this reason Carlyle never became 
tired of pointing out the imtenableness of even 
the most earnest essays to defend or assault the 
Christian doctrine with the help of logic. 

In his Essay on Voltaire we find these words : 
".That the Christian Religion could have any 
deeper foundation than Books, could possibly be 
written in the purest nature of man, in mysteri- 
ous, ineflfaceable characters, to which Books, and 
all Eevelations and authentic traditions, were but 
a subsidiary matter, were but as the light where- 
by that divine writing was to be read ; — nothing 

* Sartor Resartus, p. 133. 
t Signs of the Times, p 242. 

caelyle's belation to chbistianity. 49 

of this seems, even in the faintest manner, to 
have occurred to Voltaire. Yet, herein, as we 
believe that the whole world has now begun to 
discover, Ues the real essence of the question; 
by the negative or affirmative decision of which, 
the Christian Religion, anything that is worth 
calling by that name, must faU, or endure forever. 
"We believe, also, that the wiser minds of our 
age have already come to agreement in this ques- 
tion ; or rather never were divided regarding it. 
Christianity, the 'Worship of Sorrow,' has been 
recognised as divine, on far other grounds than 
'Essays on Miracles,' and by consideration in- 
finitely deeper than would avail in any mere 
* trial by jury.' He who argues against it, or for 
it, in this manner, may be regarded as mistak- 
ing its nature.* .... Our fathers were 
wiser than we, when they said, in the deepest 
seriousness, what we often hear in shallow mock- 
ery, that Beligion is * not of Sense, but of Faith ; ' 
not of Understanding, but of Reason. He who 
finds himself without the latter, who by aU his 
studying has failed to unfold it in himself, may 
have studied to great or little purpose, wo say 
not which; but of the Christian Religion, as of 
many other things, he has and can have no 

♦ Essay on Voltaire, p. 172. 


knowledge. The Christian Doctrine we often 
hear likened to the Greek Philosophy, and found, 
on all hands, some measurable way superior to 
it : but this also seems a mistake. The Christian 
Doctrine, that Doctrine of Humanity, in all senses 
Godlike, and the parent of all Godlike virtues, 
is not superior, or inferior, or equal, to any doc- 
trine of Socrates or Thales; being of a totally 
different nature ; differing from these, as a per- 
fect Ideal Poem does from a correct Computation 
in Arithmetic. He who compares it with such 
standards may lament that, beyond the mere let- 
ter, the purport of this divine Humility has 
never been disclosed to him ; that the loftiest 
feeling hitherto vouchsafed to mankind is yet 
hidden from his eyes. * . . . . We under- 
stand ourselves to be risking no new assertion, 
but simply repeating what is already the convic- 
tion of the greatest of our age, when we say, — 
that cheerfully recognising, gratefully appropri- 
ating whatever Voltaire has proved, or any other 
man has proved, or shall prove, the Christian 
Religion, once here, cannot again pass away; 
that in one or the other form, it will endure 
through all time; that as in Scripture, so also 
in the heart of man, is written, * the Gates of Hell 

♦ Voltaire, p. 173. 


shall not prevail against it.' Were the meaning 
of this Faith never so obscured, as, indeed, in 
all times, the coarse passions and perceptions 
of the world do all but obliterate it in the hearts 
of most; yet in every pure soul, in every Poet 
and Wise Man, it finds a new Missionary, a new 
Martyr, till the great volume of Universal History 
is finally closed, and man's destinies are fulfilled 
in this earth. ' It is a height to which the human 
species were fated and enabled to attain ; and 
from which, having once retained it, they can 
never retrograde." * 

These views of the historical significance of 
Christianity are almost identical with Goethe's; 
but as to the nature of Christianity itself, the two 
men take widely divergent paths. "" 

" Christianity as ' the religion of expiation ' 
has two poles, between which all Christian life 
oscillates : the one, negative, is the consciousness 
of sin, or of a contrast between God and man ; 
the other, the positive pole, is the conscious- 
ness of grace, or of the annulling of that con- 
trast, of the reconcilement of the disunited, 
and the reunion of God and man. According 
to the diversity in natures, the attractive power 
of Christianity rests now upon the side of 

* Essay on Voltaire, pp. 172-174. 


the negative and now upon that of the positive 
pole." * 

If we apply this idea to Carlyle, we come to 
the conclusion that with him, exactly as with 
Kant, Calvin, Knox, Cromwell, and all other men 
who have grown up under the influence of de- 
fined notions of the Scotch Presbyterian Church, 
sympathy is found to be more on the side of the 
negative pole — decidedly in contrast to Goethe. 

The extent of the preponderating notions as 
to sinfulness and the imperfectness of human 
nature induced Carlyle to take this position — 
perhaps already well grounded in his nature, 
at all events, further developed by education. 

Here views inherited from his ancestors sud- 
denly stand out in rugged contrast to the Eeli- 
gious Idealism of his soul, and here lies darkly 
and mysteriously the essence of the contradic- 
tion of his religious views so enigmatically split 

Carlyle, whom we even now hear saying : Man 
is a divine mystery, every man has an immortal 
soul which is the mirror and living reflection 
of God ; Carlyle, whose gentle soul fully coincides 
with the belief that an infinite and powerful Good 

* These words, taken from a paper of Otto Pfleiderer's on 
"Groethe's Conception of Beligion," are to be found in the 
*'Prot3stantischeEirchenzeitang/' April 11, 1883. 


exists, a God, to whom every man's well being 
and perfection lies near, who, as the " Omnipo- 
tent" and the "AU-Good" is able to find ways 
and means to advance the perfection of every 
man, to purify every man ; Carlyle, when he steps 
forth as " admonisher," and tries to show the 
absolute necessity of the morality of the world 
with fire and sword — as he has himself con- 
fessed — ^has gone hand in hand with Calvinism 
in the question of Predestination. 

And though this conviction as to the possi- 
bility of the complete damnation of mankind — 
in the Dantean sense — did not cause him to be- 
come a pessimist (what the logical result of it 
would have been), as a result of it, his religious 
views were always tinged with a sort of melan- 
choly, dejection and sadness which shows a pro- 
digious digression from Goethe's religious views. 
" Beligion contains an infinite amount of sad- 
ness," — ^this sentence of Novalis' comes directly 
from his heart. The religion of sadness, the re- 
ligion of suffering, is his constantly recurring 
definition of Christianity. Goethe's expression, 
" the sanctuary of pain " he admitted completely 
into his realm of ideas and quoted it repeatedly. 

To be sure, we often find in his Journal such 
expressions as the following : " I say to myself, 
why shouldst thou not be thankful? God is 


good, all this life is a heavenly miracle, great, 
though stern and sad." " The universe is full 
of love, but also of inexorable sternness and 
severity, and it remains for ever true that God 

But the grim sternness and the inexorable harsh- 
ness which the ever insufficient nature of man 
brings with it, appears always like a ghost be- 
tween him and God, and robs him — at least at 
times — of the content of his own soul. 

" I, like all mortals, have to feel the inexorable 
that there is in life, and to say, as piously as 
I can : God's will, God's wiU ! " . . . " Sunt 
lacrimcB rerum ! Fractus hello, fessus annis,'' he 
writes. " The deepest De Profundis was trifling 
in comparison with the feeUngs in my heart. 
There is nothing but wail and lamentation in the 
heart of all my thoughts." " I am very wae and 
lonely here," he writes to his wife, " take care, 
take care of thy poor little self, for truly enough, 
I have no other ! " " A solemn kind of sadness, 
a gloom of mind which, though heavy to bear, 
is not unallied with sacredness and blessedness." 
" There is nothing of joyful in my life, nor ever 
likely to be ; no truly loved or loving soul — ^^or 
practically as good as none — left to me in the 
earth any more. The one object that is wholly 
beautiful and noble, and in any sort helpful to 

cablile's belation to chbistianity. 55 

my poor heart, is she whom I do not name. The 
thought of her is drowned in sorrow to me, but 
also in tenderness, in love inexpressible." * 

A deep insight into his life is given in a letter 
written on June 12, 1847, to the excellent Thomas 
Erskine, of Linlathen : " One is warned by Nature 
herself not to * sit down by the side of sad thoughts,' 
as my friend Oliver has it, and dwell voluntarily 
with what is sorrowful and painful. Yet at the 
same time one has to say for one's self — at least 
I have — that all the good I ever got, came to 
me rather in the shape of sorrow: that there is 
nothing noble or godlike in the world but has 
in it something of 'infinite sadness,' very differ- 
ent indeed from what the current moral philoso- 
phies represent to us." t 

This shows the seriousness, the sadness and 
melancholy with which his whole thought is 
penetrated. It is the rebound of his soul, and 
of the infinite suffering with which his life is 
filled. The single hidden reason for all this ap- 
pears to lie in the much too tender nature of 
his heart, which is always being wounded, even 
in his love for his wife — and furthermore in 
the peculiar excitability of his nature. His wife 

* Journal, Sep. 30, 1867. 

t Fronde's Life of Carlyle, Franklin Square Ed., voL ii., p. 6. 


was once taken when she was very ill to the 
baths at St. Leonards, while he himself was re- 
turning to his work in London, and when the 
sufferer was somewhat better, he writes, on Sep- 
tember 29th, 1864, in answer to a letter from her : 

" Oh, my suffering little Jeannie ! Not a wink 
of real sleep again for you. I read (your letter) 
with that kind of heart you may suppose in the 
bright beautiful morning. And yet, dearest, there 
is something in your note that is welcomer to 
me than anything I have yet had — a sound of 
piety y of devout humiliation and gentle hope, and 
submission to the Highest, which affects me much 
and has been a great comfort for me. Yes, poor 
darling ! This was wanted. Proud stoicism you 
never failed in, nor do I want you to abate of 
it. But there is something beyond of which I be- 
lieve you have had too little. It softens the angry 
heart and is far from weakening it — nay, is the 
final strength of it, the fountain and nourish- 
ment of all real strength. Come home to your 

own poor nest again We have had 

a great deal of hard travelling together, we will 
not break down yet, please God." 

This letter fits completely into this connection. 
It shows what his real trouble was; what op- 
pressed him; what made him unhappy; what 
filled his whole life with gloom and sadness, and 


what a sombre veil beclouded his religion. All 
of which, however beautiful the picture that pro- 
duces this " ascetic pessimistic " aspect of Chris- 
tianity, actually interfered with his keeping a 
strong grasp on that joyous, sunny height of 
Goethe's standpoint, whose " preeminently happy 
spirit," conscious of moral greatness, willingly ad- 
mits "man's hereditary shortcomings," but without 
laying special stress upon this, and being com- 
pletely lifted above sorrow and sin, soars to that 
" sublime view of the world," where satisfaction, 
in the bitterest suflfering itself, consists in "recog- 
nising God," no matter how and where He may 
reveal himself. That is the actual blessedness on 

** Were not the eye so luminons, 
How could it ever see the son? 
lived not in ns God's influence, 
How could the divine delight us ? " * 

This is Goethe's unflinching belief in the divine 
nature of man, a belief which could never in any 
way be affected by the gloomy influence of the 
doctrine of predestination. It was this belief 
in the " natural holiness of human nature " that 
separated Goethe, once for all, from the followers 
of the Augustinian doctrines, Luther himself in- 

* €k)ethe, Spriiche in Prosa, p. 120. Ed. Leoper. 


daded, and led him to the party of Pelagius. It 
was as he himself called it, '^ Christianity for his 
own private use." * 

If with Goethe this free and joyous contempla- 
tion of life, in strong contrast to the gloomy and 
untrue teachings of the extreme insufficiency of 
human nature, was always able to win the vic- 
tory, it was — however obstructed by gloomy views — 
fundamentally the same as that of Garlyle. 

The optimistic and religious Idealism took pos- 
session of his soul, just as it does in the case 
of every healthy man's, and it was constantly 
brought home to him that " the gate of Hell shall 
have no strength." 

He cries out : " The Earth is not — in the name 
of God — a place of bitter hopelessness for any 
living creature, but it is emphatically the place of 
hope for all." t 

" One asks. Is man alone born to sorrow that 
has neither healing nor blessedness in it? All 
nature, from all comers, answers, No — for all 
the wise, No. Only Tea for the unwise, who 
have man's susceptibilities, appetites, capabilities, 
and not the insights and ruggod virtues of men." :J: 

" Yes, the Eedeemer liveth. He is no Jew, or 

* Wahrheit tmd Dichturg, (Hempel) vol. iii, p. 178. 
f Froude's Life of Garlyle, voL iii, p. 15. 
J Op. oit., p. 42. 


image of a man, or surplice^ or old creed, but 
the Unnamable Maker of us, voiceless, formless 
within our own soul, whose voice is every noble 
and genuine impulse of our souls. He is yet 
there, in us and around us, and we are there. 
No Eremite or fanatic whatever had more than 
we have ; how much less had most of them ? " 

Carlyle's Calvinistic views stand not altogether 
in inexplicable contradiction to this sentiment. 
What induced him to doubt of the insufficiency 
of human nature — divine as it is and should be — 
what led him to a complete and exaggerated 
contempt for the world, was his unrelenting hate 
of the evil, and the immoral as it exists, as a 
rather large factor in the world's history. This 
is a point which properly belongs to the Chapter 
on Ethics, but must, nevertheless, be discussed 
here, where he defines his position as to Predes- 
tination and Christianity in general. 

The moral duty imposed upon us by God, 
whose fulfillment — as Carlyle has already said — 
is our divine right, will only be recognized by 
a few, and performed by stiU fewer. Only the 
soul of a hero can perform it — a man of extra- 
ordinary greatness and mellowness — a man chosen 
by God ; average humanity deprives itself of this 
heroism ; does not listen to the voice of its heart, 
which is the command of God; and so misses 


its divine call. And as the noble man can only 
hate and despise what is worthless^ so does also 
the righteous God. That the just God judges 
according to a higher law than that of human 
morality, that with him it is the law of love 
which judges, finds in Carlyle no fixed abode. 
Where the question is one of the practical fur- 
therance of morality, Carlyle comes out strongly 
as " admonisher." Here — and here only — is 
Carlyle's God found. The Old Testament God, 
the punishing and revengeful God is his, and his 
rehgion might be said to be that of " Job, Isaiah 
and Ezekiel." His bosom is filled with hatred 
and revenge toward the unworthy. The Christian 
doctrine of forgiveness and of human love re- 
cedes, and Hell opens her gates for the wicked 
who have devoted themselves voluntarily to des- 
truction, and with whom God and Eternity can 
have nothing in common. 

At this point Carlyle returns to the doctrines 
of the Church, but fails to reach the heights which 
the Christianity of Goethe and Schiller embraced. 
Carlyle forgets the words : 

** All sins shall be forgiven, 
And Hell shall no more be." 

One can see from these views of the justice 
of the punishing God, how Carlyle clung to the 
ascetic-pessimistic aspect of Christianity; how 

CABLYLE's relation to CHBISTIANITy. 61 

it was that the idea of mercy and of love — ^which, 
placed above everything else, even justice itself, 
and finally carrying victory with it — was always 
receding with him, and especially when it comes 
to the point of inciting to morality the degener- 
ated elements of the world. 

That these gloomy views do not play an im- 
portant role with Carlyle; that the "religion of 
expiation," in its chief significance as a mercy 
bringer, finds an explanation in him, remains in 
spite of everything, a determined fact, though Car- 
lyle as a " prophet " and preacher (and that he 
considered was his mission in life) did not recog- 
nize the "unrestricted" free and "joyful Godli- 
ness " acknowledged by Goethe as the final goal. 
Carlyle had not studied in the school of antiquity 
as had Goethe. For his own inner experience 
there was no morality which had not been won 
by severe battles; no morality which, as a free 
gift of Nature, is given to man in his cradle. 
Carlyle's birth, his education, his whole nature 
had denied him " the hopeful and happy spirit " — 
which, however, would not have been necessary 
to assist him to conquer the passionate battles 
against immorality. That, however, the " Sinai's 
thunder " of the punishing God did not indicate 
his latest views on this subject cannot be too 
earnestly emphasized. 


" Can thunder from all the thirty-two azimuths, 
repeated daily for centuries of years, make God's 
Laws more godlike to me? Brother, No. Per- 
haps I am grown to be a man now ; and do not 
need the thunder and the terror any longer ! Per- 
haps I am above being frightened ; perhaps it is 
not Fear, but Beverence alone, that shall now 
lead me! Bevelations, Inspirations? Yes; and 
thy own god-created Soul; dost thou not call 
that a * revelation ? ' Who made Thee ? Where 
didst Thou come from? The voice of Eternity, 
if thou be not a blasphemer and poor asphyxiated 
mute, speaks with that tongue of thine! Thou 
art the latest Birth of Nature ; it is * the Inspira- 
tion of the Almighty ' that giveth thee understand- 
ing ! My brother, my brother 1 " * 

♦ Past and Present, p. 198. 





Motto : " IntoJerance, animosity can forward no cause, and 
least of all becomes the cause of moral and religious truth. A 
wise man has well reminded us * that in any controversy the 
moment we feel angry we have already ceased striving for Truth, 
and begun striving for ourselves. ' " — Carlyle's Essay on Vol- 
taire, p. 181. 

On October 11th, 1841, Carlyle writer to the 
excellent and great Scotch divine, Chalmers : 
"that you, with your generous, hopeful heart, 
believe that there may still exist in our actual 
churches enough of divine fire to awaken the 
supine rich and the degraded poor, and act vic- 
toriously against such a mass of pressing and 
ever-accumulating evils — alas ! what worse could 
be said of this by the bitterest opponent of it, 
than that it is a noble hoping against hope, a 
noble strenuous determination to gather from the 


dry deciduous tree what the green alone could 
yield." * 

Carlyle was not a bitter enemy to " the church" 
as he has frequently been represented in England. 
He was of the deepest conviction that all man- 
kind belong to one universal divine fellowship, 
which, independent of churches, ceremonies and 
liturgies, rests only and solely in the heart of 
man. He was an enemy to falsehood and to 
hypocritical intolerance; and where, indeed, is 
this more to be found in the world's history than 
in priestcraft ? 

His relation to the Church again is not essen- 
tially different from Goethe's. 

In his youth he attended the Scotch Presby- 
terian Church, but later in life his experience 
was similar to Goethe's. The mere externali- 
ties of the Church, its accepted dogmas re- 
pelled him. Carlyle was all his life of a pious 
Iran^e of mind, and was able to enter into the 
feelings of the pious reverence of the savage 
beloi'e his fetish, and of the heathen before his 
idol, The sight of a fervently praying woman 
i» the cathedral at Brugge filled him with melan- 
^oly — *^a more beautiful picture than all the 
pil^tuveH of Bubens and Bembrandt." He could 

1 liH^ qA Chalmers (Hanna) p. 109. 


thoroughly understand that inner need — what it 
is that impels a devout Catholic to long for the 
mediation of a saint; but all forms and empty 
creeds, or creeds whose meaning he — after sin- 
cere trial — could not comprehend, filled him with 
the same feeling as the dull belief of a sceptic 
did — with horror and compassion. Like Goethe, he 
remained true to the Bible 'during his whole life : 
in Craigenputtock he read aloud from it for morn- 
ing prayers. " In the poorest cottage," he says 
in 1832, " is one Book, wherein for several thou- 
sands of years, the spirit of man has found light, 
and nourishment, and an interpreting response 
to whatever is Deepest in him ; wherein still, to 
this day, for the eye that will look well, the 
mystery of Existence reflects itself, if not re- 
solved, yet revealed, and prophetically emblemed," 
and again in 1867 he calls the Bible " the truest 
of all books," * as earlier, in 1850, he had alluded 
to it as " the most earnest of books," t and it 
was to the end of his life — as well as Goethe and 
Shakespeare — ^his faithful companion. X That he 
recognized, as Goethe did, that there were other 
revelations, we see from the following : " One 

* Shooting Niagara, p. 221. 

t Latter-Day Pamphlets, p. 274. 

I Froude's Life of Carlyle, voL iv., chap. 24. 


Bible I know, of whose Plenary Inspiration doubt 
is not so much as possible ; nay, with my own 
eyes I saw the God's-Hand writing it; thereof 
all other Bibles are but Leaves, — say, in Picture- 
Writing to assist the weaker faculty." * 

Goethe writes to Lavater, August 9th, 1782, 
" You consider the Gospel as it stands divine 
Truth. A distinct voice from Heaven would not 
convince me that water bums and fire quenches, 
that birth may be miraculous, and that a dead 
person is raised to life ; far more do I consider 
all this blasphemy against the great God and his 
revelations in Nature. You find nothing more 
beautiful than the Gospels; I find a thousand 
written pages by ancients and modems just as 
beautiful and useful and indispensible to human- 


These words describe Carlyle's position per- 
fectly. "Art thou a grown baby, then, to fancy 
that the miracle lies in miles of distance, or in 
pounds of avoirdupois ; and not to see that 
the true inexplicable God-revealing miracle lies 
in this, that I can stretch forth my hand at 
all ; that I have free Force t "> clutch aught 
therewith ? " t Man'^is a great miracle, sufficient- 

* Sartor Kesartus, p. 134. 
tOp. cit, p. 182. 


ly inexplicable, so that others are entirely super- 
fluous. Things were regarded by many men as 
miracles which were simply incredible, and which 
could not be supported or made credible by logic 
or " metaphysical hocus-pocus " or " theosophical 

When such ceremonies as baptism throw Goethe 
so out of tune that he cannot be present at them ; 
when in Meiningen he is displeased because his 
residence is opposite a church, and he writes on 
May 12'th, 1782, to Frau von Stein: "Here I 
live opposite a church, which is a terrible situa- 
tion for one who neither prays upon this or that 
mountain, and has no prescribed hours to wor- 
ship God;" and when Schiller frankly declares 
that "no sermon precisely pleases him," it is 
exactly what we often meet with in Carlyle's Jour- 
nal and works. 

Nevertheless, in the beginning of his London 
life, he made an attempt to identify himself with 
some church, but in vain. " I tried various chap- 
els ; I found in each some vulgar, illiterate man 
declaiming about matters of which he knew noth- 
ing. I tried the Church of England. I found 
there a decent educated gentleman reading out 
of a book words very beautiful, which had ex- 
pressed once the serious thoughts of pious, ad- 
mirable souls. I decidedly preferred the Church 


of England man ; but I had to say to him : ' I 
perceive, sir, that at the bottom Ton know as little 
abont the matter as the other fellow.' " * 

" It is every way strange to consider," he once 
wrote, "what Christianity, so-called, has grown 
to within these two centuries — on the Howard 
and Fry side as on every other — a paltry, mealy- 
mouthed * religion of cowards,' which also, as I 
believe, awaits its * abohtion ' from the avenging 
power. If men will turn away their faces from 
God and set up idols, temporary phantasms, in- 
stead of the Eternal One — alas ! the consequences 
are from of old well known." t 

Carlyle's position as to the Church on the one 
hand, and dogmatic theological science on the 
other, finds an explanation in his comprehension 
of the idea of God. 

When Sterling took exception to Professor 
Teufelsdrockh's God because it appeared to be 
" no personal God," Carlyle replied : " A grave 
charge, nevertheless — an awful charge — to which, 
if I mistake not, the Professor, laying his hand 
on his heart, will reply with some gesture ex- 
pressing the solemnest denial. In gesture rather 
than in speech, for the Highest cannot be spoken 

* Fronde's Life of Carlyle, voL iii, p. 10. 
f Op. cit., voL It., p. 6. 


in words. Personal! Impersonal! Me! Thou! 
What meaning can any mortal (after all) attach 
to them in reference to such an object? W&r 
darf Ihn nennen f I dare not and do not. That 
you dare and do (to some greater extent) is a 
matter I am far from taking offence at. Nay, 
with all sincerity, I can rejoice that you have 
a creed of that kind which gives you happy 
thoughts, nerves you for good actions, brings 
you into readier communion with many good 
men. My true wish is, that such a creed may 
long hold compactly together in you, and be *a 
covert from the heat, a shelter from the storm, 
as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.' 
Well is it, if we have a printed litany to pray 
from ; and yet not ill if we can pray in silence ; 
for silence, too, is audible there. Finally, assume 
yourself that I am neither Pagan nor Turk, nor 
circumcised Jew, but an unfortunate Christian 
individual resident at Chelsea in this year, of 
grace, neither Pantheist, nor Pot-theist, nor any 
Theist or 1st whatsoever, having the most de- 
cided contempt for all such manner of system- 
builders or sect-founders — as far as contempt 
may be compatible with so mild a nature — feel- 
ing well beforehand (taught by long experience) 
that all such are and ever must be wrong. By 
God's blessing, one has got two eyes to look 

70 THOltAS rAHT.TT.iL 

with, aico a mind capable of knowings of beliey- 
ing. This is all the creed I will at this time in- 
sist on. And now may I beg one thing, that 
whenever in my thoughts or yonr own, yon fall 
on any dogma that tends to estrange yon from me, 
pray believe that to be fdUe^ false as Beelzebub, 
till you get clearer evidence." * 

The preceding words clearly show the bent of 
Carlyle's mind towards religious matters. As he 
himself was continually saying with severeness, 
" creeds the recital of certain ceremonies," 
"the thirty-nine articles," rituals and litm^es, 
hierarchies, and catechisms have nothing whatever 
to do with the nature of belief itself, with religion 
itself, for " religion is no mere external append- 
age ; " those things are only the outer husk, those 
same church clothes " have gone sorrowfully out- 
at-elbows ; " first must the dead letter of religion 
own itself dead, if the living spirit of religion is 
to arise on us, " newborn of Heaven." t 

Religion is the heavenly light which slumbers 
in the soul of man. J It is the great, heavenly 
divine truth which has been left to us as a joy, a 
comfort, and a protection in the midst of the 

♦ Fronde's Life of Carlyle, vol. iii, p. 10. 
t Sartor Besartus, bk. ii, chap. 3. 
X Latter-Day Pamphlets, p. 195. 


changeful cycles of the world; it is an eternal 
truth which we can never question, " it does not 
consist in the many things which man is in doubt 
of and tries to believe, but of the few he is assured 
of, and has no need of effort for believing." 

Therefore it is vain, impossible, and for the 
weak mind it is even dangerous and injurious to 
attempt to prove the necessity, the possibility of 
religion according to a metaphysical method; it 
is impossible, because religion is not a thing of 
logical or mathematical understanding, but of the 
human, feeling heart, of living belief. " An amal- 
gam of Christian verities" and modern critical 
philosophy was and could be nothing else but 
" poisonous insincerity." * But this subject is 
well treated in Carlyle's Life of Sterling. 

There is found a delicately executed picture of 
the earnest and true endeavour of John Sterling 
to bring theology into harmony and relation with 
the critical philosophy of Kant — according to 
Coleridge's example — and of the disastrous effect 
of this endeavour upon a true and frank nature. 

" No man of Sterling's veracity, had he clearly 
consulted his own heart, or had his own heart 
been capable of clearly responding, and not been 
dazzled and bewildered by transient phantasies 

* Fronde's life of Carlyle, voL iii., chap. 2. 


and tlieosophic moonshine — could have under- 
taken this function. His heart would have an- 
swered: *No, thou canst not.' *What is in- 
credible to thee, thou shalt not, at thy soul's 
peril, attempt to believe!' Else whither for a 
refuge, or die here. Go to Perdition if thou 
must, — ^but not with a lie in thy mouth; by 
the Eternal Maker, no ! " * 

" Concerning this attempt of Sterling's to find 
sanctuary in the old Church, and desperately 
grasp the hem of her garment in such manner, 
there will at present be many opinions : and mine 
must be recorded here in flat reproval of it, in 
mere pitying condemnation of it, as a rash, false, 

unwise and unpermitted step Alas, 

if we did remember the divine and awful nature 
of God's Truth, and had not so forgotten it as 
poor doomed creatures never did before, — should 
we, durst we, in our most audacious moments, 
think of wedding it to the world's Untruth, which 
is also, like all untruths, the Devil's? Only in 
in the world's last lethargy can such things be 
done, and accounted safe and pious! Fools! 
* Do you think the living God is a buzzard idol,' 
sternly asks Milton, * that you dare address Him 
in this manner ? ' Such darkness, thick sluggish 

* Garlyle's life of Sterling, chap. 2. 


clouds of cowardice and oblivious baseness, have 
accumulated on us : thickening as if towards the 
eternal sleep ! It is not now known, what never 
needed proof or statement before, that Beligion 
is not a doubt ; that it is a certainty, — or else a 
mockery and horror. That none or all of the 
many things we are in doubt about, and need to 
have demonstrated and rendered probable, can, 
by any alchymy be made a 'Religion' for us- 
but are and must continue a baleful, quiet or 
imquiet Hypocrisy for us; and bring — salvation, 
do we fancy? I think, it is another thing they 
will bring, and are on all hands, visibly bringing^ 
this good while ! " * 

In the same text is found Carlyle*s terrible cas- 
tigatory sermon against the Jesuits : 

" Man's religion, whatever it may be, is a dis- 
cerned fact, and coherent system of discerned 
facts ; he stands fronting the worlds and eterni- 
ties upon it . to doicbt of it is not permissible at 
all ! He must verify or expel his doubts, convert 
them into certainty of Yes or No ; or they will 
be the death of his religion. But, on the other 
hand, convert them into certainty of Yes and No ; 
or even of Yes though No, as the Ignatian method 
is, what will become of your religion ? . . . . 

* Garlyle's life of Sterling, Part L, chap. 15. 

74 THOMAS r4RT.YT.i? 

The religion of a man in these straiige circum- 
stances, what living conviction he has aboiDit his 
Destiny in this Universe, falls into a most strange 
condition ; — and, in truth, I have observed, is 
apt to take refuge in the stomach mainly. The 
man goes through his prescribed fugle-motions 
at church and elsewhere, keeping his conscience 
and sense of decency at ease thereby; and in 
some empty part of his brain, if he have fancy 
left, or brain other than a beaver's, there goes 
on occasionally some dance of dreamy hypotheses, 
sentimental echoes, shadows, and other inane 
make-believes, — which I think are quite the con- 
trary of a possession to him ; leading to no clear 
Faith, or divine life-and-death Certainty of any 
kind; but to a torpid species of delirium sam^ 
nians and delirium stertens rather. In his head 
or in his heart this man has of available religion 
none." * 

The Pig Philosophy is the result of such 

If Carlyle ever touches upon this subject, he 
takes especial pains to censure Coleridge's course, 
in which more or less successful and excellent 
men, such as Maurice, Kingsley, Hare and Ster- 
ling, have sought their happiness; but the true 

* Latter-Day Pamphlets, p. 267. 


kernel, Coleridge's honest effort, he by no means 

" Let me not be unjust to this memorable man," 
he says. " Surely there was here, in his pious, 
ever-labouring, subtle mind, a precious truth, or 
prefigurement of truth ; and yet a fatal delusion 
withal. Prefigurement that, in spite of beaver 
sciences and temporary spiritual hebetude and 
cecity, man and his Universe were eternally di- 
vine; and that no past nobleness, or revelation 
of the divine, could or would ever be lost to him. 
Most true, surely, and worthy of all acceptance. 
Good also to do what you can with old Churches 
and practical Symbols of the Noble : nay, quit 
not the burnt ruins of them while you find there 
is still gold to be dug there. But, on the whole, 
do not think you can, by logical alchymy, distil 
astral spirits from them; or, if you could, that 
said astral spirits, or defunct logical phantasms, 
could serve you in anything. What the light of 
your mind, which is the direct inspiration of the 
Almighty, pronounces incredible, — ^that, in God's 
name, leave uncredited ; at your peril do not try 
believing that. No subtlest hocus-pocus of ' rea- 
son ' versus * understanding ' will avail for that 
feat, — and it is terribly perilous to try it in these 
provinces I " * 

* Carlyle's life of Sterling, p. 53. 


The same thought is expressed in a letter writ* 
ten to Sterling on June 7th, 1837 : 

"You announce that you are rather quitting 
philosophy and theology — I predict that you will 
quit them more and more. I give it you as my 
decided prognosis that the two provinces in ques- 
tion are become theorem, brain-web and shadow, 
wherein no earnest soul can find solidity for it- 
self. Shadow, I say; yet the shadow projected 
from an everlasting reality that is within our- 
selves. Quit the shadow. Seek the reality." 

:: GiftofThoPeopio^f V. .'-'■■': ^'.:^-^ 
j Through vre V'c-r ■ r. ^ ; : nKa;.:i 

r ^ 

. the Armea forces c^ .Vlcat-aii: ,- ;,t^ ' 


It may now be stated in a very few words what 
Carlyle regarded as the " truth." 

No " new religion '* need be looked for. " Sim- 
ple souls still clamour occasionally for what they 
call a *new religion.* My friends, you will not 
get this new religion of yours; — I perceive you 
already have it, always had it ! All that is true 
is your * religion/ — is it not? Commanded by 
the Eternal God to he performed, I should think, 
if it is true ! 

"Your way of looking at life has been at all. 
times a mirror picture of mankind, and * if you 
have now no Heaven to look to; if you now 
sprawl, lamed and lost, sunk to the chin in the 
pathless sloughs of this lower world without guid- 
ance from above, know that the fault is not 
Heaven's at all, but your own ! . . . . Arise, 
make this thing more divine, and that thing,— ^ 
and thyself, of all things; and work, and sleej) 


not; for the night cometh, wherein no man can 
work ! " * 

" This new religion is no pill to be swallowed 
down — it is but a reawakening of thy own Self 
from within." t It must exert itself to obtain a 
true and warm belief in God and to reach moral 
activity. This new religion consists in the re- 
conquered and resucitated religious feeling of a 
change of heart. Therein lies the real salvation 
of the world. 

" The Maker's Laws, whether they are promul- 
gated in Sinai Thunder, to the ear or imagina- 
tion, or quite otherwise promulgated, are the 
Laws of God ; transcendant, everlasting, impera- 
tively demanding obedience from all men. The 
Universe is made by Law ; the great Soul of the 
World is just and not unjust. Look then, if thou 
have eyes or soul left, into this shoreless Incom- 
prehensible: into the heart of its tumultuous 
Appearances, Embroilments, and mad Time-Vor- 
texes, is there not, silent, eternal, an All-just, an 
AU-beautiful ; sole Reality and ultimate control- 
ling power of the whole? This is not a figure 
of speech; this is a fact. The fact of Gravita- 
tion, known to all animals, is not surer than this 

♦ Latter-Day Pamphlets, p. 285. 
t Past and Present, p. 199. 

GOD. 79 

inner Fact, which may be known to all men. He 
who knows this, it wiU sink, silent, awful, un- 
speakable into his heart. He will say with 
Faust : ' Who dare name Him ? * Most rituals or 
'namings' he wiU fall in with at present, are 
like to be ^namings' — which shall be nameless! 
In silence, in the Eternal Temple, let him wor- 
ship, if there be no fit word. Such knowledge, 
the crown of his whole spiritual being, the life 
of his life, let him keep and sacredly walk by. 
He has a religion. Hourly and daily, for him- 
self and for the whole world, a faithful, un- 
spoken, but not ineffectual prayer rises, * Thy 
will be done.' His whole work on Earth is an 
emblematic spoken or acted prayer. Be the will 
of God done on Earth, — ^not the Devil's will, 
or any of the Devil's servant's wills! He has 
a religion, this man; an everlasting Load-star 
that beams the brighter in the Heavens, the 
darker here on Earth grows the night around 
him." * 

To perform God's will, to live a pious life, that 
is Carlyle's simple doctrine — ^whether the heart 
feels happy in it or not, is not taken into con- 
sideration at all : man must keep God's com- 
mandments, must be moral. And only so far as 

♦ Carlyle's Past and Present, p. 197. 


Christiiuiitj teaches this, only so tar as the Chris- 
tian is the most perfect ideal of a ''moral Be- 
ligion/' does Cazlyle feel respect for it. He has 
nothing whatever to do idth " forms, rituals, 
creeds and ceremonies,'' as he himself always 
says. To use Fichte's words : '' his religious ideas 
are not concerned with imputing qualities to 
God which are acknowledged, or should be ac- 
knowledged, as having no reference to our moral 



C'est d' Allemagne que Carlyle a tir^ ses plus grand id^es. 

n y a 6tndi6 De 1780 k 1830 1'Allemagne a produit 

toaies les id^es de notre age historiqae, et pendant nn demi — 
si^de encore, pendant nn si^cle pent-^tre, notre grandes affaire 
sera de les repenser. — Taine, Id^alisme Anglais p. 72 ; also in 
his Lit. Hist, 5, 4, §2 1, p. 658. [English Translation.] 

An irreverent knowledge is no knowledge. — Garlyle's Essay 
on Chartism, p. 178. 

From Carlyle's deepest conviction that the — 
unconsciously living — ^religious feeling of vener- 
ation for the divine which is everywhere present, 
not only satisfies the highest moral needs, but 
actually constitutes the only highest development 
of mankind — is shown his attitude towards science 
in general, and philosophy in particular. 

If the "philosophical-scientific tendency" of 
the times (as Fichte expresses it) is inclined 
"to grant nothing but what is comprehensible," 
and nothing but what the " carpenter's rule " can 
establish; if merely sensuous empiricism reliey 


on Science whose foundations are merely based 
upon logical conclusions and deductions; if it 
attempts to ignore or suppress the incomprehen- 
sible, the mysterious, the transcendental and the 
metaphysical which represents the element of 
religion ; * or if it shows it to be absurd fanati- 
cism or mysticism, with such a state of things 
which Carlyle finds too widely spread throughout 
the whole of English and French philosophy up 
to his own time, he has absolutely no sympathy. 

But he joyfully recognized the results and 
ideals of the "real" philosophy which he be- 
lieved was found in the efforts of the German 
thinkers — ^whose early dawn for England he saw 
coming from Dugald Steward. 

According to Carlyle's conviction, an accurate 
knowledge of the nature of philosophy and its 
problems was first made possible in Germany by 
the critical philosophy of Kant ; its problems 
which (according to Carlyle's comprehension), in 
order that the inner eye of truth might be opened, 
rested upon an indubitable principle, and the 
acceptance of "the absolutely and primitively 
True ; " t rested upon the " primitively True " 
which, as the beginning of all philosophy, is 

* Fichte, 7, 241. 

t Essay, State of General Literature. 

cablyle's attitude towaed science. 83 

written in the soul of man ; rested upon that 
truth which can never be uttered by philosophy- 
alone, whose existence philosophy herself wiU 
never be able to prove, even with the help of logic 
and science. 

Carlyle awards to philosophy only a limited 
province : he regards it only as a high and noble 
means to a higher and nobler end ; to that higher 
end which increases the view that " the belief in 
Eeligion " for all men, as well as for thinkers 
and philosophers, is the greatest gift that can 
be bestowed — a gift which (according to his no- 
tion) is even again only a means to an end — ^that 
of some living achievement. 

To have raised this idea to a scientific fact was 
the service which the Germans — in his eyes — 
had rendered to mankind, and his attitude toward 
philosophy is found everywhere in his judgments 
of the several directions which the history of 
philosophy has taken. 

*' In most of the European nations there is no 
such thing as a Science of Mind ; only more or 
less advancement in the general sciences or the 

special sciences of matter So it is 

in France and in England, only the Germans 
have made any decisive effort in * psychological 
science ; ' the science of the age, in short, is 
physical, chemical, physiological ; in all shapes 


mechanical. Our fayourite mathematics, the high- 
ly prized exponent of all these sciences, has also 
become more and more mechanical. Excellence 
in the higher branches of mathematics depends 
less on the natural genius than on acquired ex- 
pertness in wielding its machinery. Without un- 
dervaluing the wonderful results which a Le- 
grange or a Laplace educes by means of it, we 
may remark, that their calculus, differential and 
integral, is little else than a more cunningly con- 
structed arithmetical mill ; when the factors being 
put in, are, as it were, ground into the true 
product, under cover, and without other effort on 
our part than a steady turning of the handles. 
We have more Mathematics than ever ; but less 
Mathesis. Archimedes and Plato could not have 
read the Mechanique Celeste ; but neither would 
the whole French Institute see aught in the say- 
ing, * God geometrises ! ' but a sentimental rodo- 
montrade." * 

Since Locke's time our whole metaphysics has 
not been spiritual, but physical and material. 
The unusual respect with which his Essay has 
always been held (a respect founded upon the 
excellent character of the man), is an extraordi- 
nary sign of the times. Its whole teaching, in 

* Signs of the Times, pp. 236-237. 

cablyle's attitude towaed science. 85 

its methods and its results, is mechanical accord- 
ing to its aim and origin. It is no philosophy of 
the mind, only an examination of the origin of 
consciousness, of our ideas — or, as we might say, 
a history of their origin ; what we may be able 
to see with the mind and in the mind ; of the 
great mystery of our moral obligation and of 
our moral freedom ; that restricted or unrestricted 
dependence of matter on mind ; our mysterious 
conceptions of Time and Space ; of God and the 
Universe never once are touched upon in all 
these examinations, and do not appear to have 
the least connection with the purport of the 

The earliest form of Scotch metaphysics had 
an indistinct conception that this was false, but 
they did not, however, attempt to correct it. 
Eeid's school had from the start taken a mechan- 
ical trend, as no other seemed to appear to them ; 
the wonderful conclusions which Hume reached — 
starting from facts which had been accepted by 
Eeid's School were founded by this same Scotch 
School. They let "instinct" loose, like a mas- 
tiff, in order to render their own position secure 
from the adversaries. They pull themselves 
merrily along — by the logical chains which Hume 
threw out to them and to the whole world — into 
the boundless abysses of Atheism and Fatalism. 


But in some way the chain broke between them, 
and the end of the whole matter was that neither 
one grieved for the other — even as little as for 
the contemporary philosophical movement in Eng- 
land which was kept together by such men as 
Hartley, Darwin and Priestley. Hartley's "vibra- 
tions" and "vibratiuncles" were, one could easily 
believe, mechanical and material enough, but our 
neighbours on the Continent could go still farther. 

One of her philosophers has made the extra- 
ordinary discovery that as the liver produces bUe 
so the brain secretes thoughts ; an astounding 
fact this, which Dr. Cabanis recently in his Rap- 
ports du Physique et du Moral de Vhomme has 
followed to its extreme ends. The metaphysics 
of this searcher is, nevertheless, not shadowless 
and unsubstantial! With his operating knife 
and his " psychological sounding leads " he dis- 
sects the whole ethical structure of mankind, and 
then offers it to the thinking judgment of the 
world under a microscope, blowing it loud through 
his anatomical tube. Thought — ^he admits — is 
still secreted in the brain ; but then, to be sure, 
one could consistently conclude — an interesting 
fact — that poetry and religion are both " product 
of the smaller intestines ! " 

We cherish the greatest admiration for this 
learned man ; with what scientific Stoicism does he 

carlyle's attitude toward science. 87 

not stride through the world of miracles without 
being amazed; like a philosopher through an enor- 
mous Vauxhall, whose fireworks and water-falls 
and dashing music is the joy and delight of the 
crowd, but for him nothing more than " saltpetre, 
pasteboard and catgut." * 

We conclude here Carlyle's animadversions on 
the mechanical aspects of English and French 
philosophers, and turn our attention to his judg- 
ment of those philosophies — especially the Ger- 
man critical philosophy — which makes an end 
of " perversion of all philosophies." 

" The Kantist, in direct contradiction to Locke 
and all his followers, both of the French and 
English or Scotch Schools, commences from with- 
in, and proceeds outwards ; instead of commenc- 
ing from without, and, with various precautions 
and hesitations, endeavouring to proceed inwards. 
The ultimate aim of all Philosophy must be to 
interpret appearances, — from the given symbol 
to ascertain the thing. Now the first step to- 
wards this, the aim of what may be called Pri- 
mary or Critical Philosophy, must be to find 
some indubitable principle ; to fix ourselves on 
some unchangeable basis ; to discover what the 
Germans call the Urwahr^ the Primitive Truth, 

* Essays, vol. ii, p, 238. 


the necessarily, absolutely and eternally True, 
This necessarily True, this absolute basis of 
Truth, Locke silently, and Eeid and his followers 
with more tumult, find in a certain modified Ex- 
perience, and evidence of Sense, in the universal 
and natural persuasion of all men. Not so the 
Germans : they deny that there is here any ab- 
solute Truth, or that any Philosophy whatever 
can be built on such a basis ; nay, they go to 
the length of asserting, that such an appeal even 
to the universal persuasions of mankind, gather 
them with what precautions you may, amounts 
to a total abdication of Philosophy, strictly so 
called, and renders not only its farther progress, 
but its very existence, impossible. What, they 
would say, have the persuasions, or instinctive 
beliefs, or whatever they are called, of men, to 
do in this matter? Is it not the object of 
Philosophy to enlighten, and rectify, and many 
times directly contradict these very beliefs. . . . 
The Germans take up this matter differently, 
and would assail Hume, not in his outworks, 
but in the centre of his citadel. They deny his 
first principle, that Sense is the only inlet of 
Knowledge, that Experience is the primary ground 
of Belief. Their Primitive Truth, however, they 
seek, not historically and by experiment, in the 
univeral persuasions of men, but by intuition, 

oarlyle's attitude toward scienoe. 89 

in the deepest and purest nature of Man. In- 
stead of attempting, which they consider vain, 
to prove the existence of God, Virtue, an im- 
material Soul, by inferences drawn, as the con- 
clusion of all Philosophy, from the world of 
Sense, they find these things written as the be- 
ginning of all Philosophy, in obscured but in- 
effaceable characters, within our inmost being; 
and themselves first affording any certainty and 
clear meaning to that very world of Sense, by 
which we endeavour to demonstrate them. 

"God iSy nay, alone is, for with like emphasis 
we cannot say that anything else is. This is the 
Absolute, the Primitively True, which the philo- 
sopher seeks. Endeavouring, by logical argu- 
ment, to prove the existence of God, a Kantist 
might say, would be taking out a candle to look 
for the sun ; nay, gaze steadily into your candle- 
light, and the sun himself may be invisible. To 
open the inward eye to the sight of this Prim- 
itively True ; or rather we might call it, to clear 
off the Obscurations of Sense, which eclipse this 
truth within us, so that we may see it, and be- 
lieve it not only to be true, but the foundation 
and essence of all other truth, — may, in such 
language as we are here using, be said to be the 
problem of Critical Philosophy." * 

* Garlyle's Essay on The State of German Literature, pp. 67-69. 


"In this point of view, Kant's system may be 
thought to have a remote affinity to those of 
Malebranche and Descartes. But if they in some 
measure agree as to their aim, there is the widest 
difference as to the means. We state what to 
ourselves has long appeared the grand charac- 
teristic of Kant's Philosophy, when we mention 
his distinction, seldom perhaps expressed so 
broadly, but uniformly implied, between Under- 
standing and Eeason ( Verstand and Yemunft). 
To the Kantists, Understanding and Beason are 
organs, or rather, we should say, modes of oper- 
ation, by which the mind discovers Truth; but 
they think that their manner of proceeding 
is essentially different; that their provinces are 
separable and distinguishable; nay, that it is of 
the last importance to separate and distinguish 
them. Eeason, the Kantists say, is of a higher 
nature than Understanding; it works by more 
subtle methods, or higher objects, and requires 
a far finer culture for its development; indeed, 
in many men it is never developed at all: but 
its results are no less certain, nay, rather they 
are much more so; for Reason discerns Truth 
itself, the absolutely and primitively True ; while 
the Understanding discerns only relations, and 
cannot decide without if. The proper province 
of Understanding is all, strictly speaking, real. 

cablyle's attitude toward science. 91 

practical and material knowledge, — Mathematics, 
Physics, Political Economy — ^the adaptation of 
means to ends in the whole business of life. In 
this province it is the indispensable servant, 
without which, indeed, existence itself would be 
impossible. Let it not step beyond this province, 
however; not usurp the province of Eeason, 
which it is appointed to obey, and cannot rule 
over without ruin to the whole spiritual man. 
Should Understanding attempt to prove the ex- 
istence of God, it ends, if thorough-going and 
consistent with itself, in Atheism, or a faint pos- 
sible Theism, which scarcely differs from this: 
should it speculate of Virtue, it ends in Utility, 
making Prudence and a sufl&ciently cunning love 
of Self the highest good. Consult Understanding 
about the Beauty of Poetry, and it asks. Where 
is this Beauty? or discovers it at length in 
rhythms and fitnesses, and male and female 
rhymes. Witness also its everlasting paradoxes 
on Necessity and the Freedom of the Will; its 
ominous silence on the end and meaning of man ; 
and the enigma which, under such inspection, 
the whole purport of existence becomes." * 

Carlyle's chief interest in the efforts and re- 
sults of the Kantean Philosophy in particular. 

* Carlyle's Essay on the State of Grerman Literature, p. 67-70. 


and of German Idealism in general, concerns it- 
self less — as a consequence of the whole tendency 
of his religious views — with the " theories of per- 
ceptions" than with ethical and religious doc- 

We do not wish to say anything of these views 
which this philosophy reveals of the course and 
development of the natural sciences, but we can- 
not refrain from stating that for those who fol- 
low it, its effects upon Ethics and Beligion are 

"The Critical Philosophy has been regarded 
as the greatest intellectual achievement of the 
century in which it came to light. August Wil- 
helm Schlegel, whose opinion has a known value 
for the English, has stated in plain terms his 
beUef, that in respect of its probable influence 
on the moral culture of Europe, it stands on a 

line with the Reformation The noble 

system of morality, the purer theology, the lofty 
views of man's nature derived from it, nay, per- 
haps the very discussion of such matters, to which 
it gave so strong an impetus, have told with re- 
markable and beneficial influence on the whole 
spiritual character of Germany. No writer of any 
importance in that country, be he acquainted or 
not with the Critical Philosophy, but breathes a 
spirit of devoutness and elevation more or less 

cablyle's attitude towaed science. 93 

directly drawn from it. Such men as Goethe and 
Schiller cannot exist without effect in any liter- 
ature or in any century : but if one circumstance 
more than another has contributed to forward 
their endeavours, and introduce that higher tone 
into the literature of Germany, it has been this 
philosophical system ; to which, in wisely beUev- 
ing its results, or even in wisely denying them, 
all that was lofty and pure in the genius of poetry, 
or the reason of man, so readily allied itself. " * 

Thus Carlyle attaches the very highest impor- 
tance to the Kantean Philosophy. It is now 
only necessary to show that, in his eyes, Kant's 
great successors have no really striking differ- 
ences. The only thing which in the systems of 
Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, Carlyle considered 
great and remarkable was the Idealism inter- 
woven in them all ; in other respects he charac- 
terized them simply as " these Kantean systems." 

He was rather more, however, attached to 
Fichte, whose manly bearing filled him with the 
greatest reverence, than to any of the other 

'' The cold, colossal, adamantine spirit, stand- 
ing erect and clear, like a Cato Major among 
degenerate men; fit to have been the teacher of 

* Garlyle's Essay on the State of German Literature, p. 66. 


the Stoa, and to have discoursed of Beauty and 
Virtue in the groves of Academe ! We state 
Fichte's character, as it is known and admitted 
by men of all parties among the Germans, when 
we say that so robust an intellect, a soul so calm, 
so lofty, massive and immovable, has not mingled 
in philosophical discussion since the time of 
Luther. We figure his motionless look, had he 
heard the charge of mysticism which was made 
against him in England. For the man rises be- 
fore us, amid contradiction and debate, like a 
granite mountain amid clouds and wind. Eidi- 
cule, of the best that could be commanded, has 
been already tried against him ; but it could not 
avail. What was the wit of a thousand wits to 
him ? The cry of a thousand choughs assaulting 
that old cliff of granite : seen from the summit, 
these, as they winged the midway air, showed 
scarce so gross as beetles, and their cry was sel- 
dom even audible. Fichte's opinions may be true 
or false ; but his character, as a thinker, can be 
slightly valued only by such as know it ill ; and 
as a man, approved by action and suffering, in 
his life and in his death, he ranks with a class 
of men who were common only in better ages 
than ours."* 

* Oarlyle's Essay on the State of Oerman literature, pp. 65-66. 

caelyle's attitude towaed science. 95 

Carlyle's aspirations were akin to Fichte's, 
and as their spiritual development was similar, 
Fichte mnst have attracted Carlyle, and uncon- 
sciously exerted a great influence on him. 

We should be going too far if we attempted to 
trace back to Fichte certain peculiarities of Car- 
lyle's phraseology, and many of his important 
utterances (this was actually done in several in- 
stances by Novalis' instrumentality), but it is 
nevertheless worthy of remark that Carlyle's 
" Natural Supematuralism " bears the strongest 
resemblance to Fichte's idealism. 

Similar to Fichte, his doctrine — founded upon 
the " Divine Idea of the world which lies at the 
bottom of Appearances " reached its climax in the 
Ethical and the Eeligious. 

And when Fichte says : " After all, this accord- 
ing to my doctrine, is the true character of the 
truly religious man. There is but one desire that 
swells his breast and inspires his mind — the hap- 
piness of all soul-inspired creatures. Thy king- 
dom come ! is his prayer ; besides this nothing 
has the least charm for him. He has become in- 
sensible to the possibility of longing for anything 
else. He recognizes but one way of furthering 
this ideal, that of following the voice of his con- 
science in all his actions, unwaveringly, without 
fear or sophistry. This links him again to the 


world, not as an object of enjoyment, but as a 
sphere for conscientious living pointed out by his 
inner voice ; " if Fichte advances this as his ideal 
of a morally religious man — an ideal, however, 
which may be appUed to any man— we do not 
see how Carlyle's ideal could be better formulated. 

The significance of Schelling's and Hegel's 
systems for Carlyle retreats to the background. 
Schelling's philosophy had fascinated him, to be 
sure, in those days of bitter doubt, when he was 
trying to formulate his own ideas of life. In his 
Journal and Letters we occasionally meet with 
his name, but Carlyle's opinion in regard to him 
is generally expressed too vaguely for us to say 
that Schelling had any permanent influence upon 
his mind. He said once about him: ''He is a 
man evidently of deep insight into individual 
things ; speaks wisely and reasons with the nicest 
accuracy on all matters where we understand 
his data." * 

In England, Schelling's influence was much 
more important on Coleridge and his followers 
than on Carlyle. 

In regard to Hegel Carlyle never expressed 
himself even as clearly, so that his position with 
reference to him cannot be any more accurately 

* Garlyle's Essay on the State of German literature, p. 65. 

carlyle's attitude toward science. 97 

defined. "He puts a high estimation upon 
him," * as Froude says, and we shall soon dis- 
cover that there is one subject on which the two 
men agree, without daring to draw any inference 
from it. 

However greatly Carlyle respected the various 
representatives of German Idealism, and however 
deeply he was impressed by them, we must never- 
theless here, at the conclusion of our reflections 
on his attitude toward philosophy, again call es- 
pecial attention to the fact that he acknowledged 
no ultimate end in the whole of the idealistic 
systematic speculation. 

In his " Essay on Characteristics," Carlyle 
speaks of "the disease of metaphysics," and 
expresses the opinion that " man is sent hither 
not to question, but to work ; " and he even 
goes so far as to say that " the mere existence 
and necessity of a philosophy is an evil ; " that 
except as Poetry and Religion, it would have no 

" Metaphysical Speculation, if a necessary evil, 
is the forerunner of much good .... for of 
our Modem Metaphysics, accordingly, may not 
this already be said, that if they have produced 
no Affirmation, they have destroyed much Nega- 

* Froade*8 Carlyle, vol. ii., chap. 2. 


tion ? It is a disease expelling a disease : the 
fire of Doubt, consuming away the Doubtful; 
that so the Certain come to light, and again lie 
visible on the surface. English or French Meta- 
physics, in reference to this last stage of the 
Speculative process, are not what we allude to 
here ; but only the Metaphysics of the Germans. 
In France or England, since the days of Diderot 
and Hume, though all thought has been of a 
sceptico-metaphysical texture, so far as there 
was any Thought, we have seen no Metaphysics, 
but only more or less ineffectual questions whether 
such could be. In the Pyrrhonism of Hume and 
the Materialism of Diderot, Logic had, as it 
were, overshot itself, overset itself. Now though 
the athlete, to use our old figure, cannot, by 
much lifting, lift up his own body, he may shift 
it out of a laming posture, and get to stand in a 
free one. 

" Such a service have German Metaphysics 
done for man's mind. The second sickness of 
Speculation has abolished both itself and the 
first. Friedrich Schlegel complains much of the 
fruitlessness, the tumult and transiency of Ger- 
man as of all Metaphysics; and with reason. 
Yet in that wide-spreading, deep-whirling vortex 
of Kantism, so soon metamorphosed into Fichte- 
ism, Schellingism, and then as Hegelism, and 

cablyle's attitude toward science. 99 

Cousinism, perhaps finally evaporated, is not this 
issue visible enough, that Pyrrhonism and Ma- 
terialism, themselves necessary phenomena in 
European culture, have disappeared ; and a Faith 
in Beligion has again become possible and in- 
evitable for the scientific mind ; and the word 
J^^^-thinker no longer means the Denier or Cav- 
iller, but the Believer, or the Ready to believe ? 
Nay, in the higher Literature of Germany, there 
already lies, for him that can read it, the begin- 
ning of a new revelation of the Godlike ; as yet 
unrecognised by the mass of the world; but 
waiting there for recognition, and sure to find 
it when the fit hour comes. This age is not 
whoUy without its prophets." * 

* Corlyle's Essay on Characteristics, pp. 35-36. 



Literature is bat a branch of Beligion, and always participates 
in its character ; however in our time it is the only branch that 
still shows any greenness ; and as some think must one day be- 
come the main stem. — Garlyle's Essay on Characteristics, p. 20. 

Poetry is another form of Wisdom. — Carlyle's Essay on Burns, 
p. 49. 

"And knowest thou no Prophet, even in the 
vesture, environment, and dialect of this age? 
None to whom the Godlike had revealed itself, 
through all meanest and highest forms of the 
Common ; and by him been again prophetically 
revealed : in whose inspired melody, even in these 
rag-gathering and rag-burning days, Man's Life 
again begins, were it but afar off, to be divine? 
Knowest thou none such ? I know him, and 
name him — Goethe." * 

And this it is, " in Goethe and more or less 
in Schiller and the rest," which gives the most 

* Sartus Kesartus, bk. iii., chap. 7. 

carlyle's conception of poetry and art. 101 

essential feature of Carlyle's conception of the 
nature of the poet. " The coldest sceptic, the 
most callous worldling, sees not the actual as- 
pects of life more sharply than they are here 
delineated : the Nineteenth Century stands be- 
fore us, in aU its contradiction and perplexity; 
barren, mean and baleful, as we have all known 
it ; yet here no longer mean and barren, but 
enamelled into beauty in the poet's spirit; for 
its secret significance is laid open, and thus, as 
it were, the life-giving fire that slumbers in it 
is called forth, and flowers and foliage, as of 
old, are springing on its bleakest wilderness, and 
overmantling its sternest cliffs. For these men 
have not only the clear eye, but the loving heart. 
They have penetrated into the mystery of Nature ; 
after long trial they have been initiated ; and 
to unwearied endeavour. Art has at last yielded 
her secret ; and thus can the Spirit of our Age, 
embodied in fair imaginations, look forth on us, 
earnest and full of meaning, from their works. 
As the first and indispensible condition of good 
poets, they are wise and good men : much they 
have seen and suffered, and they have conquered 
all this, and made it all their own ; they have 
known life in its heights and depths, and mas- 
tered it in both, and can teach others what it 
is, and how to lead it rightly. Their minds are 


as a mirror to us, when the perplexed image of 
our own being is reflected back in soft and clear 
interpretation. Here mirth and gravity are blend- 
ed together ; wit rests on deep devout wisdom, 
as the green-sward with its flowers must rest on 
the rock, whose foundations reach downward to 
the centre. In a word, they are believers ; but 
their faith is no sallow plant of darkness ; it is 
green and flowery, for it grows in the sunlight. 
And this faith is the doctrine they have to teach 
us, the sense which, under every noble and grace- 
ful form, it is their endeavour to set forth : 

*' As all Nature's thousand changes 

Bat one changeless God proclaim, 
• So in Art's wide kingdoms ranges 
One sole meaning, still the same : 
This is Truth, eternal Reason, 

Which from Beauty takes its dress. 
And, serene through time and season. 
Stands for aye in lovliness." 

Such, indeed, is the end of Poetry at all times ; 
yet in no recent literature known to us, except 
the German, has it been so far attained ; nay, 
perhaps, so much as consciously and steadfastly 
attempted." * 

To this conception of the poet's calling which 
we constantly meet with in his works, Carlyle 

* State of German Literature, p. 56. 

cabltle's conception of poetry and abt. 103 

raised himself throngh the fervent study of Goethe 
and Schiller. One can easily picture to one's 
self how the '^Scotch peasant's son, reared among 
stem, primitive and very circumscribed notions 
of things, at first incredulously opposed Goethe's 
and Schiller's aesthetics. Goethe's idea of art, 
his " almost religious love for it " appears at first 
to Carlyle to be " odd, inexplicable." He im- 
agines that in Germany, as well as in other 
countries, the poet is differently regarded. But 
in the spring of 1830 we find in his Journal — 
perhaps with direct bearing upon Goethe's gen- 
tle Xenie — * the following remarkable words: 
"Who possesses science and art, has also Reli- 
gion ; who does not possess either, he must have 

"What is art and poetry? Is the beautiful 
higher than the good ? A higher form thereof ? 
Thus were a poet not only a priest, but a high- 
priest." "When Goethe and SchOler say or in- 
sinuate that art is higher than religion, do they 
mean perhaps this? That whereas religion re- 
presents (what is the essence of truth for man) 
the good is infinitely (the word is emphatic) dif- 

* (( 

Xenie " was a name given to satirical epigrams used by 
Goethe and Schiller; but the ** gentle Xenie" was used solely 
by Goethe. 


ferent from the evil, but sets them in a state 
of hostility (as in heaven and heU), art likewise 
admits and inculcates this quite infinite difference, 
but without hostility, with peacefulness, like the 
difference of two poles which cannot coalssce 
yet do not quarrel — nay, should not quarrel, for 
both are essential to the whole. In this way is 
Goethe's morality to be considered as a higher 
(apart from its comprehensiveness, nay, univer- 
sality) than has hitherto been promulgated? 
Sehr einseitig ! And yet perhaps there is a 
glimpse of the truth here." * 

The germ of Go^he's and Schiller's doctrine 
of the beauty and sublimity of the poet's calling, 
became still further developed in Carlyle. It re- 
ceived nourishment through the study of Mil- 
ton, to whom at this time he was devoting him- 
self. In MUton he found — as well as the deepest 
religious and puritanical sentiments — ^ideas which 
he could bring into harmony with those of 
Goethe's. He was particularly impressed by the 
peculiar didactic tendency which Milton dis- 
played as a poet. The nobleness of the moral 
claim ennobled the question of the poet's calling 
in the eyes of the primitive but prejudiced Scotch 
mind ; the claim that he who expressed the hope 

* Froude*s Life of Carlyle, vol. ii., p. 17. 

cabltle's conception of poetry and abt. 105 

of becoming a great poet and of writing '^ pnre 
and sublime thonghts " onght himself to be " a 
true poem," a pattern of " the best and honour- 
ablest things." * 

As Milton's ideal for the poet is not realizable 
in " the heat of youth or the vapours of wine," 
as his ideal is not supported by the " invocation 
of dame Memory and her siren daughters" he 
considers the gift lent him " but by devout prayer 
to that Eternal Spirit who can enrich with all 
utterance and knowledge, and sends out His 
seraphim with the hallowed fire of His altar, to 
touch and purify the lips of whom He pleases." t 

These Miltonic ideals, which in Germany Klop- 
stock had represented, appear to stand in sharp 
contrast to Goethe's and Schiller's aesthetic views, 
and form a very prominent part of Carlyle's. 

He considers the poet to be "an inspired think- 
er," X a soul who performs heavenly music ; his 
mission is to sing the glory of God. True poetry 
is a holy, divine, inspired thing. The essential 
element of the poet is, according to Carlyle, re- 
ligion ; and this view at once makes it clear 
what Carlyle's standpoint is as to the question 

* Milton's Apology for Smectymnns, (ed. Bohn) p. 118. 
f Second book of Keason of Chnrch Gk>yernment, (ed. Fletch- 
er) introductory paragraph, p. 44. 
% Essay on the Death of Goethe. 


of the relation of Poetry to Beligion. Cax- 
lyle's idea here exactly coincides with Hegel's, 
who represents " the Fine Arts only as a degree 
of freedom, not as the highest freedom itself," 
And points out to the " Fine Arts " its " future 
in true religion." And when Schiller, impressed 
by the feeling of the highest unity of the moral, 
the religious and the beautiful (in the Ideal), 
uses the words : " The healthy and beautiful 
nature needs no moraUty, no metaphysics,"* 
you could just as well say it needs no divine, 
no immortality upon which to repose and main- 
tain itself. 

This form of expression would not have met 
with favour in Carlyle's eyes, for he would have 
replied that healthy morality and religiousness 
needs no beauty — it has and comprehends the 
only true beauty in itself. It was exactly this 
religious element which was an inner strength 
to Carlyle, to the poet and to all men, giving 
solidity without enchaining. And if he believed 
that religion was the essence, the unconsciously 
living element of the poet, he was, nevertheless, 
far from wishing to make it bend to the yoke 
of any especial religious views. As the moral 
law and the moral duty do not cause man to 

♦ Schiller and Goethe's Correspondence. 

cablyle's conception of poetry and art. 107 

deteriorate, but help to elevate and give liim 
freedom, in the same way does the Divine, if 
it penetrates the poet, not oppress, but gives him 
its sanction. 

"Ever must the Fine Arts be if not religion, 
yet indissolubly united to it, dependent on it, 
virtually blended with it, as body is with soul." * 

"Poetry is but another form of Wisdom, of 
Eeligion ; is itself Wisdom and Rehgion," that 
"unspeakable beauty which in its highest clear- 
ness is ReUgion." t 

These utterances, and those which follow, show 
that Carlyle's views are not materially different 
from Goethe's : " Art rests upon a sort of re- 
ligious sense, upon a deep, immutable earnest- 
ness, on account of which it so willingly is united 
to Religion. Religion needs no Art-Sense — it 
rests upon its own earnestness," but it gives as 
little as it produces. X And his aphorisms on 
the History of the Arts, of the year 1808, we 
by no means wish to quote as a mere expression 
of a view : " Art has, properly speaking, origin- 
ated out of and in Religion." § 

♦ Carlyle's Essay on Jesnitism, p. 271. 
f Carlyle's Essay on History. 
J Spriiche in Prosa, (Leoper) p. 690. 
§0p. cit., p. 147. 


That Carljle did not at all make the poetical 
endowment dependent on the religious feeling, 
must be explicitly stated, for it is not by any 
means a gift to clothe the religious feeling in 

"Poetry is Inspiration: has in it a certain 
spirituality — it is no separate faculty, no organ 
which can be superadded to the rest, or dis- 
joined from them ; but rather the result of their 
general harmony and completeness. The feelings, 
the gifts that exist in the Poet are those that ex- 
ist in every human soul. The imagination which 
shudders at the HeU of Dante, is the same fac- 
ulty, weaker in degree, which called that picture 
into being. How does the Poet speak to men, 
with power, but by being still more a man than 
they ? " * 

Carlyle seems to prefer to designate the poet 
by one word — Vates — ^which he again and again 
uses. Let us try to comprehend his ideal. 

" The true poet is ever, as of old, the Seer ; 
whose eye has been gifted to discern the godlike 
mystery of God's Universe, and to decipher some 
new lines of its celestial writing ; we can still call 
him a Vates and Seer ; for he sees into this 
greatest of secrets, ' the open secret ; ' hidden 

♦ Essay on Bums, vol. ii., p. 18. 

carlyleIs conception op poetry and art. 109 

things become clear ; how the future (both rest- 
ing on Eternity) is but another phase of the Pre- 
sent: thereby are his words in veiy truth pro- 
phetic ; what he has spoken shall be done." * 

The greatest gift which can fall to the lot of one 
man — as Prophet and Seer — fell to the " Vates : " 
that of revealing " Poetic Beauty." t " As the 
material Seer is the eye and revealer of all things, 
so is Poetry, so is the World-Poet, in a spiritual 
sense." it He, the World-Poet, is the only true 
interpreter of the invisible, the Eternal, as it is 
revealed in the world. He has not far to seek 
for material, for the ideal world is not separat- 
ed from the material world, but permeates and 
fills it. 

"Wherever there is a sky above him, and a 
world around him, the poet is in his place ,• for 
here, too, is man's existence, with its infinite 
longings and small requirings ; its ever-thwarted, 
ever-renewed endeavours, its unspeakable aspira- 
tions, its fears and hopes that wander through 
Eternity; and all the mystery of brightness and 
of gloom that it was ever made of, in any age 
or climate, since man first began to live. Is there 

* Essay on Death of Goethe, p. 44. 

t Biography, p. 59. 

X Essay on Death of Qoethe, p. 43. 


not the fifth act of a Tragedy in every death- 
bed, though it were a peasant's, and a bed of 
heath ? And are wooings and weddings obsolete, 
that there can be Comedy no longer? Or are 
men suddenly grown wise, that Laughter must no 
longer shake his sides, but be cheated of his 
Farce ? Man's life and nature is, as it was, and 
as it ever will be. But the poet must have an 
eye to read these things, and a heart to under- 
stand them ; or they come and pass away be- 
fore him in vain. He is a Vates, a seer ; a gift 
of vision has been given him. Has life no mean- 
ings for him, which another cannot equally de- 
cipher ; then he is no poet, and Delphi itself 
will not make him one." * 

Prophet and Poet are for Carlyle of one stock, 
and according to his opinion it is only an indi- 
cation of a perversely developed epoch which 
could be blinded to this unity. 

" They both have penetrated into the sacred 
mystery of the Universe ; what Goethe calls 
' the open secret.' * The open secret,' open to 
all, seen by almost none ! That divine mystery, 
which lies everywhere in all Beings, the ' Divine 
Idea of the World,' that which lies at the * bot- 
tom of appearance,' as Fichte styles it ; of which 

♦ Essay on Burns, p. 13. 

cablyle's conception of poetey and abt. Ill 

all appearances, from the starry sky to the grass 
of the field, but especially the Appearance of 
Man and his work, is but the vesture^ the em- 
bodiment that renders it visible. This mystery 
is in all times and in all places; veritably is. 
In most times and places it is greatly overlooked ; 
and the Universe, definable always in one or the 
other dialect, as the realised Thought of God, 
is considered as a trivial, inert, commonplace 
matter, — as if, says the Satirist, it were a dead 
thing, which some upholsterer had put together ! 
It could do no good, at present, to speak much 
about this ; but it is a pity for every one of us 
if we do not know it, live ever in the knowledge 
of it. Eeally a most mournful pity; — a failure 
to live at all, if we live otherwise! But now, I 
say, whoever may forget this divine mystery, 
the YateSy whether Prophet or Poet, has pene- 
trated into it; is a man sent hither to make it 
more impressively known to us. That always 
is his message ; he is to reveal that to us, — 
that sacred mystery which he, more than others, 
lives ever present with. While others forget it, 
he knows it; I might say, he has been driven 
to know it ; without consent asked of Mm^ he 
finds himself living in it, bound to live in it. 
Once more, here is no Hearsay, but a direct 
Insight and Belief ; this man, too, could not help 


being a sincere man! Whoever may Kve in the 
shows of things, it is for him a necessity of nature 
to live in the very fact of things. A man once 
more, in earnest with the Universe, though all 
others were but toying with it. He is a Vates, 
first of all, in virtue of being sincere. So far 
Poet and Prophet, participators in the * open se- 
cret,' are one. 
— " With respect to their distinction again : The 
Vates Prophet, we might say, has siezed that 
sacred mystery rather on the moral side, as Good 
and Evil, Duty and Prohibition ; the Vates Poet 
on what the Germans call the aesthetic side, as 
Beautiful, and the like. The one we call a re- 
vealer of what we are to do; the other of what 
we are to love. But indeed these two provinces 
run into one another, and cannot be disjoined. 
The Prophet, too, has his eye on what we are 
to love : how else shall he know what it is we are 
to do? The highest Voice ever heard on this 
earth said withal: 'Consider the lilies of the 
field; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet 
Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like 
one of these' — a glance, that, into the deepest 
deep of Beauty. *The lilies of the field,' — dressed 
finer than earthly princes, springing up there 
in the humble furrow-field ; a beautiful eye look- 
ing-out on you, from the great inner Sea of 

gablyle's conception of poetry and art. 113 

Beauty ! How coiild the rade Earth make these, 
if her Essence, m^ed as she looks and is, 
were not inwardly Beauty? In this point of 
view, too, a saying of Goethe's, which has stag- 
gered several, may have meaning : * This Beauti- 
ful,' he intimates, * is higher than the Good ; 
the Beautiful includes in it the Good.' The 
true Beautiful; which, however, I have said some- 
where, * differs from the false as Heaven does 
from Vauxhall!"* 

This research of Carlyle's apparently only leads 
to the conclusion that there is no difference be- 
tween true poetry and " trvs speech, not poet- 
ical," but Carlyle does not disappoint us here. 

" On this point many things have been written, 
especially by the late German Critics, some of 
which are not very intelligible at first. They say, 
for example, that the Poet has an infinitude in 
TiiTn ; communicates an Unendlichkeit, a certain 
character of * infinitude,' to whatsoever he de- 
lineates. This, though not very precise, yet in 
so vague a matter is worth remembering : if well 
meditated, some meaning will gradually be found 
in it. For my own part, I find considerable 
meaning in the old vulgar distinction of Poetry 
being metrical^ having music in it, being a Song. 

* Carlyle's Lecture on Heroes, pp. 75-76. 


Truly, if pressed to give a definition, one might 
say this as soon as anything else : If your delinea- 
tion be authentically 7nicsical, musical not in the 
word only, but in heart and substance, in all 
the thoughts and utterances of it, in the whole 
conception of it, then it will be poetical ; if not, 
not. — Musical : how much lies in that ! A mtmcal 
thought is one spoken by a mind that has pene- 
trated into the inmost heart of the thing ; de- 
tected the inmost mystery of it, namely, the 
Tnelody that lies hidden in it ; the inward har- 
mony of coherence [which is its soul, whereby it 
exists, and has a right to be, here in this world. 
All inmost things, we may say, are melodious ; 
naturally utter themselves in Song. The mean- 
ing of Song goes deep. Who is there that, in 
logical words, can express the effect that music 
has on us ? A kind of inarticulate unfathom- 
able speech, which leads us to the edge of the 
Infinite, and lets us for moments gaze into that ! 
All speech, even the commonest speech, has 
something of song in it : not a parish in the world 
but has its parish-accent ; — the rhythm or tune 
to which the people there sing what they have 
to say ! Accent is a kind of chanting ; all men 
have an accent of their own, — though they only 
notice that of others. . , . . All deep things 
are Song. It seems somehow the very central 

gablyle's conception of poetby and art. 115 

essence of us. Song ; as if the rest were but wrap- 
page and hulls ! The primal element of us ; of 
us and of all things. The Greeks fabled of 
Sphere-Harmonies: it was the feeling they had 
of the inner structure of Nature ; that the soul 
of all her Toices and utterances was perfect 
music. Poetry, therefore, we will call musical 
Thought The Poet is he who thinks in that 
manner. At bottom, it turns still on the power 
of intellect ; it is a man's sincerity and depth 
of vision that makes him a Poet. See deep 
enough, and you see musically ; the heart of 
Nature heing everywhere music, if you can only 
reach it." * 

So the poet is, according to Carlyle, naturally 
the deepest of all thinkers. Poetry is insight, 
a higher knowledge ; the true thinker alone 
is the poet, the Seer. Heavenly wisdom pos- 
sesses his Soul, fills his heart: it is the North 
Star which guides him through life independent 
of external success or of external worldly re- 

" We often hear of this and the other external 
condition being requisite for the existence of a 
poet. Sometimes it is a certain sort of training ; 

* On Heroes, p. 78. 


he must have studied ceiiain things, studied, for 
instance, ' the elder dramatists/ and so learned 
a poetic language ; as if poetry lay in the tongue, 
not in the heart. At other times we are told he 
must be bred in a certain rank, and must be 
on a confidential footing with the higher classes ; 
because, above all things, he must see the world. 
As to seeing the world, we apprehend this will 
. cause him little difficulty, if he have but eyesight 
to see it with The mysterious work- 
manship of man's heart, the true Ught and the 
inscrutable darkness of man's destiny, reveal 
themselves not only in capital cities and crowded 
saloons, but in every hut and hamlet where men 
have their abode.'* * 

It was "not personal enjoyment," freedom 
from care and a merry, jovial life which made 
him great, " but a high, heroic idea of Eeligion, 
of Patriotism, of heavenly Wisdom, in one or the 
other form, in which cause he neither shrank 
from Buflfering, nor called on the earth to witness 
it as something wonderful ; but patiently endured, 
ooonting it blessedness enough so to spend and 

be Bpeni" t 
On <ihifl subject Carlyle is continually waging 

•ImijoiiBiims, pp. 13-14. 
rO^ elt. p. 48. 

cablyle's conception of poetry and art. 117 

an internecine war against those whom he calls 
the " sweet singers." The poet's task is not to 
offer " pleasant singing " and to prepare " de- 
lights" for the indolent. When "Fine Litera- 
ture " concerns itself with " the unspeakable 
glories and rewards of pleasing its generation," 
it becomes a degradation to Art, and has as little 
to do with it as where united with every pomp 
of the opera, of the stage and of music, it solely 
tries to become a slave to the vile amusement of 
the epoch. 

This explains Carlyle's merciless and often too 
severe judgment of almost all his contemporaries 
in English Literature. With the exception of 
Tennyson, Buskin, Browning, Arthur Clough and 
a few others, his judgment is almost entirely an 
unfavourable one. The measure which he used 
in forming an estimate of his ideal poets. Homer, 
-JJschulus, Dante, Shakspeare, Milton, Goethe 
and Schiller, he applied to all other poets in 
order to determine their absolute significance in 
history. Even such men as Byron and Bums, 
the latter especially his favourite, did not escape 
this tribunal. 

His judgment of the professional, literary and 
art critics supplies us with further information 
as to his conception of the relation of poetry and 
art in general. To quibble about a poem or an 


art work was not only distasteful to him, but ap- 
peared a manifest hypocrisy and lie. 

" The Fine Arts become a Throne of Hypo- 
crisy." Falsehood reigns here sovereign, and 
covers the abyss with sparkling words. " The 
Fine Arts, wherever they turn up as husiness, 
whatever Committee sit upon them, are sure to 
be parent of much empty talk, labourious hypo- 
crisy, dillettanteism, futility ; involving huge trou- 
ble and expense, and babble, which end in no 
result, if not in worse than none.'* * 

This single quotation is quite sufficient here. 
What justifies him in this anger is his own 
worth. His savage mood knows no boundaries 
in the attack against this modern " art-lie." The 
kernel of truth in this warfare is easily recog- 
nized and will retain its value, for certainly it 
-svill forever be better "to perambulate through a 
picture-gallery with little or no speech ;t but 
on the other hand, however, it must be strong- 
ly emphasized that Carlyle's understanding of 
Art and interest in Art — so far as the plastic 
arts are concerned — was neither sufficiently ver- 
satile nor great to give an independent and 
worthy judgment. 

* Jesuitism, p. 272. 

f Carlyle's Life of Sterling, chap. 7. 

carlyle's conception of poetry and art. 119 

Schiller was not ashamed to confess (in a letter 
to Humboldt, written on February 17th, 1803) 
that " Italy and Eome are no countries for me ; 
the mere * matter ' [das Physische] would oppress 
me, and the oesthetic would give me no delight, 
because an interest and feeling for the plastic 
arts is wanting in me " — and similar was it with 
Carlyle, although he did not so openly acknowl- 
edge it, and would not modify his severe judg- 
ment of the " Gallery and Cathedral Visitors " * in 
Eome, when his criticism really only touches the 
fashionable foolery, and cannot at all be applied 
to such a spirit as Sterling, whose deepest in- 
terests in life were linked to the plastic arts. * 

The only work of art for which Carlyle really 
had a most perfect understanding and interest 
was the portrait, his deep interest in which is 
proved already by the fact that it was he who 
first proposed the establishment of a national 
portrait gallery in Scotland. (He had sorely 
missed such an one in Berlin, where he had 
tried to become familiar with the time of Fred- 
erick the Great.) Further was this shown in a 
high degree in an Essay on the various portraits 
of John Knox. We seem too unappreciative of 
these delicate observations which we are indebted 

* Carlyle's Life of Sterling, pp. 148-154. 


to his pen for. It is sufficient here, however, 
to merely draw attention to his words on Cra- 
nach's portraits of Luther. The walls of his 
study were completely covered by the best and 
the most interesting portraits which he could 
procure of all his " heroes." 




A confession made by Carlyle in his Journal 
of 1842 — of the publication of which he never 
dreamed — admits us into the most secret recesses 
of his thought and feeling : " Of Dramatic Art, 
though I have eagerly listened to a Goethe speak- 
ing of it, and to several hundreds of others mum- 
bling and trying to speak of it, I find that I, 
practically speaking, know yet almost as good 
as nothing. Indeed, of Art generally, {Kunst, so 
called) I can almost know nothing. My first 
and last secret of Kunst is to get a thorough 
intelligence of ^^fact to be painted, represented, 
or, in whatever way, set forth — the fact deep as 
Hades, high as heaven, and written sOy as to the 
visual face of it upon our poor earth. This once 
blazing within me, if it will ever get to blaze, 
and bursting to be out, one has to take the whole 
dexterity of adaptation one is master of, and 
with tremendous struggling, contrive to exhibit 


it, one way or the other. This is not Art^ I 
know well." * 

All of Carlyle's natural endowments led him 
into other channels than those of art in its ordi- 
nary sense : in history, in the study of mankind, 
he found the arrangement of the Eternal most 
beautifully and divinely revealed. God was to 
him the only Artist whose works he cared to 
study with a religious and respectful spirit. 
Nature was great and divine, but man seemed 
to him the divinest creation, and of man's life, 
his growth and development, his struggles and 
aspirations, his faithful toil, his good fortune, his 
misfortime, and his final passing away, as it re- 
peats itself over and over again in the course of 
history, in powerful changes and yet in perpet- 
ual unity, that was to him " the eternal, constant 
Gospel" which his soul thirsted to understand, 
which filled his heart with poetry, which stimu- 
lated every nerve, and which broke forth in all 
his works, and — although written in prose — made 
genuine poetic creations. 

History and the writing of history — considered 
from Carlyle's point of view — was the proper field 
of activity for Carlyle's mind. He not only de- 
voted the greater portion of his life and his best 

* Froudd s Life of Carlyle, Franklin Square Ed., vol. iii., p. 40. 

carlyle's attitude toward history. 123 

years to it, but was indebted to it for his repu- 

The following quotations show his comprehen- 
sion of history: "In the one little Letter of 
JEneas Sylvius there is more of history than in 
all of Eobertson." * " The thing I want to see 
is not Bed Book Lists and Court Calendars, and 
Parliamentary Registers, but the Life of Man: 
what men did and thought, suffered, enjoyed; 
the form, especially the spirit, of their terrestrial 
existence, its outward environment, its inward 
principle ; how and what it was ; whence it pro- 
ceeded, whither it was tending. Mournful, in 
truth, is it to behold what the business called 
* History,' in these so enlightened and illuminat- 
ed times, still continues to be. Can you gather 
from it, read till your eyes go out, any dimmest 
shadow of an answer to that great question: 
How men lived and had their being ; were it but 
economically, as, what wages they got, and what 
they bought with these ? " t 

History does not consist in relating court in- 
trigues and stories of Prime Ministers and their 
countries ; it does not consist in the conscientious 
binding together of deeds or the best representa- 

* Carlyle's Essay on Boswell's Life of Johnson, p. 84. 
t Loc. dt. 


tion of the deyelopment of the forms of State ; 
the object of the historian is to represent the 
inner conditions of life, the conscious and uncon- 
scious aspirations of mankind, which are never 
alike in two dissimilar ages. Not alone battles 
and war tumults, not alone laws and constitutions 
and their developments, which, nevertheless, " are 
not our Life, but only the house wherein our Life 
is led." * To contemplate all the long-forgotten 
and concealed acts and phenomena of the human 
species, to penetrate 'reverently' the spiritual 
and physical nature, to depict what is of promise, 
that is task set before the historian. 

The most important part of history is, perhaps, 
not for one person to relate it in general, " for as 
all Action is, by its nature, to be figured as ex- 
tended in breadth and depth, as well as in length ; 
that is to say, is based on Passion and Mystery, if 
we investigate its origin; and spreads abroad on 
all hands, modifying and modified ; as well as 
advances towards completion, — so all narrative 
is, by nature, of only one dimension ; only travels 
forward towards us, or towards successive points : 
Narrative is linear, Action is solid. Also for our 
* chains,' or chainlets, of ' canvas and effects,' " 
which we so assiduously track through certain 

* Carl^'le's Essay on History, p. 255. 

carlyle's attitude toward history. 125 

hand-breadths of years and square miles, when 
the whole is a broad^ deep Immensity, and each 
atom is * chained ' and complected with all ! 
Truly, if History is Philosophy teaching by ex- 
perience, the writer fitted to compose History is 
hitherto an unknown man. The Experience it- 
self would require All-knowledge to record it, — 
were the All-wisdom needful for such Philoso- 
phy as would interpret it to be had for ask- 
ing. Better were it that mere earthly Histori- 
ans should lower such pretensions, more suitable 
for Eeminiscence than for human science ; and 
aiming only at some picture of the things acted, 
which picture itself will at best be a poor approx- 
imation, leave the inscrutable purport of them 
an acknowledged secret; or at most, in reverent 
Faith, far different from that teaching of Philo- 
sophy, pause over the mysterious vestige of 
Him, whose path is in the great deep of Time 
whom History indeed reveals, but only aU His- 
tory, and in Eternity, will clearly reveal." * 

These opinions do not blunt the ardour of the 
investigator ; they only inspire him with a desire 
to search more and more into the past. " Let all 
men explore it as the true fountain of knowledge ; 
by whose Ught alone, consciously or unconscious- 

* Carlyle*s Easay on History, p. 258. 


ly employed, can the Present or the Future be 
interpreted or guessed." * 

This ideal of the science of history admits of a 
distinction between the Artist and Artisan ; the 
one 'labours' mechanically in his department 
without turning his eye upon the whole, perhaps 
without feeling that there is a whole ; the other 
informs and ennobles the humblest sphere in life 
with an idea of the whole, and habitually knows 
that only in the whole is the partial to be truly 
discerned. The tasks and the duties of these 
two are entirely different, and each has his defin- 
ite work, " The simple husbandman can till his 
field, and by knowledge he has gained of its soil, 
sow it with the fit grain, though the deep rocks 
and central fires are unknown to him : his little 
crop hangs under and over the firmament of 
stars, and sails through untracked celestial 
spaces, between Aries and Libra ; nevertheless 
it ripens for him in due season and he gathers 
it safe into his bam. As a husbandman he is 
blameless in disregarding those higher wonders ; 
but as a thinker, and faithful inquirer into Nat- 
ure, he were wrong. So, likewise, is it with the 
Historian, who examines some special aspect of 
History; and from this or that combination of 

* Carlyle's Essay on History, p. 258. 

oarlyle's attitude toward history. 127 


circumstances, — apolitical, moral, economical, — and 
the issues it has led to, infers that such and such 
properties belong to human society ; and that 
the like circumstances wiU produce the like issue ; 
which inference, if other trials confirm it, must 
be held true and practically valuable. He is 
wrong only, and an artisan, when he fancies that 
these properties, discovered or discoverable, ex- 
haust the matter ; and sees not at every step, 
that it is inexhaustible. 

"However, that class of cause-and-eflfect spec- 
ulators, with whom no wonder would remain 
wonderful, but all things in Heaven and Earth 
must be computed and * accounted for ; ' and 
even the Unknown, the Infinite in man's Life, 
had under the words enthvMOsm^ superstition, 
spirit of the age, and so forth, obtained, as it 
were, an algebraical symbol and given value, — 
have now well-nigh played their part in European 
culture ; and may be considered, as in most 
countries, even in England itself, where they 
linger the latest, verging toward extinction." * 

" The Political Historian, once almost the sole 
cultivator of History, has now found various 
associates, who strive to elucidate other phases 
of human Life ; of which, as hinted above, the 

* Caxlyle's Essay on ECistory, p. 259. 


conditions it is passed under are but 
one, and though the primary, perhaps not the 
most important, of the many outward arrange- 
ments. Of this Historian himself, moreover, in 
his own special department, new and higher 
things are beginning to be expected. From of 
old, it was too often to be reproachfully observed 
of him, that he dwelt with disproportionate fond- 
ness in Senate-houses, in Battle-fields, nay, even 
in Kings* Antechambers; forgetting that far 
away from such scenes, the mighty tide of 
Thought and Action was still rolling on its won- 
drous course, in gloom and brightness; and in 
its thousand remote valleys, a whole world of 
Existence, with or without an earthly sun of Hap- 
piness to warm it, with or without a heavenly sun 
of Holiness to purify and sanctify it, was blos- 
soming and fading, whether the ^famous vic- 
tory ' were won or lost. The time seems coming 
when much of this must be amended." * 

WTiat ennobled history for Carlyle was the 
" Infinite in human Life," the highest revelation 
of the divine Spirit, as it was revealed and was 
to be seen in human nature. "Wherever there 
is a Man, a God also is revealed, and all that 
is Godlike : a whole epitome of the Infinite with 

* Carlyle's Essay on History, pp. 259-26Q. 

cablylb's attitude towabd histoby. 129 

its meaningSy lies enfolded in the Life of every 
man." * 

To discern truly this revelation, a " seer " was, 
of course, necessary: and it is just here where, 
according to Carlyle, the same talent must be- 
come a part of both the poet and the truly great 
historian. This is the point at which history 
becomes true poetry, where true poetry consists 
in the right interpretation of truth, and of fact, t 

Poetry, in the sense of fiction, of idle " inven- 
tion," is not comparable with truth; the poet's 
invention does not consist in the creation of 
dreamy and fanciful forms ; it consists rather in 
the after-creation, in the new revelation of divine 
thought, as it lies at the foundation of the ap- 
pearances of the world and the world's history. 
"An ^schylus or a Sophocles sang the truest 
(which was also the divinest) they had been 
privileged to discover here below." % 

According to Carlyle's idea, only a Shakspeare 
or a Homer can discover the infinite meaning 
of history, of human life. The true historical 
writing is that " mighty, world-old Bhapsodia of 
Existence, the grand, sacred Epos, or Bible of 
World-History, infinite in meaning as the Divine 

* Essay on Biography, p. 58. 

t Essay on Boswell's Life of Johnson, p. 82. 

X Essay on The Opera, p. 124. 


Mind it Emblems; wherein he is wise that can 
read here a line, and there a line." * 

''Great men are the inspired Texts of that 
divine Book of Revelation." t They, the great 
men, the " heroes," to use Carlyle's terminology, 
give their intrinsic worth to the world and the 
world's history; they are the heart, the kernel 
aroiind which everything revolves; they are, in 
a certain sense, the creators of everything which 
the mass of people perform ; they give the ideals, 
and are the soul of the world's history. X 

We pause here where the celebrated and vari- 
ously maligned JETero - Worshij? offers an explana- 

Carlyle's Hero-Worship rests upon the convic- 
tion that (if the germ of the Divine is innate in 
mankind yet) only the chosen, the "Heroes," 
whose duty it is to bring truth to victory, are 
sent from heaven to awaken dormant powers, the 
heroes whose command the world must listen to, 
for their message comes directly from heaven. 
It is this belief of Carlyle's, finding representa- 
tives among the leading minds of every age, 
which, followed out even in great ru^edness, 
cannot possibly be settled by fhe once thrown 

* Essay on Oonnt Gagliostro, p. 65. 
f Sartor Besartus, bk. ii., p. 122. 
i Essay on Heroes, i. 

carlyle's attitude toward history. 131 

out vindication of mere strength and force. It 
is not here the place to examine more critically 
this charge ; even as little is it the place to ex- 
plain the difference of Carlyle's principles from 
those of Buckle. It is sufficient to point out 
that Carlyle never was a representative of mere 
"strength and force." He recognizes only one 
power, and that is truth and morality ; a truth 
whose victory must be won by every sacrifice, 
by Uf e and by blood ; whose victory is the cer- 
tain hope of all human struggles and battles. 
^^ Right is the eternal symbol of mighV Bight 
gives might and power — is his motto, indeed. 
Hight shall carry off the victory which might has 
won. With this belief in the victory of good over 
evil in the long run ; in the victory of good as 
the hero aspires to it, and for which the hero 
sacrifices himself, stands or falls his whole view 
of life. We see that this cheerful and noble recog- 
nition of "the heroic" in history can frighten 
only the indolent nature into moral lethargy. 

Considered from Carlyle's standpoint, the les- 
son which history teaches is unparalleled: the 
world's history is a message from the past to 
teach us to understand the present and the fu- 
ture ; it consists — as Kingsley has expressed it — * 

* And Eingsley's words are, indeed, the formulation of Car- 
lyle's ideas. 


" in the overwhelming and yet ennobling knowl- 
edge that there was such a thing as Duty, first 
taught me to see in history, not the mere farce- 
tragedy of man's crimes and follies, but the deal- 
ings of a righteous Euler of the Universe, whose 
ways are in the great deep, and whom the sin 
and errors, as well as the virtues and discoveries 
of man, must obey and justify." 

In this way Aristotle's comparison of the poet 
and historian finds explanation with Carlyle. 
If the task is pointed out, then to the histor- 
ian,* TO, yevofieva A/yctv, and to the poet to repre- 
sent ola dv yevoiTO, and if dilo kclI if^iXoao^repov kclL 
oncvdaidrepov no(i]aic loTopia^ karlv, Carlyle, with 
his immutable views of the invariable govern- 
ment, according to the moral principles of an 
always judicial God, would have nothing to say 
but that, in general, only the " philosophical and 
the earnest man " is able to understand the 
world's history, that the task to consider what 
" might have happened " or " ought to have 
happened " was far beyond the capacity of any 
man, but that it belonged to every man to seri- 
ously endeavour to understand the revelation of 
God and the Universe as it easists, and history 
as it takes place before our very eyes ; to under- 

* Poetics, ix. 

carlile's attitude toward history. 133 

stand that there is no "greater truth" and no 
smaller truth, but only one truth, and that the 
one revealed in the world's history, in the history 
of mankind ; truths, to be sure, only discernable 
to the wise, to the true poet and the true his- 
torian, whose common ideal is the recognition of 
exactly this thing, which each in his own way 
strives to reach and to teach to a struggling 
world. Thus does Carlyle apprehend the higher, 
indeed, the highest unity of poet and historian, 
a unity which consists in this common ideal, al- 
though their ways of expressing it may be differ- 
ent, a unity that would elude every eye — but 
which was seen and felt and expressed by Goethe 
himself : 

" Wer in der Weltgeschichte lebt, 
Dem Augenblick soll't er sich richten ? 
Wer in die Zeiten schaut und Btrebt, 
Nur der ist wert, zu sprechen und zn dichten." 


" Thj: Gospel of Work." 

Man most work as well as worship.— Bartor Eesartns, p. 250. 

With those .... who in true manful endeavour, were 
it under despotism or under sansculottism, create somewhat, 
with those alone, in the end, does the hope of the world lie. — 
Carlyle's Essay on Gtoethe's Works, p. 182. 

After having attempted to comprehend the 
various and important aspects of Carlyle's views, 
there only remains for us now the task of grasp- 
ing, in as few words as possible, his complete 
moral doctrines which have been expressed by 
himself in the simplest and best manner : 

" Love not Pleasure, love God 1 This is the 
Everlasting Yea, wherein all. contradiction is 
solved ; wherein whoso walks and works, it is 
well with him."* 

The duty laid upon us by God to recognize 
the moral "work" enjoined upon us by heaven, 

Sartor Eesartus, p. 133. 

gablile's ethics. 135 

and to perform this according to our light, that 
is the famihar doctrine which Carlyle, with his 
whole energy, with each page which he wrote, 
tried to preach afresh to the world. 

The first step to the fulfilment of this duty is 
the recognition of it. 

" If called to define Shakspeare's faculty, I 
should say superiority of Intellect, and think I 

had included all under that We talk 

of faculties as if they were distinct things separ- 
able ; as if a man had intellect, imagination, fancy, 
etc., as he has hands, feet, and arms. That is a 
capital error. Then, again, we hear of a man's 
* intellectual nature,' and of his * moral nature,' 
as if these, again, were divisible, and existed apart. 
. . . . We ought to know withal, and to keep 
forever in mind that these divisions are at bottom 
but names; that man's spiritual nature, the vital 
Force which dwells in him, is essentially one and 
indivisible ; that what we call imagination, fancy, 
understanding, and so forth, are but different fig- 
ures of the same Power of Insight, all indissolu- 
bly connected with each other, physiognomically 

related Morality itself, what we call 

the moral quality of a man, what is this but 
another side of the one vital Force whereby he 
is and works? All that a man does is physi- 
ognomical of him. You may see how a man 



woTdd fight by the way in which he sings ; his 
courage, or want of courage, is visible in the 
word he utters, in the opinion he has formed, 
no less than in the stroke he strikes. He is one; 
and preaches the same Self abroad in all these 
ways. Without hands a man might have feet, 
and could still walk ; but, consider it, — without 
morality, intellect were impossible for him ; a 
thoroughly immoral man could not know any- 
thing at all. To know a thing, what we can call 
knowing, a man must first love the thing, sym- 
pathise with it : that is, be virtuously related to 
it. If he have not the justice to put down his 
own selfishness at every turn, the courage to stand 
by the dangerous — ^true at every turn, how shall 
he know? His virtues, all of them, will lie re- 
corded in his knowledge. Nature, with her truth, 
remains to the bad, to the selfish and the pusil- 
lanimous forever a sealed book: what such can 
know of Nature is mean, superficial, small : for 
the uses of the day merely." * 

This absolute imity of the moral and the spirit- 
ual man gives significance to the correct view of 
life ; true recognition of moral duty (which, if 
unconscious, exists in the soul most beautifully) 
leads to morality, so that spiritual greatness is 

* Lectures oa Heroes, pp. 98-99. 

carlyle's ethics. 137 

exceptionally a moral one, and the spiritual rank 
of a nation brings with it moral greatness as a 
certain result. 

The first moral act which is obligatory to man, 
is "Renunciation," "Annihilation of Self,"* the 
giving up of all ideas and hopes which more or 
less have in view happiness for one's own self. 
One's first duty is to subordinate one's own pleas- 
ure, one's own well-being to the great everlast- 
ing end which heaven has set before us. 

This command appears severe and grim, but is 
at the same time " beautiful and awful ; " * it de- 
mands infinite labour, infinite pains ; " a life of 
ease is not for any man or any God ; " this 
struggle, this " work " brings blessedness and 
perfects mankind ; it is the true commandment, 
the essence of all religion ; it can only be instilled 
into us when the consciousness of the eternal fills 
our lives. " For the son of man there is no noble 
crown, but is a crown of thorns ! " t 

" Life is earnest," was one of Carlyle's favourite 
mottoes ; but if the path of duty is rough and 
stony, and the battles bitter, it is nevertheless 
destiny divinely imposed upon us, and although 
annihilation of self, and renunciation binds us 

* Sartor Besartus, p. 132. 

t Essay on Sir Walter Scott, p. 39. 

% Past and Present, p. 132. 


and our age conditionally, Carlyle declares with 
reference to what Goethe and Schiller had taught 
him that a "higher morality" still rests in the 
lap of time, a morality which leads all that is 
painful, troublesome and harsh in humanity to 
perfectness, and into harmony with the divine 
and the " eternally beautiful." * 

In the distant future Carlyle hopes that this 
harmony of the divine and the human will exist 
upon earth, will be the condition of all men whose 
first and individual duty now is, without mur- 
muring, to strive after the fulfilment of the di- 
vine duty of morahty. t 

This unconditional belief that harsh and stem 
duty is " sent by God " gives " a world of 
strength in return for a world of hard struggle." X 

This is the teaching of Carlyle's life and works. 

* Carlyle's Essay on Biography, p. 56. 

f Carlyle's words remind us of the beautiful prophecy with 
which Emerson closes his *' Address," delivered before the 
Senior Class in Divinity College, Cambridge, July 15, 1838 : "I 
look for the new Teacher, that shall follow so far those shining 
laws, that he shall see them come full circle; shall see their 
rounding complete grace ; shall see the world to be the mirror 
of the soul ; shall see the identity of the law of gravitation with 
purity of heart ; and shall show that the Ought, that Duty, is 
one thing with Science, with Beauty and with Joy." Here is to 
be found the secret to Emerson's and Carlyb's friendship. 

X Carlyle's Essay on Characteristics, p. 25. 

carlyle's ethics. 139 

Froude says in his Life of Carlyle : " Carlyle 
beUeved that every man had a special duty to 
do in this world. If he had been asked what 
especially he conceived his own duty to be, he 
would have said that it was to force men to 
realize once more that the world was actually 
governed by a just God; that the old familiar 
story, acknowledged everywhere in words on 
Sundays, and disregarded or denied openly on 
week-days, was, after all, true. His writings, 
every one of them, his essays, his lectures, his 
"History of the French Revolution," his "Crom- 
well," even his "Frederick," were to the same 
purpose and on the same text — that truth must 
be spoken and justice must be done ; on any other 
conditions no real commonwealth, no common 
welfare, is permitted or possible." * 

We shall conclude these remarks on Carlyle 
with the same words which he uttered upon the 
occasion of Goethe's death : " Precious is the 
new light of Knowledge which our Teacher con- 
quers for us ; yet small to the new light of Love 
which also we derive from him: the most im- 
portant element of any man's performance is the 
Life he has accomplished. Under the intellect- 

* Fronde's Life of Carlyle, Franklin Sqnare Edition, vol. iii, 
p. 49. 


tial union of man and man, which works by pre- 
cepty lies a holier nnion of affection, working by 
example ; the influence of which latter, mystic, 
deep-reaching, all-embracing, can still less be 
computed. For Love is ever the beginning of 
Elnowledge, as fire is of light; and works also 
more in the manner of fire. That Goethe was a 
inreat Teacher of men means already that he was 
r good man."* 

According to our innermost conviction, we can 
and must apply this to Carlyle. His infirmities 
and deficiencies — which he himself in the last 
years of his hfe was inclined to assaU too severe- 
ly, but which was natural to a man whose moral 
claims were of such greatness, and to a man of 
his excitability of disposition — his faults and his 
exa^erations, his enigmatic melancholy, which so 
often embittered the pleasures of life for himself 
and those about him ; all this, which has been 
so forcibly and willingly portrayed by his adver- 
saries, and is so easy to portray ; all this, is not 
able to cloud a picture of this magnificent man 
which lives in the hearts of his admirers. "When 
he is fully known, he will not be loved or admued 
the less because he had infirmities like the rest 
of us." t 

* Carlyle's Essay on the Death of Goethe, p. 48. 
f Fronde's Life of Carlyle, vol. i , Introduction. 

^ i-J * 



JUL 30 I9J9 '-