Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

phy. It is fragmentary of course. Its desultory starts and unlooked for combinations remind us sometimes of Sterne, though it does not imitate, nor is it indebted to him. * more easy and serious than he. It is never on the strain after mere singularity. It carries a deeper significance in its vagaries. We need hardly say, that it is every way above bim in elevation of sentiment and reach of thought, in heart and conscience, as well as in invention and imagery and wealth of expression. That unscrupulous humorist has the inpudence to say, in a preface to his Sermon on Conscience, that the sermon had “already appeared in the body of a moral work, more read than understood.” Our author's work is indeed a moral one.

It never loose and indecent in its sportiveness; and if you now and then meet with what is less refined than you can desire, it will have at least a sober intent, and probably the coarseness will be somewhat wrapped up, as it is in the Latin of Count Zähdarm's epitaph.

It loves to bring together the low and the lofty, the learned and vulgar, the strange and familiar, the tragic and comic, into rather violent contrasts. We cannot say that it is always clear and sprightly. The words are often unusual, the digressions bewildering, the objects in view not very manisest. But it will seldom fail to repay a careful attention. The device of making a book by pretending to edit the papers of another person may appear to be rather a stale one, and has certainly been of late pressed quite unconscionably into the service. But in the present instance it was absolutely essential to the management of the author's plan, and has been so ingeniously availed of as quite to reconcile us to it.

If it were worth while to spend a moment upon verbal niceties, we should say that we were struck with the frequent recurrence of certain favorite turns of phrase, which has sometimes an unpleasant effect. There can be no reasonable objection to the roughest Germanisms, abundant as they are, for they are fairly in place; but the blemish we allude to is

This is more, we fear, than can be said with truth of a very clever book called “The Doctor." It overflows with learning and good things; but we hardly know how to pardon its rambling prodigality. Its drollery savours strongly of second hand ; and its copious sweepings of a most industrious portfolio, in scraps froin almost every language of ancient and modern Europe, are in danger of being found as dull us an excellent jest-book.

[merged small][ocr errors]

not un

one to be avoided by a writer, whose English, though highly characteristic, is so sterling and deep with the true old stamp. We have, for example, more than sufficient of the word " enough. The use of what may be called a negative and a half, such as “not without,”

is repeated to satiety. “To go" dead, – forgotten, — dumb, - silent, &c. are liable to the same reproof. But these are trifles, mentioned only because they happened to attract our notice.

From the form of " The Tailor Sewed Over," we pass to what is of chief importance, and interest also, - its matter. We have already intimated that the whole fiction about Clothes and the Jena Doctor with the disagreeable name, was designed to dress up and set forth a series of reflections on Society and Religion, on Man and the Universe. These are the substance of the work, and they are combined not unnaturally with the clothes-metaphor. The object of the author is to present the Inmost, the Essential, the Absolute, the Idea. Every thing that is outside of this may therefore be considered, in very simple propriety, as its garments. It is of those outsides that he seeks to divest it. The outermost that belongs to men is their literal clothing. Take that away, and they are still "clothed with skin and flesh, with bones and sinews." Their social habits also, - what are they but the integuments of a hidden nature ? And so he goes on, though not in the homely prose fashion in which we are endeavouring to explain him, till he arrives at Space and Time, those two mighty envelopes of the soul and of being.

And now," he cries, “ does the spiritual, eternal essence of man, and of mankind, bared of such wrappages, begin in any measure to reveal itself? Can many readers discern, as through a glass darkly, in huge, wavering outlines, some primeval rudiments of man's being, what is changeable divided from what is unchangeable? Does that Earth-Spirit's speech in Faust :

"T is thus at the roaring loom of time I ply,

And weave for God the garment thou seest Him by; begin to have some meaning for us?” — pp. 268, 269.

There is a paragraph, also, on the 73d page, which we may take hold of as a sort of key for the unfolding of the whole general plan :

“Why multiply instances ? It is written, “The heavens and the earth shall fade away like a vesture; ' which indeed they are,

the time-vesture of the Eternal. Whatsoever sensibly exists, whatever represents spirit to spirit, is properly a clothing, a suit of raiment, pui on for a season, and to be laid off. Thus, in this one pregnant subject of CLOTHES, rightly understood, is included all that men have thought, dreamed, done, and been; the whole external universe and what it holds, is but clothing; and the essence of all science lies in the PhiloSOPHY OF Clothes."

Such is a brief and extremely imperfect account of “ Sartor Resartus," with its strange subject, and its still stranger method. Whether congenial or not with our tastes and intellectual habits, it is certainly one of the most extraordinary works of our day. It is wrought with great learning and ingenuity, though without the appearance of effort. It throws out the noblest conceptions as if at play, and its sparkling expressions seem kindled by the irrepressible fervor of a brilliant mind. It has imagination enough to give a poet renown; more sound religion and ethics than slumber in the folios of many a body of divinity ; more periods that one would copy down in his note-book, to read and read again, than are to be found in all the writings together of many a one who has made himself famous everywhere for having written well. It is not equally sustained in every part ; how should it be?

- but we can scarcely look where we shall not find something of tenderness or sublimity or wit or wisdom; - something that makes us feel, and makes us reflect too, as deeply as some more pretending “Aids to Reflection.”*

What we chiefly prize in it is its philosophic, spiritual, humane cast of thought. It is in thorough opposition to the materialism and mechanisms of our grooved and iron-bound times. It resists the despotism of opinion seeking to rule by crowds and suffrages and machinists' devices. It soars away far beyond the theories of Utilitarian calculators. It spurns everything shallow. It expands and lifts itself above every thing contracted. It places us at a free distance from the turmoil of vulgar and sellish life. It

exposes many an abuse and illusion of the passing ages. It is spirit. Warm with kind

* A rather heavy book under this title is in many hands. It has at least the merit of appearing to be struggling up after something. It has excellent paragraphs, but is all in pieces, like the rest of its author's works, and unhappily like his own life also. “ Hadst thou not Greek enough to understand thus much: 'The end of man is an action, and not a thought, though it were the noblest ?

affections, and almost wild with generous aspirations after the broadest truth and the 'bighest good, it is elevating when it most amuses us. It even perplexes us to some wholesome intent. It rebukes the hard dogmatism of conceited disputers, till it makes it look as poor and as ridgy as it really is. Here are true “ Materials for Thinking,” while much that circulates with that label is but an insisting that men shall think perversely. *

But it is time that we should permit the author to speak for himself. Here is a night scene :

Ach mein Lieber," said he once at midnight, when we had returned from the coffee-house in rather earnest talk, “it is a true

ublimity to dwell here. These fringes of lamplight, struggling up through smoke, and thousand-fold exhalation, some fathoms into the ancient reign of Night, what thinks Boötes of them, as he leads his hunting dogs over the zenith in their leash of sidereal fire ? That stifled hum of midnight, when traffic has lain down to rest, and the chariot-wheels of vanity, still rolling here and there through distant streets, are bearing her to halls roofed in and lighted to the due pitch for her, and only vice and misery, to prowl or to moan like night-birds, are abroad, that hum, I say, like the stertorous, unquiet slumber of sick life, is heard in heaven! Oh, under that hideous coverlid of vapors, and putrefactions, and unimaginable gases, what a fermenting-vat lies simmering and hid! The joyful and the sorrowful are there; men are dying there, men are being born ; men are praying, other side of a brick partition men are cursing; and around them all is the vast, void Night. ..... Gay mansions, with

supper-rooms and dancing-rooms, are full of light and music, and high-swelling hearts; but, in the condemned cells, the pulse of life beats tremulous and faint, and blood-shot eyes look out through the darkness, which is around and within, for the light of a stern last morning...... Riot cries aloud, and staggers and swaggers in his rank dens of shame; and the mother, with streaming hair, kneels over her pallid, dying infant, whose cracked lips only her tears now moisten.— All these, heaped and huddled together, with nothing but a little carpentry and masonry between them; ... such work goes on under that smoke-counterpane! - But I, mein Werther, , sit above it all; I am alone with the stars.'

A word for the arts : “ Man is a tool-using animal. Weak of himself, and of small

on the

pp. 20, 21.

See, who will, two volumes of impudent trumpery under this title, by one William Burdon. 5th edition! London. 1829.

stature, he stands on a basis, at most, for the flattest-soled, of some half square-foot, insecurely enough; has to straddle out his legs lest he very winds supplant him. Feeblest of bipeds! Three quintals are a crushing load for him; the steer of the meadow tosses him aloft, like a waste rag. Nevertheless, he can use tools, can devise tools. With these, the granite mountain melts into light dust before him; he kneads glowing iron, as if it were soft paste ; seas are his smooth high-way, winds and fire his unwearying steeds. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”

p. 40.

The following paragraph may serve to illustrate the leading idea of the book.

“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, and divine apparition. Round his mysterious ME,

, there lies, under all those wool-rags, a garment of flesh (or of senses), contextured 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 colors and forms; as it were swathed in, and inextricably overshrouded; yet is it sky-woven, and worthy of a God. Stands he not thereby in the centre of immensities, in the conflux of eternities? He feels; power has been given him to know, to believe; nay, does not the spirit of love, free in its celestial, primeval brightness, even here though but for moments, look through? Well said Saint Chrysostom, with his lips of gold, "The true shekinah is man.

To illustrate the idea, that "thought without reverence is barren, perhaps poisonous," he says, on page 68th,

The man who cannot wonder, who does not habitually wonder (and worship), were he President of innumerable Royal Societies, and carried the whole Mécanique Céleste and Hegel's 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 and mysticism ; wilt walk through thy world by the sunshine of what thou callest truth, or even by the hand-lamp of what I call attorneylogic; and explain' all, 'account' for all, or believe nothing of it. Nay, thou wilt attempt laughter; — whoso recognises the unfathomable, all-pervading domain of mystery, which is everywhere under our feet and among our hands, – to whom the universe 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 VOL. XXI. 3D. S. VOL. III. NO, I.

11

pp. 64, 65.

« AnteriorContinuar »