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Chapter 1

BOOK III.

CHAPTER I.
INCIDENT IN MODERN HISTORY.

As a wonder-loving and wonder-seeking man, Teufelsdrockh, from an early
part of this Clothes-Volume, has more and more exhibited himself. Striking
it was, amid all his perverse cloudiness, with what force of vision and of
heart he pierced into the mystery of the World; recognizing in the highest
sensible phenomena, so far as Sense went, only fresh or faded Raiment; yet
ever, under this, a celestial Essence thereby rendered visible: and while,
on the one hand, he trod the old rags of Matter, with their tinsels, into
the mire, he on the other everywhere exalted Spirit above all earthly
principalities and powers, and worshipped it, though under the meanest
shapes, with a true Platonic mysticism. What the man ultimately purposed
by thus casting his Greek-fire into the general Wardrobe of the Universe;
what such, more or less complete, rending and burning of Garments
throughout the whole compass of Civilized Life and Speculation, should lead
to; the rather as he was no Adamite, in any sense, and could not, like
Rousseau, recommend either bodily or intellectual Nudity, and a return to
the savage state: all this our readers are now bent to discover; this is,
in fact, properly the gist and purport of Professor Teufelsdrockh's
Philosophy of Clothes.

Be it remembered, however, that such purport is here not so much evolved,
as detected to lie ready for evolving. We are to guide our British Friends
into the new Gold-country, and show them the mines; nowise to dig out and
exhaust its wealth, which indeed remains for all time inexhaustible. Once
there, let each dig for his own behoof, and enrich himself.

Neither, in so capricious inexpressible a Work as this of the Professor's,
can our course now more than formerly be straightforward, step by step, but
at best leap by leap. Significant Indications stand out here and there;
which for the critical eye, that looks both widely and narrowly, shape
themselves into some ground-scheme of a Whole: to select these with
judgment, so that a leap from one to the other be possible, and (in our old
figure) by chaining them together, a passable Bridge be effected: this, as
heretofore, continues our only method. Among such light-spots, the
following, floating in much wild matter about _Perfectibility_, has seemed
worth clutching at:--

"Perhaps the most remarkable incident in Modern History," says
Teufelsdrockh, "is not the Diet of Worms, still less the Battle of
Austerlitz, Waterloo, Peterloo, or any other Battle; but an incident passed
carelessly over by most Historians, and treated with some degree of
ridicule by others: namely, George Fox's making to himself a suit of
Leather. This man, the first of the Quakers, and by trade a Shoemaker, was
one of those, to whom, under ruder or purer form, the Divine Idea of the
Universe is pleased to manifest itself; and, across all the hulls of
Ignorance and earthly Degradation, shine through, in unspeakable Awfulness,
unspeakable Beauty, on their souls: who therefore are rightly accounted
Prophets, God-possessed; or even Gods, as in some periods it has chanced.
Sitting in his stall; working on tanned hides, amid pincers, paste-horns,
rosin, swine-bristles, and a nameless flood of rubbish, this youth had,
nevertheless, a Living Spirit belonging to him; also an antique Inspired
Volume, through which, as through a window, it could look upwards, and
discern its celestial Home. The task of a daily pair of shoes, coupled
even with some prospect of victuals, and an honorable Mastership in
Cordwainery, and perhaps the post of Thirdborough in his hundred, as the
crown of long faithful sewing,--was nowise satisfaction enough to such a
mind: but ever amid the boring and hammering came tones from that far
country, came Splendors and Terrors; for this poor Cordwainer, as we said,
was a Man; and the Temple of Immensity, wherein as Man he had been sent to
minister, was full of holy mystery to him.

"The Clergy of the neighborhood, the ordained Watchers and Interpreters of
that same holy mystery, listened with un-affected tedium to his
consultations, and advised him, as the solution of such doubts, to 'drink
beer, and dance with the girls.' Blind leaders of the blind! For what end
were their tithes levied and eaten; for what were their shovel-hats scooped
out, and their surplices and cassock-aprons girt on; and such a
church-repairing, and chaffering, and organing, and other racketing, held
over that spot of God's Earth,--if Man were but a Patent Digester, and the
Belly with its adjuncts the grand Reality? Fox turned from them, with
tears and a sacred scorn, back to his Leather-parings and his Bible.
Mountains of encumbrance, higher than AEtna, had been heaped over that
Spirit: but it was a Spirit, and would not lie buried there. Through long
days and nights of silent agony, it struggled and wrestled, with a man's
force, to be free: how its prison-mountains heaved and swayed
tumultuously, as the giant spirit shook them to this hand and that, and
emerged into the light of Heaven! That Leicester shoe-shop, had men known
it, was a holier place than any Vatican or Loretto-shrine.--'So bandaged,
and hampered, and hemmed in,' groaned he, 'with thousand requisitions,
obligations, straps, tatters, and tagrags, I can neither see nor move: not
my own am I, but the World's; and Time flies fast, and Heaven is high, and
Hell is deep: Man! bethink thee, if thou hast power of Thought! Why not;
what binds me here? Want, want!--Ha, of what? Will all the shoe-wages
under the Moon ferry me across into that far Land of Light? Only
Meditation can, and devout Prayer to God. I will to the woods: the hollow
of a tree will lodge me, wild berries feed me; and for Clothes, cannot I
stitch myself one perennial suit of Leather!'

"Historical Oil-painting," continues Teufelsdrockh, "is one of the Arts I
never practiced; therefore shall I not decide whether this subject were
easy of execution on the canvas. Yet often has it seemed to me as if such
first outflashing of man's Freewill, to lighten, more and more into Day,
the Chaotic Night that threatened to engulf him in its hindrances and its
horrors, were properly the only grandeur there is in History. Let some
living Angelo or Rosa, with seeing eye and understanding heart, picture
George Fox on that morning, when he spreads out his cutting-board for the
last time, and cuts cowhides by unwonted patterns, and stitches them
together into one continuous all-including Case, the farewell service of
his awl! Stitch away, thou noble Fox: every prick of that little
instrument is pricking into the heart of Slavery, and World-worship, and
the Mammon-god. Thy elbows jerk, as in strong swimmer-strokes, and every
stroke is bearing thee across the Prison-ditch, within which Vanity holds
her Workhouse and Ragfair, into lands of true Liberty; were the work done,
there is in broad Europe one Free Man, and thou art he!

"Thus from the lowest depth there is a path to the loftiest height; and for
the Poor also a Gospel has been published. Surely if, as D'Alembert
asserts, my illustrious namesake, Diogenes, was the greatest man of
Antiquity, only that he wanted Decency, then by stronger reason is George
Fox the greatest of the Moderns, and greater than Diogenes himself: for he
too stands on the adamantine basis of his Manhood, casting aside all props
and shoars; yet not, in half-savage Pride, undervaluing the Earth; valuing
it rather, as a place to yield him warmth and food, he looks Heavenward
from his Earth, and dwells in an element of Mercy and Worship, with a still
Strength, such as the Cynic's Tub did nowise witness. Great, truly, was
that Tub; a temple from which man's dignity and divinity was scornfully
preached abroad: but greater is the Leather Hull, for the same sermon was
preached there, and not in Scorn but in Love."


George Fox's "perennial suit," with all that it held, has been worn quite
into ashes for nigh two centuries: why, in a discussion on the
_Perfectibility of Society_, reproduce it now? Not out of blind sectarian
partisanship: Teufelsdrockh, himself is no Quaker; with all his pacific
tendencies, did not we see him, in that scene at the North Cape, with the
Archangel Smuggler, exhibit fire-arms?

For us, aware of his deep Sansculottism, there is more meant in this
passage than meets the ear. At the same time, who can avoid smiling at the
earnestness and Boeotian simplicity (if indeed there be not an underhand
satire in it), with which that "Incident" is here brought forward; and, in
the Professor's ambiguous way, as clearly perhaps as he durst in
Weissnichtwo, recommended to imitation! Does Teufelsdrockh anticipate
that, in this age of refinement, any considerable class of the community,
by way of testifying against the "Mammon-god," and escaping from what he
calls "Vanity's Workhouse and Ragfair," where doubtless some of them are
toiled and whipped and hoodwinked sufficiently,--will sheathe themselves in
close-fitting cases of Leather? The idea is ridiculous in the extreme.
Will Majesty lay aside its robes of state, and Beauty its frills and
train-gowns, for a second skin of tanned hide? By which change
Huddersfield and Manchester, and Coventry and Paisley, and the
Fancy-Bazaar, were reduced to hungry solitudes; and only Day and Martin
could profit. For neither would Teufelsdrockh's mad daydream, here as we
presume covertly intended, of levelling Society (_levelling_ it indeed with
a vengeance, into one huge drowned marsh!), and so attaining the political
effects of Nudity without its frigorific or other consequences,--be thereby
realized. Would not the rich man purchase a waterproof suit of Russia
Leather; and the high-born Belle step forth in red or azure morocco, lined
with shamoy: the black cowhide being left to the Drudges and Gibeonites of
the world; and so all the old Distinctions be re-established?

Or has the Professor his own deeper intention; and laughs in his sleeve at
our strictures and glosses, which indeed are but a part thereof?

Thomas Carlyle

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