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healthy family life, they may be trusted to conduct themselves reasonably in relation to so much of the outer world as they encounter in the school, or in the home companionship of their brothers' and sisters' friends. This free intercourse among young people is as yet very largely wanting in France, and its absence is to be held responsible for many of the most serious evils in the national life.
JAMES OLIPHANT. BEATTOCK, SCOTLAND.
We are wont to think of Carlyle more often as a moral teacher than as a historian or a writer on literary subjects. As historian or essayist alone, he might perhaps be superseded or fall into neglect; as a moral philosopher, it is scarcely conceivable that he should not permanently occupy a high place in English literature and have a wide influence upon readers. Yet a close examination of his moral doctrines reveals striking deficiencies as well as peculiarities. He has enunciated his ideas with tremendous vigor, a clearness that never leaves uncertain the meaning of any sentence or paragraph, and with wearisome iteration; yet he has nowhere reduced them to any system, nor sought to establish them on a secure metaphysical basis; and at times even their practical application remains in doubt. He was impatient of any attempt to "justify the ways of God to men.” His moral convictions were ingrained, and suffered no essential change—a characteristic rare among great thinkers—during the whole course of his literary activity. An expression of "Sartor Resartus” or of "Friedrich" is equally authentic as an expression of his permanent belief and doctrine. His attitude toward literature and literary art altered remarkably as the sense of the earnestness of life bore with increasing weight upon him; his hopefulness disappeared, his denunciation became more vigorous and unrestrained; but his perception of duty and its sanction was the same from first to last.
The analyst of character finds much in the influences of
Carlyle's life to explain his dominant qualities and beliefs. To his inheritance of the stern and sombre Scottish temperament, were added the struggles of his youth and earlier manhood with untoward circumstances, poverty, ill health, and doubt, to impress upon him the darker side of life. He was driven by outward as well as inward necessity to work, yet was capable of no performance without extreme effort; and work, by the unnatural stress which he must lay upon it for himself, became to his mind the chief object of existence. He suffered much and magnified his sufferings; and endurance appeared a virtue as well as a necessity. The power of enjoyment—the taste for art, music, society, and travel—were denied to him by nature as well as circumstance; and he conceived the pursuit of happiness to be among the most unworthy of human motives. In spite of his rejection of the externals and the dogmas of Christianity, he retained a profoundly religious sense, solemn and awful in its combination of the Scotch with the Hebrew spirit. Beyond the necessity for bread, he felt that there was an equally peremptory and inexorable spiritual necessity—a vocation not to be combined with the other except at the price of exhausting effort and suffering. With all his earnestness and force, he was long unheeded; and the neglect and misinterpretation which he and his works encountered may well have exaggerated his idea of the evil, injustice, and thoughtlessness of the world.
The seriousness of life is to Carlyle a part of the fixed order of the universe; but its immediate causes lie less in that misery which the philanthropist tries to alleviate than in the human error which the theologian condemns. In many points Carlyle resembles the theologians of the older school, from whom, indeed, he had directly inherited. Evil is in the world by human agency, by human choice wrongly exercised. Pain, poverty, want, are by no means to be regarded as always and necessarily evils; they may be only the indispensable discipline to prepare us for our work. No Epicurean gods or blind fates preside over the world; much that seems evil is sent by the
See Froude's “Life of Carlyle,” Vol. II, ch. I, ch. 26, pp. 220 ff. Vol. XV-No. 2.
Powers of Heaven in wise beneficence. But real evil exists also in vast amount, inexcusable and pernicious, subserving no useful purpose, and with which any patience is out of place. The great sources of evil are Sin, Sham, and Stupidity. But the great mass of mankind is stupid and blind; there is only now and then one who sees things clearly in their true relations, who knows and is obedient to the laws of God and of Nature.
Yet however tolerant or insensible men may be of the evil which ought to be swept away, the Eternal Powers will, when it has reached the wholly intolerable point, interfere and sweep it away more or less completely themselves. The overthrow of Charles I, the annihilation of Poland, and—most conspicuous example of all—the French Revolution, were such violent manifestations of the wrath of Heaven, working through human agency against profane and sinful shams which had become intolerable in its sight. A nation may be spared beyond its desert, as England has been in the last two centuries, because, in spite of foolishness and hypocrisy, it has not yet filled the cup to overflowing-or, perhaps, only by the unmerited mercy of Heaven. So long as Heaven's mercy continues there is a gleam of hope and a possibility of remedy. Carlyle is pessimistic, but not wholly so:
“O Heaven, and are these things forever impossible, then? Not a whit. To-morrow morning they might all begin to be, and go on through blessed centuries realizing themselves, if it were not that-alas, if it were not that we are most of us insincere persons, sham talking-machines and hollow windy fools! Which it is not impossible that we should cease to be, I hope !" ?
A sincere and humble recognition of the Laws of God and Nature, an obedience to them and a willingness to speak and act the truth, will work much or all. Yet in general he hardly cares to turn his eyes in the direction of the future. In its uncertainty it is as nothing to him. Intent upon that truth which has no limitations of time, he studies its manifestations only in the past and the present.
We have learned to look at the future with infinite hopefulness because we think we per
ceive a law by which unlimited progress and improvement are promised. For Carlyle no such law existed.
The present seemed to him in many ways a deterioration from the past; the future was little hopeful, and the prediction of it a work of the imagination, often false at best, and wholly unprofitable.
In the doctrines of the sinfulness and moral blindness of man, the certainty of penalty, though deferred, the mercy which endures as long as endurance is possible, the sole hope of salvation in recognition of Divine Law and obedience to it, we find but a repetition of the fundamental principles of Christian theology, though with little stress on the Love which is so important a part of the Christian religion. But Carlyle had rejected the supernatural origin of Christianity, and it therefore became incumbent on him, when he spoke of Divine Law, to explain what that law is. This he has failed to do clearly. He often uses the expression “Laws of Nature” in a similar way; but one would be sadly wide of the mark in seeking Carlyle's meaning in any scientific treatise. We might interpret the phrases in the light of two other familiar antithetical expressions of Carlyle's—reality, not appearance; right, not wrong. But if we ask, “What is appearance, and what reality; what right and what wrong?" we must answer in Carlylean phrase, “Right is conformity to the Laws of God and of Nature." A vicious enough circle!
The question as to the actual application of the terms right and wrong is, at our stage of moral enlightenment, by no means an idle or superfluous one. Every man has his own ethical standards, differing more or less widely from those of other men. Few of them are likely to be correct; perhaps none of them are wholly so. Morality may yet make as important advances as the physical sciences promise. It is hardly conceivable that the boundary line between right and wrong can ever be accurately determined at every point: at present it is still vague—more vague perhaps in the political matters with which Carlyle so largely dealt than in personal ethics. But the function which he assumed was by no means that of revealing new moral truth, but of emphasising the old, which to his mind had fallen into neglect. The condition of things which he would
fain see restored is always one that he can parallel from a past age.
Nevertheless Carlyle has presented old truths in a new light, or at least with originality of expression. His cardinal virtues, as we may call those upon which he has most insisted, are by no means the traditional ones. The first and greatest of them is, of course, sincerity, truthfulness, honesty, the opposite of sham and falsehood. The keynote of his teaching is struck in his ever-recurring exaltation of this virtue, and denunciation of its opposite.
Carlyle found, or believed he found, in his own time more sham, hypocrisy, and falsehood than had existed in any age before, unless it were the eighteenth century, which by its swollen excess of untruth fairly exploded at the end. We need not decide whether he was right. All thoughtful men recognise the dishonesty which is prevalent in certain spheres of life, especially in business and in politics, and the decline of that universal faith, earnestness, and candor, which Carlyle found at its best in the Middle Ages. But “Carlyle never understood or tried to understand his time,” says Edmond Scherer.3 difficult for him to see how people could believe otherwise than as he believed; he was intolerant and avowedly defended intolerance; and so he found sham in religious professions, because people sat while they pretended to kneel, or because, while professing belief, they would question and speculate.
Carlyle's second cardinal virtue may be considered to be patience. Man is born into a world which is by no means wholly to his liking, in which for the most favored there is much to bear and suffer, much to do that the natural man would far rather not do. For the less fortunate this is in a vast degree more true; for neither in the actual world nor in the scheme of things is any equality of lot or compensation found or designed. Some may have little but unrelieved suffering in their lives, because thereby better work can be had from them, others because they are fit for nothing else, others—be
"Essays on English Literature,” translated by George Saintsbury, p. 230 (from "Etudes sur la Littérature Contemporaine," Vol. VII).