Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Quotes from Sartor Resartus

I've recently finished reading, for a class, of course, English 562, 19th Century English Prose, Thomas Carlyle's "Sartor Resartus," which means, in Latin, The Tailor Re-Tailored. The subheading of the book is "The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh in Three Books."

Carlyle wrote in a very convoluted style, a mark of Victorian prose. But amongst the veritable onslaught of verbage are some choice nuggets.

"While I -- good Heaven! -- have thatched myself over with the dead fleeces of sheep, the bark of vegetables, the entrails of worms, the hides of oxen or seals, the felt of furred beasts; and walk abroad a moving Rag-screen, overheaped with shreds and tatters raked from the Charnel-house of Nature, where they would have rotted, to rot on me, more slowly!"

"Society... is founded upon cloth."

"Nay, if you consider it, what is Man himself, and his whole terrestrial Life, but an Emblem; a Clothing or visible Garment for that divine ME of his, cast hither, like a light-particle, down from Heaven?"

"I say, there is not a red Indian, hunting by Lake Winnipeg, can quarrel with his squaw, but the whole world must smart for it: will not the price of beaver rise? It is a mathematical fact that the casting of this pebble from my hand alters the centre of gravity of the Universe."

"Yes, truly, if Nature is one, and a living indivisible whole, much more is Mankind, the Image that reflects and creates Nature, without which Nature were not."

"Innumerable are the illusions and legerdemain-tricks of Custom: but of all these, perhaps the cleverest is her knack of persuading us that the Miraculous, by simple repetition, ceases to be Miraculous."

I learned a new word from reading this book that I want to cast, like a pebble, onto the blogosphere.

sans-cu·lotte n.
  1. An extreme radical republican during the French Revolution.
  2. A revolutionary extremist.

[French : sans, without + culotte, breeches.]

The main character in Sartor Resartus, Herr Diogenes Teufelsdrockh (Trans: Mr. God-formed devil's dung), refers to himself as a sansculotte. In researching this word, I discovered that the French aristocracy called the revolutionaries, derisively, by this name, which, of course, they adopted as their rallying cry. Just think if the aristocracy called them a bunch of stupidheads. "Vive Le Stupide tetes!"