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CARLYLE RECONSIDERED 177 construed as an example of 'myth-criticism' only by overlooking its pervasive ironies, and function for Barthes is a relational term, not a substantial one, as it is for Knutson), is its discreetly polemical presentation ofclassical tragedy not as an essence, but as an historical- and ideologically loaded - structure. I would urge that we learn to view classical comedy in the same light. Carlyle Reconsidered BRIAN JOHN Carlyle and His Contemporaries: Essays ill Honour of Charles Richard Sanders, edited by John Clubb. Durham, NC: Duke University Press 1976. xxiii, 371, 16 illustrations. $15.75 'The young don't read Carlyle,' Mr Bankes remonstrated to Lily Briscoe in To the Ligl1thouse. 'A crusty old grumbler who lost his temper if the porridge was cold, why should he preach to us? was what Mr. Bankes understood that young people said nowadays. It was,a thousand pities if you thought, as he did, that Carlyle was one of the great teachers of mankind.' It may be that the young still do not read Carlyle- Basil Willey in his Nineteenth Century Studies (1949) attested to contemporary neglect - but the scholarly attention the Victorian sage has generated over the last thirty years on both sides of the Atlantic has c;:lone much to redress the balance. If we are less likely to be misled by Bloomsbury, by superficial parallels between Carlyle and fascism, and by Carlyle himself, it is in no small measure due to Charles Richard Sanders, in whose honour these essays have been collected. For who, among students of the Victorian period, and especially of the history of ideas, has not had recourse to his Coleridge and the Broad Church Movement, which made clear Carlyle's points of contact, despite his antipathy for Coleridge the man, with the emerging Coleridgean tradition? And as general editor of The Collected Letters ofThallias and Jane Welsh Carlyle, Sanders continues to place us in┬Ěhis debt. This presentfestschrift is a splendid contribution to Carlyle studies and a worthy testament to the great regard in which C.R. Sanders is held. If Coleridge was one of the great seminal minds of his age, Carlyle was one of the great disseminators. The diverse movements of thought and feeling of the mid-Victorian period converge in him, to be transformed and given new impetus , direction, and expression. Like one of his own titanic figures, he dominates his time, while suffering, as his own heroes often suffer, from the alienation of the visionary. The essential and distinctive aloneness of Carlyle's vision Ian Campbell in the opening essay traces to his training at the University of Edinburgh, where the emphasis upon mathematics and natural philosophy undermined his childhood secessionist faith but failed to provide a satisfactory alternative. Subsequent essays point the reader in the direction Carlyle was to 178 BRIAN JOHN follow - towards organicism, social criticism, history, and the shaping of chaos into cosmos, whether of the persona or the paragraph. As Carlisle Moore shows in 'Carlyle and Goethe as Scientist,' Carlyle shunned the contemporary empirical , mechanical science, with its corollaries, technology, and industrialization, and preferred an older, intuitive, organic version. Moore points to Carlyle's mathematical innovations, his persistent ideal of science, his continuing friendship with several distinguished Victorian scientists, and sees, deriving from Goethe, his I effort to unite science, poetry, and religion in a total perception.' The effort was a characteristically Victorian one, posing problems for artist and thinker alike. If the problem proved insurmountable - and by the end of the century science, poetry, and religion seemed to W.B. Yeats irrevocably antagonistic and apart - it drew from Carlyle at least a titanic effort with which we must still credit him. 'A man in all "times" makes his own world,' Carlyle impressed upon Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, and at the heart of such a 'making' was the creative self, shaping both self and world according to the Eternal Melodies. That divine music Carlyle heard plainly, if not often, and saw made concrete in 'God's Universe and the actual Reality of Things' (Past and Present). The contemporary present, however, preferred Semblance to Nature and Fact and so required reform, albeit of a conservative, at times...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 177-181
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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