Varied Types eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 139 pages of information about Varied Types.
were melancholy, and optimists when they were happy.  But the optimist of to-day seems obliged to prove that gout and unrequited love make him dance with joy, and the pessimist of to-day to prove that sunshine and a good supper convulse him with inconsolable anguish.  Carlyle was strongly possessed with this mania for spiritual consistency.  He wished to take the same view of the wars of the angels and of the paltriest riot at Donnybrook Fair.  It was this species of insane logic which led him into his chief errors, never his natural enthusiasms.  Let us take an example.  Carlyle’s defence of slavery is a thoroughly ridiculous thing, weak alike in argument and in moral instinct.  The truth is, that he only took it up from the passion for applying everywhere his paradoxical defence of aristocracy.  He blundered, of course, because he did not see that slavery has nothing in the world to do with aristocracy, that it is, indeed, almost its opposite.  The defence which Carlyle and all its thoughtful defenders have made for aristocracy was that a few persons could more rapidly and firmly decide public affairs in the interests of the people.  But slavery is not even supposed to be a government for the good of the governed.  It is a possession of the governed avowedly for the good of the governors.  Aristocracy uses the strong for the service of the weak; slavery uses the weak for the service of the strong.  It is no derogation to man as a spiritual being, as Carlyle firmly believed he was, that he should be ruled and guided for his own good like a child—­for a child who is always ruled and guided we regard as the very type of spiritual existence.  But it is a derogation and an absolute contradiction to that human spirituality in which Carlyle believed that a man should be owned like a tool for someone else’s good, as if he had no personal destiny in the Cosmos.  We draw attention to this particular error of Carlyle’s because we think that it is a curious example of the waste and unclean places into which that remarkable animal, “the whole hog,” more than once led him.

In this respect Carlyle has had unquestionably long and an unquestionably bad influence.  The whole of that recent political ethic which conceives that if we only go far enough we may finish a thing for once and all, that being strong consists chiefly in being deliberately deaf and blind, owes a great deal of its complete sway to his example.  Out of him flows most of the philosophy of Nietzsche, who is in modern times the supreme maniac of this moonstruck consistency.  Though Nietzsche and Carlyle were in reality profoundly different, Carlyle being a stiff-necked peasant and Nietzsche a very fragile aristocrat, they were alike in this one quality of which we speak, the strange and pitiful audacity with which they applied their single ethical test to everything in heaven and earth.  The disciple of Nietzsche, indeed, embraces immorality like an austere and difficult faith.  He urges himself to lust and cruelty with the same tremulous enthusiasm with which a Christian urges himself to purity and patience; he struggles as a monk struggles with bestial visions and temptations with the ancient necessities of honour and justice and compassion.  To this madhouse, it can hardly be denied, has Carlyle’s intellectual courage brought many at last.

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Varied Types from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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