Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ade Ileke: Thomas Carlyle Meditates on Sartor Bis Resartus

Thomas Carlyle, Author of Sartor Resartus

While sitting at a dinner party at Cliveden... No, that's not quite true. We were not at Cliveden, and my gentleman's gentleman was not on the qui vive looking for a way to restore my uncle's memoirs - expurgated, to be sure - to the hall table, all of which my dear fiancee, Daphne, had put me up to. We were sitting at a dinner table, and having recently dined, talk rolled around to the various and sultry...err, sundry, that is.

This is not a Somerset Maugham novel - anachronistic scribbler! Toasts were made; great things and great men were hoisted up and flutes and goblets were drained. Now - and here's where the interesting part begins - a lady at my left said that I should make a toast to the younger crowd. She furthermore said that I had recently said something to her own offspring that she had found deeply moving. Now, you could not have knocked me over with a feather, for I had already passed out and hoped the medics were on the way. I was not aware that this particular individual had any use for any two consecutive words that had ever pushed and elbowed their way out of my mouth.

The Room Where Carlyle Wrote Sartor Resartus

I mean, my wife usually has me swear on the nearest holy text at hand that, upon going to some gathering, I shall not say anything controversial, personal, nor problematic. In short, mum's the word. There is a very, very short list of poses and postures I am allowed, most of them coming down to unobtrusively standing mute, but with a knowing smile plastered on my face like some hideous poultice for a scrofulous pimple. And if this does not work, if the effect of my oath wears off, and I find myself blurting out opinions, a swift, firm kick under the table usually serves to remind me.
Beyond this, I pretty much talk the way I write. I actually say things like "arduous", and "onerous", and "crapulous", words that usually make us wish we had a dictionary close at hand, preferably to "bean" me with.

I say things like "Obit anus, abit onus." and so on, laugh about Fermi's lab under the football bleachers at U. of Chicago, and tell jokes about G.E.Moore. So upon hearing that person X actually wants to hear something Y from my lips, you may imagine my surprise Z.
So I made a toast:  
Esteem Honor and Loyalty. Be fierce in Love and Friendship. Be firm in your commitments, be unswerving in your devotion, be truthful, be devout. Be all those things that have dropped out of fashion within my lifetime. Be real Men and Women, not mannequins of Materialism . 
Giorgio de Chirico presaged our generation in his enigmatic paintings: the faceless mannequins which conveyed a sense of desuetude and ennui. I feel like Winston Smith, standing before the infinitely reflecting mirror in his love nest in the proletarian section of the city: brief freedom... We are the living!... Only to have the Thought Police respond from behind the mirror: You are the dead! Escape, young people! Escape our castle enchanted by endless sleep! Escape from the cold marble of the winter cenotaphs we have laid over the Earth!

Am I Thomas Carlyle? Remade? From full clothe, yet twice? Or more?

No comments: