adam's Reviews > Sartor Resartus

Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle
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Jul 15, 07

it was amazing
Read in July, 2007

"Considering our present advanced state of culture, and how the Torch of Science has now been brandished and borne about, with more or less effect, for five thousand years and upwards... so that not the smallest cranny or doghole in Nature or Art can remain unilluminated, -- it might strike the reflective mind with some surprise that hitherto little or nothing of a fundamental character, whether in the way of Philosophy or History, has been written on the subject of Clothes."

So begins the fictional editor of Carlyle's Sartor Resartus ("The Tailor Re-Tailored"), who proceeds to make it his job to introduce to the British public just such a Philosophy of Clothes which has been written by an largely unknown German, Diogenes Teufelsdrockh (last name translates as "devil's s**t"). The problem for the editor, however, is that he can not simply translate the work and present it to a British audience, as he believes that in order to transplant the work into foreign soil, it is necessary to present the man as well as his work. Thus, the editor must not only present Teufelsdrockh's ideas, but an account of life; however, this project itself is compromised when an associate of Teufelsdrockh's offers to send the editor his autobiographical writings but instead he receives "Six considerable Paper-Bags... the inside of which sealed Bags, lie miscellaneous masses of Sheets, and oftener Shreds and Snips, written in Professor Teufelsdrockh's scare-legible cursiv-schrift; and treating of all imaginable things under the Zodiac and above it, but of his own personal history only at rare intervals, and then in the most engimatic character!"

The editor's attempt to weave together fragments of Teufelsdrockh's Philosophy of Clothes along with fragments of his history is absolutely hilarious. This book is not only funny, but philosophically engaging, as Teufelsdrockh's writings and the editor's challenges engage with problems explored by the German Enlightenment as well as Utilitarianism and other contemporary thought. Sartor Resartus is not for the faint of heart, but it is certainly as rewarding as it is challenging; a truly important work of the 19c, it is an unique and outstanding piece of creative prose in line with Swift, Sterne and Fielding.

Finally, I think it provides what will be my epithet (which Teufelsdrockh's was asked to compose for a Count: "Here lies... Who during his sublunary existence destroyed with lead five thousand partridges and openly turned into dung, through himself and his servants, quadrupeds and bipeds, not without tumult in the process, ten thousand million pounds of assorted food. He now rests from labour, his works following himn. If you seek his monument, look at the dung-heap. He mad his first kill on earth [date]; his last [date]."
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by meredith (new)

meredith So, every time I see this title, I think it says "Sartorus Rexus," like some kind of existential dinosaur.


message 2: by Cody (new)

Cody Aside from the Allosaurus and the Brontosaurus, Sartorus Rex is my favorite dinosaur.


message 3: by cathy (new)

cathy HA! I've always been curious about this book. Tell me more?


message 4: by Cody (new)

Cody Sadly, my aquaintance with this work is purely reputational, as it's fairly notorious in the English canon. I just know that it's quite experimental, especially in terms of narrative. Plus, it has a character named Teufelsdröckh. That's worth a perusal right there, in my humble opinion.

A little help, Adam, O Victorian scholar?


Marcus Did you make up that epithet? I can't find it in the book, but I think it's brilliant. Hopefully you're still around to answer this seeing as your review is 3 years old now...


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