Sartor Resartus

ISBN: 0192836730
ISBN 13: 9780192836731
By: Thomas Carlyle Kerry McSweeney Peter Sabor

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About this book

'Sartor Resartus' ("The Tailor Retailored") is ostensibly an introduction to a strange history of clothing by the German Professor of Things in General, Diogenes Teufelsdrockh; its deeper concerns are social injustice, the right way of living in the world, and the large questions of faith and understanding. This is the first edition to present the novel as it originally appeared, with indications of the changes Carlyle made to later editions.

Reader's Thoughts


Picked this up because it was mentioned repeatedly in Aldous Huxley's "Door's of Perception." Then I learned it was about Dandies and clothing. That really got my interest. I can't cite any specific examples to illustrate why it was such a difficult read because I read this more than 15 years ago. However, after reading some of the reviews I am glad I am not the only one. (I too loved Moby Dick which most people think is the dullest book ever written). If you enjoy dense philosophical treatises, this may be to your liking. Maybe you need an Oxford education to really get the jokes.


Sartor Resartus, which means "The Tailor Re-tailored" is ostensibly a book on "The Philosophy of Clothing" by a German author, Herr Diogenes Teufelsdrockh. We're told that this is the English translation from the original German. But, this is much more than a translation. The translator feels that in order to make the book more accessible to his English audience, he should include copious commentary and background. In the end, not only do we get the the translation of the original along with the editor's commentary but we also get a biography of Teufelsdrockh assembled from the strange and seemingly random contents of six sealed paper bags which the editor has come into possession of, and which he plans to deposit later at the British Museum.This is all great, except that Teufelsdrockh is fictional along with the German version of the book and the six paper bags. So it's a fictional translation by a fictional editor of a fictional book that turns out to actually be a rather hilarious semi-autobiograhical portrayal of Carlyle and his thoughts.At times it's parody of Hegel, at other times it's religious and existential musings then later it's political and philosophical commentary. All that alone would be enough, but couple it with Carlyle's brobdingagian (big) vocabulary, his dream-like writing style and now obscure references to historical and contemporary (for him) events and you get a fascinating book that is unique in many ways.I thought it was funny, insightful and memorable. I loved the writing style, and though it took me several months to read it, it was worth the effort. You can find it for free on Google Books, Gutenberg etc.Here are a couple of existential quotations from the book:Are we not Spirits, that are shaped into a body, into an Appearance; and that fade away again into air and Invisibility? This is no metaphor, it is a simple scientific fact: we start out of Nothingness, take figure, and are Apparitions; round us, as round the veriest spectre, is Eternity; and to Eternity minutes are as years and aeons. Come there not tones of Love and Faith, as from celestial harp-strings, like the Song of beatified Souls? And again, do not we squeak and gibber (in our discordant, screech-owlish debatings and recriminatings); and glide bodeful, and feeble, and fearful; or uproar (poltern), and revel in our mad Dance of the Dead,—till the scent of the morning air summons us to our still Home; and dreamy Night becomes awake and Day?Motivational:'So bandaged, and hampered, and hemmed in,' groaned he, 'with thousand requisitions, obligations, straps, tatters, and tagrags, I can neither see nor move: not my own am I, but the World's; and Time flies fast, and Heaven is high, and Hell is deep: Man! bethink thee, if thou hast power of Thought! Why not; what binds me here? Want, want!—Ha, of what?Do stuff!A certain inarticulate Self-consciousness dwells dimly in us; which only our Works can render articulate and decisively discernible. Our Works are the mirror wherein the spirit first sees its natural lineaments. Hence, too, the folly of that impossible Precept, Know thyself; till it be translated into this partially possible one, Know what thou canst work at.


Djuna Barnes certainly read this. Buried in the last chapter, I recently found a phrase she used for a chapter title in Nightwood. "Watchman, what of the Night".I read Sartor Resartus repeatedly, with joy.


A fictional biographer wrastles with hoary Teufelsdrockh's philosophy of clothes--a crazy ideology that uses clothing to explain all sorts of things about society, relationships, religion and the world. This book meanders delightfully, covering details of the clothes philosophy, Teufelsdrockh's life and the biographer's writing process. The prose is some of the most beautiful and engaging stuff I've read in awhile.


A very complex read, but quite insightful once you get to the core of the message.

Robert Wechsler

Here's a book that is impossible for me to rate. And it is the reason I have not rated most of the books I read in my youth. I wrote my college thesis on this book, but when I came back to it in my 50s, I couldn't read it. Carlyle's baroque prose, which thrilled me so much at 21, drove me crazy at 51.I know that this is one of the great works of the English language, that it even helped create the modern English language (e.g., the word "environment" in its modern sense occurred first in this book), that this book helped lead to such disparate things as Christian Science (it was first published in book form by Emerson in New England) and Dickens. Its importance is undeniable, and its pleasures are myriad.And yet I can't read it anymore. Nor can I, for example, read early Pynchon anymore, or most Romantic poetry. On the other hand, I love Faulkner far more than I did when I was young. One changes.It is horrifying that this book has a 3.64 overall rating. Is it only a little better than average? Paradise Lost has a 3.75 rating, and I think it is the greatest work in the English language. Other languages would kill to have it. To hear it recited from memory, as I have, is an incomparable experience. So much for ratings.


comic, mennippean 19th century novel that takes the form of an exegesis and biography of fictional philosopher Diogenes Teufelsdroeckh and his controversial discourse on clothes. DT's religious ramblings (The Everlasting Yea, etc.) remind me of the writing on Dr. Bronner's soap bottles, and the philosophizing on clothes-worship goes beyond dandyism and into total zaniness (legal rights for scarecrows, a gown that reigns on for years after its king has passed).


"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]."


One of the strangest books I've ever read. Utterly delirious and totally wonderful. It probably deserves 5 stars, but I'm giving it four because, well, it's awfully hard. This is probably not fair of me. It requires serious concentration on the reader's part, and even then, it's so bizarre and outlandish that you feel like you're barely skimming the surface of it. A truly remarkable book.


i have a sneaking suspicion that i shall forever be currently-reading this book.Update - suspicion confirmed. After the 4th attempt I think I've given up hope - it starts off well with some amazing language but nothing happens - and this is from someone who loves moby dick in which nothing happens for most of the book and someone who read gravity's rainbow in barely anything happens and it doesn't happen in incomprehensible ways - but then again, the only reason I read that was because I was in india by myself - perhaps I need similar seclusion to finally finish this one.


SARTOR RESARTUS. (1835). Thomas Carlyle. ***.I couldn’t finish it. I gave it three stars out of guilt because I know it is an important book, both in the career of Carlyle and in the progress and support of the Transcendental movement. It was highly praised by Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. It is typically included as an additional reading assignment in courses in literature and philosophy. I couldn’t finish it. What it is is a review of a book by an editor – presumably Carlyle – of a manuscript delivered to him in six separate bags. The title of the manuscript is Sartor Resartus. That means, in Latin, “The Tailor Patched.” It represents the thoughts and philosophy of its writer, Herr Diogenes TeufelsdrÖckh, who was a German professor of “Allerly Wissenschaft” or, “Things in General, in the University of Weissnichtwo (literally, ‘I know not where.’ The thesis of this work was that clothes and their history were a reflection of both the past and future of mankind. The tailor in this case was the great “Clothes Philosopher,” and the patching being done by Carlyle as his editor. Finding unknown manuscripts is pretty common these days, but it may well have been novel in Carlyle’s day – although I can think of earlier examples. As the editor, Carlyle never really presents the manuscript, but quotes extensively from it. He uses these quotes to both describe the work and to bolster his own philosophies. The author uses a variety of attributes for clothing. For example, Names. “The Name is the earliest garment you wrap around the earth-visiting ME; to which it thenceforth cleaves, more tenaciously (for there are Names that have lasted nigh thirty centuries) than the very skin.” Lots of the work is also a chance for Carlyle to make fun of the over-serious German philosophers of his day – even though much of his work involved the translation of several of the German classics. There is a lot here in this book, but you (at least I did) must be close to an encyclopedic reference work (like the internet) to give meaning to Carlyle’s turgid expositions. The style is so pedantic and superior that one cannot read this at any kind of normal speed. I found myself reading the same sentence several times before I finally got its meaning. I hate to admit it, but I’ve passed that stage in my life where I have to approach a book like that.

Esther Bradley-detally

I had to read this in an English class at UCI; I remember reading Carlyle's concept of the world needing new clothes or a tailor. I had a heavy, heavy Green Norton Reader, and Sartor Resartus was one of the many tissued papered pieces. I wrote "ugh" in red ink in the margins, and when the professor asked his class (mostly young people) and then me, early 40s returning student, they were silent, and I finally ventured that I wrote "Ugh" in the margin. He swallowed.And then I said, "I found this difficult and dense," and he nodded his head, and then I said, Does Carlyle mean, The world needs Divine Educators (my words) or Beings who come and renew the world's spiritual teachings? Does Carlyle mean each age needs a new garment or dress?He nodded yes.In the 1800s there was a Messianic fervor and people from around the globe sensed something was up. People were looking for the "return" of Christ, scholars were searching for prophecies revealed in the Quran. The concept is progressive revelation. The only reason I understood Carlyle that day or any other was because my understanding of progressive revelation is:God is an Unknowable Essence, an Essence we cannot understand or perceive. think of the sun; we don't know the sun's essence, but we know its attributes or qualities. On the next level, is the dimension/station of Prophets/Messengers/Manifestations. At periodic intervals in humankind's history, these Divine Beings, Prophets, etc., come and reveal God's teachings for the age. They always refer to each other and to the advent of the next Manifestation. Spiritual teachings are the same. It's the social teachings for the age that are changed. It's like a giant chapter book.But I don't want to trivialize this issue. It is a core pattern. Religions go through seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and the spirit of that religion is darkened by many changes added to its practices. The essence of all religion is at its core, and we are one; we only differ on secondary issues.We have been in our infancy, childhood, and now coming out of an adolescence as a human race. Poets, Prophets, Seers speak of a golden age on earth. As a Baha'i, I offer your consideration that God doesn't leave humankind alone, and that a new era is emerging, and Baha'is believe in Baha'u'llah. I'll end there; Our Faith is 170 years old, and we believe in the unity of all of these Great Prophets. We have ended a cycle of prophesy (from Adam to Mohammed) and now have entered into the age of fulfillment.I was struck when an English student a long time ago; how enlightened people all over our globe picked up on a sense of things - sometimes they were very close to the mark, and other times not.I am sharing this; one must investigate the Baha'i Faith independently, so the above words are my view based on my study of the Baha'i Writings.All of this from a tissue papered page in a heavy green Book, and my red "Ugh," in the margins.

Dara Salley

I really gave this book a try. At times I thought that maybe I was enjoying it. In the end, however, the experience was decidedly negative.What is most annoying about “Sartor Resartus” is the language. The author uses a jocular and familiar tone that I believe is supposed to be engaging. He is constantly making jokes that may have been funny in 1830, but are simply irritating to the modern reader. The author has some genuinely interesting ideas and insights but there are lost in long stretches of uninteresting musings,I would never recommend this book to anyone. I highly doubt that any of my friends or loved ones would ever consider reading this book, but if they are so foolhardy as to try I would urge them against it.

Matthew Dentice

Every so often, there comes along a book that seems to have been written specifically for you at this particular point in your life. For me, that book was Sartor Resartus, Thomas Carlyle's life of his fictional "philosopher of clothing," the eminent but highly eccentric Diogenes Teufelsdrockh, Professor of Things in General at the Rational University of Weissnichtwo, Germany. The novel begins as a hilarious and highly-entertaining satire but evolves into an extended meditation about finding the strength to believe in God despite the sorrows and hardships of life in an unbelieving world. Humorous and profound by turns - and often at the exact same time - Sartor Resartus is a very special little book and one I cannot praise highly enough.


When I first began reading this book, I felt like it was grammatical insanity. The long, twisting and turning sentences that didn't seem to end just put me right to sleep. I mean, I actually left the book by my bedside and used it as a sleep aide. For this reason, I was glad to have found it. But then one day, years later, I found a bunch of photocopied pages from the text and not knowing they were Carlyle's I became very absorbed in them. It was strange because Carlyle's writing is pretty easy to ID. I think that a person has to be in a certain mood or mental orientation to read Carlyle. This is not a book that should be assigned because it easily becomes work. But if you just pick it up without any pressure and surrender yourself to the context that he creates, it can be thought-provoking and entertaining.

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