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

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.


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, 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.


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.

Andrew Schirmer

They simply don't make 'em like they used to...Sartor Resartus is one of Carlyle's supreme creations, to be sat alongside the towering achievement of his French Revolution. It's a sort of novel-cum-philosophical-treatise-cum-satire, a lumbering behemoth full of ideas and overheated prose. Did I mention that it's also rather funny. This is a great book to read drunk as, presumably, many in the 19th century did. From out of a cloud of pipe smoke comes Diogenes Teufelsdroeckh, a professor of "Allerley-Wissenschaft" (Things in General) at the University of Weissnichtwo (Who Knows Where) who has affected to form a "Philosophy of Clothes" (Kleider). The narrator has discovered this work, and presents key passages with digressions, as well the story of Professor Teufelsdroekh himself. As the work progresses, the elements constituting a Philosophy of Clothes are only gradually revealed until nearly the end of the book, when, in high satire, we encounter the dandiacal body: What Teufelsdroekh would call a 'Divine Idea of Cloth' is born with him; and this, like other such Ideas, will express itself outwardly, or wring his heart asunder with unutterable throes. But, like a generous, creative enthusiast, he fearlessly makes his Idea an Action; shows himself in peculiar guise to mankind; walks forth, a witness and living Martyr to the eternal worth of Clothes. We called him a Poet; is not his body the (stuffed) parchment-skin whereupon he writes, with cunning Huddersfield dyes, a Sonnet to his mistress' eyebrow? Say, rather, an Epos, and Clotha Virumque cano [ha! -ed], to the whole world, in Macaronic verses, which he that runs may read...Is it a skewering of a sort of materialism? I am not very well-read in philosophy, and therefore am perhaps unqualified to evaluate this work as it pertains to that discipline. It would be a pleasure to enroll in a seminar on Carlyle and German idealism and truly tease out all the references in this dense work. My opinions of this work, and undoubtedly those of other readers as well, are perhaps best summed up by Carlyle himself. It were a piece of vain flattery to pretend that this Work on Clothes entirely contents us; that it is not, like all works of genius, like the very Sun, which, though the highest published creation, or work of genius, has nevertheless black spots and troubled nebulosities amid its effulgence,--a mixture of insight, inspiration, with dulness, double-vision, and even utter blindness.


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).


I observe that Carlyle had trouble finding a publisher. Having just completed the work, I am not surprised. Reading other reviews, I feel someone should shout out that this particular king is in the altogether.


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.

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.


Carlyle's wide-ranging exploration of German Idealism, Transcendentalism, Calvinist theology and other subjects is far more entertaining than it may sound. The premise (fictional) of the book is that a new work on the Philosophy of Clothes from a hitherto unknown German intellectual (Diogenes Teufelsdrockh) has been presented to the editor and he in turn wishes to present this important document, along with some background on Teufelsdrockh himself, to English readers. That a Philosophy of Clothes should even be a serious subject of investigation hints at the boldly tongue-in-cheek humor that Carlyle is engaging us in here. However, the "excerpts" from the nonexistent treatise and Teufelsdrockh's fictional biography are merely springboards from which far more profound subjects are explored. While I do not agree with all the aspects of Carlyle's philosophy, the beauty of the book is in the language, which can be heart-breakingly sublime as well as outrageously funny, much as Shakespeare could be. In fact, I'd say that Carlyle's command of language is worthy of comparison to that of Shakespeare, and as such he deserves to be read and re-read. My edition is provided with numerous footnotes and explanatory annotations, which served to illuminate many of the obscure references in the text, and I'd recommend that other readers seek out such interpretive help; otherwise, much of the text can be quite befuddling.


If ever a book can be described as different is this, ostensibly a book about a book about fashion this is a satire on a type of book that was possibly around a lot at that time and is still recognisable today, when he writes about being unable to read books highly recommended by the pretentiarati you feel for him having likewise having attempted to read recent booker winners.Good for bragging rights towards those who think Hilary Mantel is Da Bomb.


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


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.


Absolutely dreadful, incomprehensible book that was the turning point in my master's degree. I decided not to do a ph.D after trying to read this dreck. I wanted a plot, dialogue, and real characters with a happy ending. The day I threw that book against the wall was the first day of the rest of my life :) A bit dramatic, but actually what really happened.


"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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