The Carlylean Dilemma: The Riddle of Destiny

  • Michael Timko


How can one account, then, for the ‘failure’ of the Sage of Chelsea to convince his readers of the validity of his vision? Why did he resort, finally, to writing latter-day pamphlets instead of essays in the vein of Sartor Resartus? The answer lies, it would seem, in his inability wholly to convince himself and others of his belief in the primacy of either the ‘natural’ or the ‘supernatural’. Each seemed to have equal claim; neither could assert any kind of final proof over the other. The sky and the earth were everywhere evident, and, like so many of his followers, Carlyle simply could not fully reject one or the other. True, he professed his belief in a unified universe, and his assertive image seemed to convey this faith; in the final analysis, however, he could not come down unquestioningly on one side or the other. He refused to, or could not, answer the riddle of the Sphinx.


Outer Sphere Strong Leader Retributive Justice Equal Claim Final Attempt 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Louis Cazamian, Carlyle, translated by E. K. Brown (Archon Books, 1966; originally published 1932), pp. 106, 151.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    For an excellent treatment of Carlyle’s interest in Novalis and ‘Nature’ see Laurence Poston, ‘Millites and Millienniums: The Context of Carlyle’s “Signs of the Times”’, VS, 26 (1983), pp. 381–406.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Michael Timko 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Timko
    • 1
  1. 1.City University of New YorkUSA

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