From The Archive
Thomas Carlyle
No. 27  March 2015

Science of Clothes



Whereto does all this lead; or what use is in it? In the way of replenishing thy purse, or otherwise aiding thy digestive faculty, O British Reader, it leads to nothing, and there is no use in it; but rather, the reverse, for it costs thee somewhat. Nevertheless, if through this unpromising Horngate, Teufelsdröckh, and we by means of him, have led thee into the true Land of Dreams; and through the Clothes-Screen, as through a magical Pierre-Pertuis, thou lookest, even for moments, into the region of the Wonderful, and seest and feelest that thy daily life is girt with Wonder, and based on Wonder, and thy very blankets and breeches are Miracles,—then art thou profited beyond money’s worth, and hast a thankfulness towards our Professor; nay, perhaps in many a literary Tea-circle, wilt open thy kind lips, and audibly express that same.

All Symbols are properly Clothes; . . . all Forms whereby Spirit manifests itself to Sense, whether outwardly or in the imagination, are Clothes; and thus not only the parchment Magna Charta, which a tailor was nigh cutting into measures, but the Pomp and Authority of Law, the sacredness of Majesty, and all inferior Worships (Worth-ships) are properly a Vesture and Raiment; and the Thirty-nine Articles themselves are articles of wearing apparel (for the Religious Idea). In which case, must it not also be admitted that this Science of Clothes is a high one, and may with infinitely deeper study on thy part yield richer fruit: that it takes scientific rank behind Codification, and Political Economy, and the Theory of the British Constitution; nay, rather, from its prophetic height looks down on all these, as on so many weaving-shops and spinning-mills, where the Vestures which it has to fashion, and consecrate, and distribute, are, too often by haggard hungry operatives who see no farther than their nose, mechanically woven and spun?

from Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (1834). Don’t ask us.

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