Sartor Resartus Resartus

Brilliantly original and insightful as Herr Prof. Doktor Teufelsdröckh’s Clothes, Their Origin and Influence remains more than a century and three-quarters after its initial appearance in print, a recent trip from Denver via London to Rome served as a reminder that a new—or, at least, a revised—Philosophy of Clothes is an essential need of what remains of civilization at the beginning of the 21st century.

The good Doktor’s book, which is not always readily comprehensible, evinces a certain ambivalence toward both its subject and its own attitude regarding that subject, while Professor Teufelsdröckh’s English editor, a Mr. Thomas Carlyle, seems positively schizophrenic in respect of it.  On the one hand, Teufelsdröckh is skeptical to the point of suspiciousness, and even enmity, of clothes as artificial distinctions that separate man from his brother.  “The beginning of all Wisdom,” he writes, “is to look fixedly on clothes, or even with armed eyesight, until they become transparent.”  Writing in a quite different mood, Teufelsdröckh says:

Matter exists only spiritually, and to represent some Idea, and body it forth.  Hence, Clothes, as despicable as we think them, are so unspeakably significant.  Clothes, from the King’s mantle downwards are emblematic. . . . [Yet]...

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