Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Nunc in Quidnuncitate. — “It is true there is in such a population, of itself, no help at all towards reconstruction of the wreck of your Niagara plunge; of themselves they, with whatever cry of ‘liberty’ in their mouths, are inexorably marked by Destiny as slaves ; and not even the immortal gods could make them free,—except by making them anew and on a different pattern. No help in them at all, to your model Aristocrat, or to any noble man or thing. But then likewise there is no hindrance, or a minimum of it! Nothing there in bar of the noble Few, who we always trust will be born to us, generation after generation; and on whom and whose living of a noble and valiantly cosmic life amid the worst impediments and hugest anarchies, the whole of our hope depends. Yes, on them only! If amid the thickest welter of surrounding gluttony and baseness, and what must be reckoned bottomless anarchy from shore to shore, there be found no man, no small but invincible minority of men, capable of keeping themselves free from all that, and of living a heroically human life, while the millions round them are noisily living a mere beaverish or doglike one, then truly all hope is gone. But we always struggle to believe Not. Aristocracy by title, by fortune and position, who can doubt but there are still precious possibilities among the chosen of that class? And if that fail us, there is still, we hope, the unclassed Aristocracy by nature, not inconsiderable in numbers, and supreme in faculty, in wisdom, human talent, nobleness and courage, ‘who derive their patent of nobility direct from Almighty God’. If indeed these also fail us, and are trodden out under the unanimous torrent of brutish hoofs and hobnails, and cannot vindicate themselves into clearness here and there, but at length cease even to try it,—then indeed it is all ended: national death, scandalous ‘Copper-Captaincy’ as of France, stern Russian Abolition and Erasure as of Poland; in one form or another, well deserved annihilation, and dismissal from God’s universe, that and nothing else lies ahead for our once heroic England too.” [1]

Englishmen have contracted a kind of sickness, maybe incurable, perhaps now inbred, in the fever whereof they trade whatever dear and irrecoverable goods they might hold in return for cheap consumable goods and shiny visions of a marketed future. If it is incurable, if it is innate and inalienable, then they cannot persist for long on the earth, not even as the magpie-vulgarians that they now are. Even the essentials of their existence they would trade for the inessentials of comfort and image. A mindless congratulation of their own ideological kind is so engrained in them by whiggish habit that, even if and whilst deploring the state in which they find themselves, they still praise and take as sacrosanct the very way by which they reached it — and they demand and plead to go further by the same way! The egalitarian-libertarian spirit amongst them has all but destroyed a titled aristocracy set apart from beaverish existence, and it will surely do its best to destroy an untitled kind too. Genius, talent, even finally the meanest advantage, would all be thwarted by their insane demand — their eleutheromania — for that impossible condition, for men at least, of equal liberty for all. The world might have done well long ago to have set the body of their nation in quarantine, and have sought a cure, or, failing that, to have driven a stake through the heart of that old vampire of the continent, but now it is a little too late.

[1] Thomas Carlyle, Shooting Niagara: and After? (London: Chapman & Hall, 1867), pp.23-4; original emphases.


Thras said...

A number of people mention that Carlye called Napoleon "the scandalous copper Captain" at some point, but I can't find where. Other than your quote above, of course.

Deogolwulf said...

I think he uses the phrase to refer to plebiscite dictatorship in general and to Napoleons I and III in particular as the pioneers of the form. I found this in reference to the later Napoleon:

“Did you ever hear of such a thing as this suicidal Finis of the French ‘Copper Captaincy’; gratuitous Attack on Germany, and ditto Blowing-up of Paris by its own hand!”

Letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson, 4th June 1871, in The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson (Boston: Ticknor & Co., 1888), p.378.

TGGP said...

they cannot persist for long on the earth
How long is that?

Deogolwulf said...

1 spurik, or 526 years, 7 days, 4 hours, 11 minutes, 19 seconds, and 54 milliseconds.

TGGP said...

I had never heard of the "spurik" unit before. It sounds like it could be German, but I only find references to it as a name. Did you just coin it after someone in particular?