One of the most vital and pregnant books in our modern literature, Sartor Resartus is also, in structure and form, one of the most daringly original. It defies exact classification. It is not a philosophic treatise. It is not an autobiography. It is not a romance. Yet in a sense it is all these combined. Its underlying purpose is to expound in broad outline certain ideas which lay at the root of Carlyle’s whole reading of life.
, it has none the less many important practical bearings. Since "all Forms whereby Spirit manifests itself to sense, whether outwardly or in the imagination, are Clothes," civilisation and everything belonging to it--our languages, literatures and arts, our governments, social machinery and institutions, our philosophies, creeds and rituals--are but so many vestments woven for itself by the shaping spirit of man. Indispensable these vestments are; for without them society would collapse in anarchy, and humanity sink to the level of the brute. Yet here again we must emphasise the difference, already noted, between the foolish man and the wise. The foolish man once more assumes that the vestments exist for themselves, as ultimate facts, and that they have a value of their own. He, therefore, confuses the life with its clothing; is even willing to sacrifice the life for the sake of the clothing. The wise man, while he, too, recognises the necessity of the vestments, and indeed insists upon it, knows that they ha