Coordinates of Anglo-American romanticism

 Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 I. An Anglo-American Nexus
 II. The empirical/evangelical dialectic...
 III. The empirical/evangelical...
 Works cited
University Press of Florida
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00100422/00001

Material Information

Title: Coordinates of Anglo-American romanticism Wesley, Edwards, Carlyle & Emerson
Physical Description: xi, 207 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Brantley, Richard E
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville


Subjects / Keywords: English prose literature -- History and criticism -- 19th century   ( lcsh )
American prose literature -- History and criticism -- 19th century   ( lcsh )
Romanticism -- English-speaking countries   ( lcsh )
Philosophy, American -- 19th century   ( lcsh )
Philosophy, English -- 19th century   ( lcsh )
Literature -- Philosophy   ( lcsh )
Romantiek   ( gtt )
Letterkunde   ( gtt )
Amerikaans   ( gtt )
Engels   ( gtt )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 181-196) and index.
Statement of Responsibility: Richard E. Brantley.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 26129457
lccn - 92022954
isbn - 0813011698 (acid-free paper)
Classification: lcc - PR778.R65 B7 1993
ddc - 828/.80809
bcl - 18.06
bcl - 18.05
System ID: UF00100422:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00100422/00001

Material Information

Title: Coordinates of Anglo-American romanticism Wesley, Edwards, Carlyle & Emerson
Physical Description: xi, 207 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Brantley, Richard E
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville


Subjects / Keywords: English prose literature -- History and criticism -- 19th century   ( lcsh )
American prose literature -- History and criticism -- 19th century   ( lcsh )
Romanticism -- English-speaking countries   ( lcsh )
Philosophy, American -- 19th century   ( lcsh )
Philosophy, English -- 19th century   ( lcsh )
Literature -- Philosophy   ( lcsh )
Romantiek   ( gtt )
Letterkunde   ( gtt )
Amerikaans   ( gtt )
Engels   ( gtt )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 181-196) and index.
Statement of Responsibility: Richard E. Brantley.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 26129457
lccn - 92022954
isbn - 0813011698 (acid-free paper)
Classification: lcc - PR778.R65 B7 1993
ddc - 828/.80809
bcl - 18.06
bcl - 18.05
System ID: UF00100422:00001

Table of Contents
    Half Title
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
    I. An Anglo-American Nexus
        Page 7
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    II. The empirical/evangelical dialectic of Thomas Carlyle
        Page 43
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    III. The empirical/evangelical dialectic of Ralph Waldo Emerson
        Page 77
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    Works cited
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Full Text

Coordinates of Anglo-American Romanticism

- I-

I I .

I I,

Coordinates of

Anglo American



Richard E. Brantley

Gainesville Tallahassee Tampa BocaRaton Pensacola Orlando Miami Jacksonville

Copyright 1993 by the Board of Regents of the State of Florida
Printed in the U.S. on acid-free paper
All Rights Reserved

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Brantley, Richard E.
Coordinates of Anglo-American romanticism: Wesley, Edwards,
Carlyle, and Emerson / Richard E. Brantley.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-8130-II69-8 (acid-free paper)
1. English prose literature-Igth century-History and criticism.
2. American prose literature-19th century-History and criticism.
3. Philosophy, American-I9th century. 4. Philosophy, English-19th
century. 5. Romanticism-Great Britain. 6. Romanticism-United
States. 7. Literature-Philosophy. I. Title.
PR778.R65B7 1993
828'.8o8o9-dczo 92-22954

Frontispiece: John Wesley (Museum of Methodism at Wesley's Chapel,
London); Jonathan Edwards, portrait by Joseph Badger (Yale University
Art Gallery, bequest of Eugene Phelps Edwards, 1938); Thomas
Carlyle, portrait by Samuel Lawrence (National Trust Photographic
Library/John Bethell, copyright National Trust 1991, London); Ralph
Waldo Emerson (Ralph Waldo Emerson Memorial Association and the
Houghton Library, Harvard University). All have been reproduced in
this volume by permission of the above-named rights holders.

Permission has graciously been granted to reprint those parts of chapter i that
first appeared as "The Common Ground of Wesley and Edwards" in the
Harvard Theological Review. Copyright 1990 by the President and Fellows of
Harvard College. Reprinted by permission.

The University Press of Florida is the scholarly publishing agency for the State
University System of Florida, comprised of Florida A & M University, Florida
Atlantic University, Florida International University, Florida State University,
University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of North
Florida, University of South Florida, University of West Florida.

University Press of Florida
15 Northwest i5th Street
Gainesville, Florida 32611

For my parents,
Rabun and Elizabeth Brantley


Acknowledgments / ix


Edwards: An Orientation / 8
Wesley and Edwards: An Overview / 9
A Document / xI
A Reading / 16
A Comparison / 31
An Epitome / 34
Ramifications / 36


Carlyle from 1827 to 1831 / 45
Carlyle from 1831 to 1850 / 55
Anglo-American Ground / 69
Intra-Romantic Connections / 70




A Bibliographical Orientation / 78
A Biographical Overview / 87
Nature / 97
Anglo-American Ground / xx8
Intra-Romantic Relationships / 123

Notes / jx5
Works Cited / x8i
Index / 197



My ongoing fascination with the triangle of philosophy, religion, and
literature exemplifies my principle that the near influence is always tell-
ing. Near influences on my thinking, specifically, have determined the
character of this book.
At Wake Forest University, where John A. Carter had kindled my en-
thusiasm for Carlyle and Emerson and where the late Judson B. Allen had
helped me generate methodology, I happened to combine, during my
senior year, Willard Hamrick's course in the Hebrew Prophets with Ed-
win G. Wilson's masterly exploration of English Romanticism. An
efficacious combination of tough mind and tender heart characterizes
both the Romanticism taught by Edwin Wilson and the outlook repre-
sented by the legendary teacher himself.
Although he grew up during the Great Depression, Wilson notes the
bittersweet nature, and even the joys, of that time. "I've always been a
rather hopeful and optimistic person," he says. "That is not to say that
the Romantic poets were naive or without pain or anguish. But it is to say
that there is something idealistic and something very heroic and compas-
sionate about Romanticism." This view of Romanticism, that it empha-
sizes optimism without either oversimplifying intellectual problems or
underestimating spiritual dilemmas, permeates my work.
My research at the University of Florida reflects the influence of the late
T. Walter Herbert, who was Distinguished Service Professor of English,
and of Melvyn New, former chair of the Department of English. Each
shared with me his knowledge of empirical philosophy and the evangeli-



cal movement as well as his readings of eighteenth- and nineteenth-
century literature.
Donald Ault, Ira Clark, Patricia Craddock, Alistair Duckworth, Anne
Goodwyn Jones, Robert Ray, John Seelye, R. A. Shoaf, James Twitchell,
Gregory Ulmer, and, above all, Diana Brantley solved several problems of
principle and procedure. The University of Florida Division of Sponsored
Research supported this project during the fall of 1986 and the summer of
1989. David Leverenz and A. Carl Bredahl, Jr., commented on portions
of chapter i.
I presented versions of this chapter to the American Academy of Re-
ligion in 1986, the Eighth Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological
Studies in 1987, and "Perspectives on the Romantic Movement: An Inter-
disciplinary Conference" at Baylor University in 1988. Gregory Clapper,
Frederick Dreyer, Giles Gunn, Richard Heitzenrater, T. Walter Herbert,
Jr., Robert Langbaum, Jay Losey, Rex Matthews, and Ralph C. Wood
gave various useful responses to the essay, which, as "The Common
Ground of Wesley and Edwards," appeared in the Harvard Theological
Review 83, no. 3 (July 1990): 271-303. I am grateful for permission to
use that material here.
L. J. Swingle, Leonard I. Sweet, and Samuel F. Pickering, Jr., read the
complete manuscript with generosity and in detail. Walda Metcalf and
Teresa Jesionowski, among many other excellent staff members of the
University Press of Florida, have expertly facilitated its progress through
to publication.
To those graduate students in my "special topics" seminar on Anglo-
American Romanticism, who entered into the spirit of the proceedings, I
am especially deeply indebted. Their agreement to venture back and forth
across the Atlantic supported my argument that Wesley, Edwards,
Carlyle, and Emerson bridge natural and spiritual experience. These stu-
dents' "willing suspension of disbelief" allowed them, if not to accept my
view that this quartet of writers can plot the coordinates and set the
parameters of Anglo-American Romanticism, then to indulge my "poetic
faith" that it does so.
I dedicate this book to those first best influences, my parents. Their
experience-validated view of the world champions my brother Bill's
career in science as well as my triangulation of philosophy, religion, and
literature. Their more than fifty-year commitment to southern church-


related colleges amounted to a mission. Since allusions to the Bible and
Shakespeare shaped the conversation in our house, literature came to
have a near-religious valuation. The dedication to Rabun and Elizabeth
Brantley indicates what I owe to them. Their approach to reality under-
girds me yet.



One mark of maturity, national as well as personal, is the desire to dis-
cover a bridge from the present to the past, to seek links between what is
and what was. American literature, now having come of age, having shed
the "adolescent" insecurity that demanded independence from tradition,
no longer needs to insist on complete separation from the literature of
England. "Anglo-American literature" emerges as a valid concept. John
Wesley (1703-91), founder of British Methodism, and Jonathan Edwards
(1703-58), leader of the American Great Awakening, exemplify a signifi-
cant link between the frequently still too narrowly conceived and usually
still too rigidly separated fields of British literature and American litera-
ture. A comparison of Wesley with Edwards, a view of their combined
legacy, provides an appropriately historical, substantially interdisciplin-
ary, and even sufficiently aesthetic means of comparing Thomas Carlyle
(1795-1881), Sage of Chelsea, with Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82),
Sage of Concord. Especially characteristic of this quartet of writers is the
creative tension between, and even the playful interaction of, empiricism
and evangelicalism.
Although empiricism is "natural" and evangelicalism is "spiritual," the
great principle of empiricism, that one must see for oneself and be in the /
presence of the thing one knows, applies as well to evangelical faith. Each
of these two methodologies operates along a continuum that joins emo-
tion to intellect; each joins externality to words through "ideas/ideals of J
sensation," that is, through perception or grace-in-perception or both.
While empiricism refers to immediate contact with and direct impact




from objects and subjects in time and place, evangelicalism entertains the
notions that religious truth is concerned with experiential presupposi-
tions and that experience need not be nonreligious. On the basis of the
experiential common denominator between empiricism and evangelical-
ism, through the "both/and" logic of philosophical theology, I argue that
Wesley, Edwards, Carlyle, and Emerson theologize empiricism. They
ground transcendentalism in the world, balance religious myths and re-
ligious morality with scientific reverence for fact and detail, and ally
empirical assumptions with "disciplined" spirit. Above all, they share the
simultaneously rational and sensationalist reliance on experience as the
avenue to both natural and spiritual knowledge.
Recent scholarship suggests that "any historically comprehensive treat-
ment of the topic 'literature and philosophy,' would eventually have to
treat three subjects, 'literature, philosophy, and theology,' with each sub-
ject triangulated by the other two."" In this work, I will attempt a histor-
ically fully unified treatment of these three subjects. Carlyle and Emerson
represent a rich strain of early modern literature, especially because their
heritage of Anglo-American philosophical theology is not only strong but
also largely intact in their works, which derive in great measure from the
empirical-evangelical influence. Whatever other heritages each reflects
(and both reflect so many that the pair can seem disparate), each holds to
the methodological axis of which I speak.
In an age of what Paul Ricoeur calls "the hermeneutics of suspicion,"2
or what might be called the latter-day Marxist/Nietzschean/Freudian ac-
ademic enterprise of detecting false consciousness, I find that Wesley,
Edwards, Carlyle, and Emerson hold to the moment-by-moment (or at
least momentary) efficacy of a consciousness more trustworthy than il-
lusory, more true than false. Wesley and Edwards, far from just validating
spiritual insights by borrowing from sense language, speak literally to
experience in general, including empirical observation, scientific method,
and apprehension of both God-in-nature and the unmediated Spirit.
Their shared methodology, harking back to the epistemology of John
Locke (1632-1704), not only links sense to reason and matter to mind
but, more importantly, aligns nature with grace. The Lockean basis of
their evangelical faith heralds the broadly experiential, "empirical-
evangelical" vision shared by Carlyle and Emerson, who, with more
awareness of worldview than of those who create worldviews and hence


with no blooming "anxiety of influence,"3 are intellectually as well as
spiritually descended from a charismatic diumvirate of the Anglo-
American world. Thus Wesley and Edwards form the background to a
broad consideration of Anglo-American literature as represented by one
British exemplar and one American exemplar of belletristic prose.
Whether self-consciously (with irony), consciously, or unconsciously,
Carlyle and Emerson reflect an Anglo-American philosophical theology
most notably expressed by Wesley and Edwards.

ROBERT LANGBAUM, arguing that Romanticism extends well into the
twentieth century, explores the proposition that Romanticism is not a
straightforwardly transcendentalizing/spiritualizing reaction against En-
lightenment rationality, common sense, and this-worldliness, but an evo-
lutionary development of some fundamental epistemological concerns in
Enlightenment thought.4 Romantic writers, like their Enlightenment
forebears stretching back to Locke and beyond, cultivate a powerfully
skeptical strain in their thinking.5 They worry about how we know things
and how we know that we know them. They are especially inclined to
address the problem by applying tests of experience, placing a primary
value on empirical evidence at the same time that they half-distrust sen-
sory experience. Although I follow the direction in Romantic studies
signaled by Langbaum's The Poetry of Experience (1957), I try to
broaden the idea of experience he makes central to such studies. The
transcendentalizing/spiritualizing tendency of the Romantics is by no
means inimical to the inclusively epistemological dialectic they inherited
from the Religious Enlightenment of Wesley and Edwards. The philo-
sophical theology shared by these twin pioneers of transatlantic revival-
ism is not only readable in its own right but also useful as the historical,
heuristic, interdisciplinary context for reading Carlyle and Emerson as
exemplars of Anglo-American Romanticism.
Although Romantic Modernism, or even Romantic Pragmatism, could
be a more accurate label than Late Modernism for what now may be
replacing deconstruction,6 Alvin Kernan, interpreting novels by Saul Bel-
low, Bernard Malamud, Vladimir Nabokov, and Norman Mailer, con-
cludes that we may be witnessing the end of "the Romantic literary
system" that has persisted for almost two hundred years.7 But even if
discrete Romanticism extended only well into the nineteenth century,8 I


still describe an ample arc of it. In Wordsworth's "Natural Methodism"
(1975), I used Wesley's theology to gloss Wordsworth's British Romanti-
cism: Wesley's evangelical versions of practical charity, reciprocal cove-
nant with the Holy Spirit, conversion, spiritual perfection, and the em-
blematic and typological "reading" of the Book of Nature influenced not
only Wordsworth's themes, but also his symbology, structure, tone, irony,
characterizations, and narrative patterns.9 In Locke, Wesley, and the
Method of English Romanticism (1984), I used Wesley's philosophical
theology to gloss British Romanticism in general: Wesley absorbed and
spiritualized the epistemology of Locke and then, through the complex
process of cultural osmosis, passed on to Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Shelley, and Keats a method for both their natural observation and their
"spiritual experience."10 Now, two hundred years after the death of
Wesley, I seek both to demonstrate what ideas Wesley and Edwards hold
in common (each is Lockean as well as religious) and to show how the
two provide an interdisciplinary framework for interpreting the Anglo-
American pairing of the Late Romantic writers Carlyle and Emerson.
Thus I will consider notable examples of mid-nineteenth-century prose
against the background of similarly notable, similarly nuanced, and even
"pre-Romantic" prose of the mid-eighteenth century, namely, the
empirical-evangelical methodology shared by Wesley and Edwards. Al-
though Marshall Brown attempts to revive the term pre-Romantic to
describe the "prematurity" of the second half of the eighteenth century,"1
I am not interested in simply casting Wesley and Edwards as forerunners
of Romanticism. Rather, I discern an empirical-evangelical continuum
that joins Wesley and Edwards to the Romantics and vice versa. Accord-
/ ingly, I seek to define the late but not belated Romanticism shared by
Carlyle and Emerson as a dialectic of their desire for and trust in experi-
ence as the best means of knowing what is true, whether naturally or
supernaturally. This Romanticism, a vital synthesis and complex entity
indeed, rests, like the sensibility shared by Wesley and Edwards, on the
fundamental yet lively principle that spiritual as well as natural experi-
ence gives rise to concepts and to words.
Thus, having already explored the influence of Wesley's philosophical
theology on British Romanticism, I offer a broader, Anglo-American, case
study in the sociology of ideas, as distinct from the history of ideas, with
its rootedness in elite culture. The lower- and middle-class followers and


readers of the middle-class poets, prose writers, and preachers in whom I
am interested are not often enough thought of, by some, as trafficking in
ideas at all. I seek, then, to pin down a philosophical/religious, popular,
optimistic dimension of Anglo-American Romanticism.

ALTHOUGH I UNDERSTAND that Carlyle and Emerson share an Anglo-
American sensibility, I take them one by one, for each, perhaps even more
than either Wesley or Edwards, constitutes a subject unto himself. Crit-
icism treating Carlyle, while rich and provocative, does not approach the
number or volume of studies treating Emerson; therefore, my chapter on
Emerson is longer than my chapter on Carlyle. This "disproportion"
could be seen as balancing my previous work with a current emphasis on
Anglo-American sensibility. The lack of balance, however, is finally only
apparent. Since my chapter on Emerson refers to and enlarges on my
chapter on Carlyle, a proper balance between these authors should
emerge from an essentially cumulative, progressively amplifying pro-
Two points of my philosophically theological triangle of Locke, Wesley,
and Edwards are British, as are all five of the High Romantic poets-
Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats-whom I continue to
treat. But I accord roughly equal space, nevertheless, to British and Amer-
ican cultures. Without either granting privilege to, or showing prejudice
against, the British or the American manifestation of the empirical-
evangelical sensibility, I seek to balance these nationally identified por-
tions of that sensibility.
An Anglo-American family resemblance is discernible through this
Anglo-American quartet of writers, for empirical-evangelical method is
one of the most important indigenous roots of Anglo-American literature
in the early modern world. I invite even late twentieth-century nonbeliev-
ers-in selves, male and female complementarities, presence, historical
contexts, national or "binational" characters, God, nature, experiential
epistemology, and the possibility, however bare, of religious knowledge-
to suspend their disbeliefs for the moment, in order to grant my meth-
odological investigation of Wesley, Edwards, Carlyle, and Emerson at
least a heuristic value of "poetic faith." If Lockean elements common to
the theologies of Wesley and Edwards illuminate key resemblances be-
tween the literatures of England and the United States during the early


modern era, this phenomenon emerges not just because Carlyle and
Emerson richly reflect an Anglo-American heritage of philosophical the-
ology but also because that heritage itself is rich.
Wesley and Edwards, no less than Carlyle and Emerson, achieve
through the dialectic of empiricism and evangelicalism the satisfying
complexity, the "both/and" logic, and even the ironizing tendency of all
good literature. The two national literatures can come together under a
broad understanding of literature as at once les belles lettres and les
bones lettres. Both "les bonnes lettres," the old "grand, broad, and
noble conception" that adds the hymns of Isaac Watts to the lyrics of
Wordsworth and the fiction of Harriet Beecher Stowe to that of Melville,
and "les belles lettres," the "narrower, more decadent" conception of the
written word, constitute the full and pertinent, though slightly stuffy,
definition of literature as "everything worthy to be said, preferably the
best thoughts expressed in the best manner, but above all the best
thoughts."12 Whatever reservations one may have about this pallid refer-
ence to Matthew Arnold's definition of literature as "the best that has
been thought and said," this unexamined assumption of morality's differ-
ence from, and superiority to, aesthetics, and this dubious judgment
concerning form versus content, one needs this twofold conception of
literature to grasp the "special relationship" between British culture and
American culture. Insofar as British literature and American literature
demonstrate the same rich vein of les belles lettres and the same pure vein
of les bonnes lettres, and insofar as the two veins are identical in content
and even sometimes similar in form, the two national literatures are one.
The twofold conception provides a broadly inclusive, sufficiently explana-
tory model for demonstrating a wide, rarely decadent, usually grand, and
sometimes noble Anglo-American sensibility. When compared with the
less ironic, though not less satisfactory or less complex, bonnelettristic
duo of Wesley and Edwards, Carlyle and Emerson clearly constitute a duo
in les belles lettres, but key resemblances between Wesley and Edwards
parallel-and even define-key resemblances between Carlyle and Emer-

Commonplaces stand in need of scrutiny. The special relationship be-
tween England and the United States is more than merely political, more
than merely linguistic, and even more than broadly cultural, for it is at
once, and perennially, intellectual and emotional. An especially useful
metaphor for this relationship is the special relationship between the
Englishman John Wesley and the American Jonathan Edwards. Although
they never consciously cooperated with one another, they contributed to
a variety of relations between their respective lands. Wesley founded
Methodist movements in both England and the United States, and Ed-
wards joined forces with the Briton George Whitefield, who undertook
the arduous journey to the colonies in order to participate in the Great
Awakening. Wesley and Edwards inspired popular evangelicalism in Brit-
ain and America from the 1730s, through the American Revolution, to
the end of the nineteenth century. By regarding them as emblematic, I
seek to delineate an especially enduring, because still resonating, Anglo-
American mode of thought and feeling. The intellectual sway and fervor
of Wesley and Edwards contributed to Anglo-American experience.
Whether or not the special relationship between England and the
United States rests in large part, even now, on an intellectual as well as
emotional frame of reference to nature and to spirit, this frame is not only
the considered construct of Wesley and Edwards but also their joint
legacy to the nineteenth century. Constituting an Anglo-American genius
loci, Wesley and Edwards express and disseminate their shared definition
of feeling and thought. Through their concerted roles as social forces,


An Anglo-American Nexus

I i


through an often indirect but sometimes direct and always propitious
process of cultural osmosis, they make up the very model of an Anglo-
American sensibility. Their religious methodologies are not, after all, so
far removed from even such early twentieth-century methods as the ver-
ification principles of the British A. J. Ayer and the pragmatism of the
American John Dewey. Many such "representative men"1 (one would say
"representative people") participate in the same binational entity, the
same "nature-culture coevolution"2 of Anglo-American relations.
This chapter, by examining the influence of Wesley and Edwards from
the broadest possible perspective, and by addressing their common
ground as one single subject, surveys an especially fertile ground of
Anglo-American expression. I will consider them philosophically, rather
than exclusively theologically, and approach them as methodologically
alert, even where they thought themselves simply orthodox. I seek to
demonstrate that they shared the same essentially Lockean insights that,
as I have previously argued, informed much of British literature and
theology from 1740 to 1840. I acknowledge differences between them,
yet I discover their common ground, the full character,of their two-way
special relationship. The twin pioneers of transatlantic revivalism are
brothers of both soul and mind in that both men appropriate Lockean
empiricism for religious methodology. Indeed, the philosophical as well
as religious epistemology of this charismatic diumvirate of the Anglo-
American world exemplifies the Anglo-American imagination.

Edwards: An Orientation
Although recent scholarship on Edwards emphasizes his conservatism
and his relation to Scottish Commonsense philosophy,3 Locke was a
formative influence on the Commonsense school. Edwards's indebtedness
to Locke4 is consistent with conservative principles in that Locke takes
account of both empiricism and "a theocentric framework."s Terrence
Erdt traces Edwards's language to its conservative source in Calvin and
emphasizes the aesthetic dimension of that language; he also acknowl-
edges that an understanding of Edwards's sense-language is central to an
understanding of Edwards.6 Roland Delattre argues that especially ac-
cording to The Nature of True Virtue (1765) divine being is both present


to humankind as beauty and known to humankind through emotion.7
Similarly, though with explicit reference to Locke, I maintain an
aesthetic-epistemological emphasis in my approach to Edwards's theol-
Sacvan Bercovitch regards with new respect the pioneering argument of
Perry Miller that Edwards is a Lockean.8 While I share this new respect, it
is time to discover new complexities in the Lockean view of Edwards. As I
confirm Wallace E. Anderson's conviction that Edwards "accepted
Locke's view that it is a wholly contingent matter that each mind receives
the sensory information it does,"9 I consider the consensus that although
Lockean ideas of sensation represent real qualities of bodies, real qualities
in Edwards's works are often identified only with "the fixed order and
relations of ideas."10 Moreover, although Miller's argument is exclusively
sense-oriented, my view of Locke's empiricism is that it is both sense- and
reason-based, a view consistent with Edwards's immersion in the catego-
ries of sense perception and his desire for the consent of mind to mind.
Whatever the merits, then, of the labels idealist, Platonist, scholastic,
Calvinist, and mystic, the labels empiricist and sensationalist are particu-
larly apt for Edwards in his eighteenth-century context. The "radical
theism" that Robert W. Jenson describes embraces what he sees as Ed-
wards's most characteristic themes: God's relation to nature and history,
religious experience, the presence of Christ, and the perfected human
community." But "radical theism" also includes the precisely philosophi-
cal, because specifically Lockean, theme of the here and now. Although
Edwards rejects Newton's cosmology of the universe as a machine, he
does not reject Locke's livelier, more down-to-earth world picture. De-
spite Edwards's life-long struggle with his age's Arminian tendency to-
ward autonomous individuality, his radical theism preserves Locke-
derived faith in individual experience.

Wesley and Edwards: An Overview
Charles Rogers, in his attempt to differentiate the pair, disclaims for
Edwards any affinity with Wesley's views about providence in general and
predestination in particular.12 Wesley's comments about Edwards's The
Freedom of the Will (1754) deplore its doctrines of irresistible grace and


unconditional election.13 Wesley's comments, however, approve of Ed-
wards where Edwards posits the experiential context of the soul as a given
of religious life: "The soul [quoted Wesley] is now connected with a
material vehicle, and placed in the material world. Various objects here
continually strike upon one or other of the bodily organs."14 Albert C.
Outler, on the basis of Wesley's published abridgments of five works by
Edwards, suggests that Edwards was a formative influence on Wesley.15
Without losing sight of Rogers's point of view, I concur with Outler's:
although Edwards referred to Wesley just once, and disparagingly,16
Wesley rejoiced in Edwards. Accordingly, I seek to establish the intellec-
tual as well as emotional sense in which they should be linked.
Frederick Dreyer sees them as intellectual polar opposites.
Edwards's thought was ultimately ontological and proceeded from the prem-
ise of necessary being. Wesley's was psychological and proceeded from the
premise of self-consciousness. Wesley is satisfied with the apparent truths
that ordinary mortals do in fact perceive. Edwards insists upon the necessary
truths they ought to perceive.17
Except that I would substitute epistemological for psychological, I am in
accord with Dreyer's estimate of Wesley, and Dreyer's estimate of Edwards
rings true in that Edwards's ontological moods indeed recur. His early
essay "On Being," for example, rests on a rationalistic base, the "platonic
traditions of idealism";18 and toward the end of his career, he clearly
retreats from any ostensible harmony of empiricism and faith to a rather
intransigent rationalism, a rationalism of the supernatural, if you will.
Wesley does not follow this path, for while believing in the supernatural
as much as anyone, Wesley holds to the senses and to sense-based reason.
In midcareer, however, Edwards comes close to having it both ways, as
Wesley does throughout his life. Against the view of Edwards as ex-
clusively ontological, I contend that his theology, like Wesley's, is often
epistemological, and I accordingly emphasize that Lockean empiricism
provides a philosophic reason for linking Wesley with Edwards. In
"Wesley and Edwards: A Hypothesis," Appendix A of my Locke, Wesley,
and the Method of English Romanticism, I suggest that Edwards derives
his theological method from Locke's theory of knowledge. Wesley uses
Locke's language to devise an analogy between the natural senses and the



"spiritual sense"; he even conceives of a continuum joining scientific
method and rational empiricism to natural and revealed religion. Ed-
wards, too, in midcareer at least, envisions this analogy or continuum.

A Document

The shortest way to bring the pair into my field of vision is through
Wesley's abridgment (1773) of Edwards's A Treatise concerning Religious
Affections (1746). This last of Wesley's abridgments of five works by
Edwards19 culminates Wesley's thirty-year response to Edwards's works
and hence constitutes Wesley's most mature judgment of those works.
Religious Affections marks the central juncture of Edwards's develop-
ment, at the midpoint of his career, and is thus the best representative of
his mind and method.
Appearing in volume 23 of Wesley's collected works of 1771-74, An
Extract from a Treatise concerning Religious Affections omits the entire
preface of Edwards's work, the second, third, and fourth of the twelve
major sections of part three, many shorter passages, and many words and
phrases.20 Published in 1762, the edition of Religious Affections that
Wesley used is itself an abridgment by William Gordon.21
Although Gregory S. Clapper, in the only other full-length study of
Wesley's abridgment, acknowledges that "Gordon's abridgment was
about two-thirds of the original" and that "Wesley's was one-sixth,"
Clapper demonstrates that neither the "excisions and revisions" of Gor-
don nor those of Wesley "pervert the essential thrust of Edwards's
work."22 To compare Wesley's abridgment with Gordon's, then, is to
compare it with Religious Affections, too. Wesley's abridgment is not only
true to the original, but also "better," that is, less prolix.
Although Wesley often objected to works he carefully read,23 and al-
though his more than two hundred abridgments sometimes include mat-
ter with which he disagreed,24 his abridgment of Religious Affections is so
painstaking, polished, and selective that it indicates well his attraction to
Edwards's sensibility. By analyzing the abridgment, I characterize
Wesley's distillation of Edwards and hence Edwards's influence on Wesley.
As occasion rises, I point to parallels between the abridgment and
Wesley's works. Nothing Wesley ever wrote materially contradicts either



the abridgment or any other version from Edwards's prime; indeed, what
appears in the abridgment finds strikingly similar expression throughout
Wesley's works.
The abridgment not only omits, but also alters, and some of the altera-
tions are substantive.25 As an Arminian who believes that "Christ died
for every Soul of Man,"26 Wesley excises Edwards's Calvinism and its
doctrine of the elect. Where Edwards inveighs against the view that "mine
own hands hath saved me," Wesley balks and quotes nothing,27 thus
suggesting that one bears partial responsibility for one's own salvation.
Where Edwards says "the covenant is ordered in all things, and sure,"
Wesley is silent,28 thus refusing predestinarian tincture. "Continuance in
duty," writes Edwards, is "difficult to [one's very] nature," which is full of
"blindness, deceit, self-flattery, self-exaltation, and self-confidence," and
he adds, for good measure, that even "the saint . has sight of his own
corruptions," but Wesley gives no quarter to this extreme belief in human
Such omissions suggest an anti-Calvinist rationale for Wesley's nu-
merous rejections of Edwards's harsh, uncharitable language. Where Ed-
wards speaks of some religious affections as "false and counterfeit,"
Wesley calls them merely "mixed or degenerating,"30 as though to soften
the implication of hardened duplicity. Where Edwards argues that "per-
sons may have a kind of religious love, and yet have no saving grace,"
Wesley, who often says that love and grace are so far from being thus
mutually exclusive that they are in fact one and the same, keeps quiet.31
Where Edwards insists on phrases like "great corruption," "strait and
narrow way," "fears of hell," "the duty of self-denial," "deserved eternal
burnings," "the infinitely hateful nature of sin," and "the infinitely in-
ferior nature of men," Wesley will have none of it.32 Indeed, Wesley will
have very little Calvinist language of any kind, however innocuous, for
though the word saints, with its overtones of the perseverance thereof,
appears four times,33 he usually goes to great lengths to avoid even this
mild Calvinism. He replaces Edwards's "true saints," "eminent saints,"
"the character of the saints," and "the minds of the saints" with "Chris-
tians," "believers," "good men," "we," "those," or almost anything else
he can think of.34
"The Eye altering alters all," declared William Blake,3s which means
not only that the organs of perception are creative, that the eye changes



what it sees, but also that "the Eye altering" is changed by what it
sees, that all is changed within. Similarly, though Wesley's emendatory
powers transform some doctrines and improve the style of Religious
Affections, his editorial eye is itself improved, his "doors of perception"
"cleansed,"36 by his encounter with and his obvious reverence for Ed-
wards's methodology. Although Wesley's thought guides his editorial
hand to the point of bias, the abridgment includes, as Wesley's Note to the
Reader puts it, those "many remarks and admonitions" of Edwards's
"which may be of great use to the children of God."37
Clapper, pointing out such parallels between Religious Affections and
Wesley's works as reliance on Scripture and the theme of humble joy,
concludes that
if one were to give an irenic reading of their differences, one might say that
Wesley and Edwards agreed about the sovereignty of God, but that while
Edwards expressed this sovereignty through his Calvinist doctrines of pre-
destination and the bondage of the will, Wesley expressed the same thing by
emphasizing prevenient grace and the perfecting possibilities of the spirit.38
Since the agreement between Wesley and Edwards about the sovereignty
of God did not prevent Wesley from rejecting Edwards's language of
sovereignty at least three times in the abridgment,39 one might quibble
with part of Clapper's statement. But the statement rings true with regard
to the abridgment as a whole, which, as Clapper demonstrates, is both
careful to epitomize the four basic parts of Edwards's text and consistent
with the basic tenets of Wesley's texts.
Finally, though, the abridgment represents more than the merely theo-
logical commonality of Wesley and Edwards. Although "edification was
Wesley's ultimate criterion when evaluating the written word," Wesley, as
even Clapper acknowledges, "shared Edwards's interest in science and
philosophy."40 Although Wesley's Note to the Reader complains that
Edwards "heaps together so many curious, subtle, metaphysical distinc-
tions, as are sufficient to puzzle the brain, and confound the intellects of
all the plain men and women in the universe," that is, although the
abridgment eschews Edwards's ontology, the abridgment is decidedly
epistemological wherever Edwards is so.41 Just as Lockean epistemology
avoids regarding mind as superior to, or independent of, sense experience,
so Wesley downplays diction that might be construed as rationalist.



Where Edwards speaks of "the more vigorous and sensible exercises of
the inclination and will of the soul," Wesley, by writing "the more vig-
orous and sensible exercises of the will,"42 omits spiritual, mentalist
elements, while he retains sense-language. Where Edwards writes, "It
may be enquired what are the affections of the mind," Wesley omits "of
the mind."43 Since the fourth of Edwards's twelve distinguishing signs of
"Truly Gracious and Holy Affections" asserts the intellectual component
in the affections-"Gracious affections do arise from the mind's being
enlightened, rightly and spiritually to understand or apprehend divine
things"-it may seem strange that the intellectual Wesley omitted it, until
one realizes how close it is to rationalism, that is, to a reason insufficiently
involved in, or insufficiently tempered by, sense experience.44
In line with the fact that Edwards's reasoning is not always sense-based,
an entire category of passages appears to have been altered because,
although philosophical or methodological enough, they are not suffi-
ciently empirical to suit Wesley. Where Edwards complains of those who
"tell you a long story of conversion" or "a fair story of illuminations and
discoveries," Wesley, who likes accounts of experiential efficacy, elimi-
nates the complaint.45 From Edwards's phrase "doctrinal knowledge,"
Wesley drops "doctrinal,"46 as though to include natural knowledge in
knowledge conducive to religion. "Ministers," writes Edwards, some-
times insist too much on "distinctness and clearness of method," for the
Spirit does not "proceed discernibly in the steps of a particular estab-
lished scheme, one half so often as is imagined."47 But Wesley finds no
place for this passage:48 although his "empiricism" is not unacquainted
with paradox, he likes method to be clear and distinct.49
Thus manipulating as well as preserving the original, Wesley's editorial
procedure is motivated in decisive measure by the Lockean presupposi-
tions of his theology. Where Edwards's theology is consistent with those
presuppositions, where his theology is "empirical," Wesley tends to make
it more so. Witness, for example, his twofold strategy of quoting Ed-
wards's endorsement of experiential priorities-"Without affections, one
is wholly destitute of the saving influences of the Holy Spirit"-and
omitting an adjacent passage in which Edwards creates some doubt about
the very affectional life he advocates: "As there is no true religion, where
there is nothing else but affection; so there is no true religion, where there
is no affection."50 Where Edwards speaks of "holy desire exercised in



longings, hungerings, and thirstings after God," Wesley omits "long-
ings," as though to lessen subjectivity and so to intensify the sensation-
alist implications of this biblical and somehow eighteenth-century
Wesley is justified in detecting empirical assumptions and empirical
language in Religious Affections, which is reconcilable with, and even
measures up to, Wesley's own Lockean tastes and expectations, his expe-
riential bias and, above all, his doctrine of the "spiritual sense."52 Nota-
bly, he tampers least with passages most clearly resembling his Lockean
method. These passages, totaling twenty-two of the abridgment's sixty-
five pages,53 form the focus of this chapter. They constitute both a precise
transformation of Lockean method and what Wesley thought was the
broadest agreement between Edwards and himself. Here I consider this
strain of passages both in itself and in context; I elaborate on a theologi-
cal equivalent of Locke's philosophy, demonstrating the Lockean ground
of both Wesley and Edwards as found in the abridgment. I enunciate a
"spiritual sense" as much American as British.
Wesley's and Edwards's evangelical faiths draw in part from both the
processes and the forms of late seventeenth-century empiricism, even as
they laterally displace them. Wesley's editing is so thoroughly informed by
Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding (1690) that the abridg-
ment emerges, without falsifying the original, as a theologizing of Locke's
empiricism. To abridge is "to shorten" or even "to curtail," but the
abridgment of Religious Affections is no mere summary, no mere ab-
straction, and no mere "selection of essential facts." Wesley's configuring
of Edwards's "epistemology" is, in addition, a condensation that epito-
mizes the original without diluting it and honors the original by enhanc-
ing it. Wesley decided that Religious Affections is complexly but man-
ifestly empirical, and I agree. This midpoint of Edwards's thought is
indeed characterized by the same Locke-derived emphasis on experience,
natural as well as spiritual, to be found in Wesley's Methodism. Wesley's
abridgment, by heightening that emphasis, epitomizes the "epistemol-
ogy" common to him and Edwards. Where most alike and nearest the
generic level of revival imagination, they are at once methodically intellec-
tual and in resonance with the enabling powers of empirical premises.
By the abridgment, then, I mean a bridge indeed. It is the intersection
of the thought of Wesley and the thought of Edwards. The one's Arminia-



nism and the other's Calvinism lie outside the abridgment. Wesley did not
stake his theological reputation on the abridgment, nor did Edwards
approve it as faithful to his thought. The abridgment contains, however,
what they share, not so much the theological as the philosophical
thought, the Locke-inspired emphasis on the experiential, which they
then each express in their evangelical theologies and practices. So when I
use the term "the abridgment" in this work, I mean the areas where the
thought of Wesley and the thought of Edwards coincide.

A Reading
"Even deliberately to write against something," observes Denis Don-
oghue, "is to take one's bearings from it."54 The abridgment takes its
bearings from Lockean epistemology without being subsumed by it. In
advocating experience as the way to knowledge, the abridgment is histor-
ically akin to and even agrees with Locke's preaching of sensation as the
key to empirical knowledge. Locke, in homage to Descartes, intuits him-
self and deduces God:
For nothing can be more evident to us, than our own Existence.... Thus
from the Consideration of our Selves, .. our Reason leads us to the Knowl-
edge ... That there is an eternal, most powerful, most knowing Being.55
Locke goes on to insist, however, that "the Knowledge of the Existence of
any other thing we can have only by Sensation,"56 and his epistemology
of sensation is his major contribution to the ways of knowing. The
abridgment, especially its twenty-two pages of Lockean method, appro-
priates this epistemology not only to say how one knows that natural
things exist but also to indicate in what manner, and according to what
similitude, one knows all spiritual things, including selves and God's own
Self. Although spirit and sense would seem opposites (they can be
thought of as antipodes and hence complements), the abridgment, with-
out being either loose in applying to theology the language of sensation or
glib about spiritual knowledge, attempts to locate the religious in the
empirical and vice versa. Thus the abridgment suggests a way of overcom-
ing the split between the natural and the supernatural, and indeed envi-
sions the terms of their unification. Although the abridgment and Locke's
Essay are not always consistent with one another, and the relation be-


tween them is one of give-and-take, they share a frame of reference and a
set of methodological assumptions, a language, and an interest in the
same issues.
The abridgment, first of all, falls clearly in line with Locke's stand
against enthusiasm, which, mirabile dictu, is no more antireligious than
Wesley and Edwards are fanatical. "Immediate Revelation," observes
being a much easier way for Men to establish their Opinions, and regulate
their Conduct, than the tedious and not always successful Labour of strict
Reasoning, it is no wonder, that some have been very apt to pretend to
Revelation, and to persuade themselves, that they are under the peculiar
guidance of Heaven.57
The abridgment similarly urges caution in speaking of, and in making
claims to, immediate revelation:

The manner of the Spirit's proceeding in them that are born of the Spirit, is
very often exceeding mysterious. It is oftentimes as difficult to know the way
of the Spirit in the new birth, as in the first birth: "As thou knowest not what
is the way of the Spirit, or how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is
with child: Even so thou knowest not the work of God, that worketh all."ss
Thus both the Essay and the abridgment flatly state that the Spirit's
workings hardly ever fall under the power of either human understanding
or human observation.
Unlike the Essay, however, the abridgment proclaims the fact of the
Spirit's proceeding and even implies, in radical homage to Locke, that the
Spirit's workings sometimes significantly fall under the powers of both
human understanding and human observation. Locke, on one occasion,
acknowledges that God can "excite [men] to Good Actions by the imme-
diate influence and assistance of the Holy Spirit, without any extraordi-
nary Signs accompanying it,"s9 but Locke is primarily concerned to pre-
vent the recurrence of mid-seventeenth-century Puritan excess.60 His
Essay, accordingly, though admitting the possibility of visitation, warns
that people who claim it are most probably mad. The abridgment con-
cedes that many who claim it are wrong and even that some who claim it
are mad. It argues, nonetheless, that visitation is a very possible event for
religious people: "How greatly," lament Wesley and Edwards, "has the



doctrine of sensibly perceiving the immediate power of the Spirit of God,
been ridiculed."61 "Sensibly perceiving," although making an un-
Lockean point, employs a Lockean criterion.
Almost in spite of itself, the same paragraph that warns that "no man
can tell whence [the Spirit] came, or whither it went" (cf. John 3.8) uses
empirical language. The paragraph, even though indirectly and by anal-
ogy, appeals to the powers of observation and perception in "we, as it
were, hear the sound of it, the effect of it is discernible."62 This language,
indeed, is based on more than analogy, for "the effect of it is discernible"
connotes sense perceptions as tests or validations of something prior.
"We, as it were, hear the sound of it" (even with the "as it were") rings
with immediacy and presence, and so stops just short of denoting the
senses as preconditions for divine experience.
The abridgment often gives so much credit to Locke's experiential
criteria that it entertains a thought at which Locke would be horrified,
namely, the direct sensation of God's effects and presence. The following
quotation, for example, places all bets on the world of sense experience:
"Men will trust their God no further than they know him, and they
cannot be in the exercise of faith in him one ace further than they have a
sight of his fulness and faithfulness in exercise."63 "A sight of" need not
mean physical sight, but the statement implies that regarding all matters
of fact and causation, including the divine, Edwards, and Wesley through
him, have the courage of Locke's convictions about experiential vision.
In their evocation of Locke's trust in eyewitness accounts, moreover,
Edwards and Wesley wax particularly philosophic:
Those are very improperly called witnesses of the truth of any thing, who
only declare they are of opinion, such a thing is true. Those only are proper
witnesses who testify that they have seen the truth of the thing they assert.64
Even here, of course, ambiguities arise, for one sees not the thing, but the
truth of the thing; but far from meaning only that the senses are outward
analogues to inner perception, this strong statement indicates, too, the
clear possibility of perceiving God and his effects directly.
Finally, in the question, "What is a tender heart, but one that is easily
impressed with what ought to affect it?"65 the abridgment evinces not
only Lockean diction66 but also, and more importantly, the entire Lock-
ean as well as Wordsworthian premise of "wise passiveness."67 The self in



both the Essay and the abridgment is valued, then, insofar as it is recep-
tive, though with a remaining ambiguity about whether "tender heart" is
specifically a metaphor for receptivity to the Spirit. It mattered greatly to
both the philosopher and the revivalists what is happening to us at a
particular time, and what acts upon us from without.
Consider, next, their telling word impulse. Impulse for Locke, Wesley,
and Edwards, besides meaning "something opposed to deliberate reflec-
tion, as in the phrase 'to act on impulse,"' can indicate "a movement
stirred in us from without, an influence upon the individual of some force
in the outer universe."68 Here, for example, is Locke's ambiguously sub-
jective and objective use of impulse. Attacking those who claim "il-
lumination from the Spirit of God," he observes that "whatsoever odd
Action they find in themselves a strong inclination to do, that impulse is
concluded to be a call or direction from Heaven, and must be obeyed.'69
In their own mood of attacking "self-deceivers" who claim, falsely, the
"discoveries and elevations" of immediate revelation, Edwards and
Wesley similarly observe that "the chief grounds of the confidence of
many of them are impulses and supposed revelations, sometimes with
texts of Scripture, and sometimes without. These impulses they have
called the witness of the Spirit."70 Locke for his part, and Wesley and
Edwards for theirs, refuse to credit the enthusiasts' objective meaning, but
the Essay elsewhere employs the word in its objective sense:

How often may a Man observe in himself, that whilst his Mind is intently
employed in the contemplation of some Objects; and curiously surveyed
some ideas that are there, it takes no notice of impressions of sounding
Bodies, made upon the organ of Hearing, with the same alteration, that uses
to be for the producing the Idea of a Sound? A sufficient impulse there may
be on the Organ; but it not reaching the Observation of the Mind, there
follows no perception.71

And Wesley and Edwards, insofar as they agree that even spiritual experi-
ence can be an external force that focuses on the individual soul and
shapes it in the arena of human history, would concur in an objective
usage of impulse such as one finds in a theological treatise published
during Locke's lifetime: Discourse of Angels, .. also Something Touch-
ing Devils, Apparitions, and Impulses (170i).72
Here, with a simultaneously objective and religious meaning, albeit



without the word impulse, is the abridgment's premise that both natural
and spiritual experiences write on the mind's blank tablet:

Indeed the witness or seal of the Spirit, consists in the effect of the Spirit of
God in the heart, in the implantation and exercises of grace there, and so
consists in experience: And it is beyond doubt, that this seal of the Spirit is
the highest kind of evidence of our adoption, that ever we obtain: But in
these exercises of grace in practice, God gives witness, and sets to his seal, in
the most conspicuous, eminent and evident manner.73

Although the senses are in this case implicitly more proof than entry, the
imagery of the stamp and the seal is not far from the metaphor of mind as
tabula rasa, receiving the impressions of experience. This same combina-
tion of Lockean theory and spiritual theology is to be found, say, in
Charles Wesley's hymns:

Where the indubitable seal
That ascertains the kingdom mine?
The powerful stamp I long to feel,
The signature of love divine.74

Such emphasis on faith through experience, or rather on faith as experi-
ence, is everywhere evident in Wesley's abridgment of Edwards's treatise.
The abridgment typically declares that "the Scripture represents faith as
that by which men are brought into a good estate, and therefore it cannot
be the same thing, as believing that they are already in one."75 Faith is no
more innate than ideas and no less dependent than ideas on the nourish-
ment of experience: it is far from either an inherent capacity or a blind
leap. The abridgment goes on to attack those "under the notion
of ... living upon Christ and not experiences."76 Such a notion "directly
thwart[s] God's wise constitution of things," for far from being mutually
exclusive, Christ and experience are intimately interinvolved.
I have previously defined the epistemology of Locke as "an experiential
continuum with understanding at one pole and physical sensation at the
other."77 Thus an ever-increasing though by no means innate strength of
reason forms such an important part of Locke's empiricism that his em-
piricism should be said to include a specific appeal to this a posteriori
brand of reasoning. Of all the works of Edwards's that Wesley might have



chosen to abridge, A Treatise concerning Religious Affections shows per-
haps the greatest balance between Edwards's immersion in the categories
of sense perception and his desire for the consent of mind to mind. Of all
five works of his that Wesley did abridge, Religious Affections offers the
fullest range of Lockean "empiricism," namely, the same balance between
sense and reason that characterizes Wesley's method.78
As for the abridgment's categories of sense perception, note, first, that
"the influence of some extrinsic force upon [our] minds"79 connotes the
purely natural means whereby we passively receive impressions from
without. Boldly, the abridgment often makes no distinction "between the
influences of the Spirit of God, and the natural operations of our own
minds."80 This lack of difference is not so much to demythologize the
Spirit as to honor experience. While Locke would separate the Spirit from
natural operations, Wesley and Edwards do not. And while Locke would
elevate natural operations by making them independent of "mere" faith,
Wesley and Edwards elevate "mere" natural operations by relating them
to, by mentioning them in the same breath as, the Spirit. "For any to
expect the influence of the Spirit, without a diligent improvement of the
appointed means, is presumption," declares the abridgment in obvious
dialogue with Locke.81 The abridgment adds: "To expect that he will
operate upon their minds, without means subservient to the effect, is
enthusiastical." So willingly, that is, does the Spirit condescend to work
through the natural operations of our minds that spiritual and natural
operations can be all but identical, or, to use the words of the abridgment,
"It is frequently God's manner to make his hand visible."82
The abridgment laments the fact that such "sense perception" of the
divine is often mistaken for enthusiasm: recall "how greatly has the doc-
trine of sensibly perceiving the immediate power of the Spirit of God,
been ridiculed." Even where the abridgment speaks exclusively of the
spiritual means whereby we receive impressions, it does so in empirical
terms, or at least in terms that duplicate theologically the Lockean fas-
cination with extrinsic power over the mind:

And if persons tell of effects in their own minds, that seem to them not to be
from the natural operations of their minds, but from the supernatural power
of some other agent, should it at once be looked upon as a sure evidence of
delusion, because things seem to them to be as they are?83



Between the abridgment and the Essay, in this regard, is a particularly
striking connection. Here is the Essay:

Thus we see the holy Men of old, who had Revelations from God, had
something else besides that internal Light of assurance in their own Minds,
to testify to them, that it was from God. They were not left to their own
Perswasions alone, that those Perswasions were from God; But had outward
Signs to convince them of the Author of those Revelations.84

And here is the abridgment:

And so it was in most of the conversions of particular persons we have an
account of in the New Testament: They were not wrought on in a silent,
secret, gradual, and insensible manner; but with those manifest evidences of
a supernatural power, wonderfully and suddenly causing a great change.85

Thus both Locke and Wesley/Edwards require rigorous standards of
certification from the religiously inclined, but Wesley and Edwards, more
broadly experiential than Locke himself, extend Lockean methods of
inquiry to non-Lockean subject matter. By giving credence to "effects in
their own minds" as well as to external signs, they include the internal in
the catalogue of experience. They imply, thereby, that the senses can be
thought of as analogous to, as indispensable for conceiving, the "sense"
of inward evidence: while "effects in their own minds" draws a boundary
around the mind, confining experience to it, "effects in their own minds"
points to an action or impingement on the mind, such as would only
occur through the avenue of the senses.
Wesley and Edwards, accordingly, seem aware that extrinsic power over
the mind functions philosophically as well as religiously. The abridg-
ment's expression of receptivity to external influence can be conven-
tionally religious and explicitly biblical:

I know of no reason why being affected with a view of God's glory, should
not cause the body to faint, as well as being affected with a view of Sol-
omon's glory.... My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee, in a
dry and thirsty land where no water is.... When I heard, my belly trem-
bled, my lips quivered at the voice, and rottenness entered into my bones,
and I trembled in myself.86



The following quotation, however, evinces not only heart-religion, but
also, in equal measures, metaphysics and epistemology: "God has so
disposed things as though every thing was contrived to have the greatest
possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move
our affections most sensibly."87 This statement, as intellectual as it is
emotional, rests on the assumption, the philosophical theology, that sense
perception is blessedly constituted to receive every good and perfect
The abridgment, though, hardly depicts the mind as completely pas-
sive: Edwards's desire for the consent of mind to mind amounts, at times,
to near rationalism, as though the mind were sufficient unto itself; and
Wesley, though never himself so nearly mind-intoxicated, allows Edwards
to express his desire. Whereas "passions" are the "more sudden" and
"more violent" actings of the will," such "affections" as "hope, love,
desire, joy, sorrow, gratitude, compassion, and zeal" are actings of the
will" wherein the mind is more "in its own command."89 The abridg-
ment, then, though neither Cartesian in particular nor French in general,
is, nonetheless and strangely, mentalist as well as Anglo-American.
The abridgment agrees even here, however, with Lockean reason as
sense-based, for the affections, and not just the passions, are finally sense-
related. Mind in the abridgment is between the extremes of active and
passive, and truth in the abridgment is between the extremes of mind and
Take, for example, the close interaction of mind and body. The issue is
rampant in the age (it appears in medical treatises, and even in Des-
cartes); Locke gives it his full attention.90 The abridgment's lengthy argu-
ment that mind affects body and vice versa is similarly experiential, sim-
ilarly other-directed, and almost nontheoretical in tone. "Such are the
laws of union of soul and body," declares the abridgment, "that the mind
can have no vigorous exercise, without some effect upon the body." The
abridgment adds: "Yea, it is questionable, whether an embodied soul ever
so much as thinks one thought, or has any exercise at all, but there is
some corresponding motion in some part of the body."91 Here, mind is
tacitly superior to senses, for mental experience occurs prior to, and
causes, activation of the body. Yet even here, the relation between mental
experience and the body is the very evidence of mind's superiority, which,



according to the abridgement as well as the Essay, consists in a place
above, but not aloof from, the senses.
The mind, then, far from being independent of the senses, depends on
them for its very identity, and its participation in the senses provides the
evidence of God's acting in it. For when almost mind-intoxicated, and
even when God-intoxicated, the abridgment comes no closer than it does
at all other times, and no closer than does Locke, to the pure rationalism
that views the mind's identity, and even its experience, as independent of
the senses. Wesley and Edwards affirm, finally, a mind/body interaction in
which body is often as active as, and sometimes even prior to, mind. After
reiterating a certain primacy of mind-to wit, "Such seems to be our
nature, that there never is any vigorous exercise of the will, without some
effect upon the body, in some alteration of the motions of its fluids,
especially of the animal spirits"-the abridgment includes the following
significant addendum: "And on the other hand, the constitution of the
body, and the motion of its fluids, may promote the exercise of the affec-
tions."92 Here experience affects, and precedes, the mental, and insofar as
"body promotes the exercise of the affections,". by which the revivalists
mean religious affections, the senses are not only receptors for divine
truth but also building blocks of spiritual wisdom.
In Wesley's and Edwards's thought, as in Locke's, mind and world form
a dialectic, if not a continuum and a harmonic whole. Reality appears to
the reader of the Essay as a coalescence of subject and object: recall
Locke's use of impulse. The abridgment, by teaching that mind extends to
body and vice versa, implies that mind-body synthesis contacts external
reality and vice versa.93
"Following the lead of the classical British experience-philosophy,"
wrote John E. Smith in his modern edition of Religious Affections, "Ed-
wards placed primary emphasis upon first-person experience."94 Smith
does not explicitly apply this comment to Religious Affections, but the
comment can help explain the treatise's emphasis on the practical and on
action in matters of religion. The comment applies as well to that same
emphasis in both the abridgment and other Wesley writings.
For the obvious reason that his experiential emphasis derives from
British experience-philosophy, Wesley is careful to represent this aspect of
Edwards's sensibility.



The business of religion is from time to time compared to those exercises,
wherein men are wont to have their hearts and strength greatly engaged,
such as running, wrestling, and warring .... And as true religion is of a
practical nature, and the affections are the springs of men's actions, it must
consist very much in them.95

Or again:

The tendency of grace in the heart to holy practice, is direct; and the connex-
ion close and necessary. True grace is not an inactive, barren thing, for it is,
in its very nature, a principle of holy action.96

These statements exemplify the "epistemology" of Wesley and Edwards.
The first celebrates intense experience both as analogue to faith and as
precondition for it. The second, besides implying an immediate connec-
tion between spiritual influx and practical charity (recall "grace in the
heart"), contends that the connection between spiritual and natural expe-
rience is all but unmediated, that is, that spiritual experience intersects
with, superimposes itself on, and, however fleetingly, becomes one with,
natural experience.
The statements are broader and more inclusive than any narrowly
"scientific" epistemology: "He that has knowledge only, without affec-
tion," say Wesley and Edwards, "never is engaged in the business of
religion."97 This statement can be understood in the light of another of
Smith's general remarks about Edwards, namely, that he attempted "to
bring the individual back to a sense of his own individuality and to the
need for a broader conception of human understanding, one that does
not eliminate everything but science from its concern."98 (By "individu-
ality," clearly, Smith means the significance of self rather than, or in
addition to, its sinfulness.) Smith points out, finally, that Edwards's em-
phasis on first-person experience "took the form of the new sense or taste
without which faith remains at the purely notional level."99 Wesley's
abridgment includes all of Edwards's statements regarding this "spiritual
sense." Here I discuss several, as they accurately appear in the abridg-
This doctrine, first of all, is Bible-based: "The Scripture is ignorant of
any faith in Christ or the operation of God," say Wesley and Edwards,



"that is not grounded in a spiritual sight of Christ."100 They add proof
texts. "True faith in Christ," they write, "is never exercised any further
than persons 'behold as in a glass, the glory of the Lord,' and have 'the
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.'""101 The
abridgment's opening passage, concerning the persecuted Christians to
whom Paul wrote, constitutes a biblically oriented announcement of the
"spiritual sense":
There was nothing visible that could induce them thus to suffer, and could
carry them through such trials. But though there was nothing that the world
saw, or that they themselves saw with their bodily eyes, that thus supported
them, yet they had a supernatural principle of love to something unseen; they
loved Jesus Christ, whom they saw spiritually.02
One thinks, in this connection, of John 20.29 ("Blessed are they that have
not seen, and yet have believed"). Note that, even where indicating what
lies beyond the grasp of sense and even where mainly quoting the Bible,
the abridgment's doctrine of the "spiritual sense" employs sensate lan-
guage for a distinctively historical reason. Although neither Wesley nor
Edwards could avoid the Lockean hegemony, both of them exploit it.
They read certain proof texts in the context of the empiricist climate, as
though to enhance both the climate and the texts. Both of them reflect a
sense bias in their most biblical understanding of spiritual experience, for
even in that understanding, they interpret such experience in alignment
with an earthly methodology: they appeal to sense experience, if only as
Their other depictions of the "spiritual sense" are more philosophical
than biblical, and as much philosophical as theological. The doctrine, to
the extent that it covers immediate revelation, or the Spirit's operations in
the present, carries authentically Lockean implications of the senses as
tests, and even as manifesters and harbingers. For purposes of consider-
ation in this light, this tough-minded passage is worth requoting: "Men
will trust their God no further than they know him, and they cannot be in
the exercise of faith in him one ace further than they have a sight of his
fulness and faithfulness in exercise."103 "A sight of" intimates a not so
much analogical or metaphorical as literal dimension of the "spiritual
sense," for in the absence of such labels as spiritual, the connotation is of



physical sight, as though the knowledge of God were direct or metaphysi-
In the following statement of the "spiritual sense," moreover, the
abridgment shows itself fully epistemological:

In those gracious affections which are wrought through the saving influences
of the Spirit of God, there is a new inward perception or sensation, entirely
different in its nature, from any thing that ever their minds were the subjects
of, before they were sanctified. If grace be, in the sense above described, an
entirely new kind of principle; then the exercises of it are also entirely a new
kind of exercise. And if there be in the soul a new sort of exercises which it
knew nothing of before, and which no improvement, composition, or man-
agement of what it was before conscious of, could produce, or any thing like
it; then it follows that there is, as it were, a new spiritual sense in the mind,
or an entirely new kind of perception or spiritual sensation, which is in its
whole nature different from any former kinds of sensation.104

True, this statement tends toward the analogical, and in its insistence that
God works a new sense into the mind-soul, it does not sound Lockean or
empirical. But this "spiritual sense," though wholly unlike the physical
senses, is almost consciously Lockean in its explicit adherence to tabula
rasa and hence to the pivotal powers of experience in general. In speaking
of the minds of newborn people, that is, converts, as the subjects of
inward perception or sensation, Wesley and Edwards imply the rationalist
point that mind is always ultimate, always prior to senselike spiritual
experience. Clearly, they seek the consent of mind to mind even as their
language of sense perception waxes most Lockean. "Subjects of," how-
ever, is ambiguous. The phrase implies that minds are subjected or subor-
dinated to spiritual sensation, which in this case, though inward, is other
than, added to or prior to, mind. In spiritual experience, then, and not
just in natural experience, the priority lies not in mind alone, nor even
exclusively in senselike avenues to something rich and strange, but in the
interchange highlighting now one, and now the other.
Although Locke implies that immediate revelation is unlikely or even
impossible, because all thought comes from sense perception rather than
from the extrasensory, he argues, nonetheless, that biblical revelation is
true because it showed itself in action. Wesley and Edwards, in their



doctrine of the "spiritual sense," apply this argument to their brief for
immediate revelation, which, if confirmed after the fact by the criteria of
natural experience, is true. Wesley and Edwards, of course, hold that
supernatural intakings and reshapings of the mind constitute ultimate
reality, but they use Locke to defend such visitations against charges of
enthusiasm. In the passage just quoted, for example, the inward percep-
tion does not exist before the natural time, and does not inhere apart
from the natural place, of particular spiritual influx. This notion is Lock-
ean insofar as it assumes that grace, like everything else, is dependent on
experience. Tough-mindedly experience-oriented rather than exclusively
analogistic, the passage iterates the senselike perception of God's things
as "a new sort of exercises which [the soul] knew nothing of before."
Thus Wesley and Edwards do not so much follow what Locke thinks as
in their own way practice how he thinks and even how he speaks. Al-
though they need not be labeled Lockean (their vision was their own),
they do not hesitate to use Locke's distinguished epistemology. The piety
of Wesley and Edwards is "natural":105 not only do they believe in the
God of nature, and not only do they think that sense experience can point
to, if not include, God, but they also base their supernatural religion on
experience. Not only do they assume that what happens in one's inward
life is significant in the same way as what happens in one's sense experi-
ence but they also link, as their journals indicate, their sanctifications to
the passage of time. They assume, in short, that what happens in one's
inward life may interact with, and grow out of, what happens in one's
sense experience. For them, experience both constitutes matter and mind,
considered separately and together, and binds the senses to the soul.
A passage toward the end of the abridgment is perhaps most telling in
suggesting this philosophical theology. It duplicates Edwards's attempt to
describe faith through the language of both rational empiricism and sci-
entific method. It not only elaborates, but also distills, the doctrine of the
"spiritual sense," that is, "that sense of Divine things, which governs
[our] heart and hands."106

Not only does the most important part of Christian experience lie in spir-
itual practice, but nothing is so properly called by the name of experimental
religion: For that experience which is in these exercises of grace, that prove
effectual at the very point of trial, is the proper experiment of the truth of our



godliness, wherein its victorious power is found by experience. This is prop-
erly Christian experience, wherein we have opportunity to see, by actual
experience and trial, whether we have a heart to do the will of God, and to
forsake other things for Christ, or no.107

By our experience, that is, we see God's prior reshapings of our hearts;
but the passage indicates, too, that the range of spiritual experience can
be identical with the range of natural experience. Indeed, the diction is so
fully experientialist as to include an insistently scientific tenor: by actual
experience and trial, see, experiment, prove, practice, and, not least (un-
characteristically for Wesley) the redundant uses of experience-all de-
note the particular empirical method whereby such religious problems as
the knowledge of revelation appear to be raised by and solved by one's
sense-oriented as well as mental life. Wesley is more empirical than even
the Edwards of Religious Affections. But the Edwards of Religious Affec-
tions, as Wesley recognizes, employs the language of actual experience
and trial, and both Wesley and Edwards hold that subjectivity corre-
sponds with and, when God-suffused, commands objective truth.
This experiential assumption informs, and may even determine, one of
their most characteristic doctrines, namely, assurance. Wesley's version of
it derives not just from the Moravians' emphasis on Romans 8.15 -"For
ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have
received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father"-but also
from Locke's emphasis on "Assurance" as the label for "the highest
degree of Probability" in the realm of empirical belief.108 Wesley, there-
fore, has his philosophic reason for amply representing Edwards's doc-
trine of assurance, which, as a thoroughly experiential interpretation of
the Bible, is itself a doctrine of the age of Locke. Edwards and Wesley
both write:

God, in the plainest manner, revealed and testified his special favour to
Noah; Abraham; Isaac; Jacob, Moses, David, and others. Job often speaks
with the greatest assurance. David, throughout the book of Psalms, almost
every where speaks in the most positive manner of God as his God. Hezekiah
appeals to God, as one that knew, "he had walked before him in truth and
with a perfect heart;" (z Kings xx.3;) the Apostle Paul, through all his
epistles, speaks in an assured strain, ever speaking positively of his special



relation to Christ, and his interest in, and expectation of, the future re-

In sum, then, Wesley and Edwards do not subscribe to the notion of
tabula rasa when they believe that we are born with a heavy burden of sin,
but their equally characteristic emphasis on conversion admits of Lock-
ean sanction. Conversion ascribes so much importance to what might
happen, not only at inner moments but also in one's experience in the
world, that whatever precedes such experiential sea-change is by com-
parison mere tabula rasa. Edwards, a Calvinist, does not assume as much
responsibility as Wesley, an Arminian, does for the working out of one's
own salvation. But Edwards's doctrine of "testing the spirits" gives even
him, in the words of Smith, "some basis for judging the state of his own
soul."110 Although Edwards and Wesley through him warn against mak-
ing "too much of [our] own doings, to the diminution of the glory of free
grace," they finally ask, "Which way is it inconsistent with the freeness of
God's grace, that holy practice should be a sign of God's grace?"111 The
nearest analogue to this emphasis on experience as test and not as conduit
is the doctrine of good works, but the emphasis makes so much of our
"own doings" that it emerges as implicitly Lockean, and the doctrine of
the "spiritual sense" is where Edwards's similarity to both Locke and
Wesley seems most pertinent.
I submit, now, by way of rounding off my Wesleyan-Lockean perspec-
tive on Religious Affections, Wesley's most Lockean statement of the
"spiritual sense." The statement, from An Earnest Appeal to Men of
Reason and Religion (1743), includes an explicit subscription to the fun-
damental, though only potentially theological, tenet of tabula rasa:
Before it is possible for you to form a true judgment of the things of God, it is
absolutely necessary that you have a clear apprehension of them, and that
your ideas thereof be all fixed, distinct, and determinate. And seeing our
ideas are not all innate, but must originally come from our senses, it is
certainly necessary that you have senses capable of discerning objects of this
kind: Not those only which are called natural senses, which in this respect
profit nothing, as being altogether incapable of discerning objects of a spir-
itual kind; but spiritual senses, exercised to discern spiritual good and evil. It
is necessary that you have the hearing ear, and the seeing eye, emphatically
so called; that you have a new class of senses opened in your soul, not



depending on organs of flesh and blood, to be "the evidence of things not
seen" [cf. Heb. ii:i], as your bodily senses are of visible things; to be the
avenues to the invisible world, to discern spiritual objects, and to furnish
you with ideas of what the outward "eye hath not seen, neither the ear
heard" [cf. I Cor z:9].112

This statement, formulated a scant three years before Religious Affections
first appeared, accords with Edwards's "spiritual sense," which, whether
in its analogistic dimension or in its implication that even the natural
senses are visionary, proceeds, too, from Lockean assumptions. Like
Wesley's Appeals to Men of Reason and Religion (1743-45), Remarks
upon Mr. Locke's Essay on Human Understanding (1781), and On Liv-
ing without God (i790),113 Edwards's Treatise concerning Religious Af-
fections teaches four points: (i) we receive an inrush of spirit and then
"see" abstractions manifested in our sensible experience; (z) we walk
avenues to the invisible; (3) we receive the divine from the visible; and (4)
we discover the divine in the visible. Where Locke coalesces sense experi-
ence with mind, Wesley and Edwards coalesce nature with spirit. To state
the conclusion another way, the "spiritual sense" of Wesley and Edwards
joins rational empiricism to both theistic natural religion and immediate

A Comparison

In Locke, Wesley, and the Method of English Romanticism, I argue,
among other things, that Wesley's abridgment (1730) of The Procedure,
Extent, and Limits of Human Understanding (1728) by Peter Browne (d.
1735), Bishop of Cork and Ross, is a key to Wesley's thought: the abridg-
ment demonstrates the Lockean affinity between Browne and Wesley.
Wesley's access to Locke-through Browne-parallels, and serves to
gloss, Wesley's access to Locke through Edwards. Since both the abridg-
ment of Religious Affections and the abridgment of The Procedure theolo-
gize Locke's Essay even more thoroughly than do the originals, a brief
comparison of the two abridgments can serve to reinforce my view of the
Lockean agreement between Wesley and Edwards.
First, as highlighted by the abridgment of The Procedure, here is
Browne's doctrine of analogy:



Metaphor is mostly in Words, and is a Figure of Speech; Analogy a Similis
Ratio or Proportion of Things, and an excellent and necessary Method or
Means of Reason and Knowledge. Metaphor uses Ideas of Sensation to
express Immaterial and heavenly Objects, to which they can bear no real
Resemblance or Proportion [e.g., "I am the Good Shepherd"]; Analogy
substitutes the Operations of our Soul, and notions mostly formed out of
them, to represent Divine Things to which they bear a Real tho' Unknown
Correspondency and Proportion [e.g., "God is love"]. In short, Metaphor
has no real Foundation in the Nature of the Things compared; Analogy is
founded in the Very Nature of the Things on both Sides of the Com-

This doctrine, as I have indicated, derives from Locke's emphasis on
analogy as "the only help we have in inferring unseen causes." Locke's
view that a "wary reasoning from Analogy leads us often into the discov-
ery of Truths . which would otherwise lie concealed" (i) emphasizes
the transcendent otherness of the Creator, (z) intimates, nonetheless, the
accessibility of divine truth, (3) implies that just as there is unity among
things above and just as there is unity among things below, so there is
correspondence, if not continuity, between the natural and the spiritual
worlds, (4) devalues metaphor because of the arbitrary nature of its com-
parisons (here, Locke is the true son of Puritans who preferred simile to
metaphor), (5) proposes analogy as a nonfigurative, philosophically cor-
rect means of expressing this correspondence of things, and (6) recom-
mends analogy as our "great Rule of Probability" in theological in-
quiry.115 Although thinking by an analogy of opposition that emphasizes
the distance between this world and another was attacked both by skep-
tics such as David Hume and by such orthodox thinkers as Samuel
Johnson,116 Locke's analogy was one of proportionality. His analogy,
indeed, was so far from being outmoded that it was adapted by such as
Browne and Wesley, who made it the prolegomenon to all future epis-
temologies of faith.
No more than Locke, of course, does either Browne or Wesley wax glib
about the relation between God and the world, for like Locke, both
Browne and Wesley limited what could be predicated of God. But while
Aquinas predicated much through "the assumption of the neo-Platonist
scale of Being,"'17 Browne and Wesley predicated much through the
Locke-related instrument of sense-language. With the possible exception



of the attempt by the later Edwards to conceive of spirit through a con-
gruence of abstractions and logical harmony, it is not feasible to talk
about spirit except by analogy to the senses. Christ's method of parables
is nothing more nor less than such analogy, as are the medieval fourfold
method of exegesis and the analogies of Luther. But the version of analogy
in Browne and Wesley is especially empirical in its view of the senses as
providing evidence, if not as providing a source, of spiritual knowledge.
Just as in Lockean terms sense perception of a human being is the only
means of knowing him or her, so in terms of Browne and Wesley the
feeling of love is such a good access to the nature of God that it amounts
to a "spiritual sense" of him. The feeling of love, with its implication of
sexual union, is at once so deep and so relational that it out-senses the
Thus the abridgment of The Procedure delineates the analogistic di-
mension of the spiritual sense, but analogy in the abridgment of The
Procedure as a whole does not so much indicate the difference between
humanity and God as occupy the continuum joining nature to revelation,
and such analogy of proportionality is matched by the abridgment of
Religious Affections. Characteristically, for example, Wesley and Edwards
employ that analogy's very form:
As the affections not only belong to the human nature, but are a great part of
it; so holy affections do not only belong to true religion, but are a very great
part of it. ... And as in worldly things, worldly affections are the springs of
men's actions; so in religious matters, the spring of their actions is religious
Or again:
As the taste of honey is diverse from the ideas men get of honey by only
looking on and feeling it, so the new sense of spiritual and Divine things is
entirely diverse from any thing that is perceived in them, by natural men.119
Here, somewhat surprisingly, the abridgment implies that, like the sense
of taste, the spiritual sense renders a truth that is deep precisely because it
is imageless: compare Demogorgon's "the deep truth is imageless" from
Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. These samples of the abridgment, more-
over, are so analogistic, so detached from the world, that they evince
distrust of the senses. But the distrust is directed more to the sense-image
world of metaphor, with its distance from the spiritual world, than to-



ward the sense-related instrument of analogy, which describes interiority
or spiritual experience according to the model of perception. Taste, after
all, is a sense like seeing and hearing, albeit with an image so deep as not
to resemble the images of sight and sound.
The abridgment, necessarily or not, retains senselike criteria as the only
means available to Lockean temperaments with a need to express the
methods of the soul. The term affections, significantly, belongs to the
language of sense impression and sense perception. Far from abandoning
such language, Wesley and Edwards use a strange, vaguely oxymoronic,
but nonetheless efficacious version of it, namely, religious or holy affec-
tions, to express a precise analogy between, if not the interpenetrations
of, the spirit realm and the world of natural experience.
This doctrine, then, proportional rather than oppositional, helps
Wesley and Edwards as Browne's doctrine helps him, namely, to believe
that what is both felt and thought approaches, without dispelling the
mystery of, what has been and is being revealed. Without quite valuing
the familiar for its own sake, the doctrine of Wesley and Edwards honors
the familiar as an especially faithful counterpart to what would otherwise
lie entirely outside the range of human expression. The senses convince
the intellect of what they have to tell. What is felt and thought, in turn,
proves spiritually veridical, that is, theologically equivalent to philosophi-
cal seeing and philosophical believing.
Thus, on the relative certainty of natural knowledge, the spiritual sense
of Wesley and Edwards establishes the probable truth of a theistic (dis-
tinct from Deistic or pantheistic) natural religion, and even of revelation.
The twin pioneers of transatlantic revivalism search for an inclusive,
intellectually current way of describing how the mind knows God, and
how anyone can verify another's faith. They find that way in Lockean

An Epitome
Although close reading, especially of Wesley's abridgment of Edwards's
Religious Affections, recommends itself as "the fascination of what's diffi-
cult,"'120 I am concerned, here, to facilitate what is difficult, without
losing the fascination of, say, philosophical theology as semiotics. I want
to abstract, without diluting, the complex empiricism of Wesley and Ed-



When teaching that mind is where divine experience takes place, the
abridgment puts grace prior to the senses, which become mere physical
analogues to inward spiritual experience. Insofar as the experience of
Wesley and Edwards is an "experience" of God as otherworldly, a consent
of being to being beyond self and senses, the abridgment demonstrates
additional non-Lockean ends.
Its validation of those ends, however, its proof that spiritual experience
has occurred, appeals to the senses and so amounts to a sufficiently
Lockean means. Spiritual inrush, though merely analogous to sense per-
ception, appears in a strong Lockean light, for Locke's view that impres-
sions striking the senses are worthy guides to knowledge informs, and
indeed enables, the trust of Wesley and Edwards in influxes "flooding
[the] soul with glory divine."121
An especially intriguing trait of this philosophical theology is its im-
plication that the senses are indispensable for an experience of the divine.
The senses are secondary when they are tests for inwardness and analo-
gies to communicate supernatural reality to a Lockean world. But the
senses are primary when they are attendants on, and preconditions for,
faith, that is, when natural experience not only sets the terms of, but also
either becomes or combines with, spiritual experience. At "a quarter to
nine" on the evening of May 2.4, 1738, in Aldersgate Street, London,
Wesley's heart was "strangely warmed" (shades, or foreshadowing, of
Blake's talking with Isaiah in the Strand).122 This famous conversion, this
spiritual watershed of English cultural life, has as much to do with time,
place, and the specific circumstances of Wesley's sense experience as with
his state of mind. Such a nearly empirical recipe for grace is a particular
means of the abridgment, which, above all, holds to the senses.
Since Locke's tenet that one's very language depends on the senses was
a given of the intellectual climate,123 all expressions of the divine were
necessarily Lockean, that is, sensuous, including the most analogistic
and, for that matter, most rationalistic expressions. But the paradox of
the God-centered yet sincere self is the crux in the abridgment, the sense-
language of which, in accord with the abridgment's understanding of the
senses themselves, is now analogue to, and now validation, manifestation,
and harbinger of, spiritual experience. Whether a literal or a figurative
reading of Locke, whether an uneasy attempt to incorporate senses into
near-rationalism or a balance between sense perception and the consent
of mind to mind, the abridgment is saturated with Lockean language.



Even its consciousness of God not only submits to what Wordsworth,
after Locke, calls "the language of the sense,"124 but also arrives through
that language. The very title, virtually the same as the original's, implies
the Locke-derived oxymoron "spiritual sense," for Religious Affections
ambiguously straddles the line between faith and experience.
Natural experience and spiritual experience, then, are not stark opposi-
tions for Wesley and Edwards, whose spiritual experience, like their natu-
ral experience, is Lockean, that is, of both the mind and the senses. Just as
Lockean epistemology conceives of a link between sense and reason,
matter and mind, so the philosophical theologies of Wesley and Edwards,
their appropriations of Locke for religious methodology, conceive of a
bridge that transports us from nature to grace, returns us from grace to
nature, and joins nature and grace, justifying the reality of both. This
spiritual sense is even more flexible and even more up-to-date than Lock-
ean epistemology, for it out-Lockes Locke, or carries him to his logical
conclusion. It applies to the religious arena that secular trust in experi-
ence that helped the early modern mind to position itself in the natural
The spiritual sense of Wesley and Edwards rests, specifically, on a view
of experience more inclusive, and a respect for experiential criteria
greater, than Locke's. While Lockean experience is primarily natural and
Lockean theology is almost entirely apart from nature, they both stress
the participation of God in creation, and so enlist spirit in the catalogue
of experience. The spiritual sense of Wesley and Edwards, indeed, for its
part in the eighteenth century's burgeoning discipline of philosophical
theology, is imaginative. For by its imaging of heavenly joy on earth, if not
by its hope of earthly joy in heaven, it draws on the model of sense
perception to detect, and express, a radically immanent Christianity. And
by so modernizing Christianity, Wesley and Edwards lay the intellectual
as well as emotional groundwork for religious expression not simply in
the Anglo-American Enlightenment, but in the Anglo-American world of
the nineteenth century as well.

Wesley's abridgment of Edwards's Religious Affections, without fudging
differences or papering them over, denotes links among comparative phi-



losophy, philosophical theology, conversion, and the leap of faith. Sim-
ilarly, the abridgment links mind to mind. Just as the reader crosses the
abridgment to Wesley, so the reader and Wesley cross it to Edwards. Thus
a well-traveled transatlantic bridge facilitates both the intellectual over-
tones of evangelical zeal and the interdisciplinary character of evangelical
intellect. Since the abridgment not only balances empirical and evangeli-
cal idioms but also disperses empirical and evangelical idiolects, it con-
notes an especially full "sense" in which the Anglo-American world is
one. The Lockean ground common to the theologies of Wesley and Ed-
wards extends, for example, to their revivals, which, even during the
Revolution, preserved an intellectual as well as emotional link between
England and America.
The methodological influence of Wesley, first, is not in doubt.125 His
English itinerants were "clearly in command" of American Methodism
until 1777, "when their British nationality seemed to make it impera-
tive . that they should leave."126 Even then, however, the American
Methodist Conference declared its loyalty to "the whole Methodist Disci-
pline." This discipline, partly Lockean, was fully methodological wher-
ever it was subscribed to. Frank Baker, alluding to Wesley's correspon-
dence with the Reverend Samuel Davies of Hanover County, Virginia,
quotes Davies in a way that suggests the "spiritual sense" as transatlantic
bridge. The Wesley brothers, wrote Davies in the I750s, "appear very
benevolent, devout, and zealous men, that are labouring with all their
might to awaken the secure world to a sense of religion."127 Baker adds
that Wesley's admiration of Edwards "underlines his continued commit-
ment to the religious life of America."
Wesley's abridgments, of course, popularized what they digested, and
they disseminated, in the United States as well as England, empiricism as
well as evangelicalism. Wesley's determination to make challenging books
available in brief and handy yet attractive and durable form means,
among other things, that he was a Mortimer J. Adler, for his abridgments,
in particular, amount to a synopticon of many "great books of the West-
ern world." A Christian Library: Consisting of Extracts from and
Abridgments of the choicest Pieces of Practical Divinity, which have been
published in the English Tongue (1749-55) is a logical product of his
prolific editorial pen, but his scientific encyclopedia for the common
reader, A Survey of the Wisdom of God in the Creation: or A Compen-



dium of Natural Philosophy (1763), is also typical of him. These collec-
tions of abridgments were read as companion sets, as an interdisciplinary
vade mecum, for more than one hundred years.128 The abridgment of
Religious Affections was published three years after a reprint of A Com-
pendium of Natural Philosophy, and takes its final place in the second
edition of A Christian Library, which removed views contradicting
Wesley's own.129 It includes the range and sums up the content of both
collections, and it indicates the full nature of Wesley's influence, and for
that matter his joint influence with Edwards.
Besides balm for the soul, Wesley dispensed nostrums for health,
hygiene, and prosperity: his Primitive Physick: or, An Easy and Natural
Method of Curing Most Diseases (1747) was, from 1750 to 1850, among
the dozen or so most widely read books of the English-speaking world.130
Besides thus bettering the lot of his followers on both sides of the Atlantic,
he did much to educate them along interdisciplinary lines. "Reading
Christians," declared Wesley, "will be knowing Christians."131 The state-
ment suggests a twofold ambition: first, to make the rising middle class of
the Anglo-American world literate and, second, to educate that class
about science as well as theology. By ensuring the "spiritual sense" of
transatlantic culture, he ensured, as well, a continuing unity of it.
Because Edwards's congregation ejected him, his influence would seem
less than extensive, but Sacvan Bercovitch, Philip Greven, and Peter Shaw
extend Alan Heimert's argument for Edwards's centrality to the Revolu-
tion.132 Because of Religious Affections, especially in light of Jay Fliegel-
man's recent work on Locke's influence in America from 1750 to 1800,
Edwards's Lockean influence on his mass movement is no more in doubt
than Wesley's is on his.133 Because of Religious Affections, to say nothing
of other Lockean works by Edwards, Locke and Edwards operated jointly
as well as separately, spiritually and philosophically as well as politically,
and, in view of the continuing popularity of Religious Affections, late as
well as early in the century.134
Fliegelman's emphasis on Some Thoughts concerning Education
(1693) establishes an important sense in which, by the eighteenth cen-
tury's second half, Lockean hegemony extended to America. The educa-
tional doctrine of nurture over nature is to be found, for example, even in
Edwards's The Freedom of the Will, which argues that, though man does
not determine the will, he nonetheless does as he will. Lockean pedagogy,



however, follows from Lockean philosophy, and had Fliegelman empha-
sized An Essay concerning Human Understanding, he would have been
able, if one may assume his familiarity with Religious Affections, to con-
nect Locke not only with Edwards's general awareness of nurture over
nature, but also with his particular fortification of the "spiritual sense"
with the natural senses.
Nineteenth-century revivalism, in keeping with its twin sources in
Wesley and Edwards, was interdisciplinary as well as transatlantic. While
emphasizing such social effects as moral reform, antislavery, and tem-
perance, Richard Carwardine observes such intellectual effects as the
following: Charles G. Finney, leader of the Second Great Awakening, was
received at Yale "with universal and entire cordiality"; British Methodists
"gave American Methodism social status by strengthening its literary and
educational character"; the American James Caughey, in his 1844 cam-
paign in Sheffield, England, converted Albert Bradwell, whose education
emphasized not only Locke, but also Hobbes and Hume; and in 1851,
Finney went to England and converted John Moore, who, besides becom-
ing a Methodist preacher, developed "a penchant for metaphysics and
The efforts of Finney and Caughey, like the influence of Edwards on
Wesley, illustrated America's influence on England, but Wesley, like
Locke, had exercised almost as much influence on America as he did on
England. Just as his edition of Religious Affections had amounted to a
British shaping of, and a British contribution to, the American (as well as
Lockean) method of Edwards, and just as American Methodist discipline,
even as late as the Revolution, had remained fully British in both origin
and continuing authority, so the Atlantic cross-pollinations of the nine-
teenth century were just as likely to be from England to America as the
other way round. David Hempton, keeping an eye on intellectual history,
points out that the Locke- as well as Wesley-inspired political thought of
nineteenth-century British Methodism so fully blossomed in the rich soil
of its immediate historical context, namely, England's Chartist Move-
ment, that the seed took root in at least the Arminian ground of American
Much of the nineteenth century, if not the twentieth (I write this after
the American presidential campaign of 1988, with its evangelical
preacher-candidates from both sides of the political spectrum), belonged



to the evangelicals. Even when their numbers were small, they represented
an especially significant Anglo-American trend, not least because their
"social contract" originated in the decidedly "Lockean" (as well as sim-
ply Christian) "Societies" that flourished among Methodists on both
sides of the Atlantic during the eighteenth century.137 The Methodist
Episcopal Church in America grew from a membership of less than ten
thousand in 1780 to more than five hundred thousand by I830.138 A
similar pattern obtained in England. Although Methodists made up only
about 5 percent of the adult British population in 1840, they were "the
largest and most influential element in a much larger constituency."139 By
1851, there were more than two million Sunday-School scholars in En-
gland alone, six hundred thousand of whom were Methodists, and they
represented 76 percent of working-class children between the ages of five
and fifteen.140
Inasmuch as Methodism grew into a great world church and the Great
Awakening of the 173os and the 174os grew into the Second Great Awak-
ening of the 82zos and the i83os, and inasmuch as the revivalism of both
the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries was both transatlantic and
emotional-intellectual, Wesley and Edwards were indeed twin shapers of
a widespread, recurrent mode of thought and feeling, a mode in which
sense perception of natural things formed the model for "sense percep-
tion" of the divine. Just as Wesley's methodology grounded his trans-
atlantic revival, so the Lockean ground common to Wesley and Edwards
grounded transatlantic revivalism in general. Just as the spiritual sense of
Wesley and Edwards proceeded from natural as well as spiritual things,
through ideas/ideals of sensation, to words of grace as well as nature, so
this sense grounded Anglo-American culture in alternately objective and
subjective worlds and even in a simultaneously objective and subjective
world. Thus the Lockean and the evangelical understandings of experi-
ence came together in the Anglo-American middle class. The Anglo-
American character of which I speak, though not confined to the middle
class, which tends upward, is primarily of that class, and it arose from an
empirical as well as evangelical emphasis of the eighteenth century. Epis-
temology and ontology, however esoteric, filter down to those who live
within a worldview, distinct from those who create it (witness the analogy
of "Freudians" who do not read Sigmund Freud).



For the remainder of this book, I look for the mature expression of this
Anglo-American character in the vital synthesis and complex entity of
nineteenth-century British and American letters, for the abridgment, as I
have approached it, provides access to Carlyle and Emerson. Having
pointed to the dual role of the abridgment as description of and blueprint
for Anglo-American experience, and continuing to regard the combined
sensibilities of Wesley and Edwards as the emblem of a binational charac-
ter, I conclude the present chapter by associating the abridgment with les
belles lettres. Having read the abridgment closely, examining its cadences
with an ear for nuance, I already regard it as literature. This skillful
redaction responds to critical method as readily as the poems of Words-
worth, and so emerges as an ingenious instance of les bonnes lettres. By
providing for the incongruous modes of empirical philosophy and evan-
gelical faith a single accommodating location for both their interplay and
their interaction, the abridgment engages the theory of literature as para-
dox. Since some famous lines of Wordsworth have formed one of the
categories by which I have sought, as fully as possible and from many
different perspectives, to interpret the abridgment, I have already drawn
on les belles lettres. "He washed himself clean," like all other prolepses, is
"a figure by which a thing is represented as already done, though in
reality it is to follow as a consequence of the action which is described,"
and as though the abridgment adumbrates Wordsworth, I have made
proleptic reference to Romanticism. The next step, a logical one, is to
complete the connection between the abridgment and American as well
as British Romantic literature.
Difficult as it will be for me to resist requoting the abridgment, I will
refrain from doing so, but I will everywhere adduce its thought, for I offer
not simply a full, but emphatically a fully ramifying, interpretation of it.
Wesley's abridgment of Edwards's Religious Affections, by addressing the
paradox of mundane and otherworldly points of view in both England
and the United States, intimates perhaps the most inclusive sense in which
British literature and American literature merge. As compendium and
chief repository of Wesleyan-Edwardsean "epistemology," it forms a sub-
stantial subject in itself; as perhaps the most resonant common document
of Methodism and the Great Awakening, it epitomizes and indexes, that
is, quintessentially embodies, a "spiritual sense" to be found in trans-



atlantic revivalism and hence, significantly, in the Anglo-American world;
and as a background to and context for a particularly important bina-
tional amalgam of les belles lettres, it raises the distinct possibility that
just as spiritually transposed empiricism bridges empiricism per se and
early modern apologetics, so imagination bridges natural observation
and early modern "poetic faith."


Carlyle did not so much "set individual experience ... against the eter-
nal and limitless perspectives of Time and Space"' as include those per-
spectives within individual experience. From 1827 through 1843, he
focused on reconciling the transcendent with the immanent. His actual-
ideal sense of the real derives from the empirical-evangelical and hence
broadly experiential sensibility of his time and place and, for that matter,
of eighteenth- as well as nineteenth-century England and America.
Eloise M. Behnken argues that "[Carlyle's] skepticism, his honesty, and
his insistence that values must be corroborated by individual experience"
define him as "modern."2 George P. Landow finds that, like Arnold and
Ruskin, Carlyle is "the master of prophetic experience."3 I find that his
concern with experience is not only pre-Modern, that is, tending toward
complete skepticism, but also post-eighteenth century, that is, dy-
namically poised between skeptical questioning and prophetic possibility.
His philosophical sensibility relates to his faith according to the gloss
provided by the philosophical theology of Wesley and Edwards, whose
methodology parallels, even where it does not underlie, Carlyle's experi-
ential orientation toward science as well as religion. Thus, his experiential
sensibility is descended from the empirical/evangelical dialectic.
Although Carlyle was much influenced by Goethe, his radical skepti-
cism comes not so much from Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, who passes
through sterile self-questioning to understanding and action, as from
British empiricism, albeit by way of Cartesian methodology.4 When
Carlyle rejected the church as a career, though not Christianity as an



influence, he threw himself into scientific/empirical studies, and Michael
Timko stresses Carlyle's familiarity with Newton and Hume.s Carlyle
reacted against the church as much from his native empirical perspective
as from any foreign perspective, German or other.
His evangelical origins, of course, are largely Calvinist, and he could
hardly have had a purer access to Calvinism than the Burgher Secession of
Scottish Calvinism in which he grew up.6 Charles Frederick Harrold ar-
gues that Carlyle seeks in "German thought and elsewhere" an "accept-
able intellectual restatement" of such Calvinistic emphases as "fatalism, a
transcendent God, the elect, and irrationalism."7 Thus, in Harrold's
memorable phrase, Carlyle is "a Calvinist without the theology." Even
when most "German" or most ideally, transcendentally philosophical,
Carlyle remains "Calvinist." He never loses what Ian Campbell calls "the
broad outlines of the duty-dominated Calvinist world-picture of his
youth."8 In this context, incidentally, David J. DeLaura's argument that
Carlyle, along with Arnold, is an essentially religious conservative who
"gradually assembled a reconceivedd' Biblical religion" echoes with even
more resonance than before.9
Behnken, however, argues that the worldview Carlyle "gradually builds
and refines" has "much more in common with the death-of-God theology
of the I96os and 1970s than with the Calvinism he is often said to have
inherited."10 I agree with her perhaps unintentional implication that
Calvinism is by no means the only way of understanding Carlyle's re-
ligious affinities. Though no churchgoer, for example, he harbors admira-
tion for Edward Irving, whose theological enthusiasm harks back to
Wesley's.11 Broadly evangelical, too, are the affiliations between Carlyle's
ideas and both Thomas Scott's view of prophecy and the social gospel of
the Arminian evangelical R. B. Seeley.12 Especially Arminian are both
Carlyle's lifelong generosity toward the selected objects of his charity and
his clear belief that the responsibility for human salvation lies "on men's
shoulders, not on God's."13 Although Behnken sees Carlyle's emphasis
on individual responsibility as only "modern," it is also Arminian.
Just as one needs Arminianism as well as Calvinism to understand fully
the evangelical dimension of Carlyle's religious sensibility, then, so one
needs empiricism as well as evangelicalism to understand fully his experi-
ential sensibility. The great German idealists-Schiller, Richter, Fichte,
Kant, and Novalis-whom he read as a young man, may have "provided



him with both a source of inspiration and a mode of expression."14 Such
"transcendental principles" as the categorical imperative, "time and
space as appearances," and "nature as the symbol of the divine" seem to
have formed "the nucleus of Carlyle's faith as late as I879."15 But
Campbell argues that Carlyle's early translations from the Germans drew
on "his knowledge of Germans who wrote creatively (Goethe, Schiller)
and philosophically (Kant), as well as on those who combined these
functions (Richter, Novalis) to produce work which Carlyle frankly did
not understand but which he did manage to incorporate into his own
original ideas."16 His original ideas have more to do with his various
English-language origins, empiricism and evangelicalism among them,
than with German sources. Ruth apRoberts argues that he borrows from
German method to become the pioneer of comparative religion in En-
gland, and that he finds the "Key to all Mythologies" in Eastern re-
ligion.17 (Note foreshadowings of the fruitless search by Casaubon in
George Eliot's Middlemarch and, for that matter, the fruitful search by
Mircea Eliade.)18 One need not wander from English-language contexts,
however, for by grounding understanding of German methodology in the
religious as well as "scientific" method that derives from Wesley and
Edwards, Carlyle grounds transcendentalism.

Carlyle from 1827 to 1831
Experience forms an especially inclusive category of Carlyle's early
thought. According to On History (1830), for example, "Experience"
becomes "Philosophy" when "intelligibly recorded."19 "History," sim-
ilarly, is "Philosophy teaching by Experience," or "the essence of innu-
merable Biographies" (53). Carlyle's formative essays, those written be-
fore 1831 when Sartor Resartus established his reputation, acknowledge
that experiential epistemology is problematic: On History warns that
since "the inward condition of Life" is "the same in no two ages," and
since "one Biography, nay our own Biography, study and recapitulate it
as we may, remains in ... many points unintelligible" (53), historical
knowledge is all but unattainable. Indeed, historical events are themselves
elusive, for "it is, in no case, the real historical Transaction, but only some
more or less plausible scheme and theory of the Transaction, or the
harmonised result of many such schemes, each varying from the other



and all varying from truth, that we can ever hope to behold" (55). Thus
observation itself falsifies, or at best alters, its objects: "Nay, were our
faculty of insight into passing things never so complete, there is still a fatal
discrepancy between our manner of observing these, and their manner of
occurring. The most gifted man can observe, still more can record, only
the series of his own impressions: his observation, therefore, to say noth-
ing of its other imperfections, must be successive, while the things done
were often simultaneous" (55). "Laws themselves, political constitu-
tions," are finally "not our Life"; in On History, he declares that laws
and political constitutions "are but the bare walls of the house; all whose
essential furniture, the inventions and traditions, and daily habits that
regulate and support our existence, are the work not of Dracos and
Hampdens, but of Phoenician mariners, of Italian masons and Saxon
metallurgists, of philosophers, alchymists, prophets, and all the long-
forgotten train of artists and artisans; who from the first have been jointly
teaching us how to think and how to act, how to rule over spiritual and
over physical Nature" (53-54). Carlyle the historian is interested not so
much in "the rudder of Government," "the spigot of Taxation," courts,
camps, soldiers, and ministers as in "the mighty Tide of Thought and
Action," "still rolling on its wondrous course, in gloom and bright-
ness, ... its thousand remote valleys, a whole world of Existence" (58);
thus he assumes that knowledge is attainable through an experience so
broad as not only to constitute, but also to precede, culture.
Experience is from the outset of his career prior to even so fundamental
a semiotic as language. In Goethe (1827), for example, he writes,
"Goethe's culture as a writer is perhaps less remarkable than his culture
as a man" (39). Rather than learning from "Art and Literature," Goethe,
and by implication Carlyle, learn from "action and passion, in the rugged
school of Experience" (39). Compare this with the following passage
from Past and Present (1843): "The cloudy-browed, thick-soled, opaque
Practicality, with no logical utterance, in silence mainly, with here and
there a low grunt or growl, has in him what transcends all logic-
utterance: a Congruence with the Unuttered. The Speakable, which lies
atop, as a superficial film, or outer skin, is his or not his: but the Doable,
which reaches down to the World's centre, you find him there!"20
A. Abbott Ikeler argues that Carlyle views experience as nonverbal, but
where Ikeler finds in Carlyle's work a "dichotomy between aesthetic and



moral, literary and practical,"21 I find a dialectic, for Carlyle views expe-
rience not only as prior to but also as inclusive of language.
In Voltaire (1829), Carlyle elaborates his view of experience, evincing
an early confidence in the epistemological efficacy of sense-based reason.
Vulnerable from the perspective of empirical schematics, Voltaire's ration-
alism makes objects lie around him not in "pictorial" or "scientific
grouping," but in "commodious rows, where each may be seen and come
at, like goods in a well-kept warehouse" (50). The "best gifts" of Vol-
taire's mind-"order," "perspicuous Arrangement," "intellectual vi-
sion," "intensity," "clear quick vision," "instinctive decision," "logical
coherence," intelligibility, and transparency-are the "peculiarly French
qualities" that he "manifests" in a "more than French degree" (48). But
insofar as his mind-set "sees only to a short depth" (49), it amounts by
implication to mentalism, that is, to an excessive independence from the
senses and hence to what Carlyle thinks of as the peculiar problem of
being French. (A whole book might be written on the Francophobia of
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British writers.) Voltaire's writings, at
any rate, oversimplify reality in that, rather than resembling the "deep
natural symmetry" in "a forest oak," the meticulously observed cartoons
of Raphael, or, especially significantly from the British point of view, "the
plan ... of our so barbarous Hamlet," they resemble, instead, "the sim-
ple artificial symmetry of a parlour chandelier," "a geometrical diagram
by Fermat," or "a polished, square-built Tuileries" (50). Thus Voltaire,
though in general "humane" and "mildly affectionate," lacks "feeling"
(50). He never sufficiently escapes the mind to "see into the life of
To "see into the life of things," as Wordsworth writes, serves not coinci-
dentally to epitomize the procedure of Carlyle's empirical-evangelical
imagination, which, like Wordsworth's, rules over spiritual as well as over
physical nature. Voltaire, though in his empirical moods "king" of this
lower world, is never "god" of it (46). Although he has "many common
talents" in "unparalleled combination," presumably including powers of
perception, he lacks "any finer or higher one" (49), e.g., spiritual discern-
ment. "Susceptibility of mind" and even "assiduous perseverance" are
his, but not that "sort of meditation" which reveals "Truth" (47). "A
purely business Method" he practices well, but not that sort of "poetic
Method" which is "the fruit of deep feeling" (49-50). In the word



"Method," especially since Voltaire employs phrases like "spirit of
Method" (49; my italics), one is tempted to find a pun on Methodism,
that inclusively English, far from French, fruit of deep feeling. Thus,
besides reading Voltaire with no little Francophobia, Carlyle reads him
with fully English eyes, for he faults this particular philosophy for his lack
of both sharp sense and holistic spiritual vision.
What is observable, what falls within the purview of experience, is so
mysterious to the young Carlyle that it falls, too, within the purview of
religion as well as science. On History, while understanding events along
carefully empirical lines, is never enamored of empiricism: "The Histo-
rian ... examines some special aspect of History; and from this or that
combination of circumstances, political, moral, or economical, and the
issues it has led to, infers that such and such properties belong to human
society, and that the like circumstances will produce the like issue; which
inference, if other trials confirm it, must be held true and practically
valuable" (57). The essay adds that the historian "is wrong only, and an
artisan, when he fancies that these properties, discovered or discoverable,
exhaust the matter; and sees not, at every step, that it is inexhaustible"
(57). In accordance with the view that "all Action ... is based on Passion
and Mystery," Carlyle imbues the ideal historian with a salutary rever-
ence, viz., "As thanksgivings were once wont to be offered 'for unrecog-
nised mercies,' [so the historian should] look with reverence into the dark
untenanted places of the Past. . Narrative is linear, Action is solid. Alas
for our 'chains,' or 'chainlets,' of 'causes and effects,' which we so assidu-
ously track through certain handbreadths of years and square miles,
when the whole is a broad, deep Immensity, and each atom is 'chained'
and completed with all!" (54-55).
Such a historical study requires not mere "onlookers," but a "Seer,"
with spiritual as well as natural senses (56). "In reverent Faith," the
historian must "pause over the mysterious vestiges of Him, whose path is
the great deep of Time, whom History indeed reveals, but only all His-
tory, and in Eternity, will clearly reveal" (56). With veiled reference to
Methodism, Carlyle calls "wonderful" the sort of spiritual experience
that other historians would brand mere "enthusiasm" or "superstition"
(57). "Our whole spiritual life," he believes, "is built" on "History" (56),
"a real Prophetic Manuscript," or account of spiritual experience in natu-
ral time and place (51).



Although Signs of the Times (1829) includes more ideas than any of
Carlyle's other early essays, it has not received its share of attention.23 It
formulates experience decisively. As for natural experience, he declares
that "all our systems and theories are but so many froth-eddies or sand-
banks, which from time to time [Nature] casts up, and washes away"
(75). This is an especially memorable expression of Carlyle's developing
view that nature precedes, produces, and supersedes mind-that is, that
ideas, to put the matter in Lockean terms, are sense-dependent.
"Instruction," for its part, turns out to be writing by experience on the
tabula rasa, or the "communing of Wisdom with Ignorance" (65). "Intel-
lect" is not just "Logic, or the mere power of arranging and communicat-
ing" but, more intriguingly, "the power man has of knowing and believ-
ing" (77), that is, of creatively interacting with objects. Scientific
education advances, accordingly, in harmony with the model of classical
empiricism. Just as Newton "discovers the system of the world from the
falling of an apple" (66), so the mind's willingness to submit to external
impressions produces spectacular results, e.g., "We remove mountains,
and make seas our smooth highway" (64), or, "Nothing can resist us; we
war with rude Nature; and, by our resistless engines, come off always
victorious, and loaded with spoils" (64).
What wonderful accessions have thus been made, and are still making, to the
physical power of mankind; how much better fed, clothed, lodged and, in all
outward respects, accommodated men now are, or might be, by a given
quantity of labour, is a grateful reflection which forces itself on every one.
This empiricism, despite the humble methodology in "by a given quan-
tity of labour," forms the basis of Carlyle's Victorian optimism. Signs of
the Times optimistically claims that "doubtless this age... is advanc-
ing": "[The age's] very unrest, its ceaseless activity, its discontent contains
matter of promise. Knowledge, education are opening the eyes of the
humblest; are increasing the number of thinking minds without limit.
This is as it should be; for not in turning back, not in resisting, but only in
resolutely struggling forward, does our life consist" (83).
Set alongside such exuberant philosophical experientialism, however, is
an equally exuberant evangelical experientialism. While scorning Ire-
land's "Penny-a-week Purgatory Society" and denouncing the "Bible-



society" as a "religious machine" (64-65), Signs of the Times is not anti-
evangelical. It is evangelical with a vengeance. Hear, for example, this
rhapsody on a freedom more Arminian than political: "Freedom, without
which indeed all spiritual life is impossible, depends on infinitely more
complex influences than either the extension or the curtailment of the
'democratic interest'. .. It is towards a higher freedom than mere free-
dom from oppression by his fellow-mortal, that man dimly aims. Of this
higher, heavenly freedom, which is 'man's reasonable service,' all his
noble institutions, his faithful endeavours and loftiest attainments, are
but the body" (75, 84). Signs of the Times, indeed, features a more
religious than utopian, more millennial than apocalyptic version of
Wesley's doctrine of spiritual perfection: "To reform a world, to reform a
nation, no wise man will undertake," since "all but foolish men know,
that the only solid, though a far slower reformation, is what each begins
and perfects on himself' (85).
An evangelical emphasis on the here and now specifically informs some
of the essay's most characteristic idioms. Implying nostalgia for the ame-
lioristic bustle of evangelical practical charity, Carlyle laments that "the
distance between the rich and the poor" has altered "old relations" (65).
Something of the same nostalgia, incidentally, is to be found in Words-
worth's "The Old Cumberland Beggar" (1797). The immediately spir-
itual inheres in Carlyle's announcement that vaticinationn," or prophecy,
is not a matter simply of foretelling the future but, more intriguingly, of
spiritually living in the present (61).
"Our grand business undoubtedly is," he proclaims, "not to see what
lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand" (61). His
elaboration of this point is not only both vivid and well sustained but
also, if secular in content, overwhelmingly evangelical in diction and
general atmosphere:

[The radical millenarians] prophesy from the Bible, and the Utilitarians from
Bentham. The one announces that the last of the seals is to be opened,
positively, in the year 1860; and the other assures us that "the greatest-
happiness principle" is to make a heaven of earth, in a still shorter time ....
Meantime, we too admit that the present is an important time; as all present
time necessarily is. The poorest Day that passes over us is the conflux of two
Eternities; it is made up of currents that issue from the remotest Past, and



flow onwards into the remotest Future. We were wise indeed, could we
discern truly the signs of our own time; and by knowledge of its wants and
advantages, wisely adjust our own position in it. ... Perhaps ... something
of [the perplexity of the scene whereon we stand] will disappear, some of its
distinctive characters and deeper tendencies more clearly reveal themselves.

Even more characteristically, though, Signs of the Times mixes secular
content with evangelical content. Some passages imply an unbridgeable
gulf between the empirical and the spiritual: e.g., "The truth is, men have
lost their belief in the Invisible, and believe, and hope, and work only in
the Visible; or, to speak it in other words: This is not a Religious age"
(77). The essay uses the language of sense-based reason, however, to
investigate, and even to understand, the "inward world" of the spirit as
well as "the outward" world of the senses (77).
"Nature," writes Carlyle, "continues" to lend its "instinctive, un-
bounded force" to humanity (73), and although this idea is pantheistic, it
strikingly parallels the doctrine of immediate revelation, the Holy Spirit's
operation in the present. Both art and science accordingly inspire the idea
of grace: "They were not planted or grafted, nor even greatly multiplied
or improved by the culture or manuring of institutions," but have been
"from first to last" the "free gift of Nature; an unsolicited, unexpected
gift" (73). Anything "grounded on little more than a metaphor," Carlyle
suggests, is groundless (78), and this antimetaphorical bias points to his
preference for analogy: implicit in his belief that poetry should preserve
"an eye for the Invisible" (80; my italics) is a "spiritual sense" parallel to,
if not coterminous with, the natural senses. The senses, then, remain a
guide to the otherworldly, for the invisible is not more remote for being
analogous to the visible.
Indeed, "the invisible world" is never "wanting" insofar as it "dwells in
man's soul, and this last is still here" (83; my italics). Though not of the
world, the soul is in it, and world and soul have in common at least the
quality of mystery: "When we can drain the Ocean into mill-ponds, and
bottle-up the Force of Gravity, to be sold by retail, in gas-jars" (that is,
never), then, and only then, can we "hope to comprehend the infinitudes
of man's soul" under "formulas of Profit and Loss" (75). Even sense
perception can be suffused with spiritual light, such that the senses im-



plicitly attend, or prepare for, faith. "Religion," Signs of the Times con-
cludes, is "a thousand-voiced psalm from the heart of Man to his invisible
Father," who is "revealed" in "every revelation" of "Goodness, Beauty,
Truth" (79).
As for "the Christian religion," in particular, it "must ever be regarded
as the crowning glory, or rather the life and soul, of our whole modern
culture" (73; my italics). It, like nature, underlies culture. Where Carlyle
adds that Christianity was "spread abroad" by "simple, altogether natu-
ral and individual efforts" (74), he implies that evangelical Christianity
overlaps, or is partially commensurate, with nature. "Deep, paralysed
subjection to physical objects," he observes, "comes not from Nature,"
not from objects themselves, "but from our own unwise mode of view-
ing" them (83). The fault lies not in the natural world, but in ourselves,
that we should feel trapped by it.
The essay's blend of nature with spirit, at any rate, specifically builds
on Locke's Essay. Although from Locke's time "downwards," "our
whole Metaphysics" has been "physical" (68), Signs of the Times calls for
a "spiritual philosophy" that reveals not simply "the grand secrets of
Necessity and Freewill, of the Mind's vital or non-vital dependence on
Matter" but, even more experientially, "our mysterious relations to Time
and Space, to God, to the Universe" (68). The "scientific work" in
Locke's Essay is still "a curious indication" of the spirit of "these times,"
that is, the Late Romantic Period (68). But what "these times" need, in
addition to Locke's "genetic history of what we see in the mind"
(Carlyle's italics), is "a philosophy of the mind" (my italics), namely, a
comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to matter, spirit to
nature (68).
One might even say in this connection that Carlyle calls for the relation
of empiricism to evangelicalism. He implies that prophets should retain
"the use, not only of their understandings, but of their bodily senses"
(61). He states unequivocally that they should cultivate both "thought
and feeling," both "head and heart," and both "internal perfection" and
"external combinations and arrangements" (67). Where Signs of the
Times concludes that "the thinking minds of all nations call for change,"
that even philosophers recognize the need for conversion, and where it
predicts that such change will not just be "observable" but even be so
manifest as to be "spectacular" (84), Carlyle draws on the evangelical



point that conversion is, or should be, commensurate with intellectual
processes and should follow from them.
Perhaps the most thoroughly Lockean dimension of the essay's "em-
pirical" evangelicalism is its appropriation of the tabula rasa, which un-
derlies dependence on experience. "He, who has been born," declares
Carlyle, "has been a First Man," and has "lying before his young eyes,
and as yet unhardened into scientific shapes, a world as plastic, infinite,
divine, as lay before the eyes of Adam himself" (83). Although eschewing
the exclusively scientific, this statement implies the coexistence of religion
with material or sensible form, the inhering of religion in the objective
world on which subjectivity depends from birth. Religious knowledge, no
less than natural, depends on experience, for spiritual truth may be re-
vealed with unique effect on the individual in the here and now: "One
man that has a higher Wisdom, a hitherto unknown spiritual Truth in
him, is stronger not than ten men that have it not, or than ten thousand,
but than all men that have it not" (78).
Carlyle laments the fact that we typically see nothing by "direct vi-
sion," but only by "reflection," and in "anatomical dismemberment"
(78-79). Thus he implies that seeing by direct vision, whether through
the natural senses or through the "spiritual sense," points out to us how
to experience both fully and intensely what we have not grasped before.
Religion "must have a Natural History" (79), not in Hume's sense of
being explained or explained away by nature, but in the evangelical sense
that the supernatural and the natural coinhere. Because religion is thus
experiential, or because empiricism and evangelicalism coexisted in the
nineteenth century as well as in the eighteenth, Carlyle concludes that "a
new and brighter spiritual era is slowly evolving itself for all men" (84;
my italics).
In the context of such "empirical" evangelicalism, we should under-
stand that the denunciation of science in Signs of the Times is only appar-
ently total. In a curious anticipation of Darwin, Carlyle regrets that "ven-
eration for the physically Strongest" has spread from science to literature
(65). He believes that industrial technology has made not only science,
but also religion, too mechanical: "Not the external and physical alone is
now managed by machinery, but the internal and spiritual also" (81). The
extreme empiricism of Reid, Hume, and Hartley, and especially of
Hartley's "vibrations and vibratiuncles," is ultimately responsible for the



excessively "material and mechanical" aspects of nineteenth-century sci-
ence, for "the deep meaning of the Laws of Mechanism lies heavy on us,
and in the closet, in the marketplace, in the temple, by the social hearth,
encumbers the whole movements of our mind, and over our noblest
faculties is spreading a nightmare sleep" (82). It is important to note,
though, that his turning away from such science is very much in keeping
with the moderate, Lockean empiricism of the eighteenth century, espe-
cially with the eighteenth-century combination of empiricism and evan-
gelicalism. While reserving a role for the science of mechanics, Carlyle
emphasizes in addition, "a science of Dynamics," which "treats of, and
practically addresses, the primary, unmodified forces and energies of
man, the mysterious springs of Love, and Fear, and Wonder, of Enthusi-
asm, Poetry, Religion, all which have a truly vital and infinite character"
(72). He might even have Wesley in mind, among others, where he adds
that "Moralists-Poets or Priests, . without neglecting the Mechani-
cal province, deal chiefly with the Dynamical; applying themselves chiefly
to regulate, increase and purify the inward primary powers of man" (72).
What Carlyle calls the mechanical and dynamical constitutes an inter-
dependency consistent with my view that the empirical and the evangeli-
cal can be one. Here, at some length, is perhaps the most inclusive meth-
odological statement of Signs of the Times:

To define the limits of these two departments of man's activity, which
work one into another, and by means of one another, so intricately and
inseparably, were by its nature an impossible attempt. Their relative im-
portance, even to the wisest mind, will vary in different times, according to
the special wants and dispositions of those times. Meanwhile, it seems clear
enough that only in the right coordination of the two, and the vigorous
forwarding of both, does our true line of action lie. Undue cultivation of the
inward or Dynamical province leads to idle, visionary, impractical courses,
and, especially in rude eras, to Superstition and Fanaticism, with their long
train of baleful and well-known evils. Undue cultivation of the outward,
again, though less immediately prejudicial, and even for the time productive
of many palpable benefits, must, in the long-run, by destroying Moral Force,
prove not less certainly, and perhaps still more hopelessly, pernicious. (76)

This dynamic interrelation of the inward and the outward is perhaps as
far as anything can be from rationalism.



Indeed, Signs of the Times waxes explicitly antirationalistic, for Carlyle
denounces the kind of "intellectual dapperling of these times," who
"boasts chiefly of his irresistible perspicacity, his 'dwelling in the daylight
of truth,' and so forth; which, on examination, turns out to be a dwelling
in the rush-light of 'closet-logic,' and a deep unconsciousness that there is
any other light to dwell in or any other objects to survey with it" (78). He
has in mind the French mathematicians. The calculus, the differential, and
the integral of Lagrange and Laplace add up to only a "cunningly-
constituted arithmetical mill" (68). He thinks that, as a result, "the whole
French Institute" is so foolish as to see nothing in the saying "God geo-
metrises!" but "a sentimental rodomontade" (68). Carlyle embraces the
saying, for "God geometrises!" assumes that the mathematics of geome-
try is a language not of solipsism or of mental order alone but of both
God and nature. (Scholars, of course, recognize the importance of mathe-
matics to Carlyle, but his mathematics is thought to be a language of
mental order alone or at best of God and mind: Carlisle Moore argues
that Carlyle's philosophy synthesizes "the best" of mathematics with "the
best" of German transcendentalism.)24 Carlyle's Francophobia, like
many of his other attitudes, derives from his native empirically imagina-
tive and even empirically evangelical perspective.

Carlyle from 1831 to 1850
Of Sartor Resartus (1831), Carlyle wrote to his brother John: it "glances
from heaven to earth and back again."25 In line with this emphasis on
"heaven," Sartor Resartus includes much praise for the purely transcen-
dental, for Teufelsdrockh's "Philosophy of Clothes" teaches that "reality
is only embodied within infinite and spiritual perspectives" and that
"finite circumstances are accidental and ultimately irrelevant."26 Teu-
felsdr6ckh's words can be explicitly antiempirical: "The WHERE and
WHEN, so mysteriously inseparable from all our thoughts, are but superfi-
cial terrestrial adhesions to thought; . the Seer may discern them
where they mount up out of the celestial EVERYWHERE and FOREVER"
The "editor" of Teufelsdrockh's "works," however, is by turns whimsi-
cal, satirical, and ironic, and he takes Teufelsdrockh's transcendentalism
with a grain of salt. He calls it "gaseous-chaotic" and "aqueous-chaotic"



and suggests that its apparent "Elysian brightness" comes down to mere
"Pandemonian lava" and even that its "beatific Asphodel meadows" are
only "the yellow-burning marl of a Hell-on-Earth" (Io5, iii). (Here, of
course, Carlyle refers to Paradise Lost.) The "editor" accords admiration
to Teufelsdrockh only insofar as his "transcendentalism" is theistic, that
is, grounded:

Our Professor's method is not, in any case, that of common school Logic,
where the truths all stand in a row, each holding by the skirts of the other;
but at best that of practical Reason, proceeding by large Intuition over whole
systematic groups and kingdoms; whereby, we might say, a noble complex-
ity, almost like that of Nature, reigns in his Philosophy, or spiritual Picture of
Nature: a mighty maze, yet, as faith whispers, not without a plan. (89-90)

Writing of the "genuinely original . form and content" of Sartor
Resartus, Campbell argues that it "combines biography, autobiography,
essay, and political commentary with a layered structure and avoidance of
final meaning which makes it seem well in advance of its time."27 Its
"layered structure" and its "avoidance of final meaning," however, do not
preclude consideration of the gist of the work, namely, the final four
chapters of book i, as part of its time, that is, as indicative of the subtle
complexity of Carlyle's empirical-evangelical worldview.28
Although the antiempirical hovers near Teufelsdrockh's uneasiness
with the Humean notion that "use-and-want everywhere lead [men] by
the nose"-"Thus let but a Rising of the Sun, let but a Creation of the
World happen twice, and it ceases to be marvellous, to be noteworthy, or
noticeable" (g9~)-the at least quasi-empirical inheres in the implicit per-
ceptual categories and hence the at least Berkeleyan manner with which
Teufelsdrockh expresses his transcendentalism: "Matter exists only spir-
itually, and to represent some Idea, and body it forth" (93). The decidedly
empirical inheres in the radically skeptical attitude by which the "editor"
systematically questions received tenets:

Which of your Philosophical Systems is other than a dream-theorem ... ?
This Dreaming, this Somnambulism is what we on Earth call Life; wherein
the most indeed undoubtingly wander, as if they knew right hand from left;
yet they only are wise who know that they know nothing .... Our Professor,


like other Mystics, whether delirious or inspired, gives our Editor enough to
do. (105-6)

The empiricism of Sartor Resartus is explicitly consistent, indeed, with
the broad strokes and untroubled robustness of Locke's philosophy, and
this is nowhere more evident than in the "editor's" underlying assump-
tion of tabula rasa, his experiential emphasis. He admires Teufelsdrockh
because his "demonstration lay much in [his] individuality; as if it were
not Argument that had taught him, but Experience" (90). The "editor"
agrees with "Hofrath Heuschrecke," the "biographer" of Teufelsdrockh:

However it may be with Metaphysics, and other abstract Science originating
in the Head [observes "Heuschrecke"],... no Life-Philosophy ... can at-
tain its significance till the Character itself is known and seen; till the Au-
thor's View of the World . and how he actively and passively came by
such a view, are clear: in short till a Biography of him has been philosophico-
poetically written, and philosophico-poetically read. (Io8-9)

Such a radically skeptical attitude, of course, belongs as much to Des-
cartes as to Locke, and Teufelsdrockh can sound quite Cartesian: "Who
am I; what is this ME? ... Cogito, ergo sum" (90). His cogito, however, is
sense-based, and therefore rational rather than rationalistic: "Alas, poor
Cogitator, this takes us but a little way. Sure enough, I am; and lately was
not: but Whence? How? Whereto? The answer lies around, written in all
colours and motions, uttered in all tones of jubilee and wail, in thousand-
figured, thousand-voiced, harmonious Nature" (90). Thus his cogito is
Lockean enough. Although the external world can seem to Teufelsdrockh
only a projection of the self-"Nature ... [is] but the reflex of our in-
ward Force" (92)-that world is importantly present to him, nonetheless.
He understands the self as product of sense-experience more than as
purely transcendental cogito.
Like Locke, finally, Teufelsdr6ckh offers an explicitly empirical critique
of language. (While Berkeley and Hume sustain no language theory, the
entire third book of Locke's Essay is one.) Language, unlike the here and
now, tends toward the inaccessible, the abstract, and, in Teufelsdrockh's
view, this is unfortunate, for "High Air-castles are cunningly built of
Words, the words well bedded also in good Logic-mortar; wherein, how-



ever, no Knowledge will come to lodge" (91). Thus unreliable as a means
of contact between the mind and externality, words are not to be unduly
revered: "Be not the slave of Words" (91).
In line with book 3 of Locke's Essay, too, is Teufelsdr6ckh's view of
language as an at least possible means of such contact. Teufelsdrockh
points out that even such an abstraction as "Attention" is, etymologically
speaking, "a Stretching-to," and this concreteness of words, he thinks,
approaches sense experience (107). Language preserves expression not
"solid-grown and colourless," but "fluid and florid," that is, aglow with
"the flush of vigorous self-growth" (107). While Teufelsdrockh admits
that his language is "sometimes not without an apoplectic tendency"
(107), he searches for the vital expression that, according to Locke, grows
only, and more or less immediately, out of experience. Teufelsdrockh's
language method lets him risk explosive speech.
The continuum in Sartor Resartus that joins science to religion is the
most inclusive, if not the most straightforward, strain of the book. Along-
side Teufelsdrockh's "metaphysico-theological Disquisition" are his "de-
tached Thoughts on the Steam-engine" (i o). Near this juxtaposition, in
turn, as though to suggest further the experiential bridge from science to
religion, is his emphasis on "the continued possibility of Prophecy" (104),
the hope of revelation in the here and now. "Science," exclaims Teu-
felsdrockh, never proceeds "in the small chink-lighted, or even oil-
lighted, underground workshop of Logic alone" (103). Such would be
rationalism, a head "screwed off, and set in a basin to keep it alive" (103).
Thus embracing empirical method, Teufelsdrockh also acknowledges that
even the scientist must cultivate the spiritual sense:
The man who cannot wonder, who does not habitually wonder (and wor-
ship), were he President of innumerable Royal Societies, and carried the
whole Mecanique Celeste and Hegel's Philosophy, and the epitome of all
Laboratories and Observatories with their results, in his single head,-is but
a Pair of Spectacles behind which there is no Eye. Let those who have Eyes
look through him, then he may be useful. (104)
Teufelsdrockh declares, indeed, that "all objects are windows through
which the philosophic eye looks into infinitude itself" (o16), a declara-
tion reminiscent of both the philosophic form and the religious content of
the evangelical "spiritual sense."


His reference, of course, can be to sense-as-analogue, as in "The thing
Visible, ... what is it but a Garment, a Garment of the higher, celestial
Invisible?" (ioz). But ultimate reality can also be directly perceived by the
senses: "Matter" is both "manifestation of Spirit" and "Spirit" (ioz).
Although he does not "see" "the Unslumbering," he "suspects" Him in
those "rare half-waking moments" when the "God-written Apocalypse"
of nature yields "articulate meaning" to "cunning eye and ear" (91).
Sartor Resartus, then, "glances from heaven to earth and back again" not
so much to reject the world of sense as to include that world in the
dialectic of spiritual with natural experience.
The French Revolution (1737), perhaps the most tough-minded of
Carlyle's works, fits at the empirical extreme of his empirical-evangelical
continuum. Although one may fault the work for its dependence on
memories rather than on genuinely primary sources,29 it shows, among
other virtues, narrative skill, careful structure, and a keen sense of irony.30
Mark Cumming, emphasizing its originality of form, argues that Carlyle's
"epic of the Revolution" is precisely "a revolutionary epic."31 The epic's
close attention to historical minutiae is especially worthy of note.32
Carlyle's willingness to be keenly observant of passing events without any
irritable reaching after their meaning derives most clearly from the early
modern historiography of David Hume, who, of all empiricists, was least
receptive to transcendentalism of any kind.
The epic implies, for example, that history lies quite beyond the indi-
vidual's power to control or understand it:
The oak grows silently, in the forest, a thousand years.... Nay, when our
oak flowered, or put on its leaves (its glad Events), what shout of proclama-
tion could there be? Hardly from the most observant a word of recognition.
These things befell not, they were slowly done; not in an hour, but through
the flight of days: what was to be said of it? This hour seemed altogether as
the last was, as the next would be. (i 15)
Events occur inexorably, and seemingly without purpose. Although
Carlyle pays lip service to the idea of free action-"The All of Things is
an infinite conjugation of the verb To do" (133)-and although this
particular idea is both philosophically existential and theologically Armi-
nian, the emphasis in The French Revolution is on the passive victim of
whatever befalls. Even Louis XVI, as much as any beggar, deserves pity:



For Kings and for Beggars, for the justly doomed and the unjustly, it is a
hard thing to die. Pity them all: thy utmost pity, with all aids and appliances
and throne-and-scaffold contrasts, how far short is it of the thing pitied!

Collective human behavior can influence the course of history:

Hast thou considered how each man's heart is so tremulously responsive to
the hearts of all men; hast thou noted how omnipotent is the very sound of
many men? How their shriek of indignation palsies the strong soul; their
howl of contumely withers with unfelt pangs? (125)

But such behavior derives from mob psychology more than from rational
concentration: "Great is the combined voice of men; the utterance of
their instincts, which are truer than their thoughts" (125). The one force
that seems to operate with consequence, ominously, is mindless, aimless
violence: the Bastille is beleaguered in this its last hour, .. by mere
Chaos come again!" (1zz). Such "order" as there is smacks of predestina-
tion, for the Calvinistically theological hovers near the following:

Or, apart from all Transcendentalism, is it not a plain truth of sense, which
the duller mind can even consider as a truism, that human things wholly are
in continual movement, and action and reaction; working continually for-
ward, phasis after phasis, by unutterable laws, towards prescribed is-
sues? . The seed that is sown, it will spring! . The Beginning holds in it
the End. (133)

But this "order" is finally neither theological nor supernatural. Such
extreme empiricism, with no tincture of any theology but the harshest, no
more fully represents Carlyle's point of view than "Mad Song" represents
Blake's. Even in The French Revolution, one finds the tender-minded, for
John D. Rosenberg argues that Carlyle's historical writings amount to "a
moving plea for community," and, insisting that The French Revolution,
in particular, is Carlyle's best work, Rosenberg even conceives of it as a
successor to the Bible.33 Reality in the work, though on the same plane as
the self and hence far from otherworldly, is at least outside the self and
thus empirical. But the narrow point of view in The French Revolution is
the more memorable, the more sharply focused, for being narrow.
Chartism (1840), attracting the sustained attention of Landow alone,34



is epistemologically prescriptive. History should turn away from "the
obscure fighting of kites and crows," that is, the wars of kings, and
concentrate, instead, on how "the Thought and Practice of men" per-
fected ways to fell forests, drain bogs, make fields arable, build towns,
and write laws (203). Economics should eschew the virulent form of
rationalism, namely, utilitarian statistics: "Tables," writes Carlyle, "are
like cobwebs, like the sieve of the Danaides; beautifully reticulated, or-
derly to look upon, but which will hold no conclusion" (I57). He adds
that "there are innumerable circumstances; and one circumstance left out
may be the vital one on which all turned.... With what serene con-
clusiveness a member of some Useful-knowledge Society stops your
mouth with a figure of arithmetic!" (157). Politics, "filled with an idea of
a theory," discovers only "half-truth" (164).
In "political economy," however, a humble spirit of inquiry, a submis-
sion to the most basic data-gathering, informs Carlyle's willingness to
address its smallest questions:

The average rate of day's wages is not correctly ascertained for any portion
of this country; not only not for half-centuries, it is not even ascertained
anywhere for decades or years: far from instituting comparisons with the
past, the present itself is unknown to us. And then, given the average of
wages, what is the constancy of employment; what is the difficulty of finding
employment; the fluctuation from season to season, from year to year? Is it
constant, calculable wages; or fluctuating, incalculable, more or less of the
nature of gambling? (159)

He does not underestimate the difficulty of these less than hopeful ques-
tions: "The researches have yielded us little, almost nothing" (156). But
his skepticism, that is, his dynamic process of knowing (as opposed to any
static state of unbelief), is "not without hope" of meeting "some assent
from many candid men" if he can just "get uttered" his "general notion"
of the "condition-of-England" ( 56). He displays faith that in the social
sciences, as in intellectual inquiry generally, things exist that correspond
to our ideas of them:

On the whole, O reader, thou wilt find everywhere that things which had
had an existence among men have first of all had to have a truth and worth in
them, and were not semblances but realities. Nothing not a reality ever yet
got men to pay bed and board to it for long. (196)



Thus Chartism resumes the accustomed breadth of Carlyle's experiential
bias and, in its variety of stated goals for the social sciences, grows episte-
mologically ambitious.
The experientialism of Chartism, indeed, is classically empirical in cast.
Although Carlyle denounces the Industrial Revolution as "a hideous
World-Steamengine" (178) and traces this "blind No-God of Necessity
and Mechanism" to "Hume Scepticisms" as well as "French Philoso-
phisms" and "Diderot Atheisms" (183), he preserves respect for Locke.
Harking back by implication to Some Thoughts concerning Education,
Carlyle issues an early Victorian call for universal public education: "To
impart the gift of thinking to those who cannot think, and yet who could
in that case think: this, one would imagine, was the first function a
government had set about discharging" (zzz). This statement clearly
assumes the principle of tabula rasa on which Locke founds the early
modern philosophy of education. The experiential Lockean belief in
knowledge through induction, moreover, underlies Carlyle's fundamental
conviction that "each man expands his own hand-breadth of observation
to the limits of the general whole; more or less, each man must take what
he himself has seen and ascertained for a sample of all that is seeable and
ascertainable" (158).
Such empiricism, making a virtue of the necessity of individual point
of view, can produce "millennium." As Carlyle puts it in an especially
arresting juxtaposition, "When Arkwright shall have become mythic
like Arachne, we shall still spin in peaceable profit by him; and the
Sword-dance, with all its sorrowful shufflings, Waterloo waltzes, Moscow
gallopades, how forgotten that will be!" (213). Alongside Chartism's
reverence for empiricism, accordingly, lies its respect for religion. What
disturbs Carlyle most about the French Revolution, after all, is its over-
throw of religion: "That one whole generation of thinkers should be
without a religion to believe, or even to contradict; that Christianity, in
thinking France, should as it were fade away so long into a remote extra-
neous tradition, was one of the saddest facts connected with the future of
that country" (192-93).
Chartism favors, first, a politically transposed Calvinism. One may
hear overtones of the elect, for example, in Carlyle's contrast of Saxon
men who cleared the soil of Britain, with "crowds of miserable Irish"
who "darken all our towns" (171). More than a whiff of predestination
emanates from his comments on the influence of Robert Clive in India:



Not fit for book-keeping alone, the man was found fit for conquering
Nawaubs, founding kingdoms, Indian empires! . Accidental all these
things and persons look, unexpected every one of them to man. Yet inevi-
table every one of them; foreseen, not unexpected, by Supreme Power; pre-
pared, appointed from afar. Advancing always through all centuries, in the
middle of the eighteenth, they arrived. (213)

At least as strong as Carlyle's belief in human rights is his "Calvinist"
emphasis on human frailty: "What are the rights of man? All men are
justified in demanding and searching for their rights; moreover, justified
or not, they will do it: by Chartisms, Radicalisms, French Revolutions, or
whatever methods they have. Rights surely are right: on the other hand,
this other saying is most true, 'Use every man according to his rights, and
who shall escape whipping?' These two things, we say, are both true; and
both are essential to make up the whole truth" (184). "Surely of all 'rights
of man,'" Carlyle expostulates, "this right of the ignorant man to be
guided by the wiser, to be, gently or forcibly, held in the true course by
him, is the indisputablest" (189). This antidemocratic spirit, if not this
might-makes-right, protofascist authoritarianism, boasts a theological ra-
tionale: "No man is justified in resisting by word or deed the Authority
he lives under, for a light cause, be such Authority what it may. Obe-
dience, little as many may consider that side of the matter, is the primary
duty of man .... Recognised or not recognized, a man has his superiors,
a regular hierarchy above him; extending up, degree above degree, to
Heaven itself and God the Maker, who made His world not for anarchy
but for rule and order" (z28).35
Alongside such "Calvinism," though, Carlyle consciously, or uncon-
sciously, lays (after the manner of John Wesley) a distinctly un-Calvinistic
"theology." (Paradigms war in Carlyle.) In his longing for a "strong
man" to come out of Parliament (154) may be a vestige of election, but in
his passionate conviction that something must be done, in his animadver-
sions against laissez-faire economics, he implies a democratic, "Armi-
nian" view of individual latitude and potentiality. "It is sadder than
tears," he writes, "the laugh Humanity is forced to, at Laissez-faire ap-
plied to poor peasants, in a world like our Europe of the year I839!"
(174). "A government of the under classes by the upper on a principle of
Let-alone," he writes further, "is no longer possible in England in these
days" (187). What is needed for every "practical man ... in Parliament



and out of it" is to gird up for "actual doing" (zzo). The following
subscription to free will, in which Carlyle uses the first person to repre-
sent all practical people of whatever class, is specifically theological: "I
have the miraculous breath of Life in me, breathed into my nostrils by
Almighty God. I have affections, thoughts, a god-given capability to be
and do.... My soul, breathed into me by God, my Me and what
capability is there; that is mine, and I will resist the stealing of it....
Society, it is understood, does not in any age prevent a man from being
what he can be. A sooty African can become a Toussaint L'Ouverture"
Such an Arminian cast is everywhere to be found in the preaching of
evangelical practical charity in Chartism, its assumption that social pro-
gress can occur among people energized as well as dignified by their
spiritual nature. Carlyle's hatred of workhouses, his crusade against gin,
his confident expectation that the poor will save money, his campaign
against idleness, his perfectionist faith in the efficacy of education, and,
not least, his occasional kind words even for the Irish36-all are reminis-
cent of Wesley's charitable projects, and all these emphases, like Wesley's
projects, arise from a religious justification of the common person:
All men, we must repeat, were made by God, and have immortal souls in
them. The Sanspotato is of the selfsame stuff as the superfinest Lord Lieuten-
ant. Not an individual Sanspotato human scarecrow but had a Life given
him out of Heaven, with Eternities depending on it; for once and no second
time. With Immensities in him, over him and round him; with feelings which
a Shakespeare's speech would not utter; with desires illimitable as the Auto-
crat's of all the Russias! (169)
Carlyle's concept of Arminian freedom, moreover, combines with his
reminiscence of the doctrine of assurance: "Every mortal can do some-
thing: this let him faithfully do, and leave with assured heart the issue to a
Higher Power!" (170). When speaking of remedies for Ireland, finally, he
draws on the Arminian concept of conversion: "The cure, if it is to be a
cure, must be in the heart: not in his condition only but in himself must
the Patient be all changed" (170).
Thus containing a dose of Arminian doctrine as well as empiricism,
Chartism suggests that the material and the spiritual are not finally op-
posites. When "spiritual life has departed," "material life . cannot



long remain behind" (183). Where Carlyle teaches that "the heart al-
ways . sees, before the head can see" (179), and where he defines faith
as a "sense for the true and false" (183), he implies that physical sight is
mere analogy for the mysterious vision of another world, that is, that the
here and now serves transcendental ends. "Events," he remarks, are
"written lessons, glaring in huge hieroglyphic picture-writing, that all
may read and know them" (187). His transcendental expression, and his
language of observation, however, sometimes merge in a synthesis: "And
yet so long as an Ideal (any soul of Truth) does, in never so confused a
manner, exist and work within the Actual, it is a tolerable business"
(196). Or: "He who believes no thing, who believes only the shows of
things, is not in relation with Nature and fact at all" (o09). "Ideas,"
Carlyle knows, "produce revolutions," but he adds that "not spiritual
ideas only, but even mechanical" ones do (z13). A blend of the empirical
and the religious, then, and even of the empirical and the evangelical,
makes for the millenarian social consciousness of Chartism.
Of all the essays making up On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic
in History (1841), The Hero as Man of Letters is most pertinent here. It is
closest to the spirit of Carlyle's immediate historical context. While he
admired much of the literature of his day,37 he found little other promise
of heroes in Victorian Britain. On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic
in History addresses itself primarily to the nature of greatness in the far
past, but The Hero as Man of Letters, like Chartism, is characterized,
first, by a combination of, a balance between, or simply an irresolution
concerning, Calvinism and Arminianism. The sovereignty of God, on the
one hand, removes responsibility for salvation quite from the individual:
"For the saving of the world I will trust confidently to the Maker of the
world" (255). With trust in individual initiative, on the other hand,
Carlyle "will look a little to my own saving, which I am much more
competent to!" (255).
The essay contributes, moreover-and here is my emphasis-to
Carlyle's experiments in philosophical theology. Kinetic not deadening,
and reminiscent of Locke more than Descartes, "Scepticism" is "not an
end but a beginning," that is, not "the decay of old ways of believing" but
"the preparation afar off for new and wider ways" (251). Indeed, skepti-
cism is akin to, and a prerequisite for, faith. The following, significantly,
is as reminiscent of the eighteenth-century evangelicalism of Wesley and


Edwards as, say, of the tough-minded seventeenth-century faith of Sir
Thomas Browne:
Doubt, truly, is not itself a crime. Certainly we do not rush out, clutch-up the
first thing we find, and straightway believe that! All manner of doubt, in-
quiry, . dwells in every reasonable mind. It is the mystic working of the
mind, on the object it is getting to know and believe. (253)
Thus the faith arrived at is "empirical," of the here and now. "The
world," exclaims Carlyle, "is alive, instinct with Godhead, beautiful and
awful, even as in the beginning of days" (254). He rejoices, accordingly,
that "here and there one does now find a man who knows, as of old, that
this world is a Truth" (254). Such language evokes not so much panthe-
ism as theism, a world in which God acts.
Out of Carlyle's "empirical" faith grow both his definition of the "man
of letters" and his very understanding of the nature of writing. The "act of
writing," he observes, relates "all times and all places with this our actual
Here and Now" (241). As he puts it in another place, "Literature" is a
"'continuous revelation'" (the phrase is Fichte's) "of the Godlike in the
Terrestrial and Common" (243). "Men of Letters," accordingly, "are a
perpetual Priesthood, from age to age, teaching all men that a God is still
present in their life" (237). This, perhaps, is the most fully suggestive
statement in The Hero as Man of Letters, if not in all of his works, for the
statement's this-worldliness, though not explicitly Lockean, epitomizes in
the context of the essay as a whole the experiential common ground of
empirical philosophy and evangelical faith.
A faith defined in the language of perception and the here and now
finds a final ringing affirmation in Past and Present (1843). The following
passage makes heart-religion almost empirical: "For the faith in an Invis-
ible, Unnameable Godlike, present everywhere in all that we see and
work and suffer, is the essence of all faith whatsoever; and that once
denied, or still worse, asserted with lips only, and out of bound prayer-
books only, what other things remain believable?" (279). This affirmation
rings true to the spirit of classical Methodism, with its all but empirical
experientialism. Such Methodism, indeed, explains Carlyle's stricture
against the attenuated Methodism of the nineteenth century, which sacri-
ficed its heritage of empirical sensibility to an oddly solipsistic because
too-subjectively-transcendental stance: "Methodism with its eye forever



turned on its own navel; asking itself with torturing anxiety of Hope and
Fear, 'Am I right? am I wrong? Shall I be saved? shall I not be damned?-
what is this at bottom, but a new phasis of Egoism, stretched out into the
Infinite; not always the heavenlier for its infinitude!" (274-75).
Because of what John D. Rosenberg sees as its creeping Calvinism, he
calls Past and Present Carlyle's "last great work" (my italics).38 In it,
indeed, Carlyle begins to lose his way, to change from "a moving plea for
community" to "a frightened call for authority." Arminian evangelical-
ism emphasizes community over authority, and Past and Present remains
Arminian insofar as it retains its "moving plea": the book closest to it,
after all, is R. B. Seeley's work of evangelical criticism, The Perils of the
Nation; An Appeal to the Legislature, the Clergy, and the Higher and
Middle Classes (I843).39 But the frightened call for authority and the fire-
and-brimstone diction that characterize Calvinist evangelicalism also
characterize Past and Present, which warns that because of "these last two
centuries of Atheistic Government," we "are now, very ominously, shud-
dering, reeling, and let us hope trying to recoil, on the cliff's edge" (278)
of a subjective abyss.
The Calvinism thus implicit in Past and Present is full-blown, alas, in
Latter-Day Pamphlets (1850). The Calvinism of Carlyle's youth, some-
what reemergent not only in Past and Present but also in The Hero as
Man of Letters and Chartism, now reasserts itself the more virulently for
having lain dormant. In Latter-Day Pamphlets, classical Methodism
yields to a far more than merely "Edwardsean" fire and brimstone, a
Calvinism of the very harshest sort.
Pamphlet 6, for example, can no longer address the traditionally Armi-
nian theme of freedom without an upstart Calvinist hint of no-freedom:
"The free man is he who is loyal to the Laws of the Universe" (3 o).
Pamphlet 2, with more-than-Edwardsean harshness, attacks the Wesleyan
"method of love" in prison reform (288). Note especially the quite un-
Wesleyan, even Swiftean, flavor of apoplectic imprecation in Carlyle's
description of inmates as "miserable distorted block-heads, the gener-
ality; ape-faces, imp-faces, angry dog-faces, heavy sullen ox-faces; de-
graded underfoot perverse creatures, sons of indocility, greedy mutinous
darkness, and in one word, of STUPIDITY, which is the mother of such"
(288). This is the "mother" of all "Calvinistic" denunciations.
More than a hint of predestination, or divine ordination, is in the



rationale of Pamphlet 6 for slavery as a natural, almost desirable institu-

Slave or free is settled in Heaven for a man; acts of parliament attempting to
settle it on earth for him, sometimes make sad work of it....
My friends, I grieve to remind you, but it is eternally the fact: When
Heaven has made a slave, no parliament of men nor power that exists on
Earth can render free . Him the Supreme Powers marked in the making
of him, slave; appointed him, at his and our peril, not to command but to
obey, in this world. (308-9)

This obviously specious argument on behalf of slavery is a shockingly
nonironic descendant of the irony with which Blake, in Visions of the
Daughters of Albion (1793), undercuts Bromion's speeches.
More than a hint, finally, of electionist bias, not to mention un-
Lockean anticontractualism, colors the same pamphlet's antidemocratic
ravings. Denouncing the "dead pedantries, unveracities, indolent som-
nolent impotences, and accumulated dung-mountains" of Downing
Street (307), Carlyle concludes that "either some new Downing Street
and Incipiency of a real Hero-Kingship again, or else Chartist Parliament,
with Apotheosis of Attorneyism, and Anarchy very undeniable to all the
world: one or else the other, it seems to me, we shall soon have" (307).
Such heavily authoritarian, if not protofascist, language finds antece-
dents, to be sure, as early as Signs of the Times, for even the young
Carlyle, while denouncing government when it acts as a "parish-
constable," wants it to be, somehow, "a father" (71). But once such
language sets in with a vengeance, the Carlyle in whom I am interested is
no more.
Campbell, it is true, tries to put the best face on Carlyle's later career:

Trapped between a warm personality (he gave, generously, to various objects
of charity) and an urgently, overwhelmingly pressing view of order, Carlyle
found himself in his private life and, increasingly, in his public writing torn
between a vision of a freer humanity (in his early works) and a vision of
collapsing anarchy in society (in all his later ones). . Faced with the reality
of human suffering, he always responded with human warmth; only in the
privacy of his study did abstract ideas work him into righteous frenzy, and
his style made that mood the memorable one.... We have passed beyond



the need to venerate him as sage, of Chelsea or of Ecclefecchan. Rather we
see him as an emblem of the complexity, contradiction, and sometimes
absurdity of the era.40

But one is left with Samuel Butler's conclusion that "Carlyle led us into
the wilderness, and left us there."41 The harsh quality of the later career
indeed derives from Calvinist doctrine, for after the death of Carlyle's
Burgher-Secessionist father in January 1832, Carlyle felt increasingly
"fully justified in promoting, unapologetically, the ascetic, authoritarian,
gloomy, pragmatic prejudices of his Puritan ancestry."42 "Those tran-
scendental and Puritan precepts to which Carlyle owed a dual alle-
giance," Ikeler adds, "represented, in almost every way, antithetical views
of life." Ikeler believes that Carlyle's career had been at odds with itself
from the beginning. I cannot fully agree, for transcendental and Puritan
precepts are not always in conflict, but this belief is sufficiently applicable
to the later career to cause a variety of critics to stop with Past and
Up through Past and Present, Carlyle's transcendentalism is not anti-
thetical to either Wesleyan evangelicalism or, for that matter, the empiri-
cism to be found in Wesleyan and Edwardsean evangelicalism. Perhaps
the most inclusive model of reality in all of Carlyle is the image of the
blacksmith in Sartor Resartus. The smithy fire represents empirical sci-
ence in its Victorian, geological form: the fire was "kindled at the Sun; is
fed by air that circulates from before Noah's Deluge" (106). The smith
himself, who "preaches forth the mystery of Force; nay preaches forth
(exoterically enough) one little textlet from the Gospel of Freedom, the
Gospel of Man's Force" (106), lends a more than experientially reliable,
because "Arminian," authority to the evolutionary principle, and thus, in
the context of Carlyle in his prime, the smith lends to that principle the
status of empirical-evangelical truth.

Anglo-American Ground
Just as Carlyle's origins were in the English-speaking world, so his impact
was on that world. Signs of the Times not only anticipated but also deeply
influenced Ruskin's Unto This Last and Arnold's Culture and Anarchy,
but Emerson responded early to Carlyle, and because of Emerson's imme-



diate admiration for Sartor Resartus, Boston published the work in book
form before England did.44 By the I840s, Carlyle's essays "were widely
available on both sides of the Atlantic."45
In Chartism, Carlyle seizes the opportunity to include America with
England as the audience for whom his message is intended. He harks
back to A.D. 449, when Hengist and Horsa founded an Anglo-Saxon
society that anticipated "Wellingtons, Washingtons, . William Pitts
and Davie Crocketts" (zoz). Chartism's praise for America, indeed, is
explicit: "Thou little Mayflower hadst in thee a veritable Promethean
spark; the life-spark of the largest Nation on our Earth,-so we may
already name the Transatlantic Saxon Nation" (208-9). The treatise ends
with the hope that the poor of England will find new life in America's
"boundless Plains and Prairies unbroken with the Plough" (23 ).
In "the land of Malebranche, Pascal, Descartes, and Fenelon," writes
Carlyle in Signs of the Times, "is now no such thing as a Science of Mind"
(67). He adds that although Germany has made some effort in "psycho-
logical science," the true "Philosophy of Mind" prevailed only in En-
gland, until it "languished and finally died out" with "Professor Stewart"
(67). In Chartism, Carlyle uses "the Germanic" simply to offer a perspec-
tive on England; note especially his long eighth chapter, on "The Eras of
England." His Anglo-Saxon bias is evident even in Sartor Resartus, where
"the Diligence and feeble thinking Faculty of our English Editor" en-
deavors to evolve "printed Creation out of a German printed and written
Chaos" (x12). The "editor" predicts that Teufelsdr6ckh's "Philosophy of
Clothes," that is, his as much empirical-evangelical as German-idealist
methodology, "will stand clear to the wondering eyes of England, nay
thence, through America" (i o).

Intra-Romantic Connections
Carlyle's Anglo-American sensibility indicates the nature of his Romanti-
cism. Timko emphasizes the differences between Romanticism and
Carlyle, who regarded Romantic writers as inferior to Shakespeare.46
Basil Willey, however, points out that Carlyle is "the Romantic who lived
on,"47 and now I wish to fill out a portrait of him as Romantic.
His Romanticism remains in the English-language and empirical-
evangelical world, for the empirical-evangelical roots of other British, if



not some American, Romantic writers nourish Carlyle, too. Although his
"opposition to the over-valuation of the rational" forms part of his Ro-
manticism, it is too much to conclude that another part of it is his "mis-
trust" of eighteenth-century science.48 By specifically appealing to that
science, he achieves a proper valuation of the rational, namely, his recog-
nition of its foundation in the senses. His Romanticism, moreover,
achieves a proper valuation of science in relation to religion.
Carlyle saw himself, first, as living in a period that had begun in 1789.
Since that year, as he pointed out in Chartism, "there is now half a
century complete; and a French Revolution not yet complete!" (Chartism,
181). The French Revolution was perhaps the most formative event of
British as well as Continental Romanticism, and by fearing the excesses of
the Revolution, Carlyle showed his fear of Romanticism, too. (In this
respect, he was no different from Wordsworth or Coleridge.) Specifically
quoting Montesquieu-"Happy the people whose annals are tire-
some"-Carlyle adds this twist: "Happy the people whose annals are
vacant" (The French Revolution, 115). He deeply regrets the passing of
much that the Revolution has destroyed:
One reverend thing after another ceases to meet reverence: in visible material
combustion, chateau after chateau mounts up; in spiritual invisible combus-
tion, one authority after another. With noise and glare, or noiselessly and
unnoted, a whole Old System of things is vanishing piecemeal: the morrow
thou shalt look, and it is not. (The French Revolution, 136)
He warns, finally, that "these Chartisms, Radicalisms, Reform Bill, Tithe
Bill ... are our French Revolution" (Chartism, 181).
Like his precursors in British Romanticism, however, Carlyle seems
torn or poised between such apocalyptic fears and his strong hope that
the Revolution would bring millennial, rather than further violent, re-
sults. He announces that "the French Revolution is seen, or begins every-
where to be seen, 'as the crowning phenomenon of our Modern Time;'
'the inevitable stern end of much; the fearful, but also wonderful, indis-
pensable and sternly beneficent beginning of much'" (Chartism, 182). He
remains aware that "hope ushers in a Revolution" (The French Revolu-
tion, 117). His hope, like that of such other later Romantics as Shelley
and Byron, is never quite dashed. "The French Revolution itself had
something higher in it than cheap bread and a Habeas-corpus act," for



"here too was an Idea; a Dynamic, not a Mechanic force. It was a strug-
gle, though a blind and at last an insane one, for the infinite, divine,
nature of Right, of Freedom, of Country" (Signs of the Times, 74-75).
The French Revolution, like the English one, "originated in religion"
(Signs of the Times, 74). Carlyle believes in a "divine spirit" that "arose in
the mystic deeps of man's soul; and was spread abroad by the preaching
of the word, by simple, altogether natural and individual efforts; and flew,
like hallowed fire, from heart to heart, till all were purified and illumi-
nated by it" (Signs of the Times, 74). This spiritual source of revolution
glosses, though retroactively, Wordsworth's "Lines Written in Early
Spring" (1798): "Love, now a universal birth, / From heart to heart is
stealing." This thesis, affirmed when the halcyon early days of the French
Revolution were a fresh memory to the poet, undoubtedly helped to
preserve in the Romantic Carlyle the fresh memory of a French-inspired
seedbed of British Romanticism. The Romantic Carlyle, however, is no
more French than Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats are,
and, like them, he is rooted in such English-language and religi-
ous/philosophical sources of Romanticism as, mutatis mutandis, the phil-
osophical theology shared by Wesley and Edwards.
With regard to the empirical dimension of that philosophical theology
and its relation to Carlyle's Romanticism, literature, for him, is consistent
with robust empiricism as much as, say, with the purely noumenal. "Po-
etry," though properly "held to be mysterious and inscrutable," is "no
longer without its scientific exposition" (Signs of the Times, 79). The
entire literary enterprise, including the interaction of work and reader, is
alternately, or even at once, natural and spiritual. Carlyle, believing that
poetic language should be judged according to its natural-spiritual or
fully experiential level of sincerity, finds Byron wanting in this particular
criterion of Romanticism. Carlyle clearly believes that Byron is different,
in this respect, from other British High Romantics and from himself.
With the possible exception of "the latter parts" of Don Juan, he declares,
Byron's poetry is "not true" (see Burns [i8z8], 44).
Byron, he adds, "refreshes us, not with the divine fountain, but too
often with vulgar strong waters, stimulating indeed to the taste, but soon
ending in dislike, or even nausea. Are his Harolds and Giaours, we would
ask, real men; we mean, poetically conceivable and consistent men? Do
not these characters, does not the character of their author, which more



or less shines through them all, rather appear a thing put on for the
occasion; no natural or possible mode of being, but something intended
to look much grander than nature? Surely, all these stormful agonies, this
volcanic heroism, superhuman contempt and moody desperation, with so
much scowling, and teeth-gnashing, and other sulphurous humour, is
more like the brawling of a player in some paltry tragedy, which is to last
three hours, than the bearing of a man in the business of life, which is to
last threescore and ten years" (Burns, 44-45). By sincerity, surely, Carlyle
means the genuineness of all good experience. "To every poet, to every
writer," he observes, "we might say: Be true, if you would be believed"
(Burns, 44), and he adds, "Let a man but speak forth with genuine
earnestness the thought, the emotion, the actual condition of his own
heart; and other men, so strangely are we all knit together by the tie of
sympathy, must and will give heed to him."
The goal of every talent, Carlyle thinks, should be "to read its own
consciousness without mistakes" (Burns, 45; my italics). Since this em-
brace of sincerity assumes that even the most spiritual aspect of con-
sciousness is built up from, and informed by, sense experience, there is no
hint of solipsism here. "As face answers to face," declares Carlyle, "so
does the heart of man to man" (Burns, 44); thus, his sense-based con-
sciousness guarantees the possibility of intersubjectivity. His Romanti-
cism, like the philosophical theology shared by Wesley and Edwards, is
pragmatic as well as expressive, kerygmatic as well as testimonial.
As for the pertinence of evangelicalism to Carlyle's Romanticism, Signs
of the Times presents a Blakean-evangelical call to spiritual renewal.
Compare "the mind-forged manacles I hear," from Blake's "London"
(1794), with Carlyle's "Nay, after all, our spiritual maladies are but of
Opinion; we are but fettered by chains of our own forging, and which
ourselves also can render asunder" (Signs of the Times, 83). Compare the
"spiritual-sense"-like cleansing of the doors of Blakean perception ("If
the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as
it is, infinite" (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell [1790-93], plate 14)
with Carlyle's own spiritual diagnosis, worth repeating: "this deep, para-
lyzed subjection to physical objects comes not from Nature, but from our
own unwise mode of viewing Nature" (Signs of the Times, 83; Carlyle's
italics). Just as Shelley, finally, shows ambivalence about the transcenden-
tal quest (recall "pinnacled dim in the intense inane" [Prometheus Un-



bound; my italics]), so Teufelsdrockh's "editor" sees Teufelsdrockh
as struggling "towards these dim infinitely-expanded regions, close-
bordering on the impalpable Inane" (Sartor Resartus, io8; my italics).
Like Shelley, then, Carlyle is not so much antitranscendental as theistical,
and thus Carlyle's Romanticism is consistent with the "transcendental-
ism" of not only British, if not Anglo-American, Romantic modalities but
also empirical/evangelical modalities.
Chris R. Vanden Bosshe, in Carlyle and the Search for Authority
(I991), emphasizes that Carlyle "was the contemporary of Shelley and
Keats," and thus Vanden Bosshe is in accord with the view of Carlyle as a
Romantic.49 He shows, in particular, that Carlyle "belonged to the gener-
ation of Romantic artists who attempted to make art a religion, a dis-
course with a visionary and transcendental status." Vanden Bosshe dis-
cerns much destructive tension in Carlyle's Romantic stance. His
"Romantic transcendentalism" and the "literary formalism that evolved
from it," he argues, are "at odds with the Romantic desire to intervene in
the political world," for transcendentalism and formalism remove "art
and the artist from the historical processes of social formation," and "by
raising the artist above society, this view of art brought into question the
artist's ability to act in society." According to Vanden Bosshe, then,
Carlyle could not maintain the delicate balance between Romantic tran-
scendentalism and Romantic interventionism. He leaned too much to one
side, and eventually transformed his "aesthetic transcendentalism" into a
"political authoritarianism" that he regarded as "the sole means of coun-
teracting the destruction of values and social cohesion by the emerging
industrial order." Thus never solving the "dilemma of literature," Carlyle
was to "anticipate later critics in discovering that the Romantic religion of
art, far from recovering the transcendental and escaping individualism,
merely intensified interiority." Vanden Bosshe concludes that this prob-
lem "led Carlyle, in the latter part of his career, to seek the recovery of
authority in the hero as king."
I welcome Vanden Bosshe's recognition that the "visionary and tran-
scendental status" of Carlyle's discourse makes his Romanticism as much
religious as philosophical. Vanden Bosshe's view of the early part of
Carlyle's career-his argument that Carlyle is both within and above
culture-parallels my own view that the complexity of Carlyle's best



work can be understood along lines of the creative tension between, the
playful interaction of, his worldliness and his otherworldliness.
Carlyle, however, is not just within and above culture. He is within and
beneath it, for he is within, as well as outside, nature. The empirical-
evangelical perspective on Carlyle's Romanticism supplements Vanden
Bosshe's perspective. Is there too much "either/or" logic in Vanden
Bosshe's otherwise helpful analysis? Carlyle's Romanticism, after all, in-
cludes the "spiritual sense." Since an "empirical-evangelical" Romantic
is, by definition, in the world even though not of it, there may be more
dialectic than aporia in the Carlylean categories of artist "above society"
and artist "in society." The "both/and" logic of "empirical-evangelical"
Romanticism relieves the urgency of the question that Vanden Bosshe
finds at the heart of Carlyle's midcareer.
By Carlyle's time, Vanden Bosshe argues, "empiricism and individual
reason had replaced the discourses of tradition and transcendental revela-
tion." My view is different. The arc from Wesley and Edwards to Carlyle,
that is, from the Religious Enlightenment of the Anglo-American world
to a particularly influential worldview of English-language Late Romanti-
cism, does not finally separate "empiricism and individual reason" from
"the discourse of tradition and transcendental revelation." The Anglo-
American Romanticism of Carlyle, by joining empiricism to heart-
religion, "answers" its own questions through an essentially cumulative,
progressively amplifying procedure that entails further questions, further
answers. His Romanticism, most precisely described as Anglo-American
in that its "spiritual sense" rivals the methodological efficacy of Wesleyan-
Edwardsean philosophical theology, is most fully defined as the coexis-
tence of his "empirical" as well as evangelical ideality with his "evangeli-
cal" as well as empirical tough-mindedness.


Although there is no more obvious a truism of Emerson studies than that
he is a "Transcendentalist,"1 he is far from rejecting "a scientific attitude
toward Nature,"2 since he reserves an honored place for science in his
thought and shows little Platonic contemptus mundi.3 His scientific ap-
proach to nature leads to, and even strengthens, his idealism, which is as
much in the world as otherworldly and as much religious as philosophi-
cal. Members of his Transcendental Club are generally "repelled by John
Locke's view that the mind is a passive receiver of sense impressions,"
preferring "Coleridge's alternative view of the mind as creative in percep-
tion,"4 but Emerson is both a transcendentalist and an empiricist. Cole-
ridge, for that matter, is not entirely un-Lockean,5 nor Locke entirely
deterministic.6 I isolate for immediate scrutiny, as well as for later explo-
ration, not only a wide range, but also a mixture, of Emerson's themes
from the philosophic to the prophetic. I focus on his belletristic prose, his
"only formal achievement" (Bloom writes), reluctantly omitting, for now,
his poetry (which Bloom refers to as that "double handful of strong
poems").7 Thus I situate Emerson on the empirical ground of evangelical
faith. "Certain ideas," he declares in Fate (1852), "are in the air,"8 and
both empiricism and evangelicalism, though they emanate from the eigh-
teenth century, contribute to his works.
From certain pertinent scholarship and his journals, I forge the
empirical-evangelical perspective that I use to examine his Nature (1836).
Without necessarily agreeing with Bloom that the journals are Emerson's
most "authentic" works9 and without sharing David Van Leer's suspicion




The Empirical /Evangelical Dialectic

of Ralph Waldo Emerson


of them as sources of empirical evidence (he does grant the journals
epistemicc status"), I participate in Van Leer's awe of them as "the great
roman-fleuve of American Romanticism."'0 Van Leer, confining his study
of Emerson's epistemology to just four essays," remarks that "by reading
so meticulously a small number of texts, I [myself] surely illustrate what
one critic" of scholarly thick description "has called the 'failure of tact,' "
and Van Leer realizes that "what friendly readers may find indefatigable
[in his study] will strike others as merely relentless."12 I, too, risk "tact-
lessness," but Nature, after all, is the longest, most representative essay by
Emerson, and as such, it deserves a full analysis. Written in the mid-
I830s, at the formative moment of his career and the height of his
powers, it shows how his outlook was indeed empirically evangelical.
Although I omit such fashionable works as Circles, Montaigne, and
The Lord's Supper,13 I shall place my close reading of Nature within the
context of Emerson's life of writing, specifically his production from the
late 183os through the early i85os of the seven most frequently an-
thologized essays. The American Scholar (I837), The Divinity School
Address (1838), Self-Reliance (1841), The Over-Soul (1841), The Poet
(1844), Experience (1844), and Fate all call for a full analysis in
empirical-evangelical terms, but I use these essays, here, to indicate the
applicability of what I say about Nature to Emerson's Anglo-American
ground and his intra-Romantic relationships.

A Bibliographical Orientation
In his explicitly philosophical criticism of Emerson, Van Leer notably
succeeds in his goal of "read[ing] Kant into the record of American
idealism."'4 He gives due prominence to Emerson's assessment of Kant:

The first thing we have to say respecting what are called new views here in
New England, at the present time, is, that they are not new, but the very
oldest thoughts cast into the mould of these new times.... What is popu-
larly called Transcendentalism among us, is Idealism; Idealism as it appears
in I84z. ... It is well known to most of my audience, that the Idealism of
the present day acquired the name of Transcendental, from the use of that
term by Immanuel Kant, of Konisberg [sic], who replied to the skeptical
philosophy of Locke, which insisted that there was nothing in the intellect



which was not previously in the experience of the senses, by showing that
there was a very important class of ideas, of imperative forms, which did not
come by experience, but through which experience was acquired; that these
were intuitions of the mind itself; and he denominated them Transcendental
forms. The extraordinary profoundness and precision of that man's thinking
have given vogue to his nomenclature, in Europe and America, to that
extent, that whatever belongs to the class of intuitive thought, is popularly
called at the present day Transcendental.s5

Van Leer pursues the implications of this passage as far as they will go
toward arguing that Emerson is a Kantian. Van Leer sums up Kant, and
by implication Emerson, this way: "Kant saw his idealism as half of a
necessary dualism: the true transcendental idealist was also an empirical
realist."16 Like Kant, indeed, Emerson is both a transcendental idealist
and an empirical realist, but his empirical realism is closer to Locke's than
to Kant's, for although Emerson reserves considerable room for "intui-
tions" and "imperative forms," he gives much space, too, to the skepti-
cism that naturally attends one's subscription to the tabula rasa. Everyone
knows that Hume woke Kant from his dogmatic slumbers, but Emerson
goes over Hume's head, and harks back to Locke, in order to explain
Kant. Thus Emerson suggests that the founder of British empiricism is the
ultimate empirical precursor of Kant's philosophy, for Emerson interprets
that philosophy as itself an assimilation of Locke, and he even seems to
think that Kant made deliberate use of Locke's broad, as distinct from
Hume's narrow, skepticism. Emerson's assessment of Kant, in short,
nicely complicates Emerson's own developing understanding of Lockean
Not only like Berkeley, with his transcendental realism and empirical
idealism, but also like Locke, in Locke's more religious moods, Emerson
reflects the capacious, and even the susceptibly "transcendental," empiri-
cism of England. Although the Anglo-American response to Descartes
was "much more direct" than the response to Kant,17 and although
Hume was more aware of Descartes and Malebranche than of Berkeley,
Hans Aarsleff and Norman Fiering overrate the French influence where
they argue, as Van Leer paraphrases them, that "the traditional distinc-
tion between French rationalism and English empiricism creates a false
dichotomy."18 One need not go so far afield as either French rationalism



or German idealism to find transcendental elements for British empiri-
cism, for as Wesley, Edwards, and Carlyle, if not Berkeley and Locke,
make clear, transcendental elements are already within British empiri-
cism. (The sources for Emerson's knowledge of Kant, incidentally, are the
secondhand accounts in William Drummond, Dugald Stewart, Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, and, not least, Thomas Carlyle, as well as in Victor
Cousin and Mme de Stael.)19
John Michael argues that "Emerson's engagement with skepticism and
his search for confirmation of his vision of the world are far more severe
and far less conclusive than has been admitted."20 Michael goes against
such a reading as that of Evan Carton, who argues in the post-Cartesian
context of Kant and Hegel that Emerson's works enact "the romantic
longing to articulate spirit in language."21 Michael, recognizing that
"Emerson's realism is far more commonsensical than Kant's and far more
earthly than Hegel's," emphasizes the "peculiar cast" that Scottish real-
ism in general and Hume's philosophy in particular give to Emerson's
"engagement with ideas."22 Just as, according to Michael, Hume "links
the identity of the self to the other's recognition," so, in Michael's view,
"identity for Emerson" is "first and foremost a social creation."23 Mi-
chael explores Emerson's "often painful awareness of his audience's pres-
ence." It is odd, in view of Michael's emphasis on self-identity, that he
offers no extended reading of Self-Reliance, but it is salutary, from my
point of view, that he examines the British influence on Emerson's phi-
losophy. By adding to that influence the British as well as American
influence on Emerson's theology, I seek both to supplement Michael's
work and to balance his overemphasis on "the issue of skepticism" as the
"central problem," rather than the "enabling strategy," of Emerson's
methodology.24 Michael's Emerson is too much "our contemporary" and
too little "the Victorian moralist or the romantic."
Michael acknowledges that Emerson draws from Lockean philosophy
for his general notion of identity:

In the Lockean philosophical tradition the figure of the body represents that
part of our identity accessible to others. In Emerson there is often a meta-
phorization of the relation between self and other that assimilates it to the
corpus of his work. Emerson aspires to and worries about the embodiment
of himself in his text.25



This notion is illustrated, for example, in what Emerson says of Mon-
taigne, that "the sincerity and marrow of the man reaches to his sen-
tences. . Cut these words, and they would bleed; they are vascular and
alive."26 No one to my knowledge, however, has compared Emerson to
Locke in the way that Michael compares him to Hume and to Montaigne,
or that Van Leer compares him to Kant. If it is true that Emerson is more
commonsensical than Kant, it is true, too, that he is more commonsensi-
cal than Hume, and it takes nothing from his sophistication to say that he
is commonsensical in the way that Locke is. Although Cameron
Thompson has emphasized differences between Locke and Emerson,27
the recent publication of the journals28 affords the opportunity to exam-
ine new evidence. In doing so, I attempt to keep in mind Stephen E.
Whicher's sage and witty advice, which recognizes a complexity in "mod-
ern philosophy" that Emerson would undoubtedly have acknowledged:
Take a quantity of Kant; add unequal parts of Goethe, Schiller, Herder,
Jacobi, Schleiermacher, Fichte, Schelling, Oken, and a pinch of Hegel; stir in,
as Emerson did, a generous amount of Swedenborg; strain through Mme de
Stael, Sampson Reed, Oegger, Coleridge, Carlyle, Wordsworth, Cousin,
Jouffroy, Constant; spill half and season with Plato-and you have some-
thing resembling the indescribable brew called modern philosophy whose
aroma Emerson began to detect in his corner of the world in the i8zos.29
Michael adds that "the dominant flavor of the 'indescribable brew' is
extracted from the fruits of Scottish realism that grew from Hume's fertile
skepticism,"30 but while I applaud Michael's all-too-unusual emphasis
on Emerson's English-speaking roots, I include in the "dominant flavor"
the sufficiently skeptical as well as fully realist philosophy of Locke, to say
nothing, for the moment, of the realist and "skeptical" theology of Wesley
and Edwards.
Explicitly theological criticism of Emerson is well illustrated by
Bloom's well-known insight that Emerson "founded the central American
religion, which is Protestant without being Christian."31 What Perry Mil-
ler deplores, that Emerson's optimism is attenuated Puritanism or "Ed-
wardseanism without original sin,"32 does not bother Bloom. Bloom
insists that "sin, error, time, history, a God external to the self, the visiting
of the crimes of the fathers upon the sons . were precisely of no interest
whatsoever to Ralph Waldo Emerson."33


On the basis of scholarship that relates Emerson to Unitarianism, how-
ever, one must answer "yes and no," if not a simple "no," to both Bloom
and Miller. Lawrence Buell and David Robinson demonstrate the con-
siderable residuum of precise Unitarian theology in Emerson's thought.34
According to Robinson, in particular, one's historical understanding of
Emerson "must begin with the pietism of the early Unitarian move-
ment,"35 and Robinson argues, too, that the "problem" in Emerson's
thought is not so much "tragic" as "theological" in nature.36 Although
Emerson was committed to the idea of Unitarian "self-culture, which he
saw as the evolving of the soul toward an ultimate perfection," he realized
that he was "calling for the pursuit of an unattainable end": "Without a
concept of the better, self-culture was impossible; but with such a vision,
it could never be completed."37 One's historical understanding, though,
should not end with Emerson's Unitarian pietism, any more than with his
philosophical roots. It should include, as well, his other-than-Unitarian
theological roots.
Leonard Neufeldt's reading of Emerson as a "prophet" is reinforced by
the specificity of Sacvan Bercovitch's argument that "the long foreground
of Emerson the prophet" is not so much Unitarianism as "the legacy of
the colonial Puritan fathers."38 I would only add: and, for that matter,
the legacy of the Anglo-American evangelical fathers and mothers in
concert with Anglo-American empiricism.
On November zi, 1834, Emerson wrote in his journal: "When we have
lost our God of tradition and ceased from our God of rhetoric then may
God fire the heart with his presence."39 This entry exemplifies his doc-
trine of what Robinson calls "the God within": Emerson argued, in
1831, that because "God is with us and in us," we should "hold [our]
own nature in reverential awe."40 But "the God within" is not so much
either entirely original or largely Unitarian as it is largely consistent with
the reliance of Wesley and Edwards on immediate revelation. Wesley's last
words, after all, were: "The best of all is, God is with us"; and he would
not have objected to the addition: "and in us." Such an addition would
be consistent with the doctrine of God's indwelling Spirit. Although
Emerson ceased from the second God, that is, "our God of rhetoric," or
what Bloom identifies as "the political clerics and the clerical politi-
cians,"41 he never gave up his search for the first God, "our God of
tradition," the God of the Bible. Although Barbara Packer and Karen



Kalinevitch argue that the Higher Criticism of the Bible drew Emerson
away from supernaturalism and although Robinson argues that Emer-
son's resulting antisupernaturalism received special encouragement from
the Unitarian community, I argue, to the contrary, that Emerson often
found supernaturalism even in the Bible.42 I argue, in particular, that the
third God of Emerson's prayer, the God who fires[] the heart with his
presence," and in whom Emerson most fully believes, is specifically the
Holy Spirit.
Although Emerson is no controversialist, and although his relation to
the Calvinist/Arminian controversy is complex, his thought leans to the
Arminian side. Robinson, despite his emphasis on Unitarianism, speaks
especially clearly of the Arminianism in Emerson's evangelical back-
In reaction against the Great Awakening of the 1740s, a liberal party
emerged in the Puritan churches and attempted to accommodate the prevail-
ing orthodoxy to the pressures of change. The liberals, Arminian in their
theology, found certain aspects of Puritan Calvinism repugnant, especially
the doctrine of God's determining omnipotence and its conflict with a belief
in the freedom of the human will. The Calvinist stress on human depravity
combined in a frightful way with the image of an absolute God whose will
had determined that depravity and whose purity demanded that it be pun-
"The Emerson family," Phyllis Cole demonstrates, was "uniformly pro-
Awakening," not only "in the era of Edwards and Whitefield" but also
for long afterwards,44 and what she does not argue, but what is clear
from what she quotes, is that the family was largely pro-Arminian. Emer-
son's grandfather, the Reverend William Emerson (1743-76) of Concord,
Massachusetts, favored such Arminian language as the following (albeit
from his sermon "On the Death of [the Calvinist] Mr. W[hitefiel]d"
[1770]): "Now my hearers, ye who have been so happy as to experience
the sensible presence of the blessed God, know that 'tis high Joy on Earth,
that is the most lively Emblem of Heaven. .. God is the center of the
Soul's Happiness."45
Robinson remarks that "Emerson's Calvinist Aunt Mary Moody Emer-
son stood as a constant reminder to him of what the drift of modern
liberalism stood to lose."46 But in what Cole quotes of Mary Moody



Emerson's thousand-page, fifty-three-year-long spiritual journal or "Al-
manack," I find Arminianism. Although, in her words, she premises[]
[God's] electing love" and "was taught & received the full terrors of
Calvinism," she was "yet never terrified."47 Instead, she "sympathized
with the joys of the vulgar-I trod on air-I danced to the music of my
own imajanation."48 Emerson's debt to Mary Moody Emerson is espe-
cially clear from a journal entry of 1837, in which he pays tribute to her
for being "a saving counterforce" (Cole's phrase) against Harvard's "levi-
tical education" (Emerson's phrase):
I cannot bear the young men whose theological education is exclusively
owed to Cambridge and to public institutions without feeling how much
happier was my star which rained on me influences of ancestral religion. The
depth of the religious sentiment which I knew in my Aunt Mary imbuing all
her genius & derived to her from such hoarded family traditions, from so
many godly lives & godly deaths of sainted kindred at Concord, Maiden,
and York, was itself a culture, an education.... In my childhood Aunt
Mary herself wrote the prayers which first my brother William & when he
went to college I read aloud morning & evening at the family devotions, &
they still sound in my ears with their prophetic & apocalyptic ejaculations.
Religion was her occupation, and when years after, I came to write sermons
for my own church I could not find any examples or treasuries of piety so
high-toned, so profound, or promising such rich influences as my re-
membrances of her conversations and letters.49

It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of this passage as
justification for the view that Emerson's evangelical roots are at least as
important as his Unitarian roots.
What Cole says of the relation between Emerson's evangelical and his
Unitarian backgrounds is not quite true, that "Harvard early declared
itself against Awakening religion."50 As Daniel Walker Howe has shown,
even Harvard Unitarians "were more than participants in the Second
Great Awakening; they were among its pioneers."s1 In the light of Howe's
study, what Robinson sees as the two-sided coin of Emerson's Unitarian
self-culture is the same as the Calvinist/Arminian tension in his evangeli-
cal culture; Emerson, "a believer in unity who still recognized duality,"
was also



a believer in perfection who saw his own imperfections with painful clarity.
While much of his early preaching stressed the possibilities of moral and
spiritual progress, his journal entries in the same period recorded many
messages of frank and unflattering self-analysis, or of despair at what he felt
was personal failure-a failure always heightened by his counterpointing
faith in human progress through the culture of the soul.s2

Calvinism, accordingly, occurs in Sermon 45; although Emerson "labeled
as an 'extravagance' Samuel Hopkins's [Calvinist] theory of a 'disin-
terested love of God,' a love so strong that it could content the soul 'to
perish forever' for God's glory and the benefit of the universe," Emerson
was nonetheless attracted to Hopkins's idea of "utter self-abnegation as
the ultimate moral act" (Robinson's paraphrase): "There is something so
generous and sublime in [the theory's] absurdity," writes Emerson, "that
good men will forgive it."53
As William G. McLoughlin has shown, Calvinism gradually declined
during the Second Great Awakening, due in no small measure to efforts
by the Unitarians.54 Although Joseph Stevens Buckminster and Andrews
Norton in biblical scholarship and W. E. Channing and Henry Ware, Jr.,
in moral philosophy "did not reject the fact of evil or of limitation, or
overlook the grimmer aspects of life," they argued, nonetheless, that "life
was best seen as a trial, or probation, in which certain intrinsic powers of
human nature were given the chance to develop and thrive."55 Arminians
on the theology faculty at Harvard countered the Calvinists at Andover
Seminary, and by 1823, "it was depressingly clear to the Calvinist leader
Lyman Beecher that much of Boston and eastern Massachusetts had been
lost."56 In 1825, in "The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints," Henry
Ware, Jr., Emerson's predecessor in the pulpit of the Second Church,
attacked Beecher's sermon of that same title (1823), arguing, in particu-
lar, that the individual "neither virtuous nor vicious, neither holy nor
sinful" develops "reason and conscience" "to exalt and purify his spir-
itual nature" and that life is "a moral or spiritual proving ground" that
"counters election" (cf. the possibility that Keats's doctrine of the Vale of
Soul-Making is anti-Calvinist).57
Emerson's Sermon 14 (1828) argues that "the recent progress of re-
ligion had consisted in overcoming the Calvinist denigrations of human



potential."58 This argument echoes the as much Arminian-evangelical as
Unitarian and indeed the Arminian-evangelical because Unitarian "Uni-
tarian Christianity" (1819) of W. E. Channing.

Calvinism tends to discourage the timid, to give excuses to the bad, to feed
the vanity of the fanatical, and to offer shelter to the bad feelings of the
malignant. By shocking, as it does, the fundamental principles of morality,
and by exhibiting a severe and partial Deity, it tends strongly to pervert the
moral faculty, to form a gloomy, forbidding, and servile religion, and to lead
men to substitute censoriousness, bitterness, and persecution, for a tender
and impartial charity.59

Philip Gura argues that Emerson's indebtedness to Unitarianism was in
the realm not of doctrine but of exegetical principles,60 but I would point
to the continuation in Emerson's sermons of doctrines as much Unitarian
as Arminian-evangelical, namely, postbiblical prophecy, "the God
within," millennial expectation, and, clearly not least, the "spiritual
sense."61 Robinson observes that the "moral sense" of Emerson and the
Unitarians demands such "pious dedication, fervent belief, and continual
self-sacrifice" that it rivals "anything devised by the Puritans."62 This, I
suggest, is because their "moral sense" derives not just from the Scottish
moralism of Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746) and the Scottish Common-
sense philosophy of Thomas Reid (171o-96) and Dugald Stewart (1753-
82z8) but especially from the "spiritual sense" of British as well as Amer-
ican Puritan-evangelicals.
Criticism of Emerson includes little that can be called philosophically
theological criticism. Michael complains that Robinson "mutes the vio-
lence of the rupture between Emerson and the Unitarians" and worries
that, in Robinson's view, the continuitiess" between Emerson and the
Unitarians "explain away Emerson's rebellion."63 Even Michael, how-
ever, acknowledges that those continuities "define" Emerson's rebellion.
Robinson's summary of Emerson's theology, despite its only implicit rec-
ognition of the evangelical overtones in Unitarian faith, deserves full
quotation here; it is consistent with my view of Emerson's theology as

The importance of Emerson's connection with the tradition of liberal theol-
ogy represented by New England Unitarianism is... essential to a just



portrait of his career. Because he was nurtured in a tradition which affirmed
human potential, he could reject confining and damaging barriers, but could
stand on firm ground to do so. He could rebel without being a rebel, for his
revolutionary gestures were affirmative ones, and were not without prece-

My philosophically theological approach to Emerson's works allows for
such a summary, for although his rebellion against theology was partially
philosophical, his rebellion does not finally preclude philosophical theol-
ogy, that is, empirical-evangelical methodology.

A Biographical Overview

Emerson's now fully available journals reveal, among other things, his
thorough familiarity with Locke's philosophy. Required reading at Har-
vard, for example, was An Essay concerning Human Understanding, a
text in the curriculum for his sophomore year (1818-i9).65 With obvious
intent to maintain his ownership of the Essay, he recorded, on June io,
1821, his loaning of volume 2 to "Hill."66 Still under the influence of the
Harvard curriculum in February 1829, he borrowed an unspecified vol-
ume by Locke from a library.67 So knowledgeable was he of Lockean
procedure that from the beginning of his journals he adopted Locke's
system of indexing.68
On April 4, 18zo, Emerson observed that in the turn-of-eighteenth-
century split between "the Ancients" and "the Moderns," Locke be-
longed with "the Moderns."69 Emerson does not mean, of course, that
Locke is finally like such another "Modern" as Descartes, for a journal
entry of 1821 quotes, approvingly, Locke's antirationalist, antideduction-
ist, and hence fully characteristic remark that "Human Reason never yet
from unquestionable principles or clear deductions made out an entire
body of the law of nature."70 Van Leer observes that "in the rationalist
preoccupation with the clear and distinct idea of mathematical certainty,"
the philosophy of idealism took on "the uncertain, finally skeptical, tone
that characterizes modernity"; for "Descartes redefined idealism, pre-
viously the doctrine of a supernatural world of permanence, in terms of
subjectivity"; and "philosophical inquiry," therefore, "shifted from on-
tology to epistemology, the being outside to the ideas within."71 Indeed,



if Descartes did not pass on to Locke and Emerson an at least residual
aspiration to mathematical certainty, he Lzbeqeathed to them "the ideas
within," epistemology, subjectivity, and skeptical modernity, but Lo&e
and Emerson did not finally share Descartes's deep suspicion of sense
Emerson, knowing full well that reason tempers Locke's sensationalist
epistemology, specifically regards empiricism not as rationalist but as
decidedly rational or reasonable. Although Emerson's "College Theme
Book" for 18zz includes, significantly, the "ancient maxim of philoso-
phy" that "there is nothing in the understanding which was not pre-
viously in the sense," the theme book goes on to observe that "the great
improvement of modern philosophy" is expressed by the addition of the
phrase "except the understanding itself."73 The credit for this "improve-
ment," Emerson adds, belongs to both Leibniz and Locke.74
"Newtons, Bacons, & Lockes," wrote Emerson in 1824, are not
"bred," but made, for they "owe their development" to a particular kind
of environment, that is, not to "shops & stables," but to "universities."7s
Thus Emerson not only recognizes but also seems in agreement with
Locke's embrace of the tabula rasa, his distinguishing emphasis on nur-
ture over nature. On August 18, 1828, in an entry especially predictive of
the best of Emerson's journal insights, he indicated that in both origin
and continuing flavor his own experientialist bias was strongly Lockean:

Keep a thing by you seven years, and you shall find use for it. You will never
have waste knowledge. I like the sentence of Locke: "that young men in their
warm blood are often forward to think they have in vain learned to fence if
they never show their skill in a duel."76

What one has learned, Emerson and Locke imply, will pay unexpected
The Emerson of the early I83os thought that such a mind as Locke's
outweighs many nations. On September 4, 1830, Emerson wrote that

there are some kingdoms of Europe whose whole population for ages does
not possess an equal interest with some single minds. The history of John
Locke or of Isaac Newton is a far more important part of the stock of
knowledge we carry out of the world, than the whole history of Poland or