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Misogyny and hero worship: Carlyle's representation of men and women in The French Revolution.

When Thomas Carlyle depicts the political struggle in The French Revolution, he is writing more than a "history." His perspective in this work is colored by his Victorian ideology and a traditional political view of men and women, magnified by his own psychological development, which reveres men as his conception of a "hero" and disparages women as objects.


Over the past century and a half, Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution has received various interpretations from historical as well as rhetorical perspectives. In this essay I will integrate Jessica Benjamin's psychoanalytic and feminist theory from The Bonds of Love and Herbert Sussman's historicist theory on male gender identity from Victorian Masculinities to construct a contemporary feminist reading of the text.

When Thomas Carlyle undertook the monumental enterprise of depicting the political struggle in France in The French Revolution, he was writing more than a "history." His perspective in this work was colored by his Victorian ideology and a traditional political view of men and women that reflected his times. His impressions were influenced by his own psychological development, which revered men and objectified women. His viewpoint was due largely to the vast transformations in society after the Industrial Revolution. Since a man's role was often defined by his work, a shift from an agrarian society engendered an uncertainty regarding masculine identity (Roper 1). Herbert Sussman, in Victorian Masculinities, provides a broad insight into the genesis of these anxieties among various males in Victorian England. He explains how the Victorians determined essential maleness as a male energy, described in metaphors of fluid (semen) and flame, which needed to be controlled and guided into productive purposes (work), rather than sexual expression. This belief, along with the nebulous concept of men's social roles, produced the loss of feelings of control for some Victorian males (12). As a result, the celibate monk in the monastery developed as an appropriate model to counteract various male insecurities on a social and sexual level. The monk served as the paradigm for transforming sexualized energy into the creation of work and art (3-14). Carlyle subscribed to this view of the Victorian ideology of the construction of masculinity, which is the basis of his "hero."

Moreover, in his personal life his psychic development was affected by his inability to relate to his father James, a brawny, stern, and rigid man who was involved solely in physical labor (Reminiscences 13-14). Since Thomas was fragile, sickly, and interested in intellectual pursuits, he had little in common with his father whom he feared, but at the same time admired for his strength. Although his father James supported his son's education, he was neither educated himself nor had an interest in reading. He was a physical laborer who was involved in drunken brawls. In contrast, even as a young child Thomas had an intense interest in learning and made every attempt to avoid physical conflicts (Kaplan 17-25). The father and the son were entirely dissimilar. In addition, his complex relationship with his mother was marked by an oppressive bond between mother and son and by her attempt to control his life (21-30). According to psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin in The Bonds of Love, this type of behavior on the part of the mother produces deep-seated damage to a child (34-39). The child is unable to detach himself psychologically from the mother to form his own identity. If this situation occurs, the mother becomes an object, and this perception extends to the female Other in general (75). Even after his marriage, Carlyle's mother, Margaret, had much control in his life. She demanded that he write to her within two days after his marriage and that his wife Jane should not read the letter. Her son complied and revealed intimate facts about his wedding night (Kaplan 117-18). When Carlyle made any major decision or began an important undertaking such as the writing of The French Revolution, he always consulted his mother: "As in all such efforts, he was thus even more needful of her support" (215-16). It appears that Carlyle was unable to sever his identification with his mother, and as a result she became an object. Psychologically, this dynamic results in splitting, which separates the good part of the object from the bad, to keep the bad part from corrupting the good. The effect of this polarization is that one side is idealized, and the other is devalued (63). This situation existed for Carlyle in that his idealization of his mother masked his true conflicting feelings of love and hostility for her: "Carlyle, of course, was incapable of writing anything but disguised autobiography ..." (Kaplan 130). His repressed emotions emerged in his denigrating portrayal of women (the female Other) in The French Revolution.

Consequently, as a conventional Victorian, and because of the relationship with both of his parents, Carlyle subscribed to the concept of monasticism as the answer to the conflict concerning male identity, but also because it provided personal benefits for him. In "The Hero as Man of Letters" he elevates the writer to a priest or monk (156-59) while at the same time justifying the reception of monetary compensation in the hope of creating a dignified professional identity for himself. By equating his "hero" with a priest, Carlyle automatically excludes women from this occupation and relegates them to the conventional biblical role of subordination, domesticity, and objectification. In The French Revolution his misogyny is manifest in his use of Greek and biblical allusions and various notions of Victorian womanhood that express a disparaging representation of women and connect these representations to his unresolved sexual identity. In contrast, Carlyle's characterization of men is in general quite positive because they embody his conception of "hero."

Since mythological references were frequently used during the Victorian era to support or to disparage conventional behavior, a negative portrayal of women might often have emanated from figures such as the Siren, Aphrodite, or Circe to imply the inherent aberrant nature of women (Kestner 9). While Carlyle did not employ these particular examples in his text, his use of classical terminology embraces various Greek conceptions of women. One critic of Greek mythology observes how an acute apprehension concerning female sexuality may have molded Greek attitudes toward women and disclosed intense traumas (Walcot 39-40). Joseph Kestner, in Mythology and Misogyny, extends this conception to the nineteenth century, where classical studies, icons, and myths were influential in the establishment of perspectives of women based on preconceived views of female characteristics. These attitudes "employed legends that reinforced the practice of the patriarchal society to define women by emphasizing sexual identity over gender, men by gender identity as much as sexual identity" (10). This disparity is evident in Carlyle's antithetical depiction of the men and women in The French Revolution. In addition, his use of Greek terms to refer to the women bears a psychosexual implication, since the splitting of the female psyche of mother and whore, acknowledged and prevalent in Greek myth and art (Keuls 204-205), can be viewed as a parallel to the splitting in Carlyle's psychic development.

In Chapter IV, Book II, by employing the Greek terms "Menads" and "Amazons," Carlyle is referring to the gynophobia of the Athenians, evident in the politics of Aristotle in which he defined "gyneocracy" as women being out of control or transgressing their social restraint (Keuls 32). During the Greek Bacchanalian feasts, the maenads were often depicted as bare-breasted and dancing while carrying dismembered animals (Touchette 12). The maenads were associated with disorder and its expression, such as the promiscuous and obscene behavior of women and their irreverence toward sacred rites; this conduct was designated summarily as the "rite of rebellion" (Keuls 350). In addition, the "maenad, bacchant, or fury does not exist alone but always belongs to a cultural configuration which includes the mother as its other half and which also includes the feminization of men" (Shires 148). In this chapter entitled "The Menads," Carlyle continually uses this term to describe the women and their behavior. In Chapter VI, "To Versailles," he recounts the mothers' march for bread: "And Menadic Hunger, irrepressible, crying 'Black Cockades,' crying 'Bread, bread' ..." (273) and "Menadism will not be restrained ..." (283). From these citations, it is evident that Carlyle perceives their demeanor as frenzied, hysterical, and lacking in self-control. In Chapter III, "Black Cockades," he emphasizes the contrast of the male and female attitude:
 Sullen is the male heart, repressed by Patrollotism; vehement is
 the female, irrepressible. The public speaking woman at the Palais
 Royal was not the only speaking one:--Men know not what pantry is
 when it grows empty; only house-mothers know. O women, wives of men
 that will only calculate and not act! Patrollotism is strong; but
 Death, by starvation and military onfall is stronger. (260)

In the subsequent pages, Carlyle continues to present the disparate behavior of the men and the women:
 Maternity awakes, to hear children weeping for bread. Maternity
 must forth to the streets, ... The young woman seizes the drum;
 sets forth, beating it, "uttering cries relative to the dearth of
 grains".... All women gather and go; crowds storm all stairs, force
 out all women: the female Insurrectionary force, ... all must go.
 Rouse ye, O women; the laggard men will not act; ... (262)

From these accounts, it is apparent that the women, cognizant of the critical scarcity of food, react more intensely, while the men are more passive. Since feeding the family was in the domain of female responsibility, the impending fear of starvation was more clearly imminent to the women. They knew that they must take action, and as a result, great numbers of female society united to protest fiercely this assault upon their families. Carlyle presents these women as "irrepressible," since they refused to accept this situation and remain compliant. He views their behavior as forceful, which would be unnatural, according to his perception of women's domestic position in society, despite their motivation. In contrast, Carlyle's description of the men as "sullen," "repressed," and "laggard" establishes them as suppressing their emotions and actions. Consequently, Carlyle views this conduct as role reversals of the functions of men and women in society and an example of disorder or chaos, an echo of Shires' conception of the maenad (148). Here Carlyle subscribes to a belief in a male Victorian anxiety concerning an ambiguous identity when he focuses on women outside of the domestic sphere, and the men acting more effeminized in their passivity. According to Sussman, some Victorian males felt a loss of control over their existence (12), and this significant confusion of gender roles may have been threatening to Carlyle, which results in a disparaging portrayal of the women who appear to be dominating this scene.

In addition, the use of the term "Maenad" underscores Carlyle's perception of the abnormal behavior of the French women, as The Oxford Classical Dictionary states that the Maenads "More than any other figure ... represent the complete liberation from conventions of daily life, the awakening of primeval instincts ..." (636). This definition, along with the various other conceptions of the Maenad (the mother as its other half and the feminization of men) embodies Carlyle's gynophobia in its comprehensiveness. In his portrayal of the French women, he manifests his unease concerning their unconventional behavior by focusing on their assertiveness, which, in his perspective, emasculates the men. The term Maenad includes all that is threatening to Carlyle, and on a subconscious level he identifies these mothers with his own mother who attempted to control his life. Consequently, his representation of the French mothers in these chapters reveals his misogyny.

In his allusion to the Amazon, he is also subscribing to classical gynophobia, since this group of female warriors threatened patriarchy. An Amazon, who cuts off her right breast to allow for more ease in drawing her bow and who mates with a man for the sole purpose of procreation, but later rejects him and her male offspring, would intimidate manhood (Keuls 4). This image of social order parallels Carlyle's conception of the inappropriate behavior of the women of Paris: "For as Erasmus's Ape mimicked, say with wooden splint, Erasmus shaving, so do these Amazons hold in mock majesty, some confused parody of National Assembly" (282.). To Carlyle, the conduct of these French women mirrored the cultural implication of Amazon warriors in their threat to social hegemony, and he considered their behavior as improper, ineffective, and, moreover, irrational. Also, in comparing these women to an ape, Carlyle is suggesting their animalistic and sub-human status. While he does not eliminate the participation of the men in the Revolution, his diction and tone in describing their behavior do not connote the same impression of inhuman natures as in his depiction of the women. In portraying the women, his allusions convey irrational and animalistic tendencies, often in a sardonic tone, which differs from his treatment of the men.

Carlyle's misogynistic perspective emanates from the "splitting" in his psychological development where the good is esteemed and the bad is devalued. In this polarization, one side is idealized and the other dishonored, which characterizes Carlyle's perspective of women that is structured in these terms. Since he idealized his dominating mother, his attitude toward other women was denigrating. This good/bad duality parallels the splitting of the female psyche into the madonna and the whore, which was his accepted notion of Greek culture. This duality is equivalent to the angel/ demon concept from biblical tradition that reappears during the Victorian era. However, by the nineteenth century, there was a shift in the gender representation of the angel/demon idea: "like that of the angels, when conventional imagery lost authority, demonic iconography became predominantly female" (Auerbach 74).

In Woman and the Demon, Nina Auerbach argues that males sustained the mystification of women based on myths, literature, and history, which was dehumanizing (12), since Victorian men may have felt a need to counteract their discomfort at having a powerful female on the throne of England:
 The repressiveness of Victorian culture is a measure of its faith
 in the special powers of woman, in her association with mobility
 and unprecedented change, with a new and strange dispensation, with
 an unofficial but widely promulgated and frightening mythology.
 This mythology was inextricable from visions of power in actual
 life.... Embodying both danger and dilution in her own little
 person was the intractable and seemingly immortal figure of the
 Queen. (188)

Consequently, focusing, as Auerbach does, on the demonic nature of women may have enabled some men to cope with the political and social changes during that era. In addition, the entire perception of the angel held so many disturbing implications for the males that gynophobia existed in Victorian England, which Carlyle manifests in his terminology.

One Victorian concept of the angel was as equally alarming as the image of the demon, because the angel was capable of transformation and super-human powers (Auerbach 64). As a result, the angel could easily metamorphosize into the demon. This concept emerged from Christian iconography of the Garden of Eden where the serpent had a female face, thereby making women responsible for the fall of the human race and providing a stereotype for the female demon (89). In Carlyle's portrayal of Charlotte Corday, this angel/demon dualism is established in the description of the murder of Marat:
 She is of stately Norman figure; ... of beautiful still countenance
 ... this fair female Figure ... cruel-lovely with a half-angelic,
 half-daemonic splendour; ... this one fair Apparition of a
 Charlotte Corday ... how the little life burns forth so radiant,
 then vanishes swallowed of the Night. (294)

Carlyle's tone in referring to the murderess is a combination of admiration of her qualities along with admonition for her crime, but also compassion for her: "Hapless beautiful Charlotte ... " (295). Here, Carlyle seems to be implying that Charlotte might also be a victim, of the dual nature of woman. As Charlotte calls out to Marat to ask permission to enter, Carlyle depicts her with "A musical woman's voice ... " (296), a paradoxical description immediately before she stabs him to death. After the murder, Charlotte calmly yields and tranquilly goes to the Abbaye prison, alone (297). At the Revolutionary Tribunal, Carlyle emphasizes her beauty and serenity during her interrogation, and she willingly confesses, "I killed one man to save ... innocents; a savage wild beast to give repose to my country" (298). To Carlyle, her rationalization is representative of the angel/demon dualism. After her death sentence is declared, Carlyle characterizes her as thankful to all who were involved in her trial and sentencing. As Charlotte is led to her tumbril, Carlyle notes her exquisite features, her peacefulness, her vitality and the esteem of the crowd and those dying with her (298), in a tone of half admiration for Charlotte herself, and half abhorrence for the repercussions and the ramifications in France following the murder of Marat. In his concluding paragraph of this chapter, "Terror," Carlyle embodies his adherence to a belief in the dual nature of woman: "This is the History of Charlotte Corday; most definite, most complete; angelic-daemonic ... " (299).

In his depiction of the murderess/heroine Charlotte Corday, Carlyle captures the ability of a woman to transform easily from one nature to another without a noticeable change in her physical characteristics, and he also describes how Marat readily succumbed to her request to visit him, which resulted in his death at the hands of this seemingly innocent young woman. Her calmness and apparent self-control were the visage of the angelic qualities that masked the violent and cold-blooded demonic side of her nature capable of murder, which Carlyle indicates in this passage.

In addition, Carlyle's references to the women's moist bodies in an "inarticulate frenzy ... " (266) evoke licentious images and imply a deviant sexual behavior. To Victorians a woman's experiencing sexual excitement indicated a fallen woman (Dijkstra 83). Sexual impulses in women should be eliminated, and their active gratification of sexual activity exposed an innate criminal predisposition in the female nature. Consequently, women who were extremely erotic lacked maternal nurturance and had a tendency toward depravity, stemming from the demonic side of their nature. The more perceptive and bold that women became, the more they mirrored the male image (159). To many Victorians, the lack of sexual desire was vital and "the cornerstone of society" (87). The woman was supposed to possess grace and virtue and was confined to her domestic role. Since the home was untainted by sin, she could shelter her worldly husband and save his soul through her role as the "angel in the house." Dijkstra presents a view that women's inaccessibility to society would ensure moral chasteness (8), and any "public display of levity or physical energies of women ... " (8) rendered them incapable of being effective in the protection of their husbands' souls (8). Some Victorian male writers considered female assertiveness as a regression to the primal stages of human development. In addition, feminist movements were viewed as a wayward expression of illusions in female mentality (65). "Women ceased to become gentle mothers ... but rather Amazon brawlers" (86).

Carlyle incorporates these Victorian conventions of female behavior in his text. However, his erotic descriptions of the moist bodies of the French women engaging in frenzied activities and the use of the Greek terms "Menads" and "Amazons" bear deeper psychological implications. Sussman views this conduct as a lack of control and the embodiment of male hysteria, the projection of the male self onto the female Other (21). This view parallels Benjamin's conception that the female represents the undifferentiated object who acts as the Other for males, the part of themselves that they wish to repress (77). In portraying the behavior of these French women as a lack of control, Carlyle is exposing his own anxiety regarding his sexual identity, and the fear of the unrestrained, pernicious seminal fluid that should be suppressed:
 The unclean, disruptive quality of the female in Carlyle's writing
 is over determined, powered by intense misogyny, by the fear of
 female sexuality.... His fixation with diseased and disruptive
 women works within a coherent male fantasy that displaces onto the
 female Carlyle's own disease, his own anxieties about the
 inherently diseased male self, and his own fear of the eruption of
 the interior fluid energy with the consequent dissolution of
 psychic control.... These monstrous diseased females act out
 Carlyle's deepest psycho-social anxiety in an apocalyptic vision of
 the destructive release of the pestilential fluid energy of
 eruption and flood. (Sussman 21)

This citation suggests that Carlyle's focus on the erotic visualization of the French women is distorted by his own unease expressed through the perspective of duality. Here, Carlyle relegates these females to the status of fallen women, which is a cathexis of his own sexual anxiety. (1) In addition, Carlyle's emphasis on the assertive female behavior underscores his fear of their subversion of male dominance. His obsession with these scenes of the conduct of these women is threatening to him on a psychosexual level.

In this same chapter, Carlyle also alludes to the biblical Judith, who saved the Israelites from the Assyrian general, Holofernes. When the defeat of the Israelites was imminent, Judith feigns treason to penetrate the enemy camp, where she eventually gains the trust of Holofernes. After plying him with alcohol, she decapitates him and escapes with his head, which is hung in public during the Israelites' victory celebration ( The New American Bible 443-55). Carlyle's use of the name Judith bears an aggressive implication: "descend ye Judiths, to food and revenge!" (262) and "Grand it was says Camille to see so many Judiths, from eight to ten thousand of them in all, rushing out to search into the root of the matter" (263). Here, Carlyle is again emphasizing their dominance in strength as well as in number, and their vindictiveness. In a subsequent citation, Carlyle paints a more militant portrait:
 And now doors fly under hatchets: the Judiths have broken the
 Armory; have seized guns and cannons, three money-bags,
 paper-heaps; torches flare: in few minutes, our brave
 Hotel-de-Ville, which dates from the Fourth Henry, will, with all
 that it holds, be in flames! (264)

In this depiction of the French women, Carlyle indicates their aggressiveness and their behavior, which is entirely unconventional. As Judith sought the head of Holofernes to curtail his power, the French women are frantically seeking "heads," symbols of authority: "For, behold, the Judiths can find no Mayor or Municipal" (264). Carlyle describes their frustration: "scarcely in the topmost belfry, can they find poor Abbe Lefevre the Powder-distributor. Him, for want of a better, they suspend there ... the rope broke" (264). Carlyle repeats this reference to heads and beheading in subsequent pages. He portrays this conduct as bellicose and barbaric and anarchic. By achieving this level of command, these women have overthrown the social hegemony of patriarchy. (2) In his allusion to these women as Judiths, Carlyle manifests his fear of castration on a psychological level: "symbolic castration, woman's lust for man's severed head the seat of the brain, that 'great clot of seminal fluid' ... the supreme act of male's physical submission to women's predatory desire" (375). Carlyle's description of the Judiths of Paris embodies his psychosexual anxieties regarding women and the loss of male control, a result of his psychic development and, particularly, the oppressive relationship with his mother. Consequently, throughout The French Revolution, but particularly in Book VII, Carlyle's diction and allusions disparage women. His use of the terms "Menads" and "Amazons" relegates the French women to the marginalized pariahs of Greek mythology. From his descriptions of the women in the context of these Greek allusions, Carlyle exposes his belief in the dual nature of women.

From an alternative perspective on the French women's march to Versailles, Douady in "Carlyle et l'insurrection des femmes" credits Carlyle's impressive writing style in The French Revolution, but maligns his narrow and subjective viewpoint. Douady believes that Carlyle's francophobic stance is derived from his Conservative and Calvinist ideology. Carlyle's descriptions carry such a negative connotation, in general, that Douady barely recognizes some of the events and the people that are presented. To Douady, Carlyle's account of the activity of the French women on their march to Versailles is particularly distorted because he questions Carlyle's depiction of the impulsive and unrestrained behavior of these women. It would be improbable, notes Douady, that hundreds of women would suddenly begin a march in the rain, and coincidentally meet hundreds of other women without a specific and well-organized plan. Douady sees this undertaking as requiring much preparation and structuring under one leader or an authoritative group (398-409).

Douady views Carlyle's portrayal of the French Revolution in its entirety as a sensationalized and unrealistic representation with a focus on the absence of restraint. Therefore, if Carlyle depicted the women's behavior as a spontaneous and irrational revolt rather than a prepared march, it would add to Carlyle's presentation of disorder. But Douady also speculates on Carlyle's emphasis on the "irrational" conduct of the women while diminishing the violent and bloody events in which the men participated (398-402). Douady attributes Carlyle's gender bias to his anti-democratic political views and his narrow-minded Calvinist views concerning the social role of women, which limits them to the domestic sphere (408). This observation is superficial, but Douady also suggests a further explanation for Carlyle's perspective when he claims that Carlyle has a demon within him that focuses on depravity, which distorts his perception (398). The demon to which Douady refers is Carlyle's unresolved sexual anxieties that Sussman views as the expression of male hysteria, the projection of the male self onto the female Other (21). This attitude is evident in his slanted portrayal of this scene of the French women.

Conversely, in a striking contrast to his depiction of the women, Carlyle's overall treatment of the men in The French Revolution does not include dehumanizing metaphors, because his perception of men does not embody the same psychosexual implications as his conception of women. As a result of his psychic development, Carlyle was unable to disidentify with his mother, who was the root of his perspective of women. In addition, he was incapable of identifying with his father; consequently, throughout his life Carlyle was continually seeking an identity for himself in other male role models and through one of his major works. Although the quest for a hero was a universal and multicultural ideal, Carlyle's need for a hero had a psychological basis. In On Heroes and Hero Warship, he ostensibly establishes the general characteristics of a "hero," but in reality he is attempting to create a role model with whom he could identify, particularly in "The Hero As a Man of Letters." In these works, Carlyle's hero is exemplified by prophets, poets, priests, and kings--all males who emanate from his sage ideology based on biblical patriarchy and who function as figures of authority and guidance in a society based on order. From an historical perspective, to ease his anxieties regarding masculine identity, Carlyle chooses these models as heroes because they parallel the role of the monk, who is a symbol of control and inspiration. By combining these classifications of men as paradigms of discipline and altruism, Carlyle provides a role model for himself and other Victorian males to emulate, as well as presenting the basis upon which he perceives men. On a psychological level, since Carlyle was continually seeking an identity as a result of his relationship with his parents, his composite of a hero is one whom his Calvinist family and milieu would acknowledge and admire. From these perspectives, Carlyle's characterization of many of the men in The French Revolution mirrors his conception of a hero, and is therefore nonthreatening to his identity.

From the first page of the text and throughout subsequent chapters, Carlyle's representation of Louis XV mirrors that of his "surname of Bienaime" (Well-beloved) ... which Louis XV bears, ..." (3). In these chapters, Carlyle recounts all of the benevolent actions of the King, which earned him this designation. Carlyle refers to him as the "Most Christian King ..." (6), someone who ministered to his kingdom as does a priest to his congregation, and therefore to Carlyle he was the consummate hero. Throughout these chapters, Carlyle relates how Louis XV had inherited problems caused by his predecessor and was a victim of the heathenish Enlightenment (7-I3). Since the philosophy of the Enlightenment ran counter to the doctrines of Calvinism and to the Victorian male's conception of the symbol of the monk and all of its implications, Carlyle venerates Louis in his attempts to direct his followers on what Carlyle perceives as the proper course:
 Be thou our Acknowledged Strongest! In such Acknowledged Strongest
 (well named King, Kon-ing, Can-ning, or Man that was Able) what a
 Symbol shone now for them--significant with the destinies of the
 world! A Symbol of true Guidance in return for loving Obedience:
 ... a Symbol which might be called sacred.... (11)

In essence, from the psychological and the historical perspective of the Victorian male, Louis XV was the personification of the characteristics of Carlyle's hero, who is manifest in his depiction of this French king.

Carlyle's portrait of his successor Louis XVI is not as positive, although it is not entirely negative. In his analysis of Louis XVI, Carlyle excuses his naivete: "There is a young, still docile, well-intentioned King" (31), but criticizes his lack of religious devotion. "'They say he never goes to mass'; but liberal France answers, ... Philosophism sees, for the first time, a Philosophe (or even a Philosopher) in office ... " (32). To Carlyle, this absence of spirituality had a detrimental effect on his reign: "Their King has become ... gyrating as the weather-cock does, blown by every wind. Above them they see no God ..." (39). Carlyle attributes the ineffectiveness of Louis XVI to his adherence to secularism in his reign of France rather than to a depraved nature. Carlyle perceived Louis' absence of religious fervor and his adherence to the influences of the Enlightenment as a weakness that led to his downfall and consequently to the collapse of the Ancien Regime: "O Philosophe-Sentimentalism, what hast thou to do with peace, when thy mother's name is Jezebel? Foul Product of still fouler Corruption, thou with thy corruption art doomed!" (39). While Carlyle credits Louis XVI with sincere intentions and serious attempts at stabilizing France, the King's secular philosophy does not parallel Carlyle's conception of a hero, who is a man of faith and virtue on both the historical and psychological level. Nevertheless, Carlyle does not portray Louis XVI as a sub-human being as he does in his representation of the French women.

In contrast, Carlyle's depiction of the Comte de Mirabeau resounds with admiration. From his initial references to Mirabeau to the chapter describing his death, Carlyle singles him out of all the Frenchmen who participated in the Revolution as the model patriot, as well as politician:
 In that forty years' "struggle against despotism," he has gained
 the glorious faculty of self-help, and yet not lost the natural
 gift of fellowship, of being helped. Rare union: this man can live
 self-sufficing--yet lives also in the life of other men; can make
 men love him, work with him.... (146-47)

To Carlyle, Mirabeau manifests the qualities of a born leader who integrates independence with brotherhood. In addition, Carlyle emphasizes his allegiance to the monarchy and the welfare of France. In the drafting of the Constitution, when many of Mirabeau's peers were displaying radical opinions and judgments, he maintained his rationalism: "Alone of all men there, Mirabeau may begin to discern clearly whither all this is tending ... how anxious was he that the king's Ministers should have seat and voice in the National Assembly ..." (308-309). Carlyle clearly praises Mirabeau's steadfastness, but also underscores his popularity when he credits him as the "cynosure of Europe ..." (310). This constellation of attributes endows Mirabeau with much influence: "Mirabeau from his tribune, with the weight of his name and genius, awing down much Jacobin violence ..." (419). Throughout the text, Carlyle's respect echoes continually in his imagery when he refers to Mirabeau as a Herculean giant who walks alone (443). Carlyle acknowledges Mirabeau as the only sustaining support for the King and the Queen in 1791, and considers that "His death is Titanic ..." (447). Carlyle views Mirabeau's death as a profound loss to France and elevates him to the rank of a king (449). In the treatment of Mirabeau, Carlyle idealizes him more than any other male in the text. From the historical aspect, Mirabeau possesses the strength and control to attempt to maintain a rational perspective among the radicals of France, as the concept of the monk quelled Carlyle's fears of male hysteria. In addition, Carlyle's description of Mirabeau as a king with international recognition mirrors the level of admiration and reverence that Carlyle displayed for Goethe. Carlyle had long admired Goethe for his writing and his philosophy. After they began corresponding, a strong bond developed between the two, and Carlyle believed that he had found someone who could understand his soul. Consequently, Carlyle looked upon Goethe as a "father figure" (Kaplan 168), and in a tribute to the German, Carlyle uses references from Venezianische Epigramrne as epigraphs to individual sections of The French Revoution. Similarly, because of Mirabeau's numerous qualities, he represents a paragon of a hero, a man from whom Carlyle would desire to seek recognition on a psychological level. Consequently, in the tone and characterization of this Frenchman, Carlyle paints a god-like figure with whom he would like to identify from any perspective.

In an equally admirable portrayal, Carlyle describes Danton:
 Greater and greater waxes President Danton in his Cordeliers
 Section; his rhetorical tropes are all "gigantic": energy flashes
 from his black brows ... the sound of his voice reverberating from
 the domes: this man also, like Mirabeau, has a natural eye, and
 begins to see whither Constitutionalism is tending.... (321)

Carlyle praised Danton's attempt toward maintaining moderation during the Terror and offering optimism to the cause of the French. He regards Danton as "A man of careless, large and hoping nature; a large nature that could rest ..." (384). As a result of Danton's efforts toward stabilizing the revolutionary activities, he acquired many enemies. Carlyle applauds Danton's disregard of the advice of friends and family to leave France for his welfare: "The man Danton was not prone to show himself; to act, or uproar for his own safety" (384). And later, after his arrest, Carlyle commends Danton's concern for his ability to assist fellow prisoners rather than grieving about his own situation. The reader notes Carlyle's approbation as he describes Danton's trip to the guillotine: "Danton carried a high look in the Death-cart" (388). Along with his altruistic and dauntless spirit during the Revolution and in the face of death, Danton possesses many of the qualities of Mirabeau, which positions him among Carlyle's heroes from a historical as well as a psychological perspective.

In the passages that include Robespierre, Carlyle's undeniable animosity toward him is present in his sarcastic tone and incisive language. Carlyle often refers to him sardonically as the "Incorruptible," a derisive use of this term coined by the Revolutionaries: "But the Chief Priest and Speaker of this place, as we said, is Robespierre, the long-winded incorruptible man ... He pleads, in endless earnest-shallow speech ..." (55). His diction in this citation conveys Carlyle's perception of Robespierre's superficial oratory, a mask for his insincerity of character. In a heated exchange with Danton regarding the progression of the Terror, Carlyle employs the adjective "poisonous" to define the look on Robespierre's face (384). By using this description, Carlyle reveals the menacing side of this man's character, and an implication of the outcome of their association. While Carlyle's dislike of Robespierre is obvious throughout the text, he does, however, display a degree of respect for the strength and influence of this Frenchman even as the leader's popularity was waning:
 Robespierre, for his part, glides over at evening to his Jacobin
 House of Lords; unfolds there, instead of virtues,
 incorruptibilities; then, secondly, his rejected screech-owl
 Oration--reads this latter over again; and declares that he is
 ready to die at a moment's warning. Thou shalt not die! shouts
 Jacobinism from its thousand throats. "Robespierre, I will drink
 the hemlock with thee," cries Painter David.... (407)

After the death of Robespierre, Carlyle notes the pervasive effect: "For despicable as Robespierre himself might be, the death of Robespierre was a signal at which great multitudes of men, struck dumb with terror heretofore, rose out of their hiding-places" (417). While Carlyle credits Robespierre with intelligence and dominance, he condemns his egotistical spirit in comparison to the other males in the text. However, his overall portrait of Robespierre is that of a strong-willed and violent man, echoing the description of his father, James Carlyle, a resolute and rebellious man who was easily provoked into physical altercations (Kaplan 20). Both men inspired fear, but also respect. On a psychological level, Carlyle is identifying Robespierre with his father. Therefore, he is presenting Robespierre rather affirmatively, despite his role as a leading villain of the French Revolution. It is striking that Carlyle does not attribute to Robespierre the overall denaturing and desexualizing representations that he assigns to women because he perceives the Frenchman's strength and single-mindedness as appropriate male behavior and qualities of his hero.

Consequently, the men in this text are the product of the nebulous concept of Victorian male sexual identity and Carlyle's relationship with his father. All of these men are portrayed as independent and influential authoritative figures whose identities are firmly established. Thus, Carlyle depicts them positively since their fixed identities ease his anxieties regarding the Victorian masculine concept of the self. Since he was unable to identify with his father, these men personify his perception of a hero, a concept that he created in an attempt toward gaining an identity. Therefore, these males are not intimidating to Carlyle, but rather they are men whom he would like to emulate. In marked contrast, the denigrating portrayal of the women is the result of Carlyle's relationship with his mother. Due to the splitting in his psychic development and the inability to disidentify with his mother, Carlyle depicts women with the angel/demon or madonna/whore duality because he is threatened by them on a psychosexual level. In addition, Carlyle's perspective was influenced by his political and social philosophy and is a reflection of his times.

Florida Atlantic University

Works Cited

Auerbach, Nina. Woman and the Demon. Harvard UP, 1982.

Benjamin, Jessica. The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988.

Carlyle, Thomas. "The Hero as Man of Letters." On Heroes and Hero Worship. U of California P, 1993.

--. The French Revolution. Oxford UP, 1989.

--. Reminiscences. Ed. James Anthony Froude. New York: American Book Exchange, 188L

Dijkstra, Bram. Idols of Perversity. Oxford UP, 1986.

Douady, J. "Carlyle et l'insurrection des femmes." Revue Anglo-Americaine. 1926: 397-409.

Findlay, L.M. "'Maternity must forth': The Poetics and Politics of Gender in Carlyle's French Revolution." Dalhousie Review 66 (1986): 130-54.

Goldonson, Robert, ed. Encyclopedia of Human Behavior. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1970.

Hammond, N.G.L., and H.H. Scullard, eds. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford UP, 1970.

Kaplan, Fred. Thomas Carlyle. U of California P, 1993.

Kestner, Joseph A. Mythology and Misogyny. U of Wisconsin P, 1988.

Keuls, Eva. Reign of the Phallus. New York: Harper Row, 1985. The New American Bible. Wichita, Kansas: Catholic Bible Publishers, 1981.

Roper, Michael, and John Tosh, eds. "Historians and the Politics of Masculinity." Manful Assertions. London: Routledge, 1991.

Shires, Linda M., ed. Rewriting the Victorians. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Stocker, Margarita. Judith, Sexual Warrior. Yale UP, 1998.

Sussman, Herbert. Victorian Masculinities. Cambridge UP, 1995.

Touchette, Lori-Ann. The Dancing Maenad Reliefs. London: Institute of Classical Studies, University of London, 1995.

Walcot, P. "Greek Attitudes Towards Women: The Mythological Evidence." Greece and Rome 31 (1984): 37-47.


(1) Goldonson defines cathexis in Encyclopedia of Human Behavior as the "investment of an object, idea, or act with special emotional significance, or affect" (188). Carlyle had an interest on the sexual level in this particular scene.

(2) In Judith, Sexual Warrior, Margarita Stocker perceives Judith's beheading of Holofernes as the beheading of patriarchy (8).
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Author:Goldstein, Maureen
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Date:Sep 22, 1999
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