Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kesselsdorf 1745: The Campaign, as Incomparably Related by Thomas Carlyle

The account for today, in contrast with the previous one, is not only Prusso-centric, but Frederick-centric, and is written in a particular style by its author, Thomas Carlyle, to illustrate a wider point that he was trying to make about heroes, generally, and to do so by talking about this one in particular.

Carlyle is described in his wikipedia entry as 'controversial,' and I had spent some years searching libraries far and wide for his books and wondering what sort of crummy library would be without his works while having the sort of rot they do have. I did not know why that was, and there was no explanation given. It's just not there. Not much in the way of criticism, biography, anything, it's almost like he is untouchable to the literary types. They've got all sorts of other junk, so it made me wonder what was up.

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us.
The greatest university of all is a collection of books."                                    -Carlyle 

I did find Sartor Resartus, a novel he wrote early on, but I was looking for the magnum opus he spent seven years writing, the History of Frederick II of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great. And what I did read in Sartor, I didn't understand what in the world was he on about, with his strange way of talking. It did sound cool, but not in a way I could easily master what he meant by it all.

And now that I have an idea what it's about, I may read the whole thing. Previously I had only found excerpts of around a chapter or six at a time in an anthology of English Literature, meant to give a taste of many authors all in one book. I did notice he had a very unusual way of writing, but I liked it and wanted more, but it was not and in fact still is not available in  my town. Sartor Resartus, but nothing else.

So the reason he spent his last big BIG effort writing many volumes of step by step, present tense, watching-the- hero- face- crisis- after- crisis- compounded- by- other- adversity- and- disaster prose was because he was trying to make a point, philosophically, about heroes and the importance to men of a leader.

It's Because He Annoyed His Old Friends By Changing His Mind, And Then He Was Stubborn About It

Er, not that there's anything wrong with a Scotsman being stubborn, especially if he thinks he's right, and of course it doesn't imply anything about Scots, and my old school song was Scotland the Brave, in bagpipes of course, and just because I said thinks he's right doesn't mean he is or isn't. I do love that song, from way back. Rather stubborn myself, if not obstinate.

And so then the reason why this massive work is unavailable has probably got to do with a couple levels of political correctness, which leave him out of fashion. So I leave that to the reader to contemplate, along with his wikipedia biographical entry to see as an exercise if he can spot the couple telltale references that caused him first to lose his old friends in his own time, and then to face obstacles in the last generation or two, not really his doing dead for 60 years already, but blocking any attempts in the PC scholarly world at rehabilitation. Although there is one thing, I'll mention towards the bottom, in the 1984 Newspeak part.

I think I found the problems. Well, no wonder, and it's really about time I took the trouble to find out what the problem was all this time, why I can't get the man's work except in occasional excerpts. I've got a Creasy's Decisive Battles with a chapter on Liegnitz, but that's about all, in my collection. But, Gott sei Dank, Google has got some in the Google Books program, and so finally I can read more, after having just had a few chapters to taste of this remarkable prose.

Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And to think Nietzsche, of all people, called him a 'muddlehead' anyway, for all the trouble the PC crowd gives him. They say no publicity is bad publicity.

In part what I'm on about is the allusions I had made some time previously about a metaphorical bird and swine flu along with some other metaphorical psychosomatic things, whatever I had said, this is some of what I was getting at. I enjoy reading this book, and many others, and I don't care if some brainwashed peabrain doesn't like it. I'll decide what to read, and some birdbrain trying to censor what is available will only find it all comes back down on his head one day.

I'll use my own human mind and heart to sort out for myself what my understandings will be, and reserve the right to constantly modify them back and forth, based on what I take in. Trying to hide it will only backfire.
It's quite possible to ignore the entire back story of all this and enjoy the narrative, if you can get hold of it.

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So to Turn the Tables Back, Let's Use this Little Story To Illustrate a Wider Point,
Which is What He Was Doing For Seven Years and Eighteen Volumes--The Seven Years Writing Project
And then he almost married a Shia Muslim half-Indian woman, but she had to discriminate against him for being too poor with too poor prospects. There's a 2002 book about this story somewhere, and it becomes hard when the same person is held as PC and Un-PC at the same time. Why, it's like something out of a racy Jane Austen story. Well, that is what 1984 double talk was supposed to be like.

So, two pieces of meat for today, first the link to the wikipedia entry on Thomas Carlyle, with photos, explanations, etc.


And then Chapter XIV, of Volume 6, in the History of Frederick, courtesy of Google Books. This chapter tells the campaign of Kesselsdorf and I think it has the story of the king going back to Berlin where someone called him 'Great,' and he turned away to go visit Duhan. Unless I was reading ahead into the next chapter...
You can expect it to run twenty or thirty pages but the action-packed style makes it fly by quickly.

Chapter XIV, Volume 6, The Battle of Kesselsdorf

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  1. To be honest, I only really knew the name Thomas Carlyle because of his association with the historiography of Frederick the Great. I had no idea that he was so well known, and fascinating, in his own right. This quote made me chuckle:

    "It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four."

    I did have a slight problem with the Kesselsdorf link. It took me to a 'snippet view' where I could not view the whole of that particular version of the book. If anyone has had the same problem as me, this link should take you to the description of the battle (pg 108 onwards):


    Thanks for the info, Mekelnborg


  2. Thank for that Adam, and let's see if it takes as a blog post. I did copy-paste this first into the search box at G, and got nothing, but in the top browser it gave both Volumes 6 and 7 complete.