Fichte, Carlyle and the British Literary Reception of German Idealism



This article reconsiders the relationship of Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus to German Idealism in light of Frederick Beiser’s revaluation of Fichte’s influence on early German Romanticism in German Idealism: The Struggle against Subjectivism (2002). Beiser claims that for Novalis, Hölderlin, and Friedrich Schlegel, “drama and novel became the only proper medium to explore and resolve philosophical problems.” I argue that Carlyle, like these writers, found in the representation of particular lives a unique literary form through which to further develop Fichte’s efforts to ground philosophical truth in individual moral action. In particular, the role of the fictional editor in Sartor Resartus foregrounds Carlyle’s Fichtean effort to work through the correspondences of his imagined German Idealist philosopher Diogenes Teufelsfdröckh’s biography and philosophy.