Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
The Devils Barracks
By Thomas Carlyle (17951881)
From Latter-Day Pamphlets
ON the whole, what a beautiful Establishment here fitted up for the accommodation of the scoundrel world, male and female! As I said, no Duke in England is, for all rational purposes which a human being can or ought to aim at, lodged, fed, tended, taken care of, with such perfection. Of poor craftsmen that pay rates and taxes from their days wages, of the dim millions that toil and moil continually under the sun, we know what is the lodging and the tending. Of the Johnsons, Goldsmiths, lodged in their squalid garrets; working often enough amid famine, darkness, tumult, dust, and desolation, what work they have to do:of these as of spiritual backwoodsmen understood to be preappointed to such a life, and like the pigs to killing, quite used to it, I say nothing. But of Dukes, which Duke, I could ask, has cocoa, soup, meat, and food in general made ready, so fit for keeping him in health, in ability to do and to enjoy? Which Duke has a house so thoroughly clean, pure, and airy; lives in an element so wholesome, and perfectly adapted to the uses of soul and body as this same, which is provided here for the Devils regiments of the line? No Duke that I have ever known. Dukes are waited on by deleterious French cooks, by perfunctory grooms of the chambers, and expensive crowds of eye servants, more imaginary than real: while here, Science, Human Intellect and Beneficence have searched and sat studious, eager to do their very best; they have chosen a real Artist in Governing to see their best, in all details of it, done. Happy regiments of the line, what soldier to any earthly or celestial Power has such a lodging and attendance as you here? No soldier or servant direct or indirect of God or of man, in this England at present. Joy to you, regiments of the line. Your Master, I am told, has his elect, and professes to be Prince of the Kingdoms of this World; and truly I see he has power to do a good turn to those he loves, in England at least. Shall we say, May he, may the Devil give you good of it, ye Elect of Scoundrelism? I will rather pass by, uttering no prayer at all; musing rather in silence on the singular worship of God, or practical reverence done to Human Worth, which is the outcome and essence of all real worship whatsoever, among the Posterity of Adam at this day.
For all round this beautiful Establishment, or Oasis of Purity, intended for the Devils regiments of the line, lay contingents of dingy poor and dirty dwellings, where the unfortunate not yet enlisted into that Force were struggling manifoldly,in their workshops, in their marble yards, and timber yards, and tan yards, in their close cellars, cobbler stalls, hungry garrets, and poor dark tradeshops with red herrings and tobacco pipes crossed in the window,to keep the Devil out of doors and not enlist with him. And it was by a tax on these that the Barracks for the regiments of the line were kept up. Visiting Magistrates, impelled by Exeter Hall, by Able Editors, and the Philanthropic Movement of the Age, had given orders to that effect. Rates on the poor servant of God and of her Majesty, who still serves both in his way, painfully selling red herrings; rates on him and his red herrings to boil right soup for the Devils declared Elect! Never in my travels, in any age or clime, had I fallen in with such Visiting Magistrates before. Reserved they, I should suppose, for these ultimate or penultimate ages of the world, rich in all prodigies, political, spiritual,ages surely with such a length of ears as was never paralleled before.
If I had a commonwealth to reform or to govern, certainly it should not be the Devils regiments of the line that I would first of all concentrate my attention on! With them I should be apt to make rather brief work; to them one would apply the besom, try to sweep them with some rapidity into the dust bin, and well out of ones road, I should rather say. Fill your thrashing floor with docks, ragweeds, mugworths, and ply your flail upon them,that is not the method to obtain sacks of wheat. Away, you; begone swiftly, ye regiments of the line: in the name of God and of His poor struggling servants, sore put to it to live in these bad days, I mean to rid myself of you with some degree of brevity. To feed you in palaces, to hire captains and schoolmasters and the choicest spiritual and material artificers to expend their industries on you.No, by the Eternal! I have quite other work for that class of artists; Seven and twenty Millions of neglected mortals who have not yet quite declared for the Devil. Mark it, my diabolic friends, I mean to lay leather on the backs of you, collars round the necks of you; and will teach you, after the example of the gods, that this world is not your inheritance, or glad to see you in it. You, ye diabolic canaille, what has a Governor much to do with you? You, I think, he will rather swiftly dismiss from his thoughts, which have the whole celestial and terrestrial for their scope, and not the subterranean of scoundreldom alone. You, I consider, he will sweep pretty rapidly into some Norfolk Island, into some special Convict Colony or remote domestic Moorland, into some stone-walled Silent-System, under hard drill sergeants, just as Rhadamanthus, and inflexible as he, and there leave you to reap what you have sown; he meanwhile turning his endeavours to the thousandfold immeasurable interests of men and gods,dismissing the one extremely contemptible interest of scoundrels; sweeping that into the cesspool, tumbling that over London Bridge, in a very brief manner, if needful! Who are you, ye thriftless sweepings of Creation, that we should forever be pestered with you? Have we no work to do but drilling Devils regiments of the line.