chapter  5
“Custom Doth Make Dotards of Us All”
Peripheral Perspectives on the Center in the “Prout Papers” and Sartor Resartus
WithFergus Dunne
Pages 24

Like Francis Sylvester Mahony, Thomas Carlyle emerged from the harsh socioeconomic circumstances that defined the peripheries of the Union – in his case, "one of the great riverbasin areas of Northern Britain in which industrialization was making the most profound impact." In a letter dated May 13, 1835, Carlyle complained to Ralph Waldo Emerson of the difficulty in placing Sartor Resartus as a book with James Fraser, the "Irish Jesuit" Mahony being among those who had apparently not "expressed the smallest wish that way." The notion of a "cross-cultural discourse" is central to the "Prout Papers," where Mahony's familiarity with the languages and literatures of Europe gives an authoritative, cosmopolitan stamp to his sweeping cultural pronouncements. Carlyle's and Mahony's satiric writings recall the Schlegalian conception of Romantic irony which urges the author to give a "totalized" expression of the opposing elements of experience.