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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881)

Sir Jabesh Windbag

From “Past and Present”

CONTRAST this Oliver with my right honourable friend Sir Jabesh Windbag, Mr. Facing-both-Ways, Viscount Mealymouth, Duke of Windlestraw, or what other Cagliostro, Cagliostrino, Cagliostraccio, the course of Fortune and Parliamentary Majorities has constitutionally guided to that dignity, any time during these last sorrowful hundred-and-fifty years! Windbag, weak in the faith of a God, which he believes only at church on Sundays, if even then; strong only in the faith that Paragraphs and Plausibilities bring votes; that Force of Public Opinion, as he calls it, is the primal Necessity of Things, and highest God we have—Windbag, if we will consider him, has a problem set before him which may be ranged in the impossible class. He is a Columbus minded to sail to the indistinct country of NOWHERE, to the indistinct country of WHITHERWARD, by the friendship of those same waste-tumbling Water-Alps and howling waltz of All the Winds; not by conquest of them and in spite of them, but by friendship of them, when once they have made up their mind! He is the most original Columbus I ever saw. Nay, his problem is not an impossible one: he will infallibly arrive at that same country of NOWHERE; his indistinct Whitherward will be a Thitherward! In the Ocean Abysses and Locker of Davy Jones, there certainly enough do he and his ship’s company, and all their cargo and navigatings, at last find lodgment….

Oh, Windbag, my right honourable friend, in very truth I pity thee! I say, these Paragraphs, and low or loud votings of thy poor fellow-blockheads of mankind, will never guide thee in any enterprise at all. Govern a country on such guidance? Thou canst not make a pair of shoes, sell a pennyworth of tape on such. No, thy shoes are vamped up falsely to meet the market; behold, the leather only seemed to be tanned; thy shoes melt under me to rubbishy pulp, and are not veritable mud-defying shoes, but plausible vendible similitudes of shoes—thou unfortunate, and I! Oh, my right honourable friend, when the Paragraphs flowed in, who was like Sir Jabesh? On the swelling tide he mounted; higher, higher, triumphant, heaven-high. But the Paragraphs again ebbed out, as unwise Paragraphs need must: Sir Jabesh lies stranded, sunk and forever sinking in ignominious ooze; the Mud-nymphs, and ever-deepening bottomless Oblivion, his portion to eternal time. “Posterity?” Thou appealest to Posterity, thou? My right honourable friend, what will Posterity do for thee? The voting of Posterity, were it continued through centuries in thy favour, will be quite inaudible, extra-forensic, without any effect whatever. Posterity can do simply nothing for a man; nor even seem to do much, if the man be not brain-sick. Besides, to tell thee truth, the bets are a thousand to one, Posterity will not hear of thee, my right honourable friend! Posterity, I have found, has generally his own Windbags sufficiently trumpeted in all market-places, and no leisure to attend to ours.