ON THE CHOICE OF BOOKS
WITH A LIFE OF THE AUTHOR
A NEW EDITION
CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY
CONTENTS. PAGE BIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION 7
ADDRESS DELIVERED TO THE STUDENTS OF EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY, APRIL 2, 1866 125
THE MORAL PHILOSOPHY CHAIR IN EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY 189
FAREWELL LETTER TO THE STUDENTS 192
BEQUEST BY MR. CARLYLE 195
There comes a time in the career of every man of genius who has devoted a long life to the instruction and enlightenment of his fellow-creatures, when he receives before his death all the honours paid by posterity. Thus when a great essayist or historian lives to attain a classic and world-wide fame, his own biography becomes as interesting to the public as those he himself has written, and by which he achieved his laurels.
This is almost always the case when a man of such cosmopolitan celebrity outlives the ordinary allotted period of threescore years and ten; for a younger generation has then sprung up, who only hear of his great fame, and are ignorant of the long and painful steps by which it was achieved. These remarks are peculiarly applicable in regard to the man whose career we are now to dwell on for a short time: his genius was of slow growth and development, and his fame was even more tardy in coming; but since the world some forty years ago fairly recognised him as a great and original thinker and teacher, few men have left so indelible an impress on the public mind, or have influenced to so great a degree the most thoughtful of their contemporaries.
Thomas Carlyle was born on Tuesday, December 4th, 1795, at Ecclefechan, a small village in the district of Annandale, Dumfriesshire. His father, a stone-mason, was noted for quickness of mental perception, and great energy and decision of character; his mother, as affectionate, pious, and more than ordinarily intelligent;[A] and thus accepting his own theory, that "the history of a man's childhood is the description of his parents' environment," Carlyle entered upon the "mystery of life" under happy and enviable circumstances. After preliminary instruction, first at the parish school, and afterwards at Annan, he went, in November, 1809, and when he was fourteen years old, to the University of Edinburgh. Here he remained till the summer of 1814, distinguishing himself by his devotion to mathematical studies then taught there by Professor Leslie. As a student, he was irregular in his application, but when he did set to work, it was with his whole energy. He appears to have been a great reader of general literature at this time, and the stories that are told of the books that he got through are scarcely to be credited. In the summer of 1814, on the resignation of Mr. Waugh, Carlyle obtained, by competitive examination at Dumfries, the post of mathematical master at Annan Academy. Although he had, at his parents' desire, commenced his studies with a view to entering the Scottish Church, the idea of becoming a minister was growingly distasteful to him. A fellow-student describes his habits at this time as lonely and contemplative; and we know from another source that his vacations were principally spent among the hills and by the rivers of his native county. In the summer of 1816 he was promoted to the post of "classical and mathematical master" at the old Burgh or Grammar School at Kirkcaldy. At the new school in that town Edward Irving, whose acquaintance Carlyle first made at Edinburgh, about Christmas, 1815, had been established since the year 1812; they were thus brought closely together, and their intimacy soon ripened into a friendship destined to become famous. At Kirkcaldy Carlyle remained over two years, becoming more and more convinced that neither as minister nor as schoolmaster was he to successfully fight his way up in the world. It had become clear to him that literature was his true vocation, and he would have started in the profession at once, had it been convenient for him to do so.
[Footnote A: James Carlyle was born in August, 1758, and died January 23, 1832. His second wife (whose maiden name was Margaret Aitken), was born in September, 1771, and died on Christmas Day, 1853. There were nine children of this marriage, "whereof four sons and three daughters," says the inscription en the tombstone in the burial-ground at Ecclefechan, "survived, gratefully reverent of such a father and such a mother."]
He had already written several articles and essays, and a few of them had appeared in print; but they gave little promise or indication of the power he was afterwards to exhibit. During the years 1820—1823, he contributed a series of articles (biographical and topographical) to Brewster's "Edinburgh Encyclopaedia," viz.:—
[Footnote 1: Vols. XIV. to XVI. The fourteenth volume bears at the end the imprint, "Edinburgh, printed by Balfour and Clarke, 1820;" and the sixteenth volume, "Printed by A. Balfour and Co., Edinburgh, 1823." Most of these articles are distinguished by the initials "T.C."; but they are all attributed to Carlyle in the List of the Authors of the Principal Articles, prefixed to the work on its completion.]
1. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 2. Montaigne 3. Montesquieu 4. Montfaucon 5. Dr. Moore 6. Sir John Moore 7. Necker 8. Nelson 9. Netherlands 10. Newfoundland 11. Norfolk 12. Northamptonshire 13. Northumberland 14. Mungo Park 15. Lord Chatham 16. William Pitt.
The following is from the article on Necker:—
"As an author, Necker displays much irregular force of imagination, united with considerable perspicuity and compass of thought; though his speculations are deformed by an undue attachment to certain leading ideas, which, harmonizing with his habits of mind, had acquired an excessive preponderance in the course of his long and uncontroverted meditations. He possessed extensive knowledge, and his works bespeak a philosophical spirit; but their great and characteristic excellence proceeds from that glow of fresh and youthful admiration for everything that is amiable or august in the character of man, which, in Necker's heart, survived all the blighting vicissitudes it had passed through, combining, in a singular union, the fervour of the stripling with the experience of the sage."[A]
[Footnote A: "In the earliest authorship of Mr. Carlyle," says Mr. James Russell Lowell, alluding to these papers, "we find some not obscure hints of the future man. The outward fashion of them is that of the period; but they are distinguished by a certain security of judgment, remarkable at any time, remarkable especially in one so young. Carlyle, in these first essays, already shows the influence of his master Goethe, the most widely receptive of critics. In a compact notice of Montaigne there is not a word as to his religious scepticism. The character is looked at purely from its human and literary sides."]
Here is a passage from the article on Newfoundland, interesting as containing perhaps the earliest germ of the later style:—
"The ships intended for the fishery on the southeast coast, arrive early in June. Each takes her station opposite any unoccupied part of the beach where the fish may be most conveniently cured, and retains it till the end of the season. Formerly the master who arrived first on any station was constituted fishing-admiral, and had by law the power of settling disputes among the other crews. But the jurisdiction of those admirals is now happily superseded by the regular functionaries who reside on shore. Each captain directs his whole attention to the collection of his own cargo, without minding the concerns of his neighbour. Having taken down what part of the rigging is removable, they set about their laborious calling, and must pursue it zealously. Their mode of proceeding is thus described by Mr. Anspach, a clerical person, who lived in the island several years, and has since written a meagre and very confused book, which he calls a HISTORY of it."
To the "New Edinburgh Review" (1821-22) Carlyle also contributed two papers—one on Joanna Baillie's "Metrical Legends," and one on Goethe's "Faust."
In the year 1822 he made a translation of "Legendre's Geometry," to which he prefixed an Essay on Proportion; and the book appeared a year or two afterwards under the auspices of the late Sir David Brewster.[A] The Essay on Proportion remains to this day the most lucid and succinct exposition of the subject hitherto published.
[Footnote A: "Elements of Geometry and Trigonometry," with Notes. Translated from the French of A.M. Legendre. Edited by David Brewster, LL.D. With Notes and Additions, and an Introductory Chapter on Proportion. Edinburgh: published by Oliver and Boyd; and G. and W.B. Whittaker, London. 1824, pp. xvi., 367. Sir David Brewster's Preface, in which he speaks of "an Introduction on Proportion, by the Translator," is dated Edinburgh, August 1, 1822.]
"I was already," says Carlyle in his Reminiscences, "getting my head a little up, translating 'Legendre's Geometry' for Brewster. I still remember a happy forenoon in which I did a Fifth Book (or complete 'doctrine of proportion') for that work, complete really and lucid, and yet one of the briefest ever known. It was begun and done that forenoon, and I have (except correcting the press next week) never seen it since; but still I feel as if it were right enough and felicitous in its kind! I only got L50 for my entire trouble in that 'Legendre;' but it was an honest job of work, honestly done."[A]
[Footnote A: Reminiscences by Thomas Carlyle, Edited by James Anthony Froude. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1881, Vol. 1., pp. 198-199.]
The late Professor de Morgan—an excellent authority—pronounced a high eulogium upon this Essay on Proportion.
In 1822 Carlyle accepted the post of tutor to Charles Buller, of whose early death and honourable promise, two touching records remain to us, one in verse by Thackeray, and one in prose by Carlyle.
For the next four years Carlyle devoted his attention almost exclusively to German literature.
His Life of Schiller first appeared under the title of "Schiller's Life and Writings," in the London Magazine.
Part I.—October, 1823. Part II.—January, 1824. Part III.—July, 1824. " August, 1824. " September, 1824.
It was enlarged, and separately published by Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, the proprietors of the Magazine, in 1825.
The translation of "Wilhelm Meister," in 1824,[A] was the first real introduction of Goethe to the reading world of Great Britain. It appeared without the name of the translator, but its merits were too palpable to be overlooked, though some critics objected to the strong infusion of German phraseology which had been imported into the English version. This acquired idiom never left our author, even in his original works, although the "Life of Schiller," written but a few months before, is almost entirely free from the peculiarity. "Wilhelm Meister," in its English dress, was better received by the English reading public than by English critics. De Quincey, in one of his dyspeptic fits, fell upon the book, its author, and the translator,[B] and Lord Jeffrey, in the Edinburgh Review, although admitting Carlyle to be a talented person, heaped condemnation upon the work.
[Footnote A: Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. 3 Vols., Edinburgh, 1824.]
[Footnote B: Curiously enough in the very numbers of the "London Magazine" containing the later instalments of Carlyle's Life of Schiller.]
Carlyle's next work was a series of translations, entitled "German Romance: Specimens of the chief Authors; with Biographical and Critical Notices." 4 vols. Edinburgh, 1827. The Preface and Introductions are reprinted in the second volume of Carlyle's Collected Works: the Specimens translated from Hoffmann and La Motte Fouque, have not been reprinted.
"This," says Carlyle, in 1857, "was a Book of Translations, not of my suggesting or desiring, but of my executing as honest journey-work in defect of better. The pieces selected were the suitablest discoverable on such terms: not quite of less than no worth (I considered) any piece of them; nor, alas, of a very high worth any, except one only. Four of these lots, or quotas to the adventure, Musaeus's, Tieck's, Richter's, Goethe's, will be given in the final stage of this Series; the rest we willingly leave, afloat or stranded, as waste driftwood, to those whom they may farther concern."
It was in 1826 that Mr. Carlyle married Miss Jane Welsh, the only child of Dr. John Welsh, of Haddington,[A] a lineal descendant of John Knox, and a lady fitted in every way to be the wife of such a man. For some time after marriage he continued to reside at Edinburgh, but in May, 1828, he took up his residence in his native county, at Craigenputtoch—a solitary farmhouse on a small estate belonging to his wife's mother, about fifteen miles from Dumfries, and in one of the most secluded parts of the country. Most of his letters to Goethe were written from this place.
[Footnote A: Her father had been dead some seven years when Carlyle and she were married, and the life interest of her inheritance in the farm of Craigenputtoch had been made over to her mother, who survived until 1842, when it reverted to Carlyle.]
In one of the letters sent from Craigenputtoch to Weimar, bearing the date of 25th September, 1828, we have a charming picture of our author's seclusion and retired literary life at this period:—
"You inquire with such warm interest respecting our present abode and occupations, that I feel bound to say a few words about both, while there is still room left. Dumfries is a pleasant town, containing about fifteen thousand inhabitants, and may be considered the centre of the trade and judicial system of a district which possesses some importance in the sphere of Scottish industry. Our residence is not in the town itself, but fifteen miles to the north-west, among the granite hills and the black morasses which stretch westward through Galloway, almost to the Irish Sea. In this wilderness of heath and rock, our estate stands forth a green oasis, a tract of ploughed, partly enclosed, and planted ground, where corn ripens, and trees afford a shade, although surrounded by sea-mews and rough-woolled sheep. Here, with no small effort, have we built and furnished a neat, substantial dwelling; here, in the absence of professorial or other office, we live to cultivate literature according to our strength, and in our own peculiar way. We wish a joyful growth to the rose and flowers of our garden; we hope for health and peaceful thoughts to further our aims. The roses, indeed, are still in part to be planted, but they blossom already in anticipation. Two ponies, which carry us everywhere, and the mountain air, are the best medicines for weak nerves. This daily exercise—to which I am much devoted—is my only recreation: for this nook of ours is the loneliest in Britain—six miles removed from any one likely to visit me. Here Rousseau would have been as happy as on his island of St. Pierre. My town friends, indeed, ascribe my sojourn here to a similar disposition, and forbode me no good result. But I came hither solely with the design to simplify my way of life, and to secure the independence through which I could be enabled to remain true to myself. This bit of earth is our own; here we can live, write, and think, as best pleases ourselves, even though Zoilus himself were to be crowned the monarch of literature. Nor is the solitude of such great importance; for a stage-coach takes us speedily to Edinburgh, which we look upon as our British Weimar. And have I not, too, at this moment piled up upon the table of my little library a whole cart-load of French, German, American, and English journals and periodicals—whatever may be their worth? Of antiquarian studies, too, there is no lack. From some of our heights I can descry, about a day's journey to the west, the hill where Agricola and his Romans left a camp behind them. At the foot of it I was born, and there both father and mother still live to love me. And so one must let time work."
The above letter was printed by Goethe himself, in his Preface to a German transition of Carlyle's "Life of Schiller," published at Frankfort in 1830. Other pleasant records of the intercourse between them exist in the shape of sundry graceful copies of verses addressed by Goethe to Mrs. Carlyle, which will be found in the collection of his poems.
Carlyle had now fairly started as an original writer. From the lonely farm of Craigenputtoch went forth the brilliant series of Essays contributed to the Edinburgh, Westminster, and Foreign Reviews, and to Fraser's Magazine, which were not long in gaining for him a literary reputation in both hemispheres. To this lonely farm came one day in August, 1833, armed with a letter of introduction, a visitor from the other side of the Atlantic: a young American, then unknown to fame, by name Ralph Waldo Emerson. The meeting of these two remarkable men was thus described by the younger of them, many years afterwards:—
"I came from Glasgow to Dumfries, and being intent on delivering a letter which I had brought from Rome, inquired for Craigenputtoch. It was a farm in Nithsdale, in the parish of Dunscore, sixteen miles distant. No public coach passed near it, so I took a private carriage from the inn. I found the house amid desolate heathery hills, where the lonely scholar nourished his mighty heart. Carlyle was a man from his youth, an author who did not need to hide from his readers, and as absolute a man of the world, unknown and exiled on that hill-farm, as if holding on his own terms what is best in London. He was tall and gaunt, with a cliff-like brow, self-possessed, and holding his extraordinary powers of conversation in easy command; clinging to his northern accent with evident relish; full of lively anecdote, and with a streaming humour, which floated everything he looked upon. His talk playfully exalting the familiar objects, put the companion at once into an acquaintance with his Lars and Lemurs, and it was very pleasant to learn what was predestined to be a pretty mythology. Few were the objects and lonely the man, 'not a person to speak to within sixteen miles except the minister of Dunscore; so that books inevitably made his topics.
"He had names of his own for all the matters familiar to his discourse. 'Blackwood's' was the 'sand magazine;' 'Fraser's' nearer approach to possibility of life was the 'mud magazine;' a piece of road near by that marked some failed enterprise was 'the grave of the last sixpence.' When too much praise of any genius annoyed him, he professed hugely to admire the talent shewn by his pig. He had spent much time and contrivance in confining the poor beast to one enclosure in his pen, but pig, by great strokes of judgment, had found out how to let a board down, and had foiled him. For all that, he still thought man the most plastic little fellow in the planet, and he liked Nero's death, 'Qualis artifex pereo!' better than most history. He worships a man that will manifest any truth to him. At one time he had inquired and read a good deal about America. Landor's principle was mere rebellion, and that he feared was the American principle. The best thing he knew of that country was, that in it a man can have meat for his labour. He had read in Stewart's book, that when he inquired in a New York hotel for the Boots, he had been shown across the street, and had found Mungo in his own house dining on roast turkey.
"We talked of books. Plato he does not read, and he disparaged Socrates; and, when pressed, persisted in making Mirabeau a hero. Gibbon he called the splendid bridge from the old world to the new. His own reading had been multifarious. Tristram Shandy was one of his first books after Robinson Crusoe, and Robertson's America an early favourite. Rousseau's Confessions had discovered to him that he was not a dunce; and it was now ten years since he had learned German, by the advice of a man who told him he would find in that language what he wanted.
"He took despairing or satirical views of literature at this moment; recounted the incredible sums paid in one year by the great booksellers for puffing. Hence it comes that no newspaper is trusted now, no books are bought, and the booksellers are on the eve of bankruptcy.
"He still returned to English pauperism, the crowded country, the selfish abdication by public men of all that public persons should perform. 'Government should direct poor men what to do. Poor Irish folk come wandering over these moors. My dame makes it a rule to give to every son of Adam bread to eat, and supplies his wants to the next house. But here are thousands of acres which might give them all meat, and nobody to bid these poor Irish go to the moor and till it. They burned the stacks, and so found a way to force the rich people to attend to them.'
"We went out to walk over long hills, and looked at Criffel, then without his cap, and down into Wordsworth's country. There we sat down, and talked of the immortality of the soul. It was not Carlyle's fault that we talked on that topic, for he had the natural disinclination of every nimble spirit to bruise itself against walls, and did not like to place himself where no step can be taken. But he was honest and true, and cognizant of the subtile links that bind ages together, and saw how every event affects all the future. 'Christ died on the tree: that built Dunscore kirk yonder: that brought you and me together. Time has only a relative existence.'
"He was already turning his eyes towards London with a scholar's appreciation. London is the heart of the world, he said, wonderful only from the mass of human beings. He liked the huge machine. Each keeps its own round. The baker's boy brings muffins to the window at a fixed hour every day, and that is all the Londoner knows, or wishes to know, on the subject. But it turned out good men. He named certain individuals, especially one man of letters, his friend, the best mind he knew, whom London had well served."[A]
[Footnote A: "English Traits," by R.W. Emerson. First Visit to England.]
"Carlyle," says Emerson, "was already turning his eyes towards London," and a few months after the interview just described he did finally fix his residence there, in a quiet street in Chelsea, leading down to the river-side. Here, in an old-fashioned house, built in the reign of Queen Anne, he and his wife settled down in the early summer of 1834; here they continued to live together until she died; and here Carlyle afterwards lived on alone till the end of his life.
With another man, of whom he now became the neighbour—Leigh Hunt—he had already formed a slight acquaintance, which soon ripened into a warm friendship and affection on both sides, in spite of their singular difference of temperament and character.
"It was on the 8th of February, 1832," says Mr. Thornton Hunt, "that the writer of the essays named 'Characteristics' received, apparently from Mr. Leigh Hunt, a volume entitled 'Christianism,' for which he begged to express his thanks. By the 20th of February, Carlyle, then lodging in London, was inviting Leigh Hunt to tea, as the means of their first meeting; and by the 20th of November, Carlyle wrote from Dumfries, urging Leigh Hunt to 'come hither and see us when you want to rusticate a month. Is that for ever impossible?' The philosopher afterwards came to live in the next street to his correspondent, in Chelsea, and proved to be one of Leigh Hunt's kindest, most faithful, and most considerate friends."[A]
[Footnote A: From "The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt," edited by his eldest son. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1862. Vol. 1., p. 321.]
Mr. Horne tells a story very characteristic of both men. Soon after the publication of "Heroes and Hero Worship," they were at a small party, when a conversation was started between these two concerning the heroism of man. "Leigh Hunt had said something about the islands of the blest, or El Dorado, or the Millennium, and was flowing on his bright and hopeful way, when Carlyle dropped some heavy tree-trunk across Hunt's pleasant stream, and banked it up with philosophical doubts and objections at every interval of the speaker's joyous progress. But the unmitigated Hunt never ceased his overflowing anticipations, nor the saturnine Carlyle his infinite demurs to those finite flourishings. The listeners laughed and applauded by turns; and had now fairly pitted them against each other, as the philosopher of hopefulness and of the unhopeful. The contest continued with all that ready wit and philosophy, that mixture of pleasantry and profundity, that extensive knowledge of books and character, with their ready application in argument or illustration, and that perfect ease and good nature which distinguish both of these men. The opponents were so well matched that it was quite clear the contest would never come to an end. But the night was far advanced, and the party broke up. They all sallied forth, and leaving the close room, the candles and the arguments behind them, suddenly found themselves in presence of a most brilliant starlight night. They all looked up. 'Now,' thought Hunt, 'Carlyle's done for! he can have no answer to that!' 'There,' shouted Hunt, 'look up there, look at that glorious harmony, that sings with infinite voices an eternal song of Hope in the soul of man.' Carlyle looked up. They all remained silent to hear what he would say. They began to think he was silenced at last—he was a mortal man. But out of that silence came a few low-toned words, in a broad Scotch accent. And who on earth could have anticipated what the voice said? 'Eh! it's a sad sight!' Hunt sat down on a stone step. They all laughed—then looked very thoughtful. Had the finite measured itself with infinity, instead of surrendering itself up to the influence? Again they laughed—then bade each other good night, and betook themselves homeward with slow and serious pace."[A]
[Footnote A: "A New Spirit of the Age," by R.H. Home. London, 1844. Vol. . p. 278.]
In 1840 Leigh Hunt left Chelsea, and went to live at Kensington, but Carlyle never altogether lost sight of him, and on several occasions was able to do him very serviceable acts of kindness; as, for instance, in writing certain Memoranda concerning him with the view of procuring from Government a small provision for Leigh Hunt's declining years, which we may as well give in this place:—
CONCERNING MR. LEIGH HUNT.
"1. That Mr. Hunt is a man of the most indisputedly superior worth; a Man of Genius in a very strict sense of that word, and in all the senses which it bears or implies; of brilliant varied gifts, of graceful fertility, of clearness, lovingness, truthfulness; of childlike open character; also of most pure and even exemplary private deportment; a man who can be other than loved only by those who have not seen him, or seen him from a distance through a false medium.
"2. That, well seen into, he has done much for the world;—as every man possessed of such qualities, and freely speaking them forth in the abundance of his heart for thirty years long, must needs do: how much, they that could judge best would perhaps estimate highest.
"3. That, for one thing, his services in the cause of reform, as Founder and long as Editor of the 'Examiner' newspaper; as Poet, Essayist, Public Teacher in all ways open to him, are great and evident: few now living in this kingdom, perhaps, could boast of greater.
"4. That his sufferings in that same cause have also been great; legal prosecution and penalty (not dishonourable to him; nay, honourable, were the whole truth known, as it will one day be): unlegal obloquy and calumny through the Tory Press;—perhaps a greater quantity of baseless, persevering, implacable calumny, than any other living writer has undergone. Which long course of hostility (nearly the cruellest conceivable, had it not been carried on in half, or almost total misconception) may be regarded as the beginning of his other worst distresses, and a main cause of them, down to this day.
"5. That he is heavily laden with domestic burdens, more heavily than most men, and his economical resources are gone from him. For the last twelve years he has toiled continually, with passionate diligence, with the cheerfullest spirit; refusing no task; yet hardly able with all this to provide for the day that was passing over him; and now, after some two years of incessant effort in a new enterprise ('The London Journal') that seemed of good promise, it also has suddenly broken down, and he remains in ill health, age creeping on him, without employment, means, or outlook, in a situation of the painfullest sort. Neither do his distresses, nor did they at any time, arise from wastefulness, or the like, on his own part (he is a man of humble wishes, and can live with dignity on little); but from crosses of what is called Fortune, from injustice of other men, from inexperience of his own, and a guileless trustfulness of nature, the thing and things that have made him unsuccessful make him in reality more loveable, and plead for him in the minds of the candid.
"6. That such a man is rare in a Nation, and of high value there; not to be procured for a whole Nation's revenue, or recovered when taken from us, and some L200 a year is the price which this one, whom we now have, is valued at: with that sum he were lifted above his perplexities, perhaps saved from nameless wretchedness! It is believed that, in hardly any other way could L200 abolish as much suffering, create as much benefit, to one man, and through him to many and all.
"Were these things set fitly before an English Minister, in whom great part of England recognises (with surprise at such a novelty) a man of insight, fidelity and decision, is it not probable or possible that he, though from a quite opposite point of view, might see them in somewhat of a similar light; and, so seeing, determine to do in consequence? Ut fiat!
"Some years later," says a writer in "Macmillan's Magazine,"[A] "in the 'mellow evening' of a life that had been so stormy, Mr. Leigh Hunt himself told the story of his struggles, his victories, and his defeats, with so singularly graceful a frankness, that the most supercilious of critics could not but acknowledge that here was an autobiographer whom it was possible to like. Here is Carlyle's estimate of Leigh Hunt's Autobiography:—
[Footnote A: July, 1862.]
"Chelsea, June 17, 1850.
"I have just finished your Autobiography, which has been most pleasantly occupying all my leisure these three days; and you must permit me to write you a word upon it, out of the fulness of the heart, while the impulse is still fresh to thank you. This good book, in every sense one of the best I have read this long while, has awakened many old thoughts which never were extinct, or even properly asleep, but which (like so much else) have had to fall silent amid the tempests of an evil time—Heaven mend it! A word from me once more, I know, will not be unwelcome, while the world is talking of you.
"Well, I call this an excellent good book, by far the best of the autobiographic kind I remember to have read in the English language; and indeed, except it be Boswell's of Johnson, I do not know where we have such a picture drawn of a human life, as in these three volumes.
"A pious, ingenious, altogether human and worthy book; imaging, with graceful honesty and free felicity, many interesting objects and persons on your life-path, and imaging throughout, what is best of all, a gifted, gentle, patient, and valiant human soul, as it buffets its way through the billows of the time, and will not drown though often in danger; cannot be drowned, but conquers and leaves a track of radiance behind it: that, I think, conies out more clearly to me than in any other of your books;—and that, I can venture to assure you, is the best of all results to realise in a book or written record. In fact, this book has been like an exercise of devotion to me; I have not assisted at any sermon, liturgy or litany, this long while, that has had so religious an effect on me. Thanks in the name of all men. And believe, along with me, that this book will be welcome to other generations as well as to ours. And long may you live to write more books for us; and may the evening sun be softer on you (and on me) than the noon sometimes was!
"Adieu, dear Hunt (you must let me use this familiarity, for I am an old fellow too now, as well as you). I have often thought of coming up to see you once more; and perhaps I shall, one of these days (though horribly sick and lonely, and beset with spectral lions, go whitherward I may): but whether I do or not believe for ever in my regard. And so, God bless you,
On the other hand Leigh Hunt had an enthusiastic reverence for Carlyle. There are several incidental allusions to the latter, of more or less consequence, in Hunt's Autobiography, but the following is the most interesting:—
"Carlyle's Paramount Humanity.—I believe that what Mr. Carlyle loves better than his fault-finding, with all its eloquence, is the face of any human creature that looks suffering, and loving, and sincere; and I believe further, that if the fellow-creature were suffering only, and neither loving nor sincere, but had come to a pass of agony in this life which put him at the mercies of some good man for some last help and consolation towards his grave, even at the risk of loss to repute, and a sure amount of pain and vexation, that man, if the groan reached him in its forlornness, would be Thomas Carlyle."[A]
[Footnote A: "Autobiography of Leigh Hunt, with Reminiscences of friends and Contemporaries." (Lond. 1850.)]
It was in "Leigh Hunt's Journal,"—a short-lived Weekly Miscellany (1850—1851)—that Carlyle's sketch, entitled "Two Hundred and Fifty Years Ago,"[A] first appeared.
[Footnote A: "Two Hundred and Fifty Years Ago. From a waste paper bag of T. Carlyle." Reprinted in Carlyle's Miscellanies, Ed. 1857.]
It was during his residence at Craigenputtoch that "Sartor Resartus" ("The Tailor Done Over," the name of an old Scotch ballad) was written, which, after being rejected by several publishers, finally made its appearance in "Eraser's Magazine," 1833—34. The book, it must be confessed, might well have puzzled the critical gentlemen—the "book-tasters"—who decide for publishers what work to print among those submitted in manuscript. It is a sort of philosophical romance, in which the author undertakes to give, in the form of a review of a German work on dress, and in a notice of the life of the writer, his own opinions upon matters and things in general. The hero, Professor Teufelsdroeckh ("Devil's Dirt"), seems to be intended for a portrait of human nature as affected by the moral influence to which a cultivated mind would be exposed by the transcendental philosophy of Fichte. Mr. Carlyle works out his theory—the clothes philosophy—and finds the world false and hollow, our institutions mere worn-out rags or disguises, and that our only safety lies in flying from falsehood to truth, and becoming in harmony with the "divine idea." There is much fanciful, grotesque description in "Sartor," with deep thought and beautiful imagery. "In this book," wrote John Sterling, "we always feel that there is a mystic influence around us, bringing out into sharp homely clearness what is noblest in the remote and infinite, exalting into wonder what is commonest in the dust and toil of every day."
"Sartor" found but few admirers; those readers, however, were firm and enthusiastic in their applause. In 1838 the "Sartor Resartus" papers, already republished in the United States, were issued in a collected form here; and in 1839-1840 his various scattered articles in periodicals, after having similarly received the honour of republication in America, were published here, first in four and afterwards in five volumes, under the title of "Miscellanies."
It was in the spring of 1837 that Carlyle's first great historical work appeared, "The French Revolution:—Vol. I., The Bastile; Vol. II, The Constitution; Vol. III., The Guillotine." The publication of this book produced a profound impression on the public mind. A history abounding in vivid and graphic descriptions, it was at the same time a gorgeous "prose epic." It is perhaps the most readable of all Carlyle's works, and indeed is one of the most remarkable books of the age. There is no other account of the French Revolution that can be compared with it for intensity of feeling and profoundness of thought.
A great deal of information respecting Carlyle's manner of living and personal history during these earlier years in London may be gleaned incidentally from his "Life of John Sterling," a book, which, from the nature of it, is necessarily partly autobiographical.
Thomas Moore and others met him sometimes in London society at this time. Moore thus briefly chronicles a breakfast at Lord Houghton's, at which Carlyle was present:—
"22nd May, 1838.—Breakfasted at Milnes', and met rather a remarkable party, consisting of Savage, Landor, and Carlyle (neither of whom I had ever seen before), Robinson, Rogers, and Rice. A good deal of conversation between Robinson and Carlyle about German authors, of whom I knew nothing, nor (from what they paraded of them) felt that I had lost much by my ignorance."[A]
[Footnote A: Diary of Thomas Moore. (Lond. 1856.) Vol. vii., p. 224]
In 1835, after the publication of "Sartor Resartus," Carlyle received an invitation from some American admirers of his writings, to visit their country, and he contemplated doing so, but his labours in examining and collecting materials for his great work on "The French Revolution," then hastening towards completion, prevented him.
We may say that, for many reasons, it is to be regretted that this design was never carried into execution. Had Carlyle witnessed with his own eyes the admirable working of democratic institutions in the United States, he might have done more justice to our Transatlantic brethren, who were always his first and foremost admirers, and he might also have acquired more faith in the future destinies of his own countrymen.
In December, 1837, Carlyle wrote a very remarkable letter to a correspondent in India, which has never been printed in his works, and which we are enabled to give here entire. It is addressed to Major David Lester Richardson, in acknowledgment of his "Literary Leaves, or Prose and Verse," published at Calcutta in 1836. These "Literary Leaves" contain among other things an article on the Italian Opera (taking much the same view of it as Carlyle does), and a sketch of Edward Irving. These papers no doubt pleased Carlyle, and perhaps led him to entertain a rather exaggeratedly high opinion of the rest of the book.
THOMAS CARLYLE TO DAVID LESTER RICHARDSON.
"5, Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, "19th December, 1837.
"My DEAR SIR,
"Your courteous gift, with the letter accompanying it, reached me only about a week ago, though dated 20th of June, almost at the opposite point of the year. Whether there has been undue delay or not is unknown to me, but at any rate on my side there ought to be no delay.
"I have read your volume—what little of it was known to me before, and the much that was not known—I can say, with true pleasure. It is written, as few volumes in these days are, with fidelity, with successful care, with insight and conviction as to matter, with clearness and graceful precision as to manner: in a word, it is the impress of a mind stored with elegant accomplishments, gifted with an eye to see, and a heart to understand; a welcome, altogether recommendable book. More than once I have said to myself and others, How many parlour firesides are there this winter in England, at which this volume, could one give credible announcement of its quality, would be right pleasant company? There are very many, could one give the announcement: but no such announcement can be given; therefore the parlour firesides must even put up with —— or what other stuff chance shovels in their way, and read, though with malediction all the time. It is a great pity, but no man can help it. We are now arrived seemingly pretty near the point when all criticism and proclamation in matters literary has degenerated into an inane jargon, incredible, unintelligible, inarticulate as the cawing of choughs and rooks; and many things in that as in other provinces, are in a state of painful and rapid transition. A good book has no way of recommending itself except slowly and as it were accidentally from hand to hand. The man that wrote it must abide his time. He needs, as indeed all men do, the faith that this world is built not on falsehood and jargon but on truth and reason; that no good thing done by any creature of God was, is, or ever can be lost, but will verily do the service appointed for it, and be found among the general sum-total and all of things after long times, nay after all time, and through eternity itself. Let him 'cast his bread upon the waters,' therefore, cheerful of heart; 'he will find it after many days.'
"I know not why I write all this to you; it comes very spontaneously from me. Let it be your satisfaction, the highest a man can have in this world, that the talent entrusted to you did not lie useless, but was turned to account, and proved itself to be a talent; and the 'publishing world' can receive it altogether according to their own pleasure, raise it high on the housetops, or trample it low into the street-kennels; that is not the question at all, the thing remains precisely what it was after never such raising and never such depressing and trampling, there is no change whatever in it. I bid you go on, and prosper.
"One thing grieves me: the tone of sadness, I might say of settled melancholy that runs through all your utterances of yourself. It is not right, it is wrong; and yet how shall I reprove you? If you knew me, you would triumphantly[A] for any spiritual endowment bestowed on a man, that it is accompanied, or one might say preceded as the first origin of it, always by a delicacy of organisation which in a world like ours is sure to have itself manifoldly afflicted, tormented, darkened down into sorrow and disease. You feel yourself an exile, in the East; but in the West too it is exile; I know not where under the sun it is not exile. Here in the Fog Babylon, amid mud and smoke, in the infinite din of 'vociferous platitude,' and quack outbellowing quack, with truth and pity on all hands ground under the wheels, can one call it a home, or a world? It is a waste chaos, where we have to swim painfully for our life. The utmost a man can do is to swim there like a man, and hold his peace. For this seems to me a great truth, in any exile or chaos whatsoever, that sorrow was not given us for sorrow's sake, but always and infallibly as a lesson to us from which we are to learn somewhat: and which, the somewhat once learned, ceases to be sorrow. I do believe this; and study in general to 'consume my own smoke,' not indeed without very ugly out-puffs at times! Allan Cunningham is the best, he tells me that always as one grows older, one grows happier: a thing also which I really can believe. But as for you, my dear sir, you have other work to do in the East than grieve. Are there not beautiful things there, glorious things; wanting only an eye to note them, a hand to record them? If I had the command over you, I would say, read Paul et Virginie, then read the Chaumiere Indienne; gird yourself together for a right effort, and go and do likewise or better! I mean what I say. The East has its own phases, there are things there which the West yet knows not of; and one heaven covers both. He that has an eye let him look!
[Footnote A: There seems to be some omission or slip of the pen here.]
"I hope you forgive me this style I have got into. It seems to me on reading your book as if we had been long acquainted in some measure; as if one might speak to you right from the heart. I hope we shall meet some day or other. I send you my constant respect and good wishes; and am and remain,
"Yours very truly always,
Carlyle first appeared as a lecturer in 1837. His first course was on 'German Literature,' at Willis's Rooms; a series of six lectures, of which the first was thus noticed in the Spectator of Saturday, May 6, 1837.[A]
[Footnote A: Facsimiled in "The Autographic Mirror," July, 1865.]
"Mr. Thomas Carlyle's Lectures.
"Mr. Carlyle delivered the first of a course of lectures on German Literature, at Willis's Rooms, on Tuesday, to a very crowded and yet a select audience of both sexes. Mr. Carlyle may be deficient in the mere mechanism of oratory; but this minor defect is far more than counterbalanced by his perfect mastery of his subject, the originality of his manner, the perspicuity of his language, his simple but genuine eloquence, and his vigorous grasp of a large and difficult question. No person of taste or judgment could hear him without feeling that the lecturer is a man of genius, deeply imbued with his great argument."
"This course of lectures," says a writer already quoted, "was well attended by the fashionables of the West End; and though they saw in his manner something exceedingly awkward, they could not fail to discern in his matter the impress of a mind of great originality and superior gifts."[A]
[Footnote A: JAMES GRANT: "Portraits of Public Characters." (Lond. 1841.) Vol. ii., p. 152.]
The following year he delivered a second course on the 'History of Literature, or the Successive Periods of European Culture,' at the Literary Institution in Edwards-street, Portman-square. 'The Revolutions of Modern Europe' was the title given to the third course, delivered twelve months later. The fourth and last series, of six lectures, is the best remembered, 'Heroes and Hero-worship.' This course alone was published, and it became more immediately popular than any of the works which had preceded it. Concerning these lectures, Leigh Hunt remarked that it seemed "as if some Puritan had come to life again, liberalized by German philosophy and his own intense reflections and experience." Another critic, a Scotch writer, could see nothing but wild impracticability in them, and exclaimed, "Can any living man point to a single practical passage in any of these lectures? If not, what is the real value of Mr. Carlyle's teachings? What is Mr. Carlyle himself but a phantasm!"
The vein of Puritanism running through his writings, composed upon the model of the German school, impressed many critics with the belief that their author, although full of fire and energy, was perplexed and embarrassed with his own speculations. Concerning this Puritan element in his reflections, Mr. James Hannay remarks, "That earnestness, that grim humour—that queer, half-sarcastic, half-sympathetic fun—is quite Scotch. It appears in Knox and Buchanan, and it appears in Burns. I was not surprised when a school-fellow of Carlyle's told me that his favourite poem was, when a boy, 'Death and Doctor Hornbook.' And if I were asked to explain this originality, I should say that he was a covenanter coming in the wake of the eighteenth century and the transcendental philosophy. He has gone into the hills against 'shams,' as they did against Prelacy, Erastianism, and so forth. But he lives in a quieter age, and in a literary position. So he can give play to the humour which existed in them as well, and he overflows with a range of reading and speculation to which they were necessarily strangers."
'Chartism,' published in 1839, and which, to use the words of a critic of the time, was the publication in which "he first broke ground on the Condition of England question," appeared a short time before the lectures on 'Heroes and Hero-worship' were delivered. If we remember rightly, Mr. Carlyle gave forth "those grand utterances" extemporaneously and without an abstract, notes, or a reminder of any kind—utterances not beautiful to the flunkey-mind, or valet-soul, occupied mainly with the fold of the hero's necktie, and the cut of his coat. Flunkey-dom, by one of its mouthpieces, thus speaks of them:—
"Perhaps his course for the present year, which was on Hero-worship, was better attended than any previous one. Some of those who were present estimated the average attendance at three hundred. They chiefly consisted of persons of rank and wealth, as the number of carriages which each day waited the conclusion of the lecture to receive Mr. Carlyle's auditors, and to carry them to their homes, conclusively testified. The locality of Mr. Carlyle's lectures has, I believe, varied every year. The Hanover Rooms, Willis's Rooms, and a place in the north of London, the name of which I forget, have severally been chosen as the place whence to give utterance to his profound and original trains of thought.
"A few words will be expected here as to Mr. Carlyle's manner as a lecturer. In so far as his mere manner is concerned, I can scarcely bestow on him a word of commendation. There is something in his manner which, if I may use a rather quaint term, must seem very uncouth to London audiences of the most respectable class, accustomed as they are to the polished deportment[A] which is usually exhibited in Willis's or the Hanover Rooms. When he enters the room, and proceeds to the sort of rostrum whence he delivers his lectures, he is, according to the usual practice in such cases, generally received with applause; but he very rarely takes any more notice of the mark of approbation thus bestowed upon him, than if he were altogether unconscious of it. And the same seeming want of respect for his audience, or, at any rate, the same disregard for what I believe he considers the troublesome forms of politeness, is visible at the commencement of his lecture. Having ascended his desk, he gives a hearty rub to his hands, and plunges at once into his subject. He reads very closely, which, indeed, must be expected, considering the nature of the topics which he undertakes to discuss. He is not prodigal of gesture with his arms or body; but there is something in his eye and countenance which indicates great earnestness of purpose, and the most intense interest in his subject. You can almost fancy, in some of his more enthusiastic and energetic moments, that you see his inmost soul in his face. At times, indeed very often, he so unnaturally distorts his features, as to give to his countenance a very unpleasant expression. On such occasions, you would imagine that he was suddenly seized with some violent paroxysms of pain. He is one of the most ungraceful speakers I have ever heard address a public assemblage of persons. In addition to the awkwardness of his general manner, he 'makes mouths,' which would of themselves be sufficient to mar the agreeableness of his delivery. And his manner of speaking, and the ungracefulness of his gesticulation, are greatly aggravated by his strong Scotch accent. Even to the generality of Scotchmen his pronunciation is harsh in no ordinary degree. Need I say, then, what it must be to an English ear?
[Footnote A: Shade of Mr. Turveydrop senior, hear this man!]
"I was present some months ago, during the delivery of a speech by Mr. Carlyle at a meeting held in the Freemasons' Tavern, for the purpose of forming a metropolitan library; and though that speech did not occupy in its delivery more than five minutes, he made use of some of the most extraordinary phraseology I ever heard employed by a human being. He made use of the expression 'this London,' which he pronounced 'this Loondun,' four or five times—a phrase which grated grievously on the ears even of those of Mr. Carlyle's own countrymen who were present, and which must have sounded doubly harsh in the ears of an Englishman, considering the singularly broad Scotch accent with which he spoke.
"A good deal of uncertainty exists as to Mr. Carlyle's religious opinions. I have heard him represented as a firm and entire believer in revelation, and I have heard it affirmed with equal confidence that he is a decided Deist. My own impression is," &c.[A]
[Footnote A: "Portraits of Public Characters," by the author of "Random Recollections of the Lords and Commons." Vol. ii. pp. 152-158.]
In 1841 Carlyle superintended the publication of the English edition of his friend Emerson's Essays,[B] to which he prefixed a characteristic Preface of some length.
[Footnote B: Essays: by R.W. Emerson, of Concord, Massachusetts. With Preface by Thomas Carlyle. London: James Fraser, 1841.]
"The name of Ralph Waldo Emerson," he writes, "is not entirely new in England: distinguished travellers bring us tidings of such a man; fractions of his writings have found their way into the hands of the curious here; fitful hints that there is, in New England, some spiritual notability called Emerson, glide through Reviews and Magazines. Whether these hints were true or not true, readers are now to judge for themselves a little better.
"Emerson's writings and speakings amount to something: and yet hitherto, as seems to me, this Emerson is perhaps far less notable for what he has spoken or done, than for the many things he has not spoken and has forborne to do. With uncommon interest I have learned that this, and in such a never-resting, locomotive country too, is one of those rare men who have withal the invaluable talent of sitting still! That an educated man, of good gifts and opportunities, after looking at the public arena, and even trying, not with ill success, what its tasks and its prizes might amount to, should retire for long years into rustic obscurity; and, amid the all-pervading jingle of dollars and loud chaffering of ambitions and promotions, should quietly, with cheerful deliberateness, sit down to spend his life not in Mammon-worship, or the hunt for reputation, influence, place, or any outward advantage whatsoever: this, when we get a notice of it, is a thing really worth noting."
In 1843, "Past and Present" appeared—a work without the wild power which "Sartor Resartus" possessed over the feelings of the reader, but containing passages which look the same way, and breathe the same spirit. The book contrasts, in a historico-philosophical spirit, English society in the Middle Ages, with English society in our own day. In both this and the preceding work the great measures advised for the amelioration of the people are education and emigration.
Another very admirable letter, addressed by Mr. Carlyle in 1843 to a young man who had written to him desiring his advice as to a proper choice of reading, and, it would appear also, as to his conduct in general, we shall here bring forth from its hiding-place in an old Scottish newspaper of a quarter of a century ago:—
"Some time ago your letter was delivered me; I take literally the first free half-hour I have had since to write you a word of answer.
"It would give me true satisfaction could any advice of mine contribute to forward you in your honourable course of self-improvement, but a long experience has taught me that advice can profit but little; that there is a good reason why advice is so seldom followed; this reason namely, that it is so seldom, and can almost never be, rightly given. No man knows the state of another; it is always to some more or less imaginary man that the wisest and most honest adviser is speaking.
"As to the books which you—whom I know so little of—should read, there is hardly anything definite that can be said. For one thing, you may be strenuously advised to keep reading. Any good book, any book that is wiser than yourself, will teach you something—a great many things, indirectly and directly, if your mind be open to learn. This old counsel of Johnson's is also good, and universally applicable:—'Read the book you do honestly feel a wish and curiosity to read.' The very wish and curiosity indicates that you, then and there, are the person likely to get good of it. 'Our wishes are presentiments of our capabilities;' that is a noble saying, of deep encouragement to all true men; applicable to our wishes and efforts in regard to reading as to other things. Among all the objects that look wonderful or beautiful to you, follow with fresh hope the one which looks wonderfullest, beautifullest. You will gradually find, by various trials (which trials see that you make honest, manful ones, not silly, short, fitful ones), what is for you the wonderfullest, beautifullest—what is your true element and province, and be able to profit by that. True desire, the monition of nature, is much to be attended to. But here, also, you are to discriminate carefully between true desire and false. The medical men tell us we should eat what we truly have an appetite for; but what we only falsely have an appetite for we should resolutely avoid. It is very true; and flimsy, desultory readers, who fly from foolish book to foolish book, and get good of none, and mischief of all—are not these as foolish, unhealthy eaters, who mistake their superficial false desire after spiceries and confectioneries for their real appetite, of which even they are not destitute, though it lies far deeper, far quieter, after solid nutritive food? With these illustrations, I will recommend Johnson's advice to you.
"Another thing, and only one other, I will say. All books are properly the record of the history of past men—what thoughts past men had in them—what actions past men did: the summary of all books whatsoever lies there. It is on this ground that the class of books specifically named History can be safely recommended as the basis of all study of books—the preliminary to all right and full understanding of anything we can expect to find in books. Past history, and especially the past history of one's own native country, everybody may be advised to begin with that. Let him study that faithfully; innumerable inquiries will branch out from it; he has a broad-beaten highway, from which all the country is more or less visible; there travelling, let him choose where he will dwell.
"Neither let mistakes and wrong directions—of which every man, in his studies and elsewhere, falls into many—discourage you. There is precious instruction to be got by finding that we are wrong. Let a man try faithfully, manfully, to be right, he will grow daily more and more right. It is, at bottom, the condition which all men have to cultivate themselves. Our very walking is an incessant falling—a falling and a catching of ourselves before we come actually to the pavement!—it is emblematic of all things a man does.
"In conclusion, I will remind you that it is not by books alone, or by books chiefly, that a man becomes in all points a man. Study to do faithfully whatsoever thing in your actual situation, there and now, you find either expressly or tacitly laid to your charge; that is your post; stand in it like a true soldier. Silently devour the many chagrins of it, as all human situations have many; and see you aim not to quit it without doing all that it, at least, required of you. A man perfects himself by work much more than by reading. They are a growing kind of men that can wisely combine the two things—wisely, valiantly, can do what is laid to their hand in their present sphere, and prepare themselves withal for doing other wider things, if such lie before them.
"With many good wishes and encouragements, I remain, yours sincerely,
"Chelsea, 13th March, 1843."
The publication of "Past and Present" elicited a paper "On the Genius and Tendency of the Writings of Thomas Carlyle," from Mazzini, which appeared in the "British and Foreign Review," of October, 1843.[A] It is a candid and thoughtful piece of criticism, in which the writer, while striving to do justice to Carlyle's genius, protests strongly and uncompromisingly against the tendency of his teaching.
[Footnote A: Reprinted in the "Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini." (London, 1867). Vol. iv. pp. 56-144.]
Some months afterwards, when the House of Commons was occupied with the illegal opening of Mazzini's letters, Carlyle spontaneously stepped forward and paid the following tribute to his character:—
"TO THE EDITOR OF THE 'TIMES.'
"In your observations in yesterday's Times on the late disgraceful affair of Mr. Mazzini's letters and the Secretary of State, you mention that Mr. Mazzini is entirely unknown to you, entirely indifferent to you; and add, very justly, that if he were the most contemptible of mankind, it would not affect your argument on the subject.[A]
[Footnote A: "Mr. Mazzini's character and habits and society are nothing to the point, unless connected with some certain or probable evidence of evil intentions or treasonable plots. We know nothing, and care nothing about him. He may be the most worthless and the most vicious creature in the world; but this is no reason of itself why his letters should be detained and opened."—leading article, June 17, 1844.]
"It may tend to throw farther light on this matter if I now certify you, which I in some sort feel called upon to do, that Mr. Mazzini is not unknown to various competent persons in this country; and that he is very far indeed from being contemptible—none farther, or very few of living men. I have had the honour to know Mr. Mazzini for a series of years; and, whatever I may think of his practical insight and skill in worldly affairs, I can with great freedom testify to all men that he, if I have ever seen one such, is a man of genius and virtue, a man of sterling veracity, humanity, and nobleness of mind; one of those rare men, numerable unfortunately but as units in this world, who are worthy to be called martyr-souls; who, in silence, piously in their daily life, understand and practise what is meant by that.
"Of Italian democracies and young Italy's sorrows, of extraneous Austrian Emperors in Milan, or poor old chimerical Popes in Bologna, I know nothing, and desire to know nothing; but this other thing I do know, and can here declare publicly to be a fact, which fact all of us that have occasion to comment on Mr. Mazzini and his affairs may do well to take along with us, as a thing leading towards new clearness, and not towards new additional darkness, regarding him and them.
"Whether the extraneous Austrian Emperor and miserable old chimera of a Pope shall maintain themselves in Italy, or be obliged to decamp from Italy, is not a question in the least vital to Englishmen. But it is a question vital to us that sealed letters in an English post-office be, as we all fancied they were, respected as things sacred; that opening of men's letters, a practice near of kin to picking men's pockets, and to other still viler and far fataler forms of scoundrelism be not resorted to in England, except in cases of the very last extremity. When some new gunpowder plot may be in the wind, some double-dyed high treason, or imminent national wreck not avoidable otherwise, then let us open letters—not till then.
"To all Austrian Kaisers and such like, in their time of trouble, let us answer, as our fathers from of old have answered:—Not by such means is help here for you. Such means, allied to picking of pockets and viler forms of scoundrelism, are not permitted in this country for your behoof. The right hon. Secretary does himself detest such, and even is afraid to employ them. He dare not: it would be dangerous for him! All British men that might chance to come in view of such a transaction, would incline to spurn it, and trample on it, and indignantly ask him what he meant by it?
"I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
"Chelsea, June 18."
[Footnote A: From The Times, Wednesday, June 19, 1844.]
The autumn of this year was saddened for Carlyle by the loss of the dear friend whose biography he afterwards wrote. On the 18th of September, 1844—after a short career of melancholy promise, only half fulfilled—John Sterling died, in his thirty-ninth year.
The next work that appeared from Carlyle's pen—a special service to history, and to the memory of one of England's greatest men—was "Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, with Elucidations and a Connecting Narrative," two volumes, published in 1845. If there were any doubt remaining after the publication of the "French Revolution" what position our author might occupy amongst the historians of the age, it was fully removed on the appearance of "Cromwell's Letters." The work obtained a great and an immediate popularity; and though bulky and expensive, a very large impression was quickly sold. These speeches and letters of Cromwell, the spelling and punctuation corrected, and a few words added here and there for clearness' sake, and to accommodate them to the language and style in use now, were first made intelligible and effective by Mr. Carlyle. "The authentic utterances of the man Oliver himself," he says, "I have gathered them from far and near; fished them up from the foul Lethean quagmires where they lay buried. I have washed, or endeavoured to wash them clean from foreign stupidities—such a job of buckwashing as I do not long to repeat—and the world shall now see them in their own shape." The work was at once republished in America, and two editions were called for here within the year.
While engaged on this work, Carlyle went down to Rugby by express invitation, on Friday, 13th May, 1842, and on the following day explored the field of Naseby, in company with Dr. Arnold. The meeting of two such remarkable men—only six weeks before the death of the latter—has in it something solemn and touching, and unusually interesting. Carlyle left the school-house, expressing the hope that it might "long continue to be what was to him one of the rarest sights in the world—a temple of industrious peace."
Arnold, who, with the deep sympathy arising from kindred nobility of soul, had long cherished a high reverence for Carlyle, was very proud of having received such a guest under his roof, and during those few last weeks of life was wont to be in high spirits, talking with his several guests, and describing with much interest, his recent visit to Naseby with Carlyle, "its position on some of the highest table-land in England—the streams falling on the one side into the Atlantic, on the other into the German Ocean—far away, too, from any town—Market Harborough, the nearest, into which the cavaliers were chased late in the long summer evening on the fourteenth of June."
Perhaps the most graphic description of Carlyle's manner and conversation ever published, is contained in the following passage from a letter addressed to Emerson by an accomplished American, Margaret Fuller, who visited England in the autumn of 1846, and whose strange, beautiful history and tragical death on her homeward voyage, are known to most readers.
The letter is dated Paris, November 16, 1846.
"Of the people I saw in London, you will wish me to speak first of the Carlyles. Mr. C. came to see me at once, and appointed an evening to be passed at their house. That first time, I was delighted with him. He was in a very sweet humour,—full of wit and pathos, without being overbearing or oppressive. I was quite carried away with the rich flow of his discourse, and the hearty, noble earnestness of his personal being brought back the charm which once was upon his writing, before I wearied of it. I admired his Scotch, his way of singing his great full sentences, so that each one was like the stanza of a narrative ballad. He let me talk, now and then, enough to free my lungs and change my position, so that I did not get tired. That evening, he talked of the present state of things in England, giving light, witty sketches of the men of the day, fanatics and others, and some sweet, homely stories he told of things he had known of the Scotch peasantry.
"Of you he spoke with hearty kindness; and he told, with beautiful feeling, a story of some poor farmer, or artisan in the country, who on Sunday lays aside the cark and care of that dirty English world, and sits reading the Essays, and looking upon the sea.
"I left him that night, intending to go out very often to their house. I assure you there never was anything so witty as Carlyle's description of —— ——. It was enough to kill one with laughing. I, on my side, contributed a story to his fund of anecdote on this subject, and it was fully appreciated. Carlyle is worth a thousand of you for that;—he is not ashamed to laugh when he is amused, but goes on in a cordial, human fashion.
"The second time Mr. C. had a dinner-party, at which was a witty, French, flippant sort of man, author of a History of Philosophy,[A] and now writing a Life of Goethe, a task for which he must be as unfit as irreligion and sparkling shallowness can make him. But he told stories admirably, and was allowed sometimes to interrupt Carlyle a little, of which one was glad, for that night he was in his more acrid mood, and though much more brilliant than on the former evening, grew wearisome to me, who disclaimed and rejected almost everything he said.
[Footnote A: George Henry Lewes.]
"For a couple of hours he was talking about poetry, and the whole harangue was one eloquent proclamation of the defects in his own mind. Tennyson wrote in verse because the schoolmasters had taught him that it was great to do so, and had thus, unfortunately, been turned from the true path for a man. Burns had, in like manner, been turned from his vocation. Shakespeare had not had the good sense to see that it would have been better to write straight on in prose;—and such nonsense, which, though amusing enough at first, he ran to death after a while.
"The most amusing part is always when he comes back to some refrain, as in the French Revolution of the sea-green. In this instance, it was Petrarch and Laura, the last word pronounced with his ineffable sarcasm of drawl. Although he said this over fifty times, I could not help laughing when Laura would come. Carlyle running his chin out when he spoke it, and his eyes glancing till they looked like the eyes and beak of a bird of prey.
Poor Laura! Luckily for her that her poet had already got her safely canonized beyond the reach of this Teufelsdroeckh vulture.
"The worst of hearing Carlyle is, that you cannot interrupt him. I understand the habit and power of haranguing have increased very much upon him, so that you are a perfect prisoner when he has once got hold of you. To interrupt him is a physical impossibility. If you get a chance to remonstrate for a moment, he raises his voice and bears you down. True, he does you no injustice, and, with his admirable penetration, sees the disclaimer in your mind, so that you are not morally delinquent; but it is not pleasant to be unable to utter it. The latter part of the evening, however, he paid us for this, by a series of sketches, in his finest style of railing and raillery, of modern French literature, not one of them, perhaps, perfectly just, but all drawn with the finest, boldest strokes, and, from his point of view, masterly. All were depreciating, except that of Beranger. Of him he spoke with perfect justice, because with hearty sympathy.
"I had, afterward, some talk with Mrs. C., whom hitherto I had only seen, for who can speak while her husband is there? I like her very much;—she is full of grace, sweetness, and talent. Her eyes are sad and charming.
* * * * *
"After this, they went to stay at Lord Ashburton's, and I only saw them once more, when they came to pass an evening with us. Unluckily, Mazzini was with us, whose society, when he was there alone, I enjoyed more than any. He is a beauteous and pure music: also, he is a dear friend of Mrs. C., but his being there gave the conversation a turn to 'progress' and ideal subjects, and C. was fluent in invectives on all our 'rose-water imbecilities.' We all felt distant from him, and Mazzini, after some vain efforts to remonstrate, became very sad. Mrs. C. said to me,—
"'These are but opinions to Carlyle, but to Mazzini, who has given his all, and helped bring his friends to the scaffold, in pursuit of such subjects, it is a matter of life and death.'
"All Carlyle's talk, that evening, was a defence of mere force,—success the test of right;—if people would not behave well, put collars round their necks;—find a hero, and let them be his slaves, &c. It was very Titanic, and anti-celestial. I wish the last evening had been more melodious. However, I bid Carlyle farewell with feelings of the warmest friendship and admiration. We cannot feel otherwise to a great and noble nature, whether it harmonise with our own or not. I never appreciated the work he has done for his age till I saw England. I could not. You must stand in the shadow of that mountain of shams, to know how hard it is to cast light across it.
"Honour to Carlyle! Hoch! Although, in the wine with which we drink this health, I, for one, must mingle the despised 'rose-water.'
"And now, having to your eye shown the defects of my own mind, in the sketch of another, I will pass on more lowly,—more willing to be imperfect, since Fate permits such noble creatures, after all, to be only this or that. It is much if one is not only a crow or magpie;—Carlyle is only a lion. Some time we may, all in full, be intelligent and humanely fair."
* * * * *
"December, 1846.—Accustomed to the infinite wit and exuberant richness of his writings, his talk is still an amazement and a splendour scarcely to be faced with steady eyes. He does not converse;—only harangues. It is the usual misfortune of such marked men,—happily not one invariable or inevitable,—that they cannot allow other minds room to breathe, and show themselves in their atmosphere, and thus miss the refreshment and instruction which the greatest never cease to need from the experience of the humblest.
"Carlyle allows no one a chance, but bears down all opposition, not only by his wit and onset of words, resistless in their sharpness as so many bayonets, but by actual physical superiority,—raising his voice, and rushing on his opponent with a torrent of sound. This is not in the least from unwillingness to allow freedom to others. On the contrary, no man would more enjoy a manly resistance to his thought. But it is the impulse of a mind accustomed to follow out its own impulse, as the hawk its prey, and which knows not how to stop in the chase. Carlyle, indeed, is arrogant and overbearing; but in his arrogance there is no littleness,—no self-love. It is the heroic arrogance of some old Scandinavian conqueror;—it is his nature, and the untameable impulse that has given him power to crush the dragons. You do not love him, perhaps, nor revere; and perhaps, also, he would only laugh at you if you did; but you like him heartily, and like to see him the powerful smith, the Siegfried, melting all the old iron in his furnace till it glows to a sunset red, and burns you, if you senselessly go too near.
"He seems, to me, quite isolated,—lonely as the desert,—yet never was a man more fitted to prize a man, could he find one to match his mood. He finds them, but only in the past. He sings, rather than talks. He pours upon you a kind of satirical, heroical, critical poem, with regular cadences, and generally catching up, near the beginning, some singular epithet, which serves as a refrain when his song is full, or with which, as with a knitting needle, he catches up the stitches, if he has chanced, now and then, to let fall a row.
"For the higher kinds of poetry he has no sense, and his talk on that subject is delightfully and gorgeously absurd. He sometimes stops a minute to laugh at it himself, then begins anew with fresh vigour; for all the spirits he is driving before him seem to him as Fata Morganas, ugly masks, in fact, if he can but make them turn about; but he laughs that they seem to others such dainty Ariels. His talk, like his books, is full of pictures; his critical strokes masterly. Allow for his point of view, and his survey is admirable. He is a large subject. I cannot speak more or wiselier of him now, nor needs it;—his works are true, to blame and praise him,—the Siegfried of England,—great and powerful, if not quite invulnerable, and of a might rather to destroy evil, than legislate for good."[A]
[Footnote A: "Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli." (Boston, 1852.) Vol. iii., pp. 96-104.]
In 1848 Mr. Carlyle contributed a series of articles to the Examiner and Spectator, principally on Irish affairs, which, as he has never yet seen fit to reprint them in his Miscellanies, are apparently quite unknown to the general public. With the exception of the last, they may be considered as a sort of alarum note, sounded to herald the approach of the Latter-Day Pamphlets, which appeared shortly afterwards.
The following is a list of these newspaper articles:—
In The Examiner, 1848.
March 4. "Louis Philippe." April 29. "Repeal of the Union." May 13. "Legislation for Ireland."
In The Spectator, 1848.
May 13. "Ireland and the British Chief Governor." " "Irish Regiments (of the New Era)."
In The Examiner, 1848.
Dec. 2. "Death of Charles Buller."
The last-named paper, a tribute to the memory of his old pupil, we shall give entire. Another man of genius,[A] now also gone to his rest, sang sorrowfully on the same occasion:
[Footnote A: W.M. Thackeray.]
"Who knows the inscrutable design? Blest be He who took and gave! Why should your mother, Charles, not mine, Be weeping at her darling's grave?
We bow to Heaven that will'd it so, That darkly rules the fate of all, That sends the respite or the blow, That's free to give, or to recall."
Carlyle's paper reads like a solemn and touching funeral oration to the uncovered mourners as they stand round the grave before it is closed:—
"A very beautiful soul has suddenly been summoned from among us; one of the clearest intellects, and most aerial activities in England, has unexpectedly been called away. Charles Buller died on Wednesday morning last, without previous sickness, reckoned of importance, till a day or two before. An event of unmixed sadness, which has created a just sorrow, private and public. The light of many a social circle is dimmer henceforth, and will miss long a presence which was always gladdening and beneficent; in the coming storms of political trouble, which heap themselves more and more in ominous clouds on our horizon, one radiant element is to be wanting now.
"Mr. Buller was in his forty-third year, and had sat in Parliament some twenty of those. A man long kept under by the peculiarities of his endowment and position, but rising rapidly into importance of late years; beginning to reap the fruits of long patience, and to see an ever wider field open round him. He was what in party language is called a 'Reformer,' from his earliest youth; and never swerved from that faith, nor could swerve. His luminous sincere intellect laid bare to him in all its abject incoherency the thing that was untrue, which thenceforth became for him a thing that was not tenable, that it was perilous and scandalous to attempt maintaining. Twenty years in the dreary, weltering lake of parliamentary confusion, with its disappointments and bewilderments, had not quenched this tendency, in which, as we say, he persevered as by a law of nature itself, for the essence of his mind was clearness, healthy purity, incompatibility with fraud in any of its forms. What he accomplished, therefore, whether great or little, was all to be added to the sum of good; none of it to be deducted. There shone mildly in his whole conduct a beautiful veracity, as if it were unconscious of itself; a perfect spontaneous absence of all cant, hypocrisy, and hollow pretence, not in word and act only, but in thought and instinct. To a singular extent it can be said of him that he was a spontaneous clear man. Very gentle, too, though full of fire; simple, brave, graceful. What he did, and what he said, came from him as light from a luminous body, and had thus always in it a high and rare merit, which any of the more discerning could appreciate fully.
"To many, for a long while, Mr. Buller passed merely for a man of wit, and certainly his beautiful natural gaiety of character, which by no means meant levity, was commonly thought to mean it, and did for many years, hinder the recognition of his intrinsic higher qualities. Slowly it began to be discovered that, under all this many-coloured radiancy and coruscation, there burnt a most steady light; a sound, penetrating intellect, full of adroit resources, and loyal by nature itself to all that was methodic, manful, true;—in brief, a mildly resolute, chivalrous, and gallant character, capable of doing much serious service.
"A man of wit he indisputably was, whatever more amongst the wittiest of men. His speech, and manner of being, played everywhere like soft brilliancy of lambent fire round the common objects of the hour, and was, beyond all others that English society could show, entitled to the name of excellent, for it was spontaneous, like all else in him, genuine, humane,—the glittering play of the soul of a real man. To hear him, the most serious of men might think within himself, 'How beautiful is human gaiety too!' Alone of wits, Buller never made wit; he could be silent, or grave enough, where better was going; often rather liked to be silent if permissible, and always was so where needful. His wit, moreover, was ever the ally of wisdom, not of folly, or unkindness, or injustice; no soul was ever hurt by it; never, we believe, never, did his wit offend justly any man, and often have we seen his ready resource relieve one ready to be offended, and light up a pausing circle all into harmony again. In truth, it was beautiful to see such clear, almost childlike simplicity of heart coexisting with the finished dexterities, and long experiences, of a man of the world. Honour to human worth, in whatever form we find it! This man was true to his friends, true to his convictions,—and true without effort, as the magnet is to the north. He was ever found on the right side; helpful to it, not obstructive of it, in all he attempted or performed.
"Weak health; a faculty indeed brilliant, clear, prompt, not deficient in depth either, or in any kind of active valour, but wanting the stern energy that could long endure to continue in the deep, in the chaotic, new, and painfully incondite—this marked out for him his limits; which, perhaps with regrets enough, his natural veracity and practicality would lead him quietly to admit and stand by. He was not the man to grapple, in its dark and deadly dens, with the Lernaean coil of social Hydras; perhaps not under any circumstances: but he did, unassisted, what he could; faithfully himself did something—nay, something truly considerable;—and in his patience with the much that by him and his strength could not be done let us grant there was something of beautiful too!
"Properly, indeed, his career as a public man was but beginning. In the office he last held, much was silently expected of him; he himself, too, recognised well what a fearful and immense question this of Pauperism is; with what ominous rapidity the demand for solution of it is pressing on; and how little the world generally is yet aware what methods and principles, new, strange, and altogether contradictory to the shallow maxims and idle philosophies current at present, would be needed for dealing with it! This task he perhaps contemplated with apprehension; but he is not now to be tried with this, or with any task more. He has fallen, at this point of the march, an honourable soldier; and has left us here to fight along without him. Be his memory dear and honourable to us, as that of one so worthy ought. What in him was true and valiant endures for evermore—beyond all memory or record. His light, airy brilliancy has suddenly become solemn, fixed in the earnest stillness of Eternity. There shall we also, and our little works, all shortly be."
In 1850 appeared the "Latter-Day Pamphlets," essays suggested by the convulsions of 1848, in which, more than in any previous publication, the author spoke out in the character of a social and political censor of his own age. "He seemed to be the worshipper of mere brute force, the advocate of all harsh, coercive measures. Model prisons and schools for the reform of criminals, poor-laws, churches as at present constituted, the aristocracy, parliament, and other institutions, were assailed and ridiculed in unmeasured terms, and generally, the English public was set down as composed of sham heroes, and a valet or 'flunkey' world." From their very nature as stern denunciations of what the author considered contemporary fallacies, wrongs, and hypocrisies, these pamphlets produced a storm of critical indignation against him.
The life of John Sterling was published in the following year; and Carlyle then began that long spell of work—the "History of Frederick the Great"—which extended over thirteen years, the last, and perhaps the greatest, monument of his genius.
In 1856, when we may suppose his mind to be full of the details of battles, and overflowing with military tactics, he received from Sir W. Napier his "History of the Administration of Scinde," and wrote the following letter to the author:—
"THOMAS CARLYLE TO SIR WILLIAM NAPIER.
"Chelsea, May 12, 1856.
"I have read with attention, and with many feelings and reflections, your record of Sir C. Napier's Administration of Scinde. You must permit me to thank you, in the name of Britain at large, for writing such a book; and in my own poor name to acknowledge the great compliment and kindness implied in sending me a copy for myself.
"It is a book which every living Englishman would be the better for reading—for studying diligently till he saw into it, till he recognised and believed the high and tragic phenomenon set forth there! A book which may be called 'profitable' in the old Scripture sense; profitable for reproof, for correction and admonition, for great sorrow, yet for 'building up in righteousness' too—in heroic, manful endeavour to do well, and not ill, in one's time and place. One feels it a kind of possession to know that one has had such a fellow-citizen and contemporary in these evil days.
"The fine and noble qualities of the man are very recognisable to me; his subtle, piercing intellect turned all to the practical, giving him just insight into men and into things; his inexhaustible adroit contrivances; his fiery valour; sharp promptitude to seize the good moment that will not return. A lynx-eyed, fiery man, with the spirit of an old knight in him; more of a hero than any modern I have seen for a long time.
"A singular veracity one finds in him; not in his words alone—which, however, I like much for their fine rough naivete—but in his actions, judgments, aims; in all that he thinks, and does, and says—which, indeed, I have observed is the root of all greatness or real worth in human creatures, and properly the first (and also the rarest) attribute of what we call genius among men.
"The path of such a man through the foul jungle of this world—the struggle of Heaven's inspiration against the terrestrial fooleries, cupidities, and cowardices—cannot be other than tragical: but the man does tear out a bit of way for himself too; strives towards the good goal, inflexibly persistent till his long rest come: the man does leave his mark behind him, ineffaceable, beneficent to all good men, maleficent to none: and we must not complain. The British nation of this time, in India or elsewhere—God knows no nation ever had more need of such men, in every region of its affairs! But also perhaps no nation ever had a much worse chance to get hold of them, to recognise and loyally second them, even when they are there.
"Anarchic stupidity is wide as the night; victorious wisdom is but as a lamp in it shining here and there. Contrast a Napier even in Scinde with, for example, a Lally at Pondicherry or on the Place de Greve; one has to admit that it is the common lot, that it might have been far worse!
"There is great talent in this book apart from its subject. The narrative moves on with strong, weighty step, like a marching phalanx, with the gleam of clear steel in it—sheers down the opponent objects and tramples them out of sight in a very potent manner. The writer, it is evident, had in him a lively, glowing image, complete in all its parts, of the transaction to be told; and that is his grand secret of giving the reader so lively a conception of it. I was surprised to find how much I had carried away with me, even of the Hill campaign and of Trukkee itself; though without a map the attempt to understand such a thing seemed to me desperate at first.
"With many thanks, and gratified to have made this reflex acquaintance, which, if it should ever chance to become a direct one, might gratify me still more,
"I remain always yours sincerely,
[Footnote A: "Life of General Sir William Napier, K.C.B." Edited by H.A. Bruce, M.P. London: Murray, 1864. Vol. ii. pp. 312-314.]
In June, 1861, a few days after the great fire in which Inspector Braidwood perished in the discharge of his duty, Carlyle broke a long silence with the following letter:—
"TO THE EDITOR OF THE 'TIMES.'
"There is a great deal of public sympathy, and of deeper sort than usual, awake at present on the subject of Inspector Braidwood. It is a beautiful emotion, and apparently a perfectly just one, and well bestowed. Judging by whatever light one gets, Braidwood seems to have been a man of singular worth in his department, and otherwise; such a servant as the public seldom has. Thoroughly skilled in his function, nobly valiant in it, and faithful to it—faithful to the death. In rude, modest form, actually a kind of hero, who has perished in serving us!
"Probably his sorrowing family is not left in wealthy circumstances. Most certainly it is pity when a generous emotion, in many men, or in any man, has to die out futile, and leave no action behind it. The question, therefore, suggests itself—Should not there be a 'Braidwood Testimonial,' the proper parties undertaking it, in a modest, serious manner, the public silently testifying (to such extent, at least) what worth its emotion has?
"I venture to throw out this hint, and, if it be acted on, will, with great satisfaction, give my mite among other people; but must, for good reasons, say further, that this [is] all I can do in the matter (of which, indeed, I know nothing but what everybody knows, and a great deal less than every reader of the newspapers knows); and that, in particular, I cannot answer any letters on the subject, should such happen to be sent me.
"In haste, I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
"5, Cheyne-row, Chelsea, June 30."
[Footnote A: (Printed in The Times, Tuesday, July 2, 1861.)]
The "History of Frederick the Great" was completed early in 1865. Later in the same year the students of Edinburgh University elected Carlyle as Lord Rector. We cannot do better than describe the proceedings and the subsequent address in the words of the late Alexander Smith:—
"Mr. Gladstone demitted office, and then it behoved the students of the University to cast about for a worthy successor. Two candidates were proposed, Mr. Carlyle and Mr. Disraeli; and on the election day Mr. Carlyle was returned by a large and enthusiastic majority. This was all very well, but a doubt lingered in the minds of many whether Mr. Carlyle would accept the office, or if accepting it, whether he would deliver an address—said address being the sole apple which the Rectorial tree is capable of bearing. The hare was indeed caught, but it was doubtful somewhat whether the hare would allow itself to be cooked after the approved academical fashion. It was tolerably well known that Mr. Carlyle had emerged from his long spell of work on "Frederick," in a condition of health the reverse of robust; that he had once or twice before declined similar honours from Scottish Universities—from Glasgow some twelve or fourteen years ago, and from Aberdeen some seven or eight; and that he was constitutionally opposed to all varieties of popular displays, more especially those of the oratorical sort.
"But all dispute was ended when it was officially announced that Mr. Carlyle had accepted the office of Lord Rector, that he would conform to all its requirements, and that the Rectorial address would be delivered late in spring. And so when the days began to lengthen in these northern latitudes, and crocuses to show their yellow and purple heads, people began to talk about the visit of the great writer, and to speculate on what manner and fashion of speech he would deliver.
"Edinburgh has no University Hall, and accordingly when speech-day approached, the largest public room in the city was chartered by the University authorities. This public room—the Music Hall in George Street—will contain, under severe pressure, from eighteen hundred to nineteen hundred persons, and tickets to that extent were secured by the students and members of the General Council. Curious stories are told of the eagerness on every side manifested to hear Mr. Carlyle. Country clergymen from beyond Aberdeen came into Edinburgh for the sole purpose of hearing and seeing. Gentlemen came down from London by train the night before, and returned to London by train the night after.
"In a very few minutes after the doors were opened the large hall was filled in every part, and when up the central passage the Principal, the Lord Rector, the Members of the Senate, and other gentlemen advanced towards the platform, the cheering was vociferous and hearty. The Principal occupied the chair of course, the Lord Rector on his right, the Lord Provost on his left. Every eye was fixed on the Rector. To all appearance, as he sat, time and labour had dealt tenderly with him. His face had not yet lost the country bronze which he brought up with him from Dumfriesshire as a student fifty-six years ago. His long residence in London had not touched his Annandale look, nor had it—as we soon learned—touched his Annandale accent. His countenance was striking, homely, sincere, truthful—the countenance of a man on whom 'the burden of the unintelligible world' had weighed more heavily than on most. His hair was yet almost dark; his moustache and short beard were iron grey. His eyes were wide, melancholy, sorrowful; and seemed as if they had been at times a-weary of the sun. Altogether in his aspect there was something aboriginal, as of a piece, of unhewn granite, which had never been polished to any approved pattern, whose natural and original vitality had never been tampered with. In a word, there seemed no passivity about Mr. Carlyle—he was the diamond, and the world was his pane of glass; he was a graving tool rather than a thing graven upon—a man to set his mark on the world—a man on whom the world could not set its mark. And just as, glancing towards Fife a few minutes before, one could not help thinking of his early connection with Edward Irving, so seeing him sit beside the venerable Principal of the University, one could not help thinking of his earliest connection with literature.