Page images

"D the humbug," muttered Barnes, who knew him perfectly well. "The fellow is always in the pulpit."

The incumbent of Lady Whittlesea's chapel smiled and bowed to him. "You do not recognize me, sir; I have the honour of seeing you in your public capacity in the City, when I have called at the Bank, the bearer of my brother-inlaw's

[ocr errors]

"Never mind that, Honeyman!" cried the Colonel.

"But I do mind, my dear Colonel," answers Mr. Honeyman. "I should be a very bad man, and a very ungrateful brother, if I ever forget your kindness."

"For God's sake, leave my kindness alone."

"He'll never leave it alone as long as he can use it," muttered Mr. Barnes in his teeth; and turning to his uncle, "May I take you home, sir? My cab is at the door, and I shall be glad to drive you." But the Colonel said he must talk to his brother-in-law for awhile; and Mr. Barnes, bowing very respectfully to him, slipped under a dowager's arm in the doorway, and retreated silently down stairs.


DURING the first forty years of his long life, Carlyle was practically unknown. He was born in a little Scotch village in 1795, the son of poor peasants, with no visible likelihood of ever making himself heard of ten miles beyond his native parish. But there were, it appeared, a brain and a heart in the child, and its parents were able to afford it a grammarschool education; and the boy afterwards attended Edinburgh University, and obviously did not misuse his time there. At the age of twenty he was teaching mathematics in Annan, and two years later was schoolmaster at Kirkcaldy, where began his friendship with young Edward Irving. It was a long journey from the Scotch pedagogue's desk to the primacy of English literature. He determined to become a barrister, and studied law for three or four years, maintaining himself the while by hammering algebra and geometry into hard Scotch heads, and contributing articles to encyclopædias. In 1822, being then twenty-seven years old, the Bullen boys hired him as tutor; and he visited the great world of London and Paris before he was thirty. At this time, all he had written was a Life of Schiller, a translation of Legendre's "Geometry," and a translation of Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister." The latter has held its place ever since, but, by itself could not be considered a hopeful basis for a reputation. But the German genius had a strong attraction for Carlyle, and influenced the central years of his life. Some specimens of the works of other German writers, and essays upon German authors, were printed by him about this time; as literature

and criticism they are in some respects among the most agreeable reading that has come from his pen. He did not at that time know the great destiny that awaited him; and he had not yet begun that whimsical, chronic quarrel with the world which grew upon him as his position in the world of letters became dominant. He had faith and enthusiasm, and the power of saying the thing he meant in such phrase as made his reader rejoice. The great new light which came into English literature with Carlyle was already shining in these early essays, with a softer and clearer lustre than in after years, when it was rendered lurid and portentous, sometimes, by the clouds and storms which assailed the giant mind which was its medium.

In 1826 Carlyle married Jane Welsh. Probably the inner life of a married couple has never been more widely published than was that of these two queer and gifted beings, who were greatly averse from publicity of that kind during their lifetime. And it is precisely because the annals of their domestic affairs is so full, that it is still difficult to arrive at any final conclusion upon it. It reads like a rugged and harrowing journey; and yet, for aught we can say, so might the story of any two other nervous and exacting persons, if described with equal minuteness by either of them. It is not improbable that they had quite as much average happiness as do most couples; their ideal was higher and their irritability greater than the ordinary, and their power of giving vivid expression to their thoughts and experiences was certainly far beyond the common. But after all allowances have been made, we cannot affirm that Jane and Thomas were an easy wife and husband to get on with. They kept each other on edge. On the other hand, it seems quite likely that his domestic jars, added to his dyspeptic tendency, may have stimulated Carlyle to write more and more poignantly, than he would otherwise have done. That the two loved and admired each other in the bottom of their hearts is unquestionable.

Seven years after his marriage Carlyle published "Sartor Resartus," and thereby conquered fame among those who know what original thought and literary faculty are. It was a great book to have been written at that time, and it still remains a high and unique example of genius and humor. It

breaks the bonds of Eighteenth Century ideas, and gives us the freedom and perception of the Nineteenth. It is a veiled autobiography of a mind, and shows on its author's part a grasp of the philosophy of creation, and of the meaning of the world, which is attained only by master intellects. No doubt he was somewhat indebted to Goethe; but Carlyle could not help being independent, and though his orbit crossed that of the great German, it never coincided with it. This first work fairly gives the measure of the writer; his "French Revolution," published in 1837 (after having been rewritten, owing to the burning of the first MS. while in the custody of John Stuart Mill), confirmed the promise of "Sartor," and is assuredly a masterpiece of forcible and picturesque narrative, and of marvellous scope and conciseness. Its abrupt and almost fantastic style repels many; but it has many passages of splendid eloquence, and is pervaded by the grim undercurrent of humor which was peculiar to Carlyle. Since the book was written further research and ampler materials have somewhat abated its value as mere history; but its worth as literature is indestructible, and it paints a picture of the great Revolution, and announces a meaning in it, such as is possible only to a mind of Carlyle's synthetic insight.

But it also gives evidence of a curious contrariety in Carlyle's view of the world, which became more accentuated as he grew older. He was a champion of the rights of man, and yet he was a hero-worshipper-a believer in the divine right of great men to rule. The distinction between the common and the superior man seems to him to be one of kind as well as of degree; and this view opposes the best thought of the race. The essential unity of the human race is a truth which did not appeal to him. He fell into contradictions and obscurities, and his mighty force wasted itself in them. He dazzles more than he convinces, and always appears somewhat sensational, in the higher sense of the word. He harangues us with almost fierce earnestness, and calls upon the verities and eternities; but somehow we seem to feel a pose and an unreality beneath it all. Doubtless Carlyle was sincere-he believed in himself; but he may have expended an energy in persuading himself so to believe which might more usefully have been expended in other directions.

The remaining forty years of his literary activity were devoted to biographical writing, and to essays on the questions of the times, usually of a warning or denunciatory character. His "Oliver Cromwell," "John Sterling," and "Frederick the Great" are impressive works; but in reading them for information we must bear in mind the powerful predilections of the writer. In truth, Carlyle's works are more interesting and valuable as portrayals of his own trenchant and singular judgments upon men and life, than as trustworthy pictures of life and men themselves. Even so, his books are an awakening and an educating force of which every intelligent mind should avail itself. Carlyle's career ended sadly; the message which he so strenuously proclaimed failed to win the assent of his generation. Yet he was, upon the whole, the greatest man of letters of his time in England, great even in his errors, and modern thought, without his influence, would have been less independent and honest than it is to-day.


(From "The French Revolution.")

ALL morning, since nine, there has been a cry everywhere, "To the Bastille!" Repeated "deputations of citizens" have been here, passionate for arms; whom De Launay has got dismissed by soft speeches through port-holes. Towards noon Elector Thuriot de la Rosiére gains admittance; finds De Launay indisposed for surrender; nay, disposed for blowing up the place rather. Thuriot mounts with him to the battlements: heaps of paving-stones, old iron, and missiles lie piled: cannon all duly levelled; in every embrasure a cannon-only drawn back a little! But outwards, behold, O Thuriot, how the multitude flows on, welling through every street; tocsin furiously pealing, all drums beating the générale: the suburb Sainte-Antoine rolling hitherward wholly as one man! Such vision (spectral, yet real) thou, O Thuriot! as from thy Mount of Vision, beholdest in this moment: prophetic of other phantasmagories, and loud-gibbering spectral realities which thou yet beholdest not, but shalt. "Que voulez-vous?" said De Launay, turning pale at the sight, with an air of reproach, almost of menace.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »