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EDITOR OF THE “CoRNHILL.” 491
coffee-houses of that time. The American War forms a part of the historical ground-work of the plot. Nearly two years ago the “Cornhill Magazine” was started, with Thackeray as its editor. If his position in English letterdom had been a doubtful one, the splendid success of that serial would at once have dissolved all doubts. The circulation of the second number exceeded one hundred thousand; nor was this sudden leap over the heads of all other serials of the day a mere spasmodic effort— the sudden soaring of a blazing rocket which comes down a blackened stick. The position quickly won has been steadily maintained. In addition to his editorial duties, Mr. Thackeray contributes largely to the pages of his magazine. A short story, called Lovel the Widower, rather confused in its plot, and somewhat unpleasant in its heroine, yet bearing witness to the undiminished brilliance of his pen; several chapters of a novel now in progress, entitled Philip, which promises to rank among his finest picturing of life and character; and those queer, delightful, rambling, thoroughly Thackerayesque Roundabout Papers, which many abuse but all delight in—frolics of genius “wandering at its own sweet will” through all wildernesses of topics, past and present, have been his works since he undertook the literary management of the “Cornhill.” Thackeray has had his full share of abuse; but he has lived, or rather written it down. “He sees no good in man,” cried one. “Cold, sneering cynic,” says another. “Vanitas Vanitatum, and never another theme.” Cries like these, which have all but died away, were evoked by the author's earlier works, in which he devoted his pen rather to the humiliation of empty pride and the destruction of those shams which flourish thickly in the atmosphere of London fashion, than to the direct inculcation of virtue by the creation of virtuous models. His genius resembles some tart and sparkling wine, which has ripened with age into a mellow cordial—golden, sweet, and strong. His later works, though somewhat less pungent, possess a deeper human wisdom and a sunnier glow of benevolence. His language is fresh and idiomatic English, abounding in the
49%. THE LANGUAGE OF THACKERAY.
better coinage from the mint of slang, though never descending to its baser metals. Words that would have shocked Dr. Johnson, and which still startle gentlemen of the old school by their direct expressiveness, rise to his pen continually. And he talks to his readers out of the pleasant page he gives them with a playful, genial artlessness, which not unfrequently changes to a sudden shower of sharp, satiric hits. That which especially distinguishes his works, among the crowd of English novels that load our shelves and tables, lies in his portrayal of human character as it is. Painting men and women as he meets them at dinner or watches them in the park, he gives us no paragons of perfection—forms of exquisite beauty enshrining minds of unsullied purity, or that opposite ideal so familiar to the readers of romance —but men and women, with all their faults and foibles, with their modest virtues shrinking from exhibition, or their meanness well deserving the censor's lash. Illustrations by himself adorn all his larger works, displaying the same tendency to teach by apparent fun-making, and the same dislike of the conventional, which pervade the letter-press. No stranger pencil could so well convey the spirit of that delicate irony and sparkling banter which flow freely from Thackeray's pen.
DEATH OF GEORGE THE THIRD,
All the world knows the story of his malady: all history presents no sadder figure than that of the old man, blind and deprived of reason, wandering through the rooms of his palace, addressing imaginary parliaments, reviewing fancied troops, holding ghostly courts. I have seen his picture as it was taken at this time, hanging in the apartment of his daughter, the Landgravine of Hesse Hombourg—amidst books and Windsor furniture, and a hundred fond reminiscences of her English home. The poor old father is represented in a purple gown, his snowy beard falling over his breast—the star of his famous Order still idly shining on it. He was not only sightless—he became utterly deaf. All light, all reason, all sound of human voices, all the pleasures of this world of God, were taken from him. Some slight lucid moments he had; in one of which the queen, desiring to see him, entered the room, and found him singing a hymn, and accompanying himself at the harpsichord. When he had finished, he knelt down and prayed aloud for her, and then for his family, and then for the nation, concluding with a prayer for himself, that it might please God to avert his heavy calamity
SPECIMEN OF THACKERAY'S PROSE.
from him, but if not, to give him resignation to submit. He then burst into tears, and his reason again fled.
What preacher need moralize on this story; what words save the simplest are requisite to tell it? It is too terrible for tears. The thought of such a misery smites me down in submission before the Ruler of kings and men, the Monarch Supreme over empires and republics, the inscrutable Dispenser of life, death, happiness, victory. “O brothers,” I said to those who heard me first in America—“O brothers ! speaking the same dear mother tongue-0 comrades ! enemies no more, let us take a mournful hand together as we stand by this royal corpse, and call a truce to battle ! Low he lies to whom the proudest used to kneel once, and who was cast lower than the poorest : dead, whom millions prayed for in vain. Driven off his throne; buffeted by rude hands; with his children in revolt; the darling of his old age killed before him untimely; our Lear hangs over her breathless lips and cries, 'Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little!'
Vex not his ghost-oh! let him pass—he hates him
Stretch him out longer!' Hush, Strife and Quarrel, over the solemn grave! Sound, Trumpets, a mournful march. Fall, Dark Curtain, upon his pageant, his pride, his grief, his awful tragedy !"
It has been said that Thomas Carlyle thinks in German; which, without looking too closely into its metaphysical accuracy, may be accepted as a brief character of his remarkable mind. From the leading German writers his thoughts have caught their deepest colouring, and his style some of its most startling qualities. No English classic possesses a more strongly marked individuality on paper than does this latest of the great names of our varied and wealthy literature.
Born on the 4th of December 1795, in the parish of Middlebie in Dumfries-shire, he enjoyed the incalculable blessing of wise and pious parents in that honest farmer and farmer's wife whom he called father and mother. After attending school at Annan he passed to the University of Edinburgh, where his earnest mind was devoted chiefly to mathematical studies under Leslie. The thoughtful student became for a while a teacher, as mathematical master in a Fifeshire school, and afterwards as tutor to Charles Buller. His parents had destined him for the Church. But neither the school-room nor the pulpit was his fitting sphere. Literature soon attracting him with resistless power, he began that career of authorship which has placed his name among the first in English literature. Some short biographies for Brewster's “ Edinburgh Encyclo
pædia,” among which were Montesquieu, Montaigne, 1823 Nelson, The Pitts-a translation of Legendre's Geometry A.D. -and, more important than any of these, as an early
LIFE AT CRAIGENPUTTOCH. 495
indication of the future direction of his thoughts, a translation of Goëthe's Wilhelm Meister-were the literary labours of 1823, his first year of pen-work. A Life of Schiller, published by scattered chapters in the “Lon. don Magazine,” and afterwards enlarged, was the second fruit of this Scottish sapling grafted upon German thought. It appeared in 1825 as a separate volume. During the same year the author became a married man with other resources than those of brain and pen. For several years Craigenputtoch, a small estate about fifteen miles north-west of Dumfries, a patch of corn-land nestling among trees in the middle of the black Galloway moors, was the congenial home of this great man, whose mind, prone by nature and by habit to dwell apart, “wrapped in the solitude of its own originality,” flamed out occasionally from its hermit-cell upon the shams and flunkeyism of that seething world, whose roar lay beyond the swelling granite hills. In this lonely nook he wrote several things for the Reviews, among which Characteristics and Burns in the “Edinburgh,” and Gočthe in the “Foreign Quarterly,” are notable. His estimate of Burns is remarkable for its sympathetic justice, and its straightforward recognition in the poet of a true manhood, swathed in wretched environments. And not less is it remarkable as our finest specimen of Carlyle's earlier manner, before he had laid aside the conventional forms of English speech for that language of splintered fire, rapid and sudden as the forked lightning, and often as jagged too, which we find in his later works. But Sartor Resartus (The Patcher Repatched) was the principal result of the quiet thoughtfulness—by study-fire or on pony's back—to which the Craigenputtoch life was chiefly given up. Professing to be a review of a German work on dress, it is in reality a philosophical essay, illustrating in a very original and powerful style the transcendentalism of Fichte. Professor Diogenes Teufelsdröckh is the imaginary mouthpiece, through which Carlyle inveighs against the old clothes of falsehood and conventionalism that smother and conceal a Divine idea lying wrapped in