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haps, is attributable the peculiarities of Mr. Carlyle's prose. Whilethis perversity, no doubt, interferes with his popularity in one direction, we have a strong suspicion it adds to it in another, for the charm of singularity is potent, and we have heard men of conside
rable eminence declare that Carlyle would lose half his attraction if + he wrote in the common method ; doubtless the worth of a thing is
proportionable to the toil we have to achieve its possession, and there is a sort of half compliment implied to the reader where there is a difficulty or an obscurity in its expression. The probability is, judging from the simplicity and clearness of the greatest author of ancient and modern times, that an involved style is an evident confession of inability to complete the mental creation.
Some have not scrupled to avow boldly their belief, that in proportion as the thought is confused and imperfect, the expression is obscure and tortuous; there can be no doubt that a vast difference exists between the originality of a great writer, and the mannerism of a pretender; certainly it is natural to suppose that an author, who has truths for the million, would put them into dress best contemplated to achieve that object. On the other hand, it must be conceded it not unfrequently occurs that when a poet and original thinker appears, he brings with the bold thought a new phraseology, which is part and parcel of himself,
Thomas Carlyle was born in Annandale, and is the son of a respectable farmer, who was an elder in the Secession Church. In his youth he went to Edinburgh, where he became intimate with the celebrated Edward Irving, for whom he cherished, to the last hour of his life, the greatest regard and admiration.
When Irving died in his darkened sunset, how general was the censure and scorn of the low-minded mob! Carlyle came out like a man, a real fiery-hearted man, and in Fraser's Magazine pronounced an oration over the grave of his departed friend. No flinching in this noble tribute to a great intellect and a fine heart who had gone
down to the tomb; here also he rebukes the world with a severe dignity worthy anopostle. His intimacy with Irving is a point he is very fond of alluding to, and he never names him without some tribute to that profound and gifted man.
During his stay in Edinburgh, where he studied, he had many privations to endure, but his great heart went toiling on, supporting himself by teaching, and working for the booksellers. This is, however, a very common case with Scottish students, and there is scarcely a Scotchman of any eminence who has not at some time during his novitiate supported himself by drudgery.
He soon grew attached to German literature, and commenced a correspondence with Goethe, which continued with little intermission till the great poet's death. When he left Edinburgh he became a teacher at Aberdeen, where he remained some time. Here in this gloom of soul he laid the foundation of that severity, almost amount
ing to bitterness, which renders him one of the most emphatic wri+ ters of the
You may always be sure Carlyle is in earnest ; no indifference; he is at once in the thick of the fight, whatever the subject of battle, and the mailed fist of his argumentation is heard far off resounding. He has on this very account a sort of half admiration of men, whose principles he detests. Give him
earnestness and he will forgive much. We may offer as an instance + Nicholas of Russia. He has repeatedly said that he was perhaps
the only man in Europe: what he wishes to do, he does; what he thinks, he says; at all events, through all hazards, he is the uncompromising; as he truly said, “He is no sham; friend or foe you can depend on the autocrat.” Truly, (as Carlyle says,) it is something now a days to know there is such a man. There is too much in our times of the smooth whiskerless acquaintance, who associate with
you when the sky is fair, but who sneak off when danger or storm comes. The timidity of such oily insincerities is as bad as the basest premeditated treachery-the results are the same. What
matters it to us if we fall by the withdrawing of the chair or by a blow from the chair wielded by the false friend's arm : in fact, the blow is the best of the two. We can guard against the one, or wrest it from his grasp, but the other sets foresight at defiance; it produces also the worst possible moral effect; it spreads suspicion through the human ranks, and we therefore maintain, with the true hearted author of “Hero Worship,” that one act of treachery (or timidity in defending a cause, or a friend) does more to degrade human nature than ten murders.
“ There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough hew them as we may,"
is applicable to Carlyle's sentences : let them be read in the true, the divine spirit, and his “rough hewn” periods become perfectly shaped, and convey their full meaning to the mind.
Many critics have said that Carlyle's language is German : this is an evident mistake; his style is German in its outer form, but the words are eminently Saxon; they have a force and individuality quite refreshing after the inanities of Addison; of the latter's far trumpeted classical style it may truly be said, it was a worthy companion to that singular compound of “ verse and water," which was nicknamed poetry, much about the same time. Tickell and Blackmore are in verse what Addison is in prose, writers of smooth and elegant commonplace.
Mr. Carlyle has resided for many years in the vicinity of London. His house is situated in the far-famed Cheyne Row, Chelsea, and looks immediately on the Thames. There, with his amiable wife, he has set up his tent, seldom visiting, but always glad to have a friend or so at his tea-table.
His conversation is the most peculiar of any man of the day. +
This affords us an opportunity of glancing at the colloquial peculi
arities of the greatest intellects of England. Carlyle is undoubtedly
the strongest and most suggestive--now profoundly jocose, or jo+ cosely profound. This minute putting an old thing or fact into
a new light, and dragging it from the obscurity of conventional hypocrisy, dusting the cobwebs off, and holding it up at once a fresh object, with a dawning sun upon it; now he startles you by shaking some drowsy old custom by the shoulders, and as he perceives it waking up in a state of astonishment, he completes the effect by bursting into a fit of good hearty Saxon laughter. All this is thrown off in a strong, abrupt manner, with Homeric compound words, provoking new combination of thoughts. Add to this an utterance unmistakeably Scotch. He has a rare manner of yoking the dissimilar together, and making them do good service in the double sense of co-operation and contrast. They seem to pull different ways, and yet the Juggernaut car of his demonstration proceeds crushing beneath the wheels of his Scotch dialect a host of crawling reptile superstitions and conventional “ shams."
Next to Carlyle, Leigh Hunt is probably the most interesting conversationist-but he wants his suggestive power: infinitely more amusing, he lacks the faculty of chaining the attention of his auditors. It is a perpetual flow of mental champagne, sparkling with anecdotes, refined jokes, witticisms, repartees, the peculiarities of celebrated men, celebrated streets, celebrated houses, celebrated mountains, celebrated mice; in short it is a brilliant group of heterogenous recollections presided over by a genial appreciation-just as an assemblage of remarkable men are gathered together by a generous host whose tact enables him to extract the utmost possible amount of individuality out of them. We have now an anecdote of Byron-then of Shelley—illustrated by some well known passage in their works, the origin of which is developed—all this lively stream is given in a peculiar crisp voice which makes the “ tout ensemble” perfect. Dickens on the other hand depends more up
on occasional shrewd observations, lightened by a ludicrous story: in addition to this, the author of Pickwick is a ready listener.
When Talfourd is excited his conversation is very interesting, but it is too egotistical to be generally popular-still his admirable law stories, though somewhat too frequently told, are highly interesting, and show the man of great social talent.
Mr. Horne is perhaps one of the most amusing companions : he is eminently graphic:—and his wanderings in Mexico, and other parts of America, are always worth listening to, even though heard before.
Browning's colloquial powers are limited—and their tendency is monotonous ; nevertheless, there often comes out of that subtle brain a host of strange learning which makes the listener pause. It generally happens that in the midst of an elaborate “olla podrida” he goes to the piano, which he plays with great precision and
grace, and finishes the conversation by presenting some favorite sonata of Beethoven. We may as well name here that Leigh Hunt and Horne are also tasteful musicians, and sing with considerable taste and effect.
It was a curious study to glance round the room and let the eye rest upon each of these original men : Dickens, gayly dressed, actively engaged in either listening or talking, and doing both with an apparent interest so flattering to his antagonist—his large, dark restless eye roaming round the room for “future scenes ”—his well made boots, shining like Luna, and then ever and anon the contracted eyebrow and the long hair thrown with a curious shake over the collar of his coat—a lady once said she saw he was the lion of the evening by his mane. While you are looking at him, you hear a pleasant hearty laugh from Leigh Hunt, who has made some cheerful pun, which he enjoys as much as though it had been said by another—there he sits with a sort of imaginary washing of his hands, which no doubt he learnt from Mrs. Siddons in the famous scene from Macbeth.