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l^aibail) College Hlbcars 


" To purihaie such books as shall be most awdid for 

the Collie Library, so u ben lo promote 

the object! of the College." 





* m ^^^M^m^^u-^m^^Ltuma 







I m I 




AjO )c 5"// i^i 

^^t>^ 1w<x-»X.^ 


Prof atovy Remarks^ 


• 1 



• * 


Dr. John Aitken Carlyle, 


Tha Bible, 



Carlyle's Horw ''Fritz," , 


Oarlyle's Humour, 


Hifltorioal Aoounu^, 


Abfolute Yeraoity, 




Roads under Repair, 


The North, 


Drudgery, • 


, 41 

Letter from Enkine to Carlyl 

e, aftei 

visiting William Bowie, 

• i 


Good Bread— Royal Society— Da 



• < 


Mrs. Carlyle, 

• < 


Early Diffioultiea in findin 






Effects of Mental Struggles in Student- 
Days, .... 54 
Large Painting of ]<Vederiok, . 56 
Iceland — The Northmen — Mrs. Oarlyle's 
Friends — Icelandic Dictionary — In- 
tended Visit to Orkney and Shetland, 56 
Mrs. Carlyle makes an Appointment, 59 
" Frederick " a Laborious Undertaking, . 59 
Cfefflyle M^thodical, ... 60 
Dress and Appearance — ^Work, . 61 
Icelandic Ptarmigan, . .61 
Preparations for Inaugural Address, 62 
Great Demand for Tickets of Admission, 64 
Platform in the Installation Hall, 64 
Of the Address, . . .65 
Beoeives News of the Sadden Death of 

his Wife, . . . .67 

Visit to Chelsea — References to the 

Students at Edinburgh, . . 68 

Library at Windsor — Prince Albert, . 69 
Meets the Queen and one of the Plrin- 
cesses at the Deanery of West- 
minster, . . . . 71 
Uis Ayersion to go into general Society, 72 
Visit with Dr. B. Angus Smith, F.R. S. , 74 
Of Railway Travelling, . .75 
<' Wilhelm Meisier," . . .76 


Letter from Mr. Dixon, . 


Oariyle on Reading, 


Letter from Qarlyle to Flenry F. Chorlej 

r, S2 

Of Becliiiming Iiand— IriBh Labooram, . 


Of Fowls and Eggs, 


Of Rivers, . . . . 


Another Visit witb Dr. R. Angus Smith, 


—Carlyle's Sad Look, 


His Moods dependent on his obtaining 


Sleep, . . . . 


Government Mismanagen, 


UluBtrates the Roman Catholic Question 


by a Story, . . . . . 


Dyspepsia since 1818, 


London Litenoy Life, 


Sanitary Matters, 


Lonely Sadness, . 


Truth and Religion, 


Frederick's Shortcomings and good quali- 


U.6S, . . • • • 


Shams — Wooden Nutmegs — False Life- 

Buoys, . . . . 


PLui for Walking on the Water, . 


Carlyle Smoking, . . . . 


Carlyle on his own Profile, 


Woolner's Bust and Medallion of him, . 


On a Photograph of Himself, 





The Black Country, . . .100 

Library Edition— Walk to the City, 101 

Walk in the Park — Chelsea — German 

Care of Trees— The North, . .101 

Of his House — Of good and scamped 

buildings, . . . . 102 

Ecclefechan Story, Freehold or Lease, 104 

Poor Organ-Grinders, . . . 107 

Ruskin's "Queen of the Air" — The 

House-Fly— Buskin's upbringing, , 108 
How he got his brother, Dr. John A. 

Carlyle, to begin his Translation of 

Dante, . . .112 

Of Edward Irving, .114 

How he chose to write about Frederick, 115 
Of his illegible Manuscript, . . 117 

His Dress, .... 119 

Movements — Cordial Invitation, • . 120 


Carlyle and Wordsworth, . 

The Strong Man, . 

Letter to Erskine of linlathen, 



The following pages were written im 
mediately after Carlyle's death, and be- 
fore his Life, Beminiscences, or his 
wife's Letters had been published. 
They appeared at the time as a series 
,of papers in the pages of the New 
York Independent. We have since read 
Fronde's various volumes, with mingled 
feelings of agreement and difference, but 
without finding occasion to question or 
modify the impressions we had previ- 
ously recorded. But so many varied 
opinions and ignorant condemnations of 
a great man have, of late, been bandied 

10 Prefatory Remarks. 

about, that some explanation seems to 
be called for, in regard to misunder- 
standings as to his religious views, his 
temperament, and his domestic rela- 
tiona But for the wide promtflgation 
of such serious mistakes, what we are 
now about to say of the latter of these 
matters would newer have been moeted 
by ua 

From personal int^course, extencKng 
over maBy years, we, in common with all 
who came into close contact with him, 
know that Carlyle himself was truth- 
ful to the core; and, also, that he de- 
voutly and reverently accepted the 
essential truths of the Christian religion. 
True, that, in early student-days, unduly 
influenced, as he himself admitted, by 
his boundless admiration for Goethe, he 
had wavered somewhat in regard to 
certain outward matters of form ; but. 

tboi|gti RtUl Adaoiria^ the greaft Geifman 
poel^ he aooa livAd througli that phase, 
and, lookiitg bat^ wrote 'Aose yezses 
comparing himself to a moth that had 
fiiOiged its wings by fluttering too near 
the candle-flame. The root belief in sav- 
ing truths to which he firmly clung down 
to the end of his days, was sabstan- 
tially that which his godly mother h«d 
tai^ht him. Her strong faith was also 
hi£^ though rarely, and then somewhat 
enigmatically, formulated by him. As 
he himself r^eatedly and emphatically 
told us, he held fast by the grand old 
Bible truths, revealed from heaven, as 
the only eternal and veritable realities 
on which s man could safely lean with 
all his weight. In regard to Carlyle's 
religious belief, Mr. Froude did not, and, 
unfortunately, from different upbring- 
ing, could not understand him. 

1 2 Ptefatory Remarks. 

Health, or rather the want of it, had 
very much to do with Carlyle's variable 
mooda He had suffered greatly from 
dyepepffla, ever cdnce 1818; and had, 
almost nightly, and often in vain, to 
fight for sleep. Thus circumstanced, 
his finelyHsrtrung nerves could not but 
be often on edge ; and this, at such 
times, might give him an air of bnu- 
querie^ under which appearance, how- 
ever, hi/s heart was ever tender and true. 
When out of sorts, through continuous 
want of sleep, or, when deeply absorbed 
in his great works, if needlessly in- 
truded on, or interrupted, he, not with- 
out reason, would show that he was 
disturbed, and was thqp apt to be mis- 

Thus, he may, at times, have given 
even his wife a colourable pretext for 
fancying herself neglected; but she^ 

Prefatory Remarks. 13 

knowing better, ought to have made 
considerate allowances, instead of tak- 
ing the pet ; for it is very certain that 
he never knowingly, much less inten- 
tionally, neglected her. First to last, 
beyond all doubt, he loved her — de- 
votedly, loyally, and utterly. 

Quite as much, however, we are sorry 
to say, cannot be affirmed of Mra Car- 
lyle's strict veracity, loyalty in speaking 
of her husband, or of her sound common 
sense. For, although proud of the posi- 
tion which he had attained, with a dash 
of satisfaction that it more than justified 
her anticipations, she sometimes felt 
hurt, and even jealous, at the thought 
of receiving attention merely as Car- 
lyle's wife, and not for her own personal 
sake. She, a lady bom, s^nd a genius, 
felt that she was also somebody, and 


14 ^F9^BBt&ry Eimariks. 

W9m socKTcelj oooteot to play Mcond 
fiddle, eren to faiin. 

Clenrer, «iherp, ebrewd, sarcastb, and a 
very remarkable woman, of nnmistak- 
able gemns, she was nevertheless, along 
with her many good qualities, <^t;eQ 
very unreasonable and aggravating; 
taking absurd tacrtmms and whims into 
her head, at the canoes of which, her 
husband, try a« he would, could at times 
not even guess, or in the least compre- 
hend; and which, for days together, 
would make him feel bewildered, wet- 
blanketed, and very miserabla 

Had she only been blessed with a 

family, it is not unlikely that maternal 

cares would have absorbed a good deal 

of her cynicism, diminished unseemly 

friction, and made her life altogether 
more sweetly human. 

Then, it is well known 'that she was 

^ftfa^tory Semarks, 15 

woirt to indulge in a bad habit of com- 
plaining to oBtflidera of her husband, 
both in letteiB and in talk; discussing 
what she called his inconsiderate treat- 
ment of her, dwelling on her exag- 
gerated, or, more frequently, her entirely 
imaginary ills; conduct unwke and 
wrong in a wife, even had the allega- 
tions been well founded — ^which hers 
assuredly were not, although, to her 
morbid and jaundiced fancy, they at 
the time might seem to be real 

If her hunband, from dyspepsia, sleep- 
lessness, or absorption in ^tudy, was 
sometimes thought by outsiders to be 
difficult to live with, there was no if in 
her case ; she was difficult to live with, 
and, manifestly, with a considerable dif- 
ference for the worse. Carlyle, first to 
last, was ever patient and kind to her^ 
whatever he might be to idle intruder9 

16 Prefatory Remarks, 

and, instead of resenting or quarrelling 
over her manifest and unreasonable 
shortcomings, considerately humoured 
her every whim, pouring oil on the 
troubled waters, and doing what he 
could to set matters straight, whenever 
he found out what her wishes really 
were; for, with heart and hand, he 
never ceased loyally to love, honour, 
and admire her. This, not only as to 
her freedom of movement, or her re- 
quirements, but to such an implicit and 
mistaken extent that he trustfully ac- 
cepted as gospel all her highly-coloured 
and often erroneous estimates of people, 
when girding at them; endorsing and 
unguardedly repeating them as his own. 
He thereby, through misplaced faith 
in her judgment, unwittingly injured 
others, and got himself into bad repute ; 
for, strange to say, never for one mo- 


Prefatory Remarks. l7 

ment did he suppose that his bright, 
clever Jeanie's judgment oould be at 
fault Yet, these estimates were fre- 
quently not only unjust, but altogether 
wrong, biased by her personal pique, 
and cruelly sarcastic— witness her per- 
sistent caricaturing of that worthy Kirk- 
caldy lady, whom she never forjgave for 
marrying Edward Irving I 

After Mrs. Carlyle's death, Carlyle, in 
the lonely depths of his sorrow, and 
keen sense of loss, on reading over his 
wife's Journals, and therein, for the first 
time, finding recorded how morbidly 
miserable she Had sometimes been, in 
the same way, accepted it all as gospel, 
and was overwhelmed with the thought 
that, now, he could never more explain 
matters to her, or tell her how very dear 
she had ever been to him. His soul 
was filled to overflowing 'with grief, his 

18 Prefatory Semarks. 

tender conecienoe with remorse; and, 
sympatheticallj^he, well-nigh distratight, 
like Topsy, took gnilt to himself for all 
that was out of joint, where those who 
bad the very best opportunities of judg- 
ing felt and knew that the fault lay 
chiefly with her, and that he was little, 
if at all, to blame. 

Hence, people, who had no other 
means of forming an opinion, on read- 
ing those frantic scribblings and self- 
accusations of his, written, when he was 
all but demented with grief, in order to 
obtain relief in mechanical occupation — 
but which frantic records, when reason- 
ably and rightly read, only speak, 
through a very thin veil, of his tender 
conscience— ignorantly and erroneously 
began to judge him out of his own 
mouth, and unjustly to regard him even 
96^ monster of cruelty. However, such 

Prefcdory Mernarks. 19 

rash condemnation and inconsiderate 
abuse is altogether unfair, and entirely 
opposed to all the facts of the case. 

One of the greatest thinkers and 
teachers of the century, Carlyle's heart 
was pure, loving, tender, and true ; and, 
even had certain opinions, peculiar, per- 
sonal traits, or eccentricities of tempera- 
ment — ^which, in some form or other, 
would seem to be inseparable from great 
originality of mind — actually been the 
very grave faults which his traducers 
mistakenly try to make them, these, 
calmly viewed in the light of his great 
veracity and sterling virtues, can only 
be regarded as spots on the sun. 

Langaide, Glasgow, 

•— ^- ^ - IT MM-f— OM^iMM»lilll 



On Thursday, the 10th of February, 
1881, shortly after noon, all that was 
mortal of the sage of Chelsea was laid 
in a comer of the quaint old church- 
yard at Ecclefechan, beside the honoured 
dust of his parents and kindred. 

Ecclefechan, his native hamlet in 
Dumfriesshire, lies some ten miles over 
the Scottish border from Carlisle and 
sixteen from Dumfries, in a valley sur- 
rounded by wooded hills. 

The funeral was private and the 


' ■ 

22 Personal Bemimscences 

cortegS only consisted of the hearse and 
five mourning coaches. None were 
present but the immediate relatives ; a 
few friends — such as Froude, Tyndall, 
and Lecky; and the onlooking vil- 
lagers. Neither the place nor the day 
of sepulture had been allowed to 
transpire, and the general impression 
of outsiders was that the interment 
would take place at Haddington, where 
his wife lies. Snow had fallen in the 
morning and was followed by rain, so 
that the day was 

'* Cold and dark and dreary." 

The co£Sn, of polished oak, bore the 
following inscription : 




DiXD 6th Febbuaby. 

Of Cartyte. tt 

Wreaths of white flowers lay upon it, 
and the school-house bell tolled slowly 
as it was being carried to the grave; 
but ceased when it got there. As the 
coffin was about to be lowered in 
solemn silence, the clouds cleared away 
and a gleam of sunlight burst through 
the gloom, gleaming on the wet coffin 
and sparkling on the flowers. 

When laid in its place, more flowers 
were strewn on it, and the grave was 
filled up by the sexton. 

There, in the country quiet of his 
native Annandale, rather than in West- 
minster Abbey, interment in which was 
pressmgly offered, Oarlyle rests; and, 
having honestly and nobly done his 
work, he sleeps well. 

Newspapers and magazines, all the 
world over, with more or less accuracy, 
will tell the story of his life. Froude, 


24 Personal Reminiscences ^^ 

of whom Carlyle once remarked to me 
that be considered him one of the best- 
read men in England, probably also Mr. 
F. Martin, who has devoted years to the 
subject, and possibly Mra Mary Aitken 
Carlyle, will give us official and auth- 
entic records; and innumerable bio- 
graphies of such a man are sure to 
make their appearance for centuries to 

What I now purpose is, neither to 
write a sketch of his liie, nor a criticism 
of his works, but simply to reproduce 
from notes a few fragmentary personal 
reminiscences and impressions, which 
may not be unacceptable in the way of 
adding a loose stone or two to the cairn 
of a great man, who was a moral force 
to the age, because his heart was as 
tender and true as his intellect was 

Of CarlyUt, 26 

Several members of the Carlyle family 
have been long and intimately known 
to me, and at different times been my 
guests. I also knew Thomas Aird, 
the poet; with others of Garlyle's old 
school-fellows and acquaintances, who 
recollected characteristic traits of his 
parents. His father died in 1834, and 
his mother in 1854. Both, I am told, 
made use of quaint, forcible expres- 
sions; so that Garlyle's style was to a 
large extent inherited. In this respect, 
his sister, Mra Aitken, strikingly re- 
sembles him. Having had occasion to 
be in London, often for weeks together, 
several times a year, when in business, 
prior to 1873, 1 was then always in the 
habit of visiting at Chelsea, both long 
before, and since Mrs. Carlyle's death; 
dating my first visit from somewhere in 
the fifties, 

_ . ^* « a ^m^t^^tmt ^. - — ■ ■!■ .. Cm.^ 

26 Personal Reminiscences 

When Mrs. Carlyle was last in Scot- 
land, I happened to travel in the same 
train by which she returned to London, 
About midnight, at a station where 
there was a stoppage of fifteen minutes, 
I had gone out to stretch my limbs, and, 
while pacing up and down the platform, 
heard myself called by name by some 
one. On looking about, to ascertain 
where the voice came from, I saw a lady 
signalling me from a carriage window ; 
her head was mujfied up in a light white 
woolen shawl, and she proved to be Mrs. 
Carlyle. On reaching Euston Square 
Station, I saw her into her own 
brougham which was waiting her arrival, 
and accepted a pressing invitation to 
drink tea with her the following evening, 
at Chelsea. 

Among my treasured relics, I may 
name — a lock of Carlyle's hair, a MS, 

Of Carlyle. 27 

sheet of " Frederick," the quill pen with 
which he wrote the last chapters of that 
work (given me by Mrs. Carlyle, on July 
15th, 1865), various letters, inscribed 
books, Carlyle eartesj etc. 

When Carlyle attended school at 
Annan, he was boarded with an old 
shoemaker, named Wangh, quite a 
character and one of the magistrates of 
the place. In token of this, the calf- 
bound copy of Scott's " French Rudi- 
ments," from which he learned his 
lessons and which was given me by his 
niece, Miss Mary Aiken — ^now Mrs. 
Alexander Carlyle — still shows the 
blotches of shoemakers' resin used to 
fastai down the paper cover inside the 
boards. This interesting relic cantaaoB 
his own name and half a page of French, 
written by himself in 1809, when he was 
in his fourteenth year. It is curious to 


88 Personal Remimseences 

oompare this early speoixneii of cali- 
graphy with his later autographs. 

On visiting the house at C!helsea, 
Carlyle's conversation — whether in the 
dining-room, drawing-room, or study, 
sitting at the back of the house, or walk- 
ing for hours out of doors — ^was so 
realistic and strikingly picturesque that, 
sometimes, on reaching my hotel at 
night, I was tempted to jot down a few 
of his more characteristic sayings, while 
his cogent words and expressions were 
ringing in my ears. 

Long ago, Emerson, speaking of him, 
(on February 26th, 1848,) remarked to 
me, that the three things which had 
most struck him, in his visit to Europe, 
were : " first, the Townley Gallery Bust 
of Clytie rising from the Lotus ; second, 
the Conversation of Thomas Carlyle; 
and, third, to find, in Edinburgh, a man 

Of CoirhfU. 29 

with so much of the spirit of Dante in 
him as (the late) David Scott, living 
and working in the nineteenth century," 

The house in Great Oheyne Row, 
where Carlyle dwelt from 1884, when he 
came south from Craigenputtoch, till his 
death, was substantially built of good 
red briok, in the days of Queen Anne* 
It used to be No. 5, but latterly was 
numbered 24. Front views of it have 
often been engraved. Mra Allingham 
has drawn a portrait of Carlyle sitting at 
the back of his house, and I possess a 
carte of him upon which he himself 
wrote : " At the back-door, in 1857 (T. 
C.)". ^ 

There was in the Royal Academy 
Exhibition of 1857 a faithful painting of 
a room in the house, with striking 
portraits, entitled '^ Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle 
fit Home," by Robert Tait, a Scottish 

«j _ I 

30 Personal Reminiscences 

artist — a picture which will become 
invaluable to posterity. If I mistake 
not, Mrs. Carlyle told me it had been 
bought by the Ashburtons. 

Having jottings of these visits to 
Chelsea before me, without further pre- 
face, I shall now endeavour to convey 
some idea of how Carlyle looked and 
talked on some of these interesting and, 
to me, ever-memorable occasions. 


On a Saturday afternoon in May, 1863, 
I went by invitation to spend the even- 
ing at Chelsea. Carlyle at once began 
to speak of his brother, Dr. John Aitken 
Carlyle, whom I knew and had long 
corresponded with, chiefly in connection 
with Icelandic subjects and the old 
Jcelandic trfinsjations of the Bible which 

Of CarlyU. 81 

I had the pleasure of being able to lend 
him. Carljle said, that, after the 
English Bible, he knew of no translation 
so good as his brother's prose version of 
Dante's " Inferno." Five years before, I 
had received a presentation copy from 
the Doctor, and, having carefully read it, 
could appreciate all that he said about 

Dr. Carlyle was also a good Icelandic 
and Danish scholar, which led Carlyle 
to remark that the Danish language 
was easily acquired by Scotchmen, as, 
under the skin, it was all Scotch and 


Reverting to the English Bible, 
Carlyle said— its translators were honest 
men, who indulged in no vagaries, but 

32 Personal Hemimscences 

have literal renderings, under pain of 
eternal damnation. Henoe, it is absol- 
utely the best translation in the world. 
He spoke of the Bible as the grand Old 
Book, crammed full of all manner of 
practical wisdom and sublimity — a veri- 
table and articulate divine message for 
the Heavenward guidance of man. 

Referring to the New Version of the 
Scriptures, then being prepared, he said 
that, of course, but for such revision, we 
would not have had our present transla- 
tion, so that he could not logically 
oppose it ; but, that his whole feeling 
went sorely against the altering ot a 
single word^or phrase, for he liked to 
use the very words his mother had 
taught him ; and that dear old associa- 
tions should be undisturbed. For long, 
no book had by him been read so much 
find so often. It was- not only inter- 


of Carlyte. 33 

esting, as matter of fact, and uu- 
approachable in style, but entirely 
satisfactory; because, while glowing 
with the divine, it was also intensely 
human, and, in short, the real thing to 
which a man could turn for all kinds of 

He often read through a whole 
prophet or epistle at a time, so as to 
take in the scope ; and again, at other 
times, he liked to dwell lovingly and 
thoughtfully on a single utterance, till 
its light entered the soul, like a 
morning sunbeam streaming in through 
the chink of a closed window-shutter. 


He said, he had already been ten 
years working at "Frederick," and 
had still ^ght months* work on it. 

34 Personal tUminxBeences 

He needed exercise, to keep himBeli* 
in good working trim, and found riding 
suit him. He rode about ten miles 
every day. He began to print 
** Frederick'* when he got his first 
horse in town, which he called 
« Fritz." First to last, it had carried 
him as far as round the Equator. 
One day, however, it came down on 
its knees. It was trotting along care- 
lessly and not minding its work. He 
could not cut it off with a shilling, 
after serving him long and faithfully. 
At Tattersall's, he could readily have 
got £15 for him, but^ in that case, 
the poor brute would have been 
made a hack; so, as an apothecary 
in the same street (a man that wanted 
to ride a little and would give him fair 
usage), offered £9 for him, he jumped 
at it, though jockeyship would have got 

of Cartyte. 35 

£50, for he was a well-favoured beast : 
and, so, he got " Fritz " off his hands. 


Mr. Carlyle appeared to be in better 
health and spirits than for a long time. 
He laughed very heartily, and generally 
after some quaint semi-conscious re- 
mark, of his own, full of grim humour, 
the drollery of which did not seem 
particularly to strike him till after he, 
like others, had heard it uttered ; 
whereupon, for the first time, its full 
import would apparently begin to dawn 
upon him. 


The idea that Carlyle, in writing 
history, splashed carelessly, with a big 

36 Personal Reminiscenqes 


brush, is absurdly untrue. No man was 
ever more careful in regard to facts; 
and he earnestly strove to present the 
very truth, as far as he had attained to 
see it. He would not say " about such 
a date," and pass on, till he had ex- 
hausted research in eveiy European 
library at all hkely to aid him. He 
liked to be able to give day of the 
month, week, and hour; and, if 
possible, to add whether there was 
sunshine or shower at the time. 


This characteristic of absolute vera- 
city, he carried out in his letters, and 
even in the telling of a story. He 
would return to it again and again, and, 
like a painter retiring from his easel, 
gaze, and then, retouching the canvas, 

■^ — i^^ijj 

Of Cartyle. 37 

bring out many striking effects — ^never 
in the way of mere embelKshment, but 
to present the very truth which he 
wished to convey; and, when he had 
done, you saw it all before you, and he 
himself had the satisfaction of feeling 
it was accurately presented. I have 
heard him, on such an occasion, say: 
« There 1 That's it 1 " 


He invited me to take a walk ' 
with him before tea So we sauntered 
down by the river, and then along by a 
square, he the while strongly denounc- 
ing so-called self-government, which he 
said was a Devil's absurdity, and simply 
*meant disorganization, disintegration, 
and anarchy. It had been carried, said 
he, a little further on the other side 




38 Personal Reminiscences 

(America) ; but, there, unlimited land 
was, interim, the safety-valva Here, 
however, we saw very plainly whither 
it would soon drift us. 


The street along which we were pass- 
ing (King Street, I think) was then imder 
repair, and Carlyle, waxing wroth, said : 
"The roads round here are for ever being 
cut up, for something or other — either 
drains, gas, or water-pipes. They are 
never done pothering, so that one can 
never get passing comfortably or peace- 
ably along! And why? Because it 
seems good in the eyes of a corporate 
body of stupid, ignorant, incapable, 
clumsy, bad blockheads so to do — ^men, 
the chief business of whose lives seems 
to be to meet and dine together four or 

■AiK^ JP. 

Of darlyU 39 

more times a year ; and the worst of it 
all is, that they have power — ^power de- 
rived from the powers of darkness and 
chaos — ^to levy taxes on the rate-payers 
to pay for all this madness." 

Things, in this way, had come to such 
a pass that he often looked round, and 
wondered if he were not in Pande- 
monium; so much had men perverted 
the order of God's universe. 


He then talked of a pleasant visit he 
had paid to Sir George Sinclair, at 
Thurso Castle, Caithness-shire ; of the 
Pentland Frith and sea-bathing; of Celts 
and Northmen; and told me he had often 
wished to sail north and visit Iceland 
and other homes and haunts of the 
Vikings. He had often stood looking 

40 Personal Reminiscences 

• ^ I II -I .11 .II. .1 ■■! II 

north in that direction, and wistfully, 
too, from the shores of Caithness; but 
there was no possibility of rest or in- 
dulging in longing day-dream possi- 
bilities till "Frederick" was off his 
shoulders; and then, even the desire 
might be shelved away among the 
doubtful, drifting category of things to 
be done " some day," 


He next spoke of the arrant folly of 
people making beasts of burden of 
themselves, insanely working for Mam- 
mon, and dropping down in harness; 
never enjoying rest or reflection, or 
pausing for one moment to ask where 
and whither, or to do aught in the 
universe but worship self and Mammon, 
instead of doing a little of the work God 

Of Cavlyle. 41 

hag meant everybody to do, in the place 
and way and time most becoming to a 
reasonable, immortal being, with a heart 
in faiB body, and with human hands, as 
he has learned to use them. 

*'Wheii I look roimd," said he, '*it 
often seems as if liie most of people 
were smitten with madness; and they 
call ^ it the march of improvement." 
(Here he burst out into a loud, ironical, 
hearty laugh.) 


The conversation then turned to 
WilHam Bowie, a Paisley weaver, who 
was in every way a very remarkable 
man. Quiet, diffident, and retiring, he 
denied himself much, in order to get 
books^ and was a student of Carlyle's 

42 Personal Reminiscences 

works, finding in them what he could 
not elsewhere obtain. 

I was first introduced to William, 
when in my teens, by a dear old Pais- 
ley friend and companion, the Rev. Wm. 
Graham, D.D., now Professor of Church 
History to the English Presbyterian 
Synod, in London, and I interested my- 
self in him from that period down to the 
end of his life. Latterly, some years 
before his death, he left the loom, having 
obtained better employment from some 
kind friends at a bleach work. When 
Carlyle's sister, Mrs. Aitken, was on a 
visit to me, I got William Bowie to meet 
her, and, after that, they corresponded 
together. His letters were full of thought 
and tersely expressed. I possess several 
hundreds of them. Bowie, who knew 
of Carlyle through a mutual friend, the 
late Thomas Ballantyne, had long ago 

Of CarlyU. 43 

sent a letter to Chelsea, written from 
the depths of a grateful heart. This 
letter interested Carlyle so much that he 
sent it to his friend Erskine, of Linlathen, 
requesting him to go and look up William 
Bowie. To this communication, Erskine 
sent the following reply, which is now 
for the first time printed from the 
original : — 

« Cadder, Glasgow, 10th Feb., 1840. 

** Dear Mr. Carlyle : — Your very wel- 
come letter and its companions, after 
some calls by the way, found me in 
Edinburgh, where, having no home and 
many acquaintances, I never have time 
for anything but walking from one house 
to another. 

" I am now back in the west country, 
and I propose speedily to seek out 
William Bowie. I am much struck by 
his letter. It is a comfort to find any of 
these hard-wrought drudges discovering 
that there is another way of freeing and 

44 Personal Reminiscences 

righting themselves than by following 
John Frost ; aye, and discovering, not- 
withstanding the dinginess of their own 
special holes, that they are in a real 
divine temple, full of significance. Our 
weaver is in the high way of becoming 
a priest in the Temple, offering himself 
up a living sacrifice, as the tent-maker 
says, for he seems to regard knowledge 
in a practical way, desiring direction, 
because he knows he is on a journey and 
may go wrong, and must, if he has no 

" You do Scottish benevolence great 
injustice in taking me as the represen- 
tative of it; but I shall go to Paisley 
and enquire after our friend. I have 
often he£a*d of you since I saw you ; but 
it is a great pleasure to hear a word 
direct. I am very much obliged to you 
and Mrs. Carlyle for remembering me. 
I remember you both with much love 
and regard, and join in William's prayer 
for you — that the God of peace may rest 
and abide with you and strengthen you 
in every good- word and work. 

" I have read * Chartism ' with much 


Of Ca^lyU. 45 

sympathy. I beKeve that no legislative 
acts, DO state nostrums can do ns any 
good. I believe that each man must do 
his duty and fill his place, recognizing 
himself to be in a temple and called to 
be a priest in it. 

" I have read yomr Miscellanies, also, 
and could say something, like William 
Bowie, about them. 

" Give my affectionate regards to Mrs. 
Carlyle, and believe me 

'* Yours, very truly, 

T. Erskinb. 

"P.S. — This is our poor young Queen's 
marriage-day — *too young' for these 
strange times." 

The visit was made to Paisley, and 
William Bowie was found by Erskine, 
in ability, insight, and worth, to be all 
and more than he expected. The two 
were mutually delighted w<th each other, 
and a number of friendly letters passed 

46 Personal Reminiscences 

between them, all of which I was 
privileged to read. 

After his visit to William Bowie, 
Erskine thus wrote: — * 

" Cadder, 7th April, 1840. 
" Dear Mr. Carlyle, 

"I ought before now to have 
given you tidings of your friend William 
Bowie. The first time that I called on 
him, he was not at home, but I saw his 
host and hostess, from whom I extracted 
what information I could. They spoke 
well and kindly of him, calling him a 
quiet lad that was veiy fond of books. 
They said that his mother was an ex- 
cellent, sensible woman ; and his grand- 
father and grandmother just first-rate 
folk^ capital folk out of Ayrshire* 

"Fine, cracky, sociable bodies, the 
host and hostess were, and the interest 
that they took in their lodger and in his 

* Copied fromr the original letter, and, so far 
as I know, it now appears here for the first 
time. — A. J. S, 


Of Carlyle. 47 

forebears impressed me favourably of 

" When I next ealled, I found him in, 
and I found him, in truth, a very quiet 
lad, a good deal isolated, liked by the 
people that are close to him, but under- 
stood or sympathized with by few, if 

"Your 'Miscellanies' were lying on 
his table, and I found it introduction 
enough to his confidence, to profess my- 
self a reader of your books. After sitting 
with him a little while, I told him that I 
knew you, which gave him great plea- 
sure, and drew from him the acknow- 
ledgment that he had written to you 
and had received an answer. 

"He was very inquisitive to know 
everything about you that I could tell 
him, and seemed to have formed his 
own picture of you already from your 
writings, which he often quoted with 
great delight, and with a look of kindly 
humourousness, indicating that he en- 
tered into- the meaning, such as you 
never see on any other than a Scotch 

48 Personal Seminucences 

''I afterwards called on him at his 
workshop, poor fellow, and got him out 
to take a walk with me. I like him, 
and intend to see him from time to time, 
and have given him my address that he 
may write to me, if he likes, at any time. 
Mr. Scott also has seen him and likes 

^^I have heard that you intend to give 

a course of lectures this spring — is it 

allowable to ask what the subject is? 

I should like, if I could, to take a run up 

to London, and perhaps I may. It is 

long since I have seen you and Mrs. 

Carlyle. I hope she is better and 

stronger than when I last called at 

Cheyne Row. With best wishes to you 


" I remain, 

" Yours most truly, 

" T. Erskine.*' 

Carlyle, on this occasioo, asked me 
all about William Bowie's antecedents, 
etc.; and, having obtained such par- 
ticulars as I could tell him of his sad, 

Of Carlyte. 49 

lonely history, his aspirations and sur- 
roundings, he added : 

" Poor fellow I He kept by himself 
through life, and thought; when we and 
other idiots were babbling and joining 
the insane throng — ^swelling the noise 
with words not always better than the 
silences. Peace to poor William I " 


On returning to tea from our walk, 
there was a loaf of home-baked brown 
bread on the table, which loaf led to a 
discussion on fermentation and yeast. 
Carlyle remarked that, with all the 
boasting of science, that simple thing 
was not understood here. We had to 
get German yeast three times a week 
from Hamburg. Could not make it 

50 Personal JReminiscences 

There was a Guild of Bakers to supply 
bread to the people— bad, indigestible 
bread, often not fit for food. Yet 
government, although it was their 
function, did nothing to find out why it 
was bad and have it made right. This 
forsooth was self-government and 
hberty! Anybody could in two hours 
learn to make better bread at home than 
bakers could or would do. 

The Royal Society, French Academy, 
British Association & Co. could speak 
grandly, and tell us learnedly how the 
world, or the universe itself was made, 
or not made; and, if there were any 
prospect of its paying, he doubted not 
but they would set about the attempt to 
make one. They had confidence and 
daring to that extent, and presumption 
for anything, provided it be only 
suflSciently distant and didn't immedi- 

of CariyL 51 

ately concern them. But here, as to a 
simple matter which comes home to our 
daily necessities (how to make good 
bread), it was quite below their notice. 
He could not get a so-called scientific 
man to consider it. Perhaps Dr. Robert 
Angus Smith would. He was more 
hopeful of him, than of any he had 
talked with on that or other practical 
subjects. He then went on to say 
to me, in words which have already 
appeared elsewhere, signed " Veritas," 
but which are the only part of these 
jottings ever before printed : " The 
short, simple, but sublime account of 
Creation given in the first chapter of 
Genesis is in advance of all theories, for 
it is God's Truth and, as such, the only 
key to the mystery. It ought to satisfy 
the savans, who, in any case, would 
never find out any other, although they 

52 Personal Reminiscences 

might dream about it. Then, alluding 
to the development hypothesis, waxing 
warm, and, at the same time bringing 
his hand down on the table with a 
thump like the sledge-hammer of Thor, 
he emphatically added: 'I have no 
patience whatever with these Gorilla 
Damnifications op Humanity ! ' *' 


Mrs. Carlyle was sharp, clever, 
brilliant, often extreme and unreason- 
able in her prejudices, and inclined to 
be sarcastic. She had also the power 
of inoculating Carlyle, who implicitly 
jbeheved in her judgment, with her 
views. Consequently, she made the 
balls, and he fired them, without any 
questioning or misgiving whatever as to 
their rightness. 


Of CariyU, ht 


Carlyle talked qiiite freely about the 
difficulties he had to enoounter in getting 
publishers to undertake, or even to look 
at, his early books. ^* Respectable medio- 
crity," said he, " gets comfortably along ; 
but extra goodness, whether it consist 
in newness or truth, matter or manner, 
shares the waste-paper basket with bad- 
ness, because no diiSerence is perceived 
between them by the wiseacres. 
Sartor went its rounds, for long, al- 
most hopelessly. America ventured to 
make a book of it, and also to collect my 
essays into volumes, before that service 
was done for them in this country. 
Less tied down by the conventionalities, 
said he, they ventured to think for 
themselves, and give an opinion which 

54 Personal Iterniniscences 

has, to some extent, been confirmed on 
this side." 

" Some time ago a London publisher 
offered to purchase a copyright of him ; 
but he said : ' No ; thank you, sir I 
Once on a day, I would have been glad 
of any kind of offer, but could get none. 
Now, when I publish, it is my book that 
is wanted, and it matters not, to those 
who ask for it, whether the publisher be 
Tom, Dick, or Harry. So I shall retain 
the copyright, in order that I, or those 
in whom I am interested, may reap the 
reward of a life ol no little labour.' '' 


He then alluded to the mental struggle 
which he had undergone in his student 
days, when choosing his path, at what he 


of Cartyle. 55 

called " the cross roads of life." It, to 
him, was "a Gethsemane" and it had 
left its mark indelibly upon him ; indeed, 
from that time, he had scarcely known 
what it was to be entirely' free from 
dyspepsia. His nervous system, too, 
was painfully sensitive to noises, and 
sometimes sleep would altogether elude 
him for a succession of nights, and had 
to be fought for in various ways — often 
by walking for hours out-of-doors late 
at night, to weary himself by physical 
exercise. When such restless fits were 
on him and long protracted, he said that, 
in addition to his being absorbed think- 
ing about his work, he, from natm'al 
causes, sometimes was apt to be a little 
crusty. At such times, we have heard 
Mrs. Carlyle, make some little remark, 
bearing on his wants or wishes, so 
irresistibly droll, that, in spite of his 

56 Personal liemimacences 

grim visage/ she would compel him to 
roar with laughter, and, the spell thus 
broken, he was all right again. 


Mrs. Carlyle showed me a large oil 
painting of Frederick, hanging on the 
south wall of the drawing-room (the 
original of that engraved as the frontis- 
piece of her husband's work). It had 
been presented to her by Lord Ash- 


Carlyle told me, he had read my 
"Icelandic Book,"* saying some kind, 

• Pen a/nd PencU Sketches ofFarde and Iceland : 

Of Carlyle. 57 

friendly things about it,, and adding 
that he had always had a craze about 
these regions. " The old Northmen/' 
said he, "whatever else they had, did 
not lack deeds, and notable ones too. 
Their swords did not smite the air." 

Mra Carlyle enquired of me, curiously, 
regarding the people I had met in Faroe 
and Iceland ; and, on my telling her 
that they were intelligent, truthfiil, 
hospitable, and friendly, she clasped her 
hands, and, with upturned eyes, like a 
Madonna, exclaimed — " Oh 1 how I 
should like to go there, and make some 
new friends; for I am so utterly, and 
heartily, tired of all my old ones ! " 

Carlyle then spoke about material 
towards an Icelandic Dictionary, which 
the late Mr. Cleasby collected in Ice- 
land and Copenhagen, and had left in 
MS. : and I promised to make in- 

58 Per807ial Reminiscences 

quiries and ask Professor Rafn, of 
Copenhagen, with whom I was in cor- 
respondence, about it. (It has since 
that time been completed and enlarged 
by Gudbrand Vigfusson, and issued 
from the Clarendon Press, at Oxford, 

Iceland was too far away for him to 
visit now, he said ; but he wanted to 
take a sea voyage and had thoughts of 
visiting Orkney and Shetland, towards 
which he had often looked, with 
longing eyes, from Sir George Sinclair's 
place at Thurso. His brother the 
Doctor would accompany him. Would 
I be at the trouble to find out the 
sailing of the steamers, jot down the 
route for him, and name people who 
would be able to give him local 
information ? This X did for him, on my 

Of CarlyU. 59 

return home, and sent on the result to 
Dr. John A. Carlyle. 


Mrs. Carlyle had previously written, 
asking me, before coming to tea 
at Chelsea, to meet her and some 
friends at the Cryistal Palace; but she 
had been prevented from keeping the 
appointment by callers. On reaching 
the house, after apologizing and 
explaining, she added, that, knowing I 
had gone there solely on her account 
and would be waiting for her, she had 
been profoundly miserable about it — for 
the space <\f ten minutes ! 


Referring to " Frederick," Carlyle 


60 Personal lUminiscenees 

said: ^^Tbis book business is an awful 
weight on me. I had no idea of the 
enormous labour it involved, when I 
began it, or, would have at least 
paused, before putting my hand to the 


As I had a call to make, five miles 
off, diagonally across London, Carlyle 
fetched a map and assisted me to pilot 
my route on it. The bundle of maps 
from which he took it, I observed, was 
arranged in a most orderly manner for 
reference, and neatly tied up with red 


He was habited in a gray tweed 
dressing-gown; his hair, beard, and 
moustache gray, grizzled^ and longisb. 

Of CarlyU. 61 

On parting with him at twenty 
minutes past nine o'clock, he came out 
to the street-door, with his bare head, 
bidding me good-night, with a very 
hearty shake of the hand and a pressing 
invitation to come again before 1 left 

That year, he got through an 
amazing amount of work, and in a 
letter received from him, in July, he 
alludes to his being " still in a whirlpool 
of hun-ies." 


Having in December received some 
ptarmigan from Iceland, I forwarded a 
brace to Chelsea; and, in a letter 
acknowledging them, Mr. Carlyle wrote 
(on December 26th, 1863) : 

♦' Your twQ birds arrive^ safe— ex-r 

62 Personal Reminiscences 

oellent birds, of new foreign flavour — 
and did duty here yesterday, keeping 
Xmas far away from home. Thanks 
for that mark of yonr attention. My 
wife has had a bad fit of illness, and, 
indeed, still has, tho* now, we hope, 

"With many thanks and good wishes, 
" Yours sincerely, 

" T. OARLYLfe" 



In 1866 Carlyle had before him the 
delivery of the inaugural address at his 
installation as Lord Rector of Edinburgh 

That year I saw him at Chelsea, both 
before and after his memorable visit to 
Scotland. He was extremely anxious, 
if he carried out his reluctant intention 
of appearing before the students, to say 

Of CaHyle, 63 

something which would really be ser- 
viceable to them. A sense of duty 
urged him, although he shrank from 
public appearance, and said he felt as 
if he were going to be hanged. So he 
dictated an address to his amanuensis ; 
but, on looking at it, was altogether 
dissatisfied with the result, remarking 
that, if he could not do better than that, 
he must abandon the business. He 
tried again ; but, still disl^tisfied, set 
aside and blotted from his mind every- 
thing he had planned in the shape of 
MS. preparation, and resolved to say a 
few simple words to the young men, 
coming directly from his heart, and such 
as would naturally occur to him at the 
time. And, so, we have those im- 
pressive words spoken on that occasion, 
which those who heard will never for- 

64 Personal Reminiscences 


From far and near, orders of admission 
to the Installation Hall in Edinburgh 
were in urgent demand and not to be 
had. Desiring to take my friend, Dr. 
David Mackinlay, who had once spent 
an evening at Chelsea with me, I ap^ 
plied in influential quarters for two 
tickets. However, only one came, 
which I resolved to give up to him. 
Then it occurred to me that perhaps 
Carlyle himself might be able to secure 
my admission ; this he kindly did, send- 
ing an autograph order by return of 



His brother, Dr. J. A. Carlyle, Dr, 

of Carlyle. 65 

David Mackinlay, and I, went to the 
hall together, and there witnessed the 
splendid and unique ovation paid to the 
greatest literary man then alive by his 
Alma Mater, 

On the platform, we saw the Principal 
of the University, Sir David Brewster, 
who in other days, as editor, had got the 
young student to contribute articles to 
the "Edinburgh Encyclopssdia." There, 
too, sat Dr. Guthrie; Sir George Harvey, 
P.R.S.A.; Tyndall; Huxley; Erskine, of 
Linlathen; Lord Provost Chambers; Dr. 
Rae, the Arctic explorer; and many 
other men of world-wide renown, all 
assembled to do honour to the new 
Lord Rector. 

When Carlyle, characteristically throw- 

(56 Personal tleminiscences 

ing off his oificial robe of office, came 
forward to speak, he was evidently 
thinking of days long gone by ; and the 
low tone of his voice and whole manner 
indicated that he was profoundly moved. 
Soon, however, getting absorbed in 
thoughts about the young men before 
him, he fell into a simple colloquial 
tone, and uttered wise, practical, helpful 
words, with a paternal depth and tender- 
ness of feeling, in his old, homely Annan- 
dale accent, which half a life-time's re- 
sidence in London had in no way 
changed, earnestly exhorting them to 
fight the good fight and quit themselves 
Uke men; to love wisdom for its own 
sake, piously, valiantly, humbly, beyond 
life itself, or the prizes of life — then all 
would be well with them; closing the 
whole with a marvellous recitation of a 
few lines from Goethe — holdii)g the vast 

of Cartyle. 6? 

audience sQently spell-bound, thrilling it 
electrically through and through with a 
powerful eloquence beyond the reach of 
artj and Nature's very own. 


Shortly after this memorable occasion, 
on April 21, — when visiting his sister and 
brother-in-law (the Aitkens) at The Hill, 
Dumfries, — ^like a bomb-shell, came the 
telegram which announced the sudden 
death of his wife, in London, He had 
tossed it unopened to his sister, who, 
tearing it open, read, turned pale, and 
silently passed it back to her brother. 
Ha^ang read it, unable to utter a word, 
Carlyle rose from the table, retired to 
his room upstairs, shut the door, audibly 
agonized in prayer for a time; and then, 


68 Personal Rermniacences 

this brave, heroic, Spartan soul descend- 
ed, finished his cup of coffee, and at 
once proceeded to arrange and do what 
had to be done, retaining the mastery of 
himself, although his heart was break- 
ing, and the light of his life had gone 

True sympathy was not wanting to 
the lonely veteran in his sore affiction, 
and condolences reached him from all 
quarters, from Her Gracious Majesty 


On my first visit to Chelsea after his 
bereavement, no allusion whatever was 
made to it on either side. I knew he 
could not trust himself to touch on it 

He talked freely about other things, 


Of Cariyle. «i9 

i r I - i - ■ - - _ - . -^ * - - — 

described his feelings when addressing 
the students at Edinburgh, and how be 
sympathized with them in aspirations 
that might never be attained, and in 
possibilities beyond their ken, and dis- 
appointments and sufferings, which last 
were very certain. He had travelled 
the] road before them, poor young fel- 
lows I Their loyal attitude, that day, 
touched him ; but he felt that he could 
do little for them beyond urging them 
honestly to do their duty by God and 
man, and to do so with a brave heart, 
through good report and bad report, 
working with all their m^ght at what lay 
nearest them, for genius, which throve, 
had always a large capacity for work, 




He mentioned that, years before, when 


70 Personal Reminiscences 

Her Majesty first heard that he was en- 
gaged on " Frederick," she kindly had 
intimation sent him that the library at 
Windsor was at his service. One day, 
when there, the librarian gave him a 
hint that the Queen would like to meet 
him, and would probably look in that 
day; but this had quite a different effect 
on Carlyle from that which the librarian 
intended or expected. The shy student 
at once withdrew. 

On another occasion Prince Albert, 
who, as he afterward found, had spe- 
cially requested of the librarian to be 
notified of his (Carlyle's) presence at 
Windsor, surprised him in the Kbrary 
and had a pleasant chat. Carlyle said 
that the Prince was dressed in a plain 
suit of tweed and was a very well- 
informed, sensible, gentlemanly man, 

Of Carlyle. 71 

unaffected, simple, friendly, and kindly 
in his manner. 




He also told me, of his friends the 
Dean of Westminster and Lady Angusta 
Stanley, asking him to lunch; and his 
there meeting Her Majesty, of whom he 
always spoke with loyal affection and 

He also wrote a remarkable letter 
giving a most vivid account of this 
interview with Her Majesty, which 
account we were privileged to read. 
As an artistically etched word-portrait, 
nothing could be finer, more truthful, or 
valuable, for future history. 

His description of his taking one of 

'i'2 Personal Reminiscence 

the princesses, on his arm, in to lunch, 
was as amusing as it was graphic. 

*' She was," said he, '* a kind-hearted, 
nice, bit lassie, with no pride about her ; 
but several times I saw her taking a 
curious side-glint at me, and no doubt 
she WM wondering in her own mind 
why on earth she was consigned to the 
care of such a rough old curmudgeon as 
I am, instead ot to somebody or other 
more like herself.'* 



Even during Mrs. Carlyle's life, Carlyle 
oftener than not refused invitations ; and 
frequently, when they had been ac- 
cepted, apologies were sent at the* 
eleventh hour. Formal dinners he 
disliked. A talk over a quiet cup of tea 


l .« 'i^ 

Of Carlyle. 73 

had more chance to lure him ; but he 
cordially hated beiug lionized in any 
form. To Mr. Froude, who was once 
urging him to meet some distinguished 
individual (I think it was Lady Salis- 
bury), who had a great desire to see 
him, he said ; " If the Virgin Mary were 
to ask me to dine with her, it could do 
me no good!*' Knowing this, his 
aversion to go out, and also the chance 
of his forgetting all about such engage- 
ments, on the day when he was expected, 
his friends would sometimes drop in or 
send him a reminder, to make sure of 
him. We possess such a reminder, in the 
shape of one of Lady Augusta Stanley's 
calUng cards, with a kindly message for 
him written upon it by her, and which 
she left at his door. 

74 Personal Reminiseenees 


One evening in 18fi8 I went to 
Chelsea, accompanied by my old friend, 
Dr. R. Angus Smith, F.R.S. We found 
Carlyle's sister, Mrs. Aitken, She went 
up-stairs to the drawing-room to waken 
her brother, who was taking his siesta 
on the sofa. 

When we shortly afterward joined 
him, he told us he had been reading 
"Meister"*and the Queen's book. He 
seemed a little tired and taciturn at 
first, yawned and rubbed his eyes ; but 
he soon melted into a most kind, ami- 
able, and easy mood, talking fluently, 
genially, picturesquely, and dashing 
his quaint remarks with a drollery 
peculiarly his own. 

Of CarlyU. 75 


Speaking of locomotives and rail* 
ways, whioh he pawonally disliked, he 
compared the age to the vision of 
EzekieFs wheels, and gave a ludicrous 
description of a shoi-t railway journey 
he had once taken with his brother, 
the Doctor, remarking of the train : 
**What is it but a metallic devil I 
while the screaming and howling of 
steam-whistles were like as if a million 
fiends were running to and fro over the 
earth I" He then declared, laughing 
heartily, the while, at his own grotesque 
exaggeration, that, if he had had only 
one leg, he would rather hop on it, to 
all eternity, than again venture on a 
journey by the Metropolitan Railway, 
with its nerve-edge-setting multiform 
hubbub and jumble of noises, shaking, 

76 Personal Reminiscences 

ear-piercing screams, and Stygian 


"Meister" he characterized as the 
finest book on education ever written. 


He had recently received a letter from 
Mr. Dixon, an intelligent cork-cutter at 
Sunderland, which he read to us, 
requesting us . to procure certain 
information for him, in order to enable 
him to answer it from correct data. 


Carlyle, although resenting needless 
intrusion, kind and tender-hearted, was 
always ready to give a word of advice, 
or money help, where b^ deemed that 

Of Carlyle. 77 

either was really required. To do so 
eiBciently, he would put himself to no 
end of trouble, and this in cases where 
he could look for no return but the 
satisfaction of doing what he considered 
right. The following letter, which he 
wrote fifteen years before, in answer to 
a correspondent who had asked his 
advice, finely illustrates this trait: it 
had, somehow^ got into print, and Car- 
lyle used, on fitting occasions, to send 
copies of it to correspondents : — 

Chelsea, March 13, 1843. 

Dear Sir, — Some time ag6 your letter 
was dehvered to 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 for- 
ward you in your honourable course of 
self-improvement; but a long expe- 
rience has taught me that advice can 

78 Personal Reminiseenees 

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 whieh yon, whom I 
know so tittle 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 some- 
thing — ^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 indicate that you 
then and there are the person Ukely to 
get good of it. " Our wishes are pre- 
sentments of our capabilitiea" That is 
a noble saying, of deep encouragement 
to all true men; applicable to our 

Of Carlyle. 79 

wishes and efforts in regard to reading, 
as to other things. Among all the 
objects that look wonderful and beanti- 
fol to yon, follow with fresh hope the 
one that looks wonderfullest, beauti- 
fullest. You will gradually, by various 
trials (which trials see that you make 
bonest, manful ones, not silly, short, 
fitfal ones), discover what is for you the 
wonderfullest, beautifullest ; what is 
your true element and promise, and be 
able to abide 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 foohsh book to foolish book, and 
get good of none, but mischief of all — 
are not these as fooUsh, unhealthy 
eaters, who mistake their superficial, 
false desire after spiceries and confec- 
tioneries for the real appetite, of which 

80 Personal Reminiacencea 

even they are not destitute, though it 
lies far deeper, far quieter, after solid 
nutritive food? With these illustra- 
tions 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 sum- 
mary of all books whatsoever lies there. 
It is on this ground that the class of 
books specially named history can be 
safely recommended as the basis of all 
study of books; the preUminary to all 
right and fuU understanding of anything 
we can expect to find in books. Past 
history — and especially the past history 
of, one's own native country — every- 
body may be advised to begin with 
that Let him study that faithfully, in- 
numerable inquiries, with due indica- 
tions, 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 
be will dwell Neither let mistakes nor 

Of Carlyte. 81 

wrong directions, of which every man, 
in his studies and elsewhere, falls into 
many, discourage you. There is 
precious insthiction to be got by 
finding that we were wrong. Let a 
man try faithfully, manfully, to be 
right; he will grow daily more and 
more right It is at bottom fthe condi- 
tion on which all men have to cultivate 
themselves. Our very walking is an 
incessant falling, and a catching of our- 
selves before we come actually to the 
pavement 1 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, theie and now, you 
find 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 situa- 
tions have many ; and be your 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 

82 Personal Reminiscences 

reading. They are a growing kind of 
men that can wisely combine the two 
things; wisely^ valiantly, can do what 
is laid in 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 encouragement, I remain, yours 

Thomas Carlyle. 

Chelsea, March 13, 1843. 



The following letter was written in 
July 1867, upon receipt of an intimation 
from Henry F. Cihorley that, under the 
will of his recently deceased brother 
John Chorley (the eminent Spanish 
scholar), Mr. Carlyle was entitled to a 
bequest of a thousand pounds. The 
letter speaks for itself, evidencing pure 

Of Carhfle. 83 

unselfishness and true nobility of soul, 
on the part of the writer : — 

Chelsea, 11th July, 1867. 

Dear Sir, — ^It is infinitely affecting to 
me, this generous message from him 
who is now gone far awayl How 
little 1 deserved it of him, how un- 
expected it is, how Kttle needed now, 
though so good and noble I 

My Banker's name is ^'S. Adamson, 
Esq., British Linen Company Bank, 
Dumfries, N.B.," or indeed your late 
brother's Bauk^s (69 Pall Mall) have 
always an acct. with me too — ^but, 
before going to the actual finis in this 
matter, there is something I will crave 
to mention, which has risen to my mind 
on occasion of it, and to which I must 
beg your serious attention for my sake. 

I knew generally, or understood, long 
ffluce by some casual hint or transient 
question to me by him whom we have 
lost, that the bulk of his property (after 
an event which it was not likely I 
should ever witness) wta to go in 

84 Personat He 


literary charities. I think he said to 
the Literary Fund. And once again, 
long afterwards, I remember to have 
heard him speak, in reply to some 
question of mine, about your brother 
William's commercial misfortunes. Now 
if it be that there is any lack, or change 
of such in that latter quarter, permit me 
to urge with emphasis that, as there is 
no shadow of it here, it would gratify 
me in a much higher and richer degree 
if I might be permitted to lay down 
there the actual sum of money in 
question; retaining ever the soul and 
essence of it ; which would be among 
the perennial jewels of my life, more 
precious far than any gold ! 

Forgive me for urging this on your 
most candid, impartial and deliberate 
consideration. For it is a fact, quietly 
certain as any on the banker's ledger, 
that this, (if the above surmise have , 
any basis at all) is the mode of disposal 
which would enrich me most. And I 
will say no more of it here, but 
solemnly leave it with you. 

Or if you wished to exchange a few 

-mr-^^'-r [jjr 

Of CartyU. 85 

words on it with me, as you daily go 
driving for health, yon can nearly every 
day find me here, till 3 p.m. and after 
8 p.m. I leave it with you, but I 
consider it a thing that greatly and 
even sacredly concerns us both. — Yours 
always with many sympathies and 

T. Carlyle. 
H. F. Chorley, Esq. 


Of reclaiming land and bogs in the 
Highlands, Carlyle said to me that, as ■ 
far as he could learn, it took about £12 
per acre to clear out the stones and 
make it begin] to be serviceable. That 
to bring in land was a true and lasting 
good; but it needed real work. Not 
the kind of performance he had once 
seen in Ireland, where a gang ot la*- 

86 Personal Reminiscences 

bourers stood, each of them leisurely 
turning tip two ounces of earth and 
throwing it against heaven, with a little 
shovel, into which was stuck a long 
pole, instead of an ordinary spade - 
handle; and all these men, said he, 
were well paid for doing nothing. 


Economics led him to speak of rearing 
fowls and engaging in egg culture, 
which he maintained was too much 
neglected in this country, and might be 
made a very profitable business invest- 


Leaving that subject, he discoursed 
of rivers roaring down amid granite 
rocks, in thundering volume, and white 

of CartyU. %% 

with seething foam ; parenthetically in- 
terpolating, in a lower tone of voice — 
"Like Irish rebellion!" 

He said he liked rivers ; but when he 
makes inquiries about those he passes, 
when travelling, people look, if they do 
not say, " What does the old curmudgeon 
meani" For they only want the 
railway station. 

Having given us his opinion of parlia- 
mentary eloquence and the Reform BiU, 
in a few terse, caustic phrases, and re- 
minded us of his queries regarding land 
culture, we bade him adieu. Leaving 
Chelsea at a quarter to eleven o'clock, 
we strolled cityward by the riverside 
for half an hour, beneath the stars, re- 
calling what we had that evening 
heard, before we could think of hailing 
and entering a cab. . 

88 Personal Semimseences 


In February, 1869, Dr. Angus Smith, 
who came up to town on purpose that 
we might make some visits together, 
again accompanied me to Chelsea. We 
there found Miss Mary Carlyle Aitken, 
who kept house for her uncle, and Miss 
Welsh, a relative of the late Mrs. Car- 
lyle, who was on a visit from Scotland. 

When Miss Aitken used to visit us in 
Scotland, my boys naturally abridged 
her name (Mary Aitken) into •* Maiken," 
and so we never called her anything else. 
Carlyle was asleep when we called ; but, 
remembering his weary looks on a 
former occasion, I would not allow his 
niece to disturb him. Soon, however, 
he came in of his own accord, for he 
expected us. 

Of Carlyle. 89 

His ooilntenaQce wore at times, espe- 
cially since his wife's death, the quiet, 
subdued, melancholy look of a man who 
had not long to live, and I^ew it—book- 
ing the while wistfully forward to his 


The mood would change; and there 
appeared an infinite depth of tenderness 
and sweet humanity in him, blended 
with prodigious power, and dashed with 
irrepressible sallies of a quiet, grim, 
almost weird humour, sui generis. 

If he had fortunately succeeded in 
obtaining a fair quantum of sleep 
during the previous night, fiiends 
calling would find him gentle, kind, 
and communicative, taking an interest 

90 Personal Reminiscences 

in everything human that came across 


This evening he was indignant at 
those he called "the Government mis^ 
managers — Bright, Gladstone & Co."; 
talked of the bottle-nosed whale hoax ; 
and of Fenians. 

In reference to wordy, wind-bag, mis- 
leading, parUamentaiy oratory, he said : 
— "What does it matter how well a 
man speaks, provided that which he 
says is not true I " 


The Roman Catholic question, he 
thus quaintly illustrated, after Lincoln's 
fashion, by a story : 

— - -^ 

Of CarlyU. 91 

" I come into my room," said he, 
"and find it overrun with rata They 
are swarming over the floor, the chairs, 
sofas — ^rats hmigry and ravenous ; rats 
here, there, and everywhere ! Wishing 
to live at peace and be on good 
friendly, or, at least, neighbourly terms, 
I make a proposition to them in this 
style : * Rats/ say I, * here is my cheese 
and here is my bacon. I wish to do 
fairly by you. Suppose we come to an 
understanding. I shall cut the cheese 
and the bacon, each right down the 
middle. The one half shaU be yours 
and the other half mine.' No objection 
is offered and the paction is made and 
radfied. (Carlyle very seldom conde- 
scended to a pun.) The rats speedily 
devour their own share ; but, when that 
is done, they immediately proceed to 
eat up mine, and, if this kind of thing 

92 Personal Reminiicencea 

be allowed to go on, they certainly will 
not stop till they have not only finished 
all the cheese and bacon, bnt have 
picked onr skeletons clean into the 
bargain. That is what the rats ajre 
bent on doing. It is not a share they 
want, bat all ; and the disestablishment 
of the Irish Church is a breaking down 
of barriers, a making way for the rats ; 
and, consequently, tends to sweep away 
religion itself, where a little more of 
that preserving salt is greatly needed at 
the present time. 


He reverted to Dixon, the Sunder- ^ 
land corkcutter, and to certain informa- 
tion we had procured for him; after 
which he made some touching allusions 
to his own early days — ^his student life, 

Of Carlyle. 98 

his mental struggle and anxieties abont 
entering the Church, and about 
temporalities^ and his constant tor- 
ture, more or less» from dyspepsia, 
ever since 1818 ; but there was, he 
said, organically or otherwise, nothing 
else wrong with him. 


He spoke strongly of the undesirable- 
ness of a London literary life — ^its worries, 
plagues, and botherations; its utter hurt- 
falness to peace of mind and body ; and 
its general uselessness, as things go. He 
had known and quaintly described to us 
Buckingham, Dilke, and sevjeral others. 


Health led him to touch on sanitary 
matters, and he alluded to the poUutioi^ 

94 Personal Iteminiacencea 

of rivers which converted them into fluid 
abominations of mud and sluggish black 


There was a tone of unutterable and 
lonely sadness in the way he spoke of 
himself as a poor, worn out, well nigh 
done individual, who had not long to be 
here, but who looked forward to a better 
world of realities; for this world, said 
he, now and for long, to him had been 
very fall of suffering of all kinds. 


He spoke with great reverence of truth 
and religion, without which, he said, 
society would become disintegrated and 
speedily fall into dust, 


Of Carlyle. 95 


He regretted that Frederick, unlike 
Cromwell, had no religion at all, and less 
theology. He (Frederick) owed what 
measure of success he had, simply to his 
sticking to facts, as he could apprehend 
them; and to his, so far, unconsciously 
falling in with God's ways, when work- 
ing out his own ideas of right. He 
(Frederick) wanted to have realities. 



Carlyle said — shams were shamefully 
common, not confined to any particular 
walk, and instanced life-buoys stuffed 
with shavings, instead of cork Wooden 
nutmegs, he added, were bad enough ; 
but in that case the badness was only 

96 Personal Beminiseences 

negative, while the Mammon-loving 
cheats, who palmed off the worst kind 
of such damnable falsities for life-buoys, 
were the worst kind of treaoherous 
murderers, and hanging was too good 
for tiienL 



He then described a plan for walking 
on water of which he was cognizant It 
was devised long ago, by a working 
man, who, just because ignorant, was 
very confident of success. Accordingly, 
he invited his comrades to witness a 
performance which was to demonstrate 
man's power over the elements and the 
non-necessity, in future, of such a thing 
as death by drowning. 

The hour arrived. Some sort of 


clumsy cor^ apparatus was fastened to 


Of Cartyte. 9t 

each foot, and when everything had 
been adjusted entirely to his own satis- 
faction, he said: "Now see! Here is 
the thing! Look!" And, like Peter, 
he stepped boldly on to the water ; but, 
unlike Peter, with arms extended, he at 
once wheeled over, head down and 
corked feet up, in accordance with the 
general laws of gravity, which did not 
choose in this particular case to make 
an exception in his favour. Thus, in- 
verted and irretrievably perpendicular, 
he would have remained, without other 
help than his own. That, however, soon 
reached him, and he was ignominiously 
fished out, a wetter if not a wiser man. 


Carlyle, in his gray, dressing-gown, 
sat part of that evening on the floor, on 

98 Personal Reminiscences 

the hearth-rug by the fireside, smokiiig 
a new long clay pipe, and kept puffing 
the smoke up the chimney. He said he 
smoked in great moderation, and did 
not allow himself to exceed by a single 
"rfraw" what h6 knew by experience 
would be helpful to him. Everything 
that affected his stomach had to be 
carefully attended to, under pains and 
penalties, which in his case were inex- 
orably exacted, if he transgressed by a 
hair's breadth. 


Sitting there, he spoke of the profile 
portrait of himself, which is engraved as 
a frontispiece in some recent editions of 
his works, that for which Woolner, the 
sculptor, when on a visit to Scotland in 
1868, told me he had posed Carlyle, 

Of Carlyte. 9& 

when the photograph was being taken, 
in order that he might get the ear done 
for modelling purposes. " Judges con- 
sider it," said Carlyle, " the perfection of 
a likeness of me ; but I, who for some 
forty years, more or less, daily per- 
formed a certain barbarous operation, 
although that same is given up now, 
and looked in a mirror on these 
occasions, would not know that I had 
ever before looked upon that man." 

As two mirrors are requisite for 
seeing one's own profile, few people 
know what it is like. 



Woolner executed a bust of Garlyle, 
an excellent likeness, which, in order to 
be seen to the best advantage, the 

100 Personal Meminiscences 

sculptor told me, should be placed a 
little higher than the line, so that the 
eye of a person looking at it may be on 
a level with the mouth of- the bust. 
Woolner also executed a fine medallion 
of Carlyle. 


Of another photograph, Carlyle re- 
marked — that he was certainly shaggy 
enough, in all conscience, without being 
made worse than he really was; but 
that this likeness' made him look like an 
old rascally, ruffian, obfuscated goose I 


The Welsh iron mines and the Black 
Country generally he epigrammatically 
described as "Chaos plus gold"; but 
added, that the furnaces helped him to 
realize scenes' in Dante's "Inferno." 

Oj Carlyie. 101 



He sho^^ed ub a new volume of the 
library edition of his works which is 
being issued. It was a glorious moon- 
Ught night, when Dr. Angus Smith and 
I left to walk to om* hotel, in order 
that we might, by the way, recall the 
panoramic and wonderful discourse to 
which we had been delightedly listen- 


On Friday evening, August 13, 1869, 
I visited Chelsea alone. Found '^Mai- 
ken." After partaking of some refresh- 
ment, Carlyie asked me to take a walk 

with him, and we strolled up to the 


i02 Personal Semimscences 

Park. He talked of the fonner country 
aspect of Chelsea, when he first came to 
it ; but now it is so built in. He spoke 
of the impoUcy of outting down trees 
that take five hundred years to grow, as 
utilitarian folly and the work of Gotha 
He commended the German Govern- 
ment for educating woodmen and enact- 
ing that trees should be planted to re- 
place those cut down. 

Then he talked of Iceland^ and of the 
old Scandinavian mythology, of Thor, 
and Odin. 


Referring to his house, built in the 
reign of Queen Anne, he discoursed of 
good and bad bricks, remarking that' 
analogous disintegi^ating processes went 

Of Carlyle. 108 

on in society. His words so ^osely re- 
sembled one of his published utterances 
regarding ^^ cheap and nasty" that I 
substitute it here, rather than follow my 
own memoranda : 

"London bricks are reduced to dry 
clay again in the course of sixty years 
or sooner. Bricks^ bum thera rightly, 
build them faithfully^ with mortar faith- 
fully tempered, they will stand, I be- 
lieve, barring earthquakes and cannon^ 
for 6000 years, if you likel Etruscan 
pottery {baked clay^ but rightly baked) 
is some 3000 years of age and still fresh 
as an infant. Truly, the state of London 
house-building, at this time — who shall 
express how detestible it is, how fright- 
ful I England needs to be rebuilt once 
every seventy years. Build it once 
rightly^ the expense will be, say, fifty per 
cent, more ; but every seventy years we 

i04 Personal SeminiaceneeB 

shall save the cost of building all Eng- 
land over again ? " 

He then said people long ago built 
houses intending that their great-grand- 
* children should inhabit them, instead of 
running up whole streets of scamped 
brick-and-a-half shells, with no allow- 
ance for dancing, which to a certainty 
would detach the joists and bring down 
the floors, with the whole concern 
tumbling about their ears. 


A seventy-seven or ninety-nine-years 
lease seemed to satisfy people in Lon- 
don ; but in Scotland, in his young days, 
folks liked to build on freehold ground, 
unrestrictedly their own. 

In illustration of tliis laudable trait, 


Of CarlyU. 105 

he narrated an amusing story of an 
old tailor who used to come to his 
parents' house, situated in Matthew 
Murray's Gose, at Ecclefechan, in 
order to "make down" his father's 
clothes into quad new suits for his 
brothers and himself. The wages paid 
to the tailor were a shilling a day and 
his victuals. • He well remembered hiis 
arriving in the morning, and fetching 
with him a round sod of turf, about as 
large as the top of a little table. This 
he placed on the floor, stuck a stick into 
it, with a slit split o^ the top, which 
held a candle like a vice, and there the 
tailor sat on the floor, from morning to 
night, barring meal times, and worked 

This man, by dint of great industry 
and saving, had amassed a little money, 
and his special ambition was to b^ 

t06 Personal Mmini$cenee8 

ooiDe a laird, bj purchasing tibe horute 
in which he lived ; but it ao happened 
that the owner of the house, who had 
also made his money in the same dowf 
gure way, wanted to drive a haxd bar^ 
gain and obtain a good price for it. So 
negotiations went on for four years, 
more or less, between the two high con- 
trjGtcting parties, as if it had be^i a 
treaty between two of the great Euro- 
pean Powers. 

At length, the matter so far took 
shape that a meeting was held, at 
which each was represented by a law- 
yer, and a draft deed was produced. 
On its being begun to be read aloud, 
"I, John So-and-So [both the names 
escaped my memory], hereby agree to 
let, lease, etc., for 999 years," the tailor 
at once struck in with, " What is that 
you say about letting and leasing? I 

Of Cm^hfU. 107 

tell 70U what it is, I'll hae liaething 
adae wi' the transaction ava, unless I 
can buy the house out and out to a' 

The one lawyer, seeing they had 
got a character to deal with, gave a 
knowing look to the other, who repre- 
sented the tailor, and, anxious to ex- 
pedite business, said, "Well, now, sup- 
pose we add a 9 figure to it, and then 

see how it reads : "I, John , hereby 

let^ lease, etc., for 9999 years.'" And, 
mth great diflSculty, after much per- 
suasion, said Carlyle, they at length got 
him to entertain and accept of these 
amended terms I 


Hearing a street organ, he remarked 
that, although the noise of that and 


Personal Beminiscencea 

such like disturbed and irritated him 
when at work, he had much sympathy 
with the poor lads who ground them. 
They were mostly a harmless, ill-used 
set, strangers here in a foreign land, 
bound to cruel masters, who gave them 
porridge in the morning and a flogging 
at night, if they did'nt fetch back as 
much cash as satisfied the inhuman 
monster who lent the organ and sent 
them out. 


That evening, on going in, I had 
found Carlyle reading Ruskin's " Queen 
of the Air/' He strongly recommended 
me to get it, adding, that — ^leaving out 
his mode of accounting for the mytho- 
logical parts relating to Pomona, 

Of Carlyle. 109 




Minerva, etc., and coming to actualities 
and the present state of things — ^it was 
all deeply and tragically true. He said 
it contained some of the very best and 
truest thinga The passage on liberty 
and the house-fly Carlyle read aloud to 
me, marching about the room and de- 
claiming it with great g^to, declaring 
that he thought it true to the very core, 
an illustration happy all through, and 
altogether one of the most wonderful 
bits of dramatic, natural, and powerful 
prose writing in the English language. 
Here it is : — 

"I believe we can nowhere find a 
better type of a perfectly free creature 
than in the common house-fly. Not 
free only, but brave ; and irreverent to 
a degree which I think no human 
republican could by any philosophy 
exalt himself to. There is no courtesy 
in him ; he does not care whether it is 

110 Personal Bemiidteences 

king or down whom he teases ; and in 
every step of his swift mechanical 
march, and in every pause of his 
resolute observation, there is one and 
the same expression of perfect egotism, 
perfect independence and self-confi- 
dence, and conviction of the world's 
having been made for flies. Strike at 
him with your hand, and to him the 
mechanical fact and external aspect of 
the matter is, what to you it would be, 
if an acre of red clay, ten feet thick, 
tore itself up from the ground in one 
massive field, hovered over you in the 
air for a second, and then came crash- 
ing down with an aim. That is the 
external aspect of it ; the inner aspect, 
to his fly's mind, is of a quite natural 
and unimportant occurrence — one of 
the momentary conditions of his active 
life. He steps out of the way of your 
hand, and alights on the back of it. 
You cannot terrify him, nor govern him, 
nor persuade him, nor convince him. 
He has his own positive opinion on all 
matters — ^not an unwise one, usually, 
for his own ends — and will ask no 

Of Carlyh. Ill 

advice of yours. He has ao woirk to 

do, no tyrannical instinct to obey. The 
earthworm has his digging; the bee, 
her gathering and building ; the spider, 
her cunmng net- work; the ant, her 
treasury, and accounta All these are 
comparatively slaves, or people of 
vulgar business. But your fly, free in 
the air, free in the chamber — a black 
incarnation of caprice — wandering, in- 
vestigating, flitting, flirting, feasting at 
his will, with rich variety of choice 
in feast, from the heaped sweets in the 
grocer's window to those of the 
butcher's back-yard, and from the 
galled place on your cab-horse's back, 
to the brown spot on the road, from 
which, as the hoof disturbs him, he rises 
with angry repubUcan buzz — what 
freedom is like his?"* 

Carlyle added, that when Ruskin stuck 
to facts, and looked at things as they 

* " Queen of The Air," p.p. 170-2. Pan^- 
^ph No, 148. 

112 Personal ReminUcetices 

were known to men, or described scenes 
in Nature, he was great and had pro- 
digious power. He had seen and admired 
some of his designs for houses, and he 
sketched and planned well He (Ruskin), 
said the Sage, owed much to his famil- 
iarity with the Bible, and to his having 
been carefully brought up by pious 
Presbyterian parents on both sides of 
of the house. 


While walking in Rotten Row, he told 
me how his brother John, who had been 
twenty years in Italy, as physician to 
the Duke of Buccleuch, had amassed 
an enormous amount of Dante material 
toward executing a prose traustationt 

of Cartyte. 118 

For long he had unsuccessfully urged 
his brother to set about it ; but, urge 
and progue as he would, he could not 
get him to begin. So he resolved on 
trying quite another plan, and bethought 
him of the man who was driving pigs to 
Eillamey, and who told his friend to 
hush and speak low, for the pigs thought 
he wanted them to go the other way. 
This story he told with great animation, 
standing still the while and acting it 
inimitably, saying, after he had finiahed: 
** That was how I got John to begin his 
translation, and thus it came about. One 
day, said I : * John, man, if I were in your 
shoes, I would get quit of that Dante 
business, which hangs about your neck 
like a dead albatrosa Cast it away Irom 
you and give up all thought of ever 
translating Dante. If you had been a 
young man, you might have looked for- 

114 Personal Meminiscences 

ward to oyertakmg it ; but now you are 
too old. Read, and enjoy yourself, and 
bother your head no more about Dajite.' ** 
^* The steel struck fire," said CSarlyle, 
*^as was intended. John exdaimed: 
* Mb too old 1 I'm nothing of the kind ! ' 
And 80, forthwith, he set to work, and 
produced one of the very best tiansla- 
tions of Dante to be found anywhere." 


Speaking of his early friend, Edward 

Irving, for whom he had the greatest 

admiration and love — ^saying that as 

a friendly man and brother he never 

expected to look on his like again — he 

mentioned that the origin of his squint 

was thefact of there being a little window 

on one side of his cradle. Ab he grew up, 

Irving saw two things and made au effort 

Of CartyU, US 

to see only one, but could not quite over- 
come it all his life. If a candle were 
burning before him, he saw it, and 
another dim one beside it. 

He asked me to find out for him what 
medical man attended Irving in Glas- 
gow, and to obtain for him some parti- 
culars about his last iUness and death. 
These I obtained from the late Dr. 
Rainey, forwarded to Chelsea, and re- 
ceived from Carlyle a letter of thanks 
expressing his entire satisfaction with 
the way in which all his wishes had 
therewith been met 



In referring to "Frederick," he said, 
that he was necessitated to go over so 
many tons of sheer rubbish that he often 

Il6 Persofud Memimscencei 


felt as if he were searching for a needle 
in a hay-stack; yet he could not tell 
what these tons might possibly contain 
till he had examined them alL As for 
his making choice of this subject, he 
said that he had long felt that the tide 
of democracy was fast hurrying us along 
downward ; so he cast his eyes about 
seeking for a man that could rule, in 
order that he might hold him up, in that 
respect, as an example, and so do what 
he could to stem the current. Frederick, 
at that time, seemed to him the last of 
the Romans, and so he took him for his 
text. As the study went on, he found 
reason to modify his opinion of Frederick 
Bomewhat, and perhaps it would have 
been better to have taken up Luther or 
Knox, on other grounds ; but, having 
put his hand to the plough, he dared not 
look back, but proceeded to «et down 

Of Cariyte. 11? 

the very truth aboat him and his times, 
good or bad, as far as he possibly conld 
ascertain it. 


Portions of the MS. of " Frederick," 
which I saw and examined, were written 
by an amanuensis, but were largely in- 
terpolated with Carlyle's own writing, 
I can sympathize with the printers who 
had to set it, and who, on account of the 
numerous corrections and alterations 
which he made on his proofs, sometimes 
found it easier to reset the whole than 
correct them as they stood. Dr. 
Carlyle told me a story of a compositor 
in this connection; but, as it is also 
related by^j^issMartineau, I shall quote 

118 Personal Reminiscences 

from her foller version, substantially the 
same as the Doctor's, with this difference, 
in the denoument, that the latter 
represented the man as at once putting 
on his hat and bolting from the office : 

"One day,'* said Miss Martineau, 
« whfle in my study, I heard a prodigions 
sound of laughter on the stairs, and in 
came Garlyle, laughing aloud. He had 
been laughing in that manner all the 
way from the printing office in Charing 
Crosa As soon as he could, he told me 
what it was about He had been to the 
office to m^e on the printer, and the 
man said : * Why, sir, you really are so 
very hard upon us with your corrections. 
They take so much time, you see.' 
After some remonstrance, Carlyle 
observed that he had been accustomed 
to this sort of thing; that he had got 
w6rks printed in Scotland and 


OfCariyte. il9 

* Yes, indeed, sir, interrupted the printer; 
we are aware of that We have a man 
here from Edinburgh, and when he took 
up a bit of your copy he dropped it as if 
it had burnt his fingers, and cried out : 
Lord have mercy I Have you got that 
man to print for? Lord knows when 
we shall get done all his corrections T" 


Carlyle that evening was dressed in 
a black shooting-coat and vest, gray 
trousers, and wore a soft felt whitish- 
gray wide-awake hat, with a band of 
crape on it. He had, for neck-gear, a 
stiff, high, black, old-fashioned stock, 
with a buckle fastening it behind; a 
turned-down collar; and his beard white, 
grizzly, and protniding. 

At the Marble Arch, as we walked, a 

iiO Personal Heminiseefic^e 

number of people stopped and looked at 
him, evidently recognising the iSage by 
his portraits. 


He said he much wished to sail some- 
where with his brother for a few weeks. 
To-morrow, he goes to say "Good-bye" 
to Lady Ashburton ; and his brother the 
Doctor is to arrive on Monday. 

He is curious to see an old Icelandic 
Saga which I have in MS., and hopes to 
visit me, if at all in my neighbourhood. 

He kindly asked me to come again 
next day ; and, if I could make up my 
mind to rest with him over Sunday, his 
niece would stay at home that day. 

He was particularly kind, gentle, and 
friendly, insisting on my staying later ; 
but I had duties during the 4&y &ud 

Of Carlyle. 121 

needed rest, so, bidding him adieu, 
^^Maiken" accompanied me to a Thames 
steamer, and saw me off for Paul's 

That was my last visit to Great 
Cheyne Row, and I saw Carlyle no 


Such are some stray jottings, with 
records of a few out of many visits to 
Chelsea. In them, Qarlyle's remarks, as 
well as my own personal impressions of 
him, are faithfully although disjointedly 
reproduced. Differing in toto from his 
views in regard to slavery, and his 
mistaken estimates of some men; of his 
deep reverence and entire sincerity there 
can be no question. 

Hi Personal Rsminiscenees 

For example, Carlyle and WordBworth 
— although two of the greatest thinker^ 
of the age— not only did not understand 
each other^s characteristic greatness^ but 
were inteUectuaUy quite repellant to 
each other. 

When, in Wordsworth's latter days, 
Carlyle met him in London, he fully 
recognised his strong intellect, his vera- 
city, dignity, shrewd insight, and mar- 
vellous power in presenting striking 
delineations of character. But, bjeyppd 
such recognition, Carlyle was quite at 
sea in regard to Wordsworth's position 
as a poet; for, loving action, Carlyle 
cared little for meditative poetry, or 
indeed for modem poetry of any kind — 
always excepting Bums — so that the 
form, in this case, repelled hira from 
even considering the substance. 

Whe^ he could not see, he raphly 

Of CarlyU. 188 

Qpj^pluded that tl^ei:e waft notbiog to 
be seen; and bo, at times, Ije was 
grievoKdy mistaken ; as in his views on 
what be ccdled ^^ the Nigger questicm/' 
Uf^wover, tp do him justice here, it was 
not tp oolour or race he objected, so 
much as to certain traits whiqh he 
asapciated with these ; wrongly beUev- 
ing them to be inherent i^nd incurable, 
instead of being naturally induced by 
an infamous system of outrageous 
wrong, which has been truly called' 
^^the sum of all villanies"; traits, for 
which, wherQver found, he would have 
prescribed the same drastic remedies, 
for white or black. 

So too, in his under-estimates of men 
like Coleridge, Charles Lamb, and 
others; although, on the other hand, 
where one would have least expected 

124 Personal Reminiscences 

it, be could appreciate Leigh Hunt, and 

Work is good, but Thought precedes 
it, is higher, guides and controls it 

Wordsworth, again, who attached 
great importance to artistic form, as 
well as to the subject matter in hand, 
revering the ** wells of English un- 
defiled," was, in turn, decidedly repelled 
by the unwonted, often uncouth, 
through-at-the-nearest, but very forc- 
ible modes of expression employed by 
the Sage of Chelsea, whose main 
requirement of the how was — that it 
should hit the what 

Thus it came about, that, from taking 
different stand-points, these two men — 
master-spirits who have so largely 
influenced and, shaped the thought- 
currents of the age — curiously enough. 

Of Carlyle. 125 

repelled each other, while we, who look 
back, are truly thankful for them both. 

In conclusion, allow me to append 
two characteristic passages: the first 
from Carlyle's published works, setting 
forth the very practical nature of his 
philosophy; and the second from a 
letter, also already in print, to his fnend 
Erskine of Linlathen, and finely illus- 
trating his unfeigned faith, humble 
spirit, and Christian character. 

" The Strong Man. 

" Of conquest we may say that it never 
yet went by brute force and compulsion ; 
conquest of that kind does not endure. 
Conquest, along with power of compul- 
sion, an essential universally in human 
society, must bring benefit along with it, 
or men of the ordinary strength of men 
will fling it out. The strong man, what 
is he if we will consider t The wise man ; 

136 Personfll. BemUnUcencef 

the man with the gift of metho^y of ffutb- 
fulness and valour, all of which are the 
basis of wisdom ; who has insight into 
what is what^ into what will follow out 
of whaty the eye to see and tiie hand to 
do; who is^^ to administer, to direct, and 
gnidingly command: he is the strong 
man. His muscles and bones are no 
stronger than ours; but his soul is 
stronger, his soul ia wiser, clearer, — is. 
better and nobler, for that is, has been, 
and ever will be the root of all clearness 
worthy of such a name. Beautiful it is, 
and a gleam from the same eternal pole- 
star visible amid the destinies of men, 
that all talent, all intellect is in the first 
place moral; — what a world it would be 
otherwise I But it is the heart always 
that sees, before the head can see: let 
us know that ; and know therefore that 
the good alone is deathless and victor- 
ious ; that Hope is sure and steadfast, in 
all phases of this * Place of Hope. Shifti- 
ness, quirk, attorney-cunning is a thing 
that fancies itself, and is often fancied to 
be talent ; but it is luckily mistaken in 
that Succeed truly it does, what is 

0/ CarlyU, \Al 

called, succeeding; and even muat ia 
general succeed ii the dispeusers o£ 
su(3tjes8 be of due stupidity: men of 
due stupidity will needs say to it 
* Thou art wisdom; rule Thou!* Where- 
upon it rules. 

" But Nature answers : * No, this ruling 
of thine is not according to my laws;, 
thy wisdom was not wise enough ! Dofi^t 
Ijiou take me too for a Quackery, for a 
Conventionality and Attomeyism t This 
chaff that thou sowest into mybopom, 
though it pass at the poll-booth and 
elsewhere for seedrcorn, / will not grow 
wheat out of it, for it is chaff 1 " * 


« Chelsea, February 12th, 1869. 

"Dear Mb. Erskine: — ^I was most 
agreeably surprised by the sight of your 

* "Chartism," Chapter V. [Library Edition, 
Vol. X., p. 369} 

128 Personal Reminiscences 

handwriting again, so kind, so welcome. 
The letters are as firm and honestly 
distinct as ever. The mind, too, in spite 
ot its frail environments^ as clear, plumb- 
upy calmly expectant as in the best days. 
Right so. So be it with us all, till we 
quit this dim sojourn, now grown so 
lonely to us, and our change come ! 
*Our Father, which art in Heaven, 
hallowed be thy name, thy will be done ' 
— ^what else can we say? The other 
night, in my sleepless tossings about, 
which were growing more and more 
miserable, these words, that brief and 
grand prayer, came strangely into my 
mind, with an altogether new emphasis, 
as if written^ and shining for me in mild, 
pure splendour on the black bosom of 
the night there, when I, as it were, read 
them word by word, with a sudden check 
to my imperfect wanderings, with a 
sudden softness of composure, which was 
much unexpected. Not for perhaps 
thirty or forty years had I once formally 
repeated that prayer. Nay, I never felt 
before how intensely the voice of man's 
soul it is; the inmost aspiration of all 

of CarlyU. 129 

that is high and pious in poor human 
nature, light worthy to be recommended 
withan«After this manner pray ye.' . 
• . All my little work is henceforth 
private (as I calculate) — ^a setting of my 
poor house in order, which I fain would 
finish in time^ and occasionally fear I 
shan't. Dear Mr. Erskine, good be ever 
with you. . Were my hand as little shaky 
as it is to-day, I would write to you 
oflener. A word from you will ever be 
welcome here. 

" Yours, sincerely and much, 

«T. Carlylb."