Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
From 1800-1829 Literary Anecdotes

MILL had borrowed that first volume of my poor French Revolution (pieces of it more than once) that he might have it all before him, and write down some observations on it, which perhaps I might print as notes. I was busy meanwhile with Volume Second; toiling along like a Nigger, but with the heart of a free Roman: indeed, I know not how it was, I had not felt so clear and independent, sure of myself and of my task for many long years. Well, one night about three weeks ago, we sat at tea, and Mill's short rap was heard at the door: Jane rose to welcome him; but he stood there unresponsive, pale, the very picture of despair; said, half-articulately gasping, that she must go down and speak to Mrs. Taylor. . . . After some considerable additional gasping, I learned from Mill this fact: that my poor Manuscript, all except some four tattered leaves, was annihilated! He had left it out (too carelessly); it had been taken for waste-paper: and so five months of as tough labour as I could remember of, were as good as vanished, gone like a whiff of smoke.—There never in my life had come upon me any other accident of such moment; but this I could not but feel to be a sore one. The thing was lost, and perhaps worse; for I had not only forgotten the structure of it, but the spirit it was written with was past; only the general impression seemed to remain, and the recollection that I was on the whole well satisfied with that, and could now hardly hope to equal it. Mill, whom I had to comfort and speak peace to, remained injudiciously enough till almost midnight, and my poor Dame and I had to sit talking of indifferent matters; and could not till then get our lament freely uttered. She was very good to me; and the thing did not beat us. I felt in general that I was as a little schoolboy, who had laboriously written out his Copy as he could, and was showing it not without satisfaction to the Master: but lo! the Master had suddenly torn it, saying: `No, boy, thou must go and write it better.' What could I do but sorrowing go and try to obey? That night was a hard one; something from time to time tying me tight as it were all round the region of the heart, and strange dreams haunting me: however, I was not without good thoughts too that came like healing life into me; and I got it somewhat reasonably crushed down, not abolished, yet subjected to me with the resolution and prophecy of abolishing. Next morning accordingly I wrote to Fraser (who had advertised the Book as `preparing for publication') that it was all gone back; that he must not speak of it to anyone (till it was made good again); finally that he must send me some better paper, and also a Biographie Universelle, for I was determined to risk ten pounds more upon it. Poor Fraser was very assiduous: I got Bookshelves put up (for the whole House was flowing with Books), where the Biographie (not Fraser's, however, which was countermanded, but Mill's), with much else stands all ready, much readier than before: and so, having first finished out the piece I was actually upon, I began again at the beginning. Early the day after tomorrow (after a hard and quite novel kind of battle) I count on having the First Chapter on paper a second time, no worse than it was, though considerably different.

Letters of Thomas Carlyle (1826-1836), ed. C. E. Norton (2 vols., 1888), ii. 286-289.

SPEAKING of his method of work, he said he had found the little wooden pegs, which washer-women employ to fasten their clothes to a line, highly convenient for keeping together bits of notes and agenda on the same special point. It was his habit to paste on a screen in his workroom engraved portraits, when no better could be had, of the people he was then writing about. It kept the image of the man steadily in view, and one must have a clear image of him in the mind before it was in the least possible to make him be seen by the reader.

Duffy, Conversations, p. 92.

KINGSLEY, whom I met for the first time.... talked, I recollect, much about Carlyle, and told me, on the great man's own authority, the following edifying tale. The most dyspeptic of philosophers had been terribly bored by the persistent optimism of his friend Emerson.

`I thought', he said, `that I would try to cure him, so I took him to some of the lowest parts of London and showed him all that was going on there. This done, I turned to him saying, "And noo, man, d'ye believe in the deevil noo?" — "Oh no," he replied, "all these people seem to me only parts of the great machine, and, on the whole, I think they are doing their work very satisfactorily!" '
'Then,' continued the sage, `I took him doun to the Hoose o'Commons, where they put us under the Gallery. There I showed him ae chiel getting up after anither and leeing and leeing. Then I turned to him and said, "And noo, man, d'ye believe in the deevil noo?" He made me, however, just the same answer as before, and then I gave him up in despair!'

Grant Duff, Notes, i. 51-52.

IN the course of the evening the conversation turned on the war in the United. States.

`There they are,' said Carlyle, `cutting' each other's throats, because one half of them prefer hiring their servants for life, and the other by the hour.'

Grant Duff, Notes, i. 204.

Rossetti talked . . . of Caryle walking with William Allingham in the neighbourhood of the Kensington Museum, and announcing his intention of writing a life of Michael Angelo, and then adding, by the way of remonstrance against his companion's quickening interest, `But, mind ye, I'll no' say much about his art.'

Hall Caine, My Story (1908), p.179.

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