Imatges de pÓgina
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has it to do with the matter? Follow the laws of the universe, says Carlyle. But the relation of man to the universe, and of man to man, are very different matters, and it is with the latter that politics concerns itself.

His manner of dealing with questions of the day convinces us, that with rare right-mindedness, and great genius, and imagination, he has shown singular incapacity for any other function of statesmanship than the secondary one of perpetual objection and opposition. All his learning, industry, imagination, and zeal, only enable him to hit a blot, and exaggerate it into a canker imminently fatal. He reminds us of an indefatigable whist-player whom we know-fond of the game, keen to win, and with such an extraordinary memory, that he knows all the cards that are played, and could name those in everybody's hand with considerable accuracy at any stage of the Ideal; yet he can never be trusted for two minutes together not to make a revoke.

As a philosopher, then, expounding a doctrine of general application, we think he has been immensely overrated, looming large in clouds of his own raising. As an objector, he is often, though we believe not intentionally, unfairly carried away by his habit of prophesying and denouncing. As a guide, he puts into our benighted hands a lantern with no candle in it. As a moralist, he is altogether unexceptionable; yet even here we find none of the originality which his admirers so largely claim for him. That to be is better than to seem that it is good to reverence worth-that many evils exist in the world, and that if we could find out the ablest men among us, and give them due authority, many of these might be remedied-that there is an inner light or conscience to teach us right and wrong-that there is work appointed to every man which he neglects at his peril,-these are surely no new doctrines, but old as society -at any rate old as morality and philosophy-and ages before Thomas Carlyle was born were embalmed in the proverbs of many peoples. Yet it is by reiterating such doctrines

in forms more or less fantastic, that he has achieved his very considerable reputation.

And yet, for a man to write so much, and always be true to these doctrines-keeping his footing always on the virtue and necessity of genuineness, of reverence, of conscientiousness of the immeasurable precedence which pleasure must concede to duty-is an excellent and solid basis both for a man himself and for a reputation to rest upon. For consider, if sermons generally, with a fair amount of eloquence, illustrated such themes, how much more common church-going would be-how much better it would fare with the congregations-and what gratitude and applause the discourses would earn for the preachers! Consider this, and then, how can we deny what measure of fame lies in our thanks and approval to him who devotes his life to enlarging on such noble texts, which though very old are always new, to a national instead of a parish congregation? It is one thing for a man to feel conscious that these are truths, or even to be so strongly impressed with them as occasionally to inculcate them, and another thing for a man to be so imbued with their spirit that it tingesnay, dyes deeply-all the products of his mind. What Carlyle says of Novalis may with equal truth be said of himself: "His moral persuasions, as evinced in his writings and life, derive themselves naturally enough from the same source. It is the morality of a man to whom the earth and all its glories are in truth a vapour and a Dream, and the Beauty of Goodness the only real possession. Poetry, Virtue, Religion, which for other men have but, as it were, a traditionary and imagined existence, are for him the everlasting basis of the Universe."

In discussing his works, it is impossible not to notice his singular style. Odd as it is, we think it may be accounted for without charging him with affectation. It appears to us that a writer inculcating such opinions, who says, "I will be genuine; I will transcribe my exact thought in the language that most exactly pictures it, without regard

either to elegancies of style or conventional forms of expression of anything but literal rendering of the ideas as I see them,-true even in this to my philosophy of dealing not with semblances but underlying ideas,"-may, without affectation or conscious wish to strike the attention by singularity, write in Carlyle's manner, by simply watching and recording his thoughts, and the states of mind they produce in him. If his thoughts habitually present themselves in the concrete, there will be a large amount of imagery and metaphor. If he wishes to convey in briefest the whole of what prespace sents itself to his mind's eye, he must resort to pregnant allusive epithets; and, to keep his thought-laden sentences within compass, he must, in order to admit what he thinks essential, clip off all that is not as redundancy. As he says himself of Cromwell's style, "Superfluity, as if by a natural law of the case, the writer had to discard. Whatsoever quality can be dispensed with is indifferent to him." If he wants to convey a shade of meaning for which only an approximate word exists, and he is not satisfied with a paraphrase, he must alter the old word or invent a new one. Feeling strongly, he expresses those feelings, and seeks to arouse them in the reader, not by description, but by interjection, allusion, sarcasm, or passionate appeal.

It is possible to transcribe thought literally, and yet never pass the limits of a correct style. In fact, the very essence of good style is to convey the thought with the greatest nicety, combined with the greatest vigour. There are many passages in Carlyle's works of the finest eloquence, to which no purist could take exception, and which yet have evidently occurred as he has been pursuing, without intentional change of thought or expression, his ordinary method. But this only proves that the literal transcript of ideas, just as they present themselves, is, in some cases, the best mode of expression others, not. It must depend on the value of the idea. When the subject-matter is such as to be best conveyed by winged metaphor, and indeed hardly admits of other ve

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hicle-when it is of such intrinsic solidity and worth as to bear the keen flashing light of vivid illustration, not only without loss, but with increase of truthfulness-we get either splendid prose or high poetry. But Mr Carlyle's subjectmatter, though often, is not always of this high cast; and when it is not, he sinks from manner into a most abject mannerism. Take these two examples of his worst and best style:

THE NEW DOWNING STREET.

"At present, as was said, while Red Republic but clashes with foul Bureaucracy, and nations sunk in blind ignavia demand a universal-suffrage Parliament to heal their wretchedness, and wild An

archy and Phallus-Worship struggle with Sham-Kingship and extinct or galvanised Catholicism, and in the Cave of the

Winds all manner of rotten waifs and

wrecks are hurled against each other,our English interest in the controversy, however huge said controversy grow, is quite trifling. We have only in a handsome manner to say to it, 'Tumble and

rage along, ye rotten waifs and wrecks; clash and collide as seems fittest to you; and smite each other into annihilation at your own good pleasure. In that huge

conflict, dismal but unavoidable, we, thanks to our heroic ancestors, having got so far ahead of you, have now no interest at all. Our decided notion is, the dead ought to bury their dead in such a case; and so we have the honour to be, with distinguished consideration, your entirely devoted FLIMNAP, Sec.

Foreign Department.'"

The other is from Past and Present. The old chronicle he has been quoting from abruptly ends :

"The magnanimous abbot makes preparation for departure, departs, and

And Jocelin's Boswellian narrative, suddenly shorn through by the scissors of Destiny, ends. There are no words more, but a black line and leaves of blank paper. Irremediable: the miraculous hand that held all this theatric machinery suddenly quits hold; impenetrable Time-Curtains rush down; in the mind's eye all is again dark, void: with loud dinning in the mind's ear, our real phantasmagory of St Edmundsbury plunges into the bosom of the Twelfth Century again, and all is over. Monks, Abbot, Hero-worship, Government, Obedience, Coeur-de-Lion, and St Edmund's Shrine, vanish like Mirza's Vision, and there is nothing left but a mutilated

black Ruin, amid green botanic expanses, and oxen, sheep, and dilettanti pasturing in their places."

Those who are offended by his style should read some of his essays -on Voltaire, for instance, and Boswell's Johnson,-essays not to be surpassed either for style or thought.

But there is one habit of his which we can never get accustomed to, and which always recurs to us in a ridiculous light-that of keeping some of his images constantly by him, and reproducing them as if they were puppets in a box. When he sits down to write, his peaceful study is thronged by spectres of the most terrific description, invoked by the flourish of his pen. While he is with due incantation casting the magic bullets that are to hit and slay the Unveracities and Ineptitudes, the charmed circle in which he works is surrounded by a horrible panoramic phantasmagory, where all ages and nations of the world are jumbled as in a Christmas pantomime, or rather where all the tinsel monstrosities of many old pantomimes are brought up, all battered and defaced with the wear and tear of the former season, and the whacks of facetious clown and irreverent harlequin, and play over again their time-worn parts in a manner suggestive rather of managerial thrift than of pantomimic art. The difficulties and obstructions of life appear to him as Frost-Giantssome familiar evils figure in the singular disguise of Mud-Demonsothers gibber as Dead-Sea apisms, while the background is made up of Foam-Oceans and Stygian Quagmires, and the whole scene is surrounded by an atmosphere of Silences and SphereHarmonies. What you thought was a simple folly, the magician tells you is an Ineptitude, and, as a charm against it, offers you an old bone from his collection of amulets; what had hitherto passed for a weak ordinary official personage, turns out to be a Phantasm-Captain; till you either end by becoming a trustful guest at this Barmecide's feast of horrors, or else cannot help looking on your entertainer as one who has the power of bringing himself into a state of delirium tremens without undergoing the preliminary excesses.

Poor little Prince Arthur knew young gentlemen in England who would sometimes be sad only for wantonness. There are young gentlemen of that complexion in England still, who, as they once adopted Byronism, or the despairing-romantic, now fall into Carlylism, or the despairing-prophetic. If this way of looking at life is true, then it would be good that all the youth of England should be trained in it. But what kind of men shall we rear upon such vapourish diet? Is it desirable that the public generally, or the thinking portion of it, shall look on the material world as clothes for a central idea; on themselves and their fellowmen as apparitions; on difficulties as Jötuns; on the great mass of mankind, including most of their friends and acquaintances, as Ineptitudes and Inanities; and on the great majority of public and private proceedings as universal Stygian Quagmires? We shall be told that this is a very disrespectful way of speaking of the fantasies of a genius; that when the poet's eye rolls in a fine frenzy, we should stand aloof in silent reverence. But it is one thing for the magician to be attended by an Ariel or even a Puck, and another for him to be dogged by such a witch-rabble as hunted Tam O'Shanter, or cheered old ladies with their fascinating company in the days of Matthew Hopkins.

We sometimes wonder whether Thomas carries his principles into the ordinary affairs of life; whether, when he wants to descend from the upper story of his habitation, he avails himself of the Vesture or Appearance of the stairs, or places himself in relation to the Laws of the Universe, and precipitates himself over the bannisters, confiding in the underlying fact of gravitation? Does he read his evening paper by the light of the eternal stars? When he leaves his haunted study, and drops his pen, does he abjure his rough magic, bury his staff in the back garden, drown his book of spells in the water-butt, and hang up on a peg on the hall, along with his wizard gown, covered with weird images like a San-Benito garment, all his doleful vaticinations, and ap

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pear as a man of this world? or does he walk abroad accompanied by the spectral crew that minister to him during the terrific period of composition? If so, he must be a cheerful and convivial associate, especially desirable about a sick-bed where the doctor wishes the depressed and haply hypochondriacal patient to enjoy some exhilarating conversation. It must be extremely agreeable for a friend, conscious of possessing only an average intellect, and very little power of philosophic remark, to know that the sage with whom he is conversing regards him as a Doleful Creature, or for another who accosts him to feel that the sagacious thinker recognises in his speech nothing but "windy babble." In his cheerfullest and most gallant moods young ladies may perhaps rather plume themselves on appearing to him as and rose-bloom maidens;" but it must be less flattering for the greater part of his intimates to enjoy his society in the certainty that he sees in them Dilettantes and Windbags, doomed to be swept away into the Inane, their congenial element, by a speedy righteous decree which he will himself have the pleasure of announcing to them; and that he is constantly from the bosom of his family looking forward to the day when they will all be happily got rid of, together with the majority of the human race, and make room for a grand Wittenagemote of Abbot Samsons, Teufelsdröckhs, heroes, and German mystagogues, who will, by virtue of their veracity and power of seeing the thing that is, at once distinguish their Can-ning, Kon-ning, Cunning or Able-man, and by universal acclamation, and amid grand diapasons of the Sphere-Harmonies, elect Thomas to rule this fortunate planet as Chief Nebulosity or Absolute-Nightmare.

Or is it "not so, but far otherwise?" Shall we rather believe him to be at heart jovially inclined, nourishing no such treasonable designs either on the throne of this realm or the liberties of the world in general; nay, that there might be found in him on occasion, in some comfortable cosy assembly, considerable faculty of enjoyment, even some dim sense of jocosity and hilarity, by no means

inarticulate, expressing itself, if not in voluntary solo-comic ditty, yet in stentorian chorus to such, at sound of which the fiends that habitually haunt Poor Tom, crying for ever hungrily in his belly for two white herrings, would vanish like ghosts at cock-crow, leaving him to finish the evening, cheeriest of the revellers, with red herrings in his belly instead of white, together with roasted oysters, anchovy toasts, and brandy punch. And though we should very much like to form one of that party, yet what we should most like to see would be a quiet meeting between Thomas and that other master-spirit Ruskin. After grim interchange of salutation, they would at first eye each other doubtfully-Thomas askance, Ruskin "with a high-sniffing air”till, after a few preliminary formalities, each would mount his hobby, and settling down in the saddle and ramming in the spurs, begin his eccentric, nebulous, and highy aggressive career. A solitary sage of pugnacious temper upon a hobby is a formidable spectacle; but think of two converging! There would be a collision before they had gone ten yards hobbies and riders sent sprawling-and then-heavens! did ever philosophers and master-spirits use such language before? The meeting ought to take place somewhere in the neighbourhood of Kilkenny.

Let any one after diligent perusal of Carlyle's works first realise the impression of life and society they have left on him. There he will see depicted, in the darkest and most lurid colours, the spectacle of a world sinking to ruin, inhabited by nations of men living a life of habitual hopeless baseness and untruth amid the tattered mockeries of governments and religions. Then let him clear his brain of that image, and look abroad on England. He will see laws as equitably administered, government as honest and enlightened, charities as active, and a clergy of as pure exemplary life and quick religion as in any age he can point to. He will look on much misery, but also on as large a proportion of happiness as has fallen to the lot of any generation. He will find wrong and evil

black Ruin, amid green botanic expanses, and oxen, sheep, and dilettanti pastur ing in their places."

Those who are offended by his style should read some of his essays -on Voltaire, for instance, and Boswell's Johnson,-essays not to be surpassed either for style or thought.

But there is one habit of his which we can never get accustomed to, and which always recurs to us in a ridiculous light-that of keeping some of his images constantly by him, and reproducing them as if they were puppets in a box. When he sits down to write, his peaceful study is thronged by spectres of the nost terrific description, invoked by the flourish of his pen. While he is with due incantation casting the magic bullets that are to hit and slay the Unveracities and Ineptitudes, the charmed circle in which he works is surrounded by a horrible panoramic phantasmagory, where all ages and nations of the world are jumbled as in a Christmas pantomime, or rather where all the tinsel monstrosities of many old pantomimes are brought up, all battered and defaced with the wear and tear of the former season, and the whacks of facetious clown and irreverent harlequin, and play over again their time-worn parts in a manner suggestive rather of managerial thrift than of pantomimic art. The difficulties and obstructions of life appear to him as Frost-Giantssome familiar evils figure in the singular disguise of Mud-Demonsothers gibber as Dead-Sea apisms, while the background is made up of Foam-Oceans and Stygian Quagmires, and the whole scene is surrounded by an atmosphere of Silences and SphereHarmonies. What you thought was a simple folly, the magician tells you is an Ineptitude, and, as a charm against it, offers you an old bone from his collection of amulets; what had hitherto passed for a weak ordinary official personage, turns out to be a Phantasm-Captain; till you either end by becoming a trustful guest at this Barmecide's feast of horrors, or else cannot help looking on your entertainer as one who has the power of bringing himself into a state of delirium tremens without undergoing the preliminary excesses.

Poor little Prince Arthur knew young gentlemen in England who would sometimes be sad only for wantonness. There are young gentlemen of that complexion in England still, who, as they once adopted Byronism, or the despairing-romantic, now fall into Carlylism, or the despairing-prophetic. If this way of looking at life is true, then it would be good that all the youth of England should be trained in it. But what kind of men shall we rear upon such vapourish diet? Is it desirable that the public generally, or the thinking portion of it, shall look on the material world as clothes for a central idea; on themselves and their fellowmen as apparitions; on difficulties as Jötuns; on the great mass of mankind, including most of their friends and acquaintances, as Ineptitudes and Inanities; and on the great majority of public and private proceedings as universal Stygian Quagmires? We shall be told that this is a very disrespectful way of speaking of the fantasies of a genius; that when the poet's eye rolls in a fine frenzy, we should stand aloof in silent reverence. But it is one thing for the magician to be attended by an Ariel or even a Puck, and another for him to be dogged by such a witch-rabble as hunted Tam O'Shanter, or cheered old ladies with their fascinating company in the days of Matthew Hopkins.

We sometimes wonder whether Thomas carries his principles into the ordinary affairs of life; whether, when he wants to descend from the upper story of his habitation, he avails himself of the Vesture or Appearance of the stairs, or places himself in relation to the Laws of the Universe, and precipitates himself over the bannisters, confiding in the underlying fact of gravitation? Does he read his evening paper by the light of the eternal stars? When he leaves his haunted study, and drops his pen, does he abjure his rough magic, bury his staff in the back garden, drown his book of spells in the water-butt, and hang up on a peg on the hall, along with his wizard gown, covered with weird images like a San-Benito garment, all his doleful vaticinations, and ap

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