Obrázky na stránke

a reviewer. From 1824 to 1834 he was busy with that vast body of essays which constitute his Miscellanies. In June, 1824, Carlyle went to London, with the Bullers, for whose sons he had been tutor the two preceding years while at work on Wilhelm Meister. This relation with the Bullers he terminated abruptly, soon after reaching London, and now definitely embarked on literature as his sole support. In the struggle to keep alive, Carlyle had begun to write articles for Brewster's Encyclopedia, contributing sixteen in all on a great variety of subjects, beginning with Montaigne and ending with Pitt. This experience very naturally pointed the way toward other work of the same kind. A letter of introduction to Jeffrey, editor of the Edinburgh Review, led to a friendship which opened the doors of that magazine at once.

Carlyle's marriage (1826) counts in his life with special significance. Jane Welsh was above him in social position, a woman of extraordinary mental acuteness and vivacity, of brilliant charm. Her personality makes her a figure of almost equal interest with Carlyle. It was a strange marriage for Jane Welsh; her friends recognized that Carlyle was not the man to make any woman happy in the ordinary sense; it was not in him, any more than it was in Dean Swift, to create what Burns calls "a happy fireside clime." His dyspepsia drove him at times to the verge of madness; his writing was produced in such turmoil and stress that it led to the highest degree of nervous irritability; his temperament expressed itself in explosive utterance regardless of anyone; even his doting mother admits he was "gey ill to live with." The Carlyles settled in Comely Bank, Edinburgh, and soon through Mrs. Carlyle's wonderful social gifts and her equally wonderful conversation, they attracted to their home some of the best minds in Edinburgh-Sir William Hamilton, Sir

David Brewster, John Wilson ("Christopher North"), Jeffrey, De Quincey, and many lesser lights. Jeffrey's first call at Comely Bank made him Mrs. Carlyle's warm friend for life and increased his eagerness to serve her husband.

From Comely Bank came the first papers published in the Edinburgh Review on Richter and Goethe. But the essays brought so little money, and difficulties pressed so hard, that the Carlyles had to leave Edinburgh to go to live on a remote farm inherited by Mrs. Carlyle, Craigenputtock, famous in literary history as "the dreariest spot in the British dominions." Here for six years (1828-34) the Carlyles lived, with only occasional absences, in utter isolation. Craigenputtock is on a bleak upland, seven hundred feet above the sea, where vegetation is stunted, where winter beats with relentless storm for a longer time than elsewhere in Scotland. Of neighbors and towns there are none for sixteen miles. Carlyle's brother Alexander and a sister took charge of the farm, but gave it up in failure at the end.

For Mrs. Carlyle life at Craigenputtock was full of hardship and bitter loneliness. Often the heavy labor of the household fell on her shoulders, labor for which her delicate health and lack of experience rendered her entirely unfit. It was a necessity for Carlyle to be much alone, to think out his thoughts in his study, away from the slightest sound of noise, or in solitary rides over the hills on horseback, so that Mrs. Carlyle was shut out from the close companionship with her husband which would have made "the desert" endurable. Her health so visibly failed that the Jeffreys and other Edinburgh friends who came for brief visits in the summer, viewed the Craigenputtock experiment with anxious concern. Carlyle was too preoccupied to realize how harshly the conditions bore

on his wife. Sometimes for three months at a time no one would come to their door. So unusual was a visitor that when Emerson, on his first trip to England, sought them out, Carlyle describes it as "the first journey since Noah's deluge undertaken to Craigenputtock." A memorable meeting it was when this "sky messenger alighted to me at Craigenputtock and vanished in the blue again," for it began one of the few lasting friendships of Carlyle's life.

For Carlyle's literary work, these years at Craigenputtock were very fruitful; the isolation, the healthy outdoor life, gave him time to delve into the recesses of his being, to find himself in the world of thought, to speak his own authentic message. Other reviews opened their doors to his articles-The Foreign Review, Frazer's Magazine, and The New Monthly. Three bulky volumes of Miscellanies are composed in large part of the essays written at Craigenputtock on many subjects, but chiefly on German literature. In all these papers, the absolute integrity and soundness of Carlyle's information is very striking. He spared no pains; he brought to bear the vast resources of his reading on each new problem; he sent forth work thorough and sincere to the utmost of his capacity. The essay on Burns was the first of the essays written after settling at Craigenputtock.

Besides these reviews, Carlyle wrote there Sartor Resartus, which has been the puzzlement of pedestrian minds ever since and the despair of critics. All his extreme mannerisms blaze forth in this remarkable book, which presents his philosophy of life through the medium of an imaginary German Professor, Herr Teufelsdröckh. It is a clothes philosophy, expressing the idea that external things are but the vesture of spirit animating from within. As a means of expounding abstract truths, the form of Sartor Resartus "is daringly original." It is not an autobiog

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

raphy, not a romance, not a philosophical treatise, yet in a sense it is all these combined. Carlyle "invents the erudite German Professor of Things-in-General, of whom he is student and interpreter; sedately reproves the professor for going too far, after one of his long harangues, and so satirizes the method of German writers lost in minutiæ." It is "mystically autobiographic" in that the professor's experiences are similar to Carlyle's own; in form and in essence the most distinctive expression of Carlyle's peculiar genius.

In 1834, the Carlyles abandoned Craigenputtock for London, and entered upon a new era of life. The work of the reviewer was practically over. Carlyle had served his long apprenticeship. He was now to embark on those larger literary labors which make the substance of his fame. It is very noteworthy how slowly recognition came, that until the publication of the French Revolution (1837) in his forty-second year, he had won no considerable place for himself. Keats, who was born in the same year as Carlyle, wrote the poems that have made his name cherished the world over, before death overtook him in his twenty-fifth year. Had Carlyle's life ended then, he would have gone forth quite unknown. Shelley, who was only three years older than Carlyle, accomplished his work and was laid to rest near Keats in the English cemetery at Rome, not quite thirty years old. Byron eight years older than Carlyle, died at thirty-six, at the high tide of his fame. Macaulay, who was five years younger than Carlyle, was a commanding figure in England before Carlyle had achieved anything like national prominence. It is interesting to place Carlyle thus among his contemporaries, because it shows by comparison not only the late expression of his power, but also the totally different world of thought in which he moved. Macaulay's whole philoso

phy and attitude toward life is separated by an enormous span from Carlyle's. Macaulay exemplifies the satisfaction with mechanism as such for bettering the world, pride in the achievements of our civilization, unlimited faith in political reforms as cures for social injustice, entire complacency with our industrial progress. From this point of view as well as from the point of view of the romantic poets contemporary with him, Carlyle was equally removed. He comes to us thundering from under his prophet's mantle to put away all such vanities, to accept the hard terms of life heroically, to work and ask not why. Literature appeals to Carlyle as a means of promulgating his views on the duty and destiny of man, of bringing some "gospel tidings." His criticism is largely destructive, an attack on shams, conventionalities, bogies, and political panaceas. Nothing will help mankind but the renovation of the spirit within, and all this energy spent on externals is sheer futility. In our civilization and material prosperity, he discerns no cause for gratulation, but rather the constant peril of mistaking externals as ends in themselves.

The French Revolution (1837) is the great milestone in Carlyle's career. Arrived in London (1834) with £200 or £300 as a reserve, the Carlyles settled in Cheyne Row, where in later days many other notables have lived: Turner, George Eliot, Rossetti, Swinburne, and Meredith. The French Revolution, the first-fruit of the London life, met dramatic eclipse at the outset. When Carlyle had finished the first volume, he lent it to John Stuart Mill, who in turn lent it to a Mrs. Taylor. Mrs. Taylor's servant accidentally burned the entire manuscript. The Carlyles were in sore financial straits; there was "bitter thrift" indeed in that household when this sudden loss threatened to overwhelm them. Memorable, indeed, must have been that visit of Mill when, "distraction in his aspect," he came to

« PredošláPokračovať »