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university, was strong in Carlyle's father, and made him devote himself, after the day's work was over, to teach his five-year-old boy arithmetic. Then he sent him to the village school, where he was adjudged "complete" in English at seven. But perhaps the best early lessons the boy had, came from contact with his father and the sterling inheritance derived from him. "I know Robert Burns," Carlyle says, "and I knew my father; yet were you to ask me which had the greater natural faculty, I might actually pause before replying! Never, of all men I have seen, has one come personally in my way in whom the endowment from Nature and the Arena from Fortune were utterly out of all proportion." But since he was a man of acute perceptions, of natural logic, with a way of getting, first-hand, at the heart of a matter, life had educated the elder Carlyle richly outside of the schools. His trenchant style gave extraordinary vividness to his speech, which had fame through the country-side. "That bold glowing style of his, flowing free from the untutored Soul, full of metaphors (though he knew not what a metaphor was) with all manner of potent words. . . . Nothing did I ever hear him undertake to render visible, which did not become almost ocularly so. . . The fault was that he exaggerated (which tendency I also inherit); yet only in description and for the sake chiefly of humorous effect." Thomas Carlyle, master of invective, of wild Gargantuan humor, of mingled words of vision had his first lessons from the living speech of his father. From him, too, he had the great lesson of honest toil; "Let me write my Books as he built his Houses!"
When nine years old, the young Carlyle started off with his father one bright morning on foot for the Annandale Grammar School, his mother in tears at their first separation. Here the boy learned Latin, French, and mathe
matics so well that a month before he was fourteen, he was ready for Edinburgh University, and walked the distance of eighty miles, his bundle over his shoulder, a whistling companion, Tom Smail, by his side. Thus did he make his entry into that university which was later to honor him as its Lord Rector. The professors and the academic work seem to have counted singularly little in his development. To one man only did Carlyle feel indebtedness, to Professor Leslie, in whose subject, mathematics, Carlyle worked with distinction. In Leslie's Elements of Geometry (1817) appears this interesting note: "The solution of this important problem now inserted in the text, was suggested to me by an ingenious young mathematician, Mr. Thomas Carlyle, formerly my pupil." Later, in 1822, Carlyle translated very admirably Legendre's Geometry. But geometry which stood before him long as "the noblest of all sciences," gave way in time to more pregnant inquiries. "What the Universities can mainly do for you,-what I have found the University did for me," said Carlyle some fifty-five years later in his Lord Rector's address, is, "That it taught me to read." The immense range and variety of his reading through these years and the years of his teaching-from Berkeley's Principles of Knowledge and Newton's Principia to Miss Porter's Scottish Chiefs-impress one deeply; the philosophers, historians, the Latin and French writers, were all levied on for their contribution. Like Herr Teufelsdröckh, Carlyle might say of his university: “I learned on my own strength to read fluently in almost all cultivated languages on almost all subjects and sciences." With such an equipment, Carlyle completed his university career at the age of eighteen.
The next ten years of Carlyle's life (1813-23) were the real test of his mettle; few men have met a more severe
test. How to live, the first problem, solved itself by his acceptance of a position as mathematical tutor, through the indorsement of Professor Leslie, at Annan Academy, "a situation flatly contradictory to all ideals or wishes of mine;" and later, another teaching post at Kirkcaldy, where he met his life-long friend Edward Irving. In the dreariness of those years the friendship of Irving, without whom "I had never known what the communion of man with man means," stands out as a divine compensation. With his vehement, restless temperament, Carlyle was ill-fitted to be a teacher, and the utter irksomeness of the work led him to resign (1818) and return to Edinburgh to eke out existence by private lessons and by translating French scientific pamphlets. Food from the home farm— oatmeal, butter, and cakes, kept him at times from actual want. Even as early as this, he was suffering from dyspepsia, which "gnawed like a rat at his vitals" and gave unendurable pain. "Solitary, eating out my own heart, fast losing my health, too, a prey to nameless struggles and miseries, which have yet a kind of horror to them in my thoughts; three weeks without any kind of sleep from impossibility to be free of noise,"-this is Carlyle's memory of those bitter Edinburgh days which would have crushed any man of less indomitable will.
At the same time, he was passing through a religious struggle in which the grounds of faith seemed tottering. It happened to be a period of hard times,-food at famine. prices, laborers out of work, so that the world looked just then particularly out of joint. Surely it was against great odds that Carlyle was fighting,-against physical pain, against poverty closing in so sharply as to threaten to forbid his career as a writer, against doubts that swept his inner being with anguish. Suddenly, when he was strolling on the Leith Walk in June, 1821, there came to
him a kind of powerful baptism of faith, which put the whole army of miscreant doubts to flight. "I asked myself: 'What art thou afraid of? Wherefore, like a coward, dost thou forever pip and whimper, and go cowering and trembling?' And as I thought, there rushed like a stream of fire over my whole soul, and I shook base fear away from me forever. I was strong; of unknown strength; a spirit; almost a god. . . . It is from this hour I incline to date my spiritual new birth; perhaps I directly thereupon began to be a man." So Carlyle, with mystic autobiographic reference, describes the experience in Sartor Resartus. To enter the church, however, as Carlyle's parents, when they sent him to the university had predestined him, was an utter impossibility. He himself had thought of the law, but decided that it was an endless series of cases between "Blockhead A and Blockhead B," all sham and futility! To write—that was the real goal of his desire.
Fortunately just at this time a new intellectual impulse was bearing him forward to what was to be his distinctive contribution to English letters. Carlyle began to learn German on account of his interest in mineralogy. With the aid of a grammar procured from London, a lexicon, a few books imported from Hamburg, some lessons from a Mr. Jardine in return for French lessons, he forged his way toward a fairly wide acquaintance with the language. "I have lived riotously with Schiller, Goethe, and the rest: they are the greatest men at present with me," he writes to a friend; and again, "I could tell you much about the new Heaven and new Earth which a slight study of German literature has revealed to me." Very fittingly Carlyle's first published book was a translation of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister (1824). The London Times quoted part of the Meister by this unknown translator and so gave
Carlyle his "first public nod of approval." He was now fairly launched in his German work. In 1823-24 his Life of Schiller was appearing in the London Magazine, a biography full of vivid charm and insight, which was later translated into German, with an eulogistic preface by Goethe.
The significance of Goethe and Schiller for Carlyle lies partly, perhaps chiefly, in the clarification which they brought to him, in a period of mental and spiritual turbulence, seeking, as he was, something which would give unity to human experience. Their message led him triumphant toward the light, and he in turn became its spokesman to England. Schiller's struggle in life was not unlike Carlyle's. He, too, began in obscurity, spent his young energy against hostile circumstances, and finally by his indomitable will and genius won his way to the highest place in German literature-second only to Goethe. To one battling as Carlyle was in his chosen career, Schiller was a stirring symbol of the power of spirit over material obstacles. To Goethe Carlyle's indebtedness is greater. For many generations of men, Goethe has held the mystic key to life; as Matthew Arnold reminds us, "This man understood all the sicknesses of the modern world and had the secret of their cure." At first, in Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle saw much inanity, but gradually it revealed itself to him as Goethe's "spiritual history," and more than that, “the emblem of all true men's in these days." With passionate eagerness Carlyle grasped the central thought of the Meister's Travels, "the change from inward imprisonment, doubt and discontent, into freedom, belief, and clear activity." It is no wonder that he felt "endlessly indebted to Goethe in this business. He in his fashion, I perceived, had traveled the steep road before me-the first of the moderns."
The next ten years mark the period of Carlyle's work as