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lutely destitute, for the most part, of the | Revolution," as far as the universality of its peculiar charm and the peculiar stimulating application goes, would have been more inpower for which its author will be remem--complete,-would, indeed, have been hopebered among English men of letters. The lessly and dangerously incomplete,-without translations and the "Schiller" thus give the succor of the book which had so us the two currents, the Saône and Rhone, strange a preliminary experience before it of Mr. Carlyle's future literary river. In all could get itself published to the world. the rest of his work we see how their united After all, the too celebrated subscriber to force waters the vineyards, supplies the great "Fraser had his excuses. If a trained cities, and serves as central artery to the critic like Jeffrey could go so far wrong, mighty province of his literary domain. In what might be expected of a layman? To these comparatively early works, not merely the average English ear of 1830, "Sarthe style, but also the matter, is noteworthy. tor Resartus" had the double defect of From the nature of it, it could contain little talking in a language not understood of the or nothing of its author's own thought. It people about things of which the people could only indicate that thought more or knew nothing. The "French Revolution" less indirectly and suggestively. The first was, as a subject, at least free from the lattwo independent works of his genius ter drawback. If the average Briton knew completed the presentation. If we had very little about its details, the fact of it nothing of Mr. Carlyle's but the "Sartor and the importance of it were still fresh in Resartus and the French Revolution," his memory. He had not ceased "to plume we should lack a great deal of literary de- himself because we beat the Corsican," or light. We should not, perhaps, lack much to believe-in which, indeed, he was not literary instruction. The one still remains, far wrong-that it was the turning-point on the whole, the most perfect presentment of the history of Europe. There was, thereof his humoristic criticism; the other is, fore, at least, common ground between him unquestionably, the best presentment of his and his author. His interest and dim genremarkable combination of minute historical eral acquaintance with the subject supplied research with the widest and most compre- the term wanting in the case of "Sartor hensible historical view. It is probably not Resartus," and while the United States, to an exaggeration to say that no book of the their eternal honor, had welcomed the latnineteenth century has equaled "Sartor ter book long before it could venture to Resartus" in the peculiar effect which it has make its appearance in volume form in had on the minds of young readers. The England, the "French Revolution" made comparison of the chemical mixture which its mark from the day of publication, forced remains liquid as long as it be undisturbed, itself onward against all opposition, and for but shoots into crystallizations directly after nearly half a century has held, and is never the slightest shock is administered to it, is a likely to lose, the position of the locus hackneyed one; but nothing so aptly ex- classicus, in which all men of English birth presses this effect. Like all Mr. Carlyle's and speech shall seek their knowledge of works, "Sartor Resartus" is remarkably that tremendous fact. That it is worthy barren in purely practical admonition. of the position which, in England at least, What he has to teach is, it has been well is generally assigned it, of the best of its ausaid, "an attitude, not a gospel"; and it is thor's works, judged from all points of view, the attitude of "Sartor Resartus" which I have no doubt. It is not so marvelous a hundreds and thousands of English-speak- monument of insight as the "Cromwell." ing and English-reading youths during the Detached passages from the " Essays," from last half-century have felt constrained, much the " Latter-day Pamphlets," and from other to their souls' health, to adopt. To blench pieces excel it in originality of humor, and at no paradox, to accept no convention, to quaint, fantastic perversion, and topsy-turvipierce below the surface at whatever cost fication. "The Life of Sterling" is even apparently of safe and comfortable foot-hold, more admirable as a work of art. The to get rid of belief in believing and assump- "Frederick" is a more surprising evidence tion of knowing, these are the lessons taught of untiring labor and of the comprehensivein this earliest book, as it may perhaps be ness of grasp which is afraid of no mass of allowably taken to be, of the master's, and no details, and which knows how to master others will be learnt from the most attentive them all. student of his later lucubrations. Yet the lesson, incomplete even with the "French
But if these separate good gifts are more eminently present in other works, the
"French Revolution" exhibits them in the most harmonious combination. It is the most practically serviceable in the education of the citizen and the man of letters, and above all, it is the first sprightly running of its author's mind in the direction of practical and historical application of an original, if partial and one-sided, view of human life and human affairs. M. Taine's memorable complaint of the extravagant titles of the chapters, of the way in which the events are enveloped in a cloudy haze of declamation, will always remain a most interesting proof of the incompatibility of certain eyes to adjust themselves to certain telescopes. To the French critic, the events of which he had, as he thought, a nicely coördinated idea, were thrown into "pi" by Mr. Carlyle. To most Englishmen, even if they have taken the trouble to ascertain the facts by careful reference to authorities the most indisputable and the most diverse, the mys terious and almost incredible events of the French Revolution range themselves into a possible and intelligible whole in Mr. Carİyle's account, and in that account almost only. Such a view does not exclude difference of political opinion; it does not exclude the admission that in some cases the writer may have failed to take the true view. It simply amounts to an assertion that, in this famous book, for almost the first time since Tacitus, history had ceased to be a matter of words and names, of dates and figures. Between the "Annals" and the "French Revolution," the dramatic truth of history had for the most part been lost sight of; in the latter book it emerged into full recognition. That we have since suffered many things from the dramatic historian matters little; the fact remains that the "French Revolution," after nearly a century of very praiseworthy philosophy of history, made the dry bones of the science live and move, and once more have an active being.
Any elaborate inquiry into that most interesting of subjects to the purely literary critic, the style of Carlyle, would be here out of place; yet, perhaps, a few words as from one who has considered that matter with such light as he has had may be given. The vague popular notion that this style consists in a mere Germanizing, and especially Richterizing, of English may be dismissed at once. For, in the first place, the first evil characteristic of a purely German style, as it appears to the impartial considerer of German literature in the original, from Wolfram von Eschenbach to Heine, is absent. That
characteristic is clumsiness consequent upon length. The style of Carlyle is never clumsy, and it is rarely long. The truth is that, in the formative period of his studies, Mr. Carlyle had evidently_three different models before his eyes. There was the English style of the seventeenth century, before Dryden had coördinated it into harmony,-a style loose, unequal, not to be depended upon, but unmatched in striking appropriateness when it happened to be appropriate. There was, secondly, the French style of the memoirs and casual writings of the eighteenth century,-a style unequaled in detached felicities, but cast generally in a mold which requires to be strangely altered before it can give any good result in this speech of ours. There was, thirdly, the German determination to say what had to be said quite irrespective of any preëstablished harmony between the conventional forms of speech and the meaning which had to be conveyed by that speech. Pepys, Voltaire, Richter, suggest themselves, turn by turn, as the antitypes of the singular hybrid language in which our author got his thoughts dressed and ready for the inspection of mankind. But the general result was wholly felicitous. Let us go for a negative definition of style to the writer who of all writers in our own day is most antipodean to Mr. Carlyle, save that both were humorists. The writer, says Théophile Gautier, to whom an idea presents itself which he cannot clothe in words, is not écrivain-has no style. To escape a negative condemnation may be thought to be a justification of the imperfect kind, yet there are few authors who are justified in this way so completely as the author of the "French Revolution" and "Sartor Resartus." He can say what he pleases, even though the saying require an altogether Herculean task of rearranging the arrangements of his mothertongue. He is never obscure by reason of his style merely; he never needs to have recourse to the clumsy elongations of the sentence in which inorganic talent takes refuge in all languages, and especially in German. Soon, too, after the time which we are now considering, a fresh and remarkable testimony to his varied capacities and excellencies was published. This was the collection of essays or miscellanies which he had contributed to various reviews or magazines during his period of probation. This collection (unlike the "Sartor," first reprinted in America) has since been augmented by some remarkable works, some of which I may have occasion to comment upon later. It did not, per
haps, show the differentia of a new writer so fully as the two more independent works which have just been commented upon. But as "Sartor Resartus" and the "French Revolution" remain the best examples of Mr. Carlyle's original faculty, so the "Essays," which were republished in 1839, remain the best example of his faculty of adaptation, the critical faculty, more especially, and are, perhaps, the best existing proof of his purely literary power. They contain also, beyond all doubt, the best examples of his limitations. The last test of the critic is, doubtless, the question, How does he bear himself toward those things or persons with whom he happens to disagree? Carlyle cannot wholly stand this test, and, in so far, he is an imperfect Yet how many imperfect critics are there who achieve such a result as he has achieved? The list of his critical essays is, perhaps, the most varied that any author of his standing has to show; and the lettersso often referred to-which passed between him and Macvey Napier, show that even the completed and published results do not exhibit fully the range of his talent. He began by devoting himself to that German literature which was his first love and his last, and of which, like most men with their first loves, he was not, perhaps, an altogether wise judge. But the second volume, as ordinarily printed, of his "Essays," shows at once the enlargement of circle which he was seldom afterward to lose. The essay on Burns is, in many ways, a test essay. Burns is, as a rule, to the Englishman a stumbling-block, and to the Scotchman foolishness,—not in the sense of the original quotation, but because he deems himself bound to indulge in inconsiderate and indefensible laudation. The essay of which we are speaking did not say the last word about Burns, because Mr. Carlyle always had, and could not but have, a certain incapacity to take poetry merely on poetical grounds, and to decide whether it was or was not bad or good on those grounds. One of his proposed essays on "French Poetry in 1841" would probably have been -had it seen the light-a memorable study of the sorrowful chances which wait on those who undertake uncongenial tasks; yet by sheer force of solid sense and human sympathy he has said better things about Burns than have ever been said before or since, and better than are ever likely to be said, until some one takes up the task to whom the dialect is no stumbling-block,
who is not frightened by the poet's moral obliquities, and who, at the same time, has no national, or pseudo-national, temptation to speak unadvisedly with his lips. In the same context comes the equally remarkable essay on Voltaire. It has made French critics very angry; it has made English critics, who are by no means Voltaireans, confess that there is a good deal more to be said. But is there anywhere a more vivid account of the whole of that remarkable phenomenon called François Marie Arouet? Is there to be found in literature a better introduction to Voltaire, which the intelligent reader may, in the course of his reading, correct, but which will put him in case to undertake that reading with a chance of comprehension, and not a certainty of miscomprehension? The third volume brings us to that admirable paper on the "Nibelungen Lied," which it is not wonderful that the editor of the "Edinburgh Review" gently chid the author for not offering to him. I speak of this with all modesty, but with some tolerable knowledge of early German literature, and with a knowledge which perhaps also will pass muster of the earlier and more voluminous French or Franco-German literature of the chansons de gestes. But I do not know that to this day, after forty years' ceaseless disinterment and careful examination of early medieval literature, any paper has appeared equal to this of the "Nibelungen Lied," in the power of putting merely English readers in a position to appreciate the fertile fancies-now graceful now fierce, now southern now northern-of their ancestors a thousand years ago. The following essay on "German Literature of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries" deals with far baser matter, but it has the same power of initiating the reader into the spirit of the time; while, in so far as it deals with Reynard the Fox, it is one of the best comments ever made on one of the most delightful things in literature. It is a pity indeed that the critic's knowledge of the real original, as far as we have it in the French of the thirteenth century, was imperfect, but that is only an unimportant detail. The essay of the fourth volume-I name only those which give salient illustrations of the author's idiosyncrasy, where all are admirable-is the famous one on Boswell's "Johnson," where perhaps the force of fellow-feeling is better illustrated than anywhere else, and which, in contrast with Macaulay's delightful but flashy paper, re
mains a monument of solid insight. The fifth is almost wholly composed of masterpieces. The short note on Irving's death is of unsurpassed personal interest. But the four essays which compose the volume are masterpieces without any allowance for what is merely personal. They are, it may be said, digressions from the "French Revolution." I may perhaps be allowed to speak of the essay on Diderot with some positiveness, inasmuch as, with the exception of Mr. Morley, I do not know another Englishman, besides myself, who has actually read the works of that strange man of letters from beginning to end. Here, as almost always with Mr. Carlyle, though one may quarrel with details, there is nothing to do but to acquiesce with a proviso as to general points of view in his total estimate. He has not done his singular subject full justice, but if any one will take the trouble to read his essay and then to compare it-I do not say with Mr. Morley's book or with Rosenkrantz's-but with that recently put forth by a famous French critic, M. Scherer, he will see the difference at once. It is the difference between genius and talent, between a man who had a complete though a biased comprehension of the facts and situations, and one who had endeavored to apply tentatively and shrinkingly certain preconceived ideas to a very complex and puzzling fact. I, for instance, disagree with not a few of Mr. Carlyle's minors; I decline to recognize in M. Scherer any major whatsoever. Of the "Cagliostro," the "Diamond Necklace," and the "Mirabeau," it is impossible to speak here simply for want of space. They are patterns of the historical essay, the separate tractate giving a vivid glimpse of separate points which cannot without digression be handled in a general history. Of more dubious truth, yet on no account to be passed over, is the essay on Sir Walter Scott. Here, if anywhere, Mr. Carlyle proved himself a hanging judge, and here perhaps the quality of mercy might have been most advantageously displayed. Scott's noble and stainless character, his wonderful versatility of literary talent, the excellence of his work at its best, and the huge addition which it made to the sum of human happiness, might have bribed a less austere judge than Mr. Carlyle. But it did not bribe him. He thought he saw evidences of unworthy ambitions, of mistaken views of life, of hasty work, of deafness to the voices, obedience to which he himself thought to be the whole duty of
man. He probably held himself bound, as a Scotchman writing of a Scotchman, to show no mercy, and he showed none. And yet-which after all is not quite surprisingthe essay on Scott, like the essay on Burns, remains the best eulogy of its subject. The would-be curser has blessed, though not altogether,which indeed no true man writing of another, whatever his purposes or prepossessions may be, is likely to do.
To return to the narrative of his life. The thirty years which passed from the time of his establishment in Cheyne Row to the death of Mrs. Carlyle, were occupied wholly with literary companionship and literary work. The latter has been noticed, or will be noticed presently. Of the former there is abundance to say, were this the place for saying it. A certain detachment from London society was always noticeable about Mr. Carlyle, but especially at this early time he was in much of it, if not of it. His introduction to the Bullers had early given him access to most of the philosophical Radicals, and to the most advanced of the Whig party; and, for a considerable time, he and John Stuart Mill-a strangely assorted pair-were the closest of friends. It was owing to Mill's vicarious carelessness that the first volume of the "French Revolution" was lost, and it was during a chance call on Mill at the India Office that Mr. Carlyle was first introduced to Sterling. The life of the latter incidentally shows us a good deal of its author as well as of its hero, during the decade which closed in 1840. Those were the days of the Sterling Club, and of much other pleasant companionship. Toward the close of the period, too, Mr. Carlyle, whose fame had been slowly established by the "French Revolution and by the reprints—after America had set the example of the " Sartor" and the " Essays," took, probably at the advice of his friends, a step which at this distance of time seems a little curious-the step of lecturing. Only one of the four courses he delivered did he choose to preserve in his collected works, though all were well attended and highly popular. The mere epithets, "well attended" and "highly popular," have such an odd sound in connection with any proceeding of Thomas Carlyle's that it is scarcely surprising that he should not, after these experiments, have cared to continue the practice. It is, however, probable that the best-known and most popular course, that on " Heroes," did a good deal to send hearers to his books, and thus to
at any rate, for a time-to be propitiated by the furious denunciations of game-preserving, of the "business of owning land," of this and that and the other, which occurred here and there in the midst of demonstrations of the Tory theory of government. But all this time his reputation, and, so to speak, his popularity, public and private, grew steadily, and a rich harvest of stories from all sources will reward the biographer who sets himself patiently and humbly to Boswellize. His miscellaneous employments gave way early in the fifties to the project of writing a life of Frederick the Great, which was undertaken on the same plan of careful documentary investigation and actual inspection of places as the "Cromwell." There is no doubt that the labor involved was immense, and, as the author was now advancing in years, it may well be that at times it was felt to be a burden.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this is not the place for a critical examination in detail of Mr. Carlyle's work, and only a very general summary can be attempted of what he did in this, the second and longest period of his career. The success of the "French Revolution" had placed him, not indeed, beyond the reach of carping criticism, but in the rank of an admitted master of English prose. In the same year as the collected essays, was published-as has been just remarked-the tractate on "Chartism," which has sometimes been combined with them, and has sometimes made its appearance independently. It was its author's first direct and independent attempt to meddle, with English politics of the actual kind, and its merits and defects were very much what might have been anticipated by a clear-sighted critic. The "Condition-ofEngland" question was treated in altogether too a priori a fashion for the treatment to commend itself to merely practical politicians, who set before themselves the simple question, How is the Queen's government to be carried on? as the deciding test of all suggestions. Judged even from a less limited stand-point, it was, perhaps, wanting in practicality, inasmuch as the writer, after the wont of study-politicians, does not by any means grasp the whole of his subject; yet it was in principle sound and healthy, as Mr. Carlyle's work almost always has been, and it may be doubted whether, in forty years, it has grown wholly obsolete The two works which were produced in the next year-1840-were, in more senses than one, remarkable. One-" Heroes and Hero
do away with the ignorant and foolish prej-