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aeter,and never on his peace of mind: its glitter is external, for the eyes of others; within, it is but the aliment of unrest, the oil east upon the ever-gnawing fire of ambition, quickening into fresh vehemence the blaze which it stills for a moment. Moreover, this Man of Letters is not wholly made of spirit, but of clay and spirit mixed: his thinking faculties may be nobly trained and exercised, but he must have affections as well as thoughts to make him happy, and food and raiment must be given him, or he dies. Far from being the most enviable, his way of life is, perhaps, among the many modes by w hich an ardent mind endeavors to express its activity, the most thickly beset with suffering and degradation. Look at the biography of authors! Except the Newgate Calendar, it is the most sickening chapter in the history of man. The calamities of these people are a fertile topic; and too often their faults and vices have kept pace with their calamities. Xor is it difficult to see how this has happened. Talent of any sort is generally accompanied with a peculiar fineness of sensibility; of genius this is the most essential constituent; and life in any shape has sorrows enough for hearts so formed. The employments of literature sharpen this natural tendency; the vexations that accompany them frequently exasperate it into morbid soreness. The cares and toils of literature are the business of life; its delights are too ethereal and too transient to furnish that perennial flow of satisfaction, coarse, but plenteous and substantial, of which happiness in this world of ours is made. The most finished efforts of the mind give it little pleasure, frequently they give it pain; for men's aims arc ever beyond their strength. And the outward recompense of these undertakings, the distinction they confer, is of still smaller value: the desire for it is insatiable even when successful; and, when baffied, it issues in jealousy and envy, and every pitiful and painful feeling. So keen a temperament with so little to restrain or satisfy, so much to distress or tempt it, produces contradictions w hich few are adequate to reconcile. Hence the unhappiness of literary men, hence their faults and follies. Thus literature is apt to form a dangerous and discontenting occupation even for the amateur. But for him whose rank and worldly comforts depend on it, who does not live to write, but writes to live, its difficulties and perils are fearfully Increased. Few spectacles are more afflicting than that of such a man, so gifted and so fated, so jostled and tossed to and fro in the rude bustle of life, the buffeting* of which he is so little fitted to endure. Cherishing, it may be, the loftiest thoughts, and clogged with the meanest wants; of pure and holy purposes, yet ever driven from the straight path by the pressure of necessity, or the impulse of passion; thirsting for glory, and frequently in want of
daily bread; hovering between the empyrean of his fancy and the squalid desert of reality; cramped and foiled in his most strenuous exertions; dissatisfied with his best performances, disgusted with his fortune, this man of letters too often spends his weary days in conflicts with obscure misery: harassed, chagrined, debased, or maddened; the victim at once of tragedy and farce; the last forlorn outpost in the war of mind against matter. Many are the noble souls that have perished bitterly, with their tasks unfinished, under these corroding woes! Some in utter famine, like Otway; some in dark insanity, like Cowper and Collins; some, like Chatterton, have sought out a more stern quietus, and turning their indignant steps away from a world which refused them weleome, have taken refuge in that strong fortress, where poverty and cold neglect, and the thousand natural shocks which flesh is heir to, could not reach them any more. Yet among these men are to be found the brightest specimens and the chief benefactors of mankind! It is they that keep awake the finer parts of our souls; that give us better aims than power or pleasure, and withstand the total sovereignty of Mammon in this earth. They are the vanguard in the march of mind; the intellectual backwoodsmen, reclaiming from the idle wilderness new territories for the thought and the activity of their happier brethren. Pity that from all their conquests, so rich in benefit to others, themselves should reap so little. But it is vain to murmur. They are volunteers in this cause; they weighed the charms of it against the perils, and they must abide the results of their decision, as all must. The hardships of the course they follow are formidable, but not all inevitable; and to such as pursue it rightly, it is not without its great rewards. If an author's life is more agitated and more painful than that of others, it may also be made more spirit-stirring and exalted; fortune may render him j unhappy; it is only himself that can make him despicable. The history1 of genius has, in fact, its bright side as well as its dark. And if it is distressing to survey the misery, and, what is worse, the debasement, of so many gifted men, it is doubly cheering, on the other hand, to reflect on the few, who, amidst the temptations and sorrows to which life in all its provinces and most in theirs is liable, have travelled through it in calm and virtuous majesty, and are now hallowed in our memories, not less for their conduct than their writings. Such men are the flower of this lower world; to such can the epithet of great be applied with its true emphasis. There is a congruity in their proceedings which one loves to contemplate; he who would write heroic poems should make his whole life a heroic poem! So thought our Milton; and, what was more difficult, he acted so. To Milton, the moral king of authors, a heroic multitude, out of many ages and
countries, might be joined; "a cloud of witnesses " that encompass the true literary man throughout his pilgrimage, inspiring him to lofty emulation, cheering his solitary thoughts with hope, teaching him to struggle, to endure, to conquer difficulties, or, in failure and heavy sufferings, to
Arm th' obdured breast
| We need not hesitate to place Carlyle, along with Milton, among the moral kings of literature, He has travelled through life in "calm and virtuous majesty." With the stormful splendor cast upon Milton's career by his glorious intermeddling in polities, there is indeed nothing in that of Carlyle to correspond; but in completeness, and what I may call homogeneity, as the career of a Man of Letters, that of Carlyle is superior even to that of Milton. He has known no other devotion except literature; has done the work of no political party, has not condescended to a professorship, but has made it the object of his life to act upon mankind by the peu. As every peasant that carried a musket in the Grand Army felt a pride in Napoleon, the little Corporal who had become Emperor of France, so the humblest camp-follower in the huge army of literature may think with pride of Thomas Carlyle. Over all the dangers that he foresaw he has regally triumphed; all the more than princely guerdons, which he declared to be within the sphere of an author's ambition, he has honorably earned; amidst the tumults and changes of a feverish time, and the quarrels and calamities of petty souls, he has risen above all jealousy, preserved an absolutely unblemished name, and never been distracted for an hour from that rest of noble purpose, that peace of serene activity, which is the most substantial happiness attainable on earth. His life has been built upon realities. With clear discernment and unflinching firmness, he has put aside or trampled on unrealities.
Coming to London in early manhood, he established himself in an unpretentious house in a quiet street in Chelsea—a house TRUE TO HIS OWN IDEAL.
sufficient, but not more than sufficient, with room for his books and such friends as might visit, not his house, but himself; and there he has remained for forty years, looking with perfect indifference, too profound for conscious scorn, upon the palatial buildings constantly rising to west of him and to north of him, in which successful shopkeepers, stock-jobbers, railway-contractors, bubble company projectors, and other favorites of fortune and the age, had their reward. That small house has been his home and ideal palace, in which, as he had well assured himself, he could partake of all the real joys that flesh is heir to. Thatched in from the wind and rain, paying his way, doing his work, he satisfied all his real wants; and he had within him no raging crew of vanities to appease, such as have tormented Voltaire and other authors, like those dogs that Milton saw at hell-gate* yelling in eternal hunger round Sin, their mother. If any Prince Consort, English aristocrat, American humorist, German statesman, or other loyal admirer, wished to sec him, the admirer could make his way to Cheyne Row, Chelsea. It was of infinite importance for Carlyle to have the approval of the judge in his own breast; of infinite importance also to have the approval of the Eternal Maker; it was of some importance, but of very little in comparison, what the great body of his countrymen thought of him; it was of no importance at all what the leaders of fashion thought. The impertinence of a cross or a ribbon, offered him in his old age by "him they call Dizzy," he could quietly, not ungraciously, put aside; the more appropriate honor of a place in the Prussian Royal Order for Merit he could graciously accept. He was " king of himself and of his world," as he said of Goethe; able at all times to consume his own smoke; firm in that silent, modest, yet self-sufficing and unconquerable pride, which is as knightly armor to defend and as kingly purple to adorn. His life has been in the plainest sense practical, and yet it has been ideal and sublime.
HIS PURITAN PARENTAGE, AND EAKLT LIFE AND APPRENTICESHIP TO LITERATURE.
OF the practicality — perhaps, also, though less obviously, of the sublimity—of Carlyle's life, the roots are discoverable in his father's house. He came of substantial farmer people in the Dumfriesshire village of Ecclefechan, where he was born in 1795. It has been mentioned on good authority that Carlyle speaks of his father as one of the most remarkable men, if not the most remarkable man, he has ever known. Intense shrewdness and profound religious fervor were Ins characteristies. Among the traditions of young Carlyle's home, which would come invested with a halo of sacredness to the child, was that of reverence and affection for the memory of the Covenanters. It is interesting to catch sight of those threads of connection between memorable characters and occurrences which nature commonly manages to keep out of sight. Such a thread is that which connected Oliver Cromwell with Carlyle. It was a man imbued with enthusiasm for the Covenanters, a man capable, in the nineteenth century, of sympathetically realizing and reproducing the fire that burned in their hearts, who could find the kev to Cromwell's charaeter, and do justice to him and to the Covenanters alike. But there was another thread of connection between the strong Puritanic religion of Carlyle's father's house, and Carlyle's character as a Man of Letters. The Covenanters are things of the past. Even in Scotland there are now few or none who, if a Covenanter of 1638, or a Covenanter of 1643, were to rise from the dead, would be recognized by cither as brethren.