Autobiography: Memories and Experiences of Moncure Daniel Conway - Vol. 2

By Moncure Daniel Conway | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV.

First Interviews with the Carlyles--Carlyle's Ridicule of Ballot-boxing-- His Appearance--Introducing Americans to Carelly--Samuel Longfellow--Carlyle's Progress--Ideas of Religion--Limitations--His Great Heart.

IN a modest old house, apart from the great whirl of fashion, resided Carlyle, the man to whose wonderful genius more than to any other is to be attributed the intellectual and spiritual activity of his generation. The building he inhabited was significant to him. "Look at these bricks," he said; "not one of them is a lie. Let a brick be once honestly burnt, and the cement good, and your wall will stand till the trump of Doom blows it down! These bricks are as sharp as the day they were put up, and the mortar is now limestone. The houses a around us crumble, the bricks in them were made to crumble after sixty years--that being the extent of most of the leases. They are of a piece with the general rottenness and falsehood of the time."

A strange thrill passed over me when I first stood face to face with these grand features. Emerson had introduced me (the letter is printed in their Correspondence), and he met me, pipe in mouth, cordially. For a few moments I was left with Mrs. Carlyle, who was too thin and pale to preserve traces of beauty, but had a took of refinement and dignity. Among the solemn portraits on the wall were two modern miniatures of beautiful ladies nude to the waist. "You may be surprised," she said, "at seeing such portraits in a grave house like this. They were found in the tent of a Russian officer during the Crimean war, and presented to Carlyle." Cheerful, kindly, witty, and frank, she conversed pleasantly of the habits and labours of Carlyle. She thought the Life of Frederick a terrible piece of work, and wished that Frederick had died when a baby. "The book is like one of those plants that grow up smoothly and then forms a knot, smoothly again and then forms another knot, and

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