The Two Carlyles

The Two Carlyles

The Two Carlyles

The Two Carlyles

Excerpt

Long before I knew anything in detail about the Carlyles, a pair of portraits had begun to form in my imagination: incomplete, of necessity, but not confused. Some high lights were there, some shadows rich and tantalizing, but the background, of course, was dim. Yet I seemed to see them, almost as if they were friends, in a house I knew, in a situation familiar to me, in a relation of which fragments appeared to be discernible in the lives of other authors and married people. It was no theory, but a picture that had formed: a picture deriving from some letters. It must be ages since the volumes containing their love-letters occupied a young man's summer holiday, when several of Miss Welsh's witticisms, as keen as the razor's edge, lodged by the laughter that they had provoked in his memory. Some years before that, the day is clear when Sartor had first introduced Carlyle's writings to a boy of seventeen; and years were to pass, after both these dates, before the day, memorable to him in another connexion, when he visited No. 5 Cheyne Row to see the setting of the pair, always connected, in his imagination of them, with London.

Those letters, his shorter books, were the only material for these imaginary portraits, but the group deriving from these writings, and shaped by such powers of divination and imagination as he had, contented him. Of their actual lives, even of the legends which have overlaid their lives, unaccountable as this may sound, I knew nothing. It was . . .

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