Letters of Thomas Carlyle to William Graham

Letters of Thomas Carlyle to William Graham

Letters of Thomas Carlyle to William Graham

Letters of Thomas Carlyle to William Graham

Excerpt

William Graham of Burnswark first met Carlyle in Glasgow in the latter part of April in 1820. At the time Carlyle was on his way to Mainhill, his family's small farm near Ecclefechan, and had tarried at Glasgow to visit his close friend Edward Irving. Graham, also an intimate friend of Irving, was then living in Glasgow. They "met in the above city under Irving's auspices," as Carlyle relates in his Reminiscences.

What makes friendships? There seems to be no complete answer to this question--the forces at play in a mutual attraction, like the processes of life, are not readily assayed. The fact that the intangible elements of friendship are wrapped in mystery perhaps gives a hint to the meaning of Emerson's remark, "If we are friends, we will meet." Carlyle was twenty-five and Graham turned fifty at the time of their first meeting. Obviously, they had a strong bond in common: both shared the same birthplace of Ecclefechan in Dumfriesshire, southern Scotland; both had been brought up there; and they had friends and associations in common.

Correspondence between them began shortly after the April meeting and continued on and off for some thirty years. Of this correspondence, seventeen of Graham's letters were found among Carlyle's effects--the search making an interesting story in itself--and twenty-five of Carlyle's letters were preserved by Graham, who, realizing their literary worth, wrote Carlyle in 1835, "I have been gathering up all your letters and reading them again. They might all go to press, just . . .

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