Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

VI.
CARLYLE AS OTHERS SAW HIM (1848)

ANOTHER interview without a date, which can hardly be later than 1848 and may be some years earlier, is reported by a young man who had come to London to push his fortune, and had a letter of introduction to Carlyle, perhaps from the Rev. David Aitken.1--

'I waited upon Mr. Carlyle one morning about ten o'clock, delivering my letter to a domestic who answered the bell, and in a few minutes was ushered into the presence of the great man. He received me with a cordial and rather vice- like grip of the hand. He had just had breakfast and was about to resume work, he said. He desired me to sit down beside him on the sofa, enquired as to the health of his friend who gave me the letter to him, and as to my own views in coming to London, and said:--"I have no connection with what is called the Press, and, I fear, if you expect any service from me in that way, I can do nothing or almost nothing."

'I at once said that I had no intention of asking an obligation, and had accepted the letter of introduction for the opportunity of seeing an eminent countryman. "Scot all over," he said to himself, looking towards the window, and after a pause, "Well," he said, "You seem self-reliant, and it is a quality generally characteristic of Scotsmen, but I have found myself in a situation not only to need, but to ask a favour; and in doing so it was like treading upon burning marl. Well, then, if you are intent upon a literary career, I must warn you that it is a hazardous and most ungracious one, in which there are many blanks and few prizes, aye, and much disappointment and absolute humiliation; but, after all, a facility of literary composition may be turned to a useful account in life, and success would be more general if young writers would only stick to the

____________________
1
An Hour with Thomas Carlyle, by John Wilson, West Middlesex Advertiser, 23.8. 84).

-18-

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