Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

VIII
PEEL AND OTHERS (1848)

MUCH was to happen before the Latter-Day Pamphlets appeared; but some talk reported in the opening pages of the first of them gives a good idea of what Carlyle was now saying at dinner-tables.--

'Not long ago, the world saw a real miracle, a Reforming Pope. A good country-priest, unexpectedly' made Pope, 'takes the New Testament [for] his rule of governing,-- no more finesse, chicanery, hypocrisy, or false or foul dealing: God's truth shall be spoken on the throne called of St. Peter: an honest Pope shall preside there. The European populations everywhere hailed the omen; with shouting and rejoicing: thinking people listened with astonishment. To such it was very clear how this poor devoted Pope would prosper. . . .

'"Reforming Pope?" said one of our acquaintance often in those weeks, "Was there ever such a miracle? About to break-up that huge imposthume too, by curing it? Turgot and Necker were nothing to this. God is great; and when a scandal is to end brings some devoted man to take charge of it in hope, not in despair!"

'"But cannot he reform?" asked many. . . .

'"Reform a Popedom,--hardly. A wretched old kettle, ruined from top to bottom, and consisting mainly now of foul grime and rust: stop the holes of it, as your antecessors have been doing, with temporary putty, it may hang together yet a while; begin to hammer at it, solder at it, to what you call mend and rectify it,--it will fall to sherds, as sure as rust is rust; go all into nameless dissolution,-- and the fat in the fire will be a thing worth looking at, poor Pope!"

'The Sicilians were the first notable body that set about applying this new strange rule . . . the law of veracity.' So 'by favour of Heaven and the Pope' the fighting began,

-25-

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