Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XII
EMERSON IN LONDON (1848)

EMERSON went over to Paris to see a revolution in the making. But early in June "the seraphic man" returned to London to lecture, by special request, to the gentry in Portman Square, and to the middle class in Exeter Hall.1

Carlyle attended, of course; and 'very soon after the delivery of the first lecture' took Espinasse with him on a visit of congratulation, which was 'embarrassing. He could get out little more than that the lecture was "very Emersonian." Then the subject was swiftly dismissed' and they talked of a common friend, and ' Carlyle laid it down as a fact that a long upper lip denoted "a certain resonance to the noble,"' which Espinasse noted as edifying, but women of sense laughed at, saying they wondered he did not postulate a moustache as well, seeing his wife had both. There is something likeable in the sage's absurdity.

He went to all the lectures, and 'elsewhere than in Emerson's presence,' according to Espinasse, called them "moonshine," and then again, "intellectual sonatas." He told Espinasse that "the high people" complained that Emerson "had little to say to them"; and it was true that Emerson usually sat silent at the London dinner-tables. Which may be why Carlyle declared he was '"a beautiful figure among those talking Yankees," and the ideal of an American gentleman.'

In private conversation while the lectures were in progress, Carlyle told Emerson the audience "was partly new at every lecture."2Carlyle had so much to say about the evil times that Emerson at first supposed he meant to start a newspaper, and he was thinking of that; but also of

____________________
1
Literary Recollections, by F. Espinasse, pp. 160, 165; and the John Forster Collection, South Kensington Museum, for the special request, signed by T. C., Charles Dickens, Bulwer-Lytton, etc.
2
R. W. Emerson, by J. E. Cabot, II, pp. 165-8, 170, 180, etc.

-41-

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