Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXVII
HISTORY AND POLITICS (1849)

CARLYLE arrived in Limerick by train in time to see the town in Duffy's company.1 'An old London acquaintance, busy here in Poor-law,' named Richard Bourke, hailed Carlyle soon after arrival, and persuaded him to come to his father's house at Lisnagry near-by the following evening. This fitted well into Duffy's plans, as he wanted to go ahead to Galway the next afternoon.

Duffy's most urgent business at this time was arranging the revival of his Nation newspaper, and nothing was allowed to interfere with that. The Galway editor he went to see was Edward Butler,--one of the best of his friends and helpers. In the Limerick hotel, he read aloud to Carlyle some choice Irish Ballads, which failed to delight him. Carlyle declined to sympathize with anything that seemed to glorify mere strife. Without obtruding it unpleasantly, he was teaching Gavan Duffy and other leaders of the Irish people that fighting was out of date,--it was time to think of working. But Duffy tried literature again. He much admired the new epic of Festus then popular, as Tennyson and others also did, and he asked Carlyle 'if he knew anything' about it. But Carlyle 'had never read' Bailey Festus, 'understood it was a sort of shadow of Faust. The poem made a great sensation in New England, and might have merits of which he was not aware.' Then brushing aside politely the babble about books, Carlyle talked to some purpose on Irish politics, reiterating and reinforcing his opinions as often as required in the days that followed.2--

"It is inconceivable how Irishmen fight futile and forgotten battles over again. Petrie is still in a rage against

____________________
1
Reminiscences of My Irish Journey, by T. Carlyle, pp. 164-70.
2
Conversations with Carlyle, by Sir C. Gavan Duffy, pp. 101-107. At page 107 the talk turns to a book by Mr. Buckle, published in 1857 and 1861

-157-

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