Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXXIII
'BABBLING OF "LITERATURE" ' AGAIN (1849)

AFTER leaving Westport for Castlebar and on the way to Ballina next day, Sunday, 29.7.49, there was more of what Carlyle called 'babbling of "Literature,"' at Duffy's instance, Carlyle indulging him with an effort.1

The authorship of the Letters of Junius was a problem that had seemed of perennial importance to two generations and was still interesting to Duffy. Carlyle said at once,--

"In my opinion it does not matter a brass farthing to any human being who was the author of Junius." Duffy rejoined:--"One cannot well be indifferent to a question which is alleged to touch the honour of either Burke, Chatham, Gibbon, or Grattan. There is a library of controversy on the question--books, pamphlets, letters, and articles,--the writers of which must have set a considerable value on the solution of the problem."

"It probably does not concern the honour of Burke and the rest in the slightest degree," replied Carlyle. "Persons who concern themselves with questions of this nature seem to be of opinion, if anyone cares to know, that Philip Francis was the man."

"If I am sure of anything," cried Duffy, "it is that Francis was not the man." So Carlyle had to hear a tedious demonstration that Francis was not Junius, just as on 21.3.50 following he had to endure Macaulay perorating to prove that he was.2 In both cases he said plainly it did not matter a brass farthing to anybody, and then endured the talk he could not avoid; and doubtless Macaulay might have written as Duffy wrote,--" Carlyle made no answer, and proceeded to speak of other things."

In 1845 Duffy had been travelling in the same part of Ireland in the company of John Mitchel and John O'Hagan.3

____________________
1
Conversations with Carlyle, by Sir C. Gavan Duffy, pp. 114-16 and 122.
2
Life of Lord Macaulay, by G. O. Trevelyan, Chap. XI, p. 480, footnote.
3
For details not in the Conversations with Carlyle refer to Gavan Duffy Young Ireland. pp. 736-7.

-177-

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