Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXXVI
PARTING FROM GAVAN DUFFY (1849)

THROUGH Bundoran and Ballyshannon, they drove to Donegal, and saw no sign of life in the 'dingy, desolate country across Donegal Bay but Killybegs town and a coastguard station.1 Meanwhile Carlyle was hearing the life history of a fellow-passenger, an old 'cleanly peasant,' who had been a coastguardsman and 'for 30 years seems to have done nothing else but merely "look out."' A single adventure with a smuggler many years ago appeared to be 'the one peopled point in his old memory'; but as he talked the listener could learn 'particulars of coastguard discipline and ways; well-done excise,' was the conclusion, and,--'when a thing is to be done, it can be done.' This is one of Carlyle's leading thoughts, and familiar as a kind of key to much of his writing. In administering public business, in particular, the great thing needful is to get men to see that it has to be done. Once that is seen aright, men find or make a way to do it easily enough, and can organise labour when needful as well as excise.

A lagoon embanked to reclaim the land was the most remarkable thing they saw on the road to Donegal, and Forster stayed behind there to enquire into it further, arranging to meet Carlyle at Gweedore the next day, Thursday, 2.8.49. Meanwhile Carlyle found time at Donegal to 'run across to see the sumptuous old castle there, which had been extended in Queen Elizabeth's time.'

From Donegal Carlyle and Duffy travelled towards Stranorlar over high dark moors, with 'here and there a speck reclaimed into bright green,--and the poor cottier oftenest gone.' Duffy was going now to Dublin to revive his newspaper the Nation, which Lord Clarendon had stopped for about a year; and on this, the last day of their tour together, he was speaking to Carlyle confidentially and without any

____________________
1
Reminiscences of My Irish Journey, by T. Carlyle, pp. 224-8.

-184-

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