Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

V
SYDNEY DOBELL HAS AN INTERVIEW (1849)

EARLY in December, 1849, Sydney Dobell came to Carlyle with a letter of introduction from the Rev. George Gilfillan.1 He was an amiable young man of only twenty-five and married, but already on his travels in search of the health he was never to enjoy. He often told in years to come how he 'was at first somewhat stunned and bewildered by the tremendous eloquence poured forth--the point of which appeared to be to urge him to adopt any handicraft rather than literature as his occupation in life'; but he made an 'appeal to Carlyle's own practice, which was received with the kindliest good humour.' Carlyle had mistaken him for a young man coming to town to live by writing; and changed his tune on learning he was going elsewhere in search of health, and had some 'independent means.'

Reporting on 12.12.49 his 'hour's conversation' to Gilfillan, Mr. Dobell said he found Carlyle 'loveable,' and added,--"If there be divinity in movement, then is Carlyle divine. Body, hands, eyes, lips, eyebrows,--almost cheeks, for even they seemed mutable,--did you ever see such a personification of motion? We had a long talk--he was very kind to me,--and if I had been blindfold and heard it in the street, I could have sworn at once to the speaker. But it made me melancholy to see how hopeless--no affectation of despair, but heartfelt black hopelessness--he is of himself and all mankind. We had a tough argument whether it were better to have learned to make shoes or to have written Sartor Resartus. He delighted me at parting with a promise to come" and, in short, visit the Dobells in the country, whenever Mr. Dobell was well enough to stay steadily at home, which never happened.

____________________
1
Life and Letters of Sydney Dobell, by E. J., I, pp. 110-13.

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