Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XIV
NOT QUITE ALONE (1850)

NEUBERG was with Carlyle in January, 1850,1 when they met "old Samuel Rogers," as London had called him for the last twenty years. He was to be eighty-seven this year, but still was 'stumping about most wonderfully,' according to ' Dicky Milnes.'2 His pate was as bald as an Alpine peak, the skin all snowy white, and the big blue eyes glittering like ice, while his 'rapid shelf chin' beneath his pincer lips was punctuating his contemptuous criticism of Macaulay's History. Neuberg was listening, and Carlyle concurring, and Rogers concluded,--"You must set Macaulay right." But Carlyle replied:--"What is the use of speaking about that scandalous period at all? It is no history that was transacting then. It had better be forgotten very quickly. If your ancestors were hung, what business have you to talk of ropes?"--a sentiment sure to tickle the sardonic old man.

On 5.2.50, the Tuesday after the first Latter-Day Pamphlet came out, Carlyle went to Hampstead, and sat smoking with Neuberg 'the whole afternoon.--Puff! puff! Such clouds!' wrote Neuberg next day. 'And between them he poured out lamentations over the wretchedness of human life,' which show how little his thoughts had changed since he wrote Sartor. Here is Neuberg's report.--

'"There is a desire in the heart of man which nothing in this life can satisfy. I want everything, and it is best, perhaps, that I should have nothing. If you give me the whole solar system, then I would say, there is the star Sirius, I want that too. Indeed, a man can do very well without happiness. When I go to bed of a night, it matters not whether I have been happy or not during the day; it matters only whether I have done some useful thing. The

____________________
1
Macmillan's Mag., Aug., 1884, p. 283; and see Rogers and his Contemps., by P. W. Clayden.
2
R. M. Milnes, Lord Houghton, by T. Wemyss Reid, I, p. 440.

-248-

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