Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XVIII
IN THE MERRY MONTH OF MAY (1850)

'ON a bright May morning' after Stump-Orator appeared, Carlyle and his wife took the train to Richmond, and then the omnibus to the commons, and strolled about together 'among the trees and the gorse.' They had biscuits with them, and cigars. He was always hankering for a house in the country, and this sort of thing was her way of emphasizing,--"You can get as much of the country as you need without leaving Chelsea."

In the middle of the month he was dining at Peel's "to meet Prescott," whom he heeded little, but he was glad to meet again Sir Robert Peel himself. He was ushered into the big drawing-room and picture gallery at Whitehall Gardens, overlooking the Thames and Westminster Bridge and the new Houses of Parliament still unfinished. The architect Barry, who was building them, was one of the guests to-night, and seemed to Carlyle "not such a fool as his pepper-box architecture would have led one to guess." On arrival Carlyle found Peel in talk with old Cubitt, a builder and architect who had once been a working carpenter, a "hoary, modest, sensible-looking man." The talk went on about the new buildings, Sir Robert telling of architects' perplexities regarding acoustics. People walked round looking at the pictures, till they all sat down to a sumptuous but tiresome dinner. No ladies were there; but a son of Peel was at each end of the table. Peel sat in the middle, opposite Carlyle, with Lord Mahon on his left and an ambassador on his right.

When it was over and most of the guests departed, Peel took the rest upstairs and showed them his treasures of autographs,--Mirabeau and Dr. Johnson, Byron and Scott, to say nothing of Kings and officials.

When at last he dismissed them, the Bishop of Oxford, "Soapy Sam," insisted on taking Carlyle home in his carriage, to the surprise of some. They were old

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