Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXII
A PRIVATE HARANGUE (1850)

MANY histories of what Carlyle used to say to Globetrotters confirm the guess, that a passage in the seventh Pamphlet is as good a report as could have been made in shorthand, of a typical harangue in his house at Cheyne Row.

' Jefferson Brick, the American Editor, twitted me with the multifarious patented anomalies of overgrown worthless Dukes, Bishops of Durham &c., which poor English Society at present labours under, and is made a solecism by. To which what answer could I make, except, that surely our patented anomalies were some of them extremely ugly, and yet alas, that they were not the ugliest!'

Then said Carlyle.--"Have not you also overgrown anomalous Dukes after a sort, appointed not by patent? Overgrown Monsters of Wealth, namely; who have made money by dealing in cotton, dealing in bacon, jobbing scrip, digging metal in California; who are become glittering man-mountains filled with gold and preciosities; revered by the surrounding flunkies; invested with the real powers of sovereignty; and placidly admitted by all men, as if Nature and Heaven had so appointed it, to be in a sense godlike, to be royal, and fit to shine in the firmament, tho their real worth is--what? Brick, do you know where human creatures reach the supreme of ugliness in Idols? It were hard to know! We can say only, All Idols have to tumble, and the hugest of them with the heaviest fall: that is our chief comfort, in America as here.

"The Idol of Somnauth, a mere mass of coarse crockery not worth five shillings of anybody's money, sat like a great staring god, with two diamonds for eyes; worshipped by the neighbouring black populations; a terror and divine

-280-

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