Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXXIV
KINGSLEY, MRS. TENNYSON, &c. (1850)

ON Sunday night, 8.9-50, Mrs. Carlyle was writing to her husband:--'To-morrow I shall lay out two sixpences in forwarding ( Kingsley) Alton Locke (The Devil among the Tailors would have been the best name for it). It will surely be gratifying to you, the sight of your own name in almost every second page! But for that, I am ashamed to say I should have broken down in it a great way this side of the end! It seems to me, in spite of Geraldine's Hallelujahs, a mere--not very well boiled-- broth of Morning Chronicle-ism, in which you play the part of the tasting-bone of Poverty Row. An oppressive, painful Book! . . . All the indignation against existing things strikes somehow so numbly! like your father whipping the bad children under the bedclothes!1 But the old Scotchman (Saunders Mackay) is capital,--only that there never was nor ever will be such an old Scotchman. I wonder what will come of Kingsley--go mad, perhaps.'

The book was being published by Chapman and Hall on Carlyle's recommendation, and he read it 'swiftly, under the bright sunshine, by the sound of rushing brooks and other rural' noises. When he went away from Scotsbrig, he left the book behind for others to read. Of course, he wrote to the author as kindly as possible, but also truly, telling him the work was crude and he could do better, but bidding him persevere.--'You will have to persist; like a cannon-ball that is shot, you will have to go to your mark, whatever that be. . . . Come and see me when you are at Chelsea,' he concluded, and 'never heed the reviewers.'2 Theology he never would debate with professional Christians; but the 'huge folios of St. Augustine,' which John Sterling had given him, he gave to Charles Kingsley.3

It seems to have been in 1850 that a wideawake young

____________________
1
See Carlyle Till Marriage, Chap. X, pp. 37-8.
2
Charles Kingsley, by his wife, I, pp. 234 and 244-5.
3
Ibid., II, p. 284. footnote.

-317-

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