Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

II
NEWS OF THE DAY (1850)

LEIGH HUNT was now sixty-six years of age, and was endeavouring to revive a periodical called Leigh Hunt's Journal. To oblige him1 Carlyle consented to touch up some of his unused historical manuscripts, which John Chorley was sifting, and so on 7.12.50, etc., there appeared in three sections, under the general title of Two Hundred and Fifty Years Ago, picturesque descriptions of two duels and an aristocratic disturbance at Croydon Races. A movie- picture would be dull in comparison, and could not be made so intelligible. But Leigh Hunt's Journal had soon to stop for want of capital, and Carlyle did nothing more. The rest of the manuscripts copied by Chorley lay unprinted till published as Historical Sketches in 1898.

Richard Owen, the naturalist of the Hunterian Museum, etc., spent several evenings with Carlyle this winter, including 20.12.50, talking mainly about their common friend John Sterling, and doubtless saying ditto to his brother Captain Sterling, who was begging Carlyle to deliver the memory of John Sterling from the theologians. Another topic of their talk was Foucault's Pendulum. A clever young Frenchman, Foucault, had lately hung in the Pantheon a truly wonderful Pendulum, a ball of metal suspended over a table by a long wire. When it was made to swing free and in one plane, it appeared to make the circuit of the table in the twenty-four hours, going left- wards, the reverse of the direction of the hands of a clock; while in reality it was the table and the Pantheon that were moving. Thus was made palpable the greatest of astronomical discoveries, the daily movement of the Earth.

"Can you not advise Professor Airy," Carlyle enquired of Owen,2 "or some real mathematician or geometer, to undertake that business of Foucault's Pendulum, and throwing Euler and his algebra overboard, illuminate it

____________________
1
Corr. of Leigh Hunt, II, p. 120; and see C. on Cromwell and Others, pp. 248-9.
2
Life, of Richard Owen, by the Rev. R. Owen, I, pp. 261-3.

-328-

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