Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

VI
JOHN CHORLEY AND OTHERS (1851)

CARLYLE was 'the most attentive of listeners' to anyone who knew what he was talking about, according to Espinasse,1 who gives instances. At a soiree at John Chapman the publisher's house in the Strand, Carlyle was seen 'listening during the best part of an hour' to Dr Elliotson, explaining Animal Magnetism.

It was in March, 1851, that John Chorley quite completed the sifting and copying of the unused manuscripts of Carlyle's work on English history. He was a favourite at Cheyne Row all his life. He had great knowledge of Spanish Literature, and one of the things Carlyle advised him to write was a book on the Spanish Drama. 'Another specialty' of his was the English navy, and Espinasse reports:-- 'This was a topic on which Carlyle delighted to hear him dilate. I remember passing a pleasant hour listening to Chorley while he described to Carlyle the hardships and privations endured in the Polar regions by the officers and men of a Government Arctic Expedition, and the devices by which the officers endeavoured to keep up the spirits of their men.'

John Chorley was rich, poor fellow, or what is called independent. He had been able to get out of business early; and his 'chief recreation was solitary performance on the bassoon.' He had no need to work, and published nothing worth mention but an occasional review in the Athenæum, when his brother Henry was on its staff. He sauntered through life serenely as Shakespeare might have done, if satisfied with his surroundings at Stratford,--enjoying his books and his bassoon, and earning the gratitude of posterity by preserving from the fire the Historical Sketches. He and Erasmus Darwin, brother of the better-known Charles, were typical of ' Carlyle's most intimate friends,'

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1
Literary Recollections, by F. Espinasse, pp. 146, 230-3.

-338-

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