Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XII
TO PARIS (1851)

BEFORE the Ashburtons left London this year for Homburg and Switzerland, Carlyle had promised to spend a few days with them in Paris when they were returning. So on Thursday, 25.9.51, he set out and took the train for Newhaven, along with Browning and Browning's wife and child and maid. He had gladly delayed his departure for a day for the sake of their company.1

As he was sitting on the steamer's deck at Newhaven he beheld a man distributing religious tracts in German, French and English, and being repulsed by many with anger and contempt. The tract-distributor seems to have been refreshed by the courteous silence of Carlyle. At any rate he did not enquire his language, but bestowed upon him abundantly German tracts, and French and English, which were all gravely accepted, and 'served me well as waste-paper,' recorded the pilgrim.

The paddles began to turn about half-past one, and the next seven or eight hours were spent in watching fellow- passengers and the various shades of sea-sickness. They spent the night at Dieppe, for the sake of Browning Junior, still under three. The sight of Dieppe harbour reminded Carlyle that John Knox had passed through there, three centuries before. Mrs. Browning was agreeably surprised to find how much she was liking her fellow-passenger, and has proudly reported2 that he said to her child,--"Why, sir, you have as many aspirations as Napoleon!" That he might have said the same to almost any healthy juvenile, she did not suspect.

Carlyle explored Dieppe in the evening and the morning, remarking among other details the abundant beards, and the absence of rags among the poorest,--'old clothes all

____________________
1
Excursion to Paris, in Last Words of Thomas Carlyle, pub. Longmans, etc., pp. 149-91.
2
Life and Letters of Robert Browning, by Mrs. S. Orr, pp. 172-3-4.

-357-

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