Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XIII
THIERS AND OTHERS (1851)

AT the station the fellow-travellers separated, Carlyle being bound for the Hotel Meurice, where the Ashburtons were awaiting him, and the Brownings going to another; but Mrs. Browning had the pleasure of reporting,--'He spent several evenings with us, we three together. He is one of the most interesting men I could imagine, and you come to understand perfectly when you know him, that his bitterness is only melancholy, and his scorn, sensibility. Highly picturesque, too, he is in conversation; the talk of writing men is very seldom so good.'

He called on nobody else but General Cavaignac, who was out of town. This was the brother of his friend the Republican writer, Godefroi Cavaignac, who by this time had gone farther than to the country. He had died in 1845, and only his bronze statue was now to be seen in Paris,-- at Montmartre.

On the night of arrival, Friday, 26.9.51, the Ashburtons took Carlyle to the theatre after dinner, and he noticed in the stalls 'a clever energetic set of faces visible there, far superior to such as go to Drury Lane; among them, pointed out by Lady Ashburton, who had met him, ( General) Changarnier. Strange to see such a man sitting sad and solitary there to pass his evening. A man of placid baggy face, towards sixty,' fifty-eight past; 'in black wig, and black clothes; high brow, low crown, head longish; small hook nose, long upper lip (all shaved), corners of which, and mouth generally, and indeed face generally, express obstinacy, sulkiness, and silent long-continued labour and chagrin. I could have likened him to a retired shopkeeper of thoughtful habits, much of whose savings had unexpectedly gone in railways,' meaning speculation in shares. ' Thomas Wilson of Eccleston Street resembles him in nose and mouth; but there was more intellect in Changarnier, tho in a smoke-bleared condition.'

Changarnier had risen in the army by long good service,

-359-

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