Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

VII
COMFORTING BISHOP THIRLWALL (1852)

ANY Government that is unjust seemed "organised rascality" to St. Augustine; and such indeed was the empire now being prosperously set up in Paris by the deluded people and soldiers. In taking the like of Napoleon the Little for their leader, they were almost as preposterous as the Egyptians adoring cats, or perhaps any of their contemporary European neighbours, and in one way they were worse. The "empire" meant war, for its hosts of idle fighting men wanted better loot than they could get in Algiers. The "coup d'état," the political crime of violence perpetrated in Paris in December, 1851, was followed by a general panic in England, which was more reasonable than we can now realise. London had long been a temptation to fighting men as "a glorious city to sack."

On 28.1.52 the wisest of the Bishops, Thirlwall, had a long walk and talk with Carlyle in the Parks, and reasoned with him earnestly about the evil designs of the French, 'astounded' at his indifference, and himself 'full of almost frantic apprehensions.'

"Hardly a shadow of a probability" of French invasion would Carlyle allow. "A temporary insult to our coasts" was the utmost possible for a long time to come, and he added:--"If we had to bestir ourselves, out of the abominable Hudsonism" (or commercial gambling) "and rotten canting confusion now everywhere prevalent, and fight for ourselves like men or be slaughtered as fat swine, it would probably be a great advantage to us at the end of the account!" Whereby the Bishop was comforted, if not entirely convinced.

Carlyle wrote to Neuberg1 that the terror-stricken in England as yet were mainly 'the writers in the Times. As for me I rather welcome the "Brummagem French Cromwell" (such as he may turn out), and thank him for stopping the "900 talking attorneys" at any rate: one clearly useful thing (after 40 years' trial) if he never do another!

____________________
1
Letter apparently unpublished.

-398-

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