Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XI
THE LONDON LIBRARY IN DANGER (1852)

THE letter to his nephew of 19.4.52 would be written in the afternoon or evening hours, and not allowed to interfere with his regular work of reading history. The same may have been true of even such a matter as the London Library row, which occupied most of his spare time in the first half of this summer.

The London Library was now 'regarded as a social institution of great utility which political leaders and writers felt it a duty to support.'1 Its Secretary and factotum, J. C. Cochrane, appointed in 1840 in the way we have seen,2 had died this spring at the age of seventy-three;1 and his right- hand man and assistant, John Edward Jones, was hoping to succeed him,--a very reasonable hope, considering the modest salary and all the circumstances. Unfortunately for Jones, Mr. Gladstone had marked the post as a proper plum for a Neapolitan protégé of his, James Lacaita. Besides its salary, the post gave openings to a social climber which made it attractive to many, and any one could see that Lacaita with such a champion made Jones impossible. Carlyle was sorry for Jones, but also concerned for the Library, which he had taken such pains to start. He could not discover anyone in London, Italian or other, who had ever heard of Lacaita before. Gladstone called to satisfy him without success. 'From Gladstone's own account to me,' he wrote, 'I figured him as some ingenious bookish young advocate, who probably had helped Gladstone in his Pamphlets underhand,--a useful service, but not done to the London Library particularly.'

The Pamphlets referred to were the "Two Letters to Lord Aberdeen," which had caused a sensation in 1851 and had a large circulation.3 The biographer of Gladstone, John

____________________
1

Carlyle and the London Library, by Frederick Harrison, pp. 93-4.

2
Carlyle on Cromwell and Others, pp. 102-4.
3
Life of W. E. Gladstone, by John Morley, I, pp. 390-7.

-407-

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