Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXIV
WHAT NEXT? (1852)

IN his working hours, Carlyle was reading heaps of books, and on 9.11.52 soliloquized in his journal.--

My survey of the last eight or nine years of my life yields little "comfort" in the present state of my feelings. Silent weak rage, remorse even, which is not common with me; and, on the whole, a solitude of soul coupled with a helplessness, which are frightful to look upon, difficult to deal with in my present situation. For my health is miserable too; diseased liver I privately perceive has much to do with the phenomenon; and I cannot yet learn to sleep again. During all my travels I have wanted from a third to half of my usual sleep. For the rest I guess it is a change of epoch with me, going on for good perhaps; I am growing to perceive that I have become an old man; that the flowery umbrages of summer--such as they were for me-- and also the crops and fruits of autumn are nearly over for me, and stern winter only is to be looked for--a grim message--such, however, as is sent to every man. Oh ye Supreme Powers! thou great Soul of the world that art just, may I manage this but well, all sorrow then and smothered rage and despair itself shall have been cheap and welcome. No more of it to-day. I am not yet at the bottom of it; am not here writing wisely of it, even sincerely of it, tho with an effort that way. The votes of men, the respectabilities, the &c., &c., have been too sacred to me. It must be owned, too, the man has had such a set of conditions as were not always easy to govern, and could not by the old law-books be treated well.'

Growing ' old,'-- of course. In writing as in talk, a great deal is taken for granted. When a man is approaching sixty, Nature gives him many hints. In a letter to Neuberg

-447-

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