Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXVII
MORE ABOUT CHRISTMAS (1852)

THE next day was Sunday, 26.12.52, and when Neuberg came to tea that day, the maid was out, and he had the pleasure of helping Mrs. Carlyle to make the toast at the parlour fire and carry the tea-things up and down stairs. "Quite Arcadian!" he wrote to his sister.1

Carlyle gave him a copy of the new and fourth edition of "Hero-Worship," remarking,--"Nothing astonishes me so much as that the people continue to buy my books. It is as marvellous as the feeding of Elijah by the ravens."

Neuberg may have spoken as he wrote to his sister:-- There is a greater amount of prosperity visible in England at present than I have ever before noticed. The number of turkeys, oyster-barrels, fish-baskets and game displayed in the shop-windows is almost incredible."

Carlyle said:--"English people at Christmas eat themselves as full as they can hold from a feeling of religious duty, and lay it all to Christ."

Writing to his brother John a day or two later, Carlyle said that the English seemed to him to use Christ as a painted cobweb to hide Eternity, saying,--"Drink away, my jolly ones,--no fear of being damned after all,--Christ is there!"

What he said now would give Neuberg an opening for the latest conclusion of German research, such as he had been learning at Bonn and was soon to be setting forth in the Westminster Review. The purport of it was that our Christmas is merely a continuation of the pagan feast 'at the turn of the year.' The Prince of Peace was represented by a child asleep on a sheaf of corn, and the pagan belief was that this was also the God of Marriage, the same who was worshipped at Upsala along with Odin and Thor, the good God Frier. He rode on a boar with golden bristles,

____________________
1
Letter from Joseph Neuberg to his sister, 27.12.52, in Macmillan's Magazine, August, 1884, p. 289.

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