Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXVIII
DEMOCRACY AND THE IRISH (1853)

AS this winter went on, 1852-53, 'I saw Carlyle under a new aspect,' reports Gavan Duffy.1 'Among friends he was still simple and genial; but he was much run after by inquisitive Americans, and as they wanted to interview him, he got into the habit of uttering, almost as soon as his visitors had settled down, the sort of harangue they expected. . . . His conversational manner disappeared (then), and his language came forth in a strong unbroken stream, while, like the Ancient Mariner, he fixed the spectator with his glittering eye.' Here is a sample, 'addressed to some Irish-Americans.' He told them:--

"Irishmen may be assured there is no one in England wishes ill to Ireland, as they have come to imagine. Quite the contrary, good men on all sides would applaud and assist any practical method for her relief. If I were given the task of lifting Ireland out of her misery, I would take counsel on all sides with men of practical knowledge on the best means of setting the people to work. I would ask such assistance from Parliament as might be necessary, and then carry out my scheme with unabating stringency. Whoever would not work must starve. I would begin with the work- houses, where men have delivered themselves up as bond slaves to society, by the confession that they cannot exist by their own labour; and at the outset I would organise them. By and by I would transfer my workers to the Bog of Allen, or elsewhere, and bring them into contact with work to be done. Organisation is the essential basis of success, and I believe every trade must finally get itself organised as much as it can,2 even the trade of authorship, so that each man would be put to the work he was fittest to do, and

____________________
1
Conversations with Carlyle, by Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, pp. 181-6.
2
Italics added.

-459-

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