Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXXI
THE ATHENÆUM CLUB, &c. (1853)

THERE was something of antique simplicity in the long friendship of the Carlyles and the Ashburtons, for Lord Ashburton was one of the richest men in England, and tho Carlyle was great as an author, he was sometimes derided even in literary circles for being "content with the wages of an artisan." While it was well known that Ashburton would have been delighted to find some way of enriching his friend, the only instance of anyone taking advantage of that was almost accidental.

Thomas Ballantyne, a journalist and a friend, was calling one day on Carlyle, and lamented that his paper, The Statesman, was in financial difficulties. He begged a loan for it of £50. Carlyle gave him £100, and a card of introduction to Lord Ashburton, who at once gave him £500, and afterwards helped him in various ways. It seems likely enough that Ballantyne's repayment to Carlyle of his £100 was in fulfilment of a promise to Ashburton.1

By March, 1853, Lady Ashburton was afoot again, and one evening quizzed Carlyle on his unwillingness to say "Yes" to her husband's entreaty to let him propose him "for immediate election" to the Athenæum Club. Ashburton was on the Committee of the Club, and said all he could. Carlyle thought he had made his "No" as plain as politeness allowed. But in March he found himself a member, with the entrance money and the subscription paid in a lump.

On his first night there, Ashburton and he were dining together, and in the reading-room he saw old Crabbe Robinson, who asked for his brother Dr. John, and the

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1
Literary Recollections, by F. Espinasse, pp. 240-5, but corrected by the statements to D. A. W. of David Masson and Dr. Hutchison Stirling. Both these gentlemen had heard from T. C. and Ballantyne detailed accounts of the matter.

-470-

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