Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXXIII
GLADSTONE, PANIZZI, &c (1853)

THE Journal of Carlyle was intended for no eye but his own. The "agony inside" he was enduring while struggling to make a start but unable to do it was seen by nobody else at the time except his wife, who used to chaff him about it. It may easily be exaggerated by a reader of his journal who forgets that the journal was not a narrative, but a hurried jotting which merely reveals the mood of the moment. The key to his introspection is his almost Quixotic ideal of duty; and still more his superb ideal of history, which often made the best he could write seem trash. There can be no doubt he suffered from the strain of composition, especially when beginning a big work, and when wearied out and ending it. There can be equally little doubt that he generally enjoyed his work when he was doing it. We may believe he was suffering when he said he was, without supposing he continued to suffer when he was not saying so. Indeed he would have been called a happy man, but for his journal; and tho he was prone to look into himself when about to write in it, he hardly ever did so at any other time.

On 18.4.53 Mr. Gladstone introduced his first Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer, extending the succession duty to landed property, and abolishing the taxes on soap and more than a hundred articles of food, including apples. This led Carlyle to make a small suggestion through Monckton Milnes, a supporter of the Government.1 --

'If you could persuade Gladstone to take off that extremely scrubby little tax on foreign books--or, rather, on old foreign books, for the modern are oftenest worth less than nothing, and may be burnt at St. Catherine's (Dock) for aught I care--he may do a perceptible benefit to the one or two serious students still extant in this

____________________
1
History of Modern England, by H. Paul, I, p. 293; and R. M. Milnes, Lord Houghton, by T. Wemyss Raid, I, pp. 480-1.

-477-

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