Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXXIV
A HAPPY HEN-PECKED HUSBAND (1853)

LIKE his friends Brookfield and Ashburton, Carlyle was a happy hen-pecked husband, and not ashamed of it. Hen-pecking is quite compatible with happiness, when there is affection enough to sweeten the mixture, and sense enough to avoid mistakes. A he-woman is apt to go wrong and not leave a man to mind his own business in his own way. A womanly woman seldom fails if she tries it, and there can hardly ever have been any one better at the right sort of hen-pecking than the spoiled wife of Thomas Carlyle. She delighted in chaffing him.

Her intimate talk was like her letters, the witnesses agree, and David Masson said1 he could only recall one story she told in which she failed to get the last word in a debate with her husband, who used to laugh as loudly as anybody at things she used to tell at his expense. Here is the story at her own expense which David Masson heard her tell more than once.--

'We needed a garden-roller and a neighbour had one to sell. So I sent Carlyle to buy it, and he bought it and came back and told me, concluding' in the style of a schoolboy 'with,--"The lady of that house is a handsome woman."

'It's true I cried, "Oh Carlyle, she isn't!" The thing was too absurd, she is barely passable, and so I explained to him. The only thanks I got for my pains was that he said,--"She is a most handsome woman." I could not let such nonsense pass, and contradicted him more copiously than ever, demonstrating his absurdity as clearly as ever anything was demonstrated in Euclid, and he looked as if considering the matter and being persuaded, but when I had finished he dumbfounded me altogether by declaring,-- "The lady of that house is the most handsome woman I ever set eyes on!"'

____________________
1
To D. A. W.

-481-

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