Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXXV
HOLMAN HUNT AND CHRIST (1853)

AT this time Holman Hunt and others were being vituperated by art-dilettantes and critics for their 'return to nature' in painting. "Pre-Raphaelitism." was the name of the new style, and Ruskin was their champion in the Press. In 1853 Hunt was living in Chelsea, and tells us:1--'Once when I was riding on the omnibus to Chelsea, the driver was talking about characters peculiar to the neighbourhood,' and speaking 'with amusement of Carlyle, of his staid aspect, his broad-brimmed hat, and his slow gait,' the driver added 'he had been told "as how he got his living by teaching people to write."'

What Holman Hunt could not understand, he wrote afterwards,1 was how 'the revulsion of feeling that has grown up against Carlyle since his death can be maintained while his books are within reach. What a difference from the days when young authors such as James Hannay left my bachelor gatherings for a quarter of an hour, only to look up at the dark house of the great sage, and to distinguish the room he was sitting in by the light in his window! I had read all his books that I had been able to buy or borrow, and with all the reverence of my nature I had seen the living prophet rambling along the streets of the neighbourhood. . . . Curious as his aspect was in his slow perambulations, it was noticeable that never did the rudest boor or the most impudent gutter-boy fail to be chilled into dumb propriety when he passed; they were silenced in their noisy idleness by'--the sight of him, so to speak. 'It was noticeable to me that none of the thousand entertaining incidents of childish caprice and character, nor the endless surprises of whim in the grown-up children of men, ever made him pause or turn his head. . .

____________________
1
Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, by W. Holman Hunt , I. pp. 346, 352-60.

-485-

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