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Thomas Carlyle by John Nichol

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Liberals will not give up Carlyle, one of his biographers keenly
asseverating that he was to the last "a democrat at heart"; while
the representative organ of northern Conservatism on the same ground
continues to assail him--"mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst
vergebens." On all questions directly bearing on the physical welfare of
the masses of the people, his speech and action remained consistent with
his declaration that he had "never heard an argument for the corn laws
which might not make angels weep." From first to last he was an advocate
of Free Trade--though under the constant protest that the greatness of
a nation depended in a very minor degree on the abundance of its
possessions--and of free, unsectarian, and compulsory Education. while,
in theology, though remote from either, he was more tolerant of the
dogmatic narrowness of the Low Church of the lower, than of the Ritualism
of the upper, classes. His unwavering interest in the poor and his belief
that legislation should keep them in constant view, was in accord with
the spirit of Bentham's standard: but Carlyle, rightly or wrongly,
came to regard the bulk of men as children requiring not only help and
guidance but control.

On the question of "the Suffrage" he completely revolved. It appears,
from the testimony of Mr. Froude, that the result of the Reform Bill of
1832 disappointed him in merely shifting power from the owners of land to
the owners of shops, and leaving the handicraftsmen and his own peasant
class no better off. Before a further extension became a point
of practical politics he had arrived at the conviction that the
ascertainment of truth and the election of the fittest did not lie with
majorities. These sentences of 1835 represent a transition stage:--

Conservatism I cannot attempt to conserve, believing it to
be a portentous embodied sham.... Whether the Tories stay
out or in, it will be all for the advance of Radicalism,
which means revolt, dissolution, and confusion and a
darkness which no man can see through.

No one had less faith in the paean chanted by Macaulay and others on the
progress of the nation or of the race, a progress which, without faith
in great men, was to him inevitably downward; no one protested with more
emphasis against the levelling doctrines of the French Revolution. It has
been observed that Carlyle's _Chartism_ was "his first practical step in
politics"; it is more true to say that it first embodied, with more than
his usual precision, the convictions he had for some time held of the
dangers of our social system; with an indication of some of the means to
ward them off, based on the realisation of the interdependence of all
classes in the State. This book is remarkable as containing his last,
very partial, concessions to the democratic creed, the last in which he
is willing to regard a wide suffrage as a possible, though by no means
the best, expedient. Subsequently, in _Past and Present_ and the
_Latter-Day Pamphlets_, he came to hold "that with every extension of the
Franchise those whom the voters would elect would be steadily inferior
and more unfit." Every stage in his political progress is marked by a
growing distrust in the judgment of the multitude, a distrust set forth,
with every variety of metaphor, in such sentences as the following:--

There is a divine message or eternal regulation of the
Universe. How find it? All the world answers me, "Count
heads, ask Universal Suffrage by the ballot-box and that
will tell!" From Adam's time till now the Universe was wont
to be of a somewhat abstruse nature, partially disclosing
itself to the wise and noble-minded alone, whose number was
not the majority. Of what use towards the general result of
finding out what it is wise to do, can the fools be? ... If
of ten men nine are recognisable as fools, which is a common
calculation, how in the name of wonder will you ever get a
ballot-box to grind you out a wisdom from the votes of these
ten men? ... Only by reducing to zero nine of these votes can
wisdom ever issue from your ten. The mass of men consulted at
the hustings upon any high matter whatsoever, is as ugly an
exhibition of human stupidity as this world sees.... If the
question be asked and the answer given, I will generally
consider in any case of importance, that the said answer is
likely to be wrong, and that I have to go and do the reverse
of the same ... for how should I follow a multitude to do
evil? Cease to brag to me of America and its model
institutions.... On this side of the Atlantic or on that,
Democracy is for ever impossible! The Universe is a monarchy
and a hierarchy, the noble in the high places, the ignoble in
the low; this is in all times and in all places the Almighty
Maker's law. Democracy, take it where you will, is found a
regulated method of rebellion, it abrogates the old
arrangement of things, and leaves zero and vacuity. It is the
consummation of no-government and _laissez faire_.

Alongside of this train of thought there runs a constant protest against
the spirit of revolt. In _Sartor_ we find: "Whoso cannot obey cannot be
free, still less bear rule; he that is the inferior of nothing can be the
superior of nothing"; and in _Chartism_--

Men who rebel and urge the lower classes to rebel ought to
have other than formulas to go upon, ... those to whom
millions of suffering fellow-creatures are "masses," mere
explosive masses for blowing down Bastiles with, for voting
at hustings for us--such men are of the questionable
species.... Obedience ... is the primary duty of man....
Of all "rights of men" this right of the ignorant to be
guided by the wiser, gently or forcibly--is the
indisputablest.... Cannot one discern, across all democratic
turbulence, clattering of ballot-boxes, and infinite
sorrowful jangle, that this is at bottom the wish and prayer
of all human hearts everywhere, "Give me a leader"?

The last sentence indicates the transition from the merely negative
aspect of Carlyle's political philosophy to the positive, which is
his HERO-WORSHIP, based on the excessive admiration for individual
greatness,--an admiration common to almost all imaginative writers,
whether in prose or verse; on his notions of order and fealty, and on a
reverence for the past, which is also a common property of poets. The
Old and Middle Ages, according to his view, had their chiefs, captains,
kings, and waxed or waned with the increase or decrease of their
Loyality. Democracy, the new force of our times, must in its turn be
dominated by leaders. Raised to independence over the arbitrary will of a
multitude, these are to be trusted and followed, if need be, to death.

Your noblest men at the summit of affairs is the ideal world
of poets.... Other aim in this earth we have none. That
we all reverence "great men" is to me the living rock amid
all rushings down whatsoever. All that democracy ever meant
lies there, the attainment of a truer Aristocracy or
Government of the Best. Make search for the Able man. How to
get him is the question of questions.

It is precisely the question to which Carlyle never gives, and hardly
attempts, a reply; and his failure to answer it invalidates the
larger half of his Politics. Plato has at least detailed a scheme for
eliminating his philosopher guardians, though it somewhat pedantically
suggests a series of Chinese examinations: his political, though probably
unconscious disciple has only a few negative tests. The warrior or sage
who is to rule is _not_ to be chosen by the majority, especially in our
era, when they would choose the Orators who seduce and "traduce the
State"; nor are we ever told that the election is to rest with either
Under or Upper House: the practical conclusion is that when we find a man
of great force of character, whether representing our own opinions or the
reverse, we should take him on trust. This brings us to the central maxim
of Carlyle's political philosophy, to which we must, even in our space,
give some consideration, as its true meaning has been the theme of so
much dispute.

It is a misfortune of original thought that it is hardly ever put
in practice by the original thinker. When his rank as a teacher is
recognised, his words have already lost half their value by repetition.
His manner is aped by those who find an easy path to notoriety in
imitation; the belief he held near his heart is worn as a creed like a
badge; the truth he promulgated is distorted in a room of mirrors, half
of it is a truism, the other half a falsism. That which began as a
denunciation of tea-table morality, is itself the tea-table morality of
the next generation: an outcry against cant may become the quintessence
of cant; a revolt from tyranny the basis of a new tyranny; the
condemnation of sects the foundation of a new sect; the proclamation of
peace a bone of contention. There is an ambiguity in most general maxims,
and a seed of error which assumes preponderance over the truth when the
interpreters of the maxim are men easily led by formulæ. Nowhere is this
degeneracy more strikingly manifested than in the history of some of
the maxims which Carlyle either first promulgated or enforced by his
adoption. When he said, or quoted, "Silence is better than speech," he
meant to inculcate patience and reserve. Always think before you speak:
rather lose fluency than waste words: never speak for the sake of
speaking. It is the best advice, but they who need it most are the last
to take it; those who speak and write not because they have something to
say, but because they wish to say or must say something, will continue to
write and speak as long as they can spell or articulate. Thoughtful men
are apt to misapply the advice, and betray their trust when they sit
still and leave the "war of words to those who like it." When Carlyle
condemned self-consciousness, a constant introspection and comparison of
self with others, he theoretically struck at the root of the morbid moods
of himself and other mental analysts; he had no intention to over-exalt
mere muscularity or to deify athletic sports. It were easy to multiply
instances of truths clearly conceived at first and parodied in their
promulgation; but when we have the distinct authority of the discoverer
himself for their correct interpretation, we can at once appeal to it.
A yet graver, not uncommon, source of error arises when a great writer
misapplies the maxims of his own philosophy, or states them in such a
manner that they are sure to be misapplied.

Carlyle has laid down the doctrine that MIGHT IS RIGHT at various times
and in such various forms, with and without modification or caveat, that
the real meaning can only be ascertained from his own application of it.
He has made clear, what goes without saying, that by "might" he does not
intend mere physical strength.

Of conquest we may say that it never yet went by brute
force; conquest of that kind does not endure. The strong man,
what is he? The wise man. His muscles and bones are not
stronger than ours; but his soul is stronger, clearer,
nobler.... Late in man's history, yet clearly at length, it
becomes manifest to the dullest that mind is stronger than
matter, that not brute Force, but only Persuasion and Faith,
is the king of this world.... Intellect has to govern this
world and will do it.

There are sentences which indicate that he means something more than even
mental force; as in his Diary (Froude, iv. 422), "I shall have to tell
Lecky, Right is the eternal symbol of Might"; and again in _Chartism_,
"Might and right do differ frightfully from hour to hour; but give them
centuries to try it, and they are found to be identical. The strong thing
is the just thing. In kings we have either a divine right or a diabolic
wrong." On the other hand, we read in _Past and Present_:--

Savage fighting Heptarchies: their lighting is an
ascertainment who has the right to rule over them.

And again--

Clear undeniable right, clear undeniable might: _either_ of
these, once ascertained, puts an end to battle.

And elsewhere--

Rights men have none save to be governed justly....

Rights I will permit thee to call everywhere correctly
articulated mights.... All goes by wager of battle in this
world, and it is, well understood, the measure of all
worth.... By right divine the strong and capable govern the
weak and foolish.... Strength we may say is Justice itself.

It is not left for us to balance those somewhat indefinite definitions.
Carlyle has himself in his Histories illustrated and enforced his own
interpretations of the summary views of his political treatises. There
he has demonstrated that his doctrine, "Might is Right," is no mere
unguarded expression of the truism that moral might is right. In his
hands it implies that virtue is in all cases a property of strength, that
strength is everywhere a property of virtue; that power of whatever sort
having any considerable endurance, carries with it the seal and signal of
its claim to respect, that whatever has established itself has, in the
very act, established its right to be established. He is never careful
enough to keep before his readers what he must himself have dimly
perceived, that victory _by right_ belongs not to the force of will
alone, apart from clear and just conceptions of worthy ends. Even in its
crude form, the maxim errs not so much in what it openly asserts as
in what it implicitly denies. Aristotle (the first among ancients to
_question_ the institution of slavery, as Carlyle has been one of the
last of moderns to defend it) more guardedly admits that strength is
in itself _a_ good,--[Greek: kai estin aei to kratoun en uperochae
agathoutinos],--but leaves it to be maintained that there are forms of
good which do not show themselves in excess of strength. Several of
Carlyle's conclusions and verdicts seem to show that he only acknowledges
those types of excellence that have already manifested themselves as
powers; and this doctrine (which, if adopted in earlier ages, would
practically have left possession with physical strength) colours all his
History and much of his Biography. Energy of any sort compels his homage.
Himself a Titan, he shakes hands with all Titans, Gothic gods, Knox,
Columbus, the fuliginous Mirabeau, burly Danton dying with "no weakness"
on his lips. The fulness of his charity is for the errors of Mohammed,
Cromwell, Burns, Napoleon I.,--whose mere belief in his own star he
calls sincerity,--the atrocious Francia, the Norman kings, the Jacobins,
Brandenburg despots; the fulness of his contempt for the conscientious
indecision of Necker, the Girondists, the Moderates of our own
Commonwealth. He condones all that ordinary judgments regard as the
tyranny of conquest, and has for the conquered only a _væ victis._ In
this spirit, he writes :--

M. Thierry celebrates with considerable pathos the fate of
the Saxons; the fate of the Welsh, too, moves him; of the
Celts generally, whom a fiercer race swept before them into
the mountains, whither they were not worth following. What
can we say, but that the cause which pleased the gods had in
the end to please Cato also?

When all is said, Carlyle's inconsistent optimism throws no more light
than others have done on the apparent relapses of history, as the
overthrow of Greek civilisation, the long night of the Dark Ages, the
spread of the Russian power during the last century, or of continental
Militarism in the present. In applying the tests of success or failure we
must bear in mind that success is from its very nature conspicuous. We
only know that brave men have failed when they have had a "sacred bard."
The good that is lost is, _ipso facto_, forgotten. We can rarely tell of
greatness unrecognised, for the very fact of our being able to tell of it
would imply a former recognition. The might of evil walks in darkness:
we remember the martyrs who, by their deaths, ultimately drove the
Inquisition from England; not those whose courage quailed. "It was their
fate," as a recent writer remarks, "that was the tragedy." Reading
Carlyle's maxim between the lines of his chapter on the Reformation,
and noting that the Inquisition triumphed in Spain, while in Austria,
Bavaria, and Bohemia Protestantism was stifled by stratagem or by force;
that the massacre of St. Bartholomew was successful; and that the
revocation of the Edict of Nantes killed the France of Henry IV., we see
its limitations even in the long perspective of the past. Let us,
however, grant that in the ultimate issue the Platonic creed,
"Justice is stronger than injustice," holds good.

[Footnote: _Vide_ Mill's _Liberty_, chap. ii. pp. 52-54]

It is when Carlyle turns to politics and regards them as history
accomplished instead of history in progress that his principle leads to
the most serious error. No one has a more withering contempt for evil as
meanness and imbecility; but he cannot see it in the strong hand. Of two
views, equally correct, "evil is weakness," such evil as sloth, and
"corruptio optimi pessima," such evil as tyranny--he only recognises the
first. Despising the palpable anarchies of passion, he has no word of
censure for the more settled form of anarchy which announced, "Order
reigns at Warsaw." He refuses his sympathy to all unsuccessful efforts,
and holds that if races are trodden under foot, they are [Greek: phusei
doulo dunamenoi allou einai] they who have allowed themselves to be
subjugated deserve their fate. The cry of "oppressed nationalities" was to
him mere cant. His Providence is on the side of the big battalions, and
forgives very violent means to an orderly end. To his credit he declined
to acknowledge the right of Louis Napoleon to rule France; but he accepted
the Czars, and ridiculed Mazzini till forced to admit, almost with
chagrin, that he had, "after all," substantially succeeded.

Treason never prospers, what's the reason?
That when it prospers, none dare call it treason.

Apprehending, on the whole more keenly than any of his contemporaries,
the foundations of past greatness, his invectives and teaching lay
athwart much that is best as well as much that is most hazardous in the
new ideas of the age. Because mental strength, endurance, and industry
do not appear prominently in the Negro race, he looks forward with
satisfaction to the day when a band of white buccaneers shall undo
Toussaint l'Ouverture's work of liberation in Hayti, advises the English
to revoke the Emancipation Act in Jamaica, and counsels the Americans
to lash their slaves--better, he admits, made serfs and not saleable by
auction--not more than is necessary to get from them an amount of work
satisfactory to the Anglo-Saxon mind. Similarly he derides all movements
based on a recognition of the claims of weakness to consideration and

Fallen cherub, to be weak is miserable,
Doing or suffering.

The application of the maxim, "Might is Right," to a theory of government
is obvious; the strongest government must be the best, _i.e._ that in
which Power, in the last resort supreme, is concentrated in the hands of
a single ruler; the weakest, that in which it is most widely diffused,
is the worst. Carlyle in his Address to the Edinburgh students commends
Machiavelli for insight in attributing the preservation of Rome to
the institution of the Dictatorship. In his _Friedrich_ this view is
developed in the lessons he directs the reader to draw from Prussian
history. The following conveys his final comparative estimate of an
absolute and a limited monarchy:--

This is the first triumph of the constitutional Principle
which has since gone to such sublime heights among
us--heights which we begin at last to suspect may be depths
leading down, all men now ask whitherwards. A much-admired
invention in its time, that of letting go the rudder or
setting a wooden figure expensively to take care of it, and
discovering that the ship would sail of itself so much the
more easily. Of all things a nation needs first to be
drilled, and a nation that has not been governed by
so-called tyrants never came to much in the world.

Among the currents of thought contending in our age, two are
conspicuously opposed. The one says: Liberty is an end not a mere means
in itself; apart from practical results the crown of life. Freedom of
thought and its expression, and freedom of action, bounded only by
the equal claim of our fellows, are desirable for their own sakes as
constituting national vitality: and even when, as is sometimes the case,
Liberty sets itself against improvements for a time, it ultimately
accomplishes more than any reforms could accomplish without it. The fewer
restraints that are imposed from without on human beings the better: the
province of law is only to restrain men from violently or fraudulently
invading the province of other men. This view is maintained and in great
measure sustained by J.S. Mill in his _Liberty_, the _Areopagitica_ of
the nineteenth century, and more elaborately if not more philosophically
set forth in the comprehensive treatise of Wilhelm von Humboldt on _The
Sphere and Duties of Government_. These writers are followed with various
reserves by Grote, Buckle, Mr. Herbert Spencer, and by Mr. Lecky. Mill

The idea of rational Democracy is not that the people
themselves govern; but that they have security for good
government. This security they can only have by retaining in
their own hands the ultimate control. The people ought to be
masters employing servants more skilful than themselves.

[Footnote: It should be noted that Mill lays as great
stress on Individualism as Carlyle does, and a more
practical stress. He has the same belief in the essential
mediocrity of the masses of men whose "think ing is done for
them ... through the newspapers," and the same scorn for
"the present low state of society." He writes, "The
initiation of all wise and noble things comes and must come
from individuals: generally at first from some one
individual"; but adds, "I am not countenancing the sort of
'hero-worship' which applauds the strong man of genius for
forcibly seizing on the government of the world.... All he
can claim is freedom to point out the way."]

To this Carlyle, with at least the general assent of Mr. Froude, Mr.
Ruskin, and Sir James Stephen, substantially replies:--

In freedom for itself there is nothing to raise a man above
a fly; the value of a human life is that of its work done;
the prime province of law is to get from its subjects the
most of the best work. The first duty of a people is to
find--which means to accept--their chief; their second and
last to obey him. We see to what men have been brought by
"Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," by the dreams of
idealogues, and the purchase of votes.

This, the main drift of Carlyle's political teaching, rests on his
absolute belief in strength (which always grows by concentration), on his
unqualified admiration of order, and on his utter disbelief in what his
adverse friend Mazzini was wont, with over-confidence, to appeal to as
"collective wisdom." Theoretically there is much to be said for this
view: but, in practice, it involves another idealism as aerial as that of
any "idealogue" on the side of Liberty. It points to the establishment of
an Absolutism which must continue to exist, whether wisdom survives in
the absolute rulers or ceases to survive. [Greek: Kratein d' esti kai mae
dikios.] The rule of Caesars, Napoleons, Czars may have been beneficent in
times of revolution; but their right to rule is apt to pass before their
power, and when the latter descends by inheritance, as from M. Aurelius
to Commodus, it commonly degenerates. It is well to learn, from a safe
distance, the amount of good that may be associated with despotism: its
worst evil is lawlessness, it not only suffocates freedom and induces
inertia, but it renders wholly uncertain the life of those under its
control. Most men would rather endure the "slings and arrows" of an
irresponsible press, the bustle and jargon of many elections, the delay
of many reforms, the narrowness of many streets, than have lived from
1814 to 1840, with the noose around all necks, in Paraguay, or even
precariously prospered under the paternal shield of the great Fritz's
extraordinary father, Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia.

Carlyle's doctrine of the ultimate identity of "might and right" never
leads, with him, to its worst consequence, a fatalistic or indolent
repose; the withdrawal from the world's affairs of the soul "holding no
form of creed but contemplating all." That he was neither a consistent
optimist nor a consistent pessimist is apparent from his faith in man's
partial ability to mould his fate. Not "belief, belief," but "action,
action," is his working motto. On the title-page of the _Latter-Day
Pamphlets_ he quotes from Rushworth on a colloquy of Sir David Ramsay and
Lord Reay in 1638: "Then said his Lordship, 'Well, God mend all!'--'Nay,
by God, Donald; we must help Him to mend it,' said the other."

"I am not a Tory," he exclaimed, after the clamour on the publication of
_Chartism_, "no, but one of the deepest though perhaps the quietest of
Radicals." With the Toryism which merely says "stand to your guns" and,
for the rest, "let well alone," he had no sympathy. There was nothing
selfish in his theories. He felt for and was willing to fight for
mankind, though he could not trust them; even his "king" he defines to
be a minister or servant of the State. "The love of power," he says, "if
thou understand what to the manful heart power signifies, is a very noble
and indispensable love"; that is, the power to raise men above the "Pig
Philosophy," the worship of clothes, the acquiescence in wrong. "The
world is not here for me, but I for it." "Thou shalt is written upon life
in characters as terrible as thou shalt not"; are protests against the
mere negative virtues which religionists are wont unduly to exalt.

Carlyle's so-called Mysticism is a part of his German poetry; in the
sphere of common life and politics he made use of plain prose, and often
proved himself as shrewd as any of his northern race. An excessively
"good hater," his pet antipathies are generally bad things. In the
abstract they are always so; but about the abstract there is no
dispute. Every one dislikes or professes to dislike shams, hypocrisies,
phantoms,--by whatever tiresomely reiterated epithet he may be pleased to
address things that are not what they pretend to be. Diogenes's toil with
the lantern alone distinguished the cynic Greek, in admiration of an
honest man. Similarly the genuine zeal of his successor appears in
painstaking search; his discrimination in the detection, his eloquence in
his handling of humbugs. Occasional blunders in the choice of objects
of contempt and of worship--between which extremes he seldom
halts,--demonstrate his fallibility, but outside the sphere of literary
and purely personal criticism he seldom attacks any one, or anything,
without a show of reason. To all gospels there are two sides; and a great
teacher who, by reason of the very fire that makes him great, disdains to
halt and hesitate and consider the _juste milieu,_ seldom guards himself
against misinterpretation or excess. Mazzini writes, "He weaves and
unweaves his web like Penelope, preaches by turns life and nothingness,
and wearies out the patience of his readers by continually carrying them
from heaven to hell." Carlyle, like Ruskin, keeps himself right not by
caveats but by contradictions of himself, and sometimes in a way least to
be expected. Much of his writing is a blast of war, or a protest against
the philanthropy that sets charity before justice. Yet in a letter to the
London Peace Congress of 1851, dated 18th July, we find:--

I altogether approve of your object. Clearly the less war
and cutting of throats we have among us, it will be the
better for us all. As men no longer wear swords in the
streets, so neither by and by will nations.... How many
meetings would one expedition to Russia cover the cost of?

He denounced the Americans, in apparent ignorance of their
"Constitution," for having no Government; and yet admitted that what he
called their anarchy had done perhaps more than anything else could have
done to subdue the wilderness. He spoke with scorn of the "rights of
women," their demand for the suffrage, and the _cohue_ of female authors,
expressing himself in terms of ridiculous disparagement of writers so
eminent as George Sand and George Eliot; but he strenuously advocated
the claim of women to a recognised medical education. He reviled "Model
Prisons" as pampering institutes of "a universal sluggard and scoundrel
amalgamation society," and yet seldom passed on the streets one of the
"Devil's elect" without giving him a penny. He set himself against every
law or custom that tended to make harder the hard life of the poor: there
was no more consistent advocate of the abolition of the "Game Laws."
Emerson says of the mediaeval architects, "they builded better than they
knew." Carlyle felt more softly than he said, and could not have been
trusted to execute one of his own Rhadamanthine decrees.

[Footnote: _Vide_ a remarkable instance of this in the best short _Life of
Carlyle_, that by Dr. Richard Garnett, p. 147.]

Scratch the skin of the Tartar and you find beneath the despised
humanitarian. Everything that he has written on "The Condition of England
Question" has a practical bearing, and many of his suggestions have found
a place on our code, vindicating the assertion of the _Times_ of the day
after his death, that "the novelties and paradoxes of 1846 are to a large
extent nothing but the good sense of 1881." Such are:--his insistence on
affording every facility for merit to rise from the ranks, embodied in
measures against promotion by Purchase; his advocacy of State-aided
Emigration, of administrative and civil service Reform,--the abolition of
"the circumlocution office" in Downing Street,--of the institution of a
Minister of Education; his dwelling on the duties as well as the rights
of landowners,--the theme of so many Land Acts; his enlarging on the
superintendence of labour,--made practical in Factory and Limited Hours
Bills--on care of the really destitute, on the better housing of the
poor, on the regulation of weights and measures; his general contention
for fixing more exactly the province of the legislative and the executive
bodies. Carlyle's view that we should find a way to public life for
men of eminence who will not cringe to mobs, has made a step towards
realisation in further enfranchisement of Universities. Other of his
proposals, as the employment of our army and navy in time of peace, and
the forcing of able-bodied paupers into "industrial regiments," have
become matter of debate which may pave the way to legislation. One of
his desiderata, a practical veto on "puffing," it has not yet been found
feasible, by the passing of an almost prohibitive duty on advertisements,
to realise.

Besides these specific recommendations, three ideas are dominant in
Carlyle's political treatises. _First_--a vehement protest against
the doctrine of _Laissez faire_; which, he says, "on the part of the
governing classes will, we repeat again and again, have to cease; pacific
mutual divisions of the spoil and a would-let-well-alone will no longer
suffice":--a doctrine to which he is disposed to trace the Trades Union
wars, of which he failed to see the issue. He is so strongly in favour of
_Free-trade_ between nations that, by an amusing paradox, he is prepared
to make it _compulsory_. "All men," he writes in _Past and Present_,
"trade with all men when mutually convenient, and are even bound to do
it. Our friends of China, who refused to trade, had we not to argue with,
them, in cannon-shot at last?" But in Free-trade between class and class,
man and man, within the bounds of the same kingdom, he has no trust: he
will not leave "supply and demand" to adjust their relations. The
result of doing so is, he holds, the scramble between Capital for larger
interest and Labour for higher wage, in which the rich if unchecked will
grind the poor to starvation, or drive them to revolt.

_Second_.--As a corollary to the abolition of _Laissez faire_, he
advocates the _Organisation of Labour_, "the problem of the whole future
to all who will pretend to govern men." The phrase from its vagueness
has naturally provoked much discussion. Carlyle's bigoted dislike of
Political Economists withheld him from studying their works; and he seems
ignorant of the advances that have been made by the "dismal science,"
or of what it has proved and disproved. Consequently, while brought in
evidence by most of our modern Social idealists, Comtists and Communists
alike, all they can say is that he has given to their protest against the
existing state of the commercial world a more eloquent expression than
their own. He has no compact scheme,--as that of St. Simon or Fourier, or
Owen--few such definite proposals as those of Karl Marx, Bellamy, Hertzka
or Gronlund, or even William Morris. He seems to share with Mill the view
that "the restraints of communism are weak in comparison with those of
capitalists," and with Morris to look far forward to some golden age; he
has given emphatic support to a copartnership of employers and employed,
in which the profits of labour shall be apportioned by some rule of
equity, and insisted on the duty of the State to employ those who are out
of work in public undertakings.

Enlist, stand drill, and become from banditti soldiers of
industry. I will lead you to the Irish bogs ... English
foxcovers ... New Forest, Salisbury Plains, and Scotch
hill-sides which as yet feed only sheep ... thousands of
square miles ... destined yet to grow green crops and fresh
butter and milk and beef without limit:--

an estimate with the usual exaggeration. But Carlyle's later work
generally advances on his earlier, in its higher appreciation of
Industrialism. He looks forward to the boon of "one big railway right
across America," a prophecy since three times fulfilled; and admits that
"the new omnipotence of the steam engine is hewing aside quite other
mountains than the physical," _i.e._ bridging the gulf between races
and binding men to men. He had found, since writing _Sartor_, that dear
cotton and slow trains do not help one nearer to God, freedom, and

Carlyle's _third_ practical point is his advocacy of _Emigration,_ or
rather his insistence on it as a sufficient remedy for Over-population.
He writes of "Malthusianism" with his constant contempt of convictions
other than his own:--

A full formed man is worth more than a horse.... One
man in a year, as I have understood it, if you lend him
earth will feed himself and nine others(?).... Too crowded
indeed!.... What portion of this globe have ye tilled and
delved till it will grow no more? How thick stands your
population in the Pampas and Savannahs--in the Curragh of
Kildare? Let there be an _Emigration Service,_ ... so
that every honest willing workman who found England too
strait, and the organisation of labour incomplete, might
find a bridge to carry him to western lands.... Our little
isle has grown too narrow for us, but the world
is wide enough yet for another six thousand years.... If
this small western rim of Europe is over-peopled, does not
everywhere else a whole vacant earth, as it were, call to
us "Come and till me, come and reap me"?

On this follows an eloquent passage about our friendly Colonies,
"overarched by zodiacs and stars, clasped by many-sounding seas." Carlyle
would apparently force emigration, and coerce the Australians, Americans,
and Chinese, to receive our ship-loads of living merchandise; but the
problem of population exceeds his solution of it. He everywhere inclines
to rely on coercion till it is over-mastered by resistance, and to
overstretch jurisdiction till it snaps.

In Germany, where the latest representative of the Hohenzollerns is
ostentatiously laying claim to "right divine," Carlyle's appraisal of
Autocracy may have given it countenance. In England, where the opposite
tide runs full, it is harmless: but, by a curious irony, our author's
leaning to an organised control over social and private as well as public
life, his exaltation of duties above rights, may serve as an incentive
to the very force he seemed most to dread. Events are every day
demonstrating the fallacy of his view of Democracy as an embodiment of
_laissez faire._ Kant with deeper penetration indicated its tendency to
become despotic. Good government, according to Aristotle, is that of one,
of few, or of many, for the sake of all. A Democracy where the poor rule
for the poor alone, maybe a deadly engine of oppression; it may trample
without appeal on the rights of minorities, and, in the name of the common
good, establish and enforce an almost unconditioned tyranny. Carlyle's
blindness to this superlative danger--a danger to which Mill, in many
respects his unrecognised coadjutor, became alive--emphasises the limits
of his political foresight. He has consecrated Fraternity with an
eloquence unapproached by his peers, and with equal force put to scorn the
superstition of Equality; but he has aimed at Liberty destructive shafts,
some of which may find a mark the archer little meant.

[Footnote: _Vide passim_ the chapter in _Liberty_ entitled "Limits to the
Authority of Society over the Individual," where Mill denounces the idea
of "the majority of operatives in many branches of industry ... that bad
workmen ought to receive the same wages as good."]



The same advance or retrogression that appears in Carlyle's Politics is
traceable in his Religion; though it is impossible to record the stages
of the change with even an equal approach to precision. Religion, in the
widest sense--faith in some supreme Power above us yet acting for us--was
the great factor of his inner life. But when we further question his
Creed, he is either bewilderingly inconsistent or designedly vague. The
answer he gives is that of Schiller: "Welche der Religionen? Keine
von allen. Warum? Aus Religion." In 1870 he writes: "I begin to think
religion again possible for whoever will piously struggle upwards and
sacredly refuse to tell lies: which indeed will mostly mean refusal to
speak at all on that topic." This and other implied protests against
intrusive inquisition are valid in the case of those who keep their own
secrets: it is impertinence to peer and "interview" among the sanctuaries
of a poet or politician or historian who does not himself open their
doors. But Carlyle has done this in all his books. A reticent writer may
veil his convictions on every subject save that on which he writes. An
avowed preacher or prophet cannot escape interrogation as to his text.

With all the evidence before us--his collected works, his friendly
confidences, his journals, his fragmentary papers, as the interesting
series of jottings entitled "Spiritual Optics," and the partial accounts
to Emerson and others of the design of the "Exodus from Hounds-ditch"--it
remains impossible to formulate Carlyle's Theology. We know that he
abandoned the ministry, for which he was destined, because, at an early
date, he found himself at irreconcilable variance, not on matters of
detail but on essentials, with the standards of Scotch Presbyterianism.
We know that he never repented or regretted his resolve; that he went, as
continuously as possible for a mind so liable to fits and starts, further
and further from the faith of his fathers; but that he remained to the
last so much affected by it, and by the ineffaceable impress of early
associations, that he has been plausibly called "a Calvinist without
dogma," "a Calvinist without Christianity," "a Puritan who had lost
his creed." We know that he revered the character of Christ, and
theoretically accepted the ideal of self-sacrifice: the injunction
to return good for evil he never professed to accept; and vicarious
sacrifice was contrary to his whole philosophy, which taught that every
man must "dree his weird." We know that he not only believed in God as
revealed in the larger Bible, the whole history of the human race, but
that he threatened, almost with hell-fire, all who dared on this point
to give refuge to a doubt. Finally, he believed both in fate and in
free-will, in good and evil as powers at internecine war, and in the
greater strength and triumph of good at some very far distant date. If we
desire to know more of Carlyle's creed we must proceed by "the method of
exclusions," and note, in the first place, what he did _not_ believe.
This process is simplified by the fact that he assailed all convictions
other than his own.

Half his teaching is a protest, in variously eloquent phrase, against all
forms of _Materialism_ and _Hedonism,_ which he brands as "worships of
Moloch and Astarte," forgetting that progress in physical welfare may
lead not only to material, but to mental, if not spiritual, gain.
Similarly he denounces _Atheism,_ never more vehemently than in his
Journals of 1868-1869:--

Had no God made this world it were an insupportable place. Laws without
a lawgiver, matter without spirit is a gospel of dirt. All that is good,
generous, wise, right ... who or what could by any possibility have
given it to me, but One who first had it to give! This is not logic, it
is axiom.... Poor "Comtism, ghastliest of algebraic specialities."...
Canst _thou_ by searching find out God? I am not surprised thou canst
not, vain fool. If they do abolish God from their poor bewildered
hearts, there will be seen such a world as few are dreaming of.

Carlyle calls evidence from all quarters, appealing to Napoleon's
question, "Who made all that?" and to Friedrich's belief that intellect
"could not have been put into him by an entity that had none of its own,"
in support of what he calls the Eternal Fact of Facts, to which he clings
as to the Rock of Ages, the sole foundation of hope and of morality to
one having at root little confidence in his fellow-men.

If people are only driven upon virtuous conduct ... by association of
ideas, and there is no "Infinite Nature of Duty," the world, I should
say, had better count its spoons to begin with, and look out for
hurricanes and earthquakes to end with.

Carlyle hazardously confessed that as regards the foundations of his
faith and morals, with Napoleon and Friedrich II. on his side, he had
against him the advancing tide of modern _Science._ He did not attempt
to disprove its facts, or, as Emerson, to sublimate them into a new
idealism; he scoffed at and made light of them, _e.g._--

Geology has got rid of Moses, which surely was no very
sublime achievement either. I often think ... it is pretty
much all that science in this age has done. ... Protoplasm
(unpleasant doctrine that we are all, soul and body, made of
a kind of blubber, found in nettles among other organisms)
appears to be delightful to many.... Yesterday there came a
pamphlet published at Lewes, a hallelujah on the advent of
Atheism.... The real joy of Julian (the author) was what
surprised me, like the shout of a hyaena on finding that the
whole universe was actually carrion. In about seven minutes
my great Julian was torn in two and lying in the place fit
for him.... Descended from Gorillas! Then where is the place
for a Creator? Man is only a little higher than the tadpoles,
says our new Evangelist.... Nobody need argue with these
people. Logic never will decide the matter, or will seem to
decide it their way. He who traces nothing of God in his own
soul, will never find God in the world of matter--mere
circlings of force there, of iron regulation, of universal
death and merciless indifference.... Matter itself is either
Nothing or else a product due to man's _mind_. ... The
fast-increasing flood of Atheism on me takes no hold--does
not even wet the soles of my feet.

[Footnote: Cf. Othello, "Not a jot, not a jot." Carlyle writes
on this question with the agitation of one himself not quite at
ease, with none of the calmness of a faith perfectly secure.]

"Carlyle," says one of his intimates, "speaks as if Darwin wished to rob
or to insult him." _Scepticism_ proper fares as hardly in his hands as
definite denial. It is, he declares, "a fatal condition," and, almost in
the spirit of the inquisitors, he attributes to it moral vice as well as
intellectual weakness, calling it an "atrophy, a disease of the whole
soul," "a state of mental paralysis," etc. His fallacious habit of appeal
to consequences, which in others he would have scouted as a commonplace
of the pulpit, is conspicuous in his remark on Hume's view of life as "a
most melancholy theory," according to which, in the words of Jean Paul,
"heaven becomes a gas, God a force, and the second world a grave." He
fails to see that all such appeals are beside the question; and deserts
the ground of his answer to John Sterling's expostulation, "that is
downright Pantheism": "What if it were Pot-theism if it is _true_?" It is
the same inconsistency which, in practice, led his sympathy for suffering
to override his Stoic theories; but it vitiated his reasoning, and made
it impossible for him to appreciate the calm, yet legitimately emotional,
religiosity of Mill. Carlyle has vetoed all forms of so-called
_Orthodoxy_--whether Catholic or Protestant, of Churches High or Low; he
abhorred Puseyism, Jesuitry, spoke of the "Free Kirk and other rubbish,"
and recorded his definite disbelief, in any ordinary sense, in Revelation
and in Miracles. "It is as certain as Mathematics that no such thing has
ever been on earth." History is a perpetual revelation of God's will and
justice, and the stars in their courses are a perpetual miracle, is
his refrain. _This is not what Orthodoxy means_, and no one was more
intolerant than Carlyle of all shifts and devices to slur the difference
between "Yes" and "No." But having decided that his own "Exodus from
Houndsditch" might only open the way to the wilderness, he would allow
no one else to take in hand his uncompleted task; and disliked Strauss
and Renan even more than he disliked Colenso. "He spoke to me once," says
Mr. Froude, "with loathing of the _Vie de Jésus_." I asked if a true life
could be written. He said, "Yes, certainly, if it were right to do so;
but it is not." Still more strangely he writes to Emerson:--

You are the only man of the Unitarian persuasion whom
I could unobstructedly like. The others that I have seen
were all a kind of half-way-house characters, who I thought
should, if they had not wanted courage, have ended in
unbelief, in faint possible _Theism_; which I like
considerably worse than Atheism. Such, I could not but feel,
deserve the fate they find here; the bat fate; to be killed
among the bats as a bird, among the birds as a bat.

What then is left for Carlyle's Creed? Logically little, emotionally
much. If it must be defined, it was that of a Theist with a difference. A
spirit of flame from the empyrean, he found no food in the cold _Deism_
of the eighteenth century, and brought down the marble image from its
pedestal, as by the music of the "Winter's Tale," to live among men and
inspire them. He inherited and _coûte que coûte_ determined to persist in
the belief that there was a personal God--"a Maker, voiceless, formless,
within our own soul." To Emerson he writes in 1836, "My belief in a
special Providence grows yearly stronger, unsubduable, impregnable"; and
later, "Some strange belief in a special Providence was always in me at
intervals." Thus, while asserting that "all manner of pulpits are as good
as broken and abolished," he clings to the old Ecclefechan days.

"To the last," says Mr. Froude, "he believed as strongly as ever Hebrew
prophet did in spiritual religion;" but if we ask the nature of the God
on whom all relies, he cannot answer even with the Apostles' Creed. Is
He One or Three? "Wer darf ihn nennen." Carlyle's God is not a mere
"tendency that makes for righteousness"; He is a guardian and a guide, to
be addressed in the words of Pope's _Universal Prayer_, which he adopted
as his own. A personal God does not mean a great Figure Head of the
Universe,--Heine's fancy of a venerable old man, before he became "a
knight" of the Holy Ghost,--it means a Supreme Power, Love, or Justice
having relations to the individual man: in this sense Carlyle believed in
Him, though more as Justice, exacting "the terriblest penalties," than
as Love, preaching from the Mount of Olives. He never entered into
controversies about the efficacy of prayer; but, far from deriding, he
recommended it as "a turning of one's soul to the Highest." In 1869 he

I occasionally feel able to wish, with my whole softened
heart--it is my only form of prayer--"Great Father, oh, if
Thou canst, have pity on her and on me and on all such!" In
this at least there is no harm.

And about the same date to Erskine:--

"Our Father;" in my sleepless tossings, these words, that
brief and grand prayer, came strangely into my mind with an
altogether new emphasis; as if written and shining for me
in mild pure splendour on the black bosom of the night there;
when I as it were read them word by word, with a sudden
check to my imperfect wanderings, with a sudden softness of
composure which was much unexpected. Not for perhaps thirty
or forty years had I once formally repeated that prayer: nay,
I never felt before how intensely the voice of man's soul it
is, the inmost inspiration of all that is high and pious in
poor human nature, right worthy to be recommended with an
"After this manner pray ye."

Carlyle holds that if we do our duty--the best work we can--and
faithfully obey His laws, living soberly and justly, God will do the best
for us in this life. As regards the next we have seen that he ended with
Goethe's hope. At an earlier date he spoke more confidently. On his
father's death (_Reminiscences_, vol. i. p. 65) he wrote:--

Man follows man. His life is as a tale that has been told:
yet under time does there not lie eternity? ... Perhaps my
father, all that essentially was my father, is even now near
me, with me. Both he and I are with God. Perhaps, if it so
please God, we shall in some higher state of being meet one
another, recognise one another. ... The possibility, nay (in
some way) the certainty, of perennial existence daily grows
plainer to me.

On the death of Mrs. Welsh he wrote to his wife: "We shall yet go to her.
God is great. God is good": and earlier, in 1835-1836, to Emerson on the
loss of his brother:--

"What a thin film it is that divides the living and the dead.

Your brother is in very deed and truth with God, where both
you and I are.... Perhaps we shall all meet YONDER, and
the tears be wiped from all eyes. One thing is no perhaps:
surely we shall all meet, if it be the will of the Maker of
us. If it be not His will, then is it not better so?"

After his wife's death, naturally, the question of Immortality came
uppermost in his mind; but his conclusions are, like those of Burns,
never dogmatic:--

The truth about the matter is absolutely hidden from us.
"In my Father's house are many mansions." Yes, if you are
God you may have a right to say so; if you are a man what do
you know more than I, or any of us?

And later--

What if Omnipotence should actually have said, "Yes, poor
mortals, such of you as have gone so far shall be permitted
to go farther"?

To Emerson in 1867 he writes:--

I am as good as without hope and without fear; a gloomily
serious, silent, and sad old man, gazing into the final
chasm of things in mute dialogue with "Death, Judgment, and
Eternity" (dialogue mute on both sides), not caring to
discourse with poor articulate speaking mortals, on their
sorts of topics--disgusted with the world and its roaring
nonsense, which I have no further thought of lifting a finger
to help, and only try to keep out of the way of, and shut my
door against.

There can be no question of the sincerity of Carlyle's conviction that
he had to make war on credulity and to assail the pretences of a _formal
Belief_ (which he regards as even worse than Atheism) in order to grapple
with real Unbelief. After all explanations of Newton or Laplace, the
Universe is, to him, a mystery, and we ourselves the miracle of miracles;
sight and knowledge leave us no "less forlorn," and beneath all the
soundings of science there is a deeper deep. It is this frame of mind
that qualified him to be the exponent of the religious epochs in history.
"By this alone," wrote Dr. Chalmers, "he has done so much to vindicate
and bring to light the Augustan age of Christianity in England," adding
that it is the secret also of the great writer's appreciation of the
higher Teutonic literature. His sombre rather than consolatory sense of
"God in History," his belief in the mission of righteousness to constrain
unrighteousness, and his Stoic view that good and evil are absolute
opposites, are his links with the Puritans, whom he habitually exalts in
variations of the following strain:--

The age of the Puritans has gone from us, its earnest
purpose awakens now no reverence in our frivolous hearts.
Not the body of heroic Puritanism alone which was bound to
die, but the soul of it also, which was and should have been,
and yet shall be immortal, has, for the present, passed away.

Yet Goethe, the only man of recent times whom he regarded with a feeling
akin to worship, was in all essentials the reverse of a Puritan.

To Carlyle's, as to most substantially emotional works, may be applied
the phrase made use of in reference to the greatest of all the series of
ancient books--

Hic liber est in quo quisquis sua dogmata quaerit,
Invenit et pariter dogmata quisque sua.

From passages like those above quoted--his complaints of the falling
off of old Scotch faith; his references to the kingdom of a God who has
written "in plain letters on the human conscience a Law that all may
read"; his insistence that the great soul of the world is just; his
belief in religion as a rule of conduct, and his sympathy with the divine
depths of sorrow--from all these many of his Scotch disciples persist in
maintaining that their master was to the end essentially a Christian. The
question between them and other critics who assert that "he had renounced
Christianity" is to some extent, not wholly, a matter of nomenclature; it
is hard exactly to decide it in the case of a man who so constantly found
again in feeling what he had abandoned in thought. Carlyle's Religion was
to the last an inconsistent mixture, not an amalgam, of his mother's and
of Goethe's. The Puritan in him never dies; he attempts in vain to tear
off the husk that cannot be separated from its kernel. He believes in no
historical Resurrection, Ascension, or Atonement, yet hungers and thirsts
for a supramundane source of Law, and holds fast by a faith in the
Nemesis of Greek, Goth, and Jew. He abjures half-way houses; but is
withheld by pathetic memories of the church spires and village graveyards
of his youth from following his doubts to their conclusion; yet he gives
way to his negation in his reference to "old Jew lights now burnt out,"
and in the half-despair of his expression to Froude about the Deity
Himself, "He does nothing." Professor Masson says that "Carlyle had
abandoned the Metaphysic of Christianity while retaining much of its
Ethic." To reverse this dictum would be an overstrain on the other side:
but the _Metaphysic_ of Calvinism is precisely what he retained; the
alleged _Facts_ of Revelation he discarded; of the _Ethic_ of the Gospels
he accepted perhaps the lesser half, and he distinctly ceased to regard
the teaching of Christ as final.

[Footnote: A passage in Mrs. Sutherland Orr's _Life and Letters of Robert
Browning_, p. 173, is decisive on this point, and perhaps too emphatic for
general quotation.]

His doctrine of Renunciation (suggested by the Three Reverences in
_Wilhelm Meister's Travels_) is Carlyle's transmutation, if not
transfiguration, of Puritanism; but it took neither in him nor in Goethe
any very consistent form, save that it meant Temperance, keeping the
body well under the control of the head, the will strong, and striving,
through all the lures of sense, to attain to some ideal life.

Both write of Christianity as "a thing of beauty," a perennial power,
a spreading tree, a fountain of youth; but Goethe was too much of a
Greek--though, as has been said, "a very German Greek"--to be, in any
proper sense of the word, a Christian; Carlyle too much of a Goth. His
Mythology is Norse; his Ethics, despite his prejudice against the race,
are largely Jewish. He proclaimed his code with the thunders of Sinai,
not in the reconciling voice of the Beatitudes. He gives or forces on us
world-old truths splendidly set, with a leaning to strength and endurance
rather than to advancing thought. He did not, says a fine critic of
morals, recognise that "morality also has passed through the straits." He
did not really believe in Content, which has been called the Catholic,
nor in Progress, more questionably styled the Protestant virtue. His
often excellent practical rule to "do the duty nearest to hand" may be
used to gag the intellect in its search after the goal; so that even his
Everlasting Yea, as a predetermined affirmation, may ultimately result in
a deeper negation.

[Footnote: _Vide_ Professor Jones's _Browning as a Philosophical and
Religious, Teacher_, pp. 66-90.]

"Duty," to him as to Wordsworth, "stern daughter of the voice of God,"
has two aspects, on each of which he dwells with a persistent iteration.
The _first_ is _Surrender_ to something higher and wider than ourselves.
That he has nowhere laid the line between this abnegation and the
self-assertion which in his heroes he commends, partly means that correct
theories of our complex life are impossible; but Matthew Arnold's
criticism, that his Ethics "are made paradoxical by his attack on
Happiness, which he should rather have referred to as the result of
Labour and of Truth," can only be rebutted by the assertion that the
pursuit of pleasure as an end defeats itself. The _second_ aspect of his
"Duty" is _Work_. His master Goethe is to him as Apollo to Hercules, as
Shakespeare to Luther; the one entire as the chrysolite, the other like
the Schreckhorn rent and riven; the words of the former are oracles, of
the latter battles; the one contemplates and beautifies truth, the other
wrestles and fights for it. Carlyle has a limited love of abstract truth;
of action his love is unlimited. His lyre is not that of Orpheus, but
that of Amphion which built the walls of Thebes. _Laborare est orare._ He
alone is honourable who does his day's work by sword or plough or pen.
Strength is the crown of toil. Action converts the ring of necessity that
girds us into a ring of duty, frees us from dreams, and makes us men.

The midnight phantoms feel the spell,
The shadows sweep away.

There are few grander passages in literature than some of those litanies
of labour. They have the roll of music that makes armies march, and if
they have been made so familiar as to cease to seem new, it is largely
owing to the power of the writer which has compelled them to become
common property.

Carlyle's practical Ethics, though too little indulgent to the light and
play of life, in which he admitted no [Greek: adiaphora] and only the
relaxation of a rare genial laugh, are more satisfactory than his
conception of their sanction, which is grim. His "Duty" is a categorical
imperative, imposed from without by a taskmaster who has "written in
flame across the sky, 'Obey, unprofitable servant.'" He saw the infinite
above and around, but not _in_ the finite. He insisted on the community
of the race, and struck with a bolt any one who said, "Am I my brother's

All things, the minutest that man does, influence all men,
the very look of his face blesses or curses.... It is a
mathematical fact that the casting of this pebble from my
hand alters the centre of gravity of the universe.

But he left a great gulf fixed between man and God, and so failed to
attain to the Optimism after which he often strove. He held, with
Browning, that "God's in His heaven," but not that "All's right with the
world." His view was the Zoroastrian _*athanatos machae*_, "in God's
world presided over by the prince of the powers of the air," a "divine
infernal universe." The Calvinism of his mother, who said "The world is a
lie, but God is truth," landed him in an _impasse_; he could not answer
the obvious retort,--Did then God make and love a lie, or make it hating
it? There must have been some other power _to eteron_, or, as Mill in
his Apologia for _Theism_ puts it, a limit to the assumed Omnipotence.
Carlyle, accepting neither alternative, inconsequently halts between them;
and his prevailing view of mankind adds to his dilemma.

[Footnote: Some one remarked to Friedrich II. that the philanthropist
Sulzer said, "Men are by nature good." "Ach, mein lieber Sulzer,"
ejaculated Fritz, as quoted approvingly by Carlyle, "er Remit nicht diese
verdarnmte Basse."]

He imposes an "infinite duty on a finite being," as Calvin imposes an
infinite punishment for a finite fault. He does not see that mankind sets
its hardest tasks to itself; or that, as Emerson declares, "the assertion
of our weakness and deficiency is the fine innuendo by which the soul
makes its enormous claim." Hence, according to Mazzini, "He stands between
the individual and the infinite without hope or guide, and crushes the
human being by comparing him with God. From, his lips, so daring, we seem
to hear every instant the cry of the Breton mariner, 'My God, protect me;
my bark is so small and Thy ocean so vast.'" Similarly, the critic of
Browning above referred to concludes of the great prose writer, whom he
has called the poet's twin:

"He has let loose confusion upon us. He has brought us within sight of the
future: he has been our guide in the wilderness; but he died there and was
denied the view from Pisgah."

Carlyle's Theism is defective because it is not sufficiently Pantheistic;
but, in his view of the succession of events in the "roaring loom of
time," of the diorama of majesty girt by mystery, he has found a
cosmic Pantheism and given expression to it in a passage which is the
culmination of the English prose eloquence, as surely as Wordsworth's
great Ode is the high-tide [A phrase applied by Emerson to the
Ode.] mark of the English verse, of this century:--

Are we not sprite shaped into a body, into an Appearance;
and that fade away again into air and Invisibility? This is
no metaphor, it is a simple scientific fact: we start out of
Nothingness, take figure, and are Apparitions; round us as
round the veriest spectre is Eternity, and to Eternity
minutes are as years and aeons. Come there not tones of Love
and Faith as from celestial harp-strings, like the Song of
beatified Souls? And again do we not squeak and gibber and
glide, bodeful and feeble and fearful, and revel in our mad
dance of the Dead,--till the scent of the morning air
summons us to our still home; and dreamy Night becomes awake
and Day? Where now is Alexander of Macedon; does the steel
host that yelled in fierce battle shouts at Issus and
Arbela remain behind him; or have they all vanished utterly,
even as perturbed goblins must? Napoleon, too, with his
Moscow retreats and Austerlitz campaigns, was it all other
than the veriest spectre hunt; which has now with its
howling tumult that made night hideous flitted away?
Ghosts! There are nigh a thousand million walking the
earth openly at noontide; some half hundred have vanished
from it, some half hundred have arisen in it, ere thy watch
ticks once. O Heaven, it is mysterious, it is awful to consider
that we not only carry each a future ghost within him, but are
in very deed ghosts.

[Footnote: _Cf._ "Tempest," "We are such stuff as dreams are
made of."]

These limbs, whence had we them; this stormy Force; this life-
blood with its burning passion? They are dust and shadow; a
shadow system gathered round our _me_, wherein through some
moments or years the Divine Essence is to be revealed in the
Flesh. So has it been from the beginning, so will it be to the
end. Generation after generation takes to itself the form of a
body; and forth issuing from Cimmerian Night on Heaven's mission
appears. What force and fire there is in each he expends, one
grinding in the mill of Industry; one hunter-like climbing the
giddy Alpine heights of science; one madly dashed in pieces on
the rocks of Strife in war with his fellow, and then the heaven-
sent is recalled; his earthly Vesture falls away, and soon even
to sense becomes a vanished shadow. Thus, like some wild naming,
wild thundering train of Heaven's Artillery, does this
mysterious Mankind thunder and flame in long-drawn, quick-
succeeding grandeur through the unknown deep. Thus, like a God-
created fire-breathing spirit host, we emerge from the Inane,
haste stormfully across the astonished earth, then plunge again
into the Inane. Earth's mountains are levelled and her seas
filled up. On the hardest adamant some footprint of us is
stamped; the rear of the host read traces of the earliest van.
But whence, O Heaven, whither? Sense knows not. Faith knows not;
only that it is through Mystery to Mystery, from God and to God.

Volumes might be written on Carlyle's relations, of sentiment, belief,
opinion, method of thought, and manner of expression, to other thinkers.
His fierce independence, and sense of his own prophetic mission to the
exclusion of that of his predecessors and compeers, made him often
unconscious of his intellectual debts, and only to the Germans, who
impressed his comparatively plastic youth, is he disposed adequately to
acknowledge them. Outside the Hebrew Scriptures he seems to have been
wholly unaffected by the writings and traditions of the East, which
exercised so marked an influence on his New England disciples. He never
realised the part played by the philosophers of Greece in moulding the
speculations of modern Europe. He knew Plato mainly through the Socratic
dialogues. There is, however, a passage in a letter to Emerson (March 13th
1853) which indicates that he had read, comparatively late in life, some
portions of _The Republic_. "I was much struck with Plato last year, and
his notions about Democracy--mere _Latter-Day Pamphlets, saxa et faces_
... refined into empyrean radiance and the lightning of the gods." The
tribute conveyed in the comparison is just; for there is nothing but
community of political view between the bitter acorns dropped from the
gnarled border oak and the rich fruit of the finest olive in Athene's
garden. But the coincidences of opinion between the ancient and the modern
writer are among the most remarkable in literary history. We can only
refer, without comments, to a few of the points of contact in this strange
conjunction of minds far as the poles asunder. Plato and Carlyle are both
possessed with the idea that they are living in a degenerate age, and they
attribute its degeneracy to the same causes:--_Laissez faire_; the growth
of luxury; the effeminate preference of Lydian to Dorian airs in music,
education, and life; the decay of the Spartan and growth of the Corinthian
spirit; the habit of lawlessness culminating in the excesses of Democracy,
which they describe in language as nearly identical as the difference of
the ages and circumstances admit. They propose the same remedies:--
a return to simpler manners, and stricter laws, with the best men in the
State to regulate and administer them. Philosophers, says Plato, are to be
made guardians, and they are to govern, not for gain or glory, but for the
common weal. They need not be happy in the ordinary sense, for there is a
higher than selfish happiness, the love of the good. To this love they
must be _systematically educated_ till they are fit to be kings and
priests in the ideal state; if they refuse they _must_, when their turn
comes, be _made to govern_. Compare the following declarations of

Aristocracy and Priesthood, a Governing class and a Teaching
class--these two sometimes combined in one, a Pontiff
King--there did not society exist without those two vital
elements, there will none exist. Whenever there are born
Kings of men you had better seek them out and _breed them
to the work_.... The few wise will have to take command
of the innumerable foolish, they _must be got to do it_.

The Ancient and the Modern, the Greek and the Teuton, are further
curiously at one:--in their dislike of physical or mental
Valetudinarianism (cf. _Rep._ Bs. ii. and iii. and _Characteristics_);
in their protests against the morality of consequences, of rewards and
punishments as motives for the highest life (the just man, says Plato,
crucified is better than the unjust man crowned); in their contempt for
the excesses of philanthropy and the pampering of criminals (cf.
_Rep._ B. viii.); in their strange conjunctions of free-thinking and
intolerance. Plato in the Laws enacts that he who speaks against the gods
shall be first fined, then imprisoned, and at last, if he persists in his
impiety, put to death; yet he had as little belief in the national
religion as Carlyle.

[Footnote: Rousseau, in the "Contrat Social," also assumes this position;
allowing freedom of thought, but banishing the citizen who shows
disrespect to the State Religion.]

They both accept Destiny,--the Parcae or the Norns spin the threads of
life,--and yet both admit a sphere of human choice. In the Republic the
souls select their lots: with Carlyle man can modify his fate. The
juxtaposition in each of Humour and Pathos (cf. Plato's account of the
dogs in a Democracy, and Carlyle's "Nigger gone masterless among the
pumpkins," and, for pathos, the image of the soul encrusted by the world
as the marine Glaucus, or the Vision of Er and Natural Supernaturalism) is
another contact. Both held that philosophers and heroes were few, and yet
both leant to a sort of Socialism, under State control; they both assail
Poetry and deride the Stage (cf. _Rep._ B. ii. and B. x. with Carlyle on
"The Opera"), while each is the greatest prose poet of his race; they are
united in hatred of orators, who "would circumvent the gods," and in
exalting action and character over "the most sweet voices"--the one
enforcing his thesis in the "language of the gods," the other preaching
silence in forty volumes of eloquent English speech.

Carlyle seems to have known little of Aristotle. His Stoicism was
indigenous; but he always alludes with deference to the teaching of the
Porch. Marcus Aurelius, the nearest type of the Philosophic King, must
have riveted his regard as an instance of the combination of thought and
action; and some interesting parallels have been drawn between their
views of life as an arena on which there is much to be done and little
to be known, a passage from time to a vague eternity. They have the same
mystical vein, alongside of similar precepts of self-forgetfulness,
abnegation, and the waiving of desire, the same confidence in the power
of the spirit to defy or disdain vicissitudes, ideas which brought both
in touch with the ethical side of Christianity; but their tempers and
manner are as far as possible apart. Carlyle speaks of no one with more
admiration than of Dante, recognising in the Italian his own intensity
of love and hate and his own tenacity; but beyond this there is little
evidence of the "Divina Commedia" having seriously attuned his thought:
nor does he seem to have been much affected by any of the elder English
poets. He scarcely refers to Chaucer; he alludes to Spenser here and
there with some homage, but hardly ever, excepting Shakespeare, to the
Elizabethan dramatists.

Among writers of the seventeenth century, he may have found in Hobbes
some support of his advocacy of a strong government; but his views on
this theme came rather from a study of the history of that age. Milton
he appreciates inadequately. To Dryden and Swift he is just; the latter,
whether consciously to Carlyle or not, was in some respects his English
master, and the points of resemblance in their characters suggest
detailed examination. Their styles are utterly opposed, that of the one
resting almost wholly on its Saxon base, that of the other being a
coat of many colours; but both are, in the front rank of masters of
prose-satire, inspired by the same audacity of "noble rage." Swift's
humour has a subtler touch and yet more scathing scorn; his contempt of
mankind was more real; his pathos equally genuine but more withdrawn;
and if a worse foe he was a better friend. The comparisons already
made between Johnson and Carlyle have exhausted the theme; they remain
associated by their similar struggle and final victory, and sometimes by
their tyrannous use of power; they are dissociated by the divergence of
their intellectual and in some respects even their moral natures; both
were forces of character rather than discoverers, both rulers of debate;
but the one was of sense, the other of imagination, "all compact." The
one blew "the blast of doom" of the old patronage; the other, against
heavier odds, contended against the later tyranny of uninformed and
insolent popular opinion. Carlyle did not escape wholly from the
influence of the most infectious, if the most morbid, of French writers,
J.J. Rousseau. They are alike in setting Emotion over Reason: in
referring to the Past as a model; in subordinating mere criticism to
ethical, religious or irreligious purpose; in being avowed propagandists;
in their "deep unrest"; and in the diverse conclusions that have been
drawn from their teaching.

Carlyle's enthusiasm for the leaders of the new German literature was, in
some measure, inspired by the pride in a treasure-trove, the regard of a
foster-father or _chaperon_ who first substantially took it by the hand
and introduced it to English society: but it was also due to the feeling
that he had found in it the fullest expression of his own perplexities,
and at least their partial solution. His choice of its representatives is
easily explained. In Schiller he found intellectually a younger brother,
who had fought a part of his own fight and was animated by his own
aspirations; in dealing with his career and works there is a shade
of patronage. Goethe, on the other hand, he recognised across many
divergencies as his master. The attachment of the belated Scotch Puritan
to the greater German has provoked endless comment; but the former has
himself solved the riddle. The contrasts between the teacher and pupil
remain, but they have been exaggerated by those who only knew Goethe as
one who had attained, and ignored the struggle of his hot youth on the
way to attainment. Carlyle justly commends him, not for his artistic
mastery alone, but for his sense of the reality and earnestness of life,
which lifts him to a higher grade among the rulers of human thought
than such more perfect artists and more passionate lyrists as Heine. He
admires above all his conquest over the world, without concession to it,

With him Anarchy has now become Peace ... the once
perturbed spirit is serene and rich in good fruits....
Neither, which is most important of all, has this Peace been
attained by a surrender to Necessity, or any compact with
Delusion--a seeming blessing, such as years and dispiritment
will of themselves bring to most men, and which is indeed no
blessing, since ever-continued battle is better than
captivity. Many gird on the harness, few bear it
warrior-like, still fewer put it off with triumph. Euphorion
still asserts, "To die in strife is the end of life."

Goethe ceased to fight only when he had won; his want of sympathy with
the so-called Apostles of Freedom, the stump orators of his day, was
genuine and shared by

Carlyle. In the apologue of the _Three Reverences_ in _Meister_ the
master indulges in humanitarian rhapsody and, unlike his pupil, verges
on sentimental paradox, declaring through the lips of the Chief in that
imaginary pedagogic province--which here and there closely recalls the
_New Atlantis_--that we must recognise "humility and poverty, mockery and
despite, disgrace and suffering, as divine--nay, even on sin and crime to
look not as hindrances, but to honour them, as furtherances of what is
holy." In answer to Emerson's Puritanic criticisms Carlyle replies:--

Believe me, it is impossible you can be more a Puritan than
I; nay, I often feel as if I were far too much so, but John
Knox himself, could he have seen the peaceable impregnable
_fidelity_ of that man's mind, and how to him also Duty
was infinite,--Knox would have passed on wondering, not
reproaching. But I will tell you in a word why I like
Goethe. His is the only _healthy_ mind, of any extent,
that I have discovered in Europe for long generations; it
was he who first convincingly proclaimed to me ... "Behold
even in this scandalous Sceptico-Epicurean generation, when
all is gone but hunger and cant, it is still possible that
man be a man." And then as to that dark ground on which you
love to see genius paint itself: consider whether misery is
not ill health too, also whether good fortune is not worse
to bear than bad, and on the whole whether the glorious
serene summer is not greater than the wildest hurricane--as
Light, the naturalists say, is stronger than Lightning.

Among German so-called mystics the one most nearly in accord with Carlyle
was Novalis, who has left a sheaf of sayings--as "There is but one temple
in the universe, and that is the body of man," "Who touches a human hand
touches God"--that especially commended themselves to his commentator.
Among philosophers proper, Fichte, in his assertion of the Will as a
greater factor of human life and a nearer indication of personality than
pure Thought, was Carlyle's nearest tutor. The _Vocation of the Scholar_
and _The Way to a Blessed Life_ anticipated and probably suggested much
of the more speculative part of _Sartor_. But to show their relation
would involve a course of Metaphysics.

We accept Carlyle's statement that he learnt most of the secret of life
and its aims from his master Goethe: but the closest of his kin, the man
with whom he shook hands more nearly as an equal, was Richter--_Jean Paul
der einzige_, lord of the empire of the air, yet with feet firmly planted
on German earth, a colossus of reading and industry, the quaintest of
humorists, not excepting either Sir Thomas Browne or Laurence Sterne, a
lover and painter of Nature unsurpassed in prose. He first seems to have
influenced his translator's style, and set to him the mode of queer
titles and contortions, fantastic imaginary incidents, and endless
digressions. His Ezekiel visions as the dream in the first _Flower Piece_
from the life of Siebenkäs, and that on _New Year's Eve_, are like
pre-visions of _Sartor_, and we find in the fantasies of both authors
much of the same machinery. It has been asserted that whole pages of
_Schmelzle's Journey to Flätz_ might pass current for Carlyle's own; and
it is evident that the latter was saturated with _Quintus Fixlein_. The
following can hardly be a mere coincidence. Richter writes of a dead
brother, "For he chanced to leap on an ice-board that had jammed itself
among several others; but these recoiled, and his shot forth with him,
melted away as it floated under his feet, and so sank his heart of fire
amid the ice and waves"; while in _Cui Bono_ we have--

What is life? a thawing ice-board
On a sea with sunny shore.

Similarly, the eloquently pathetic close of _Fixlein_, especially the
passage, "Then begun the Æolian harp of Creation," recalls the deepest
pathos of _Sartor_. The two writers, it has been observed, had in common
"reverence, humour, vehemence, tenderness, gorgeousness, grotesqueness,
and pure conduct of life." Much of Carlyle's article in the _Foreign
Quarterly_ of 1830 might be taken for a criticism of himself.

Enough has been said of the limits of Carlyle's magnanimity in estimating
his English contemporaries; but the deliberate judgments of his essays
were often more genial than those of his letters and conversation; and
perhaps his overestimate of inferiors, whom in later days he drew round
him as the sun draws the mist, was more hurtful than his severity; it is
good for no man to live with satellites. His practical severance from
Mazzini was mainly a personal loss: the widening of the gulf between
him and Mill was a public calamity, for seldom have two men been better
qualified the one to correct the excesses of the other. Carlyle was the
greater genius; but the question which was the greater mind must be
decided by the conflict between logic and emotion. They were related
proximately as Plato to Aristotle, the one saw what the other missed, and
their hold on the future has been divided. Mill had "the dry light," and
his meaning is always clear; he is occasionally open to the charge
of being a formalist, allowing too little for the "infusion of the
affections," save when touched, as Carlyle was, by a personal loss; yet
the critical range indicated by his essay on "Coleridge" on the one side,
that on "Bentham" on the other, is as wide as that of his friend; and
while neither said anything base, Mill alone is clear from the charge of
having ever said anything absurd. His influence, though more indirect,
may prove, save artistically, more lasting. The two teachers, in their
assaults on _laissez faire,_ curiously combine in giving sometimes
undesigned support to social movements with which the elder at least had
no sympathy.

Carlyle's best, because his most independent, friend lived beyond the
sea. He has been almost to weariness compared with Emerson, initial
pupil later ally, but their contrasts are more instructive than their
resemblances. They have both at heart a revolutionary spirit, marked
originality, uncompromising aversion to illusions, disdain of traditional
methods of thought and stereotyped modes of expression; but in Carlyle
this is tempered by greater veneration for the past, in which he holds
out models for our imitation; while Emerson sees in it only fingerposts
for the future, and exhorts his readers to stay at home lest they should
wander from themselves. The one loves detail, hates abstraction, delights
to dwell on the minutiæ of biography, and waxes eloquent even on dates.
The other, a brilliant though not always a profound generaliser, tells
us that we must "leave a too close and lingering adherence to facts, and
study the sentiment as it appeared in hope not in history ... with the
ideal is the rose of joy. But grief cleaves to names and persons, and
the partial interests of to-day and yesterday." The one is bent under a
burden, and pores over the riddle of the earth, till, when he looks up at
the firmament of the unanswering stars, he can but exclaim, "It is a sad
sight." The other is blown upon by the fresh breezes of the new world;
his vision ranges over her clear horizons, and he leaps up elastic under
her light atmosphere, exclaiming, "Give me health and a day and I will
make the pomp of emperors ridiculous." Carlyle is a half-Germanised
Scotchman, living near the roar of the metropolis, with thoughts of
Weimar and reminiscences of the Covenanting hills. Emerson studies
Swedenborg and reads the _Phædo_ in his garden, far enough from the din
of cities to enable him in calm weather to forget them. "Boston, London,
are as fugitive as any whiff of smoke; so is society, so is the world."
The one is strong where the other is weak. Carlyle keeps his abode in
the murk of clouds illumined by bolts of fire; he has never seen the sun
unveiled. Emerson's "Threnody" shows that he has known the shadow; but he
has fought with no Apollyons, reached the Celestial City without crossing
the dark river, and won the immortal garland "without the dust and heat."
Self-sacrifice, inconsistently maintained, is the watchword of the one:
self-reliance, more consistently, of the other. The art of the two
writers is in strong contrast. The charm of Emerson's style is its
precision; his sentences are like medals each hung on its own string; the
fields of his thought are combed rather than ploughed: he draws outlines,
as Flaxman, clear and colourless. Carlyle's paragraphs are like streams
from Pactolus, that roll nuggets from their source on their turbid way.
His expressions are often grotesque, but rarely offensive. Both writers
are essentially ascetic,--though the one swallows Mirabeau, and the other
says that Jane Eyre should have accepted Eochester and "left the world in
a minority." But Emerson is never coarse, which Carlyle occasionally is;
and Carlyle is never flippant, as Emerson often is. In condemning the
hurry and noise of mobs the American keeps his temper, and insists on
justice without vindictiveness: wars and revolutions take nothing from
his tranquillity, and he sets Hafiz and Shakespeare against Luther and
Knox. Careless of formal consistency--"the hobgoblin of little minds"--he
balances his aristocratic reserve with a belief in democracy, in
progression by antagonism, and in collective wisdom as a limit to
collective folly. Leaving his intellectual throne as the spokesman of a
practical liberty, Emerson's wisdom was justified by the fact that he was
always at first on the unpopular, and ultimately on the winning, side.
Casting his rote for the diffusion of popular literature, a wide
suffrage, a mild penal code, he yet endorsed the saying of an old
American author, "A monarchy is a merchantman which sails well but will
sometimes strike on a rock and go to the bottom; whilst a republic is
a raft that will never sink, but then your feet are always in water."

[Footnote: Carlyle, on the other hand, holds "that," as has been said, "we
are entitled to deal with criminals as relics of barbarism in the midst of
civilisation." His protest, though exuberated, against leniency in dealing
with atrocities, emphatically requisite in an age apt to ignore the rigour
of justice, has been so far salutary, and may be more so.]

Maintaining that the State exists for its members, he holds that the
enervating influences of authority are least powerful in popular
governments, and that the tyranny of a public opinion not enforced by law
need only be endured by voluntary slaves. Emerson confides in great men,
"to educate whom the State exists"; but he regards them as inspired
mouthpieces rather than controlling forces: their prime mission is to
"fortify our hopes," their indirect services are their best. The career
of a great man should rouse us to a like assertion of ourselves. We ought
not to obey, but to follow, sometimes by not obeying, him. "It is the
imbecility not the wisdom of men that is always inviting the impudence of

It is obvious that many of these views are in essential opposition to the
teaching of Carlyle; and it is remarkable that two conspicuous men so
differing and expressing their differences with perfect candour should
have lived so long on such good terms. Their correspondence, ranging
over thirty-eight years (begun in 1834, after Emerson's visit to
Craigenputtock, and ending in 1872, before his final trip to England),
is on the whole one of the most edifying in literary history. The
fundamental accord, unshaken by the ruffle of the visit in 1847, is a
testimony to the fact that the common preservation of high sentiments
amid the irksome discharge of ordinary duties may survive and override
the most distinct antagonisms of opinion. Matthew Arnold has gone so far
as to say that he "would not wonder if Carlyle lived in the long run by
such an invaluable record as that correspondence between him and Emerson
and not by his works." This is paradoxical; but the volumes containing
it are in some respects more interesting than the letters of Goethe and
Schiller, as being records of "two noble kinsmen" of nearer intellectual
claims. The practical part of the relationship on the part of Emerson is
very beautiful; he is the more unselfish, and on the whole appears the
better man, especially in the almost unlimited tolerance that passes with
a smile even such violences as the "Ilias in nuce"; but Carlyle shows
himself to be the stronger. Their mutual criticisms were of real benefit.
Emerson succeeded in convincing his friend that so-called anarchy might
be more effective in subduing the wilderness than any despotism; while
the advice to descend from "Himalaya peaks and indigo skies" to concrete
life is accepted and adopted in the later works of the American, _Society
and Solitude_ and the _Conduct of Life,_ which Carlyle praises without
stint. Keeping their poles apart they often meet half-way; and in matters
of style as well as judgment tinge and tend to be transfused into each
other, so that in some pages we have to look to the signature to be sure
of the writer. Towards the close of the correspondence Carlyle in this
instance admits his debt.

I do not know another man in all the world to whom I can
speak with clear hope of getting adequate response from him.
Truly Concord seems worthy of the name: no dissonance comes
to me from that side. Ah me! I feel as if in the wide world
there were still but this one voice that responded
intelligently to my own: as if the rest were all
hearsays ... echoes: as if this alone were true and alive.
My blessings on you, good Ralph Waldo.

Emerson answers in 1872, on receipt of the completed edition of his
friend's work: "You shall wear the crown at the Pan-Saxon games, with no
competitor in sight ... well earned by genius and exhaustive labour, and
with nations for your pupils and praisers."

The general verdict on Carlyle's literary career assigns to him the first
place among the British authors of his time. No writer of our generation,
in England, has combined such abundance with such power. Regarding his
rank as a writer there is little or no dispute: it is admitted that the
irregularities and eccentricities of his style are bound up with its
richness. In estimating the value of his thought we must discriminate
between instruction and inspiration. If we ask what new truths he has
taught, what problems he has definitely solved, our answer must be,
"few." This is a perhaps inevitable result of the manner of his writing,
or rather of the nature of his mind. Aside from political parties, he
helped to check their exaggerations by his own; seeing deeply into the
under-current evils of the time, even when vague in his remedies he
was of use in his protest against leaving these evils to adjust
themselves--what has been called "the policy of drifting"--or of dealing
with them only by catchwords. No one set a more incisive brand on the
meanness that often marks the unrestrained competition of great cities;
no one was more effective in his insistence that the mere accumulation
of wealth may mean the ruin of true prosperity; no one has assailed with
such force the mammon-worship and the frivolity of his age. Everything he
writes comes home to the individual conscience: his claim to be regarded
as a moral exemplar has been diminished, his hold on us as an ethical
teacher remains unrelaxed. It has been justly observed that he helped
to modify "the thought rather than the opinion of two generations." His
message, as that of Emerson, was that "life must be pitched on a higher
plane." Goethe said to Eckermann in 1827 that Carlyle was a moral force
so great that he could not tell what he might produce. His influence has
been, though not continuously progressive, more marked than that of any
of his compeers, among whom he was, if not the greatest, certainly the
most imposing personality. It had two culminations; shortly after the
appearance of _The French Revolution,_ and again towards the close of the
seventh decade of the author's life. To the enthusiastic reception of his
works in the Universities, Mr. Froude has borne eloquent testimony, and
the more reserved Matthew Arnold admits that "the voice of Carlyle,
overstrained and misused since, sounded then in Oxford fresh and
comparatively sound," though, he adds, "The friends of one's youth cannot
always support a return to them." In the striking article in the _St.
James' Gazette_ of the date of the great author's death we read: "One who
had seen much of the world and knew a large proportion of the remarkable
men of the last thirty years declared that Mr. Carlyle was by far the
most impressive person he had ever known, the man who conveyed most
forcibly to those who approached him [best on resistance principles]
that general impression of genius and force of character which it is
impossible either to mistake or to define." Thackeray, as well as Ruskin
and Froude, acknowledged him as, beyond the range of his own _métier_,
his master, and the American Lowell, penitent for past disparagement,
confesses that "all modern Literature has felt his influence in the right
direction"; while the Emersonian hermit Thoreau, a man of more
intense though more restricted genius than the poet politician,
declares--"Carlyle alone with his wide humanity has, since Coleridge,
kept to us the promise of England. His wisdom provokes rather than
informs. He blows down narrow walls, and struggles, in a lurid light,
like the Jöthuns, to throw the old woman Time; in his work there is too
much of the anvil and the forge, not enough hay-making under the sun. He
makes us act rather than think: he does not say, know thyself, which is
impossible, but know thy work. He has no pillars of Hercules, no clear
goal, but an endless Atlantic horizon. He exaggerates. Yes; but he makes
the hour great, the picture bright, the reverence and admiration strong;
while mere precise fact is a coil of lead." Our leading journal on the
morning after Carlyle's death wrote of him in a tone of well-tempered
appreciation: "We have had no such individuality since Johnson. Whether
men agreed or not, he was a touchstone to which truth and falsehood were
brought to be tried. A preacher of Doric thought, always in his pulpit
and audible, he denounced wealth without sympathy, equality without
respect, mobs without leaders, and life without aim." To this we may add
the testimony of another high authority in English letters, politically
at the opposite pole: "Carlyle's influence in kindling enthusiasm for
virtues worthy of it, and in stirring a sense of the reality on the one
hand and the unreality on the other, of all that men can do and suffer,
has not been surpassed by any teacher now living. Whatever later teachers
may have done in definitely shaping opinion ... here is the friendly
fire-bearer who first conveyed the Promethean spark; here the prophet who
first smote the rock." Carlyle, writes one of his oldest friends, "may
be likened to a fugleman; he stood up in the front of Life's Battle and
showed in word and action his notion of the proper attitude and action of
men. He was, in truth, a prophet, and he has left his gospels." To those
who contest that these gospels are for the most part negative, we may
reply that to be taught what not to do is to be far advanced on the way
to do.

In nothing is the generation after him so prone to be unjust to a fresh
thinker as with regard to his originality. A physical discovery, as
Newton's, remains to ninety-nine out of a hundred a mental miracle; but a
great moral teacher "labours to make himself forgotten." When he begins
to speak he is suspected of insanity; when he has won his way he receives
a Royal Commission to appoint the judges; as a veteran he is shelved for
platitude. So Horace is regarded as a mere jewelry store of the Latin,
Bacon in his _Essays_, of the English, wisdom, which they each in
fact helped to create. Carlyle's paradoxes have been exaggerated, his
partialities intensified, in his followers; his critical readers, not his
disciples, have learnt most from him; he has helped across the Slough of
Despond only those who have also helped themselves. When all is said of
his dogmatism, his petulance, his "evil behaviour," he remains the master
spirit of his time, its Censor, as Macaulay is its Panegyrist, and
Tennyson its Mirror. He has saturated his nation with a wholesome tonic,
and the practice of any one of his precepts for the conduct of life is
ennobling. More intense than Wordsworth, more intelligible than Browning,
more fervid than Mill, he has indicated the pitfalls in our civilisation.
His works have done much to mould the best thinkers in two continents,
in both of which he has been the Greatheart to many pilgrims. Not a
few could speak in the words of the friend whose memory he has so
affectionately preserved, "Towards me it is still more true than towards
England that no one has been and done like you." A champion of ancient
virtue, he appeared in his own phrase applied to Fichte, as "a Cato Major
among degenerate men." Carlyle had more than the shortcomings of a Cato;
he had all the inconsistent vehemence of an imperfectly balanced mind;
but he had a far wider range and deeper sympathies. The message of the
modern preacher transcended all mere applications of the text _delenda
est._ He denounced, but at the same time nobly exhorted, his age. A
storm-tossed spirit, "tempest-buffeted," he was "citadel-crowned" in his
unflinching purpose and the might of an invincible will.



The _St. James' Gazette,_ February 11, 1881, writes:--

"It is obvious that from an early age he entirely ceased to believe, in
its only true sense, the creed he had been taught. He never affected
to believe it in any other sense, for he was far too manly and
simple-hearted to care to frame any of those semi-honest transmutations
of the old doctrines into new-fangled mysticism which had so great a
charm for many of his weaker contemporaries. On the other hand, it is
equally true that he never plainly avowed his unbelief. The line he took
up was that Christianity, though not true in fact, had a right to be
regarded as the noblest aspiration after a theory of the Universe and of
human life ever formed: and that the Calvinistic version of Christianity
was on the whole the best it ever assumed; and the one which represented
the largest proportion of truth and the least amount of error. He also
thought that the truths which Calvinism tried to express, and succeeded
in expressing in an imperfect or partially mistaken manner, were the
ultimate governing principles of morals and politics, of whose systematic
neglect in this age nothing but evil could come.

"Unwilling to take up the position of a rebel or revolutionist by stating
his views plainly--indeed if he had done so sixty years ago he might have
starved--the only resource left to him was that of approaching all the
great subjects of life from the point of view of grim humour, irony, and
pathos. This was the real origin of his unique style; though no doubt its
special peculiarities were due to the wonderful power of his imagination,
and to some extent--to a less extent we think than has been usually
supposed--to his familiarity with German.

"What then was his creed? What were the doctrines which in his view
Calvinism shadowed forth and which were so infinitely true, so ennobling
to human life? First, he believed in God; secondly, he believed in an
absolute opposition between good and evil; thirdly, he believed that
all men do, in fact, take sides more or less decisively in this great
struggle, and ultimately turn out to be either good or bad; fourthly, he
believed that good is stronger than evil, and by infinitely slow degrees
gets the better of it, but that this process is so slow as to be
continually obscured and thrown back by evil influences of various
kinds--one of which he believed to be specially powerful in the present

"God in his view was not indeed a personal Being, like the Christian
God--still less was He in any sense identified with Jesus Christ; who,
though always spoken of with rather conventional reverence in his
writings, does not appear to have specially influenced him. The God in
which Mr. Carlyle believed is, as far as can be ascertained, a
Being possessing in some sense or other will and consciousness, and
personifying the elementary principles of morals--Justice, Benevolence
(towards good people), Fortitude, and Temperance--to such a pitch that
they may be regarded, so to speak, as forming collectively the will of
God.... That there is some one who--whether by the earthquake, or
the fire, or the still small voice--is continually saying to
mankind--'_Discite justitiam moniti'_; and that this Being is the
ultimate fact at which we can arrive ... is what Mr. Carlyle seems to
have meant by believing in God. And if any one will take the trouble to
refer to the first few sentences of the Westminster Confession, and to
divest them of their references to Christianity and to the Bible, he will
find that between the God of Calvin and of Carlyle there is the closest
possible similarity.... The great fact about each particular man is the
relation, whether of friendship or enmity, in which he stands to God. In
the one case he is on the side which must ultimately prevail, ... in the
other ... he will, in due time, be crushed and destroyed.... Our relation
to the universe can be ascertained only by experiment. We all have to
live out our lives.... One man is a Cromwell, another a Frederick, a
third a Goethe, a fourth a Louis XV. God hates Louis XV. and loves
Cromwell. Why, if so, He made Louis XV., and indeed whether He made him
or not, are idle questions which cannot be answered and should not be
asked. There are good men and bad men, all pass alike through this
mysterious hall of doom called life: most show themselves in their true
colours under pressure. The good are blessed here and hereafter; the bad
are accursed. Let us bring out as far as may be possible such good as a
man has had in him since his origin. Let us strike down the bad to the
hell that gapes for him. This, we think, or something like this, was Mr.
Carlyle's translation of election and predestination into politics and
morals.... There is not much pity and no salvation worth speaking of in
either body of doctrine; but there is a strange, and what some might
regard as a terrible parallelism between these doctrines and the
inferences that may be drawn from physical science. The survival of
the fittest has much in common with the doctrine of election, and
philosophical necessity, as summed up in what we now call evolution,
comes practically to much the same result as predestination."


Ailsa Craig
Airy (the astronomer)
Aitken, James
Aitken, Mary
Aitken, Mrs.
Albert, Prince
Annual Register
Antoinette, Marie
Arnold, Dr.
Arnold, Matthew
Ashburton, Lord and Lady
Austin, Mrs.

Bamford, Samuel
Baring, see Ashburton
Beaconsfield, Lord
Bernstoff, Count
Biography (by Froude)
Brewster, Sir David
Brocken, spectre of the
Bromley, Miss
Bronte, Emily
Brown, Prof.
Browne, Sir Thomas
Bryant _note_
Buller, Charles
Buller, Mrs.
Burness, William

_Cagliostro, Count_
Campbell, Macleod
Campbell, Thomas
Carlyle (family)
Carlyle, Alexander
Carlyle, James (brother)
Carlyle, James (father)
Carlyle, John, Dr.
Carlyle, Margaret (mother)
Carlyle, Margaret (sister)
Carlyle, Mrs. (Jane Welsh)(wife)
Carlyle, Thomas (grandfather)
Carlyle, Thomas,
studies German;
lives in Edinburgh and takes pupils;
studies law;
tutor to the Bullers;
goes to London;
at Hoddam Hill;
Edinburgh life;
married life;
life at Craigenputtock;
second visit to London;
publishes _Sartor_;
takes house in Chelsea;
life and work in London;
loss of first volume of _French Revolution_;
rewrites first volume of _French Revolution_;
founds London Library;
publishes _Chartism_;
writes _Past and Present_;
writes _Life of Cromwell_;
visits Ireland;
visits Paris;
writes _History of Friedrich II._;
excursions to Germany;
nominated Lord Rector of Glasgow;
success of _Friedrich II._;
Lord Rector of Edinburgh;
death of his wife;
writes his _Reminiscences_;
defends Governor Eyre;
writes on Franco-German War;
writes on Russo-Turkish War;
declining years;
Appreciation of;
authorities for his life;
contemporary history;
critic, as;
descriptive passages;
domestic troubles;
elements of his character;
estimates (his) of contemporaries;
financial affairs;
genius; historian, as;
jury, serves on a;
literary artist
popularity and praise
preacher, as,
rank as a writer
relations to other thinkers
sound-proof room,
travels, and visits
views, change of
worker, as
Cavaignac, General
Chalmers, Dr.
Changarnier, General
Cheyne Row
Church, English
Cid, the
Civil War
Civil War (American)
Clare, Lady
Clerkenwell explosions
Clough, Arthur
Colenso, Bishop
Conway, Moncure
Cooper, Thomas
Crimean War
_Cromwell, Life and Letters of,_
Crystal Palace Exhibition
Cushman, Miss
Czars, the

David II.
De Morgan
De Quincey
Derby, Countess of
_Dial, The,_
_Diamond Necklace,_
Disraeli. _See_ Beaconsfield
_Don Quixote,_
Döring, Herr
Duffy, Sir C. Gavan
Dunbar (poet)

_Edinburgh Encyclopaedia_
_Edinburgh Review_
Eldin, Lord
Eliot, George
_English Traits_ (Emerson's)
_Essay on Proportion_
_Essays_ (Carlyle's)
Everett, Alexander
"Exodus from Houndsditch,"
Eyre, Governor
Eyre, Jane

Factory Acts

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