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“Could ambition always choose its own path, and were Will in human undertakings synonymous with Faculty, all truly ambitious men would be Men of Letters,” says Carlyle, in his paper on Voltaire. To this path Carlyle was impelled from within and compelled from without. For this career he had every needed furtherance. He was, in the best sense of the word, well-born. His forefathers for many generations were Scottish farmers, tilling their own acres, stout of body, strong of mind, and devotedly attached to the Kirk. “I can trace,” he says, “the father, the son, and the grandson ; and the family type is quite distinct upon each of them.”
Carlyle had every advantage of training to be obtained at the University of Edinburgh ; in early manhood he had enough need for work to induce him to labor, and not enough to break him down. At thirty a happy marriage gave him a competence sufficient to enable him to pursue his chosen career without the necessity of doing task-work for his daily bread. His “ Collected Works” comprise something more than thirty moderate volumes ; his writings not included in this collection would fill two or three more. The earliest of them were written when he was twenty-five years of age, the latest when he was eighty ; and we are told that now, when he has reached the age of fourscore and four, he has undertaken to write his Autobiography.
Besides being, as he styles himself, a “Writer of Books,” he is the most notable “ Talker” of the generation. “Never,” says Mr. Milburn, the blind preacher, “had I any idea of what eloquent talk meant until I listened to Carlyle.” Of his tabletalk Mr. Milburn has given some examples, treasured up in a memory which, quickened by his infirmity of vision, enables him to reproduce word for word the whole of a long conversation or discourse. From the lips of the blind preacher we have written down many pages of this table-talk, some of which, mainly autobiographical, will be here given. The life of Carlyle, however, is his writings, and mainly from these we propose to endeavor to set forth what kind of work he has done, and what manner of man he came to be.
THOMAS CARLYLE was born December 4, 1795, near the little village of Ecclefechan, in the district of Annandale, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Of his father he once said to Milburn :
CARLYLE'S FATHER AND THEIR PASTOR. “I think, of all the men I have ever known, my father was quite the remarkablest. Quite a farmer sort of person, using vigilant thrift and careful industry; abiding by veracity and faith, and with an extraordinary insight into the very heart of things and men. I can remember that from my childhood I was surprised at his using many words of which I knew not the meaning; and even as I grew to manhood I was not a little puzzled by them, and supposed that they must be of his own coinage. But later, in my black-letter reading, I discovered that every one of them I could recall was of the sound Saxon stock which had lain buried, yet fruitful withal, in the quick memory of the humbler sort of folk.
“He was an elder of the Kirk, and it was very pleasant to see him in his daily and weekly relations with the ininister of the parish. They had been friends from youth. That parish minister was the first person that ever taught me Latin, and I am not sure but that he laid a very great curse upon me in so doing. I think it is likely I should have been a wiser man, and certainly a godlier one, if I had followed in my father's steps, and left Greek and Latin to the fools that wanted them.)
“The last time I ever saw my father was on my journey from Craigenputtoch to London. I was on my way to this modern Babylon, with a manuscript in my hand, "Sartor Resartus' by name, which I wished to get into print. I came upon my fool's errand, and I saw my father no more, for I had not been in town many days when tidings came that he was dead. He had gone to bed at night as well as usual, it seemed; but they found in the morning that he had passed from the realm of Sleep to that of Day. It was a fit end for such a life as his had been. He was a man into the four corners of whose house there had shined through the years of his pilgrimage, by day and by night, the light of the glory of God. Like Enoch of old, he had walked with God; and at the last he was not, for God took him.
"If I could only see such men now as were my father and his minister-men of such fearless and simple faith, with such firmness in holding on to the things that they believed, in saying and doing only what they thought was right, in seeing and hating the thing that they felt to be wrong-I should have far more hope for this British nation, and indeed for the world at large."
And then he burst out into one of those strange diatribes so characteristic of the man, which have gained for him the title of the “Censor of the Age,” but which sound odd enough when coming from so voluminous a writer and so persistent a . talker :
TALKERS AND ORATORS.
“Alas! Sir, the days in which our lot is cast are sad and evil. All Virtue and Belief and Courage seem to have run to Tongue; and he is the wisest man, and the most valiant, who is greatest Talker. The world has transformed itself into a Parliament, an assemblage