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indifference to every principle of right and justice; a man whom neither friend nor foe could trust except just so far as it should be clearly for his interest to keep faith.
CARLYLE was seventy years old when the “History of Frederick” was concluded. In the year following, 1866, he was chosen Lord Rector of the University of Edinburgh, succeeding Gladstone, the opposing candidate being Disraeli. The office is purely an honorary one, involving no duties except the delivering of an inaugural and perhaps a valedictory address. Carlyle's inaugural, which is in marked contrast with much that he had written and spoken in late years, was a calm talk rather than a formal address, with every now and then a bit of characteristic humor, not exactly sweet, but of a very pleasant sour.
He called to mind how, fifty-six years before, he had come to the university, a boy of not quite fourteen, to attend the classes, and told his young auditors : “What the universities can mainly do for you—what I have found the university did for me—is, that it taught me to read in various languages, in various sciences, so that I could go into the books that treated of these things, and gradually penetrate into any department I wanted to make myself master of, as I found it to suit me.” He exhorted them to be, above all things, diligent and honest students, and gradually to find out what kind of work they individually could do. His hearers had perhaps looked for a bitter-spoken “ Latter-Day Pamphlet,” or one of those trenchant, almost cynical talks of his of which they must have heard. Not a few of the topics were indeed the same as those which had furnished themes for the "Latter-Day Pamphlets," but they now looked very differently, as the same objects appear very different when seen by the clear light of day or by the blaze of colored fireworks. In nothing had he been, by tongue and pen, more vehement than in decrying the value of speech, the faculty of the orator, no matter from what stump he might talk. In this address he says :
FINE SPEECH. “Oh, it is a dismal chapter, all that, if one went into it-what has been done by rushing after fine speech. I have written down some very fierce things about that, perhaps considerably more emphatic than I could now wish them to be, but they were and are deeply my conviction. There is very great necessity indeed of getting a little more silent than we are. It seems to me that the finest nations of the world—the English and the Americans in 'chief-were going all off into wind and tongue. But it will appear sufficiently tragical by-and-by, long
after I am away ont of it. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. Silence withal is the eternal duty of man. He won't get to any real understanding of what is complex, and what is more than aught else pertinent to his interests, without keeping silence too. Watch the tongue’ is a very old precept, and a most true one.
“I don't want to discourage any one of you from your Demosthenes, and your studies of the niceties of language, and all that. ... At the same time I must say to you that speech, in the case even of Demosthenes, does not seem, on the whole, to have turned to almost any good account. He advised next to nothing that proved practicable; much the reverse. . . . Finally, I have one advice to give you, which is practically of very great importance. ... You are to consider throughout, much more than is done at present, and what would have been a very great thing for me if I had been able to consider, that health is a thing to be attended to continually; that you are to regard that as the very highest of all temporal things for you. There is no kind of achievement you could make in the world that is equal to perfect health. What to it are nuggets and millions? The French financier said, “Why is there no sleep to be sold?' Sleep was not in the market at any quotation."
We certainly should be loath to apply to Carlyle himself, except with some considerable limitation, what he says of great talkers, whether with pen or tongue, of whom he is among the chiefest. In any case, we should not be willing to inflict upon him, except in a purely metaphorical sense, the penalty which he proposes for men of his own kind.
SPEAKING VERSUS PRACTISING. “Do you want a man not to practise what he believes, then encourage him to keep often speaking of it in words. Every time he speaks it the tendency to do it will grow less. His empty speech of what he believes will be a weariness and affliction to the wise man. But do you wish his empty speech of what he believes to become further an insincere speech of what he does not believe? Celebrate to him his gift of speech; assure him that eloquent speech, whether performed or not, is admirable. I think the serviceable thing you could do to that man, if permissible, would be a severe one-to clip off a bit of his eloquent tongue by way of penance and warning; another bit if he again spoke without performing, and so again, until you had clipped the whole tongue away from him.”
We do not care to believe that Carlyle in his most talkative moods, whether with tongue or pen, was for the time being consciously insincere in what he said or wrote ; but our faith in this regard has often been sorely tried. But, in any case, there was a great gulf between his speaking and his doing, unless we charitably assume, as he seems to have done, that talking was the only sort of doing to which he was called in this world. It is certainly a little odd that a man who has written and talked more than almost any other man of his generation should spend so many of his years in shouting at the top of his voice that everybody should hold his tongue. Thus in the “Latter-Day Pamphlet” entitled “The Stump Orator"
he says: “Let the young English soul lay this solemnly to heart—this is my deepest counsel to him : The idea you have once spoken is no longer yours—it is gone from you, so much life and virtue is gone, and the vital circulation of yourself and your destiny and activity are henceforth deprived of it.” The incongruity of such words, coming from the writer of thirty printed volumes, seems to have struck him, for he adds in quite a different vein :
BEING AND DOING SOMETHING. “Brave young friends, you are, what I am not, in the happy case to be something and to do something, instead of eloquently talking about what has been and was done, and may be. The old are what they are, and will not alter. Our hope is in you ; and may future generations, acquainted with the Silences, and once more cognizant of what is noble, and faithful, and divine, look back on us with pity and incredulous astonishment!"
This Edinburgh Inaugural has a melancholy interest in connection with Carlyle's individual history. For, while he was absent from London to deliver it, news came to him that he should never more look upon the face of that wife of his who, as he lovingly inscribed on her tomb-stone, had “for forty years been the true and loving helpmate of her husband, and by act and word unwearily forwarded him, as none else could, in all of worthy that he did or attempted.”