do in this thoughtless scene. I have my views of life to reform, and the whole plan of my conduct to remodel, withal I have my health to recover; and then once more I shall venture my bark upon the waters of this wide realm, and, if she can not weather it, I shall steer west, and try the waters of another world.' So he reasons and resolves, but, sure, a worthier destiny awaits him than voluntary exile.”

And so it proved. By patiently putting his hand to whatever work it found to do, he kept his bark afloat in Scottish waters, and in five or six years gained a safe haven. Between 1820 and 1825 he prepared nearly a score of articles for the “Edinburgh Encyclopædia,” among which are biographical sketches of Montaigne, Montesquieu, Necker, Nelson, and the two Pitts, and descriptions of Newfoundland, the Netherlands, and several counties of England. For the “New Edinburgh Review” he wrote critiques upon Joanna Baillie's “Metrical Legends” and Goethe's “Faust,” none of which appear in his collected works. He translated Legendre's “Geometry and Trigonometry,” to which he added notes and an introductory chapter on “Proportion,” which De Morgan says is “a thoughtful and ingenious essay, as good a substitute for the ‘Fifth book of Euclid' as could be given in the space.” He translated Goethe's “Wilhelm Meister,” and furnished to the “London Magazine” a series of papers

which were afterward expanded into the “Life of Schiller.”

He also was for a time private tutor to Charles Buller, a young man of fortune, who became one of the most promising statesmen of the day, and of whom Carlyle many years after wrote a graceful obituary. His last piece of task-work was a series of translations of tales from Goethe, Richter, Tieck, Musäus, and Hoffmann, of which only a portion appear in his collected works. Of these he says, “ This book of translations was not of my suggestion or desiring, but of my executing as honest journey-work, in defect of better.”.

The “Life of Schiller" is the earliest of Carlyle's works with which we are familiar. We believe (although we are not quite sure) that the magazine papers were first collected into a volume in 1827 in America, under the editorial care of Charles Follen, who furnished a highly laudatory preface, and corrected some of the translations. The name of the author was not given. It must be borne in mind that fifty and odd years ago, when these papers first appeared, it was scarcely dreamed in England that such a thing as German literature existed. One might probably count up on his fingers every English man of letters who could read with any tolerable ease a page of Goethe, Schiller, or Wieland : and scarcely anything was known of their writings through translations. Carlyle says : “Coleridge's translation of • Wallenstein ’ is as a whole unknown to me; but judging from many large specimens, I should pronounce it, except Sotheby's 'Oberon,' to be the best, and indeed the only sufferable, translation from the German with which our literature has yet been enriched.” Of Carlyle's poetical translations we can not speak in very high terms. Indeed, his poetical appreciation was by no means of a high order. There is much of truth in what Margaret Fuller wrote of him : “For the higher kind of poetry he has no sense, and his talk on that subject is delightfully and gorgeously ab

[ocr errors]

Carlyle indeed admitted the “Life of Schiller” into his own collected edition of his works, but with a half protest, much as Macaulay did with his early paper on Milton. It is a respectable, but by no means a great work. It is chiefly noteworthy from the fact that its style bears no trace of the peculiarities which mark most of his subsequent writings. There is rarely any attempt to rise into eloquence or enthusiasm. The closing paragraph, however, is as noble as anything ever written by him. After speaking of the perpetual ill-health of Schiller, and the manifold other ills under which he labored all his life, the biography concludes :

SCHILLER'S CAREER. “Yet, on the whole, we may pronounce him happy. His days passed in the contemplation of ideal grandeur, he lived among the glories and sublimities of universal nature; his thoughts were of sages and heroes, and scenes of Elysian beauty. It is true that he had no rest; but he enjoyed the fiery consciousness of his own activity, which stands in place of it for men like him. It is true that he was long sickly; but did he not even then conceive and body forth ‘Max Piccolomini,' and 'Thekla,' and the Maid of Orleans,' and the scenes of William Tell'? It is true he died early; but the student will exclaim with Charles the Twelfth in another case, • Was it not enough of life when he had conquered kingdoms?' These kingdoms which Schiller conquered were not for one nation at the expense of suffering for another; they were soiled by no patriot’s blood, no widow's, no orphan's tears. They are kingdoms conquered from the barren realms of Darkness to increase the happiness, and dignity, and power of all men; new forms of Truth, new maxims of Wisdom, new images and scenes of Beauty, won from the void and formless. Infinite'; a ktñua és aiei, a possession for ever,' to all the generations of the earth.”

In 1826 Carlyle married Jane Welch, the orphan and only child of an eminent physician, who brought with her a moderate fortune, which set him free from the necessity of further journeywork in literature. Their childless union lasted forty years, when she passed away. She had gone out for her accustomed drive in a London park. After a while the coachman, not having received any order to return, opened the carriage door and found her speechless and motionless. He drove to St. George's Hospital near by, but when he

arrived she was dead-had been dead probably for some time. They buried her in the old cathedral church at her native Haddington, in the same grave where her father had been laid almost half a century before. For the tombstone Carlyle wrote this epitaph :

CARLYLE'S EPITAPI UN HIS WIFE. “Here, likewise, now rests Jane Welch Carlyle, spouse of Thomas Carlyle, Chelsea, London. She was born at Haddington, 14th July, 1801; only child of tho above John Welch and of Grace Welch, Caplegell, Damfriesshire, his wife. In her bright existence she had more sorrows than are common, but also a soft invincibility, a capacity of discernment, and a noble loyalty of heart, which are rare. For forty years she was 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. She died at London, 21st April, 1866, suddenly snatched away from him, and the light of his life as if gone out.”

We are not aware that Mrs. Carlyle ever published anything; but at the time of her death she was engaged upon a novel, from which much was expected by those who knew her capacities. Dickens, writing to John Forster, says: “Her sudden death was a terrible shock to me, and poor Carlyle has been in my mind ever since. How often have I thought of the unfinished novel : no one now to finish it! None of the writing women come near to her at all.” To which Forster, in his “Life of

« VorigeDoorgaan »