« VorigeDoorgaan »
Dickens,” adds: “No one could doubt this who had come within the fascinating influence of that sweet and noble nature. With the highest gifts of intellect, and the charm of a most varied knowledge of men and things, there was something beyond. No one who knew Mrs. Carlyle could replace her loss when she passed away.” She was the subject of poor Leigh Hunt's pretty poem, “Jenny Kissed Me!” Hunt had one day come to the Carlyles, bearing tidings of some rare good fortune which had just happened to them ; whereat “Jenny” sprang from her chair, threw her arms about his neck, and gave him a cordial congratulatory kiss : whence the poem.
Soon after their marriage, Carlyle and his wife went to Germany, where they remained a considerable time, and became intimate with Goethe, who subsequently addressed several graceful little poems to Mrs. Carlyle. Returning to Scotland, they took up their residence, in 1828, at Craigenputtoch, a small estate belonging to her, fifteen miles from Dumfries, among the granite hills and black morasses which stretch westward
through Galloway almost to the Irish Sea. Writing to Goethe soon after, Carlyle thus describes their way of life:
LIFE AT CRAIGENPUTTOCH. “In this wilderness of heath and rock our éstate stands forth a green oasis, a track of plowed, partly inclosed, and planted ground, where corn ripens and trees afford a shade, although surrounded by sea-mews and rough-wooled sheep. Here, with no small effort, have we built and furnished a neat and substantial dwelling; here, in the absence of professional or other office, we live to cultivate literature according to our strength, and in our own peculiar way. We wish a joyful growth to the roses and flowers of our garden; we hope for health and peaceful thoughts to further our aims. This nook of ours is the loneliest in Britain, six miles removed from any one who would be likely to visit me. But I came hither solely with the design to simplify my way of life, and to secure the independence through which I could be enabled to remain true to myself. Nor is the solitude of such great importance, for a stage-coach takes us speedily to Edinburgh. And have I not, too, at this moment piled up upon the table of my little library a whole cart-load of French, German, American, and Eng. lish journals and periodicals—whatever may be their worth?"
The six years (1828–1833) which Carlyle passed in this quiet retreat were among the most important of his life. Here were written the greater part, and certainly the best, of his critical and biographical essays. Among them are those on Richter, Werner, Heine, Goethe, Novalis, Voltaire, Diderot, Burns, and Johnson ; the papers on “The Nibelungenlied,” “Early German Literature," “ German Poetry” and “Biography,” and the notable essays, “Signs of the Times” and “Characteristics,” which contain the germs of his social and ethical philosophy. Here, also, running through a considerable part of the six years, was written “Sartor Resartus,” of which we shall have more to say hereafter. From these “Miscellanies” we quote a few passages, taken almost at random, which may be regarded as characteristic of his way of thought and expression, prefixing to them titles of our own :
DEMIGODS AND MEN. “Moral reflection first : That in these centuries men are not born demigods and perfect characters, but imperfect ones, and mere blamable men; men, namely, environed with such short-coming and confusion of their own, and then with such adscititious scandal and misjudgment (got into the work they did), that they resemble less demigods than a sort of god-devils—very imperfect characters indeed. The demigod arrangement were the one which, at first sight, this reviewer might be inclined to prefer.
“Moral reflection second, however: That probably men were never born demigods in any century, but precisely god-devils as we see; certain of whom do become a kind of demigods! How many are the men, not censured, misjudged, calumniated only, but tortured, crucified, hung on gibbets-not as god-devils even, but as devils proper; who have nevertheless grown to seem respectable, or infinitely respectable! For the thing which was not they, which was not anything, has fallen away piecemeal, and become avowedly babble and confused shadow, and no-thing; the thing which was they remains. Depend on it, Harmodius and Aristogiton, as clear as they now look, had illegal plottings, conclaves of the Jacobins' Church at Athens; and very intemperate things were spoken, and also done. Thus, too, Marcus Brutus and the elder Junius, are they not palpable Heroes? Their praise is in all Debating Societies; but didst thou read what the Morning Papers said of those transactions of theirs, the week after? Nay, Old Noll, whose bones were dug up and hung in chains here at home, as the just emblem of himself and his deserts, the offal of creation at that time,-has he not got to be a very respectable grim bronze-figure, though it is yet only a century and a half since; of whom England seems proud rather than otherwise ? ".
“No known Head so wooden, but there might be other heads to which it were a genius and a Friar Bacon's Oracle. For, observe, though there is a greatest Fool, as a superlative in every kind; and the most foolish man in the earth is now indubitably living and breathing, and did this morning or lately eat breakfast, and is even now digesting the same; and looks out on the world with his dim horn-eyes, and inwardly forms some unspeakable theory thereof; yet where shall the authentically Existing be personally met with ? Can one of us, otherwise than by guess, know that we have got sight of him, have orally communed with him? No one. Deep as we dive in the Profound, there is ever a new depth opened: where the ultimate bottom may lie, through what new scenes of being we must pass before reaching it (except that we know it must lie somewhere, and might by human faculty and opportunity be reached), is altogether a mystery to us. Strange tantalizing pursuit! We have the fullest assurance, not only that there is a Stupidest of London men actually resident, with bed and board of some kind in London ; but that several persons have been, or perhaps are now speaking face to face with him: while for us, chase it as we may, such scientific blessedness will too probably be for ever denied."
RIDICULE. “ There are things in this world to be laughed at, as well as things to be admired; and it is no complete mind that can not give to each sort its due. Nevertheless, contempt is a dangerous element to sport in; a deadly one if we habitually live in it. How indeed, to take the lowest view of this matter, shall a man accomplish great enterprises, -enduring all toil, resisting temptation, laying aside every weight,-unless he zealously loves what he pursues? The faculty of Love, of Admiration, is to be regarded as the sign and the measure of high souls: unwisely directed, it leads to many evils; but without it there can not be any good. Ridicule, on the other hand, is indeed a faculty much prized by its possessors; yet, intrinsically, it is a small faculty; we may say the smallest of all faculties that other men are at the pains to repay with any esteem. It is directly opposed to Thought, to Knowledge, properly so called; its nourishment and essence is Denial, which hovers only on the surface, while Knowledge dwells far below. Moreover, it is by nature