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EARLIEST AUTHORSHIP, BULLER TUTORSHIP, AND FIRST VISIT To LoNDON (1820–1825).
ON resigning his post at Kirkcaldy, Carlyle went, as we saw, with Irving to Edinburgh, :... where he took private pupils when any such offered themselves, and spent the long Summer vacation at his father's house at Ecclefechan. “Carlyle,” writes Irving to a friend in 1810, “goes away to-morrow. . . . It is ...” very odd, indeed, that he should be sent for want of employment to the country. Of course, like every man of talent, he has gathered around this Patmos many a splendid purpose to be fulfilled, and much improvement to be wrought out. “I have the ends of my thoughts to bring together, which no one can do in this thoughtless scene. I have my views of life to reform, and the whole plan of my conduct to new-model; and into all 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 cannot weather it, I shall steer west, and try the waters of another world.' So he reasons and resolves; but surely a worthier destiny awaits him than voluntary exile.” Some interesting reminiscences relating to Sir William Hamilton belong partly to this period. “Well onward in my student-life at Edinburgh,” writes Carlyle—“I think it may have been in 1819 or 1820–I used to pass, most mornings, on my way college-ward, #.” by the east side of St. Andrew Square, and a certain alley or short cut thereabouts called Gabriel's IRoad, which led out to the very end of Princes Street, directly opposite the North Bridge—close by the place which afterwards became famous as Ambrose's Tavern. Both Gabriel and Ambrose, I find, are now abolished, and the locality not recognisable; but doubtless many remember it for one reason or another, as I do for the following.
“Somewhere in Gabriel's Road there looked out on me, from the Princes Street or St. David Street side, a back window on the ground-floor of a handsome enough house; window which had no curtains; and visible on the sill of it were a quantity of books lying about, gilt quartos and conspicuous volumes, several of them;evidently the sitting-room and working-room of a studious man, whose lot, in this safe seclusion, I viewed with a certain loyal respect. “Has a fine silent neighbourhood,' thought I; ‘a fine north light, and wishes to save it all.’ Inhabitant within I never noticed by any other symptom; but from my comrades soon learned whose house and place of study this was. “The name of Sir William Hamilton I had before heard; but this was the first time he appeared definitely before my memory or imagination; in which his place was permanent thenceforth. A man of good birth, I was told, though of small fortune, who had deep faculties and an insatiable appetite for wise knowledge; was titularly an advocate here, but had no practice, nor sought any; had gathered his modest means thriftily together, and sat down here, with his mother and sister (cousin, I believe it really was), and his ample store of books; frankly renouncing all lower ambitions, and
indeed all ambitions together, except what I well recognised to be the highest and one real ambition in this dark ambiguous world. A man honourable to me, a man lovingly enviable; to whom, in silence, I heartily bade good speed. It was also an interesting circumstance, which did not fail of mention, that his ancestor, Hamilton of Preston, was leader of the Cameronians at Bothwell Brig, and had stood by the Covenant and Cause of Scotland in that old time and form. “This baronetcy, if carried forward on those principles, may well enough be poor,’ thought I; “and beautifully well may it issue in such a Hamilton as this one aims to be, still piously bearing aloft, on the new terms, his God's-Banner intrepidly against the World and the Devil l' “It was years after this, perhaps four or five, before I had the honour of any personal acquaintance with Sir William ; his figure on the street had become familiar, but I forget, too, when this was first pointed out to me; and cannot recollect even when I first came to speech with him, which must have been by accident and his own voluntary favour, on some slight occasion, probably at The Advocates' Library, which was my principal or almost sole literary resource (lasting thanks to it, alone of Scottish insti
tutions !) in those obstructed, neglectful, and grimly-forbidding years. Perhaps it was in 1824 or 1825. I recollectright well the bright affable manners of Sir William, radiant with frank kindliness, honest humanity, and intelligence ready to help; and how completely prepossessing they were ! A fine firm figure of middle height; one of the finest cheerfully-serious human faces, of square, solid, and yet rather aquiline type; a little marked with small-pox—marked, not deformed, but rather the reverse (like a rock rough-hewn, not spoiled by polishing); and a pair of the beautifullest kindly-beaming hazel eyes, well open, and every now and then with a lambency of smiling fire in them, which I always remember as if with trust and gratitude. Our conversation did not amount to much, in those times; mainly about German books, philosophies and persons, it is like; and my usual place of abode was in the country them.”
It was late in 1819 or early in 1820 that Brewster Carlyle's first prentice efforts in Éoli, literature were made. He was employed by Dr. (afterwards Sir David) Brewster to write a series of articles for
!.." See Memoir of Sir William M.A. London: Blackwood, 1869, Hamilton, Bart., by John Veitch, pp. 121-123.