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“Carlyle has, best of all men in England, kept the manly attitude in his time. .... His errors of opinion are as nothing in comparison with this merit, in my judgment."
THE PHILOSOPHY OF CARLYLE.
It will be said that enough has been written upon Carlyle in these days. In truth, but little has been written upon his real significance in the world of thought, and very much will be written — for he is not dead, but a living force, and will continue to be a force not to be disposed of by any amount of Boswellism and piquant magazinism, but only relaxing his discomposing grip upon us when we have explained him, given precise and honest credit for what thought was in him, and blamed him justly. A great man and thinker is not so common a phenomenon nowadays that we can quite afford to put him off and call him done with, when we have told the stories about him. For the most part, stories seem to be the chief thing cared for, gossip and memoirs are especially the order of the day. Does he write standing or sitting, did he buy or borrow Burton and Mallock, what are his relations with the deacon or the publisher, how suave is he - or rugged ? Our Boswellism becomes very far-reaching in its retrospection, and we ransack heaven and earth for stories of the great dead men. Even our books
on the philosophers tell more about how Spinoza ground spectacles and how Kant tucked himself up than about the ethics of either.
Boswellism has its place in the case of a man like Carlyle properly a very great place. So far as the flood of personalities and trivialities in his case has been excessive, he provoked it himself, it will be said, by Reminiscences. What is to be said of these Reminiscences ? First, that they are no true revelation of Carlyle at all to him who does not already know Carlyle and know where to place them. We do not, as has been said, reveal a man when we give to the public what his deliberate judgment would have withheld. “ To print, as the poor feeble hand left them on the very morrow of the shock which appears for the time to have enfeebled his mind, those incoherent jottings, with their tangled parentheses and their incessant repetitions, seems to us the same kind of mistake as to exhibit some sketch by a great master, almost blotted out by his tears. Hid in its portfolio, the sketch was something sacred ; we can imagine those who had a right to gaze on it drawing it forth reverently, and feeling their own eyes moisten at the sight. But hung on the Academy walls, the effect is far otherwise. We, who find it there, can only pass it in mournful silence," in painful consciousness that it cannot be interpreted to the casual looker-on. That these Reminiscences were written in the most inconsiderate manner, in a day of grief, when the mind was sick,