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PROFESSOR NORTON ON CARLYLE. In the death of Thomas Carlyle, English literature in the nineteenth century loses its most conspicuous figure.
The roots of Carlyle's vigorous nature struck deep in his native soil. His most marked qualities, both moral and intellectual, grew from a sturdy stock. His ancestry were of the best humble Scotch blood. The account which he has given of his home in his Memoir of his Father is the counterpart of the picture of domestic simplicity and piety in Burns's Cotter's Saturday Night. The old tradition of Scotch manliness and godliness survived with full force in him. The stern integrity, the strict sincerity, the confident independence of the Protestantism of Scotland formed the foundations of
1 From a notice of Carlyle written for the forthcoming Annual Report of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of which Carlyle was a Foreign Honorary Member. The author is indebted to Professor Norton's kindness for the proof-sheets of this notice, and is grateful for the confirmation of his essential view of Carlyle's character afforded by these words of one who knew Carlyle so well, and whose words here have the same authority as the words of Emerson. his character. He held substantially through his long life to the faith of his fathers, under a changed form, but with little change of essential principle.
To a clear intelligence and a strong understanding were united in him rare gifts of perception, of humor, and of imagination, and all were subordinated to a deep moral sentiment. The exceptionally definite individuality of his temperament and genius displayed itself not infrequently in what seemed like willfulness of opinion, and in actual exaggeration of utterance, which hindered the recognition of the morality that lay behind. But this prevailing moral sense gave real consistency to his judgments, and informed the body of his teaching from first to last with a single spirit.
It has been often charged against him, especially of late, that the sum of his social doctrine is expressed in the aphorism that "might makes right.” But the charge has no truth. His doctrine, as he himself asserted, and as all who have more than a superficial acquaintance with his work will admit, is precisely the reverse of this. “Right makes might," is the lesson he enforces. The only real might is moral. Cromwell, Frederick, the hero, whoever he may be, exercises authority in virtue of a moral claim. All power that asserts any other than a moral validity is contrary to the permanent order of society, is transient, is self-destructive. In the application of this doctrine Carlyle may have been at times in error; but the doctrine itself is that on which the order of the world is dependent.
Carlyle judged the prevailing tendencies of modern society severely. He saw earlier and more clearly than any other writer of influence the inherent dangers of absolute democracy, and the weakness of the pure
137 democratic system if adopted as the ultimate form of human society. He had no belief in the extension of the doctrine of the rights of man till it becomes subversive of the distinctions between good and bad, intelligent and ignorant. He had no sympathy with the modern optimistic temper, which believes some vague entity called “the people” to be possessed by nature of all virtue.
Carlyle's genius received its first confident recognition in our own city, and his influence during the whole period of his literary career was felt not less widely, or less powerfully, in this country than in his own. His feeling to this country, which he had given us at times some reason to question, has been shown in his bequest, with words of memorable significance, of a portion of his books to the library of Harvard College.
The great debt of the past generation, and of our own, to Mr. Carlyle is not so much for any specific piece of work as for the general influence of his life and writings in promoting the spirit of intellectual independence and integrity. In this respect his influence has been powerful, and is likely to be permanent.
PROFESSOR TYNDALL ON CARLYLE.
To the Editor of the London Times:
SIR: – Would you permit me, with all deference to the opinions of others, to correct what I believe to be a current error regarding the late Mr. Carlyle. It is said that, in respect to science, he was not only incurious, but hostile. This does not tally with my experi