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CARLYLE'S DYSPEPSIA. 33 the species. No man could speak with greater force than Carlyle of the weight of the burden of bad health upon the genius, and the desperate conflict necessary to keep the vision clear amidst it all. “Without some such stay" [some religion), he says of Schiller, “his life might well have been intolerable ; stript of the ideal, what remained for him in the real was but a poor matter. Do we talk of his happiness?' Alas, what is the loftiest flight of genius, the finest frenzy that ever for moments united heaven with earth, to the perennial, never-failing joys of a digestive-apparatus thoroughly eupeptic ? Has not the turtle-eating man an eternal sunshine of the breast? Does not his soul — which, as in some Slavonic dialects, means his stomach — sit forever at its ease, enwrapped in warm condiments, amid spicy odors ; enjoying the past, the present, and the future ; and only awakening from its soft trance to the sober certainty of a still higher bliss each meal-time, three or even four visions of heaven in the space of one solar day! While for the sick man of genius, whose world is of the mind, ideal, internal, when the mildew of lingering disease has struck that world, and begun to blacken and consume its beauty, what remains but despondency and bitterness and desolate sorrow felt and anticipated to the end? Woe to him if his will likewise falter, if his resolution fail, and his spirit bend its neck to the yoke of this enemy! Idleness and a disturbed imagination will
gain the mastery of him, and let loose their thousand fiends to harass him, to torment him into madness. Alas, the bondage of Algiers is freedom compared with this of the sick man of genius, whose heart has fainted and sunk beneath its load. His clay dwelling is changed into a gloomy prison; every nerve has become an avenue of disgust or anguish, and the soul sits within in her melancholy loneliness, a prey to the spectres of despair, or stupefied with excess of suffering ; doomed, as it were, to a life-in-death, to a consciousness of agonized existence, without the consciousness of power which should accompany it."
This galling burden of ill-health Schiller had to stagger under through all his later years. We have medical evidence that, during the last fifteen years of his life, not a moment could have been free from pain. Yet never a cry, no word of complaint. The correspondence with Goethe shows him cheerful and always hard at work; scarcely speaking of his maladies, and then, as Carlyle remarks, “only historically, in the style of a third party, as it were.” And to this period it is that his highest performances belong. It was while the dark and unconquerable enemy dwelt within him that he wrote some of his deepest speculative essays and all his great dramas, from Wallenstein to William Tell.
As with Schiller, so with Carlyle. From the day when, one or two or three and twenty years of age, he locked himself up to settle whether he believed
the doctrines of his father's kirk, to the day when he died at Chelsea, dyspepsia was his famulus. “Whether I ate I know not,” he says, speaking of that early struggle, which lasted we know not how long ; “whether I slept I know not; I only know that when I came forth again it was with the direful persuasion that I was the miserable owner of a diabolical arrangement called a stomach, and I have never been free from that knowledge from that hour to this.” Yet, like Schiller, Carlyle uttered no complaint. Now and then a grim, defiant joke, like this; some words historically, like these on Schiller, written with a power and feeling which only hard experience gives, - nothing more. Yet it was impossible that his suffering should not color his views of life. “My dear,” said Mrs. Carlyle to Mrs. Oliphant, “ if Mr. Carlyle's digestion had been better, there is no telling what he might have done!” And if his power was sacrificed to the demon of dyspepsia, much more was his temper affected by it. Naturally, it seems to me, his temperament was sanguine and buoyant, even to effervescence, inclining him to look on the bright side of things and to be merry ; but there is no doubt that his chronic dyspepsia, straining his patience and his geniality severely as it did, had very much to do also with begetting his more and more sombre impressions of his immediate surroundings, English society and politics, and of the world at large. What his exasperated nerves saw and heard
and felt was so miserable and unprofitable that he believed it impossible for nerves to receive impressions more unprofitable, and so fell into the habit of the common man, of idealizing, at the expense of the present, the past and the future, which are present to thought only, and not to sense. He has certainly been able to see but little distinctively good in the present, and has been fairly enough called the great Diogenes of the time. The time has not seemed good to him, and he has been a fault-finder. “The days in which our lot is cast," he said, “ are sad and evil.” “Few of the generations of men have seen more impressive days, — days of endless calamity, disruption, dislocation, confusion worse confounded.” “On one hand smokes (in patent calefactor) a Dinner of innumerable courses ; on the other frowns in the distance a grim Gallows, probably with “improved drop.'"
1 “No mortal ever dreams That the scant isthmus he encamps upon Between two oceans, one, the Stormy, passed, And one, the Peaceful, yet to venture on, Has been that future whereto prophets yearned For the fulfillment of earth's cheated hope, Shall be that past which nerveless poets moan As the lost opportunity of song.”
We thus come directly to what has been more talked about, perhaps, than anything else in Carlyle's philosophy — the question of his pessimism. What is pessimism ? According to the sidewalk and the local editor of the newspaper, the feeling of the unsatisfied man, - and the optimist is the man without debts and corns and cares, who has dined at Parker's on goose and onions. This may do for the sidewalk and the horse-car, but it will not do when we are talking philosophy. Of pessimism itself by and by. Here be it said simply that the pessimist is not the fault-finder, and that all the newspaper and pulpit talk about Carlyle's pessimism, based merely upon the fact that he was a harsh critic of the time, a grumbler, if you please, is confusing and ignorant. The prophet Elijah — to take a pulpit example — was not a pessimist, — nor Jesus, nor St. Paul, nor Fichte, nor Rousseau, nor Mazzini, nor Garrison. The world's great reformers have always been the world's sharpest critics, and they have almost always been optimists - men, that is, who have believed that the ultimate law of the universe is a law which works for the ultimate highest good of man ; believed in absolute justice, and rejected every seventy-years philosophy ; believed in immortality and God. These men, I say, who have believed in eternity have been always the great reformers, redeemers, and revivers of the life