Dickens, Carlyle, and Tennyson
[JAMBS SHEPHERD PIKE (1811-1882), of Calais, Maine, was for many years an important figure on the editorial staff of the New York Tribune and a leader of the Whig and later of the Republican Party in his home state. Business success early in life assured him a modest income, and hence he was able to direct his energies along lines more congenial to himself. A Yankee, keen, versatile, and active, he took an early interest in current reform movements and became a vigorous supporter of the antislavery cause. In 1844 he began spending his winters in Washington, and from this point of vantage wrote political articles for the Portland (Maine) Advertizer, the Boston Courier, and the Boston Atlas. In 1850 the Courier refused his articles because of his attacks upon Webster, but shortly afterwards he was sought out by Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune. From this time on, his Washington dispatches to the Tribune, signed ‘ J. S. P.,’became one of the paper’s outstanding features. The Compromise of 1850 and the rôle of Webster and Clay in these measures, the IvansasNebraska Act, the Dred Scott Decision, and the idea of any extension of the area open to slavery, he attacked, sometimes so scathingly that he had to be restrained by Greeley and even by Charles A. Dana, the Tribune’s managing editor. In recognition of his services to the Republican Party he was appointed United States Minister to the Netherlands in 1861 and held the office until 1866.
On the whole, however, Pike’s ministerial duties were very light, and, finding life at The Hague rather dreary, he spent considerable time traveling about in Western Europe and the British Isles. The excerpts that appear below were taken from the notebooks he kept from 1861 until shortly before his death, which have hitherto remained unpublished. They have been edited for the Atlantic by Harold Davis.]
Tuesday, April 21, 1863. — Left The Hague at 10.40 A.M. to go to London by the steamer Batavien from Rotterdam.
Had a very sorrowful passage. For the first time in many years I had a severe attack of seasickness. I came away from The Hague for a change and I got it. But I have lost confidence in myself as a sailor. Still, like a woman safely through with her first baby, I think I shall try it again. We were over the sea and into this vast entrance to the Thames, where we found it smooth, by 4 A. M.
Coming up the river, found my old English pilot whom I had met in 1861. I asked him how things were going.
‘Oh,’ said he, ‘Mr. Adams1 is King here now. He tells us who we shall trade with and who we shall not.’ Running blockades was first-rate business, and if he were young he would take a hand in it. ‘All Englishmen like smuggling and always did.’ This first remark was made in reference to the unfortunate letter of Mr. Adams given to a shipper of goods to America and just printed.
I find it hard to reconcile my philosophy and my patriotism in the American war. I see the blessings of peace and the horrors of war. I am a natural foe to fighting, and yet I find myself always
opposed to ending this war with the slaveholders so long as we can find a man and a dollar to carry it on.
Thursday, April 23. — At 7 P. M. I went up to Hanover Square Hall to hear Mr. Dickens read from Nicholas Nickleby the account of Mr. Squeers’ school and ‘Boots at the Holly Tree Inn.’ Mr. Dickens is a man five feet eight or nine inches, of good form, neither large nor small, but with hands of large size and arms rather long and a good deal of athletic freedom of motion. The character of his face is at once sad, austere, his mouth large, flexible, and of uncertain expression. His brow is also very flexible and the wrinkles with which he can so easily cover his forehead are leaving distinct traces there. The general appearance of the man as he stands before you is that of an ordinary intellectual man, well trained and with excellent reporting faculties.
As a reader he is so good and so natural as to exclude the idea of a great superiority. And yet it is hard to say wherein what he says or does can be improved. His voice is as flexible as his features, and in the reading of ‘Boots at the Holly Tree Inn ‘ he showed a method and an imitation in one character I have never seen in any stage performance. It was a great success.
Tuesday, 28th April. — To-night I saw the greatest thing in London. It was Dickens reading Pickwick’s Trial to Thomas Carlyle. I thought Carlyle would split, and Dickens was not much better. Carlyle sat on the front bench and he haw-hawed right out over and over again till he fairly exhausted himself. Dickens would read and then he would stop in order to give Carlyle a chance to stop. Of course the whole crowded audience were in the same mood and the uproar was tremendous. I laughed till my jaws ached, and I caught myself involuntarily stamping. Now and then some fellow would astonish himself and the audience by a loud bawl.
The reading consisted of the Trial and the Christmas Carol. The two made up a complete stage entertainment and presented Dickens to me in a more inspiring aspect than ever. His acting is splendid. It cannot be exceeded. Carlyle had a young companion with him, and, speaking to him in answer to some remark, said: ’He is a wonderful creature with a book.’ Carlyle’s mode of speech reminded me of old Houston [General Sam Houston of Texas].
Just as he was going out of doors he pulled out a cigar case and passed it to his companion. He was dressed in a long snuff-colored frock coat, with a long old-fashioned velvet collar, that looked as if it might have belonged to his grandfather. He had on a thick cloth vest well buttoned up, a high standing collar, and an old-fashioned black stock loosely buckled round his neck. His hat was felt, with a sugar-loaf crown, and he kept it on one knee while his legs were crossed, the top hanging perpendicularly down, showing the shrunken shank. He had a full shock of iron-gray hair and whiskers and moustache with scissors, giving his face an expression approaching the haggard. His shoulders were rounded up and narrow and his joints seemed loosely set. His whole aspect was that of a seedy scholar.
When Mr. Dickens came on the stage the two saluted with a nod and between the readings Mr. Carlyle was taken out to meet him. After returning to my apartment I wrote Carlyle a note thus to No. 5 Great Cheyne Row, Chelsea, S. W., enclosing my ministerial card.
DEAR SIR :
I am an American. I had the pleasure to see you at Mr. Dickens’ reading this evening and observing that you are human I beg to ask if you will allow me to come and see you, and if so when?
With great respect,
J. S. PIKE
This evening (April 29) I received the following reply to my note.
My husband, in virtue of his humanness, bids me say that he will be glad to see you to tea at eight o’clock on Friday next (1st May).
JANE W. CARLYLE
In the evening (May 1), according to invitation, I went to sec Carlyle. I had great difficulty in finding his place and went to three other No. 5 Cheyne Rows before getting his. The house was small and the entry narrow, and I was shown by a kitchen maid up a pair of half back stairs into the parlor. It was perhaps fifteen feet square, with an eightor ninefoot ceiling and a number of pictures on the walls. A teakettle was simmering on the fire and pretty soon Madame poured tea. When I entered I found her sitting on a patch-covered sofa near the fire and Carlyle opposite talking to Mr. Conway,2 an American. Mr. Carlyle asked me where I was from and I told him I was a Yankee of the straightest sect, which he said was a good designation. Forthwith he ran off a stream of talk in broad Scotch upon the word ‘Yankee’ and then upon the struggle between England and France one hundred years ago to see which should possess the continent. He referred to Governor Pownall and his writings on the subject and branched off on Pitt, whom he eulogized to the skies.
He gave the details of the struggle Pitt had to make in America and in Germany without any break or stoppage for some fifteen or twenty minutes. Then he got off on Pitt’s place of residence in his latter years, and his last sick and gouty years when he was served all the time with chickens which the servants were afraid would never be just right, and they accordingly kept one on the spit all the time while the old man sat bolstered by cushions and pillows; and thereat he laughed heartily. Then he expatiated, in reply to a remark of mine, upon the substantial appearance of old London by showing how the house he lived in was built in 1700, and he had bricks in his yard of the time of Henry VIII and as good as ever, even as terra cotta was 4000 years old and as good as new. But modern builders were the children of damnation and worthy only of hell-fire, as they built edifices on leased ground, the leases expiring in sixty years, and the bricks were made so as to fall into an undistinguishable heap of ruins at the end of that period. He blasted this kind of way of doing — and it was the way of all modern doings — as being the fruit of the chaff and abortive nebulæ and composition of modern human life.
Stimulated by some suggestions, he pitched into human conditions generally, which, having arrived at the stage of universal suffrage and stump oratory, were a mere struggling, weltering mass of confusion and corruptive force, showing the doom of the race to be a slough of ruin. Pressing him a little on the point of how things were to be mended, his wife made almost the only remark she got a chance to make during the evening — that the proposition of the Irishman to rebuild the jail seemed to apply to the case. This was to make the new jail out of the stones of the old one and keep the prisoners in the old jail till the new one was completed. At which Carlyle laughed.
He thought the earnest minds, of which there were a very few in the world, —he had known two or three in his whole acquaintance of four or five hundred people in Scotland who preferred to serve God Almighty at the expense of everything else in this world, even life itself, — might form a nucleus and evolve something, but on this point he was necessarily vague. There were different sorts of liberty. The liberty of God Almighty, which was a genuine liberty, and the liberty of the Devil, which was what the world called liberty and by which it was going to perdition. What it wanted was kings — real genuine kings to shut up the babblers and stump orators and put an end to universal suffrage, and not wretched devils like Louis Napoleon and De Morny and the rest of that crowd, whom he could not speak of so as to do justice to the subject.
Just how we were to get them, which I was inclined to press as the practical point in the case, he could not exactly tell. But he supposed it must be by having the present development of man played out. We must, it seemed likely, go through with the fallacies of what was called progress and freedom and come to a universal smash of all such shattered ideas, and from the wreck would come the voice and the earnest prayer of sincere and honest men, invoking the true king to come and take charge of the débris of humanity and reconstruct society on some solid basis.
Conway suggested that perhaps new communities would do better than old, and what was his idea of California?
California was worst of all. Any true man in California would shoulder his rifle and leave for the desert to live on roots and potatoes rather than stay, and would say to those behind, ‘God damn your nugget-loving souls, don’t molest or approach me. If you do, I will blow your bothering beastly brains out!’ At this point he seemed to lack words to express the passions which possessed him. His wife took the occasion to say, ‘Don’t allow yourself to get into a passion, my dear; there is no occasion for it.’ And then after another similar blast he cooled off and ended by one of his forced laughs.
I stayed from eight till half-past ten and thought I had been there long enough. I rose to go. He did the same and asked when I was coming to town again. Said he was very busy, but he was generally at home in the evening and he would be glad to have me come and see him when I should come. He followed me downstairs and saw me out of the front door and made himself civil and polite all the way through.
Carlyle strikes me as a man who, having adopted a theory of mankind in the concrete, cares very little about the individual. The single man is too microscopic an object to be taken into his account, and when this object protests against the Carlylean view his voice is considered about as much as a chicken just coming out through the shell is by the man who is incubating eggs by steam to obtain chickens for market. It is simply absurd, therefore, for a man to talk to Carlyle with a view to argumentation or to influencing his opinion. The world is Mr. Carlyle’s chessboard and the men are his pawns. They are of no account except in Mr. Carlyle’s game. I have heard him spoken of as domineering and impetuous, and as talking over and talking down by sheer vehemence whoever sets out to oppose him. He evidently has a nervous irritability that ill brooks opposition; he easily gets into a mental rage on an abstract topic. To attack his views is very much as if you wore to attack his person. To question his argument is to pull his nose, to deny his logic is to slap his face, to dispute his facts is to knock him down. Thus Mr. Carlyle’s resentment is excited (argumentatively) just according to the nature of the attack.
It is simply nonsense for men to complain of this. It is to find fault with him for what he is not rather than for what he is. If he were cool, judicious, forbearing, and gentle, then he would not be Mr. Carlyle. In eminent men there seem to be two distinct forces. One may be called nervous force, the other pure understanding. The two together make up what is called mental power. In Mr. Carlyle the nervous force is highly predominant. It generates an amount of steam that drives his mind at a velocity at which nature never intended the machine to travel. Two hours in his company is enough to show you that his predominant quality is nervous power and not intellectual power. It is not his understanding that impresses you, it is his fierce conceptions and acquisitions.
I may say that his nervous force acts the part of jackal to his understanding and brings it more meat than it can digest or knows what to do with. His judgment is incompetent to deal with all the floating suggestions of his brimming mind. Humanity is a problem too great for him. As he can’t manage it, he wants to destroy it. His fullness overflows and inundates rather than gently irrigating the natural fruits of his intellect.
Mr. Carlyle, while impressing you by the preëminently Scotch character of his mind, exhibits a most unusual and unique compound. He is a sort of combination of John Knox and David Hume. He is a tremendous believer and a tremendous skeptic. He talks as though he believed there is a God in the universe but that the Devil is more than a match for Him. He knows that man is teetotally depraved and a worthless wretch, and that there is neither a Heaven nor a Hell in the universe that would consent to be encumbered with him. His destiny is therefore to pass into the nonexistent and unknown. He is but rubbish and will perish. Nevertheless there are saintly men who do God’s will and will be saved, but probably there are not over three such in the British Isles and not one in California.
In person Carlyle is a small, nervous, scholarly-looking man. He keeps pulling down his waistcoat or patting his leg or teetering his foot to keep his leg in motion. His hair drops down constantly to his eyebrows, and he constantly brushes it back. He has an ordinary face covered with a gray beard cut short. His head is good enough but common enough. His dress is coarse and his vest shows no shirt.
Carlyle just now seems to be worshiping heroes. He believes it is only by natural kings that the mob of mankind should be governed. He has already written of Chatham and Cromwell and now he is at work on Frederick the Great. In his opinion modern corruption is changing and destroying everything. He advised me to get a new Collins’ British Peerage. He said he thought it would convince any candid man that the old nobility were captains by nature and ennobled solely because of their eminent qualities. He thought this system was never changed till the time of Charles II, when the whole plan was altered, and it had been going from bad to worse ever since.
And now it seems to me I have not seen Carlyle — only a small, talkative, wiry Scotchman.
Sunday, May 31, 1863. — Hired a boatman to take us down the Solent to Yarmouth and the ‘Needles.’ At Yarmouth we learned that Tennyson lived four miles distant, and I suddenly formed the determination to call on him. We ordered a carriage and drove thither.
I relied wholly on my card, and after reaching the premises ordered the driver to take it in. In a few minutes we were informed Mr. Tennyson was at home and would see us. We were ushered into the parlor, where we were met by a lady of forty who wore an invalid appearance. We talked with her awhile and tried to soften the abrupt features of our visit.
Mr. Tennyson soon came in, in a coarse short coat and trousers loose and overlong, with a look comical from its disconsolateness. He looked neither up nor down nor roundabout, but with a trudging gait marched in silently and walked across the large parlor with the air of a large schoolboy about to be flogged. I had to speak first and his reply was solemn and constrained. He did not sit, and as I spoke of the beauty of the situation he immediately began to point out the views and invited us upstairs for a still more extensive outlook. We followed him and he took us out into his garden and his farmyard, showing us the flowers, some Victoria wheat he had grown, and his cows and farm horses.
Then he took us on for a view of the downs, and pointed out a fig tree, a cedar of Lebanon, and an ilex, or Italian oak, which lie said his gardener informed him was one of the finest in England. He had previously pointed out an Alderney heifer for which he had paid sixteen pounds, and asked how the price compared with those in America. He complained that he was intruded upon in his retreat and that people were putting up their ‘boxes’ all about him, and he was obliged to buy land in self-defense at one hundred and fifty pounds an acre to keep them off.
When we had gone the round of the place and got back to the front door, where our carriage was, I said I would go in and bid Mrs. Tennyson good-bye, and he led the way. We found madam lying on the sofa, from which she rose and asked us if we would have some refreshment. Seeing nothing of the sort lying around, we politely declined. Nobody asked us to sit down again, for they plainly saw that we rode out and could not be tired.
Mr. Tennyson came to the door with us and begged us not to say that we were admitted without a letter of introduction, because he had adopted a rule of not seeing anybody unless the caller brought a letter from one of his friends. On the point of how I got in, therefore, he wished I would ‘leave it in obscurity.’ His manner at our leaving said, ‘Now do go, and don’t, for God’s sake, send anybody else.’ Without apparent intent he certainly made me feel ashamed that I had intruded upon him. He and his wife declared they were overrun by tourists, and apparently the principal effort of their lives is to escape from this nuisance.
On leaving, Tennyson asked after Longfellow, and this was the only question or remark he volunteered excepting the observation that he was astonished to see how violent the North was against the South.
Tennyson is a heavy-limbed man with a clodhopper’s gait, toeing in as he walks. I should say he would weigh two hundred pounds. He wears long hair and beard and moustache, and his aspect is that of settled melancholy. His face and head are fine, yet his whole countenance has an inexpressibly sad and anxious expression. The man is evidently as morbid as his writings. It was impossible not to detect in him that chronic exclusiveness which marks the English character. In addition to this was that offensive egotism of men of reputation, which is so greatly fostered by the natural snobbishness he likewise manifested in a noticeable degree. Few men of distinction are so large as not to show that their reputation is a weight which it troubles them to support.
September 19, 1864. — Went last night and paid Mr. Carlyle a visit and stayed from eight till quarter past eleven. Nobody else was there and his wife is away ill in Scotland. He was not so fiery as before, as there was nobody to irritate him. His wife was taken ill last spring, and he has been away with her nearly all summer, down to St. Leonard’s on the Sea. He spoke very feelingly and affectionately of her and called her a heroic woman. When they first came to London they were very poor, and nobody could make a little go so far as she. She always kept things in a presentable condition, and they were never enslaved or embarrassed by debt. They both agreed to live on what they had, and nobly did she carry out the determination. When money came afterwards they had already adjusted their scale of living on frugal principles and neither had any desire to change it and so they just went on in the old way. After they could afford it he used to insist that her legs were getting older and she would sometimes take a carriage, but he was unable to conquer her old habits. He said he had just been out riding and had taken a sleep, and now he was doing the next thing in order, which was the eating of his dinner, which with him was no great ceremony.
I was taken into his dining room, the first room on the first floor, where he was seated eating a beefsteak and some mashed potatoes and drinking red wine, after which he had a little pudding, and this made his dinner. His working rooms, he told me, were in the upper part of his house and lighted from the roof. Yet even here, out of the way, he was annoyed by the organ-grinder, whom he thought even a king of Dahomey would suppress at his complaint, but it interfered too much with modern ideas of liberty to have such a thing done in England. He was nearly through with his Frederick, being engaged on the last half of the last volume, and he was now done with writing. People wrote too much and talked too much, and both writing and talking ought to be suppressed.
We talked about American affairs, and he said it seemed to him our slavery question was one as to whether it was better to employ servants for life or for short periods, which was a miserable system and one going to perdition and wouldn’t exist fifty years hence, for it allowed no satisfactory relations between employer and employed. The 30,000 distressed needlewomen of London over whom so much fuss had been made were simply so many miserable wretches who had become such by their own pride and folly, shifting about and running from one thing to another, and made themselves good for nothing. He once attended a public meeting at the invitation of Lord Shaftesbury and the Reformers and said what he thought on this subject, and they never invited him again. He told them he was authorized by a competent woman to declare that there were not three good needlewomen in the whole crowd, and if they could be found she would agree to give them lucrative employment for six months. He laughed greatly in telling this story.
He had another long screed upon the miserable condition of our modern civilization and how everything was going to the devil, fathomless, bottomless perdition, for the want of real kings and genuine solid human populations. All was glaze and gas and lies and gab. The last book he had read of American production was about a man who went to the North Pole after Sir John Franklin, and another such wild objectless extravagant tomfoolery he had never heard of. He couldn’t understand such men, all pretension and sham and extravagance, and they could only come out of a blustering, swaggering nation who threatened and swore they would whip all creation.
The American war he regarded as the next significant historical event to the French Revolution, and such fellows as Russell could not be expected to know anything about it. And as for that, he couldn’t find anybody who did. We seemed to be the advance guard of all the world rushing to the devil; England was following only a little way behind.
He admitted there were very good people in the world, but they were all kept back by the parliamentary gasbags and blatherskites and every kind of sap and wind-producing organism who mounted to the surface and controlled everything. ‘Why, I am told,’ said he, ‘it is all the same in your country, where the best men never appear in public life, but hide away in holes and corners.’ Of course, he said, he excepted Emerson, who did not seem to belong to America any more than to any other country.
‘No,’ I remarked, ‘there was no more reason why Emerson should have been born in America than why Shakespeare should have been born in England.’
I gave my opinion that Shakespeare was an exotic and no natural offspring of British thought or British cultivation or British development, that he was not like Voltaire, who was a fair outgrowth of French intellect. Thereupon he took issue and contested the point. He held that Shakespeare was a fair representative of the English mind. The Englishman was not at bottom the rough beast he was thought. He was a quiet, steadfast man who submitted to fortune with great patience and fortitude, and he was gentle as well. He was given to silence and did not parade himself before the world. He had great resistance, was thoughtful, meditative, and determined. He regarded the English character as superior to that of the Scotch, who had, to be sure, exhibited more acuteness and subtlety of intellect and were more inclined to metaphysical disquisition.
I gave him my opinion that the Scotch, the Dutch, and the Yankees did not exhibit that deteriorating tendency which he imputed to everybody. He replied he thought a dose examination of the Scotch at the present day would not bear out the opinion, and this idea he based on his personal experiences. Formerly he knew many solid, conscientious people, now he could find none. In this generalization he said that one great evil of the age was that quiet, modest, good people were everywhere shoved into the background, while the world was made the theatre of babbling asses in the parliament and in the press who needed a great king to squelch such horrible nuisances.
Of Shakespeare, he said he considered him as true a representative of the English mind as Voltaire was of the French. He was of a retiring disposition, gentle, sensible, thrifty, and a lover of home. Tenacious and resistant, too, and a man who disliked the fuss and rubbish of this world and very soon took himself out of it and went home to Stratford. When the investigations were all done in regard to Shakespeare he supposed the final conclusion would be that he had the greatest of human intellects, the clearest and the most penetrating. He looked into everything and perceived the essential truth of everything. His mind shed a light on everything it turned over and examined. In a word, he saw the most and saw the farthest of any human intellect.
A Miss Bacon was over here a few years ago with some eccentric views on the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. She seemed to be a very calm and excellent person and very retiring. She came to see him, and he told her to go to Mr.—, who had taken up the investigation of Lord Bacon’s career and had been steadily at work at it twenty years. Mr. — would be very glad to hear that Bacon was the author of Shakespeare, and if she could only give the slightest rag of evidence or fig leaf of fact to substantiate the belief he would be delighted. But for any hypothesis of this character to be proved by reasoning, no matter how wise or eloquent, it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. He saw what Miss Bacon had written, and she had shown talent in her book, but he told her all amounted to nothing in the absence of evidence to rest her theory upon.
After this Miss Bacon did not come to see him. She was often invited, and his wife, he believed, even went after her, but she was shy and afraid of troubling and never came. Hawthorne, he had been told, had written some book or other lately about England and had brought her case up. But she was dead now, poor woman.
He spoke of Robin Hood as the Iliad of England. It was a curious collection, — when written, or by whom, nobody could tell, — but as descriptive of the early times in England as the Iliad was of Greece, to which it bore the same resemblance as English beer did to the waters of the Pierian (Castalian) spring. He said if I was not familiar with it I should certainly buy Ritson’s book. It would well occupy me on a rainy day.
The old nobles of England were natural-born kings and captains and chosen because they were so down to the time of Charles II, when 20,000 pounds answered instead, and anybody with any pretensions who could raise that sum could manage to get a peerage.
He dwelt considerably, as he did at the last interview, upon Pitt as being a wonderful man, and the man who in the midst of dissolute times and general feebleness by dint of his own individual force and prescience drove France off the American continent and left it to the English race, when but for him it might have continued to be French. I suggested that the English race never have allowed themselves to be dominated by French military power and that numbers would have carried the day in the end whether Pitt had succeeded or not. But Carlyle doubted this and thought things would have been very difficult but for Pitt.
He said he would finish his life of Frederick the Great in two or three months. The first half of the last volume was already in press, and then he would have a bad job off his hands. Nobody in England cared whether it was ever finished or not. Gradually perhaps people might come to read it. Frederick was the last of the kings. But the English were an insulated set. They knew nothing and they cared nothing about Germany, although they belonged to the same stock and ought to feel an interest and a sympathy for the German literature.
He remarked that he found smoking a harmless pastime, consoling and soothing to the nerves. He was greatly plagued to get good tobacco since the war. But he had to submit and take such as was furnished to him. He had it always of the same kind. It was the ‘York River’ tobacco. He had long used it and believed the people he bought it from sold a good deal of it. But he did not know that it was because he had introduced the use of it.
In this interview Mr. Carlyle dogmatized very little. He repaid my deference by great forbearance and moderation. He even went so far as to say that nobody could lament more than he did that he had indulged so much in the use of ‘superlatives’ in his writings. People ought to study to moderate their expressions. But it was a vicious age, and it tolerated such things as it ought not till finally we were stunned by mere noise and din, everybody striving to see who could bawl loudest. It was time to shut up. For his part he was through and would write no more.
He told me he wanted no more money than he had. He lived on a very frugal scale and did not want to change it. If anybody should come along and offer him 20,000 pounds he wouldn’t take it, but tell him to go about his business and give it to Peter or Paul or anybody but him.
During a considerable part of this interview Mr. Carlyle sat in his dressing gown on the floor, his back against the jamb, puffing the smoke of his long pipe into the fireplace lest the odor should be offensive.
Sunday, June 3, 1866. — I made a final visit to Mr. Carlyle. I went at a quarter past eight and stayed till eleven. He was, as usual, full of talk, but less passionate and exuberant than I have seen him on former occasions. The death of his wife within a few months while he was absent in Scotland had depressed him. When I entered, the servant maid who opened the door told me he was asleep, but it was past eight, the usual hour for waking him, and she would go wake him if I would wait in the dining room. A Dutch neatness pervades every part of the house.
Soon Mr. Carlyle appeared in a slouch hat and carrying a cane and remarked that he was going for his accustomed walk, and would I accompany him? Of course I went. I found the old man walked with a good pace, but his legs seemed weak and uncertain. I inquired after his health. He said his health was good enough, but he had suffered much of late by his misfortunes. He inquired if I knew a lady, formerly Miss Dwight of Boston, who had married in England, but. he forgot her husband’s name. She was the most sprightly and brilliant woman he had ever known. She was perhaps too anxious to produce an effect and wore the appearance often of thinking, ‘Am I now sufficiently brilliant and entertaining?’ This woman was a familiar at his house and a great patriot on the Northern side during the war.
We got on to the prospects of war in Europe. He said there would be no war. He pitched into Denmark as the real criminal who had long ago robbed Germany of the duchies to which she had no more right than any Dick Turpin had to the watch which he robbed on the highway. But nobody knew history. Probably there were not three men in England who knew the true history of the Schleswig-Holstein question. They wore German and belonged to Germany. I suggested that if they had sought their own freedom or had it offered to them it might abate the public sense of robbery from Denmark, but they were not restored to themselves but were simply swallowed by Prussia, who it did not appear could boast any very good claim to them, however it might be with Denmark. He grudgingly admitted that they were just now fallen to Prussia.
We walked up one street and down another for about twenty or thirty minutes through the crowded thoroughfares, — it was Sunday and everybody was in the streets, — and at length found ourselves at his door. The house is opposite an open square faced with a high brick wall. Reëntering, he carefully hung up his hat and coat on pegs in the narrow entry, set up his staff, and took me upstairs to the parlor. There I found a youngish woman whom he introduced as his niece. He then left the room and soon after returned in his dressing gown and slippers. The lady told me she was a niece of Mrs. Carlyle and had been staying with her just previous to her sudden decease. She informed me Mr. Carlyle seemed to have no special work on hand, though he was always busy.
Soon tea was brought in and with it came a white-haired venerable-looking gentleman whom Mr. Carlyle introduced as his brother, Dr. Carlyle.
The conversation ran on upon all sorts of topics, and I sought to draw Mr. Carlyle out instead of talking to his brother. He declared the sentiment of English people towards America was generally kind and favorable; that they had not in the mass any sympathy with the blockade-running and the ironclad makers and others who would have involved the two nations in war. He flew at Laird [shipbuilder and Conservative M. P.] and denounced him for an impudent Scotchman who had the audacity to rise in Parliament and attempt to defend his villainy in this respect by saying there was no law in England to hang him. The Doctor rather boasted and I concurred that the Scotch were very active and intelligent, and the Clyde-built ships were very numerous and held a high rank all over the world. All of which Carlyle said was of very small account and scornfully reproached the intimation of such a thing. If his country would attend to the higher things it would be very much more to their credit. But this they failed to do.
Mr. Carlyle was not so confident on the general subject of everything going to everlasting smash as he has seemed to be on previous occasions. He even thought it was an open question what was to be the result of the abolition of slavery and the spread of Americans and English everywhere. But he held to his old idea that the present system of voluntary service or hired servants could not last fifty years. It was the Heaven-ordained lot of some to serve and some to command, and bringing in wages to settle as to who was to do these things was a blotch on the eternal fitness of things.