Popular Science Monthly/Volume 28/December 1885/Masson's Interpretation of Carlyle
|MASSON'S INTERPRETATION OF CARLYLE.|
THERE is nothing sadder or more painful in the history of literature than that eclipse of the reputation of Thomas Carlyle which resulted from the publication after his death of various books, biographic and autobiographic, which came as a new revelation of the inner life and personality of the great author. Professor Masson, of the University of Edinburgh, was one of his old and intimate friends, and one of his most ardent admirers. It was but natural, therefore, that when the great reaction came, so injurious to Carlyle's reputation, his friend should find himself called upon to say something in vindication of that apparently much-damaged reputation. Professor Masson's two lectures, delivered before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh in February of the present year, give an extremely interesting view of Carlyle's character, opinions, and labors, and certainly go far to vindicate him from much of the reproach that fell upon his name through the publications that quickly followed his death. We have no room here to state the case as fully as it is presented in these lectures. Mr. Froude was the official custodian of all the Carlylian documents, and held the great man's reputation in the hollow of his hand. Professor Masson is justly severe upon him (as have also been many others) for his lack of sympathetic discrimination in dealing with the private expressions of his deceased friend, and giving to the public much to which it had no right, which was undoubtedly never intended for publication, and which was an inexcusable outrage upon innocent persons. Mr. Froude was incompetent for his editorial task: though an intimate and life-long friend of Carlyle, he was constitutionally incompetent to understand and do justice to his character. This is well illustrated by the following passage from Professor Masson's first lecture:
"Another cause which has contributed not a little to the unhappy general effect of the nine volumes is the prevailing somberness and lugubriousness of those portions of them which come from Mr. Froude's own pen. In the 'Reminiscences' and the 'Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle' these consist, of course, but of casual editorial notes and explanations; but, in the four volumes of the 'Biography,' they form the text of narrative and comment in which the fragments of documentary material for all the eighty-five years of Carlyle's life are imbedded. Now, wherever Mr. Froude himself thus becomes the narrator or commentator, his mood is too uniformly like that of a man driving a hearse.
"The contrast in this respect between what is from his own pen and much of the documentary material he digests and edits is very remarkable. There is gloom enough, seriousness enough, in the matter of the documents; but they are not all gloomy or serious. They abound with the picturesque, the comic, the startlingly grotesque, or the quaintly pleasant; some of them actually swim in humor, or sparkle with wit. These Mr. Froude faithfully prints, and perhaps relishes; but they do not seem to have any influence on his own gait or countenance in his office of biographer. This is unfortunate. No mind not profoundly in earnest itself could understand Carlyle, or represent him properly to others; but, if ever there was a life that required also some considerable amount of humor in the bystander for correct apprehension and interpretation of its singularities, it was Carlyle's. Those about him that knew him best, always felt that the most proper relation to much that he said and did was to take it humorously or suffuse it with humor; and that he himself had the same feeling and authorized it in others appeared in the frequency, almost the habitual constancy, with which he would check his conscious exaggerations at the last point with some ludicrous touch of self-irony, and would dissolve his fiercest objurgations and tumults of wrath in some sudden phantasy of the sheerly absurd and a burst of uproarious laughter. Without a recollection of this, many a saying of his, many a little incident of bis daily life, is liable even now to misconstruction, or to interpretation out of its just proportions.
"Take for example Mr. Froude's story of Carlyle's behavior in the first days of bis wife's severe illness in 1864, from the effects of a cab accident in the streets of London, 'The nerves and muscles,' says Mr. Fronde, 'were completely disabled on the side on which she had fallen, and one effect was that the under-jaw had dropped and that she could not close it. Carlyle always disliked an open mouth; he thought it a sign of foolishness. One morning, when the pain was at its worst, he came into her room, and stood looking at her, leaning on the mantelpiece. 'Jane,' he said presently, 'ye had better shut your mouth.' She tried to tell him that she could not. 'Jane,' he began again, 'ye'll find yourself in a more compact and pious frame of mind if ye shut your mouth,' This story Mr. Froude received, he tells us, from Mrs, Carlyle herself; and there is no doubt as to its authenticity. What I am sure of is that Mr. Froude treats it too gravely, or might lead his readers to treat it too gravely, by missing that sense of the pure fun of the thing which was present in Mrs. Carlyle's mind when she remembered it afterward, however provoking it may have been at the moment.
"Insufficient appreciation of the amount of consciously humorous, and mutually admiring, give-and-take of this kind in the married life of the extraordinary pair, both of them so sensitively organized, has had much to do, it seems to me, with that elaborately studied contrast of them and too painful picture of their relations which Mr. Froude has succeeded in impressing upon the public. There were, it is true, passages of discord between them, of temporary jealousy and a sense of injury on one side at least, from causes too deep to be reached by this explanation; but it rubs away many a superficial roughness; and, if Mr. Froude had been more susceptible of humorous suggestions from his subject, he would not, I believe, have found this married life of Carlyle and Jane Welsh so exceptionally a tragedy throughout in comparison with other married lives, and would not have kept up such a uniform strain of dolefulness in his own performance of the part of the chorus. The immense seriousness of Carlyle's own mind and views of things, the apparent prevalence of the dark and dismal in his own action and monologue through the drama, even required, I should say, an unusual power of lightsomeness in the chorus, and this not as mere trick for literary relief, but actually for insight, correction, and compensation."
The lecture from which this passage is taken is full of acute insight into the personality of Carlyle, and is extremely interesting as a study in the interpretation of character; but the second lecture on "Carlyle's Literary Life and his Creed" will have such a special interest for the readers of the "Monthly" that we propose to make copious quotations from it.
Professor Masson begins by looking into the causes of the "belatedness" of Carlyle's literary life, or why it was so late before he achieved the success of world-wide recognition. He reminds us that Keats, Shelley, and Byron, who were contemporaries of Carlyle, had blazed into celebrity, finished their careers, and died, while Carlyle was yet an unknown man. Macaulay, who was by five years a younger man, had a brilliant national fame before Carlyle was recognized. "Not till 1837, when Carlyle was in his forty-second year, and had been three years resident in London—or, rather, not till between 1837 and 1840, when he was advancing from bis forty-second year to his forty-fifth—did he burst fully upon the public. His 'History of the French Revolution,' published in 1837, began his popularity, not only evoking applauses for itself, but lifting up the unfortunate 'Sartor Resartus' into more friendly recognition." The "Miscellanies" and "Chartism" followed, and in 1840 appeared "Heroes and Hero-Worship," at which time we may assume that Carlyle had reached his full British celebrity.
Professor Masson speculates very suggestively over this phenomenon, calling attention to a profound change that gradually came over Carlyle's work, in which he passes from the superficial phase of literature about literature to the graver and deeper problems of human society and human action, and in which the mere littérateur is merged in the more serious philosopher.
"The causes of this 'belatedness' of Carlyle's literary life, to use an expression of Milton's, were various. There had, certainly, been no original defect or sluggishness of genius. The young Carlyle who had just completed his classes in Edinburgh University, the young Carlyle drudging at school-mastering in Kirkcaldy, the young Carlyle of the next few years again walking in the streets of Edinburgh and living by private tutorship and hack-writing, was essentially the same Carlyle that became famous afterward—the same in moodiness, the same in moral magnanimity and integrity, the same in intellectual strength of grasp. One is astonished now by the uniformity of the testimonies of his intimates of those early days to his literary and other powers, the boundlessness of the terms in which they predicted his future distinction. His own early letters are also in the evidence. They are wonderful letters to have been written in the late teens and early twenties of a Scottish student's life, and paint him as even then a tremendous kind of person. As respects Carlyle's 'belatedness,' then, may not the fact that his clement was to be prose and not verse count for something? It would seem as if that peculiar kind of poetic genius which tends to verse as its proper form of expression can always attain to mastery in that form with less of delay and discipline than is required for mastery in prose; and, at all events, the traditions of literature are such that the appearance of a new genius in verse is always more quickly hailed by the public than anything corresponding in prose. Now, much as Carlyle straggled after the faculty of metrical expression, ease in that faculty had evidently been denied him by Nature, and it was in prose or nothing that he was to manifest his superiority. Nay, in his earliest prose-writings for the press one observes something of the same stiffness, hard effort, and want of fluency that characterize almost all his verse-attempts. This, however, must have been in great part accidental; for we have only to go to some of his private letters, dashed off in his twentieth year or thereabout, to see that he had already acquired his marvelous power of picturesque and eloquent expression, and was master of a swift, firm, and musical style. But, for such a literary career as his was to be, mere gift of expression, however fluent and eloquent, was not enough. It was not enough that he should be able to write fluently and eloquently in a general way, by the exercise of mere natural talent, on any subject that turned up. He had to provide himself amply with matter, with systematized knowledge of all sorts, and especially with systematized historical knowledge. Hence the depth and extent of his readings, the range and perseverance of his studies in French, German, Italian, and Spanish, in addition to Latin and English. For writings so full-bodied as those he was to give to the world, it was necessary that he should step into literature as already himself a polyhistor or accomplished universal scholar; and, when he did step conspicuously into literature, it was in fact as already such a polyhistor.—In connection with which it is worth while to note how completely by that time Carlyle had emancipated himself from the common idea of so many of his literary contemporaries that literature ought to consist in writing about literature. To this day what are the chief subjects of the essays and books continually set forth by our professed authors? Why, the lives and writings of previous authors, the personages and phenomena of the past literary history of the world. We have Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe, and the other literary dii majorum gentium, over and over again, with descents to as many of the literary dii minorum gentium as may be necessary for variety; and the public is thus deluged with an eternal, ever-flowing literature merely about literature. Now, though Carlyle began in this way too—as witness his essays on Jean Paul Richter, on Goethe and Faust, on Burns, on German Playwrights, etc.—there were premonitions even then, both in his mode of handling these subjects and in the fact that such essays were interspersed with others of a more general and philosophic kind, that he would not dwell long in the element of mere literary history and æsthetic criticism, or be satisfied with adding his own contributions, however excellent, to the perpetual conversation about 'Shakespeare and the musical glasses.' Accordingly, before he had fully established himself, he had taken final leave of the mere literature about literature, and had moved on into a literature appertaining to human society and human action generally, to war and statesmanship, to poverty and crime, to the quicquid agunt homines in all lands and ages, literature as but one of the interests. As the capacity for this had to be included in his poly historic preparation, we have here also perhaps one of the causes of his comparative 'belatedness.' But there was another, and the chief of all. It lies in that fundamental characteristic of Carlyle's literary genius which Goethe had detected as early as 1827. 'It is admirable in Carlyle,' said Goethe to Eckermann in the July of that year, 'that in his judgments of our German authors he has especially in view the mental and moral core as that which is really influential. Carlyle is a moral force of great importance; there is in him much for the future, and we can not foresee what he will produce and effect.' Goethe here struck the key-note. It was the depth and strength of the moral element in Carlyle's constitution that was to impart to his literary career its extraordinary importance and its special character of originality. Precisely on this account, however—precisely because he was to be no ordinary man of letters, turning out book after book as an artist turns out picture after picture, but a new moral force in the British community and the whole English-speaking community of the world—he had to bide his time. He had to ascertain and reason out his principles; he had to form his creed. When he did burst fully upon the public it was to be not only as the polyhistor, not only as the humorist, not only as the splendid prose-artist, but also—to use a cant phrase which I do not like, though Carlyle himself rather favored it—as the Chelsea Prophet."
"But if Carlyle was slow in his own individual development, so that the success was long postponed, he must be regarded as slower, and still more 'belated,' with regard to the great progress of thought in this century. He belonged to a former age, and lived over into an age for which he was not prepared, and which he could not understand. lie was an earnest man—a man, indeed, of great religious seriousness, and preached loyalty to truth as the supreme duty—but he was behind the age in knowing what truth is or how it is to be found. Of science he knew nothing, and could neither enter into its spirit nor employ its methods, nor even accept its great results. He had positive and systematic views which, although vague, he held with such great tenacity that he was disqualified from entering into those larger conceptions of Nature and the universe which pervade modern thought." On the creed and philosophy of Carlyle Professor Masson expatiates as follows:
"No need at this time of day to dilate on the literary merits of Carlyle's works. There they stand on our shelves, as extraordinary an array of volumes for combined solidity and splendor, all the product of one pen, as can be pointed to in the literature of English prose. It is with the creed running through the volumes that we are now concerned, that system of ideas by virtue of which Carlyle became, as Goethe predicted he would become, a powerful moral force in his generation, and on account of which his contemporaries styled him latterly the Chelsea Prophet.
"The first name affixed to Carlyle to signify a perception of the difference of his ways of thinking from those of other people was Mystic. This was the name given to him long ago in that Edinburgh circle round Jeffrey which he first stirred by his personal peculiarities when he was a resident in Comely Bank, and by his articles on German subjects. He seemed to be the apostle of an unknown something called 'German Mysticism,' and to be trying to found a school of 'English Mystics.' He dallied with the term himself for a while, and even took it with him to London. Intrinsically, however, there could have been no more absurd designation. By the whole cast of his intellect Carlyle was even the reverse of a mystic, constrained as he was always to definiteness of intellectual conception and to optical clearness of representation; and, though he had a kindly eye toward the Mystics, he could make nothing of them except by unmysticizing them—his essay on Novalis, for example, being an unsatisfactory attempt to extract gleams out of the opaque. It was the novelty of Carlyle's principles to those among whom they were first propounded, the strangeness of the objects he tried to bring within their ken, that occasioned the resort to such a misfitting epithet. A far fitter designation would have been Transcendentalist. Pardon me if I detain you a little with this word from the scholastic nomenclature and its applicability to Carlyle. It is easy enough to understand, and we have really no other name so suitable for the thing.
"A Transcendentalist in philosophy is the very opposite of what we call a Secularist. He is the opponent of that system of philosophy which "apprehends no further than this world and squares one's life according," that system of philosophy which regards the visible universe of time, space, and human experience as the sum total of all reality, and existing humanity in the midst of this universe as the topmost thing now in being. Beyond, and around, and even in this visible universe, the Transcendentalist holds—this world of sun, moon, and stars, and of the earth and human history in the midst—there is a supernatural world, a world of eternal and infinite mystery, invisible and inconceivable, yet most real, and so interconnected with the ongoings of the visible universe that constant reference to it is the supreme necessity of the human spirit, the highest duty of man, and the indispensable condition of all that is best in the human genius. In this sense Carlyle was a transcendentalist from the very first. He believed in a world of eternal and infinite realities transcending our finite world of time, space, sense, experience, and conceivability.
"In the scholastic nomenclature, however, there may be recognized two distinct varieties of Transcendentalism, There is, first, what may be called Idealistic Transcendentalism or Transcendental Idealism. By this idealistic theory all the apparent universe of known external realities—sun, moon, stars, rocks, clouds, earth, and human history and tradition—is resolved or reduced into mere present thinkings of your mind or my mind, a mere complex phantasmagory of the present human spirit; and therefore it is through this present human spirit that one has to seek the all-explaining bond of connection between the real world of finite nature and the real and infinite supernatural world. Now, though Carlyle was acquainted with this idealistic theory, had evident likings for it, and now and then favored it with a passing glance of exposition, I can not find that he had ever worked out the theory in all its bearings—an enormously difficult business—or adopted it intimately for his own behoof, he remained to the end what may be called a Realistic Transcendentalist or Transcendental Realist. By this is meant that be was satisfied to think of the world of space and time, and of all physical and historical realities, as having substantially existed, in its essential fabric at least, very much as we imagine it by an independent tenure from the Infinite, distinct from that of all past or present conceiving minds inserted into it and in traffic with it.
"Here, however, we may note an interesting peculiarity of his special form of Realistic Transcendentalism, which latterly gave him some trouble. Though be talks of 'rude nations,' 'rude times,' etc., and recognized perhaps a certain progress in human conditions and even in the human organism, be seems essentially to have always thought of humanity as a self-contained entity, fully fashioned within itself from the first, and cut off from all its material surroundings and from any priority of material beginnings. Hence his oppugnancy in his latter days to the modern scientific doctrine of evolution as brought into vogue more especially by the reasonings of Darwin. For a transcendentalist of the idealistic sort the doctrine of evolution can have no terrors. If the world of space, time, and history is but a fabrication of our present thinkings, a phantasmagory of the present human spirit, what does it matter how much our present thinkings may change, or how many æons of so-called time and imagined processes and marches of events we may find it necessary to throw into our phantasmagory? For the transcendental realist the difficulty is greater. Though he has the ultimate relief of believing that the entire procession or evolution of things physical as modern science would represent it—from the Universal Nebula on to the dispersed starry immensity, and so to the solar system, our earth as a planet in that system, and the history of that separate earth through the ages of its existence since it became separate—is but one vast forth-putting or manifestation of the inconceivable Absolute, he does not like to think of himself, the paragon of animals, or of the human mind and soul, as in any way really derived from this antecedent physical evolution, and more especially from those nearer portions of it which concern our separate earth and lead from protoplasmic slime, through differentiated bestialism, to a special ancestry in the ape. Some transcendental realists do get over the difficulty; hut Carlyle never could. In June, 1868, he wrote in his journal as follows:
"'Surely the speed with which matters are going on in this supreme province of our affairs is something notable and sadly undeniable in late years. . . . "All descended from gorillas, seemingly." "Sun made by collision of huge masses of planets, asteroids, etc., in the infinite of space." Very possibly, say I. "Then where is the place for a Creator?" The fool hath said in his heart there is no God. From the beginning it has been so, is now, and to the end will be so. The fool hath said it—be and nobody else; and with dismal results in our days—as in all days; which often makes me sad to think of, coming nearer myself and the end of my life than I ever expected they would do. That of the sun, and his possibly being made in that manner, seemed to me a real triumph of science, indefinitely widening the horizon of our theological ideas withal, and awakened a good many thoughts in me when I first heard of it, and gradually perceived that there was actual scientific basis for it—I suppose the finest stroke that "Science," poor creature, has or may have succeeded in making during my time: welcome to me if it be a truth, honorably welcome! But what has it to do with the existence of the Eternal Unnamable?'
"The speculation as to the genesis of the sun and the probable duration of his heat here adverted to by Carlyle with such recognition of its real importance came before him first, I believe, in the form of a paper by Sir William Thomson, of Glasgow, which I had myself the honor of inserting in 'Macmillan's Magazine.' He was much struck with the paper at the time, and often mentioned it to me afterward. It is characteristic that he should have had less objection to this speculation, assigning a definite beginning to the whole solar system, and pointing perhaps to its ultimate collapse and the cessation of all terrestrial life, humanity included, with the extinction of the sun's heat, than to the nearer scientific speculation as to the evolution of species on the earth itself and man's descent from the gorilla. It is as if he found the imagination of a wholesale crash, whether of formation or of annihilation, in the far-back vast of physical immensity, or the far future vast of the same, more cleanly, and therefore more endurable, than any imagination of a materialistic derivation of the human organism, through the ape and what not, from earthly protoplasmic slime. On the whole, one may say that he lived too late to be able to accept the modern scientific doctrine of evolution and work it into bis philosophy, and remained therefore at the last a transcendental realist of the old school. Or perhaps, with the foregoing passage to enlighten us, it might be fairer to say that, whatever conceptions of a cosmic evolution science might bring in, he found them irrelevant to the main matter, and did not care a rush about them in comparison with the main matter—which was that men should continue to believe that all things had originated in a supreme and infinite eternal, the reality of all realities, and should walk in that belief as their religion.
"One may be a Transcendentalist in philosophy, however, whether of the Idealistic or of the Realistic sort, and yet go through the world calmly and composedly. Not so with Carlyle. Jeffrey's laughing complaint about him in the first days of their acquaintance was that he was always 'so dreadfully in earnest'; and no one can study the records of his early life without seeing what Jeffrey meant. Carlyle's vitality from his youth upward was something enormous. There was nothing sluggish or sleepy or cool in his constitution, and no capacity for being sluggish or sleepy or cool. He was always restlessly awake; to whatever subject he addressed himself, he grasped it, or coiled himself round it, as with muscles all on strain and nerves all a-tingling; and, when he had formed his conclusions, he was vehement in announcing them and aggressive in their propagation. Necessarily this was the case most of all with his conclusions on subjects the greatest and most fundamental. 'Woe to them that are at ease in Zion' was a text quite after his own heart, and which he was fond of applying to those who seemed to him to be sufficiently right in the main in their private ways of thinking on the deepest problems, but not to be sufficiently earnest in fighting for their conclusions and rousing and agitating society to get them accepted. Plato himself, the supreme transcendentalist of antiquity, and to this day unapproached among mankind for the magnificent sweep of clear intellect and the beauty and gorgeousness of poetic expression with which he expounded Transcendentalism once for all to the philosophic world, was in this category with Carlyle. 'He was a gentleman very much at ease in Zion' was Carlyle's definition of him. In fact, with the exception of Shakespeare in Elizabethan England and of Goethe in more recent times, the calm and composed type of character, in matters of sublime concern, was not that which won Carlyle's highest regard.
"Dropping now all terms of scholastic nomenclature, we may say, more simply, that Carlyle went through the world as a fervid Theist. God, the Almighty, the Maker of all—through all the eighty-five years of Carlyle's life, all the seventy of his speech and writing, this was his constant phrase to his fellow-mortals. 'There is a God, there is a God, there is a God'—not even did the Koran of Mohammed fulminate this message more incessantly in the ears, or burn it more glowingly into the hearts, of the previously atheistic Arabs whom the inspired camel-driver sought to rouse, than did the series of Carlyle's writings fulminate it and try to make it blaze in a region and generation where, as be imagined, despite all the contrary appearances of organized churches and myriads of clergy and of pulpits, the canker of atheism was again all but universal. When he avoided the simple name 'God' or 'the Almighty,' and had recourse to those phrases—' the Immensities,' 'the Eternities,' 'the Silences,' 'the Infinite Unnamable'—which we now think of, perhaps smilingly, as peculiar forms of the Carlylian rhetoric, it was, as he himself tells us, because 'the old Numen' had become as if obsolete to 'the huge idly impious million of writing, preaching, and talking people,' and he would employ any synonyms or verbal shifts by which he could hope to bring back the essential notion. In his latter days, and always in his own pious self-communings, he seems to have preferred the simple old name he had learned from his father and mother, with its heart-thrilling and heart-softening associations."
Professor Masson then enters upon the question of Carlyle's relation to Christianity, which is too fully treated for insertion here. The curious reader is referred to the discussion itself, which is remarkably interesting. Professor Masson distinguishes between the Ethic, or the moral code of Christianity, and its Metaphysic, or body of supernaturally derived beliefs. Carlyle accepted the former, but rejected the latter, which. Professor Masson argues, is after all the essential and distinguishing attribute of Christianity. On this point he thus reasons:
"The ethic without this metaphysic may call itself Christianity, but is not, I hold, Christianity in any sense worth so special a name. To tell men, however earnestly, not to tell lies, not to commit fraud, to be temperate, honest, truthful, merciful, even to be humble, pious, and God-fearing, is very good gospel; but it did not require the events of Judea, as Christian theology interprets them, to bring that gospel into the world. The modern preacher who sermonizes always on the ethic and omits the accompanying metaphysic may sophisticate himself into a belief that he is preaching Christianity, but is preaching no such thing. Wherever Christianity has been of real effect in the world, and has made real way for its own ethic, it has been by its metaphysic—that set of doctrines respecting things supernatural which was to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness. Now, as Carlyle had wholly given up the metaphysic of Christianity, he can not be classed among the Christians, and thought it honest to avow that he could not be so classed. Indeed, more and more, his attitude toward Christian theology in any of its known and orthodox forms settled into positive antipathy, till at last he declared it to be inconceivable to him that any man of real intellect could be found in that camp without something of conscious insincerity, and looked askance, therefore, on even such ecclesiastical friends of his own as Bishop Thirlwall and Bishop Wilberforce. This feeling found vent in such violent phrases as shovel-hattedness, the Jew-God, etc.; and he had even been so daring as to project a book or pamphlet to be called 'Exodus from Houndsditch,' the purport of which was to be that people ought universally, as fast as they could, to come out of the land and atmosphere of all Jewish forms and traditions, older or later, only taking care to pack up what was really their own and bring that along with them."
The scientific deficiency of Carlyle's mind was nowhere displayed more strikingly than in his scornful rejection of what science has accomplished in the very fields which he himself cultivated—i. e., the phenomena of human and social affairs. Political economy, as is well known, was his abomination. He is forever talking of "facts," but forever deriding those who studied them methodically. On this point, Professor Masson observes:
"What was even worse, Carlyle not only refused the trouble of considerations of the merely mechanical kind himself, but regarded too generally with contempt the labors and speculations of others in that region. His impatience of reasoned political science in any form, and especially in the form of that modern political economy which he derided as 'the dismal science,' really shut him out, more than he was himself aware, from that intimacy with the 'fact of things' which be defined so energetically as the all-essential necessity for men of all sorts and the sole attainable wisdom. It is by science only, by reasoned investigation only, that we can know, in any department, what IS the real 'fact of things'; and till we know, from the teachings of strict political science, whether in its present form of so-called political economy, or in some larger and better form, all that we can know of the real 'fact of things' in that department, our practical efforts in politics and philanthropy will continue to be, as they have too much been heretofore, mere knocking of our heads against stone walls, mere pourings of water into sieves. Not less in all matters and contemplations, physical and cosmological, must we receive our instructions as to the real 'fact of things' from the sciences thereto appertaining. If science tells us surely and conclusively that such and such was and has been the course of actual physical nature, then we are bound, whether we like it or not, to imagine the past physical course of things precisely in that manner; and, if we persist in imagining it one whit otherwise, we incur the guilt of opposing the light, and are untrue to the 'fact of things.' Carlyle, as we have seen, acknowledged this; but it was but a passing acknowledgment. He was too old, his inveteracy in the constitutional faiths of his own spirit was too confirmed, to permit him to adjust these faiths to the new cosmological conceptions which science was making imperative in his later days, or even to perceive that it was of any great consequence that this should be done."
- "Carlyle Personally and in his Writings." Two Edinburgh lectures by David Masson. Macmillan & Co.