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Thomas Carlyle
by [?]

Of a recent edition of Carlyle’s “Heroes and Hero Worship,” it is said that 100,000 copies are already sold. The work has been on the market many years, and this continued popularity is indeed encouraging. It argues that the taste for the legitimate, the sane in literature, has not yet been drowned in the septic sea of fin de siecle slop–that, despite the enervating influence of an all- pervasive sensationalism, or sybaritism, there be still minds capable of relishing the rugged, strong enough to digest the mental pabulum furnished by a really masculine writer. Carlyle ranges like an archangel through the universe of intellect, overturning mountains to see how they are made– now cleaving the empyrean with strong and steady wing, now shearing clear down to the profoundest depths of Ymir’s Well at the foundations of the world. That his followers continue to increase argues well for the age, for he is a man whom weaklings should avoid if they would not be sawed in twain by mountain chains, forever lost in pathless limboes or drowned in the unmeasured deep. Even the strongest must perforce part company with him at times, else follow with the eye of faith, for his path oft leads up into that far region where mortals can scarce breathe, over Walpurgis’ peaks, through bottomless chasms and along the filmy edge of clouds.

The admirers of Carlyle–may their tribe increase!–are indignant because one Edmund Gosse, in his introduction to the late edition of “Heroes and Hero Worship,” alludes to the lion of modern literature as “an undignified human being, growling like an ill-bred collie dog.” They take Mr. Gosse too seriously–dignify him with their displeasure. James Anthony Froude–a literary gun of much heavier caliber than Mr. Gosse appears to us from this passing glimpse–once wrote, if I remember aright, in a similar vein of the grizzled sage; but the unkind critique has been forgotten, and its author is fast following it into oblivion, while the shade of Carlyle looms ever larger, towering already above the Titans of his time, reaching even to the shoulder of Shakespeare! Gosse? Who is this presumptuous fellow who would take Carlyle in tutelage, foist himself upon the attention of the public by making a peep-show of the great essayist’s faults? There is, or was, a pugilist named Gesse, or Goss; but as he did not deal foul blows to the dead, this must be a different breed of dogs. Sometime since there lived a little Englishman named William Edmund, or Edmund William Gosse, or Goss; but I had hitherto supposed that, becoming disgusted with himself, he crawled off and died. As I remember him, he was a kind of half-baked poetaster or he-bulbul, a Johannes Factotum in the province of dilettanteism, a universal Smart Alec who knew less about more things than any other animal in England. He was one of those persistently pestiferous insects tersely called by Carlyle “critic flies”–a descendant of that placed by aesop in St. Paul’s cupola. They presume to judge all things, great and small, by their “half-inch vision”–take the measure of cathedrals and interpret to the world the meaning of brainy men! Unfortunately, the “critic fly” is confined to no one nation–is what might be called, in vigorous Texanese, an all-pervading dam-nuisance. Mounted upon a mole, pimple or other cutaneous imperfection of an intellectual colossus, it complacently smooths its wings and explains, with a patronizing air, that the big ‘un isn’t half bad; but sagely adds that had it been consulted, his too visible imperfections would have been eradicated. We dislike to see an insect leave its periods and semi-colons on the immortal marble; but it were idle to grow angry with a Gosse. This must be the English literary exquisite whom Americans have hitherto incidentally heard bellowing before the tent of this or the other giant and taking tickets–I mean the prig, not the pug. He is comparatively youthful yet, and can, on occasion, digest a good dinner. Perchance when he is well past four-score, worn with long years of labor compared with which the slavery of the bagne were a blessing, and half-dead with dyspepsia, he too, will “growl like a collie dog”; but never a copper will the great world care whether he grumbles or grins. Should he even get hydrophobia, that fact would scarce become historic. The public marks and magnifies a great man’s foibles, but forgets both the little fellow and his faults. Jeanjean may hide from the battle in a hollow log, and none hear of it; but let a Demosthenes lose his shield and the world cackles over it for two-and-twenty centuries. To digress for a moment, I believe the story of Demosthenes’ cowardice as damnable a lie as that relating to Col. Ingersoll’s surrender. Even in his day human vermin sought to wreck with falsehood those they feared. The world–unwisely I think–interests itself in the personality of a genius, and somewhat impudently invades his privacy. A young man may muster up sufficient moral courage to lie to his callers, and thus preserve the proprieties; but an aged valetudinarian who wants to get into a quiet nook and nurse himself, may show scant courtesy–even brush the “critic fly” of the genus Gosse out of doors with a hickory broom.