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Thomas Carlyle
by [?]

Of Scotch whisky I am not competent to speak, so that subject must be left to the experts. But a Kentucky colonel at my elbow declares that it can not be compared with the Blue-Grass article; though I trust that no one will be prejudiced against it on that account.

Scotch intellect, however, is worthy of our serious consideration. It is a bold, rocky headland, standing out into the tossing sea of the Unknown. Assertive? Yes. Stubborn? Most surely. Proud? By all means. Twice as many pilgrims visit the grave of Burns as that of Shakespeare. Buckle declares Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” has had a greater influence on civilization than any other book ever writ–save none; and the average Scotchman knows his Carlyle a deal better than the average American knows his Emerson: in fact, four times as many of Carlyle’s books have been printed.

When Carlyle took time to bring the ponderous machinery of his intellect to bear on a theme, he saw it through and through. The vividness of his imagination gives us a true insight into times long since gone by; it shows virtue her own feature, vice her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. In history he goes beyond the political and conventional–showing us the thought, the hope, the fear, the passion of the soul.

His was the masculine mind. The divination and subtle intuitions which are to be found scattered through his pages, like violets growing among the rank swale of the prairies–all these sweet, odorous things came from his wife. She gave him of her best thought, and he greedily absorbed it and unconsciously wrote it down as his own.

There are those who blame and berate; volumes have been written to show the inconsiderateness of this man toward the gentle lady who was his intellectual comrade. But they know not life who do this thing.

It is a fact that Carlyle never rushed to pick up Jeannie’s handkerchief. I admit that he could not bow gracefully; that he could not sing tenor, nor waltz, nor tell funny stories, nor play the mandolin; and if I had been his neighbor I would not have attempted to teach him any of these accomplishments.

Once he took his wife to the theater; and after the performance he accidentally became separated from her in the crowd and trudged off home alone and went to bed forgetting all about her—but even for this I do not indict him. Mrs. Carlyle never upbraided him for this forgetfulness, neither did she relate the incident to any one, and for these things I to her now reverently lift my hat.

Jeannie Welsh Carlyle had capacity for pain, as it seems all great souls have. She suffered–but then suffering is not all suffering and pain is not all pain.

Life is often dark, but then there are rifts in the clouds when we behold the glorious deep blue of the sky. Not a day passes but that the birds sing in the branches, and the tree-tops poise backward and forward in restful, rhythmic harmony, and never an hour goes by but that hope bears us up on her wings as the eagle does her young. And ever just before the year dies and the frost comes, the leaves take on a gorgeous hue and the color of the flowers then puts to shame for brilliancy all the plainer petals of Springtime.

And I know Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle were happy, so happy, at times, that they laughed and cried for joy. Jeannie gave all, and she saw her best thought used–carried further, written out and given to the world as that of another–but she uttered no protest.

Xantippe lives in history only because she sought to worry a great philosopher; we remember the daughter of Herodias because she demanded the head (not the heart) of a good man; Goneril and Regan because they trod upon the withered soul of their sire; Lady Macbeth because she lured her liege to murder; Charlotte Corday for her dagger-thrust; Lucrezia Borgia for her poison; Sapphira for her untruth; Jael because she pierced the brain of Sisera with a rusty nail (instead of an idea); Delilah for the reason that she deprived Samson of his source of strength; and in the “Westminster Review” for May, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-four, Ouida makes the flat statement that for every man of genius who has been helped by a woman, ten have been dragged down.