CARLYLE, THOMAS (1795-1881) (kar-lil'), . A careless servant-maid in the house of John Stuart Mill, the English philosopher, one morning entered his study to light the fire. On the floor near a table lay a disordered pile of manuscript. To save herself trouble she thrust this paper into the grate and used it to kindle the fire.
That manuscript, destroyed in a few moments through the thoughtlessness of a lazy girl, was the manuscript of Thomas Carlyle's great work, the `French Revolution', on which he had worked five weary months. He had sent the precious document to his good friend Mill to be read and criticized.
When Mill discovered the appalling loss, he was almost frantic with grief. In a state bordering on madness he rushed to Carlyle's house. Carlyle was stunned by the blow, but he did not utter a word of reproach. Gently he tried to console his friend, and when Mill had gone back home, his thought was not for himself, but for Mill. He said to Mrs. Carlyle: " Mill, poor fellow, is terribly cut up. We must endeavor to hide from him how very serious this business is for us." And terribly serious it was, for Carlyle was poor, and earned his bread and butter by his pen. The blow was so heavy that weeks passed before he could bring himself up to the task of rewriting the book.
We should remember the greatness of heart Carlyle showed on this oc casion, when we read of the irritabil ity and crabbedness he displayed at other times. And we should remember that toil and pain were his companions throughout life. He suffered dyspepsia, which, as he said, "gnawed like a rat at his stomach," filled his mind with gloom, and goaded his fierce temper into violent out bursts. His haggard features, lined with pain and thought, told of suffering and struggle; but his whole bearing showed a rugged strength which could not be sub dued. The older he grew, the brighter glowed his deep-set eyes, and nothing could quench his fiery spirit.
There was an intense earnestness in Carlyle, a hatred of sham, hypocrisy, and weakness, that found expression in everything he wrote. Again and again he preached his gospel of work: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy whole might.
Work while it is called Today ; for the Night cometh, wherein no man can work." " Carlylese" is a word that has been coined to describe his style, for his writing is full of sudden ejaculations, rich in glowing words and vivid pictures, rugged and tempestuous.
The son of a hard-working stone-mason, Carlyle was born at Ecclefechan, a little village in the lowlands of Scotland. The story of his early struggles he after wards told in his `Sartor Resartus', one of the strangest books ever written, seemingly a planless jumble of ideas, but full of deep wisdom and insight. After years of privation his twice-written French Revolu tion' brought him recognition.
His triumph reached its climax with the publication of his 'Frederick the Great', a massive work on which he labored 14 years. He was honored by election as lord rector of Edinburgh University, and went there to deliver his inaugural address on The Reading of Books'. Before he returned home, he received news of the sudden death of his beloved and brilliant wife.
He never recovered from this blow, but remained a sad and lonely man, till he followed her in his 86th year.
Carlyle's chief works are: 'Life of Schiller' (1823-24); 'Sartor Resartus' (1833-34) ; 'French Revolution' (1837) ; 'Heroes and Hero-Worship' (1841) ; 'Past and Present' (1843) ; 'Life and Letters of Oliver Cromwell' (1845) ; 'Latter Day Pamphlets' (1850) ; 'Frederick the Great' (1858-65).