to a national object, the extrication of CARLYLE’s memory from the rubbish
heaps of a barren and hateful controversy.
“The cloud passes away, and the mountain in its solid grandeur remains; and
thus, when all the temporary dust is laid, will stand out, erect and clear,
the massive figure of CARLYLE.”
It is only to be hoped that CARLYLE, when the dust of personal controversy
is laid, will not be made the stalking horse of political controversy.
His true greatness consists, as Professor TYNDALL justly said, in the
spirit of his teaching, and not in its particular precepts. He was a “dynamic, not
a didactic” force, and will have his admirers and disciples among men of all
political creeds, perhaps especially among those who differ most widely from
his own application of his principles to the question of his day.
It is, of course, only natural that the Conservatives should make a claim
to CARLYLE, and Professor TYNDALL furnished them with a text. “He saw,” said
the professor, “the vanity of expecting political wisdom from intellectual
ignorance, however backed by numbers.”
He saw, however, with equal clearness the vanity of expecting political
improvement from privileged classes without pressure from below. CARLYLE was all
for an ideal aristocracy, but who is not? But he was perhaps the bitterest
satirist of actual aristocracies, past or present, that ever lived. His sole
political principle was a burning desire for intellectual and moral elevation
of the people. That object is of course, equally professed by all parties,
but what is distinctly Liberal in CARLYLE is his intense zeal in its pursuit,
his intolerance of present evils, his contempt, or rather positive disbelief
in the reality of the obstacles to reform.
The tenderness for vested interests, even when they conflict with the
public good, the denial of the power of human effort to make great immediate
changes in human condition, were as foreign to CARLYLE as to the keenest Radical.
One would have liked to hear him on the liberty and Property Defence League,
or on the distorted Darwinism so fashionable now as a Conservative argument.