I have told our story with the help of my daughter's diary, and often aided by her recollections. Having enjoyed so much, I am desirous that my countrymen and countrywomen should share my good fortune with me. I hesitated at first about printing names in full, but when I remembered that we received nothing but the most overflowing hospitality and the most considerate kindness from all we met, I felt sure that I could not offend by telling my readers who the friends were that made England a second home to us. If any one of them is disturbed by such reference as I have made to him or to her, I most sincerely apologize for the liberty I have taken. I am far more afraid that through sheer forgetfulness I have left unmentioned many to whom I was and still remain under obligations.
One half her soil has walked the rest
"Juvat nuper audivisse eum cujus carmen prope primum 'Folium ultimum' nominatum est, folia adhuc plura e scriniis suis esse prolaturum. Novimus quanta lepore descripserit colloquia illa antemeridiana, symposia illa sobria et severa, sed eadem festiva et faceta, in quibus totiens mutata persona, modo poeta, modo professor, modo princeps et arbiter, loquendi, inter convivas suos regnat."
Ingenuity is much better shown in contrivances for making our daily life more comfortable. I was on the lookout for everything that promised to be a convenience. I carried out two things which seemed to be new to the Londoners: the Star Razor, which I have praised so freely, and still find equal to all my commendations; and the mucilage pencil, which is a very handy implement to keep on the writer's desk or table. I found a contrivance for protecting the hand in drawing corks, which all who are their own butlers will appreciate, and luminous match-boxes which really shine brightly in the dark, and that after a year's usage; whereas one professing to shine by night, which I bought in Boston, is only visible by borrowed light. I wanted a very fine-grained hone, and inquired for it at a hardware store, where they kept everything in their line of the best quality. I brought away a very pretty but very small stone, for which I paid a large price. The stone was from Arkansas, and I need not have bought in London what would have been easily obtained at a dozen or more stores in Boston. It was a renewal of my experience with the seafoam biscuit. "Know thyself" and the things about thee, and "Take the good the gods provide thee," if thou wilt only keep thine eyes open, are two safe precepts.
The first thing we did on the day of our arrival was to take a hansom and drive over to Chelsea, to look at the place where Carlyle passed the larger part of his life. The whole region about him must have been greatly changed during his residence there, for the Thames Embankment was constructed long after he removed to Chelsea. We had some little difficulty in finding the place we were in search of. Cheyne (pronounced "Chainie") Walk is a somewhat extended range of buildings. Cheyne Row is a passage which reminded me a little of my old habitat, Montgomery Place, now Bosworth Street. Presently our attention was drawn to a marble medallion portrait on the corner building of an ordinary-looking row of houses. This was the head of Carlyle, and an inscription informed us that he lived for forty-seven years in the house No. 24 of this row of buildings. Since Carlyle's home life has been made public, he has appeared to us in a different aspect from the ideal one which he had before occupied. He did not show to as much advantage under the Boswellizing process as the dogmatist of the last century, dear old Dr. Johnson. But he remains not the less one of the really interesting men of his generation, a man about whom we wish to know all that we have a right to know.
"By all sweet memory of the saints and sages
It is one of the regrets of my life that I never saw or heard Carlyle. Nature, who seems to be fond of trios, has given us three dogmatists, all of whom greatly interested their own generation, and whose personality, especially in the case of the first and the last of the trio, still interests us,--Johnson, Coleridge, and Carlyle. Each was an oracle in his way, but unfortunately oracles are fallible to their descendants. The author of "Taxation no Tyranny" had wholesale opinions, and pretty harsh ones, about us Americans, and did not soften them in expression: "Sir, they are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging." We smile complacently when we read this outburst, which Mr. Croker calls in question, but which agrees with his saying in the presence of Miss Seward, "I am willing to love all mankind except an American."
Now let us come down to Carlyle, and see what he says of Coleridge. We need not take those conversational utterances which called down the wrath of Mr. Swinburne, and found expression in an epigram which violates all the proprieties of literary language. Look at the full-length portrait in the Life of Sterling. Each oracle denies his predecessor, each magician breaks the wand of the one who went before him. There were Americans enough ready to swear by Carlyle until he broke his staff in meddling with our anti-slavery conflict, and buried it so many fathoms deep that it could never be fished out again. It is rather singular that Johnson and Carlyle should each of them have shipwrecked his sagacity and shown a terrible leak in his moral sensibilities on coming in contact with American rocks and currents, with which neither had any special occasion to concern himself, and which both had a great deal better have steered clear of.
The sight of an old nest over which two or three winters have passed is a rather saddening one. The dingy three-story brick house in which Carlyle lived, one in a block of similar houses, was far from attractive. It was untenanted, neglected; its windows were unwashed, a pane of glass was broken; its threshold appeared untrodden, its whole aspect forlorn and desolate. Yet there it stood before me, all covered with its associations as an ivy-clad tower with its foliage. I wanted to see its interior, but it looked as if it did not expect a tenant and would not welcome a visitor. Was there nothing but this forbidding house-front to make the place alive with some breathing memory? I saw crossing the street a middle-aged woman,--a decent body, who looked as if she might have come from the lower level of some not opulent but respectable household. She might have some recollection of an old man who was once her neighbor. I asked her if she remembered Mr. Carlyle. Indeed she did, she told us. She used to see him often, in front of his house, putting bits of bread on the railing for the birds. He did not like to see anything wasted, she said. The merest scrap of information, but genuine and pleasing; an instantaneous photograph only, but it makes a pretty vignette in the volume of my reminiscences. There are many considerable men in every generation of mankind, but not a great number who are personally interesting,--not a great many of whom we feel that we cannot know too much; whose foibles, even, we care to know about; whose shortcomings we try to excuse; who are not models, but whose special traits make them attractive. Carlyle is one of these few, and no revelations can prevent his interesting us. He was not quite finished in his parental existence. The bricklayer's mortar of his father's calling stuck to his fingers through life, but only as the soil he turned with his ploughshare clung to the fingers of Burns. We do not wish either to have been other than what he was. Their breeding brings them to the average level, carries them more nearly to the heart, makes them a simpler expression of our common humanity. As we rolled in the cars by Ecclefechan, I strained my eyes to take in every point of the landscape, every cottage, every spire, if by any chance I could find one in that lonely region. There was not a bridge nor a bit of masonry of any kind that I did not eagerly scrutinize, to see if it were solid and honest enough to have been built by Carlyle's father. Solitary enough the country looked. I admired Mr. Emerson's devotion in seeking his friend in his bare home among what he describes as the "desolate heathery hills" about Craigenputtock, which were, I suppose, much like the region through which we were passing.