Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Carlyle on Lockhart's Life of Scott

Thomas Carlyle wrote a letter to his mother, Margaret on December 7th, 1837, in which he discusses working on an article concerning Sir Walter Scott.  The letter reveals something of Carlyle’s approach to his subjects.

‘…Directly after or very soon after my last Letter to you went off, I did begin to [write] that Article on Walter Scott, which there was talk of then. I felt disgusted with the task, but in some measure bound to do it. Accordingly it is done, last night, thank Heaven! A long, occasionally rather stupid Article; for which however I shall likely get a matter of £50, always useful here. There will I think be some uncertainty about the time of its coming out; perhaps not till April next;6 that is no matter. Here the thing lies, fairly sealed up and finished, and will be out of my hands in an hour; you shall see it, as I hope, when it comes out; I will take care to have it forwarded in some way. I have been obliged to say several rather crabbed things about Sir Walter, and to take down the pegs greatly in respect of the admiration many have of him: but there is nothing malicious or unjust; nay I end, as one should do with all men, in sincere love and pity for him…’

Carlyle’s article was published in January 1838, in London and Westminster Review; a review of John Gibson Lockhart’s “Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott”.  A link to Carlyle’s essay (housed at Fordham University) is found in Edinburgh University’s Walter Scott archive:

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