Sunday, 23 February 2014

Reminiscences by Thomas Carlyle

You do not expect to be moved by Thomas Carlyle in the direction of the milder deliquescent emotions, no it is gum baring scorn and the heavenward eye at meliorism from the bien pensant element that is the usual reaction. His Reminiscences which caused contemporary shock by their intimacy round out our view of the man. I think that the last time I read such a moving tribute to a father was in the words of Saint Silouan of Athos which is not to hand at the moment. (from The Undistorted Image by Elder Sophrony). Even when as a young man he was going astray the remonstrance from his father was of the mildest. Strong silent unwavering love that leaves the son to come to his senses in his own time is what Carlyle also received. He writes:

He wrote to me duly and affectionately while I was at college. Nothing that was good for me did he fail with his best ability to provide. His simple, true counsel and fatherly admonitions have now first attained their fit sacredness of meaning. Pity for me if they be thrown away.
His tolerance for me, his trust in me, was great. When I declined going forward into the Church (though his heart was set upon it), he respected my scruples, my volition, and patiently let me have my way. In after years, when I had peremptorily ceased from being a schoolmaster, though he inwardly disapproved of the step as imprudent, and saw me in successive summers lingering beside him in sickliness of body and mind, without outlook towards any good, he had the forbearance to say at worst nothing, never once to whisper discontent with me.
If my dear mother, with the trustfulness of a mother's heart, ministered to all my woes, outward and inward, and even against hope kept prophesying good, he, with whom I communicated far less, who could not approve my schemes, did nothing that was not kind and fatherly. His roof was my shelter, which a word from him (in those sour days of wounded vanity) would have deprived me of. He patiently let me have my way, helping when he could, when he could not help never hindering. When hope again dawned for me, how hearty was his joy, yet how silent. I have been a happy son.

I have been reading the Oxford World Classics edition with its copious notes and amplified text. Froude’s compilation is available at Internet Archive in a fairly clean scan.

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