Saturday, 28 May 2016

Mallock meets Carlyle

William Hurrell Mallock as I mentioned was the nephew of James Froude, the friend of Thomas Carlyle. In his memoirs he recounts his meeting with the great man.

My acquaintance with Mr. Bevan, however, and even that with Lord Houghton, were but minor experiences as compared with another meeting of a similar yet contrasted kind. At the time of which I speak there was one British author whose influence as a philosophic moralist eclipsed that of any of his contemporaries. This writer was Carlyle. His fame was then at its highest, and the moral consciousness of ultrapolite drawing rooms was being stirred to its well-dressed depths by his attack on "the dandies" in his book, Sartor Resartus, which many earnest and ornamental persons were accepting as a new revelation. I was myself sufficiently familiar with its pages, and, though some of them roused my antagonism, I could not deny their genius. One morning, during a brief visit to London, I received a note from Mr. Froude the historian, asking me to come to luncheon, and I duly arrived at his house, not knowing what awaited me. I presently learned that he was going to introduce me to Carlyle, and, as soon as luncheon was over, he walked me off to Chelsea. In a fitting state of awe I found myself at last in the great philosopher's presence. When we entered his drawing room he was stooping over a writing table in the window, and at first I saw nothing but his back, which was covered with a long, shapeless, and extravagantly dirty dressing gown. When he rose to meet us his manners were as rough as his integument. His welcome to myself was an inarticulate grunt, unmistakably Scotch in its intonation; and his first act was to move across the room to the fireplace and light a "churchwarden" pipe by sticking its head between the bars. As I watched him perform this rite, I noticed that close to the fender was a pair of very dirty slippers. To me these things and proceedings were so many separate shocks, the result of my reflections being this: If you represent fame, let me represent obscurity. But worse was still to come. It was presently proposed that we should all go out for a walk, and as soon as we were in the open air, the philosopher blew his nose in a pair of old woolen gloves. I here saw at once an illustration of the chapter in Sartor Resartus in which the author denounced what he christened "The Sect of the Dandies," as described and glorified by Bulwer Lytton in Pelham. Illustration could go no farther.
(from Memoirs)

The exquisite aesthetic shudder of those details - the gloves of Carlyle and the socks of Swinburne drying on the fender after his walk on the common. (cf. Dinner at the Pines )

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