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No. 1. JEAN PAUL FRIEDRICH RICHTER'S REVIEW OF MADAME
at page 258
With the five volumes of Miscellaneous Essays of which the first is bere presented the Centenary Edition of Carlyle's Works will be complete. And with this collection of his occasional writings it will be worthily closed. The Miscellaneous Essays—like most of an author's productions which lie scattered over a considerable tract of time—are of unequal merit and interest: but at their best, and where they belong to their writer's “best period,' they are, many of them, among the finest of his efforts. Some of them were evidently thrown off at a heat, and at a time when Carlyle's mind was specially exercised on some burning question of the day. And, in this case, their length, that of an ordinary Review article, not being sufficient to exhaust the initial impetus which set them going, we read them from end to end with unabated and unflagging pleasure. Opening one of the volumes of the 1872 Edition, quite at random, I have lighted upon the famous paper contributed by him to the Foreign Quarterly Review on that singular figure in South American history, Dr. Francia, the one-while Dictator of Paraguay. Its date is of 1843, and it belongs therefore to the time when Carlyle was at that precise stage in his intellectual and artistic career at which such a subject most powerfully appealed to him, and at which he was able, after his own peculiar fashion, to do it the fullest justice. Both his mind and his style were thoroughly ripe for it. As for his style, it was now at almost the full height of its irregular and erratic power ; while, for his mind, it was in a state of rapidly deepening discontent with and distrust of democratic tendencies, and of daily growing belief in the necessity of the Hero as Dictator. Him, or a
shining example of him, Carlyle believed himself to have found in the person of his Excellency, Citizen Dr. José Gaspar Rodriguez Francia.
No doubt it was a selection which took some defending, and Carlyle is often as hard put to it to keep his idol on his pedestal as he was afterwards to maintain, in an erect position, that savage and half-insane old grenadier, the father of Frederick the Great. But the paradox of the eulogy and the perversity of the eulogist only lend additional piquancy to the performance. The whole story of the unscrupulous and victorious struggle of the Dictator with his rivals and his subjects, and of the twenty years of absolute and, in the main, beneficent rule which followed upon his triumph, is related with extraordinary spirit and vigour, and leaves behind it in the mind of the reader a vivid and enduring picture of the man. Moreover, the scenic surroundings not only of Francia's own life, but of the turbulent drama of South American politics during the decline and down to the fall of the Transatlantic Empire of Spain, had fired Carlyle's imagination; and there are certain pages descriptive of San Martin's march over the Andes into Chili which will bear comparison with the author's finest efforts in this particular style. The whole account of the expedition, brief as it is, is a masterpiece of the Carlylean picturesque. But in truth there is no great writer, not even Macaulay, whose studies of character and sketches of historic figures are more worthy to stand side by side with his larger canvases than are those of Carlyle. The temperament and even the genius of Voltaire were hopelessly antipathetic to him, and his essay on the great French philosophe suffers in consequence, exciting the reader's protest as, for opposite reasons, does the brilliant monograph on Mirabeau; but no one, however little disposed to accept his view of Voltaire as complete or satisfactory, can fail to appreciate the surpassing dexterity of the portrait. The • Diderot,' though less striking, is still a vigorous piece of work; Cagliostro' and The Diamond Necklace,' are as good as the best
episodical pieces in the French Revolution. The Burns' is famous, and the 'Boswell’ the most complete reply to Macaulay's brilliant but shallow characterisation of Johnson's biographer. Failures, like the unfortunate essay on Sir Walter Scott, are so rare as to make that aberration virtually unique.
In this collection, however, containing as it does a good deal of Carlyle's best and maturest work, it has been thought well to include a certain number of those early writings of his which for various reasons have never yet been allowed to find a place in any previous edition, otherwise professedly complete. For this step no apology seems to me to be needed. This is no case of impiously dragging to light, regardless of the known or presumed wishes of their deceased author, works which he thought unworthy of him and would, if living, have desired to suppress. Even to our reprints from the Edinburgh Encyclopædia no such reproach as this would apply. True it is that they are only what Carlyle himself would have described as 'honest journeywork ’; but that he was not ashamed of honest journeywork appears quite plainly in the passage quoted, in my Introduction to the volume of German Romance, from the author's preface to the earlier reprint. No doubt his contributions to the Encyclopædia were journeywork of a more commonplace and mechanical kind. They belong, indeed, distinctly to the 'hack' category; and are just such tasks as the needy scribes of the days of Johnson and Goldsmith had in mind when they talked about writing for the booksellers.' They were written, as most such articles were and still are, under the severest restrictions as to space; so that the writer's want of elbow-room inevitably reduces them to little more than a curt and bald catalogue of the material facts relating to his subject. If they possess the virtue of accuracy, it is all that is expected of them : indeed, it is the only expectation they could possibly satisfy. Still it would be too much to say even of these that they nowhere give promise, however faint and doubtful, of the future Carlyle. A sentence of unusual