William Shepard] 1854- comp [Walsh.

Pen pictures of modern authors online

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Online LibraryWilliam Shepard] 1854- comp [WalshPen pictures of modern authors → online text (page 1 of 19)
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itmo, cloth extra, gilt top, $1.25

" A work ofsj>ecial interest to beginners in literattire, treating of the
j>rofession of literature^ its struggles, ternptations , drawbacks, and ad-
vantages; the relations of authors, editors, and publishers , etc. A cur-
ious a7td interesting volume.^'' — N. Y. Mail and Express,

" The perusal of this volujne affords rich literary recreation, and im-
parts inuch valuable as well as curiozis information.'''' — Home Journal

" /zf is brimful of interesting inforjnation concerning authors and
their work, and is one of the most readable vohtjnes of the year ^'' — Post


i^mo, cloth extra, gilt top, $1.25

Contains lively descriptions and recollections of men and wojnen
noted in literature. Among these are Mr. Cttrtis' ''''Recollections of
Hawthorne^^ Mrs. Kinney'' s ''''Day with the Brownings," Mr. Justin
McCarthy's " Visit to Lowell^'' and Mr. John Esten Cooke's '' Hour
•with Thackeray J' Carlyle, Emerson, George Eliot, Swinburne, Bulwer,
Charles Reade, Longfellow, and many others are on the list of authors
sketched or " interviewed."






Edited by /,

IVILLIAM SHEPARD t. ■p- ^J-^-^^ . J


Pen Pictures of Modern Atcthors





Press of

G. P. Putnam's Sons

New York


THESE are not biographies that are col-
lected here, but a series of sketches,
anecdotes, and personal reminiscences relating
to the more modern authors — that is, the
authors who are now living, or who have died
very recently and whose work belongs to the
present half of the century. As the book is a
com.pilation, the editor has occasionally been
hampered by want of available material, and if
the reader misses any face which he would like
to have seen in a gallery of this sort, he will
understand that it is because no satisfactory
"pen picture" could be found.

The thanks of the editor are due to the pub-
lishers of the various magazines from which
articles have been selected, and also to Messrs.
Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., for permission to


make extracts from two or three of their copy-
righted works, especially from Hawthorne's
Note-Books — which are not only interesting as
revealing the inner workings of a rare and deli-
cate genius, but contain a large amount of en-
tertaining literary gossip in regard to many of
his most famous contemporaries.













XI. WALT WHITMAN . . • . . . . 161




XV. CHARLES DICKENS . . ' . . . . 236






Manners and appearance in his early days— Margaret Fuller's portrait
— Anecdotes and reminiscences — The Carlyle household described
by Henrj'' Larkin.

None of his ''Autobiographic Sketches"
De Ouincey tells a story of an evening
party at Coleridge's where the conversation
having turned upon the Mohammedan creed,
theology, and morals, some young man, intro-
duced by Edward Irving, thought fit to pro-
nounce a splendid eulogium upon Mahomet
and all his doctrines. This, as a pleasing ex-
travagance, had amused all present. Some
hours after, when the party came to separate,
the philo-Mohammedan missed his hat, upon
which, vv'hile a general search for it was going
on. Lamb, turning to the stranger, said, *' Hat,
sir ? Your hat ? Don't you think you came in a
turban ? " The story is not a particularly
good one, although De Quincey quotes it with
evident triumph as a notable addition to the


stock of Eliana, but, as there need be no diffi-
culty in identifying the " young man intro-
duced by Irving," it is interesting as affording
a glimpse of Carlyle in his early days. It
shows, also, that in his comparatively obscure
youth his sturdy self-assertion and overbearing
eloquence v/ere not to be daunted, even on a
first introduction, by the most brilliant intel-
lectual society in England. It was probably a
year or two later that Carlyle was met by
George Gilfillan at a party given by Jeffrey.
Gilfillan describes him as a man of about thirty
years of age, wath dark locks approaching to
a curl ; cheeks tinged v/ith a healthy red ; a
brow broad, prominent, but rather low, not
unlike that which painters give to Burns ; eyes
which in a front view said nothing, but which,
when seen from the side, were seen rolling in
fire ; lips which appeared as if perpetually
champing some invisible bit ; the whole aspect
of the face being that of infinite restlessness,
strongly restrained by self-control. His eyes
and lips when he spoke seemed taking parts,
and responding to each other in one wild tune.
A jaw like that of a tiger formed the base of
the head; and a form not tall, but commanding
in its mediocrity, from an air of proud humii-


ity and half-stooping strength, finished off the
whole. In a strange, Avild Annandale accent
he began an address : *' The public," he said,
*^ had become a gigantic jackass ; Literature,
a glittering lie ; Science was groping aimlessly
amidst the dry dead clatter of the machinery
by which it means the universe ; Art wielding
a feeble, watery pencil ; History stumbling
over dry bones in a valley no longer of vision ;
Philosophy lisping and babbling exploded ab-
surdities, mixed with new nonsense about tlie
Infinite, the Absolute, and the Eternal ; our Re-
ligion a great truth groaning its last ; Truth,
Justice, God, turned big, staring, empty words,
like the address on a sign remaining after the
house was abandoned, or like the envelope
after the letter had been extracted, drifting
down the wind. And what men we have to
meet the crisis ! Sir Walter Scott, a toothless
retailer of old wives' fables ; Brougham, an
eternal grinder of commonplace and preten-
tious noise, like a man playing on a hurdy-
gurdy ; Coleridge, talking in a maudlin sleep
an infinite deal of nothing; Wordsworth, stoop-
ing to extract a spiritual catsup from mush-
roomxS which were little better than toadstools ;
John Wilson, taken to presiding at Noctcs, and


painting haggises in floods ; the bishops and
clergy of all denominations combined to keep
men in a state of pupilage, that they may be
kept in port wine and roast beef ; politicians
full of cant, insincerity, and falsehood ; Peel, a
plausible fox ; John Wilson Croker, an un-
hanged hound ; Lord John Russell, a turn-
spit of good pedigree ; Lord Melbourne, a
monkey ; ^ these be thy gods, O Israel ! '
Others occupied in undertakings as absurd as
to seek to suck the moon out of the sky ;
this wind-bag yelping for liberty to the negro,
and that other for the improvement of prisons ;
— all sham and imposture together — a giant lie
— v/hich may soon go dov/n in hell-fire."

The best description of Carlyle, as he ap-
peared in the fulness of his powers, is that
given in the following passages from Margaret
Fuller's letters to Emerson in 1846. They have
often been quoted, but they are worth quoting


Of the people I saw in London, you will wish me
to speak first of the Carlyles. Mr. C. came to see
me at once, and appointed an evening to be passed
at their house. That first time I was delighted
with him. He was in a very sweet humor, full of


wit and pathos, without being overbearing or op-
pressive. I was quite carried away with the rich
flow of his discourse ; the hearty, noble earnestness
of his personal being brought back the charm which
once was upon his writing, before I wearied of it.
I admired his Scotch, his Vv^ay of singing his great
full sentences, so that each one y>^as like the stanza
of a narrative ballad. He let me talk now and
then, enough to free my lungs and change my posi-
tion, so that I did not get tired. That evening he
talked of the present state of things in England,
giving light, witty sketches of the men of the day,
fanatics and others, and some sweet homely stories
he told of things he had knov/n of the Scotch
peasantry. Of you he spoke with hearty kindness ;
and he told, with beautiful feeling, a story of
some poor farmer or artisan in the country who on
Sunday lays aside the cark and care of that dirty
English v/orld and sits reading the essays and look-
ing upon the sea. I left him that night intending
to go out very often to their house. I assure you
there never was any thing so witty as Carlyle's de-
scription of . It was enough to kill one vv-ith

laughing. I, on my side, contributed a story to his
fund of anecdote on this subject, and it was fully
appreciated. Carlyle is worth a thousand of you
for that ; he is not ashamed to laugh when he is
amused, but goes on in a cordial, human fashion.
The second time Mr. C. had a dinner-party, at


which was a witty, French, flippant sort of man,
author of a '' History of Philosophy " [George
Henry Lewes], and now writing a ''Life of
Goethe," a task for which he must be as unfit as
irreligion and sparkling shallowness can make him.
But he told stories admirably, and was allowed
sometimes to interrupt Carlyle a little, of which
one was glad, for that night he was in his more
acrid mood and, though much more brilliant than
on the former evening, grew wearisome to me, who
disclaimed and rejected almost every thing he said.
For a couple of hours he was talking about poetry,
and the vv^hole harangue was one eloquent procla-
mation of the defects in his own mind. Tennyson
wrote in verse because the school-masters had
taught him that it was great to do so, and had
thus, unfortunately, been turned from the true path
for a man. Burns had, in like manner, been
turned from his vocation. Shakespeare had not
had the good sense to see that it would have been
better to write straight on in prose — and such non-
sense, which, though amusing enough at first, he
ran to death after a while. The most amusing part
is always when he comes back to some refrain, as,
in the "French Revolution," of the "sea-green."
In this instance it was Petrarch and Laura, the las{,
word pronounced with his ineffable sarcasm of
drawl. Although he said this over fifty times, I
could not help laughing Vvdien Laura would come,


Carlyle running his chin out when he spoke it, and
his eyes glancing till they looked like the eyes and
beak of a bird of prey. Poor Laura ! Luckily
for her that her poet had already got her safely
canonized beyond the reach of this Teufelsdrockh
vulture. The worst of hearing Carlyle is that you
cannot interrupt him. I understand the habit and
power of haranguing have increased very much
upon him, so that you are a perfect prisoner v/hen
he has once got hold of you. To interrupt him is
a physical impossibility. If you get a chance to
remonstrate for a moment, he raises his voice and
bears you down. True, he does you no injustice,
and, with his admirable penetration, sees the dis-
claimer in your mind, so that you are not morally
delinquent ; but it is not pleasant to be unable to
utter it. The latter part of the evening, however,
he paid us for this by a series of sketches, in his
finest style of railing and raillery, of modern
French literature, not one of them perhaps per-
fectly just, but all drawn with the finest, boldest
strokes, and, from his point of view, masterly. All
were depreciating except that of Beranger. Of him
he spoke with perfect justice, because with hearty
sympathy. I had, afterward, some talk with Mrs.
C, whom hitherto I had only seen, for who can
speak while her husband is there ? I like her very
much — she is full of grace, sweetness, and talent.
Her eyes are sad and charming. After this they


went to stay at Lord Ashburton's, and I only saw
them once more, when they came to pass an even-
ing with us. Unluckily, Mazzini was with us,
whose society, when he was there alone, I enjoyed
more than any. He is a beauteous and pure music ;
also, he is a dear friend of Mrs. C, but his being
there gave the conversation a turn to " progress "
and ideal subjects, and C. was fluent in invectives
on all our " rose-water imbecilities." We all felt
distant from him, and Mazzini, after some vain ef-
forts to remonstrate, became very sad. Mrs. C.
said to me, '' The: 3 are but opinions to Carlyle,
but to Mazzini, who has given his all, and helped
bring his friends to the scaffold, in pursuit of such
subjects, it is a matter of life and death." All
Carlyle's talk that evening was a defence of mere
force — success the test of right — if people would
not behave well, put collars round their necks —
find a hero, and let them be his slaves, etc. It was
very Titanic and anti-celestial. I wish the last
evening had been more melodious. However, I
bid Carlyle farev/ell with feelings of the warmest
friendship and admiration. We cannot feel other-
wise to a great and noble nature, v/hether it har-
monize with our own or not. I never appreciated
the work he has done for his age till I saw Eng-
land. I could not. You must stand in the shadow
of that mountain of shams to know how hard it is
to cast light across it


Pans, December, 1846. — Accustomed to the in-
iinite wit and exuberant richness of his writings, his
talk is still an amazement and a splendor scarcely
to be faced with steady eyes. He does not con-
verse, only harangues. It is the usual misfortune
of such marked men that they cannot allow other
minds room to breathe and show themselves in
their atmosphere, and thus miss the refreshment
and instruction which the greatest never cease to
need from the experience of the humblest. Carlyle
allows no one a chance, but bears down all oppo-
sition, not only by his ^yit and onset of words, re-
sistless in their sharpness as so many bayonets, but
by actual physical superiority, raising his voice and
rushing on his opponent with a torrent of sounds.
This is not in the least from unwillingness to allow
freedom to others. On the contrary, no man would
more enjoy a manly resistance to his thought. But
it is the nature of a mind accustomed to follow out
its own impulse as the hawk its prey, and v/hicli
knows not how to stop in the chase. Carlyle, in-
deed, is arrogant and overbearing, but in his arro-
gance there is no littleness, no self-love. It is the
heroic arrogance of some old Scandinavian con-
queror ; it is his nature, and the untamable impulse
that has given him power to crush the dragons.
You do not love him, perhaps, nor revere ; and per-
haps, also, he would only laugh at you if you did ;
but you like him heartily, and like to see him, tlie


powerful smith, the Siegfried, melting all the old
iron in his furnace till it glows to a sunset red, and
burns you if you senselessly go too near. He seems
to me quite isolated, lonely as the desert ; yet never
was a man more fitted to prize a man, could he find
one to m.atch his mood. He finds them, but only
in the past. He sings rather than talks. He pours
upon you a kind of satirical, heroical, critical poem,
with regular cadences, and generally catching up,
near the beginning, some singular epithet, which
serves as a refrain when his song is full. He some-
times stops a minute to laugh at himself, then be-
gins anew with fresh vigor ; for all the spirits he is
driving before him seem to him as fata-morganas,
ugly masks, in fact, if he can but make them turn
about ; but he laughs that they seem to others such
dainty Ariels.

^' Carlyle," says Mr. G. W. Smalley, of the
Tribune, " never troubled himself about con-
ventionalities. V/hat he felt, that he said, and
as he felt it ; and it did not matter if he sat in
his own room or in a public hall. At one of
Dickens' readings he has been known to burst
out in irrepressible, long-continued,, stentorian
laughter, that amounted almost to a convul-
sion ; swinging his hat in the air meanwhile."
He expressed his opinions bluntly enough.


When Mr. William Black called upon hini he
growled out, " Are you never going- to write
any thing serious ? " " And now," he asked
Mr. A'Beckett, the author of various '' comic "
histories, '' when do you bring out your ' Comic
Bible ' ? " He told a friend once that Miss
Barrett (Mrs. Browning) had sent him two vol-
umes of poems, and he had written her that
" if she had any thing to say she had better
put it into plain prose, so a body could under-
stand it, and not trouble herself to make
rhymes. But," he laughingly added, '' the
woman felt so badly about it that I had to
write again." A physician asked him why he
did not take medical advice for his ailments.
" Sir," he shouted, '^ I might as well pour my
troubles into the long hairy ears of a jackass
as consult a member of your profession." An-
other story used to be told with much point by
Dickens. The self-confident editor of a cer-
tain review was present at a dinner-party, and
had enunciated some weighty opinion on the
subject under discussion, wrapping it up in a
small parcel and laying it by on a shelf as if
done with forever — and a dead silence ensued.
This silence, to the astonishment of all, was
broken by Carlyle looking across the table at


the editor in a dreamy way, and saying as
though to himself, but in perfectly audible
tones, '' Eh, but you 're a puir cratur, a puir,
wratched, meeserable cratur!" Then, with a
sigh, he relapsed into silence.

Of Carlyle's domestic life a very interesting
glimpse has been afforded us by Mr. Henry
Larkin, who was for many years an intimate
friend of the household. This gentleman
tells us that he had long worshipped Carlyle at
a distance as the one to whom, " next to my
Sovereign Lord and Master, Jesus Christ," he
v/as most deeply indebted for light and guidance.
But it was not until 1856 that he made his
acquaintance. The story I give in his own
words, though with some retrenchment and
abridgm.ent, to fit It within the limits of this


I was living in London, and I chanced to learn
that Carlyle wanted help. I was told that he was
hard at work on Frederick the Great ; and that he
was also preparing to issue a collected edition of
his works, for which he wanted good indexes. I
saw at once that my opportunity had at length
come ; and that there was now a possibility of doing
something really useful while I lived. I was still


unmarried, and my needs were as moderate as my
means, and I had ray evenings as free as I chose to
make them. So I wrote him a rather long letter,
explaining what v/as necessary, and volunteering
my services ; upon wliich I received the following
friendly yet cautious invitation :

Chelsea^ i:\ih December, 1856.

Dear Sir: — Your Letter is very loyal and good ; your offer
altogether kind and friendly. I am not v/ithout help, volun-
teer and hired, in these troublesome Enterprises of mine ; nor
is there an immediate necessity for more. But I make no
doubt you, too, could do acceptable service, if you continued
steadily inclined that way.

Perhaps you may as well come and see me at any rate ; we
shall then see better what is doable, what not. On Tuesday
Evening we are at home, my Wife and I as usual ; Tea is at
7^ o'clock ; if I hear nothing from you, let us expect you then
for an hour and half.

Believe me yours truly,

T. Carlyle.

I smiled as I read the limitation of " an hour and
half," and wondered Vv'hat sort of long-winded
visitor he expected to find me. Punctual to the
time, I knocked at the door. I was conducted up-
stairs into the drawing-room ; and Mrs. Carlyle,
who was sitting at needlevv'ork by a small table, rose
to receive me. She was very kind, but reserved,
and I thought looked strangely sorrowful, as if some
great trouble were weighing her down ; I thought she


looked ill, and yet there v/as evidently something
more depressing than mere bodily suffering. She
said Mr. Carlyle would be dov/n presently, but
had not .finished his afternoon sleep ; adding, in a
slight tone of disparagement, " He always takes a
long sleep before tea, and then complains that he
can get no sleep at night." While I was wondering
at this strange reception, Carlyle himself entered.
He bowed somewhat ceremoniously, and we shook
hands. He then bade me be seated, and tea was
brought in. Of course we talked as we sipped our
tea ; but what I chiefly remember is the strange
feeling of reserve which seemed to have taken pos-
session of all three of us. Gradually Carlyle began
to thaw, probably as he gradually perceived that he
had not caught such a gushing enthusiast as he may
not unreasonably have expected. At nine o'clock
I made a movem.ent, indicating that I was aware
that the time allowed was up. But he again bade
m.e be seated, kindly said there was no need to hurry
away, that he always went out for a v/alk before bed,
and that he would walk out with me. In this as-
surance Mrs. Carlyle kindly joined, and I again sat
dov/n, feeling considerably more at ease than be-
fore. After this the conversation became more
specific, and almost genial, although I recollect very
little which Vv^ould be worth repeating. Mrs. Car-
lyle said little, merely putting in an occasional re-
mark. At length Carlyle abruptly introduced the


business which had brought me there, and which I
had been waiting for him to refer to. Perhaps my
face brightened at this, but certainly his own reserve
there and then fell from him, and for the first time
I felt that I saw Carlyle himself.

He told me the Lives of Sterling and Schiller
were the first things requiring attention ; and that
his wish was to have a summary of each chapter
and an index of both Lives, to be placed at the end
of the book. That, if I found myself fit for the
work, and the v/ork fit for me, he could at least
promise me enough of it. But one absolute condi-
tion was, that he himself w^as not to be worried
about it, his thoughts being entirely absorbed in
other vrork. In short, that superfluous talk (includ-
ing wTiting) was, on all occasions, the one thing to
be avoided. He handed me the books, and, at
eleven o'clock instead of nine, we went out to-
gether. He walked w'ith me a mile or more on my
road, talking in a kind, fatherly way, v/hich sent me
home gratefully triumphant. Mrs. Carlyle Avas
again very kind at parting ; but I saw, w-ith a feel-
ing of perplexed disappointment, the same weary
look, almost of indifference, which I had noticed
when I entered. I little knew then the wearing
misery of her life, and little thought how anxiously
she was foreboding that all this '' romantic devo-
tion," as she afterward called it, on my part, and
Carlyle 's ready acceptance of it, must inevitably


end in trouble to us both. This was the time which
Carlyle, in his Reminiscences, so sadly speaks of,
as the " nadir of her sufferings." I may as well say
at once that her anxious forebodings were never
quite fulfilled. Troubles enough there undoubtedly
were, and, as will be seen, disappointments, too, on
both sides. But I think I may confidently say that

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Online LibraryWilliam Shepard] 1854- comp [WalshPen pictures of modern authors → online text (page 1 of 19)