“A little past this, and an old ivy-clad church, with its buried generations lying around it,” writes one traveler, “you come to an antique street running at right angles with the Thames, and, a few steps from the river, you find Carlyle’s name on the door.” “A Scotch lass ushers you into the second story front chamber, which is the spacious workshop of the world maker.” Here he sits a long time together, with many books and papers about him; many new books, we have been told, on the upper shelves, uncut, with the “author’s respects” in them; in late months, with many manuscripts in an old English hand, and innumerable pamphlets, from the public libraries, relating to the Cromwellian period; now, perhaps, looking out into the street on brick and pavement, for a change, and now upon some rod of grass ground in the rear; or, perchance, he steps over to the British Museum, and makes that his studio for the time. This is the fore part of the day; that is the way with literary men commonly; and then in the afternoon, we presume, he takes a short run of a mile or so through the suburbs out into the country; we think he would run that way, though so short a trip might not take him to very sylvan or rustic places. In the meanwhile, people are calling to see him, from various quarters, few very worthy of being seen by him; “distinguished travelers from America,” not a few; to all and sundry of whom he gives freely of his yet unwritten rich and flashing soliloquy, in exchange for whatever they may have to offer; speaking his English, as they say, with a “broad Scotch accent,” talking, to their astonishment and to ours, very much as he writes, a sort of Carlylese, his discourse “coming to its climaxes, ever and anon, in long, deep, chest-shaking bursts of laughter.”
He goes to Scotland sometimes, to visit his native heath-clad hills, having some interest still in the earth there; such names as Craigenputtock and Ecclefechan, which we have already quoted, stand for habitable places there to him; or he rides to the seacoast of England in his vacations, upon his horse Yankee, bought by the sale of his books here, as we have been told.
How, after all, he gets his living; what proportion of his daily bread he earns by day-labor or job-work with his pen, what he inherits, what steals — questions whose answers are so significant, and not to be omitted in his biography — we, alas! are unable to answer here. It may be worth the while to state that he is not a Reformer in our sense of the term — eats, drinks, and sleeps, thinks and believes, professes and practices, not according to the New England standard, nor to the Old English wholly. Nevertheless, we are told that he is a sort of lion in certain quarters there, “an amicable centre for men of the most opposite opinions,” and “listened to as an oracle,” “smoking his perpetual pipe.”
A rather tall, gaunt figure, with intent face, dark hair and complexion, and the air of a student; not altogether well in body, from sitting too long in his workhouse — he, born in the Border Country and descended from moss-troopers, it may be. We have seen several pictures of him here; one, a full-length portrait, with hat and overall, if it did not tell us much, told the fewest lies; another, we remember, was well said to have “too combed a look;” one other also we have seen in which we discern some features of the man we are thinking of; but the only ones worth remembering, after all, are those which he has unconsciously drawn of himself.