Thursday, July 11, 2013

More Literary Chit-Chat

Carlyle-Macaulay-Sydney Smith
A.—Is he {Thomas Carlyle} as good a talker as Macaulay?
H.—He is not so neat, brilliant and epigrammatic, but he is more cordial and exhibits a greater ardour and generosity.  Carlyle opens the hearer’s heart—Macaulay closes it.  There is an under current of sarcasm and contempt in Macaulay, as if he felt it a condescension to talk with inferiors, and, with all his external courtesy, people rarely feel quite at their ease in his company.   Carlyle exhibits none of this offensive condescension.   His associates feel safe in his presence,  and do not anticipate that he will laugh at his retreating guest as soon as the door is closed behind him.
A.—You do not surely believe that Macaulay so treats his visitors?
H.—I do not say that he does; but he always left on my mind the impression that he might do so, without much pain to his conscience.   He is amongst the sneerers—a race I abominate.  I always dreaded to ask him his opinion of any man whom I esteemed and loved, and, though he uniformly treated me very kindly and courteously, I used to remember the fine observations of Mrs. Norton, quoted by Leigh Hunt in a note to his Blue Stocking Revels—“We are too apt to think only of how we are treated; too little accustomed to observe what is the treatment of others by the same person.  Watch and weigh.  If a man speak evil of his friends to you, he will also speak evil of you to his friends.  Kind and caressing words are easily spoken, and pleasant to hear; but the man who bears a kind heart bears it to all and not to one only.  He who appears to love only the friend he speaks to, and slanders or speaks coldly of the rest, loves no one but himself.”
A.—What exquisite observers of society are intelligent women!  Every word of that quotation is perfect truth.  Mrs. Norton is something of a poetess, too.  The Quarterly dubs her the female Byron.