Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

Another Carlye Reminiscence


Benjamin Disraeli, 1804-1881 Soon after the news of the Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria startled the world, a big London committee was formed to organise public opinion to denounce Turkish rule in Europe, and to condemn Disraeli in consequence of his Turkish proclivities. Scores of public meetings were held, and the greatest of them in St. James's Hall, which was presided over by the Duke of Westminster and addressed by Mr. Gladstone. Knowing that Thomas Carlyle shared our views, it was decided to ask him to take the chair at this meeting, and I was appointed to see him on the subject. I did so, and found him obliging, but in broken health. He expressed his inability to preside, much as he agreed with our action. He said: "My work is done, and I shall not be sorry when the Almighty takes me to Himself "-words, coming from such a source, well worth remembering.
The name of John Bright being mentioned, Carlyle warmed up, and said he did not like John Bright, as many years before he was in his company and considered him an egotistic man. I said I had known Bright for many years, and cooperated with him in many ways, and always found him otherwise. "Ah," said Carlyle with pathos, "perhaps I was mistaken, and may have misjudged him; and, if so, I should be sorry." When Disraeli's name was mentioned, the old sage's attitude stiffened, and, weak and weary as he was, and putting warmth and energy into his words, he spoke with scorn of Disraeli and his leadership of the Conservative party. Among other things he said: "I wonder how long this pretentious Jew will be allowed to dance on John Bull's body." And this, it should be remembered, was said some time after Disraeli had offered Carlyle a titular distinction-an offer that was politely declined. He preferred to remain what he had made himself, without Court recognition or adornment of any kind.
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April 18, 2005
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© Dean Evans 2003