Emerson on Meeting Carlyle

I found the house amid desolate heathery hills, where the lonely scholar nourished his mighty heart. Carlyle was a man from his youth, an author who did not need to hide from his readers, and as absolute a man of the world, unknown and exiled on that hill-farm, as if holding on his own terms what is best in London. He was tall and gaunt, with a cliff-like brow, self-possessed and holding his extraordinary powers of conversation in easy command; clinging to his northern accent with evident relish; full of lively anecdote and with a streaming humor which floated every thing he looked upon. His talk playfully exalting the familiar objects, put the companion at once into an acquaintance with his Lars and Lemurs, and it was very pleasant to learn what was predestined to be a pretty mythology. Few were the objects and lonely the man; ‘not a person to speak to within sixteen miles except the minister of Dunscore;’ so that books inevitably made his topics.

We went out to walk over long hills, and looked at Criffel, then without his cap, and down into Wordsworth’s country. There we sat down and talked of the immortality of the soul. It was not Carlyle’s fault that we talked on that topic, for he had the natural disinclination of every nimble spirit to bruise itself against walls, and did not like to place himself where no step can be taken. But he was honest and true, and cognizant of the subtile links that bind ages together, and saw how every event affects all the future. ‘Christ died on the tree; that built Dunscore kirk yonder; that brought you and me together. Time has only a relative existence.’

– Emerson