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THE

REESE LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY

CALIFORNIA
CARLYLE'S LECTURES ON THE PERIODS

OF EUROPEAN CULTURE.

(A TRANSCRIPT.)

" DETESTABLE mixture of prophecy and playactorism -so in his “ Reminiscences” Carlyle describes his work as a lecturer. Yet we are assured by a keen, if friendly, critic, Harriet Martineau, that “the merits of his discourses were so great that he might probably have gone on year after year till this time with improving success and perhaps ease, but the struggle was too severe," i.e., the struggle with nervous excitement and ill-health, In a notice of the first lecture ever delivered (May 1, 1837 *) by Carlyle before a London audience, the Times observes : “ The lecturer, who seems new to the mere technicalities of public speaking, exhibited proofs before he had done of many of its higher and nobler attributes, gathering self-possession as he proceeded.”

In the following year a course of twelve lectures was ! delivered “On the History of Literature, or the suc

cessive Periods of European Culture,” from Homer to Goethe. As far as I can ascertain, except from short sketches of the two lectures of each week in the Examiner from May 6, 1838, onwards, it is now impossible

The 1st of May was illustrious. On the evening of that day Browning's Strafford was produced by Macready at Covent Garden

Theatre,

A

to obtain an account of this series of discourses. * The writer in the Examiner (perhaps Leigh Hunt) in noticing the first two lectures (on Greek literature) writes : “He again extemporises, he does not read. We doubted on hearing the Monday's lecture whether he would ever attain in this way to the fluency as well as depth for which he ranks among celebrated talkers in private ; but Friday's discourse relieved us.

He strode away' like Ulysses himself, and had only to regret, in common with his audience, the limits to which the one hour confined him." George Ticknor was present at the ninth lecture of this course, and he noted in his diary (June 1, 1838): “He is a rather small, spare, ugly Scotchman, with a strong accent, which I should think he takes no pains to mitigate. . . . To-day he spoke -as I think he commonly does—without notes, and therefore as nearly extempore as a prepares himself carefully, as was plain he had done. He was impressive, I think, though such lecturing could not well be very popular; and, in some parts, if he were not poetical, he was picturesque.” Ticknor estimates the audience at about one hundred.

A manuscript of over two hundred and fifty pages is in my hands, which I take to be a transcript from a report of these lectures by some skilful writer of shorthand. It gives very fully, and I think faithfully, eleven lectures; one, the ninth, is wanting. In the following pages, I may say, nothing, or very little, is my own.

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* Dr Chalmers was at this time also lecturing in London, and extensive reports of his lectures are given in the Times and the dorning Chronicie.

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