Extraordinary kindness of Thomas Carlyle to John Stuart Mill
Carlyle was no democrat. He believed that government must be strong and paternalistic, and even propounded the view that society should be a benevolent dictatorship. It was he who coined the expression fourth estate for the press, in Heroes and Hero Worship. He also gave the world the expression captains of industry.
His classic work on the French Revolution was not published until 1837, having undergone a setback – the accidental destruction of his manuscript – that left Carlyle both broke and having to do a frantic rewrite. His friend and the man who had suggested to Carlyle that he write the History, John Stuart Mill, lent the manuscript of Volume One to a Mrs Taylor, whose maid mistook the precious sheaf of pages for kindling, and lit the fire with it. When Mill knocked at Carlyle's door clutching a single charred piece of paper, practically all that remained of the great manuscript, the Scottish historian was dumbfounded. However, his character was of such stuff that his concern was more for the feelings of Mill, who looked distraught, than for himself.
Carlyle received the news stoically and with laudable magnanimity; he told his wife, Jane, afterwards, "Mill, poor fellow, is terribly cut up. We must endeavour to hide from him how very serious this business is for us" ...
Categories: history, biography