By Ralph Jessop (auth.)
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Extra info for Carlyle and Scottish Thought
47 But if the tide had turned against Carlyle he still received support from some quarters such as James Hutchison Stirling who Categorizing Carlyle - Literature or Philosophy? 23 in the same year wrote an effusive piece praising Carlyle's prophetic style. 48 While the generic term 'prophet' was being bandied about, it was put to a variety of uses by critics. This seems to have been generally the case during the nineteenth century. For Thoreau, in 1847, though Carlyle had 'the earnestness of a prophet' (emphasis mine}, this was only by contrast to the times, which he described (in Carlylean terms) as 'an age of pedantry and dilettantism'.
If you prosecute the study, it will be well to consult Sir William Hamilton ... he of all men ... is the best acquainted with the bibliography of German and other metaphysics. (CL, 13: 228) However, he went on to warn that 'metaphysics is but a kind of disease' (CL, 13: 228-229). In 'Characteristics' Carlyle asserted that 'The disease of Metaphysics ... is a perennial one' but he also wrote that 'Metaphysical Speculation, if a necessary evil, is the forerunner of much good'. 40 This is somewhat similar to a claim made by Hume himself, that 'sceptical doubt, both with respect to reason and the senses, is a malady'.
But if Lewes could talk of Carlyle's 'school of philosophy' and 'the philosophy which he has adopted from the schools of Germany'}5 some six years later, George Eliot implicitly disagreed with Lewes and attempted to run against and change the fashion of categorizing Carlyle as a philosopher by reclothing him as a literary artist: It is the fashion to speak of Carlyle almost exclusively as a philo- sopher; but, to our thinking, he is yet more of an artist than a philosopher. He glances deep down into human nature, and shows the causes of human actions; he seizes grand generalizations, and traces them in the particular with wonderful acumen; and in all this he is a philosopher.