Wayfarer- Thomas Carlyle’s hard work went up in flames

I cast my net widely in the search for tales that will be of interest and can sometimes be astounded at what I find.

Can you imagine the despair you would suffer if something you had worked arduously at for long time was destroyed accidently.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) from Ecclefechan, is a name well known to many. He was a historian and although living in a small village in Dumfrieshire was renowned for his excellent works. For a year he had been working on an epic version of ‘The History of the French Revolution’ and on completion sent the manuscript to his friend and fellow author John Stuart Mill for his opinion.

These were in the days long before photocopiers and it would take too many arduous hours to write a copy so Mill set to, to read the original manuscript which he considered to be the work of a genius. He stayed up very late reading the manuscript and finally went to bed in the small hours leaving it in an untidy bundle on his desk. Imagine his horror when he came down next morning to find that the maid, thinking the manuscript was a lot of waste paper, had used it to light the fire. Carlyle was totally distraught when he learned of the fate of his manuscript and immediately set about rewriting his work. Unfortunately he failed miserably, no doubt due to his agitated state of mind. However, he rested, read a few novels and with his mind relaxed set about the task of rewriting his manuscript. He was successful and the completed three volume work was published in 1837 to become an immediate critical and financial success. What a relief that must have been not only to Thomas Carlyle but also to John Stuart Mill. So there you are, in those days the original of all manuscripts went to a publisher and you relied on him completely to transcribe your words accurately into a book. I wonder if it was proof read or even edited as it would be difficult to alter anything on the original manuscript without the author’s consent. There are some things in life we take for granted such as typewriters, carbon paper, their modern equivalents plus of course the ability to photocopy as many replicas as you may need in a very short time. Modern computers allow you to write and alter at will, whereas the original authors wrote with pen and ink and any alterations had to be squeezed in to the document and it may arrive at the publishers in a difficult to read condition. There are many things invented over the years which we take for granted, not appreciating how difficult life could be without them. See you next week.