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Carlyle's Book

Notes & Transcripts

When Thomas Carlyle had finished the first volume of his book, The French Revolution, he gave the finished manuscript to his friend John Stuart Mill and asked him to read it. It took Mr. Mill several days to read it and as he read, he realized that it was truly a great literary achievement. Late one night as he finished the last page he laid the manuscript aside by his chair in the den of his home. The next morning the maid came; seeing those papers on the floor, she thought they were simply discarded. She threw them into the fire, and they were burned.

On March 6, 1835—he never forgot the date—Mill called on Carlyle in

deep agony and told him that his work has been destroyed. Carlyle replied, “It’s all right. I’m sure I can start over in the morning and do it again.”

Finally, after great apologies, John Mill left and started back home.

Carlyle watched his friend walking away and said to his wife, “Poor Mill. I feel so sorry for him. I did not want him to see how crushed I really am.”

Then heaving a sigh, he said, “Well, the manuscript is gone, so I had better start writing again.”

It was said that Carlyle then rewrote the entire manuscript from memory, achieving what he described as a book that came "direct and flamingly from the heart.” He did a better job the second time around. He used his trouble.

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