April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO THE COUNCIL OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON ; 21 September 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480921-TC-CUCL-01; CL 23: 115-116


Chelsea, 21st Sept. 1848.

My Lords and Gentlemen,—Allow me to offer respectfully my sincere testimony in regard to Mr. A. J. Scott, at present a Candidate for your Professorship of English Literature.

Mr. Scott has long been intimately known to me as a man of great, solid, and original powers of mind,—of eager persevering industry,—of a pure, high, and earnest character; whose rare merits the whole world, if at length the fit arena were conceded to him, might yet well come to recognise. A man of strong judgment,—of deep inquiring spirit, full of delicacy, and of energy, and of veracity; whose pilgrimage through the confusions, intellectual and other, of our time, has been that of a valiant, resolute, and modest man; a struggle (as I suppose) full of toil and painful effort and endurance, but rich also in noble victories, and of lasting result to him.

Of such a man, successfully experienced in the struggles of his age, the proper business seems that of “Teaching”; of training others to front them with success.

In Literature, English and Foreign, Modern and Ancient, I believe Mr. Scott to have made good studies, and to be capable beyond most of continuing and extending them; and I know that in all literature hitherto, as in all henceforth is likely to be the case with him, he has studied with a serious, manful, and noble aim; persevering instinctively towards the kernel and spiritual essence of the matter; leaving aside the pedantics, egoistic ambitions, and natural or accidental husks and adjuncts, as of no moment to him.

He possesses singular gifts of utterance; what I should expect to prove a singular gift of Teaching by the mode of College Lecture: for, with an intellect fit to master the most confused subject, and extort from it what its vital elements are, where its secret lies, and what the true method of expanding and describing it is, he combines a felicity in extempore speaking; which are of themselves rare, and are much rarer in such a combination as the above. I should consider Mr. Scott an acquisition to any University; and, for discoursing to young Englishmen about what “English Literature” means, has meant, and may and should mean, peculiarly appropriate.1

Thomas Carlyle.