The Burned Book
How Thomas Carlyle's Work of Many Years Was Destroyed in a Few Seconds.
THE LESSON—That there is such a thing as success through patience, and that the Christian should so live that he may rejoice in his tribulations.
One of the crying needs of every-day life is the cultivation of patience. Modern life, with its hustle and bustle, and the ever-present contest for supremacy in its commercial and social phases, displays a growing unrest and nervousness. Patience is a rare quality which should be treasured and nurtured.
"Paul once wrote a letter to the church at Rome in which he said, 'We glory in tribulations, also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts."
"But we're not all like Paul. If we had been saying it, we might have put it this way: 'We despair that we have tribulation, knowing that tribulations work impatience, and impatience discouragement, and discouragement makes us feel sure that God doesn't care for us.' Nevertheless, just the opposite is true, for we know that 'whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.'
"Everybody has trouble. It comes to all of us in many forms. Ofttimes it is a blessing in disguise. If it were not so, we would not find so many of God's people afflicted in the ways which the Scriptures describe. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph and all of the great leaders of the New Testament, as well as of the Old, had their deep troubles and sorrows. And it is so today with God's people.
"Patience is a virtue of which the poets sing. 'How poor are they,' says Shakespeare, 'that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?' And Milton said:
"'Patience is more oft the exercise
Of saints, the trial of their fortitude.'
"So, let us try always to understand, in the midst of seeming great trouble, that sorrow and trial have their place in our lives. Whether they are for good or for bad depends largely upon ourselves.
"I want to tell you the tragedy of a book—a great book. We all know of Thomas Carlyle's great work, 'The French Revolution.' Of this wonderful production it has been said that 'It is a history of the French Revolution and the poetry of it, both in one; and, on the whole, no work of greater genius, either historical or poetical, has been produced in England.' I wonder if we have all heard of the tragedy of this great book and the sorrow which came to its author?
"One day, after Mr. Carlyle had finished the manuscript of the first volume of the work, completing the labors of months and years, and when he felt at last the relief which had tied his hands and his mind through this long period, he loaned the work to his close friend, John Stuart Mill. Before Mr. Mill had finished reading the manuscript, and as it lay scattered about his study, his servant girl, thinking the pages were nothing but waste paper, gathered them up and stuffed them into her kitchen fire! Thus was the labor of weary, toilsome years destroyed in a few moments. On his discovering the awful state of affairs, it was Mr. Mill's duty to go to Mr. Carlyle's home and break the news to him. Mr. Carlyle tells of the interview in these words: 'How well do I remember that night when he came to tell Mrs. Carlyle and me, pale as Hector's ghost, that my unfortunate first volume was burned. It was like a half sentence of death to both of us. We had to pretend to take it lightly, so dismal and ghastly was its horror!'
"If the description of the scene were to end here, I am sure that some of us would see only the darkest, gloomiest side. Let us make a sketch to illustrate this condition. [Draw Fig. 106 complete.] But the description does not stop here. Carlyle goes on to tell how, with the sympathy of his wife, he began anew the great task, and, although it was, as he says, a 'job' that nearly broke his heart, the result was a work superior in every way to his original effort, and he lived to rejoice in what he once considered to be a disastrous misfortune. He received ample reward for his overmastering patience!
(In the preliminary pencil outline, the face above must be combined with the face below—later to be obliterated as described.)
"'If thou faint in the day of adversity,' says the Psalmist, 'thy strength is small.' Remember this: Every shadow has a light behind it! It is toward that light that the discouraged one must turn his face. Look up, not down! [Add lines to complete Fig. 107; the hair covers the face of Fig. 106.] No man ever saw the highest success who 'looked down his nose' when trial came. Look up—like the man in the picture!"
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