Irving’s position at Glasgow, I could dimly perceive, was not without its embarrassments, its discouragements; and evidently enough it was nothing like the ultimatum he was aiming at, – in the road to which, I suppose, he saw the obstructions rather multiplying than decreasing or diminishing. Theological Scotland, above all things, is dubious and jealous of originality; and Irving’s tendency to take roads of his own was becoming daily more indisputable. He must have been severely tried in the Sieve, had he continued in Scotland! Whether that might not have brought him out clearer, more pure and victorious in the end? must remain forever a question. Much suffering and contradiction it would have cost him, mean enough for most part, and possibly with loss of patience, with mutiny etc. etc., for ultimate result: but one may now regret that the experiment was never to be made.
Of course, the invitation to London was infinitely welcome to him; summing up, as it were, all of good that had been in Glasgow (for it was the rumours and reports from Glasgow people that had awakened Hatton Garden to his worth); and promising to shoot him aloft over all that had been obstructive there, into wider new elements. The negotiations and correspondings had all passed at a distance from me: but I recollect well our final practical parting, on that occasion. A dim November or December night, between nine and ten, in the Coffee-room of the Black Bull Hotel. He had to start by early coach to-morrow. Glad I was bound to be, and in a sense was; but very sad I could not help being. He himself looked hopeful, but was agitated with anxieties too, doubtless with regrets as well, – more clouded with agitation than I had ever seen the fine habitual solar-light of him before. I was the last friend he had to take farewell of. He shewed me old Sir Harry Moncrieff’s Testimonial; a Reverend old Presbyterian Scotch Baronet, of venerable quality (the last of his kind) whom I knew well by sight, and by his universal character for integrity, honest orthodoxy, shrewdness and veracity; Sir Harry testified with brevity, in stiff firm ancient hand, several important things on Irving’s behalf; and ended by saying, “All this is my true opinion, and meant to be understood as it is written.” At which we had our bit of approving laugh, and thanks to Sir Harry. Irving did not laugh that night; laughter was not the mood of either of us. I gave him as road-companion a bundle of the best cigars (gift of Grahame to me) I almost ever had: he had no practice of smoking; but could a little, by a time, and agreed that, on the Coach-roof, where he was to ride night and day, a cigar now and then might be tried with advantage. Months afterwards, I learnt he had begun by losing every cigar of them, – left the whole bundle lying on our seat in the Stall of the Coffee-room; – this cigar-gift being probably our last transaction. We said farewell: and I had in some sense, according to my worst anticipation, lost my friend’s society (not my friend himself ever) from that time.
From: Reminiscences by Thomas Carlyle, edited by K. J. Fielding and Ian Campbell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 266-268. Originally published in 1881. All italics are in the original.