I was looking for something I didn’t find . . . I remember something about Thomas Carlyle having acutely sensitive hearing, which was one of the things that made him cranky. I didn’t find that, but I did find reference to Carlyle as emblematic of “the Man of Letters as bad Husband”— another intense person gone wrong.

At the risk of being cliché, the phrase “If it’s too loud you’re too old” might apply. I found an old paper written before I discovered that bit and added it to the papers collection. The Cranky Clothier is primarily a biographical sketch, the only time I was asked to write this sort of paper as an undergrad. Looking at it again, it’s not bad. I was reading On Heroes and Hero Worship last night, with a side trip into the prose Edda. There are some interesting things going on in Carlyle’s twisted portrayal of the hero. Writers often want to be heroes. I was driven back to heroes and hero worship after reading Aphra Behn’s Preface to The Lucky Chance:

All I ask is the Priviledge for my Masculine Part the Poet in me, (if any such you allow me) to tread in those successful Paths my Predecessors have so long thriv’d in, to take those Measures that both the Ancient and Modern Writers have set me, and by which they have pleas’d the World so well: If I must not, because of my Sex, have this Freedom, but that you will usurp all to your selves; I lay down my Quill, and you shall hear no more of me, no not so much as to make Comparisons, because I will be kinder to my Brothers of the Pen, than they have been to a Defenceless Woman; for I am not content to write for a Third day only.

I value Fame as much as if I had been born a Hero and if you rob me of that, I can retire from the ungrateful world, and scorn its fickle Favors.

Carlyle argued that the world needed heroes. Behn, even with her decidedly antifeminist idea that her poetic part was masculine, demanded equal rights to be a hero. I suspect that these notions are important, not for the reasons that Carlyle argues, but because of the right to be equally involved in eros. Humans share both the desire to be loved, and the desire to love. I think that’s what heroism is ultimately all about— not valor. There are some interesting bits in the Edda about valor. Maybe I’ll get that focused enough to write about later.