Quoted from the Editor's "Preface."
"IN the summer of 1871 Mr. Carlyle placed in my hands a collection of MSS. of which he desired me to take charge, and to publish, should I think fit to do so, after he was gone. They consisted of letters written by his wife to himself and to other friends during the period of her married life, with the 'rudiments' of a preface of his own, giving an account of her family, her childhood, and their own experience together, from their first acquaintance till her death. They were married in 1826; Mrs. Carlyle died suddenly in 1866. Between these two periods Carlyle's active literary life was comprised; and he thought it unnecessary that more than these letters contained should be made known, or attempted to be made known, about himself or his personal history. The essential part of his life was in his works, which those who chose could read. The private part of it was a matter in which the world had no concern. Enough would be found, told by one who knew him better than anyone else knew him, to satisfy such curiosity as there might be. His object was rather to leave a monument to a singularly gifted woman, who, had she so pleased, might have made a name for herself, and for his sake had voluntarily sacrificed ambition and fortune.
The letters had been partially prepared for the press by short separate introductions and explanatory notes. But Carlyle warned me that before they were published they would require anxious revision. Written with the unreserve of confidential communications, they contained anecdotes, allusions, reflections, expressions of opinion and feeling, which were intended obviously for no eye save that of the person to whom they were addressed. He believed at the time I speak of, that his own life was near its end, and seeing the difficulty in which I might be
placed, he left me at last with discretion to destroy the whole of them, should I find the task of discriminating too intricate a problem.
The expectation of an early end was perhaps suggested by the wish for it. He could no longer
write. His right hand was disabled. His temperment did not suit with dictation, and he was
impatient of an existence which he could no longer turn to any useful purpose. He lingered on, however, year after year, and it gradually became known to him that his wishes would not protect him from biographers, and that an account of his life would certainly be tried, perhaps by more than one person. A true description of it he did not believe that any one could give, not even his closest friend; but there might be degrees of falsity; and since a biography of some kind there was to be, he decided at last to extend his original commission to me, and to make over to me all his private papers, journals, notebooks, letters, and unfinished or neglected writings."