"Dr. Pessimist Anticant was a Scotchman, who had passed a great portion of his early days in Germany; he had studied there with much effect, and had learnt to look with German subtlety into the root of things, and to examine for himself their intrinsic worth and worthlessness. No man ever resolved more bravely than he to accept as good nothing that was evil; to banish from him as evil nothing that was good. 'Tis a pity that he should not have recognized the fact, that in this world no good is unalloyed, and that there is but little evil that has not in it some seed of what is goodly.
"Returning from Germany, he had astonished the reading public by the vigor of his thoughts, put forth in the quaintest language. He cannot write English, said the critics. No matter, said the public; we can read what he does write, and that without yawning. And so Dr. Pessimist Anticant became popular. Popularity spoilt him for all further real use, as it has done many another. While, with some diffidence, he confined his objurgations to the occasional follies or short-comings of mankind; while he ridiculed the energy of the squire devoted to the slaughter of partridges or the mistake of some noble patron who turned a poet into a gauger of beer barrels, it was all well; we were glad to be told our faults and to look forward to the coming millennium, when all men, having sufficiently studied the works of Dr. Anticant, would become truthful and energetic. But the doctor mistook the signs of the times and the minds of men, instituted himself censor of things in general, and began the great task of reprobating everything and everybody, without further promise of any millennium at all. This was not so well, and, to tell the truth, our author did not succeed in his undertaking. His theories were all beautiful, and the code of morals that he taught us certainly an improvement on the practices of the age. We all of us could, and many of us did, learn much from the doctor while he chose to remain vague, mysterious. and cloudy; but when he became practical, the charm was gone."The above is a caricature of Thomas Carlyle, who in anticant's opinion was a Victorian cardboard Sage par excellence. What Trollope leniently calls "the quaintest language", anticant has always found virtually unreadable and sometimes verging on gibberish. While the famous story of John Stuart Mill's housemaid using the first manuscript of the Sage's French Revolution to light the fire with must have been distressing for all concerned, anticant wonders whether the maid was not, in fact, a sounder literary critic than her master. Carlyle tackled important themes in an idiosyncratic, convoluted manner which greatly diminished the value of his undoubted scholarship. Perhaps he was a precursor of the deconstructionist, postmodernist tribe.
anticant is not a pessimist, but neither is he much of an optimist these days. He will take heed of Trollope's warning that popularity spoilt the good doctor for all further real use. Not that anticant is in the least likely to scale such dizzy heights, despite the lavish help of Google which roams the burrow like a CCTV.