The most famous fiasco in literary history occurred when Thomas Carlyle gave John Stuart Mill the first part of his great work The French Revolution to critique. Mill’s maid thought the manuscript was wastepaper and threw it into the fire. The loss was total. Carlyle had no copy.
Carlyle and his formidable wife, Jane, were newly arrived in London from Scotland, with scant savings in their purse. The loss of the book, and its anticipated revenue, threatened them with ruin. Carlyle (who had just been introduced to high society, and was keeping company with grandees such as Mill and Wordsworth) manfully …
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