Thomas Carlyle: Wikis


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Thomas Carlyle

Photogravure of Carlyle in 1867 by Julia Margaret Cameron
Born 4 December 1795(1795-12-04)
Ecclefechan, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland1
Died 5 February 1881 (aged 85)
London, England
Occupation Essayist, Satirist, Historian
Literary movement Victorian literature, Romanticism

Thomas Carlyle (4 December 1795 – 5 February 1881) was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.[1] He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.[1]

Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was expected by his parents to become a preacher, but while at the University of Edinburgh, he lost his Christian faith. Calvinist values, however, remained with him throughout his life. This combination of a religious temperament with loss of faith in traditional Christianity made Carlyle's work appealing to many Victorians who were grappling with scientific and political changes that threatened the traditional social order.


Early life and influences

Birthplace of Thomas Carlyle

Carlyle was born in Ecclefechan, Dumfries and Galloway,[1]. His parents determinedly afforded him an education at Annan Academy, Annan, where he was bullied and tormented so much that he left after three years.[2] In early life, his family's (and his nation's) strong Calvinist Beliefs powerfully influenced the young man.

After attending the University of Edinburgh, Carlyle became a mathematics teacher,[1] first in Annan and then in Kirkcaldy, where Carlyle became close friends with the mystic Edward Irving. (Confusingly, there is another Scottish Thomas Carlyle, born a few years later and also connected to Irving, through his work with the Catholic Apostolic Church.[3])

In 1819–1821, Carlyle returned to the University of Edinburgh, where he suffered an intense crisis of faith and conversion that would provide the material for Sartor Resartus ("The Tailor Retailored"), which first brought him to the public's notice. Carlyle's crisis of faith may have led to gastric ulcers.[4] He developed a painful stomach ailment that remained throughout his life and contributed to his reputation as a crotchety, argumentative, and somewhat disagreeable personality. His prose style, famously cranky and occasionally savage, helped cement a reputation of irascibility.[5]

He began reading deeply in German literature.[1] Carlyle's thinking was heavily influenced by German Idealism, in particular the work of Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He established himself as an expert on German literature in a series of essays for Fraser's Magazine, and by translating German writers, notably Goethe (the novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre).[1] He also wrote Life of Schiller (1825).[1]

In 1826, Thomas Carlyle married Jane Baillie Welsh, herself a writer, whom he had met in 1821,[1] during his period of German studies.

His home in residence for much of his early life, after 1828, was a farm in Craigenputtock, a house in Dumfrieshire, Scotland where he wrote many of his works.[1] He often wrote about his life at Craigenputtock, "It is certain that for living and thinking in I have never since found in the world a place so favourable.... How blessed, might poor mortals be in the straitest circumstances if their wisdom and fidelity to heaven and to one another were adequately great!".

At the Craigenputtock farm, Carlyle also wrote some of his most distinguished essays, and he began a lifelong friendship with the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson.[1] In 1834, Carlyle moved to the Chelsea, London section of London, where he was then known as the "Sage of Chelsea" and became a member of a literary circle which included the essayists Leigh Hunt and John Stuart Mill.[1]

In London, Carlyle wrote The French Revolution, A History (2 volumes, 1837), as a historical study concerning oppression of the poor, which was immediately successful. That was the start of many other writings in London.


Early writings

By 1821, Carlyle had abandoned the clergy as a career and focused on making a life as a writer. His first attempt at fiction was "Cruthers and Jonson", one of several abortive attempts at writing a novel. Following his work on a translation of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship,[1] he came to distrust the form of the realistic novel and so worked on developing a new form of fiction. In addition to his essays on German literature, he branched out into wider ranging commentary on modern culture in his influential essays Signs of the Times and Characteristics.

Sartor Resartus

His first major work, Sartor Resartus (1832) was written at his home (provided for him by his wife Jane Welsh, from her estate), Craigenputtock,[1] and was intended to be a new kind of book: simultaneously factual and fictional, serious and satirical, speculative and historical. It ironically commented on its own formal structure, while forcing the reader to confront the problem of where 'truth' is to be found. Sartor Resartus ("The Tailor Retailored") was first published periodically in Fraser's from 1833 to 1834.[1] The text presents itself as an unnamed editor's attempt to introduce the British public to Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, a German philosopher of clothes, who is in fact a fictional creation of Carlyle's. The Editor is struck with admiration, but for the most part is confounded by Teufelsdröckh's outlandish philosophy, of which the Editor translates choice selections. To try to make sense of Teufelsdröckh's philosophy, the Editor tries to piece together a biography, but with limited success. Underneath the German philosopher's seemingly ridiculous statements, there are mordant attacks on Utilitarianism and the commercialization of British society. The fragmentary biography of Teufelsdröckh that the Editor recovers from a chaotic mass of documents reveals the philosopher's spiritual journey. He develops a contempt for the corrupt condition of modern life. He contemplates the "Everlasting No" of refusal, comes to the "Centre of Indifference", and eventually embraces the "Everlasting Yea". This voyage from denial to disengagement to volition would later be described as part of the existentialist awakening.

Given the enigmatic nature of Sartor Resartus, it is not surprising[citation needed] that it was first received with little success. Its popularity developed over the next few years, and it was published in book form in Boston 1836, with a preface by Ralph Waldo Emerson, influencing the development of New England Transcendentalism. The first English edition followed in 1838.

The French Revolution

In 1834, Carlyle moved to London from Craigenputtock and began to move among celebrated company.[1] Within the United Kingdom, Carlyle's success was assured by the publication of his three-volume work The French Revolution, A History in 1837.[1] After the completed manuscript of the first volume was accidentally burned by the philosopher John Stuart Mill's maid, Carlyle wrote the second and third volumes before rewriting the first from scratch.[2][4]

The resulting work was filled with a passionate intensity, hitherto unknown in historical writing. In a politically charged Europe, filled with fears and hopes of revolution, Carlyle's account of the motivations and urges that inspired the events in France seemed powerfully relevant. Carlyle's style of writing emphasised this, continually stressing the immediacy of the action – often using the present tense.

For Carlyle, chaotic events demanded what he called 'heroes' to take control over the competing forces erupting within society. While not denying the importance of economic and practical explanations for events, he saw these forces as 'spiritual' – the hopes and aspirations of people that took the form of ideas, and were often ossified into ideologies ("formulas" or "isms", as he called them). In Carlyle's view, only dynamic individuals could master events and direct these spiritual energies effectively: as soon as ideological 'formulas' replaced heroic human action, society became dehumanised.

Heroes and Hero Worship

These ideas were influential on the development of Socialism, but—like the opinions of many deep thinkers of the time—are also considered to have influenced the rise of Fascism[6]. Carlyle moved towards his later thinking during the 1840s, leading to a break with many old friends and allies, such as Mill and, to a lesser extent, Emerson. His belief in the importance of heroic leadership found form in his book "On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History", in which he compared a wide range of different types of heroes, including Oliver Cromwell, Odin, William Shakespeare and Prophet Mohammed.

The Hero as Man of Letters (Quotes):

  • "In books lies the soul of the whole Past Time; the articulate audible voice of the Past, when the body and material substance of it has altogether vanished like a dream."
  • "A man lives by believing something; not by debating and arguing about many things."
  • "All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books."
  • "What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books."
  • "The suffering man ought really to consume his own smoke; there is no good in emitting smoke till you have made it into fire."
  • "Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity." (Often shortened to "can't stand prosperity" as an unknown quote.)

Carlyle was one of the very few philosophers who witnessed the industrial revolution but still kept a transcendental non-materialistic view of the world. The book included people ranging from the field of Religion through to literature and politics. He included people as coordinates and accorded Muhammad a special place in the book under the chapter title "Hero as a Prophet". In his work, Carlyle declared his admiration with a passionate championship of Muhammad as a Hegelian agent of reform, insisting on his sincerity and commenting ‘how one man single-handedly, could weld warring tribes and wandering Bedouins into a most powerful and civilized nation in less than two decades.’ For Carlyle the hero was somewhat similar to Aristotle's "Magnanimous" man — a person who flourished in the fullest sense. However, for Carlyle, unlike Aristotle, the world was filled with contradictions with which the hero had to deal. All heroes will be flawed. Their heroism lay in their creative energy in the face of these difficulties, not in their moral perfection. To sneer at such a person for their failings is the philosophy of those who seek comfort in the conventional. Carlyle called this 'valetism', from the expression 'no man is a hero to his valet'[citation needed].

All these books were influential in their day, especially on writers such as Charles Dickens and John Ruskin. However, after the Revolutions of 1848 and political agitations in the United Kingdom, Carlyle published a collection of essays entitled "Latter-Day Pamphlets" (1850) in which he attacked democracy as an absurd social ideal, while equally condemning hereditary aristocratic leadership. The latter was deadening, the former nonsensical: as though truth could be discovered by totting up votes. Government should come from those most able. But how we were to recognise the ablest, and to follow their lead, was something Carlyle could not clearly say.

In later writings Carlyle sought to examine instances of heroic leadership in history. The "Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell" (1845) presented a positive image of Cromwell: someone who attempted to weld order from the conflicting forces of reform in his own day. Carlyle sought to make Cromwell's words live in their own terms by quoting him directly, and then commenting on the significance of these words in the troubled context of the time. Again this was intended to make the 'past' 'present' to his readers.

The Everlasting Yea and No

The Everlasting Yea is Carlyle's name for the spirit of faith in God in an express attitude of clear, resolute, steady, and uncompromising antagonism to the Everlasting No, and the principle that there is no such thing as faith in God except in such antagonism against the spirit opposed to God.

The Everlasting No is Carlyle's name for the spirit of unbelief in God, especially as it manifested itself in his own, or rather Teufelsdröckh's, warfare against it; the spirit, which, as embodied in the Mephistopheles of Goethe, is for ever denying,—der stets verneint—the reality of the divine in the thoughts, the character, and the life of humanity, and has a malicious pleasure in scoffing at everything high and noble as hollow and void.

In Sartor Resartus, the narrator moves from the "Everlasting No" to the "Everlasting Yea," but only through "The Center of Indifference," which is a position not merely of agnosticism, but also of detachment. Only after reducing desires and certainty and aiming at a Buddha-like "indifference" can the narrator move toward an affirmation. In some ways, this is similar to the contemporary philosopher Søren Kierkegaard's "leap of faith" in Concluding Unscientific Postscript.

In regards to the abovementioned "antagonism," one might note that William Blake famously wrote that "without contraries is no progression," and Carlyle's progress from the everlasting nay to the everlasting yea was not to be found in the "Centre of Indifference" (as he called it) but in Natural Supernaturalism, a Transcendental philosophy of the divine within the everyday.

Worship of Silence and Sorrow

Based on Goethe's having described as Christianity the "Worship of Sorrow", and "our highest religion, for the Son of Man", Carlyle adds, interpreting this, "there is no noble crown, well worn or even ill worn, but is a crown of thorns".

The "Worship of Silence" is Carlyle's name for the sacred respect for restraint in speech till "thought has silently matured itself, …to hold one's tongue till some meaning lie behind to set it wagging," a doctrine which many misunderstand, almost wilfully, it would seem; silence being to him the very womb out of which all great things are born.

Later work

Carlyle (left) depicted with Frederick Maurice in Ford Madox Brown's painting Work (1865)

His last major work was the epic life of Frederick the Great (1858–1865). In this Carlyle tried to show how a heroic leader can forge a state, and help create a new moral culture for a nation. For Carlyle, Frederick epitomized the transition from the liberal Enlightenment ideals of the eighteenth century to a new modern culture of spiritual dynamism: embodied by Germany, its thought and its polity. The book is most famous for its vivid, arguably very biased, portrayal of Frederick's battles, in which Carlyle communicated his vision of almost overwhelming chaos mastered by leadership of genius. However, the effort involved in the writing of the book took its toll on Carlyle, who became increasingly depressed, and subject to various probably psychosomatic ailments. Its mixed reception also contributed to Carlyle's decreased literary output.

Later writings were generally short essays, often indicating the hardening of Carlyle's political positions. His notoriously racist essay "Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question" suggested that slavery should never have been abolished, or else replaced with serfdom. It had kept order, he argued, and forced work from people who would otherwise have been lazy and feckless. This – and Carlyle's support for the repressive measures of Governor Edward Eyre in Jamaica – further alienated him from his old liberal allies. Eyre had been accused of brutal lynchings while suppressing a rebellion. Carlyle set up a committee to defend Eyre, while Mill organised for his prosecution.

Private life

Carlyle had a number of would-be romances before he married Jane Welsh, important as a literary figure in her own right. The most notable were with Margaret Gordon, a pupil of his friend Edward Irving. Even after he met Jane, he became enamoured of Kitty Kirkpatrick, the daughter of a British officer and an Indian princess. William Dalrymple, author of White Mughals, suggests that feelings were mutual, but social circumstances made the marriage impossible, as Carlyle was then poor. Both Margaret and Kitty have been suggested as the original of "Blumine", Teufelsdröch's beloved, in Sartor Resartus.[7][8]


Carlyle married Jane Welsh in 1826, making the marriage one of the most famous, well documented, and unhappy of literary unions. Over 9000 letters between Carlyle and his wife have been published showing the couple had an affection for one another marred by frequent and angry quarrels.[5]

It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four.

Carlyle became increasingly alienated from his wife. Although she had been an invalid for some time, her death (1866) came unexpectedly and plunged him into despair, during which he wrote his highly self-critical "Reminiscences of Jane Welsh Carlyle", published posthumously.

Later life

After Jane Carlyle's death in 1866, Thomas Carlyle partly retired from active society. He was appointed rector of the University of Edinburgh. The Early Kings of Norway: Also an Essay on the Portraits of John Knox appeared in 1875. His last years were spent at 24 Cheyne Row (then numbered 5), Chelsea, London SW3 (which is now a National Trust property[9] commemorating his life and works) but he always wished to return to Craigenputtock.


Carlyle grave.jpg

Upon Carlyle's death on 5 February 1881 in London, it was made possible for his remains to be interred in Westminster Abbey, but his wish to be buried beside his parents in Ecclefechan was respected.


Carlyle's essay about his wife, "Reminiscences of Jane Welsh Carlyle", was published after his death by his biographer James Anthony Froude, who also made public his belief that the marriage was unconsummated. This frankness was unheard of in the usually respectful biographies of the period. Froude's views were attacked by Carlyle's family, especially his nephew, Alexander Carlyle. However, the biography in question was consistent with Carlyle's own conviction that the flaws of heroes should be openly discussed, without diminishing their achievements. Froude, who had been designated by Carlyle himself as his biographer-to-be, was acutely aware of this belief. Froude's self-defense of his decision, "My Relations With Carlyle," was published in 1903, including a reprint of Carlyle's 1873 will, in which Carlyle equivocated: "Express biography of me I had really rather that there should be none." Nevertheless, Carlyle in the will simultaneously and completely deferred to Froude's judgment on the matter, whose "decision is to be taken as mine."


Thomas Carlyle is notable both for his continuation of older traditions of the Tory satirists of the 18th century in England and for forging a new tradition of Victorian era criticism of progress known as sage writing. Sartor Resartus can be seen both as an extension of the chaotic, sceptical satires of Jonathan Swift and Laurence Sterne and as an enunciation of a new point of view on values. Finding the world hollow, Carlyle's misanthropist professor-narrator discovers a need for revolution of the spirit. In one sense, this resolution is in keeping with the Romantic era's belief in revolution, individualism, and passion, but in another sense it is a nihilistic and private solution to the problems of modern life that makes no gesture of outreach to a wider community.

Later British critics and sage writers, such as Matthew Arnold, would similarly denounce the mob and the naïve claims of progress, and others, such as John Ruskin, would reject the era's incessant move toward industrial production. However, few would follow Carlyle into a narrow and solitary resolution, and even those who would come to praise heroes would not be as remorseless for the weak.

Carlyle is also important for helping to introduce German Romantic literature to Britain. Although Samuel Taylor Coleridge had also been a proponent of Schiller, Carlyle's efforts on behalf of Schiller and Goethe would bear fruit.

Carlyle also made a favourable impression on some slaveholders in the U.S. South. His conservatism and criticisms of capitalism were enthusiastically repeated by those anxious to defend slavery as an alternative to capitalism, such as George Fitzhugh.

The reputation of Carlyle's early work remained high during the 19th century, but declined in the 20th century. His reputation in Germany was always high, because of his promotion of German thought and his biography of Frederick the Great. Friedrich Nietzsche, whose ideas are comparable to Carlyle's in some respects, was dismissive of his moralism, calling him an "insipid muddlehead" in Beyond Good and Evil and regarded him as a thinker who failed to free himself from the very petty-mindedness he professed to condemn. Carlyle's distaste for democracy and his belief in charismatic leadership was unsurprisingly appealing to Adolf Hitler, who was reading Carlyle's biography of Frederick during his last days in 1945.

This association with fascism did Carlyle's reputation no good in the post-war years, but "Sartor Resartus" has recently been recognised once more as a unique masterpiece, anticipating many major philosophical and cultural developments, from Existentialism to Postmodernism. It has also been argued that his critique of ideological formulas in "The French Revolution" provides a good account of the ways in which revolutionary cultures turn into repressive dogmatisms.

Essentially a Romantic, Carlyle attempted to reconcile Romantic affirmations of feeling and freedom with respect for historical and political fact. Many believe that he was always more attracted to the idea of heroic struggle itself, than to any specific goal for which the struggle was being made. However, Carlyle’s belief in the continued use to humanity of the Hero, or Great Man, is stated succinctly at the end of his admirably positive aforementioned essay on Mohammed, in 1841’s ‘On Heroes, Hero Worship & the Heroic in History’, in which he concludes that: “the Great Man was always as lightning out of Heaven; the rest of men waited for him like fuel, and then they too would flame.”



Carlyle had quite a few unusual definitions at hand, which were collected by the Nuttall Encyclopedia. Some include:

Centre of Immensities
an expression of Carlyle's to signify that wherever any one is, he is in touch with the whole universe of being, and is, if he knew it, as near the heart of it there as anywhere else he can be.
A mania or frantic zeal for freedom.
Carlyle's name for a man who prides himself on, and pays all respect to, respectability. It is derived from a definition once given in a court of justice by a witness who, having described a person as respectable, was asked by the judge in the case what he meant by the word; "one that keeps a gig," was the answer. Carlyle also refers to "gigmanity" at large.
Hallowed Fire
an expression of Carlyle's in definition of Christianity "at its rise and spread" as sacred, and kindling what was sacred and divine in man's soul, and burning up all that was not.
Mights And Rights
the Carlyle doctrine that Rights are nothing till they have realised and established themselves as Mights; they are rights first only then.
the name given by Carlyle in his Latter-Day Pamphlets, in the one on Jesuitism, to the widespread philosophy of the time, which regarded the human being as a mere creature of appetite instead of a creature of God endowed with a soul, as having no nobler idea of well-being than the gratification of desire—that his only Heaven, and the reverse of it his Hell.
Plugston of Undershot
Carlyle's name for a "captain of industry" or member of the manufacturing class.
Present Time
defined by Carlyle as "the youngest born of Eternity, child and heir of all the past times, with their good and evil, and parent of all the future with new questions and significance," on the right or wrong understanding of which depend the issues of life or death to us all, the sphinx riddle given to all of us to rede as we would live and not die.
(the stealing of the princes), name given to an attempt, to satisfy a private grudge of his, on the part of Kunz von Kaufingen to carry off, on the night of 7 July 1455, two Saxon princes from the castle of Altenburg, in which he was defeated by apprehension at the hands of a collier named Schmidt, through whom he was handed over to justice and beheaded. See Carlyle's account of this in his "Miscellanies."
Printed Paper
Carlyle's satirical name for the literature of France prior to the Revolution.
Progress of the Species Magazines
Carlyle's name for the literature of the day which does nothing to help the progress in question, but keeps idly boasting of the fact, taking all the credit to itself, like French Poet Jean de La Fontaine's fly on the axle of the careening chariot soliloquising, "What a dust I raise!"
(i. e. leaven), an imaginary authority alive to the "celestial infernal" fermentation that goes on in the world, who has an eye specially to the evil elements at work, and to whose opinion Carlyle frequently appeals in his condemnatory verdict on sublunary things.
The Conflux of Eternities
Carlyle's expressive phrase for time, as in every moment of it a centre in which all the forces to and from eternity meet and unite, so that by no past and no future can we be brought nearer to Eternity than where we at any moment of Time are; the Present Time, the youngest born of Eternity, being the child and heir of all the Past times with their good and evil, and the parent of all the Future. By the import of which (see Matt. xvi. 27), it is accordingly the first and most sacred duty of every successive age, and especially the leaders of it, to know and lay to heart as the only link by which Eternity lays hold of it, and it of Eternity.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Thomas Carlyle" (bio), Dumfries-and-Galloway, 2008, webpage:
  2. ^ a b "Carlyle--The Sage Of Chelsea". English Literature For Boys And Girls. Farlex Free Library. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  3. ^ Carlyle Till Marriage 1795 to 1826 by David Alec Wilson, 1923. Available on Google Books here, page 42-43. "As a 'double-goer', perplexing strangers in foreign parts as well as at home, the 'Apostle' was occasionally an innocent, inadvertent nuisance to 'our Tom'."
  4. ^ a b Lundin, Leigh (2009-09-20). "Thomas Carlyle". Professional Works. Criminal Brief. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  5. ^ a b "Who2 Biography: Thomas Carlyle, Writer / Historian". 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  6. ^ Cumming, Mark : The Carlyle encyclopedia  : 2004 : ISBN 978-0-8386-3792-0 p223
  7. ^ Simon Heffer, Moral Desperado - A Life of Thomas Carlyle, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995, p.48
  8. ^ "East Did Meet West - 3", by Dr. Rizwana Rahim
  9. ^ [1],

See also

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
William Ewart Gladstone
Rector of the University of Edinburgh
Succeeded by
The Lord Moncreiff


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-12-041881-02-05) was a Scottish essayist, satirist, and historian, whose work was hugely influential during the Victorian era. He was the husband of Jane Welsh Carlyle.



History is the essence of innumerable biographies.
  • Not all his men may sever this,
     It yields to friends', not monarchs', calls;
    My whinstone house my castle is
     I have my own four walls.
    • “My Own Four Walls” (c. 1825)[1]
  • Speech is human, silence is divine, yet also brutish and dead: therefore we must learn both arts.
    • Notebooks (1830)
  • It is now almost my sole rule of life to clear myself of cants and formulas, as of poisonous Nessus shirts.
    • Letter to His Wife (1835)
  • The Public is an old woman. Let her maunder and mumble.
    • Journal (1835)
  • A witty statesman said, you might prove anything by figures.
    • Chartism (1839), Ch. 2, Statistics
  • Democracy is, by the nature of it, a self-canceling business; and it gives in the long run a net result of zero.
    • Chartism, Ch. 6, Laissez-Faire
  • So here hath been dawning
    Another blue Day:
    Think wilt thou let it
    Slip useless away.
  • He that works and does some Poem, not he that merely says one, is worthy of the name of Poet.
    • Introduction to Cromwell's Letters and Speeches (1845)
  • Here numerous persons, with big wigs many of them, and austere aspect, whom I take to be Professors of the Dismal Science, start up in an agitated vehement manner: but the Premier resolutely beckons them down again
  • A Parliament speaking through reporters to Buncombe and the twenty-seven millions, mostly fools.
    • Latter Day Pamphlets, No. 6
  • A healthy hatred of scoundrels.
    • Latter Day Pamphlets, No. 12
  • Happy the people whose annals are blank in history books!
    • Life of Frederick the Great, Bk. XVI, ch. 1
  • The unspeakable Turk
    • A phrase which came into common use after a letter by Carlyle on the Balkan crisis of 1875-76:
    • The only clear advice I have to give is, as I have stated, that the unspeakable Turk should be immediately struck out of the question, and the country left to honest European guidance.
      • Public letter to George Howard, published in the Times and other newspapers, 28 November 1876[2]
  • This great maxim of Philosophy he had gathered by the teaching of nature alone: That man was created to work, not to speculate, or feel, or dream.
    • Reminiscences (1881), referring to his father, James Carlyle.
    • Sometimes quoted as "Man was created to work, not to speculate, or feel, or dream; Every idle moment is treason". The second of those two clauses in fact comes from Thomas Arnold The Christian Life (1841), Lecture VI.
  • A word spoken in season, at the right moment, is the mother of ages.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 561.

Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1827–1855)

  • A well-written Life is almost as rare as a well-spent one.
    • Richter (1827)
  • Except by name, Jean Paul Friedrich Richter is little known out of Germany. The only thing connected with him, we think, that has reached this country is his saying,—imported by Madame de Staël, and thankfully pocketed by most newspaper critics,—"Providence has given to the French the empire of the land; to the English that of the sea; to the Germans that of—the air!"
    • Richter
  • The great law of culture is: Let each become all that he was created capable of being.
    • Richter
  • He who would write heroic poems should make his whole life a heroic poem.
    • Life of Schiller
  • The three great elements of modern civilization, gunpowder, printing, and the Protestant religion.
    • The State of German Literature (1827)
  • Literary men are...a perpetual priesthood.
    • The State of German Literature
  • I came hither [Craigenputtoch] solely with the design to simplify my way of life and to secure the independence through which I could be enabled to remain true to myself.
    • Letter to Goethe, (1828)
  • In every man's writings, the character of the writer must lie recorded.
    • Goethe (1828)
  • Clever men are good, but they are not the best.
    • Goethe
  • We are firm believers in the maxim that for all right judgment of any man or thing it is useful, nay, essential, to see his good qualities before pronouncing on his bad.
    • Goethe
  • A poet without love were a physical and metaphysical impossibility.
    • Burns (1828)
  • How does the poet speak to men with power, but by being still more a man than they?
    • Burns
  • His religion at best is an anxious wish,—like that of Rabelais, a great Perhaps.
    • Burns; compare: "The grand perhaps", Browning, Bishop Bloughram's Apology
  • Our grand business undoubtedly is, not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
  • We have oftener than once endeavoured to attach some meaning to that aphorism, vulgarly imputed to Shaftesbury, which however we can find nowhere in his works, that "ridicule is the test of truth."
    • Voltaire, Foreign Review, (1829); compare: "How comes it to pass, then, that we appear such cowards in reasoning, and are so afraid to stand the test of ridicule?", Shaftesbury, Characteristics. A Letter concerning Enthusiasm, sect. 2.; "Truth, 't is supposed, may bear all lights; and one of those principal lights or natural mediums by which things are to be viewed in order to a thorough recognition is ridicule itself", Shaftesbury, Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour, sect. 1.; "'T was the saying of an ancient sage [Gorgias Leontinus, apud Aristotle's "Rhetoric," lib. iii. c. 18], that humour was the only test of gravity, and gravity of humour. For a subject which would not bear raillery was suspicious; and a jest which would not bear a serious examination was certainly false wit", ibid. sect. 5
  • … with what scientific stoicism he walks through the land of wonders, unwondering …
    • Signs of the Times
  • Aesop's Fly, sitting on the axle of the chariot, has been much laughed at for exclaiming: What a dust I do raise!
    • Boswell's Life of Johnson (1832)
  • Whoso belongs only to his own age, and reverences only its gilt Popinjays or smoot-smeared Mumbojumbos, must needs die with it.
    • Boswell's Life of Johnson
  • The stupendous Fourth Estate, whose wide world-embracing influences what eye can take in?
    • Boswell's Life of Johnson
  • All work is as seed sown; it grows and spreads, and sows itself anew.
    • Boswell's Life of Johnson
  • The work we desire and prize is not the courage to die decently, but to live manfully.
    • Boswell's Life of Johnson
  • There is endless merit in a man's knowing when to have done.
    • Dr. Francia (1845)
  • The eye of the intellect "sees in all objects what it brought with it the means of seeing."
    • Varnhagen von Ense's Memoirs
  • Love is ever the beginning of Knowledge as fire is of light.
    • Essays, Death of Goethe
  • Music is well said to be the speech of angels.
    • Essays, The Opera
  • A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.
    • Essays, Goethe's Works
  • Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness on the confines of two everlasting hostile empires,—Necessity and Free Will.
    • Essays, Goethe's Works
  • History is the essence of innumerable biographies.
    • On History
  • The barrenest of all mortals is the sentimentalist.
    • Characteristics
  • A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.
    • Article on Biography
  • Even in the meanest sorts of Labor, the whole soul of a man is composed into a kind of real harmony the instant he sets himself to work.
    • Past and Present
  • Nature admits no lie.
    • Latter Day Pamphlet, No. 5. (1850)
  • The fine arts once divorcing themselves from truth are quite certain to fall mad, if they do not die.
    • Latter Day Pamphlet, No. 8. (1850)

Sir Walter Scott (1838)

  • There is no heroic poem in the world but is at bottom a biography, the life of a man; also, it may be said, there is no life of a man, faithfully recorded, but is a heroic poem of its sort, rhymed or unrhymed.
  • Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.
  • No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offense.
  • Literature is the Thought of thinking Souls.
  • All greatness is unconscious, or it is little and naught.
  • The uttered part of a man's life, let us always repeat, bears to the unuttered, unconscious part a small unknown proportion. He himself never knows it, much less do others.
  • It can be said of him [Scott], when he departed he took a man's life along with him. No sounder piece of British manhood was put together in that eighteenth century of time.
  • Nothing that was worthy in the past departs; no truth or goodness realized by man ever dies, or can die.
  • To the very last, he had a kind of idea; that, namely, of la carrière ouverte aux talents,—the tools to him that can handle them.
    • On Napoleon; Carlyle in his essay on Mirabeau, 1837, quotes this from a "New England book"
  • Blessed is the healthy nature; it is the coherent, sweetly co-operative, not incoherent, self-distracting, self-destructive one!
  • Everywhere in life, the true question is not what we gain, but what we do.
    • Essays. Goethe's Helena.

Sartor Resartus (1833–1834)

  • The Book had in a high degree excited us to self-activity, which is the best effect of any book.
    • Bk. I, ch. 4
  • No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad.
    • Bk. I, ch. 4
  • He who first shortened the labor of copyists by device of movable types was disbanding hired armies, and cashiering most kings and senates, and creating a whole new democratic world: he had invented the art of printing.
    • Bk. I, ch. 5
  • Man is a tool-using animal...Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.
    • Bk. I, ch. 5
  • Be not the slave of Words.
    • Bk. I, ch. 8
  • Man's unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there is an Infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the Finite.
    • Bk. I, ch. 9
  • Wonder is the basis of worship.
    • Bk. I, ch. 10
  • What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite.
    • Bk. II, ch. 1
  • Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the Devil; for which reason I have, long since, as good as renounced it.
    • Bk. II, ch. 4
  • With stupidity and sound digestion man may front much.
    • Bk. II, ch. 4
  • Hadst thou not Greek enough to understand thus much: The end of man is an Action, and not a Thought, though it were the noblest.
  • Alas! the fearful Unbelief is unbelief in yourself.
    • Bk. II, ch. 7
  • Great men are the inspired (speaking and acting) texts of that divine Book of Revelations, wherof a chapter is completed from epoch to epoch, and by some named History.
    • Bk. II, ch. 8
  • Love not Pleasure; love God.
    • Bk. II, ch. 9
  • "Do the Duty which lies nearest thee," which thou knowest to be a Duty! Thy second Duty will already have become clearer.
    • Bk. II, ch. 9
  • As the Swiss inscription says: Sprechen ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden— "Speech is silvern, Silence is golden"; or, as I might rather express it: speech is of time, silence is of eternity.
    • Bk. III, ch. 3
  • For is not a Symbol ever, to him who has eyes for it, some dimmer or clearer revelation of the God-like?
    • Bk. III, ch. 3
  • The highest ensign that men ever met and embraced under, the Cross itself, had no meaning save an accidental extrinsic one.
    • Bk. III, ch. 3
  • That there should one Man die ignorant who had capacity for Knowledge, this I call a tragedy.
    • Bk. III, ch. 4

The French Revolution. A History (1837)

  • France was long a despotism tempered by epigrams.
    • Pt. I, Bk. I, ch. 1
  • No lie you can speak or act but it will come, after longer or shorter circulation, like a Bill drawn on Nature's Reality, and be presented there for payment, — with the answer, No effects.
    • Pt. I, Bk. III, ch. 1
  • To a shower of gold most things are penetrable.
    • Pt. I, Bk. III, ch. 7
  • "The people may eat grass": hasty words, which fly abroad irrevocable—and will send back tidings.
    • Pt. I, Bk. III, ch. 9
  • A whiff of grapeshot.
    • Pt. I, Bk. V, ch. 3
  • O poor mortals, how ye make this earth bitter for each other.
    • Pt. I, Bk. V, ch. 5
  • Battles, in these ages, are transacted by mechanism; with the slightest possible development of human individuality or spontaneity: men now even die, and kill one another, in an artificial manner.
    • Pt. I, Bk. VII, ch. 4
  • History a distillation of rumor.
    • Pt. I, Bk. VII, ch. 4
  • The All of Things is an infinite conjugation of the verb To do.
    • Pt. II, Bk. III, ch. 1
  • The difference between Orthodoxy or Mydoxy and Heterodoxy or Thy-doxy.
    • Pt. II, Bk. IV, ch. 2

Heroes and Hero-Worship (1840)

Full text online

The Hero as Divinity

Lecture I The Hero As Divinity. Odin. Paganism: Scandinavian Mythology. (5 May 1840)
  • No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men.
  • The history of the world is but the biography of great men.
  • We must get rid of fear.

The Hero as Prophet

Lecture II The Hero As Prophet. Mahomet: Islam. ([8 May 1840)
  • We have chosen Mahomet not as the most eminent Prophet; but as the one we are freest to speak of. He is by no means the truest of Prophets; but I do esteem him a true one. Farther, as there is no danger of our becoming, any of us, Mahometans, I mean to say all the good of him I justly can. It is the way to get at his secret: let us try to understand what he meant with the world; what the world meant and means with him, will then be a more answerable question. Our current hypothesis about Mahomet, that he was a scheming Impostor, a Falsehood incarnate, that his religion is a mere mass of quackery and fatuity, begins really to be now untenable to any one. The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man, are disgraceful to ourselves only.
  • The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.
  • Much has been said of Mahomet's propagating his Religion by the sword. It is no doubt far nobler what we have to boast of the Christian Religion, that it propagated itself peaceably in the way of preaching and conviction. Yet withal, if we take this for an argument of the truth or falsehood of a religion, there is a radical mistake in it. The sword indeed: but where will you get your sword! Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one. In one man's head alone, there it dwells as yet. One man alone of the whole world believes it; there is one man against all men. That he take a sword, and try to propagate with that, will do little for him. You must first get your sword! On the whole, a thing will propagate itself as it can. We do not find, of the Christian Religion either, that it always disdained the sword, when once it had got one.
  • I care little about the sword: I will allow a thing to struggle for itself in this world, with any sword or tongue or implement it has, or can lay hold of. We will let it preach, and pamphleteer, and fight, and to the uttermost bestir itself, and do, beak and claws, whatsoever is in it; very sure that it will, in the long-run, conquer nothing which does not deserve to be conquered. What is better than itself, it cannot put away, but only what is worse. In this great Duel, Nature herself is umpire, and can do no wrong: the thing which is deepest-rooted in Nature, what we call truest, that thing and not the other will be found growing at last.
  • We are to remember what an umpire Nature is; what a greatness, composure of depth and tolerance there is in her. You take wheat to cast into the Earth's bosom; your wheat may be mixed with chaff, chopped straw, barn-sweepings, dust and all imaginable rubbish; no matter: you cast it into the kind just Earth; she grows the wheat, — the whole rubbish she silently absorbs, shrouds it in, says nothing of the rubbish. The yellow wheat is growing there; the good Earth is silent about all the rest, — has silently turned all the rest to some benefit too, and makes no complaint about it! So everywhere in Nature! She is true and not a lie; and yet so great, and just, and motherly in her truth. She requires of a thing only that it be genuine of heart; she will protect it if so; will not, if not so. There is a soul of truth in all the things she ever gave harbor to. Alas, is not this the history of all highest Truth that comes or ever came into the world?
  • Mahomet can work no miracles; he often answers impatiently: I can work no miracles. I? "I am a Public Preacher;" appointed to preach this doctrine to all creatures. Yet the world, as we can see, had really from of old been all one great miracle to him. Look over the world, says he; is it not wonderful, the work of Allah; wholly "a sign to you," if your eyes were open!
  • His Religion is not an easy one: with rigorous fasts, lavations, strict complex formulas, prayers five times a day, and abstinence from wine, it did not "succeed by being an easy religion." As if indeed any religion, or cause holding of religion, could succeed by that! It is a calumny on men to say that they are roused to heroic action by ease, hope of pleasure, recompense, — sugar-plums of any kind, in this world or the next! In the meanest mortal there lies something nobler.
  • Mahomet himself, after all that can be said about him, was not a sensual man. We shall err widely if we consider this man as a common voluptuary, intent mainly on base enjoyments, — nay on enjoyments of any kind. His household was of the frugalest; his common diet barley-bread and water: sometimes for months there was not a fire once lighted on his hearth. They record with just pride that he would mend his own shoes, patch his own cloak. A poor, hard-toiling, ill-provided man; careless of what vulgar men toil for
  • No Dilettantism in this Mahomet; it is a business of Reprobation and Salvation with him, of Time and Eternity: he is in deadly earnest about it! Dilettantism, hypothesis, speculation, a kind of amateur-search for Truth, toying and coquetting with Truth: this is the sorest sin. The root of all other imaginable sins. It consists in the heart and soul of the man never having been open to Truth; — "living in a vain show." Such a man not only utters and produces falsehoods, but is himself a falsehood. The rational moral principle, spark of the Divinity, is sunk deep in him, in quiet paralysis of life-death.
  • Enjoying things which are pleasant; that is not the evil: it is the reducing of our moral self to slavery by them that is.
  • We will not praise Mahomet's moral precepts as always of the superfinest sort; yet it can be said that there is always a tendency to good in them; that they are the true dictates of a heart aiming towards what is just and true
  • On the whole, we will repeat that this Religion of Mahomet's is a kind of Christianity; has a genuine element of what is spiritually highest looking through it, not to be hidden by all its imperfections. The Scandinavian God Wish, the god of all rude men, — this has been enlarged into a Heaven by Mahomet; but a Heaven symbolical of sacred Duty, and to be earned by faith and well-doing, by valiant action, and a divine patience which is still more valiant. It is Scandinavian Paganism, and a truly celestial element superadded to that. Call it not false; look not at the falsehood of it, look at the truth of it. For these twelve centuries, it has been the religion and life-guidance of the fifth part of the whole kindred of Mankind. Above all things, it has been a religion heartily believed. These Arabs believe their religion, and try to live by it! No Christians, since the early ages, or only perhaps the English Puritans in modern times, have ever stood by their Faith as the Moslem do by theirs, — believing it wholly, fronting Time with it, and Eternity with it.
  • To the Arab Nation it was as a birth from darkness into light; Arabia first became alive by means of it. A poor shepherd people, roaming unnoticed in its deserts since the creation of the world: a Hero-Prophet was sent down to them with a word they could believe: see, the unnoticed becomes world-notable, the small has grown world-great; within one century afterwards, Arabia is at Grenada on this hand, at Delhi on that; — glancing in valor and splendor and the light of genius, Arabia shines through long ages over a great section of the world. Belief is great, life-giving. The history of a Nation becomes fruitful, soul-elevating, great, so soon as it believes.

The Hero as Poet

The Hero As Poet. Dante: Shakspeare

OF this Shakspeare of ours, perhaps the opinion one sometimes hears a little idolatrously expressed is, in fact, the right one; I think the best judgement not of this country only, but of Europe at large, is slowly pointing to the conclusion, That Shakspeare is the chief of all Poets hitherto; the greatest intellect who, in our recorded world, has left record of himself in the way of Literature. On the whole, I know not such a power of vision, such a faculty of thought, if we take all the characters of it, in any other man. Such a calmness of depth; placid joyous strength; all things imaged in that great soul of his so true and clear, as in a tranquil unfathomable sea! It has been said, that in the constructing of Shakspeare's Dramas there is, apart from all other 'faculties' as they are called, an understanding manifested, equal to that in Bacon's Novum Organum. That is true; and it is not a truth that strikes every one. It would become more apparent if we tried, any of us for himself, how, out of Shakspeare's dramatic materials, we could fashion such a result! The built house seems all so fit,- everyway as it should be, as if it came there by its own law and the nature of things,- we forget the rude disorderly quarry it was shaped from. The very perfection of the house, as if Nature herself had made it, hides the builder's merit. Perfect, more perfect than any other man, we may call Shakspeare in this: he discerns, knows as by instinct, what condition he works under, what his materials are, what his own force and its relation to them is. It is not a transitory glance of insight that will suffice; it is deliberate illumination of the whole matter; it is a calmly seeing eye; a great intellect, in short. How a man, of some wide thing that he has witnessed, will construct a narrative, what kind of picture and delineation he will give of it,- is the best measure you could get of what intellect is in the man. Which circumstance is vital and shall stand prominent; which unessential, fit to be suppressed; where is the true beginning, the true sequence and ending? To find out this, you task the whole force of insight that is in the man. He must understand the thing; according to the depth of his understanding, will the fitness of his answer be. You will try him so. Does like join itself to like; does the spirit of method stir in that confusion, so that its embroilment becomes order? Can the man say, Fiat lux, Let there be light; and out of chaos make a world? Precisely as there is light in himself, will he accomplish this.

Or indeed we may say again, it is in what I called Portrait-painting, delineating of men and things, especially of men, that Shakspeare is great. All the greatness of the man comes out decisively here. It is unexampled, I think, that calm creative perspicacity of Shakspeare. The thing he looks at reveals not this or that face of it, but its inmost heart and generic secret: it dissolves itself as in light before him, so that he discerns the perfect structure of it. Creative, we said: poetic creation, what is this too but seeing the thing sufficiently? The word that will describe the thing, follows of itself from such clear intense sight of the thing. And is not Shakspeare's morality, his valour, candour, tolerance, truthfulness; his whole victorious strength and greatness, which can triumph over such obstructions, visible there too? Great as the world! No twisted, poor convex-concave mirror, reflecting all objects with its own convexities and concavities; a perfectly level mirror;- that is to say withal, if we will understand it, a man justly related to all things and men, a good man. It is truly a lordly spectacle how this great soul takes in all kinds of men and objects, a Falstaff, an Othello, a Juliet, a Coriolanus; sets them all forth to us in their round completeness; loving, just, the equal brother of all. Novum Organum, and all the intellect you will find in Bacon, is of a quite secondary order; earthy, material, poor in comparison with this. Among modern men, one finds, in strictness, almost nothing of the same rank. Goethe alone, since the days of Shakspeare, reminds me of it. Of him too you say that he saw the object; you may say what he himself says of Shakspeare: 'His characters are like watches with dial- plates of transparent crystal; they show you the hour like others, and the inward mechanism also is all visible.'

The seeing eye! It is this that discloses the inner harmony of things; what Nature meant, what musical idea Nature has wrapped up in these often rough embodiments. Something she did mean. To the seeing eye that something were discernible. Are they base, miserable things? You can laugh over them, you can weep over them; you can in some way or other genially relate yourself to them;- you can, at lowest, hold your peace about them, turn away your own and others' face from them, till the hour come for practically exterminating and extinguishing them! At bottom, it is the Poet's first gift, as it is all men's, that he have intellect enough. He will be a Poet if he have: a Poet in word; or failing that, perhaps still better, a Poet in act. Whether he write at all; and if so, whether in prose or in verse, will depend on accidents: who knows on what extremely trivial accidents,- perhaps on his having had a singing-master, on his being taught to sing in his boyhood! But the faculty which enables him to discern the inner heart of things, and the harmony that dwells there (for whatsoever exists has a harmony in the heart of it, or it would not hold together and exist), is not the result of habits or accidents, but the gift of Nature herself; the primary outfit for a Heroic Man in what sort soever. To the Poet, as to every other, we say first of all, See. If you cannot do that, it is of no use to keep stringing rhymes together, jingling sensibilities against each other, and name yourself a Poet; there is no hope for you. If you can, there is, in prose or verse, in action or speculation, all manner of hope. The crabbed old Schoolmaster used to ask, when they brought him a new pupil, 'But are ye sure he's not a dunce?' Why, really one might ask the same thing, in regard to every man proposed for whatsoever function; and consider it as the one inquiry needful: Are ye sure he's. KHADIRI OMAR

The Hero as Priest

The Hero As Priest. Luther; Reformation: Knox; Puritanism
  • The Age of Miracles is forever here!

The Hero as Man of Letters

  • In books lies the soul of the whole Past Time; the articulate audible voice of the Past, when the body and material substance of it has altogether vanished like a dream.
  • A man lives by believing something; not by debating and arguing about many things.
  • All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.
  • What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books.
  • The suffering man ought really to consume his own smoke; there is no good in emitting smoke till you have made it into fire.
  • Adversity is sometimes hard upon a man; but for one man who can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.
    • (Often shortened to "can't stand prosperity" as an unknown quote.)
  • The true University of these days is a Collection of Books.
  • One life, — a little gleam of time between two Eternities.
  • The Press is the Fourth Estate of the realm.

Past and Present (1843)

  • "A fair day's wages for a fair day's work": it is as just a demand as governed men ever made of governing. It is the everlasting right of man.
    • Bk. I, ch. 3
  • Fire is the best of servents; but what a master!
    • Bk. II, ch. 9
  • All work, even cotton spinning, is noble; work is alone noble...A life of ease is not for any man, nor for any god.
    • Bk. III, ch. 4
  • Every pitifulest whipster that walks within a skin has had his head filled with the notion that he is, shall be, or by all human and divine laws ought to be, 'happy.' His wishes, the pitifulest whipster's, are to be fulfilled for him; his days, the pitifulest whipster's, are to flow on in an ever-gentle current of enjoyment, impossible even for the gods. The prophets preach to us, Thou shalt be happy; thou shalt love pleasant things, and find them. The people clamor, Why have we not found pleasant things? ...God's Laws are become a Greatest Happiness Principle. There is no religion; there is no God; man has lost his soul.
    • Bk. III, ch. 4
  • The English are a dumb people. They can do great acts, but not describe them.
    • Bk. III, ch. 5
  • Every noble crown is, and on earth will forever be, a crown of thorns.
    • Bk. III, ch. 7
  • Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.
    • Bk. III, ch. 9
  • He who takes not counsel of the Unseen and Silent, from him will never come real visibility and speech.
    • Bk. III, ch. 11
  • Captains of Industry.
    • Bk. IV, ch. 4 (chapter title)


  • War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village, stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against each other.
    • Quoted by Emma Goldman in her essay, "Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty", chapter five of Anarchism and Other Essays (2nd revised edition, 1911)
  • A person usually has two reasons for doing something: a good reason and the real reason.
    • More often attributed to John Pierpont Morgan
  • Lord Bacon could as easily have created this planet as he could have written Hamlet.
    • According to Moncure Conway (Thomas Carlyle (1881) p. 122) Carlyle said this in reply to a Baconian enthusiast who was attempting to convert him; alternatively reported as "the planets", remark in discussion, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • No pressure, no diamonds.
    • More often attributed to Mary Case.
  • Can there be a more horrible object in existence than an eloquent man not speaking the truth?
    • Address as Lord Rector of Edinburgh University, (1866), reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

About Carlyle

  • It is really, as Coleridge I think said of something else, like reading a story by flashes of lightning!
    • Francis Jeffrey, letter to Carlyle (30 May 1837) on The French Revolution. This is often repeated as stating that Carlyle's style is “like reading history by flashes of lightning”.

  • It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four.


  1. Froude, James Anthony (1882). Thomas Carlyle: A history of the first forty years of his life, 1795-1835. p. 189. OCLC 603024.  
  2. Shepherd, Richard Herne; Williamson, Charles Norris (1881). Memoirs of the life and writings of Thomas Carlyle. 2. pp. 307-311. OCLC 2762132.  

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

THOMAS CARLYLE (1795-1881), British essayist, historian and philosopher,born on the 4th of December 1795 at Ecclefechan, in Annandale, was the eldest of the nine children of James Carlyle by his second wife, Janet Aitken. The father was by trade a mason, and afterwards a small farmer. He had joined a sect of seceders from the kirk, and had all the characteristics of the typical Scottish Calvinist. He was respected for his integrity and independence, and a stern outside covered warm affections. The family tie between all the Carlyles was unusually strong, and Thomas regarded his father with a reverence which found forcible expression in his Reminiscences. He always showed the tenderest love for his mother, and was the best of brothers. The narrow means of his parents were made sufficient by strict frugality. He was sent to the parish school when seven, and to Annan grammar-school when ten years old. His pugnacity brought him into troubles with his fellows at Annan; but he soon showed an appetite for learning which induced his father to educate him for the ministry. He walked to Edinburgh in November 1809, and entered the university. He cared little for any of the professors, except Sir John Leslie, from whom he learned some mathematics. He acquired a little classical knowledge, but the most valuable influence was that of his contemporaries. A few lads in positions similar to his own began to look up to him as an intellectual leader, and their correspondence with him shows remarkable interest in literary matters. In 1814 Carlyle, still looking forward to the career of a minister, obtained the mathematical mastership at Annan. The salary of L60 or 70 a year enabled him to save a little money. He went to Edinburgh once or twice, to deliver the discourses required from students of divinity. He does not seem, however, to have taken to his profession very earnestly. He was too shy and proud to see many of the Annan people, and found his chief solace in reading such books as he could get. In 1816 he was appointed, through the recommendation of Leslie, to a school at Kirkcaldy, where Edward Irving, Carlyle's senior by three years, was also master of a school. Irving's severity as a teacher had offended some of the parents, who set up Carlyle to be his rival. A previous meeting with Irving, also a native of Annan, had led to a little passage of arms, but Irving now welcomed Carlyle with a generosity which entirely won his heart, and the rivals soon became the closest of friends. The intimacy, affectionately commemorated in the Reminiscences, was of great importance to Carlyle's whole career. " But for Irving," he says, " I had never known what the communion of man with man means." Irving had a library, in which Carlyle devoured Gibbon and much French literature, and they made various excursions together. Carlyle did his duties as a schoolmaster punctiliously, but found the life thoroughly uncongenial. No man was less fitted by temperament for the necessary drudgery and worry. A passing admiration for a Miss Gordon is supposed to have suggested the " Blumine " of Sartor Resartus; but he made no new friendships, and when Irving left at the end of 1818 Carlyle also resigned his post.

He had by this time resolved to give up the ministry. He has given no details of the intellectual change which alienated him from the church. He had, however, been led, by whatever process, to abandon the dogmatic system of his forefathers, though he was and always remained in profound sympathy with the spirit of their teaching. A period of severe struggle followed. He studied law for a time, but liked it no better than schoolmastering. He took a pupil or two, and wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia under the editorship of Brewster. He occasionally visited his family, and their unfailing confidence helped to keep up his courage. Meanwhile he was going through a spiritual crisis. Atheism seemed",for a time to be the only alternative to his old creed. It was, however, profoundly repugnant to him. At last, one day in June 1821, after three weeks' total sleeplessness, he went through the crisis afterwards described quite " literally " in Sartor Resartus. He cast out the spirit of negation, and henceforth the temper of his misery was changed to one, not of " whining," but of " indignation and grim fire-eyed defiance." That, he says, was his spiritual new-birth, though certainly not into a life of serenity. The conversion was coincident with Carlyle's submission to a new and very potent influence. In 1819 he had begun to study German, with which he soon acquired a very remarkable familiarity. Many of his contemporaries were awakening to the importance of German thought, and Carlyle's knowledge enabled him before long to take a conspicuous part in diffusing the new intellectual light. The chief object of his reverence was Goethe. In many most important respects no two men could be more unlike; but, for the present, Carlyle seems to have seen in Goethe a proof that it was possible to reject outworn dogmas without sinking into materialism. Goethe, by singularly different methods, had emerged from a merely negative position into a lofty and coherent conception of the universe. Meanwhile, Carlyle's various anxieties were beginning to be complicated by physical derangement. A rat, he declared, was gnawing at the pit of his stomach. He was already suffering from the ailments, whatever their precise nature, from which he never escaped. He gave vent to his irritability by lamentations so grotesquely exaggerated as to make it difficult to estimate the real extent of the evil.

Irving's friendship now became serviceable. Carlyle's confession of the radical difference of religious opinion had not alienated his friend, who was settling in London, and used his opportunities for promoting Carlyle's interest. In January 1822 Carlyle, through Irving's recommendation, became tutor to Charles and Arthur Buller, who were to be students at Edinburgh. Carlyle's salary was £200 a year, and this, with the proceeds of some literary work, enabled him at once to help his brother John to study medicine and his brother Alexander to take up a farm. Carlyle spent some time with the elder Bullers, but found a life of dependence upon fashionable people humiliating and unsatisfactory. He employed himself at intervals upon a life of Schiller and a translation of Wilhelm Meister. He received £50 for a translation of Legendre's Geometry; and an introduction, explaining the theory of proportion, is said by De Morgan to show that he could have gained distinction as an expounder of mathematical principles. He finally gave up his tutorship in July 1824, and for a time tried to find employment in London. The impressions made upon him by London men of letters were most unfavourable. Carlyle felt by this time conscious of having a message to deliver to mankind, and his comrades, he thought, were making literature a trade instead of a vocation, and prostituting their talents to frivolous journalism. He went once to see Coleridge, who was then delivering his oracular utterances at Highgate, and the only result was the singularly vivid portrait given in a famous chapter in his life of Sterling. Coleridge seemed to him to be ineffectual as a philosopher, and personally to be a melancholy instance of genius running to waste. Carlyle, conscious of great abilities, and impressed by such instances of the deleterious effects of the social atmosphere of London, resolved to settle in his native district. There he could live frugally and achieve some real work. He could, for one thing, be the interpreter of Germany to England. A friendly letter from Goethe, acknowledging the translation of Wilhelm Meister, reached him at the end of 1824 and greatly encouraged him. Goethe afterwards spoke warmly of the life of Schiller, and desired it to be translated into German. Letters occasionally passed between them in later years, which were edited by Professor Charles Eliot Norton in 1887. Goethe received Carlyle's homage with kind complacency. The gift of a seal to Goethe on his birthday in 1831 " from fifteen English friends," including Scott and Wordsworth, was suggested and carried out by Carlyle. The interest in German, which Carlyle did so much to promote, suggested to him other translations and reviews during the next few years, and he made some preparations for a history of German literature. British curiosity, however, about such matters seems to have been soon satisfied, and the demand for such work slackened.

Carlyle was meanwhile passing through the most important crisis of his personal history. Jane Baillie Welsh, born 1801, was the only child of Dr Welsh of Haddington. She had shown precocious talent, and was sent to the school at Haddington where Edward Irving (q.v.) was a master. After her father's death in 1819 she lived with her mother, and her wit and beauty attracted many admirers. Her old tutor, Irving, was now at Kirkcaldy, where he became engaged to a Miss Martin. He visited Haddington occasionally in the following years, and a strong mutual regard arose between him and Miss Welsh. They contemplated a marriage, and Irving endeavoured to obtain a release from his previous engagement. The Martin family held him to his word, and he took a final leave of Miss Welsh in 1822. Meanwhile he had brought Carlyle from Edinburgh and introduced him to the Welshes. Carlyle was attracted by the brilliant abilities of the young lady, procured books for her and wrote letters to her as an intellectual guide. The two were to perform a new variation upon the theme of Abelard and HeloIse. [A good deal of uncertainty long covered the precise character of their relations. Until 1909, when Mr. Alexander Carlyle published his edition of the " love-letters," the full material was not accessible; they had been read by Carlyle's biographer, Froude, and also by Professor Charles Norton, and Norton (in his edition of Carlyle's Early Letters, 1886) declared that Froude had distorted the significance of this correspondence in a sense injurious to the writers. The publication of the letters certainly seems to justify Norton's view.] Miss Welsh's previous affair with Irving had far less importance than Froude ascribes to it; and she soon came to regard her past love as a childish fancy. She recognized Carlyle's vast intellectual superiority, and the respect gradually deepened into genuine love. The process, however, took some time. Her father had bequeathed to her his whole property (D200 to boo a year). In 1823 she made it over to her mother, but left the whole to Carlyle in the event of her own and her mother's death. She still declared that she did not love him well enough to become his wife. In 1824 she gradually relented so far as to say that she would marry if he could achieve independence. She had been brought up in a station superior to that of the Carlyles, and could not accept the life of hardship which would be necessary in his present circumstances. Carlyle, accustomed to his father's household, was less frightened by the prospect of poverty. He was determined not to abandon his vocation as a man of genius by following the lower though more profitable paths to literary success, and expected that his wife should partake the necessary sacrifice of comfort. The natural result of such discussions followed. The attraction became stronger on both sides, in spite of occasional spasms of doubt.

An odd incident precipitated the result. A friend of Irving's, Mrs Basil Montague, wrote to Miss Welsh, to exhort her to suppress her love for Irving, who had married Miss Martin in 1823. Miss Welsh replied by announcing her intention to marry Carlyle; and then told him the whole story, of which he had previously been ignorant. He properly begged her not to yield to the impulse without due consideration. She answered by coming at once to his father's house, where he was staying; and the marriage was finally settled. It took place on the 17th of October 1826.

Carlyle had now to arrange the mode of life which should enable him to fulfil his aspiration. His wife had made over her income to her mother, but he had saved a small sum upon which to begin housekeeping. A passing suggestion from Mrs Carlyle that they might live with her mother was judiciously abandoned. Carlyle had thought of occupying Craigenputtock, a remote and dreary farm belonging to Mrs Welsh. His wife objected his utter incapacity as a farmer; and they finally took a small house at Comely Bank, Edinburgh, where they could live on a humble scale. The brilliant conversation of both attracted some notice in the literary society of Edinburgh. The most important connexion was with Francis, Lord Jeffrey, still editor of the Edinburgh Review. Though Jeffrey had no intellectual sympathy with Carlyle, he accepted some articles for the Review and became warmly attached to Mrs Carlyle. Carlyle began to be known as leader of a new " mystic " school, and his earnings enabled him to send his brother John to study in Germany. The public appetite, however, for " mysticism " was not keen. In spite of support from Jeffrey and other friends, Carlyle failed in a candidature for a professorship at St Andrews. His brother, Alexander, had now taken the farm at Craigenputtock, and the Carlyles decided to settle at the separate dwelling-house there, which would bring them nearer to Mrs Welsh. They went there in 1828, and began a hard struggle. Carlyle, indomitably determined to make no concessions for immediate profit, wrote slowly and carefully, and turned out some of his most finished work. He laboured " passionately " at Sartor Resartus, and made articles out of fragments originally intended for the history of German literature. The money difficulty soon became more pressing. John, whom he was still helping, was trying unsuccessfully to set up as a doctor in London; and Alexander's farming failed. In spite of such drawbacks, Carlyle in later years looked back upon the life at Craigenputtock as on the whole a comparatively healthy and even happy period, as it was certainly one of most strenuous and courageous endeavour. Though often absorbed in his work and made both gloomy and irritable by his anxieties, he found relief in rides with his wife, and occasionally visiting their relations. Their letters during temporary separations are most affectionate. The bleak climate, however, the solitude, and the necessity of managing a household with a single servant, were excessively trying to a delicate woman, though Mrs Carlyle concealed from her husband the extent of her sacrifices. The position was gradually becoming untenable. In the autumn of 1831 Carlyle was forced to accept a loan of X50 from Jeffrey, and went in search of work to London, whither his wife followed him. He made some engagements with publishers, though no one would take Sartor Resartus, and returned to Craigenputtock in the spring of 1832. Jeffrey, stimulated perhaps by his sympathy for Mrs Carlyle, was characteristically generous. Besides pressing loans upon both Thomas and John Carlyle, he offered to settle an annuity of £loo upon Thomas, and finally enabled John to support himself by recommending him to a medical position.' Carlyle's proud spirit of independence made him reject Jeffrey's help as long as possible; and even his acknowledgment of the generosity (in the Reminiscences) is tinged with something disagreeably like resentment. In 1834 he applied to Jeffrey for a post at the Edinburgh Observatory.

1 John Aitken Carlyle (1801-1879) finally settled near the Carlyles in Chelsea. He began an English prose version of Dante's Divine Comedy - which has earned him the name of " Dante Carlyle "- but only completed the translation of the Inferno (1849). The work included a critical edition of the text and a valuable introduction and notes.

Jeffrey naturally declined to appoint a man who, in spite of some mathematical knowledge, had no special qualification, and administered a general lecture upon Carlyle's arrogance and eccentricity which left a permanent sense of injury.

In the beginning of 1833 the Carlyles made another trial of Edinburgh. There Carlyle found materials in the Advocates' Library for the article on the Diamond Necklace, one of his most perfect writings, which led him to study the history of the French Revolution. Sartor Resartus was at last appearing in Fraser's Magazine, though the rate of payment was cut down, and the publisher reported that it was received with " unqualified dissatisfaction." Edinburgh society did not attract him, and he retreated once more to Craigenputtock. After another winter the necessity of some change became obvious. The Carlyles resolved to " burn their ships." They went to London in the summer of 1834, and took a house at 5 (now 24) Cheyne Row, Chelsea, which Carlyle inhabited till his death; the house has since been bought for the public. Irving, who had welcomed him on former occasions, was just dying, - a victim, as Carlyle thought, to fashionable cajoleries. A few young men were beginning to show appreciation. J. S. Mill had made Carlyle's acquaintance in the previous visit to London, and had corresponded with him. Mill had introduced Ralph Waldo Emerson, who visited Craigenputtock in 1833. Carlyle was charmed with Emerson, and their letters published by Professor Norton show that his regard never cooled. Emerson's interest showed that Carlyle's fame was already spreading in America. Carlyle's connexion with Charles Buller, a zealous utilitarian, introduced him to the circle of " philosophical radicals." Carlyle called himself in some sense a radical; and J. S. Mill, though not an intellectual disciple, was a very warm admirer of his friend's genius. Carlyle had some expectation of the editorship of the London Review, started by Sir W. Molesworth at this time as an organ of philosophical radicalism. The combination would clearly have been explosive. Meanwhile Mill, who had collected many books upon the French Revolution, was eager to help Carlyle in the history which he was now beginning. He set to work at once and finished the first volume in five months. The manuscript, while entrusted to Mill for annotation, was burnt by an accident. Mill induced Carlyle to accept in compensation £100, which was urgently needed. Carlyle took up the task again and finished the whole on the 12th of January 1837. " I can tell the world," he said to his wife, " you have not had for a hundred years any book that comes more direct and flamingly from the heart of a loving man. Do what you like with it, you " The publication, six months later, of the French Revolution marks the turning-point of Carlyle's career. Many readers hold it to be the best, as it is certainly the most characteristic, of Carlyle's books. The failure of Sartor Resartus to attract average readers is quite intelligible. It contains, indeed, some of the most impressive expositions of his philosophical position, and some of his most beautiful and perfectly written passages. But there is something forced and clumsy, in spite of the flashes of grim humour, in the machinery of the Clothes Philosophy. The mannerism, which has been attributed to an imitation of Jean Paul, appeared to Carlyle himself to be derived rather from the phrases current in his father's house, and in any case gave an appropriate dialect for the expression of his peculiar idiosyncrasy. But it could not be appreciated by readers who would not take the trouble to learn a new language. In the French Revolution Carlyle had discovered his real strength. He was always at his best when his imagination was set to work upon a solid framework of fact. The book shows a unique combination: on the one hand is the singularly shrewd insight into character and the vivid realization of the picturesque; on the other is the " mysticism " or poetical philosophy which relieves the events against a background of mystery. The contrast is marked by the humour which seems to combine a cynical view of human folly with a deeply pathetic sense of the sadness and suffering of life. The convictions, whatever their value, came, as he said, " flamingly from th.e heart." It was, of course, impossible for Carlyle to satisfy modern requirements of matter-of-fact accuracy.

He could not in the time have assimilated all the materials even then extant, and later accumulations would necessitate a complete revision. Considered as a " prose epic," or a vivid utterance of the thought of the period, it has a permanent and unique value.

The book was speedily successful. It was reviewed by Mill in the Westminster and by Thackeray in The Times, and Carlyle, after a heroic struggle, was at last touching land. In each of the years 1837 to 1840 he gave a course of lectures, of which the last only (upon " Hero Worship ") was published; they materially helped his finances. By Emerson's management he also received something during the same period from American publishers. At the age of forty-five he had thus become independent. He had also established a position among the chief writers of the day. Young disciples, among whom John Sterling was the most accepted, were gathering round him, and he became an object of social curiosity. Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton), who won universal popularity by the most genuine kindliness of nature, became a cordial friend. Another important intimacy was with the Barings, afterwards Lord and Lady Ashburton. Carlyle's conversational powers were extraordinary; though, as he won greater recognition as a prophet, he indulged too freely in didactic monologue. In his prophetic capacity he published two remarkable books: Chartism (1829), enlarged from an article which Lockhart, though personally approving, was afraid to take for the Quarterly; and Past and Present (1843), in which the recently published Mediaeval Chronicle was taken as a text for the exposure of modern evils. They may be regarded as expositions of the doctrine implicitly set forth in the French Revolution. Carlyle was a " radical " as sharing the sentiments of the class in which he was born. He had been profoundly moved by the widely-spread distresses in his earlier years. When the yeomanry were called out to suppress riots after the Peace, his sympathies were with the people rather than with the authorities. So far he was in harmony with Mill and the " philosophical radicals." A fundamental divergence of principle, however, existed and was soon indicated by his speedy separation from the party and alienation from Mill himself. The Revolution, according to him, meant the sweeping away of effete beliefs and institutions, but implied also the necessity of a reconstructive process. Chartism begins with a fierce attack upon the laissez faire theory, which showed blindness to this necessity. The prevalent political economy, in which that theory was embodied, made a principle of neglecting the very evils which it should be the great function of government to remedy. Carlyle's doctrines, entirely opposed to the ordinary opinions of Whigs and Radicals, found afterwards an expositor in his ardent disciple Ruskin, and have obvious affinities with more recent socialism. At the time he was as one crying in the wilderness to little practical purpose. Liberals were scandalized by his apparent identification of " right " with " might," implied in the demand for a strong government; and though he often declared the true interpretation to be that the right would ultimately become might, his desire for strong government seemed too often to sanction the inverse view. He came into collision with philanthropists, and was supposed to approve of despotism for its own sake.

His religious position was equally unintelligible to the average mind. While unequivocally rejecting the accepted creeds, and so scandalizing even liberal theologians, he was still more hostile to simply sceptical and materialist tendencies. He was, as he called himself, a " mystic "; and his creed was too vague to be put into any formula beyond a condemnation of atheism. One corollary was the famous doctrine of " hero worship " first expounded in his lectures. Any philosophy of history which emphasized the importance of general causes seemed to him to imply a simply mechanical doctrine and to deny the efficacy of the great spiritual forces. He met it by making biography the essence of history, or attributing all great events to the " heroes," who are the successive embodiments of divine revelations. This belief was implied in his next great work, the Life and Letters of Oliver Cromwell, published in 1845. The great Puritan hero was a man after his own heart, and the portrait drawn by so sympathetic a writer is not only intensely vivid, but a very effective rehabilitation of misrepresented character. The " biographical " view of history, however, implies the weakness, not only of unqualified approval of all Cromwell's actions, but of omitting any attempt to estimate the Protector's real relation to the social and political development of the time. The question, what was Cromwell's real and permanent achievement, is not answered nor distinctly considered. The effect may be partly due to the peculiar form of the book as a detached series of documents and comments. The composition introduced Carlyle to the " Dryasdust " rubbish heaps of which he here and ever afterwards bitterly complained. A conscientious desire to unearth the facts, and the effort of extracting from the dullest records the materials for graphic pictures, made the process of production excessively painful. For some years after Cromwell Carlyle wrote little. His growing acceptance by publishers, and the inheritance of her property by Mrs Carlyle on her mother's death in 1842, finally removed the stimulus of money pressure. He visited Ireland in 1846 and again in 1849, when he made a long tour in company with Sir C. Gavan Duffy, then a young member of the Nationalist party (see Sir C. G. Duffy's Conversations with Carlyle, 1892, for an interesting narrative). Carlyle's strong convictions as to the misery and misgovernment of Ireland recommended him to men who had taken part in the rising of 1848. Although the remedies acceptable to a eulogist of Cromwell could not be to their taste, they admired his moral teaching; and he received their attentions, as Sir C. G. Duffy testifies, with conspicuous courtesy. His aversion from the ordinary radicalism led to an article upon slavery in 1849, to which Mill replied, and which caused their final alienation. It was followed in 1850 by the Latterday Pamphlets, containing "sulphurous" denunciations of the do-nothing principle. They gave general offence, and the disapproval, according to Froude, stopped the sale for years. The Life of Sterling (d. 1844), which appeared in 1851, was intended to correct the life by Julius Hare, which had given too much prominence to theological questions. The subject roused Carlyle's tenderest mood, and the Life is one of the most perfect in the language.

Carlyle meanwhile was suffering domestic troubles, unfortunately not exceptional in their nature, though the exceptional intellect and characters of the persons concerned have given them unusual prominence. Carlyle's constitutional irritability made him intensely sensitive to petty annoyances. He suffered the torments of dyspepsia; he was often sleepless, and the crowing of " demon-fowls " in neighbours' yards drove him wild. Composition meant for him intense absorption in his work; solitude and quiet were essential; and he resented interruptions by grotesque explosions of humorously exaggerated wrath. Mrs Carlyle had to pass many hours alone, and the management of the household and of devices intended to shield him from annoyances was left entirely to her. House-cleanings and struggles with builders during the construction of a " soundproof room " taxed her energy, while Carlyle was hiding himself with his family in Scotland or staying at English country houses. Nothing could be more affectionate than his behaviour to his wife on serious occasions, such as the death of her mother, and he could be considerate when his attention was called to the facts. But he was often oblivious to the strain upon her energies, and had little command of his temper. An unfortunate aggravation of the difficulty arose from his intimacy with the Ashburtons. Lady Ashburton, a woman of singular social charm and great ability, appreciated the author, but apparently accepted the company of the author's wife rather as a necessity than as an additional charm. Mrs Carlyle was hurt by the fine lady's condescension and her husband's accessibility to aristocratic blandishments. Carlyle, as a wise man, should have yielded to his wife's wishes; unluckily, he was content to point out that her jealousy was unreasonable, and, upon that very insufficient ground, to disregard it and to continue his intimacy with the Ashburtons on the old terms. Mrs Carlyle bitterly resented his conduct. She had been willing to renounce any aspirations of her own and to sink herself in his glory, but she naturally expected him to recognize her devotion and to value her society beyond all others. She had just cause of complaint, and a remarkable power, as her letters prove, of seeing things plainly and despising sentimental consolations. She was childless, and had time to brood over her wrongs. She formed a little circle of friends, attached to her rather than to her husband; and to one of them, Giuseppe Mazzini, she confided her troubles in 1846. He gave her admirable advice; and the alienation from her husband, though it continued still to smoulder, led to no further results. A journal written at the same time gives a painful record of her sufferings, and after her death made Carlyle conscious for the first time of their full extent. The death of Lady Ashburton in 1857 removed this cause of jealousy; and Lord Ashburton married a second wife in 1858, who became a warm friend of both Carlyles. The cloud which had separated them was thus at last dispersed. Meanwhile Carlyle had become absorbed in his best and most laborious work. Soon after the completion of the Cromwell he had thought of Frederick for his next hero, and had in 1845 contemplated a visit to Germany to collect materials. He did not, however, settle down finally to the work till 1851. He shut himself up in his study to wrestle with the Prussian Dryasdusts, whom he discovered to be as wearisome as their Puritan predecessors and more voluminous. He went to Scotland to see his mother, to whom he had always shown the tenderest affection, on her deathbed at the end of 18J3. He returned to shut himself up in the " sound-proof room." He twice visited Germany (1852 and 1858) to see Frederick's battlefields and obtain materials; and he occasionally went to the Ashburtons and his relations in Scotland. The first two volumes of Frederick the Great appeared in 1858, and succeeding volumes in 1862, 1864 and 1865. The success was great from the first, though it did little to clear up Carlyle's gloom. The book is in some respects his masterpiece, and its merits are beyond question. Carlyle had spared no pains in research. The descriptions of the campaigns are admirably vivid, and show his singular eye for scenery. These narratives are said to be used by military students in Germany, and at least convince the non-military student that he can understand the story. The book was declared by Emerson to be the wittiest ever written. Many episodes, describing the society at the Prussian court and the relations of Frederick to Voltaire, are unsurpassable as humorous portraiture. The effort to fuse the masses of raw material into a well-proportioned whole is perhaps not quite successful; and Carlyle had not the full sympathy with Frederick which had given interest to the Cromwell. A hero-worshipper with half-concealed doubts as to his hero is in an awkward position. Carlyle's general conception of history made him comparatively blind to aspects of the subject which would, to writers of other schools, have a great importance. The extraordinary power of the book is undeniable, though it does not show the fire which animated the French Revolution. A certain depression and weariness of spirit darken the general tone.

During the later labours Mrs Carlyle's health had been breaking. Carlyle, now that happier relations had been restored, did his best to give her the needed comforts; and in spite of his immersion in Frederick, showed her all possible attention in later years. She had apparently recovered from an almost hopeless illness, when at the end of 1865 he was elected to the rectorship of the university of Edinburgh. He delivered an address there on the 2nd of April 1866, unusually mild in tone, and received with general applause. He was still detained in Scotland when Mrs Carlyle died suddenly while driving in her carriage. The immediate cause was the shock of an accident to her dog. She had once hurt her mother's feelings by refusing to use some wax candles. She had preserved them ever since, and by her direction they were now lighted in the chamber of death. Carlyle was overpowered by her loss. His life thenceforward became more and more secluded, and he gradually became incapable of work. He went to Mentone in the winter of 1866 and began the Reminiscences. He afterwards annotated the letters from his life, published (1883) as Letters and Memorials. He was, as Froude says, impressed by the story of Johnson's " penance " at Uttoxeter, and desired to make a posthumous confession of his shortcomings in his relations to his wife. A few later utterances made known his opinions of current affairs. He joined the committee for the defence of Governor Eyre in 1867; he also wrote in 1867 an article upon " shooting Niagara," that is, upon the tendency of the Reform Bill of that year; and in 1870 he wrote a letter defending the German case against France. The worth of his Frederick was acknowledged by the Prussian Order of Merit in 1874. In the same year Disraeli offered him the Grand Cross of the Bath and a pension. He declined very courteously, and felt some regret for previous remarks upon the minister. The length of his literary career was now softening old antipathies, and he was the object of general respect. His infirmities enforced a very retired life, but he was constantly visited by Froude, and occasionally by his disciple Ruskin. A small number of other friends paid him constant attention. His conversation was still interesting, especially when it turned upon his recollections, and though his judgments were sometimes severe enough, he never condescended to the scandalous. His views of the future were gloomy. The world seemed to be going from bad to worse, with little heed to his warnings. He would sometimes regret that it was no longer permissible to leave it in the old Roman fashion. He sank gradually, and died on the 4th of February 1881. A place in Westminster Abbey was offered, but he was buried, according to his own desire, by the side of his parents at Ecclefechan. He left Craigenputtock, which had become his own property, to found bursaries at the university of Edinburgh. He gave his books to Harvard College.

Carlyle's appearance has been made familiar by many portraits, none of them, according to Froude, satisfactory. The statue by Boehm on the Chelsea Embankment, however, is characteristic; and there is a fine painting by Watts in the National Portrait Gallery. J. McNeill Whistler's portrait of him is in the possession of the Glasgow corporation.

During Carlyle's later years the antagonism roused by his attacks upon popular opinions had subsided; and upon his death general expression was given to the emotions natural upon the loss of a remarkable man of genius. The rapid publication of the Reminiscences by Froude produced a sudden revulsion of feeling. Carlyle became the object of general condemnation. Froude's biography, and the Memorials of Mrs Carlyle, published soon afterwards, strengthened the hostile feeling. Carlyle had appended to the Reminiscences an injunction to his friends not to publish them as they stood, and added that no part could ever be published without the strictest editing. Afterwards, when he had almost forgotten what he had written, he verbally empowered Froude to use his own judgment: Froude accordingly published the book at once, without any editing, and with many inaccuracies. Omissions of a few passages written from memory at a time of profound nervous depression would have altered the whole character of the book. Froude in this and the later publications held that he was giving effect to Carlyle's wish to imitate Johnson's " penance." No one, said Boswell, should persuade him to make his lion into a cat. Froude intended, in the same spirit, to give the shades as well as the lights in the portrait of his hero. His admiration for Carlyle probably led him to assume too early that his readers would approach the story from the same point of view, that is, with an admiration too warm to be repelled by the admissions. Moreover, Froude's characteristic desire for picturesque effect, unchecked by any painstaking accuracy, led to his reading preconceived impressions into his documents. The result was that Carlyle was too often judged by his defects, and regarded as a selfish and eccentric misanthrope with flashes of genius, rather than as a man with many of the highest qualities of mind and character clouded by constitutional infirmities. Yet it would be difficult to speak too strongly of the great qualities which underlay the superficial defects. Through long years of poverty and obscurity Carlyle showed unsurpassed fidelity to his vocation and superiority to the lower temptations which have ruined so many literary careers. His ambition might be interpreted as selfishness, but certainly showed no coldness of heart. His unstinted generosity to his brothers during his worst times is only one proof of the singular strength of his family affections. No one was more devoted to such congenial friends as Irving and Sterling. He is not the only man whom absorption in work and infirmity of temper have made into a provoking husband, though few wives have had Mrs Carlyle's capacity for expressing the sense of injustice. The knowledge that the deepest devotion underlies misunderstandings is often a very imperfect consolation; but such devotion clearly existed all through, and proves the defect to have been relatively superficial.

The harsh judgments of individuals in the Reminiscences had no parallel in his own writings. He scarcely ever mentions a contemporary, and was never involved in a personal controversy. But the harshness certainly reflects a characteristic attitude of mind. Carlyle was throughout a pessimist or a prophet denouncing a backsliding world. His most popular contemporaries seemed to him to be false guides, and charlatans had ousted the heroes. The general condemnation of " shams " and cant had, of course, particular applications, though he left them to be inferred by his readers. Carlyle was the exponent of many of the deepest convictions of his time. Nobody could be more in sympathy with aspirations for a spiritual religion and for a lofty idealism in political and social life. To most minds, however, which cherish such aspirations the gentler optimism of men like Emerson was more congenial. They believed in the progress of the race and the triumph of the nobler elements. Though Carlyle, especially in his earlier years, could deliver an invigorating and encouraging, if not a sanguine doctrine, his utterances were more generally couched in the key of denunciation, and betrayed a growing despondency. Materialism and low moral principles seemed to him to be gaining the upper hand; and the hope that religion might survive the " old clothes " in which it had been draped seemed to grow fainter. The ordinary mind complained that he had no specific remedy to propose for the growing evils of the time; and the more cultivated idealist was alienated by the gloom and the tendency to despair. To a later generation it will probably appear that, whatever the exaggerations and the misconceptions to which he was led, his vehement attacks at least called attention to rather grave limitations and defects in the current beliefs and social tendencies of the time. The mannerisms and grotesque exaggerations of his writings annoyed persons of refinement, and suggest Matthew Arnold's advice to flee " Carlylese " as you would flee the devil. Yet the shrewd common-sense, the biting humour, the power of graphic description and the imaginative " mysticism " give them a unique attraction for many even who do not fully sympathize with the implied philosophy or with the Puritanical code of ethics. The letters and autobiographical writings, whether they attract or repel sympathy, are at least a series of documents of profound interest for any one who cares to study character, and display an almost unique idiosyncrasy. (L. S.) The chief authorities for Carlyle's life are his own Reminiscences, the Letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle, the Love Letters of Thomas Carlyle and Jane Welsh (ed. A. Carlyle), and the four volumes of J. A. Froude's biography; Froude was Carlyle's literary executor. Prof. C. E. Norton's edition of the Reminiscences and his collection of Carlyle's Early Letters correct some of Froude's inaccuracies. A list of many articles upon Carlyle is given by Mr Ireland in Notes and Queries, sixth series, vol. iv. Among other authors may be noticed Henry James, sen., in Literary Remains; Prof. Masson, Carlyle, Personally and in his Writings; Conway, Thomas Carlyle; Larkin, The Open Secret of Carlyle's Life; Mrs Oliphant in Macmillan's Magazine for April 1881; G. S. Venables in Fortnightly Review for May 1883 and November 1884. A good deal of controversy has arisen relating to Froude's treatment of the relations between Carlyle and his wife, and during1903-1904this was pushed to a somewhat unsavoury extent. Those who are curious to pry into the question of Carlyle's marital capacity, and the issues between Froude's assailants and his defenders, may consult New Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, with introduction by Sir James Crichton-Browne; My Relations with Carlyle, by J. A. Froude; The Nemesis of Froude, by Sir J. Crichton-Browne and Alexander Carlyle; and articles in the Contemporary Review (June, July, August, 1903), and Nineteenth Century and After (May, July, 1903). See also Herbert Paul's Life of Froude (1905). The precise truth in these matters is hardly recoverable, even if it concerns posterity: and though Froude was often inaccurate, he was given full authority by Carlyle, he had all the unpublished material before him, and he was dead and unable to reply to criticism when the later attacks were made.

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