Thomas Carlyle (December 04, 1795 - February 05, 1881)
Born: 4th December, 1795
Died: 5th February, 1881
Nationality: Scottish
Profession/Occupation: Philosopher
Region: Scotland, London, England
Notable works: "The French Revolution", "Sartor Resartus"

Thomas Carlyle Facts

Biography

Thomas Carlyle, (born December 4, 1795, Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland--died February 5, 1881, London, England), Scottish historian and essayist, whose major works include The French Revolution, 3 vol. (1837), On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841), and The History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great, 6 vol. (1858-65).

Early life

Carlyle was the second son of James Carlyle, the eldest child of his second marriage. James Carlyle was a mason by trade and, later, a small farmer, a man of profound Calvinist convictions whose character and way of life had a profound and lasting influence on his son. Carlyle was equally devoted to his mother as well as to his eight brothers and sisters, and his strong affection for his family never diminished.

After attending the village school at Ecclefechan, Thomas was sent in 1805 to Annan Academy, where he apparently suffered from bullying, and later to the University of Edinburgh (1809), where he read widely but followed no precise line of study. His father had intended him to enter the ministry, but Thomas became increasingly doubtful of his vocation. He had an aptitude for mathematics, and in 1814 he obtained a mathematical teaching post at Annan. In 1816 he went to another school, at Kirkcaldy, where the Scottish preacher and mystic Edward Irving was teaching. He became one of the few men to whom Carlyle gave complete admiration and affection. "But for Irving," Carlyle commented sometime later, "I had never known what communion of man with man means." Their friendship continued even after Irving moved in 1822 to London, where he became famous as a preacher.

The next years were hard for Carlyle. Teaching did not suit him, and he abandoned it. In December 1819 he returned to the University of Edinburgh to study law, and there he spent three miserable years, lonely, unable to feel certain of any meaning in life, and eventually abandoning the idea of entering the ministry. He did a little coaching (tutoring) and journalism, was poor and isolated, and was conscious of intense spiritual struggles. About 1821 he experienced a kind of conversion, which he described some years later in fictionalized account in Sartor Resartus, whose salient feature was that it was negative--hatred of the Devil, not love of God, being the dominating idea. Though it may be doubted whether everything was really experienced as he described it, this violence is certainly characteristic of Carlyle's tortured and defiant spirit. In those lean years he began his serious study of German, which always remained the literature he most admired and enjoyed. For Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, especially, he had the greatest reverence, and he published a translation, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, in 1824. Meanwhile, he led a nomadic life, holding several brief tutorships at Edinburgh, Dunkeld, and elsewhere.

Marriage

On October 17, 1826, Carlyle married Jane Welsh, an intelligent, attractive, and somewhat temperamental daughter of a well-to-do doctor in Haddington. Welsh had been one of Irving's pupils, and she and Carlyle had known one another for five years. The hesitations and financial worries that beset them are recorded in their letters. It is interesting that Carlyle, usually so imperious, often adopted a weak, pleading tone to his future wife during the time of courtship, though this did not prevent him from being a masterful, difficult, and irritable husband, and, in spite of their strong mutual affection, their marriage was full of quarrels and misunderstandings. Those who knew him best believed Carlyle to be impotent.

In the early years of their marriage the Carlyles lived mostly at Craigenputtock, Dumfriesshire, and Carlyle contributed to the Edinburgh Review and worked on Sartor Resartus. Though this book eventually achieved great popular success, he had at first much difficulty in finding a publisher for it. Written with mingled bitterness and humour, it is a fantastic hodgepodge of autobiography and German philosophy. Its main theme is that the intellectual forms in which men's deepest convictions have been cast are dead and that new ones must be found to fit the time but that the intellectual content of this new religious system is elusive. Its author speaks of "embodying the Divine Spirit of religion in a new Mythus, in a new vehicle and vesture," but he never says very clearly what the new vesture is to be.

London

In 1834, after failing to obtain several posts he had desired, Carlyle moved to London with his wife and settled in Cheyne Row. Though he had not earned anything by his writings for more than a year and was fearful of the day when his savings would be exhausted, he refused to compromise but began an ambitious historical work, The French Revolution. Carlyle had obtained much of the source material from his friend John Stuart Mill, who had been collecting it with an eye to perhaps eventually write such a volume himself. Mill was nonetheless amenable to Carlyle's assuming the task and frequently discussed the work with him as it progressed. In 1835 Carlyle gave him a substantial portion of the manuscript to read. Mill arrived at the Carlyle residence one evening thereafter bearing the news that the draft had been accidentally burned by a servant. The exact circumstances under which the mistaken incineration occurred are unknown. One version of the story suggested that the pages had been in the care of Mill's mistress at the time of their destruction, while another maintained that it had been Mill himself who carelessly left the work lying about.

Carlyle, who with his wife consoled the distraught Mill that night, later further reassured him in a generous, almost gay, missive. This forebearance was truly remarkable when Carlyle's ambition, his complete dependence upon a successful literary career, his poverty, the months of wasted work, and his habitual melancholy and irritability are considered. The truth seems to be that he could bear grand and terrible trials more easily than petty annoyances. His habitual, frustrated melancholy arose, in part, from the fact that his misfortunes were not serious enough to match his tragic view of life, and he sought relief in intensive historical research, choosing subjects in which divine drama, lacking in his own life, seemed most evident. His book on the French Revolution is perhaps his greatest achievement. After the loss of the manuscript, he worked furiously at rewriting it, having eventually accepted some financial compensation from his friend for the setback. It was finished early in 1837 and soon won both serious acclaim and popular success, besides bringing him many invitations to lecture, thus solving his financial difficulties.

True to his idea of history as a "Divine Scripture," Carlyle saw the French Revolution as an inevitable judgment upon the folly and selfishness of the monarchy and nobility. This simple idea was backed with an immense mass of well-documented detail and, at times, a memorable skill in sketching character. The following extract is characteristic of the contorted, fiery, and doom-laden prose, which is alternately colloquial, humorous, and grim:

an august Assembly spread its pavilion; curtained by the dark infinite of discords; founded on the wavering bottomless of the Abyss; and keeps continual hubbub. Time is around it, and Eternity, and the Inane; and it does what it can, what is given it to do. (part 2, book 3, chapter 3)

Though many readers were thrilled by the drama of the narrative, it is not surprising that they were puzzled by Carlyle's prophetic harangues and their relevance to the contemporary situation.

In Chartism (1840) he appeared as a bitter opponent of conventional economic theory, but the radical-progressive and the reactionary elements were curiously blurred and mingled. With the publication of On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841) his reverence for strength, particularly when combined with the conviction of a God-given mission, began to emerge. He discussed the hero as divinity (pagan myths), as prophet (Muhammad), as poet (Dante and William Shakespeare), as priest (Martin Luther and John Knox), as man of letters (Samuel Johnson and Robert Burns), and as king (Oliver Cromwell and Napoleon Bonaparte). It is perhaps in his treatment of poets that Carlyle shows to the best advantage. Perverse though he could be, he was never at the mercy of fashion, and he saw much more, particularly in Dante, than others did. Two years later this idea of the hero was elaborated in Past and Present, which strove "to penetrate...into a somewhat remote century...in hope of perhaps illustrating our own poor century thereby." He contrasts the wise and strong rule of a medieval abbot with the muddled softness and chaos of the 19th century, pronouncing in favour of the former, in spite of the fact that he had rejected dogmatic Christianity and had a special aversion to the Roman Catholic Church.

It was natural that Carlyle should turn to Cromwell as the greatest English example of his ideal man and should produce the bulky Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches. With Elucidations in 1845. His next important work was Latter-Day Pamphlets (1850), in which the savage side of his nature was particularly prominent. In the essay on model prisons, for instance, he tried to persuade the public that the most brutal and useless sections of the population were being coddled in the new prisons of the 19th century. Though incapable of lying, Carlyle was completely unreliable as an observer, since he invariably saw what he had decided in advance that he ought to see.

In 1857 he embarked on a massive study of another of his heroes, Frederick the Great, and The History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great appeared between 1858 and 1865. Something of his political attitude at this time can be gathered from a letter, written in April 1855 to the exiled Russian revolutionary Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen, in which he says "I never had, and have now (if it were possible) less than ever, the least hope in 'Universal Suffrage' under any of its modifications" and refers to "the sheer Anarchy (as I reckon it sadly to be) which is got by 'Parliamentary eloquence,' Free Press, and counting of heads" (quoted from E.H. Carr, The Romantic Exiles).

Unfortunately, Carlyle was never able to respect ordinary men. Here, perhaps, rather than in any historical doubts about the veracity of the Gospels, was the core of his quarrel with Christianity: it set too much value on the weak and sinful. His fierceness of spirit was composed of two elements, a serious Calvinistic desire to denounce evil and a habitual nervous ill temper, for which he often reproached himself but which he never managed to defeat.

Last years

In 1865 he was offered the rectorship of the University of Edinburgh. The speech that he delivered at his installation in April 1866 was not very remarkable in itself, but its tone of high moral exhortation made it an immediate success. It was published in 1866 under the title On the Choice of Books. Soon after his triumph in Edinburgh, Jane Carlyle died suddenly in London. She was buried in Haddington, and an epitaph by her husband was placed in the church. Carlyle never completely recovered from her death. He lived another 15 years, weary, bored, and a partial recluse. A few public causes gained his support: he was active in the defense of Governor Edward John Eyre of Jamaica, who was dismissed for his severity in putting down a black uprising in 1865. Carlyle commended him for "saving the West Indies and hanging one incendiary mulatto, well worth gallows, if I can judge." He was excited by the Franco-German War (1870-71), saying "Germany ought to be President of Europe," but such enthusiastic moments soon faded. In these last years he wrote little. His history The Early Kings of Norway: Also an Essay on the Portraits of John Knox came out in 1875, and Reminiscences was published in 1881. Later he edited his wife's letters, which appeared in 1883 under the title Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Prepared for Publication by Thomas Carlyle. Although Westminster Abbey was offered for his burial, he was buried, according to his wish, beside his parents at Ecclefechan.

Top 152 Thomas Carlyle quotes

Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of the two everlasting empires, necessity and free will.
Another
Between
Confines
Darkness
Empires
Everlasting
Everywhere
Free
Free will
Hemisphere
Human
Human soul
Light
Necessity
Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.
Ask
Blessed
Found
He
Him
His
Other
Who
Work
No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad.
Altogether
Bad
Laughed
Man
Once
Who
Wholly
Men do less than they ought, unless they do all that they can.
Less
Men
Ought
Than
Unless
Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world.
Honest
Honest man
Less
Make
Man
May
Rascal
Sure
Then
World
You
Yourself
The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, became a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.
Became
Block
Granite
Obstacle
Pathway
Strong
Weak
Which
The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.
Conscious
Faults
Greatest
None
Say
Should
Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
Business
Clearly
Distance
Hand
Lies
Main
Our
See
Youth is to all the glad season of life; but often only by what it hopes, not by what it attains, or what it escapes.
Attains
Escapes
Glad
Hopes
Life
Often
Only
Season
Youth
A man's felicity consists not in the outward and visible blessing of fortune, but in the inward and unseen perfections and riches of the mind.
Blessing
Consists
Felicity
Fortune
Inward
Man
Mind
Outward
Riches
Unseen
Visible
Man is, properly speaking, based upon hope, he has no other possession but hope; this world of his is emphatically the place of hope.
Based
He
His
Hope
Man
Other
Place
Possession
Properly
Speaking
World
He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.
Everything
He
Health
Hope
Who
Humor has justly been regarded as the finest perfection of poetic genius.
Been
Finest
Genius
Humor
Justly
Perfection
Poetic
Regarded
Laughter is one of the very privileges of reason, being confined to the human species.
Being
Confined
Human
Human species
Laughter
Privileges
Reason
Species
Very
Necessity dispenseth with decorum.
Decorum
Necessity
The eye sees what it brings the power to see.
Brings
Eye
Power
See
Sees
He who could foresee affairs three days in advance would be rich for thousands of years.
Advance
Affairs
Could
Days
Foresee
He
Rich
Thousands
Thousands of years
Three
Who
Would
Would-be
Years
The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.
Done
Flowing
Good
Good man
Green
Ground
Hidden
Like
Making
Man
Secretly
Underground
Unknown
Vein
No amount of ability is of the slightest avail without honor.
Ability
Amount
Avail
Honor
Slightest
Without
No person is important enough to make me angry.
Angry
Enough
Important
Make
Me
Person
No pressure, no diamonds.
Diamonds
No pressure
Pressure
What you see, but can't see over is as good as infinite.
Good
Infinite
Over
See
You
There are good and bad times, but our mood changes more often than our fortune.
Bad
Bad times
Changes
Fortune
Good
Good and bad
Mood
More
Often
Our
Than
Times
I've got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.
Ambition
Boredom
Die
Exhaustion
Got
Great
Rather
Than
Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.
Adversity
Diamond
Dust
Heaven
Jewels
None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.
Accomplish
Alone
Anything
Commanding
Ever
Excellent
Except
He
Heard
Him
Listens
None
Us
Which
Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.
Accomplishment
Builds
Like
Nothing
Self-confidence
Self-esteem
Nothing stops the man who desires to achieve. Every obstacle is simply a course to develop his achievement muscle. It's a strengthening of his powers of accomplishment.
Accomplishment
Achieve
Achievement
Course
Desires
Develop
Every
His
Man
Muscle
Nothing
Obstacle
Powers
Simply
Originality is a thing we constantly clamour for, and constantly quarrel with.
Constantly
Originality
Quarrel
Thing
Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together.
Element
Fashion
Great
Great things
Silence
Themselves
Things
Together
Which
I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
Believe
Collective
Ignorance
Individual
Wisdom
Men seldom, or rather never for a length of time and deliberately, rebel against anything that does not deserve rebelling against.
Against
Anything
Deliberately
Deserve
Does
Length
Men
Never
Rather
Rebel
Seldom
Time
Every noble work is at first impossible.
Every
First
Impossible
Noble
Work
All that mankind has done, thought or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.
Been
Books
Done
Lying
Magic
Mankind
Pages
Preservation
Thought
Be not a slave of words.
Slave
Words
Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.
Activity
Insight
More
Nothing
Terrible
Than
Without
Music is well said to be the speech of angels.
Angels
Music
Said
Speech
Well
The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity.
Merit
Novelty
Originality
Sincerity
Show me the man you honor, and I will know what kind of man you are.
Honor
Kind
Know
Man
Me
Show
Will
You
Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.
Acts
Conscious
Divine
Faults
Greatest
Man
Most
None
Repentance
When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.
Acorn
Breeze
Echoes
Fall
Forest
Hundred
Oak
Silence
Sown
Unnoticed
Whole
If you do not wish a man to do a thing, you had better get him to talk about it; for the more men talk, the more likely they are to do nothing else.
About
Better
Else
Get
Had
Him
Likely
Man
Men
More
Nothing
Talk
Thing
Wish
Teach a parrot the terms 'supply and demand' and you've got an economist.
Demand
Economist
Got
Parrot
Supply
Teach
Terms
You
In books lies the soul of the whole past time.
Books
Lies
Past
Past time
Soul
Time
Whole
I don't pretend to understand the Universe - it's a great deal bigger than I am.
Am
Bigger
Deal
Great
Great deal
I am
Pretend
Than
Understand
Universe
Doubt, of whatever kind, can be ended by action alone.
Action
Alone
Doubt
Ended
Kind
Whatever
A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.
Beginning
Heart
Knowledge
Loving
No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.
Biography
Great
Great man
Great men
History
Lives
Man
Man lives
Men
The history of
Vain
World
The courage we desire and prize is not the courage to die decently, but to live manfully.
Courage
Desire
Die
Live
Prize
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.
After
Become
Books
Collection
Depends
Finished
Greatest
Professors
Read
University
Us

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