Thomas Carlyle was a popular satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher from Scotland in the Victorian era, born in the village of Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire. Apart from being blessed with excellent thoughts, he was completely devoted towards his family. His work was extremely attracting to most Victorians who were clashing with changes in science and politics, which actually endangered the traditional social order. Controversies circled around him when he called economics as “The Dismal Science” and wrote several articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia. Carlyle's collected works (1974) comprises of 30 volumes. One of his most famous works is “On Heroes And Hero Worship”. He also wrote the biography of 'Frederick the Great' who ruled Prussia from 1740 to 1786.
Thomas Carlyle Childhood & Early Life
Carlyle was born on December 4, 1795 in Ecclefechan, Dumfries and Galloway. Initially, he went to Annan Academy, at Annan, but due to continuous nagging and harassment, he left it after three years. Carlyle was deeply influenced by the beliefs of Calvinist. Afterwards he attended University of Edinburgh and later on became a mathematics teacher. He taught initially in Annan and then in Kirkcaldy. In Kirkcaldy, he befriended the mysterious Edward Irving. Carlyle returned back to University of Edinburgh in 1819. By 1821, Carlyle withdrew from his career as a clergyand completely focused to make himself a writer. His first work “Cruthers and Jonson” was not well received. While translating teachings of Goethe's “Wilhelm Meister”, he commenced disbelief in the form of the realistic novel and therefore, focused on establishing a new form of fiction. Apart from writing German literature, he branched out into wider ranging commentary on modern culture in his influential essays “Signs of the Times and Characteristics”.
During his stay at the university, which was until 1821, he went through immense crisis of faith and conversion which provided the material for his later work “Sartor Resartus”. It was during the same time that he contracted dreadful stomach ailment which remained with him all his life. All these happenings made his reputation as an awkward, quarrelsome and to an extent disagreeable personality. His writing style was generally nasty and sometimes vicious which only helped wrongly, making his irritating image become stronger. He commenced reading German literature extensively, which influenced his thinking to a great extent. He signed himself as an expert on German literature in a series of essays he wrote for Fraser's Magazine. In 1825, he wrote “Life Of Schiller”. After 1828 came some of the most outstanding essays of Carlyle, all of which were penned when he was at his house, in Dumfrieshire, Scotland. It was also during this time that Carlyle became friends with the popular American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1834, Carlyle shifted to Chelsea, London and was popularly known as the “Sage of Chelsea”. He also took membership of a literary circle. It was in London where Carlyle penned “The French Revolution: A History”, a historical study concerning oppression of the poor. All the three volumes of the book became successful and led way for many more to come.
Few Famous Works
This was Carlyle’s first major work. He commenced writing the same in 1831 in his Craigenputtock home. The book, ironically criticized for its own formal structure, simultaneously pressurized readers to encounter the problem of where 'truth' is to be found. In 1833, “Sartor Resartus” initially got published as a series in Fraser's Magazine until 1834. The content of the book revealed attempts to establish the British public to Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, a German philosopher. “Sartor Resartus” gained little popularity in the beginning, but gradually became quite famous. This work of Carlyle finally got published in the book form in 1836 in Boston.
The French Revolution
In 1937, Carlyle wrote “The French Revolution: A History”. This work was divided into three volumes. However, accidentally, the first manuscript of the first volume got burned by philosopher John Stuart Mill's maid. Instead of re-writing the first volume, Carlyle continued to write second and third volume. This work highly contained a passionate intensity which was previously unknown in the historical writings. Carlyle’s work to develop motivation and urges influenced many events in France.
Heroes and Hero Worship
Carlyle intently believed that heroic leadership is crucial. This belief of his founded form in the book “On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History”. In this book, he compared several different kinds of heroes such as Odin, Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon, William Shakespeare, Dante, Samuel Johnson, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Robert Burns, John Knox, Martin Luther and the Prophet Muhammad.
Carlyle’s later writings usually included short essays, generally based on the hardening of his own political positions. Carlyle also carried out some notorious racist essays like “Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question” suggesting that slavery must never be completely eradicated or else compensated with some work. He continued to emphasize that slavery forced work out of people who would otherwise have been lazy and futile. The same views and his support for the repressive measures of Governor Edward Eyre in Jamaica resulted in making distance with Carlyle’s old generous partners. Eyre was blamed of brutal lynchings during his efforts to suppress a rebellion and Carlyle is his defense established a committee. After the demise of Jane, Carlyle almost became absent from social activities. He also wrote “Reminiscences of Jane Welsh Carlyle”. Carlyle was appointed as a rector of the University of Edinburgh. In 1875, he came out with the essay “The Early Kings of Norway: Also an Essay on the Portraits of John Knox”.
Carlyle had numerous affairs before he got married to Jane Welsh in 1826. Even after his marriage, he continued to be attracted towards Kitty Kirkpatrick. Amazingly, more than 9000 letters were exchanged between Carlyle and his wife, which were published showcasing the affection for each other. However, due to continuous fights and quarrels, he slowly alienated from Jane.
Carlyle died on 5th February, 1881 in London. His remains were buried in Westminster Abbey.