Thomas Carlyle

Facts about Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle died at 85 years old
Birthplace: Ecclefechan, Scotland
Best known as: Author of Heroes and Hero-Worship


Thomas Carlyle Biography

Thomas Carlyle was most famous in the Victorian era, when he was known for his dense, thoughtful books on history and philosophy.

The son of a strict Calvinist, Carlyle became a divinity student at Edinburgh University but eventually left school and turned to writing instead. He also developed a stomach ailment — possibly gastric ulcers — which stayed with him all his life and helped give him a reputation as a cranky and somewhat disagreeable personality.

His prose style, famously quirky and sometimes savage, helped cement that reputation. His made a splash in 1833 with the publication of the semi-autobiographical Sartor Resartus (“The Tailor Re-Tailored”).

Other major works included his three-part history The French Revolution (1837), the six-volume History of Frederick the Great (1858-65), and his 1847 collection of Oliver Cromwell‘s letters and speeches.

He also devised a series of public lectures culminating in his book Heroes and Hero-Worship, which still is regarded as a key text on the subject. (His fascination with heroes and strong leaders has given him an reputation as anti-democratic.)

In 1827 he married Jane Baille Welsh — herself brilliant and difficult — and their 40-year marriage is remembered as a tempestuous affair.

Extra credit

Carlyle was the victim of a famous misfortune after writing the first volume of The French Revolution. He entrusted the manuscript to his friend John Stuart Mill for review; shortly afterwards, Mill’s maid mistook the manuscript for trash paper and burned it. Carlyle was forced to rewrite the entire volume from scratch.


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