Biography of Thomas Carlyle


THOMAS CARLYLE, was born December 4th, 1795, in the town of Ecclefechan, parish of Hodden, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Educated first at the parish school and afterwards at Annan, he passed to Edinburg University, with a view to entering the Scottish Church, in his fifteenth or sixteenth year. About the middle of his theological curriculum; Carlyle felt wholly disinclined to become a clergyman, and, after a short period spent in teaching at Dysart, in Fifeshire, he embraced literature as a profession. In 1823-1824 had appeared in the London Magazine his Life of Schiller, and, during the same year, his translation of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister. In 1825, the Life of Schiller was recast, and published in a separate form. It was very highly praised; indeed, one can discern in the criticisms of the book certain indications of the genius of Carlyle. From 1827 to 1834, he resided chiefly at Craigenputtoch, a small property in Dumfriesshire belonging to his wife. Here he commenced to write the splendid series of critical and biographical essays which first familiarized Englishmen with modern German thought. Gifted, in a degree altogether unexampled, with a talent for portraiture, he soon painted in ineffaceable colors the images of Schiller, Fichte, Jean Paul Richter, and other foreign magnates, until then almost unheard of. Gradually educated circles awoke to the fact that a literary Columbus had appeared among them who had discovered a "New World" of letters, the freshness and grandeur of which were sure to attract sooner or later, multitudes of adventurous spirits. One of his most beautiful, eloquent, and solid essays, written at Craigenputtoch, was that on Burns. But his chef-d-oeuvre, written on his moorland farm, was Sartor Risartus (The Tailor Done Over, the title of an old Scottish song). This work professes to be a history or biography of a certain Herr Teufelsdrockh (Devil's Dirt), professor in the university of Weissnichtwo (Kennaquhair), and contains the manifold opinions, speculations, inward agonies, and trials of that strange personage - or rather of Carlyle himself. The whole book quivers with tragic pathos, solemn aspiration, or with riotous humor. Carlyle now removed to London. In 1837, appeared the first work bearing the author's name, The French Revolution, a History. Nothing can be more gorgeous than the style of this prose epic. A fiery enthusiasm prevades it, now softened with tenderness, again darkened with grim mockery, making it throughout the most wonderful image of that wild epoch. In 1845, he published what is by many considered his masterpiece - "Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, with Elucidations and a Connecting Narrative." In 1850, the Latter-day Pamphlets, the fiercest, most sardonic, and furious of all his writings, came out. The violence of language in these pamphlets offended many. The latest productions of Carlyle are The Life of Frederick the Great (four volumes, 1858-1864), and in 1867, a strange chaotic essay called "Shooting Niagara," in which he denounced the growth of democratic institutions. He died in London, February 5th, 1881.