Thomas Carlyle

Portrait of Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle was an influential Scottish essayist, historian, and philosopher of the Victorian era. He was born in Ecclefechan, Scottish Borders on 4th December 1795 and died in London on 5th February 1881 aged 85.

Major Works

“The Life of Schiller” (1825) 
“Sartor Resartus” (1833-4) 
“The French Revolution”. (1837)
“Chartism” (1839)

Biography Timeline

Thomas Carlyle was born on 4th December 1795 at Ecclefechan in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. He was the son of a poor Calvinist stone mason and the oldest of nine children. He was educated at Annan Grammar School and then Edinburgh University studying Mathematics and divinity.

1814: He becomes a teacher of mathematics at Annan Academy. He becomes interested in German literature and philosophy.

1818: He returns to Edinburgh University to study law after undergoing a spiritual crisis when he gave up his Christian faith. He writes articles for the “Edinburgh Encyclopedia”.

1821: He meets the writer Jane Baillie Welsh who was later to become his wife.

1823: His first major work is published in “The London Magazine” about the “Life of Schiller”. (Friedrich von Schiller)

1826: He marries Jane Baillie Welsh, a doctor’s daughter and writer.

1828: He moves to live on his wife Jane’s estate at Craigenputtock, near Dumfries to live more frugally. He settles down to writing works on social philosophy.

1829: “Signs of the Times” is published in the Edinburgh Review”.

1831: He takes a long time to find a publisher for “Sartor Resartus” which is a mixture of novel and autobiography about the value of clothes and human values. Eventually it is taken up by Fraser’s Magazine. He meets John Stuart Mill for the first time.

1832: The American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson visits him in Scotland.

1834: He moves to Chelsea in London where he is to spend the rest of his life. He starts writing his major work “The French Revolution”. He becomes a member of a literary circle that included the essayists Leigh Hunt and the philosopher John Stuart Mill.

1835: Unfortunately Mill’s servant uses the manuscript of the first volume of “The French Revolution” to start a fire.

1836: Emerson helps him publish “The French Revolution” in America.

1837: He completes and publishes both volumes of “The French Revolution” in England.

1838: He publishes “Sartor Resartus” in England. He forms a hatred of Democracy.

1840: He begins giving a series of lectures on heroes, Chartism and history.

1841: He gives a series of lectures “On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History”.

1845: “The Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell” is published.

1850: He publishes “Latter Day Pamphlets”.

1858: He begins writing “The History of Friedrich the Great of Prussia”.

1866: He becomes Lord Rector of Edinburgh University and gives an inaugural address. Death of his wife on the 21 April whilst out riding in her carriage.

1874: Carlyle accepts the Prussian Order of Merit from the Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, but refuses a Baronetcy from the English Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Thomas Carlyle died on 5th February 1881 in Chelsea of natural causes and was buried at Church Cemetery, Main Street, Ecclefechan in Scotland next to bis mother as he refused to be buried in Westminster Abbey.

Please see Britain Unlimited’s Thomas Carlyle page for further information.