CARLSTADT, JOHANN. See DRACONITES.
CARLYLE, THOMAS: Historian, biographer, and essayist; b. at Ecclefechan (60 m. s. of Edinburgh), Dumfriesshire, Scotland, Dec. 4, 1795; d. in London Feb. 5, 1881.
Carlyle removed to Edinburgh in 1818, where he supported himself by literary work, pursued a large and varied course of reading, and devoted much time to the study of German. From 1820 to 1823 he contributed a number of articles to the Edinburgh Encyclopdia and the Edinburgh Review. In 1824 he introduced Goethe to English readers by the translation of Wilhelm Meister's Lehrjahre, and in 1825 published the Life of Schiller. He married Jane Welsh in 1826, and removed in 1828 to Craigenputtoch, where he wrote his Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, and Sartor Resartus, a philosophic romance in the form of a treatise on dress, containing his views on the problems of religion and life; it was published during 1833-34, in Fraser's Magazine.
In 1834 he removed to London, to the house in Cheyne Row, Chelsea, where he resided until his death. In 1837 appeared The French Revolution, the first of his works to which his name was formally attached. In the same year he began lecturing, and, during 1837-43, delivered courses on German Literature, The Periods of European Culture, the Revolutions of Modern Europe, and Heroes and Hero-Worship, besides publishing Chartism, a political treatise, and Past and Present.
One of his most important works, Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, was issued in 1845, and produced a great revolution of sentiment in favor of Cromwell. In 1840 Carlyle inaugurated the movement which resulted in the London Library, of which he was afterward elected president. During 1848-50 he wrote a number of political and social treatises, notably The Latter Day Pamphlets, the ultimate and most violent expression of his political creed.
The Life of John Sterling, especially valuable as a partial expression of his own religious views, appeared in 1851. His magnum opus, The History of Frederick the Great, was begun in 1858, and finished in 1865. It is a monument of patient industry and minute research, and contains a complete political history of the eighteenth century. In 1866 Carlyle was chosen rector of the University of Edinburgh, and delivered an inaugural on The Choice of Books. Mrs. Carlyle died during his absence on this occasion (Apr. 21). A few newspaper articles, with Historical Sketches of the Early Kings of Norway, and The Portraits of John Knox, marked the next five years, and completed his literary labors.
Carlyle's life is marked by great unity of purpose and concentration of energy. He lived for literature. With his imaginative genius, his poetic insight, and his opulent diction, he was a poet by constitution; but his lack of the sense of form and proportion, and his impatience of measured expression, made him despise poetry. He is a preacher and a prophet rather than an artist. His keen sense of the grotesque, with the real depth of his nature, made him a humorist at once racy, subtle, and satirical; but this element developed itself disproportionately, and ran into cynicism as he grew older.
Notwithstanding the large admixture of ethics and philosophy in his writings, it is well-nigh impossible to define accurately his position as a philosopher, moralist, or religionist. Veracity is the basis of his ethical conceptions, by which he means the disposition to go behind appearances to facts, and the assertion of reality as against mere symbols and conventionalities. His hatred of shams is intense, and often leads him into needless roughness of speech. His ethical ideal is defective from its identification of physical and moral order, of might and right. It is too subjective, lodging the teat of right in each man's moral consciousness. Hence his fundamental fallacy, expounded in Hero-Worship, and applied in Frederick the reverence for strength, regardless of moral quality. He is a dangerous guide, therefore, as a historian and political philosopher. His conception of history as only the record of the world's great men is radically false. He has no sense of the popular power in the solution of political problems. The moral teaching of his histories is unsound in blinding the reader to vice through the admiration of greatness. The logical outcome of his political philosophy is slavery and despotism. As a historian he is distinguished by exact and laborious attention to detail. He studies folios and pasquinades alike; and no detail of topography, feature, or costume escapes him. His histories are a series of striking portraits or pictures. He stands committed to no philosophical system. With much talk about the real and practical, his philosophy is intuitional and sentimental, emphasizing feeling above reason.
Theologically he can not be accurately placed. The Life of Sterling throws most light upon his religious views. He may fairly be regarded as a theist. He is mainly silent on the truth of creeds, always reverential toward Christ, and, while agreeing that Christianity is the supreme religion, denies that it embraces all truth. He seems to hold
His earlier style, as in the essays on Burns and Scott, was natural, simple, dignified, and vigorous. His later style is figurative, abrupt, enigmatical, sometimes turgid and involved, inverted, declamatory, and at times coarse, yet withal often beautiful, rich, and powerful, and always picturesque.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: DNB, ix. 127 appends to account of Carlyle's life a list of the uncollected writings as well as of his books. R. H. Shepherd has published a Bibliography of Thomas Carlyle, London, 1881, and in Notes and Queries, 6th series, iv. 145, 201, 226 are lists of articles referring to Carlyle. The authorities for Carlyle's life are his Reminiscences, ed. J. A. Froude, London, 1881; J. A. Froude, Thomas Carlyle, a History of the First Forty Years of his Life, 2 vols., 1882, and History of his Life in London, 2 vols., 1884; Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. C. E. Norton, Boston, 1883; Letters arid Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, prepared . . . by Thomas Carlyle and edited by J. A. Froude, 3 vols., London, 1883.
For accounts of his life and estimates of his writings and activities consult: G. MacCrie, The Religion of our Literature, Essays upon Thomas Carlyle, London, 1875; M. D. Conway, Thomas Carlyle, ib 1881; E. D. Mead, The Philosophy of Carlyle, Boston, 1881; R. H. Shepherd, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Thomas Carlyle, London, 1881; H. James, Literary Remains, Some Personal Recollections of Carlyle, Boston, 1884; D. Masson, Carlyle personally and in his Writings, London, 1885; A. S. Arnold, The Story of Thomas Carlyle, ib. 1888; E. Flügel, T. Carlyles religiose und sittliche Entwicklung und Weltanschauung, Leipsic, 1887, Eng. transl., London, 1891; J. M. Robertson, Modern Humanists, Sociological Studies of Carlyle, ib. 1891; David Wilson, Mr. Froude and Carlyle, New York, 1898; May Alden Ward, Prophets of the Nineteenth Century, Boston. 1900; J. M. Sloan, The Carlyle Country, Philadelphia, 1903; H. Paul, Life of Froude, London, 1905; Illustrated Memorial Volume of the Carlyle's House Purchase Fund Committee, with Catalogue of Carlyle's Books, MSS., Pictures, and Furniture, London, 1897.
Calvin College. Last modified on 05/10/04. Contact the CCEL.