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Thomas Carlyle ( 1795 - 1881 )  Category ( Authors ) [suggest a correction]
 

Thomas CarlyleThomas Carlyle was an influential Scottish essayist, satirist, and historian who lived during the Victorian era. Born to a strict Calvinist family in Ecclefechan, Dumfries and Galloway, he was expected to become a preacher. Instead, during his time at the University of Edinburgh, he experienced a crisis of faith. But Carlyle remained strongly influenced by the strict principles of Calvinism even after he abandoned the Christian faith. He was also greatly influenced by German Transcendentalism. He established himself in the writing world as an expert on German literature with a series of essays for Fraser's Magazine and translations of German authors. He also authored commentary on modern culture in his essays Signs of the Times and Characteristics.

Carlyle also worked to develop a new form of fiction. His first major work, "Sartor Resartus," was simultaneously factual and fictional, serious and satirical, speculative and historical. Its depiction of the voyage from denial to disengagement to volition would later be described as part of the existentialist awakening. The book was first published periodically in Fraser's from 1833 to 1834. It was not well received initially. Its popularity grew over the next few years, leading to its publication in book form in 1836, complete with a preface by Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is credited with influencing the development of New England Transcendentalism.

Meanwhile, Carlyle moved to London in 1834 and began to mingle among celebrated company. Carlyle's success within his home country was established by the publication of his three-volume work, The French Revolution, A History in 1837. The ideas presented within were influential on the development of Socialism. His belief in the importance of heroic leadership found form in his book, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, in which he compared different types of heroes. All these books were influential in their day, especially on writers such as Charles Dickens and John Ruskin.

Carlyle married Jane Welsh in 1826, but the marriage was not considered happy. The published letters between Carlyle and his wife show that the while the couple shared an affection for one another, it was damaged by frequent fighting. Although she had been an invalid for some time, her death in 1866 came unexpectedly and pushed him into a depression, during which he wrote the self-critical, Reminiscences of Jane Welsh Carlyle. Carlyle's biographer, James Anthony Froude, published the work after Carlyle's death.

After his wife's death, Carlyle partly retired from active society and was appointed rector of the University of Edinburgh. His last work, The Early Kings of Norway: Also an Essay on the Portraits of John Knox, appeared in 1875. Carlyle died on February 5, 1881 in London at the age of 85. It was made possible for his remains to be interred in Westminster Abbey, but instead he was buried beside his parents in Ecclefechan in accordance with his wishes.


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