Friday, 5 February 2010
On this day...
Scottish critic and writer Thomas Carlyle died in 1881, at the age of 85. Born to a strict Calvanist family, Carlyle was brought up in the expectation that he would become a preacher. Yet Carlyle lost his faith at university, whilst retaining the sense of Christian morality; and so he became the embodiment of the Victorian struggle between religion and science. Following the study of German literature, including Goethe and Fichte, Carlyle began to persue his own literary career, publishing his first major work, 'Sartor Resartus', in 1832. Preceding the development of New England Transcendentialism, the work was an attack on English Utilitarianism, using a fictional German 'philosopher of clothes' to explore them.
Meanwhile, Carlyle had married Jane Welsh, a woman of letters; yet their union was said to be unhappy. Indeed novelist Samuel Butler said of them; 'It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four'. Carlyle's works, including 'The French Revolution' and 'Heroes and Hero Worship', would go on to influence later commentators, such as John Ruskin and Matthew Arnold.