Thomas Carlyle

Philosopher, Author

1795 – 1881


Who was Thomas Carlyle?

Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era. He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.

Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was expected to become a preacher by his parents, but while at the University of Edinburgh he lost his Christian faith. Calvinist values, however, remained with him throughout his life. His combination of a religious temperament with loss of faith in traditional Christianity, made Carlyle's work appealing to many Victorians who were grappling with scientific and political changes that threatened the traditional social order. He brought a trenchant style to his social and political criticism and a complex literary style to works such as The French Revolution: A History. Dickens used Carlyle's work as a primary source for the events of the French Revolution in his novel A Tale of Two Cities.

Famous Quotes:

  • The world is a republic of mediocrities, and always was.
  • The past is all holy to us; the dead are all holy; even they that were wicked when alive.
  • A man cannot make a pair of shoes rightly unless he do it in a devout manner.
  • Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it.
  • If those gentlemen would let me alone I should be much obliged to them. I would say, as Shakespeare would say... Sweet Friend, for Jesus sake forbear.
  • I don't pretend to understand the Universe -- it's a great deal bigger than I am.
  • Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.
  • The greatest of all faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.
  • If what you have done is unjust, you have not succeeded.
  • Culture is the process by which a person becomes all that they were created capable of being.

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Dec 4, 1795
  • Atheism
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Annan Academy
Lived in
  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • Craigenputtock
  • London
Feb 5, 1881
Resting place

on July 23, 2013


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