Biography of Thomas Carlyle

Portrait of Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle was a nineteenth century novelist and writer.

When and Where was he Born?

4th December 1795, Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

Family Background:

Thomas Carlyle was the son of a poor Calvinist stone mason and the oldest of nine children.


Annan Grammar School. Edinburgh University studying Mathematics and divinity. In 1818 returned to study law.

Timeline of Thomas Carlyle:

1814: Carlyle 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: Thomas Carlyle 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”.

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”.

Carlyle's London House
House at 24 Cheyne Row where Carlyle lived in London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1831: Carlyle 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 was 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: Carlyle 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, one of which is published as “On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History”.

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

1850: Carlyle 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: Thomas 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.

When and Where did he Die?

5th February 1881, Chelsea, London, England of natural causes, however ever since the death of his wife his zest for life and his health had constantly diminished.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

Numerous Articles for the “Edinburgh Encyclopedia”.

1824: Translation of Goethe’s “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship”.
1825: “The Life of Schiller”
1833-4: “Sartor Resartus” (published in installments in Fraser’s Magazine.
1836: “Sartor Resartus” Published as a book in the United States.
1837: “The French Revolution”. (in three volumes).
1839: “Chartism”.
1843: “Past and Present”
1845: “The Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell.”
1850: “Latter Day Pamphlets”
1858-65: “History of Frederick the Great” (In Six Volumes).
1881: “Reminiscences”.


1826 to Jane Baillie Welsh, a doctor’s daughter and writer.

Site of Grave:

Church Cemetery, Main Street, Ecclefechan, Scotland. He refused the opportunity to be buried in Westminster Abbey as he wanted to be buried next to his mother.

Places of Interest:


Thomas Carlyle’s Birthplace, The Arched House, Ecclefechan, Lockerbie.


Jane Welch Carlyle’s House, 1A Lodge Street, Haddington, East Lothian.


Carlye’s House, 24 Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, SW3.
The British Library.

Carlyle Statue
Statue of Thomas Carlyle in London near Chelsea Embankment (copyright Anthony Blagg)
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