Thomas Carlyle Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The childhood of Thomas Carlyle was spent in the village of Ecclefechan, in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, where his father, James Carlyle, was a stonemason. From the age of ten, Thomas Carlyle attended the grammar school at Annan, and at fourteen he was sent, on foot, to enroll in the University of Edinburgh. There he remained until 1814, when he left without a degree and became a teacher of mathematics at his old school. Subsequently, he held the mastership of a school at Kirkcaldy. His parents, who were devout Calvinists, had wanted him to study divinity and become a minister, but in 1817 he rejected this course of life. For a time, he lived in Edinburgh and desultorily read law, but he was unable to interest himself in any profession. Weakened by digestive problems and much troubled in mind by his inability to achieve philosophical or religious certitude, he underwent a period of acute strain, which culminated during the summer of 1822 in a spiritual crisis that he recorded in Sartor Resartus. By now greatly under the influence of the German philosophers, especially Johann Gottlieb Fichte, he was beginning to devise a set of beliefs acceptable to himself and was coming to realize that his vocation was literature and philosophy. Carlyle became absorbed in the poetry of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, with whom he corresponded after the publication of his English translation of Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.

In 1826, Carlyle married Jane...

(The entire section is 551 words.)