Thomas Carlyle Criticism - Essay

The Athenaeum (review date 1837)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The French Revolution, in The Athenaeum, May 20, 1837, pp. 353-55.

[In the following review, the anonymous critic offers a negative assessment of The French Revolution, describing Carlyle's history as "flippant pseudo-philosophy" and condemning his use of German idiomatic expressions and style.]

Originality of thought is unquestionably the best excuse for writing a book; originality of style is a rare and a refreshing merit; but it is paying rather dear for one's whistle, to qualify for obtaining it in the university of Bedlam. Originality, without justness of thought, is but novelty of error; and originality of style, without sound...

(The entire section is 4094 words.)

Frederick William Roe (essay date 1910)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The English Essays," in Thomas Carlyle as a Critic of Literature, The Columbia University Press, 1910, pp. 114-38.

[In the following essay, Roe discusses the only three essays Carlyle wrote on "English subjects," including Burns, Boswell's Life of Johnson, and Sir Walter Scott. Roe praises the critical method employed by Carlyle but acknowledges that in the case of the essay on Johnson, Carlyle assesses the man and his ideas rather than his literary influence.]

Carlyle wrote but three essays on English subjects, "Burns," "Boswell's Life of Johnson" and "Sir Walter Scott." He proposed to write others, notably one on Byron and another on...

(The entire section is 9506 words.)

Stanley T. Williams (essay date 1922)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Carlyle's Past and Present: A Prophecy," in The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. XXI, No. 1, January, 1922, pp. 30-40.

[In the following essay, Williams analyzes Carlyle's Past and Present, arguing that it provides "'a piercing glance into the feudal age, " an "acute critique upon contemporary England," and a glimpse into the future in which Carlyle foresees the rise of the Labor Party.]

One day when Mr. Arthur Henderson was stating in no uncertain terms what would be acceptable to the British Labor Party, a member of the audience was moved to quote to his neighbor a sentence from Carlyle's Past and Present: "Some 'Chivalry of...

(The entire section is 4230 words.)

Ernst Cassirer (essay date 1946)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Preparation: Carlyle," in The Myth of the State, Yale University Press, 1946, pp. 189-223.

[In the following essay, Cassirer studies Carlyle's views on hero-worship, noting that Carlyle regarded hero-worship as a means of stabilizing the social and political disorder of his time. Cassirer also reviews the influence of Goethe and Fichte on Carlyle.]

Carlyle's Lectures on Hero Worship

When Thomas Carlyle on May 22, 1840, began his lectures On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History he spoke to a large and distinguished audience. A "mob of London society" had assembled to listen to the speaker. The lectures...

(The entire section is 14071 words.)

Francis X. Roellinger, Jr. (essay date 1957)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Early Development of Carlyle's Style," in PMLA, Vol. LXXII, No. 5, December, 1957, pp. 936-51.

[In the following essay, Roellinger asserts that the eccentric style of Carlyle's Sartor Resartus is absent from Carlyle's earlier writings. Roellinger maintains that a review of Carlyle's early writings shows that Carlyle "first mastered a rather conventional style, " patterns of which remain largely unbroken until the late 1820s.]

In his admirable lectures, The Problem of Style, J. Middleton Murry illustrates one of the most common meanings of the word "style" by this remark: "I know who wrote the article in last week's Saturday...

(The entire section is 7453 words.)

David J. Delaura (essay date 1969)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ishmael as Prophet: Heroes and Hero-Worship and the Self-Expressive Basis of Carlyle's Art," in Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Vol. XI, No. 1, Spring, 1969, pp. 705-32.

[In the following essay, Delaura argues that the unity of Carlyle's lectures on heroes and hero-worship is based in Carlyle's attempt to identify the personal characteristics, message, and role of the prophet. Furthermore, Delaura suggest that at times Carlyle presented himself as a prophet.]

No reader of Thomas Carlyle's lectures On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History, delivered in May 1840, has missed the crucial unifying theme of the possibility of...

(The entire section is 12784 words.)

Robert W. Kusch (essay date 1971)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Eighteenth Century as 'Decaying Organism' in Carlyle's The French Revolution," in Anglia, Vol. LXXXIX, No. 4, 1971, pp. 456-70.

[In the following essay, Kusch examines the interplay between metaphor of the eighteenth century as a "decaying organism " and theme of decay advancing toward "spontaneous combustion " in Carlyle's The French Revolution.]

If a poet is a man who sees in metaphor a primary way of knowing and uses language for evocation as well as description, then Carlyle was one of the great poets of the nineteenth century. Other scholars have said as much, and John Holloway, in The Victorian Sage, has classified some lines of...

(The entire section is 5493 words.)

Lee C. R. Baker (essay date 1986)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Open Secret of Sartor Resartus: Carlyle's Method of Converting His Reader," in Studies in Philology, Vol. LXXXIII, No. 2, Spring, 1986, pp. 218-35.

[In the following essay, Baker attempts to identify the questionable function of the British Editor in Sartor Resartus. Baker argues that the Editor's apparent skepticism, which seems to undermine Carlyle's goal of converting readers to the "Clothes Philosophy, " is actually irony needed to help the reader understand Carlyle's philosophy.]


Carlyle's purpose in writing Sartor Resartus is to convert British readers to the Clothes Philosophy. He indicates his...

(The entire section is 7036 words.)

Roderick Watson (essay date 1988)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Carlyle: The World as Text and the Text as Voice," in The History of Scottish Literature, Volume 3, edited by Douglas Gifford, Aberdeen University Press, 1988, pp. 153-68.

[In the following essay, Watson examines the events in Carlyle's life which led him to the philosophy presented in Sartor Resartus. Watson then studies that philosophy as Carlyle reveals it through the course of Sartor, noting that Carlyle's vision is a religious one, without the concept of a personal God, a vision in which it becomes essential to recognize the power of symbols and to be able to see through them.]

Carlyle occupies a unique place in British cultural history. As...

(The entire section is 7045 words.)

Wendell V. Harris (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Interpretive Historicism: 'Signs of the Times' and Culture and Anarchy in Their Contexts," in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 44, No. 4, March, 1990, pp. 441-64.

[In the following essay, Harris examines the rhetorical strategies used by Carlyle in "Signs of the Times, " and argues that while the essay may appear to be controversial and "extravagant, " when seen within the context of the time and culture in which the essay was written, "Signs of the Times " is actually rather mild and not as revolutionary as it may seem.]

To adapt Northrop Frye's metaphor, Carlyle's stock has been steadily falling. To the contemporary reader his works are...

(The entire section is 8817 words.)

Michael Cotsell (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Carlyle, Travel, and the Enlargements of History," in Creditable Warriors, Vol. 3, 1830-1876, edited by Michael Cotsell, The Ashfield Press, 1990, pp. 83-96.

[In the following essay, Cotsell investigates the impact of Carlyle's travels upon his writing and concludes that Carlyle's "sense of the world, as it reveals itself in his travel and other writings, " is larger than the "single vision of imperial rule " which he applauds and advocates in much of his writing.]

It is indeed an "extensive Volume", of boundless, almost formless contents, a very Sea of Thought; neither calm nor clear, if you will; yet wherein the toughest pearl-diver may...

(The entire section is 5617 words.)

Elizabeth M. Vida (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Romantic Affinities: German Authors and Carlyle; A Study in the History of Ideas, University of Toronto Press, 1993, pp. 3-8.

[In the following essay, Vida surveys the influence of German literature and Romanticism on the views of Carlyle.]

In affirming that any vestige, however feeble, of this divine spirit, is discernible in German poetry, we are aware that we place it above the existing poetry of any other nation. (Carlyle, 'State of German Literature')

To ascertain Carlyle's approach to his German Romantic sources must be the starting-point for their revaluation. Did Carlyle have a...

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D. Franco Felluga (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Critic's New Clothes: Sartor Resartus as 'Cold Carnival'," in Criticism, Vol. XXXVII, No. 4, Fall, 1995, pp. 583-99.

[In the following essay, Felluga maintains that some critics have attempted to "retailor" Sartor Resartus by viewing the work as "an ornate and stable system of thought. " Felluga states that these reviewers have failed to address "Carlyle's carnivalesque efforts to expose all systems as limiting and false. "]

Hans Christian Andersen's tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes," provides me with a parable for what I find questionable in certain previous treatments of Sartor Resartus. As the story goes,


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John B. Lamb (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Carlyle's 'Chartism,' the Rhetoric of Revolution, and the Dream of Empire," in Victorians Institute Journal, Vol. 23, 1995, pp. 129-50.

[In the following essay, Lamb contends that Carlyle, in his essay "Chartism, " exploited what had become the "myth of the French revolution, " in order to paint the Chartism movement in revolutionary terms and to thereby highlight its significance. Carlyle sought, Lamb argues, to advocate British imperialism as a cure for the country's social and economic distress, of which Chartism was a manifestation.]

Thomas Carlyle's "Chartism" first appeared in December 1839, a crucial moment in the debate over Parliamentary reform...

(The entire section is 7157 words.)