Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Thomas Carlyle

An elderly Thomas Carlyle in his study
Carlyle Reading in the Drawing Room, by Helen Allingham, 1878
January 4, 1795 Thomas Carlyle (d. February 5, 1881), 'the Sage of Chelsea', Scottish historian and writer (History of the French Revolution).
Carlyle was no democrat. He believed that government must be strong and paternalistic, and even propounded the view that society should be a benevolent dictatorship. It was he who coined the expression fourth estate for the press, in Heroes and Hero Worship. He also gave the world the expression captains of industry.

His classic work on the French Revolution was not published until 1837, having undergone a setback – the accidental destruction of his manuscript – that left Carlyle both impecunious and having to do a frantic rewrite. His friend and the man who had suggested to Carlyle that he write the History, John Stuart Mill, lent the manuscript of Volume One to a Mrs Taylor, whose maid mistook the precious sheaf of pages for kindling, and lit the fire with it. When Mill knocked at Carlyle's door clutching a single charred piece of paper, practically all that remained of the great manuscript, the Scottish historian was dumbfounded. However, his character was of such stuff that his concern was more for the feelings of Mill, who looked distraught, than for himself.

More at January 4 in Wilson's Almanac, online. Easy to find.


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