Thomas Carlyle, 1795–1881

[Mentioned in the Message for 1901, p. 33, and in Miscellany, pp. 154, 193]

Carlyle had such strong convictions that he often appeared unduly sure of himself and intolerant. Yet as a young man he was uncertain as to his lifework. His family wished him to be a preacher. And so, at the age of fourteen, he enrolled in Edinburgh University. There mathematics captured his interest, and later he began his career as a teacher of mathematics.

Carlyle always showed great tenderness to his family. He could not accept his father's literal interpretation of the Bible. Nor did he find in it the comfort his mother found. Accepting its moral teachings, he sought outside of Christianity some spiritual truth with which to solve social injustices.

Not having enjoyed teaching, Carlyle started to study law, but shortly abandoned it. For several years he tutored, wrote biographies for an encylopedia, and contributed to magazines. Finding comfort in German works, he helped to introduce them to English readers by translating a work of Goethe and writing a life of Schiller. After their publication, he decided upon a literary career.

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Signs of the Times
January 25, 1958

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