Early Letters of Thomas Carlyle

By Charles Eliot Norton; Thomas Carlyle | Go to book overview

PREFACE

MR. CARLYLE was for many years, especially during his early manhood, an industrious letter-writer. A great many of his letters have been preserved and are in the possession of his niece, Mrs. Alexander Carlyle. It is at her desire that I have undertaken to edit a selection of them.

"Express biography of me I had really rather that there should be none," said Carlyle in his Will, and a biography of him, correct at least if meagre, might perhaps have been gathered from his letters, his Reminiscences,1 and the Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle.2 Mr. Froude, however, thought otherwise, and has given to the public an "express biography" of him. The view of Mr. Carlyle's character presented in this biography has not approved itself to many of those who knew Carlyle best. It may be a striking picture, but it is not a good portrait.

For the present, at least, it appears impracticable to prepare another formal biography. The peculiar style of Mr. Froude's performance, already in possession of the field, might perhaps put a portrait of Carlyle drawn by a hand more faithful to nature, and less skilled in fine artifices than his own, at a temporary disadvantage with the bulk of readers. But it has seemed right to print some of Carlyle's letters in suchwise that with his Reminiscences they might serve as a partial autobiography, and illustrate his character

____________________
1
Reminiscences, etc., edited by J. A. Froude, 2 vols. London, 1881.
2
Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle. London, 1883.

-v-

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