824: Thomas Carlyle by Fred Kaplan

by Gerard


824.8: Kaplan, Fred. Thomas Carlyle: A Biography. New York: Open Road, 2013. 604 pp. E-book.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: British literature
  • 824: British essays
  • 824.8: Victorian period, 1837-1899

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was a man always in revolution. He revolted against the religion of the day, against the industrialist and capitalist social structure, and against the idea that a lifelong marriage should be intensely and continuously happy. He was an ardent Calvinist, but struggled with many accepted religious truths. He championed the introduction of German Romantic literature to the British and penned a masterful history of the French Revolution. He was irascible and crotchety, but many flocked to his ideas. Fred Kaplan’s Thomas Carlyle is a unique and thorough biography of this ideological pioneer.

Fred Kaplan’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated biography of Carlyle is as researched as it is long. At 600 pages, it covers the entirety of the life of the noted Scottish essayist and philosopher. While it incorporates a great deal of his correspondence and others’ notes on Carlyle, Kaplan tends to stay away from literary analyses of Carlyle’s writings. Very few other details are spared, however, as Kaplan does a very good job of fleshing out this long-dead thinker. This is a 30th anniversary re-issue of the work, but I think it would hold up against modern biographies. A splendid and absorbing book.