It's a century and a quarter since J.A. Froude's Life of Carlyle and his edition of Carlyle's Reminiscences, a hundred years since Alexander Carlyle's New Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Froude's posthumous My Relations with Carlyle, and Alexander Carlyle and Sir James Crichton-Browne's The Nemesis of Froude. Everyone has long since taken sides, if not with the tactless first biographer or with the vindictive and family-proud nephew then with Thomas Carlyle or with Jane, or perhaps with Carlyle with reservations, or against him with no reservations at all. Froude gets the blame for striking the first blow, directed against the friend who had trusted him to do the right thing by his life and papers, but to put it all on Froude when Carlyle himself was such a master of antagonism has never seemed altogether reasonable. Their contemporaries were shocked by the unseemly discussion of Carlyle's hypothetical impotence and the scandalous speculations about the origin of the blue marks that appeared one day on Jane's wrists; later generations were dismayed that Hitler was able to turn to Carlyle's words for encouragement. But no one who had followed Carlyle from On Heroes and Hero Worship through 'Chartism' and The French Revolution to Latter-Day Pamphlets, Frederick the Great and 'Shooting Niagara' can have been surprised that brawling and perturbation should have attended his name even after his death.
LRB 7 October 2004 | PDF Download