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Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Though his essays and histories do not command the attention today that they did in the Victorian era, the world of literature owes an enormous debt to Thomas Carlyle, from Ecclefechan in the Scottish Lowlands. In 1837, Carlyle gave us the great masterpiece of historical writing, The French Revolution. Early in his career as a teacher, Carlyle read extensively in English, German and French literature, becoming heavily influenced by Gibbon, Hume, Voltaire and Mme de Stael. His biography of Schiller appeared in The London Magazine (1823-4) and he also translated part of Goethe's Wilhelm Meister to satisfy a growing demand for works on German culture.

Many of Carlyle's articles were published in The Edinburgh Review (late 1820's), some of them dealing with contemporary social problems. During this time, he wrote essays on Goethe, published his revolutionary Sartor Resartus, followed by Voltaire, Diderot and The Diamond Necklace. It was only after he moved to London in 1834 and he published his history of the French Revolution, that Carlyle achieved worldwide fame.

As historian, social reformer and prophet, Carlyle has few equals. His whole philosophy was influenced by his idea of the Divine Will, proof of which is the duty of the poet and historian to express. His writings try to explain what has motivated human behaviour through the ages. One of Carlyle's most remembered lines: "No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men."

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