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Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

British historian and essayist

The history of the world is but the biography of great men.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Heroes and Hero-Worship

Great men are the inspired texts of that divine Book of Revelations, whereof a chapter is completed from epoch to epoch, and by some named History.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus

Fame, we may understand, is no sure test of merit, but only a probability of such: it is an accident, not a property of a man.


What is all knowledge too but recorded experience?

THOMAS CARLYLE, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays

The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Heroes and Hero-Worship

Great is journalism. Is not every able editor a ruler of the world, being the persuader of it?

THOMAS CARLYLE, French Revolution

Language is called the garment of thought: however, it should rather be, language is the flesh-garment, the body, of thought.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus

Nature admits no lie.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Latter-Day Pamphlets

Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays

To reform a world, to reform a nation, no wise man will undertake; and all but foolish men know, that the only solid, though a far slower reformation, is what each begins and perfects on himself.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Signs of the Times

Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Past and Present

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do that with all thy might and leave the issues calmly to God.

THOMAS CARLYLE, letter to W. Graham, Mar. 29, 1844

A good book is the purest essence of a human soul.

THOMAS CARLYLE, speech in support of the London Library, 1840

A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune's inequality exhibits under this sun.


Man's unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there is an Infinite of him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the Finite.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus

No nobler feeling than this of admiration for one higher than himself dwells in the breast of man.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus; Heroes and Hero Worship

No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus

Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.


If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he has to say, and make fun of it.


How much lies in Laughter: the cipher-key, wherewith we decipher the whole man.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus

I don't pretend to understand the Universe -- it's a great deal bigger than I am.


Men of letters are a perpetual Priesthood, from age to age, teaching all men that a God is still present in their life; that all "appearance," whatsoever we see in the world, is but as a vesture for the "divine idea of the world," for "that which lies at the bottom of appearance." In the true literary man there is thus ever, acknowledged or not by the world, a sacredness; he is the light of the world; the world's priest -- guiding it, like a sacred pillar of fire, in its dark pilgrimage through the waste of time.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Heroes: Hero Worship and the Heroic in History

Is not light grander than fire? It is the same element in a state of purity.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Past and Present

Man always worships something; always he sees the Infinite shadowed forth in something finite; and indeed can and must so see it in any finite thing, once tempt him well to fix his eyes thereon.


The wise man is but a clever infant spelling letters from a hierographical prophetic book, the lexicon of which lies in eternity.

THOMAS CARLYLE, attributed, Day's Collacon

All human souls, never so bedarkened, love light; light once kindled spreads till all is luminous.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Past and Present

A man perfects himself by working. Foul jungles are cleared away, fair seed-fields rise instead, and stately cities; and withal the man himself first ceases to be a jungle, and foul unwholesome desert thereby.... The man is now a man.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Past and Present

Thought once awakened does not again slumber.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Heroes and Hero Worship

Nay, in every epoch of the world, the great event, parent of all others, is it not the arrival of a Thinker in the world?

THOMAS CARLYLE, Heroes and Hero Worship

What an enormous camera-obscura magnifier is tradition! How a thing grows in the human memory, in the human imagination, when love, worship, and all that lies in the human heart, is there to encourage it; and in the darkness, in the entire ignorance, without date or document, no book, no Arundel marble, only here and there some dumb monumental cairn!

THOMAS CARLYLE, "Lectures on Heroes", Sartor Resartus

The very Truth has to change its vesture, from time to time; and be born again. But all Lies have sentence of death written down against them, and Heaven's Chancery itself; and, slowly or fast, advance incessantly towards their hour.

THOMAS CARLYLE, The French Revolution: A History

Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the Devil; for which reason I have, long since, as good as renounced it.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus

Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.

THOMAS CARLYLE, attributed, 1001 Pearls of Wisdom to Build Confidence: Advice and Guidance to Inspire

Do not Books still accomplish miracles, as Runes were fabled to do? They persuade men. Not the wretchedest circulating library novel, which foolish girls thumb and con in remote villages, but will help to regulate the actual practical weddings and households of those foolish girls.

THOMAS CARLYLE, On Heroes, Hero-worship, & the Heroic in History: Six Lectures

Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus

I should say sincerity, a deep, great, genuine sincerity, is the first characteristic of all men in any way heroic.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus

We have not read an author till we have seen his object, whatever it may be, as he saw it.


Of a truth, men are mystically united: a mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.


All that mankind has done, thought, gained, or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.

THOMAS CARLYLE, On Heroes, Hero-worship, & the Heroic in History: Six Lectures

Of all acts, is not, for a man, repentance the most divine? The deadliest sin, I say, were that same supercilious consciousness of no sin.

THOMAS CARLYLE, "The Hero as Prophet", Sartor Resartus

When I gaze into the stars, they look down upon me with pity from their serene and silent spaces, like eyes glistening with tears over the little lot of man; thousands of generations, all as noisy as our own, have been swallowed up by time, and there remains no record of them any more.

THOMAS CARLYLE, attributed, The Ladies Companion, 1853

Is not a man's walking, in truth, always that: a succession of falls? Man can do no other. In this wild element of Life, he has to struggle onwards; now falled, deep-abased; and ever, with tears, repentance, with bleeding heart, he has to rise again, struggle again still onwards.

THOMAS CARLYLE, "The Hero as Prophet", Sartor Resartus

Every noble work is at first impossible.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Chartism: Past and Present

Piety does not mean that a man should make a sour face about things, and refuse to enjoy in moderation what his Maker has given.

THOMAS CARLYLE, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays

A laugh to be joyous must flow from a joyous heart, for without kindness there can be no true joy.

THOMAS CARLYLE, attributed, Day's Collacon


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