Carlyle’s Metaphorical Dynamic of History: or How to Trace a Grand Narrative in the French Revolution

  • Noël Parker
Part of the Insights book series (ISI)


Apart from specialists in literature and Victorian cultural history, not many people refer to Thomas Carlyle as an authoritative literary critic. He is not many people’s idea of a historian either — though his The French Revolution: A History was republished in a new edition in the recent bicentenary year.1 Yet, he was an enormous figure in the nineteenth-century intellectual world and he has continued to intrigue a considerable band of analysts and students. Erudite, severe, dogmatic and latterly bigoted almost to the point of insanity, he was a sage, a prophet of ills in the modern world of urbanisation, democracy and mass culture. He was not afraid to put himself on the line in questions of literature, history, politics or philosophy. And his writings set the terms for an entire Victorian generation of intellectuals


French Revolution Page Reference Estate General Grand Narrative Religious Symbolism 
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  1. 1.
    T. Carlyle, The French Revolution: A History, ed. K. J. Fielding and David Sorensen (Oxford University Press, 1989), hereafter referred to as FR, with page references given in the text.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    T. Carlyle, ‘On History’, in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (London: Chapman & Hall, 1870) vol. ii, p. 173, hereafter referred to as CME, with essay titles and volume and page references given in the text.Google Scholar
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    For example, M. H. Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism, Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (London: Oxford University Press, 1971);Google Scholar
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    See Albert Lavalley, Carlyle and the Idea of the Modern (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1968);Google Scholar
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  15. 11.
    J. Derrida, De La Grammatologie (Paris: Minuit, 1967) ch. 2, esp. pp. 231–2.Google Scholar
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© Editorial Board, Lumière (Co-operative) Press Ltd 1993

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  • Noël Parker

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