The history of Carlyle’s House
Thomas Carlyle was a famous author and his wife Jane a witty letter writer. They lived in a typical Victorian terraced house in Chelsea, London. Some of Carlyle’s most famous works were written in his attic study during the many years he lived at this house on Cheyne Row.
Life at Carlyle’s House
Thomas and Jane Carlyle moved from rural Scotland to London to seek their fortunes in 1834. At the time Chelsea was an unfashionable area to live in, but their home soon became central to Victorian intellectual life, with the company of both sought by the literary great of Victorian society. Dickens, Ruskin and Tennyson all visited the couple here.
An author remembered
After Carlyle’s death in 1881 the house returned to its landlord. A group of Carlyle’s admirers raised money through public subscription and in 1895 they opened the house to the public as a shrine to the writer. The National Trust took over the running of the house in 1936 with the support of founder Octavia Hill, who herself was a fan of Carlyle’s work.
Who was Thomas Carlyle?
Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881) was a writer, historian and a leading literary giant of the 1840s and 50s. Carlyle may not be a well-known figure today, but at the time he was a very influential social commentator. He helped shape the way the Victorians thought about themselves.
Carlyle was brought up in a Calvinist household, and his parents hoped he would become a minister. He soon became disenchanted with organised religion, instead putting his trust in work. Thanks to his talent, networking and self-belief he became very successful. Sartor Resartus (1833-34) and The French Revolution: A History (1837) are two of his most famous works.
Who was Jane Carlyle?
Jane Baillie Welsh (1801- 1866) met Thomas Carlyle in 1821 and they were married in 1826. Jane was an accomplished letter writer with literary merit of her own. She was witty, insightful and a wonderful hostess; her company was sought after just as much as Thomas’.
It is thought that Jane had a romantic friendship with writer Geraldine Jewsbury, whose novels she helped to edit. Their letters reveal the depth of their affection, but also their tensions. Although Jane and Thomas were literary companions, letters found after her death show that Jane had been very unhappy in their marriage at times.
Find out what to see at Carlyle’s House on Cheyne Row in London. Explore the original Victorian fixtures and fittings of Thomas and Jane Carlyle's home for over 40 years.
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