Welcome to our collection of quotes by Thomas Carlyle. We hope you enjoy pondering them and please share widely.
Thomas Carlyle (4 December 1795 – 5 February 1881) was a Scottish historian, satirical writer, essayist, translator, philosopher, mathematician, and teacher. In his book On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History (1841), he argued that the actions of the "Great Man" play a key role in history, claiming that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men". Other major works include The French Revolution: A History, 3 vols (1837) and The History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great, 6 vols (1858–65).
His 1837 history of The French Revolution was the inspiration for Charles Dickens' 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities, and remains popular today. Carlyle's 1836 Sartor Resartus is a notable philosophical novel.
A noted polemicist, Carlyle coined the term "the dismal science" for economics, in his essay "Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question", which satirically advocated for the reintroduction of slavery to the West Indies to highlight his perceived hypocrisy of British abolitionists' indifference to domestic child-labour and slave-like working conditions in contemporary factories. He also wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia.
Carlyle had once lost his faith in Christianity while attending the University of Edinburgh, later adopting a form deism or "restatement" of Christianity, according to Charles Frederick Harrald "a Calvinist without the theology".
In mathematics, he is known for the Carlyle circle, a method used in quadratic equations and for developing ruler-and-compass constructions of regular polygons.
Every noble work is at first impossible.
We are the miracle of miracles, the great inscrutable mystery of God.
The block of granite, which is an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.
Action hangs, as it were, dissolved in speech, in thoughts whereof speech is the shadow; and precipitates itself therefrom. The kind of speech in a man betokens the kind of action you will get from him.
Skepticism means, not intellectual doubt alone, but moral doubt.
Skepticism, as I said, is not intellectual only; it is moral also; a chronic atrophy and disease of the whole soul. A man lives by believing something; not by debating and arguing about many things. A sad case for him when all that he can manage to believe is something he can button in his pocket, and with one or the other organ eat and digest! Lower than that he will not get.
Our life is not really a mutual helpfulness; but rather, it's fair competition cloaked under due laws of war; it's a mutual hostility.
God Almighty never created a man half as wise as he looks.
Do the duty which lies nearest to you. The second duty will then become clearer.
A crowd has the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
There is precious instruction to be got by finding we were wrong.
A mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.
To the vulgar eye, few things are wonderful that are not distant.
A well written life is almost as rare as a well spent one.
Work alone is noble.
Habit is the deepest law of human nature.
Virtue is like health: the harmony of the whole man.
The king is the man who can.
Over the times thou hast no power... Solely over one man thou hast quite absolute power. Him redeem and make honest.
No nobler feeling than this, of admiration for one higher than himself, dwells in the breast of man. It is to this hour, and at all hours, the vivifying influence in man's life.
Habit and imitation -- there is nothing more perennial in us than these two. They are the source of all working, and all apprenticeship, of all practice, and all learning, in this world.
There is so much data available to us, but most data won't help us succeed.
A man -- be the heavens ever praised! -- is sufficient for himself.
Biography is the most universally pleasant and profitable of all reading.
Caution is the lower story of prudence.
Let him who would move and convince others, be first moved and convinced himself.
A Dandy is a clothes-wearing Man, a Man whose trade, office and existence consists in the wearing of clothes.
On the whole, I would bid you stand up to your work, whatever it may be, and not be afraid of it; not in sorrows or contradictions to yield, but to push on towards the goal.
The depth of our despair measures what capability and height of claim we have to hope.
Courtesy is the due of man to man; not of suit-of-clothes to suit-of-clothes.
Battles, in these ages, are transacted by mechanism; with the slightest possible development of human individuality or spontaneity; men now even die, and kill one another, in an artificial manner.
If there be not a religious element in the relations of men, such relations are miserable and doomed to ruin.
Have not I myself known five hundred living soldiers sabred into crows' meat for a piece of glazed cotton, which they call their flag; which had you sold it at any market-cross, would not have brought above three groschen?
The true epic of our times is not Arm's and the Man, but Tools and the Man -- an infinitely wider kind of epic.
In the huge mass of evil as it rolls and swells, there is ever some good working toward deliverance and triumph.
In a certain sense all men are historians.
The actual well seen is ideal.
O thou that pinest in the imprisonment of the Actual, and criest bitterly to the gods for a kingdom wherein to rule and create, know this for a truth: the thing thou seekest is already here, here or nowhere, couldst thou only see.
Prayer is and remains always a native and deepest impulse of the soul of man.
Scarcely two hundred years back can Fame recollect articulately at all; and there she but maunders and mumbles.
There is no permanent place in this universe for evil... Evil may hide behind this fallacy and that, but it will be hunted from fallacy to fallacy until there is no more fallacy for it to hide behind.
The insignificant, the empty, is usually the loud; and after the manner of a drum, is louder even because of its emptiness.
Intellect is the soul of man, the only immortal part of him.
As there is no danger of our becoming, any of us, Mahometans (i.e. Muslim), I mean to say all the good of him I justly can.
Democracy will prevail when men believe the vote of Judas as good as that of Jesus Christ.
Woe to him, ... who has no court of appeal against the world's judgment.
And yet without labour there were no ease, no rest, so much as conceivable.
Even in the meanest sorts of labor, the whole soul of a man is composed into a kind of real harmony the instant he sets himself to work.
There are female dandies as well as clothes-wearing men; and the former are as objectionable as the latter.
Be a pattern to others, and then all will go well; for as a whole city is affected by the licentious passions and vices of great men, so it is likewise reformed by their moderation.
Might and right do differ frightfully from hour to hour, but then centuries to try it in, they are found to be identical.
Work is the grand cure of all the maladies and miseries that ever beset mankind.
One monster there is in the world, the idle man.
There is endless merit in a man's knowing when to have done.
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; like light, it can give little or nothing, but at most may show what is given.
Pain was not given thee merely to be miserable under; learn from it, turn it to account.
O poor mortals, how ye make this earth bitter for each other.
Macaulay is well for awhile, but one wouldn't live under Niagara.
Speech that leads not to action, still more that hinders it, is a nuisance on the earth.
Laws themselves, political Constitutions, are not our Life; but only the house wherein our Life is led.
Parliament will train you to talk; and above all things to hear, with patience, unlimited quantities of foolish talk.
The condition of the most passionate enthusiast is to be preferred over the individual who, because of the fear of making a mistake, won't in the end affirm or deny anything.
The graceful minuet-dance of fancy must give place to the toilsome, thorny pilgrimage of understanding. On the transition from the age of romance to that of science.
At worst, is not this an unjust world, full of nothing but beasts of prey, four-footed or two-footed?
Innumerable are the illusions and legerdemain-tricks of custom: but of all of these, perhaps the cleverest is her knack of persuading us that the miraculous, by simple repetition, ceases to be miraculous.
Time has only a relative existence.
Little other than a red tape Talking-machine, and unhappy Bag of Parliamentary Eloquence.
Is there no God, then, but at best an absentee God, sitting idle, ever since the first Sabbath, at the outside of his Universe?
Is man's civilization only a wrappage, through which the savage nature of him can still burst, infernal as ever?
The barrenest of all mortals is the sentimentalist.
It is through symbols that man consciously or unconsciously lives, works and has his being.
A fair day's wages for a fair day's work.
Variety is the condition of harmony.
He who takes not counsel of the Unseen and Silent, from him will never come real visibility and speech.
In our wide world there is but one altogether fatal personage, the dunce, -- he that speaks irrationally, that sees not, and yet thinks he sees.
Labor, wide as the earth, has its summit in heaven.
A battle is a terrible conjugation of the verb to kill: I kill, thou killest, he kills, we kill, they kill, all kill.
To each is given a certain inward talent, a certain outward environment or fortune; to each by wisest combination of these two, a certain maximum capacity.
The world is a thing that a man must learn to despise, and even to neglect, before he can learn to reverence it, and work in it and for it.
Of all your troubles, great and small, the greatest are the ones that don't happen at all.
Also, what mountains of dead ashes, wreck and burnt bones, does assiduous pedantry dig up from the past time and name it History.
The goal of yesterday will be our starting-point to-morrow.
Intellect is not speaking and logicising; it is seeing and ascertaining.
Labor is life: from the inmost heart of the worker rises his God-given force, the sacred celestial life-essence breathed into him by Almighty God!
It is in general more profitable to reckon up our defeats than to boast of our attainments.
Roguery is thought by some to be cunning and laughable: it is neither; it is devilish.
In a different time, in a different place, it is always some other side of our common human nature that has been developing itself. The actual truth is the sum of all these.
Of our thinking it is but the upper surface that we shape into articulate thought; underneath the region of argument and conscious discourse lies the region of meditation.
Oblivion is the dark page, whereon Memory writes her light-beam characters, and makes them legible; were it all light, nothing could be read there, any more than if it were all darkness.
There is in man a higher than love of happiness; he can do without happiness, and instead thereof find blessedness.
Alas! while the body stands so broad and brawny, must the soul lie blinded, dwarfed, stupefied, almost annihilated? Alas! this was, too, a breath of God, bestowed in heaven, but on earth never to be unfolded!
Once the mind has been expanded by a big idea, it will never go back to its original state.
An everlasting lodestar, that beams the brighter in the heavens the darker here on earth grows the night.
The Builder of this Universe was wise, He plann'd all souls, all systems, planets, particles: The Plan He shap'd all Worlds and Æons by, Was-Heavens!-was thy small Nine-and-thirty Articles!