Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
  • Born: December 4, 1795
  • Died: February 5, 1881
  • Nationality: Scottish
  • Profession: Philosopher









Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, translator, historian, mathematician, and teacher. Considered one of the most important social commentators of his time, he presented many lectures during his lifetime with certain acclaim in the Victorian era. One of those conferences resulted in his famous work On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History where he explains that the key role in history lies in the actions of the "Great Man", claiming that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men".

Quotes About
Author Quote
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[Describing himself:] ... a redtape Talking-machine, and unhappy Bag of Parliamentary Eloquence. Bureaucracy
[Of Napoleon BonaparteII:] His mind was a kind of extinct sulfur pit. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
“A fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work,” is as just a demand as governed men ever made of governing; yet in what corner of this planet was that ever realized? Work, Workers & The Labor Force
… a gospel of dirt Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
A good sort of man is this Darwin, and well meaning, but with very little intellect. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
A lie should be trampled on and extinguished wherever found. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
A man cannot be in the seventeenth century and the nineteenth at one and the same moment. Liberals & Conservatives
A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune's inequality exhibits under this sun. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
A witty statesman said, you might prove anything by figures. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Acted history … is an ever living, ever working Chaos of Being wherein shape after shape bodies itself forth from innumerable elements. History
All great Peoples are conservative; slow to believe in novelties; patient of much error in actualities. Liberals & Conservatives
All true reformers are by nature of them priests, and strive for a theocracy. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
Among practical men the idea prevails that government can do nothing but 'keep the peace”. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
And again, hast thou valued Patience, Courage, Perseverance, Openness to light; readiness to own thyself mistaken, to do better next time Human Nature
And so you take criminal caitiffs, murderers, and the like, and hang them on gibbets "for an example to deter others." Whereupon arise friends of humanity, and object. With very great reason, as I consider, if your hypothesis be correct. What right have you to hang any poor creature "for an example"? He can turn round upon you and say, "Why make an 'example' of me, a merely ill-situated, pitiable man? Have you no more respect for misfortune? Misfortune, I have been told, is sacred. And yet you hang me, now I am fallen into your hands; choke the life out of me, for an example! Again I ask, Why make an example of me, for your own convenience alone? Capital Punishment, Dealth Penalty & State Execution
Books still accomplish miracles; they persuade men. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Burke said there were three estates in Parliament; but in the reporter's gallery yonder, there sat a fourth estate more important far than they all. Media, Journalism & The Press
By nature man hates change; seldom will he quit his old home till it has actually fallen around his ears. Human Nature
Captains of industry Miscellaneous
Councilors of state sit plotting their high chess-game whereof the pawns are men. Diplomacy & Diplomats
Democracy will prevail when men believe the vote of Judas is as good as that of Jesus. Democracies & Republics
Democracy, which means despair of finding any Heroes to govern you, and contented putting up with the want of them. Democracies & Republics
Every government is the exact symbol of its people ... Like People like Government. Human Nature
Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one. Public Opinion & Polling
Every noble crown is, and on Earth will forever be, a crown of thorns. Leaders & Leadership
Fame, we may understand, is no sure test of merit, but only a probability of such. Public Relations & Image
France was a long despotism tempered by epigrams. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
France was long a despotism tempered by epigrams. Leaders & Leadership
Government is emphatically a machine: to the discontented a "taxing machine," to the contented a "machine for securing property. Taxes
Here is a man with the greatest intellect in Europe, and yet he debases it by simply following majorities and the crowd. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
History is a distillation of rumor. History
History is the essence of innumerable biographies. History
History is the essence of innumerable biographies. History
I grow daily to honor facts more and more, and theory less and less. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I have no patience whatsoever with these gorilla damnifications of humanity. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of it. Religion & God
If our Chancellor of the Exchequer had a Fortunatus' purse, and miraculous sacks of Indian meal that would stand scooping from forever,--I say, even on these terms Pauperism could not be endured; and it would vitally concern all British Citizens to abate Pauperism, and never rest till they had ended it again. Pauperism is the general leakage through every joint of the ship that it is rotten. Were all men doing their duty, or even seriously trying to do it, there would be no Pauper. Were the pretended Captains of the world at all in the habit of commanding; were the pretended Teachers of the world at all in the habit of teaching,--of admonishing said Captains among others, and with sacred zeal apprising them to what place such neglect was leading,--how could Pauperism exist? Poverty
In a certain sense all men are historians. History
In the long-run every Government is the exact symbol of its People, with their wisdom and unwisdom; we have to say, Like People like Government. Government ;Public Opinion & Polling
It is wonderful to hear what account we at present give ourselves of the punishment of criminals. No "revenge"--O Heavens, no; all preachers on Sunday strictly forbid that; and even (at least on Sundays) prescribe the contrary of that. It is for the sake of "example," that you punish; to "protect society" and its purse and skin; to deter the innocent from falling into crime; and especially withal, for the purpose of improving the poor criminal himself,--or at lowest, of hanging and ending him, that he may not grow worse. For the poor criminal is, to be "improved" if possible: Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
It lies deep in our habits, confirmed by all manner of educational and other arrangements for several centuries back, to consider human talent as best of all evincing itself by the faculty of eloquent speech. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Men are to be guided only by their self-interests. Good government is a good balancing of these … Miscellaneous
Men seldom, or rather never for a length of time and deliberately, rebel against anything that does not deserve rebelling against. Time ;Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance
Nature admits no lie. Environment & Environmentalism
Of the Continental nuisance called "Bureaucracy,"--if this should alarm any reader,--I can see no risk or possibility in England. Bureaucracy
Parliament will train you to talk; and above all things to hear, with patience, unlimited quantities of foolish talk. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Parliament will train your men to the manners required of a statesman; but in a much less degree to the intrinsic functions of one. To these latter, it is capable of mistraining as nothing else can. Parliament will train you to talk; and above all things to hear, with patience, unlimited quantities of foolish talk. To tell a good story for yourself, and to make it appear that you have done your work Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Poor little queen. She is at an age at which a girl can hardly be entrusted to choose a bonnet for herself, yet a task is laid upon her from which an archangel might shrink. Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
Speech that leads not to action, still more that hinders it, is a nuisance on the earth. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
The history of the world is but the biography of great men. Leaders & Leadership
The man who cannot laugh is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils, but his whole life is already a treason and a stratagem. Human Nature
The men that write books are now the world's priests, the spiritual directors of mankind Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
The Present is the living sum-total of the whole Past. History
The three great elements of modern civilization, Gun powder, Printing, and the Protestant religion. Religion & God
The unspeakable Turk should be immediately struck out of the question, and the country he left to honest European guidance. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
There are but two ways of paying debt—increase of industry in raising income. increase of thrift in laying out. Budgets & Budgeting
There is one thing, too apt to be forgotten, which it much behooves us to remember: In the Colonies, as everywhere else in this world, the vital point is not who decides, but what is decided on! Legislating & Legislative Process
Thought once awakened does not again slumber. Human Nature ;Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance
Time was when an incompetent Governor could not be permitted among men. He was, and had to be, by one method or the other, clutched up from his place at the helm of affairs, and hurled down into the hold, perhaps even overboard, if he could not really steer. And we call those ages barbarous, because they shuddered to see a Phantasm at the helm of their affairs Leaders & Leadership
To a shower of gold most things are penetrable. Miscellaneous
Vain hope to make people happy by politics! Public Opinion & Polling
War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village, stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against each other. War & Peace
War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village, stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against one other War & Peace
What is Aristocracy? A corporation of the best, the bravest. Detriments & Qualifications ;Public Office: Benefits
What we may call, by way of eminence, the dismal science. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology ;Social Sciences
A laugh, to be joyous, must flow from a joyous heart, for without kindness, there can be no true joy.
A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
A man cannot make a pair of shoes rightly unless he do it in a devout manner.
A man lives by believing something: not by debating and arguing about many things.
A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.
A man's felicity consists not in the outward and visible blessing of fortune, but in the inward and unseen perfections and riches of the mind.
A person who is gifted sees the essential point and leaves the rest as surplus.
A well-written life is almost as rare as a well-spent one. Life
Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.
All great peoples are conservative.
All that mankind has done, thought or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.
Be not a slave of words. Communication & Communications
Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Clever men are good, but they are not the best.
Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.
Conviction never so excellent, is worthless until it coverts itself into conduct.
Culture is the process by which a person becomes all that they were created capable of being.
Do the duty which lies nearest to you, the second duty will then become clearer.
Doubt, of whatever kind, can be ended by action alone.
Egotism is the source and summary of all faults and miseries.
Endurance is patience concentrated. Patience
Every day that is born into the world comes like a burst of music and rings the whole day through, and you make of it a dance, a dirge, or a life march, as you will. Life ;Music, Chants & Rapps
Everywhere in life, the true question is not what we gain, but what we do. Life
Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of the two everlasting empires, necessity and free will.
Foolish men imagine that because judgment for an evil thing is delayed, there is no justice; but only accident here below. Judgment for an evil thing is many times delayed some day or two, some century or two, but it is sure as life, it is sure as death. Life ;Death
For all right judgment of any man or things it is useful, nay, essential, to see his good qualities before pronouncing on his bad.
For, if a good speaker, never so eloquent, does not see into the fact, and is not speaking the truth of that - is there a more horrid kind of object in creation? Truth
Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.
Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther.
Good breeding differs, if at all, from high breeding only as it gracefully remembers the rights of others, rather than gracefully insists on its own rights.
Happy the people whose annals are vacant.
He who could foresee affairs three days in advance would be rich for thousands of years.
He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything. Hope ;Health, Healthcare & Medicine
History shows that the majority of people that have done anything great have passed their youth in seclusion. History
History, a distillation of rumour. History
Humor has justly been regarded as the finest perfection of poetic genius. Humor
I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
I don't like to talk much with people who always agree with me. It is amusing to coquette with an echo for a little while, but one soon tires of it.
I don't pretend to understand the Universe - it's a great deal bigger than I am.
I grow daily to honour facts more and more, and theory less and less. A fact, it seems to me, is a great thing; a sentence printed, if not by God, then at least by the Devil. Religion & God
If an eloquent speaker speak not the truth, is there a more horrid kind of object in creation? Truth
If there be no enemy there's no fight. If no fight, no victory and if no victory there is no crown.
If what you have done is unjust, you have not succeeded.
If you are ever in doubt as to whether to kiss a pretty girl, always give her the benefit of the doubt.
If you do not wish a man to do a thing, you had better get him to talk about it; for the more men talk, the more likely they are to do nothing else.
If you look deep enough you will see music; the heart of nature being everywhere music. Nature ;Music, Chants & Rapps
Imagination is a poor matter when it has to part company with understanding.
Imperfection clings to a person, and if they wait till they are brushed off entirely, they would spin for ever on their axis, advancing nowhere.
In books lies the soul of the whole past time. Time
In every phenomenon the beginning remains always the most notable moment.
Isolation is the sum total of wretchedness to a man.
It is a strange trade that of advocacy. Your intellect, your highest heavenly gift is hung up in the shop window like a loaded pistol for sale.
It is a vain hope to make people happy by politics. Hope ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
It is the heart always that sees, before the head can see.
It were a real increase of human happiness, could all young men from the age of nineteen be covered under barrels, or rendered otherwise invisible; and there left to follow their lawful studies and callings, till they emerged, sadder and wiser, at the age of twenty-five. Happiness & Unhappiness
I've got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.
Laughter is one of the very privileges of reason, being confined to the human species.
Let each become all that he was created capable of being.
Long stormy spring-time, wet contentious April, winter chilling the lap of very May; but at length the season of summer does come.
Love is not altogether a delirium, yet it has many points in common therewith. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Love is the only game that is not called on account of darkness. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world.
Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.
Man is, properly speaking, based upon hope, he has no other possession but hope; this world of his is emphatically the place of hope. Hope
Man's unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there is an Infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the Finite.
Men do less than they ought, unless they do all that they can.
Music is well said to be the speech of angels. Music, Chants & Rapps
Narrative is linear, but action has breadth and depth as well as height and is solid.
Necessity dispenseth with decorum.
No amount of ability is of the slightest avail without honor.
No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men. History
No iron chain, or outward force of any kind, can ever compel the soul of a person to believe or to disbelieve.
No man lives without jostling and being jostled; in all ways he has to elbow himself through the world, giving and receiving offence.
No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad.
No person is important enough to make me angry.
No pressure, no diamonds.
No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men.
No violent extreme endures.
None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.
Not brute force but only persuasion and faith are the kings of this world. Religion & God
Not what I have, but what I do is my kingdom.
Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.
Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.
Nothing stops the man who desires to achieve. Every obstacle is simply a course to develop his achievement muscle. It's a strengthening of his powers of accomplishment.
Nothing that was worthy in the past departs; no truth or goodness realized by man ever dies, or can die. Truth
Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.
Oh, give us the man who sings at his work. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Old age is not a matter for sorrow. It is matter for thanks if we have left our work done behind us. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
One must verify or expel his doubts, and convert them into the certainty of Yes or NO.
Originality is a thing we constantly clamour for, and constantly quarrel with.
Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. Business, Commerce & Finance
Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.
Reform is not pleasant, but grievous; no person can reform themselves without suffering and hard work, how much less a nation. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
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.
Science must have originated in the feeling that something was wrong. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Secrecy is the element of all goodness; even virtue, even beauty is mysterious.
Show me the man you honor, and I will know what kind of man you are.
Show me the person you honor, for I know better by that the kind of person you are. For you show me what your idea of humanity is.
Silence is as deep as eternity, speech a shallow as time. Time
Silence is more eloquent than words.
Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together.
Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the delight of life, which they are thenceforth to rule. Life
Speech is human, silence is divine, yet also brutish and dead: therefore we must learn both arts.
Talk that does not end in any kind of action is better suppressed altogether.
Teach a parrot the terms 'supply and demand' and you've got an economist.
The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, became a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.
The courage we desire and prize is not the courage to die decently, but to live manfully.
The cut of a garment speaks of intellect and talent and the color of temperament and heart.
The difference between Socrates and Jesus? The great conscious and the immeasurably great unconscious.
The end of man is action, and not thought, though it be of the noblest.
The eye sees what it brings the power to see. Power
The fearful unbelief is unbelief in yourself.
The first duty of man is to conquer fear; he must get rid of it, he cannot act till then.
The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.
The man of life upright has a guiltless heart, free from all dishonest deeds or thought of vanity. Life
The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity.
The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better. Nature
The only happiness a brave person ever troubles themselves in asking about, is happiness enough to get their work done. Happiness & Unhappiness ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
The outer passes away; the innermost is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The real use of gunpowder is to make all men tall.
The spiritual is the parent of the practical.
The true university of these days is a collection of books.
The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
The world is a republic of mediocrities, and always was.
There are good and bad times, but our mood changes more often than our fortune.
There is a great discovery still to be made in literature, that of paying literary men by the quantity they do not write.
This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Thought is the parent of the deed.
Thought once awakened does not again slumber; unfolds itself into a System of Thought; grows, in man after man, generation after generation, - till its full stature is reached, and such System of Thought can grow no farther, but must give place to another.
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.
To us also, through every star, through every blade of grass, is not God made visible if we will open our minds and our eyes. Religion & God
True humor springs not more from the head than from the heart. It is not contempt; its essence is love. It issues not in laughter, but in still smiles, which lie far deeper. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Humor
Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better, Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time. Time
War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle. War & Peace
Weak eyes are fondest of glittering objects.
What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
What you see, but can't see over is as good as infinite.
When new turns of behavior cease to appear in the life of the individual, its behavior ceases to be intelligent. Life
When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.
Woe to him that claims obedience when it is not due; woe to him that refuses it when it is.
Wonder is the basis of worship. Religion & God
Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness, and its power of endurance - the cheerful man will do more in the same time, will do it; better, will preserve it longer, than the sad or sullen. Time
Work alone is noble. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Worship is transcendent wonder.
Writing is a dreadful labor, yet not so dreadful as Idleness.
Youth is to all the glad season of life; but often only by what it hopes, not by what it attains, or what it escapes. Life