Jane Welsh Carlyle

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Portrait of Jane Welsh Carlyle by Samuel Laurence, circa 1852.

Jane Welsh Carlyle (14 January 1801 – 21 April 1866, née Jane Baillie Welsh in Haddington Scotland) was the wife of essayist Thomas Carlyle and has been cited as the reason for his fame and fortune. She was most notable as a letter-writer. In 1973, G.B. Tennyson described her as

Life[edit]

Marriage to Thomas Carlyle[edit]

Jane had been introduced to Carlyle by her tutor Edward Irving, with whom she came to have a mutual romantic (although not sexually intimate) attraction.

The couple married in 1826 and for the first six years lived on a farm in Scotland; the marriage was often unhappy. Thomas was always busy writing and Jane remained dutiful in doing the housework. Their voluminous correspondence has been published, and the letters show that the couple's affection for each other was marred by frequent quarrels. Samuel Butler once wrote: "It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four". Carlyle's biographer James Anthony Froude posthumously published his opinion that the marriage remained unconsummated.[1][2]

Historian Paul Johnson notes in Creators that she not only irked her husband but made prickly comments about others, such as fellow female writer George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), of whom she said: "She looks Propriety personified. Oh, so slow!"

Jane was also jealous of a friendship her husband had with a woman named Lady Ashburton. The friendship was non-sexual yet Thomas and Lady Ashburton still spent a lot of time together. Jane expressed her jealousy and anger in a letter dated in 1856.

Relationship with Geraldine Jewsbury[edit]

Jane had a long lasting relationship (1840-1866) with fellow writer Geraldine Jewsbury. The two women first met when Thomas invited Geraldine out to Cheyne Row, where Thomas and Jane resided. Geraldine had written Thomas prior to the invitation admiring his work and also expressing her religious doubt. Geraldine was going through a depressive time, but she also reached out to Thomas in the hopes of entering the literary realm in England. When Geraldine and Jane met, their friendship turned out to be more of a romantic relationship. It is evident both women had feelings for each other, but there is no evidence of them being lesbian lovers. Jane always remained dutiful to her husband and neither had acted upon any romantic feelings. This caused a lot of jealousy between the two women as Jane always remained married to Thomas and Geraldine had lovers of her own. However, they both had passionate feelings towards one another and that passion in expressed in their many letters to one another.

They often had disagreements about common social issues of the era such as the place of men in women's lives and the purpose of women in general. Geraldine wasn't opposed to marriage, but she thought man and woman should be equal and marriage whereas she didn't witness that with Jane and Tom. Jane often tried to set up Geraldine with suitable bachelors in London. However, none of them stuck (Geraldine ended up never marrying).

When they were on good terms, Jane helped Geraldine with many of her literary works. Jane helped edit two of Geraldine's most popular novels, Zoe: the History of Two Lives and The Half Sisters. Jane was often burdened with the work, however, and also showed some jealousy over Geraldine's literary success. She had trouble accepting how social Geraldine was and how many more friends she had as well.

In 1857 Geraldine became romantically involved with Walter Mantell. The two women became very distant from one another and when they did write letters to each other, they were fighting.

Towards the end of her life Jane was very ill. Geraldine would spend time taking care of her friend and liked feeling needed by her. When Jane was feeling better, however, she would turn to Tom instead. Geraldine was often jealous of that fact.

These two women had a very interesting relationship from a romantic, literary, and friendly perspective. Virginia Woolf based her article Times Literary Supplement on Geraldine's letters to Jane Carlyle. Their passionate relationship was recognized among their literary peers despite the ups and downs of their friendship.[2][3][4]

Works[edit]

The Scottish philosopher David George Ritchie, a friend of the Carlyle family, published a volume of her letters in 1889 under the title The Early Letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle. Thomas published his highly self-critical "Reminiscences of Jane Welsh Carlyle" out of guilt after he read her diary posthumously.

Otherwise, Jane didn't act upon her literary talent. She was once thought to have written Jane Eyre, but she never went so far as to even co-author a novel with Geraldine.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Froude, J. A. (1903). My Relations With Carlyle. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  2. ^ a b Cruikshank, Margaret. "Geraldine Jewsbury and Jane Carlyle". JSTOR. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Howe, Susanne (1935). Geraldine Jewsbury, Her Life and Errors. London: George Allen & Unwin. 
  4. ^ Clarke, Norma (1990). Heights: Writing, Friendship, Love: The Jewsbury Sisters, Felicia Hemans, and Jane Welsh Carlyle. London: Routledge. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ashton, Rosemary (2001). Thomas and Jane Carlyle: Portrait of a Marriage. London: Chatto & Windus.
  • Brown, Francis (1910). "Miss Martineau and the Carlyles," The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. CVI, pp. 381–387.
  • Collis, John Stewart (1971). The Carlyles: A Biography of Thomas and Jane Carlyle. London: Sidgwick & Jackson.
  • Drew, Elizabeth A. (1928). Jane Welsh and Jane Carlyle. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company.
  • Fielding, K. J.; David R. Sorensen & Rodger L. Tarr (2004). The Carlyles at Home and Abroad. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate Pub.
  • Hanson, Lawrence & Elisabeth Hanson (1952). Necessary Evil; the Life of Jane Welsh Carlyle. London: Constable.
  • Ireland, Annie Elizabeth Nicholson (1891). Life of Jane Welsh Carlyle. New York: C.L. Webster & Co.
  • Morrison, Nancy Brysson (1974). True Minds: The Marriage of Thomas and Jane Carlyle. London: J.M. Dent & Sons.
  • Oliphant, Margaret (1883). "Mrs. Carlyle," The Contemporary Review, Vol. 43, pp. 609–628.
  • Scudder, Townsend (1939). Jane Welsh Carlyle. New York: The Macmillan Company.
  • Surtees, Virginia (1986). Jane Welsh Carlyle. Salisbury, Wiltshire: Michael Russell.

External links[edit]