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

One of the rare Victorian wives who are of literary interest in their own right...to be remembered as one of the great letter writers (in some respects her husband’s superior) of the nineteenth century is glory beyond the dreams of avarice.[1]

She 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; the marriage was often unhappy. 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.[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!"


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.


  1. ^ [1] Malcolm Ingram, retrieved 29 March 2007
  2. ^ J A Froude, My Relations With Carlyle (1903)

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