Collection of Correspondence and Papers of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-128
  • Dates of Creation
      19th century
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      circa 170 letters, and miscellaneous autograph notes and quotations and memos, miscellaneous microfilm.
  • Location
      Dc.2.76/3, 21, 23; Dc.4.94/54-65; Gen. 1729-32; Gen. 1730 Carlyle 1-3, 5-9, 11-12, 14-17, 21, 23-27, 32, 34, 36-41, 45-47, 49-57, 59-68, 71-79, 82-90, 95-96, 101-102); Gen. 1733 Carlyle 3, 56-57, 117; Mic.M.135; PC 9; PC 71; E87.61, 64, 88-89, 103; E88.1, 43, 150; E89.29; E90.5, 28, 31, 46, 75; E91.32, 75-76, 92-93, 107; E92.81-82; E93.30; E94.10-11, 49, 80, 83; E95.19, 33, 84; E96.8, 17; E97.10-11, 49, 55-56; E98.12, 16; E99.7, 30, 33; E2001.12

Scope and Content

Highly separated collection of correspondence and other material including: class tickets, galley proofs of the last two chapters of the Life of John Sterling; holograph drafts; general correspondence on a variety of subjects such as articles for The Edinburgh encyclopaedia, 1820, a pamphlet on the nationalist's case in Schleswig-Holstein, pauperism, a cigarette making machine, the reprint of The French revolution, suggestions about submitting a manuscript, the publication of Sartor and Cromwell, and including those to Charles Butler, Robert Browning, Geraldine Jewsbury, J. Johnstone, 1817-1825, Sir David Brewster, William Dougal Christie, Rev. David Aitken, 1827-1841, Eliza Stodart, 1832, Samuel Aitken, J. Ballantine, and to booksellers and his publisher; and, letters to his wife. There are also autographed notes, photos and etched portrait.

Administrative / Biographical History

The historian, essayist, critic and sage Thomas Carlyle was born on 4 December 1795, in Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire. He was educated at the village school and then in Annan at the academy. In 1809 he began studies at Edinburgh University. Originally intended for the ministry, Carlyle had showed a keenness for mathematics, as well as studying French, Latin and Greek, and became a mathematics teacher in Annan and then in Edinburgh. In 1824 he translated Goethe's Wilhelm Meister. Other publications include Sartor Resartus (1835), the three volume The French revolution (1837), the Life and letters of Oliver Cromwell (1845), and the six volume Friedrich II (1858-1865). Carlyle's wife Jane Baillie Welsh Carlyle (1801-1866), whom he married in 1826, was from Haddington, and was a prodigious letter writer. Thomas Carlyle died on 4 February 1881 and was buried in Ecclefechan.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

This collection has been built up throughout the twentieth century with more recent acquisitions from the mid-1960s through to 2001. Check the Index for more particular detail of the long list of Accession nos.


Note that when this record was created any associated photographic/illustrative material was unseen.

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins, 1994. (2) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Carlyle related material in the Laing Collection and elsewhere (check the Indexes for more details): letters to D. Laing at La.IV.4; mentioned in letters of J. A. Carlyle to Laing, 1865-1868, 1877, at La.IV.17; mention in a letter to J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps, 1845, at L.O.A. 22/27; additional material containing mentions and accounts of Carlyle in Gen. 1730-1732; and, miscellaneous other material.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes the following Carlyle collections in Scotland: correspondence (35 items) with Robert Mitchell and family, 1814-1842, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD1/714 NRA 19245 Carlyle; letters, Edinburgh Central Library, Ref. NRA(S)0870 NRA 17573 Edinburgh Pub L; miscellaneous correspondence, 1838-1870, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MSS 7516, 7178, 7197 Passim., and correspondence and papers, circa 1812-1881, Ref. MSS 511-656 passim; 787; 1763-1808 passim; 7197, and family correspondence and papers, 1822-1879, Ref. Acc 9086 NRA 30963 Carlyle, and letters to William Allingham, 1850-circa 1880, Ref. MS.3823, and letters to the Baring family, circa 1840-1877, Ref. Acc 11388 NRA 24219 Baring, and letters to David Hope, 1840-1854, and letters to Robert Horn, 1874-1875, Ref. MS 3706, and letters to Thomas Murray, 1813-1865, Ref. MS 8992, and letters to Lady Sandwich, 1850-1862, Ref. Adv MS 19 3 52, and family and other correspondence, 1830-1867; letters (9) to Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, 1848-1874, Glasgow City Archives, Ref. T-SK 29.3-27 NRA 24669 Stirling; and, miscellaneous papers re Kirkcaldy, 1816, Kirkcaldy Art Gallery and Museum, Ref. NRA(S)0744 NRA 18847 Kirkcaldy Mus.