Jane Welsh Carlyle- A Life of Letters

Becca Anderson. author of The Book of Awesome Women Writers, has written a new blog post on the life of writer Jane Welsh Carlyle.

1024px-Jane_Baillie_Carlyle_(née_Welsh)_by_Samuel_Laurence_detail

National Portrait Gallery: NPG 1175

Born in Scotland in 1801, Jane Welsh was the daughter of a physician who practiced in London. Her enlightened and intelligent father saw to it that Jane was given the best available education with a grounding in the classics, beginning at the age of five. Her instructor Edward Irving was deeply impressed with Jane’s brilliance, and in 1821, introduced her to Thomas Carlyle, an historian and writer of repute. When she turned twenty-five, she married Carlyle; together they were at the center of a circle of English artists, writers, and thinkers. Known for her intelligence and charm, she became fast friends with Geraldine Jewsbury and hosted such luminaries as Charles Dickens, John Stuart Mill, and Lord Tennyson.

Jane was an inveterate letter writer, filling her missives with wit, keen observations, and real feeling. She is viewed as having elevated writing letters to an art form, covering every conceivable topic from travel and books to friends, servants, and acute descriptions of personality. Her letters are published in several volumes, and they reveal the marital dysfunction that pressed enormous strain on Jane. Although her husband had great ambition as a writer, they lived in poverty, with Jane suffering Thomas’ neglect and irritability. Though she feared a mental breakdown, she suddenly collapsed and died in 1866 while riding in a carriage.


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