Jocelyn Dawson, the assistant manager of our Journals Marketing department, recently visited the home of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle in London and shares an account of her trip below. The Press has published over 10,000 of the Carlyles’ letters and maintains a Carlyle Twitter feed.
During a recent visit to London, I visited the home of Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle and his wife, Jane Welsh Carlyle. Now maintained by the National Trust, from 1834 to 1881 the Chelsea row home housed two nineteenth-century literary luminaries who still loom large in our world here at Duke University Press, where we continue to publish the Carlyles' letters.
My interest in seeing the home stemmed not from intellectual interest in nineteenth century literary history nor the work of the man who wrote Frederick the Great. Rather, I wanted to see the house because of how charmed I’ve become by the turns of phrase in letters that I’ve read in my time at the Press: Thomas’s curmudgeonly complaints about “indifferent tea” and “transient biliary businesses,” his habit of denouncing people (including Voltaire) as “blackguards,” and Jane’s emphatic descriptions of favorite writers and of everyday Victorian life (“The evening I spent as I spend too many, at an odious tea party”). The Carlyles revealed by the letters are a far cry from the somber monument to Thomas etched in stone at the front of their home on Cheyne Row.
The exterior of the Carlyle home in Chelsea on a gray London day.
The home that the Carlyles moved into in 1834 was number 5 Cheyne Row, but was later changed to number 24.
Carlyle called the home “on the whole a most massive, roomy, sufficient old house with places, for example, to hang, say, three dozen hats or cloaks.” Today a visitor will find it a fitting place to remember the lives of two people who influenced the greatest artists and thinkers of their day–work we hope lives on through the publication of their letters.