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Quotations From THOMAS CARLYLE


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  • A man perfects himself by working. Foul jungles are cleared away, fair seed-fields rise instead, and stately cities; and withal the man himself first ceases to be a jungle, and foul unwholesome desert thereby.... The man is now a man.
    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. Past and Present, bk. 3, ch. 11 (1843).
  • I don't pretend to understand the Universe—it's a great deal bigger than I am.
    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. quoted by poet and diarist William Allingham in A Diary, ch. 10, Dec. 28, 1868, eds. H. Allingham and D. Radford (1907).
  • Happy the people whose annals are vacant.
    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. History of the French Revolution, vol. 1, bk. 2, ch. 1 (1837). Quoting "a paradoxical philosopher" in reply to an aphorism of Montesquieu's, "Happy the people whose annals are tiresome."

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  • Lives the man that can figure a naked Duke of Windlestraw addressing a naked House of Lords?
    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. Sartor Resartus, bk. 1, ch. 9 (1833-1834).

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  • Man is a tool-using animal.... Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.
    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. Sartor Resartus, bk. 1, ch. 5 (1833-1834). Benjamin Franklin is also cited as defining man as a tool-making animal, in Boswell's Life of Johnson, entry, April 7, 1778.

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  • No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad.
    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. Sartor Resartus, bk. 1, ch. 4 (1833-1834).
  • Under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.
    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. "Sir Walter Scott," vol. 4, Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (1839, repr.1839).

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  • Man's unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there is an Infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the Finite.
    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. Teufelsdr"ckh, in Sartor Resartus, bk. 2, ch. 9 (1833-1834).
  • Man's unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there is an Infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the Finite.
    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist and historian. Teufelsdröckh, in Sartor Resartus, bk. 2, ch. 9 (1833-1834).
  • They raise their minds by brooding over and embellishing their sufferings, from one degree of fervid exaltation and dreary greatness to another, till at length they run amuck entirely, and whoever meets them would do well to run them thro' the body.
    Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. Letter, January 28, 1821. Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle, vol. 1 (1970-1981). Referring specifically to the Romantics.
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