Publication date: 4 March 2013
Category: Regional History
Preserved since 1895, this writer’s house in the heart of one of London’s most famous creative quarters tells the story of Thomas and Jane Carlyle. The couple moved here from their native Scotland in 1834 and became an unusual but much-loved celebrity couple of the 19th-century literary world. The Carlyles were encouraged to settle at Cheyne Row by the presence nearby of their friend, the poet Leigh Hunt, and although Chelsea was then far from fashionable London, they drew increasing numbers of their friends and acquaintances to the house. Despite their caustic personalities, both Thomas and Jane had a talent for friendship. Their wide literary circle included such distinguished figures as philosopher John Stuart Mill, poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the novelists Charles Dickens, George Eliot and William Thackeray and critic John Ruskin. Carlyle attracted disciples from across the world from Italian patriot Guiseppe Mazzini to Americans Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Eliot Norton. They sat for painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler and photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Carlyle was a prolific author: his three-volume The French Revolution: A History (the source for Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities) was rewritten here, the first and only manuscript being accidentally used by a friend’s servant to light a fire. The Carlyles were both obsessive letter-writers – to their family, friends and one another (they were often apart). As a result, we probably know more about the minutiae of their domestic lives than any other Victorian couple. They were both temperamental characters, easily roused to anger. They found it hard to keep servants on as a result. This guide tells the story of Thomas and Jane’s life at Cheyne Row from 1837 until Thomas’ death in 1881 and its life ever since. It includes a tour of the house and garden as it was in their lifetimes and is fully illustrated in colour throughout.