The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 7. The French Revolution
The labour on this new book meant even more self-abnegation than that on Sartor had implied. On the lonely Scotish moors at Craigenputtock there had been little or nothing to tempt Carlyle to deviate from his singleness of purpose; but London opened up alluring avenues to a literary life which might have led to freedom from material cares, to comfort, perhaps even to affluence. Had Carlyle stooped to journalism and adapted himself to the every day routine of the professional man of letters—The Times, for instance, was thrown open to him—he might rapidly have won an assured position for himself. Instead, he buried himself in French history, laboured unremittingly at his French Revolution, while months passed when not a penny came into the domestic exchequer. And, as if the struggles to produce the book were not enough, the work of many weeks, the manuscript of the first volume, was accidentally destroyed in the early part of 1835, when in the hands of John Stuart Mill. Rarely has the virtue of “the hero as man letters” shone in fairer light than the manner in which Carlyle received the terrible news, and grimly determined to sit down and rewrite the volume. At last, in January 1837, the History of the French Revolution was finished. The English reading world did not, at first, know what to make of this strange history, and more than it had known what to make of Sartor; but it was, at least, quicker to feel the power of the book; and enthusiastic recognition soon began to pour in from the most unexpected quarters. Fame come at last, the right kind of fame, a fame, too that, in course of time, brought reasonable remuneration in its train.