Jane Welsh Carlyle

Jane Welsh Carlyle (née Jane Baillie Welsh, 14 January 1801 – 21 April 1866) was a Scottish letter writer.

As a child, she was given private tuition at home, and later attended a school in Edinburgh. In 1826, she married the essayist Thomas Carlyle. From 1840 until her death in 1866, Jane had a long lasting relationship with fellow writer Geraldine Jewsbury.

Jane Carlyle was known for expressing herself vividly and forcefully, in speech and in writing: “All the men take fright sooner or later at my violence – tant mieux!”, she wrote in one of her letters. Some friends suspected that she was the writer of Jane Eyre and, when Shirley appeared in 1849, Carlyle was keen to get hold of it, as she wrote in another letter: “I get the credit with certain critics in style of writing these Jane Eyre books myself – and I was curious to see whether the new one was up to my reputation!” Adam Bede was also thought, by some, to have been written by her.

However, Jane never published books in her lifetime, nor sought to publish them, and burnt many of her journals and private papers. Fulfilling the promise she made to Jane, Geraldine destroyed all the letters she received from her.

Virginia Woolf wrote a portrait of Jane and Geraldine, published in her Second Common Reader.

Books

Letters

  • The Early Letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle, edited by David George Ritchie (1889, available here)
  • Selections from the Letters of Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury to Jane Welsh Carlyle, edited by Annie Alexander Ireland (1892, available here)
  • I Too am Here: Selections from the Letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle, edited by by Alan Simpson & Mary McQueen Simpson (1977)
  • Jane Carlyle: Newly Selected Letters, edited by Kenneth J Fielding & David R Sorensen (2004)
  • The letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle and Thomas Carlyle (available here)
  • New Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle (available here)

About her

  • “Mrs. Carlyle,” by Margaret Oliphant, in: The Contemporary Review, Vol. XLIII, 1883, pp. 609–628 (available here).
  • Jane Welsh and Jane Carlyle, by Elizabeth A. Drew (1928)
  • “Geraldine and Jane”, by Virginia Woolf, in: The Bookman, February 1929, pp. 612 – 620 (available here)
  • Necessary Evil; the Life of Jane Welsh Carlyle, by Lawrence Hanson & Elisabeth Hanson (1952)
  • The Carlyles: A Biography of Thomas and Jane Carlyle, by John Stewart Collis (1971)
  • Jane Welsh Carlyle, by Virginia Surtees (1986)
  • Ambitious Heights: Writing, Friendship, Love: The Jewsbury Sisters, Felicia Hemans, and Jane Welsh Carlyle, by Norma Clarke (1990)
  • Thomas and Jane Carlyle: Portrait of a Marriage, by Rosemary Ashton (2001)
  • Jane Welsh Carlyle and Her Victorian World: A Story of Love, Work, Marriage, and Friendship by Kathy Chamberlain (2017)

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