(K. Brent Tomer),
Jane Welsh Carlyle and Her Victorian World: A Story of Love, Work, Friendship, and Marriage. By Kathy Chamberlain.Duckworth Overlook; 398 pages; $37.50 and £25.
“SOME kind of angel married to some kind of god!” So seemed Jane Welsh Carlyle and her husband, Thomas, to a friend in 1845. Her wit and his fame—as the author of “The French Revolution” (1837) and “On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History” (1841), among other books—had shot them into the literary firmament. Poets, novelists, philosophers and revolutionaries all beat a path to their door in Cheyne Row, Chelsea.
But the image was a fantasy. Thomas was a curmudgeon, a “self-tortured, aggravating mystery of a man” as Kathy Chamberlain writes in her new book, and a prize chauvinist besides. “The Man should rule in the house and not the Woman,” he warned his bride-to-be. But Jane was a born ironist with “a genius”, she said later, “for not being ruled!” No angel then, but fun. One friend saw dinner guests seated beside her “in incessant fits of laughter!”, and her letters echo her…Continue reading