1. Thomas Carlyle was one of Victorian Britain's greatest historians, yet his idiosyncratic style (sometimes referred to as "Carlylese") has seldom if ever been imitated by later writers: speculate as to why.

2. Carlyle's style is so pronounced that it has been labelled "Carlylese." Identify the salient features of this prose style beyond the copious allusions and metaphors, providing an example of each stylistic feature.

3. To what effect has Carlyle employed so many French words, phrases, and expressions?

4. How does Carlyle create a sense of drama and immediacy in his recounting the events of almost fifty years earlier, giving the reader a "you-are-there" sense of the fall of the Bastille?

5. In 1859, utilizing resources provided him by Carlyle, Dickens wrote a historical novel set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. How does Carlyle's description of the fall differ in both style, narrative technique, and content from that which Dickens gives in Book Two, Chapter 21, of A Tale of Two Cities?

6. Determine whether Carlyle's wide-ranging allusions to Greek mythology, the Bible, and European history are merely ornamental (designed, for example, to demonstrate his immense erudition) or highly functional (serving such purposes as irony, comparison, contrast, and analogy).

7. How does Carlyle employ the names of specific people to make more convincing his account of events which occurred almost five decades prior to the time of writing?

8. What techniques does Carlyle use to create bias? Show how this bias operates, either in favour of the Bastille's besiegers or in favour of its defenders.

9. What comparison is involved in the inverted-order sentence "For four hours now has the world bedlam roared"? How does this metaphor epitomize Carlyle's attitudes towards the events that he is describing?

10. How does Carlyle's attitude towards the French aristocracy differ from that of the Parisian mob?

11. Behind the moment-by-moment description of events lies a theory of history that Carlyle is demonstrating in action. For example, how do Georget and the King of Siam's cannon show us the forces which have shaped history's greatest events?

12. Why has Carlyle compared Santerre, a humble brewer from St. Antoine, to the Catholic aristocrat and general of the Thirty Years' War, Ambrogio Spinola?

13. Why has Carlyle compared Huissier Maillard, balancing on a plank across the Bastille's moat, to the dove that the Old Testament's Noah sent out from the Ark in quest of dry land?

14. "Under Carlyle's hand, the particular and the universal, the momentary and the eternal coexist in the reader's mind." Explain with specific reference to The French Revolution.

15. What is significant about the King's reaction to the news that the Bastille has fallen? What else has preoccupied the King's mind in late June 1789? What failings in the King as a ruler has Carlyle dramatized?

16. According to Carlyle, why did De Launay not blow up the Bastille rather than surrender it to the mob?

17. The Bastille was a symbol of the injustice and oppression of the ancien régimeto the French proletariat, peasantry, bourgeoisie, and philosophes: how does Carlyle convey the symbolic nature of the fortress-prison?

18. The Bastille was defended by massive stone walls and trained riflemen: how, then, was a mere mob, untrained in military engineering, able to triumph over its defenders?

19. "No previous social order in history had seen such rapid and revolutionary mutation as the Victorians saw unfolding before their astonished eyes" (William F. Roe, Victorian Prose [New York: Ronald Press, 1947] p. xiii). Hence, to Carlyle's readers in the late 1830s and early 1840s social change would have been at once terrifying and exhilarating. How does he convey this self-contradictory attitude towards social change in these two chapters of The French Revolution?

20. While Victorian England was a pleasure-ground and materialistic paradise for the well-to-do, including the newly-rich bourgeoisie, it was "purgatory for the able and a hell for the poor" as John Morely commented in 1870 (cited by W. F. Roe, Victorian Prose [New York: Ronald Press, 1947] p. xv). How does Carlyle convey this sense of the life of the under-class in these two chapters of The French Revolution ?

21. Carlyle "read in the French Revolution the vengeance of an angry god on a sham aristocracy" (Rosemary Jann, Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia [New York: Garland,1988], page 120). How does Carlyle communicate this theme in Chapters 6 and 7 of the first book of The French Revolution?

22. Carlyle was far from sanguinary about the virtues of universal suffrage; rather, he felt that laissez-faire economics and democracy would inevitably led to economic and social chaos, a view he presented in Chartism (1839). How do Chapters 6 and 7 of the first book of The French Revolution anticipate this view?


"History was not a "stop-and-go" process in which advance waited upon particular events, but a natural and organic development in which each age was the child of the previous one; and since the contrast between contemporary civilization and its small and inferior beginnings seemed obvious, the development was plainly one of progress." [Walter E. Houghton, "Emotional Attitudes and Optimism," The Victorian Frame of Mind, 1830-1870 (New Haven: Yale U. P., 1957), page 29.]

Carlyle, contends Houghton, conceived of human advancement spiritually and intellectually as a "progressive unfolding" or an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary progress. What grounds for optimism, for a more reasonable and just society, does one find in Chapters 6 and 7 of the first book of The French Revolution?

24. In "The Voice of Prophecy: Carlyle and Ruskin," E. D. Mackerness speaks of "the clamorous manner in which the author enforces attention rom the reader by acting as interlocutor, private counsellor, and vates in quick succession" (From Dickens to Hardy, ed. Boris Ford [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1958], page 299). Show how Carlyle adopts each of these "voices" in Chapters 6 and 7 of the first book of The French Revolution.

25. In "The Voice of Prophecy: Carlyle and Ruskin," E. D. Mackerness describes Carlyle in Manichaean terms:

The conception of life as a prolonged holy war between the powers of light and darkness inhibited Carlyle from giving external nature the kind of detailed consideration called for as of right by moral issues. (From Dickens to Hardy, ed. Boris Ford [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1958], page 300).

Carlyle, however, fervently believed in heroism, in loyalty and self-sacrifice in the face adversity. Show how his Manichaeanism and conception of heroism inform Chapters 6 and 7 of the first book of The French Revolution.

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Last modified 18 August 2004