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Thinking Through StyleNon-Fiction Prose of the Long Nineteenth Century$
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Michael D. Hurley and Marcus Waithe

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198737827

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198737827.001.0001

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‘The greatest irregular’

‘The greatest irregular’

Thomas Carlyle’s Re-creative Purpose in The French Revolution

Chapter:
(p.87) 5 ‘The greatest irregular’
Source:
Thinking Through Style
Author(s):

Ruth Scurr

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198737827.003.0006

Thomas Carlyle claimed that his history of the French Revolution was ‘a wild savage book, itself a kind of French Revolution …’. This chapter considers his stylistic approaches to creating the illusion of immediacy: his presentation of seemingly unmediated fact through the transformation of memoir and other kinds of historical record into a compelling dramatic narrative. Closely examining the ways in which he worked biographical anecdote into the fabric of his text raises questions about Carlyle’s wider historical purposes. Pressing the question of what it means to think through style, or to distinguish expressive emotive writing from abstract understanding, is an opportunity to reconsider Carlyle’s relation to his predecessors and contemporaries writing on the Revolution in English.

Keywords:   French Revolution, style, historical imagination, re-creative writing, memoir, George Saintsbury, William Lecky, John Stuart Mill

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