1. What are some features of Carlyle's style?
  2. For what does he praise the poet?
  3. What might a modern literary critic think of this essay? How may the purposes of literary criticism have changed since Carlyle's day? To what do you attibute these changes?

"Signs of the Times"

  1. Comment on the style of "Signs of the Times"? How does it convey its subject?
  2. What does Carlyle see as the flaw of the spirit of his age? What does he propose to place in its stead?
  3. What aspects of his society does he criticize (politics, religion, economics, the arts), and why?
  4. Why do you think this essay may have been so popular?

"On Heroes and Hero-Worship"

  1. What does Carlyle find characteristic of the heroes of the present age?
  2. What is heroic about "Men of Letters"? How do they differ from past heroes? What is their destined end?
  3. Why do you think Carlyle chose Rousseau, Johnson and Burns as his heroic "Men of Letters"? Why did he eliminate Goethe? Or for that matter, Scott?
  4. Do you think there may be something autobiographical about Carlyle's remarks on the nature of literary men?


  1. What does Carlyle remember most about his dead wife? What do his remarks and memories indicate about his character?
  2. What do his "Reminiscences" seem to reveal about his writing habits and career?
  3. What do his memories of his mother indicate about his childhood and uprearing?

Final questions:

Carlyle was Scotland's most famous expatriate. Is there anything in Carlyle's preoccupations or style which seems to reflect his Scottish background?

How do Carlyle's writings respond to what he conceives to be the writings of the Scottish enlightenment? (Locke, Hume, Bentham) Can he nonetheless be said to share some common traits with them?

What are some repeated themes or preoccupations which run through Carlyle's works?