The French Revolution
Carlyle (Thomas)
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Author’s Introduction

  1. Thomas Carlyle's history of the French Revolution, published in 1837, opens with the death of Louis XV in 1774 and ends on 5 October 1795 when Napoleon quelled the insurrection of the 13th Vendemiaire. It is a work of great narrative and descriptive power that was itself meant to be revolutionary. It was intended to break with the established, measured tones expressing 'the dignity of history' and to give an urgent voice to what men felt about the events at the time. After two hundred years Carlyle's account of the Revolution still offers us the chance to experience and reconsider all it meant.
  2. As such readers as Emerson and Whitman understood, it was (in John Stuart Mill's words) 'not so much a history as an epic poem', but also 'the truest of histories'. At the same time, Carlyle parodies the classical pretensions of the philosophes and revolutionaries; and it is a feature of this edition that it explains his insistent literary and classical allusions so that the modern reader can understand their immediate, structural, and stylistic effects.
  3. This edition reproduces the two-volume text of 1857 and includes a new chronology of the events of the Revolution, and a new and full index.

  • Oxford Paperbacks, OUP, 1989.
  • Edited by K. J. Fielding and David Sorensen

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