to this web edition.

I set out almost two ago to learn about the period of French history which began with the death of Louis XIV and ended with the ascension of Bonaparte. It is a period that was ignored in my formal schooling. After reading a few glosses, I decided to tackle Thomas Carlyle's History of the French Revolution.

Carlyle, born December 4, 1795, is often given the epithet "the greatest writer of the Victorian Era." This reputation is based on his essays; his semi-autobiographical Sartor Resartus; the French Revolution; his biography of Frederich the Great; and his series of lectures, later collected, Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. The acclaim he received in his time often surprises modern readers, however, who may find his style florid, verbose and dramatically "over the top".

Carlyle's idea of the French Revolution is simple: It was the fault of -- and perhaps a judgment upon -- the weaknesses and foolishness of two kings (Louis XV and Louis XVI) and of the nobles whose job it was to maintain the French "ancient constitution". Once the rabble was let in, things had to run their course. In the England of 1835, at least, he was not alone in this opinion. People did not buy his History for new insights into the causes or events of the revolution. What was innovative about the book as history was that it attempted to dramatize the story while maintaining a strict adherence to documented descriptions of events. What Victorian readers made of Carlyle's frequent asides and pontifications, I do not know.

The style of Carlyle's writing is daunting in itself, but another factor made his History a difficult read for me: Carlyle wrote in the mid-1830s, when the events of the Revolution were recent history. Names, places and events that his first readers needed only to be reminded of were (literally) foreign to me. I frequently found it necessary to look up names and places (and occasionally unfamiliar words). Making careful notes proved useful.

This edition is the result of that note-taking. It is based on the Project Gutenburg text to which I have made the following changes:

All annotations are mine and I claim a copyright from the year 2003. You may make any non-commercial use you wish of the material, however, with or without attribution. Keep in mind that I am not a scholar; that I have likely made many mistakes of commission and omission; and that I do not warrant that this edition is suited for any purpose whatever.

I want to thank Ken Goss, who loaned me his edition of the History and who patiently disabused me of certain notions concerning French language and history. Remaining errors are mine, not his.

Bob Blair, email:
Killeen, Texas
April 4, 2004.