Carlyle and the tradition of Burke

Louis Rader, Colby College


Like several important Romantics, Thomas Carlyle contributed to the tradition of Burkean conservatism. Although it has been generally assumed that Burke's acceptance of laissez-faire economic policies invalidated him from exercising any significant influence on the Victorians, there are several indications of the influence which Burke had on at least one Victorian, Thomas Carlyle. A brief examination of the works of three Romantics, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Scott, indicates that Burke had considerable influence on these men. The significance of this to the study of Burke and Carlyle is that essentially Burkean ideas were carried on into another generation, providing both perpetuation and a more intense field of concentration. Since it is certain that Carlyle was acquainted with the works of these men, it is possible that the Romantics played an important role in Carlyle's acceptance of the philosophy of Edmund Burke.