Thomas carlyle

Can we know an artist by their house?

Show me your downstairs loo and I will tell you who you are. Better yet, show me your kitchen, bedroom, billiard room and man cave. Can we know a man – or woman – by their house? The ‘footsteps’ approach to biography argues that to really understand a subject, a biographer must visit his childhood home, his prep-school boarding house, his student digs, his down-and-out bedsit and so on through barracks, shacks, flats, garrets, terraces, townhouses and final Georgian-rectory resting-place. Walk a mile in their shoes – then put on their carpet slippers. So, to know Horace Walpole, we board the 33 bus to Strawberry Hill. For Henry Moore, it’s

The age of de-enlightenment

Depictions of Thomas Carlyle and David Hume in the Scottish Portrait Gallery will be altered to make it clear they were horrible racist bastards, apparently. All of the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers are under review, including Adam Smith, who thought that people living beyond Europe were largely savage. I am not sure how they will alter the bust of Carlyle — perhaps chisel a swastika on his forehead? Carlyle was certainly rightish on many issues: you don’t get Friedrich Nietzsche in your fan club if you’re woke. But when I started reading the chap, back in the late 1970s, it was for the witty and sharp Sartor Resartus that I loved