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He inherited their verbal gifts, their intense energy, and their will to succeed; he left behind their piety and rural values, passing through high school and Edinburgh University with a precocious interest in literature, in science, and in Scotland, which was enduring the tribulations of the Napoleonic Wars and their aftermath. He treated Edinburgh University distantly, reading on his own when he could, flinging himself into scientific and mathematical studies (which were his early ambition), restlessly trying out careers and rejecting teaching, the law, the Church, and free-lance translation and reviewing.Early signs of lifelong dyspepsia date from these years, indicating long nights of reading and writing, a poor diet, and stress.The staggering correspondence he and his wife conducted with each other and with their formidable circle of friends and acquaintances (a circle which touched Victorian Britain at every point) will further enhance his reputation when the long process of editing and publishing it reaches an end.By 1985 twelve volumes of the Duke-Edinburgh edition of (Duke University Press), edited by Charles Richard Sanders and others, had appeared.They were never rich, but became increasingly comfortable.

The process of transformation, essentially, is the plot of the philosophical satire (1836): Carlyle's philosopher Diogenes Teufelsdröckh reflects his creator in his suffering and in the resolution of his life's crisis; happily, he speaks not only for Carlyle but for those many in the nineteenth century who found identification with orthodoxy in society and religion impossible and who were equally dissatisfied with quiescence.

An outsider to much that stamped the English gentleman, lacking the background of public school and English university, he gave a view of his times and his society which often shocked his audience by virtue of its originality (as in the analysis of a "mechanical" society in the 1829 piece "Signs of the Times"), but impressed them nonetheless with its cogent, simple (some would say simplified) message.

Much of what we see now as Carlyle's "message" came from those early Scottish years—a Calvinist obsession with order, with duty, with work, with destiny; a fear of anarchy in the home, in the State, in international relations; an obsessive feeling that the times were morally degenerate; a narrow view of international affairs and an anti-intellectual view of the fine arts; a willingness to oversimplify, often knowingly, in order to make a start at reform, rather than allow visible degeneracy to proceed.

While he was adjusting his faith in the 1820s, the crisis of loneliness and rejection was steadily lessened by his growing literary success as a translator and then as essayist and by the personal satisfaction of meeting Jane Welsh, whom he assiduously courted through four difficult years of conversation and correspondence.

They married on 17 October 1826 and settled in an Edinburgh still enjoying the of the Age of Scott.

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Finding it stimulating but too expensive, they moved to their celebrated fastness of Craigenputtoch, an isolated hill-farm in Dumfriesshire where they spent six years which saw the genesis of the essays eventually collected in Carlyle's (1837), which has become a celebrated piece of historical writing.