Thomas Carlyle (1795 –1881) was a writer, historian and philosopher. Born in Scotland, Carlyle moved to London in 1834 where he wrote, lectured and created a network of notable literary friends, including early London Library members such as JS Mill, Charles Dickens, Harriet Martineau, Leigh Hunt, WM Thackeray and Alfred Lord Tennyson.

In 1838, frustrated by the lack of a lending library in London, Carlyle began gathering support for the creation of The London Library. He was adept at articulating the need for such a resource and by April 1840 he had helped create a committee to pursue its foundation. In June 1840 the committee arranged a promotional event at the Freemasons Tavern, featuring speeches by various committee members, including Carlyle, who passionately elucidated the case for the Library to an enthusiastic audience.  

The Library was founded in May 1841 and Carlyle sat on its first committee and was elected President in 1870.

As a writer, Carlyle produced some influential and highly celebrated works, including Sartor Resartus (1833-4), A History of the French Revolution (1837), and On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History (1841). However, his later writings revealed his racist views. In particular, Carlyle’s essay Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question, first published anonymously in 1849, opposed the abolition of slavery. This bought him into direct conflict with liberal thinkers of the time including his erstwhile friend JS Mill who published an opposing essay. Carlyle’s racist views are completely unacceptable and the London Library does not share them.

The Library is a place for inspiration and support that is open and welcoming to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.