27.03.2015
13:33

Carlyle’s House (National Trust)

Address:

24 Cheyne Row, Chelsea, SW3 5HL

Phone:

020-7352 7087

Website:

www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carlyles-house

Opening times:

Wed–Sun 11:00-16:30

How to get there:

Tube: Sloane Square, then bus 11, 19, 22. Bus 239 from Victoria

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

No disabled access

Off Cheyne Walk in this sedate corner of old Chelsea is the 1708 Queen Anne terraced house which was the home of the great historian, essayist and social thinker Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881), ‘the sage of Chelsea’. Carlyle and his wife Jane (1801–66), known for her beauty, intelligence and wit, moved here from Scotland in 1834; the couple remained here until their deaths. The house is substantially unchanged and, though their highly-charged relationship was often tempestuous, an atmosphere of quiet and dignified simplicity remains. It was here that Carlyle, a difficult, irritable and habitually melancholy man, wrote his epic works: The French Revolution (1837); the influential On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History (1841), in which he outlined his theories on the importance of powerful and conviction-led individuals; and biographies of his personal heroes, Oliver Cromwell (1845) and Frederick the Great (1858–65). The freehold of the house was purchased by public subscription in May 1895, and a trust formed to administer it. In 1936 it passed to the National Trust. The rooms contain much of the original furnishings, including portraits, photographs, books, manuscripts and many other personal relics. Carlyle’s statue (1882) by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm is nearby, in the gardens on the Embankment.

The Sitting Room, or Parlour, is furnished much as it appears in Robert Tait’s painting, A Chelsea Interior (c. 1857), which hangs in the room. Mrs Carlyle was much irritated that Tait had made her dog Nero look the size of a sheep; she also commented on the ‘wrong perspective’ and ‘frightful table-cover’. Among the photographs and portraits is Boehm’s plaster maquette for his seated statue of Carlyle. The Back Dining Room, the rear of the room, contains James Archer’s 1869 portrait of Carlyle and one of Frederick the Great of Prussia, whose biography Carlyle had recently completed when his wife bought it in 1866, the day before she died (suddenly, of an attack brought on by the shock of Nero escaping from the carriage at Hyde Park Corner). Chico the canary lived in the birdcage. Downstairs, the kitchen is little altered. Here Carlyle would smoke in the company of Tennyson, and it was also where Mrs Carlyle’s domestic servant (she was a difficult woman to work for and got through several) slept. Up the stairs, passing portraits (another of Frederick the Great; one of Cromwell) and photographs of Carlyle by the pioneer Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, is the Library, or Drawing Room, where Carlyle wrote The French Revolution and his wife entertained such figures as Dickens, Browning, Thackeray, Darwin and Ruskin. Carlyle died here on 5th February 1881. In Mrs Carlyle’s Bedroom is a chest of drawers with Carlyle’s dressing-gown, waistcoats and smoking cap. The Attic Study was built for Carlyle by the firm of Cubitt in 1853 as a sound-proof retreat from noise which distracted him from his work. Unfortunately the room actually had the effect of amplifying sounds from the nearby Thames, but nevertheless Carlyle used it for 12 years, until his biography of Frederick the Great was complete. In the room are books and personal items, including some of his famous ‘notekins’ to his wife. The garden, with its walnut and cherry trees and lilac bushes, is much as it would have been in Carlyle’s day. Mrs Carlyle’s dog Nero is buried about 5ft from the southeast corner of the garden.

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MUSEUMS & GALLERIES OF LONDON

Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

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