Journal Article

The Review of English Studies Prize Essay the Unreliable Editor: Carlyle's Sartor Resartus and the Art of Biography

Vanessa L. Ryan

in The Review of English Studies

Volume 54, issue 215, pages 287-307
Published in print June 2003 | ISSN: 0034-6551
Published online June 2003 | e-ISSN: 1471-6968 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/res/54.215.287
The Review of English Studies Prize Essay the Unreliable Editor: Carlyle's Sartor Resartus and the Art of Biography

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In 1831 John Wilson Croker's new edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson sparked a debate about the nature of biography: is it a branch of history, recording the life of its subject, or is it a constructive and thus literary effort on the part of the biographer? Croker's grand claim to have surpassed all previous editors inadvertently raised the question of whether the greatness of the Life of Johnson was due to its subject or to the genius of its author. In a review of Croker's edition, published as two separate essays, ‘Biography’ and ‘Boswell's Life of Johnson’, Carlyle seized on this question, offering a largely unprecedented defence of biography as a literary and creative genre. At the same time as Carlyle wrote this review he was also completing Sartor Resartus. The two‐year gap between the debate over Croker's edition and the first publication of Sartor Resartus in Fraser's Magazine (1833–4) has tended to obscure the extent to which Carlyle's book can helpfully be seen in the context of this earlier controversy about the nature of biography. This essay argues that the relationship between the Editor's Heuschrecke's Teufelsdröckh in Sartor Resartus strongly resembles the relationship between Croker's Boswell's Johnson.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature) ; Literary Studies (American) ; Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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