chapter  3
30 Pages

DUST-CLOUDS AND DISSONANCES

James Anthony Froude’s publication, in the 1880s, of documents by and about his friend and mentor Thomas Carlyle precipitated a controversy that still has its partisans today. The intervening century has seen the debate take a number of forms: sexology, psychoanalysis and a range of feminisms have had their say.1 But in each instance the aim on both sides has been constant: to establish the truth about Carlyle. For reasons that will become clear, this has entailed two further tasks: defining the proper relationship between Carlyle’s work and his marriage; and understanding Froude’s likely motivation in exposing his erstwhile master to the risk of damaging speculation, censure and even ridicule. My own aim in Part 2 is not to resolve any of these issues, but to raise a more basic one: why did any of it matter?