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The French Revolution: A History (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – May 14, 2002


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Modern Library edition (May 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375760229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375760228
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“No novelist has made his creations live for us more thoroughly than Carlyle has made the men of the French Revolution.” —George Eliot

From the Inside Flap

The book that established Thomas Carlyle's reputation when first published in 1837, this spectacular historical masterpiece has since been accepted as the standard work on the subject. It combines a shrewd insight into character, a vivid realization of the picturesque, and a singular ability to bring the past to blazing life, making it a reading experience as thrilling as any novel. As John D. Rosenberg observes in his Introduction, The French Revolution is "one of the grand poems of [Carlyle's] century, yet its poetry consists in being everywhere scrupulously rooted in historical fact."

This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition, complete and unabridged, is unavailable anywhere else.


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Customer Reviews

It is a poetic style, for sure.
James M. Rawley
Carlyle paints a grim description of the complete and utter chaos of the times, particulary the Great Terror of mid-1794.
Charles Reilly
Some history books are interesting, some dull, this one was beautiful.
Laughter and Death

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Charles Reilly on November 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Thomas Carlyle's unique poetic style of prose may be tough to take early on, but after a few pages, it does grow on you. It's all overly dramatic and sensational, but what subject could be more so than the French Revolution itself? Carlyle paints a grim description of the complete and utter chaos of the times, particulary the Great Terror of mid-1794. He does, however, remain somewhat non-judgemental regarding the Revolution's key figures, and lets the readers sort out for themselves who the real culprits are. He may over-simplify the obvious at certain junctures in the book, but his style is riveting and as this shocking and dismal tale of woe continues, the reader is further drawn into a daze and trance similar to the Terror's unfortunate victims.
Some have suggested that it's better to read a "normal" history of the French Revolution before one undertakes this famous volume. I disagree. This is as good a place to start as any concerning that most volatile of times. Simply put, Carlyle's "French Revolution" is both informative and exciting, and it has held up well since it was first published in 1837.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
The authors of the previous review were too harsh on the text - it isn't a mere display of literary muscle turned lightly to the French Revolution, it's an interesting take on the subject from a penetrating mind.
The other reviews saying "Don't read this if you don't know everything about the revolution" seem a little bit silly to me having read it - if you know nothing about French history and the revolution, ok, you might have some difficulties. But if you have even a rough view of the revolution (from a textbook chapter, short article, almost anything) you won't be lost. Once or twice one might be forced to read back or do a tiny bit of side-reading to get a colourful 19th century reference, but it isn't nearly as oblique as the first reviewer made out.
The style is not difficult to read, considering the date, and the narration is often captivating or amusing. The individual, literary portraiture of historical figures is unique and valuable to me in building a kind of familiarity with events, however cautiously. And the claim that it isn't "historically" written by modern standards - perhaps the reviewer was too busy composing clever jabs to note the date of writing? If you want Francois Furet, read Francois Furet, but Thomas Carlyle unfortunately didn't have the benefit of 20th century developments in historical methods.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sans Away on October 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Definitely a classic. Don't be put off by the warnings other reviewers have about unfamiliar words and phrases: like any great writer, Carlyle does the work of presenting every event and person in a way to give us a feel for what was going on--at least in his vision of what happened between 1789-94 in France. The prose isn't straightforward, but you can get a summation of events straight from any encyclopedia or textbook: what Carlyle does is go much, much more in depth. Terms like 'Sansculottism' or 'sea-green Robespierre' bring very vivid impressions by the time you get near the end, and his insights into character and motive are amazingly vivid (no wonder George Eliot was impressed!)

This history does indeed read like a novel, and it really is quite good. Yes, there are unusual words and phrases (like Shakespeare, Carlyle coined and invented words, several now currently used in the language). That's all part of the fun though. The Modern Library edition has a good introduction, plus a timeline of events to orient you better while reading.

A very worthwhile and satisfactory book, current tastes not withstanding.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M. on December 2, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is indeed a very strange work of history; Carlyle narrates the events of the Revolution as those of a Victorian novel. It is difficult to convey a true sense of the hyper-dramatic prose that results, so it might be better to include some excerpts from the text:

The surrender of the Bastille:

"For four hours now has the World-Bedlam roared: call it the
World-Chimaera, blowing fire! The poor Invalides have sunk under their
battlements, or rise only with reversed muskets: they have made a white
flag of napkins; go beating the chamade, or seeming to beat, for one
can hear nothing. The very Swiss at the Portcullis look weary of firing;
disheartened in the fire-deluge: a porthole at the drawbridge is opened,
as by one that would speak. See Huissier Maillard, the shifty man! On
his plank, swinging over the abyss of that stone-Ditch; plank resting
on parapet, balanced by weight of Patriots,--he hovers perilous: such
a Dove towards such an Ark! Deftly, thou shifty Usher: one man already
fell; and lies smashed, far down there, against the masonry! Usher
Maillard falls not: deftly, unerring he walks, with outspread palm. The
Swiss holds a paper through his porthole; the shifty Usher snatches
it, and returns. Terms of surrender: Pardon, immunity to all! Are they
accepted?--"Foi d'officier, On the word of an officer," answers half-pay
Hulin,--or half-pay Elie, for men do not agree on it, "they are!" Sinks
the drawbridge,--Usher Maillard bolting it when down; rushes-in the
living deluge: the Bastille is fallen! Victoire! La Bastille est prise!"

The execution of Robespierre:

"At four in the afternoon, never before were the streets of Paris seen so
crowded.
Read more ›
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