Alexander Carlyle 1722-1805

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Alexander CARLYLE 1722-1805

Biographical Note

Carlyle was a minister in the Church of Scotland. He was born in Cummertrees to Rev. William Carlyle (1689–1765) and Janet Robeson (1700-1779). In 1715, Carlyle enrolled in the University of Edinburgh at the age of thirteen. After graduating with an MA, he in studied at the University of Glasgow and the University of Leiden. On his return to Scotland, Carlyle became a licensed minister and took up a position in the parish of Inveresk. He married Mary Roddam (1743-1804).

Carlyle was friends with many prominent figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, such as Adam Smith, John Home, and David Hume. He anonymously published a broadside to promote attendance to Home's controversial play, Douglas, and a pamphlet mocking its religious opponents. He often published under the pseudonym 'O.M. Haberdasher'.

During his career, he became a leader of the moderate party of the church and was awarded a DD degree from King's College, Aberdeen. He was a founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.


Carlyle bequeathed his possessions to his nephew, Carlyle Bell. A record of books contained in his library was recorded in a notebook (NLS MS.23928), although the full extent of his collection is not known.

The notebook lists 189 titles composed of 17 folios, 15 quartos, and 157 octavo and duodecimos. They are mostly 18th century books with subjects covering history, law, geography, classics, religion, poetry, drama, novels, and encyclopedias. The notebook includes valuation of the library carried out by Edinburgh bookseller Peter Hill in 1806 (folio 9 verso). He valued the library at £64 11s. 8d.

Additional titles are listed in the back of the notebook, but the headings say 'added' and several of the publication dates are after Carlyle's death, making it unlikely that they were part of his original library.

Notable selections:

Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776)

Hobbes' Leviathan (1651)

Home's Tragedies (1760)


National Library Scotland L.33.g.1(2); Glasgow University Library Sp Coll T.C.L. 4016


  • National Library Scotland MS.23928
  • Carlyle, Alexander, and John Hill Burton. Autobiography of the Rev. Dr. Alexander Carlyle, Containing Memorials of the Men and Events of His Time. Edinburgh, 1860.
  • Scott, Hew. Fasti ecclesiæ scoticanæ; the succession of ministers in the Church of Scotland from the Reformation, vol. 1. Edinburgh, 1915.