Thomas Carlyle was one of the greatest historians and essayists of the nineteenth century. Born and educated in Dumfriesshire, he briefly worked as a teacher before turning to writing. The publication of his translations of foreign literature brought him into contact with other writers such as Coleridge and Thomas Campbell. In 1826 he married Jane Baillie Welsh, an intelligent self-educated woman and a writer in her own right. The couple settled in Chelsea where they became a focus for many well-known literary and political figures of the time. The artist of this work was the wife of Irish poet William Allingham, a friend of Carlyle. Although Helen Allingham specialised in romantic views of rural England, she occasionally painted portraits of her family and her husband’s friends.