For some months after leaving Oxford Froude was tutor to the Darbishire family in Manchester. In February 1849 he visited his friend Charles Kingsley at Ilfracombe. With Kingsley Fronde's friendship was particularly intimate, and their ideas were on many points alike. At Kingsley's house Froude met Mrs. Kingsley's sister, the original of the Argemone of Kingsley's 'Yeast,' whom he married on 3 Oct. 1849 at St. Peter's, Belgrave Square. She was Charlotte Maria, fifth daughter of Pascoe Grenfell of Taplow Court, and others of her sisters were married to Robert Merttins Bird [q. v.], Lord Sidney Godolphin Osborne [q. v.], and the first Baron Wolverton. These relationships brought Froude a wide circle of acquaintance. He had, too, been friendly at Oxford with Arthur Hugh Clough [q. v.], who resigned his fellowship at the same time and for similar reasons as Froude, and Clough introduced him to Emerson, the American essayist, when he visited England in 1848. Clough also persuaded Carlyle to see Froude, but it was James Spedding (Clough being then at Rome) who actually introduced Froude to Carlyle in June 1849 (Froude, Carlyle in London, i. 457-8). This first meeting proved a landmark in Froude's career. From that time he was a frequent visitor at Carlyle's house in Chelsea, and the close intimacy that gradually grew up between them lasted until Carlyle's death in 1881. Froude became Carlyle's chief disciple, and wholly submitted himself to his master's ideas. 'The practice,' he writes, 'of submission to the authority of one whom one recognises as greater than one's self outweighs the chance of occasional mistake. If I wrote anything, I fancied myself writing it to him [Carlyle], reflecting at each word on what he would think of it, as a check on affectations' (ib. ii. 180). Even his view of Henry VIII is practically that enunciated by Carlyle in 1849 (Gavan Duffy, Conversations, ii. 103-4), and the proofs of Froude's earlier volumes were submitted for revision to the same authority.
Upon his marriage Froude settled first at Plas Gwynant in Wales and then at Bideford. There he devoted himself to literary work and embarked on an elaborate contribution to the 'History of England in the Sixteenth Century.' This proved the main labour of his life ; but while engaged upon it during the next twenty years, he contributed occasionally on historical and other subjects to the 'Westminster Review' and 'Fraser's Magazine.' An article in the 'Westminster' on 'England's Forgotten Worthies,' published in July 1852, was the first fruits of his study of sixteenth-century history ; another, on the 'Book of Job,' in October 1853, was separately published in the following year in John Chapman's ' Library for the People,' and was subsequently included in Froude's 'Short Studies' (1st ser.) ; a third, on the poems of his friend, Matthew Arnold ( Westminster Rev. January 1854), materially helped the growth of Arnold's reputation. His 'Suggestions on teaching English History' were included in 'Oxford Essays' (vol. i. 1855).
The first two volumes of his 'History of England' came out in 1856. Further instalments of two volumes each were published in 1858, 1860, 1863, 1866, and 1870. The title of the earlier volumes ran 'A History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth,' but before he published the eleventh volume Froude came to the conclusion that the defeat of the Spanish Armada would be a more dramatic close to the story, and the title was altered accordingly. Macaulay's 'History of England' was still in the course of publication when Froude's earlier volumes were issued, but, in spite of this formidable rivalry, Froude's book was an immediate success ; a second edition of the first two volumes was called for in 1858, a third edition of volumes i-iv. vii. and viii. in 1862-4, and a cabinet edition of the whole in 1870 ; the twelve volumes were issued in a cheaper form in 1881-2 (new ed. 1893), and continue to command a large sale.The book at once established Froude's claim to rank among the greatest English prose writers of the nineteenth century ; its value as history is more open to question. Froude set out with a definite view the outcome on the one side of antipathy to Catholicism and, on the other, of sympathy with Carlyle's doctrine of hero-worship. In Henry VIII, 'the majestic lord who broke the bonds of Rome,' he found a man after his own heart, and the chief feature of his history is its vindication of Henry and of the anti-ecclesiastical character of the Reformation. This partisanship, which called forth severe at tacks, notably in Canon Dixon's 'History of the Church of England' and Father Gasquet's 'Henry VIII and the Monasteries,' and the carelessness with which Froude not infrequently used his authorities, impair the effect of his great endeavour. Among the most enthusiastic admirers of his 'History' was Froude's friend Kingsley, and Kingsley's eulogy of it in 'Macmillan's Magazine' for January 1860 contained his first challenge to Newman. In 1869, when Froude was rector of St. Andrews, and