Introduction Scottish-born prose writer known primarily for his literary attacks on sham, hypocrisy and excessive materialism he saw in the Victorian age. A “sage” writer Secular prophesy He struggled throughout his life (courageously, but far from quietly) with poverty and painful gastric ulcers.
Introduction His essays show Carlyle's fear: the individual personality will be destroyed by the mindless machines of : industrialism laissez faire policies. naturally distrustful of democracy fearful of "mob-rule“ “Cult of the leader” power of the strong individual over the inept social legislators of his day.
Past & Present problems of the industrial age: extensive poverty, a unregulated economy personal profit rather than social welfare, disenfranchised masses on the verge of revolt. why paternalism was such an attractive option for members of the middle class concerned with social reform (such as Charles Dickens, for example). Why, according to Carlyle, was Gurth was so much better off working under Cedric, his master;? what do nineteenth-century industrial workers lack that Gurth had?
Past & Present Middle-class reformers were sincerely concerned about the mass poverty also afraid of revolt and wanted the social hierarchy to remain in place. Carlyle’s Ambivalence: born into poverty, he in many ways sympathizes with and champions the working classes. “It is not to die, or even to die of hunger, that makes a man wretched. . . . But it is to live miserable we know not why; to work sore and yet gain nothing; to be heartworn, weary, yet isolated, unrelated, girt-in with a cold universal Laissez-faire: it is to die slowly all our life long, imprisoned in a deaf, dead, Infinite Injustice.” Yet later refers to them as the “Dumb Class” or the “dumb millions” the working classes do not require reform bills, or suffrage, or the other liberties prized by Romantic revolutionaries secretly crave the sort of kindly, beneficent leadership that prevailed in feudal times. “Liberty? The true liberty of a man,” in the days of feudalism, “consisted in his finding out, or being forced to find out, the right path, and to walk thereon.” The working-class individual who tries to forge out “the right path” toward freedom on his own is like a “madman” must be restrained for his own good, lest he do himself some irreparable harm.
Clarifications: Carlyle is not a lock-stock-and-barrel promoter of the "Lords and Vassal" system, nor the "master and servant" model he did get heat for coming out in support of slavery in the 1850's He believed in the "man must work" premise and how it could be achieved in industrial societies. He didn't really have any real answers. Carlyle admires the efficiency of the feudal system, the way it assigns an individual an action, but leaves the task open-ended on HOW that individual completes that assigned task. Industrial, mercantile society of his day was "unnatural" by not assigning the individual a duty, making him more of a slave by forcing him to chase materialistic goals. Where the caste-like system of the medieval world hampered social-mobility (Any one seen the movie "A Knight's Tale"?), it gave in return the freedom of activity and pride in one's craftsmanship. question he wanted to ask was: What's more important: social progressivism or being free from wage/materialistic slavery?