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Thomas Carlyle


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Thomas Carlyle

  1. 1. Thomas Carlyle<br />1795-1881<br />
  2. 2. Introduction<br />Scottish-born prose writer <br />known primarily for his literary attacks on<br />sham, hypocrisy and excessive materialism he saw in the Victorian age. <br />A “sage” writer <br />Secular prophesy<br />He struggled throughout his life (courageously, but far from quietly) with poverty and painful gastric ulcers. <br />
  3. 3. Introduction<br />His essays show Carlyle's fear:<br />the individual personality will be destroyed by the mindless machines of :<br />industrialism <br />laissez faire policies. <br />naturally distrustful of democracy <br />fearful of "mob-rule“<br />“Cult of the leader”<br />power of the strong individual over the inept social legislators of his day. <br />
  4. 4. Past & Present<br />problems of the industrial age: <br />extensive poverty, a<br />unregulated economy <br />personal profit rather than social welfare, <br />disenfranchised masses on the verge of revolt. <br />why paternalism was such an attractive option for members of the middle class concerned with social reform (such as Charles Dickens, for example). <br />Why, according to Carlyle, was Gurth was so much better off working under Cedric, his master;?<br />what do nineteenth-century industrial workers lack that Gurth had? <br />
  5. 5. Past & Present<br />Middle-class reformers were sincerely concerned about the mass poverty <br />also afraid of revolt and wanted the social hierarchy to remain in place. <br />Carlyle’s Ambivalence:<br />born into poverty, he in many ways sympathizes with and champions the working classes. <br />“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.” <br />Yet later refers to them as the “Dumb Class” or the “dumb millions”<br />the working classes do not require reform bills, or suffrage, or the other liberties prized by Romantic revolutionaries <br />secretly crave the sort of kindly, beneficent leadership that prevailed in feudal times. <br />“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.” <br />The working-class individual who tries to forge out “the right path” toward freedom on his own is like a “madman” <br />must be restrained for his own good, lest he do himself some irreparable harm. <br />
  6. 6. Clarifications:<br />Carlyle is not a lock-stock-and-barrel promoter of the "Lords and Vassal" system, nor the "master and servant" model <br />he did get heat for coming out in support of slavery in the 1850's<br />He believed in the "man must work" premise and how it could be achieved in industrial societies. <br />He didn't really have any real answers.<br />Carlyle admires the efficiency of the feudal system, <br />the way it assigns an individual an action, but leaves the task open-ended on HOW that individual completes that assigned task. <br />Industrial, mercantile society of his day was "unnatural" by not assigning the individual a duty, <br />making him more of a slave by forcing him to chase materialistic goals. <br />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.<br />question he wanted to ask was: <br />What's more important: social progressivism or being free from wage/materialistic slavery?<br />