What are some aspects of Carlyle’s critique of his society? (5, 6)
--feels everyone suffers from the ignorant use of wealth, feels concern for destiny of England
--people have forgotten that essential truth and justice dwell in temporary semblances, 13
How would you characterize the language of Past and Present? Is its style appropriate for its purposes?
What is the effect of coinages and archaisms? What is the effect of his allusions to fable and literature as metaphors?
Does Carlyle seem to organize around the paragraph rather than the sentence? What do you think of his prose rhythms? His use of compound nouns? (uses short units, wound up into longer ones)
How does Carlyle’s style suggest his origins or language study? (would have spoken Scots; translated from German)
How does Carlyle’s social analysis differ from that of Engels? What are contrasts in their political views?
both dislike competition, laissez-faire economy
Carlyle believes we need better leaders, 33, 36; Engels wishes an entire change in the basis of property relations
both criticize (though for different reasons) the parliamentary acts, 23, 38, “bethamism” and other reformist measures, 21, and voters, 33
Carlyle believes that each individual must find solution in self, 26
Carlyle wishes a world of heroes, 39; Engels of course wishes a world of satisfied, equal workers
Is Past and Present well organized? Is there a natural sequence of chapters?
What is the nature of Carlyle’s logic? Can you tell when he is being sarcastic? What is the rhetorical function of his sarcasm? (sarcasm forms paradoxical opposite to effusive praise)
Can you comment on his uses of paradox? Metaphor? Are his metaphors extended or brief?
What are some purposes of Carlyle’s use of the past? (39 from past, to illustrate present and future)
Why has he chosen a monastery as a focus of interest? (69)
monks have sense that the outer world is merely a shadow of the infinite
its ethos contrasts with days of cash payment, 70
machinery inadequate, 86
What does Carlyle find to be the best preparation for governing? (91)
What does Abbot Samson actually do as governor of the monastery? How might he be distinguished from other abbots? Are there any political implications to all this? Is he a “democrat”?
excommunication; restriction of murmuring monks, 122
building, reedifies altar, 122
in most cases, sternness to enemies
diligent, in contrast to lazy monks
What is implied in the assumption that the best preparation for ruling is obeying? (91)
What does Carlyle think of Wordsworth? (117) Do you find any passages which remind you of the latter, in language or sentiment? (119)
In what context are Jews mentioned? (90, 104) Does this indicate any anti-semitism? What is Carlyle’s attitude toward Catholicism? Methodists? (120) How do women appear in his scheme?
Are there other groups which Carlyle portrays through stereotypes? Are these stereotypes useful for his purposes? (contrasts)
e. g. “The Nigger Question,” offensive but highly rhetorical, able to expand on what his audience knows nothing about
Bobus, political candidate
What are some of Carlyle’s stylistic merits?
disjointedness causes prose to move quickly
variation (can be both positive and negative)
better at praise than defamation
paraphrasis, directness, humor, wryness
highly rhythmic, dense elegant style
oral style, use of alliteration and assonance, rising and falling rhythms
repetition, personification, metaphor
careful balance, best at beginning of chapters, 137
beautiful sentences, hyphenated, 136
good on isolated topics, 212
epigrammatic, 212; coy, 247
Are there cumulative features in the book’s style? (intensifies) What is the sequence or progression in which the essayist presents his topics?
Book III, The Modern Worker
“Phenomena”--What is the significance of the title?
“Happy”--Is there a point to Carlyle’s argument? (155, 161)
Nobility consists not in sloth but in suffering for others, 181. The hero stands in the front of battle (this anticipates Ruskin’s notion of the soldier as an ideal model for other professions). “Descend, O Donothing Pomp,” 181, descend, work, heal, for you can longer “plead Parchments,” 182, “the Corn-Laws are too much to have a Chapter,” 182. He uses lively personifications, 182 (“when the brains are out, why does not a solecism die?” 182), yet predicts warm winds of change, for “The Corn-Laws keep all the air hot,” 183 (cmp. metaphors of Kingsley’s Westward Ho).
Chapter 9, “Working Aristocracy”
This term refers (flatteringly) to the mercantile urban upper-middle class. After the upper-middle class has freed itself from regulation by the upper-class agrarian landed interests, it too must reform. With increased prosperity and trade provided by the repeal of the Corn Laws, the mercantile class must find a way of substituting other arrangments for the cash-nexus--must feel obligation to workers, 187. Not the law of supply and demand but of spiritual need should determine work, 188, and the love of workers should be shown through constant personal involvement. The present captains of industry need to change their approach, 189.
He uses Victorian rhetorical devices, building through repetition to a climax. This creates a great sense of postonement and agonized waiting for the future.
Chapter 10, “Plugson of Undershot”
The relationship of man to man cannot be carried on by the cash-nexus. Life is a battle, and man is created to fight, 191; the analogy of class war suggests that fighting might be internecine. The imperishable will survive conflict, however, 191; where the soul is present, justice wins the battle, 191-92 (right will be might). The Battle is a Quintessence of Labour, 192 (a popular metaphor; this was the era of the Salvation Army). Plugson of Undershot was a Buckaneer and a collector of scalps; in an ironic reversal, 194, money is is revealed as miraculous, for it has extinguished the moral sense in mankind. Note the comic detail, 195, “and on the dead wigs each particular horsehair stands on end!” The critic dismisses the idea of the “Organization of Labour” as continental and “somewhat absurd”, 195, a notion promoted by “absurd and windy persons.” Yet he argues by implication for higher wages, that is, a fairier cash-nexus, 195, a reform to be led by the upper-middle-class, 195. His argument seems to gather in coherence, as he calls for a nobler Plugson; compare Robert of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South.
Chapter 11, “Labour”
Who are the labourers, and what is their place in the scheme of things? (202)
“There is always hope in a man that actually and earnestly works; in Idleness alone is there perpetual despair,” 196. He repeats the message of Sartor Resartus, “Know what thou canst work at,” 196. Work provides an escape from uncertainty, 196.
He doesn’t, however, suffiently consider the question of what work, or its effect on the laborer, questions considered to some degree by Ruskin and more centrally by Morris.
Destiny cultivates and shapes us through work, as the Potter the pot by the wheel, 197, a biblical image. Labour is Life, 197. Doubt is ended by action, 198. This section evokes a constant sense of the overcoming of an inhibition.
Are there any aspects of life mssing from Carlyle’s work ethic? (fantasy, imagination)
One must constrain circumstances and even to some degree Nature, 198. Every noble work was at first impossible, as that of Gideon (fleece, biblical example). He invokes a series of heroic allusions to the Brave Sea-Captain, Norse Sea-King, Columbus my hero, the royalest Sea-King of all! which rise into poetry. His great ranting celebratory periods in praise of an ideal (person) influenced Ruskin’s torrential language in Modern Painters, Aurora’s rhapsodic praise of Romney in Aurora Leigh, and Hopkins’ celebratory ode to Christ the hero at the end of “The Windhover.”
Chapter 12, “Reward”
This chapter provides a quasi-poetic celebration of the inherent value of work. “Laborare est Orare,” “all true work is sacred,” 202 (a kind of argment by tautology), 203, “One monster there is in the world; the idle man” Yet true wages lie in Heaven, 204. “My brother, the brave man has to give his life away,” 204, again, Christian associations, for no wage is worth a life, “let the price be Nothing,” 204. “a small poet every worker is,” 205. The Poet must embody faith in the Unseen--a less hostile context for poetry than heretofore. 206, “All Works, each in their degree, are a making of Madness sane,” contrast Keats, “Truth is Beauty.” cmp. Hopkins’s poems on laborers. Plugson should be freed and aided--man of power, 208, contrast Keats.
Chapter 13, “Democracy”
What is actually the subject of the chapter?
The lot of laborers is the worst it has been, 210. The Medieval “Gurth,” a swineherd, at least possessed a stable living, 211, and his life was better because he was ruled by William the conquerer! (212-213), who would not have permitted the present situation. “Democracy” seems an unfortunate product of our times.
How does he define this? (214 “despair of finding any heroes to govern you,”--not every man his own hero but a hero over every man!)
Instead of finding heroes, all wear metetricious gaudy clothes, and the Tailor verges toward Sanculottism; by class and national snobbery Carlyle thus dismisses the Chartism of lower-middle class artisans, 216, who are viewed as self-oppressed. He asserts the clarity of the “best path,” 217, which is opposed to voting (twenty years later, in “Shooting Niagara,” he vitriolically opposed the Reform Bill of 1867. Even this still required fairly substantial rent to vote, so that those enfranchised were certainly middle-class; not until the Reform Bill of 1884 was the lower middle-class male enfranchised).
Why do you think Carlyle found “the best path” and the power to vote contradictory goals? Why did the latter seem so threatening?
What is his attitude toward the aristocracy? (219) Who are his ideal aristocrats? (219-20)
Chapter 14, “Sir Jabesh Windbag”
We have exchanged Cromwell for Sir Jabesh Windbag--contrasts a real man with an obnoxious fictive one. Who is Sir Jabesh? (a journalist who seeks to influence votes, 223)
Chapter 15, “Morrison Again”
With an allusion to Morrison’s pills, a form of quackery, the critic asserts that palliatives and reforms fade in the light of belief, but the religion of the past is also a fetishism, 226. He proffers a great paen to the religion of new force, which turns out to be “Praying by Working,” 230. There is Worship in Washing, 231! He remains rather unspecific about the nature and aims of this work, which is to “clean up” society in some disciplined way. He alludes to Goethe’s prophecy of a new world, 234; literature, which is a “strange-froth ocean, not wholly Froth,” anticipates our future (refers to Goethe’s marching song, which influenced Tennyson, as will his heroic prose poem). Like the mason we must build; the Mason’s ways become a type of existence (compare Jude the Obscure).
Book IV, Horoscope (i. e. the Future)
Chapter 1 Aristocracies--The speaker condemns eighteenth century histories which impute interested motives to past rulers. To disbelieve in past heroism is an “infidelity like no other.” “Men will again be taught this. Their acted History will then again be Heroism; their written History, what it once was, an Epic.” The past half-century, especially the French Revolution, has taught us that a real Aristocracy is needed, and that “Liberty and Equalities” are impossible. Instead we need a Governing Class and a Teaching Class--an Aristocracy and a Priesthood. Man must by necessity obey his superiors. “The Wiser, Braver” develop themselves into a ruling class--this has occurred in England in “the noblest and richest manner any region of the world ever saw,” 242. The essayist then undercuts and praises the priestly class.
The bravest men have been (happily) also the “Wisest, Strongest, every way best” (243). Might is right! Past men fought to determine who had the right over whom. Perhaps the past was a bit violent, but at least the peasant belonged securely to his master, 244. The holders of land ruled--as was appropriate according to “the laws of Nature,” 244. One cannot hire men to govern land, i. e. pay members of Parliament (the Chartists wanted salaries for members of Parliament, so that persons not independently wealthy could serve).
The violence of the past was better than the “life-in-death” of the present, 245. The essayist sees Anselm as a type of the holy man of the past; still, he believes secular rulers had their virtues, and he is glad that the ecclesiastical authorities didn’t win their power struggles. Had they done so, the Western world would have become a European Tibet, with its Grand Lama at Rome. We now look to the epic of the future, “Tools and the Man.” But each of us can ascertain clearly what “he, for his own part, ought to do,” 248. From this Carlyle jumps to the conclusion “That there will again be a King in Isarel.” He asks the question: “How do you mean to manage these men?”
What do Carlyle’s ideas do for ideals of worker autonomy? Does he believe that “they” might manage themselves?
How did Carlyle’s views resemble those expounded in Plato’s Republic? In Ruskin’s Unto This Last? Does the society he advocates significantly resemble that of mid-Victorian Britain?
What might have been unusual about his views in their social context?
Chapter 2, “Bribery Committee”
The speaker is horrified that members of Parliament are guilty of bribing their constitutents. Present-day life is built on Mammonism, i. e., the rich get elected. But in fact the represenatives of both parties are unworthy, and he and the people of England must seek their rulers elsewhere.
Chapter 3, “The One Institution”
What can our government do about the “Problem of the Working Classes of England,” the most momentous question of the day?
Again, our government is empty, consisting of 700 to 800 Parliamentary Talkers. He notes the manifesto of Tory Young England, Disraeli and his supporters, 257, and identifies a new hero in the Prime Minister. At least the soldier is a reality (here he anticipates a similar train of thought in Unto This Last); other forms of work must likewise be organized. He advocates legislative interference in workers’ conditions, 261, the Ten Hours Bill, sanitation, mandatory Primary education, 262, and an effective system for the emigration of the unemployed to reduce dissent, 263. This will have the advantage that English-speaking peoples will continue to trade with England, 264. He again praises English conservatism in a qualified way, but now it is time for the Seven Sleepers to arise, 265. His job as “editor” is not to prescribe specifics but to advocate mild remedial measures.
Which of these suggestions would have seemed new or radical in 1847? Which reflected reformist middle-class goals? Working-class demands?
Chapter 4, “Captains of Industry”
The problem must be solved by those who “work and preside over work,” 267, that is, the latter. These must concern themselves with distribution as well as production, 268. The critic then launches into a great peroration, 268, and calls on the men of England to rise to save their country, 269. The love of men is mentioned briefly, 269, yet this “love” is closer to deference (contrast Morris, who altered this ethic toward brotherhood), a “love” which must be “regimented, chivalric,” i .e., there must be rules and standards of equity and stern rigor, 271. The noble workers he addresses are middle-class educated future managers, to whom he offers an apologia and sense of dignity in their work, which includes the ordering of workers in “just subordination,” 272. The image of an “industrial army” is a powerful one, and was used by Edward Bellamy in the late 1880s in Looking Backward.
heightened rhetoric, 272
comparisons with Northern heroes, 273
sense of difficulty, but little sense of what things whould be done beyond a diffuse sense of blended rigor and humanitarianism
narrator affirms these new reader-heroes
Chapter 5, “Permanence”
Carlyle affirms that a permanent contract must replace a temporary one (will influence Ruskin, “When ye build, think that ye build forever.” His view precludes the possibility of a trade union response, since there can be no bargaining or shifting of masters.
What does the speaker think of the abolition movement? (275) With what intentions does he use the term “black Quashee”?
He gives an example of a prudent Quaker who strives to attach his men to him, 276, and offers a great paen to permanence of dwelling, 277. He suggests a new definition of wealth, 278, “The wealth of a man is the number of things which he loves and blesses,” a definition which may anticipate Ruskin’s later assertion in Unto This Last, “Wealth is Life.” Finally, he suggests that one must reconcile despotism with freedom by making despotism just (278).
Chapter 6, “The Landed”
The wealthy landed gentry must also see their work and do it; his example is the reformer Lord Shaftesbury. “Men do reverence men,” 282-83. Carlyle’s notion of respect seems one-way, however, not mutual respect but the worship of lessers for superiors.
Chapter 7, “The Gifted”
The sovereignty of human nobility is inevitable, 285, a statement reinforced by circular tautologies. Among the not-noble are Trades-Unionists, 286, and the gin-vanquished. These views are followed by a paen to earnestness, 287. The hero loves others as they cannot love him, and his soul dwells in solitude; still, his heart holds a sancutary for the wretched, 288, and he himself is divine, 288. Contemporary men of letters are like earlier Priesthoods, 289.
Which groups of people do you think would have been especially gratified by Caryle’s views? Why do you think they might have felt the need for psychological reinforcement or political guidance?
Chapter 8, “The Didactic”
What needs to be taught, and to whom?
He offers a paen to change, 292, filled with optimism. What is his final rhapsode, 294?
“Conclusion”--What is his conclusion? (304)
What are some of the merits and limitations of Carlyle’s treatise? Why do you think it was so respected in its time?
Can you think of any twentieth-century thinkers who have held similar views?
If one were to advocate some of Carlyle’s principles today, how might their phraseology be recouched? Do his views have any continuing relevance?