Thomas Carlyle (December 4, 1795 - February 5, 1881) was a Scottish essayist, satirist, and historian, whose work was hugely influential during the Victorian era. Coming from a strictly Calvinist family, Carlyle was expected by ... more
We call it a Society; and go about professing openly the totalest separation, isolation. Our life is not a mutual helpfulness; but rather, cloaked under due laws-of-war, named fair competition and so forth, it is a mutual hostility.
But the whim we have of happiness is somewhat thus. By certain valuations, and averages, of our own striking, we come upon some sort of average terrestrial lot; this we fancy belongs to us by nature, and of indefeasible rights. It is simple payment of our wages, of our deserts; requires neither thanks nor complaint. Foolish soul! What act of legislature was there that thou shouldst be happy? A little while ago thou hadst no right to be at all.
Manhood begins when we have in any way made truce with Necessity; begins even when we have surrendered to Necessity, as the most part only do; but begins joyfully and hopefully only when we have reconciled ourselves to Necessity; and thus, in reality, triumphed over it, and felt that in Necessity we are free.
Of America it would ill beseem any Englishman, and me perhaps as little as another, to speak unkindly, to speak unpatriotically, if any of us even felt so. Sure enough, America is a great, and in many respects a blessed and hopeful phenomenon. Sure enough, these hardy millions of Anglosaxon men prove themselves worthy of their genealogy. But as to a Model Republic, or a model anything, the wise among themselves know too well that there is nothing to be said. Their Constitution, such as it may be, was made here, not there. Cease to brag to me of America, and its model institutions and constitutions.
Only perhaps in the United States, which alone of countries can do without governing,every man being at least able to live, and move off into the wilderness, let Congress jargon as it will,can such a form of so-called Government continue for any length of time to torment men with the semblance, when the indispensable substance is not there.
Real good breeding, as the people have it here, is one of the finest things now going in the world. The careful avoidance of all discussion, the swift hopping from topic to topic, does not agree with me; but the graceful style they do it with is beyond that of minuets!
Thought once awakened does not again slumber; unfolds itself into a System of Thought; grows, in man after man, generation after generation, --till its full stature is reached, and such System of Thought can grow no farther, but must give place to another.
When we can drain the Ocean into mill-ponds, and bottle up the Force of Gravity, to be sold by retail, in gas jars; then may we hope to comprehend the infinitudes of man's soul under formulas of Profit and Loss; and rule over this too, as over a patent engine, by checks, and valves, and balances.
We have our little theory on all human and divine things. Poetry, the workings of genius itself, which, in all times, with one or another meaning, has been called Inspiration, and held to be mysterious and inscrutable, is no longer without its scientific exposition. The building of the lofty rhyme is like any other masonry or bricklaying: we have theories of its rise, height, decline and fall -- which latter, it would seem, is now near, among all people.
Cash-payment never was, or could except for a few years be, the union-bond of man to man. Cash never yet paid one man fully his deserts to another; nor could it, nor can it, now or henceforth to the end of the world.
For the superior morality, of which we hear so much, we too would desire to be thankful: at the same time, it were but blindness to deny that this superior morality is properly rather an inferior criminality, produced not by greater love of Virtue, but by greater perfection of Police; and of that far subtler and stronger Police, called Public Opinion.
We were wise indeed, could we discern truly the signs of our own time; and by knowledge of its wants and advantages, wisely adjust our own position in it. Let us, instead of gazing idly into the obscure distance, look calmly around us, for a little, on the perplexed scene where we stand. Perhaps, on a more serious inspection, something of its perplexity will disappear, some of its distinctive characters and deeper tendencies more clearly reveal themselves; whereby our own relations to it, our own true aims and endeavors in it, may also become clearer.
Wonderful Force of Public Opinion! We must act and walk in all points as it prescribes; follow the traffic it bids us, realize the sum of money, the degree of influence it expects of us, or we shall be lightly esteemed; certain mouthfuls of articulate wind will be blown at us, and this what mortal courage can front?