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Past and Present

Thomas Carlyle

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Inspectors or Custodiars over us;—not in any breathless haste to appoint a new Abbot, our revenues coming into his own Scaccarium, or royal Exchequer, in the mean while. They proceeded with some rigour, these Custodiars; took written inventories, clapt-on seals, exacted everywhere strict tale and measure: but wherefore should a living monk complain? The living monk has to do his devotional drill-exercise; consume his allotted pitantia, what we call pittance, or ration of victual; and possess his soul in patience.

Dim, as through a long vista of Seven Centuries, dim and very strange looks that monk-life to us; the ever-surprising circumstance this, That it is a fact and no dream, that we see it there, and gaze into the very eyes of it! Smoke rises daily from those culinary chimney-throats; there are living human beings there, who chant, loud-braying, their matins, nones, vespers; awakening echoes, not to the bodily ear alone. St. Edmund's Shrine, perpetuall. . . Read More

Community Reviews

All I can say is that I am relieved to be finished this. I think I deserve credit for doing so. Carlyle's picture of his current-day England is highly relevant which is why I gave this two stars. The fact that he is pretty much a racist, egotistical windbag made this a tedious read.

If Carlyle's philosophy is successfully implemented and reached its natural conclusion, then the end result would be a utopian society ruled by a benevolent dictator. Of course this is if all things go well. I agree with Carlyle's premise on hero worship, but it just so happens that the "heroes"...more

This was my first entry into Carlyle. It is quite a strange book. Past and Present is , essentially, a critique of Victorian Capitalism from a very Reactionary viewpoint, with a nice diversion into Mediaeval History. This is through a portrait of the 12th century monk, Abbott Samson. Carlyle cons...more

Carlyle was one of the most prominent writers and thinkers of the mid 19th century. This is a short polemical work he knocked off as a break from a writing a serious history. It is mostly Carlyle opining about the social ills of his time, but wrapped around a comparison with medieval life, illumi...more

Pretty amazing stuff. Written with the volume at 11 the whole way through! The second part, about the medieval stuff, is very moving.

Carlyle makes some interesting points (that I think carry over to society today from the 19th Century) however at times his thoughts seems scattered. Parts of his writing are beautiful and read as prose, but at the same time there are other sections where it becomes easy to get bogged down in his...more