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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

The most remarkable segment is the one third of the book which deals with St. Edmundsbury Abbey. This part pulls you in really well with historical examples. The rest of the book feels like a one long rant about the same themes; this can feel tedious at times, but eventually it'll grow on you. The p

One of the best authors I have ever read.

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 conside

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, illuminat

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 wo

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