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Past and Present
Past and Present
  • Thomas Carlyle was an enormous influence on literature that is still widely read, ranging across the Victorian political spectrum, from John Ruskin, to Charles Dickens, to George Eliot, to Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • Edited by two world authorities on Thomas Carlyle who previously edited The French Revolution for the Oxford World's Classics
  • Includes an introduction, bibliography, and chronology that provide valuable insight for both students and readers
  • Contains an additional chronology showing the context of Chronica Jocelini de Brakelond

Thomas Carlyle's Past and Present (1843) was a prophetic warning of impending disaster for mid-Victorian Britain that was delivered in what the author described as a 'miraculous thunder-voice, from out of the centre of the world.' The impact of Carlyle's social criticism was immediate and profound, shaping debate about the 'The Condition of England' question well into the twentieth century and beyond, and serving as the moral foundation of the welfare state. His relentlessly abrasive and illuminating critique of industrial civilization generated a vast range of response both in England, Europe, and the United States. The writings of Matthew Arnold, John Stuart Mill, William Morris, John Henry Newman, and John Ruskin, as well as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman, were saturated with imagery and ideas directly indebted to the book.
Past and Present also provided novelists and poets with an enduring vision of the ubiquitous rot that lay at the heart of 'laissez-faire' England. The repercussions of Carlyle's unique analysis can be witnessed in the literary form and thematic content of such works as Charles Dickens's Christmas Carol (1843), Dombey and Son (1848), Bleak House (1852-53), and Hard Times (1854); Benjamin Disraeli's Sybil (1845); Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton (1848) and North and South (1855); and Charles Kingsley's Alton Locke (1850). Poets such as Alfred Tennyson in Maud (1855), Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Aurora Leigh (1856), and Arthur Hugh Clough in The Latest Decalogue (1862) built a vocabulary that was steeped in the outrage and indignation of Carlyle's polemic. The artist Ford Madox Brown attempted in his painting Work (1852-65) to give visual testimony to the profound social schisms that Carlyle had exposed in Past and Present and to pay tribute to the 'Sage' who had 'moulded a nation to his pattern.'


Note on the Text
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle
Context and Chronology of Chronica Jocelini de Brakelond
Explanatory Notes

About the author: 

Thomas Carlyle
Edited by David R. Sorensen, Professor of English, Saint Joseph's University, and Brent E. Kinser, Professor of English, Western Caorlina University
David R. Sorensen is Professor of English at Saint Joseph's University and Associate Director of its Honors Program. He is a senior editor of the Duke-Edinburgh Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle (1970-ongoing), and has edited with K. J. Fielding, Carlyle's The French Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1989) and Jane Carlyle: New Selected Letters (2004), with Rodger L. Tarr, The Carlyles at Home and Abroad (2004), and with Brent E. Kinser, Carlyle's On Heroes and Hero-Worship (2013). He is co-editor of Carlyle Studies Annual and a founding director of the Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium (2011- ). He also co-edited the Oxford World's Classics edition of Carlyle's The French Revolution (2019).
Brent E. Kinser is Professor of English and Department Head at Western Carolina University. He is the author of The American Civil War and the Shaping of British Democracy (2011), and the coordinating editor of The Carlyle Letters Online (2007- ; ), the electronic edition of The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle (1970- ), for which he serves as an editor. He is co-editor (with David R. Sorensen) of Carlyle's On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (2013) He is co-editor Carlyle Studies Annual and a founding director of the Victorian Lives and Letters Consortium (2011- ). He also co-edited the Oxford World's Classics edition of Carlyle's The French Revolution (2019).

Product details

ISBN : 9780198841081

Thomas Carlyle; David R. Sorensen; Brent E. Kinser
544 Pages
129 x 196 mm
Pub date
Apr 2023
Oxford World's Classics
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Past and Present

Past and Present

Past and Present