Saturday 3 August 2013

Carlyle on Heroes.

Or, an Exercise in Literary S&M

Quarter-plate daguerreotype
of Thomas Carlyle (1848). [A]
Today I finally decided to have a look at Thomas Carlyle's "Lectures on Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History".

I'll admit it: I haven't read the whole thing, yet. So, my first impressions, which follow, may be unfair. If so, I guess I'll have to apologize and I'll be glad to.

With the caveat in place, and for what it is worth, here is my opinion. It's hard to say what is more appalling in "On Heroes": Carlyle's shameless sycophancy, his literary style or the sheer length of the writing (137 pages in Word, single space, Times New Roman 12).

Carlyle finishes with:  
"Our last [Hero, with capital H: i.e. Napoleon], in a double sense. For here finally these wide roamings of ours through so many times and places, in search and study of Heroes, are to terminate. I am sorry for it: there was pleasure for me in this business, if also much pain. (...)"

At this early stage of my reading, I suspect Carlyle is right on that: this will be a painful exercise (although so far I haven't found any hint of pleasure); and, a long way before finishing the "Lectures", I am already feeling sorry.

Image Credits
[A] Quarter-plate daguerreotype of Thomas Carlyle (1848). Harvard University Library. Author unattributed. Public Domain. Wikipedia.

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