In Book 3, Chapter 2 of "Past and Present," Carlyle uses the somewhat unusual tactic of directly addressing and actually attacking the reader.

Nay, what wouldst thou thyself have us do? cry indginant readers. Nothing, my friends, — till you have got a soul for yourselves again. Till then all things are 'impossible.' Till then I cannot even bid you buy, as the old Spartans would have done, two-pence worth or powder and lead, and compendiously shoot to death this poor Irish Widow: even that is 'impossible' for you. Nothing is left but that she prove her sisterhood by dying, and infecting you with typhus. Seventeen of you lying dead will not deny such proof that she was flesh of your flesh; and perhaps some of the living may lay it to heart. [p. 180]

Is this an effective technique for provoking members of society into changing their attitudes or even actions? Why does Carlyle view it as necessary to go beyond relating the anecdote of the Irish widow to actually accuse the reader of being just as guilty as the "Charitable Establishment" thst refused the widow aid?


Victorian Web Overview Thomas Carlyle Leading Questions

Last modified 24 May 2002