decorated initial 'T'he form of Past and Present has two functions, to bring the past into the present — to recover the lost idyll — and to convert its audienceto represent the audience's movement from the present into a future that recuperates the past. Past and Present does not simply analyze the condition of England, it represents that condition by depicting the various factions that make up English society in much the same way that The French Revolution had dramatized the voices of conflicting factions. Through dialogue between the prophetic author and the factions dividing English society, Carlyle imagines the conversion of his contemporaries and the emergence of a new era. In order to represent the audience's movement from the present into the future, he divides Past and Present into visions of how an idyllic monastery was recovered by an "Ancient Monk" in the past, an analysis of the conditions facing "The Modern Worker" in the present, and a "Horoscope" of the future. In the process, Past and Present transforms epic as myth [106/107] or text into epic as fertile nation, enabling Carlyle to imagine the recuperation of the lost idyll but also introducing the authoritarianism that was to become predominant in Latter-Day Pamphlets and Frederick the Great.

A new voice reflecting Carlyle's heightened sense of authority domi nates the dialogues of Past and Present. Neither the Editor of Sartor Resartus nor Teufelsdröckh presumes to claim that what he says is "A God's-message," that "It is Fact, speaking once more, in miraculous thunder-voice, from out of the centre of the world." Like the prophet, this speaker claims to bear a "God's message" and threatens divine retribution: "Behold, ye shall grow wiser, or ye shall die!" (34). For the first time, the persona of the Carlylean narrator fully assumes the role of prophet who can speak with the transcendental authority of "Fact," "Nature," "the Universe," "Nature's eternal law," "the Heavens," or "the Highest God" (34; 160-61, 184, 187; 182, 217; 221; 269; 279, 281).

The prophetic narrator of Past and Present addresses his audience as if he were delivering a sermon. The narrator of Chartism had been a variation on the editorial voice of the political reviews for which Carlyle originally intended it. Its dominant tone is that of the disembodied voice of reason rather than Carlyle at his most characteristic:

A witty statesman said, you might prove anything by figures. We have looked into various statistic works, Statistic Society Reports, Poor-Law Reports, Reports and Pamphlets not a few, with a sedulous eye to this question of the Working Classes and their general condition in England; we grieve to say, with as good as no result whatever. [CME, 4:124]

Typically, this speaker does not address his audience as if he were speaking to it directly, but the narrator of Past and Present, seeking an immediate relationship with the members of his audience, addresses them as "brothers":

O brother, can it be needful now, at this late epoch of experience, after eighteen centuries of Christian preaching for one thing, to remind thee of such a fact; which all manner of Mahometans, old Pagan Romans, Jews, Scythians and heathen Greeks . . . have managed at one time to see into; nay which thou thyself, till 'red-tape' strangled the inner life of thee, hadst once some inkling of: That there isjustice here below; and even, at bottom, that there is nothing else butjustice!" [14]

The archaic diction of the passage — with its echoes of the King James Bible — is not the language of the respectable political review but of the pulpit. Past and Present [107/108] does not address its appeal to members of Parliament but seeks a broader constituency of middle- and upper-class readers, for many of whom the ethical discourse of the Bible remained as powerful as the discourse of political economy.

But although Carlyle thunders like a prophet, he does not wish to isolate himself from his congregation as Irving had done, and so he imagines dialogues between himself and his audience. As in The French Revolution, where he represented the conflicting voices of revolutionary factions, he creates a range of personae, personifications, and types who represent all sides of the debate about the condition of England. But, whereas in The French Revolution he could only apostrophize historical actors whose actions were already fixed in the past, in Past and Present he could hope to shape the future actions of his audience. This enabled him to organize Past and Present as a dialectical narrative through which he shapes his audience into a new class responsible for the salvation of England. In addition to adopting the role of the prophet, he represents himself as an observer with a unique, but not necessarily transcendental, perspective, as Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, Gottfried Sauerteig, a picturesque tourist who visits the St. Ives workhouse, and a newspaper reporter for the Houndsditch Indicator. Ranged against him are the sausage-maker Bobus Higgins of Houndsclitch, the landlord of Castle-Rackrent, the industrial Firm of Plugson, Hunks and Company in St. Dolly Undershot, Pandarus Dogdraught, Aristides Rigmarole Esq. of the Destructive Party, the Hon. Alcides Dolittle of the Conservative Party, black Quashee, Haiti Duke of Marmalade, the merchant Sam Slick, Mecxnas Twiddledee, and the continental newspaper editors Blusterowski, Colacorde and company.fn31 Carlyle's use of dramatized discussion suggests that his audience is not being coerced by a superior power, but persuaded by the truths he reveals to them. These dialogues constitute a metanarrative in which Carlyle's readers, initially opposed to him, eventually come to understand and believe him, narrator and audience merging in the concluding vision of social union.

In book I of Past and Present, entitled "Proem," Carlyle reads the symbols and signs of the times in order to create a mythic framework for his analysis of the condition of England. As in The French Revolution, the titles of the chapters — " Midas," "The Sphinx," "Manchester Insurrection," "Morrison's Pill," and so on-- emphasize symbolic interpretation rather than systematic inquiry. The opening paragraph, [108/109] for example, makes the same argument as the opening paragraph of Chartism; but whereas Chartism simply states a thesis and elaborates it analytically, Past and Present elaborates it mythically by comparing England to Midas, "full of wealth ... yet ... dying of inanition" (7). Furthermore, by focusing on the sudden loss "of unabated bounty," Carlyle not only begins to create a vision of the problems that beset England, he also foretells the resolution in which bounty is restgred. From the beginning, Past and Present promises to use the vision of past "bounty" in order to imagine a bountiful future.fn32

In the first half of book I, Carlyle represents his audience as "idle reader[s] of Newspapers" who might misread the signs of the times, but he is more concerned to demonstrate a correct reading than to attack his audience for its obtuseness (9). In order to enlighten his audience about the condition of England, he attempts to give voice to the mute working class, what the actions of the striking workers in Manchester and the Stockport mother and father who killed their children so they could collect burial insurance "think and hint" (10).fn33 The debate begins when Carlyle's audience asks, in response to his claim that the working class is demanding action from them: "What is to be done, what would you have us do?" (28). The concluding chapters of book i elaborate his reply to this question through dialogues between his avatars and representatives of his audience. By creating, in the ignorant "Bobus Higgins, Sausage-maker on the great scale," a comic caricature of the more fatuous elements of the middle class, he is able to attack its narrow views of' social reform while avoiding a personal attack on his readers (35). Furthermore, by articulating this attack through his fictional avatars, Gottfried Sauerteig and a reporter for the Houndsditch Indicator, Carlyle avoids the appearance that he is judging Bobus himself. This strategy enables him to concur in his own voice with Bobus's demand for an "aristocracy of talent" while broadening the demand to encompass revolutionary reform, a 11 radical universal alteration of your regimen and way of life" (28; see 41; Landow, Elegant Jeremiahs, 53-62). Creation of an aristocracy of talent will not mean the establishment of a meritocracy that will better serve Bobus's middle class, he suggests, but a transformation ofBobuses into a "whole world of Heroes." To the reader's question, "What is to be done," his ultimate response is that we must become "hero-worshippers"; we must discover a hero who will lead us into the promised land. [109/110]

Book 2, "The Ancient Monk," represents one such revolutionary transformation as it was wrought by the heroic Abbot Samson. Samson's twelfth-century monastery, like English society of the nineteenth century, had lost sight of its original ideals and fallen into decay. The narrative of "The Ancient Monk" represents the recuperation of the lost idyll established by the ideals of St. Edmund three centuries before the arrival of Samson, the familiar circular narrative of the journey from idyll to exile and back again. This narrative sequence is, in turn, the model for the sequence of books 2-4. From the history of Abbot Samson, Carlyle shapes a vision of heroes who can reform their own society, or at least perhaps their factories, as Samson had reformed his twelfth-century monastery. Carlyle's intention of bringing Cromwell back to life in the nineteenth century reveals itself in his representation of Samson as hero. He regarded Cromwell and Samson as similar men, his first writings on Samson appearing in the pages of his Cromwell manuscripts and Cromwell appearing throughout Past and Present.fn34 The revolutions of Samson and Cromwell, unlike the French Revolution, transform society from above rather than from below, transmitting change downward through the hierarchy. Samson is not himself a king, but, like a king, he is not popularly elected. Furthermore, his appointment is authorized by the king, who plays a major role in selecting him to reside at the apex of the monastery's hierarchy. The reestablishment of the monastic hierarchy enables Samson to refurbish and revitalize the monastery.

Book 3, "The Modern Worker," represents the anarchic present through contentious dialogues between the narrator and his contemporaries. The dialogue form does not play an important role in book 2, presumably because the monks, even though they do not like all that Samson does, share a common system of belief and therefore have no need to argue with one another. The sequence of idyll/ exile/ idyll becomes the sequence of silence (no need for dialogue) /speech and dialogue/ silence. The example of book 2 suggests that the dialogues of book 3 aim ultimately to move from conflict to unity, from speech to silence in book 4 Because Carlyle uses the dialogues of book 3 to develop his critique of liberal democracy, he does not attempt to be even-handed in his representation of the opposition. Spokesmen for the aristocracy and middle class, for example, expose the weaknesses of their positions in the process of defending them and are readily refuted [110/111] by the transcendental voices of "Nature" and the "Law" (e.g., 17273, 193, 214). At the same time, because Carlyle's audience does not have the vision to understand England's plight, it remains polarized against him, unwilling to accept the solutions he offers. Throughout book 3, this tension between the narrator and the audience remains unchanged and appears to be irremediable. In Chartism this situation undermined Carlyle's attempts to envision the future; the ignorimce of his audience could only lead to more ignorance, to more anarchy. The form of Past and Present, however, enables him to confine presentday anarchy to book 3 so that it does not contaminate his representation of the past or the future.

Carlyle's analysis of the condition of England also differs from that in Chartism, centering here on the ethical void created by the destruction of religious faith. At the center of the medieval world of Abbot Samson is the religious belief that forms the basis of the social order. At the center of his own world, Carlyle finds negation of belief, and from the negation of belief follows the negation of social order. He portrays the anarchy of democratic political institutions and the irresponsibility of laissez-faire economics, along with atheism, as absences or negations that make social order impossible. Rather than criticizing middle-class democracy on its own terms, Carlyle insists that democracy is the product of the "atheism" that has dominated English government since the restoration of 1660 (140-43, 149, 16q). Similarly, he argues that the cash nexus of laissez-faire economics is "kin to Atheism," finding "Heart-Atheism," for example, in the empty symbol of the "huge lath-and- plaster hat" paraded through the streets of London to advertise a hat manufacturer (215, 148-50, 144). The utilitarians, and even his more orthodox contemporaries, Carlyle insists, are wrong to think that the problems of the socioeconomic order can be solved in isolation from the transcendental order.

The atheism discussed in Past and Present, then, is not so much a theological question as a question of moral order. Carlyle deplores the argument that economy determines the fundamental social order because it suggests that economy is morally neutral, driven by selfinterest without respect to social values or a sense of social responsibility. He responds that government operating on the "No-God hypothesis" cannot infuse justice and truth into the social order. The "moral-sense" that makes individuals just and honest will not arise from within the socioeconomic order, but must be infused from above in the form of religious belief. "Money" has destroyed the "moral sense," [111/112] he concludes, turning "masses of mankind" into "egoists" who "cut [themselves] with triumphant completeness forever loose from [their employees], by paying down certain shillings and pounds" (194, 189).

Whereas government, the realm of the political, ought to be the means whereby the transcendental moral order is infused into the chaos of human society, democracy merely institutionalizes the social anarchy of laissez-faire economics (see 89-90, 153, 214-18). When the market is left "free" to regulate itself, the wealthy exploit their economic "might" with no more sense of moral obligation than "Bucaniers and Chactaws"; it is democracy, not monarchy, that validates the "Law of the Stronger" (26; see 191ff.). Laissez-faire offers only the very limited "freedom" to seek the best work, a freedom that becomes in times of dearth merely the "Liberty to die by starvation" (211). Furthermore, because this freedom forces laborers to compete with one another for work, it produces profound "social isolation": it "is to live miserable we know not why; to work sore and yet gain nothing; to be heart-worn, weary, yet isolated, unrelated ... to die slowly all our life long, imprisoned in a deaf, dead, Infinite Injustice" (218, 210).fn35

The intransigence of the parties with whom Carlyle debates the condition of England question in book 3 represents the fundamental self-interestedness of individuals who lack the "moral-sense" as well as the divisive social fragmentation that follows from this social condition; in book 4, "Horoscope," Carlyle's audience experiences the conversion he had called for in book 1, constituting itself as the captains of industry. They now acknowledge the narrator's transcendental authority and become once again believers in the transcendental order. The resulting unity of narrator and audience represents the recovery of social cohesion that is the precondition for recovering the transcendental idyll. Taking up its place in the new social hierarchy, the audience, too, becomes an authority and begins to govern justly and to create an idyllic England.

Past and Present calls on all elements of society to seek reform but specifically envisions the leaders of the reform movement as the industrial middle class transformed into captains of industry. In book 4, Carlyle represents the industrialists who had earlier sought to justify their exploitation of the poor as discovering their moral selfdegradation and the need for a domain of value:

I am encircled with squalor, with hunger, rage, and sooty desperation.... What good is it? My five hundred scalps hang here in my wigwam: would to Heaven [112/113] I had sought something else than the scalps; would to Heaven I had been a Christian Fighter, not a Chactaw one! ... I will try for some thing other, or account my life a tragical futility!" [290-91]

Thus the "moral-sense" is transmitted through the prophetic narrator of Past and Present to the new captains of industry, transcendental authority moving downward and outward, converting anarchy into a new social order. The dialogues of book 4 consequently pit reformed captains of industry against unreformed Bobuses rather than Carlyle against his contemporaries (291). Instead of defending the status quo, the speakers for this new class seek to reform England, prodding the government to act, rejecting the claims of vested interests, and denouncing the belief that "there is nothing but vulturous hunger, for fine wines, valet reputation and gilt carriages" (268; see 257, 262, 267). just as Teufelsdröckh discovers that his vocation is to "Be no longer a Chaos, but a World," to create "Light," so these "Workers" are commanded to "let light be," to create a "green flowery World" that recovers the idyll of "unabated bounty" lost to enchantment in the opening paragraph of Past and Present (SR, 197; PP, 293-94, 7).

Past and Present succeeds where Chartism had failed because it does not attempt to frame its argument within the discourse of political economy but employs the rhetoric of religion to create an opposing discourse of value. Rather than simply providing a critique of' contemporary society, Carlyle is able to create a vision of an alternative social order. He understood that his audience had allowed its religious beliefs to be separated from its everyday life in the world of industry, and Past and Present was his most effective piece of social criticism precisely because it created a powerful and relatively coherent ethical discourse that drew on the religious rhetoric with which his audience was familiar and applied it to the circumstances of their everyday lives. Yet Past and Present only partially succeeds in reuniting the domains of religion and economy, for it envisions an escape from the commercial world into the transcendental idyll. It succeeds in part by making ethical discourse more powerful than the discourse of economy, but it remains powerful only in its visionary mode. At those moments when Carlyle presents his vision as a social and historical process, he turns to political force rather than religious beliefin order to achieve the transcendental idyll.

* * * * * * *

Past and Present privileges material production over cultural production, the "done Work" over the "spoken Word" (160). Whereas in [113/114] Carlyle's earlier writings cultural myths had been the means through which action was infused with a transcendental moral order, now belief beconies posterior to, an efflorescence of, activity directed by the transcendent. The "old Epics" written on paper are no "longer possible," so the English epic must be "written on the Earth's surface" (293, 159; see 176; CME, 4:171-72). When Carlyle refers ambiguously to "[tlhis English Land," the connotations of nation and culture elide with the connotations of physical land and agriculture (134). Instead of an expression of belief that transfuses the world and makes it an idyll, the idyll is a product of labor that literally builds a "green flowery world." Only through labor, he wrote elsewhere, could one find "salvation" (Faulkner, 157).

Throughout Past and Present and Carlyle's later writings, land reclamation and agriculture are the privileged forms of labor, coterminous with the aboriginal creative act, God's creation of the world in Genesis (esp. Gen. 1:9-11). The parallel with Genesis suggests that labor as creative activity continues the process through which the material world is infused with the transcendental order (see PP, 134-35). In the chapter entitled "Labour," Carlyle typically represents work as the transformation of a "pestilential swamp" where land and water mingle in "a green fruitful meadow with its clear-flowing stream" 0 97). These metaphors imply that the productions of agricultural labor-arable land-are permanent, while the productions of cultural labor — religious or literary texts — are ephemeral.

Carlyle's representations of the "Captain of Industry" owe a great deal to his enthusiasm for the men who were leading "poor starving drudges" out to found new colonies, to settle new lands (CL, 9:395). His support for emigration and colonization projects in Chartism and Past and Present is intimately linked to his vision of creation as the colonization of wasteland. Drawing on his depiction of creative work as bridge-building, he describes emigration as a "bridge" to the new world, a bridge that functions as a link between the earthly and the transcendental (PP, 263; see CL, 9:97). His writings distinguish two types of emigration, the transformation of wasteland into a paradise and the discovery of an El Dorado at the end of one's journey. The former is preferable because the process of seeking the idyll, labor, creates the idyll, whereas, in the latter case, the process of journeying only serves to defer achievement of that goal. Teufelsdröckh, like Goethe's Lothario, discovers that the search for the already achieved idyll never ends because onejourneys endlessly from one illusory idyll [114/115] to another. Discovering that their "America" is "here or nowhere," both turn to the creation of the idyll by working at "the duty which is nearest" (SR, 196; see WM, 2: 11). Carlyle, who was increasingly inclined to associate writing with the endless search for the established El Dorado, contemplated going out himself to produce "bread" in one of the "waste places of ... [the] Earth" rather than continuing the fruitless labor of writing (CL, 9:395; see 6:372-73, 8:14).fn36

However, Carlyle's depiction of the physical struggle of laborers who work to make land arable becomes subtly transformed into an argument for physically coercing laborers to engage in this activity. The shift from cultural to agricultural production in Past and Present, like the shift from belief to the law, entails a transition from compelling belief to compelling obedience. So long as Carlyle employs the metaphor of battle only to depict the struggle of the nation as a whole to create social order, it does not imply coercion or compulsion, but when he treats it more literally as the conquest of new lands, he begins to legitimate imperialist suppression and the very commercial motivations he intended to exclude.fn37 Captains of industry not only turn wasteland into fertile pasture, but may force others to join them in the task (267). As Carlyle's metaphors make clear, he conceives of the captains of industry primarily as military captains fighting "the one true war" against social "anarchy" (271; see 270-72). Like critics of the new order from Coleridge to Tennyson, he insists that the apparent prosperity of the nation conceals the negation of a just social order, the reality of social warfare in which commerce cries, "Peace, Peace, where there is no Peace."fn38 In this role, they fight not only against the primordial chaos of the land but the anarchy of humanity, "Organizing Labour" in order to subdue the "bewildering mob" into "a firm regimented mass" (272). The captain is a "Brave Sea-captain" like Christopher Columbus who "sternly repress[es]" his mutinous crew in order to discover an idyllic America, or an architect (recall the masonry metaphor) like Christopher Wren who organizes "mutinous masons and Irish hodmen" (199, 198; emphasis added). In the final analysis, the captain of industry does not resemble the medieval cleric Abbot Samson so much as the Puritan general Oliver Cromwell, whom Carlyle was to call "a strong great Captain" (OCLS, 4:173)- One can see in retrospect that even Samson's success depended on the use of force; rowdy knights and recalcitrant monks obeyed him not because they shared his beliefs, but because he threatened them with "bolts" of "excommunication" (PP, 104). [115/116]

Samson and the captains must use coercion because they, like the heroes who succeed Odin, are belated. Although Samson is a man of action, a builder of churches, he cannot duplicate the creative act of St. Edmund whose "Ideal ... raised a Monastery"; he does not create a new idyll, he merely rebuilds an existing one (61, 63, 121). St. Edmund belongs to the "Beginnings," the timeless era before history began; by the time Samson arrives, the ideal that St. Edmund initially realized is buried under three centuries of history (131-36). Samson pulls the monastery back toward its beginnings, but he cannot fully escape history. The belated hero, unable to compel belief, must use force to compel obedience.

Carlyle represents through Samson his own feelings of belatedness, his anxiety that he can achieve nothing. Samson can at least build churches; Carlyle can only write books. Although Samson seems to spend more time building churches than religious faith, he at least shares his faith with the monks he guides. Carlyle can only imagine a communal ethos in his vision of the future; for the moment, there is no shared belief. Furthermore, he is uncertain about his power to shape the future. On the one hand, he imagines that, by becoming "an actual instead of a virtual Priesthood," men of letters can play a role in the recovery of belief; on the other hand, the future he imagines is one in which one must give up writinr and begin to act (29, 89).fn39 While he is struggling to make writing a form of action, to prod his contemporaries into creating the future envisioned in the conclusion of Past and Present, he is aware that his book can only represent, not produce, that revolutionary change: "[I]t were fond imagination to expect that any preaching of mine could abate Mammonism; that Bobus of Houndsditch will love his guineas less, or his poor soul more, for any preaching of mine!" (290). Carlyle fears that instead of producing action, Past and Present might only be deferring it. Paradoxically, the idyll in which one rests from labor can only be created by labor. Like Samson, who can never completely recover the idyll he seeks to restore and so can never "rest," Carlyle needs to "work to keep [his] heart at rest" (PP, 103; LL, i: 182; emphasis added). Although he persistently advises his readers to give up writing and frequently speaks of giving it up himself, his own writings compel him to continue, each word calling for the production of another: "There seems no use in living," he wrote his brother, "if it be not writing, or preparing to write" (CL, 11: 163) [116/117]

Contents last modified 2001; reformatted 2006 & 2015