Thomas Carlyle, Victorian Era

In Thomas Carlyle’s writing of “Captains of Industry,” he muses on the English working middle class’s power in creating their own future, their own government and ultimately their driving of the fate of the world. This claim seems lofty, but Carlyle makes many large connections in this pattern of thought.

Carlyle uses passionate talk to vividly illustrate the middle class working man as a noble “warrior” and as a “Captain of the World” through his influence in industry, which everyone depends on. After following the rabbit trails of his claim, one must ask, can this really be done? Is the simple workingman really only a few steps away from controlling the way the world turns economically and socially? Carlyle attempts to lay out the path to controlling one’s own destiny by setting up the following simple path of logic: government is run and made of the people it represents, who better understands the “immense Problem of Organizing Labour” than those in the middle of it; therefore, those working in the industries of the mid 19th century are the leaders of industry, which affects every person universally, and ultimately it is the industry workers (the middle class) who will lead the world through government. Giant leap, huh?

Carlyle makes a comment meant to inspire his readers, but it also gives some insight to the unreality of such a magnanimous dream:

“The Leaders of Industry, if Industry is ever to be led, are virtually the Captains of the World…”

He states, “…if Industry is ever to be led…” This can be read to mean that he is prodding his readers on as if to say, “the reigns are open, someone grab hold and lead the way.” But could this quote not simultaneously reveal that there is no single group or person who could guide universal Industry? What person or work force could lead all of industry? He encourages his readers by affirming them as fierce “warriors,” “fighters,” and men of “nobleness” that can save the country. Carlyle’s flowery flatteries are filled with too much smooth talk with a lot of promise, but provide no plan to promote the middle class working man up the social ladder.

6 thoughts on “Thomas Carlyle, Victorian Era

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