SAVE for Rousseau, Marx, and Voltaire, Carlyle is perhaps unsurpassed in modern times as a political and social critic. Unlike Marx, he was not the chief intellectual source of a great change; nor was he, like Voltaire or Rousseau, a great leader in a great movement. He was not even, like Bentham, the founder of a school; if he had in his time what is known as a following, he had, apart from Ruskin, no important disciples. He contributed no new ideas to political and social reform; yet no political writer in nineteenth-century England was as widely read as he. He did not exert an influence in the world of ideas comparable to that of Bentham or John Stuart Mill, yet he was more widely discussed than either; he reached circles in the aristocracy and in the lower classes that these men could not touch. Carlyle was such a power in his day primarily because he appealed not to men's minds but to their emotions. And here his strength lay above all in his extraordinary ability to stir the moral feelings -- he was nothing so much as a prophet.
Almost all of the prominent figures in Victorian life testify to Carlyle's influence as a prophet. Charles Darwin said of him, "he has been all-powerful in impressing some grand moral truths on the minds of men."1 Leslie Stephen said, "such men as Carlyle and Emerson, vague and even contradictory as was their teaching, did more to rouse lofty aspirations and to moral____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Victorian Critics of Democracy:Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, Lecky. Contributors: Benjamin Evans Lippincott - Editor. Publisher: H. Milford, Oxford University Press. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1938. Page number: 6.