On Heroes, Hero-Worship, & the Heroic in History

On Heroes, Hero-Worship, & the Heroic in History

On Heroes, Hero-Worship, & the Heroic in History

On Heroes, Hero-Worship, & the Heroic in History


In his 1840 lectures on heroes, Thomas Carlyle, Victorian essayist and social critic, championed the importance of the individual in history. Published the following year and eventually translated into fifteen languages, this imaginative work of history, comparative religion, and literature is the most influential statement of a man who came to be thought of as a secular prophet and the "undoubted head of English letters" (Emerson). His vivid portraits of Muhammad, Dante, Luther, Napoleon--just a few of the individuals Carlyle celebrated for changing the course of world history--made On Heroes a challenge to the anonymous social forces threatening to control life during the Industrial Revolution.

In eight volumes, The Strouse Edition will provide the texts of Carlyle's major works edited for the first time to contemporary scholarly standards. For the general reader, its detailed introductions and annotations will offer insight into the author's thought and a reconstruction of the diverse and often arcane Carlylean sources.


Although Thomas Carlyle was acclaimed throughout the nineteenth century in both England and the United States as the “undoubted head of English letters,” reliable editions of his work, providing both an accurate text based on modern bibliographical principles and full explanatory annotation, have not been readily available. Even the standard edition, the Centenary, originally published 1896–99, is unsatisfactory: it is without annotation and textually inaccurate. This injustice, both to Carlyle and his readers, the editors of the Strousc Carlyle Edition seek to redress.

To establish an accurate text the editors have devised an integrated system for the computer-assisted production of the edition, based on the CASE (Computer Assistance to Scholarly Editing) programs. The application of electronic technology in every stage of the editorial process, from the collection of evidence through the final typesetting of the text and apparatus, allows a high level of accuracy, while leaving all decisions requiring editorial judgment in the control of scholars. (A valuable byproduct of the use of computer technology throughout the project has been the creation of a machine-readable archive of Carlylean texts, textual apparatus, and annotation.) The text is preceded by a discussion of the evidence and editorial principles used to establish it, and a full textual apparatus is appended, including a list of all emendations of the copy-text and a complete collation of authoritative versions, keyed to the present text by page and line number. To facilitate reading, we present Carlyle’s work as clear text, without added editorial or reference symbols.

The historical introduction is intended to elaborate the significance of the work for Carlyle’s era and to suggest its importance for our own, as well as explaining its origin and biographical context. The works cited in the introductory essay may be taken as a selected bibliography of Carlylean commentary and criticism, a starting point for the student of Carlyle and his influence. By providing a full critical and explanatory annotation, the editors hope to assist the contemporary reader in negotiating Carlyle’s densely referential prose. A tissue of quotation from varied and disparate sources intertwined with the

“Literary Work of Thomas Carlyle,” 92. (For complete citations, see the list of works cited, pp. 393–417.)

See “Note on the Text,” pp. c-ci below.

For a description of the CASE programs, see Shillingsburg, Scholarly Editing in the Computer Age, 128–46.

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