CARLYLE, Ruskin, and Arnold have been written about many times before, but they have been written about mainly by publicists or professors of English literature. Ruskin alone has been fully treated by a social scientist; J. A. Hobson John Ruskin is a definitive work. The essay on Ruskin in this volume obviously does not pretend to any such complete treatment as Hobson gives; yet it may be of some use as a brief analysis, written at a later time. Stephen's political ideas have been dealt with only in summary form, Maine's as incidental to his legal thought, and Lecky's not at all.
The aim of this book is not to write history but to present, to explain, and to evaluate the intellectual protest made against democracy in England in the nineteenth century. The chief critics, Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, and Lecky, brought forward all the main criticisms of democracy that can be brought forward, except the Marxian. In a fundamental way their criticism is more relevant today than when they wrote, for though their criticism could be ignored in the last century, it can be ignored today only at democracy's peril.
Never has it been more urgent to dissect anti-democratic thought into its elements. Never has it been more necessary to evaluate the ideas of the critics of democracy. Never has it been more urgent to attempt to discover why men support or oppose the institutions of their day; why, in the case of our study, such outstanding intellectuals came to take issue with democracy.