Fatidical fury: Fatidical, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as something "gifted with the power of prophecy," simply describes someone who is prophetic. Carlyle's phrase "fatidical fury" would then indicate an overwhelming use of prophesy, a veritable torrent of people foretelling events without any sort of evidence to back their claims, and the rush of people blindly following these prophets. Fatidical, a word no longer used or understood by the twenty-first century reader, may have been, at that time, in vogue among the academic elite. For example, in 1812 the Quarterly Review published a critique of a poetic production. This critique used the word fatidical; so although an expression used by the literarily educated of the time, it has since fallen into disuse and so disappeared from today's lexicon.

Carlyle, at first criticizing individuals who would look only to the future and forget to live in the present, applies the idea of a few making prophecies to entire nations, "for here the prophets are not one, but many; and each incites and confirms the other; so that the fatidical fury spreads wider and wider." He finds it a bit frightening that "the casual deliration of a few becomes, by this mysterious reverberation, the frenzy of many." Carlyle condemns the masses for being so swept up in thoughts and prophecies about the future that they don't realize their folly. The fact that "no solitary miscreant, scarcely any solitary maniac, would venture on such actions and imaginations, as large communities of sane men have, in such circumstances, entertained as sound wisdom" astounds Carlyle, and so he laments that men sound of mind would fall prey to the fatidical madness that spreads like wildfire. He, in essence, mocks those who would think only about the future, those who, so concerned with the foretelling of potential events, forget to realize the actual, current, events that are happening around them.

References

Aviv, Rachel. "Form vs. Content: Linguistic Vagueness in Carlyle's 'Signs of the Times.'" Victorian Web. 2002. March 25, 2009.

Chandler James. England in 1819: The Politics of Literary Culture and the Case of Romantic Historicism. University of Chicago Press, 1999. 114-116

"Fatidical." Oxford English Dictionary . 2009. 25 March, 2009.


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Last modified 2 April 2009