When Carlyle laments the mechanization of Literature, his syntax changes from long, even sentences with numerous comma-laden clauses to a series of shorter adjective filled questions and exclamations:

Let us look at the higher regions of Literature, where, if anywhere, the pure melodies of Poesy and Wisdom should be heard. Of natural talent there is no deficiency: one or two richly-endowed individuals even give us a superiority in this respect. But what is the song they sing? Is it a tone of the Memnon Statue, breathing music as the light first touches it? A 'liquid wisdom' disclosing our sense the deep, infinite harmonies of Nature and man's soul? Alas, no! It is not a matin or vesper hymn to the Spirit of beauty, but a fierce clashing of cymbals, and shouting of multitudes, as children pass through the fire to Moloch! Poetry itself has no eye for the Invisible. Beauty is no longer the god it worships, but some brute image of Strength; which we may well call an idol, for true Strength is one and the same with Beauty, and its worship is often a hymn.


1. Why does Carlyle use descriptive language, emphatic punctuation and literary allusions to decry the mechanization of literature? Why doesn't he use the same type of language/ syntax to criticize the mechanization of other aspects of life?

2. Do you find it contradictory that Carlyle is publishing this essay using precisely the kind of mechanized mass-publication technology he bashes in the essay?

3. What is the relationship between religion and literature in Carlyle's lexicon? How do his ideas of "Strength" and "Beauty" fit into this relationship? Why does he choose to capitalize "Strength" and "Beauty"?

Victorian Web Overview Thomas Carlyle Leading Questions

Last modified 21 September 2003