Thomas Carlyle: Past and Present

(1996 words)
  • Nathan Uglow (Trinity All Saints, Leeds)

The opening pages of Past and Present describe a moment of sudden insight. A “picturesque Tourist”, out to admire “this bounteous realm of England”, finds only the St. Ives Union Workhouse, surrounded by workhands, ready and willing to work, but for all that unable to do so. What, he demands, is the “Enchantment” that can compel such work-ready men to languish, reducing potentially productive bodies to such a state of needy dependency? The answer, of course, was “the invisible hand” of . The first law of Laissez-faire economics, or what Carlyle here renames the “cash-nexus”, has it that if it is not immediately profitable to have work done, then no work shall be done until sufficient demand for the relevant …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are a member (student of staff) of a subscribing institution (see List), you should be able to access the LE on campus directly (without the need to log in), and off-campus either via the institutional log in we offer, or via your institution's remote access facilities, or by creating a personal user account with your institutional email address. If you are not a member of a subscribing institution, you will need to purchase a personal subscription. For more information on how to subscribe as an individual user, please see under Individual Subcriptions.

Uglow, Nathan. "Past and Present". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 10 March 2001
[, accessed 10 October 2015.]