Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History

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

Introduction and Notes by Michael K. Goldberg
Michael K. Goldberg
Joel J. Brattin
Mark Engel
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppksv
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History
    Book Description:

    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-madeOn Heroesa 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91153-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Murray Baumgarten
  5. CHRONOLOGY OF CARLYLE’S LIFE
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xxi-lxxx)

    On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in Historyis Carlyle’s literary reconstruction of a series of six public lectures, delivered between May 5 and 22, 1840, which were the culmination of his four-year experiment as a public lecturer. Considering his distrust of cant, his puritanically inspired phobia about the “swim gloat” of popularity which he feared and thought ruinous, and his deep-rooted suspicion of oratory as inherently insincere, it is perhaps surprising that he ventured onto the public platform at all. As a matter of fact, however, between 1837 and 1840 he made annual excursions to the public podium to...

  7. NOTE ON THE TEXT
    (pp. lxxxi-civ)
  8. [PLATES]
    (pp. None)
  9. On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History

    • LECTURE I. THE HERO AS DIVINITY. ODIN. PAGANISM: SCANDINAVIAN MYTHOLOGY.
      (pp. 3-36)

      We have undertaken to discourse here for a little on Great Men, their manner of appearance in our world’s business, how they have shaped themselves in the world’s history, what ideas men formed of them, what work they did;—on Heroes, namely, and on their reception and performance; what I call Hero-worship and the Heroic in human affairs. Too evidently this is a large topic; deserving quite other treatment than we can expect to give it at present. A large topic; indeed, an illimitable one; wide as Universal History itself. For, as I take it, Universal History, the history of...

    • LECTURE II. THE HERO AS PROPHET. MAHOMET: ISLAM.
      (pp. 37-66)

      From the first rude times of Paganism among the Scandinavians in the North, we advance to a very different epoch of religion, among a very different people: Mahometanism among the Arabs. A great change; what a change and progress is indicated here, in the universal condition and thoughts of men!

      The Hero is not now regarded as a God among his fellow-men; but as one God-inspired, as a Prophet. It is the second phasis of Hero-worship: the first or oldest, we may say, has passed away without return; in the history of the world there will not again be any...

    • LECTURE III. THE HERO AS POET. DANTE; SHAKSPEARE.
      (pp. 67-98)

      The Hero as Divinity, the Hero as Prophet, are productions of old ages; not to be repeated in the new. They presuppose a certain rudeness of conception, which the progress of mere scientific knowledge puts an end to. There needs to be, as it were, a world vacant, or almost vacant of scientific forms, if men in their loving wonder are to fancy their fellow man either a god or one speaking with the voice of a god. Divinity and Prophet are past. We are now to see our Hero in the less ambitious, but also less questionable, character of...

    • LECTURE IV. THE HERO AS PRIEST. LUTHER; REFORMATION: KNOX; PURITANISM.
      (pp. 99-132)

      Our present discourse is to be of the Great Man as Priest. We have repeatedly endeavoured to explain that all sorts of Heroes are intrinsically of the same material; that given a great soul, open to the Divine Significance of Life, then there is given a man fit to speak of this, to sing of this, to fight and work for this, in a great, victorious, enduring manner; there is given a Hero,—the outward shape of whom will depend on the time and the environment he finds himself in. The Priest too, as I understand it, is a kind of...

    • LECTURE V. THE HERO AS MAN OF LETTERS. JOHNSON, ROUSSEAU, BURNS.
      (pp. 133-168)

      Hero-gods, Prophets, Poets, Priests are forms of Heroism that belong to the old ages, make their appearance in the remotest times; some of them have ceased to be possible long since, and cannot any more shew themselves in this world. The Hero asMan of Letters,again, of which class we are to speak today, is altogether a product of these new ages; and so long as the wondrous art ofWriting,or of Ready-writing which we callPrinting,subsists, he may be expected to continue, as one of the main forms of Heroism for all future ages. He is,...

    • LECTURE VI. THE HERO AS KING. CROMWELL, NAPOLEON: MODERN REVOLUTIONISM.
      (pp. 169-210)

      We come now to the last form of Heroism; that which we call Kingship. The Commander over Men; he to whose will our wills are to be subordinated, and loyally surrender themselves, and find their welfare in doing so, may be reckoned the most important of Great Men. He is practically the summary for us ofallthe various figures of Heroism; Priest, Teacher, whatsoever of earthly or of spiritual dignity we can fancy to reside in a man, embodies itself here, tocommandover us, to furnish us with constant practical teaching, to tell us for the day and...

    • APPENDIX: 1858 SUMMARY AND INDEX
      (pp. 211-226)
  10. NOTES
    (pp. 227-392)
  11. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 393-418)
  12. TEXTUAL APPARATUS
    (pp. 421-486)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 487-519)