Wednesday, 5 June 2013


James Mill who eventually became head of India Office and wrote a history of India never visited the country. He had the panoptic view and from his base at the centre of the web of power that radiated from London saw all the pink corners of the world which were many and all bringing spoils and tribute. Carlyle who came from a poor family must have seen Mill Pere & Fis as comfy and cosy arsed. No wonder his naturally scornful temperament was stirred to take positions which were rebarbative in the extreme. Set aside for the moment the 'Negro Question', leave it writhing in the wallpaper of the 19th. Century along with Progressives such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman; and let the question be put: Was he right about heroes?

It seems to me, and maybe my cogs aren't meshing on this, that our age of individualism has a hunger for the hero. Look at the Obama phenomenon and his reception by the bien pensant progressive element. I got myself into trouble by suggesting that he was actually of mixed race and culturally white but I said it was a proof of the log cabin to the White House theorem when one considered that his grandfather was the first man in his village to wear trousers. That's in the biography which my affronted interlocutor hadn't read. You have to hit the outré while it's hot. It was a Carlylean moment.

I'm reading the lecture on 'Mahomet' in On Heroes and Hero-Worship by Carlyle. His remarks on the puzzling nature of the Koran are profound and echoed by Norman O Brown in an essay The Apocalypse of Islam which is available on line. T.C. is an admirer of Mahomet (sic) and his thesis about heroes seems true enough to make us very afraid. More anon.

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