Quote: G.K. Chesterton on Carlyle's "Past and Present"


"At the time when almost every eminent historian described the past as a mere foil to the present, Carlyle actually uses the flimsy and degraded present as a foil to the past. The average history-book used in schoolrooms commonly began a chapter with such words as these: 'How surprised those rude barbarians would have been had they known that their rough ox-wagons would someday be replaced by steam-engines at thirty miles an hour, that their superstitious ordeals would end in enlightened courts of justice and beneficent Acts of Parliament.' The point of Carlyle's book is rather to reverse the phrase and exclaim, 'How horrified the men of the Middle Ages would have been if they had known that their plain customs and kingships would ever degenerate into the dirt and slavery of Manchester and the tomfooleries of Chancery and St. Stephens."
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