Saint-Simonians, Industrial Feudalism, And Labor Economics: Carlyle And Southey
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Carlyle’s relationship to the German and English Romantics has received much critical scrutiny. However, despite Carlyle close friendship with Southey, no study of the two, to my knowledge, has been undertaken. Carlyle writes meaningfully of their meetings, and his Reminiscences sketches their many encounters. Even before their first meeting, Carlyle valued Southey’s sense of the Romantic. The relationship also caused Carlyle to reflect on the struggle of great men and on the particular angst writers experience. Largely unrecognized, too, is Southey’s role in popularizing the Saint Simonians, which in turn would stage Carlyle’s commentary on them, identifying key points of correspondence to his own beliefs. Southey also caused Carlyle to understand and then to empathize with the disposition of an exhausted sage, and from Southey he derived his critique of feudal industrialism, inept governmental leadership, bankrupt culture, economic disparity, dispossessed workers, and the despised poor. Southey’s views on industrialism, market economy, and labor would receive wholesale adoption by Carlyle. Southey’s reward in all of this is how approvingly he is remembered by Carlyle, when so many of his contemporaries were disparaged. Despite a certain shyness and nervous disposition, which Carlyle considered a feminine trait, “blue blushes and red,” Southey emerges as affectionate, godly, empathetic, loyal, industrious, and chivalrous. The stuff of which he was comprised were, Carlyle felt, “things rare and worth, at once pious and true.”
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