Knife and Fork Question

Miles Taylor

  • The Chartist Movement in Britain 1838-50 edited by Gregory Claeys
    Pickering & Chatto, £495.00, April 2001, ISBN 1 85196 330 8

Thomas Carlyle was quite fond of the Chartists – until they opened their mouths. In an essay on Chartism published in 1839, the Sage of Chelsea harangued the political establishment and spoke up for the stoic dignity of the English working man: ‘Chartism with its pikes, Swing with his tinder box,’ he wrote, ‘speak a most loud though inarticulate language.’ Eleven years later, however, as Britain and Europe reeled from the shock of the 1848 Revolutions, Carlyle was alarmed that the workers weren’t quite so silent after all. ‘Stump oratory’ had taken over, he observed in his Latter-Day Pamphlets: ‘tongues, platforms, parliaments, and fourth-estates; unfettered presses, periodical and stationary literatures: we are nearly all gone to tongue.’

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