Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
The Poor-Slave Household
(From “Sartor Resartus”)

By Thomas Carlyle

(One of the most famous of British essayists, 1795–1881; historian of the French Revolution, and master of a vivid and picturesque prose-style)
“THE FURNITURE of this Caravanserai consisted of a large iron Pot, two oaken Tables, two Benches, two Chairs, and a Potheen Noggin. There was a Loft above (attainable by a ladder), upon which the inmates slept; and the space below was divided by a hurdle into two apartments; the one for their cow and pig, the other for themselves and guests. On entering the house we discovered the family, eleven in number, at dinner; the father sitting at the top, the mother at the bottom, the children on each side, of a large oaken Board, which was scooped out in the middle, like a trough, to receive the contents of their Pot of Potatoes. Little holes were cut at equal distances to contain Salt; and a bowl of Milk stood on the table; all the luxuries of meat and beer, bread, knives and dishes, were dispensed with.” The Poor-Slave himself our Traveller found, as he says, broad-backed, black-browed, of great personal strength, and mouth from ear to ear. His Wife was a sun-browned but well-featured woman; and his young ones, bare and chubby, had the appetite of ravens. Of their Philosophical or Religious tenets or observances, no notice or hint.  1
  But now, secondly, of the Dandiacal Household:  2
  “A Dressing-room splendidly furnished; violet-colored curtains, chairs and ottomans of the same hue. Two full-length Mirrors are placed, one on each side of a table, which supports the luxuries of the Toilet. Several Bottles of Perfume, arranged in a peculiar fashion, stand upon a smaller table of mother-of-pearl; opposite to these are placed the appurtenances of Lavation richly wrought in frosted silver. A Wardrobe of Buhl is on the left; the doors of which, being partly open, discover a profusion of Clothes; Shoes of a singularly small size monopolize the lower shelves. Fronting the wardrobe a door ajar gives some slight glimpse of the Bathroom. Folding-doors in the background.—“Enter the Author,” our Theogonist in person, “obsequiously preceded by a French Valet, in white silk Jacket and cambric Apron.”  3
  Such are the two sects which, at this moment, divide the more unsettled portion of the British People; and agitate that ever-vexed country. To the eye of the political Seer, their mutual relation, pregnant with the elements of discord and hostility, is far from consoling. These two principles of Dandiacal Self-worship or Demon-worship, and Poor-Slavish or Drudgical Earth-worship, or whatever that same Drudgism may be, do as yet indeed manifest themselves under distant and nowise considerable shapes: nevertheless, in their roots and subterranean ramifications, they extend through the entire structure of Society, and work unweariedly in the secret depths of English national Existence; striving to separate and isolate it into two contradictory, uncommunicating masses.  4
  In numbers, and even individual strength, the Poor-Slaves or Drudges, it would seem, are hourly increasing. The Dandiacal, again, is by nature no proselytizing Sect; but it boasts of great hereditary resources, and is strong by union; whereas the Drudges, split into parties, have as yet no rallying-point; or at best only co-operate by means of partial secret affiliations. If, indeed, there were to arise a Communion of Drudges, as there is already a Communion of Saints, what strangest effects would follow therefrom! Dandyism as yet affects to look down on Drudgism; but perhaps the hour of trial, when it will be practically seen which ought to look down, and which up, is not so distant.  5
  To me it seems probable that the two Sects will one day part England between them; each recruiting itself from the intermediate ranks, till there be none left to enlist on either side. These Dandiacal Manicheans, with the host of Dandyizing Christians, will form one body; the Drudges, gathering round them whosoever is Drudgical, be he Christian or Infidel Pagan; sweeping-up likewise all manner of Utilitarians, Radicals, refractory Potwallopers, and so forth, into their general mass, will form another. I could liken Dandyism and Drudgism to two bottomless boiling Whirlpools that had broken-out on opposite quarters of the firm land; as yet they appear only disquieted, foolishly bubbling wells, which man’s art might cover-in; yet mark them, their diameter is daily widening; they are hollow Cones that boil-up from the infinite Deep, over which your firm land is but a thin crust or rind! Thus daily is—the intermediate land crumbling-in, daily the empire of the two Buchan-Bullers extending; till now there is but a foot-plank, a mere film of Land between them; this too is washed away; and then—we have the true Hell of Waters, and Noah’s Deluge is outdeluged!  6
  Or better, I might call them two boundless, and indeed unexampled Electric Machines (turned by the “Machinery of Society”), with batteries of opposite quality; Drudgism the Negative, Dandyism the Positive; one attracts hourly towards it and appropriates all the Positive Electricity of the nation (namely, the Money thereof); the other is equally busy with the Negative (that is to say the Hunger) which is equally potent. Hitherto you see only partial transient sparkles and sputters; but wait a little, till the entire nation is in an electric state; till your whole vital Electricity, no longer healthfully Neutral, is cut into two isolated portions of Positive and Negative (of Money and of Hunger); and stands there bottled-up in two World-Batteries! The stirring of a child’s finger brings the two together; and then—What then? The Earth is but shivered into impalpable smoke by that Doom’s-thunderpeal; the Sun misses one of his Planets in Space, and thenceforth there are no eclipses of the Moon.  7
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