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On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  609 ratings  ·  73 reviews
Originally published by D.C. Heath & Co., Boston.
Paperback, Nabu Press, 368 pages
Published September 26th 2011 by Nabu Press (first published 1841)
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David Todd
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On a writer's e-mail loop I once mentioned something about Thomas Carlyle. Another member then wrote that he liked Carlyle, and that a copy of Hero Worship stayed on his nightstand for occasional re-reading. So when I felt a hankering to return to some Carlyle reading, this was the book I chose. The version I read was an e-book for the Nook, by B&R Samizdat Express.

I'm glad I read it. I don't feel that I understood it as well as I wanted to, but I chalk that up to reading too often with distract
Ross Cohen
Carlyle reads like a good scotch: divine in small sips; nauseating in large gulps.
Jul 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carlyle is, and always has been, a man without a country: An Scotsman at odds with the materialism of his native 19th Century Britain; a idealist nonetheless too British to happily fit among his Prussian cobelievers. He is a rabid anti-modernist, but in the most modern way. Carlyle is a hero to a new generation of reactionaries, but the failings of his thought—very clearly on display in On Heroes and Hero Worship—show the limits of this movement, and stand testament to the fact that admiration o ...more
Djayawarman Alamprabu
I Just wish the Carlyle hypothesis that in the next 100 of years Man will be smart enough not to acknowledge other man as GOD come true. But more than 100 years have past from his writing, till today still there are still a lot of Human that believe other human as GOD. How tragic where did all those brain and knowledge that they have gone to.

Carlyle really has big hopes for his own species (Human) to develop their ideal potential intellectual in next 100 of years, but clearly those hopes are jus
Noah Goats
Feb 13, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I abandoned this at the 40% mark. I do not care for Carlyle's ugly, bloated, prose. I don't like that he uses more exclamation points than a teenage girl texting a friend to tell her she just saw Zac Efron at the mall. I don't like that he seems to assume that Odin, the Norse god, was an actual person and I also don't like that he says stupid and manifestly untrue things like "quackery" could never give birth to a religion. This book was originally a series of lectures, and I think a charismatic ...more
Ruxandra Ciută
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 18th Century, with its calamitous French Revolution and the unquenchable advance of Industrialisation, plunged the world into a haze of scepticism, as people started doubting the values and beliefs of their predecessors and embraced the artificial, offered the ideal backdrop to Thomas Carlyle's search for valor, as he saw through the all-pervading illusion and went on to deliver the six lectures collected in “On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History" in 1840, 50 years after the Bast ...more
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Carlyle’s book looks at the different forms of heroism he considers to have existed in the world. I found it very interesting that in the second chapter where he talks about the hero as a prophet he picked the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the prime example. Very interesting coming from a Scottish Christian I thought. the book got a bit boring in the middle and near the end but worth a read for his lectures (the chapters were a series of lectures) on the hero as a prophet as I mentioned and the her ...more
Aug 16, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Carlyle then goes to explore, “Well, where does this religion come from?” And again — by religion he means “systems of thought, culture, beliefs, etc” — something like that.
His argument: they come from heroes.
Carlyle’s definition of a hero, more-or-less, is someone that formalizes a system of thought for a large group of people. Now, the word “hero” in English is often just a synonym for “person I like a lot” — but that’s not what Carlyle is talking about. Under his definition, all sorts of peop
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Not exactly a typical biography. The book offers sketches of select individuals of historical significance in order to justify a neo-hegelian reading of history; basically an 'all the world's a stage' mentality and most of us are mere spear chuckers and cannon fodder for the Great Men who pop up from time to time as exemplars for the rest of us to follow. Hegel had described Napoleon in this way, riding his white horse through town just as he was finishing writing one of his books. He is seen as ...more
Nick Jones
May 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's many years since I read any Carlyle, probably not since my first year at university. It's great to be reminded of his wonderful prose. It's unorthodox, dynamic, kinetic, full of allusions in many languages, and yet somehow conveying something of the man himself, opinionated, warm, very human. Much of what he has to say seems simply wrongheaded these days, but the manner in which he says it is admirable. ...more
Stephanie Ricker
Mar 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, favorites
Carlyle, you're a little nuts, but I love you very much. ...more
Gordan Karlic
May 03, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"The history of the world is but the biography of great men."
Probably an only good thing in this god awful book.
I swear to god, point Carlye is trying to make is, great people do great things and that why they are remembered as heroes; then he stretches that over 200 pages with little cohesion or some conclusion.
There are 6 types of heroes but explanations are so broad, messy and disconnected with the subject you forget what is the point Carlyle is trying to make or why you even bother reading t
"A man lives by believing something. A sad case for him when all that he believes in is something he can button in his pocket."

Beautiful prose but I didn't think the thoughts as interesting. The first lecture (on Odin) was the most innovative to me. It managed to communicate (!) something of the awe we should all feel towards the wonder that is language, written or spoken.

The rest of the lectures I found boring, either because of the subject matter itself (Muhammad) or because Carlyle assumed hi
Sebastian Woller
For the reader of today, the first three chapters seem to be the most insightful/interesting.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is part of a great conversation (perhaps started by Plutarch?) continued after Carlyle by Nietzsche, José Ortega y Gasset, Rand, Nathaniel Branden, and Joseph Campbell, and others on the subject of heroes. It is a very interesting conversation, and I am thoroughly enjoying following it back through history.

The annoying thing about each of the writers mentioned above is that each one seems to pretend that they invented their ideas, when, read together it is so clear that they could not
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is truly amazing how an author in the grave for so long can still speak to us so clearly. Carlyle's central thesis is that a hero is one who can actually see the world as it is and has the courage to act upon it. Sadly we live in the sort of unheroic age he lamented, where we place such a high value on NOT seeing the world as it is, or at least not speaking of such openly. ...more
Angela Dawn
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the first several types of heroes, but when it came to the hero king, I got bogged down in all the Cromwell stuff. I don't think I knew enough about him and his place in history. The rest of it was great and very interesting. The part that I found the most interesting was the part on Muhammad. ...more
Mar 02, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I just bought the 1904 printing of the 5th edition of this book, originally printed in 1841. I began reading it today! So far, so good!
Thomas Arn
Very dry book. I do not fully agree with his logically way of thinking and he leaves God out of the picture even though presenting people who pushed beliefs in God or another god.
There’s nothing quite like “sage literature” to bring out the flippant in me, and Thomas Carlyle was one of the great sages of the Victorian period. “Great” in the sense of major: his hatred of Jews, disdain for black people, and sheer priggishness prevent him from being “great” in the sense of “good.” So I want to start this in jest: talking about the Spanish title of the work, “Los Heros,” and how much more appealing it is than the English original; quoting Sam Elliott in “The Big Lebowski”- “ ...more
James F
Sep 23, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History is a series of lectures given about a decade after Sartor Resartus was written, and presents a similar thesis in non-fictional form. It is one of the worst books I have ever read. Carlyle is again attacking the modern world for "materialism", "mechanism" and of course "utilitarianism", and assuming without argument the same Idealist philosophy as in the first book. He maintains (I would usually be using the word "argues" but he again doesn't giv ...more
Michael Percy
Nov 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Thomas Carlyle's lectures On Heroes, Hero-worship, and the Heroic in History were delivered in 1840, and published as a book in 1841 by James Fraser, London. My version is a public domain reprint of the 1912 version published by D.C. Heath, Boston, edited and with an introduction by Herbert S. Murch PhD of Princeton University. I first learnt of Carlyle in teaching leadership, where this book is regarded as the first leadership theory, the "Great Man" theory. Carlyle considers the hero as divini ...more
Jan 04, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was one influential in the "Great Man" strain of leadership. I believe it has largely fallen out of vogue. And, rightly so. I can hardly believe it was so influential.

The author waxes eloquent with great frequency, which lengthens the book substantially. I can't imagine having sat through the original lectures. The first several chapters contain much conjecture. The author sets out to address specific aspects of "great men." Interestingly enough, his first choice is Odin - because, nat
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Keith by: Beth Bryant
Cromwell values truth & sincerity in these men. He likes to recite their humble beginnings. With some exceptions, Rousseau & Napoleon come to mind, he finds them admirable.

LECTURE I. THE HERO AS DIVINITY. ODIN. PAGANISM: SCANDINAVIAN MYTHOLOGY. [May 5, 1840.]A great man, may over time, come to be regarded as a God.



Agli Nanaj
An interesting concept and appropriate for a succinct essay of around 60 pages. Carlyle unnecessarily drags it to over 100, not to mention his obnoxious prose. Overly generalizes a lot of things, especially the assumptions about Napoleon. What was interesting was the observation of the shifting idea of "heroism." In the modern west, the typical divine hero or barbarian liberator of myth is gone. He is replaced with the man of letters. We should not see this as a philosophical book nor a historic ...more
Nicholas Bobbitt
Despite the interesting premise, I don't enjoy Carlyle's voice as an author. I can't put my finger on why, but each book I read from him leaves me feeling less and less excited to read the other books of his on my TBR shelf. ...more
Jerin Tahapary
Tolstoy War and Peace so awesomely in poetic prose,
so obliterates any ‘great man theory’ (Carlyle’s thesis),
as nought but a greater heavens’ work en-linking wonder to ev’ry living being who so love wordlessly.
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Tough read. Skipped through a lot of the last 50 pages. Some good gems throughout about heroes, Christianity, and the decline of god in the European mind. Not a must read by any stretch. Would maybe try a different Carlyle book.
Abdurrahman AlQahtani
I have only read the part that talk about the prophet. Not that expressed really, but the book was a hard.
Abduwahab Lordknows
It is a very interesting book I ever read.
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Thomas Carlyle, Scottish historian, critic, and sociological writer. was born in the village of Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, eldest child of James Carlyle, stonemason, and Margaret (Aitken) Carlyle. The father was stern, irascible, a puritan of the puritans, but withal a man of rigid probity and strength of character. The mother, too, was of the Scottish earth, and Thomas' education was begun at ho ...more

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