Past and Present
Note from the Letter Baron's Gate by John Ruskin

One of Carlyle's most powerful works of social criticism, which exerted an incalculable influence over such medievalizing writers as Tennyson, Morris and Ruskin. In it, Carlyle contrasts the England of the 'hungry Forties' — the era of severe poverty, unemployment, industrial development, Chartist agitation and laissez-faire government — with the administration of Bury St Edmunds Abbey in the twelfth century. Abbot Sampson is the most sympathetic of Carlyle's heroes, a man whose severity is tempered with justice and compassion. As such, he must be seen as a key model for Ruskin's ideal of the paternal king or governor. Published in 1843, 'Past and Present' was among the first of several important Victorian books which criticized the age of industrial progress by contrasting it with idealized medieval societies. Ruskin's 'The Stones of Venice' is therefore indebted to it.

Carlyle was also an important influence on 'Fors Clavigera', frequently cited and immoderately praised. The style of his 'Latter-Day Pamphlets' — colloquial, improvisatory, prophetic statements on current events — clearly helped Ruskin to achieve the more various and subtle manner of his Letters.