E. P. Thompson

It is neither poverty nor disease but work itself which casts the blackest shadow over the years of the Industrial Revolution. It is Blake, himself a craftsman by training, who gives us the experience:

Then left the sons of Urizen the plow & harrow, the loom,
The hammer & the chisel & the rule & compasses. . .
And all the arts of life they chang'd into the arts of death.
The hour glass contemn'd because its simple workmanship
Was as the workmanship of the plowman & the water wheel
That raises water into Cisterns, broken & burn'd in fire
Because its workmanship was like the workmanship of shepherds
And in their stead intricate wheels invented, Wheel without wheel,
To perplex youth in their outgoings & to bind to labours
Of day & night the myriads of Eternity, they they might file
and polish brass & iron hour after hour, laborious workmanship,
Kept ignorant of the use that they might spend the days of wisdom
In sorrowful drudgery to obtain a scanty pittance of bread,
In ignorance to view a small portion & think that All,
And call it demonstration, blind to all the simple rules of life.

These "myriads of eternity" seem at times to have been sealed in their work like a tomb. Their best efforts, over a lifetime, and supported by their own friendly societies, could scarcely ensure them that to which so high a popular value was attached -- a "Decent Funeral". New skills were arising, old satisfactions persisted, but over all we feel the general pressure of long hours of unsatisfying labour under severe discipline for alien purposes. This was at the source of that "ugliness" which, D. H. Lawrence wrote, "betrayed the spirit of man in the nineteenth century." After all other impressions fade, this one remains; together with that of the loss of any felt cohesion in the community, save that which the working people, in antagonism to their labour and to their masters, built for themselves.

The Making of the English Working Class