[Note on the WWW text: Source: Collected Works of Thomas Carlyle, 16 vols. (London: Chapman and Hall, 1858), 13.220-248. To make downloading "Hudson's Statue" easier, I have divided it into four sections, following the breaks in the Chapman and Hall edition; these divisions, which appear at pages 227, 236, and 244, are marked by extended dashes. (The 1858 text has three categories of breaks: paragraphing, extra spacing between paragraphs, and extra spacing plus extended dashes.) [George P. Landow, Professor of English and the History of Art , Brown University.]
[lst July 1850.]
At St. Ives in Huntingdonshire, where Oliver Cromwell farmed and resided for some years, the people have determined to attempt some kind of memorial to that memorable character. Other persons in other quarters seem to be, more or less languidly, talking up the question; in Country Papers I have read emphatic heading-articles, recommending and urging that there should be a "People's Statue" of this great Oliver, — Statue furnished by universal contribution from the English People; and set up, if possible, in London, in Huntingdon, or failing both these places, in St. Ives, or Naseby Field. Indeed a considerable notion seems to exist in the English mind, that some brass or stone acknowledgment is due to Cromwell, and ought to be paid him. So that the vexed question, "Shall Cromwell have a Statue?" appears to be resuscitating itself; and the weary Public must prepare to agitate it again.
Left to right: (a) Punch cartoon entitled: Shall Cromwell Have a Statue?. (b) Cromwell Memorial at St. Ives by Frederick W. Pomeroy. The statue was not completed until half a century after Hudson's Statue! (c) Cromwell (before the Houses of Parliament) by Sir W. Hamo Thorneycroft. [Click on thumbnails for larger pictures and additional information.]
Poor English public, they really are exceedingly bewildered with Statues at present. They would fain do honour to somebody, if they did but know whom or how. Unfortunately they know neither whom nor how; they are, at present, the farthest in the world from knowing! They have raised a set of the ugliest Statues, and to the most extraordinary persons, ever seen under the sun before. Being myself questioned, in reference to the New Houses of Parliament some years ago, "Shall Cromwell have a Statue?" I had to answer, with sorrowful dubiety: "Cromwell? Side by side with a sacred Charles the Second, sacred George the Fourth, and the other sacred Charleses, Jameses, Georges, and Defenders of the Faith, — I am afraid he wouldn't like it! Let us decide provisionally, No." And now again as to St. Ives and the People's Statue, is it not to be asked in like manner: "Who are the 'People?' Are they a People worthy to build Statues to Cromwell; or worthy only of doing it to Hudson?" — This latter is a consideration that will head us into far deeper and more momentous than scuptural inquiries; and I will request the reader's excellent company into these for a little.
The truth is, dear Reader, nowhere, to an impartial observant person, does the deep-sunk condition of the English mind, in these sad epochs; and how, in all spiritual or moral provinces, it has long quitted company with fact, and ceased to have veracity of heart, and clearness or sincerity of purpose, in regard to such matters, — more signally manifest itself, than in this affair of Public Statues. Whom doth the king delight to honour? that is the question of questions concerning the king's own honour. Show me the man you honour; I know by that symptom, better than by any other, what kind of man you yourself are. For you show me there what your ideal of manhood is; what kind of man you long inexpressibly to be, and would thank the gods, with your whole soul, for being if you could.
King Hudson's Levée from Punch.
In this point of view, it was always matter of regret with me that Hudson's Statue, among the other wonders of the present age, was not completed. The 25,000 l. subscribed, or offered as oblation, by the Hero-worshipers of England to their Ideal of a Man, awoke many questions as to what outward figure it could most profitably take, under the eternal canopy; questions never finally settled; nor ever now to be settled, now when the universal Hudson ragnarok, or "twilight of the gods," has arrived, and it is too clear no statue or cast-metal image of that Incarnation of the English Vishnu will ever be molten now! Why was it not set up; that the whole world might see it; that our "Religion" might be seen, mounted on some figure of a Locomotive, garnished with Scrip-rolls proper; and raised aloft in some conspicuous place, — for example, on the other arch at Hyde-Park Corner? By all opportunities, especially to all subscribers and pious sacrificers to the Hudson Testimonial, I have earnestly urged: complete your Sin-Offering; buy, with the Five-and-twenty Thousand Pounds, what utmost amount of brazen metal and reasonable sculptural supervision it will cover, — say ten tons of brass, with a tolerable sculptor: model that, with what exactness Art can, into the enduring Brass Portrait and Express Image of King Hudson, as he receives the grandees of this country at his levees or soirees and couchees; mount him on the highest place you can discover in the most crowded thoroughfare, on what you can consider the pinnacle of the English world: I assure you he will have beneficial effects there. To all men who are struggling for your approbation, and fretting their poor souls to fiddlestrings because you will not sufficiently give it, I will say, leading them to the foot of the Hudson mount of vision:
See, my worthy Mr. Rigmarole; consider this suprising Copper Pyramid, in partly human form: did the celestial value of men's approbation ever strike you so forcibly before? The new Apollo Belvidere this, or Ideal of the Scrip Ages. What do you think of it? Allah Ilallah, there is still one God, you see, in England; and this is his Prophet. Let it be a source of healing to you, my unhappy Mr. Rigmarole; draw from it uses of terror, as the old divines said; uses of amazement, of new wisdom, of unattainable reflection upon the present epoch of the world!
For, in fact, there was more of real worship in the affair of Hudson than is usual in such. The practical English mind has its own notions as to the Supreme Excellence; knows the real from the spurious Avatar of Vishnu; and does not worship without its reasons. The practical English mind, contemplating its divine Hudson, says with what remainder of reverence is in it:
Yes, you are something like the Ideal of a Man; you are he I would give my right arm and leg, and accept a potbelly, with gout, and an appetite for strong-waters, to be like! You out of nothing can make a world, or huge fortune of gold. A divine intellect is in you, which Earth and Heaven, and Capel Court itself acknowledge; at the word of which are done miracles. You find a dying railway; you say to it, Live, blossom anew with scrip; — and it lives, and blossoms into umbrageous flowery scrip, to enrich with golden apples, surpassing thus of the Hesperides, the hungry souls of men. Diviner miracle what god ever did? Hudson, — though I mumble about my thirty-nine articles, and the service of other divinities, — Hudson is my god, and to him I will sacrifice this twenty-pound note: if perhaps he will be propitious to me?
Object not that there was a mixed motive in this worship of Hudson; that perhaps it was not worship at all. Undoubtedly there were two motives mixed, but both of them sincere, — as often happens in worship. "Transcendent admiration" is defined as the origin of sacrifice; but also the hope of profit joins itself. If by sacrificing a goat, or the like trifle, to Supreme Jove, you can get Supreme Jove's favour, will not that, for one, be a good investment? Jove is sacrificed to, and worshiped, from transcendent admiration: but also, in part, men of practical nature worship him as pumps are primed, — give him a little water, that you may get from him a river. O godlike Hudson, O god-recognizing England, why was not the partly anthropomorphous Pyramid of Copper cast, then, and set upon the pinnacle of England, that all men might have seen it, and the sooner got to understand these things! The Twenty-five-thousand-pound oblation lay upon the altar at the Bank; this monstrous Copper Vishnu of the Scrip Ages might have been revealed to men, and was not. Unexpected obstacles occurred. I fact, there rose from the general English soul, — lying dumb and infinitely bewildered. but not yet altogether dead, poor wretch, — such a growth of inarticulate amazement, at this unexpected Hudson Apotheosis, alarmed the pious worshiper and their Copper Pyramid remains unrealized, not to be realized to all eternity now, or at least not till Chaos come again, and the ancient mud-gods have dominion! The Ne-plus-ultra of Statue-building was within sight; but it was not attained, it was to be forever unattainable.
If the world were not properly anarchic, this question "Who shall have a Statue?" would be one of the greatest and most solemn for it. Who is to have a Statue? means, Whom shall we consecrate and set apart as one of our sacred men? Sacred; that all men may see him, be reminded of him, and, by new example added to old perpetual precept, be taught what is real worth in man. Whom do you wish us to resemble? Him you set on a high column that all men, looking on it, may be continually apprised of the duty you expect from them. What man to set there, and what man to refuse forevermore the leave to be set there: this, if a country were not anarchic as we say, — ruleless, given up to the rule of Chaos, in the primordial fibres of its being, — would be a great question for a country!
And to the parties themselves, lightly as they set about it, the question is rather great. Whom shall I honour, whom shall I refuse to honour? If a man have any precious thing in him at all, certainly the most precious of all the gifts he can offer is his approbation, his reverence to another man. This is his very soul, this fealty which he swears to another: his personality itself, with whatever it has of eternal and divine, he bends here in reverence before another. Not lightly while a man give this, — if he is still a man. If he is no longer a man, but a greedy blind two-footed animal, "without soul, except what saves him the expense of salt and keeps his body with its appetites from putrefying," — alas, if he is nothing now but a human money-bag and meat-trough, it is different! In that case his "reverence" is worth so many pounds sterling; and these, like a gentleman, he will give willingly. Hence the British Statues, such a populace of them as we see. British Statues, and some other more important things! Alas, of how many unveracities, of what a world of irreverence, of sordid debasement, and death in "trespasses and sins," is this light unveracious bestowal of one's approbation the fatal outcome! Fatal in its origin; in its developments and thousandfold results so fatal. It is the poison of the universal Upas-tree, under which all human interests, in these bad ages, lie writhing as if in the last struggle of death. Street-barricades rise for that reason, and counterfeit kings have to shave off their whiskers, and fly like coiners, and it is a world gone mad in misery bestowing its appobation wrong!
Give every man the meed of honour he has merited, you have the ideal world of poets; hierarchy of beneficences, your noblest man at the summit of affairs, and in every place the due gradation of the fittest for that place: a maximum of wisdom works and administers, followed, as is inevitable, by a maximum of success. It is a world such as the idle poets dream of, — such as the active poets, the heroic and the true of men, are incessantly toiling to achieve, and more and more realize. Achieved, realized, it never can be; striven after, and approximated to, it must forever be, — woe to us if at any time it be not! Other aim in this Earth we have none. Renounce such aim as vain and hopeless, reject it altogether, what more have you to reject? You have renounced fealty to Nature and its Almighty Maker; you have said practically,
We can flourish very well without minding Nature and her ordinances; perhaps Nature and the Almighty — what are they? A Phantasm of the brain of Priests, and of some chimerical persons that write Books? — "Hold!" shriek others wildly: "You incendiary infidels; — you should be quiet infidels, and believe! Haven't we a Church? Don't we keep a Church, this long while; best-behaved of Churches, which meddles with nobody, assiduously grinding its organs, reading its liturgies, homiletics, and excellent old moral horn-books, so patiently as Church never did? Can't we doff our hat to it; even look in upon it occasionally, on a wet Sunday; and so, at the trifling charge of a few millions annually, serve both God and the Devil?" Fools, you should be quiet infidels, and believe!
To give our approval aright, — alas, to do every one of us what lies in him, that the honourable man everywhere, and he only have honour, that the able man everywhere be put into the place which is fit for him, which is his by eternal right: is not this the sum of all social morality for every citizen of this world? This one duty perfectly done, what more could the world have done for it? The world in all departments and aspects of it were a perfect world; everywhere administered by the best wisdom discernible in it, everywhere enjoying the exact maximum of success and felicity possible for it. Imperfectly, and not perfectly done, we know this duty must always be. Not done at all; no longer remembered as a thing which God and Nature and the Eternal Voices do require to be done, — alas, we see too well what kind of a world that ultimately makes for us! A world no longer habitable for quiet persons; a world which in these sad days is bursting into street barricades. and pretty rapidly turning out its "Honoured Men," as intrusive dogs are turned out, with a kettle tied to their tail. To Kings, Kaisers, Spiritual Papas and Holy Fathers, there is universal " Apage ! Depart thou; go thou to the — Father of thee!" in a huge world-voice of mob-musketry and sooty execration, uglier than any ever heard before.
Who's to have a statue? The English, at present, answer this question in a very off-hand manner. So far as I can ascertain the method they have, it is somewhat as follows.
Of course, among the many idle persons to whom an unfortunate world has given money and no work to do, there must be with or without wisdom (without, for most part), a most brisk demand for work. Work to do is very desirable, for those that have only money and not work. "Alas, one cannot buy sleep in the market!" said the rich Farmer-general. Alas, one cannot buy work there; work, which is still more indispensable. One of these unfortunates with money and no work, whose haunts lie in the dilettante line, among Artists' Studios, Picture-Sales, and the like regions, — an inane kingdom much frequented by the inane in these times, — him it strikes, in some inspired moment, that if a public subscription for a Statue to Somebody could be started good results would follow. Perhaps some Artist to whom he is Maecenas, might be got to do the Statue, at all events there would be extensive work and stir going on, — whereby the inspired dilettante, for his own share, might get upon committees, see himself named in the newspapers; might assist in innumerable consultations, open utterances of speech and balderdash; and on the whole, be comfortably present, for years to come, at something of the nature of "a house on fire:" house innocuously, nay beneficently on fire; a very Goshen to an idle man with money in his pocket.
This is the germ of the idea, now make your idea an action. Think of a proper Somebody. Almost anybody much heard of in the newspapers, and never yet convicted of felony; a conspicuous commander in-chief, duke no matter whether of Wellington or of York; successful stump-orator, political intriguer; lawyer that has made two hundred thousand pounds; scrip-dealer that has made two hundred thousand: — anybody of a large class, we are not particular, he will be your proper Somebody. You are then to get a brother idler or two to unite his twenty-pound note to yours: the fire is kindled, smoke rises through the editorial columns; the fire, if you blow it, will break into flame, and become a comfortable house on fire for you; solacing the general idle soul, for years to come; and issuing in a big hulk of Corinthian brass, and a notable instance of hero-worship, by and by.
Such I take to be the origin of that extraordinary population of Brazen and other Images which at present dominate the marketplaces of towns, and solicit worship from the English people. The ugliest images, and to the strangest case of persons, ever set up in this world. Do you call these demigods? England must be dreadfully off for demigods! My friend, I will not do the smallest stroke of worship to them. One in the thousand I will snatch out of bad company, if I ever can, the other nine hundred and ninety-nine I will with pious joy, in the like case, reduce to the state of broken metal again, and veil forever from all men. As warming-pans, as cheap brass-candlesticks, men will get good of this metal; as devotionary Images in such form, evil only. These are not heroes, gods, or demigods; and it is a horrible idolatry, if you knew it, to set them up as such!
Are these your Pattern Men? Great Men? They are your lucky (or unlucky) adventurers swollen big. Paltry Adventurers for most part; worthy of no worship, and incapable forever of getting any, except from the soul consecrated to flunkeyism. Will a man's soul worship that, think you? Never; if you fashioned him of solid gold, big as Benlomond, no heart of a man would ever look upon him except with sorrow and despair. To the flunkey-heart alone is he, was he or can he at any time be, a thing to look upon with upturned eyes of "transcendent admiration," worship or worthship so-called. He, you unfortunate fools, he is not the one we want to be kept in mind of; not he at all by any means! To him and his memory, — if you had not been unfortunate and blockheads, — you would have sunk a coalshaft rather than raised a column. emnever speak or hear of him more; not a high column to admonish all men that they should try to resemble him!
Of the sculptural talent manifest in these Brazen Images I say nothing, though much were to be said. For indeed, if there is no talent displayed in them but a perverse one, are we not to consider it a happiness, in that strange case? This big swollen gluttonous hapless "spiritual Daniel Lambert," deserved a coalshaft from his brother mortals: let at least his column be ugly! — Nevertheless ugly columns and images are, in themselves, a real evil. They too preach ugliness after their sort; and have a certain effect, the whole of which is bad. They sanction and consecrate artistic botching, pretentious futility, and the holrible doctrine that this Universe is Cockney Nightmare, — which no creature ought for a moment to believe, or listen to! In brief, they encourage an already ugly Population to become in a thousand ways uglier. They too, for their ugliness, did not the infinitely deeper ugliness of the thing they commemorate absorb all consideration of that, — would deserve, and do in fact incessantly solicit, abolition from the sight of men.
What good in the aesthetic, the moral, social or any human point of view, we are ever to get of these Brazen Images now peopling our chief cities and their market-places; it is impossible to specify. Evil enough we, consciously or unconsciously, get of them; no soul looks upon them approvingly or even indifferently without damage, all the deadlier the less he knows of it. Simple souls they corrupt in the sources of their spiritual being: wise souls, obliged to look on them, look with some feeling of anger and just abhorrence; which is itself a mischief to a peaceable man. Good will never be got of these Brazen Images in their present form. Of what use, till once broken up and melted into warming-pans, they can ever be to gods or men, I own I cannot see. Gods and men demand that this, which is their sure ultimate destiny, should so soon as possible be realised.
Last modified 21 December 2023