"Hudson's Statue" paints a satiric picture of leaders in late-nineteenth-century English society. In it, Carlyle contrasts a utopia arranged by worthiness and good deeds to a satirical sketch of the status quo. Exploring what happens when society abandons natural law, Carlyle mocks the condition of blind devotion to an institution. The essay briefly changes voice, ramping up the satire to an over-the-top mockery of supposedly Christian masses who actually worship money and success.
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!
Carlyle draws attention to the satire in paragraph two by off-setting it in quotes, indicating a change of speaker. Mentioning priests in the sentence before, suggests that the anthropomorphosis of the church is a deliberate decision to treat it as an institution with agency of its own, rather than an institution made up of individuals who create and run it. This helps to substantiate the speakerÕs argument, by suggesting that the churchÕs formidable power justifies cooperation and, as the speaker puts it, "belief."
1. Why is the word "poet" given particular emphasis? What does the poet symbolize in this essay? Consider the two classes of poet, why might there be a distinction?
2. In the first paragraph, what is the effect of putting verbs at the beginnings of sentences? Does the unconventional sentence structure increase or reduce the pace at which you read and comprehend?
3. Look at the capitalization in sentence two of paragraph two, what is emphasized? What does this say about the hierarchy of elements in the sentence?
4. Who is the speaker in the second paragraph?
5. The last sentence of the passage is excluded from the quotes, who is the speaker here? Who is the "you" in this sentence?
Last modified 11 October 2007