he worship of icons evokes religious connotations, whether it be the negative connotations that come with the Christian sin of idolatry or the beauty associated with the marble pantheons of Greek gods and goddesses. Carlyle in “Hudson’s Statue” draws a parallel between the erecting of English statues and the worshipping of gods, using religious references such as “sin-offering,” the brazen serpent, and Upas-tree to condemn his country’s worship of false heroes. The popularity of trivial statues, he says, has diluted their original purpose and directed public admiration away from those who deserve it, an practice with direct associations with idolatry.
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!
In fact, he suggests that the subversion of the original meaning of the statue has progressed to such a degree that a statue of Cromwell would now be an insult because he would be surrounded by such poor fare. Whereas the original intent was to use statues as a form of apotheosis, now the true heroes and true gods have been ignored and devalued to the ranks of mere men.
1. Carlyle refers to gods from a wide array of religions, from Allah to Hesperides to Vishnu. Why does he draw upon what, to his audience, might be considered heathen or false gods?
2. “Are these your Pattern Men? Great Men?” Carlyle uses a question and answer style at many points throughout his work. Is he questioning his society, or his reader, or both? If he groups his audience and his opponents together, how does he prevent alienation of the reader?
3. Like Samuel Johnson, Carlyle also uses extended sentences with a liberal use of the comma. How do their sentence structures and rhythms differ?
4. Carlyle often uses different voices (“"Hold!" shriek others wildly: "You incendiary infidels; — you should be quiet infidels, and believe!”). Are these voices mimicking his opponents, the reader, or various alter egos?
Last modified 22 February 2011