Why was [the statue] 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? —"Hudson's Statue,"
Hyde Park, in Carlyle's day, marked where London ended and the English countryside began; distances from London to other cities and towns were measured from Hyde Park Corner. Contitution Hill Arch rises over this spot; nearby stands Apsley House, which was acquired by the Duke of Wellington during the early 1800s, and behind it stands a statue of Achilles, commemorating the Duke's victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. A more famous statue, once also present at Hyde Park Corner, is the gigantic replica of Wellington himself, which was hauled up upon Constitution Hill Arch in 1846; it "was ridiculed for years and when the arch was moved further down Constitution Hill in the 1880s, the statue was moved to Aldershot, where it still towers over the trees" (Treasures of Britain, 1968, Drive Publications, 293).
Carlyle sees Hyde Park Corner, with its boundary location and its connotations, both heroic and ridiculous, as a good example of the offensiveness of the English statue-raising. His sarcastic reference to "our 'Religion' " shows his disgust at British "hero-worship". Both the English people's choices of whom to revere and their manner of doing so are, to Carlyle, a kind of blasphemy against the true manifestation of God in the form of human heroism. "Whom or what do you in your very soul admire, and strive to imitate and emulate?" he asks his audience. "Is it God's servant or the Devil's?" The erecting of statues to people like Hudson the Railway King is a form of idolatry in Carlyle's eyes: "You are infidels, persons without faith; not believing, what is true but what is untrue; Miscreants, as the old fathers well called you." Worship of "the Noble Human Soul," according to Carlyle, is "all the worth....that any worship can have." The English populace, by building statues to men who represent all that is evil about the growing industrial age, make themselves heretics, and send themselves and their society down the road to spiritual and political ruin.
Last modified 23 October 2002