In “Hudson’s Statue,” Thomas Carlyle uses the somewhat trivial manner of public statues to represent an English mind compulsorily repressed by the king. Carlyle’s works, similar to that of writer Samuel Johnson, consistently refer to readers through the use of pronouns such as “we” and “us”, yet in the following passage Carlyle breaks free from this pattern by challenging the reader directly. This inconsistency breaks his steady pattern of diction in an attempt to address the seriousness of “questions concerning the king’s own honour”.
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
Carlyle no longer represents the whole to which he speaks to in his previous writings, but engages his “dear Reader” candidly in an attempt to show them “the truth”. There appears to be no “we” in this situation as Carlyle draws a separation between himself and the reader. This attempt to give validity to the very theory he addresses forces Carlyle, for the sake of his argument, to assume the role of teacher instead of commentator.
1. When comparing Johnson’s method of speaking for the reader with pronouns such as “we” to Carlyle’s method of speaking to the reader by directly addressing them, who do you feel creates a more intimate relationship with the reader? Why?
2. How does Carlyle’s religious views impact his writing? Do we see evidence of his strong puritan beliefs in his diction?
3. Is Carlyle more accurately able to make his point more direct when it is directly addressed to the reader as opposed to “we” as a whole?
Last modified 24 February 2011