Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXVI
THE CROMWELL STATUE AT ST. IVES (1849)

WHEN Carlyle was questioned about the New Houses of Parliament, "Shall Cromwell have a statue there?" he answered doubtfully:--" 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."

The question was now being raised again and a "People's Statue" proposed 'at London, Huntingdon, St. Ives, or Naseby Field.' One of the promoters of the claims of St. Ives, the Rev. I. K. Holland, asked Carlyle to help them, and received a reply ( 16.4.49) which has been preserved and repeatedly printed.1

Carlyle began by saying plainly how unworthy we were to-day to set up a statue to the like of Cromwell. 'Nevertheless I have privately resolved, if such a thing do go on, to subscribe my little mite to it on occasion, and to wish privately that it may prosper. . . . You and your townsmen have sure ground to stand upon; ground that is sure, and will carry such an enterprise in all times, even in the Hudson, Dundas, and Brazen Duke of York times,' (alluding to the Piccadilly pillar.) 'St. Ives wishes to claim the honour of having once been Oliver Cromwell's place of abode, an honour likely to be its most peculiar one for a thousand years.

'Proper, good every way, and right on the part of St. Ives: while you keep within these limits, the soul of Oliver himself, if he looked down upon you, could not disapprove.'

He ended by recommending the market-place of St. Ives as the most suitable spot for the proposed memorial, and there the statue of Cromwell was at last set up in 1901.

____________________
1
S. C. Lomas's edition of T. C.'s O. C.'s Letters and Speeches, Introduction, by C. H. Firth, pages xxxiv to xxxvi, and footnote.

-86-

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