April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


TC TO I. K. HOLLAND; 16 April 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490416-TC-IKH-01; CL 24: 24-26


[16 April 1849]

In the Birmingham newspaper, some ten days ago,1 a blazing article was sent me about a general “People's Statue” for Oliver, to be set up at London, Huntingdon, or, failing both these, at St. Ives, or in Naseby Field. Some considerable notion, I find otherwise, has gone abroad of commemorating Cromwell in the public statue way. To all which I have hitherto made little answer or none at all.

My private suspicion I confess is that the present generation of Englishmen—who have filled their towns with such a set of “public statues” as were never before erected by any people, ugly brazen images (to mere commonplace adventurers with titles on them, and even sometimes to mere paltry scoundrels, worthy of immediate oblivion only), and who have winded up their enterprises in the statue or memorial line by subscribing £25,000 to a memorial for King Hudson—are not likely to do themselves or anybody much good by setting up statues to Oliver Cromwell. I fear they have forfeited the right to remember Cromwell in a public manner. Cromwell's divine memory, sad, stern and earnest as the gods, says virtually to them “Forget me and pass on, ye unhappy Canaille—carry your offerings to King Hudson and strive to emulate him!” 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 much better than I can with any assurance hope. I think it will be very difficult to avoid the introduction of such an ocean of flummery and mere idle balderdash into the affair (if the public are fairly awoken to it) as will be very distressing to any one who feels how a Cromwell ought to be honoured by the nation that produced him.

With regard to you and your townsmen, however, I perceive that, so far, you 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.2 St. Ives wishes to claim authentically for itself the honour of having once been Oliver Cromwell's place of abode,3 an honour that is likely to last it, and be its most peculiar one for a thousand years to come.

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. Not to do Cromwell honour—that, owing to Hudson, etc., we unfortunately cannot at present pretend to try; not to do him honour, but to claim publicly our own property in him, and do honour to ourselves and our town—that we can pretend to, and will! So far I say your enterprise is founded on the rock; and however much further it may go, I think you should take care to maintain that particular foundation, and let nothing shift you from it. Namely, that your enterprise is to point out Oliver Cromwell's indisputable connexion with you, and to claim this publicly, and assert it in brass or stone for the coming ages and all persons that may forget or do not know it.4