June 8th, 2020

On Statues And Statue Making

There was a positive orgy of statue making towards the end of the 19th century. It's as though the Victorians could see their world passing away and were desperate to fix its values in stone and bronze.

That dreadful Mr Wilde and that dreadful Mr Beardsley are undermining all we stand for. And don't get me started on all those horrible "new women." What can we do to stop the rot? I know- lets make a statue of Mr Gladstone!

And obviously every square that's not already occupied needs to be brought into line with a more than life-sized statue of the dear Queen.

Statue-making looks like confidence but is actually the reverse. The confident don't go round shouting "Look how confident I am".

Colston's statue dates from that era.

(As do the statues of Confederate generals and politicians that litter the Southern States- but that's another story.)

An interviewer on Channel 4 was asking a black academic whether Colston's demotion might not set a precedent and lead to public justice being executed on other statues. He made it sound as though this would be a bad thing.

I'd start with the preposterous statue of Coeur de Lion in skin tight-chainmail (very uncomfortable) that stands outside the Houses of Parliament. Coeur de Lion was a complete and utter swine.

I don't suppose Churchill is going in the Thames just yet, but I was pleased to see some defacing had taken place- and that the plinth of his statue in Parliament Square no longer says "Churchill" but "Churchill was a racist"- which happens to be entirely true.

The late Victorians started the ball rolling but the mania for statue-making has continued through the 20th century right up until the present day. Our values, our precious values- let's make a statue quickly in case we forget what they are...

I quite like public statues but I like them in the same way that I like architectural follies. They're fun. They're often rather silly.

The people who most deserve statues are the ones who least need them. Does Shakespeare need a statue when he has a book- quite a lot of books in fact.

There's a statue on a towering column on the outskirts of Shrewsbury. I had to get out of the car to go see who merited such an enormous monument. It turned out to be a chap who'd done some soldiering in the Napoleonic period. I didn't recognise the name. And I've since forgotten it. Now I come to think of it, I'm not even sure that the monument is in Shrewsbury.

All together now...

"Two vast and trunkless legs of stone...."