By Clyde De L. Ryals
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Extra resources for A World of Possibilities: Romantic Irony in Victorian Literature
L4 He reminds us that he and we alike are not only visitors to but also participants in the fair, the Vanitas Vanitatum (p. 666), subject to all its many distractions, foibles, and sins. Here, says the narrator, "moi qui vous park," you and I, dear reader, are "brothers," not only to each other but to all the other fairgoers as well. Thackeray is, however, unwilling to let us leave the fair so readily, with a sermon for farewell. He knows that literature is not life, and he wants us to have a like awareness.
How then can a historian achieve simultaneity and inclusiveness if, first, one must work with partial sources and, second, one writes from one's own viewpoint in reporting them? Is it possible to transcend point of view? In the early 1830s, as Carlyle found himself more and more drawn to the writing of history, these were the chief obstacles that he foresaw to his enterprise. As for subject, he was intrigued by the French Revolution, the most dramatic event within recent times displaying the tempestuous process of becoming and of violent overthrow of "Realised Ideals.
This is the character who is "the writer of these pages" (p. 73), "an observer of human nature" (p. 152), "moi qui vous parle'' (p. 484), "the present writer [who] was predestined to write [Amelia's] memoirs" (p. 603). Most often he is portrayed (or portrays himself) as a painstaking historian who verifies the accuracy of his narrative ("the present writer went to survey with eagle glance the field of Waterloo" [p. " [p. 140]), and as a keen "ob server of human nature** (p. 152). Yet this particularized "I" can upon occasion become the generalized " T here introduced to personify the world in general" (p.
A World of Possibilities: Romantic Irony in Victorian Literature by Clyde De L. Ryals