A World of Possibilities: Romantic Irony in Victorian by Clyde De L. Ryals

By Clyde De L. Ryals

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Yet, he told Mill, "the attempt can be made" (CL 6:446). 8 Borrowing the romantic ironic techniques employed in Sartor Resartus, he made the work an arabesque of multiple voices, clashing perspectives, interruptions of the narrative for addresses to the reader, incongruous details, varying literary genres, and interlocking narrative frames. Aiming for "a kind of True Fiction' as a means of showing "Reality Ideal" (CL 7:245, 61), he treated this episode of French history as a drama in which the viewer must allow his "aesthetic feeling first have play'7 before being taken backstage to satisfy his or her "insatiable scientific curiosity'' (28:360).

Marat's sister, the narrator says, is still living in Paris at the very time he is writing of the murder of Marat by Charlotte Corday (4:170). " Its body "need not reappear . for another thousand years. —But to our tale1' (4:311-13). In sum, Carlyle presents this curious juxtaposition of tenses and points of view in order to involve the reader in the action, to remind him that it is ongoing, and, at the same time, to caution him that this is not a presentation of the way things actually were but only a history, a tale, a linguistic representation of the way they might have been.

What did old Osborne want to say before he died? " (p. 24). " (p. 517). " (p. 538). Questions such as these are scattered through­ out the text. We are not told the answers, and consequently we shall never be sure what they are; at best we can have only a kind of moral intuition about them. We are not provided with answers because, it turns out, the author, for all his vaunted omniscience, does not have them. "15 In quest of the truth about the events in the story his narrator goes to extraordinary lengths.

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