Use of "we" in Victorian era
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I'm reading a British officer's account of his service in the Crimean War. (He was a Colonel at the time of writing.) It is pretty well-written, and he even explains a military term now and then. But I have a question.
All along, I'd assumed that "we" referred to the regiment, or to him and his fellow officers, according to context. But I was stopped in my tracks when "we" received a bullet through "our leg"!
I know that Victoria used the "royal we," but I hadn't encountered a subject using it. Was this some sort of Victorian "military-speak"? Does anyone know?
I've heard the royal "we" beyond Queen Victoria. I think a parent might use it to indicate that an inappropriate behavior of a child is frowned upon: the child is supposed to think that both parents disapprove, but in actual fact, the other parent doesn't even know.
The military man using the "we" is probably trying to write in a formal way, and to remove his emotions from the topic. Perhaps, this is supposed to indicate a objectivity. I have never actually heard strong felt emotions or hurts sublimated with a "we."
Maybe that's what's going on here -- the author is using an ironic, self-deprecatory style because he doesn't want to come over as boasting about his heroism?
It didn't come across to me as ironic or self-deprecating; more as straight factual reporting. I wondered if it might have been a "fashion" in military combat reports at the time.
Background, if it might help: The writer died in 1860, at age 43, so he wrote in the late 1850's. He would almost certainly have attended public schools until purchasing his commission as Ensign at age 16.
Read Laurel Wellman's contemporary work to see this in action.
Whenever I've spoken (most) lecturers and doctors they talk in the "we" we talking about any given thing.
I assume it all started as a modesty thing.
"We don't talk about ourselves."
I recall my Dad who was not from Boston but of protestant Pennsylvannia background was always gong on about the dangers of Narcissism and how men should not look in the mirror (though, I, popping my teenage zits, found it hard to imagine what he meant) and we thought East Europeans seemingly celebrating themselves in Olympic events were extremely rude . . . In other words, the "we" well fits an age when we waved with a smile at others to celebrate our victories rather than pumping fists into the air and screaming "yes!" with ferocious expressions . . .