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cover and take advantage of, might save much domestic annoyance. But Englishmen are, for the most part, so totally devoid of tact, and so wholly absorbed in their selfishness, that they seldom adopt a system calculated to give them more than a temporary empire over the minds of their wives, and still more seldom do they use that empire wisely.
Adieu, belle et bonne! Croyez toujours à l'amitié de votre
THE MARQUESS OF NOTTINGHAM TO
EDWARD MORDAUNT, ESQ.
MY DEAR MORDAUNT, I have read the publication to which you referred me;* though,
The letters of Mr. Mordaunt, having little connexion with the conduct of the story, do not appear.
Heaven knows, I never felt less disposed to read, or less capable of judging a grave production, than at present. I agree with you in pronouncing the criticism it contains to be partial and unjust, and think I can guess the writer. There is no surer criterion for judging of a man than by his criticisms. Benevolence is almost always allied to mental superiority, as is malevolence to that species of smartness termed literary acumen, which enables its possessor to detect and exaggerate the faults of a work, while he remains totally insensible to its merits.
A critic gifted with superior mental powers will be more inclined to lenity than severity, because he is above envy; but one of limited intelligence will ever be prone to depreciate what he cannot equal. Such is the writer of the review in question, who, having failed as an author, avenges his own want of literary
success on his more fortunate contemporaries, reminding one of the truth of the old rhymer's lines,
“ Authors turn critics when of fame they're foiled,
As wine to vinegar oft turns when spoiled."
You observed, I am sure, the great importance he attaches to style, which he seems to think more important than matter. Now, I am of opinion, that to pay more attention to the style of an author than to his thoughts, is like regarding a woman for her dress more than for her person. Style, like dress, should be appropriate, and not detract attention from what it was meant to adorn.
You say that you felt disappointed in --; that he is less brilliant than his works prepared you to expect to find him. This remark I have heard applied to every literary man of our day; with what justice I will not stop to inquire. Has it never occurred to you why it is that we hear so many persons express the disappointment generally felt in the society of authors whose works have afforded them the greatest pleasure? Is it not, that in the works we perused the secret thoughts, the elevated aspirations poured forth in solitude, and addressed to the minds, and not to the ears, of men? How much more freely can a writer give forth his sentiments to the public, than to his most intimate friends! In perusing a work, we make acquaintance at once with the mind of its creator, free from the constraint imposed by conventional ceremony. We are not influenced by his countenance or manner; by the sound of his voice, or the tie of his cravat; all of which frivolous accessories bias our judgment of him, more or less, however much we may disclaim the humiliating imputation. His works admit us to a familiarity with his secret thoughts; we become gratified by finding in ourselves a sympathy with his feelings; and we quit his productions with self-complacency, because delighted by the discovery of the elevated sentiments they have awakened in us.
We encounter the man who has conferred upon us these benefits : we are surprised and disappointed at finding that he gives us only the ordinary topics of the day; and even those, perhaps, are delivered with the reserve which the conventions of society impose, or with the flippancy that the exhilaration of gay companionship occasionally produces.
His appearance, manner, or the tone of his voice, is not precisely what we expected ; for people always form an idea of an author, and are apt to be displeased when he is found to be dissimilar to it. The cut of his coat, fashion of his waistcoat, tie of his cravat, or