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dation, he advised him, on the strength of his bookknowledge, so seek it in London.
For this purpose, he gave him a recommendation for employment to a very great personage ; indeed, the supposed sovereign of literature and criticism of that time, and who, if he had not the talent of his prototype, Smollett, had all his moroseness, and a self-sufficiency almost equal to Smollett's pride. His patron added to this a not inconsiderable loan, which the honest fellow afterwards repaid.
“ His reception, or rather non-reception, by Mr. Spleenwort, at that time the king of the critical press, was so remarkable, and will give you," said Granville, “ such an insight into the character of some of these guides of the public taste, that I cannot do better than relate it, as he related it to me.
“ First, agreeably to what he had been told, that Mr. Spleenwort exacted the utmost of the ceremonial between those who seek, and those who distribute employment, Graves thought it most respectful to inclose his letter of introduction in a sort of complimentary note, requesting an interview.
6. Had Spleenwort,' said Graves, been first Lord of the Treasury, I could not have been more humble; or if I had been a porter in his hall, the First Lord would not have been so much the reverse.'
“Graves waited a whole week, under a total silence, when he ventured to remind the great man of his first note, by a second, informing him that he only waited in town to know his pleasure.
“ To this, after a few days' more of delay, Spleenwort condescended to reply, but not in his own hand; and the letter,” said Granville, “ is such a curiosity, that Graves, having made me a present of it, I have looked it out for you."
Here he took it out of a cabinet, and I read as follows:
“Sir-I am really so oppressed by the numerous applications from literary gentlemen of Oxford and Cambridge, and the Scotch Universities (indeed, from all parts of the world), that it is impossible to say when I can see you, or whether I can see you at all. I am even obliged to make use of my chief clerk's hand to acknowledge Mr. W—'s letter. I have great respect for that gentleman's own abilities; but I cannot conceal from
that I have so often been disappointed in the assistants whom he has recommended, that I am forced to be very chary in my selection of them. Most of them, however well intentioned, or versed in book knowledge, have no knowledge of the world, still less of business, and of the principles which necessarily govern the directors of the critical press they are totally ignorant.
“Mr. W—'s eulogy of you is strong, and I have
deserve all he has said of your TEMPER, LEARNING, CANDOUR, FAIRNESS, and IMPARTIALITY ; but, to be plain with you, temper, impartiality, learning, and all that, though good in themselves, are not only common among young men, but are not exactly what we most look to, in a widelycirculated periodical like ours. I, therefore, by no means wish you to remain in town, to wait the time when I can see you ; but if you are in the way, and will take the chance of my being at leisure some day next week, I will be glad (should I be so) to enter into your qualifications, terms, &c. &c. Meantime, I remain, Sir,
“ Yours, &c. &c.
I was petrified with the insolence of this letter, but particularly with the passage which did not blush to say, that the qualities of temperand impartiality were not exactly those that suited a critic.
66 You see he was at least honest,” said Granville.
6 Honest in avowing dishonesty,” replied I; - but can it be, that a critic must, or can,
discard these sacred qualities ?"
“ You are most terribly green,” returned my friend, “ if you suppose that many can not, or even that they can prosper if they do not."
“Extraordinary!” cried I. “Not at all," said Granville. “ For as long as
slander, or the pulling down of a party, or a great reputation, even at the expense, now and then, of a good fat lie-as long as this will insure more readers than the milk-and-water virtue of being just, so long will this system prevail, and so long will this most puissant Spleenwort take the sale of his strictures as a proof that he is the sovereign power of criticism of the day, and then
66 What then ?”
• Jove in his chair,
Keep in awe. “ You have described," said I, “ a wonderful animal, of which I had no idea ; and, from your account, he must have many requisites to complete so redoubtable a character. Great learning, of course ?”
“ The appearance of it will do," answered Granville, “provided it be disguised under a certain set of phrases, which have been justly called the cant of criticism, and are grown so mechanical that the lowest dabblers brandish them with dexterity; provided also the proper self-sufficiency, and contempt for those they attack, are always preserved.
ed. If once modesty and candour are allowed to mingle in such a critic as Spleenwort or Paragraph, there is an end of him."
“ Learning, then," said I, “according to you,
, will do little."
“ Not without other qualifications, denoting, indeed, very high gifts of mind.”
“Will you name those gifts ?” said I.
“ Some of them," returned he, “ are even heroic. For, in the first place, a true critic of the character we are discussing (for I speak only of the dross, not the gold of the class)—he who writes for the shop, with a view to sell his wares -must be able to bluster, and bully, and call names; and yet be so thick-skinned himself, as to rise superior to a sense of shame, or even of insult, if he meet the same treatment in return. This, you will allow, is great mental courage.”
“ Great indeed," said I.
“ Next, he must be able to abuse the person, birth, and private life of his victim, without caring whether what he says be true or false ; and if its falsehood be demonstrated, he must hold such a liberty as defending a man's self in sovereign contempt ; or if he does not choose to be silent, he must write another paper, and abuse the presumptuous blockhead ten times more than at first. will also allow is heroic."
“ You paint,” said I, a man without a heart."
“ You have hit it exactly,” returned Granville ; “ a trading critic is, and must be, without a heart. But we have forgot poor Graves all this while."