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then becomes a mere thrower of dirt, and liable, as well as deserving, to be pelted in return.”
“ Nothing more just,” said I. “But you talk of it, as if throwing dirt were part of a system.”
“ Judge for yourself,” said he ; “for having, as you know, myself been an amateur reviewer, I have sometimes been let behind the scenes, and once made a curious discovery of crypt secrets.”
" Where, and when ? ” asked I.
“ The time, not long ago; the place, the backparlour of that very Sourkrout who used poor Graves so ill. Though then a great ally, he has since quarrelled with me for not getting his son a place, which he thought I could do, and as a natural consequence, abuses me now thick and threefold. I ought not, however, to complain, for his abuse was far less injurious to me than his praise,
“ I never injured you,' said he to me one day.
“Yes, you did,' replied I, ‘for you spoke well of me.'
“ This increased our breach.”
“Which originally began because you could not get his son a place ? ”
“ Exactly so; but the best is, he was most displeased because I treated his criticism with contempt; for I shewed no resentment. I thought you would not speak to me,' said he, after that blow of mine, last week.'
666 I was not aware of it,' returned I.
« « The devil you were’nt,' replied he. Yet it was a pretty sharp one.'
666 A blow must hurt, or do some damage, to cause resentment,' said I, so you are safe.' Mr. Sourkrout at this walked off, and has never spoken to me since.”
“But your discovery ? " said I.
" It was this. In the days of our friendship, boasting of the perfection to which he had brought the art of periodical criticism, so as to insure the rapidity so necessary for the shop, he one day shewed me a common-place book, drawn up by himself to facilitate it. In this was an article entitled Epithets, composed of two columns, favourable and unfavourable. The first had very little belonging to it; but the other was such a volume of Billingsgate, as almost put me to flight. There were ranged in order, under the head of Epithets, fool, dolt, baotian, worm, spider, carrion,-ravings, brayings, slaver-mendacious, mare's nest, pickthank, toad-eater, lickspittle.'
“ This you would think enough; but these were single epithets. There were, therefore, compounds, or a kind of half-sentences, as 'insane and silly being; bloated mass of self-conceit; absurdity and insolence; pitiful piece of puling ; consummate arrogance ; debility of understanding, and feebleness of genius; abominable egotism and dogmatism.'*
“ This was for any persons who presumed to laugh at Mr. Sourkrout, of whom, to his astonishment, there were not a few.
“ Then came whole sentences, ready cut and dried. No knowledge of facts; style below mediocrity ; dull details ; not a spark of enlightened thought; totally ignorant of the spirit of the age ; behind it by at least a hundred years.'
" This was for historical writers.
“ Then followed · bigot, zealot, reverend blockhead, inquisitor, burnings in Smithfield, intolerance, ignorance, those old women the Fathers; dreams, hypocrisy, mammon of bishops ;' in short, odium theologicum in all its details.
66 This was for divines.
“Then again, • Incapable of drawing a character; has seen no life, and not able to describe it if he had ; fails in his heroines; has no knowledge of the heart, like Richardson; of manners, like Fielding; of pathos, like Sterne ; or of the world at large, like Le Sage.'
* You may doubt, reader, but in this polite age, all these epithets are to be found in one or other of the daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly literary press. Yet these are from the pens of scholars and the liberally educated. No doubt, as the writers are men who think they have the learning of Scaliger, they would prove it by imitating his temper and elegance. diaboli,” and “lutum stercore maceratum,” were some of his phrases towards those he attacked.
66 This for the novelists.
“ There were also some general maxims in the form of memorandums, very useful as a key, and also to prevent getting into scrapes. For example:
“ Mem. 1st.— If the author not patronized by our shop, or not of our party in politics or religion, should the work be favoured by the town, and too good to pull to pieces, find what fault you can with small things, confine yourself to generals, and leave out all the chief scenes and characters.'
“Mem. 2nd. If you criticize a particular word, always look into Johnson first, for fear you should be wrong; but if, for want of this, you should be proved guilty of ignorance yourself, never retract; and if in any of your assertions you are convicted of a lie, repeat it, and you are safe. Besides, nobody knows who you are, so you fight comfortably behind a wall.
“ Mem. 3rd. If you write against a critic of another concern, remember he has no resources, no independence of his own, but is a bookseller's hack; a venal scribe; a tool, et cætera. If against a lawyer, be sure to quote Cicero, leguleius, præco actionum, cantor formularum, anceps syllabarum ;' and give a proper sprinkling of pettifogger, special pleader, Old Bailey counsel, sharp practice, and the like.'”
66 If all this be correct,” observed I, “ it is systematic with a vengeance.'
“ Yes,” replied Granville ; 66 and so far do they carry it, that once being in Sourkrout's parlour, one of his writers came in, in a hurry, with his pen behind his ear, evidently big with composition. Taking me perhaps for a brother journeyman, and going doggedly on with his work, he asked abruptly whether Mr. Fairchild, whose book was to be cut up, was thick or thin ?
66 0, very thin,' replied Sourkrout, laughing.
66. That's enough,' said the scribe, and immediately disappeared. I was completely lost at this; till, upon questioning him, Sourkrout informed me that thick or thin alluded to the skin of the author, which it was necessary to know, because the personal notice of him was to be manufactured accordingly. “For there are some of these fellows,' said Sourkrout, who are as tough as alligators; others as soft as wool-packs. You may fire shot at the one, and not penetrate; or beat the other with a club, and he will shrink, but always puffs out again as much as before. You may as well beat a carpet.'
“I think," concluded Granville, “I have now let you sufficiently into the nature of some, at least, of these guiders of the public taste, who have the curse of Ishmael upon them ; for their hand is against every man, and every man's hand against them. Like chimney-sweepers, too, the more dirt they rake together, the more happy they are.”