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Table-Talk, Essays on Men and Manners by William Hazlitt

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old friend Jack Bannister. It adds to our surprise at the versatility
of his changes of place and appearance, and he had been before us in his
own person during a great part of the evening. There was no harm
done--no imaginary spell broken--no discontinuity of thought or
sentiment. Mr. Mathews is himself (without offence be it spoken) both a
cleverer and more respectable man than many of the characters he
represents. Not so when

O'er the stage the Ghost of Hamlet stalks,
Othello rages, Desdemona mourns,
And poor Monimia pours her soul in love.

A different feeling then prevails:--close, close the scene upon them,
and never break that fine phantasmagoria of the brain. Or if it must be
done at all, let us choose some other time and place for it: let no one
wantonly dash the Cirecan cup from our lips, or dissolve the spirit of
enchantment in the very palace of enchantment. Go, Mr. -----, and sit
somewhere else! What a thing it is, for instance, for any part of an
actor's dress to come off unexpectedly while he is playing! What a
_cut_ it is upon himself and the audience! What an effort he has to
recover himself, and struggle through this exposure of the naked truth!
It has been considered as one of the triumphs of Garrick's tragic power,
that once, when he was playing Lear, his crown of straw came off, and
nobody laughed or took the least notice, so much had he identified
himself with the character. Was he, after this, to pay so little
respect to the feelings he had inspired, as to tear off his tattered
robes, and take the old crazed king with him to play the fool in the

No; let him pass. Vex not his parting spirit,
Nor on the rack of this rough world
Stretch him out farther!

Some lady is said to have fallen in love with Garrick from being present
when he played the part of Romeo, on which he observed, that he would
undertake to cure her of her folly if she would only come and see him in
Abel Drugger. So the modern tragedian and fine gentleman, by appearing
to advantage, and conspicuously, _in propria persona,_ may easily cure
us of our predilection for all the principal characters he shines in.
'Sir! do you think Alexander looked o' this fashion in his lifetime, or
was perfumed so? Had Julius Caesar such a nose? or wore his frill as
you do? You have slain I don't know how many heroes "with a bare
bodkin," the gold pin in your shirt, and spoiled all the fine love
speeches you will ever make by picking your teeth with that inimitable

An actor, after having performed his part well, instead of courting
farther distinction, should affect obscurity, and 'steal most
guilty-like away,' conscious of admiration that he can support nowhere
but in his proper sphere, and jealous of his own and others' good
opinion of him, in proportion as he is a darling in the public eye. He
cannot avoid attracting disproportionate attention: why should he wish
to fix it on himself in a perfectly flat and insignificant part, viz.
his own character? It was a bad custom to bring authors on the stage to
crown them. _Omne Ignotum pro magnifico est._ Even professed critics,
I think, should be shy of putting themselves forward to applaud loudly:
any one in a crowd has 'a voice potential' as the press: it is either
committing their pretensions a little indiscreetly, or confirming their
own judgment by a clapping of hands. If you only go and give the cue
lustily, the house seems in wonderful accord with your opinions. An
actor, like a king, should only appear on state occasions. He loses
popularity by too much publicity; or, according to the proverb,
_familiarity breeds contempt._ Both characters personate a certain
abstract idea, are seen in a fictitious costume, and when they have
'shuffled off this more than mortal coil,' they had better keep out of
the way--the acts and sentiments emanating from themselves will not
carry on the illusion of our prepossessions. Ordinary transactions do
not give scope to grace and dignity like romantic situations or prepared
pageants, and the _little_ is apt to prevail over the _great,_ if we
come to count the instances.

The motto of a great actor should be _aut Caesar aut nihil._ I do not
see how with his crown, or plume of feathers, he can get through those
little box-doors without stooping and squeezing his artificial
importance to tatters. The entrance of the stage is arched so high
'that _players_ may get through, and keep their gorgeous turbans on,
without good-morrow to the gods!'

The top-tragedian of the day has too large and splendid a train
following him to have room for them in one of the dress-boxes. When he
appears there, it should be enlarged expressly for the occasion; for at
his heels march the figures, in full costume, of Cato, and Brutus, and
Cassius, and of him with the falcon eye, and Othello, and Lear, and
crook-backed Richard, and Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and numbers more,
and demand entrance along with him, shadows to which he alone lends
bodily substance! 'The graves yawn and render up their dead to push us
from our stools.' There is a mighty bustle at the door, a gibbering and
squeaking in the lobbies. An actor's retinue is imperial, it presses
upon the imagination too much, and he should therefore slide unnoticed
into the pit. Authors, who are in a manner his makers and masters, sit
there contented--why should not he? 'He is used to show himself.'
That, then, is the very reason he should conceal his person at other
times. A habit of ostentation should not be reduced to a principle. If
I had seen the late Gentleman Lewis fluttering in a prominent situation
in the boxes, I should have been puzzled whether to think of him as the
Copper Captain, or as Bobadil, or Ranger, or Young Rapid, or Lord
Foppington, or fifty other whimsical characters; then I should have got
Munden and Quick and a parcel more of them in my head, till 'my brain
would have been like a smoke-jack': I should not have known what to make
of it; but if I had seen him in the pit, I should merely have eyed him
with respectful curiosity, and have told every one that that was
Gentleman Lewis. We should have concluded from the circumstance that he
was a modest, sensible man: we all knew beforehand that he could show
off whenever he pleased!

There is one class of performers that I think is quite exempt from the
foregoing reasoning, I mean _retired actors._ Come when they will and
where they will, they are welcome to their old friends. They have as
good a right to sit in the boxes as children at the holidays. But they
do not, somehow, come often. It is but a melancholy recollection with

Then sweet,
Now sad to think on!

Mrs. Garrick still goes often, and hears the applause of her husband
over again in the shouts of the pit. Had Mrs. Pritchard or Mrs. Clive
been living, I am afraid we should have seen little of them-it would
have been too _home_ a feeling with them. Mrs. Siddons seldom if ever
goes, and yet she is almost the only thing left worth seeing there. She
need not stay away on account of any theory that I can form. She is out
of the pale of all theories, and annihilates all rules. Wherever she
sits there is grace and grandeur, there is tragedy personified. Her
seat is the undivided throne of the Tragic Muse. She had no need of the
robes, the sweeping train, the ornaments of the stage; in herself she is
as great as any being she ever represented in the ripeness and plenitude
of her power! I should not, I confess, have had the same paramount
abstracted feeling at seeing John Kemble there, whom I venerate at a
distance, and should not have known whether he was playing off the great
man or the great actor:--

A little more than kin, and less than kind.

I know it may be said in answer to all this pretext of keeping the
character of the player inviolate, 'What is there more common, in fact,
than for the hero of a tragedy to speak the prologue, or than for the
heroine, who has been stabbed or poisoned, to revive, and come forward
laughing in the epilogue?' As to the epilogue, it is spoken to get rid
of the idea of the tragedy altogether, and to ward off the fury of the
pit, who may be bent on its damnation. The greatest incongruity you can
hit upon is, therefore, the most proper for this purpose. But I deny
that the hero of a tragedy, or the principal character in it, is ever
pitched upon to deliver the prologue. It is always, by prescription,
some walking shadow, some poor player, who cannot even spoil a part of
any consequence. Is there not Mr. Claremont always at hand for this
purpose, whom the late king pronounced three times to be 'a bad
actor'?[1] What is there in common between that accustomed wave of the
hand and the cocked hat under the arm, and any passion or person that
can be brought forward on the stage? It is not that we can be said to
acquire a prejudice against so harmless an actor as Mr. Claremont: we
are born with a prejudice against a speaker of prologues. It is an
innate idea: a natural instinct: there is a particular organ in the
brain provided for it. Do we not all hate a manager? It is not because
he is insolent or impertinent, or fond of making ridiculous speeches, or
a notorious puffer, or ignorant, or mean, or vain, but it is because we
see him in a coat, waistcoat, and breeches. The stage is the world of
fantasy: it is Queen Mab that has invited us to her revels there, and
all that have to do with it should wear motley!

Lastly, there are some actors by profession whose faces we like to see
in the boxes or anywhere else; but it is because they are no actors, but
rather gentlemen and scholars, and in their proper places in the boxes,
or wherever they are. Does not an actor himself, I would ask, feel
conscious and awkward in the boxes if he thinks that he is known? And
does he not sit there in spite of this uneasy feeling, and run the
gauntlet of impertinent looks and whispers, only to get a little
by-admiration, as he thinks? It is hardly to be supposed that he comes
to see the play--the show. He must have enough of plays and finery.
But he wants to see a favourite (perhaps a rival) actor in a striking
part. Then the place for him to do this is the pit. Painters, I know,
always get as close up to a picture they want to copy as they can; and I
should imagine actors would want to do the same, in order to look into
the texture and mechanism of their art. Even theatrical critics can
make nothing of a part that they see from the boxes. If you sit in the
stage-box, your attention is drawn off by the company and other
circumstances. If you get to a distance (so as to be out of the reach
of notice) you can neither hear nor see well. For myself, I would as
soon take a seat on the top of the Monument to give an account of a
first appearance, as go into the second or third tier of boxes to do it.
I went, but the other day, with a box-ticket to see Miss Fanny Brunton
come out in Juliet, and Mr. Macready make a first appearance in Romeo;
and though I was told (by a tolerable judge) that the new Juliet was the
most elegant figure on the stage, and that Mr. Macready's Romeo was
quite beautiful, I vow to God I knew nothing of it. So little could I
tell of the matter that at one time I mistook Mr. Horrebow for Mr.
Abbott. I have seen Mr. Kean play Sir Giles Overreach one night from
the front of the pit, and a few nights after from the front boxes facing
the stage. It was another thing altogether. That which had been so
lately nothing but flesh and blood, a living fibre, 'instinct with fire'
and spirit, was no better than a little fantoccini figure, darting
backwards and forwards on the stage, starting, screaming, and playing a
number of fantastic tricks before the audience. I could account, in the
latter instance, for the little approbation of the performance
manifested around me, and also for the general scepticism with respect
to Mr. Kean's acting, which has been said to prevail among those who
cannot condescend to go into the pit, and have not interest in the
orchestra--to see him act. They may, then, stay away altogether. His
face is the running comment on his acting, which reconciles the audience
to it. Without that index to his mind, you are not prepared for the
vehemence and suddenness of his gestures; his pauses are long, abrupt,
and unaccountable, if not filled up by the expression; it is in the
working of his face that you see the writhing and coiling up of the
passions before they make their serpent-spring; the lightning of his eye
precedes the hoarse burst of thunder from his voice.

One may go into the boxes, indeed, and criticise acting and actors with
Sterne's stop-watch, but not otherwise--'"And between the nominative
case and the verb (which, as your lordship knows, should agree together
in number, person, etc.) there was a full pause of a second and
two-thirds."--"But was the eye silent--did the look say nothing?" "I
looked only at the stop-watch, my lord."--"Excellent critic!"'--If any
other actor, indeed, goes to see Mr. Kean act, with a view _to avoid
imitation,_ this may be the place, or rather it is the way to run into
it, for you see only his extravagances and defects, which are the most
easily carried away. Mr. Mathews may translate him into an AT HOME even
from the _slips!_--Distinguished actors, then, ought, I conceive, to set
the example of going into the pit, were it only for their own sakes. I
remember a trifling circumstance, which I worked up at the time into a
confirmation of this theory of mine, engrafted on old prejudice and
tradition.[2] I had got into the middle of the pit, at considerable
risk of broken bones, to see Mr. Kean in one of his early parts, when I
perceived two young men seated a little behind me, with a certain space
left round them. They were dressed in the height of the fashion, in
light drab-coloured greatcoats, and with their shirt-sleeves drawn down
over their hands, at a time when this was not so common as it has since
become. I took them for younger sons of some old family at least. One
of them, that was very good-looking, I thought might be Lord Byron, and
his companion might be Mr. Hobhouse. They seemed to have wandered from
another sphere of this our planet to witness a masterly performance to
the utmost advantage. This stamped the thing. They were, undoubtedly,
young men of rank and fashion; but their taste was greater than their
regard for appearances. The pit was, after all, the true resort of
thoroughbred critics and amateurs. When there was anything worth
seeing, this was the place; and I began to feel a sort of reflected
importance in the consciousness that I also was a critic. Nobody sat
near them--it would have seemed like an intrusion. Not a syllable was
uttered.--They were two clerks in the Victualling Office!

What I would insist on, then, is this--that for Mr. Kean, or Mr. Young,
or Mr. Macready, or any of those that are 'cried out upon in the top of
the compass' to obtrude themselves voluntarily or ostentatiously upon
our notice, when they are out of character, is a solecism in
theatricals. For them to thrust themselves forward before the scenes,
is to drag us behind them against our will, than which nothing can be
more fatal to a true passion for the stage, and which is a privilege
that should be kept sacred for impertinent curiosity. Oh! while I live,
let me not be admitted (under special favour) to an actor's
dressing-room. Let me not see how Cato painted, or how Caesar combed!
Let me not meet the prompt-boys in the passage, nor see the half-lighted
candles stuck against the bare walls, nor hear the creaking of machines,
or the fiddlers laughing; nor see a Columbine practising a pirouette in
sober sadness, nor Mr. Grimaldi's face drop from mirth to sudden
melancholy as he passes the side-scene, as if a shadow crossed it, nor
witness the long-chinned generation of the pantomime sit twirling their
thumbs, nor overlook the fellow who holds the candle for the moon in the
scene between Lorenzo and Jessica! Spare me this insight into secrets I
am not bound to know. The stage is not a mistress that we are sworn to
undress. Why should we look behind the glass of fashion? Why should we
prick the bubble that reflects the world, and turn it to a little soap
and water? Trust a little to first appearances--leave something to
fancy. I observe that the great puppets of the real stage, who
themselves play a grand part, like to get into the boxes over the stage;
where they see nothing from the proper point of view, but peep and pry
into what is going on like a magpie looking into a marrow-bone. This is
just like them. So they look down upon human life, of which they are
ignorant. They see the exits and entrances of the players, something
that they suspect is meant to be kept from them (for they think they are
always liable to be imposed upon): the petty pageant of an hour ends
with each scene long before the catastrophe, and the tragedy of life is
turned to farce under their eyes. These people laugh loud at a
pantomime, and are delighted with clowns and pantaloons. They pay no
attention to anything else. The stage-boxes exist in contempt of the
stage and common sense. The private boxes, on the contrary, should be
reserved as the receptacle for the officers of state and great
diplomatic characters, who wish to avoid, rather than court popular


[1] Mr. Munden and Mr. Claremont went one Sunday to Windsor to see the
king. They passed with other spectators once or twice: at last, his
late majesty distinguished Munden in the crowd and called him to him.
After treating him with much cordial familiarity, the king said, 'And,
pray, who is that with you?' Munden, with many congees, and contortions
of face, replied, 'An please your majesty, it's Mr. Claremont of the
Theatre Royal Drury Lane.' 'Oh! yes,' said the king, 'I know him
well--a bad actor, a bad actor, a bad actor!' Why kings should repeat
what they say three times is odd: their saying it once is quite enough.
I have always liked Mr. Claremont's face since I heard this anecdote,
and perhaps the telling it may have the same effect on other people.

[2] The trunk-maker, I grant, in the _Spectator's_ time, sat in the
two-shilling gallery. But that was in the _Spectator's_ time, and not
in the days of Mr. Smirke and Mr. Wyatt.



The chief disadvantage of knowing more and seeing farther than others,
is not to be generally understood. A man is, in consequence of this,
liable to start paradoxes, which immediately transport him beyond the
reach of the common-place reader. A person speaking once in a slighting
manner of a very original-minded man, received for answer, 'He strides
on so far before you that he dwindles in the distance!"

Petrarch complains that 'Nature had made him different from other
people'--_singular' d' altri genti._ The great happiness of life is, to
be neither better nor worse than the general run of those you meet with.
If you are beneath them, you are trampled upon; if you are above them,
you soon find a mortifying level in their difference to what you
particularly pique yourself upon. What is the use of being moral in a
night-cellar, or wise in Bedlam? 'To be honest, as this world goes, is
to be one man picked out of ten thousand.' So says Shakespear; and the
commentators have not added that, under these circumstances, a man is
more likely to become the butt of slander than the mark of admiration
for being so. 'How now, thou particular fellow?'[1] is the common
answer to all such out-of-the-way pretensions. By not doing as those at
Rome do, we cut ourselves off from good-fellowship and society. We
speak another language, have notions of our own, and are treated as of a
different species. Nothing can be more awkward than to intrude with any
such far-fetched ideas among the common herd, who will be sure to

Stand all astonished, like a sort of steers,
'Mongst whom some beast of strange and foreign race
Unwares is chanced, far straying from his peers:
So will their ghastly gaze betray their hidden fears.

Ignorance of another's meaning is a sufficient cause of fear, and fear
produces hatred: hence the suspicion and rancour entertained against all
those who set up for greater refinement and wisdom than their
neighbours. It is in vain to think of softening down this spirit of
hostility by simplicity of manners, or by condescending to persons of
low estate. The more you condescend, the more they will presume upon
it; they will fear you less, but hate you more; and will be the more
determined to take their revenge on you for a superiority as to which
they are entirely in the dark, and of which you yourself seem to
entertain considerable doubt. All the humility in the world will only
pass for weakness and folly. They have no notion of such a thing. They
always put their best foot forward; and argue that you would do the same
if you had any such wonderful talents as people say. You had better,
therefore, play off the great man at once--hector, swagger, talk big,
and ride the high horse over them: you may by this means extort outward
respect or common civility; but you will get nothing (with low people)
by forbearance and good-nature but open insult or silent contempt.
Coleridge always talks to people about what they don't understand: I,
for one, endeavour to talk to them about what they do understand, and
find I only get the more ill-will by it. They conceive I do not think
them capable of anything better; that I do not think it worth while, as
the vulgar saying is, to _throw a word to a dog._ I once complained of
this to Coleridge, thinking it hard I should be sent to Coventry for not
making a prodigious display. He said: 'As you assume a certain
character, you ought to produce your credentials. It is a tax upon
people's good-nature to admit superiority of any kind, even where there
is the most evident proof of it; but it is too hard a task for the
imagination to admit it without any apparent ground at all.'

There is not a greater error than to suppose that you avoid the envy,
malice, and uncharitableness, so common in the world, by going among
people without pretensions. There are no people who have no
pretensions; or the fewer their pretensions, the less they can afford to
acknowledge yours without some sort of value received. The more
information individuals possess, or the more they have refined upon any
subject, the more readily can they conceive and admit the same kind of
superiority to themselves that they feel over others. But from the low,
dull, level sink of ignorance and vulgarity, no idea or love of
excellence can arise. You think you are doing mighty well with them;
that you are laying aside the buckram of pedantry and pretence, and
getting the character of a plain, unassuming, good sort of fellow. It
will not do. All the while that you are making these familiar advances,
and wanting to be at your ease, they are trying to recover the wind of
you. You may forget that you are an author, an artist, or what
not--they do not forget that they are nothing, nor bate one jot of their
desire to prove you in the same predicament. They take hold of some
circumstance in your dress; your manner of entering a room is different
from that of other people; you do not eat vegetables--that's odd; you
have a particular phrase, which they repeat, and this becomes a sort of
standing joke; you look grave, or ill; you talk, or are more silent than
usual; you are in or out of pocket: all these petty, inconsiderable
circumstances, in which you resemble, or are unlike other people, form
so many counts in the indictment which is going on in their imaginations
against you, and are so many contradictions in your character. In any
one else they would pass unnoticed, but in a person of whom they had
heard so much they cannot make them out at all. Meanwhile, those things
in which you may really excel go for nothing, because they cannot judge
of them. They speak highly of some book which you do not like, and
therefore you make no answer. You recommend them to go and see some
Picture in which they do not find much to admire. How are you to
convince them that you are right? Can you make them perceive that the
fault is in them, and not in the picture, unless you could give them
your knowledge? They hardly distinguish the difference between a
Correggio and a common daub. Does this bring you any nearer to an
understanding? The more you know of the difference, the more deeply you
feel it, or the more earnestly you wish to convey it, the farther do you
find yourself removed to an immeasurable distance from the possibility
of making them enter into views and feelings of which they have not even
the first rudiments. You cannot make them see with your eyes, and they
must judge for themselves.

Intellectual is not like bodily strength. You have no hold of the
understanding of others but by their sympathy. Your knowing, in fact,
so much more about a subject does not give you a superiority, that is, a
power over them, but only renders it the more impossible for you to make
the least impression on them. Is it, then, an advantage to you? It may
be, as it relates to your own private satisfaction, but it places a
greater gulf between you and society. It throws stumbling-blocks in
your way at every turn. All that you take most pride and pleasure in is
lost upon the vulgar eye. What they are pleased with is a matter of
indifference or of distaste to you. In seeing a number of persons turn
over a portfolio of prints from different masters, what a trial it is to
the patience, how it jars the nerves to hear them fall into raptures at
some common-place flimsy thing, and pass over some divine expression of
countenance without notice, or with a remark that it is very
singular-looking? How useless it is in such cases to fret or argue, or
remonstrate? Is it not quite as well to be without all this
hypercritical, fastidious knowledge, and to be pleased or displeased as
it happens, or struck with the first fault or beauty that is pointed out
by others? I would be glad almost to change my acquaintance with
pictures, with books, and, certainly, what I know of mankind, for
anybody's ignorance of them!

It is recorded in the life of some worthy (whose name I forget) that he
was one of those 'who loved hospitality and respect': and I profess to
belong to the same classification of mankind. Civility is with me a
jewel. I like a little comfortable cheer, and careless, indolent chat,
I hate to be always wise, or aiming at wisdom. I have enough to do with
literary cabals, questions, critics, actors, essay-writing, without
taking them out with me for recreation, and into all companies. I wish
at these times to pass for a good-humoured fellow; and good-will is all
I ask in return to make good company. I do not desire to be always
posing myself or others with the questions of fate, free-will,
foreknowledge absolute, etc. I must unbend sometimes. I must
occasionally lie fallow. The kind of conversation that I affect most is
what sort of a day it is, and whether it is likely to rain or hold up
fine for to-morrow. This I consider as enjoying the _otium cum
dignitate,_ as the end and privilege of a life of study. I would resign
myself to this state of easy indifference, but I find I cannot. I must
maintain a certain pretension, which is far enough from my wish. I must
he put on my defence, I must take up the gauntlet continually, or I find
I lose ground. 'I am nothing, if not critical.' While I am thinking
what o'clock it is, or how I came to blunder in quoting a well-known
passage, as if I had done it on purpose, others are thinking whether I
am not really as dull a fellow as I am sometimes said to be. If a
drizzling shower patters against the windows, it puts me in mind of a
mild spring rain, from which I retired twenty years ago, into a little
public-house near Wem in Shropshire, and while I saw the plants and
shrubs before the door imbibe the dewy moisture, quaffed a glass of
sparkling ale, and walked home in the dusk of evening, brighter to me
than noonday suns at present are! Would I indulge this feeling? In
vain. They ask me what news there is, and stare if I say I don't know.
If a new actress has come out, why must I have seen her? If a new novel
has appeared, why must I have read it? I, at one time, used to go and
take a hand at cribbage with a friend, and afterwards discuss a cold
sirloin of beef, and throw out a few lackadaisical remarks, in a way to
please myself, but it would not do long. I set up little pretension,
and therefore the little that I did set up was taken from me. As I said
nothing on that subject myself, it was continually thrown in my teeth
that I was an author. From having me at this disadvantage, my friend
wanted to peg on a hole or two in the game, and was displeased if I
would not let him. If I won off him, it was hard he should be beat by
an author. If he won, it would be strange if he did not understand the
game better than I did. If I mentioned my favourite game of rackets,
there was a general silence, as if this was my weak point. If I
complained of being ill, it was asked why I made myself so. If I said
such an actor had played a part well, the answer was, there was a
different account in one of the newspapers. If any allusion was made to
men of letters, there was a suppressed smile. If I told a humorous
story, it was difficult to say whether the laugh was at me or at the
narrative. The wife hated me for my ugly face; the servants, because I
could not always get them tickets for the play, and because they could
not tell exactly what an author meant. If a paragraph appeared against
anything I had written, I found it was ready there before me, and I was
to undergo a regular _roasting._ I submitted to all this till I was
tired, and then I gave it up.

One of the miseries of intellectual pretensions is, that nine-tenths of
those you come in contact with do not know whether you are an impostor
or not. I dread that certain anonymous criticisms should get into the
hands of servants where I go, or that my hatter or shoemaker should
happen to read them, who cannot possibly tell whether they are well or
ill founded. The ignorance of the world leaves one at the mercy of its
malice. There are people whose good opinion or good-will you want,
setting aside all literary pretensions; and it is hard to lose by an ill
report (which you have no means of rectifying) what you cannot gain by a
good one. After a _diatribe_ in the _Quarterly_ (which is taken in by a
gentleman who occupies my old apartments on the first floor), my
landlord brings me up his bill (of some standing), and on my offering to
give him so much in money and a note of hand for the rest, shakes his
head, and says he is afraid he could make no use of it. Soon after, the
daughter comes in, and, on my mentioning the circumstance carelessly to
her, replies gravely, 'that indeed her father has been almost ruined by
bills.' _This is the unkindest cut of all._ It is in vain for me to
endeavour to explain that the publication in which I am abused is a mere
government engine--an organ of a political faction. They know nothing
about that. They only know such and such imputations are thrown out;
and the more I try to remove them, the more they think there is some
truth in them. Perhaps the people of the house are strong
Tories--government agents of some sort. Is it for me to enlighten their
ignorance? If I say, I once wrote a thing called _Prince Maurice's
Parrot_, and an _Essay on the Regal Character_, in the former of which
allusion is made to a noble marquis, and in the latter to a great
personage (so at least, I am told, it has been construed), and that Mr.
Croker has peremptory instructions to retaliate, they cannot conceive
what connection there can be between me and such distinguished
characters. I can get no farther. Such is the misery of pretensions
beyond your situation, and which are not backed by any external symbols
of wealth or rank, intelligible to all mankind!

The impertinence of admiration is scarcely more tolerable than the
demonstrations of contempt. I have known a person whom I had never seen
before besiege me all dinner-time with asking what articles I had
written in the _Edinburgh Review?_ I was at last ashamed to answer to
my splendid sins in that way. Others will pick out something not yours,
and say they are sure no one else could write it. By the first sentence
they can always tell your style. Now I hate my style to be known, as I
hate all _idiosyncrasy._ These obsequious flatterers could not pay me a
worse compliment. Then there are those who make a point of reading
everything you write (which is fulsome); while others, more provoking,
regularly lend your works to a friend as soon as they receive them.
They pretty well know your notions on the different subjects, from
having heard you talk about them. Besides, they have a greater value
for your personal character than they have for your writings. You
explain things better in a common way, when you are not aiming at
effect. Others tell you of the faults they have heard found with your
last book, and that they defend your style in general from a charge of
obscurity. A friend once told me of a quarrel he had had with a near
relation, who denied that I knew how to spell the commonest words.
These are comfortable confidential communications to which authors who
have their friends and excusers are subject. A gentleman told me that a
lady had objected to my use of the word _learneder_ as bad grammar. He
said he thought it a pity that I did not take more care, but that the
lady was perhaps prejudiced, as her husband held a government office. I
looked for the word, and found it in a motto from Butler. I was piqued,
and desired him to tell the fair critic that the fault was not in me,
but in one who had far more wit, more learning, and loyalty than I could
pretend to. Then, again, some will pick out the flattest thing of yours
they can find to load it with panegyrics; and others tell you (by way of
letting you see how high they rank your capacity) that your best
passages are failures. Lamb has a knack of tasting (or as he would say,
_palating_) the insipid. Leigh Hunt has a trick of turning away from
the relishing morsels you put on his plate. There is no getting the
start of some people. Do what you will, they can do it better; meet
with what success you may, their own good opinion stands them in better
stead, and runs before the applause of the world. I once showed a
person of this overweening turn (with no small triumph, I confess) a
letter of a very flattering description I had received from the
celebrated Count Stendhal, dated Rome. He returned it with a smile of
indifference, and said, he had had a letter from Rome himself the day
before, from his friend S----! I did not think this 'germane to the
matter.' Godwin pretends I never wrote anything worth a farthing but my
'Answers to Vetus,' and that I fail altogether when I attempt to write
an essay, or anything in a short compass.

What can one do in such cases? Shall I confess a weakness? The only
set-off I know to these rebuffs and mortifications is sometimes in an
accidental notice or involuntary mark of distinction from a stranger. I
feel the force of Horace's _digito monstrari_--I like to be pointed out
in the street, or to hear people ask in Mr. Powell's court, _Which is
Mr. Hazlitt?_ This is to me a pleasing extension of one's personal
identity. Your name so repeated leaves an echo like music on the ear:
it stirs the blood like the sound of a trumpet. It shows that other
people are curious to see you; that they think of you, and feel an
interest in you without your knowing it. This is a bolster to lean
upon; a lining to your poor, shivering, threadbare opinion of yourself.
You want some such cordial to exhausted spirits, and relief to the
dreariness of abstract speculation. You are something; and, from
occupying a place in the thoughts of others, think less contemptuously
of yourself. You are the better able to run the gauntlet of prejudice
and vulgar abuse. It is pleasant in this way to have your opinion
quoted against yourself, and your own sayings repeated to you as good
things. I was once talking to an intelligent man in the pit, and
criticising Mr. Knight's performance of Filch. 'Ah!' he said, 'little
Simmons was the fellow to play that character.' He added, 'There was a
most excellent remark made upon his acting it in the _Examiner_ (I think
it was)--_That he looked as if he had the gallows in one eye and a
pretty girl in the other._' I said nothing, but was in remarkably good
humour the rest of the evening. I have seldom been in a company where
fives-playing has been talked of but some one has asked in the course of
it, 'Pray, did any one ever see an account of one Cavanagh that appeared
some time back in most of the papers? Is it known who wrote it?' These
are trying moments. I had a triumph over a person, whose name I will
not mention, on the following occasion. I happened to be saying
something about Burke, and was expressing my opinion of his talents in
no measured terms, when this gentleman interrupted me by saying he
thought, for his part, that Burke had been greatly overrated, and then
added, in a careless way, 'Pray, did you read a character of him in the
last number of the -----?' 'I wrote it!'--I could not resist the
antithesis, but was afterwards ashamed of my momentary petulance. Yet
no one that I find ever spares me.

Some persons seek out and obtrude themselves on public characters in
order, as it might seem, to pick out their failings, and afterwards
betray them. Appearances are for it, but truth and a better knowledge
of nature are against this interpretation of the matter. Sycophants and
flatterers are undesignedly treacherous and fickle. They are prone to
admire inordinately at first, and not finding a constant supply of food
for this kind of sickly appetite, take a distaste to the object of their
idolatry. To be even with themselves for their credulity, they sharpen
their wits to spy out faults, and are delighted to find that this
answers better than their first employment. It is a course of study,
'lively, audible, and full of vent.' They have the organ of wonder and
the organ of fear in a prominent degree. The first requires new objects
of admiration to satisfy its uneasy cravings: the second makes them
crouch to power wherever its shifting standard appears, and willing to
curry favour with all parties, and ready to betray any out of sheer
weakness and servility. I do not think they mean any harm: at least, I
can look at this obliquity with indifference in my own particular case.
I have been more disposed to resent it as I have seen it practised upon
others, where I have been better able to judge of the extent of the
mischief, and the heartlessness and idiot folly it discovered.

I do not think great intellectual attainments are any recommendation to
the women. They puzzle them, and are a diversion to the main question.
If scholars talk to ladies of what they understand, their hearers are
none the wiser: if they talk of other things, they prove themselves
fools. The conversation between Angelica and Foresight in _Love for
Love_ is a receipt in full for all such overstrained nonsense: while he
is wandering among the signs of the zodiac, she is standing a-tiptoe on
the earth. It has been remarked that poets do not choose mistresses
very wisely. I believe it is not choice, but necessity. If they could
throw the handkerchief like the Grand Turk, I imagine we should see
scarce mortals, but rather goddesses, surrounding their steps, and each
exclaiming, with Lord Byron's own Ionian maid--

So shalt thou find me ever at thy side,
Here and hereafter, if the last may be!

Ah! no, these are bespoke, carried of by men of mortal, not of ethereal
mould, and thenceforth the poet from whose mind the ideas of love and
beauty are inseparable as dreams from sleep, goes on the forlorn hope of
the passion, and dresses up the first Dulcinea that will take compassion
on him in all the colours of fancy. What boots it to complain if the
delusion lasts for life, and the rainbow still paints its form in the

There is one mistake I would wish, if possible, to correct. Men of
letters, artists, and others not succeeding with women in a certain rank
of life, think the objection is to their want of fortune, and that they
shall stand a better chance by descending lower, where only their good
qualities or talents will be thought of. Oh! worse and worse. The
objection is to themselves, not to their fortune--to their abstraction,
to their absence of mind, to their unintelligible and romantic notions.
Women of education may have a glimpse of their meaning, may get a clue
to their character, but to all others they are thick darkness. If the
mistress smiles at their ideal advances, the maid will laugh outright;
she will throw water over you, get her sister to listen, send her
sweetheart to ask you what you mean, will set the village or the house
upon your back; it will be a farce, a comedy, a standing jest for a
year, and then the murder will out. Scholars should be sworn at
Highgate. They are no match for chambermaids, or wenches at
lodging-houses. They had better try their hands on heiresses or ladies
of quality. These last have high notions of themselves that may fit
some of your epithets! They are above mortality; so are your thoughts!
But with low life, trick, ignorance, and cunning, you have nothing in
common. Whoever you are, that think you can make a compromise or a
conquest there by good nature or good sense, be warned b a friendly
voice, and retreat in time from the unequal contest.

If, as I have said above, scholars are no match for chambermaids, on the
other hand gentlemen are no match for blackguards. The former are on
their honour, act on the square; the latter take all advantages, and
have no idea of any other principle. It is astonishing how soon a
fellow without education will learn to cheat. He is impervious to any
ray of liberal knowledge; his understanding is

Not pierceable by power of any star--

but it is porous to all sorts of tricks, chicanery, stratagems, and
knavery, by which anything is to be got. Mrs. Peachum, indeed, says,
that to succeed at the gaming-table, the candidate should have the
education of a nobleman. I do not know how far this example contradicts
my theory. I think it is a rule that men in business should not be
taught other things. Any one will be almost sure to make money who has
no other idea in his head. A college education, or intense study of
abstract truth, will not enable a man to drive a bargain, to overreach
another, or even to guard himself from being overreached. As Shakespear
says, that 'to have a good face is the effect of study, but reading and
writing come by nature'; so it might be argued, that to be a knave is
the gift of fortune, but to play the fool to advantage it is necessary
to be a learned man. The best politicians are not those who are deeply
grounded in mathematical or in ethical science. Rules stand in the way
of expediency. Many a man has been hindered from pushing his fortune in
the world by an early cultivation of his moral sense, and has repented
of it at leisure during the rest of his life. A shrewd man said of my
father, that he would not send a son of his to school to him on any
account, for that by teaching him to speak the truth he would disqualify
him from getting his living in the world!

It is hardly necessary to add any illustration to prove that the most
original and profound thinkers are not always the most successful or
popular writers. This is not merely a temporary disadvantage; but many
great philosophers have not only been scouted while they were living,
but forgotten as soon as they were dead. The name of Hobbes is perhaps
sufficient to explain this assertion. But I do not wish to go farther
into this part of the subject, which is obvious in itself. I have said,
I believe, enough to take off the air of paradox which hangs over the
title of this Essay.


[1] Jack Cade's salutation to one who tries to recommend himself by
saying he can write and read--see _Henry VI._ Part Second.



A gentle usher, Vanity by name. --Spenser.

A lady was complaining to a friend of mine of the credulity of people in
attending to quack advertisements, and wondering who could be taken in
by them--"for that she had never bought but one half-guinea bottle of
Dr. -----'s Elixir of Life, and it had done her no sort of good!' This
anecdote seemed to explain pretty well what made it worth the doctor's
while to advertise his wares in every newspaper in the kingdom. He
would no doubt be satisfied if every delicate, sceptical invalid in his
majesty's dominions gave his Elixir one trial, merely to show the
absurdity of the thing. We affect to laugh at the folly of those who
put faith in nostrums, but are willing to see ourselves whether there is
any truth in them.

There is a strong tendency in the human mind to flatter itself with
secret hopes, with some lucky reservation in our own favour, though
reason may point out the grossness of the trick in general; and,
besides, there is a wonderful power in words, formed into regular
propositions, and printed in capital letters, to draw the assent after
them, till we have proof of their fallacy. The ignorant and idle
believe what they read, as Scotch philosophers demonstrate the existence
of a material world, and other learned propositions, from the evidence
of their senses. The ocular proof is all that is wanting in either
case. As hypocrisy is said to be the highest compliment to virtue, the
art of lying is the strongest acknowledgment of the force of truth. We
can hardly _believe_ a thing to be a lie, though we _know_ it to be so.
The 'puff direct,' even as it stands in the columns of the _Times_
newspaper, branded with the title of Advertisement before it, claims
some sort of attention and respect for the merits that it discloses,
though we think the candidate for public favour and support has hit upon
(perhaps) an injudicious way of laying them before the world. Still
there may be something in them; and even the outrageous improbability
and extravagance of the statement on the very face of it stagger us, and
leave a hankering to inquire farther into it, because we think the
advertiser would hardly have the impudence to hazard such barefaced
absurdities without some foundation. Such is the strength of the
association between words and things in the mind--so much oftener must
our credulity have been justified by the event than imposed upon. If
every second story we heard was an invention, we should lose our
mechanical disposition to trust to the meaning of sounds, just as when
we have met with a number of counterfeit pieces of coin, we suspect good
ones; but our implicit assent to what we hear is a proof how much more
sincerity and good faith there is in the sum total of our dealings with
one another than artifice and imposture.

'To elevate and surprise' is the great art of quackery and puffing; to
raise a lively and exaggerated image in the mind, and take it by
surprise before it can recover breath, as it were; so that by having
been caught in the trap, it is unwilling to retract entirely--has a
secret desire to find itself in the right, and a determination to see
whether it is or not. Describe a picture as _lofty,_ _imposing,_ and
_grand,_ these words excite certain ideas in the mind like the sound of
a trumpet, which are not to be quelled, except by seeing the picture
itself, nor even then, if it is viewed by the help of a catalogue,
written expressly for the occasion by the artist himself. It is not to
be supposed that _he_ would say such things of his picture unless they
were allowed by all the world; and he repeats them, on this gentle
understanding, till all the world allows them.[1] So Reputation runs in
a vicious circle, and Merit limps behind it, mortified and abashed at
its own insignificance. It has been said that the test of fame or
popularity is to consider the number of times your name is repeated by
others, or is brought to their recollection in the course of a year. At
this rate, a man has his reputation in his own hands, and, by the help
of puffing and the press, may forestall the voice of posterity, and stun
the 'groundling' ear of his contemporaries. A name let off in your
hearing continually, with some bouncing epithet affixed to it, startles
you like the report of a pistol close at your car: you cannot help the
effect upon the imagination, though you know it is perfectly
harmless--_vox et praeterea nihil._ So, if you see the same name
staring you in the face in great letters at the corner of every street,
you involuntarily think the owner of it must be a great man to occupy so
large a space in the eye of the town. The appeal is made, in the first
instance, to the senses, but it sinks below the surface into the mind.
There are some, indeed, who publish their own disgrace, and make their
names a common by-word and nuisance, notoriety being all that they want.
A quack gets himself surreptitiously dubbed Doctor or Knight; and
though you may laugh in his face, it pays expenses. Parolles and his
drum typify many a modern adventurer and court-candidate for unearned
laurels and unblushing honours. Of all puffs, lottery puffs are the
most ingenious and most innocent. A collection of them would make an
amusing _Vade mecum._ They are still various and the same, with that
infinite ruse with which they lull the reader at the outset out of all
suspicion. the insinuating turn in the middle, the home-thrust at the
ruling passion at last, by which your spare cash is conjured clean out
of the pocket in spite of resolution, by the same stale, well-known,
thousandth-time repeated artifice of _All prizes_ and _No blanks_--a
self-evident imposition! Nothing, however, can be a stronger proof of
the power of fascinating the public judgment through the eye alone. I
know a gentleman who amassed a considerable fortune (so as to be able to
keep his carriage) by printing nothing but lottery placards and
handbills of a colossal size. Another friend of mine (of no mean
talents) was applied to (as a snug thing in the way of business) to
write regular lottery puffs for a large house in the city, and on having
a parcel of samples returned on his hands as done in too severe and
terse a style, complained quaintly enough, _'That modest merit never
could succeed!'_ Even Lord Byron, as he tells us, has been accused of
writing lottery-puffs. There are various ways of playing one's-self off
before the public, and keeping one's name alive. The newspapers, the
lamp-posts, the walls of empty houses, the shutters of windows, the
blank covers of magazines and reviews, are open to every one. I have
heard of a man of literary celebrity sitting in his study writing
letters of remonstrance to himself, on the gross defects of a plan of
education he had just published, and which remained unsold on the
bookseller's counter. Another feigned himself dead in order to see what
would be said of him in the newspapers, and to excite a sensation in
this way. A flashy pamphlet has been run to a five-and-thirtieth
edition, and thus ensured the writer a 'deathless date' among political
charlatans, by regularly striking off a new title-page to every fifty or
a hundred copies that were sold. This is a vile practice. It is an
erroneous idea got abroad (and which I will contradict here) that
paragraphs are paid for in the leading journals. It is quite out of the
question. A favourable notice of an author, an actress, etc., may be
inserted through interest, or to oblige a friend, but it must invariably
be done for _love,_ not _money!_

When I formerly had to do with these sort of critical verdicts, I was
generally sent out of the way when any _debutant_ had a friend at court,
and was to be tenderly handled. For the rest, or those of robust
constitutions, I had _carte blanche_ given me. Sometimes I ran out of
the course, to be sure. Poor Perry! what bitter complaints he used to
make, that by _running-a-muck_ at lords and Scotchmen I should not leave
him a place to dine out at! The expression of his face at these
moments, as if he should shortly be without a friend in the world, was
truly pitiable. What squabbles we used to have about Kean and Miss
Stephens, the only theatrical favourites I ever had! Mrs. Billington
had got some notion that Miss Stephens would never make a singer, and it
was the torment of Perry's life (as he told me in confidence) that he
could not get any two people to be of the same opinion on any one point.
I shall not easily forget bringing him my account of her first
appearance in the _Beggar's Opera._ I have reason to remember that
article: it was almost the last I ever wrote with any pleasure to
myself. I had been down on a visit to my friends near Chertsey, and on
my return had stopped at an inn near Kingston-upon-Thames, where I had
got the _Beggar's Opera_, and had read it over-night. The next day I
walked cheerfully to town. It was a fine sunny morning, in the end of
autumn, and as I repeated the beautiful song, 'Life knows no return of
Spring,' I meditated my next day's criticism, trying to do all the
justice I could to so inviting a subject. I was not a little proud of
it by anticipation. I had just then begun to stammer out my sentiments
on paper, and was in a kind of honeymoon of authorship. But soon after,
my final hopes of happiness and of human liberty were blighted nearly at
the same time; and since then I have had no pleasure in anything--

And Love himself can flatter me no more.

It was not so ten years since (ten short years since.--Ah! how fast
those years run that hurry us away from our last fond dream of bliss!)
when I loitered along thy green retreats, O Twickenham! and conned over
(with enthusiastic delight) the chequered view which one of thy
favourites drew of human life! I deposited my account of the play at
the Morning Chronicle office in the afternoon, and went to see Miss
Stephens as Polly. Those were happy times, in which she first came out
in this character, in Mandane, where she sang the delicious air, 'If
o'er the cruel tyrant, Love' (so as it can never be sung again), in
_Love in a Village_, where the scene opened with her and Miss Matthews
in a painted garden of roses and honeysuckles, and 'Hope, thou nurse of
young Desire' thrilled from two sweet voices in turn. Oh! may my ears
sometimes still drink the same sweet sounds, embalmed with the spirit of
youth, of health, and joy, but in the thoughts of an instant, but in a
dream of fancy, and I shall hardly need to complain! When I got back,
after the play, Perry called out, with his cordial, grating voice,
'Well, how did she do?' and on my speaking in high terms, answered, that
'he had been to dine with his friend the Duke, that some conversation
had passed on the subject, he was afraid it was not the thing, it was
not the true _sostenuto_ style; but as I had written the article'
(holding my peroration on the _Beggar's Opera_ carelessly in his hand),
'it might pass!' I could perceive that the rogue licked his lips at it,
and had already in imagination 'bought golden opinions of all sorts of
people' by this very criticism, and I had the satisfaction the next day
to meet Miss Stephens coming out of the editor's room, who had been to
thank him for his very flattering account of her.

I was sent to see Kean the first night of his performance in Shylock,
when there were about a hundred people in the pit; but from his masterly
and spirited delivery of the first striking speech, 'On such a day you
called me a dog,' etc., I perceived it was a hollow thing. So it was
given out in the _Chronicle_; but Perry was continually at me as other
people were at him, and was afraid it would not last. It was to no
purpose I said _it would last:_ yet I am in the right hitherto. It has
been said, ridiculously, that Mr. Kean was written up in the
_Chronicle._ I beg leave to state my opinion that no actor can be
written up or down by a paper. An author may be puffed into notice, or
damned by criticism, because his book may not have been read. An artist
may be overrated, or undeservedly decried, because the public is not
much accustomed to see or judge of pictures. But an actor is judged by
his peers, the play-going public, and must stand or fall by his own
merits or defects. The critic may give the tone or have a casting voice
where popular opinion is divided; but he can no more _force_ that
opinion either way, or wrest it from its base in common sense and
feeling, than he can move Stonehenge. Mr. Kean had, however, physical
disadvantages and strong prejudices to encounter, and so far the
_liberal_ and _independent_ part of the press might have been of service
in helping him to his seat in the public favour. May he long keep it
with dignity and firmness![2]

It was pretended by the Covent Garden people, and some others at the
time, that Mr. Kean's popularity was a mere effect of love of novelty, a
nine days' wonder, like the rage after Master Betty's acting, and would
be as soon over. The comparison did not hold. Master Betty's acting
was so far wonderful, and drew crowds to see it as a mere singularity,
because he was a boy. Mr. Kean was a grown man, and there was no rule
or precedent established in the ordinary course of nature why some other
man should not appear in tragedy as great as John Kemble. Farther,
Master Betty's acting was a singular phenomenon, but it was also as
beautiful as it was singular. I saw him in the part of Douglas, and he
seemed almost like 'some gay creature of the element,' moving about
gracefully, with all the flexibility of youth, and murmuring AEolian
sounds with plaintive tenderness. I shall never forget the way in which
he repeated the line in which young Norval says, speaking of the fate of
two brothers:

And in my mind happy was he that died!

The tones fell and seemed to linger prophetic on my ear. Perhaps the
wonder was made greater than it was. Boys at that age can often read
remarkably well, and certainly are not without natural grace and
sweetness of voice. The Westminster schoolboys are a better company of
comedians than we find at most of our theatres. As to the understanding
a part like Douglas, at least, I see no difficulty on that score. I
myself used to recite the speech in Enfield's _Speaker_ with good
emphasis and discretion when at school, and entered, about the same age,
into the wild sweetness of the sentiments in Mrs. Radcliffe's _Romance
of the Forest_, I am sure, quite as much as I should do now; yet the
same experiment has been often tried since and has uniformly failed.[3]

It was soon after this that Coleridge returned from Italy, and he got
one day into a long tirade to explain what a ridiculous farce the whole
was, and how all the people abroad wore shocked at the _gullibility_ of
the English nation, who on this and every other occasion were open to
the artifices of all sorts of quacks, wondering how any persons with the
smallest pretensions to common sense could for a moment suppose that a
boy could act the characters of men without any of their knowledge,
their experience, or their passions. We made some faint resistance, but
in vain. The discourse then took a turn, and Coleridge began a laboured
eulogy on some promising youth, the son of an English artist, whom he
had met in Italy, and who had wandered all over the Campagna with him,
whose talents, he assured us, were the admiration of all Rome, and whose
early designs had almost all the grace and purity of Raphael's. At
last, some one interrupted the endless theme by saying a little
impatiently, 'Why just now you would not let us believe our own eyes and
ears about young Betty, because you have a theory against premature
talents, and now you start a boy phenomenon that nobody knows anything
about but yourself--a young artist that, you tell us, is to rival
Raphael!' The truth is, we like to have something to admire ourselves,
as well as to make other people gape and stare at; but then it must be a
discovery of our own, an idol of our own making and setting up:--if
others stumble on the discovery before us, or join in crying it up to
the skies, we then set to work to prove that this is a vulgar delusion,
and show our sagacity and freedom from prejudice by pulling it in pieces
with all the coolness imaginable. Whether we blow the bubble or crush
it in our hands, vanity and the desire of empty distinction are equally
at the bottom of our sanguine credulity or fastidious scepticism. There
are some who always fall in with the fashionable prejudice as others
affect singularity of opinion on all such points, according as they
think they have more or less wit to judge for themselves.

If a little varnishing and daubing, a little puffing and quacking, and
giving yourself a good name, and getting a friend to speak a word for
you, is excusable in any profession, it is, I think, in that of
painting. Painting is an occult science, and requires a little
ostentation and mock-gravity in the professor. A man may here rival
Katterfelto, 'with his hair on end at his own wonders, wondering for his
bread'; for, if he does not, he may in the end go without it. He may
ride on a high-trotting horse, in green spectacles, and attract notice
to his person anyhow he can, if he only works hard at his profession.
If 'it only is when he is _out_ he is acting,' let him make the fools
stare, but give others something worth looking at. Good Mr. Carver and
Gilder, good Mr. Printer's Devil, good Mr. Billsticker, 'do me your
offices' unmolested! Painting is a plain ground, and requires a great
many heraldic quarterings and facings to set it off. Lay on, and do not
spare. No man's merit can be fairly judged of if he is not known; and
how can he be known if he keeps entirely in the background?[4] A great
name in art goes but a little way, is chilled as it creeps along the
surface of the world without something to revive and make it blaze up
with fresh splendour. Fame is here almost obscurity. It is long before
your name affixed to a sterling design will be spelt out by an
undiscerning regardless public. Have it proclaimed, therefore, as a
necessary precaution, by sound of trumpet at the corners of the street,
let it be stuck as a label in your mouth, carry it on a placard at your
back. Otherwise, the world will never trouble themselves about you, or
will very soon forget you. A celebrated artist of the present day,
whose name is engraved at the bottom of some of the most touching
specimens of English art, once had a frame-maker call on him, who, on
entering his room, exclaimed with some surprise, 'What, are you a
painter, sir?' The other made answer, a little startled in his turn,
'Why, didn't you know that? Did you never see my name at the bottom of
prints?' He could not recollect that he had. 'And yet you sell
picture-frames and prints?'--'Yes.'--'What painter's names, then, did he
recollect: did he know West's?' 'Oh! yes.'--'And Opie's?' 'Yes.'--'And
Fuseli's?' 'Oh! yes.'--'But you never heard of me?' 'I cannot say that
I ever did!' It was plain from this conversation that Mr. Northcote had
not kept company enough with picture-dealers and newspaper critics. On
another occasion, a country gentleman, who was sitting to him for his
portrait, asked him if he had any pictures in the Exhibition at Somerset
House, and on his replying in the affirmative, desired to know what they
were. He mentioned, among others, The Marriage of Two Children; on
which the gentleman expressed great surprise, and said that was the very
picture his wife was always teasing him to go and have another look at,
though he had never noticed the painter's name. When the public are so
eager to be amused, and care so little who it is that amuses them, it is
not amiss to remind them of it now and then; or even to have a starling
taught to repeat the name, to which they owe such misprised obligations,
in their drowsy ears. On any other principle I cannot conceive how
painters (not without genius or industry) can fling themselves at the
head of the public in the manner they do, having lives written of
themselves, busts made of themselves, prints stuck in the shop-windows
of themselves, and their names placed in 'the first row of the rubric,'
with those of Rubens, Raphael, and Michael Angelo, swearing by
themselves or their proxies that these glorified spirits would do well
to leave the abodes of the blest in order to stand in mute wonder and
with uplifted hands before some production of theirs which is yet hardly
dry! Oh! whatever you do, leave that string untouched. It will jar the
rash and unhallowed hand that meddles with it. Profane not the mighty
dead by mixing them up with the uncanonised living. Leave yourself a
reversion in immortality, beyond the noisy clamour of the day. Do not
quite lose your respect for public opinion by making it in all cases a
palpable cheat, the echo of your own lungs that are hoarse with calling
on the world to admire. Do not think to bully posterity, or to cozen
your contemporaries. Be not always anticipating the effect of your
picture on the town--think more about deserving success than commanding
it. In issuing so many promissory notes upon the bank of fame, do not
forget you have to pay in sterling gold. Believe that there is
something in the pursuit of high art, beyond the manufacture of a
paragraph or the collection of receipts at the door of an exhibition.
Venerate art as art. Study the works of others, and inquire into those
of nature. Gaze at beauty. Become great by great efforts, and not by
pompous pretensions. Do not think the world was blind to merit before
your time, nor make the reputation of great geniuses the stalking-horse
to your vanity. You have done enough to insure yourself attention: you
have now only to do something to deserve it, and to make good all that
you have aspired to do.

There is a silent and systematic assumption of superiority which is as
barefaced and unprincipled an imposture as the most impudent puffing.
You may, by a tacit or avowed censure on all other arts, on all works of
art, on all other pretensions, tastes, talents, but your own, produce a
complete ostracism in the world of intellect, and leave yourself and
your own performances alone standing, a mighty monument in an universal
waste and wreck of genius. By cutting away the rude block and removing
the rubbish from around it, the idol may be effectually exposed to view,
placed on its pedestal of pride, without any other assistance. This
method is more inexcusable than the other. For there is no egotism or
vanity so hateful as that which strikes at our satisfaction in
everything else, and derives its nourishment from preying, like the
vampire, on the carcase of others' reputation. I would rather, in a
word, that a man should talk for ever of himself with vapid, senseless
assurance, than preserve a malignant, heartless silence when the merit
of a rival is mentioned. I have seen instances of both, and can judge
pretty well between them.

There is no great harm in putting forward one's own pretensions (of
whatever kind) if this does not bear a sour, malignant aspect towards
others. Every one sets himself off to the best advantage he can, and
tries to steal a march upon public opinion. In this sense, too, 'all
the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.' Life
itself is a piece of harmless quackery. A great house over your head is
of no use but to announce the great man within. Dress, equipage, title,
livery-servants are only so many quack advertisements and assumptions of
the question of merit. The star that glitters at the breast would be
worth nothing but as a badge of personal distinction; and the crown
itself is but a symbol of the virtues which the possessor inherits from
a long line of illustrious ancestors! How much honour and honesty have
been forfeited to be graced with a title or a ribbon; how much genius
and worth have sunk to the grave without an escutcheon and without an

As men of rank and fortune keep lackeys to reinforce their claims to
self-respect, so men of genius sometimes surround themselves with a
coterie of admirers to increase their reputation with the public. These
_proneurs,_ or satellites, repeat all their good things, laugh loud at
all their jokes, and remember all their oracular decrees. They are
their shadows and echoes. They talk of them in all companies, and bring
back word of all that has been said about them. They hawk the good
qualities of their patrons as shopmen and _barkers_ tease you to buy
goods. I have no notion of this vanity at second-hand; nor can I see
how this servile testimony from inferiors ('some followers of mine own')
can be a proof of merit. It may soothe the ear, but that it should
impose on the understanding, I own, surprises me; yet there are persons
who cannot exist without a _cortege_ of this kind about them, in which
they smiling read the opinion of the world, in the midst of all sorts of
rancorous abuse and hostility, as Otho called for his mirror in the
Illyrian field. One good thing is, that this evil, in some degree,
cures itself; and when a man has been nearly ruined by a herd of these
sycophants, he finds them leaving him, like thriftless dependants, for
some more eligible situation, carrying away with them all the tattle
they can pick up, and some left-off suit of finery. The same proneness
to adulation which made them lick the dust before one idol makes them
bow as low to the rising Sun; they are as lavish of detraction as they
were prurient with praise; and the _protege_ and admirer of the editor
of the ----- figures in Blackwood's train. The man is a lackey, and it
is of little consequence whose livery he wears!

I would advise those who volunteer the office of puffing to go the whole
length of it. No half-measures will do. Lay it on thick and threefold,
or not at all. If you are once harnessed into that vehicle, it will be
in vain for you to think of stopping. You must drive to the devil at
once. The mighty Tamburlane, to whose car you are yoked, cries out:

Holloa, you pamper'd jades of Asia,
Can you not drive but twenty miles a day?

He has you on the hip, for you have pledged your taste and judgment to
his genius. Never fear but he will drive this wedge. If you are once
screwed into such a machine, you must extricate yourself by main force.
No hyperboles are too much: any drawback, any admiration on this side
idolatry, is high treason. It is an unpardonable offence to say that
the last production of your patron is not so good as the one before it,
or that a performer shines more in one character than another. I
remember once hearing a player declare that he never looked into any
newspapers or magazines on account of the abuse that was always levelled
at himself in them, though there were not less than three persons in
company who made it their business through these conduit pipes of fame
to 'cry him up to the top of the compass.' This sort of expectation is
a little _exigeante!_

One fashionable mode of acquiring reputation is by patronising it. This
may be from various motives--real good nature, good taste, vanity, or
pride. I shall only speak of the spurious ones in this place. The
quack and the _would-be_ patron are well met. The house of the latter
is a sort of curiosity shop or _menagerie,_ where all sorts of
intellectual pretenders and grotesques, musical children, arithmetical
prodigies, occult philosophers, lecturers, _accoucheurs,_ apes,
chemists, fiddlers, and buffoons are to be seen for the asking, and are
shown to the company for nothing. The folding doors are thrown open,
and display a collection that the world cannot parallel again. There
may be a few persons of common sense and established reputation, _rari
nantes in gurgite vasto,_ otherwise it is a mere scramble or lottery.
The professed encourager of _virtu_ and letters, being disappointed of
the great names, sends out into the highways for the halt, the lame, and
the blind, for all who pretend to distinction, defects, and obliquities,
for all the disposable vanity or affectation floating on the town, in
hopes that, among so many oddities, chance may bring some jewel or
treasure to his door, which he may have the good fortune to appropriate
in some way to his own use, or the credit of displaying to others. The
art is to encourage rising genius--to bring forward doubtful and
unnoticed merit. You thus get a set of novices and raw pretenders about
you, whose actual productions do not interfere with your self-love, and
whose future efforts may reflect credit on your singular sagacity and
faculty for finding out talent in the germ; and in the next place, by
having them completely in your power, you are at liberty to dismiss them
whenever you will, and to supply the deficiency by a new set of
wondering, unwashed faces in a rapid succession; an 'aiery of children,'
embryo actors, artists, poets, or philosophers. Like unfledged birds,
they are hatched, nursed, and fed by hand: this gives room for a vast
deal of management, meddling, care, and condescending solicitude; but
the instant the callow brood are fledged, they are driven from the nest,
and forced to shift for themselves in the wide world. One sterling
production decides the question between them and their patrons, and from
that time they become the property of the public. Thus a succession of
importunate, hungry, idle, overweening candidates for fame are
encouraged by these fickle keepers, only to be betrayed, and left to
starve or beg, or pine in obscurity, while the man of merit and
respectability is neglected, discountenanced, and stigmatised, because
he will not lend himself as a tool to this system of splendid
imposition, or pamper the luxury and weaknesses of the Vulgar Great.
When a young artist is too independent to subscribe to the dogmas of his
superiors, or fulfils their predictions and prognostics of wonderful
contingent talent too soon, so as to get out of leading-strings, and
lean on public opinion for partial support, exceptions are taken to his
dress, dialect, or manners, and he is expelled the circle with a
character for ingratitude and treachery. None can procure toleration
long but those who do not contradict the opinions or excite the jealousy
of their betters. One independent step is an appeal from them to the
public, their natural and hated rivals, and annuls the contract between
them, which implies ostentatious countenance on the one part and servile
submission on the other. But enough of this.

The patronage of men of talent, even when it proceeds from vanity, is
often carried on with a spirit of generosity and magnificence, as long
as these are in difficulties and a state of dependence; but as the
principle of action in this case is a love of power, the complacency in
the object of friendly regard ceases with the opportunity or necessity
for the same manifest display of power; and when the unfortunate
_protege_ is just coming to land, and expects a last helping hand, he
is, to his surprise, pushed back, in order that he may be saved from
drowning once more. You are not hailed ashore, as you had supposed, by
these kind friends, as a mutual triumph after all your struggles and
their exertions in your behalf. It is a piece of presumption in you to
be seen walking on _terra firma_: you are required, at the risk of their
friendship, to be always swimming in troubled waters, that they may have
the credit of throwing out ropes, and sending out lifeboats to you,
without ever bringing you ashore. Your successes, your reputation,
which you think would please them, as justifying their good opinion, are
coldly received, and looked at askance, because they remove your
dependence on them: if you are under a cloud, they do all they can to
keep you there by their goodwill: they are so sensible of your gratitude
that they wish your obligations never to cease, and take care you shall
owe no one else a good turn; and provided you are compelled or contented
to remain always in poverty, obscurity, and disgrace, they will continue
your very good friends and humble servants to command, to the end of the
chapter. The tenure of these indentures is hard. Such persons will
wilfully forfeit the gratitude created by years of friendship, by
refusing to perform the last act of kindness that is likely ever to be
demanded of them: will lend you money, if you have no chance of repaying
them: will give you their good word, if nobody will believe it; and the
only thing they do not forgive is an attempt or probability on your part
of being able to repay your obligations. There is something
disinterested in all this: at least, it does not show a cowardly or
mercenary disposition, but it savours too much of arrogance and
arbitrary pretension. It throws a damning light on this question, to
consider who are mostly the subjects of the patronage of the great, and
in the habit of receiving cards of invitation to splendid dinners. I
confess, for one, I am not on the list; at which I do not grieve much,
nor wonder at all. Authors, in general, are not in much request. Dr.
Johnson was asked why he was not more frequently invited out; and he
said, 'Because great lords and ladies do not like to have their mouths
stopped.' Garrick was not in this predicament: he could amuse the
company in the drawing-room by imitating the great moralist and
lexicographer, and make the negro-boy in the courtyard die with laughing
to see him take off the swelling airs and strut of the turkey-cock.
This was clever and amusing, but it did not involve an opinion, it did
not lead to a difference of sentiment, in which the owner of the house
might be found in the wrong. Players, singers, dancers, are hand and
glove with the great. They embellish, and have an _eclat_ in their
names, but do not come into collision. Eminent portrait-painters,
again, are tolerated, because they come into personal contact with the
great; and sculptors hold equality with lords when they have a certain
quantity of solid marble in their workshops to answer for the solidity
of their pretensions. People of fashion and property must have
something to show for their patronage, something visible or tangible. A
sentiment is a visionary thing; an argument may lead to dangerous
consequences, and those who are likely to broach either one or the other
ate not, therefore, fit for good company in general. Poets and men of
genius who find their way there, soon find their way out. They are not
of that ilk, with some exceptions. Painters who come in contact with
majesty get on by servility or buffoonery, by letting themselves down in
some way. Sir Joshua was never a favourite at court. He kept too much
at a distance. Beechey gained a vast deal of favour by familiarity, and
lost it by taking too great freedoms.[5] West ingratiated himself in
the same quarter by means of practices as little creditable to himself
as his august employer, namely, by playing the hypocrite, and professing
sentiments the reverse of those he naturally felt. Kings (I know not
how justly) have been said to be lovers of low company and low
conversation. They are also said to be fond of dirty practical jokes.
If the fact is so, the reason is as follows. From the elevation of
their rank, aided by pride and flattery, they look down on the rest of
mankind, and would not be thought to have all their advantages for
nothing. They wish to maintain the same precedence in private life that
belongs to them as a matter of outward ceremony. This pretension they
cannot keep up by fair means; for in wit or argument they are not
superior to the common run of men. They therefore answer a repartee by
a practical joke, which turns the laugh against others, and cannot be
retaliated with safety. That is, they avail themselves of the privilege
of their situation to take liberties, and degrade those about them, as
they can only keep up the idea of their own dignity by proportionably
lowering their company.


[1] It is calculated that West cleared some hundred pounds by the
catalogues that were sold of his great picture of Death riding on the
Pale Horse.

[2] I cannot say how in this respect it might have fared if a Mr.
Mudford, a fat gentleman, who might not have 'liked yon lean and hungry
Roscius,' had continued in the theatrical department of Mr. Perry's
paper at the time of this actor's first appearance; but I had been put
upon this duty just before, and afterwards Mr. Mudford's _spare_ talents
were not in much request. This, I believe, is the reason why he takes
pains every now and then to inform the readers of the _Courier_ that it
is impossible for any one to understand a word that I write.

[3] I (not very long ago) had the pleasure of spending an evening with
Mr. Betty, when we had some 'good talk' about the good old times of
acting. I wanted to insinuate that I had been a sneaking admirer, but
could not bring it in. As, however, we were putting on our greatcoats
downstairs I ventured to break the ice by saying, 'There is one actor of
that period of whom we have not made honourable mention, I mean Master
Betty.' 'Oh!' he said, 'I have forgot all that.' I replied, that he
might, but that I could not forget the pleasure I had had in seeing him.
On which he turned off, and, shaking his sides heartily, and with no
measured demand upon his lungs, called out, 'Oh, memory! memory!' in a
way that showed he felt the full force of the allusion. I found
afterwards that the subject did not offend, and we were to have drunk
some Burton ale together the following evening, but were prevented. I
hope he will consider that the engagement still stands good.

[4] Sir Joshua, who was not a vain man, purchased a tawdry sheriff's
carriage, soon after he took his house in Leicester Fields, and desired
his sister to ride about in it, in order that people might ask, 'Whose
it was?' and the answer would be, 'It belongs to the great painter!'

[5] Sharp became a great favourite of the king on the following
occasion. It was the custom, when the king went through the lobbies of
the palace, for those who preceded him to cry out, 'Sharp, sharp, look
sharp!' in order to clear the way. Mr. Sharp, who was waiting in a room
just by (preparing some colours), hearing his name repeated so urgently,
ran out in great haste, and came up with all his force against the king,
who was passing the door at the time. The young artist was knocked down
in the encounter, and the attendants were in the greatest consternation;
but the king laughed heartily at the adventure, and took great notice of
the unfortunate subject of it from that time forward.]



It is astonishing, with all our opportunities and practice, how little
we know of this subject. For myself, I feel that the more I learn, the
less I understand it.

I remember, several years ago, a conversation in the diligence coming
from Paris, in which, on its being mentioned that a man had married his
wife after thirteen years' courtship, a fellow-countryman of mine
observed, that 'then, at least, he would be acquainted with her
character'; when a Monsieur P----, inventor and proprietor of the
_Invisible Girl,_ made answer, 'No, not at all; for that the very next
day she might turn out the very reverse of the character that she had
appeared in during all the preceding time.'[1] I could not help
admiring the superior sagacity of the French juggler, and it struck me
then that we could never be sure when we had got at the bottom of this

There are various ways of getting at a knowledge of character--by looks,
words, actions. The first of these, which seems the most superficial,
is perhaps the safest, and least liable to deceive: nay, it is that
which mankind, in spite of their pretending to the contrary, most
generally go by. Professions pass for nothing, and actions may be
counterfeited; but a man cannot help his looks. 'Speech,' said a
celebrated wit, 'was given to man to conceal his thoughts.' Yet I do not
know that the greatest hypocrites are the least silent. The mouth of
Cromwell is pursed up in the portraits of him, as if he was afraid to
trust himself with words. Lord Chesterfield advises us, if we wish to
know the real sentiments of the person we are conversing with, to look
in his face, for he can more easily command his words than his features.
A man's whole life may be a lie to himself and others; and yet a
picture painted of him by a great artist would probably stamp his true
character on the canvas, and betray the secret to posterity. Men's
opinions were divided, in their lifetimes, about such prominent
personages as Charles V. and Ignatius Loyola, partly, no doubt, from
passion and interest, but partly from contradictory evidence in their
ostensible conduct: the spectator, who has ever seen their pictures by
Titian, judges of them at once, and truly. I had rather leave a good
portrait of myself behind me than have a fine epitaph. The face, for
the most part, tells what we have thought and felt--the rest is nothing.
I have a higher idea of Donne from a rude, half-effaced outline of him
prefixed to his poems than from anything he ever wrote. Caesar's
_Commentaries_ would not have redeemed him in my opinion, if the bust of
him had resembled the Duke of Wellington. My old friend Fawcett used to
say, that if Sir Isaac Newton himself had lisped, he could not have
thought anything of him. So I cannot persuade myself that any one is a
great man who looks like a fool. In this I may be wrong.

First impressions are often the truest, as we find (not unfrequently) to
our cost when we have been wheedled out of them by plausible professions
or actions. A man's look is the work of years, it is stamped on his
countenance by the events of his whole life, nay, more, by the hand of
nature, and it is not to be got rid of easily. There is, as it has been
remarked repeatedly, something in a person's appearance at first sight
which we do not like, and that gives us an odd twinge, but which is
overlooked in a multiplicity of other circumstances, till the mask is
taken off, and we see this lurking character verified in the plainest
manner in the sequel. We are struck at first, and by chance, with what
is peculiar and characteristic; also with permanent _traits_ and general
effect: this afterwards goes off in a set of unmeaning, common-place
details. This sort of _prima facie_ evidence, then, shows what a man is
better than what he says or does; for it shows us the habit of his mind,
which is the same under all circumstances and disguises. You will say,
on the other hand, that there is no judging by appearances, as a general
rule. No one, for instance, would take such a person for a very clever
man without knowing who he was. Then, ten to one, he is not: he may
have got the reputation, but it is a mistake. You say, there is Mr.
-----, undoubtedly a person of great genius; yet, except when excited by
something extraordinary, he seems half dead. He has wit at will, yet
wants life and spirit. He is capable of the most generous acts, yet
meanness seems to cling to every motion. He looks like a poor
creature--and in truth he is one! The first impression he gives you of
him answers nearly to the feeling he has of his personal identity; and
this image of himself, rising from his thoughts, and shrouding his
faculties, is that which sits with him in the house, walks out with him
into the street, and haunts his bedside. The best part of his existence
is dull, cloudy, leaden: the flashes of light that proceed from it, or
streak it here and there, may dazzle others, but do not deceive himself.
Modesty is the lowest of the virtues, and is a real confession of the
deficiency it indicates. He who undervalues himself is justly
undervalued by others. Whatever good properties he may possess are, in
fact, neutralised by a 'cold rheum' running through his veins, and
taking away the zest of his pretensions, the pith and marrow of his
performances. What is it to me that I can write these TABLE-TALKS? It
is true I can, by a reluctant effort, rake up a parcel of half-forgotten
observations, but they do not float on the surface of my mind, nor stir
it with any sense of pleasure, nor even of pride. Others have more
property in them than I have: they may reap the benefit, I have only had
the pain. Otherwise, they are to me as if they bad never existed; nor
should I know that I had ever thought at all, but that I am reminded of
it by the strangeness of my appearance, and my unfitness for everything
else. Look in Coleridge's face while he is talking. His words are such
as might 'create a soul under the ribs of death.' His face is a blank.
Which are we to consider as the true index of his mind? Pain, languor,
shadowy remembrances, are the uneasy inmates there: his lips move

There are people that we do not like, though we may have known them
long, and have no fault to find with them, 'their appearance, as we say,
is so much against them.' That is not all, if we could find it out.
There is, generally, a reason for this prejudice; for nature is true to
itself. They may be very good sort of people too, in their way, but
still something is the matter. There is a coldness, a selfishness, a
levity, an insincerity, which we cannot fix upon any particular phrase
or action, but we see it in their whole persons and deportment. One
reason that we do not see it in any other way may be, that they are all
the time trying to conceal this defect by every means in their power.
There is, luckily, a sort of _second sight_ in morals: we discern the
lurking indications of temper and habit a long while before their
palpable effects appear. I once used to meet with a person at an
ordinary, a very civil, good-looking man in other respects, but with an
odd look about his eyes, which I could not explain, as if he saw you
under their fringed lids, and you could not see him again: this man was
a common sharper. The greatest hypocrite I ever knew was a little,
demure, pretty, modest-looking girl, with eyes timidly cast upon the
ground, and an air soft as enchantment; the only circumstance that could
lead to a suspicion of her true character was a cold, sullen, watery,
glazed look about the eyes, which she bent on vacancy, as if determined
to avoid all explanation with yours. I might have spied in their
glittering, motionless surface the rocks and quicksands that awaited me
below! We do not feel quite at ease in the company or friendship of
those who have any natural obliquity or imperfection of person. The
reason is, they are not on the best terms with themselves, and are
sometimes apt to play off on others the tricks that nature has played
them. This, however, is a remark that, perhaps, ought not to have been
made. I know a person to whom it has been objected as a
disqualification for friendship, that he never shakes you cordially by
the hand. I own this is a damper to sanguine and florid temperaments,
who abound in these practical demonstrations and 'compliments extern.'
The same person who testifies the least pleasure at meeting you, is the
last to quit his seat in your company, grapples with a subject in
conversation right earnestly, and is, I take it, backward to give up a
cause or a friend. Cold and distant in appearance, he piques himself on
being the king of _good haters,_ and a no less zealous partisan. The
most phlegmatic constitutions often contain the most inflammable
spirits--a fire is struck from the hardest flints.

And this is another reason that makes it difficult to judge of
character. Extremes meet; and qualities display themselves by the most
contradictory appearances. Any inclination, in consequence of being
generally suppressed, vents itself the more violently when an
opportunity presents itself: the greatest grossness sometimes
accompanies the greatest refinement, as a natural relief, one to the
other; and we find the most reserved and indifferent tempers at the
beginning of an entertainment, or an acquaintance, turn out the most
communicative and cordial at the end of it. Some spirits exhaust
themselves at first: others gain strength by progression. Some minds
have a greater facility of throwing off impressions--are, as it were,
more transparent or porous than others. Thus the French present a
marked contrast to the English in this respect. A Frenchman addresses
you at once with a sort of lively indifference: an Englishman is more on
his guard, feels his way, and is either exceedingly reserved, or lets
you into his whole confidence, which he cannot so well impart to an
entire stranger. Again, a Frenchman is naturally humane: an Englishman
is, I should say, only friendly by habit. His virtues and his vices
cost him more than they do his more gay and volatile neighbours. An
Englishman is said to speak his mind more plainly than others,--yes, if
it will give you pain to hear it. He does not care whom he offends by
his discourse: a foreigner generally strives to oblige in what he says.
The French are accused of promising more than they perform. That may
be, and yet they may perform as many good-natured acts as the English,
if the latter are as averse to perform as they are to promise. Even the
professions of the French may be sincere at the time, or arise out of
the impulse of the moment; though their desire to serve you may be
neither very violent nor very lasting. I cannot think, notwithstanding,
that the French are not a serious people; nay, that they are not a more
reflecting people than the common run of the English. Let those who
think them merely light and mercurial explain that enigma, their
everlasting prosing tragedy. The English are considered as
comparatively a slow, plodding people. If the French are quicker, they
are also more plodding. See, for example, how highly finished and
elaborate their works of art are! How systematic and correct they aim
at being in all their productions of a graver cast! 'If the French have
a fault,' as Yorick said, 'it is that they are too grave.' With wit,
sense, cheerfulness, patience, good-nature, and refinement of manners,
all they want is imagination and sturdiness of moral principle! Such
are some of the contradictions in the character of the two nations, and
so little does the character of either appear to have been understood!
Nothing can be more ridiculous indeed than the way in which we
exaggerate each other's vices and extenuate our own. The whole is an
affair of prejudice on one side of the question, and of partiality on
the other. Travellers who set out to carry back a true report of the
case appear to lose not only the use of their understandings, but of
their senses, the instant they set foot in a foreign land. The
commonest facts and appearances are distorted and discoloured. They go
abroad with certain preconceived notions on the subject, and they make
everything answer, in reason's spite, to their favourite theory. In
addition to the difficulty of explaining customs and manners foreign to
our own, there are all the obstacles of wilful prepossession thrown in
the way. It is not, therefore, much to be wondered at that nations have
arrived at so little knowledge of one another's characters; and that,
where the object has been to widen the breach between them, any slight
differences that occur are easily blown into a blaze of fury by repeated
misrepresentations, and all the exaggerations that malice or folly can

This ignorance of character is not confined to foreign nations: we are
ignorant of that of our own countrymen in a class a little below or
above ourselves. We shall hardly pretend to pronounce magisterially on
the good or bad qualities of strangers; and, at the same time, we are
ignorant of those of our friends, of our kindred, and of our own. We
are in all these cases either too near or too far off the object to
judge of it properly.

Persons, for instance, in a higher or middle rank of life know little or
nothing of the characters of those below them, as servants, country
people, etc. I would lay it down in the first place as a general rule
on this subject, that all uneducated people are hypocrites. Their sole
business is to deceive. They conceive themselves in a state of
hostility with others, and stratagems are fair in war. The inmates of
the kitchen and the parlour are always (as far as respects their
feelings and intentions towards each other) in Hobbes's; 'state of
nature.' Servants and others in that line of life have nothing to
exercise their spare talents for invention upon but those about them.
Their superfluous electrical particles of wit and fancy are not carried
off by those established and fashionable conductors, novels and
romances. Their faculties are not buried in books, but all alive and
stirring, erect and bristling like a cat's back. Their coarse
conversation sparkles with 'wild wit, invention ever new.' Their
betters try all they can to set themselves up above them, and they try
all they can to pull them down to their own level. They do this by
getting up a little comic interlude, a daily, domestic, homely drama out
of the odds and ends of the family failings, of which there is in
general a pretty plentiful supply, or make up the deficiency of
materials out of their own heads. They turn the qualities of their
masters and mistresses inside out, and any real kindness or
condescension only sets them the more against you. They are not to be
taken in that way--they will not be baulked in the spite they have to
you. They only set to work with redoubled alacrity, to lessen the
favour or to blacken your character. They feel themselves like a
degraded _caste,_ and cannot understand how the obligations can be all
on one side, and the advantages all on the other. You cannot come to
equal terms with them--they reject all such overtures as insidious and
hollow--nor can you ever calculate upon their gratitude or goodwill, any
more than if they were so many strolling Gipsies or wild Indians. They
have no fellow-feeling, they keep no faith with the more privileged
classes. They are in your power, and they endeavour to be even with you
by trick and cunning, by lying and chicanery. In this they have nothing
to restrain them. Their whole life is a succession of shifts, excuses,
and expedients. The love of truth is a principle with those only who
have made it their study, who have applied themselves to the pursuit of
some art or science, where the intellect is severely tasked, and learns
by habit to take a pride in, and to set a just value on, the correctness
of its conclusions. To have a disinterested regard to truth, the mind
must have contemplated it in abstract and remote questions; whereas the
ignorant and vulgar are only conversant with those things in which their
own interest is concerned. All their notions are local, personal, and
consequently gross and selfish. They say whatever comes uppermost--turn
whatever happens to their own account--and invent any story, or give any
answer that suits their purposes. Instead of being bigoted to general
principles, they trump up any lie for the occasion, and the more of a
_thumper_ it is, the better they like it; the more unlooked-for it is,
why, so much the more of a _God-send!_ They have no conscience about
the matter; and if you find them out in any of their manoeuvres, are not
ashamed of themselves, but angry with you. If you remonstrate with
them, they laugh in your face. The only hold you have of them is their
interest--you can but dismiss them from your employment; and _service is
no inheritance._ If they effect anything like decent remorse, and hope
you will pass it over, all the while they are probably trying to recover
the wind of you. Persons of liberal knowledge or sentiments have no
kind of chance in this sort of mixed intercourse with these barbarians
in civilised life. You cannot tell, by any signs or principles, what is
passing in their minds. There is no common point of view between you.
You have not the same topics to refer to, the same language to express
yourself. Your interests, your feelings are quite distinct. You take
certain things for granted as rules of action: they take nothing for
granted but their own ends, pick up all their knowledge out of their own
occasions, are on the watch only for what they can catch--are

Subtle as the fox for prey:
Like warlike as the wolf, for what they eat.

They have indeed a regard to their character, as this last may affect
their livelihood or advancement, none as it is connected with a sense of
propriety; and this sets their mother-wit and native talents at work
upon a double file of expedients, to bilk their consciences, and salve
their reputation. In short, you never know where to have them, any more
than if they were of a different species of animals; and in trusting to
them, you are sure to be betrayed and overreached. You have other
things to mind; they are thinking only of you, and how to turn you to
advantage. _Give and take_ is no maxim here. You can build nothing on
your own moderation or on their false delicacy. After a familiar
conversation with a waiter at a tavern, you overhear him calling you by
some provoking nickname. If you make a present to the daughter of the
house where you lodge, the mother is sure to recollect some addition to
her bill. It is a running fight. In fact, there is a principle in
human nature not willingly to endure the idea of a superior, a sour,
jacobinical disposition to wipe out the score of obligation, or efface
the tinsel of external advantages--and where others have the opportunity
of coming in contact with us, they generally find the means to establish
a sufficiently marked degree of degrading equality. No man is a hero to
his valet-de-chambre, is an old maxim. A new illustration of this
principle occurred the other day. While Mrs. Siddons was giving her
readings of Shakespear to a brilliant and admiring drawing-room, one of
the servants in the hall below was saying, 'What, I find the old lady is
making as much noise as ever!' So little is there in common between the
different classes of society, and so impossible is it ever to unite the
diversities of custom and knowledge which separate them.

Women, according to Mrs. Peachum, are 'bitter bad judges' of the
characters of men; and men are not much better of theirs, if we can form
any guess from their choice in marriage. Love is proverbially blind.
The whole is an affair of whim and fancy. Certain it is that the
greatest favourites with the other sex are not those who are most liked
or respected among their own. I never knew but one clever man who was
what is called a _lady's man;_ and he (unfortunately for the argument)
happened to be a considerable coxcomb. It was by this irresistible
quality, and not by the force of his genius, that he vanquished. Women
seem to doubt their own judgments in love, and to take the opinion which
a man entertains of his own prowess and accomplishments for granted.
The wives of poets are (for the most part) mere pieces of furniture in
the room. If you speak to them of their husbands' talents or reputation
in the world, it is as if you made mention of some office that they
held. It can hardly be otherwise, when the instant any subject is
started or conversation arises, in which men are interested, or try one
another's strength, the women leave the room, or attend to something
else. The qualities, then, in which men are ambitious to excel, and
which ensure the applause of the world,--eloquence, genius, learning,
integrity,--are not those which gain the favour of the fair. I must not
deny, however, that wit and courage have this effect. Neither is youth
or beauty the sole passport to their affections.

The way of woman's will is hard to find,
Harder to hit.

Yet there is some clue to this mystery, some determining cause; for we
find that the same men are universal favourites with women, as others
are uniformly disliked by them. Is not the loadstone that attracts so
powerfully, and in all circumstances, a strong and undisguised bias
towards them, a marked attention, a conscious preference of them to
every other passing object or topic? I am not sure, but I incline to
think so. The successful lover is the _cavalier servente_ of all
nations. The man of gallantry behaves as if he had made an assignation
with every woman he addresses. An argument immediately draws off my
attention from the prettiest woman in the room. I accordingly succeed
better in argument--than in love!--I do not think that what is called
_Love at first sight_ is so great an absurdity as it is sometimes
imagined to be. We generally make up our minds beforehand to the sort
of person we should like,--grave or gay, black, brown, or fair; with
golden tresses or with raven locks;--and when we meet with a complete
example of the qualities we admire, the bargain is soon struck. We have
never seen anything to come up to our newly-discovered goddess before,
but she is what we have been all our lives looking for. The idol we
fall down and worship is an image familiar to our minds. It has been
present to our waking thoughts, it has haunted us in our dreams, like
some fairy vision. Oh! thou who, the first time I over beheld thee,
didst draw my soul into the circle of thy heavenly looks, and wave
enchantment round me, do not think thy conquest less complete because it
was instantaneous; for in that gentle form (as if another Imogen had
entered) I saw all that I had ever loved of female grace, modesty, and

I shall not say much of friendship as giving an insight into character,
because it is often founded on mutual infirmities and prejudices.
Friendships are frequently taken up on some sudden sympathy, and we see
only as much as we please of one another's characters afterwards.
Intimate friends are not fair witnesses to character, any more than
professed enemies. They cool, indeed, in time, part, and retain only a
rankling grudge of past errors and oversights. Their testimony in the
latter case is not quite free from suspicion.

One would think that near relations, who live constantly together, and
always have done so, must be pretty well acquainted with one another's
characters. They are nearly in the dark about it. Familiarity
confounds all traits of distinction: interest and prejudice take away
the power of judging. We have no opinion on the subject, any more than
of one another's faces. The Penates, the household gods, are veiled.
We do not see the features of those we love, nor do we clearly
distinguish their virtues or their vices. We take them as they are
found in the lump,--by weight, and not by measure. We know all about
the individuals, their sentiments, history, manners, words, actions,
everything; but we know all these too much as facts, as inveterate,
habitual impressions, as clothed with too many associations, as
sanctified with too many affections, as woven too much into the web of
our hearts, to be able to pick out the different threads, to cast up the
items of the debtor and creditor account, or to refer them to any
general standard of right and wrong. Our impressions with respect to
them are too strong, too real, too much _sui generis,_ to be capable of
a comparison with anything but themselves. We hardly inquire whether
those for whom we are thus interested, and to whom we are thus knit, are
_better_ or _worse_ than others--the question is a kind of
profanation--all we know is, they are _more_ to us than any one else can
be. Our sentiments of this kind are rooted and grow in us, and we
cannot eradicate them by voluntary means. Besides, our judgments are
bespoke, our interests take part with our blood. If any doubt arises,
if the veil of our implicit confidence is drawn aside by any accident
for a moment, the shock is too great, like that of a dislocated limb,
and we recoil on our habitual impressions again. Let not that veil ever
be rent entirely asunder, so that those images may be left bare of
reverential awe, and lose their religion; for nothing can ever support
the desolation of the heart afterwards.

The greatest misfortune that can happen among relations is a different
way of bringing up, so as to set one another's opinions and characters
in an entirely new point of view. This often lets in an unwelcome
daylight on the subject, and breeds schisms, coldness, and incurable
heart-burnings in families. I have sometimes thought whether the
progress of society and march of knowledge does not do more harm in this
respect, by loosening the ties of domestic attachment, and preventing
those who are most interested in and anxious to think well of one
another from feeling a cordial sympathy and approbation of each other's
sentiments, manners, views, etc., than it does good by any real
advantage to the community at large. The son, for instance, is brought
up to the Church, and nothing can exceed the pride and pleasure the
father takes in him while all goes on well in this favourite direction.
His notions change, and he imbibes a taste for the Fine Arts. From this
moment there is an end of anything like the same unreserved
communication between them. The young man may talk with enthusiasm of
his 'Rembrandts, Correggios, and stuff': it is all _Hebrew_ to the
elder; and whatever satisfaction he may feel in the hearing of his son's
progress, or good wishes for his success, he is never reconciled to the
new pursuit, he still hankers after the first object that he had set his
mind upon. Again, the grandfather is a Calvinist, who never gets the
better of his disappointment at his son's going over to the Unitarian
side of the question. The matter rests here till the grandson, some
years after, in the fashion of the day and 'infinite agitation of men's
wit,' comes to doubt certain points in the creed in which he has been
brought up, and the affair is all abroad again. Here are three
generations made uncomfortable and in a manner set at variance by a
veering point of theology, and the officious, meddling biblical critics!
Nothing, on the other hand, can be more wretched or common than that
upstart pride and insolent good fortune which is ashamed of its origin;
nor are there many things more awkward than the situation of rich and
poor relations. Happy, much happier, are those tribes and people who
are confined to the same _caste_ and way of life from sire to son, where
prejudices are transmitted like instincts, and where the same unvarying
standard of opinion and refinement blends countless generations in its
improgressive, everlasting mould!

Not only is there a wilful and habitual blindness in near kindred to
each other's defects, but an incapacity to judge from the quantity of
materials, from the contradictoriness of the evidence. The chain of
particulars is too long and massy for us to lift it or put it into the
most approved ethical scales. The concrete result does not answer to
any abstract theory, to any logical definition. There is black, and
white, and grey, square and round--there are too many anomalies, too
many redeeming points, in poor human nature, such as it actually is, for
us to arrive at a smart, summary decision on it. We know too much to
come to any hasty or partial conclusion. We do not pronounce upon the
present act, because a hundred others rise up to contradict it. We
suspend our judgments altogether, because in effect one thing
unconsciously balances another; and perhaps this obstinate, pertinacious
indecision would be the truest philosophy in other cases, where we
dispose of the question of character easily, because we have only the
smallest part of the evidence to decide upon. Real character is not one
thing, but a thousand things; actual qualities do not conform to any
factitious standard in the mind, but rest upon their own truth and
nature. The dull stupor under which we labour in respect of those whom
we have the greatest opportunities of inspecting nearly, we should do
well to imitate before we give extreme and uncharitable verdicts against
those whom we only see in passing or at a distance. If we knew them
better, we should be disposed to say less about them.

In the truth of things, there are none utterly worthless, none without
some drawback on their pretensions or some alloy of imperfection. It
has been observed that a familiarity with the worst characters lessens
our abhorrence of them; and a wonder is often expressed that the
greatest criminals look like other men. The reason is that _they are
like other men in many respects._ If a particular individual was merely
the wretch we read of, or conceive in the abstract, that is, if he was
the mere personified idea of the criminal brought to the bar, he would
not disappoint the spectator, but would look like what he would be--a
monster! But he has other qualities, ideas, feelings, nay, probably
virtues, mixed up with the most profligate habits or desperate acts.
This need not lessen our abhorrence of the crime, though it does of the
criminal; for it has the latter effect only by showing him to us in
different points of view, in which he appears a common mortal, and not
the caricature of vice we took him for, or spotted all over with infamy.
I do not, at the same time, think this is a lax or dangerous, though it
is a charitable view of the subject. In my opinion, no man ever
answered in his own mind (except in the agonies of conscience or of
repentance, in which latter case he throws the imputation from himself
in another way) to the abstract idea of a _murderer._ He may have
killed a man in self-defence, or 'in the trade of war,' or to save
himself from starving, or in revenge for an injury, but always 'so as
with a difference,' or from mixed and questionable motives. The
individual, in reckoning with himself, always takes into the account the
considerations of time, place, and circumstance, and never makes out a
case of unmitigated, unprovoked villainy, of 'pure defecated evil'
against himself. There are degrees in real crimes: we reason and
moralise only by names and in classes. I should be loth, indeed, to say
that 'whatever is, is right'; but almost every actual choice inclines to
it, with some sort of imperfect, unconscious bias. This is the reason,
besides the ends of secrecy, of the invention of _slang_ terms for
different acts of profligacy committed by thieves, pickpockets, etc.
The common names suggest associations of disgust in the minds of others,
which those who live by them do not willingly recognise, and which they
wish to sink in a technical phraseology. So there is a story of a
fellow who, as he was writing down his confession of a murder, stopped
to ask how the word _murder_ was spelt; this, if true, was partly
because his imagination was staggered by the recollection of the thing,
and partly because he shrunk from the verbal admission of it. '_Amen_
stuck in his throat'! The defence made by Eugene Aram of himself
against a charge of murder, some years before, shows that he in
imagination completely flung from himself the _nominal_ crime imputed to
him: he might, indeed, have staggered an old man with a blow, and buried
his body in a cave, and lived ever since upon the money he found upon
him, but there was 'no malice in the case, none at all,' as Peachum
says. The very coolness, subtlety, and circumspection of his defence
(as masterly a legal document as there is upon record) prove that he was
guilty of the act, as much as they prove that he was unconscious of the
_crime_.[2] In the same spirit, and I conceive with great metaphysical
truth, Mr. Coleridge, in his tragedy of _Remorse,_ makes Ordonio (his
chief character) wave the acknowledgment of his meditated guilt to his
own mind, by putting into his mouth that striking soliloquy:

Say, I had lay'd a body in the sun!
Well! in a month there swarm forth from the corse
A thousand, nay, ten thousand sentient beings
In place of that one man. Say I had _kill'd_ him!
Yet who shall tell me, that each one and all
Of these ten thousand lives Is not as happy
As that one life, which being push'd aside,
Made room for these unnumber'd.--Act ii. Sc. 2.

I am not sure, indeed, that I have not got this whole train of
speculation from him; but I should not think the worse of it on that
account. That gentleman, I recollect, once asked me whether I thought
that the different members of a family really liked one another so well,
or had so much attachment, as was generally supposed; and I said that I
conceived the regard they had towards each other was expressed by the
word _interest_ rather than by any other, which he said was the true
answer. I do not know that I could mend it now. Natural affection is
not pleasure in one another's company, nor admiration of one another's
qualities; but it is an intimate and deep knowledge of the things that
affect those to whom we are bound by the nearest ties, with pleasure or
pain; it is an anxious, uneasy fellow-feeling with them, a jealous
watchfulness over their good name, a tender and unconquerable yearning
for their good. The love, in short, we bear them is the nearest to that
we bear ourselves. _Home,_ according to the old saying, _is home, be it
never so homely._ We love ourselves, not according to our deserts, but
our cravings after good: so we love our immediate relations in the next
degree (if not, even sometimes a higher one), because we know best what
they have suffered and what sits nearest to their hearts. We are
implicated, in fact, in their welfare by habit and sympathy, as we are
in our own.

If our devotion to our own interests is much the same as to theirs, we
are ignorant of our own characters for the same reason. We are parties
too much concerned to return a fair verdict, and are too much in the
secret of our own motives or situation not to be able to give a
favourable turn to our actions. We exercise a liberal criticism upon
ourselves, and put off the final decision to a late day. The field is
large and open. Hamlet exclaims, with a noble magnanimity, ' I count
myself indifferent honest, and yet I could accuse me of such things!'
If you could prove to a man that he is a knave, it would not make much
difference in his opinion, his self-love is stronger than his love of
virtue. Hypocrisy is generally used as a mask to deceive the world, not
to impose on ourselves: for once detect the delinquent in his knavery,
and he laughs in your face or glories in his iniquity. This at least
happens except where there is a contradiction in the character, and our
vices are involuntary and at variance with our convictions. One great
difficulty is to distinguish ostensible motives, or such as we
acknowledge to ourselves, from tacit or secret springs of action. A man
changes his opinion readily, he thinks it candour: it is levity of mind.
For the most part, we are stunned and stupid in judging of ourselves.
We are callous by custom to our defects or excellences, unless where
vanity steps in to exaggerate or extenuate them. I cannot conceive how
it is that people are in love with their own persons, or astonished at
their own performances, which are but a nine days' wonder to every one
else. In general it may be laid down that we are liable to this twofold
mistake in judging of our own talents: we, in the first place, nurse the
rickety bantling, we think much of that which has cost us much pains and
labour, and comes against the grain; and we also set little store by
what we do with most ease to ourselves, and therefore best. The works
of the greatest genius are produced almost unconsciously, with an
ignorance on the part of the persons themselves that they have done
anything extraordinary. Nature has done it for them. How little
Shakespear seems to have thought of himself or of his fame! Yet, if 'to
know another well were to know one's self,' he must have been acquainted
with his own pretensions and character, 'who knew all qualities with a
learned spirit.' His eye seems never to have been bent upon himself,
but outwards upon nature. A man who thinks highly of himself may almost
set it down that it is without reason. Milton, notwithstanding, appears
to have had a high opinion of himself, and to have made it good. He was
conscious of his powers, and great by design. Perhaps his
tenaciousness, on the score of his own merit, might arise from an early
habit of polemical writing, in which his pretensions were continually
called to the bar of prejudice and party-spirit, and he had to plead not
guilty to the indictment. Some men have died unconscious of
immortality, as others have almost exhausted the sense of it in their
lifetimes. Correggio might be mentioned as an instance of the one,
Voltaire of the other.

There is nothing that helps a man in his conduct through life more than
a knowledge of his own characteristic weaknesses (which, guarded
against, become his strength), as there is nothing that tends more to
the success of a man's talents than his knowing the limits of his
faculties, which are thus concentrated on some practicable object. One
man can do but one thing. Universal pretensions end in nothing. Or, as
Butler has it, too much wit requires

As much again to govern it.

There are those who have gone, for want of this self-knowledge,
strangely out of their way, and others who have never found it. We find
many who succeed in certain departments, and are yet melancholy and
dissatisfied, because they failed in the one to which they first devoted
themselves, like discarded lovers who pine after their scornful
mistress. I will conclude with observing that authors in general
overrate the extent and value of posthumous fame: for what (as it has
been asked) is the amount even of Shakespear's fame? That in that very
country which boasts his genius and his birth, perhaps, scarce one
person in ten has ever heard of his name or read a syllable of his


[1] 'It is not a year or two shows us a man.'--AEmilia, in _Othello._

[2] The bones of the murdered man were dug up in an old hermitage. On
this, as one instance of the acuteness which he displayed all through
the occasion, Aram remarks, 'Where would you expect to find the bones of
a man sooner than in a hermit's cell, except you were to look for them
in a cemetery?'--See _Newgate Calendar_ for the year 1758 or 1759.



(A Fragment)

The natural in visible objects is whatever is ordinarily presented to
the senses: the picturesque is that which stands out and catches the
attention by some striking peculiarity: the _ideal_ is that which
answers to the preconceived imagination and appetite in the mind for
love and beauty. The picturesque depends chiefly on the principle of
discrimination or contrast; the _ideal_ on harmony and continuity of
effect: the one surprises, the other satisfies the mind; the one starts
off from a given point, the other reposes on itself; the one is
determined by an excess of form, the other by a concentration of

The picturesque may be considered as something like an excrescence on
the face of nature. It runs imperceptibly into the fantastical and
grotesque. Fairies and satyrs are picturesque; but they are scarcely
_ideal._ They are an extreme and unique conception of a certain thing,
but not of what the mind delights in or broods fondly over. The image
created by the artist's hand is not moulded and fashioned by the love of
good and yearning after grace and beauty, but rather the contrary: that
is they are ideal deformity, not ideal beauty. Rubens was perhaps the
most picturesque of painters; but he was almost the least _ideal._ So
Rembrandt was (out of sight) the most picturesque of colourists; as
Correggio was the most _ideal._ In other words, his composition of
light and shade is more a whole, more in unison, more blended into the
same harmonious feeling than Rembrandt's, who staggers by contrast, but
does not soothe by gradation. Correggio's forms, indeed, had a
picturesque air; for they often incline (even when most beautiful) to
the quaintness of caricature. Vandyke, I think, was at once the least
picturesque and least _ideal_ of all the great painters. He was purely
natural, and neither selected from outward forms nor added anything from
his own mind. He owes everything to perfect truth, clearness, and
transparency; and though his productions certainly arrest the eye, and
strike in a room full of pictures, it is from the contrast they present
to other pictures, and from being stripped quite naked of all artificial
advantages. They strike almost as a piece of white paper would, hung up
in the same situation--I began with saying that whatever stands out from
a given line, and as it were projects upon the eye, is picturesque; and
this holds true (comparatively) in form and colour. A rough terrier
dog, with the hair bristled and matted together, is picturesque. As we
say, there is a decided character in it, a marked determination to an
extreme point. A shock-dog is odd and disagreeable, but there is
nothing picturesque in its appearance; it is a mere mass of flimsy
confusion. A goat with projecting horns and pendent beard is a
picturesque animal; a sheep is not. A horse is only picturesque from
opposition of colour; as in Mr. Northcote's study of Gadshill, where the
white horse's head coming against the dark, scowling face of the man
makes as fine a contrast as can be imagined. An old stump of a tree

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