The Book of Authors by William Clark Russell

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The Book of Authors: A Collection of Criticisms, Ana, Môts, Personal Descriptions, Etc, Wholly Referring to English Men of Letters in Every Age of English Literature

The book of authors: a collection of criticisms, ana, môts, personal descriptions, etc. etc., etc., wholly referring to English men of letters in every age of English literature

by William Clark Russell (1844-1911)

The place of books in the public estimation is fixed, not by what is written about them, but by what is written in them. Macaulay.

London: Frederick Warne and Company, 1871

From the Preface:

The design of this collection is to present to the reader specimens of some of the smart and piquant things that have been said by literary men and women of one another. The collection, as the title sets forth, is wholly restricted to English literature….

Pages 13-16

John Knox (1505-1572)

Zeal, intrepidity, disinterestedness, were virtues which he possessed in an eminent degree. He was acquainted too with the learning cultivated in that age; and excelled in that species of eloquence which is calculated to rouse and to inflame. His maxims, however, were often too severe, and the impetuosity of his temper excessive. Rigid and uncomplying himself, he showed no indulgence to the infirmities of others. Regardless of the distinctions of rank and character, he uttered his admonitions with an acrimony and vehemence more to irritate than to reclaim. This often betrayed him into indecent and undutiful expressions with respect to the Queen’s person and conduct. Those very qualities, however, which now render his character less amiable, fitted him to be the instrument of Providence for advancing the Reformation among a fierce people, and enabled him to face dangers, and to surmount opposition, from which a person of a more gentle spirit would have been apt to shrink back. By an unwearied application to study and to business, as well as by the frequency and fervour of his public discourses, he had worn out a constitution naturally strong. During a lingering illness, he discovered the utmost fortitude, and met the approaches of death with a magnanimity inseparable from his character. Robertson.

The ringleader in all these insults on Majesty was John Knox, who possessed an uncontrolled authority in the Church, and even in the civil affairs of the nation, and who triumphed in the contumelious usage of his sovereign. The political principles of the man, which he communicated to his brethren, were as full of sedition as his theological were full of rage and bigotry. . . . His conduct showed that he thought no more civility than loyalty due to any of the female sex. David Hume.

That fals apostat priest,
Enemie to Christ, and mannis (man’s) salvation,
Your Maister Knox. Nicol Burne.

A fanatical incendiary — a holy savage — the son of violence and barbarism — the religious Sachem of religious Mohawks. Whitaker.

Of all the benefits I had that year (1571) was the coming of that maist notable profet and apostle of our nation, Mr. Johne Knox, to St. Andrews, who, be the faction of the Queen occupeing the castell and town of Edinburgh, was compellit to remove therefra, with a number of the best and chusit to come to St. Andrews. I heard him teache there the prophecies of Daniel, that simmar and the wintar following. I had my pen and my little buike, and tuk away sic things as I could comprehend. In the opening up of his text, he was moderat the space of an half hour; but when he enterit to application, he made me so to grew (thrill) and tremble, that I could not hald a pen to writ. He was very weik. I saw him, everie day of his doctrine, go hulie and fear (slowly and warily) with a furring of masticks about his neck, a staffe in the an hand, and gud, godlie Richard Ballenden, his servand, haldin up the other oxter (arm-pit) from the abbey to the parish-kirk, and he, the said Richard, and another servand lifted up to the pulpit, whar he behovit to lean at his first entry: bot, er he haid done with his sermone, he was sa active and vigorous, that he was lyk to ding the pulpit in blads (beat the pulpit in pieces) and flie out of it. James Melville, “Diary.” (Mr. Melville was a Doctor of Divinity, and as long as episcopal persecution admitted, did sit with great renown in the prime chair we had of that faculty. Baillie.)

God is my witness, whom I have served in the spirit in the gospel of his Son, that I have taught nothing but the true and solid doctrine of the gospel of the Son of God, and have had it for my only object to instruct the ignorant, to confirm the faithful, to comfort the weak, the fearful, and the distressed, by the promises of grace, and to fight against the proud and rebellious by the Divine threatenings. I know that many have frequently complained, and do still complain, of my too great severity; but God knows that my mind was always void of hatred to the persons of those against whom I thundered the severest judgments. John Knox.

The light of Scotland, the comfort of the Church within the same, the mirror of godliness, and pattern and example to all true ministers in purity of life, soundness of doctrine, and boldness in reproving of wickedness. Bannatyne.

I know not if ever so much piety and genius were lodged in so weak and frail a body. Certain I am that it will be difficult to find one in whom the gifts of the Holy Spirit shone so bright, to the comfort of the Church of Scotland. Smeton.

A man of wit, much good learning, and earnest zeal. Ridley, “Strype’s Life of Grindal.”

Knox bore a striking resemblance to Luther in personal intrepidity and in popular eloquence. He approached nearest to Calvin in his religious sentiments, in the severity of his manners, and in a certain impressive air of melancholy which pervaded his character, and he resembled Zwingleius in his ardent attachment to the principles of civil liberty, and in combining his exertions for the reformation of the Church with uniform endeavours to improve the political state of the people. Dr. Thomas M’Crie.

I happened to ask where John Knox was buried. Dr. Johnson burst out, “I hope in the highway. I have been looking at his reformations.” Boswell.

Page 90-92

John Bunyan (1628-1688)

Though composed in the lowest style of English, the ” Pilgrim’s Progress” is without slang or false grammar. If you were to polish it you would at once destroy the reality of the vision. I would not have believed beforehand that Calvinism could be painted in such exquisitely delightful colours. I know of no book (the Bible being excepted as above all comparison) which, according to my judgment and experience, I could so safely recommend as teaching and enforcing the whole saving truth, according to the mind that was in Christ Jesus, as the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” I am convinced that it is the best summary of Evangelical Christianity ever produced by a writer not miraculously inspired. Coleridge.

His ” Pilgrim’s Progress ” has great merit, both for invention, imagination, and the conduct of the story; and it has had the best evidence of its merit, the general and continued approbation of mankind. Few books, I believe, have had a more extensive sale. It is remarkable that it begins very much like the poem of Dante; yet there was no translation of Dante when Bunyan wrote. There is reason to think that he had read Spenser. Johnson.

The wicked tinker of Elstow. Ivimey.

The ” Pilgrim’s Progress” is perhaps the only book about which, after the lapse of a hundred years, the educated minority has come over to the opinion of the common people. Macaulay.

Bunyan is indeed as decidedly the first of allegorists as Demosthenes is the first of orators, and Shakspeare the first of dramatists. Macaulay in his “History.”

Honest John was the first that I know of who mixed narration and dialogue; a method of writing very engaging to the reader, who, in the most interesting parts, finds himself, as it were, admitted into the company and present at the conversation. Defoe has imitated him successfully in his “Robinson Crusoe,” in his “Moll Flanders,” and other pieces; and Richardson has done the same in his “Pamela.” Benjamin Franklin.

Bunyan’s work is the poetry of Puritanism. A novel it cannot be called; for it has nothing to do with real life any more than the visions of Fifth Monarchy men had to do with practical forms of government. But, precisely for that reason, was it true to the age in which it was composed. The spirit that had overthrown the Stuarts is more visible in Bunyan’s allegory than in “Milton’s Defence.” Edinburgh Review, 1838.

The Spenser of the people. I. D’Israeli

Bunyan was confident in his own powers of expression. . . .And he might well be confident in it. His is a homespun style, not a manufactured one; and what a difference is there between its homeliness, and the flippant vulgarity of the Roger L’Estrange and Tom Brown school! If it is not a well of English undefiled to which the poet as well as the philologist must repair, if they would drink of the living waters, it is a clear stream of current English the vernacular speech of his age; sometimes indeed, in its rusticity and coarseness, but always in its plainness and its strength. To this natural style Bunyan is in some degree beholden for his general popularity; his language is everywhere level to the most ignorant reader, and to the meanest capacity; there is a homely reality about it; a nursery tale is not more intelligible in its manner of narration, to a child. Another cause of his popularity is, that he taxes the imagination as little as the understanding. The vividness of his own, which, as his history shows, sometimes could not distinguish ideal impressions from actual ones, occasioned this. He saw the things of which he was writing as distinctly with his mind’s eye as if they were, indeed, passing before him in a dream. Robert Southey.

The “Pilgrim’s Progress” is a wonderful work; but till all distinctions of rank have been first confused and then destroyed, John Bunyan must stand far aloof from Edmund Spencer, though he, too, has his place among the hierarchies. Wilson

No man of common sense and integrity can deny that Bunyan was a practical atheist, a worthless, contemptible infidel, a vile rebel to God and goodness, a common profligate, a soul-despising, a soul-murdering, a soul-damning, thoughtless wretch as could exist on the face of the earth. Ryland

Pages 133-135

Daniel Defoe (1663-1731)

Nobody ever laid down the book of “Robinson Crusoe” without wishing it longer. Johnson.

There exists no work more generally read or more universally admired than “Robinson Crusoe.” It is difficult to say in what the charm consists by which persons of all classes and denominations are thus fascinated; yet the majority of readers will recollect it as amongst the first works which awakened and interested their youthful attention; and feel even in advanced life, and in the maturity of their understanding, that there are still associated with “Robinson Crusoe” the sentiments peculiar to that period, when all is new, all glittering in prospect, and when those visions are most bright which the experience of after life tends only to darken and destroy. Sir W. Scott.

He is a middle-sized, spare man, about forty years old, of a dark complexion and dark-brown coloured hair, but wears a wig, a hooked nose, a sharp chin, grey eyes, and a large mole near his mouth; was born in London, and for many years was a hosefactor in Freeman’s yard, in Cornhill, and is now owner of the brick and pantile works near Tilbury Fort in Essex. Advertisement accompanying a reward of 5ol. for his apprehension, 1703.

“Robinson Crusoe’s” manuscript ran through the whole trade, nor would any one print it, though the writer, De Foe, was in good repute as an author. One bookseller at last, not remarkable for his discernment, but very much so for his speculative turn, engaged in this publication. This bookseller got above a thousand guineas by it; and the booksellers are accumulating money every hour by editions of this work in all shapes. I. D’Israeli.

He was a powerful though unpolished satirist in verse; was master of an admirable prose style; in his “Review” … led the way to that class of essay writing, and those dramatic sketches of common life and manners, which were afterwards so happily perfected by Steele and Addison; in his “Essay on Trade” anticipated many of those broad and liberal principles which are regarded as modern discoveries; in his moral essays and some of his novels undoubtedly set the example of that minute description and perplexing casuistry of which Richardson so successfully availed himself; was among the first to advocate the intellectual equality and the necessity of improvements in the education of women; suggested the projects of Savings Banks and an Asylum for Idiots; among other notable services and claims to attention, by his thoughts on the best mode of lighting and watching the streets of the metropolis, might be considered as the author of the modern system of police; and even in party matters, and the heats and rancorous differences of jarring sects, generally seized on that point of view which displayed most moderation and good sense, and in his favourite conclusions and arguments was half a century before his contemporaries, who for that reason made common cause against him. Edinburgh Review, 1830.

See where on high stands unabash’d Defoe! Pope.

One of those authors (the fellow who was pilloried, I have forgot his name) is indeed so grave, sententious, dogmatical a rogue, that there is no enduring him. Swift.

The charm of De Foe’s works, especially “Robinson Crusoe,” is founded on the same principle. It always interests, never agitates. Crusoe himself is merely a representative of humanity in general; neither his intellectual nor his moral qualities set him above the middle degree of mankind; his only prominent characteristic is the spirit of enterprise and wandering, which is, nevertheless, a very common disposition. You will observe that all that is wonderful in this tale is the result of external circumstances — of things which fortune brings to Crusoe’s hands . . . One excellence of De Foe, amongst many, is his sacrifice of lesser interest to the greater, because more universal. Had he (as without any improbability he might have done) given his “Robinson Crusoe” any of the turn for natural history, which forms so striking and delightful a feature in the equally uneducated Dampier; — had he made him find out qualities and uses in the before (to him) unknown plants of the island — discover, for instance, a substitute for hops, or describe birds, &c. — many delightful pages and incidents might have enriched the book ; but then Crusoe would have ceased to be the universal representative — the person for whom every reader could substitute himself. But now nothing is done, thought, suffered, or desired, but what every man can imagine himself doing, thinking, feeling, or wishing for. Even so very easy a problem as that of finding a substitute for ink is with exquisite judgment made to baffle Crusoe’s inventive faculties. And in what he does, he arrives at no excellence; he does not make basket-work like Will Atkins; the carpentering, tailoring, pottery, &c., are all just what will answer his purposes, and those are confined to needs that all men have, and comforts that all men desire. Crusoe rises only to the point to which all men may be made to feel that they might, and that they ought to, rise in religion — to resignation, dependence on, and thankful acknowledgment of, the Divine mercy and goodness. Cornhill Magazine.
Pages 233-236

George Whitfield (1714-1770)

His eloquence was powerful, his views pious and charitable, his assiduity almost incredible. Boswell.

Whitfield never drew as much attention as a mountebank does; he did not draw attention by doing better than others, but by doing what was strange. Were Astley to preach a sermon, standing upon his head on a horse’s back, he would collect a multitude to hear him; but no wise man would say he had made a better sermon for that. I never treated Whitfield’s ministry with contempt; I believe he did good. He had devoted himself to the lower classes of mankind, and among them he was of use. But when familiarity and noise claim the praise that is due to knowledge, art, and elegance, we must beat down such pretensions. Johnson.

He had a loud and clear voice, and articulated his words so perfectly that he might be heard and understood at a great distance ; especially as his auditories observed the most perfect silence. He preached one evening from the top of the Court House steps which were in the middle of Market Street, and on the west side of Second Street, which crosses it at right angles. Both streets were rilled with his hearers to a considerable distance; being among the hindmost in Market Street, I had the curiosity to learn how far he could be heard, by retiring backwards down the street towards the river; and I found his voice distinct till I came near Front Street, when some noise in that street obscured it. Imagining then a semicircle of which my distance should be the radius, and that it was filled with auditors to each of whom I allowed two square feet, I computed that he might well be heard by more than 30,000. This reconciled me to the newspaper accounts of his having preached to 25,000 people in the fields, and to the histories of generals haranguing whole armies, of which I had sometimes doubted. By hearing him often I came to distinguish easily between sermons newly composed and those which he had often preached in the course of his travels. His delivery of the latter was so improved by frequent repetition that every accent, every emphasis, every modulation of voice was so perfectly well-turned and well-placed, that without being interested in the subject, one could not help being pleased with the discourse; a pleasure of much the same kind with that received from an excellent piece of music. … I am satisfied that if he had never written anything, he would have left behind him a much more numerous and important sect, and his reputation might in that case have been still growing even after his death. Benjamin Franklin.

A preaching, prison-preaching, field-preaching Esq. strikes more than all the black gowns and lawn sleeves in the world. And if I am not mistaken, the Great Shepherd and Bishop of Souls will let the world, and his own children too, know that he will not be prescribed to, in respect to men, or garb, or place, much less will he be confined to any order or set of men under heaven. Whitfield to Rowland Hill.

Whitfield’s zealous spirit exhausted all its energies in preaching, and his full dedication to God was honoured by unbounded success. The effect produced by his sermons was indescribable, arising in a great degree from the most perfect forgetfulness of self, during the solemn moment of declaring the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. His evident sincerity impressed every hearer, and is said to have forcibly struck Lord Chesterfield when he heard him at Lady Huntingdon’s. Sidney’s “Life of Rowland Hill.”

Taking his stand on some rising knoll, his tall and graceful figure dressed with elaborate propriety, and composed into an easy and commanding attitude, Whitfield’s ” clear blue eye” ranged over thousands and tens of thousands, drawn up in close files on the plain below, or clustering into masses on every adjacent eminence. A “rabble rout” hung on the skirts of the mighty host; and the feelings of the devout were disturbed by the scurril jests of the illiterate, and the cold sarcasms of the more polished spectators of their worship. But the rich and varied tones of a voice of unequalled depth and compass quickly silenced every ruder sound as in rapid succession its ever-changing melodies passed from the calm of simple narrative to the measured distinctness of argument, to the vehemence of reproof, and the pathos of heavenly consolation. “Sometimes the preacher wept exceedingly, stamped loudly and passionately, and was frequently so overcome that for a few seconds one would suspect he could never recover, and when he did, nature required some little time to compose himself.” … The agitated assembly caught the passions of the speaker, and exulted, wept, or trembled at his bidding. He stood before them in popular belief, a persecuted man, spurned and rejected by lordly prelates, yet still a presbyter of the Church, and clothed with her authority; his meek and lowly demeanour chastened and elevated by the conscious grandeur of the apostolic succession. The thoughtful gazed earnestly on a scene of solemn interest, pregnant with some strange and enduring influence on the future condition of mankind, But the wise and the simple alike yielded to the enchantment; and the thronging multitude gave utterance to their emotions in every form in which nature seeks relief from feeling too strong for mastery. Edinburgh Review, 1838.
Pages 290-292

William Cowper (1731-1800)

That maniacal Calvinist and coddled poet. Byron

“The Task,” incomparably the best poem that any Englishmen then living had produced — a poem, too, which could hardly fail to excite in a well-constituted mind a feeling of esteem and compassion for the poet, a man of genius and virtue, whose means were scanty, and whom the most cruel of the calamities incident to humanity had made incapable of supporting himself by vigorous and sustained exertion. Macaulay.

If there is a good man on earth, it is William Cowper. Lord Thurlow.

The poet of the Cross. Dr. Memes.

But tho’ in darkness he remained
Unconscious of the guiding,
And things provided came without
The sweet sense of providing,
He testified this solemn truth
Through frenzy desolated,
Nor man nor nature satisfy
Whom only God created. E. B. Browning.

Mr. Cowper, a man of real genius, has miserably failed in his blank-verse translation (of Homer). BoswelL

The translation (of Homer) is the nearest portrait of Homer, and the more one reads it the better it seems. J. W. Croker.

Cowper’s comic vein burst out from a ground of ghastly and maddening bigotry. C. Oilier.

With more than painter’s fancy, blest with lays
Holy as saints to heav’n expiring raise. Matthias.

I have always considered the letters of Mr. Cowper as the finest specimen of the epistolary stile in our language. To an air of inimitable ease and carelessness they unite a high degree of correctness, such as could result only from the clearest intellect, combined with the most finished taste. In my humble opinion the study of Cowper’s prose may, on this account, be as useful in forming the taste of young people as his poetry. Robert Hall.

Whatever faults I may be chargeable with as a poet I cannot accuse myself of negligence. I never suffered a line to pass till I had made it as good as I could ; and though my doctrines may offend this king of critics (Dr. Johnson), he will not, I flatter myself, be disgusted with slovenly inaccuracy, either in the numbers, rhymes, or language. W. Cowper.

I am enchanted with this poet; his images are so natural and so much his own! Such an original and philosophic thinker! such genuine Christianity! and such a divine simplicity! but very rambling, and the order not very lucid. He seems to put down every thought as it arises, and never to retrench or alter anything. Hannah More.

He is entitled in our estimation to still greater praise; and that is, to the praise of absolute and entire originality. Whatever he added to the resources of English poetry was drawn directly from the fountains of his own genius, or the stores of his own observation. He was a copyist of no style — a restorer of no style; and did not, like the eminent men who succeeded him, merely recall the age to the treasures it had forgotten. Edinburgh Review, 1828.

We talked much of Cowper. The truth respecting that extraordinary genius is, that he was a lunatic of the melancholy kind, with occasional lucid intervals. Johnny [Rev. Dr. Johnson] said that Cowper firmly believed that good and evil spirits haunted his couch every night, and that the influence of the last generally prevailed. For the last five years of his life a perpetual gloom hung over him — he was never observed to smile. I asked Johnny whether he suspected the people about him of bad intentions (which seems to me the Shibboleth of insanity), and he said that he very often did. “For instance,” observed he, “he said there were two Johnnies; one the real man, the other an evil spirit in his shape; and when he came out of his room in the morning, he used to look me full in the face inquiringly, and turn off with a look of benevolence or anguish, as he thought me a man or a devil!” He had dreadful stomach complaints, and drank immense quantities of tea. He was indulged in everything, even in his wildest imaginations. It would have been better had he been regulated in all respects. Dr. Currie to W. Roscoe.

Cowper is certainly the sweetest of our didactic poets. He is elevated in his “Table Talk;” acute in detailing the “Progress of Error;” and he chants the praises of “Truth” in more dulcet notes than were ever sounded by the fairest swan in Cayster. His “Expostulation” is made in the tones of a benevolent sage. His “Hope” and his “Charity” are proofs of his pure Christian-like feeling, a feeling which also pervades his “Conversation” and his “Retirement,” and which barbs the shafts of his satire without taking away from their strength. Dr. Doran, “Habits and Men.”

Cowper may be fancifully looked on as a morning star which heralded another sunrise, in the dim evening of which new day we now meditate on the past and hope for the future. Quarterly Review, 1849.

Had his health of mind and body — frail and awfully uncertain — suffered him to mingle more with the poor, he had not been their greatest poet in power, but their best in spirit. As it was, all his tenderest, deepest, holiest sympathies were theirs. Blackwoods Magazine, 1834.

Pages 384-388

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

Blessings and prayers in nobler retinue
Than sceptred king or laurelled conqueror knows,
Follow this wondrous potentate. Wordsworth.

Let me talk to you of the Prince Regent. He ordered me to be presented to him at a ball, and after some sayings peculiarly pleasing from royal lips as to my own attempts, he talked to me of you and your immortalities: he preferred you to every bard past and present, and asked which of your works pleased me most. It was a difficult question. I answered I thought the “Lay.” He said his own opinion was nearly similar. In speaking of the others, I told him I thought you more particularly the poet of princes, as they never appeared more fascinating than in “Marmion” and “The Lady of the Lake.” He was pleased to coincide, and to dwell upon the description of your Jameses as no less royal than poetical. I defy Murray to have exaggerated his royal highness’s opinion of your powers. Byron

I passed three days with Walter Scott, an amusing and highly estimable man. You see the whole extent of his powers in the Minstrel’s “Lay,” of which your opinion seems to accord with mine a very amusing poem; it excites a novel-like interest, but you discover nothing on after-perusal. Scott bears a great part in the Edinburgh Review, but does not review well. Southey to W. Taylor.

It seemed to me that when he stood on his sound or left limb he rose to the height of a Hercules, and when on the lame one that he dwindled into a dwarf. Except for this infirmity, his person would have been extremely handsome ; he was at that time about thirty-four, rather fair, but without colour in his cheek, light brown hair, combed straight on the forehead, the eyebrows still lighter and hanging much over the eyes, which were greyish, small and sharp, the nose not so prominent as in Chantrey’s bust, the upper lip remarkably long and curved outwards, the corners of the eyelids, as well as the corners of the mouth, inclining downwards, his teeth small and regular, but ill-coloured, which appeared to be the result of inattention, the more remarkable as in all other respects he was scrupulously nice in his toilet. His hands were delicate, and at that time he always wore an antique gold ring on the little fnger of the left hand. The sound limb, save that the foot was too large, was eminently handsome. The shoe of the lame foot was always too long ; he walked very rapidly, took gigantic strides, set the staff so close to the lame foot as often to put it actually on it, and I was in constant apprehension that he would fall and injure himself. In manner he was a perfect gentleman. Mrs. Ballantyne.

The whole expression of his benevolent countenance changes if he has but to speak of the dirk and the claymore ; you see the spirit that would “say amidst the trumpets, Ha! ha!” suddenly flashing from his grey eyes, and sometimes, in repeating a verse of warlike minstrelsy, he will spring up, as if he caught the sound of a distant gathering-cry. Mrs. Hemans.

Scott is the other wonder of this age. Picturesque, interesting, and bard-like as are his narrative poems, the pathos, humour, description, character, and above all, the marvellous fertility displayed in the novels, show far greater power; a whole region of the territory of Imagination is occupied by this extraordinary man, alone and unapproachable. Earl Russell

Mr. Scott always seems to me to be like a glass through which the rays of admiration pass without sensibly affecting it. Mrs. Grant.

The last series of those half novels, half romance things, called “Tales of My Landlord,” are dying off apace; but if their author gets money he will not care about the rest; having never owned his work, no celebrity can be lost, nor no venture can injure him. Mrs. Piozzi.

The second and third volumes of a strange book, entitled “Tales of my Landlord” (“Old Mortality”), are very fine in their way. People say ’tis like reading Shakspeare! I say ’tis as like Shakspeare as a bottle of peppermint water is to a bottle of the finest French brandy. Ibid.

Sir Walter Scott, Lamb, Wilkie, and Procter have been with me all the morning, and a most delightful morning have we had. Scott operated on us like champagne and whisky mixed. In the course of conversation he alluded to “Waverley:” there was a dead silence. Wilkie, who was talking to him, stopped, and looked so agitated, you would have thought that he was the author. I was bursting to have a good round at him, but as this was his first visit I did not venture. It is singular how success and the want of it operate on two extraordinary men, Walter Scott and Wordsworth. Scott enters a room, and sits at table, with the coolness and self-possession of conscious fame; Wordsworth with a mortified elevation of head, as if fearful he was not estimated as he deserved. Scott is always cool and very amusing …. the companion of nature in all her feelings and freaks. B.R. Haydon.

It appears certain that his works must have produced to the author or his trustees at the very least half a million of money! W. Howitt.

On Friday last the poetically great Walter Scott came, like a sunbeam, to my dwelling. This proudest boast of the Caledonian muse is tall, and rather robust than slender, but lame, in the same manner as Mr. Hayley, and in a greater measure. Neither the contour of his face nor yet his features are elegant; his complexion healthy, and somewhat fair, without bloom. We find the singularity of brown hair and eyelashes, with flaxen eyebrows, and a countenance open, ingenuous, and benevolent. When seriously conversing or earnestly attentive, though his eyes are rather of a lightish grey, deep thought is on their lids; he contracts his brow, and the rays of genius gleam aslant from the orbs beneath them. An upper lip too long prevents his mouth from being decidedly handsome, but the sweetest emanations of temper and heart play about it when he talks cheerfully or smiles, and in conversation he is much oftener gay than contemplative. Anna Seward.

In my humble opinion, Walter Scott’s sense is a still more wonderful thing than his genius. Lord Cockburn.

Dear Sir Walter Scott and myself were exact but harmonious opposites in this that every ruin, hill, river, or tree called up in his mind a host of historical or biographical associations, just as a bright pan of brass when beaten is said to attract the swarming bees; whereas for myself, notwithstanding Dr. Johnson, I believe I should walk over the plain of Marathon without taking more interest in it than in any other plain of similar features. When I am very ill indeed I can read Scott’s novels, and they are almost the only books I can then read. Coleridge.
Pages 402-403

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Shakespeare has neither equal nor second. But among the writers who …. have approached nearest to the manner of the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane Austen, a woman of whom England may justly be proud. She has given us a multitude of characters, all in a certain sense commonplace, all such as we meet every day. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings. Macaulay.

Miss Austen is only shrewd and observant. C. Bronte

One of the greatest writers, one of the greatest painters of human character, and one of the writers with the nicest sense of means to an end that ever lived. G. H. Lewes

By the way, did you know Jane Austen, authoress of some novels which have a great deal of nature in them? nature in ordinary and middle life, to be sure, but valuable from its strong resemblance and correct drawing? I wonder which way she carried her pail? Scott to Joanna Baillie

Miss Austen has never been so popular as she deserved to be. Intent on fidelity of delineation, and averse to the commonplace tricks of her art, she has not in this age of literary quackery received her reward. Ordinary readers have been apt to judge of her as Partridge, in Fielding’s novel, judged of Garrick. She was too natural for them. It seemed to them as if there could be very little merit in making people act and talk so exactly like the people they saw around them every day. They did not consider that the highest triumph of art consists in its concealment; and here the art was so little perceptible that they believed there was none. Edinburgh Review, 1830

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