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ters, several of which are double letters, several of which have several sounds. In Syriac there are more than two hundred characters. In Sanscrit there are more than three hundred. We don't want so many, but we want moreand less-than we have. A has half a dozen sounds. X is ks. I is a e, the former vowel being broad and soft, as in the word half.”
Well,” said Joan Silchester, “ that reminds me that I am your better-half. If that's the case, I shall be mistress now, and shut you up about alphabets, which is very dull talk, and make you come out into the garden.”
And into the garden they went. nice. The Squire, with all his scholastic caprices, could enjoy his sweet-lipped fairbosomed wife, with her freaks and fancies and flowers.
It was very CHAPTER II.
“Tous les grands hommes ont leurs antipathies : Jacques II. ne pouvait supporter l'éclat d'une épée, Roger Bacon tombait en defaillance à la vue d'une pomme; moi, le papier blanc m'inspire une mélancolie profonde.”
WITH this grand homme Français I would
agree. A sheet of white paper, even though I have only to place on it a note to a good friend or a generous publisher, makes me melancholy at first sight. Othat writing had never been invented ! Imagine my mélancolie profonde when the sheet of unstained
paper before me is the first of about a thousand that I shall have to spoil in presenting you, dear reader, with a three volume novel.
Am I digressing? Very likely, in the eyes of the critics. Have I a right to digress ? Those purblind critics answer, No. Now your ordinary critic always refers to high literary authorities—though it generally turns out he has never read them. I make three statements here, which I mean to prove by authority and logic :
I. I have a right to digress.
There was once published in this city of London a work of enormous genius, dedicated “ To His Royal Highness Prince Posterity.” H.R.H. is here, but I regret to say that he prefers a great deal of effeminate and feminine trash to the work of England's first prosewriter. The seventh section of that famous story A Tale of a Tub is entitled A Digression in Praise of Digressions, and thus doth Swift end it : “ The necessity of this digression will easily excuse the length ; and I have chosen for it as proper a place as I could readily find. If the
judicious reader can assign a better, I do here empower him to remove it into any other corner he pleases.”
I give like power to any judicious reader of this chapter-should I be lucky enough to hook so big a fish,—at the same time warning him (or her) that to skip this chapter will be a terrible mistake. It contains the clue to the
Having proved on the highest authority that an author has right to digress, I proceed to show that the interference of a critic is sheer trespass. It may not be generally known to the ingenious gentlemen who tell us every week what to read and what not to read that there was once a romance written by a descendant of the Counts of Hapsburg, concerning which the famous historian Gibbon (him you know, of course,) declares that it “will outlive the palace of the Escurial, and the imperial eagle of Austria.” If the English language last-and it will be the fault of fools if it last not-Gibbon is right. Well, the great writer to whom he refers will prove my case. Thus he addresses his reader: “We warn thee not too hastily to condemn any of the incidents of this our history, as impertinent and foreign to our main design, because thou dost not immediately conceive in what manner such incident may conduce to that design. This work may indeed be considered as a great creation of our own ; and for a little reptile of a critic to presume to find fault with any of its parts, without knowing the manner in which the whole is connected, and before he comes to the final catastrophe, is a most presumptuous absurdity.”
So critics are designated by the writer whom Scott and Thackeray declared the greatest English novelist, little reptiles! Very hard on the critics!
Farther on, the great story-teller digresses again to laugh at critics—many of whom, even in his days, were briefless barristers. I will quote only a few of his words, but they are to the