The “dogmatical and crotchety” Archbishop of Dublin was looked at askance by the extreme Evangelicals of his day (though Thomas Arnold has eulogised his holiness), and there is no doubt that his theology, however able and sincere, was mainly inspired by the “daylight of ordinary reason and of historical fact,” opposed to the dogmas of tradition. He combated sceptical criticism by an ingenious parody entitled “Historical Doubts relative to Napoleon Buonaparte,” and his epigram on the majority of preachers—that “they aim at nothing and they hit it,” proves his freedom from any touch of sacerdotalism. His “Rhetoric,” his “Logic,” and his “Political Economy” were praised by so eminent a judge as John Stuart Mill, though criticised by Hamilton; and Lecky remarks on the “admirable lucidity of his style.”
His work, however, was as a whole too fragmentary to become standard, and he regarded it himself as “the mission of his life to make up cartridges for others to fire.”
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We may notice that in writing of Jane Austen, only six years after Scott, though still measured and judicial, he permits himself a much more assured attitude of applause; and the article affords most valuable indication of the steady progress by which her masterpieces achieved the supremacy now acknowledged by all.
It would be no less impertinent, and unnecessary, to dwell in these pages upon the political, or literary, work of the greatest of modern premiers. It is sufficient to recall the certainty which used to follow a notice by Gladstone of a large and immediate rise in sales. Mr. John Morley remarking that Gladstone’s “place is not in literary or critical history, but elsewhere,” reminds us that his style was sometimes called Johnsonian, though without good ground.... Some critics charged him in 1840 with “prolix clearness.” “The old charge,” says Mr. Gladstone upon this, was obscure compression. I do not doubt that both may be true, and the former may have been the result of a well-meant effort to escape from the latter.
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Mr. Morley, again, selects the essay on Tennyson for especial praise. Though one is apt to forget it, the Laureate did not meet with anything like immediate recognition; and, though coming twenty-eight years after the appreciation by J.S. Mill, this article does not assume the supremacy afterwards accorded the poet by common consent.