He has been called “almost a lecturer in society,” and it is clear that his difficulty always was to cease talking. Men as different as Macaulay and Charles Dickens have spoken with deep personal affection of his memory.
In one of Carlyle’s inimitable “pen-portraits” he is described as “a delicate, attractive, dainty little figure, as he merely walked about, much more if he were speaking: uncommonly bright, black eyes, instinct with vivacity, intelligence and kindly fire; roundish brow, delicate oval face, full, rapid expression; figure light, nimble, pretty, though so small, perhaps hardly five feet four in height.... His voice clear, harmonious, and sonorous, had something of metallic in it, something almost plangent ... a strange, swift, sharp-sounding, fitful modulation, part of it pungent, quasi latrant, other parts of it cooing, bantery, lovingly quizzical, which no charm of his fine ringing voice (metallic tenor, of sweet tone), and of his vivacious rapid looks and pretty little attitudes and gestures, could altogether reconcile you to, but in which he persisted through good report and bad.”
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Perhaps Jeffrey’s most famous criticism was the “This will never do” on Wordsworth; of which Southey wrote to Scott, “Jeffrey, I hear, has written what his friends call a crushing review of the Excursion. He might as well seat himself on Skiddaw, and fancy that he crushed the mountain.”
It is obvious, indeed, that the Lake poets had little respect for their “superior” reviewers; whose opinions, on the other hand, were not subject to influences from high places. It will be noticed that Jefferey is even more severe on Southey’s Laureate “Lays” than on his “Thalaba.”
The review on Moore, quoted below, was followed by formal arrangements for a duel at Chalk Farm on 11th August, 1806; but the police had orders to interrupt, and pistols were loaded with paper. Even the semblance of animosity was not maintained, as we find Moore contributing to the Edinburgh before the end of the same year.
We fear that the appreciation of Keats was partly influenced by political considerations; since Leigh Hunt had so emphatically welcomed him into the camp. It remains, however, a pleasing contrast to the ferocious onslaught on Endymion of Gifford printed below.
Brougham was intimately associated with Jeffrey in the foundation of the Edinburgh Review: he is said to have written eighty articles in the first twenty numbers, though like all his work, the criticism was spoilt by egotism and vanity. The fact is that an over-brilliant versatility injured his work. Combining “in his own person the characters of Solon, Lycurgus, Demosthenes, Archimedes, Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Chesterfield, and a great many more,” his restless genius accomplished nothing