Varied Types eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 139 pages of information about Varied Types.
irreverent upstart whose impudence supplied the lack of policy and character.  Churchill had grave and even gross faults, a certain coarseness, a certain hard boyish assertiveness, a certain lack of magnanimity, a certain peculiar patrician vulgarity.  But he was a much larger man than satire depicted him, and therefore the satire could not and did not overwhelm him.  And here we have the cause of the failure of contemporary satire, that it has no magnanimity, that is to say, no patience.  It cannot endure to be told that its opponent has his strong points, just as Mr. Chamberlain could not endure to be told that the Boers had a regular army.  It can be content with nothing except persuading itself that its opponent is utterly bad or utterly stupid—­that is, that he is what he is not and what nobody else is.  If we take any prominent politician of the day—­such, for example, as Sir William Harcourt—­we shall find that this is the point in which all party invective fails.  The Tory satire at the expense of Sir William Harcourt is always desperately endeavouring to represent that he is inept, that he makes a fool of himself, that he is disagreeable and disgraceful and untrustworthy.  The defect of all that is that we all know that it is untrue.  Everyone knows that Sir William Harcourt is not inept, but is almost the ablest Parliamentarian now alive.  Everyone knows that he is not disagreeable or disgraceful, but a gentleman of the old school who is on excellent social terms with his antagonists.  Everyone knows that he is not untrustworthy, but a man of unimpeachable honour who is much trusted.  Above all, he knows it himself, and is therefore affected by the satire exactly as any one of us would be if we were accused of being black or of keeping a shop for the receiving of stolen goods.  We might be angry at the libel, but not at the satire:  for a man is angry at a libel because it is false, but at a satire because it is true.

Mr. Henley and his young men are very fond of invective and satire; if they wish to know the reason of their failure in these things, they need only turn to the opening of Pope’s superb attack upon Addison.  The Henleyite’s idea of satirising a man is to express a violent contempt for him, and by the heat of this to persuade others and himself that the man is contemptible.  I remember reading a satiric attack on Mr. Gladstone by one of the young anarchic Tories, which began by asserting that Mr. Gladstone was a bad public speaker.  If these people would, as I have said, go quietly and read Pope’s “Atticus,” they would see how a great satirist approaches a great enemy: 

  “Peace to all such!  But were there one whose fires
  True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires,
  Blest with each talent, and each art to please,
  And born to write, converse, and live with ease. 
  Should such a man—­”

And then follows the torrent of that terrible criticism.  Pope was not such a fool as to try to make out that Addison was a fool.  He knew that Addison was not a fool, and he knew that Addison knew it.  But hatred, in Pope’s case, had become so great and, I was almost going to say, so pure, that it illuminated all things, as love illuminates all things.  He said what was really wrong with Addison; and in calm and clear and everlasting colours he painted the picture of the evil of the literary temperament: 

Project Gutenberg
Varied Types from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook