Adventures in Criticism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 236 pages of information about Adventures in Criticism.
I must be close upon “double figures”—­I like it better.  Henry did my green unknowing youth engage, and I find it next to impossible to give him up, and quite impossible to choose the venerated Charles as a substitute in my riper age.  For here crops up a prejudice I find quite ineradicable.  To put it plainly, I cannot like Charles Kingsley.  Those who have had opportunity to study the deportment of a certain class of Anglican divine at a foreign table d’hote may perhaps understand the antipathy.  There was almost always a certain sleek offensiveness about Charles Kingsley when he sat down to write.  He had a knack of using the most insolent language, and attributing the vilest motives to all poor foreigners and Roman Catholics and other extra-parochial folk, and would exhibit a pained and completely ludicrous surprise on finding that he had hurt the feelings of these unhappy inferiors—­a kind of indignant wonder that Providence should have given them any feelings to hurt.  At length, encouraged by popular applause, this very second-rate man attacked a very first-rate man.  He attacked with every advantage and with utter unscrupulousness; and the first-rate man handled him; handled him gently, scrupulously, decisively; returned him to his parish; and left him there, a trifle dazed, feeling his muscles.

Charles and Henry.

Still, one may dislike the man and his books without thinking it probable that his brother Henry will supersede him in the public interest; nay, without thinking it right that he should.  Dislike him as you will, you must acknowledge that Charles Kingsley had a lyrical gift that—­to set all his novels aside—­carries him well above Henry’s literary level.  It is sufficient to say that Charles wrote “The Pleasant Isle of Aves” and “When all the world is young, lad,” and the first two stanzas of “The Sands of Dee.”  Neither in prose nor in verse could Henry come near such excellence.  But we may go farther.  Take the novels of each, and, novel for novel, you must acknowledge—­I say it regretfully—­that Charles carries the heavier guns.  If you ask me whether I prefer Westward Ho! or Ravenshoe, I answer without difficulty that I find Ravenshoe almost wholly delightful, and Westward Ho! as detestable in some parts as it is admirable in others; that I have read Ravenshoe again and again merely for pleasure, and that I can never read a dozen pages of Westward Ho! without wishing to put the book in the fire.  But if you ask me which I consider the greater novel, I answer with equal readiness that Westward Ho! is not only the greater, but much the greater.  It is a truth too seldom recognized that in literary criticism, as in politics, one may detest a man’s work while admitting his greatness.  Even in his episodes it seems to me that Charles stands high above Henry.  Sam Buckley’s gallop on Widderin in Geoffry Hamlyn is (I imagine) Henry Kingsley’s finest achievement in vehement

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Adventures in Criticism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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