A good deal of this is what Mandeville said and I am not sure that it is devoid of personal feeling. He published, some years ago, a little volume giving an account of a trip through the Great West, and a very entertaining book it was. But one of the heavy critics got hold of it, and made Mandeville appear, even to himself, he confessed, like an ass, because there was nothing in the volume about geology or mining prospects, and very little to instruct the student of physical geography. With alternate sarcasm and ridicule, he literally basted the author, till Mandeville said that he felt almost like a depraved scoundrel, and thought he should be held up to less execration if he had committed a neat and scientific murder.
But I confess that I have a good deal of sympathy with the critics. Consider what these public tasters have to endure! None of us, I fancy, would like to be compelled to read all that they read, or to take into our mouths, even with the privilege of speedily ejecting it with a grimace, all that they sip. The critics of the vintage, who pursue their calling in the dark vaults and amid mouldy casks, give their opinion, for the most part, only upon wine, upon juice that has matured and ripened into development of quality. But what crude, unrestrained, unfermented—even raw and drugged liquor, must the literary taster put to his unwilling lips day after day!
It was my good fortune once to visit a man who remembered the rebellion of 1745. Lest this confession should make me seem very aged, I will add that the visit took place in 1851, and that the man was then one hundred and thirteen years old. He was quite a lad before Dr. Johnson drank Mrs. Thrale’s tea. That he was as old as he had the credit of being, I have the evidence of my own senses (and I am seldom mistaken in a person’s age), of his own family, and his own word; and it is incredible that so old a person, and one so apparently near the grave, would deceive about his age.
The testimony of the very aged is always to be received without question, as Alexander Hamilton once learned. He was trying a land-title with Aaron Burr, and two of the witnesses upon whom Burr relied were venerable Dutchmen, who had, in their youth, carried the surveying chains over the land in dispute, and who were now aged respectively one hundred and four years and one hundred and six years. Hamilton gently attempted to undervalue their testimony, but he was instantly put down by the Dutch justice, who suggested that Mr. Hamilton could not be aware of the age of the witnesses.