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the advertisements in the daily press, and then appends to it a string of vituperative epithets of the most general kind, such as the following :“ This most illiterate author and contemptible production;" "a parcel of the greatest rubbish that ever issued from the press;” “a dull, stupid, ignorant author;" “ a writer who is a disgrace to the literature of the age,” &c.
From these “illustrations" of the present state of our literary criticism and they are, we ought to repeat, no imaginary cases—it will be seen that the “opinions of the press” on a new work, whether favourable or adverse, are, in the main, very little to be depended on. The public, happily, are beginning to make this discovery. Time was when authors who were deficient in moral courage, were to be written down by hostile reviewers, and when trashy productions could be puffed into something like celebrity by critics whose praise had been virtually purchased by the pudding and pies of the author ; but, fortunately, this state of
things no longer exists. Every month furnishes the most unanswerable proof, that neither books nor authors of merit are to be written down by the attacks of hostile reviewers; while every week affords one or more confirmations of the position, that a worthless book is no longer to be lauded into fame.
Farther observations on the corrupt state of literary criticism
in the metropolis–Authors of title or standing in society, The way in which they contrive to get favourable notices of their books-Literary coteries-General observations.
In the preceding chapter various illustrations have been given of the corrupt state of our literary criticism. References have also been made to the reasons which induce reviewers to endeavour to run down certain authors. The uninitiated in these matters will naturally ask, “How happens it that, not in one or two journals only, but in the great majority of our metropolitan publications, every book brought out by particular authors receives the most unqualified commendation, however great and manifold may be its blemishes ?" No one, who knows anything of the existing state of criticism in London, can be at a loss for an answer to the question.
The explanation of the mystery is to be found in the fact, that the authors referred to, who will be found, in almost every case, to be persons of title or distinction, indirectly purchase the praise by the attentions they show to the reviewers.
A few examples will set the matter in a clearer light than any general observations which could be put into the mouth of Mr. Jenkins, or which might be made by the author of these volumes.
Among the houses to which Joseph was occasionally invited to dinner, after it had become generally known that he was the principal reviewer in a journal of established reputation and influence, was that of Lady Dartmoor. She gave sumptuous entertainments; and, as her ladyship had a the reputation of being a great beauty as well as a popular authoress, the various reviewers invited to her parties were so gratified with the compliment paid them, that they felt as if they could not sufficiently praise her works in return.
On the second occasion on which he had been present at one of Lady Dartmoor's “splendid parties”—for so they were called by general consent-he missed several acquaintances connected with the review department of the metropolitan press, whom he had seen at the first dinner. He inquired of Mr. Monteith, one of the guests on both occasions, the reason of this.
“Ah, I see,” remarked the other, " that you are not yet acquainted with the way in which her ladyship manages these matters.”
My question,” said Joseph, “is a virtual admission of my ignorance on the point. How does she manage such matters ? "
Very adroitly and very systematically," replied the other. “Of course, Jenkins," he added, “I speak in confidence.”
“I understand that perfectly; and what you say shall never escape my lips.”