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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

188    The Enfant Terrible of Literature

a good many people say that the work is mediocre, but, un-
less in matters about which he has been long conversant, no
man can easily form an independent judgment as to whether
or not a work is mediocre. I know that in the matter of
books, painting and music I constantly find myself unable to
form a settled opinion till I have heard what many men of
varied tastes have to saj7, and have also made myself ac-
quainted with details about a man's antecedents and ways
of life which are generally held to be irrelevant.

Often, of course, this is unnecessary; a. man's character,
if he has left much work behind him, or if he is not coming
before us for the first time, is generally easily discovered
without extraneous aid. We want no one to give us any
clues to the nature of such men as Giovanni Bellini, or De
Hooghe. Hogarth's character is written upon his work so
plainly that he who runs may read it, so is Handel's upon his,
so is PurcelFs, so is Corelli's, so, indeed, are the characters of
most men ; but often where only little work has been left,
or where a work is by a new hand, it is exceedingly difficult
s< sentir la mediocrite " and, it might be added, " ou memo
sentir du tout."

How many years, I wonder, was it before I learned to dis-
like Thackeray and Tennyson as cordially as I now do ? For
how many years did I not almost worship them ?

Bunyan and Others

I have been reading The Pilgrim's Progress again—the
third part and all—and wish that some one would tell one
what to think about it.

The English is racy, vigorous and often very beautiful;
but the language of any book is nothing except in so far as it
reveals the writer. The words in which a man clothes his
thoughts are like all other clothes—the cut raises presump-
tions about his thoughts, and these generally turn out to be
just, but the words are no more the thoughts than a man's
coat is himself. I am not sure, however, that in Bunyan's
case the dress in which he has clothed his ideas does not
reveal him more justly than the ideas do.

The Pilgrim's Progress consists mainly of a series of in-
famous libels upon life and things ; it is a blasphemy agairst