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A History of Nineteenth Century Literature (1780-1

Grote and Macaulay had obtained


With

some of the causes of this odium we are fortunately here dispensed from dealing. Theological and political matters, in so far as they are controversial, are altogether outside of our scope. The question of the dealing with Carlyle's "Remains" is one rather of ethics than of literature proper, and it is perhaps sufficient to make, in reference to it, the warning observation that Lockhart, who is now considered by almost all competent critics as a very pattern of the union of fidelity and good taste towards both his subject and his readers, was accused, at the appearance of his book, of treachery towards Scott.

But it must be confessed that if Mr. Froude's critics were unfair (and they certainly were) he himself gave only too abundant opening to fair criticism. That his first great book (not perhaps any of his others) was planned on an unduly large scale, and indulged in far too extensive dissertation, divagation, and so forth, was rather the fault of his time than of himself. Grote and Macaulay had obtained, the first considerable, the latter immense popularity by similar prolixity; and Carlyle was about, in the _Frederick_, to follow the fashion. But whereas all these three, according to the information open to them, were and are among the most painfully laborious researchers and, with a fair allowance, the most faithful recorders among historians, Mr. Froude displayed an attention to accuracy which his warmest admirers must allow to be sadly,

and which enemies asserted to be scandalously insufficient. He has been called by well-affected critics "congenitally inaccurate," and there is warrant for it. Nor did any one of his three great models come short of him in partiality, in advocacy, in the determination to make the reader accept his own view first of all.

He was, in the earlier part of his career at any rate, a very poor man, whereas Macaulay was in easy, and Grote in affluent circumstances, and he had not Carlyle's Scotch thrift. But the carelessness of his dealing with documents had more in it than lack of pence to purchase assistance, or even than lack of dogged resolve to do the drudgery himself. His enemies of course asserted, or hinted, that the added cause was dishonesty at the worst, indifference to truth at the best. As far as dishonesty goes they may be summarily non-suited. The present writer once detected, in a preface of Mr. Froude's to a book with which the introducer was thoroughly in sympathy, repeated errors of quotation or allusion which actually weakened Mr. Froude's own argument--cases where he made his own case worse by miscitation. To the very last, in his _Erasmus_ itself, which he had prepared at some pains for the press, his work would always abound in the most astonishing slips of memory, oversights of fact, hastinesses of statement. There is probably no historian of anything like his calibre in the whole history of literature who is so dangerous to trust for mere matters of fact, who gives such bad books of reference, who is so little to be read with implicit confidence in detail. Had his critics confined themselves to pointing this out, and done him justice in his other and real merits, little fault could have been found with them. But it is impossible not to see that these merits were, at least in some cases, part of his crime, in the eyes of those who did not like him; in others were of a kind which their natural abilities did not qualify them to detect.


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