Saturday, August 18, 2007

The dangers of intemperate criticism, as presented by H. Rider Haggard

Perhaps it's best that I have had no time to write today . . . after all, look at the risk I run every time I criticize a novel!

From H. Rider Haggard's The Days of My Life: An Autobiography (1926), collected in Thomas Hardy Remembered (2007), edited by Martin Ray
Of professional critics already I began to feel a certain repletion. Little do these gentlemen know the harm that they do sometimes. A story comes into my mind in illustration of this truth. One day, years later, I was in the little writing room of the Savile Club, that on the first floor with fern-cases in the windows where one my not smoke. At least, so things were when I used to be a member. Presently Thomas Hardy entered and took up one of the leading weekly papers in which was a long review of his last novel. He read it, then came to me--there were no others in the room--and pointed out a certain passage.

"There's a nice thing to say about a man!", he exclaimed. "Well, I'll never write another novel."

And he never did.

Haggard is long dead, so I suppose it's not too dangerous for me to point out how much his little narrative wanders--into fern-cases, smoking, and such--in just that brief paragraph. I'm not surprised to learn that his autobiography was in two volumes.

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