Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/160

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
146
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

kind. He has discovered some real mistakes. The man who should publish ten volumes, elaborately annotated, without a mistake would be a wonder, and Mr. Fitzgerald is well qualified to find them. But I confess that to my mind the number discovered is so small as to confirm my belief in Dr. Birkbeck Hill's general accuracy; and, in any case, Mr. Fitzgerald has made too many slips to allow us to accept his opinion without careful examination. On some other points, I admit that Mr. Fitzgerald has a stronger case. I could not in any short space give my reasons for disputing many even of his more plausible remarks; but he has, no doubt, pointed to a weakness in the edition. The simple truth is, I take it, that Dr. Birkbeck Hill has ridden his hobby rather too hard. He has sometimes indulged in real irrelevance; remarks have occurred to him which he has inserted too hastily, and which he might have expunged on a more careful consideration of the text; he has made some wrong identifications; and has been led by associations, not shared by most of his readers, to expatiate here and there on needless topics. All this is the weakness of an enthusiast, and of a commentator who sometimes is over eager to say something when there is nothing to be said; or to discover difficulties which do not really exist. But, to my mind, the enthusiasm has also had invaluable results; it has given us an edition in which almost everything is to be found, though mixed with some superfluities. I wish that Mr. Fitzgerald had recognised this more warmly, and that all true lovers of Johnson and Boswell, to which class he undoubtedly belongs, could take advantage of what is good in each other's labours without being too anxious to dwell upon immaterial shortcomings.