Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/188

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176
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

toasts, or their 'co-lations,' or their 'hired men,' and is immediately plunged into vivacious descriptions and disquisitions. We have to change moods too rapidly; to feel on one page a shudder at the uncanny being, with something not human looking out of her eyes; and, on the next, to be laughing at the queer social jumble of a village gathering. If, in spite of these artistic defects, the book somehow takes so firm a grasp of one's memory, it is the stronger proof of the excellence of the materials which form so curious a mosaic. After all, the writer never goes to sleep, and that is a remit which redeems a good many faults of design.

One condition of the excellence of the Autocrat and its successors is of course that in them this irrepressible vivacity and versatility finds in him a thoroughly appropriate field. They have, as we see at once, the merits of the best conversation. Mr. Morse, in speaking of this, assures us that Holmes's talk was still better than his writing. We have unfortunately to take such statements on faith. No one, except Boswell, has ever succeeded in the difficult task of giving us a convincingly accurate report of conversation, or rather of something better than a report—a dramatic reflection of the position which would be lost in a detailed