Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/196

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184
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

Lamb, the most obvious parallel to him in our own language. Holmes, as became a quick logician, was an unequivocal lover of clearness and common sense. He may play with an extravagance, as in the case of Boston, but he is anxious always to show that he sees its extravagance. Lamb loves the quaint and grotesque for its own sake; falls in love with his prejudices; delights in yielding to them unreservedly, and caressing them and flouting the reasonable matter-of-fact person, the solid Scot who demonstrates that an absurdity is absurd. He may be quite reasonable at bottom, but he will not condescend to interpret his meaning to the hopelessly commonplace. So, for example, he dilates upon his 'imperfect sympathy' with the Jews. He has, 'in the abstract, no disrespect for them. They are a piece of stubborn antiquity compared with which Stonehenge is in its nonage.' But, he adds, 'old prejudices cling about me. I cannot shake off the old story of Hugh of Lincoln.' Holmes meets some Jews 'at the pantomime' and remembers the same legend:—

Up came their murderous deeds of old,
The grisly story Chaucer told;
And many an ugly tale beside,
Of children caught and crucified.