Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/46

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34
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

more to be said for it in many senses than authors will generally admit. Certainly, it often took the attractive form of personal modesty and of superiority to the fretful touchiness of the ordinary man of letters. Lockhart reports a conversation with Miss Edgeworth in which Scott spoke with deep feeling of the folly of thinking of real life as only material for art. He had, he said, heard 'higher sentiments' from the uncultivated than he had ever read in books; and he declared that authors would never learn their true calling till they had taught themselves 'to consider everything as moonshine compared with the education of the heart.' Miss Edgeworth's comment was that, whereas Swift professed to have written that 'people might treat him like a great lord,' Scott wrote that 'he might be able to treat his people as a great lord ought to do.' We may paraphrase this by saying that, in Scott's view the active duties of life were the substantive and the literary activity the mere adjective supplying the graces, or at most stimulating the affections, which had a more important function elsewhere. Miss Edgeworth's interpretation represents the better aspect of the doctrine. There is, of course, another application which is a good deal