Page:Studies of a Biographer 2.djvu/90

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78
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

may almost say, affectionate in manner. He had that obvious sweetness of nature, which it is impossible not to recognise and not to love. Though in controversy he took and gave many shrewd blows, he always received them with a courtesy, indicative not of mere policy or literary tact, but of dislike to inflicting pain and of incapacity for hating any tolerably decent antagonist in flesh and blood. He was on excellent terms with the classes whose foibles he ridiculed most unsparingly, and even his own foibles were attractive. He had his vanity; but vanity is a quality to which moralists have never done justice. As distinguished from conceit, from a sullen conviction of your own superiority, it often implies a craving for sympathy and a confidence in the sincerity of your fellows, which is in the main, as his certainly was, an amiable and attractive characteristic. If it just savoured of intellectual coxcombry, it was redeemed by a simplicity and social amenity which showed that his nature had resisted the ossifying process which makes most of us commonplace and prosaic in later life. Now, I dislike criticism of men whose personal acquaintance I have valued. 'I love Robertson,' said Johnson, 'and I won't talk of his books.'