Page:Studies of a Biographer 3.djvu/160

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148
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

declares, has reached its perfection; it is no longer cumbrous, as with Hooker, nor over simple, as with Addison. Dignity and clearness are now judiciously combined. Smollett is condemned for 'lowering his style,' and making one of his characters talk like a real servant-maid. Now, it is the office of a poet or novelist, says Godwin, 'to adorn the style of their characters, and to give to real life the most impressive form,' that is, to make everybody talk like a book. Godwin, in short, as became a man of his epoch, is nervous about the 'dignity of history'—whether the history be real or fictitious—and failed to anticpate the secret revealed by Scott. He will not condescend to the vivid touch which suggests direct vision and gives individuality of scenery and customs. His speakers declaim in balanced phrases even when they try to be in a passion. They are, in fact, generalised types instead of individuals. To judge him fairly, we must accept his position. His novels are a kind of mean between the moral tale of the Rasselas or Candide variety, where actors and incidents are arbitrary pegs upon which to hang wise and witty reflections, and the novel which frankly deals with real life and makes use of the most familiar touches.