Page:Studies of a Biographer 4.djvu/290

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276
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

stage caricature, whose likeness to the original was skin-deep. The whole phenomenon represented a passing enthusiasm, resting, to a great degree, on a total misunderstanding, and without any real roots in the soil. So British aristocrats sympathised at first with the French Revolution, and French reformers admired the British Constitution, precisely on account of the utter ignorance on both sides of the real significance of the foreign state of things. Was it not really the same in literature? Richardson and Young and Ossian could be admired, although they were English; and admiration for them and others suggested a fashion of imitation which implied no real appreciation of the peculiarly English qualities. Regarded in this way, it seems to me that a moral might be drawn which would be different from M. Texte's. Rousseau shows how one nation may take a hint from another; but shows also how the different national characteristics act as a non-conducting medium. They allow the 'cosmopolitan' or congenial element to pass freely, as the Röntgen rays pass through an opaque body; but to the really national element they are obstinately non-transparent. He shows not so much the blending of two types as the persistence of