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[Leigh Hunt]
The Editor of the Quarterly Review.
The Examiner  No. 546  (14 June 1818)  378-79.
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No. 546. SUNDAY, JUNE 14, 1818.


No. 43.


This little person is a considerable catspaw: and so far worthy of some slight notice. He is the Government Critic, a character nicely differing from that of a Government spy—an invisible link, that connects literature with the police. It is his business to keep a strict eye over all the writers who differ in opinion with his Majesty's Ministers, and to measure their talents and attainments by the standard of their servility and meanness. For this office he is well qualified.—The Editor of the Quarterly Review is also Paymaster of the Band of Gentlemen-Pensioners; and whenever an author comes before him in the one capacity, with whom he is not acquainted in the other, he knows how to deal with him. He has his cue beforehand. The distinction between truth and falsehood is lost upon him; he minds only the distinction between Whig and Tory. The same set of threadbare common-places, the same second-hand assortment of abusive nicknames, are always repeated; and the ready convenient he comes in aid of the lack of other resources, and passes off, with impunity, in the garb of religion and loyalty. He is under the protection of the Court; and his zeal for his King and country gives him a right to say what he pleases of every writer who does not do all in his power to pamper the one into a tyrant, and to trample the other into a herd of slaves. Without wit or understanding in himself, he derives his weight with the great and powerful from the very circumstance that takes away all real weight from his opinion, viz. that it has no one object but to flatter their folly and vices in the grossest manner, by holding up to hatred and contempt whatever opposes in the slightest degree, or in the most flagrant instances of abuse, their pride and passions. Accustomed to the indulgence of his mercenary virulence and party-spite, he seems to have lost all relish as well as capacity for the ordinary exercises of the understanding, and makes up for the obvious want of ability by the barefaced want of principle. There is something in the nature of man that suits with his office. He is in no danger of exciting the jealousy of his patrons by a splendid display of extraordinary talents, while his sordid devotion to their will, and to his own interest, at once ensures their gratitude and contempt. Of an humble origin himself, he recommends his performances to persons of fashion by always abusing low people, with the smartness of a lady's waiting-woman, and the independent spirit of a travelling tutor. Raised from the lowest rank to his present despicable eminence in the world of letters, he is indignant that any one should attempt to rise into notice, except by the same regular trammels and servile gradation, or go about to separate the stamp of merit from the badge of sycophancy. The silent listener in select circles and menial tool of noble families has become the oracle of Church and State. The purveyor to the prejudices of a private patron succeeds, by no other title, to regulate the public taste. Having felt the inconveniences of poverty, this man looks up with low and grovelling admiration to the advantages of wealth and power: having had to contend with the mechanical difficulties of ignorance, he sees nothing in learning but its mechanical uses. A self-taught man naturally becomes a pedant, and mistakes the means of knowledge for the end, unless he is a man of genius, and Mr. Gifford is not a man of genius. From having known nothing originally, he thinks it a great matter to know any thing now, no matter what or how small it is—nay, the smaller and more insignificant it is, the more curious he thinks it, as it is farther removed from common sense and human nature. The collating of points and commas is the highest game his literary ambition can reach to, and the squabbles of editors are to him more important than the meaning of the author.
He thinks more of the letter than the spirit of a passage, and in his eagerness to shew his minute superiority over others, misses both. There cannot be a greater nuisance than a dull, envious, low-bred man, who is placed in the situation of the Editor of the Quarterly Review. Conscious that his reputation stands on very slender and narrow foundations, he is naturally jealous of the pretensions of others. He insults over unsuccessful authors; he hates successful ones. He is angry at the faults of a work, more angry at its excellences. If an opinion is old, he treats it with supercilious indifference; if it is new, it provokes his rage. Having but a limited range of understanding, every thing beyond that range appears to him a paradox and an absurdity; and he resents every suggestion of the kind as an imposition on the public, and an insult on his own sagacity. He cavils at what he does not comprehend, and misrepresents what he knows to be true. Bound to go through the periodical task of abusing all those who are not, like himself, the abject tools of power, his irritation increases with the number of obstacles he meets with, and the number of sacrifices he is obliged to make of common sense and veracity to his interest and self-conceit. Every instance of prevarication he wilfully commits makes him more in love with hypocrisy, and every indulgence of his hired malignity makes him more disposed to repeat the insult and the injury. His understanding becomes more and more distorted, and his feelings more and more callous. Grown old in the service of corruption, he drivels on to the last with prostituted impotence, and shameless effrontery; takes a meagre reputation for wit, by venting the driblets of his spleen and impertinence on others; answers their arguments by confuting himself; mistakes habitual obtuseness of intellect for a particular acuteness, not to be imposed upon by shallow pretensions; unprincipled rancour for zealous loyalty; and the irritable, discontented, vindictive, and peevish effusions of bodily pain and mental infirmity, for proofs of refinement of taste and strength of understanding.