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ridge, who loved to hear the sound of his own voice. He, however, required undivided and most respectful attention in his audience, or his self-complacency was disturbed. He was satisfied with nothing short of an entire monopoly of speech. The slightest interruption brought him to a dead stop. He was rather a lecturer than a talker. He was a lay-preacher. He had no idea of dialogue. Dr. Johnson, though more dogmatical, was more magnanimous; and though he triumphed over his opponents in a very summary way, the collision of different opinions, instead of making him silent, sullen and disdainful, struck out the finest scintillations from his own mind. Coleridge was an egotist both as a man and as an author. His Biographia Literaria is intensely personal. One of the most daring egotists of modern times is William Cobbett. His self-praise and self-assurance are sometimes carried to such a length that we almost doubt if he is serious. It looks like caricature, a wild quiz, or a wicked invention of the enemy. Yet his manner is so open, hearty and unaffected, that the most fastidious reader is rather amused than offended. When compared with the sneaking, shuffling and under-hand tricks of more cautious writers, who would play the same game if they had but the same courage, its effect is “ quite refreshing.” Byron was such an egotist that all his poetical heroes were mere personifications of himself. An intense egotism is inconsistent with the dramatic faculty. In his Childe Harold he speaks of his future fame,
“ I twine
Wordsworth's poems are “ moods of his own mind.” In one of his prefaces he does not hesitate to express his contempt for the critics, and his consciousness of his own powers.
“ If," says he, “ bearing in mind the many poets distinguished by this prime faculty" (the imagination)“ whose names I omit to mention, yet justified by a recollection of the insults which the ignorant, the incapa
ble and the presumptuous have heaped upon my writings, I may be permitted to anticipate the judgment of posterity upon myself, I shall declare (censurable, I grant, if the notoriety of the fact above stated does not justify me) that I have given evidence of exertions of this faculty upon its worthiest objects, the external universe, the moral and religious sentiments of man, his natural affections and his acquired passions, which have the same ennobling tendency as the productions of men, in this kind, worthy to be holden in undying remembrance."
Hazlitt is an egotistical writer, and is never afraid to praise his own writings, though he does not say more of them than they actually deserve. The following passage seems to have been wrung from him by the attacks of Blackwood and the Quarterly :
“ If the reader is not already apprized of it, he will please to take notice that I write this at Winterslow. My style here is apt to be redundant and excursive. At other times it may be cramped, dry, abrupt; but here it flows like a river, and overspreads its banks. I have not to seek for thoughts or hunt for images: they come of themselves, I inhale them with the breeze, and the silent groves are vocal with a thousand recollections.
"And visions, as poetic eyes avow,
Hang on each leaf, and cling to ev'ry bough.' “ Here I came fifteen years ago, a willing exile; and as I trod the lengthened greensward by the low wood-side, repeated the old line,
• My mind to me a kingdom is ! “ I found it so then, before, and since; and shall I faint now that I bave poured out the spirit of that mind to the world, and treated many subjects with truth, with freedom, and power, because I have been followed with one cry of abuse ever since for not being a government-tool? Here I returned a few years after to finish some works I had undertaken, doubtful of the event, but determined to do my best; and wrote that character of Milimant which was once transcribed by fingers fairer than Aurora's, but no notice was taken of it, because I was not a government-tool, and must be supposed devoid of taste and elegance by all who aspired to these qualities in their own persons. Here I sketched my account of that old honest Signior Orlando Friscobaldo, which with its fine, racy, acrid tone that old crab-apple, G*f****d, would have relished or pretended to relish, had I been a government-tool! Here too I have written Table-Talks without number, and as yet without a falling off, till now that they are nearly done, or I should not make this boast. I could swear (were they not mine) the thoughts in many of them are founded as a rock, free as air, the tone like an Italian picture. What then? Had the style been like polished steel, as firm and as bright, it would have availed me nothing, for I am not a government-tool! I had endeavoured to guide the taste of the English people to the best English writers; but I had said that English kings did not reign by right divine, and that his present majesty was descended from an elector of Hanover in a right line; and no loyal subject would after this look into Webster or Deckar, because I had pointed them out. I had done something (more than any one except Schlegel) to vindicate the character of Shakspeare's Plays from the stigma of French criticism ; but our Antijacobin and Anti-Gallican writers soon found out that I had said and written that Frenchmen, Englishmen, men, were not slaves by birthright. This was enough to damu the work. Such has been the head and front of my offending."
“I have let this passage stand, however critical,” adds the author, " because it may serve as a practical illustration of what writers think of themselves when put upon the defensive.” His friend Leigh Hunt, who talks to the public as if the whole world were at his fire-side, does not speak quite so decidedly of his own talents, but he never loses an opportunity of opening out his heart. But with all his egotism, Hunt is one of the most generous and sympathizing of human beings. He affords a strong illustration of the distinction between a certain kind of egotism and mere selfishness. Poor Goldsmith was the most amusing of egotists. He could never suppress his self-conceit. He was jealous of every thing and every body that divided the attention which he expected to be lavished on himself. When some beautiful
ladies attracted the attention of the company in his presence, he sullenly hinted that there were times and places in which he too was admired. This species of egotism was truly unworthy of such a man. Richardson, the Novelist, was guilty of a weakness equally degrading to a mind like his. He would never let any visitor escape the hearing of some of his productions ;
and once in a large company, when a gentleman just arrived from Paris, told him that he had seen one of his novels on the French King's table, he pretended not to hear, because the rest of the company were at the moment busily engaged on other
subjects. He waited sometime for a pause, and then inquired with affected carelessness, What, Sir, was that which you were just saying about the French King." "Oh ! nothing of any consequence,” replied his informant, disgusted with the trick, and resolved to punish him. No literary man exceeds Boswell in contemptible self-conceit. His failing is too well known to need an illustration. Sir Godfrey Kneller was an awful egotist. I have an indistinct recollection of some outrageous and profane boast of his, connected with his merit as a painter.
The Critical Review (I know not in what number nor in what year, for I take the passage from a quotation in Boswell's life of Johnson), makes the following classification of egotists :
“We may reduce the egotists to four classes. In the first we have Julius Cæsar: he relates his own transactions; but he relates them with peculiar grace and dignity, and his narrative is supported by the greatness of his character and achievements. In the second class we have Marcus Antoninus : this writer has given us a series of reflections on his own life; but his sentiments are so noble, his morality so sublime, that his meditations are universally admired. In the third class we have some others of tolerable credit, who have given importance to their own private history by an intermixture of literary anecdotes, and the occurrences of their own times; the celebrated Huetius has published an entertaining volume upon this plan, ' De Rebus ad eum pertinentibus.' In the fourth class we have the journalists, temporal and spiritual : Elias Ashmole, William Silly, George Whitefield, John Wesley, and a thousand other old women and fanatic writers of memoirs and meditations."
This is a very imperfect classification, notwithstanding Dr. Johnson's approbation of it. In which class should those egotists be placed who, like Lord Byron and William Wordsworth, mould all the creations of their fancy into images of themselves ?
I repeat, that all men and women are egotists in their way, and that self-praise and self-love are offensive and contemptible only when they exceed the bounds of justice, and are linked to envy, hatred and all uncharitableness. When we take vast credit to ourselves for unworthy trifles, or make ourselves ridiculous by
pretending to more virtue or genius than we possess, or allow a spirit of exclusiveness or jealousy to blind us to the merits of others, there are few qualities which are more odious than egotism*. But these offensive peculiarities are not necessarily connected with a fair and proper pride. Without a certain degree of self-confidence and self-esteem, no man can ever become eminently great or good; and it would be difficult to say why any one should be compelled, out of a deference to the mean and envious part of mankind, to assume an unconsciousness of that merit which raises him above them.
The lark that floats serene on high,
Oh! who could rove at such an hour
The more decorous manners of the present age have attached a disproportionate opprobrium to this foible, and many therefore abstain with cautious prudence from all displays of what they feel. Nay, some do actually flatter themselves that they abhor all egotism, and never betray it in their writings or discourse. But watch these men narrowly ; and in the greater number of cases you will find their thoughts and feelings and mode of expression saturated with the passion of contempt, which is the concentrated vinegar of egotism.-Coleridge.