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The Way We Live Now

Lady Carbury At Home
During the last six weeks Lady Carbury had lived a life of very mixed depression and
elevation. Her great work had come out the 'Criminal Queens' and had been very widely
reviewed. In this matter it had been by no means all pleasure, inasmuch as many very
hard words had been said of her. In spite of the dear friendship between herself and Mr
Alf, one of Mr Alf's most sharp-nailed subordinates had been set upon her book, and had
pulled it to pieces with almost rabid malignity. One would have thought that so slight a
thing could hardly have been worthy of such protracted attention. Error after error was
laid bare with merciless prolixity. No doubt the writer of the article must have had all
history at his finger-ends, as in pointing out the various mistakes made he always spoke
of the historical facts which had been misquoted, misdated, or misrepresented, as being
familiar in all their bearings to every schoolboy of twelve years old. The writer of the
criticism never suggested the idea that he himself; having been fully provided with books
of reference, and having learned the art of finding in them what he wanted at a moment's
notice, had, as he went on with his work, checked off the blunders without any more
permanent knowledge of his own than a housekeeper has of coals when she counts so
many sacks into the coal-cellar. He spoke of the parentage of one wicked ancient lady,
and the dates of the frailties of another, with an assurance intended to show that an exact
knowledge of all these details abided with him always. He must have been a man of vast
and varied erudition, and his name was Jones. The world knew him not, but his erudition
was always there at the command of Mr Alf and his cruelty. The greatness of Mr Alf
consisted in this, that he always had a Mr Jones or two ready to do his work for him. It
was a great business, this of Mr Alf's, for he had his Jones also for philology, for science,
for poetry, for politics, as well as for history, and one special Jones, extraordinarily
accurate and very well posted up in his references, entirely devoted to the Elizabethan
drama.
There is the review intended to sell a book which comes out immediately after the
appearance of the book, or sometimes before it; the review which gives reputation, but
does not affect the sale, and which comes a little later; the review which snuffs a book out
quietly; the review which is to raise or lower the author a single peg, or two pegs, as the
case may be; the review which is suddenly to make an author, and the review which is to
crush him. An exuberant Jones has been known before now to declare aloud that he
would crush a man, and a self-confident Jones has been known to declare that he has
accomplished the deed. Of all reviews, the crushing review is the most popular, as being
the most readable. When the rumour goes abroad that some notable man has been
actually crushed been positively driven over by an entire Juggernaut's car of criticism till
his literary body be a mere amorphous mass then a real success has been achieved, and
the Alf of the day has done a great thing; but even the crushing of a poor Lady Car-bury,
if it be absolute, is effective. Such a review will not make all the world call for the
'Evening Pulpit', but it will cause those who do take the paper to be satisfied with their
bargain. Whenever the circulation of such a paper begins to slacken, the proprietors
 
 
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