MR. HERBERT PAUL AND OUR REVIEW OF THE FOURTH VOLUME
OF HIS HISTORY.
[TO TEE EDITOR OF TRH "SPICUTATOR." J
Sra,—Under pretence of reviewing the fourth volume of my "History of Modern England" in last week's Spectator, you indulge in a series of reflections, as groundless as they are offensive, upon my personal habits. You say : "An author who in a single year has published two volumes of modern history, and has simultaneously produced a long bio- graphical appreciation [sic] of a great historian, cannot possibly find time for the research which every historical writer ought to undertake." This is a direct charge of literary imposture. What right have you to make it ? What do you know about it ? It is false. Every word of my fourth volume was written, revised, and printed before I had the least idea that I should write a biography, which, I suppose, is what you mean by a "biographical appreciation," of Mr. Froude. You have, of course, a right to say, if you please, that my book is "not a history of modern England, but a series of leading articles on modern history." It is easy to say so, for you know, of course, that I have been, like your- self, a journalist. But you have no right to speak- of the " haste " with which I write, because it is a matter of which you are totally ignorant. I have had to write leading articles with haste. Circumstances compelled me to do se. I have never written history with haste. It would be idiotic and inexcusable. It would also be a gross breach of faith with Messrs. Macmillan, who have honoured me with their full and generous confidence. Your proofs of my haste are two. The former is that I call Ahmed Khel "'one of the decisive battles in the history of British India." That is my deliberate judgment. It is shared by some of the highest authorities, and I retain it. Your second proof is that limply the Czar's speech at Moscow in November, 1876, to have been made or altered in consequence of Lord Beaconsfield's speech in the same month at the Guildhall. "The slightest examination of the Blue-books," as you write, "would have shown Mr. Paul that the Emperor's speech was made before the report of Lord Beaconsfield's speech reached him." I have just re-examined "the Blue-books," and they show nothing of the kind. Lord Beaconsfield spoke on the 9th. The Emperor spoke on the 10th. That he had a full report I do not suggest. That he had not been informed by telegraph of the substantial gist of what the British Premier said is to me, in haste or at leisure, incredible. History extracted from Blue-books with a pair of scissors and compiled with a pot of paste turns my stomach. I read Blue-books among other more trustworthy sources of information, and give the result in my own poor words. Because I am not always quoting you assume that I never read. I write not for pedants, but for men and women. As you have made a direct and injurious attack, not upon my book, but upon me, which, if it were true, would prove me a disgrace to the profession of letters, I must ask you in common fairness to publish this reply.—I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant, House of Commons. HERBERT PAUL.
[We cannot as a rule undertake to publish reviews of reviews by authors dissatisfied with notices of their works, but when a man of letters so distinguished as Mr. Paul insists on the pub- lication of an attack on the bona-fides of the Spectator's criti- cism we must accede to his request. We therefore print the above communication, much as we regret its tone and temper. If the publication of a review such as that of which Mr. Paul complains is to be considered as an "injurious attack," literary criticism must either cease altogether or become purely eulo- gistic. Our reviewer will no doubt deal next Saturday with the points of detail involved, but for the general criticism we, of course, take the fullest editorial responsibility.— ED. Spectator.]