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Hereditary Genius
very far superior to its real merits, because the author may have
something to narrate which the world wants to hear; or he may have
had particular experiences which qualify him to write works of
fiction, or otherwise to throw out views, singularly apposite to the
wants of the time but of no importance in after years. Here, also,
fame misleads.
Under these circumstances, I thought it best not to occupy myself
over-much with older times; otherwise, I should have been obliged to
quote largely in justification of my lists of literary worthies: but rather
to select authors of modern date, or those whose reputation has been
freshly preserved in England. I have therefore simply gone through
dictionaries, extracted the names of literary men whom I found the
most prominent, and have described those who had decidedly eminent
relations in my appendix. I have, therefore, left out several, whom
others might with reason judge worthy to have appeared. My list is a
very incongruous collection; for it includes novelists, historians,
scholars, and philosophers. There are only two peculiarities common
to all these men; the one is a desire of expressing themselves, and the
other a love of ideas, rather than of material possessions. Mr.
Disraeli, who is himself a good instance of hereditary literary power,
in a speech at the anniversary of the Royal Literary Fund, May 6,
1868, described the nature of authors. His phrase epitomizes what
has been graphically delineated in his own novels, and, I may add, in
those of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, now Lord Lytton (who, with his
brother Sir Henry Bulwer, and in his son “Owen Meredith,” is a still
more remarkable example of hereditary literary gifts than Mr.
Disraeli). He said: “The author is, as we must ever remember, a
peculiar organization. He is a being with a predisposition which with
him is irresistible—a bent which he cannot in any way avoid; whether
it drags him to the abstruse researches of erudition, or induces him Previous page Top Next page